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Posts Tagged ‘science’

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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Be honest now, men. If you had a chance, would you pose full-frontal nude in Playgirl Magazine if the editors invited you?

A lot of men have actually exposed all in the pages of that publication, including Burt Reynolds when he was still a hunk. Now, Levi Johnston, the father of Sarah Palin’s grandson, is getting ready for a nude photo shoot. His unadorned pecs and abs and er…equipment…are expected to grace the centerfold of Playgirl’s next issue.

Why is Levi opting for his 15 minutes of fame in the nude? He’s a hardened Alaskan male who, if he wants to pose, would make a more lasting impression as a really masculine guy shooting at a rabbit with an AK-47.

But standing or sitting or whatever in a position carefully calculated to demonstrate his manliness in another way is dangerous. A lot of men are going to see him in Playgirl. Men are not kind when assessing the endowments of other men. In fact, regardless of the size and appearance of his equipment, Levi is going to wish he were on the moon to escape the inevitable razzing.

Besides, his fame may be short-lived. It may dissipate long before his 15 minutes expires. America’s magazine buying public prefers female over male nudity. Playboy is still going strong after 35-plus years. Playgirl’s print version is already out of business. The mag is strictly an on-line publication now.

Which brings me around to the question I used to introduce this post: would any of you men pose full-frontal nude in Playgirl like Levi?

Here’s my take. Your courage would be directly proportional to the length and girth of your appendage. If you were well-endowed, hell, you’d catch the red eye to New York in a heartbeat. If you were lacking, you’d kill any son of a bitch who came within a hundred yards of you with a camera.

This is why I believe Levi is well-endowed. And I think we can expect an exciting Playgirl issue when it hits the internet.

I’m wondering, though, if money plays a role here. I’m sure Levi will be paid for his services. But in your own personal case, how much money would it take to get you to strip naked on a beach on Maui and pose in front of a bunch of gawking giggling tourists?

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