Thursday, January 30, 2014


Phobe: indicating a person or thing that fears or hates the subject of the precedent root word. If the root word has anything to do with pharmaceuticals, then, yep, that's me. I'm a pharmaphobe. Without a doubt I am pharmapobic!

I know there are many absolutely wonderful discoveries in the war on sickness and disease, and many drugs are indispensable in our daily lives, but I also know I'm being bombarded with an unending marketing assault that dominates television and print media for drugs that have side effects that scare the daylights out of me. I know about chronic conditions that mandate a life-long demand for pharmaceuticals: I am hypertensive.

Why the massive ad campaigns for pharmaceuticals? Profit, of course. It isn't philanthropy, believe me. The big pharma companies wouldn't give away drugs for humanities sake, unless they knew it would create a never-ending demand from the drug, sort of a mandated addiction. Return On Investment, so to speak. Drugs prescribed by your doctor for chronic conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol create a cash flow, like an annuity, as long as the consumer, er, patient, stays alive. What a great business model!

What really worries me is a hypertensive doctor friend of ours won't take drugs other than ones for hypertension. She avoids other drugs as much as possible. Most of the people we know in the medical or peripheral businesses avoid flu shots like the plague. If that doesn't send up a red flag, I don't know what will. What bothers me most though, is the massive marketing attack on the average consumer. Seriously, I'm worried about the pharmaceuticals being sold on television today as if they were candy. “Tell your doctor you want this drug!”

Wow! If I have asthma, I can now go fishing with my grandson -- obviously I couldn't go fishing with him before – all I have to do is take a specific drug that I won't mention here. [My lawyer would be impotent against these guys.] If the side effects of this asthma drug don't kill me first, that is. The popular asthma drug lists thirteen symptoms as common side effects and two of them really caught my attention. This constantly advertised drug lists uncommon symptoms that runs another page and a half on their information sheet, and the overdose symptoms listed are outright scary, but side effects number 4, “difficulty with breathing” and number 11, “shortness of breath or troubled breathing” really are eye opening. If I have asthma, why am I taking this drug? Because the advertising said so! Look how happy they all are! Doing things they normally wouldn't do.

Really? I'm supposed to go to my doctor and tell her I want to take a certain drug because I think I may have a certain illness and I am now convinced I have a solution she may not be aware of? Isn't my doctor supposed to know what to prescribe for me when I have a medical condition that warrants that pharmaceutical concoction to be administered to me? Apparently doctors now respond to their patients demands and prescribe whatever feel-good drug now has the biggest marketing and advertising budget.

Listen to the possible side effects that accompany each Hollywood style production shown at exactly the time of day when old fogies like me are most likely to be watching the tube, er, flat screen I mean, and see if chills don't run down your spine.

Don't misunderstand what I'm writing here. Without penicillin, I wouldn't be alive today. Other new generation antibiotics administered when I blew out my appendix recently kept my septic condition from spoiling my life, much less my vacation. But the drugs weren't advertised on TV as imperative, life enhancing products I need to add to my daily regimen just to feel better. Take notes the next time you watch the evening news [only old people watch the evening news!] and see what I mean. I defy you to write down the side effects of any of the many drugs you will see advertised. Some of them even have the side effect of possible death! Wow, I can hardly wait to take some of those!

I have alleviated my reliance on blood pressure medicines by a simple action, weight loss. By losing twenty five pounds I have been able to reduce the drugs I take to keep my blood pressure “normal.'” Diet and physical activities are helping reduce my reliance on the remainder, all I have to do now is quit drinking alcohol. [Now, there's a rub!] With a little self control, I should be able to drop off or drastically reduce the regimen of the other prescription drugs. The first one I dropped off recently had a side effect that wasn't listed in the information sheet: bad breath! I realize many conditions aren't that easily remedied, but, many are.

Why did I pick the asthma drug as my example of pharma mass-marketing? Because they pander to unconscious consumers who think every fisherman has to wear a silly hat and a two hundred dollar fishing vest, carry a state of the art fly rod, then use a 79 cent red and white plastic bobber probably with a worm on the end of a hook! If this multi-million dollar corporation doesn't know anything about fishing, what do they know about anything else? Obviously they know how to market to American television viewers.

How about the million dollar marketing shtick that has two naked people sitting in the middle of field somewhere in old-fashioned cast-iron bathtubs? Aah, nothing like a dose of ridiculous fantasy to make the consumer feel like popping a pill is the answer to life's problems. Marketing chemicals in such a way that the gullible public demands the required prescribers give them what they want is downright scary. They'll probably drive up the market in old-fashioned cast iron bathtubs as well.

Want more information? Go to the FDA website at:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


When transferal of thought occurs through a mechanical process known as "writing," regardless of the medium, a permanent record is made of that thought. No longer ethereal or undefinable, it becomes an entity that can be debated or argued, praised or denounced. Often that thought is subliminal or subconscious, not by design or deduction. Whether the thought appears on paper through primitive muscular contraction and expansion, pushing and pulling a stick or ink-stained quill, or on a computer-controlled glass panel illuminated by electricity directed by human manipulation, that thought distinguishes human intelligence from all other forms on our planet. I often look back at my typing and read what I wrote in absolute awe. I have no idea how it got there. I never know what will appear on my computer screen. Well, maybe you do when you sit down to write, but I certainly don't. I often open my word processor and start typing and don't know why. 

The inspiration to transfer thought to a permanent memorial often emerges from an undefined state. Some call it the work of a muse, like “my muse wanted to say...” But my muse just sits there, probably on Facebook and not paying any attention to the fact I'm trying to write! The result is I'm constantly surprised by what pops up. So are you, probably, if you bother to read my nonsense. I'm sure if I had a muse, it would be surprised, too. You might think I don't recognize when the muse is typing for me, but I know better. I've read what muses write for other people, and it's nothing like what pops up on my screen. Muses write beautiful poetry, or involved, mysterious stories with incredibly interesting characters, not the mundane nonsense that shows up on my computer screen. No, no self respecting muse would own up to this stuff. 

Rarely do I have what is called “writers block,” the condition muses are supposed to lead writers through. More often than not, I have something to write and don't have any paper, or a computer to key into, as the case may be. Frustrated, I scribble on napkins, invoices, bills, and envelopes that I invariably, and unconsciously, throw away. Yes, they usually get thrown out well before I go looking for them, trying to piece together the great idea that I had two or three days ago. Or, two or three hours ago. Some days are like that.

Petey - Prime suspect
Writer's block only happens when I have to write something I don't want to write about. You know, something distasteful, or even worse, boring. Boring is the worst. I would rather read something really stupid I wrote as long as it isn't boring. Do I argue with myself? Constantly. Especially when I go back and reread something I wrote then put away for some reason or other. Where was my muse then? I really do put stuff away after I write it. Stephen King taught me that in his mandatory reading for any aspiring writer, “On Writing.”

How writers summon their muses baffles me. I have a hunch where mine might be. It's sitting in front of a PC somewhere checking Facebook. I know once I'm on Facebook, I'm done for the night. Tuck me in when you unplug my PC, I'll be sitting there glassy-eyed in a catatonic state waiting to see how many people like my last posting describing the amount of ear wax I successfully removed by using ear-candles.

My muse is undoubtedly just addicted as I am, I can't seem to get its attention. Wait! Is that laughing I hear? Why did I write this? Where did all this nonsense come from? Oh, Facebook is down. Aah! No wonder!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


During a discussion of aging and the accomplishments of life with my daughter, Monica, and her husband, Troy, in one of those rare moments of introspection, I made an off-hand remark that actually brought tears to my daughter’s eyes. No, not of sorrow or pity. No, I made her laugh so hard she almost wet her pants. It wasn't on purpose, just one of those deep revelations that your kids simply don't expect. Somehow they just can't imagine us when we were young.

We were talking over a glass of wine about what we've done and seen and where we've been and still want to go, among other things that floated light-heartedly through and around the conversation. I mentioned that perhaps the biggest disappointment I had growing up was when I found out penguins weren't as big as I thought. Monica doubled over in laughter at my profound announcement. Really, I was terribly disappointed when I found out penguins are actually quite small. After the laughter subsided and Monica finally caught her breath, we all refreshed our wine and the discussion moved on to other things, all in all a fun evening.

Penguins fascinated me. They were so brave and devoted to the families they protected between their webbed feet in those horrible Antarctic storms. I thought they were huge birds standing there in those incredibly strong winds. They were always shown standing in unison, looking regal in their black and white colors that everyone said looked like formal wear. Of course, I had no idea what formal wear was, but they looked so massive and strong. And big.

When I was growing up, in the pre-information age, visual data was transferred or delivered primarily by books and magazines. Movies were black and white, at least on our television, anyway, and the world's mysteries were still cloaked in misinformation. The Everglades was a foreboding, terrifying place, and bobcats and wolves ate people. All snakes were dangerous – some of them could even swallow you whole in one gulp or kill you by spitting in your eye– and monsters still roamed the earth in undiscovered places.

We were in the National Zoo in Washington, DC, in the early fifties with my great aunt, Emma Cornes, when I was eight or nine years old. She specifically took us to the penguin house to see the penguins. I was stunned at the little black and white birds zipping around the dirty water tank, no way could those be my penguins! Where are the big ones? Like the ones in the books, and on television?

This Christmas, my present from Monica was a huge, cardboard box. Yep! I got a penguin. As big as any I could have imagined when I was eight years old. I call him Petey, and he now wears a t-shirt that says “Stay Cool.” The T-shirt is now adorned with all the cap-pins I've accumulated from our camping trips, It's a good thing he isn't a little bird, I wouldn't have room for all the pins.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The End of Football

So much for the college football bowl games for this season; they aren't being televised locally by the big three: CBS, NBC, or ABC. I need cable or satellite service to watch the major bowl games or I get to watch Mash reruns instead. I really had my heart set on wrapping up the college football season this New Year's weekend, but, alas, big-bucks subscription marketing has taken over the public airwaves for the traditional climax to the college football season. If I want to watch the traditional football bowl games on television, I have to pay.

I canceled my Direct TV service earlier this year as creeping costs continually eroded our entertainment budget, and installed an High Definition, HD, antenna in the attic to receive broadcast HD signals that are actually sharper than what we received by satellite. But I really did it to replace the insidious money-sucking billing system that just wouldn't quit.

We reduced our monthly costs late last year by threatening to shut off the Direct TV service, and they immediately reduced our bill by over twenty dollars a month! Amazing how they do that. But, true to form, each passing month slowly added a dollar or two until we were pushing ninety dollars a month for almost basic service. So this year we pulled the plug, and to get even, they won't let me see the Rose Bowl.

We use the Internet as well as the HD antenna to see just about all the shows and specials we want. Often we get to watch live-streaming of events and shows, and have found many TV shows available for download. I use a desktop PC upgraded with two big hard drives, a USB-connected television antenna, an HD video driver card plugged into our wide-screen TV, and a wireless Internet adapter, running Windows 7 which includes Microsoft Media Player. Windows Media Player has a recording feature exactly like a digital recorder, so we get to “tape” shows captured from the antenna we might otherwise miss.

We watch German television via the Internet as well as Netflix – which we pay less than ten bucks a month for – and have access to quite a bit of television that would not normally see. We get no less than four local PBS stations, three of which are not on satellite television, in addition to two stations for every local network station. We get just about anything we want, except ESPN. Guess who carries the football bowl games.  ESPN will only stream via the Internet if the broadband Internet service provider I use is on their approved list. My Internet DSL service provider is CenturyLink, and of course they are not on the list. 

So, I hope Hawkeye and Radar have something up their sleeves I haven't seen before. I was getting tired of football anyway.