A Miserable 22 weeks

Some of my good and faithful readers recall what seems like a decade ago when I told you my tale of preparing to get dentures for all the teeth I had.  That meant sitting in the dentist’s chair for more than four hours on April 13.  I had no idea what I was getting into–and contline to endure.  This means this has now gone on for more than 22 weeks.

That means 22 weeks of almost no solid food, except some grilled fish.  It means way more liquids than anything else.  While milkshakes can sound yummy from time to time, too much of anything becomes wearisome.  Honey buns and chocolate milk even lose their appeal.  My sister urged me to get bean protein powder to get some nutrition.  OMG.  How foul?

Waking up every morning and trying to figure out what you can gulp down is no fun.  You lose your appetite for things you’ve eaten all your life..  My insurance company sent me 14 pureed meals.  I think 12 of them went in the trash.

The gums are now healed.  Thank goodness.  But “gumming” stuff to death is not very satisficing.

I have made some really dumb decisions before, but I think this was the dumbest.  The dentist swears that I had no real choice.  If it were now early April, we would find out.

I’m told that there is now light at the end of tunnel and I should have the permanent dentures within a few weeks.

In the meantime, I will keep on gumming.

GOP Now Has A Crystal Ball

As I write, it is Tuesday night, September 14, 2021 and the big election news is a recall election in California where an effort is being made to recall Democrat governor Gavin Newsome.

His primary opponent is Republican Larry Elder, a right wing talk show host and attorney.  All I know about Elder is that he is a frequent guest on Fox News.and a die hard Donald Trump fan.  And he has taken a page from Trump’s playbook and proclaimed that he is a victim of THE BIG LIE.”

In fact, Elder’s website carried a statement on Sept, 13 claiming that he lost the Sept. 14–EVEN THOUGH THE VOTE HAD NOT BEEN COUNTED.  He further added that he has hired an army of lawyers to go to court.

This is what we’ve come to?  Not the most votes.  The most lawyers..

And these clowns want us to believe they are patriots.  Give me a break.

This is treason.  Nothing less.  And a very sad situation.


The Only Change Is Constant

Editor’s note:  More info from the 2020 U.S. census was released this pat week.  While it shows a profound impact on our future, it did hot seem to get the scurrility it deserved..as it definitely has severe political consequences as to how diversity will play out.

The New York Times has a brief, but well-done, article that deserves you attention.


From Panola With Love

You can’t get to Panola, AL from here.  In fact, it’s hard to get there from anywhere.

But I have been.  Even been to church here.  And a barbecue.  It’s tucked back in the pines just off highway 17 on the west side of Sumter County.   Some say it has about 400 residents.  Truth is I’m not sure anyone is counting.  The same can be said for Danzy or Warsaw or Geiger.

It’s been the home of my friend Clyde Marine for decades.  His daughter Connie is just a few hundred yards away.  Clyde is 95 years old now.  Without doubt, one of the most interesting people I’ve ever known  If a machine has a motor. Clyde can make it run.  Or build one for it.

Dorothy Oliver runs a very small store in Panola.  If something is going on in the community, Dorothy knows about it.  Her sidekick is county commissioner Druicilla Russ-Jackson.  In this little part of the world, if help is on the way, someone who lives there has to provide it.

So it was when the coronavirus came to west Alabama.  Dorothy and Druicillia set about to get locals vaccinated.  By the time the job was done, the majority of people in Panola had gotten a shot..

And news about their effort traveled all the way to New York City where The New Yorker magazine did a short documentary about what they The Panola Project  Take a few minutes to watch it and be uplifted by the effort of Dorothy and Druicillia to help their neighbors..( Editor’s note:  click documentary on bottom right to activate sound)

It is impossible to watch this and not contrast it to so many who are intent to try and twist public health policy to their own selfish political purposes with this virus.

A Message From Mobile

Editor’s note:  From time to time I share info about my son, Kevin in Mobile. Unfortunately he has an inherited medical condition that greatly impairs his respiratory system.  Consequently he has spent “high alert” for the last year regarding Covid-19.  He went to great lengths to obtain a vaccination..

Now he is very perplexed at the attitude of his fellow citizens as to the need to be vaccinated.  Not only do so few have concern about their own health, they don’t value the lives of others much either..

Certainly his perspective is unique, but is worthy of consideration.  So I share an article of his in The Daily Beast..

“I expected COVID-19 to bring fever, loss of taste, pneumonia, maybe a tube down my gullet. My anger, though, was unanticipated.

No, I haven’t contracted the disease, but it is consuming the world around me, faster than most places in the United States. Here in Mobile, Alabama, the virus’ more transmissible Delta variant has ravenously fed on the 69 percent of adults who have so far ducked vaccinations. On July 26, the county of just over 400,000 residents added another 499 cases to its tally, most with the Delta strain, most all unvaccinated. The next day was another 553 cases, then 472 the day after that. The seven-day average was the highest it has been, surpassing last winter’s peak.

The metro area surrounding Mobile Bay is Alabama’s COVID-19 hotbed. We’re also below the state’s vaccination average—the nation’s lowest—while leading in COVID-19 positivity at nearly 20 percent. Hospital beds are filling across the county.

If you’re stuck in this mess with lung disease, like me, there are added levels of concern and caution. Once vaccinated, most others weather breakthrough COVID-19 like a standard cold. My colds or flu often turn to bronchitis, then pneumonia and hospitalization.

That’s why I’m exasperated. It isn’t just a few recalcitrant misanthropes endangering me. Two out of every three adults here rebuke practicality and their responsibility as community members. They’re keeping COVID’s influence alive.

I assume they don’t know about smallpox, a disease that killed 30 percent of its victims. The first vaccine came in 1798 and once we made a concerted effort at wide-scale inoculation—mid-20th century kids lined up in school hallways to get hyper-jet injections—it was eradicated by 1980.

I guess the vax refusers don’t know about polio, either. It disabled 35,000 a year through the first half of the 20th century. Vaccines chased the debilitating and deadly illness out of the Americas by 1994. It disappeared in Europe in 2002. Polio survivors are among us—like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—but their sway seems absent in the current pandemic.

It’s more charitable to assign ignorance to anti-vaxxers. Otherwise, it means they don’t care how they imperil everyone else, including supposed loved ones, and that kind of pathology is worse than sheer oblivion.

I got a glimpse of promise during late spring’s pre-Delta window, that sweet spot after many of us got our vaccinations and before the more aggressive strain arrived. No more endless hours in confinement. Friends would be available for dinner, to laugh, and embrace. I could rejoin my active roles in organizations that inform, entertain, and magnify marginalized cultural components of our community. I could feel valuable again.

That window slammed shut in July, the latch locked by bitter socio-political division and ungrounded paranoia. Instead of feeling valuable, I simply feel spurned now.

Alienation comes easily in this place. My values and perspectives on society and politics seem mostly at odds with the extreme attitudes around me. I already endure widespread derision of the social safety net that supplies my medical coverage and hear calls for its eradication. Now, it feels like another target is drawn on my back as some of those same critics volunteer to incubate more lethal COVID-19 variants.

Those around me generally eschew masks, even in crowded rooms. They demand everything continue in a pre-pandemic manner with no mask or vaccination mandates. Open schools. Flout caution. March everyone into epidemiological machine-gun fire. Politicians catered to the insanity by prohibiting private businesses from enforcing their own measures.

My wife’s boss chose this surge as the time to end her remote work option and return to the office. For the last 15 months, she isolated at home to guard against infection and my exposure. Today, she is sweating out her first day back where she claimed to be the only masked person in the office. She’s vaccinated, but the Delta variant can hitch a ride in her anyway.

Right now, too many anti-vaxxers are counting on us maskers and vaxxers to get rid of the disease for them. That’s freeloading while putting me and my loved ones at risk. How do I not grow angry at that?

This will accelerate when the region’s holiest season arrives next month as football players snap chinstraps and shoulder pads. Anti-vaxxers will crowd into high school and college stadiums. Come October, last winter’s deadly surge could seem paltry.

When it’s all done, many anti-vaxxers who survive will suffer far longer. COVID-19’s documented “long haul” effects—cardiomyopathy, lung scarring, brain fog—will add them to Alabama’s already sizable share of disabled residents.

People here pride themselves on stereotypes of hospitality, grace, and conscientiousness. I guess COVID-19 will kill that myth, too, since those who genuinely care about others don’t spread death through inaction.”



Leave It To The Kids

Editor’s note:  How any of us keep our sanity these days is a question I ponder each day.  Between the confusion and mis-information about Covid 19, seven months of claims that Donald Trump got more votes than Joe Biden last November and that January 6 was a “love in” at the nation’s capitol is enough to make anyone doubt their mental capacity..

Then, we happen upon this article from The Washington Post that describes how a high school class took on a project that has brought joy to a young couple and for a few moments we once again realize this world does have things to rejoice about.

Read it and be thankful:

“Jeremy King thought he’d probably be deprived of the simple pleasure of taking his child for a stroll. It was something he desperately hoped to do.

After undergoing brain surgery in 2017, the 37-year-old Marylander was left with mobility and speech challenges. Although his cancerous brain tumor — which was “about the size of a baseball,” he said — was successfully removed, he faced a fresh set of obstacles after the operation.
“Even going out on a walk is so incredibly difficult for me,” said King, adding that balance is his biggest struggle, and he often uses a wheelchair to get around.

When he and his wife, Chelsie King, 32, found out they were expecting their first child in June 2020, they were ecstatic — but the news also sparked concerns for the couple, who live in Germantown, about 30 miles from D.C.
Mainly, they wondered: “How are we going to parent safely? How might Jeremy carry the baby without having to walk?”
While searching online for devices that might assist Jeremy with safely carrying their child, they found little information. Although there are design ideas for wheelchair adaptive strollers, there are limited options to purchase them.

“Getting outside and taking your baby for a walk in a stroller is something that a lot of people take for granted,” Chelsie said.
But fortunately for them, a group of 10 innovative high school students spent several months crafting products that would ultimately enable Jeremy — and other parents with mobility challenges — to safely stroll with a child.

The project started after Chelsie, a middle school drama teacher at Bullis School in Potomac, Md., shared her concerns with a colleague, Matt Zigler, who runs the independent school’s “makerspace” — a creative lab where students are encouraged to participate in hands-on projects.
“I approached him as a personal favor. I know he’s a whiz at building things and is an incredibly collaborative person,” she said.
She expected him to spitball a few potential ideas, but instead, Zigler — who teaches an elective course called “Making for Social Good” — asked her for permission to consult with his high school students.

“It seemed like that would be a perfect project that would engage the kids and result in a successful end product,” Zigler said, adding that the class focuses on creating innovative products that have a positive impact on society. In previous years, students made durable metal information cards engraved with various resources as part of a kit that was distributed to homeless people, as well as solar-powered cellphone chargers that were sent to Africa.
In this case, though, building a product that would directly benefit someone in their own community felt “especially meaningful,” Zigler said.  When he pitched the idea to his students “they were all very excited about it,” he said.

Plus, he added, given that the class is a trimester course which ran from November to March — ending just around the March 4 due date for the baby — “it lined up very well, and gave the students the time crunch they needed to stay focused.”
The students went straight to the drawing board in November and began with basic brainstorming, which included simply sitting and navigating in a wheelchair, while trying to imagine how Jeremy could safely stroll with his child.  “A big part of the course is developing empathy for the person you’re designing for,” Zigler said.

Evan Beach, 15, who just completed ninth grade, said the early stages of the process highlighted “the simple tasks that we take for granted.”  Using a wheelchair that they borrowed from the nurse’s office, as well as two strollers and a car seat that were donated to the class, “they started with low-tech experiments to see what might work, and then once those proved that they had some potential, they spent time refining them,” Zigler said.

The class, which decided to name the project “WheeStroll,” was divided into two teams: One group set out to build an apparatus that would attach an infant car seat to a wheelchair, while the other sought to create a contraption that would safely secure a stroller to a wheelchair for when the child is older.
Once the students devised early-stage blueprints for their respective products, they conducted a virtual interview with the Kings to hash out critical details, including what terrain Jeremy expected to travel on, and what weather he would consider going out in.
After the interview process, students became even more determined to help the family, they said.

“It was really soul-touching talking to them because we really got to understand what they were thinking and their idea of what they wanted,” Evan said.  “I was already really passionate about the project, but just talking to them, seeing their faces and hearing them explain the problem made me that much more inspired,” added Jacob Zlonitsky, 18, who is headed to Boston University in the fall.

 “I was ecstatic to connect with these students,” said Jeremy, who was a nurse anesthetist before his brain surgery and now works on the administrative side of anesthesiology. “They raised important points that we hadn’t even considered ourselves.”
Both teams had three central design goals: safety, maneuverability and ease of use. They also aimed to make the products as cost-effective as possible without sacrificing quality.

While one group embarked on a more complicated route and used a 3-D printer to create connectors to attach a stroller to a wheelchair, the other team purchased simple materials including screws, Velcro cable ties and metal tubes from Home Depot, totaling less than $100.
“One of the goals of the class is to make something that can be cheaply and easily replicated by anyone who has access to some tools and a little knowledge,” said Zigler, who publicly shared a detailed video tutorial explaining how to make the wheelchair attachment, and has received multiple messages from people planning to re-create the product.
Through trial and error, the students produced many iterations of each design, until finally landing on a solid prototype. They connected several metal pipes to securely attach the car seat to the wheelchair and conducted weight tests using 55 pounds of cinder blocks to ensure that the mechanism could safely support a baby.

Although they are still running safety tests on the 3-D printed version, Zigler delivered the completed car-seat connector to the Kings just days after son Phoenix was born.
A few weeks later, the couple tested it out and shared a video of the first ride with the class.

“I was elated,” Jeremy said. “I was really excited to see what they could pull off.”  “It was emotional to see it all come together and [to] put Phoenix in it for the first time,” Chelsie said.

Zigler and his students were proud of their work.  “Seeing the video was like hitting a home run. It felt really good,” Zigler said. “It’s super-gratifying to know that it’s being used and is helping someone.”

Since receiving the wheelchair attachment in March, Jeremy has taken Phoenix on numerous outings and adventures, including to the Bethesda Trolley Trail, a place he’d long hoped to visit with his son.

“These students gave me the opportunity to do something I thought I would never be able to do,” Jeremy said. “I’m really grateful.”


Readers Say, “Get Your Shots”

I am always pleased to hear from readers–even those who disagree with me.  But lately, every one I hear from is just like I am–dismayed that people have resisted getting vaccinated against covid-19.  Many are old enough to recall when polio swept the countryside.

Richard Davis of north Alabama recalls,  “I had polio in the fall of ’48 and spent 18 months in Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. Left shoulder and arm severely limited. In the fall of ’54-55 school year the Salk polio became available. I was the first child in Marion Co to get the vaccine and was the poster child for polio vaccines. NO BODY turned down the shot whether old or young. What is the mental condition of all these people?”

Dr.  Brytney Cobia, a hospitalist at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, answers this question in an excellent article on AL.com.

They tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political. They thought because they had a certain blood type or a certain skin color they wouldn’t get as sick. They thought it was ‘just the flu’. But they were wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t. So they thank me and they go get the vaccine. And I go back to my office, write their death note, and say a small prayer that this loss will save more lives.”

How does one stoop so low as to try and convince fellow citizens that a life or death situation is just a “hoax” or only “political?”  How can you be so self-centered that your own well-being supersedes anyone else’s?

No doubt the people who do this consider that they should be at the head of the line of so-called “patriots.”  I strongly disagree with that.




How Did A Health Pandemic Become A Political Pandemic?

In the spring of 2020, when Americans realized the severity of Coronavirus, we did what we have always done.  We went into action.  Overworked health care workers were genuinely saluted as heroes. ladies all over the country pulled out sewing machines and began hand-crafting face masks, ordinary citizens lined up to volunteer any way they could.

As we watched numbers of infections and deaths soar, we stayed at home, wore our masks and prayed.

It was the country at its finest.  When one is in danger, we are all in danger and we rallied to the cause, in whatever small way we could.  NEVER, NEVER, NEVER in my wildest notion did I think that those more interested in making political points and boosting their own egos would soon convolute this tragedy into some very warped political statement.

Almost overnight we had political opportunists show their true colors.  To hell with this country, let’s twist facts, attack scientists and put quacks with far-fetched treatments on TV to spread their propaganda.  So some people might die, who cared?

We went from a country that deeply cares about ALL its citizens to one that thrives on mis-information, dissent and deceit.. To one where a speaker in Dallas last weekend was roundly cheered when he bragged about how many American HAVE NOT been vaccinated.

Sadly these people love to boast about how American they are.  How every drop of their blood is devoted to being a true patriot.

It is all a myth.  These people are not patriots, they are simply sick.  Too bad we don’t have a vaccine for that..

My retired teacher friend Bea Ishler writes from Mobile.  Like me, she can not understand today’s foolishness about vaccines

“As someone who had friends with polio and who remembers being in a dark room when I had measles, I too know about the efficacy of vaccines.  I don’t understand why people are now putting them down.

As to public health workers going door to door, when I was a child in the 50s some neighborhood children came down with whooping cough.  Health workers were in our neighborhood going door to door checking who had been vaccinated for whooping cough.  Mother had a yellow vaccine book which had our small pox vaccine, and any other vaccines he had. noted.
Guess that was our vaccine passport.  Anybody who hadn’t been vaccinated was either vaccinated then or quarantined for two weeks.”

Like me, Bea also remembers when we were truly neighbors, not just members of blue and red tribes.

Fox News Has No Shame, No Soul, No Scruples

Lord have mercy on those misguided souls who honestly believe there is value in watching Fox News.  There is none since the truth is the farthest thing from their mind.

The Fox business mantra is obviously, “there is a suckier born every minute”  who will believe anything we tell them–the more outlandish, the better.  So they fill the screen with a collection of air-heads, some of whom may actually think they are journalists and act offended when another network calls their bluff..

A year ago the country was making great progress on containing coronavirus through the development of vaccines.  President Trump was busy patting himself on the back for his Warp Speed vaccine program.  All we had to do was get as many people vaccinated as quickly s possible.

Not an easy task at best, but doable.

Then the “naysayers” showed up.  Many of them seeking their own 15 seconds of fame by telling us why vaccines won’t work.  And since these are the kind of folks Fox like to put front and center, the stage was set.

This burst into the open a few days ago when “personalities” Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade squared off on the air.  Doocy reminded the audience that 99 percent of covid infections right now are occurring in people who have not been vaccinated.  Unbelievably, Kilmeade replied that not getting a vaccine is a personal choice and that the government has no role in protecting the population

How can you be this stupid?  For goodness sakes would someone immediately pull his driver’s license because he doesn’t think someone in a car should obey a speed limit and it’s OK for him to go 70 miles per hour in a school zone.

What about the hundreds of first responders who rushed to the crushed condo in Florida the other day?  By Kilmeade’s logic they should have been walking on the beach and not looking for survivors.

Fox has been the most vocal of the “anti-vaxers” on the air waves.  This is especially true of Tucker Carlson.  But magically, earlier this week other Fox voices, such as Sean Hannity, begin telling viewers to get the vaccine.  And we now know that Fox News has a strict covid-19 protocol that requires employees to show proof of vaccination.

No Shame.  No Soul.  No Scruples.

That sums up Fox News.



Tucker Carlson Has Never Been To Bushfield Cemetery

While Bushfield Cemetery is in Covington County, it lies hard against the Butler County line about three miles southeast of McKenzie. It’s been the final resting place for settlers for more than 150 years,. All four of my grandparents are there.  Grandpa Lee’s daddy, Janes Kenyard Lee is there. His daddy, James Madison Lee is not there because he marched off to Vicksburg in the Civil War and never made it home.

I’ve been there many times, some times to attend a grave side service, often just to wander and look.  As long as I can remember, I have always marveled at the scores of infant graves I see.  One being daddy’s only sister.

They are a sober reminder that childhood was once a treacherous time for children, especially during the Great Depression when poverty, lack of sanitation and lack of medical care was a fertile ground for yellow fever, malaria, hookworm and pellagra  Then thanks in large measure to programs begun by the federal government during the New Deal, childhood became safer.  In fact, the four diseases just mentioned were largely under control by 1950.

With this point of reference, it is STUNNING to me that there are now people working tirelessly to belittle efforts in this country of public health workers to encourage citizens to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

I place Fox News media darling Tucker Carson at the top of this list.

Who tries to make a name for themselves by casting stones at scientists and touting misinformation that could have life or death implications for our citizens?

Of course there have been mistakes made by scientists in their work to slow the pandemic.  That is simply the nature of dealing frantically with unknowns.  But that in no way can be construed with being inept, or purposefully giving out erroneous information on purpose.

But to hear Tucker Carlson spew and spray his nightly attacks on the value of a covid vaccine is sickening.

No, he has never been to Bushfield cemetery–not does he have empathy for families whose circumstances once put them in this neighborhood..

We know that vaccines work.  Of all the new cases of covid being found today, 99 percent of them are in patients who were never vaccinated.  And where are the largest percent of such people?  Alabama, unfortunately, leads the entire nation.  Only 22 percent of our 67 counties have reached the 30 percent vaccination threshold.

Which clearly says that Carlson could care less about the good folks of Alabama.  We need vaccinations more than any other state.  But Carlson and his fellow travelers at Fox News have concluded that we are not worthy of getting help.  What a despicable human being.

Editor’s note: Several years ago Carlson made an appearance on Dancing with the Stars.  He was horrible and was soon sent packing.  He could not walk and chew gum at the same time.  Now we know that he knows as much about epidemiology as he does about dancing.