Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Best Gift Ever

Life and gifts don't get better than this. Sometimes the best gifts in life are free- or are the cost of a first cent stamp.

Two years ago I worked on a suicide hotline. I cannot go into any more details than that.

I was on the phone one night- around twilight- with a very very suicidal man- who not only had a gun in his hand and was clicking the chambers, but he was very very very drunk.

I spent a long time talking to him, and when the call was over I went out in the pitch black night, no stars, overcast clouds blocking them. I bummed a cigarette, and a lighter, sat down on a bench and cried.

Fast forward to present day. I got a phone call from my former supervisor, and made a commitment to start again on the hotline in the fall, after completing 35 hours of class work this summer. Then she said she got a letter from someone I talked to eons ago, and wanted to mail it to me.

The letter arrived Monday. It had beautiful penmanship, but poor spelling. It went in kind, "thank you for helping me save my life that night, and the few things you have taught me have saved me again when life got that bad. Fortunately, it never got that bad again. I am working now, joined a church and dating a lovely woman.

I wrote this poem for you. I hope you like it and again, thank you.

"There is a rose in the garden
A Beauty with thorns adminst her leaves
If one desires to pick her
He must ask his hands to bleed"

You know, he says I saved his life, but he may have also saved mine.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Everything you need to know about Swine Flu Survival but was afraid to ask

It's the 4th day in a row with temps higher than 90. My kingdom for AC. Or to be in AC, in the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Spent most of the day with bloodwork an tests.

So here are some tips from today's Huffington Post on what everyone is talking about- No, not Susan Boyle, and her amazing voice, but the Swine Flu.

A single sneeze propels 100,000 droplets into the air at around 90 mph, landing on door knobs, ATM keypads, elevator buttons, escalator railings, and grocery cart handles. In a subway station at rush hour, according to British researchers, as many as 10 percent of all commuters can come in contact with the spray and residue from just one sneeze (or sternutation). That means as many as 150 commuters can be sickened by one uncovered achoo.

No wonder health officials are extremely concerned about the new strain of swine flu that has infected at least 20 Americans in five states, killed some 80 people in Mexico, and has traveled to the other side of the world in New Zealand. Understandably, US authorities - following the lead of the World Health Organization (WHO) - have declared a "public health emergency."

"This virus has, clearly, a pandemic potential," says Margaret Chan, director general of WHO. Why? The virulent new H1N1 swine flu strain spreads quickly and efficiently from human to human. It's "a completely novel virus," says the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). This latest variant is a mixture of human virus, bird virus, and pig viruses from all over the world. Experts say it's particularly worrisome because people are getting sick without any encounters with pigs. Even worse, young, healthy people (ages 20-40) are dying at a striking rate, a telltale sign of the worst flu epidemics.

Swine flu fears aren't new in the United States. In February 1976, a 19-year-old army private at Fort Dix, New Jersey, died within 24 hours of becoming infected with swine flu. Soon, 500 soldiers were afflicted and the US government began a controversial nationwide vaccination campaign. Ultimately, some 40 million Americans were inoculated. As a result, several hundred people developed Guillain- Barré syndrome, a serious neurological condition, and the immunization program was stopped.

What's going to happen this time? Without question, the disease will spread farther and wider. At this point, as the CDC says, it can't be contained or controlled. (The flu shot from last fall, for instance, won't combat this strain).

What can you do to protect yourself? "No single action will provide complete protection," the CDC notes, but taking a few steps can help reduce the likelihood of transmission of swine flu (or many other infections).

1. Sanitize -- i.e. Wash Your Hands Frequently. It may sound obvious, but hand-washing with soap and water for around 20 seconds is the single best thing you can do (if you're going to go out into the world and interact with other human beings). The CDC estimates that 80 percent of all infections are spread by hands. If you can't wash your hands regularly, try hand-sanitizers with 60 percent alcohol content.

2. Avoid -- i.e. Engage in "Social Distancing." That's the fancy term for reducing unnecessary social contact, staying away from crowds, and avoiding people if you're sick or if you're concerned that they may be infected. It may not be especially practical when you have to go to, say, work, but experts believe it's worth repeating: Isolation and avoidance reduce your chances of getting infected or infecting others.

(Researchers in the UK - mentioned above and sponsored by a cold remedy company - found that 99 percent of commuters suffer at least one cold per winter. By contrast, 58 percent of people who work from home and 88 per cent of those who walk to work caught a cold last winter).

If you need to go someplace crowded, the CDC says, try to spend as little time as possible and try to stay six feet away from potentially infected people. Wearing a surgical or dental facemask - cleared by the FDA as a medical device - "can help prevent some exposures," the CDC says, but they're not foolproof.

3. Be Alert -- i.e. Recognize the Symptoms and Get Help. Swine flu symptoms are similar to regular flu: Fever, body aches, sore throat, cough, runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. If you don't feel well, seek medical attention. So far, it's important to note, this swine flu is treatable (and absolutely survivable). It's resistant to two of four antiviral drugs approved for combating the flu: Symmetrel and Flumadine. But two newer antivirals - Tamiflu and Relenza - appear to work.

What are the chances of a global pandemic? "The situation is uncertain and unpredictable and likely to be a marathon more than a sprint," says Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We expect there to be a broader spectrum of disease here in the U.S.," adds Dr. Anne Schuchat, interim deputy director for the agency's Science and Public Health Program. "I do fear that we will have deaths here."

Swine flu will dominate news headlines in the days ahead. Every case around the world will be carefully tracked and tallied -- and deservedly so. It may not sound like much, but the best defense involves some very simple steps: Every sneeze should be covered -- preferably with the crook of an arm - and every hand should be washed ... and washed again.

For more information about swine flu or surviving other kinds of life-changing adversity, please go to TheSurvivorsClub Website.

The CDC has set up a toll-free hotline: 1-800-CDC-INFO. Or check out the CDC Website.

ETA: Doug Bremner, of "Before You Take That Pill" has this to say on this subject. It's a bit more current than the piece I used, and it's really worth the read.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009- why not on other planets too?

To celebrate Earth Day today, the (UK) Daily Mail Online posted the most recent pictures of Saturn and it's moons taken by the Cassini probe.

Words escape me but to paraphrase Shakespeare, "Oh Brave New World that has such things in it". Or. like the LOL cat states- quoting Arthur C. Clarke in 2001- "OMG, it's full of stars".

Hat tip- D. Bunker.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Five hard questions you must answer to succeede

This came in the mail from Writer's Digest this evening.

For all of us who struggle daily with our writing and our muses.

1. Who are your favorite authors and why?

2. What do they do that grabs your attention and keeps you turning pages?

3. What keeps you coming back to your favorite genres?

4. What compels you to write fiction/ memoir/ poetry?

5. How will you make sure that your own work grabs and keeps your readers' attention every bit as well as your own favorites capture you?

Even A Listers Can Get the Blues

It's like that video "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M. Everyone gets depressed- sometimes. Everybody cries. And even those people who the rest of us would consider to be celebrities, A list, what ever- have dealt with the proverbial "Black Dog" and


Here is a list of those who tried, and gratefully, did not go into that good night. (From Mental Floss magazine)

Halle Berry – admitted to Parade magazine that, distraught over her failed marriage to baseball star David Justice, she tried to end her life by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Greg Louganis – depressed, abused and confused, Greg attempted suicide three times (including once by an aspirin-and-Ex Lax combo) after a knee injury at age 12 ruined his dream of becoming an Olympic gymnast. Luckily, he recovered, and made it to the Games as a diver

James Stockdale – H. Ross Perot’s former running mate attempted suicide while a POW at Hoa Lo Prison in Vietnam in 1969 to avoid torture.

Donna Summer – tried to leap from an 11-story window at a New York hotel at the peak of her career in 1976, but was discovered by a housekeeper.

Drew Carey – after a rough childhood that included sexual molestation by an unknown party and his father’s death, the lovable Price is Right host attempted suicide twice in his teen years.

Mike Wallace – in a 2006 retrospective honoring his retirement as a 60 Minutes correspondent, Wallace revealed a suicide attempt twenty years prior.

Paul Robeson – the “Ol’ Man River” vocalist tried to off himself by slashing his wrists in a Moscow hotel room in 1961, although his son (Paul Jr.) claims the event was caused by a CIA/FBI conspiracy that drugged him with LSD.

Elizabeth Taylor – hoped to end her life in February 1962 with an overdose of Seconal, although she said she did so only because she “needed to get away.

”Fred “Rerun” Berry – the What’s Happening!! star said he tried to kill himself three times prior to finding religion in 1984.

Robert Young – yes, even the Father Knows Best father fell victim to depression later in life, culminating in a 1991 attempt on his own life.

More of the article is here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Uncomfortably Numb

I am still struggling to accept mine.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Some random thoughts about a most noble, and vanishing profession

I recently stumbled across this piece I wrote for another website where I was a featured blogger, eons ago. i wrote it the night Daniel Pearl was murdered

I am terribly saddened when I see good if not great journalists not being able to get a job at a paper, or magazine. I am saddened when papers are closing right and left because no one is reading them, There was a buzz a while back that e readers like the Amazon Kindle would destroy newspapers, but that isn't the case.

I don't have an actual degree in journalism, I worked my way up and absorbed everything. Yet I love writing, and recently, for the first time in almost a Score, couldn't write during my last depression. If I cannot write, I want to die.

My heart breaks for those journalists who want to write, but cannot.


As I write this, two thoughts are going through my head, in contrast to each other. One is the news that an American reporter has been murdered in Pakistan. The other one is a comment made by a friend of mine, a certain Mr. Alexander of New York, about how much of a narcissist you have to be to appear on a reality TV show.

Without stealing Mr. Alexander’s thunder, I wonder what kind of narcissist you have to be to be a journalist, a reporter, a writer, or an editor in the first place. And what kind of amazing person they are to do what they do.

Narcissus, according to Greek myth, was a young man who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool and drowned. In today’s fast, multitasked society, it could be someone who not only loves the way they look, but who capitalizes on it, perhaps becoming an actor or actress, or something else to go into the limelight – because people with this personality disorder have to be the center of attention. Hence, we have a perfect personality flaw custom made for the genre of reality TV. Who else would love to have a camera in their face 24/7 but someone in love with themselves who feels the whole world should bask in the glory of their visage? (Will on Big Brother 2 is a perfect example.)

Now to be a person who writes for a living, whether it is a journalist, a fiction writer, a magazine or radio/television reporter, or an editor – there may also be a slight bit of this involved as well, but it is a benevolent thing. I for one, can tell you even though I submit an average of four articles a week for this site, I have not been paid one cent for them. I have had other things published on the net – and again, nothing. Why do I give up 20-25 hours a week of my valuable time to this medium, to this editor who cannot pay me? Well, even if Mr. David Bloomberg paid me, I wouldn’t take the money. For you see, he gives me something more valuable than money. He gives me a byline. I look at the article and I see something that I have toiled on, something I may be proud of, with my name underneath. And I know I have done that. It is like a parent who has just gotten a comment on how well-behaved their toddler is. It’s a comment that means the world to the recipient, to know that something they believed in has influenced someone else.

Like the MasterCard commercial: “Priceless.”

Those who know me know how much writing is my raison d’ĂȘtre. At this stage in my life I know that statistically I am more likely to be murdered by a terrorist than to find a husband – at least according to a well publicized survey from the mid 80s. I know I cannot have a child. So I am channeling my energy, as well as my libido, into writing, spending four or five hours a night after work indulging in this passion. Emily Dickinson once said, “I write for myself and others.” I agree. Most of what I have written has not been seen by another living human being. But the articles I publish, both here and on other sites, if one reader likes what I have written, that makes it all worthwhile. To me, that is priceless.

Journalism has been getting a bad rap lately, as have writers. In very recent times it was alleged that Stephen Ambrose, U.S. historian had plagiarized some of his books. According to a story in Reuters, “The New York Times said on Thursday it had cut ties with a freelance writer for falsifying an article about an adolescent West African slave -- the latest in a series of ethical lapses by U.S. journalists.”

Journalism use to be a glamorous career. Hemingway was a journalist. Suffregettes were journalists. Woodward and Bernstein made journalism an interesting and desirable career, flooding universities with would-be students. Everyone wanted to break the next Watergate story. All of a sudden, reporting had gone from smoke-filled back rooms where dipsomaniac reporters would wait for a story to something that could potentially bring down a man with an office as high as the President of the United States.

Seeing a reporter like Katie Couric get a 65 million dollar contract makes the career more alluring. Journalists like Tom Wolfe get to hob nob with the rich and famous. Yes some do. Most don’t. Most don’t make a lot of money. According to Anna Quinlen, a journalist who I personally set up as my idol, “median salary of a reporter in this country is about 30,000.” (Newsweek, Feb. 18, 2002).

So if the pay stinks, why do it?

Continue reading article here

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My most favorite show in the universe is back on the air1

I want to thank Bitter Animator, who blogs from across the pond. Apparently the BBC finally is airing a new series of Red Dwarf. It's big news because the show has been off the air for ten years!

i am doing the happy dance here. It's my all time favorite show ever, and new episodes give me something to want to watch more than anything.

If anyone is wondering why I love this show so much-here are the reasons, in no particular order.

1. I think the sexiest accent in the world a man can have is a Scouse accent. I guess this is from childhood when I thought the Beatles were the greatest rock group ever.

2. There is a character named Holly.

3. There is a character named Cat. Cat has evolved over the centuries from a black cat named Frankenstein that David Lister smuggled from shore leave on Titan. I love the idea of a cat in human form.

4. There is a robot named Kryten which usually puts me in stitches.

5. The writing, up to series 6, is brilliant, top notch, and brilliant satire. I have always felt the Brits do satire better than us Yanks- in literature, Swift, Gay and Pope made it popular, and in TV land, look at Fawlty Towers, Monty Python, French and Saunders, Chef- even Hyacinth Bucket. The best example of American satire right now on TV is :"The Office", and that came out across the pond before it came out here.

And finally- if you get rid of all the reasons above- it this simply. Dave Lister, the main character, and the one with the Scouse accent, falls in love with a woman which, according to the books in the series, dates for 6 weeks. He falls for her. Hard. When she breaks up with him, and Rimmer causes an accident on the ship which kills the entire crew, except for Dave because he is in suspended animation- all he wants to do is get back to Earth to find the girl. He is in love with her the entire series. It never wavers. He lives 3 million years in the future from his lady love, but he still loves her.

I am an incurable romantic. This story line moves me, that yes, love does exist, and it doesn't die, even if one of the partners does.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

wishing everyone happy holidays

wishing everyone a happy Passover, Good Friday and Easter.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Prayers needed

I don't normally ask for this type of thing, but there are three people I am worried about. One is a friend in real life who was put in Ancora State Hospital in NJ. Another one is a fellow blogger who is vacationing in Italy and no one has heard from him as well as all those living in Italy. the last one is the daughter of a reader who just got back a positive biopsy result.

Thank you.

Is this what depression feels like to you?

picture courtesy of D. Bunker.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

One of the worst cases of patient abuses in Ancora-breaking

this kind of thing makes me sad I live in NJ and that such things can happen to people in mental hospitals.

From the article

Sean Denning is a shell of his former self, his mother says.

"He's almost totally different," said Judy Denning, of Lindenwold. "His emotions are different. Everything about him is different. It just hurts a lot to see him that way."

His mother said Sean came close to death more than once. She blames improper medication and the poor care he received at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital for putting her son in hospitals for almost three months.

Sean Denning's medical odyssey began Dec. 11 when Judy Denning said she received a phone call from an Ancora doctor. He said Sean was being rushed to a local hospital suffering from Depakote toxicity, she said.

Depakote mainly is used to treat the manic phase of bipolar disorder. It is sometimes used to combat schizophrenia as well, according to the drug manufacturer'sinformation.

Denning's medical records indicate he had been prescribed 1,000 milligrams of Depakote at Ancora. His records also show he had been prescribed a cocktail of powerful drugs used to treat mental illness, including Ativan, Seroquel, Haldol, Lithium, Cogentin and Paxil.

The medical records note a toxic reaction to Lithium was suspected as a reason for his condition, along with the reaction to Depakote.

Still, the first time Denning was sent to the local hospital, he did not remain long. His mother said her son returned to the main building in Ancora on Dec. 13.

At Ancora the next day, he was pale, incoherent and covered with a rash, Judy Denning said.

article continues here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's official- the only antidepressant that works is-

It's official. Word is breaking on the AP and Reuters, Thompson and Bloomberg wires that the only antidepressant- the only guarenteed way to get out of a depressive state is...


Hearing this news, both Thompson and Bloomberg wires are reporting that Big Pharma is pulling out their hair as pharmacies all over the world are dumping Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil down the toilet, causing these companies to beg President Obama for money to stave off bankruptcy , siting if he can listen to GM and Chrysler, he can help them.

President Obama is remaining silent on this, but has been updated on this situation. The most pressing thing on his agenda today is a meeting with the Queen at Buck Palace and to meet the corgis, and bringing one home for his children, a boy which the Presient has named "Winston", because he likes the name, and it's an all black puppy with a small white spot on it's neck shaped like a heart that reminds him of the late Sir Winston.

The president also has an appointment with the head of Cadburys to figure out why American chocolate cannot hold a candle to European, and will it now need a script from the p-doc to get it? Other things on their agenda is to discuss if the "hot' Green M and M candy is single.

A pharmacy student at Rutpurrs, contacted by this journalist, stated "this is a nightmare. We all know the Latin for the big drugs, but learning "dispence white/dark/ semi sweet/ chocolate as needed every 8 hours", is just too much. I may just drop out before I get my really cool white lab coat which is a real chick magnet".
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