Friday, March 28, 2008

It's déjà vu all over again

and many thanks to Yogi Berra for that title! In case you don't know, déjà vu is a term psychologists use to describe the illusion of having previously experienced something actually being encountered for the first time (according to www.dictionary.com).

To be specific, here's what I posted on January 4, 2008:

Ladies and gentlemen, there will now be a short intermission
Ellie is entering the hospital on Monday to undergo surgery that will replace her right knee with titanium and ceramics and "I don't know what all" (as Andy Griffith used to say). Preparing for this event and then supporting her emotionally and physically will be my full-time job for the next little while, so blogging is going to have to take a back seat until we get on the other side of this. The length of the intermission is unknown, but there is probably going to be surgery to replace Ellie's left knee as well in the not-too-distant future. And lots of rehab.

So au revoir, auf wiedersehen, sayonara, adios, and arrivederci for the time being. It's been fun. (End of old post)

Change "right knee" to "left knee", leave "Monday" as is, eliminate "probably" and the part about the not-too-distant future (because it has arrived), keep the part about the rehab, and insert "once again" between "So" and "au revoir." To use another French phrase, voilà! Today's post is done.

It does feel like déjà vu all over again.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Thoughts on resurrection on the day before Easter

Tomorrow we celebrate, as we should every single day, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Not "Easter," which is the name of a pagan goddess of fertility and spring (see Ishtar, Astarte, Ashtoreth), but Resurrection Day! Not a day of bunnies and duckies and chickies and hunting for dyed hard-boiled eggs, but the Son of God come out of the tomb and alive forevermore! Hallelujah!

He is risen! He is risen indeed! That He lives is the greatest news in the history of the world, in my estimation. Paul wrote about why it is so important in the fifteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians. (Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to read that chapter.)

Greater than Christmas, greater than anything else you can imagine, the resurrection of Christ makes possible our own resurrection. According to the book of Revelation, chapter 20, there are actually two resurrections in the future. Those who are in the first resurrection will reign with Him and will not be subject to the second death (and it is written elsewhere that they will attend the marriage supper of the Lamb and be judged at the judgment seat of Christ). Those who are in the second resurrection, a thousand years later, will be judged at the great white throne and, if their names are not found written in the Lamb's book of life, will be cast into the lake of fire. Each of us needs to pray and live in such a manner, and love Christ so completely (that is, love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves), that we will be found in the first resurrection.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote these words: "If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself" (II Timothy 2:11-13).

Which brings me to the Laodicean church mentioned in Revelation, chapter 3, the ones the risen Christ through the apostle John calls lukewarm, the ones He will spue out of His mouth because they are neither hot nor cold. Mark my words, there are Laodiceans in and out of churches all around us today. If you are one, then the following poem that I wrote is for you.

To Lukewarm In Laodicea

Were every bush a burning bush
And every leaf a clue,
You’d see the cleansing hand of God
In every fiery hue;
You’d know the strong Refiner’s touch
Can pierce a soul clean through,
Were every bush a burning bush
Then any bush would do.

Were every tongue an unknown tongue
And every sigh a psalm,
You’d speak the oracles of God
To those in need of balm;
You’d tell of healing virtue and
Of saving power too;
Were every tongue an unknown tongue
Then even yours would do.

Were every tomb an empty tomb
Like that near Calv’ry’s hill
And every boulder rolled away
That keeps you from God’s will,
You’d know the Lord as risen Lord
Whose pow’r makes all things new;
Were every tomb an empty tomb
Then yours might empty too.


Because God is love, Christ does not leave Laodiceans without hope. In Revelation 3:18-22 He says to them, "Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel you to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eyesalve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An eco-friendly birthday greeting to myself*

Hippo birdie two ewe,
Hippo birdie two ewe,
Hippo birdie, deer rhymeswithplaaaaaaague,
Hippo birdie two ewe!

...and many moo-er.

*Not original with me. I saw it several years ago in a rack of cards. But I thought of the tag line all by myself.

Monday, March 17, 2008

In my prime

The most wonderful day this week is not today, Monday, March 17th, St. Patrick's Day, even though faux Irishmen everywhere are spending the day wearing clothing of Kelly green and drinking beer of similar hue. The most wonderful day this week is not Friday, March 21st, the vernal equinox, even though it's one of only two days each year when Earth's poles are equidistant from the sun (on all the other days, thanks to the tilt of Earth's axis, one pole is closer to the sun than the other, which causes our planet to have seasons). One might argue that the most wonderful day this week is Sunday, March 23rd, the day on which Easter (the most wonderful day of this or any other year) occurs this year, except that Sunday is not part of this week, it's part of next week. No, the most wonderful day this week, in my humble opinion (and that phrase, whenever you encounter it, always means "in my not-so-humble opinion"), is tomorrow, March 18th. If you are wondering why, here's the reason:

It's my birthday.

But it's not just any birthday, it's my 67th birthday. Which brings me to prime numbers. Being 66 has been just grand, really it has, but I haven't been in my prime because 66 is a multiple of 11 (you know, 11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66) and therefore not a prime number. Prime numbers are not multiples of anything; the only two integers they are the product of are themselves and 1. I would tell you more, but I'd prefer that you go to Drexel University's Math Forum site (http://www.mathforum.org) where you can click on "Ask Dr. Math" and then on "FAQ" and then on "Prime Numbers" because they're explained a lot better over there. Also, Drexel has the information copyrighted. While reading about prime numbers over there, you just might also learn about The Sieve of Eratosthenes.

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to being in my prime for a whole year. I won't have another such opportunity until 71 comes along (because 68 is 17 times 4, and 69 is 23 times 3, and 70 is 10 times 7, don't you know).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Hail, hail, the gang's all here!

At around two-thirty this afternoon, a severe thunderstorm suddenly covered our yard with hailstones the size of ice cubes. Golf balls. Fifty-cent pieces. Really. No pea-sized or nickel-sized stuff. This was the real deal. When the storm ended, I gathered up some of the hailstones and put them in little plastic baggies and saved them in the freezer. There must be a reason I saved the hail, but I have no idea what it is. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I thought about the poor horses and cattle in the fields hereabouts just standing out there in the weather minding their own business when large, cold objects started falling out of the sky and hitting them. They must have been very surprised. And confused. At least we human beings have the weather channel on television and several local meteorologists who warn us (over and over and over and over) what is about to happen. We can take cover. Our animal friends can't. It doesn't seem fair.

Until the hailstorm, this had been the week of the Bradford pears. Well, that's not exactly true. There are Bartlett pears and Anjou pears and lots of other kinds of pears, I suppose, but there are no Bradford pears. None at all. Just Bradford pear trees. They don't produce fruit, just blossoms. These trees suddenly started appearing around here about twenty-five years ago. Landscapers were planting them everywhere--in office parks, in subdivisions, in shopping mall parking lots. They were apparently the "plant of the year" just as encore azaleas and knockout roses and stella d'oro lilies have been must-haves in other years. This week, the Bradford pear trees were in bloom. Everywhere I looked, I saw the delicate white blossoms in profusion. All too soon, the leaves will take over and the blossoms will be only a memory. Their stay is all too brief. But things are beautiful while the pear blossoms last, and they prepare us for the cherries and the redbuds and the dogwoods that can't be far behind.

So, yes, the whole gang was here today -- the horses, the cattle, the pear blossoms, and the hail. All hail to the hail. We mustn't forget the hail. I can show you some if you want to see it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

May I have this dance?

Here, in case you haven't been paying close attention, is a quick recap of Ellie's recent medical history (Ellie is my wife of, lo, these nearly forty-five years):

2006 -- Excruciating pain in Ellie's left shoulder. Dr. D., orthopaedic surgeon extraordinaire, checks the X-rays and prescribes a month of physical therapy. Therapy doesn't help. Dr. D. sends Ellie for an MRI. Turns out she has a torn rotator cuff in her left shoulder. In October, Dr. D. performs surgery to repair the torn rotator cuff. More physical therapy follows.

2007 -- Physical therapy continues. Ellie experiences excruciating pain in both knees. X-rays reveal she is walking bone-on-bone, no cartilage, no meniscus. Dr. D. injects several rounds of Euflexxa, a synthetic version of the Synvisc injections Ellie received three or four years ago, into both of Ellie's knees as a temporary measure until he can schedule knee-replacement surgery.

2008 -- In January, Dr. D. performs surgery to replace Ellie's right knee. Somehow, while pulling up on the side rails in a hospital bed in January, Ellie injures her right shoulder. After a month of physical therapy on Ellie's right knee, Dr. D. schedules knee-replacement surgery on Ellie's left knee for the end of March. He also sends her for another MRI to see what's going on with her right shoulder. Yesterday, after examining the MRI results, Dr. D. informed Ellie that her right shoulder also has a torn rotator cuff.

So now, having had one major surgery this year already, Ellie is facing another major surgery at the end of March and a third one later in the year. Plus lots more physical therapy. And even though she likes Cindy, her physical therapist, very much, Ellie is not a happy camper right now.

Ellie's recovery has been remarkable to date and even ahead of schedule. She knows she will get through the rest of this with the prayers of friends and family. Her right knee and left shoulder are now excellent. We are looking forward to the day when her left knee and right shoulder are equally excellent. Ellie says she will dance a jig for everybody then. I'm going to be first in line.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Figures never lie

Our pastor said in last Sunday's sermon that the average American household owes $8,000.00 in credit card debt. Wow! But what does that mean? Some households owe less. Some households owe more. That's all. I can't deal with 305,000,000 people in my pea-sized brain, so let's reduce the number to something I can understand. Let's suppose that the total population of America is eleven (11) persons. If ten (10) of those American persons are in a room, and none of them owes a penny to anyone, the average debt in the room is zero. But when one (1) more American person walks into the room and he or she owes, say, $88,000.00 in credit card debt, the average debt of the eleven American persons in the room--of the entire population--suddenly becomes $8,000.00 -- which would prove what, exactly? In our example, only that ten-elevenths of the American people, 90.9 per cent to be exact, are (is?) very disciplined in their (its?) financial dealings, and 9.1 per cent of the American people are (is?) in pretty dire financial straits and are (is?) headed either to financial ruin or intensive credit counseling, depending on what step they (he or she?) decide (decides?) to take next. (Aside to my readers: Here are some sentences from page 108 of Theodore M. Bernstein's The Careful Writer: A Modern Guide to English Usage, Atheneum, 1967, to ponder: "Whether to treat collective nouns as singular or plural is a continuing source of perplexity. The British seem to resolve their doubts in favor of the plural; the Americans seem to resolve theirs in favor of the singular. Both should resolve them in favor of good sense. If the idea of oneness predominates, treat the noun as a singular...If the idea of more-than-oneness predominates, treat the noun as a plural." So, confused readers, take your pick.)

Back to the topic at hand. Benjamin Disraeli or Mark Twain or somebody is supposed to have said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

I hope the people in the room last Sunday who owe less than $8,000.00 in credit card debt don't feel too smug, don't feel they are better than the average American. Such a reaction would make them alarmingly like the fellow in the eighteenth chapter of Luke's Gospel, the Pharisee who stood in the temple and prayed within himself, "God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men...I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." And I hope the people in the room last Sunday who owe more than $8,000.00 in credit card debt don't feel that they are worse than the average American or that they are miserable failures or that there is no hope for them. And I hope that all such persons can get their acts together with the help of God and be able to get out of the holes they have dug for themselves. I hope the one who owes $88,000.00 and to whom a mere $8,000.00 in debt might look pretty good at the moment will remember that the first thing to do when you find yourself in a deep hole financially is to stop digging. And I hope that every person in the room last Sunday, regardless of debt level, prays the prayer of the other fellow in the eighteenth chapter of Luke's Gospel, the Publican (tax collector) who stood afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."

Figures may never lie, but they certainly can leave a skewed impression.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

"Spring forward, fall back" and other March trivia

Ah, March, the time of spring, when a young man's fancy turns to what the young ladies have been thinking about all winter. March is the month that comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, unless it comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion. Actually there are two more choices: March might come in like a lamb and go out like a lamb or come in like a lion and go out like a lion. Someone should apply for a federal grant to study what the weather in March has actually been like for the past umpteen years and then write an article about how the findings either totally prove or disprove global warming, or, as it is now being called in some quarters, climate change.

As it happens, the climate is always changing, thanks to the tilt of Earth's axis. Two of the most intriguing events caused by seasonal climate change occur each year in the month of March. On or about March 19, the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano, California. On or about March 15, the buzzards return to Hinckley, Ohio. One seems sublime; the other seems ridiculous. Both are true.

On March 9th this year, we turned our clocks one hour ahead to start the annual Daylight Saving Time period, which has been steadily lengthening. Now we have eight months of Daylight Saving Time and only four months of Standard Time. This nonsense, which is very confusing to dogs and cows and chickens, started back in the 1940's and was originally called British War time. The British War may end someday. We can only hope.

Julius Caesar was killed by his pal Brutus on the Ides of March (the 15th) in the year 44 B.C., which was not called 44 B.C. at the time except by the most clairvoyant citizens of the Roman Empire and a few prophetically gifted people living at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. The first part of the previous sentence is true, but the last part is only conjecture.

March 17th is the feast day of St. Patrick in the Roman Catholic Church. There may be a reason why that particular day was chosen to honor Patrick, but I have not been able to find it. It doesn't seem to be the date of his birth, the date of his death, or the date when he drove all the snakes out of Ireland. You must decide for yourself whether the statement made in the last part of the previous sentence is true. As for myself, I think of Ireland every time I look out our back door, because when I look out our back door, I see (wait for it, here it comes) Paddy O'Furniture (groan).

The vernal equinox occurs in March, and it was the date of my grandfather's birth in 1875. Somehow, the vernal equinox seems to have shifted since 1875, because his birthday was March 21st and nowadays the vernal equinox occurs on March 20th. Go figure. Maybe we have accumulated too much Daylight Saving Time since the British War.

This year Easter comes early too; it occurs on March 23rd. For some reason known only to the people who decided to do it that way, Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (except in the Eastern Orthodox churches, which calculate the date differently). Speaking of calculating dates, I must have been conceived around the time of a solstice, because I was born around the time of an equinox. We could get into a lengthy discussion here about equinoxes and solstices and how much the Earth's axis is tilted, and why, or we could discuss John Philip Sousa, who was called the March King for an altogether different reason. Let's not, though, because my head is already swimming. It must suffice for now to tell you the most interesting terrestrial phenomenon of all, one that should be obvious in March or any other month: Love makes the world go 'round.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Remember the Alamo! (and other events)

Having grown up in Texas, I know that I know that I know (as Kathryn Kuhlman used to say) that today is the anniversary of the day in 1836 when William B. Travis, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crockett (yes, that Davy Crockett), along with almost two hundred others, were killed at the Alamo in San Antonio by the much larger army of Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Texas had declared its independence from Mexico on March 2nd. Just fifty days later, on April 21st, Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto, a place near the present-day city of Houston. A structure taller than the Washington Monument now stands there as a memorial to Houston's victory and Santa Anna's surrender. Both the Alamo and San Jacinto are "hallowed ground" to every Texan. Texas won its independence from Mexico, but not before suffering major losses at the Alamo and at Goliad. Later, after nine years as a sovereign nation, Texas joined the United States in 1845 as the 28th state. It was annexed directly into the Union without ever having been a territory, and part of the annexation agreement was that Texas could divide into as many as five states any time it wanted to. That option has never been seriously considered, however, because no Texan would ever want to give up the Alamo.

Today is also the day that will be known in our family as Ellie's Second MRI. Back in October 2006, her first MRI revealed that the rotator cuff in her left shoulder was torn, and that's how we came to know Dr. D., orthopaedic surgeon extraordinaire, who repaired it on the day before Halloween of that year. Last year was surgery-free at our house, but 2008 seems to have turned into The Year Of The Knee. Dr. D. replaced Ellie's right knee on January 7th and he is scheduled to replace her left knee on March 31st. But she injured her right shoulder somehow while pulling herself up in the hospital bed in January, and the pain has become worse. So today she is having another MRI in Marietta at one o'clock. We will not know the results until next Thursday.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Chuck from where?


Most of us know about Punxsutawney Phil, the nation's official groundhog, the annual harbinger of spring or announcer of six more weeks of winter every Groundhog Day. (Aside: I have met three people from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Back in the sixties, Dave and Connie M. attended the same church we did in Bellevue, Nebraska, and during the eighties and part of the nineties the guy in the cubicle next to mine in the big, bad, corporate world was Tom S., who also hailed from Punxsutawney.)

When we moved to the Atlanta area in 1975, we learned of General Beauregard Lee, Georgia's version of Punxsutawney Phil. General Lee lives at Stone Mountain and is trotted out every February 2nd, regular as clockwork, to predict seasonal change in the deep South. Because, I guess, you just can't put stock in the meteorological prognostications of Yankee groundhogs. This morning, thanks to an offhand comment on the Regis and Kelly television program, I became aware of a third weather-forecasting groundhog, Chuck of Staten Island. What I would like to know is this: how many more four-footed weather forecasters are lurking out there in various parts of this great country of ours? If you know of any others, please send me their names and locations! I eagerly await your responses.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Question of the day

I read the following today:

1.0Gpf/3.8Lpf

Where was I?

[UPDATE: At 9:28 p.m. on 3/4/2008, a poster named Anonymous was the first to reply and near enough to be declared the winner. He or she said, "You were at a home improvement store, examining a product that requires water in order to function properly. 1.0Gpf/3.8Lpf is the product specification for how much water would be expended when in use. The product is a toilet. This particular model utilizes 1.0 gallons (or 3.8 liters) per flush."

So Bingo, sort of. Close, but no cigar. Actually, I was in a restaurant, in the men's room, standing in front of a urinal. I wasn't buying the product, I was using it. The Gpf/Lpf on the porcelain made me laugh (albeit silently) when I mentally cracked the code and figured out what it meant. I don't remember ever hearing the term "Gallons per flush" or "Liters per flush" before, but then I'm not a plumber. It struck me as humorous enough to rate a post on my blog. I must admit I thought it would be a little more difficult to solve. Way to go (no pun intended), Anonymous!]