Stephen Kahn

Archive for the ‘Bad news’ Category

First the chickens, then us.

In Bad news on July 12, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Real life has a habit of intruding on story-telling. Last night, after I spent the morning at at a CPR/First Aid class at the church, my wife went out to putter among the chickens. She came back to the house and broke into tears and sobs.

“One of the pullets is sick,” she told me between sobs. “I put her in the closet.” [The store room where the pullets lived before we integrated them with the hens.] My wife, even in the midst of sorrow and turmoil, is pragmatic. She is getting the sick pullet away from the others so the young hen won’t infect the others. This morning she (or I) will go out and see if the teenage is still alive. This provides us with practice as we get old and eventually ill, for dealing with each other, just as my wife skillfully nursed me as I lay ill with an infected leg.

Tip to younger people. When you choose a mate when young for sex appeal and other entertainment values, choose someone who will be a good nurse when you get old. And start developing your own nursing skills. Or make enough money to hire good nurses. Romney’s wife has a serious illness. I presume she has good nursing care, one way or another.

Diagnosis vs. Prescription

In Bad news on June 28, 2012 at 1:48 pm

I have been fortunate in that I have not suffered many serious illnesses. The first came in my late 50s. At that time, the doctors did not seem to know what was the matter with me, but they seemed to know what to do, and after a couple of scary days, I rapidly improved.

In my current situation, they seem to know what is the matter with me (bacterial infections of my leg), but the prescriptions have not gone as well as the doctors envisioned. I now suffer from rashes and serious itching. The prescriptions have been changed several times. Each change has produced unpleasant surprises and frustrating disappointments. Yesterday, the Cipro (which worried me) has been dropped. I am continuing with the other treatment for my infection – Cephalexin.

I also received more prescriptions for my itching and rash, going from topical Benadryl to tablets, and adding some other antihistamines. I took them last night, and did go to sleep, but woke up this morning with severe itching. I go in today for more wound care for my infected leg. While this is fascinating to me, and to my wife, who continues to provide wonderful nursing care, I can’t imagine it being of much interest to my poor readers, but if you are still reading this blog, I appreciate your attention and comments.

Antibiotic anxiety

In Bad news on June 25, 2012 at 1:20 am

As my leg infection treatment has not progressed as well as I had hoped, my doctor prescribed two new antibiotics. One of them, called Cipro, has some scary warnings, especially having to do with tendon ruptures. I have taken the prescription as directed for the weekend, but I am going to see the doctor early Monday, and I will express my concerns and see if there is an alternative I can try. I already have lost a lot of my exercise benefits from being ill; I do not want to be so terrified that I no longer can take a walk or do a little light lifting.

Maybe Mindi was just making a preemptive strike?

In Bad news on June 15, 2012 at 3:43 am

Maybe Mindi was just defending herself.

I have written at times about a former student of mine, Mindi, who was, I think, convicted of murder. I write with some hesitation because I am getting old, my memory is getting shaky, and although I am pretty sure there are newspaper reports that document what I say, they are so old that they are difficult to find on the World Wide Web and I decided to stop trying to track them down. So I put “allegedly,” and “as as I remember,” and “I think,” and other weasel words just to be on the safe side.

What I remember is that Mindi was an unattractive and indifferent student, who seemed to blossom after she graduated and got married, but then was given a life sentence after she was convicted of murdering her husband in cahoots with a boy friend. After I wrote about her (and apparently found her address) I was told that she had been released, and graduated from college. Then I read a comment by what might have been the brother of her dead husband making vague threats. I wrote to police authorities; her address disappeared from where I had found it on line, and I know nothing more of Mindi’s tale.

I thought about this as I drove by the closed Harbor Pizzeria restaurant today. My postal address lists the small incorporated community of Langley as our home town, but we usually think of the small unincorporated community of Freeland as our home, and that’s where we usually shop. (Geographically, we are about midway between the two tiny hamlets). Little shops and restaurants open and close in both communities fairly frequently Not that long ago, a new pizza shop opened in Freeland. I ate at this restaurant a few times. It served pizza and sandwiches and calzone and typical pizza shop food. It was OK, though not exceptional. The woman who usually served the food seemed pleasant. I assumed she was the owner.

She was recently murdered. Her husband was arrested. From the newspaper story in the local paper, they were both intelligent, professional people with impressive careers in science and computer science.

I am amused because so many of my neighbors on Whidbey Island, like to think of it as a peaceful, Garden of Eden where lots of old Christians and old hippies concentrate on growing carrots and cabbages, raising chickens and goats,  going to church, the gym, and thinking good thoughts and pretending that the world is not full of evil and cruelty, or if it is, it takes place in Afghanistan, or perhaps in Seattle (which has had an outburst of shootings and killings, most recently a person allegedly suffering from mental illness shooting about half a dozen people, ending with himself.

If you are morbid enough to wade through the story I have linked, you will see the crime was apparently impulsive and blundering. Even Mindi could have done better, though she had none of the experience or credentials of the alleged murderer.

As I get older, I go back over many stories and interests of my youth, including Shakespeare. (I am just embarking on watching all the performances of Shakespeare’s plays filmed by the BBC.) Probably the most famous female villains in Shakespeare’s plays are Lady Macbeth and two of King Lear’s three daughters, Goneril and Regan. All of Shakespeare’s major characters are complex and layered (as are human beings in general), so just as we argue and wonder about Lady Macbeth and Goneril and Regan, we will never know the full story of why Mindi murdered her husband (instead of just divorcing him) or why Robert “Al” Baker allegedly murdered his wife Kathie instead of just divorcing her.

Lady Macbeth gets perhaps the juiciest lines, including:

The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe topful
Of direst cruelty!

Lear is a subtler play, so it’s hard to convey Goneril’s and Regan’s complex nastiness out of context.

The best brief ones I can provide are:

Hang him instantly.

Pluck out his eyes.

Cover your eyes and watch your neck.

Tell me why you stopped reading this post

In Bad news, Good news, Hard to tell, Humor, Uncategorized on June 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Getting back to the cults I belong to, I will briefly and redundantly review the ones I have described.

Transition Whidbey. Worthwhile points: realize that we are running out of fossil fuels and that economics based on never ending growth cannot continue. Silly points: Failing to realize that humans are dangerous, wicked creatures; failing to acknowledge we need to shoot people before they shoot us; and thinking that positive thinking avoids conflict and tough decisions.

Trinity Lutheran Church. Worthwhile points: treating each other kindly and supportively; outgrowing nastiness and cruelty of earlier versions of Christianity. Silly points: Believing in unreal and imaginary concepts such as God, Satan, Heaven, and Hell and life after death.

Another cult I belong to is the Red Cross. As with other cults to which I belong, I am completely unsuited to this cult. Worthwhile points: The Red Cross acknowledges that bad stuff happens in this mundane life, and tries to prevent such events (where possible) and prepare for recovery and aid. The bad stuff occurs because of natural disasters – storms, earthquakes, floods, land and snow slides, forest fires, epidemics, and a multitude of other such events, as well as from human caused disasters, whether wars, genocides, land and snow slides, epidemics, forest fires, and so on.

As unsuited as I am for the Red Cross, I am even less suited to be a First Responder, a person who rushes to the scene of an disaster and provides immediate medical attention or SWAT team firepower. For example, if trying to perform CPR I would forget the exact steps and be squeamish about breaking the victim’s rib cage.

Transition Whidbey talks about future events that may not be occur or may be forestalled. We may not really run out of fossil fuel, or may at least discover some substitute that does just as well – solar energy, tidal power, bicycles. Religious believers talk about events that can’t not be proved or disproved – Heaven, Hell, etc.

The Red Cross forecasts events that occur often enough – such as hurricanes and tornadoes – that they seem likely to occur again – and also forecasts events rare enough – that many people consider them unlikely, and prefer not to spend time thinking about them, much less energy and money preparing for them. For example, the most likely disasters where my wife and I live are probably a major earthquake and/or a tsunami. My wife and I have prepared in ways large and small. Small: we have placed a sturdy rubber band around the knobs of our main kitchen cabinet. In the event of a moderate to strong earthquake, the band will (we hope) prevent the doors from flying open and all our china dish ware flying to the floor. It’s a little inconvenient because we have to remember to put the band back on each time we open the cabinet doors to remove or return a dish. Large: We have installed (at some expense) a large water tank outside our house. If power is out for days, our well pump will not work, so we may need to have enough water to live on for weeks. Also, we have purchased a large (cranky) generator so we can run the well for short periods of time, run our refrigerator-freezer, for short periods of time. If no earthquake occurs, this will all be wasted time and effort. On the other hand, if a major earthquake occurs, we will be glad, though we will then be faced with the issue of whether to share with (or leach off) our sparse neighbors, mostly (like us) living on acreage in the woods.

Some of the possible disaster events are unlikely indeed, but not impossible. For example, consider volcanoes. Having lived in Portland, OR at the time Mt. St. Helens erupted, and having quite a bit of volcanic ash land on our roof and our street (and having driven through a serious and almost blinding ash cloud on a trip between Portland and Seattle), I don’t consider volcanic eruptions impossible. However, scientists talk about supervolcanoes that have occurred in the past. Some have occurred in fairly recent times, one of the most famous being Krakatoa, in Indonesia. Just as the Richter Scale measures earthquakes, the Volcano Explosive Index (VEI) scale measures volcanic eruptions. Krakatoa was probably a VEI6, killing somewhere between 30,000 to 120,000 people. Geological records indicate that some volcanic eruptions have hit VEI8. In modern times, a VEI8 eruption would quite likely destroy humanity.

A lot of speculation focuses on Yellowstone, where VEI8 eruptions probably occurred before humanity was around to wipe out other species, such as dodo birds. If a VEI8 occurred, we (people living on Whidbey Island) would probably not have much time to worry about anything, but it’s quite possible that a VEI6 or VEI7 might occur, and then all our preparations for disaster might prove useful, or might simply prolong our agony.

But not to worry, there are lots of other natural and unnatural disasters to fret about, such as Electromagnetic pulses (EMP). During the cold war, both the United States and USSR considered using EMP pulses as weapons, as they might destroy the infrastructure of an enemy, particularly communications, power generation and transmission, and the like. Although the cold war has subsided a bit (though not dangers of various kinds of warfare), nature still likes to yank human beings around. So our old friend SOL (the sun at the center of the solar system) creates its own EMPs, by occasionally sending us star signals (solar flares.) We may be due for some jolly ones next year. Probably the largest documented solar “storm” in human history was in 1859. While there was no Internet at that time, humans did have some “modern” devices, such as telegraphs, and they were hit hard.

“Around the world, telegraph systems crashed, machines burst into flames, and electric shocks rendered operators unconscious. Compasses and other sensitive instruments reeled as if struck by a massive magnetic fist. For the first time, people began to suspect that the Earth was not isolated from the rest of the universe.”

One of the projects the Red Cross works on is encouraging people to be prepared for disasters. Mostly disasters likely to occur in our geographic region. My brother lives near Joplin, MO, so he should be prepared for a tornado. My brother’s situation is complicated as 1) he was a weatherman when he was in the Navy and 2) he is crazy (either schizophrenia or bipolar, depending on which of his psychiatrists you talk to). The last time there was a frightening storm in his area, he was looking out the door with interest describing the weather cells while his wife (who related the story to me) was urging him to get downstairs into the storm cellar. Also, a lot of people in these area don’t have storm cellars, though after a tornado hits, quite a few people who were not hit, rush to buy one. I think they may also be called “barn doors” as a nickname, as in “Closing the barn door after the horse has been blown away by the tornado.”

Here in Puget Sound, we are not likely to have a tornado. However, a few weeks ago I was a bit surprised to read in the local newspaper that a “twister” hit a nearby town, knocking down several trees (though injuring no one). Near the end of the story, a person who had observed the storm said that he had lived in the Midwest, observed tornadoes, and would have to describe our storm as a “tornado.” (I am guessing that the newspaper decided not to use the word “tornado” in the headline or lead paragraphs of the story.

Problems with trying to alert people to prepare for possible disasters include objections such as 1) “Prepping” (apparently “preppers” is now a term preferred to “survivalists”) is expensive; 2) Prepping is difficult; 3) thinking about disasters is frightening; 4) leading to “I don’t want to think about something so scary.”

If this blog post was so frightening (or boring) that you stopped reading about ten or twenty paragraphs ago, please leave a comment about why you stopped reading.

Water! Water! But not a drop to drink

In Bad news, Humor on May 29, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I am slowly mending, and getting up and around a bit. However, today the electrical system that powers our pressure pump (that sends water to our plumbing after it gets up from our well) went out. We have a call in to an electrician, but as people on Whidbey tend to work on a “whatever” sort of basis, he had not called us back yet (two hours after I left a message). The “mañana” culture is charming when I indulge myself in it, but very irritating when I want someone to respond to my needs and imperatives. We have some bottled water (in case of the large earthquake that has not struck us yet), and we are going through it surprisingly quickly.

Will this be the day I’ll die?

In Bad news on May 5, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Human beings are social animals, We gather in flocks, herds, packs, and gaggles. Wolves gather in packs to hunt deer; deer gather in herds in the hope that a wolf will eat a different deer.

The Lutheran pack/flock gathers to cut, chop, and haul wood, which they donate to the poor and the elderly so they can burn it in wood stoves and fireplaces for warmth. Last Wednesday, I gathered with the plack, as I usually do, but about half way into the session I suddenly felt very weary. I could have prayed, but I went home early, and the next day when my left calf was very red, swollen, and painful, my HMO’s Advise Nurse said to get myself into the clinic, and my wife drove/ferried me to the mainland where the clinic sits. My doctor examined my calf, said, “It looks like you have a respectable infection,” and sent me to have some blood tests and prescribed some antibiotics for me. He just chose some general antibiotics; I am supposed to take some pills by the prescribed schedule; I am supposed to call his office on Monday, when the results are back, and he can decide whether to modify the prescription. He also prescribed some strong pain killers which pleasantly knocked me out last night.

As we drove back from the clinic I remembered Don McClean’s iconic song “This American Pie” and wondered if “This’ll be the day that I die.”

So you will have to tune in next week to see if I am still alive.

Not alive, but not doing well

In Bad news on December 3, 2011 at 2:52 am

Besides dying pets, tonight I learned that our truck, we we hoped to last as long as we do, is not going to make it much longer. Well, my wife and I grumbled at each other about how we can’t afford another vehicle, and the problems in picking out something that will do, but at least she did not start sobbing.

Don’t be on the bottom of the pecking order

In Bad news on December 3, 2011 at 2:46 am

In September I reported on the death of one of our hens, Little Peep. Recently, another hen at the bottom of the pecking order, Ethel (aka 4 of 4), became ill. My wife removed her quickly from the chicken coop (to protect the other hens from infection) and brought her into in the house in a cage. My wife cared for her tenderly for several days. Recently, we learned about a veterinarian on Whidbey Island who treats chickens and other poultry. Ethel was not doing well; not eating much; not drinking. My wife took Ethel to the vet. The vet examined her and said, “There is nothing that can be done for this hen.” At my wife’s request, he put her to death in a quick and kindly fashion.

My wife came home sobbing. Mortality, whether of pets or people, is a tough row to hoe.

Blood on the highway

In Bad news on November 15, 2011 at 4:32 pm

In his comment, Joe said, “Some of these guys, the trouble wasn’t about quitting, it was about them starting in the first place.”

The day before yesterday, my wife and I went to a “Nordic fest” Scandinavian heritage festival at the South Whidbey high school. We ate a passable but mediocre serving of Swedish meat balls, and some good pea soup and clam chowder, and looked at but didn’t buy various handicrafts. We were not aware that a few hours earlier there had been a terrible automobile crash not far from the high school on the highway running the length of Whidbey Island. After my last blog post we had been commenting on people living a long time, pleasantly ironic as my aunt turned 90 and sounded alert and vital on the telephone. We also had been commenting about Noah (from the Old Testament) getting drunk after his journey on the ark. In terms of the automobile crash, the island newspaper relates that a young woman had been driving with three young men as passengers in the car. There are allegations of the driver being “under the influence” of alcohol. In any case, she ran off the road, hit a tree, and the car erupted into a fireball. The woman was pulled out and sent to the hospital; the three men died at the scene. Obviously, they shouldn’t have started in the first place, and now they won’t have to worry about knowing when to quit.