Friday, January 25, 2013

Tholian Webs and Hamstrings

     In an early episode of Star Trek (the original) the United Star Ship Enterprise enters Tholian space much to the chagrin of the Tholians who begin spinning a complex energy web around the Enterprise effectively entrapping it. The appearance of the Tholian web is reminiscent of the pattern you see containing ham hocks at the local butcher shop or deli.

    This is the kind of entrapment the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has subjected commercial drivers to in their latest revision of the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. The FMCSA after thousands of hours of input from professional drivers about the HOS seemingly ignored that input and continued on their own course much to the detriment of driving safety and the well being of drivers.

    As a semi-retired semi driver, the HOS regulations rarely affected me since my driving has been mostly short, local trips completed well short of the time limitations prescribed by the regulations, the old ones or the new. Until this week when I accepted a dispatch to deliver in Kentucky and pick up in Ohio returning home on the third day.

    This was the first overnight trip I have done since being advised by my doctor 10 or so years ago to find a job other than Over-The-Road (OTR) driving because of the DVT (Deep Vein Clot) I suffered and my predisposition to suffer a repeat episode. The sitting a driver does in one position for extended periods allows bodily fluids to accumulate in the lower extremities which can be a precursor to a clot forming.

    David Bloom, a news reporter for NBC, died from just such a DVT after spending an excess amount of time cramped in an armored personnel carrier (APC) while he was covering the invasion of Iraq in April of 2003. Since his untimely death from this previously little known condition, his widow, Melanie, has made it a legacy for her late husband to increase people’s awareness of this condition which kills more people annually than AIDS and breast cancer combined. []

    For ten years I have been clot free because of a combination of blood thinners, weight loss and graduated compression support stockings to prevent excess accumulation of fluids. Prior to my clot I had experienced serious edema or swelling in my legs and feet. I had what was referred to as “pitting edema” and later “weeping edema” — there was so much fluid accumulated that it actually started oozing out through my pores.

    I took this recent trip because I have been free of any major medical problems for most of the last ten years. I took this trip knowing that I had more than enough time to get to the delivery at or well before the appointment time and the same flexibility on the return trip. I thought. Enter the Tholian web!

    Before the recent HOS changes, a driver could drive up to 10 hours before being required to take an 8 hour rest break. It could take 18 or 20 hours before a driver had to shut down for a break so long as he didn’t drive more than 10 or drive after accumulating combined driving and on duty not driving time of 15 hours. This allowed a driver to take a nap or a break and he’d still have time to complete his trip on time without violating any of the regulations.

    Now, a driver is allowed to drive 11 hours but he CANNOT drive after the 14th hour no matter what! That means if he takes a nap or an extended break, he must still shut down 14 hours after beginning his on duty time. Naps or breaks will not extend the mandatory shut down time previously allowed. That shut down must be for TEN hours not eight. That means the driver MUST complete his 14 hour duty period more than 10 hours ahead of his next appointment so he’s legal again to drive to his next appointment! It doesn’t get any more hamstringing or horse collar or Tholian than that!

    In my approximately one million crash-free, driving-violation-free miles, I have never met a driver who wished to kill himself or anyone else. I have never met a driver who needed to be told he’s too tired to drive. I have met a trooper or two who told me that “tired or not you can’t park here” and forced me back onto the highway in search of a place to nap. Yet the FMCSA tells me I cannot “legally” drive when I’m tired, that is, when they’ve determined I’m too tired to drive whether I’m tired or not.

    This creeping Big Brotherism is going to kill a lot of people if we don’t assert our rights to govern our own bodies. Take this log book and shove it. I KNOW when I’m tired! I KNOW when I’m fit to drive and your damned regulations be damned! The log book page I turn in will always be legal. It may not be factual but it will satisfy the requirements. I will nap if I feel the need. I am the driver! I will not be driven!

    [Quitclaim: The immediately foregoing is neither an admission of guilt nor an expression of intention to commit any violation of the FMCSA regs. It is an expression of opinion using full writer’s license to speak freely.]

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Karaoke At The Dutchmaid

    Lancaster’s Best Karaoke paid their second visit to the Dutchmaid motel lounge last evening and though it might have been one of the coldest nights in recent history, a hardy group of aficionados braved the brutal weather to participate in a most enjoyable evening of favorite songs.

    Dwayne was at the controls last night and he cheerfully queued up the singers’ selections as soon as they were entered and, probably because the cold weather kept the less hardy souls from appearing, the waiting time between songs was much shorter than usual, an important detail for many experienced singers who, once warmed up, wish to keep the vocal cords limber.

    Some people think that the more relaxed you are by way of cocktails or beer, the better you sound. That, I believe, is a perception by the listener rather than the singer. The lubricated listener may be less able to hear the nuances of a slightly-off-tone singer than a less lubricated listener. Although reduced inhibitions may make it easier for the shy person to get up and sing, the experienced singer can lose some control of their vocal fine tuning the more relaxed they become.

    As far as “lubrication” there was no waiting for anything you desired. Korki did a stupendous job at providing for everyone there. She was so good I had to look three times to determine that she was not triplets she was that fast! I think the word ubiquitous to describe Korki’s performance behind the bar and in the lounge would be apropos. It’s rare when one can be thought of as everywhere-at-once.

    And the singers last night were as good as any I’ve seen at most places, especially the lady who chose a Linda Ronstadt piece and most notably, Kim, whose rendition of Me and Bobby McGee was a hair-raising, spine-tingling nostalgic remembrance of my dear sister, Bonnie, a true Janis Joplin fan. Bonnie died in 1972. She was only 20.

    Several months ago I wrote about another singer (Kristie) who paid tribute to Janis Joplin (Cheers, 11 NOV 2012). To have experienced Janis’ sounds so expertly performed by TWO singers in such a short time is nothing short of amazing. I’m starting to believe that Janis has been reincarnated as Janis Joplin, Opus 2.

    Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?
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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Inconsiderateness; An Equal Opportunity Insult

    To my Facebook acquaintance: You made some recent comments about a young man’s actions, or absence of, which perturbed you. You found him seemingly interested in a closer connection yet his failure to follow through belied his apparent interest.

    Your sharing of your discomfort struck a chord in me as I had experienced a similar frustration recently. It’s evident that this type of inconsiderateness can be perpetrated by persons of either gender. In my case, I ultimately concluded it was because of immaturity and insecurity and that, had I been able to get closer to the young woman sooner, I would have probably found there was no reason for my intense attraction to her, that it was an idiopathic attraction (or an idiotic one as a wishful thinking old fool.)

    Funny thing about Love — funny peculiar not funny ha-ha. When it is of the variety of lightning bolt, clap of thunder, fireworks and butterflies all at once kind of love, it’s often referred to as “love at first sight”. But it really isn’t. In the words of the poet, John Donne

        “Love is a growing, or full constant light, And its first minute, after noon, is night.”

    Love can’t grow if it is simply the unexplained desire of one person to be close to another. To grow, it must be mutual. That mutuality has to be evidenced and nurtured at the very least by consideration of the other whether the feelings are the same in both or not.

    It is the most humane thing to reveal as soon as known that mutuality is not there and likely never will be. To walk away without word borders on cruel and unusual punishment.

    I’ve said that I can deal with joy, I can deal with sorrow but I cannot deal with silence. The silence delayed my “moving on” and getting past the painful emptiness. That emptiness now is not for the end of a love — we never even embraced — it’s for the loss of a possibility which seemed so sweet.

    The good from this for me is that I discovered emotions I once thought long dead are still there and waiting for their entrance cue.

“It takes a minute to have a crush on someone, an hour to like someone and a day to love someone - but it takes a lifetime to forget someone.”
 — Johnny Depp

Je ne vais pas oublier

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Music, Monks and Mortality

    Today I spent a couple hours listening to Andre Rieu and his Johann Strauss orchestra performing in New York’s Radio City Music Hall (2007).  He and his orchestra are filled with a joie de vivre, a joie de musique unparalleled by any other group I’ve ever experienced.

    It occurred to me that it would be a joy to die for if I were invited to sing with his orchestra and perhaps conduct a song or two. I am thinking of writing a letter requesting an audience with the high priest of beautiful music.

    As soon as I thought of this “to die for” possibility I remembered the Arthur C. Clarke science fiction short story from 1953 about the Tibetan monks who sought to write down all nine billion names of God. They thought once that was accomplished, God would bring the universe to an end.

    In that story they did complete the naming and "overhead, without any fuss, the stars [went] out." I feared that if I got my wish to perform with Rieu and his orchestra, I’d die at the end of my performance having been granted my “to die for” wish. Perhaps I’ll simply continue to enjoy their love of music from a safe distance. There’s too much music yet to be heard.

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