News From 2023

JK Rowling has completed the 19th Harry Potter book and it has made it’s way onto bookshelves everywhere.  Harry Potter and the Crucible of Mass Destruction is a gripping drama that dips back in time to take its readers on a fast and furious spy caper that has surprises around every corner.
The plot:  Harry has immigrated to the colonies (that would be America) and has founded “New Hogwartz” in an unnamed location just outside of Hamburg, Iowa.  Why there?  No one knows!
President Jebediah Bush, a former bush plane pilot from the great state of Alaska, has asked Harry to use his powers to go back in time and discover the truth about the “Lost Weapons of Mass Destruction” that still plagues his 3rd cousin, twice removed, George W Bush Jr.  Junior has recently been placed in a managed care facility where he spends his waning days fantasizing about Condoleezza and a goat herd’s tent just outside of Qatar.  Potterheads will be surprised to learn that Harry discovers that the former dictator Saddam Hussein never had “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” but instead had been secretly stockpiling Pringles potato chips and Coke Zero for the day the world would end on December 21st, 2012. The plot thickens.  Harry discovers that Saddam had been planning to infiltrate the TV series “Survivor” and was scheming to have the Queen of England “voted off of the island!”  The story is enhanced with several sub-plots as Hermione and Harry (both now divorced) find one another in an unplanned trip to Afghanistan.  There they manage to turn an unfriendly camel into a sand hog and change the bomb material of three suicide bombers into whipped cream.  After detonation, the bombers were placed in a walk-in cooler for temporary detention.
All in all a rollicking good read and sure to be a smash hit movie.
By the way, apparently the world did end on December 21st, 2012, but no one noticed.
In other news, 115  year old former Vice President Dick Cheney has had his 18th heart transplant.  Doctors installed a blue tooth wireless device that allows them to download the former VP’s heart rhythms.
Fox News has launched a new investigative series entitled, “The Lies Your Parents Used To Keep You In Line!”  this in depth look at our childhood myths and what your parents never told you.  Narrated by Shawn Hannity, the first in the series… “The Fat Man That Loves Children…Should We Be Concerned?” is a stunning look at the real Santa Claus.  Hannity takes a hard look at the once beloved saint and asks the hard questions.  “Do you really want your children to sit on the lap of an overweight, heavily bearded man wearing red velvet and offering them candy?
In business news, Facebook purchases Youtube from Google and launch a joint social media project called Tube Face.  Their goal is to appeal to the last remaining hold outs of social media participation…the Edolo tribe in Southern New Guinea who have long held onto their now defunct MySpace accounts even though the company has long since stopped accepting sea shells as payment for their upgraded accounts and its server space relegated to a dated Windows 95 computer in Justin Timberlake’s garage.
In other news, now that autonomous cars are all the rage in the United States a new type of driver’s insurance has been developed.  It is called the “multicore processor” discount.  Apparently, if your self-driving car has at least two central processing units you will be entitled to a discount.  It seems this new way of insurance thinking was prompted by the now infamous “blue screen of death” problem.
More news in the autonomous car industry as Mercedes and Tesla have recalled several thousand vehicles due to a programming glitch in their decision making software.  This problem has come to the forefront as several accidents have been reported to law enforcement regarding cars “updating while driving.”  The updates have apparently caused the vehicles in question to suddenly come to a stop on freeway roadways while receiving an automated update to their operating systems.  No deaths have been reported but many passengers were locked inside their vehicles for several hours while their vehicles downloaded new patches and fixes to their onboard computers.

Just a note:

Everything that can be invented has been invented.” – Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the US patent office in 1899
“Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop.” – Time magazine in 1966
An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today. “
“My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there. “
Forecasting is the art of saying what will happen, and then explaining why it didn’t!
The future ain’t what it used to be.
The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.
1889: “Fooling around with alternating current (AC) is just a waste of time.  Nobody will use it, ever.” — Thomas Edison
2007: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” — Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO.

Death Looks Over My Shoulder

It seems like just yesterday that the idea of dying was a far off concept.  Now it is a daily question.  Death looks over my shoulder and says, “you know I’m coming!”  I always say the same thing, “Yes, but not today!” As the quote says, “nobody gets out of this life alive.”  For some of us, however, the imminence of that final breath is much closer than it is for others.  I’ll admit, I’m afraid of dying.  I’ve made my peace with God, but that hasn’t lifted the fear.  In the end I think you just get too tired to fight it anymore.  I’m not “too tired” yet.  I’m still fighting.  I’m still thinking about surviving.  I have things to do.  Places I want to go.  Fish I want to catch.

It sometimes amazes me.  A person can be dying right in front of you and you would never know it. It’s `the same way with pain.  Someone can be in an enormous amount of pain and you may never know.  They don’t complain. They don’t look sick. But they are.  We take them for granted.  I take myself for granted.  I always expect to get back up and keep going.  So far, I have.

What is it that we might expect from others when they see us? I wonder do we want pity?  Understanding?  What is it that others see when they look at us?  Do they really see us at all?  My friends look at me and don’t really see a sick man.  They don’t see a man in pain.  They don’t see the mark of death and so don’t see that slowly, I am dying.  The cancer that has lodged itself in my bones won’t leave.  It will eventually win.  I’m determined to make it take so long that when it does, it won’t really matter anyway.  If not the cancer then old age.  I’m not sure what age that’ll be, but I’ll know it when I get there.  That’s the optimist in me.  I’m going to keep fighting until it just doesn’t matter anymore.  I can’t quit fighting.  I can’t just give up. I don’t want to and besides, I really don’t know how to anyway.

I guess the question is, since we’re all going to end up in the same place anyway, are you ready? Am I ready?  Have you really thought about dying?  Have you really thought about “after?”  We’re told that there is life after death and I really want to believe that.  I worry that there might not be.  I worry that we might just be like bugs.  Squash one and his existence ends.  No after life for bugs.  No heaven for flies.  What will become of me?  Will I still be?  Will I still be me?  Where will I be?  Will I be afraid?  Will there be anyone there?  Where is that anyway?  What’ll happen to my family?

We, all of us, are all going to die.  Where’s the hope in that?  We come into this life.  We struggle; we fight; we love; we live.  And then we die.  Is that all there is? I am so hoping that there is more than that.

When I’m gone there’ll be no grave for me. I refuse to become worm food.  It’s a waste of good ground.  If my soul has left my body there’s no need for a memorial plot.  Who would memorialize me anyway?  I’m not disappointed that I haven’t done great things. I was too busy trying to survive.  I was feeding my family.  I was paying the bills, keeping the lights on.  I didn’t have time for grand triumphs.  I was saving my world, not the whole world.

It occurs to me that this story doesn’t have an end.  At least not one I can imagine.  I am alive today.  I expect to be alive tomorrow.  After that we’ll have to wait and see.

Life, The User’s Guide

Life doesn’t come with a monitor, a keyboard and a 2.4Mhz cpu. It doesn’t come pre-loaded with an operating system and it doesn’t come with instructions. Dammit to hell! There are plenty of times when we need to know how to respond, what to do, where to go and why the hell doesn’t this fit? All of these questions, not to mention World Peace are left to our own resources. So, if we’re to be successful in this life for which there is no really good escape, we’ll need some basic attributes in order to cope.

System requirements: We don’t have cords. We don’t have tabs or slots. Luckily, we come pre-assembled. Of course, this is not to be confused with dressing ourselves, which for some, is like bungee jumping without the rubber band! If you’re one of these poor souls, you look like the airlines have lost your luggage and you’ve had to borrow Uncle Mortimer’s old clothes. He doesn’t need them anymore, he’s dead. Aunt Edith says you can keep them. You’re pleased. This is a bad thing!

If we’re to move past the basics we’re going to need some tools:

A sense of humor:

  • When the cat coughs a hairball onto your newly cleaned rug, taking the cat to the taxidermist is probably not going to get the stain out of the carpet!
  • When your boys pee on the floor of the bathroom and you discover this because you’re wearing socks; they can’t be traded for a new coffeepot.
  • When your wife informs you in an almost mocking tone of voice that “Homoerectus” is an oxymoron, your mother will be of no help. She said the same thing to your father!

A deep and unabiding faith:

  • Murphy lives at your house. He doesn’t eat much, but he’s hell on dishes, lamps, and all irreplaceable things.
  • Your faith will be tested when you are out of work for any period of time and you list “taking frequent showers” as a hobby. That’s when you know that you’ve been out of work for a very long time.
  • Your faith will be tested by your children when you find you’ve been replaced by pierced body parts, baggy pants, the X-Box, Playstation, and the word “Dude.”
  • Your faith will be tested when you pray. You’ll do all of the talking! After all, if all you wanted were to hear yourself talk, you would have become Rush Limbaugh.

A good sense of timing:

  • Try not to show it when you suddenly want to know where is the worm that made the hole in the apple you just took a bite of?
  • Never puke on a policeman’s shoes. This is a dead give-away that you may not be completely alcohol free.
  • Never try to zip your zipper before you’re done peeing. This is often both painful and messy! Never, not ever answer the question, “Do I look fat in this?”

A strong sense of decorum:

  • You might not score a lot of style points if you start a food fight in the executive lunchroom? Decorum is completely obliterated by flatulation in any form at a funeral? (Only if the corpse does it. Maybe.)

An inquiring mind:

  • You want to know what happened before the “Big Bang?” Did someone light a match?
  • You’re really trying to understand why you can’t get the new Florida quarter and it’s really pissing you off.
  • You want to know the secret to long life. You’re so broke, you’re going to need a few extra years. You want to know why, as your wife goes through menopause, you find your family pets hiding in out of the way places, like at the neighbors next door. You probably should take a head count.

A pulse:

  • If you’re dead, you’re probably not reading this.
  • If you’re dead, you probably don’t care.
  • If you’re dead, your Wednesday bowling night has been indefinitely postponed!
  • If you’re dead, your children have all of your stuff. This is not different from when you were alive. You just can’t bitch now!
  • If you’re dead, your wife may already be sleeping with another man or worse, she’s still sleeping with you and doesn’t know the difference!

FAQ There is a list of Frequently Asked Questions. Some however, cannot be answered. “What happened to the first fifty years?” comes to mind. “How can I return my children, all I want is a store credit” is also a tough one!

Tests There is a test at the end, although no one knows the subject matter, whether it’s written or oral, whether the test is timed and what the pass/fail line is. It has been rumored that the test is graded on a really big friggin’ curve!

note: The manual is still being prepared, but in the interest of safety, I’ve decided to release as much of it as I can, as it becomes available!

God’s New Website


From:      St. Peter
To:          All Program Managers
Cc:          Our Heavenly Father
Re:          The prayer processing application:  e-POCH  (Prayers On-Call Handling)

Beta testers have complained about the response time of the e-POCH system and have openly questioned whether our Heavenly Father is, in fact, receiving their queries.  This is an intolerable situation since you all know that He has often voiced his misgivings about this system.  So let’s address the issues one at a time:

1)..the user interface is too graphic intensive and our testers with dial up modem service are waiting inordinate periods of time waiting for graphics to load.  (note: it has been reported that six testers were actually called “Home” during their sessions…can someone please investigate and report back to me?)

2)..the navigation of the entire web site is confusing and ambiguous.  This was made clear when 150 of our testers found themselves lost in a “Green Peace” chat room.  Six were actually arrested when they conspired with other activists who were making plans to drain the San Diego Aquarium and “free the bottom feeders!

3)..some of you have expressed the opinion that we missed a great opportunity when we couldn’t secure the “” domain name and the fact that it is a soft porn/sex toys ecommerce site is all the more upsetting, but the Heavenly Father has assured me that he is quite satisfied with “” instead of “”   He likes the association to the psalm and its calming effect. (my personal favorite, “” didn’t make the final selection committee…something to do with MP3 and pirated music downloads.  I’m afraid I’m a little out of date when it comes to contemporary music.)

4)..the graphical icon, a graphic collage of a set of cherubs, angels, praying hands, hell fire and palm fronds may not have the obvious iconic value we were first thinking that they would.  For example, the idea of using a small graphic reproduction of Noah’s Ark to log out of the system is cute, but may not be entirely appropriate.

(apparently some of the beta testers became frightened and started babbling about some “wrath of God” nonsense…. I remind you all, that for quite some time now He’s mellowed; He doesn’t do that anymore!)

The “praying hands” as the site’s universal symbol for help seems on the surface to be quite appropriate but as some of the beta testers have pointed out, that’s what they were coming to the site for in the first place. It was also made clear to me that the alternate idea of using a pictorial representation of a ‘confession booth’ wouldn’t be particularly recognizable since most Catholic users wouldn’t even recognize it, let alone non-Catholics!


5)..the technical support people have complained that we’ve automated them right out of jobs since, after all, the whole site really is devoted to “support.”  Well, duh!  May I take this opportunity to remind you all that there is no such thing as job security here.  Any attempt at unionizing will get the perpetrators expelled. You know who you are! FYI

Heaven’s Door
St. Peter
Prince of the Apostles
Director New Admissions
Major Client Representative
999-999-9999 X999
999-999-9999 Fax
999-999-9999 Toll Free
999-999-9999 Mobile
AOL keyword: Simon E-mail



Scanned on 22 Aug 2003 19:21:53
Scanning by



From:      St Patrick (ex)
To:          St. Peter

I have investigated the long load times of the web site and have found it to be a combination of coincidence, unfortunate timing and graphic intensity.

  1. a) Coincidence: four of the beta testers were well over the age of 80 and apparently any wait time may have been too long. It’s entirely possible the Father could have called them ‘home’ while they waited for their coffee to finish perking.  Additionally, two of the four were afflicted with Alzheimer’s and thought they were playing “Flight Simulator” so the fact that they ‘landed’ in a strange place didn’t faze them at all.
  2. b) Timing: it seems that during the times in question, the server farm was experiencing a “denial of service” attack from a well known hacker with a particular bone to pick with the Heavenly Father. His motive is irrelevant, but it did point out a serious hole in our security.  We have since loaded virus protection software and have uploaded the latest definition files that include protection against the exe virus and the antichrist worm.  Both of these apparently try to take control of everything and redirect every browser to the web site and download the new version of Internet Explorer®.
  3. c) Graphic intensity: this is a subject of some concern since The Client wanted us to use the Michelangelo painting on the ceiling the Sistine Chapel as the background image for the home page. We are waiting for some direction concerning this issue and would recommend converting the image to a jpeg. But as you may know, JPEG is “lossy,” meaning that the decompressed image isn’t quite the same as the one you started with and since this is a direct Client requirement we’re not willing to piss off the Boss by telling Him that we’ve taken the noise out of His
Heaven’s Door Information Technologies
St Patrick (ex)
Director of Error Correction/Change Management/Computer Security
No phone
No Fax
Not Toll Free
Don’t Have A Mobile
AOL keyword: de-canonized



Scanned on 22 Aug 2003 19:21:53
Scanning by

From:      St. Peter
To:          St Patrick (ex)


Don’t you think it’s about time you got over this de-canonization thing?  The ‘(ex)’ after your name is completely unnecessary here and the ‘I drove the snakes out of Ireland’ email address is really over the top.  You were a shepherd for crying out loud. Get over it!

As for the rest of your investigation, I’ll accept the coincidence and timing issues and take up the graphic intensity issue with the Heavenly Father personally.  He’ll probably suggest, as I do, that ‘intensity’ is the whole point of the picture in the first place. Further, I won’t even pretend that I’m going to suggest converting His image from the Sistine Chapel painting to a jpeg, whatever that means.  I like my job.  Besides, Michelangelo will have a fit if we suggest changing his work in any way.  We’ll have to endure that “months on my back, paint in my eyes” whine for days.

Heaven's Door
St Peter
Prince of the Apostles
Director New Admissions
Major Client Representative
999-999-9999 X999
999-999-9999 Toll Free
999-999-9999 Mobile
999-999-9999 Fax
AOL keyword: Simon 





Scanned on 22 Aug 2003 19:21:53

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Headlice News

Cash Checkwriter Says Jesus Was First To Employ ‘Promissory Notes”

Cash Checkwriter, televangelist that believes Jesus was not only rich, but the very first to make extensive use of promissory notes and other financial instruments such as checks and surety bonds and backs his assertion by pointing out that one of the most famous of his promises was that the meek would be rewarded with abundance and quotes biblical scripture proclaiming, “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance!”  However, when it was pointed out that he had omitted the last two words of Psalms 37(“of peace”), Checkwriter explained that his interpretation of the Bible was “what a minister is supposed to do, after all.” And, further that his ministerial responsibility is to “convey the words of the ancients to his flock in modern terms with 21st century relevance.”  He explains that what Jesus was really referring to was God’s last bequest to His Son.  He goes on to say that had Jesus lived, his inheritance would have made Him the largest land owner in recorded history and that Jesus’ death was actually a conspiracy by the San Hedron and Roman real estate speculators.  Checkwriter also agrees with famed fellow televangelist Creflo Dullard that Jesus was indeed rich.  “After all,” claims Checkwriter, “God owns everything and Jesus was God’s only son!”

Despite his loose and often convenient Bible interpretations, his ministry now claims 26,000 dedicated parishioners and Checkwriter proudly reveals his plans to expand his ministry to “anyone with a television.”

His followers do seem dedicated.  One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, was enthusiastic of her support saying, “Reverend Checkwriter has made me realize that wealth is truly a state of mind.  As long as there are checks in my checkbook, I’m not broke!”

Not everyone is so supportive of Checkwriter, however.  Iowa Sen. Charles ‘Chuck’ Grasscutter, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is asking whether these churches really are non-profits or just “organized check-kiting” scam artists.  One of Grasscutter’s aides is quoted as saying, “Checkwriter’s mouth is writing checks his butt can’t cash, but, apparently, his parishioners do!” This, a comment on the reported sale of Dullard’s (who is also under Senate scrutiny) personal Rolls Royce that Checkwriter reportedly purchased with a check that had been returned twice to Checkwriter’s bank for ‘insufficient funds’ before his parishioners came to his rescue and funded the bouncing check.  Checkwriter claims that the entire incident was a prime example of God’s promise, “Ask, and what you ask for shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened to you!”  Citing his need to be able to travel between his lavish homes in Hampton, Long Island, his office in the Trump Tower, NYC and his television production stage/church in Westchester, New York, Checkwriter adds, “My parishioners don’t want me traveling in a ’69 Volkswagen bus!” When reminded that Christ entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, he chided, “They didn’t have cars then.  If they had, Jesus would have driven up in a Bentley!”  When asked why he had over 30 separate checking accounts, between which he was constantly transferring large sums from one account to another, Checkwriter responded, “My money is like my ministry, it goes where it is most needed.”

Checkwriter’s name and personal identity are another matter altogether.  Checkwriter insists that ‘Checkwriter’ is, in fact, his real name saying, “My Daddy was a Checkwriter, my Granddaddy was a Checkwriter and I’m a Checkwriter.  Checkwriter makes this claim despite rigorous searches through the Family History Library (an extensive genealogical index maintained by the Mormon church) that turn up no mention whatsoever of the family name “Checkwriter.”  A search, however of the New York City Public Records does show that a man name Percy McElroy legally changed his name to “Cash Checkwriter” in 1993. When asked about this seemingly strange coincidence Checkwriter claimed incredulity saying, “Whoever this man really is.  He is a fraud!”  The logical conclusion that may be drawn from this is that in this case, Checkwriter may just be right!

Labels Are For Soup Cans, Not Politics!

We spend a lot of time in this day and age putting labels on people and things, especially anything that hints of political activity. There are, after all, so many! Liberals, conservatives, Blue Dogs, independents, isolationists, survivalists, socialists, communists, Tea Party, Republican Party, Democratic Party, and the ever popular WHIG Party. If you feel like you can’t keep track of all of them it’s not surprising. It’s alarming that we spend so much time dividing and separating ourselves from each other. It would be much more comforting to think that we’re all together as Americans. Is it really too much to ask that we spend some significant time trying to find things we can all agree on? We all want our freedom. We value it highly. We all want our children to have an easier and better life in the future. What’s more, we want to make sure there’s a future for our children to have. We should all agree that there’s too much crime. We should all agree that education of our young is a high priority. We should all be able to agree that our Veterans deserve to be cared for, valued and supported. It’s probably safe to say that we can all agree that as a country, we can’t keep spending money we don’t have. It’s probably safe to say that we all agree that money has much too much influence on politics and politicians.

Most often it boils down to morals. What is and isn’t morally acceptable to us. Most of us, for example don’t really find divorce to be socially or morally unacceptable. Most of us don’t really care if the neighbor lady wears a beaver coat. Few of us find that premarital sex is a sign of outrageous behavior or that having a baby outside of a marriage is a crime against humanity. Most of us do think that a marriage is and should remain between two people not several. It’s quite apparent from the upsurge in the number of casinos vying for our business that most of us don’t mind a friendly wager on a game of chance.

Note: Gallop has done polling on these subjects and you can find their results here:

It seems clear. There is a lot we Americans agree on. It’s also clear that there isn’t much that really divides us. We care about the same things. We want the same things. We have similar attitudes about a wide variety of subjects and yet we spend a great deal of time trying to lump ourselves into one group or another in an effort to exacerbate the differences.

During election cycles our differences are most notable. That’s because we start lining up and choosing sides as if we’re about to play a game and we need to choose the teams. We argue, we debate, we editorialize and pontificate. News cycles, straw polls, and sound bites dominate our daily lives politically. We seem to have forgotten our similarities and are busy identifying our differences. Liberals and conservatives square off and battle lines are drawn. There is just one major problem. We all want the same thing! What we want is the best person for the job. We all want the most qualified, talented and charismatic leader we can find to lead us. Whether it’s for Mayor or President we all want the most honest, the most driven and the most qualified candidate to win.

In the end, we’re left with a choice between two. For most of our history it’s been Democrat versus Republican (there was a time when there was a Democratic-Republican Party…who knew?). Two camps vying for the same office, one usually liberal and the other usually conservative. In a perfect world, the differences shouldn’t be that easy to identify.

Being a conservative shouldn’t evoke a certain hatred for democrats or mean that government shouldn’t grow as the population it represents also grows, but it shouldn’t grow for the sake of growing either. Being a conservative shouldn’t always be accompanied by a paranoia surrounding liberals or academia or even people whose religious perspective isn’t quite as staunch as your own. Being conservative should mean that you favor the ‘slow and steady’ over the fast and furious. Being conservative should mean that while you recognize that change is inevitable, you prefer to manage the pace of change so that it shouldn’t become unfettered anarchy. Being conservative should mean that you want your government to act responsibly and spend money as if it belonged to someone else…like the taxpayers!

Being a liberal shouldn’t infer any involvement with Green Peace or hugging a tree. Being a liberal shouldn’t brand you as a socialist. It also shouldn’t mean that you automatically disagree with anything a conservative says. Being a liberal should mean that you favor having a government that acts responsibly toward all of its people. It should mean that you want the government to do what you believe we pay it to do. As a liberal, you want the government to protect those who can’t protect themselves. Being a liberal doesn’t mean that you want the government to keep spending money as if there were an endless supply, after all, liberals have to balance their own checkbooks too!

In the end, it comes down to the one thing that makes America great. The right to vote.  We examine, we question and we decide. Ultimately, we should all choose the best person for the job regardless of party. We don’t, but we should. I submit that when you decide who to vote for, you throw out your definition of liberal and erase conservative from your vocabulary. Instead, think “better” and “best.”

Mule Skinning (An Historical Primer)

Many trades and professions are long forgotten and lost in time.

In days gone by, people were by nature and habit practical and a person’s  trade or profession was often obvious just by its name alone!

If you tanned hides for a living you were a tanner.

If you drove a team of horses you were a teamster.

It wasn’t always obvious though; if you drove a team of mules you were not only a “teamster,” but you were also a specialist!   Your title was “Mule Skinner!”

Anything but obvious!  But, for many years in the early days of the west, that’s how it was.  Teamsters and their counterparts were the daring pioneers that would drive a team of animals overland to a host of destinations and businesses.  They hauled wagon loads of goods from point to point and while the meaning of the name, “teamster,” may have changed in modern times, these rugged individuals are still a vivid part of the landscape that paints the history of our country and the American west.  Teamsters were truckers, horse drivers and ox handlers, but if you needed someone with grit and determination and imagination AND Mules! ; you needed a “mule skinner.”

Mule Skinners were definitely tough minded and inventive individuals.  Due, in no small part, to the animals they worked with.  Mules were then, as now, noted for their single minded stubborn behavior.  A ‘stopped’ mule was most difficult to restart and mule skinners were always looking for sure fire ways of motivating a particularly stubborn mule to move.  Usually a balky mule was talked to soothingly, then pleaded with and finally, threatened.  The method of last resort involved the use of hot, flat rocks!

Like a lot of, shall we say “technology,”  the ‘hot, flat rock’ method evolved from trial and error testing.  The beginnings of this technique involved building a small fire directly under the intractable animal.  The first attempts proved to be unfortunate, but none-the-less valuable lessons.  We should remember that mules were stubborn, not stupid and as the mule would feel the heat from the fire and its implied danger, it would simply move; usually just far enough to pull the fully loaded wagon directly over the fire, causing it to burn to the ground.

Having done this, the teamster in question was usually overlooked for his next promotion.

Employers, citing escalating fire insurance costs (not to mention, disgruntled customers), banned the use of open fire within 10 feet of mule and wagon.  Once again, however, trial and error proved to be the evolutionary model for solving this dilemma.  The next technique tried, in fact, proved to be a major step in the right direction.

Some teamsters, noting the unsuccessful attempts of their brethren, decided to use a large, flat rock, heated in fire to motivate their animals.  As these inventive craftsmen soon found out, this new technique, while largely successful, required no small degree of quickness and agility to apply correctly.  Once the rock was heated sufficiently (not so hot as to burn, but not too cold either), the teamster would calmly (but quickly) approach the mule from behind with rock in hand.  Gently, he would lift the mule’s tail and place the heated rock directly under the base of the tail and over one of the mule’s more sensitive areas.  The mule would sense the danger and would clamp his tail tightly to prevent any further foul play; thus, locking the heated rock firmly in place.

It was at the moment that the teamster attempting this maneuver discovered the need for quickness and agility.  Several experimenters discovered that they weren’t able to run the entire distance between Tehachapi and Barstow, California with their hand caught in such close proximity to an embarrassing part of the animal’s anatomy.  Explanations were quite difficult given the added problem of having most of their clothing ripped off or torn during the journey.

Those quick enough to remove their hand and avoid being trapped, but not agile enough to jump into the already moving wagon, soon realized that a mule could, indeed, pull a fully loaded wagon and still outrun a man.  As a result, several wagons arrived at their destinations unattended.

Those drivers both quick and agile enough also discovered two more subtle considerations when using this technique.  One involved the temperature of the rock.  If the rock was too cold, the animal would sometimes suddenly lose motivation some distance short of the destination.  If the rock was too hot, many drivers found it difficult to explain why they had skipped one or more stops on their route.

The second consideration involved the physical condition of the mule itself.  If a mule had ingested certain grain mixtures known to promote intestinal gases, it soon became clear that such an animal wasn’t suitable for the ‘hot, flat rock’ technique.  This fact became evident after several drivers were knocked unconscious after being struck in the head by flat rocks traveling at high velocities.

It became clear to the drivers that the “flat rock” method was A) only to be used in extreme emergencies and B) never sit directly behind the mule to which the technique had been applied!

“Mule Skinning” a name and trade gone forever.  Depending on your point of view it is either good or bad that certain trades (and their colorful practices) have fallen from common use, but I believe that the memory and skills of our ancestors should be preserved. During this same period companies like Kenworth introduced a new product to the trucking industry and ultimately, ‘mule skinning’ became a trade and American lexicon lost in time to advances in modern machinery.  Lost, yes, but not forgotten!

Morons Rule The World!

Intelligence isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  After all, if Sarah Palin can become a state governor and a millionaire, who needs brains?  Rush Limbaugh is living proof that you don’t have to be too smart to be successful.  Glen Beck is absolute living proof that not only is intelligence not necessary for success, the more stupid and moronic you sound, the more successful you’ll become.  We live in a world ruled by morons.  They’re a separate breed actually.  Sometime after homoerectus became ‘erectus’, they split from the gene pool.  The scientific term is “homomoronous. “

Need proof?  If you’ve purchased a “For Dummies” book raise your hand.  If you’ve purchased a “Complete Idiots Guide” go out and buy a gun, put a bag over your head and shoot yourself in the groin.  When the ambulance comes, tell the EMT’s you were trying to field strip your new .45 caliber hand gun in the dark.  They’ll believe you and give you drugs and you will no longer be able to procreate.  It’s Win Win!

In the interest of journalistic research I actually went to and perused their library.  Titles like “Dating For Dummies” (now in its 2nd Edition) and “Divorce For Dummies”, (now in its 3rd Edition) caught my attention.  The “Dating for Dummies” title disturbed me.  It appears that someone is trying to create a race of super morons by getting hopeless idiots to date one another and then have babies.  I was really upset until I realized that it isn’t all that bad.  After all; consider Liz Cheney.   Pure bred moron.  No real threat.  Neither she nor Sarah Palin can tell foreign policy from an insurance policy.  I realized my fear was irrational and irrational behavior is the first sign of moronism.  I said three Our Fathers, a Hail Mary and put a garlic clove around my neck.  I think it’ll pass.

PS  I don’t really mean for anyone to buy a gun and shoot themselves.  It’s metaphorical.  Dear God! It’s just a joke!

Doc’s Journal

Thursday, May 18 2017

First day of chemo therapy for my Third go ‘round with Multiple Myeloma.  Oh Joy!  The radiation really seemed to accomplish at least some shrinkage…how much?  Only God Knows and He’s apparently Not referenced in the test results.  I can report the “soft tissue” biopsy was a staggering success…that is, if you are a sadist and prefer hospital blues to leather.  The sadistic bas….er doctor who performed the biopsy was just thrilled that he was able to get three very good samples while I, on the other hand just wanted to climb up off of the table and take a few pieces of my own from his behind.  Anyway, no new symptoms from the start of the chemo.


Friday, May 19 2017

Second day of chemo and it seems I’m developing “desert throat.”  Very dry, thirsty all of the time and slightly irritated in the very back part.  Here….I’ll open my mouth…..AHHHHH….can you see anything?  Me neither.  It’s the drugs.  When I was a kid, the drugs made you feel good, now they just fall short of killing you.  It’s a very pharmaceutical application of the old phrase…”what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”   The drive into the office was made all the more enjoyable by my faithful, loving companion and wife who, by now, has permanently imprinted her handprint onto overhead handle of the passenger side of our car.  Apparently, if another driver decides to cut us off while we’re traveling at highway speeds (above the speed limit), it is my fault.  If I gesture to that driver that I am thoroughly disappointed with his/her behavior I am very probably going to get us both killed, because the other driver is plainly nuts and has at least one gun in his hand at all times.  The entire day seemed like that.  Every other driver on the road was only interested in where THEY were going and had no care whatsoever for the drivers around them.  There’s a word for that….let me see….starts with ass…ends with hole.  It’ll come to me.  Anyway, the “desert throat” symptom is new.  I can’t wait for what comes next.  Who knew cancer could be so much fun?

Saturday, May 20 2017

Well cancer fans Saturday was an exercise in golf futility.  In my defense, I couldn’t make a putt if the hole was the magnetic center of the universe and my ball had a neodymium core.   I don’t think I putted badly….I just didn’t make Anything.  Coupled with a severe shortness of breath, a constant cough that has turned into what feels like a head and chest cold….whooowee!   How much fun is That?  It is difficult to be “witty” and impossible to be “profound” when your head feels like there’s a large piece of lead clanking around inside.  One of the reasons I’m trying to journalize this time around on my cancer merry-go-round is that I (and Steffie) can’t remember if I got these same symptoms last time.  I don’t think so, but my memory is shot.  When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, my main focus is to try to recognize the guy looking back at me.  If I know who it is…..well…ok, at least I won’t be spending the day with a total stranger.  I really hate it when that happens.   I’m thinking about writing another article for Coping Magazine…I think it would be my fifth.  I know that they like their readers to read about “Suvivors!”  They want them to know that life doesn’t begin or end with a cancer diagnosis.  I do too!  I guess it’s in my nature to be supportive and it would really bother me to think that I could have helped someone trudge through this journey and didn’t just because I got lazy or apathetic.  I haven’t quite figured out what I want to say yet.  This one will be about the idea of facing repeated cancer attacks and living with my own advice to others.  That is “survive.” Fight for every day, every week, every month because research brings new and powerful treatments to cancer trenches almost daily it seems and the next one might just be “THE ONE!”  Even now my own doctor tells me that he has several treatment options still available over and above the one he’s using now to treat my particular brand of hell and I have to admit that writing about it is sort of cathartic.  Because I’ve written a few articles for Coping Magazine I feel like I have some sort of relationship with them.  Last year one of my articles was selected by Coping to be highlighted in their 30th Anniversary issue.  (…/index…/search/articles/10_years_later) I’m of two minds about possibly being selected for their 40th.  On one hand I’ll be gratified that I’m still kicking around and writing stuff, but on the other I’m pretty sure I’ll be pissed off.  Oh well.  Hopefully soon, I’ll get my act together and write a new piece for Coping.  See you all tomorrow.

Sunday and Monday, May 21 and 22 2017

My brain gets foggy as hell…I could have sworn today was Monday.  Damn!  I must have been on autopilot for two whole days.  I suppose it’s okay though, there really wasn’t much going on in the Knowles residence over those two days.  I’ve been just laying low and trying to get past this chest cold.  I’ve been coughing so much that my ribs feel like they were used to train a boxer on how punish his opponent with body blows.  I’d really like to find that guy…I want to hit him back!

Stef is busy “Cleaning” (with a capital “C”) the entire house!  Why you may ask?  Because our youngest son is coming home for a few days to visit and to attend our eldest’s wedding reception.  If we had red carpet it would be rolled down the driveway out to the street.  There’d be a band and some kind of parade.  Never mind that he’s been a stiff pain in the tuccus for only his ENTIRE life.  He’s the “prince” and nothing will deter my bride from making his visit a formal state affair.  Okay…I have to admit….I’m a little proud of him.  He’s been clean and sober for over a year and has completely turned his life around.  His struggle was monumental.  We and he have been battling his illness for too many years to count.  For each of us it was a lonely desperate battle.  (please read Demons Have My Son!) A battle I’m happy to say that he’s learned how to defeat.  Naturally, the battle never ends.  It’s an everyday, ongoing struggle to keep your wits about you and stay focused on the prize.  My son is doing just that.  It has lifted a heavy burden on his mother and me.  Over the years many people have asked and commented about “how to handle drug addiction” in their family or that of a friend.  There is no magic cure, no surefire method and definitely no easy answer to drug addiction.  As a parent, especially as a parent, You can do nothing.  After all, you’re not addicted.  Your child is.  In the final analysis it simply means that when your child decides to get real help and devote themselves to getting straight….they have a chance.  Once they make that commitment it is your job to be supportive and encourage them to take their place in the normal world.  I know….it’s a crappy answer.

On to more positive news.  My dog is going to live!  Yay!  I love my dog.  I love my dog.  I love my dog.  I want to strangle my dog!  I have a dachshund.  A wiener dog.  He’s mine.  We bonded when he was a puppy and he’s been “my dog” ever since.  Two weeks ago we came home to find that somehow he had gotten into a sealed bag of mouse poison and eaten almost all of it.  To be honest, I thought I’d lost him.  He’s still not back to normal, but he has miraculously managed to hang it there and pull through.  I still feel guilty because I had left the damned poison on the far side of the garage in a bag.  It had been there for at least two months and I completely forgot about it.  So far he has some trouble getting his back legs to cooperate with his front legs and he only knows how to go forward.  So when he comes to a wall or other obstacle…..he’s stymied.  Each day, though, he seems to get a little better and a little stronger.  I think he’s still trying to get the spider webs out of his mind and lift the fog he was in.  The poison was a neuro-toxin.  Having seen what it can do to our pet and how he has suffered I can say that I’ll never use anything like that to get rid of pests.  There are more humane ways of pest control.  Poison is not one of them.  Getting back to my dog…I want to strangle him because it wasn’t enough that he ate one piece, get sick, throw up and go lay down.  No.  He ate 12 pieces!  Each time he’d throw up and go after another piece!  I’m still amazed that he survived at all.  Now I’m hoping I’ll get “my dog” back.  Time will tell.

So that’s it.  Two lost days of me in some other dimension losing all track of time and realizing…belatedly….”Hey dummy!  You need to write in your journal!”

Demons Have My Son!

Demons Have My Son!

What dreams are these that torture my son at night?
Which demon haunts him?
Show yourself coward!
God’s blood wasn’t shed for you!
You are nothing.
A shadow.
A long forgotten fear.
Face ME! Not him and I will surely strike you down.
Leave him now and run to the shadows where you belong!
But as I watch his troubled sleep I realize,
It’s the drugs.  Again.

Doc Knowles  2014

It may be the hardest thing a man must ever do.  Sending a son away.  Storming off into the late day.  So much anger.  Where did that come from?  We have lived through so much, his mother and I.  This, though; the worst. There is no rest.  No peace in the house. He lies; he steals (even from us).  I’d sooner have died from the cancer I have than see him destroy himself this way.  I’d rather I live on the street than him.  I think, “Can I make a trade Lord?  His life for mine?”  And then I wonder; do I have the courage to make such a bargain?  I really don’t want to die.  In the end, I hope I would have the courage.  The choice was never mine in the first place though.  Demons have my son!

I see him now, his gaunt, dark and looming frame.  God! How he has grown!  His soul so restless now.  It wasn’t always this way.  He was a soft, almost zoftig baby.  His kisses always wet and messy.  His first “big boy” shoes, his most prize possession.  In the car, he was always rocking, bouncing off of the back of the seat.  Should I have seen his restlessness then?  As a young boy, he was always on the go.  Should I have seen it then?  Friends invited him everywhere. He did everything.  Snowboards, motorcycles, camping trips, weekends away; his mother and I thought he was just active.  How could we know?

I wonder, was it the cancer?  It would be nice to have a real culprit.  Something to blame.  Neat and tidy.  Like putting your finger on a map, “it all started here!”  We came home that day, sat the boys down and told them.  “I have cancer, but we’ll get through it.  Don’t worry.  I’m too tough to die!”  It turns out (so far, at least) that I am (too tough to die).  But, back then I wasn’t so sure.  The boys were scared, especially our youngest.  I think it frightened him more than either of us knew.  I blame myself.  My focus wasn’t on them.  I was so damnedably sick.

It seemed like overnight.  One day he was a little boy out playing in the back yard, the next day he was stealing my oxycontin, crushing it into a spoon and snorting it.  What happened?  I blame myself for that, too.  We, no that’s not right… I;  I should have locked up my pain pills.  We caught him of course.  The insurance company won’t let you have so many of those that you could lose count.  You have just enough to get through the month.  So, when we came up short one month his mother and I put our heads together.  Must be a mistake we thought.  Maybe we miscounted.  So, we counted.  The next day, one fewer than we knew was there the day before.

When we confronted him, his denial was strenuous.  I nearly gave in.  Finally, though the truth won out.  It was him.  Then the whole story started to come.  The nights he snuck out through the window in his bedroom.  Hitching into town at midnight.  Going to parties.  Smoking dope.  “I just like getting high,” he said.  I was shell shocked.  Where in hell was I when all of this happened?  The steroids the doctors had prescribed had kept me up all hours of the night and I didn’t hear him?  Am I deaf?  I must have been.  It was only then, when his mother and I thought back, that we saw what we know now to be the signs.  His anger, his grades.  He stopped playing sports.  My God!  I’ve read all of the articles about teenaged drug abuse.  How did I miss that?  He barely graduated from high school.  We think they just passed him through to get rid of him.  I felt as though I’d been in a coma and had just woken up.

Eight years. Eight years from then to now and it has only gotten worse.  From oxycontin to heroin. From petty theft to felony and county jail. Out-patient clinics, NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings three and four nights a week for what seemed like an eternity.

Finally, we had had enough.  One fight too many.  One lie too many.  So much stress.  We asked him to leave our home, his home. We fear that torturous ring of the phone in the middle of the night. Each time it rings we ask, “Have the demons won?”

I search my soul for an answer, but I’m always left with one unbearable truth; I can’t help him.  We can’t help him.  Even still, he’s our son and still his sleep is tortured by nightmares and shadows.  He moans and mumbles curses and moves constantly.  No real rest.  Demons have my son.

He has recovered for short periods of time and relapsed several times in his short life.  More even than many, much more mature adult addicts.  He still doesn’t and won’t live in our home.  He knows, finally, that his recovery is his responsibility and our home is no longer his home.  He lives in another home, still though, not his home.  His mother and I beg and pray to God that he finds a way to fight through his struggle with the stress and everyday trials life and God put in his way.  We are ever hopeful.  We are always worried.  His demons still haunt his dreams and ours.  We see them lurking in the streets and alleys.  Waiting.  But the battle, his battle continues.  It is after all, life or death.

In the end, this is a story I take no pleasure in telling.  It is an open wound that will never heal.  Ever.  Drugs are the real demons in our day.  They subvert and steal our children’s childhood and even their lives.  The devil lives in the hallways and lockers of our schools and streets.

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