October 2008

Halloween - A Frightening Trend

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I love Halloween. And one of my all time favorite "adult" things to do is to hand out Halloween candy, which is really just an excuse to play along with all the kids that come to the door. Tonight, my house is fully decorated, the lights are out, the music is ghoulish (thanks to DJ Wes) and the candy is flowing.

And then I notice a frightening, horrifying trend: many of my neighborhood trick-or-treaters are being DRIVEN from house to house by their parents. Yup, kids come to the door while an SUV sits idling at the curb, like they're some rock star that might be mobbed by paparazzi.

Aside from the obvious reasons this is wrong - the damage to the environment, the price of gas, our dependence on foreign oil - I'm horrified by the thought that 1) parents think the neighborhood is not safe for their children and 2) kids don't get any exercise or learn how to take care of themselves by trick-or-treating.

I always thought trick-or-treating was a rite of passage in America. Going door-to-door while your parents stood patiently at the curb. Remembering to say "please" and "thank you" for the candy your neighbors gave you, and when you were old enough, running through the darkened streets with your friends.

Now the world seems to be a scary place, where people don't know their neighbors (I admit I don't know all of mine), and every two or three houses are dark. Where are my neighbors, and why aren't they handing out candy?

Now I don't mean there are no kids wandering the streets - there are plenty, as well as plenty of parents dressed up to take their kids, pets in costume, and gangs of kids on bikes, scooters, and yes, on foot. But it's no wonder there are so many news stories about obese children when kids are being driven door-to-door to pick up candy.

Parents, get out of the car and walk through the neighborhood with your children. Introduce yourself to your neighbors, and teach your children about exercise, the importance of saying "thank you" and which houses have the best candy. I'll give you extra Kit Kats if you do!


The Bittersweets

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A fuzzy pic of The Bittersweets Wednesday night at the Hotel Cafe.

When you have your health you have everything

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Remember, the old saying - When you have your health you have everything?
Those words could not ring more true, but we are usually so caught up in the demands of life we forget how important that phrase is.

Recently, my mother was hospitalized for "routine" gall bladder surgery. Looking back, I wonder what exactly they mean by "routine". Her surgery turned out to be anything but...and it's been a most stressful time.

Thousands of people across the U.S. suffer from gall bladder related problems each year. Most have "gall bladder attacks" that are brought on by gall stones, those sometimes large and sometimes small stones that can collect in the gall bladder. There are times when a stone or two will move and get caught in the bile duct between the liver and gall bladder creating a LOT of pain.

Since this isn't a Biology lesson, I won't get into what forms the stones, etc. You can research that on the Internet if it interests you. However, if one of those stones gets lodged in the duct you risk infection and a multitude of complications. If nothing else you never know when one of the "pain attacks" will come upon you and affect your quality of life. Some people get only one attack in the their entire life, while others have many.

So, as I was saying.... most GB surgeries are termed "routine", and I never realized how untrue that can be until my mother had surgery. Her GB was not inflamed or infected, but it was sick with multiple stones and needed to be removed. The day of came and the surgery was performed and she was sent home to recover.

As older folks sometimes can suffer complications, after surgery she developed a stomach blockage from the anesthesia, and she had to go back to the hospital to see what was actually happening. Point A - the stomach blockage was located via a CT scan, but Point B was a complete shock. Guess what? A tiny gall stone was showing up in the bile duct. What? Don't they scan for such things before they send a patient home? Doesn't the surgeon cover himself and the patient and hospital making sure nothing is left behind? Guess again. It is not considered "standard procedure" to do so. The surgeon may or may not have this checked out. After all, procedures are in place by the American Surgical Board, and the Hospital Administration. Insurance may or may not cover such a procedure depending on the carrier. Lots of red tape.

I was in shock when I met with the hospital Risk Manager to ask many questions, and also to ask WHY? Why would you send a patient home from surgery like a ticking time bomb, never knowing if stones were in the bile duct? It seems a no brainer to me, but not to them. I have known three people now who lost loved ones to infection from lodged stones in the bile duct. It seems much closer to home than the percentages I've read about.

My mother had a minimally invasive procedure called and ERCP along with dye injection to located and obtain all of the stones for removal. It's an endoscopic procedure and no surgery is required. With that being successful and the stomach blockage breaking up, I thought she was out of the out of the woods and then the pancreas became irritated and swelled, and bladder infection set in, along with a tiny blood clot in the foot. Again, some of these infections might be brought on by older age, but not all. One thing can lead to another regardless of age.

The lesson here is that you need to be sure that before you consent to a gall bladder surgery, discuss the possibility of bile duct stones prior to the surgery. Make sure the surgeon, insurance and hospital agree to scan, or do some type of procedure to locate stones left behind prior to you leaving the hospital.

Approximately, 600,000 gall bladder surgeries are performed across the U.S. each day. 10-20% develop complications as a result of stones left in the bile duct. Some have no complications whatsoever, and others are not so lucky. More than 5,000 die each year from gall bladder related surgeries and complications. It may be a small number when you look at the percentages, but who wants to be the dead guy?

My mother is now home recovering from her 11 day ordeal, and I feel blessed, because it's the 2nd surgery she's had the last five years. The other surgery also had complications, so this was not the first time around for her.

Research, know your options, know your surgeon and the hospital procedures before you sign consent for surgery. Be sure you have a family member or a good friend to be your advocate and voice in the case that you're too sick to do that for yourself. It could one day save your life!

***All opinions expressed are strictly those of the writer.

As If I Needed Another Reason to Love Shawn Mullins

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With all the different methods of getting music out there these days, it's more gratifying than ever to hear an artist acknowledge radio during their shows. Shawn Mullins did just that last night, while he was opening for Dar Williams at the El Rey. He mentioned that he had a hit on pop radio a few years ago (perhaps you'll recall a little tune called "Lullaby"), and then said that more recently, he'd had a hit at Americana radio, which he thought was a lot cooler than having one at pop radio. Then he launched into what could be my most favorite Shawn Mullins song ever, "Beautiful Wreck."

Shawn, thank you, thank you, thank you for recognizing radio. There are still a few of us who believe in radio, and we're glad that you are one of them.

Ghoul's Night Out

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I totally want to go to this. But I am far too lazy to leave the house and pay $35. Sigh.


It's World Series time again. That could mean one of three things:
1. You're gaining interest in baseball.
2. You're losing interest in baseball, or
3. You don't give a flying monkey biscuit about baseball and never did.

Summer is over and baseball season is about to end, but I'm still listening to this CD. I think it's wonderful. Soon I'll have to put it away until next spring.

The Baseball Project is a band thrown together by Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows/ Minus 5) and Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate). Peter Buck (REM) and Linda Pitmon (I don't know what bands she's been in, but I think she's Wynn's wife or something) make up the rest of the group. Wynn and McCaughey each wrote about half the songs and they're all great. The songs are mostly based on real people and real stories, or at least real legends. They sound like they were all written quickly and without too much fuss. There are very nice liner notes telling the stories behind each song. For me to just repeat those stories here would be pretty weak, so I'll just add my two cents to a few favorites.

"Ted Fucking Williams" sounds like a cross between "Rock and Roll Part II" by Gary Glitter and "Helen Wheels" by Wings, but that just makes it better. Williams apparently bestowed himself with his unique middle name - his bible-thumping mother did not give it to him. If there were still such things as hit songs this would be one.

"Fernando" No, it's not an Abba cover. It's about Fernando Valenzuela.

"Long Before My Time" has kind of "Sweet Jane" groove and it's about Sandy Koufax. That makes two songs about Dodger pitchers here. If this band chooses to make it a trilogy, I hope they don't write the third song about Chan Ho Park giving up two grand slams in one inning.

"The Death of Big Ed Delahanty" If you don't want to know how it ends, don't read this. Big Ed got thrown off a train for being drunk and ended up being swept over Niagara Falls. Bummer.

"Harvey Haddix" is the catchiest song you will ever hear that recites a list of all the pitchers that have thrown perfect games. I agree that Harvey should be added to that list.

"The Yankee Flipper" would fit comfortably on any Young Fresh Fellows album. If you want to know the story behind the song, go buy the CD.

I just realized that I used the word "hit" a few comments back and did not intend it as a pun. Allow me to kick myself for missing such an obvious opportunity. As the old folks say, if it was a snake it woulda bit me. I will now make up for lost time with "every song is a hit, without a foul in the bunch!" Or maybe "Every pitch is a strike and there are no balls?" No, that really wouldn't be true. Okay, wise guy, see if you can work phrases like "out of left field" into this without sounding like a dork.
Feeling creative? Try "eephus pitch," "rhubarb," or "worm burner" on for size. It's not so easy is it? Where's Rex Hudler when you need him?

And in case you'd like to know:
Frozen Rope - A hard-hit line drive. Also a strong throw from the outfield.
Dying Quail - A batted ball that drops in front of the outfielders for a hit, often unexpectedly (like a shot bird). Also known as a blooper, a chinker, a bleeder, or a gork.

All the songs on this CD are good, but I'm fresh out of snark.

I consider this album to be a nice companion piece to a book I have called "Strange But True Baseball Stories." I had it practically memorized when I was a kid. Although the Harvey Haddix story is the only overlap, it follows along the same chalk lines.

I'm looking forward to The Baseball Project Volume 2. There are a lot more baseball stories that demand to be told and retold: The Black Sox scandal, Pete Rose, Daryl Strawberry, Billy Martin, Jose Canseco, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, and many others.
You might as well throw in Curt Schilling's bloody sock for good measure.

Personally, I would like to hear a song about Joe Ferguson - former catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers (and current manager of the Camden River Sharks). He may never be inducted into the Hall of Fame but, for a brief period in the mid 1970's, he was my hero.


Safari Sam's - New Location

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So, what with work and our $7.8 million dollar budget shortfall (and you thought YOU were broke this month), and my need to just stay in doors and pet the kittens and bring down my blood pressure, I don't get out much.

Which is why I didn't know that Safari Sam's had moved. But apparently it HAS. Here's what I learned at Yelp:

"Some of you may have heard that Safari Sam's got shut down last weekend in a dispute with the landlord. ... Sam has just worked out a deal with the REGENT THEATER in downtown Los Angeles to begin its life as the NEW Safari Sam's location this weekend."

448 S. Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Safari Sam's website confirms the venue change, but doesn't give reasons why. Anyone been there yet?

dave and deke.jpg


Yes, I'm a crazy cat lady. I own three cats and have been "adopted" by a stray that lives outside (shown above). I feed strays. Sometimes I take them in. I can't help it. Skinny, hungry, flea bitten, they come to my door and I can't help but love them.

Sometimes they have been left behind by a family that didn't care, like The Lady Boo, a declawed female I found living under my house. Other times, they are wild, like "Scrappy," the semi-feral, neutered cat that lives outside.

And then there are the non-fixed, intact males that come around for the food and cause trouble. I don't know what to do about these cats. If I round them up and take them to the pound, they'll be killed. No one wants a wild male cat with behavior issues. and even if they are neutered late, they frequently still have behavior issues. If I leave them be, I run the risk of them bringing disease into my neighborhood or even my home.

Now, a retired surgeon and one of America's richest men has decided that enough is enough and he is putting his money behind the need for a safe pet-sterilization method. Gary Michelson is making $50 million available in research funds and another $25 million available to the firm or scientist that can bring forward a viable and safe solution to the pet overpopulation problem.

According to USA Today, "animal lover Michelson is convinced, like most animal-welfare experts, that if unwanted litters never materialized, U.S. shelters wouldn't be euthanizing 4 million to 6 million animals a year." Read the whole story here.

I applaud Michelson for his efforts. And I hope they work.

Free Music!

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In honor of his own birthday this month, Todd Snider is giving away free downloads of his latest album Peace Queer to everyone through the end of October. It's his hope that his songs will bring us a little closer to world peace.