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The San Francisco Chronicle carried an article recently about a noted pick-up artist who will, for a thousand dollars, reveal his techniques on how to pickup women.

The attendees were described generally as handsome, some with money, a few just coming out of relationships, but all lacking the confidence needed in today’s competitive pickup market. Personally, I fail to grasp the concept of a handsome rich guy who lacks confidence.

Be that as it may, I sincerely hope they all gained an appreciation of the latest pick-up techniques and successfully used them. I honestly pray their investment pays dividends in the future in case any of them weren’t immediately successful following the completion of the seminar and lab time in various bars along Geary.

But for those who haven’t scored and for those who couldn’t afford 10 C-Notes, I have some follow-on advice that may help.

First of all, if your target covey is usually found in bars and other watering holes, never make an appearance early in the evening. You may need a little advance reconnaissance to establish an appropriate arrival time, which may take as many as three visits. Eventually, however, you will sense the time when everyone in the bar is drunker than a skunk. The proper timing will reduce or eliminate your competition because most if not all habitués will be in the end stages of inebriation. It just stands to reason that a sober man (you) will have an edge over a mumbling, glazed-eyed, incoherent, gaseous son of a billionaire Nob Hill scion. Moreover, it’s easier to hook up with an inebriated woman than a sober one.

But where’s the challenge? It seems to me that a red-blooded American male would find the conquest of sober women a feat more worthy of his talents. That’s why I am suggesting that all aspiring pickup artists seriously consider expanding the field of operations beyond booze joints. Here is a list of possibilities for you to mull over, along with my observations.

The romance section of bookstores.
Any bookstore will suffice, although this tactic may not work in specialty stores such as one selling used Army technical manuals. There aren’t many women interested in learning how to dissemble and assemble a .50 caliber machine gun except an occasional jilted wife. In these sorts of stores, you will waste too much time waiting. Increase the possibilities of a connection by browsing Borders, for example. As you browse, keep your head buried in an open book as far as you can bury it while at the same time scanning the activity around you through squinted eyes. When a potential target moves into view, slowly approach her. If she notices you and smiles…well, you get the idea.

Organic food markets
Women who buy organic foods are, as a general rule, healthy, intelligent, moderately well-to-do, and of indeterminate age. They are good looking because they follow a daily regimen of skin care and spa workouts, grooming activities that will largely camouflage those pesky signs of aging. The methodology for a pickup in this arena is twofold. First, dress appropriately. Wear a pair of knee length athletic shorts and a logo-ed athletic shirt. These have definite advantages because they speak of athleticism, which women admire in men, and suggest the possession of a college degree, a definite plus in today’s relationship market. Second, fill a shopping cart half full of organic goods selected at random and simply browse the isles. Sooner or later, you’ll catch the eye of a beautiful blonde cougar.

A university research library
These days, institutions of higher learning are heavily populated with women who have returned to school seeking skills appropriate to the21st Century job market. The number of female master’s and doctoral candidates has skyrocketed. And, as anyone who is familiar with the process for acquiring an advanced degree knows, several 40-page research papers as well as a 300-page dissertation are required for the successful completion of the program. That means many women virtually live in a graduate library. You don’t have to be a candidate to approach one of these women. Merely dress in a manner commensurate with today’s young executive and present yourself as a recruiter for a large company. Hand a likely target a business card and engage her in conversation about her skills and future plans. Of course, if you score, your lie may catch up with you sooner rather than later. But, then, that’s one of the hazards of lying to a woman, even an inebriated one.

I believe these three examples of alternate pick up locations will suffice for the time being. For now, let me close with these words of wisdom.

To begin with, consider very seriously the possibility of an entirely new pick up approach currently under study in a research lab in a top secret location near Las Vegas. Here’s how it works.

Dress neatly, walk into your selected arena with a pleasant look on your face, and go about your business.  When a woman catches your eye, smile and merely say, “Hi,” or “Good morning.” If she’s interested, she’ll take it from there. After all, why do you think women are out and around in the middle of the morning? Chances are, they are embarked on the same mission you are on.

Finally, studies have consistently proven that women are the real selectors. They select the man they want to pick them up. Women have said over and over that the juvenile approaches employed by men are actually turn offs. Men, you will improve your chances immeasurably by just being yourself. Women are, after all smarter than men and more perceptive. Give them credit. Save a thousand dollars.

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Is an Age of Facebook Discontent arriving or, perhaps, already here? Lately I’ve noticed an increasing number of Facebook members expressing a level of dissatisfaction above and beyond the normal American tendency to whine and snivel incessantly.

The trend seems to have begun in earnest with Facebook’s latest changes to the Home page. All of a sudden, members seemed seriously teed off. The comments ranged from a simply-stated irritation at an inability to find the Logout button all the way to a call for a one day boycott. In at least one case, someone established a Facebook page calling for a return to the prior home page.

Others expressed their intent to hook up with Google Buzz, giving as a reason their desire to connect with a younger, more attractive crowd. Still others noted that, yes, Facebook seems to have become overpopulated with geezers and geezettes. A social networking tool originally designed for the college crowd now appeals primarily to the AARP generation.

All of these may have a degree of validity behind them. I’ve complained about having “lost” the Logout button myself. But I think the expressed dissatisfactions are a reflection of a peculiarly American trait, a desire or even a need for change. We seem to have short attention spans. The pleasure of the moment quickly yields to a new toy or delight.

Someone once said “Variety is the spice of life.” Americans are always looking for something different. That sense of adventure may be embedded in our DNA. Whatever.

Relax.

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The world has ended several times in my life. Each time, I usually awakened the following morning, automatically checking for functioning body parts and mental faculties just in case my room wasn’t a replica created by some extraterrestrial force the way things often happen in The Twilight Zone or on a Hollywood movie set ala moon landings.

So far things have always checked out, although I admit the possibility of delusions implanted in my mind by those same unknown forces. Nevertheless, I went about my business as if the world remained unchanged. My life quickly returned to normal as I settled down and waited patiently for the next end of the world.

Now, the next one is rapidly approaching. If the mammography guidelines recently proposed by a federal task force are implemented, we’ll have breast cancer panels and God knows what else. The end of the United States is near. And we all know the U.S. is the world.

But there’s a discordant note in the current state of hysteria around us. As an occasional flash of clarity strikes, reason tells us this one just doesn’t track. We wonder, what does the word “guidelines” denote and connote?

Is a guideline a matter of law? Has Congress passed and the President signed a law mandating breast examinations based on some arbitrary number picked out of a hat? Has the President issued an Executive Order directing the establishment of a Breast Examination Panel tasked to decide who can and who cannot have an examination?

To the best of my knowledge, none of these has taken place. In fact, these same guidelines were recommended 12 years ago. No one to the best of my knowledge panicked then and nothing occurred to change the guidelines. So, what accounts for the current hysteria?

Perhaps this is just one more example of the politics of the slippery slope. We’re all intelligent people here. We understand that a slippery slope kicks in when a specified action is considered to be the first step that automatically and irrevocable leads to the complete and total destruction of mankind.

In politics, the slippery slope is a common political tactic employed by both major power-holding political parties to scare the crap out of the public. The purpose of a slippery slope accusation is to arouse public emotions and stir some sort of rebellion against the programs of the other party.

It’s a very effective tactic. We Americans are quite susceptible to fear-mongering for a couple of reasons. We are distinctly uneasy about the domestic economy and its direction. We fear a loss of our hard-earned gains and for the future of our children.

Compounding our domestic fears, America’s perceived fading influence on the international stage fuels fears of a takeover by unspecified enemies somewhere out there. Recently, there has been a reactivation of out fright response engendered by talk of a murky New World Order and the Illuminati. And United Nations forces are rumored to be secretly patrolling remote roads in the United States.

Taken together, domestic and international factors create a sort of free-floating anxiety that hovers over us like the proverbial raincloud hanging over Joe Blitzfit In this environment, nerves are on edge and any change from the comfortable and known is bound to be met with panic.

Here’s the reality. There is little if any chance the proposed guidelines will negatively affect women’s health. When it comes right down to it, women are going to ignore the guidelines and continue their self-examination followed by a mammogram if their examination finds something.

Further, no doctor in his or her right mind is going to refuse the request of a health-conscious woman who wishes a mammogram. It’s insanity to think so. Obstructive medicine is a sure road to professional death. A few doctors in the past have hung up their practices because of the cost of liability insurance or a plethora of government regulations. And some have refused to perform certain medical procedures, primarily abortions, because of a moral conviction, but in my judgment there is no similar moral bar to a mammogram.

Will insurance companies refuse to pay for a mammogram beyond the limits suggested in the guidelines? That’s highly doubtful. The trend lately has swung toward a strong belief that medical treatment is a matter between a patient and his or her doctor. The era of a remote figure that may or may not be a physician sitting in an antiseptic office somewhere and automatically disapproving certain claims immediately is slowly fading.

True, insurance companies make a little money by denying claims. But I would almost be willing to bet that the amount of money collected on premiums far exceeds the amount of money paid out in claims.

Insurance companies aren’t going to jeopardize those premiums by adopting highly unpopular practices that might drive away institutions such as the federal and state governments, which pump enormous amounts of money into the coffers of insurers through government-offered group health coverage plans. The insurance companies are greedy but they aren’t fiscally dumb.

I know it’s easy for a man to be blasé about this matter. Men have breast cancer, too, but compared to the rates for women, the numbers are few. We thus tend to downplay the problems of women. That’s wrong on the faced of it.

It’s equally wrong for the federal task force to base its recommendations solely on statistics. Ignoring the human factor is a surefire road to irrelevance. As well, it calls into question the validity of the panel’s findings. Governments, all governments in the U.S., federal, state, and local, do not possess a great deal of credibility as it is. The feds insensitive treatment of this matter has lowered its credit score immensely.

In the final analysis, the anxiety and hysteria over the panel’s recommendations constitute nothing more than wasted energy. For once in our lives, we ought to ignore the slippery slope. Let’s send a signal to fear-mongering politicians. Let’s resolve that the end of the world is not at hand.

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I’ve been somewhat preoccupied over the past month or so. Almost all of my time during that period was related to my cataract surgery. In retrospect, it seems I was preparing for surgery on one eye and recovering afterward while at the same time, getting ready for surgery on the second eye.

Yesterday, the doctor completed the second operation and this morning I visited him in his office for a follow up examination. His verdict, I no longer need eyeglasses.

That’s bad and good. First the bad news. I like my Top Guns because they add overall character to my face and hide those mousey-blue bags that give it that sad, droopy effect. I am  not that sad and I can still wear Top Guns, but the lenses will be plain glass insted of prescription glass. On the other hand, the expense of a new pair every year or so will be reduced dramatically. That’s good.

But the doctor’s happy demeanor when he broke the news followed by my joyful tap dance wasn’t the end of the process. Before he gives me the final all clear, I will need to continue a regimen of eye drops in both eyes three times daily and at least two more examinations. I fully expect things to move along quite well, and in a couple of weeks, the doctor will give me his final clearance to resume my everyday activities.

Pending the end of the process, I have a couple of things to do. The first is to renew my driver’s license. The doctor gave me a certificate of 20/20 vision this morning, so I’ll wait until early next week when I’ll visit the driver’s licensing agency on a slack day. The certificate will permit me to forgo that pesky eye exam at the counter. That dratted test had been a royal pain in the arstermeister for me and here’s why.

The aforementioned 20/20 vision is in one eye. The other one is virtually gone, 20/50 or something like that, but the cataract surgery on it permitted enough light to reach the optic nerve for absolutely great binocular vision.

In other words, when my eyes work together as a team, my vision is virtually perfect. But when they operate individually the way we’re forced to use them to look through the vision test machine one eye at a tine, one works well enough to pass the at-the-counter vision test, the other doesn’t.

This makes for an awkward situation, and on at least one occasion I was denied a renewed license until I presented the eye examiners with a document from an ophthalmologist certifying to my ability to drive. I tried to explain to her that the vision test is stacked against prospective licensees. No one drives around with a machine strapped to the head, looking first into one peep hole and then another. We drive with two eyes working together. Therefore, why not test both eyes together.

Moreover, I told her, we don’t drive around squinting at and searching for individual letters on a stop sign or a direction sign on a freeway. Driving, good driving, requires the driver constantly to sweep traffic conditions ahead, with both eyes I added. Closing one eye to read a sign is a hazard to our health.

Despite my impeccable logic, she forced me to spend the time and money for a certificate certifying that I could safely operate a motor vehicle. So every few years just before my license expired, I’d tromp down to the ophthalmologist’s office for an eye test and another certificate.

Now, the embarrassment and inconvenience of rejection is over. The two lenses in my eyes will never be clouded by cataracts. With my restored 20/20 eyesight, I’ll be able to waltz through the vision test because, in this state, one 20/20 eye is all that’s required for license renewal.

But the ultimate result of my cataract surgery is the ability to see things I haven’t seen in years, things like cars, pedestrians, and loose tires rolling across the freeway. It’s a miracle. I encourage anyone who needs cataract surgery but has hesitated to just do it.

A couple of cautions, though. Don’t be surprised when you look in the mirror fot the first time after your surgery and see an odd looking face staring at you. In my own case, the bags under my eyes were so huge, I may need to check them the next time I fly. And for some reason, I saw more wrinkles and sags and cellulose on those vaunted Hollywood idols the first time I booted up my 46 inch high def than I could have imagined. Apparently, the high def techs haven’t figured out the finer points of air brushing pixels.

Despite these minor shortcomings, however, my world is brighter and more beautiful than I remember. The colors are vivid, the sky bluer, the greenery greener, the ocean aqua-er, and the inside and outside of my loved ones more beautidul than ever.

Not all is sunshine and roses, though. The surgery won’t clean your windshield. I learned that the hard way this morning when I could hardly see the road despite my 20/20 vision.

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I’ve encountered a writer’s block of unparalleled density. I’ve been chipping at it in my mind for about a month without a great deal of effect. A friend of mine once observed, “We can saw off the leg of an elephant with the wings of butterflies if we saw long enough.” I might add that other variables come into play, such as the cooperation of the elephant, but my friend wasn’t speaking literally. He was talking about persistence. We can do just about anything within reason if we stick to it.

That’s what I am doing at this instant, trying my doggoned best to initiate some persistence by writing a few random thoughts. For instance, I have this feeling that the so-called Balloon Boy hoax is a hoax all right, but it isn’t a hoax perpetrated by the Heene family. Rather a mainstream media that lives on sensationalism combined with a sheriff who seems rather oddly discordant to me equals a hoax in my mind. These feelings are difficult to explain, and I may be wrong entirely but that remains to be seen.

Cougar is another code word that seems to have captured the media’s attention. I am not certain that the average American cares whether older women pursue younger men or not. Of course a few hidebound old relics of the 20th Century may be stuck in the mores of a distant age when sex for men was okay but unacceptable when women wandered into male territory. I’ve often wondered where these licentious old men got their sex, considering that women were condemned to hell for merely thinking about it. The current interest in women as the aggressors seems to have had its origins among the media when ABC aired a new show called “Cougar Town” starring Courtney Cox as a 40-plus divorcee with a penchant for wrinkle free studs. Courtney is actually 40-plusherself and let me tell you, she has a body like a 25-year old woman in the prime of sexual attractiveness. I think ABC has a hit, although I don’t particularly care for the show. I just watch it in the interests of journalistic curiosity.

The preceding is about all I can think of at the moment. I’m probably entering a change of life. I’m in the midst of a couple of cataract operations, and if nothing goes wrong, I will leave the world of the partially blind and enter the arena of the seeing. I am thinking that Courteney Cox will look even better in a couple of weeks.

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This may sound heartless, but I can’t seem to dredge up any pity for Roman Polanski. He was arrested recently in Switzerland and placed in jail pending a deportation hearing on a 32-year old warrant because he  failed to appear in court for sentencing on a charge of unlawful sex with a minor, a charge he pled guilty to. Instead, he fled the United States and has been living in Europe since.

Almost immediately after his arrest, the elites of France went berserk, accusing the United States of picking on this poor old seventy-some year old man. Then several of Hollywood’s biggest names jumped in on Polanski’s side.

Meanwhile, it turns out that a lot of ordinary French people and Americans as well have no sympathy for Polanski, either. He should come back and face the music, many argue. He committed a crime, he ought to do the time. After all, isn’t that what the bigwigs have told us for years and years?

So, suddenly, these same believers in the sanctity of the law want this guy who had sex with a 13-year old girl to escape justice because he spent his life after evading it making fine movies that are applauded by the elites of Europe and Hollywood. I wonder how these individuals would feel if Polanski’s 13-year old victim happened to be a daughter of one of them.

What about Polanski’s victim? For all of the years Polanski roamed as free as a bird, she’s been psychologically imprisoned by the vile acts committed by him on her body, damaged by thoughts of this man working over her, performing oral sex and sodomizing her mind and body.

Those who support Polanski argue that the judge was biased against him. If I were the judge I would have been biased against him, too. After all, he pled guilty to those acts.  He deserved prison time then and he deserves it now.

His supporters also contend that the judge violated a plea agreement that would have placed Polanski on probation without jail time. As a matter of law, judges do not negotiate pleas with defendants. The prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney work out an agreement and present it to the judge. The judge can accept or reject it.

Judges reject plea agreements every day somewhere in America. They also accept them. In the Polanski case, we actually don’t know how the judge would have decided since Polanski cut out before decision time. Now, the judge is dead and we will never know.

Every year there are over 3,000,000 (that’s three million) reported instances of child abuse in America. Not every case involves sexual abuse and not all reports are verified. But if only 10 percent of the reports were valid, that would still amount to a horrendous 300,000 incidents annually. That is one hell of a statistic for a country that purports to be a nation of laws, not of men.

For the sake of our children, men like Polanmski need to feel the heat of prison. If only one incipient predator gets the message and decides to drive on by instead of abducting a child on the way to school, then Polanski’s incarceration will at least have served a socially redeeming purpose.

If Roman Polanski were an ordinary citizen, his victim would be just another statistic, lost in a bureaucratic spreadsheet. But the publicity surrounding Polanski ultimately resulted in the self-revelation of her identity. Samantha Gailey Geimer, now 45 years old, has decided that she will no longer permit the incident that happened so many years ago to imprison her mind. A revelation like that takes courage.

If Polanski had her courage, if he were any kind of man, he’d voluntarily return to the United States and take his medicine. Then, his supporters might have something to commend him for.

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The day before yesterday marked 30 days, one month, since her spirit soared to the heavens where she watches over us as she watched so many years on Earth. She is pain free now, and for that, we are grateful. Her last months were difficult for her.

When she became bedridden, I was her sole caregiver. My morning routine began around 5 a.m. with a shower, followed by a trip to the kitchen to brew her morning coffee.

While the coffee was heating, I put a couple of pieces of cinnamon toast in the toaster and opened a packet of instant oatmeal, the kind you empty in a bowl and add hot water.

By the time everything was ready, she would be awake. I’d ask her if she wanted her breakfast in bed or in her favorite chair. Although she preferred to remain in bed most of the time, she occasionally had the strength to sit upright and watch television while she ate. I always monitored her closely, however, for signs of pain in her face. I knew her every nuance and at the first hint of pain, I quickly moved her to the bed before the pain took over.

If the pain won, she would moan, and as quickly as I could, I would give her a prescribed dose of Vicodin, a pain medication that didn’t always dull the pain. Even if the medication worked, about 40 minutes would pass before it took hold.

In those 40 minutes, I was helpless. I stroked her brow and forehead and whispered to her, hoping she took some solace from my touch and voice.

And then, if and when the medication worked, she would become quiet and still and sleep for about an hour, waking with the smile that always melted my heart.

Occasionally, after she woke, she would be in high spirits and talk about walking around our favorite shopping mall. When her euphoria first occurred and she talked about walking, I didn’t understand what was happening. I reminded her, rather bluntly, “But you can’t walk.”

At my words, her face lost its glow. She sank back in her bed and just stared at the ceiling. Only later did I understand that she had forgotten that she couldn’t walk. After that, I always said something like, “Okay, let’s go,” or “When would you like to go?” She soon forgot and usually fell asleep.

At home, she always received immediate attention from me. In the hospital, it wasn’t unusual for a nurse to take thirty minutes to an hour to respond.  When I complained to the staff doctor, he listened sympathetically and said, “I understand your frustrations. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be in the hospital, either.” I decided then that she would remain with me at home no matter how hard that might make it for me.

When I wasn’t attending to her needs, I worked around the house, washing dishes and clothes, cleaning, and doing the things she had done for us for so many years. I learned the truth of the old adage, “A woman’s work is never done.”

And, yes, I grew physically tired, so tired that on occasion I would lay beside her in the bed with a crossword puzzle in hand. More often than not, my eyes would droop and my pen would fall on my shirt, leaving ink stains on it. I always worked crossword puzzles with a pen because it forced me to get it right the first time.

When she seemed to be especially down, I would lay beside her with her hands in mine and talk to her, trying to reassure her, whispering how much I loved her and how I would gladly give her my strength. She would often grasp my hands and squeeze them as hard as she could, as if by easing her grip I might leave her.

But I knew in my heart that I would never leave her. She had given her heart and soul to her family. Without her, our lives would have been empty and desolate. She demonstrated her love in so many ways small and large, from the placement of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the counter for our daughters when they returned from school to telling them later in life that the gifts on special occasions were my idea when in truth, they were hers.

Ever shy and self-effacing, she rarely showed her emotions in public. When a daughter graduated or married or when one left home to begin her own family, she would remain composed through the ceremonies only to cry alone in the shower later. We all knew her habits and they endeared her to us. We knew her composure in public was a signal to us that we must remain strong.

For the most part, we followed her guidance. But when she left us, we cried uncontrollably. We weren’t strong. But I think she understood.

I often wondered and still do if she knew her overpowering effect on us and how much we loved her in life and always will.

We talk now about monthly anniversaries, but before we realize it, months will become years. Even so, her memory will be fresh within us. We will always love her with all of our heart and soul.

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