Saturday, November 14, 2009

Blog #114: Of Work Done, and Sky Hooks

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Lou Dobbs Returns to His Planet
‘My Work Here is Done’

Bids Earth Farewell, Boards Rocket

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NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) - Controversial CNN host Lou Dobbs bade the people of Earth farewell today as he embarked on a long voyage back to his planet of origin.

Standing on a launching pad with his rocket ship at the ready, Mr. Dobbs addressed a crowd of dozens who came to wish him a safe trip and godspeed.

"People of Earth, farewell," he said. "My work here is done."

In his farewell speech, Mr. Dobbs acknowledged the irony of his being an alien but insisted that he had been on Earth legally.

To sign up to have the Borowitz Report delivered to your very own email box, go here

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Lou Dobbs: Bye Bye, CNN

Lou Dobbs, in announcing that he is quitting CNN, refused to speculate where he might end up, but Fox News must definitely be in the running, as their tolerance for fantasy journalism and the slanted and fabricated news story is notorious. His split with CNN undoubtedly came when he continued espousing the “birther” cause after CNN’s news director Jonathan Klein emailed his staff to “cease and desist.”

Little Eddy dates the deterioration of the Dobbs Show with his penchant for presenting Radio Talk Show hosts as if they were experts in some field or other, and he fatefully traveled down the road himself when he began a radio talk show of his own. Whether we will flee CNN after Wolf’s Situation Room will depend upon what replaces Lou Dobbs. At least we won’t feel the pressure we have recently felt to leave at all costs, although we must admit we have gotten very fond of msnbc’s evening lineup. And particularly Countdown with Keith Olbermann and the Rachel Maddow Show.

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Sky Hook Creator

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The Associated Press reports that all time Laker and NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is being treated for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Jabbar reports that his doctor has told him his prognosis is good. Gleevec is the drug of choice for treating CML, however its unbelievably high price should most certainly be an inhibiting factor in its wide spread use. In Abdul-Jabbar’s case he is acting as a paid spokesperson for the drug company which manufacturers Gleevec, the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, and it is presumed that his salary as spokesperson will be paid in pills.

Meet Gleevec, the only known drug which successfully treats Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Gleevec costs $100 a pill, which brings the costs of its monthly dose to $3,000. I happen to know this because CML was the cancer that I was misdiagnosed as having several years back. As there would have been no interest on Novartis’ part to employ me as a paid spokesperson, and a $3,000 monthly cost was far beyond my means, I would have to have gone untreated. At my son Joel’s urging, I registered with Houston’s V. A. Hospital, and fortunately for me they did a second bone marrow scan and found that I did not have CML after all.

Mr. Abdul-Jabbar had a career in basketball that was without peer, and we feel he has certainly earned his position as spokesman for Novartis. We congratulate Mr, Abdul-Jabbar on his good fortune in having the company’s assistance in his care, and we wish the ex-Laker and present Laker assistant coach a most successful treatment.

Mr. Abdul-Jabbar wishes to inform the world of his treatment so that others can benefit from his experience, and we all wish him the best in that endeavor, but it does seem to us that at its price per pill, with its $3,000 tab for each months dosage, most CML patients, like patients in the Republican health care reform, will be left out in the cold to die on their own.

Perhaps Novartis could develop a program whereby all sufferers of CML except the very rich, could become spokespersons for the company, and receive the pills at a substantial discount. It would take much longer for the pill to pay back its R&D, but the company would be making a real contribution toward curing a major killer, and it would bring the hope for a cure to others besides the extremely wealthy. After all, isn’t the endeavor of our pharmaceuticals to serve humanity by curing disease and extending life, rather than rewarding itself and its employees and stockholders for its discovery.

It certainly tells us something when someone of Mr. Abdul-Jabbar’s status can only afford a drug as a spokesperson for the drug’s manufacturer. What good is a drug which so few can afford? What good is a health care system which only the wealthy can afford? Those are question we citizens need to ask ourselves as the Senate debates its version of health care reform and eventually the two versions are pared down into one.§

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The War Between Paid and Free

There is a quiet, behind the scenes war going on in this labyrinth we call the internet. It is a tug of war between the forces of content providers, film studios, record companies, etc., seeking to be paid for their content, and those internet forces that would offer all such content for free. It is somewhat amazing, but these days in certain cases you can download a hot new film over bit torrent before it’s actual scheduled release date in theaters and over DVD. And there is a large segment of the internet population that’s fine with that, as all the while content owners fight tooth and nail against the forces that offer the free content.

The record companies cry over every illegal download as if it was money lost from their children’s piggy banks. But the facts are quite different. Surveys show that file-sharing types do buy cd’s for their higher quality and their physical presence. The RIAA’s attempt to sue file-sharing college students has gone about as far as you could go in the process of alienating your fan base. The RIAA’s legal program, which it has since given up on, was simply a convenient, quasi legal way to extort a small percentage of the file sharing public to pay for the sins of the many.

The CBS program 60 Minutes recently ran a piece during which each of the Film Industry’s Talking Points were presented as scientific truth, something Don Hewlett’s 60 Minutes would never have been accused of doing. Not that there is likely to be any solution to the problem which pleases all sides any time soon. But any resolution which leaves a good section of the downloading community as criminals is no solution at all. And actually, in today’s climate the problem is probably unsolvable.§

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Nap Time U.S.A.

Sounds like it could be a Beach Boys song, doesn’t it? Nap Time U.S.A. A brief personal report: I have been taking naps after meals lately as if it was going out of style. The other day I sat in my comfy chair at around 5 pm wishing to close my eyes just for a minute before dinner, only to wake up two and a half hours later, throwing my tight eating schedule to the birds. What is bringing this on, I keep asking myself? Have I somehow captured an intense case of spring fever as the rest of the world plows deep into autumn? Or is my system practicing up for the Big One, for that Nap to End All Naps, the one that leaves me sound asleep in the Jaws of Eternity? Stay tuned. That is if you can stay awake long enough.§

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One More Thing: Bill Gates on Steve Jobs of Apple

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Camp Memories Take a Tall Drink of Water

In this week’s camp reminiscences I would like to talk about water. In addition to water being our most needed nutrient for life, it is also that magic ingredient which makes camp living work. The water, for swimming and recreation, as well as drinking, is camp’s most essential ingredient. Every camp has it’s on site water source, either a pool, a pond, a lake, or in the case of Blueberry Cove, the Atlantic ocean.

A Camp Pool

At the University Settlement Camp life revolved around its pool. Back when I was working there the Camp had a very experienced and skilled swimming instructor, who we will call Sonny G., who managed to give a swimming period to each camper at the very least every other day. This meant combining groups, which gave Sonny a great responsibility for the campers’ safety. Of course each group’s counselors helped keep track of their campers, paying particular attention to those of questionable aquatic abilities.

Nights after dark Sonny supervised same sex “B.A.” (bare ass) Swims, also with combined groups. On girls’ nights Sonny was a bathing-suited eagle eyed observer from the sidelines, as both camper and counselors frolicked around in the altogether. Sonny would never admit glancing at fully stacked female counselors, claiming his attention was always on the campers, and of course it would have been next to impossible to contradict him on this point. Even if one had reason to.

Fun in the Evening

On boy swim nights Sonny stripped and participated more directly, even teaching novice swimmers during nighttime “B.A.’s”. It was an interesting cause and effect that a “B.A.” swim of either sex had a volume level at least 25% higher pitched that of a normal, daytime swimming session. It was also relevant that no children ever refused to participate in a “B.A.” swim. And lots of campers ranked them very high on a scale of camp’s most memorable moments.

A Camp with a Lake

Killooleet in Hancock, Vermont, had its own private fresh water lake, or what would probably be more accurately described as a large pond. In addition to swimming, this allowed for in-camp canoeing and boating. Swimming was conducted from a land-based dock, and from a raft anchored a ways out. The water was spring fed, but because the lake’s water didn’t flow anywhere, the water had a chance to warm somewhat, especially on sunny days.

In short, the water was a refreshing antidote for a cool, cloudy day as well as a hot sunny day. In camp nude swimming, was referred to by the somewhat campier term “skinny dipping,” and was done by cabin, meaning same sex, and it too happened after dark. I used to enjoy making my trek to the lake barefoot and sans flashlight, feeling my way along the dark path by my feet and with great care. To me this was a fun challenge, which taught me to think with my feet, as it were, though as I remember camp director John Seeger frowned when I told him of the practice, afraid that I would step on something or stub a toe. But John neglected to forbid it, and so I kept right on doing it. Again I looked forward to my group’s nighttime skinny dips, as I really preferred the feeling of the water on my body’s entire circumference.

A good swimmer I was not. I was too skinny to naturally be able to float, and I was a nervous swimmer who knew I was due to give out after 12 to 15 strokes. And so I always made damned sure I had terra firma underfoot after the required 12 to 15. Also I damn near drowned one day at Killooleet when Mike Sherker and I participated in some kind of skit which had us both fall off the dock at it’s end. As I hit the water I took in a panic breath. The flame-out of nostrils and lungs was indeed an eye-opener as I cursed my stupidity and fought for the surface. No more water skits for the likes of stupid me.

Swimming was indeed a part of many of the overnight trips from Killooleet. Many of them were on or near water, and if they were in isolated enough locations campers frequently went skinny dipping on trips. Of course trips were usually of a cabin, and thereby were same sex. However, on certain all girl trips a male counselor might be asked to accompany the girls for bear protection, etc. On one such trip I accompanied my sister Mary’s group of girls on a trip, however it was pretty dull couple of days, for the girls decided that they wanted to keep the quality of their trip all girl, and so I didn’t participate in any of their activities. I read a book instead, which was no way to enjoy a trip. This male protectionist thing is a fraud, at least it was in my case. Fortunately no bear or other wild beast challenged the group, as I can tell you frankly I don’t know what I would have done if one had attacked. Probably outrun the girls.

It was at Blueberry Cove, Tenants Harbor, Maine, where I found the greatest challenge facing me by way of the water. I grew up in Houston, Texas, and our salt water swimming was in the Gulf of Mexico, either off beaches on Galveston Island, or at Freeport, Texas. And water temperature was probably in the low 60’s. Even our tap water comes out of the faucet at temperatures in the 60’s, which is why people in Texas and the south are addicted to ice cubes in our ice tea and our glasses of water.

And so it became a major system shock when coming to Blueberry Cove to find I had to swim in the Atlantic Ocean. The relatively warmer gulf stream goes as far north as Maine, but unfortunately it runs a hundred miles out to sea. The inshore water, coming directly from the Arctic, is cold. I used to joke that even in summer it was only the ocean’s high salt content that kept Tenants Harbor from having ice cubes floating around.

Henry Haskell, the director of B.B.C., was one of the most empathic people I have ever known. On the one hand, he knew that the only way that you can run a camp which swims in the ocean is to have a swim program which poo-poohs the chill factor of the water, and this works for all of the children and most of the counselors who were born and raised in N.Y. and New England. But he could literally feel my pain as it would take me the entire swim period to work my way neck deep in those frigid waters. Not much help with campers needing swimming instruction. Not to mention the fact that children would pick up my pain and it would increase their own reluctance.

Yes indeed, as much as Henry liked my banjo and guitar song leading, and appreciated my developing that exposed film so BBC children could view the eclipse of the sun that summer, he was between a rock and and a hard place in regards to my contribution to the swimming program. Not that I didn’t try, I certainly did, and he knew that I did, which only made the situation that much worse.

There was one condition which would get me in the water fairly quickly, however. In the evenings occasionally I would take my group on a one night sleep out down near the shore, and we would almost always build a fire down below the tide line and after a hot dog cookout we would take a quick skinny dip for dessert.

With the relatively cooler air of the night, plus the lure of being able to dry off in the warmth of the campfire at the end of the dip, I was always more motivated for these night dips. Plus I was conscious of my extended responsibilities for the safety of these campers and so I was able to drag myself into the water at a faster rate. Not that I would have been much help if a camper had a problem, but I needed to be out there, and I was.

Of course, no one was up to a really extended ocean swim after sundown, and so the dips were always short and sweet, and were followed by gloriously warm huddles as we all dried off around the campfire, sometimes with a story, or sometimes with a cappella singing. Or sometimes with both.

However, it wasn’t only the cold, but also the salt which made ocean swimming less than ideal for me. I much preferred the fresh water streams which flowed down mountains like Tumbledown. Tumbledown actually had two mountain streams with pools deep enough for a few strokes of swimming. One of them was a stream which ran alongside the field in which we camped. I found out that by adding a few stones at strategic places I could make a pool deep enough for the water to reach my waist.

And so every time we came to Tumbledown after setting up my tarp and seeing to the supplies, I would take myself down to our pool and add rocks to raise the water level. Then after a hard days hiking and climbing, when dark came we would take a bar of ivory soap down to the stream and have a group soap off. The stream was so fast moving that the soapy residue was soon dissipated. And although the water was both chilly and brisk, those soap-offs after a hard, sweaty day’s hiking and mountain climbing were indeed memorable.§

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A typical mountain stream

There was yet another mountain brook with a swimmable pool if you took the easy way down after your Tumbledown Climb itself. This one was waist deep for me without doing any rock adjustments, and you could take maybe 9 strokes before you found yourself grounded. I was particularly fond of this spot, and made note of the tree configuration which marked the spot, so I could spot it each time I came down the mountain using this route. However, the kids who would take the easy way down the mountain after the climb were usually the less adventurous ones, most of whom would probably prefer to watch others swim, rather than swim themselves.

On this one trip to Tumbledown with my Teen Campers, there were two 11 year old girls who were bunkmates and who were very competitive with one another. When we reached the spot we left the trail for the stream, I was the first one in. And it began to look like I was going to be the only one going in. However it turned out that one of the two 11 year olds, Kirsten, had a bathing suit hidden in a waist belt, the kind of waist belt you usually carry money in. Smugly she went behind some trees to change into it, and was back in no time and swimming freely.

Her bunkmate Gretchen, the more rounded of the two, had nothing to swim in other than her panties and her tee-shirt. And no matter how hard she tried swimming in them the two garments just would not let her. They caught water and ballooned out, slowing her pace to a standstill. Three other kids, two boys and a girl, were sitting on rocks fully dressed, watching the show that the three of us were putting on.

Gretchen was determined to get a chance to swim, but she was equally determined to not to be the only girl to swim naked. And so she began her campaign by first trying to talk Kirsten out of her top. This wouldn’t seem on the surface to be that much of a deal, for Kirsten had not yet begun to develop, and her nipples were indistinguishable from those of a boy. Gretchen herself was much further along, sporting ripening nipples sitting on noticeable mounds of flesh.

Even so Kirsten did not give in easily, but made Gretchen go on for close to ten minutes about why she should take her top off so they both could swim freely. It was a fascinating conversation, with Gretchen answering every Kirsten objection until finally Kirsten gave in, and turning her back, removed her top, throwing it up on the shore. Of course when she turned back around she could have been a boy for all the development her chest showed.

Gretchen then removed her own baggy tee-shirt, and she tried a few strokes but her swimming was still frustrated because the water got into her panties and they ballooned, attempting to pull themselves off with each stroke, which made progress very near impossible. By this time all of us not involved were thoroughly into the game. Would Gretchen be able to talk Kirsten out of her bottoms? Inquiring minds wanted to know!

After one more try, Gretchen gave up swimming and turned to watch Kirsten knife through the water. When she returned from a lazy paddle across the 9 feet Gretchen began again. “I can’t swim worth beans,” she muttered, as if to no one in particular, but we all knew it was directed to Kirsten. Kirsten shrugged, and said she should’ve brought one in a suit-belt like she had. “But I didn’t,” Gretchen whined, “and it’s too late now.” Kirsten nodded as though she was feeling her pain.

“Of course,” Gretchen went on, “there’s one way I could get a good swim out of this.” “Yeah, how?” asked Kirsten, pretending not to have the faintest idea.

“If you would just take your bottoms off, I could take my panties off too, then I wouldn’t be the only one naked.” Kirsten made a gesture towards me, “You wouldn’t be the only one naked anyway. Ed’s naked.” “Ed doesn’t count,” said Gretchen, “he’s a boy.” “He’s a man,” corrected Kirsten. “Whatever?” said Gretchen. “I’d still be the only girl.”

Kirsten looked at Gretchen for a long moment, you could almost hear the wheels turning in her head. All four of us were hanging onto their every word. Not that it really mattered, we each knew how the feminine half was gendered. But there was a real honest-to-god human drama unfolding before our ears and eyes, and every one of us was waiting breathlessly to see what the outcome was going to be. The two continued to eye one another unblinkingly.

Finally, after what must have been at least a three minute wait, Kirsten nodded slightly, smiled, and said, “OKay.” And this time she didn’t bother to turn around, but slid her bottoms down while facing us. Gretchen slipped her baggy panties off right along with her. They both stood for a moment, as if each was studying the other’s feminine attributes.

Then in a bound they were off, swimming the length of that pool and back, again and yet again. They were like two golden seals barreling through that mountain stream, diving over and under the surface as they flashed by, leaving streams of bubbles trailing in their wake.

Earlier in this drama I had climbed a large rock covered with moss down which water was streaming. I had been trying to inspire the others to go in, and I had had a fun slide, but no others had been inspired to follow suit. However, to our eternal surprise, at one point Kirsten abandoned her streaking with Gretchen long enough to climb to the top of that moss-covered rock, and then seating herself she opened her legs and took off, proceeding to slide down the rock into the pool below. Once down she tried to talk Gretchen into doing likewise, but for whatever reason Gretchen wouldn’t give it a try.

A few minutes later the two girls seemed to run out of steam, stopping all forward motion, and a minute later they were seated in the bright sunlight drying off, in full sight and in deep conversation with the three non swimmers, all three of whom seemed to have a continuing interest in the two bare 11 year olds. In fact they had a longer conversation with the non swimmers than they had probably had all summer, and both had been dry for well over 10 minutes when at almost the same moment they seemed to suddenly take note of their lack of dress, shrugged, and got up to find their clothes and once again get themselves dressed. Shortly thereafter we finished our climb down the mountain.§

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A Sliding Rock

At Mt. Katahdin We Make the Water Discovery of the Year

It was when camp added Mt. Katahdin to our trip itinerary that we discovered what to us was the ultimate in a natural water phenomenon. It was maybe 50 or 60 ft. of rock worn smooth from centuries of water washing over it, and it bore down at an angle where we could easily and safely slide down it. We called it the Sliding Rock of Katahdin.

At the time we first discovered it we were driving by on one of Baxter State Park’s many roads, and of course we had to stop and check it out. There was no one around and within minutes the bravest among us had stripped to fresh air, and were lining up at the top to try it out. The more rational among us, me, decided that a counselor should try it first, and that of course would be me.

It was impressive, standing up there at the top, and noting the fresh stream of water bubbling down the slide. Someone pointed out my marked lack of padding back where there should be some to offer protection, and one speculated whether or not a more endowed female counselor should be the first to try it out. But I couldn’t hear of it, could I? After all I was leading this expedition.

I carefully walked out to midstream, seated myself, and away I went. The rock was as smooth as glass. The water was ascending at a fast clip, as did I. I ended up in a waist deep pool of water at bottom which had successfully braked my fall. I stood to give the go ahead, but I needn’t have bothered as two more bodies were already catapulting down the slide with many more in line to follow.

All in all, it was a sensational discovery. I who am usually not thrilled with water or water sports, made several more trips down the slide myself that day, and many of the campers made an uncountable number of slides. In short, before the day had past we were all “slid” out. We had to leave after we finally tore ourselves away from the slide, but a visit to the slide became a highlight of every trip we subsequently sent to Mt. Katahdin.

The Sliding Rock remains one of the remarkable natural phenonemons I have ever come across, and it remained a favorite diversion of Katahdin trips for several years. The slide combined with the remarkable climb of the mountain itself, made the Baxter State Park trip a favorite for years.

Our last trip to the slide was rather sad, however. Evidently the Park had put in a bridge which had given convenient access to the slide by the local population, for the Slide area was crowded with people, many of whom had brought portable grills with them on which they were barbecuing, while sitting around on folding lawn chairs, smoking, drinking beer and listening to boom boxes. And unfortunately the local people seemed reluctant to pick up after themselves and so their leavings had begun to litter the countryside. What a sad sight to see empty cans and other paraphernalia of our modern day civilization littered around what had formerly been a pristine location.

The slide was still fun, although it wasn’t quite as much fun in bathing suits as it had been in the altogether. And who needs and audience of beer drinking, chain smoking, ground littering locals. But what can you do? The slide didn’t belong to us. It was good that the locals were availing themselves of this remarkable and fun place, but it was a damn shame that they had to litter what had been such a pristine natural wonder.§

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And so while we take one more memorable slide down our own personal memory lane, we find ourselves at the end of yet another blog. Come to think of it, #114 was pretty much waterlogged. We hope none of you got wet in the process of reading it.

We spend our week dreaming up, then polishing this blog, and we post it on Saturday mornings between 7 and 8 central standard time. We hope you cruise around anytime next week to see what this week hath wrought. Meantime, bye now. And have the very best kind of a good week.§

The Real Little Eddy §

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