Friday, September 30, 2011

Class Action Lawsuits

I guess today's message is that common knowledge is not always quite as widespread as you might think. Fairly sure I have mused in the past about just how litigious our society has become when several firms can run national tv spots to buy out your structured settlement. I mean everybody sues everybody else for anything and everything and apparently there are tens if not hundreds of thousands of people being paid off over time on court ordered awards.

Then there are the class action lawsuits. A whole bunch of people ban together and sue one company, corporation or a whole slew of them. Sort of sanctioned gang on gang thing with everyone in suits. A legal donkey of a very different color.

I was at a party recently where a man was talking about being part of one of these classes in a legal action. In fact, he was just about to sign the papers to join the lawsuit and several other men were telling it was a lawyer's scam and he would never see any reasonable compensation. The gentleman was not interested in hearing such words and the discussion slowly degenerated in alcohol-fueled boy talk.  I had zero interest in offering up my two cents worth of knowledge and/or opinion, however later I was introduced to the gentleman's wife and she was still apologizing to anyone who had been in earshot of the earlier heated boyz quarrel.

I asked if she were comfortable with being part of the class action and she said she really didn't know enough about it. I made a recommendation to her then and I will make it to you now should you ever be in such a situation. Here it is:

I am not a John Grisham fan, if you like him read Scott Turow he's a much better author. But that is not my advice - if you are anywhere near a class action lawsuit or know someone who is then read The King of Torts by Grisham. It is an easy read and an honest indictment of the legal scam that attorneys have made of the class action lawsuit. At least you will know the species of snake you are getting into bed with.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Taking the Temperature of a Writer

Yesterday's writing task was to rework the opening chapter of the novel I am working on. Capturing the reader's attention quickly was the order of the day. I began the rewrite with the image of a icy drinking fountain, you know the ones that can make the water almost too cold to drink. The chapter is set in the early morning just after dawn on a crisp spring day. I struggled with that image and the fifteen hundred words that followed for most of the daylight and into the early evening.

Yesterday in Berkeley was a warm day, September is often the hottest month of the year here. Now by hot I mean maybe a couple of days of 90, but more likely some mid-80s. Officially it reached 84 yesterday. As I have oft mentioned in the past, my wall of windows faces due west, which means that around two in the afternoon the sun has begun to blaze into my nest. I tweak the blinds and switch on my fans but for a few days each year it gets downright uncomfortable in here. Yesterday was a borderline day, as long as I kept a fan directly on me as well as minimal clothing I was within my tolerable range of heat/mass/body index. So I sloughed on with the chapter.

By early evening my creative energies had been drained and with mild dissatisfaction I put the chapter to bed for the night. I slipped in the land of Morpheus sometime after midnight with the windows wide open, I didn't pull the comforter over me until sometime in the wee dark hours. This morning I opened my eyes to a grey day outside my windows, the marine layer had moved in overnight and temperatures had plummeted. After pulling on several layers of cotton I was at my desk reediting the chapter.

Metaphors and images that had hidden from me yesterday snapped into view. In a scant hour I had reworked the entire piece and captured the words that should enrapture an audience. It's still well short of noon and chapter two beckons. What a difference a day makes.

Today's lesson: If you are going to write about the Sahara Desert, better not to attempt it from Boulder, Colorado in February.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


From 1975 to 1990 I lived in and around the South Bay neighborhoods of Los Angeles (Manhattan Beach, Torrance, Redondo Beach, Palos Verdes & Hermosa Beach). One of my friends then was an older gentleman who hung out at the beach bars I frequented. Charles was a storyteller, he was also a kind and gentle alcoholic. Nearly all of the beach bar denizens knew him as a regular but most thought his stories came out of the bottle. I learned that Charles had a really tough time in his golden years but I also discovered that he had a Ph.D. in literature that he got after first earning two engineering degrees. I liked to listen to him and didn't much care about the "truth" of his stories.

One day I took Charles down to Long Beach to visit his daughter. On the drive down he said: 

"You know during the war if you took this street south you could drive right under the camouflage netting the defense department put up to hide the airplane plant from Japanese bombers."

"That must have been a lot of netting," I said.

"Oh yeah it went on for several miles," he replied.

This must have been 1982 or thereabouts when I heard this tale, no internet to go look up the veracity of the many tales he told. Besides I wasn't at all interested in proving him right or wrong. So imagine my surprise when I got these photos from a friend a few days ago, showing the vast camouflage netting the military put up in Long Beach to cover the Boeing plant. The shot above is the before photo, this next one is the after.

Here are a few more shots.

Underneath the netting

Treetop level

Hangar below

In one of the articles I read I found this line: "you could head south down Carson St. and drive right under the huge canopy." It was that same Carson St. forty years later that Charles and I were driving on the day when he told me the camouflage story.

Addendum: I am told that there was a similar camouflage set-up in Pasadena at the Lockheed plant and that some of these pictures might be from there. But who cares about a little mix-up in a good Charles story.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Webcomic

When I got the third recommendation for xkcd website ("a Webcomic of Romance, Sarcasm, Math and Language") I thought I should take a look. About every other offering is way too techie for most normal humanoids, but they do come out with some real gems, like the Green Sci-Fi cum Literati panels above.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Travels Plans Delayed

Today was to have been my jump-off day for the midwestern part of my fall road trip. However, once again my aching back has dictated a change of plans. I am back in Berkeley awaiting the results of x-rays and other tests. Then I expect we shall move on to an MRI and possibly a consultation with the USF spinal clinic.

I still hope to make some or all of my planned stops in the midwest this fall but I will be starting several weeks later than originally planned. Updates to those with spare bedrooms and awaiting dining rooms soon. To all my other readers - the blog goes on.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Medical Marijuana (7): Dosage

As I explained last week, I have as yet been unable to balance the palliative benefits of pain reduction with the side effects of being high, baked, wasted, buzzed, ripped, faded and/or stoned. You see, as with most prescription drugs, "effects may vary." The problem is dosage. We humans are not the same, we react differently based on age, weight, metabolism, contents of stomach, amount of sleep you got last night, stress, the phase of the moon.

You get the idea, we do not react the same to any stimuli, we are unique creatures. So with Medical Marijuana the prescribed "dosage" is a bit of a guessing game. Let me give you a most recent example:

I bought a six ounce Chocolate Peanut Butter Hash Bar (product review below). Yesterday I split the bar with a friend, he has less acute pain than I and he is a long time recreational pot user. So we had two levels of discomfort and two very different histories of functioning while under the influence. Adding these additional variables would provide more data for my experiment.

But with Medical Marijuana there is a second issue regarding dosage - there is no standard for what constitutes a "dose". I can report without fear of contradiction that one patient's 1/2 dose is another person's full dose or quarter dose or double dose. Here is yesterday's dual test subject report.

The effects began fairly quickly (30 minutes) for both participants. Pain was effectively reduced for both in the one hour to perhaps mid third hour after consumption. However, the bar was labeled as being 1/4 to 1/2 dose and we split the bar equally. So according to the manufacturer we each had 1/8 to 1/4 of a full dose.

By late in the fourth hour I was supine in a cool, dark room contemplating the nuances of string theory as it applies to snack cheese. Somewhere in the fifth hour my friend found me and suggested that the dosage disclosure on the packing had clearly been set for elephants or small cetaceans.

So as for dosage - you will have to learn to titrate any Medical Marijuana products to your unique physiology and to the wildly inconsistent labeling of the various products. Also recommended in the early testing stages - stay home but pre-stock the kitchen with chocolate.

PRODUCT REPORT: Chocolate Peanut Butter Hash Bar

Ingredients: Sugar, Peanut Oil, Flour, Milk, Salt, Hash.

Notice the absolute absence of chocolate in the product. Clearly bad labeling, however, it was wonderfully peanutty; in fact, this is the best tasting product so far in the experiment. As noted above the package dosage disclosure is obscenely low and should be adjusted in line with other competitive products. On a cost per dose basis, this is an exceptional value. My next test of this item will involved dividing the bar into eight doses.

Previous posts in this series:
Medical Marijuana (5): The Patients
Medical Marijuana (4): Botanical Chemistry
Medical Marijuana (3): Human Experimentation
Medical Marijuana (2): The Dispensary

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Osmose - to gradually or unconsciously assimilate some principle or object;

Have you ever stopped to consider how many of your deeply held "beliefs" are not actually yours? Most of what we "believe" comes from one of two sources. The first and most prevalent is childhood. The old "Nurture" accounts for what most people think and believe about most everything. Indeed, the apple or in this case the moral and ethical center, does not fall far from the parental tree.

The second most common source of your belief system comes from the same source but involves a profound rejection of it; we often refer to this as the generational gap or simply being a teenager. In either case radical shifts in what we believe seldom take place much beyond our teenage years.

However, it is possible to change. One common adult period of ethical readjustment involves being the parent of one or more teenagers who are themselves inspecting and dissecting your professed beliefs. At times the teen years are as life changing for the parents as they are for the young adults.

But the point of the Borg Cube is to emphasize that many of our cherished beliefs have been gained through a process of slow accumulation. We take on the moral and ethical tenets of those around us. Society, peer groups, church, television, motion pictures, assorted role models, even advertising can shape your moral compass.

The obvious question at some point is: "Are your most embedded beliefs really yours?" Or did you just osmose them from your environment? Perhaps the direction of this influence is the other way around, the environment osmosed you. Come to think about it, you should probably come to think about it. Which may lead you to several uncomfortable conclusions, including:

"the unexamined life is not worth living" - Socrates

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Blogging Milestone

This week we have reached a numerical milestone for this little blog. As of Friday morning we have topped the ten thousand page views per month level. This means that 10,000+ computers logged into the blog last month. Each unique log-in counts as one, so I don't actually have ten thousand readers, you probably account for multiple hits yourself. 

I have excluded from the automatic counter my own computers and any commercial hits, like those from Google or Yahoo. Also excluded are hits of less than 10 seconds, no sense in inflating the numbers with lost surfers.

The bottom line is a big thank-you to those who read my scribbling. I appreciate your time and your interest.

Friday Sept. 16 10:40 AM PDT

Friday, September 16, 2011

Reagan's 1984 Landslide

One of my favorite political exemplars when I argue for third party participation is the 1984 election - Reagan vs. Mondale. This was the most recent "landslide" in a presidential election. Reagan won, of course, but how you report the numbers can tell several very different stories. The way most of the media reported it was this way:

Reagan -   58.77%
Mondale - 40.56%

That's the total popular vote and yup that's a landslide. But what if we take a look at registered voters, then whopping winning number of 58%+ becomes:

Reagan - 43.8%

A landslide sounds like a huge win, a mandate from the people. Yet only 44% of the registered voters came out to support Ronald Reagan in his big win. I know, this is where someone says "Decisions are made by those who show up" or "If you don't vote, you don't get to complain afterwards." My alternate interpretation would be that the political process in 1984, so turned off 25%+ of the registered voters that they basically voted 'None of the Above'.

There is one more significant way to look at the final numbers in 1984 and that is the percentage of the Voting Age Population who supported Reagan in his reelection bid. Of those over 18 years of age the numbers are truly abysmal:

Reagan - 31.2%. Hail to the Chief!

 .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

The last time I trotted out those numbers in a political discussion, someone asked me if current voting numbers were better or worse today. Being that this is a political question, I felt perfectly justified in ignoring the actual question and instead supplying a talking point from my crack campaign staff. Here it is just for you:

2000 Presidential Election

Popular Vote
Bush - 47.87%
Gore - 48.38%

Registered Voters
Bush - 32.02%
Gore - 32.46%

Voting Age Population
Bush - 24.12%
Gore - 24.38%

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Vast Wasteland

The Boob Tube, The Idiot Box, White Noise, The Glass Teat, A Vast Wasteland. Criticizing television is the ultimate low hanging fruit. Even if you do have your own personal tv favorites, that still leaves you hundreds of channels and thousands of shows to loath.

Back in Berkeley my onscreen guide shows only the channels I receive. Yes, I am one of those types who actually reads the manual and does the full setup on my electronic toys. No shopping channels, no cartoons, block the foreign language channels, CMT is out; well you get the idea. My friends here in Lake Shastina have a satellite dish and their guide shows every channel with the all the channels they don't get dimmed but still readable.

The other day I was familiarizing myself with the options for evening surfing when I saw a listing for Perfect Boobs. What the hell could it be? A reality show? The Surgery Channel? Perhaps, a workout video. Turns out it was an infomerical for a revolutionary bra. But really can you imagine a time when Perfect Boobs might have caused an uproar in certain places if used in a tv guide? I went through the entire scroll for a Tuesday evening and found the following uplifting titles. None of these are porn channel offerings.

Brazilian Butt - another infomercial

Look Good Naked - exercise DVD

Sleep Sex - I have no idea

Drinking Made Easy - it was difficult because?

16 and Pregnant - reality show

I am not a fan of censorship in any form. I sympathize with parents who wish to protect their kids from certain content but I generally come down on the side of a free and open market of information. But should someone wish to make such an option available to parents would that mean having to censor the tv guide? I mean paid cable channels sure, even selected shows of course, but the channel guide? 

Perfect Boobs really??? Next thing you know we will have little plastic containers full of unknown liquids that plug into electrical outlets and vaporize the chemicals to add odor to your house.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


lucubration \loo-kyoo-BRAY-shun; loo-kuh-\, noun:
1. The act of studying by candlelight; nocturnal study; meditation.
2. That which is composed by night; that which is produced by meditation in retirement; hence (loosely) any literary composition.

About a third of my writing is done in the dark. Well at least at night if not actually in the dark. I discovered years ago that what I produce in the wee hours is of a different quality than my work product in the bright of day.

Sheer numbers tell me that I produce a lot more words on the page when writing during the day but they are of a very different flavor than my night writing. The emotive content, the big twists and turns come at night. Moving the story along filling in the linear details is a daytime activity.

Nocturnal work also contains a lot of marginalia both on previous sections and notes for future writing. There are times when the fingers just can't keep up with the ideas so I take lots of notes. This nearly always happens at night. 

A new day of writing generally begins with reading yesterday's work. Words produced after dark often require a fair amount of daylight editing if only to fill in all the linkages for a potential audience. It's not stream of consciousness writing, well most of the time it isn't but methinks the collective unconsciousness rises closer to my waking world when the sun is on the far side of Gaia.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Silverhill Road

Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment that was known
As Camelot.

My brief shining place was a stone cabin in Michigan located in the middle of a 20,000 acre state wilderness park off Silverhill Road. If you go there now a three mile section of that road has been returned to wilderness, grown over and grown in. The cabin is gone, torn down my the state just after I abandoned Michigan for California in 1975. But for two years, it was my Camelot.

Back in 1973 a good friend was living there, he was a park ranger. The plans to level the old cabin were in the works but until then someone got to live in the near idyllic setting. My friend was transferred and I got the cabin until the state brought in the bulldozer. 

The old stone structure hugged a central stone fireplace that ran up through the second floor bedrooms. Across the narrow dirt road and far down the hill was the Crooked Lake campground. We were sheltered from even minimal intrusion of civilization by a huge hedge of violet lilacs, the smell in early summer was nearly overpowering as I lay in the front bedroom.

There was a small garden less successful than the wild asparagus patch nearby. We inherited a sheltie collie named Heather and my roommate brought his shepherd, Bo. I soon had Sam, Heather and Gisele who produced 9 kittens the second spring. Sam was the feline who trained me to pet him during the night. 

When the trees were fully leafed out in the summer, the final two miles to the cabin were inside of a green tunnel with the trees on either side providing a complete canopy to Silverhill Road. In the fall the tunnel would darken and then burst into yellows, reds and silvers. There was a fairy circle of mushrooms in the meadow and a stand of lonely birch trees in the high pasture.

We had several big summer parties but the real highlights were the quiet nights in the spring, summer, fall and yes even Michigan winter. All the lights would be extinguished and the stars would burn brightly down on the small rise behind the cabin. I remember that rise for another reason but that is a story for another time.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Oreo Cameo

Take a good long look at this cameo. Then read the title of today's blog again. Yes, that is the carved cream of an oreo cookie. 

Here's another one, although I object on moral grounds to a non-chocolate cookie. These come from an artist named Judith G. Klausner, you can find more of her work below and on her website

We know moths are attracted to light bulbs, then again. 
She can be a most interesting artist.

Flora Dentata (Tooth & Nail)
-made from fingernails and baby teeth

She has some other works with praying mantis and a series on toast embroidery. I personally liked the oreo series, more my taste so to speak.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Another Numerical Phenomenon

Tomorrow is September tenth two thousand and eleven, at thirteen minutes and fourteen seconds past noon tomorrow it will be:

9/10/11 12:13:14

Which has absolutely no significance other than it is mathematically cool; and I get to use the Homer Simpson clock.

And yes thinking ahead, later this year we will see 11/11/11 11:11:11 and next year we get to celebrate 12/12/12 12:12:12, ain't the internet wonderfully absurd 3.1416% of the time.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Pace and the Wisdom to Ignore It

An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field. -- Niels Bohr

I am not claiming to be an expert but perhaps simply the holder of some wisdom accumulated over time. Recently I was doing was long-distance skype counseling session and heard words from my client that I had heard several times before. Now it's not unusual for individuals to have similar issues in their life, as much as we yearn to be uniquely ourselves we do share common thoughts, desires and frustrations. In this case my client was in an almost identical situation to two previous clients. 

This is one of my stories, it's not about any of the three clients and I am not going to disclose the exact life situation they shared. Just for clarity let's say they all had a similar scary nightmare when they were young.

There is a full decade between my current client and the previous one and another decade or more to the first time I was told about the 'nightmare' by a client, probably sometime in the late 80s. After the recent skype session I pondered just how differently I had reacted to those three so very similar situations.

My first experience happened during one of those 'kitchen sink' second sessions with a client. Sometimes after an introductory therapy session the client will spend the week thinking that they did not get all of their 'issues' out on the table, so in the second meeting they talk and talk about everything, just so the therapist has the whole picture of their life situation. When this happens the therapists has to spend a lot of time sorting and absorbing the client's words. Unfortunately, I did not give full weight to the 'nightmare' disclosure and that lack of therapeutic insight delayed the client's progress.

Ten or twelve years later, I picked up on the significance of the client's words as he said them but I also recognized he was not ready to pursue that particular aspect of his recovery. You see there is a therapeutic concept known as pace. If you push a client too soon or too hard they will shut down or run away; well that's the short version of pace. I was really into therapeutic pace back then. What? You didn't think therapists had strategies and styles?

Finally the most recent client. Again I knew exactly what was being said but I also knew this client was interested in progress - immediate progress. So I pushed back, when she resisted I pushed harder. Was I violating the client's pace? Possibly, but I am older and potentially wiser. On her third attempt at deflecting the conversation I said:

"Look we can talk about your boyfriend being distant or your boss being a dumb ass manager; but I thought you wanted to get to why you are unhappy and since you just told me exactly why, shall we talk about that?" 

There are lots of responses you can get from a client, some good, some bad, some confusing and some confirming. She said:

"Remind me next time to see a therapist who can't see so easily into my soul."

Therapeutically speaking I've made most of the mistakes before and from those hopefully I've gain a modicum of wisdom, if not expertise.

[Situational aspects of these client interactions have been changed to protect the indentity of the clients. No animlals were harmed in the writing of this post.]
photo from National Geographic

Monday, September 05, 2011

That Time I Got Bit By a Fairy

Last week when Irene was blowing around the East Coast, I heard a news report about evacuations on the Carolina Outer Banks and I was reminded of my own evacuation from those same islands some forty years ago.

In the summer of 1971 I was traveling on the Eastern seaboard with the then love of my life. We were taking a car ferry to one of the islands off South Carolina. This was one of the remote islands, back then you had to boil your water when camping out there. We parked the car about midships and I headed for the restroom under the bridge. On my way back to the car the ship lurched and started to pull away from the dock, I was between the bumpers of two vans and decided that might be a dangerous place to be standing, so I stepped out into the space between the vans and our car. 

What I discovered later was that the ferry was running behind schedule and the deckhand was drunk. So the captain gave a hurried sign to cast off from the auto dock and the deck hand missed it. The ferry started to pull away from the dock before the final chain (not rope but one inch diameter chain) was unhitched. 

The end link of chain snapped under the thrust of the ferry, it opened up like a three pound horseshoe and was flung forward. It would have shot the entire length of the boat and splashed down harmlessly in the ocean had it not been for the right side of my head being in the way.

I went down against the side of the car, didn't quite lose consciousness but by the time the incident was brought to the captain's attention we were more than halfway to the island so we completed the trip, waited for cars to disembark and then made the run back to the mainland. About two hours later I was getting my neck stitched up with several South Carolina Ferry officials trying very hard not to say the word - liability.

I remind you this was 1971, which might lend some perspective to the doctor not giving my any pain meds nor mentioning the potential for swelling in my neck and throat. So at 2 a.m. I was in an emergency room fifty miles down the road getting an injection into my throat and medication for pain and soft tissue trauma.

Forty years ago, my crackerjack lawyer got my medical expenses reimbursed and the cost of three nights in a motel so I could recover in an air conditioned room. No damages, no pain & suffering, no negligence. 

That was the time I got bit by a ferry.

Saturday, September 03, 2011


You knew I wouldn't miss a Saturday image fest.

a lot of lips are associated with confections

color is another big accent

candy and color

sugar lips

painted lips

jewels, really?

Rainbow Lips


and, of course, Rocky Horror lips

Friday, September 02, 2011


Apologies for the disconnect this week. Comcast and Sprint have been unable to get my/their wonderful mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot device up and running. Six days and counting without internet access. Yes, I am experiencing withdrawal symptoms, the toughest part is having questions with no easy access answers via Google. Yesterday they promised a solution within 72 hours; unfortunately I heard that last Monday as well.

Until the day of cyber salvation . . . Ellie's Internet Cafe in Weed will have to resolve my abandonment issues.