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Archive for February 2011

Robotic surgery the way of the future…

Good morning, Netizens…

As many of you know, my wife Suzanne recently was diagnosed as having uterine cancer, which suddenly drove the fear of God into both of us. Fortunately, thanks to Sacred Hearth and Cancer Care Northwest, we had caught the cancer in its earliest stages, and she was faced with a hysterectomy which, by itself, could have been a prolonged and very expensive operation. However, this picture of the robotics table which has dramatically decreased the amount of time patients routinely spend in post-operative cancer surgery and has made the world of difference to patients of a wide variety of maladies.

She went into surgery on a Monday and returned home in two days, which is an abrupt comparison to two to three weeks. Instead of an lengthy midriff incision there were five tiny slits less than four inches across; she was actually on the table for less than two hours, and was in recovery, conscious and talking to me within hours.

As we found out, not all surgeries can be done robotically. In some instances, due to abnormalities inside the abdominal cavity, while the surgeon may begin the procedure robotically, they may have to abort the robotic procedure and be forced to perform the surgery manually which takes longer and is more expensive.

Suffice it to say, Suzie has returned to work now and is nearly healed. We were so fortunate, in that the surgery was done professionally, with a high degree of professionalism, and thanks to this wonderful device, she is now recovered and on her way to well-being for which we are eternally grateful.


Extreme cold…

Good evening, Netizens…

While the talking heads of local television weather forecasting were prattling among themselves this morning about how bitterly cold it is outside, I cannot help but wonder how many of them have been in Northern Minnesota during a really cold winters day. Whenever someone mutters something about how bitterly cold it is here in Spokane, typically when the temperature hovers just as or below zero, I cannot help but remember a morning years ago when I was driving from Northern Minnesota to Chicago. It wasn't, by any means, the first time I had spent a night in a motel where the nightly temperature dropped below thirty degrees below zero and where smart travelers always gratefully accepted the option of plugging our vehicle block heaters in, otherwise our vehicles might not start the next morning. Since I had already made several runs to Alaska in the winter, I knew most of this. In the parlance of long-haul truck driving, the pay for driving either Minnesota or Alaska in the winter was well worth it, considering they always paid well for the frozen fingers, the number of times you had to chain up/unchain, and the number of times you had to out wait a blizzard in some god-forsaken restaurant with greasy food and tasteless coffee.

However, the mental image that has lingered in my mind all these many years was a morning quite like this morning in far-off Minnesota hauling sacks of bark dust out of Northern Minnesota with the temperature sitting below minus thirty degrees. As I glanced up at my mirror, I could see a cloud of exhaust smoke from my twin pair of pipes that reached back nearly ten miles behind me, still hovering in the air. Despite the absolutely frigid temperature that morning, there was not a breath of wind, and each vehicle I saw on the road that morning left a similar tail behind them, all except for a single Volkswagen Beetle that was braving the cold. No one I have spoken with has ever explained why the Beetles didn't leave contrails behind them.

In that morning so long ago, with the full moon setting dimly in the west as the sun glared bitterly across the snow-crusted flatlands of Minnesota, as with each passing mile I drew closer to places still fond in my heart in those days, I couldn't help but notice as I came further south, my twin contrails had all but dissipated, as if they were never there to begin with.

But if I closed my eyes but for a second, put away the mesmerizing sounds of 18 wheels on the frozen roadbed, I could still see those twin contrails extending out behind my truck, and for a time there, I knew it had truly been cold.



Life in Spokane in the rear view mirror…

Good evening, Netizens…

I have crawled from, beneath my rock to peer at the snow ratcheting from the sky just in time to receive an e-mail from Marty advising me that the temperature in Arizona, where he is visiting, is 65 degrees and sunny. My immediate response to MHibbs was to tell him to beat feet for home so he can join us in our suffering.

Just when we thought we had seen the end of winter, it has arrived once again and, once more, Mayor Queen Mary of Spokane, citing the City Budget, will ignore the need for snow removal until the Big Thaw hits us once again. Then we will get to deal once more with the cratars in our streets. Ah, life in Spokane!


Libya teetering on the edge…

Good morning, Netizens…

We had the opportunity to take Moammar Gadafi's regime down, put it out of power, in 1996 but we couldn't get the job done. Perhaps now it is too late, as some animals will not be put down without a fight. Gadhafi appears to have lost the support of at least one major tribe, several military units and his own diplomats, including Libya’s ambassador in Washington, Ali Adjali. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi accused the longest-serving Arab leader of committing genocide against his own people in the current crisis.

Libya's second-largest city Benghazi purportedly is in protesters’ control and its capital, Tripoli, is in a state of chaos and pandemonium. Pro-Gadhafi gunmen are purportedly firing from moving cars and even shooting at the facades of homes to terrify the population.

Now that Gadafi is all but cornered, according to David Horsey, like some wild animals, it appears Gadafi will not be put down without a fight. Of course, your results may differ…


6.3 quake shatters Christchurch, NZ

Good evening, Netizens…

Christchurch, New Zealand At least 65 people are dead, although that number may rise, and hundreds more may be trapped beneath the rubble after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand at the peak of a busy workday. Video footage Tuesday showed some multistory buildings collapsed in on themselves, and others with walls that had collapsed into the streets, strewn with bricks and shattered concrete. Sidewalks and roads were cracked and split, and thousands of dazed, screaming and crying residents wandered through the streets as sirens blared. Groups of people helped victims clutching bleeding wounds, and others were carried to private vehicles in makeshift stretchers fashioned from rugs or bits of debris.

The spire of the iconic stone Christchurch Cathedral toppled into a central city square.



The Woes of David Elton…

Good evening Netizens…

Gee, and if you wondered why your e-mail INBOX has been so quiet all of a sudden, one of our favorite sources of local electronic entertainment may be out of commission for awhile.

David Elton, ostensibly one of Spokane's finest gold-plated gadabouts and according to Joe Shogun, perhaps no longer on our Council President's personal Christmas Card list, is in jail again. This time, instead of a short-term visitation with Spokane's finest, he is currently in the Clackamas, Oregon County Jail charged with assaulting his wife, Belinda. According to his wife, this time he possibly will not be able to pick and choose between local attorneys at will, since he has been informed by his parents that he may be stuck this time with a Public Defender.

I wonder if anyone has bothered to inform the local probation office, since unless my memory is short-circuited, I do believe he is on probation here in Spokane, the result of his most-recent brush with the law.

Stay tuned. It may be interesting to see how this all plays out.


To Kindle or not to Kindle…

Good evening, Netizens…

When the Amazon Kindle first made its appearance, given the volume of books I regularly read, I admit it was a strong temptation to slap down over $100 at my local Amazon Bookstore so I could read books online. After all, I observed, look at all the money I could save between hardbound books costing between $15 to $200 and the electronic versions of the same books costing less than $10, and in some cases free.

Did I say FREE? For years I have been downloading and reading various electronic texts from Project Gutenberg and various other online sources. Most of them were the great classics, but there were various other fiction and non-fiction works, nearly all of which were free of charge. The only problem with Gutenberg is that most of these were ASCII text files, which weren't formatted all that well, and sometimes difficult to read. The beauty of these online books was there were thousands of them there for the asking.

Over the years, the various sources of online reading material has expanded and grown, and as new formatting became available, such as HTML and other styles, the Gutenberg collection became increasingly desirable.

Then came the Kindle, with its portable screen and easy-to-read formatting, and suddenly reading books became more cost-effective and much easier than ever before. So why would I resist buying one of these new electronic gadgets?

To put it simply, I already have too many electronic gadgets already. Holy thudpuckers! I have one whole side of my rather huge desk dedicated to various electronics, including four computers on a raised platform, 1 flatbed scanner, two USB hubs, a 5 port ethernet hub, an 8 port wireless hub, two UPS devices and two external hard drives. Oh, and I forgot an electronic alarm system.

Fortunately, I now have several pieces of open-source software which allow any of my computers to read files written in Kindle formatting: a book in a file, if you will. These software applications run on almost any hardware platform, ranging from Windows, Mac and Linux. So I can sit or lay wherever I want, reading a book of my choice. Hence, this afternoon, in less than an hour, I was able to download and read William R. Forstchen's excellent book, One Second After mentioned by Ron the Cop earlier for $10.00 onto my Linux laptop, no Kindle required, thank you.

To Kindle or not to Kindle? I think not. Of course, your results may differ.


Cutting earmarks…


Good morning, Netizens…


In his contribution to edification, cartoonist David Horsey attempts to depict the quandary surrounding earmarks facing our national leadership, regardless of their political affiliation. Earmarks, those subtle, sometimes very costly additions tagged onto otherwise existing pieces of legislation, have been the political footballs of members of both Democrats and Republicans for decades. An otherwise innocuous piece of legislation that might not otherwise alarm taxpayers, seems a perfectly good place to hide other spending.


Every instance a new piece of legislation is submitted for House or Senate consideration, the first thought that crosses my addled mind is I immediately suspect the legislation has lots of earmarks tagged onto the bill thus perpetuating the myth of “good legislation”, for I no longer believe that any legislation put forth by either political party is worth the cost of the ink to print it; the cost of the earmarks alone are far too costly for our troubled national economy to bear. But on the other hand, earmarks are what get political candidates elected and re-elected, year after nauseous year. Political candidates have made certain promises to their constituents that they will add certain budgetary line items to legislation for popular local items, and no one is wiser for it. If they cannot muster enough votes to put a local issue on the House floor, simply find a way to write it onto an otherwise innocent-appearing bill and nobody is the wiser.


What to do, what to do…


As of this morning, I have spoken with my omnipresent Sage, Arnold the Cat, regarding how best to deal with this issue of earmarks, simply because neither National Party has been able to keep their itching little fingers out of the pie. What is even more troublesome is that at this point in American history, we can ill afford to spend another penny of taxpayer's money; we are broke, or nearly so, and only a tight-fisted approach to our national budget will keep us off the economic rocks. Even a blonde hued feline house cat with little interest in national politics knows that much.


It is also readily apparent that neither Republicans nor Democrats can agree on where to cut earmarks. We have to fix our national budget! Of course, your results may differ.



It’s coming! It’s coming!

Good evening, Netizens…


If you are somewhat paranoid, prone to ethereal blasts of half-baked fantasy or otherwise have been following some of the believers in latter-day theorists, perhaps you might want to don your tinfoil aluminum hats and dive into your custom-built underground shelter because a solar storm has been reported by the National Space Weather Prediction Center which, if predictions are correct, might arrive on Earth sometime beginning the 16th through the 18th.


After the initial blast of radiation accompanying the coronal mass ejection (CME) — the first of its magnitude to occur in the new solar cycle of activity — a huge cloud of charged particles is headed toward Earth and is expected possible to wreck mild-mannered havoc with high frequency communications. Among the many potential disasters that can come from a massive CME: disturbances in the planet’s geomagnetic field that may lead to malfunctioning telecom and GPS satellite equipment. However, the current CME does not appear to be that serious, although there are already reports of radio disruptions in Southern China.


What we may see here locally are some of the finest aurora borealis or Northern Lights that we have seen since 2006. Or perhaps, if you are among those blessed with a more vivid imagination, perhaps we will discover President Obama's true solution for our national budget. Your results, may differ.



The New Egypt…

Good morning, Netizens…


David Horsey has painted a picture of the possible new face of Egypt now that Hosni Mubarak has stepped down. However his imagery of democracy in Egypt leaves a fair amount, I believe. While events of the last 18 days in Egypt qualify as a peaceful revolution in one sense of the word, I also believe it is a military coup and as such, is not a true democracy at all, for Mubarak was nearly a lifelong member of Egypt's military, and who do we now have in charge of Egypt? The military is in charge of Egypt.


I therefore submit that what David Horsey and others in America now share is wishful thinking, We hope and pray that all the demonstrations will result in democracy, that Egypt will soon have the basic freedoms that we in America often take for granted. We hope that the people in Egypt will recognize the true face of democracy, and not accept Egypt's military as the long-term solution.


Will the revolution we have witnessed over the last 18 days become a democracy? That remains to be seen. Your results may differ.





Mubarak has resigned…

Good morning, Netizens…

According to two different sources, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak has resigned. The news announcement, which came at approximately 8:00 AM PST this morning from Egyptian Vice President Suleiman, is that Mubarak has indeed resigned. Omar Suleiman made the announcement on national TV on Friday.

While there is a great deal of speculation and angst involved in this transfer of power, and while I am certain the talking heads of the news media will give this more coverage than I am capable, I am hopeful that all goes peacefully.


Suzie is back home!


Good evening, Netizens…


End of day three…


Closest to my heart is that my Suzie is back home from The House of Pain on the South Hill, having had her cancerous uterus removed during a robotic surgical procedure two days ago. I must hereby make a promise to myself, that in the near future I will diligently explore the technology involved because, despite all I may have stated in the past about the cost of surgical medicine in Spokane, in this instance having a 3 million dollar piece of state-of-the-art equipment installed at Sacred Heart easily saved us as much as ten thousand dollars or more.


Removal of a woman's uterus, fallopian tubes and associated reproductive organs using the old-fashioned surgical means, sometimes meant a woman could spend as much as a week to three weeks abed in the hospital, depending upon complications. The robotic technology reduces that painful time to under three days. In two short days after her surgical procedure, Suzie is back home, sitting up unattended and walking; gingerly, but walking nonetheless.


I can only speak glowing volumes about the quality of care we received from Cancer Care Northwest and the physicians who attended to Suzie since our ordeal began. Suzie's oncologist, Dr. Melanie Bergman, spent a fair amount of time explaining the procedure and answered all our questions in a gentle, caring manner before and after the robotic procedure.


We are not out of the woods quite yet, though, as there is still a pathology study to be completed, making certain that the cancer has not spread, and that there are no further complications. We are keeping our fingers crossed. I will keep everyone informed as we continue through this process. Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers.



Mubarak to go?


Good morning, Netizens…


I've been reluctant to cast my opinion on the collective waters about the Egyptian uprising, simply because life in Egypt currently is in such a state of flux, with daily riots and unrest, journalists being beaten and foreign citizens leaving the country in droves. Each time I sit down before the keyboard with an eye toward Egyptian affairs, Middle East civic affairs have gotten worse or, at least, some new American diplomatic gaffe has taken place.


However, this morning, David Horsey takes on Mubarak, and I immediately fell on the floor laughing my backside off.


Our nation does not seem to understand that Mubarak is a tyrant, a dictator and an evil man. He has run the economy of Egypt into the ground for over 30 years, to such a degree that food and employment are both at incredible lows, and in a so-called democracy, the Egyptian people are simply not going to tolerate it much longer. The sad part of Mubarak's regime is the billion dollars and more that Egypt currently receives in support from the United States.


What is equally tragic beyond words is the looting of the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and other archeological sites which included some of the most valuable ancient artifacts, some dating centuries ago. It could have been much worse, had bands of concerned Egyptians not formed human barricades to prevent further damage. Of the items is damaged, Egypt's antiquities chief says looters broke 13 glass showcases. Among the artifacts damaged is a statue from King Tutankhamun's tomb dating back more than 3,000 years.


Of course, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has stated that he would like to step down, thus satisfying the protestors, but he fears that chaos would result. Oh? I would call what is happening in Cairo right now chaos. Are things improving?


So I side with David Horsey. Mubarak the mummy is better than Mubarak the tyrant. Of course, your results may differ.



Addendum to Could It Happen Here?


Good morning, Netizens…


It is 5 AM CST Thursday, and in snow-blasted Chicago it is a bone-chilling 3 degrees while a great portion of the city remains closed.


The public offices, schools and cultural institutions which will remain closed Thursday, include:

• Chicago Public Schools including most private schools.

• Lake Shore Drive

• Chicago Transit Authority Yellow Line (all other CTA rail lines will be running)

• Early voting in ward offices (it will be available at 69 W. Washington; officials hope it will resume citywide Friday).

• Cook County Circuit Courts (except for Bond Court at the Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California)

• Cook County Jail (currently on lockdown)

• The City Colleges of Chicago

• DePaul, Columbia and Northern Illinois universities (Loyola will reopen)

• The Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, and Adler Planetarium

• Navy Pier

According to their web site, the University of Illinois will be open for business, although some classes may have been cancelled.

O’Hare and Midway airport will both be open but travelers should check with the airlines to make sure flights have not been cancelled.

Power is expected to be restored for most of the Commonwealth Edison customers who lost power in Tuesday’s blizzard. More than 177,000 customers lost power during Tuesday’s blizzard, but only about 12,000 remained without power at 10 p.m. Wednesday, according to a ComEd statement. The majority of those still in the dark will have power restored by Thursday afternoon. Given the bitterly cold temperatures this morning, there will be the inevitable frozen pipes caused by a lack of heating.


There is no specific timetable when side streets will be cleared of snow. In some areas snow drifts as high as 5 feet are blocking residential areas.


In short, most of the City of Chicago is still snowbound and the residential streets are all but impassable for the second day in succession.



Could it happen here?

Good morning, Netizens…


You can hardly turn on your television this morning without reading or hearing about the blizzard which now covers a substantial portion of the Southern and Eastern United States. According to nearly everyone, the storm that hit Chicago, Illinois about 2 PM yesterday is destined to break records for snowfall that have stood since 1967. I was living in South Chicago in 1967 and have quite a few memories of that blizzard, especially when you stop to consider how much snow fell in a short period of time accompanied by 40 to 60 mile per hour winds.


My daily trip in those days, from the University of Illinois to Chicago Heights normally took about an hour using the Illinois Central Railroad. The first day of the storm of '67 it took me over five hours, and I nearly didn't make it at all when the railroad stopped running after a foot of wind-driven snow fell. The freeway was closed down, the Chicago Transit System ceased running at all and most major thoroughfares throughout the Windy City were closed by four and five foot snow drifts.


It was four days before anyone could navigate around the city, two of which I could not see across the street. Schools, including the University, were shut down so I didn't have to go anywhere, fortunately.


According to my step-daughter, who now lives west of Chicago, they have been watching the winds whip the snow around their apartment complex since this afternoon. The place where she works has canceled all shifts, and employees have been sent home until the storm dies out, which is expected to happen sometime later Thursday evening.


Given our experience with snow here in Spokane, I cannot help but wonder what caliber of catastrophe they would call it if we had two feet of snow accompanied by 60 mile per hour winds. Can you imagine four foot snow drifts blocking North Division or South Grand?


Given the right combination of weather fronts, we could have such a blizzard here, one that didn't hesitate to dump two feet of snow in one 48 hour period, accompanied by high winds. Boy, wouldn't that be something!



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