Submitted for you approval: Fiendish Tales from the Obamnion

Yes - it's that time again! Another of Pliny's discoveries from the literary vaults of run amok horror.

Further Tales of the creeping socialism!

by HP Lovecrap 2

Here I sit almost paralyzed with horror amongst the stacks in the library of old Miskotonic Tech. I must write quickly and hide my script amongst the pages of this poignant David Horwitz book where it will be forever safe from the prying eyes of HIS followers. They’ll never find these desperate last scribbles which are my last hope to save mankind from HIS evil clutches. Or at least all the members of our species worth saving. Even more within this book it is also safe from any future and wholly necessary book burning that may be required to purge wrong thinking from our midst. I could hardly be at greater peril if I were spray painting ‘Cthulhu Sucks! on the great doors of the mountains of madness than I am now. On the entry steps my valiant defenders, young Republicans all, are all that stands between me and the tainted hordes spilling out into the night streets like waves of rats at the end of Willard. I can hear the battle raging outside even now.
“You liberals can’t come in here!”

“Dude, what’s your problem? we’ve got papers to research. Get the %$&# out of the way.”

“NEVER! You cannot be allowed to sully these halls!”

“Yes we can.”
ARRRRGH!!! My brethren reel under the force of those words. A veritable taser to the senses, one brave fellow convulses on the steps sliding to the bottom like some trench coat laden slinky with a crew cut. A lifeless husk laid low by a fiendish lexicon. Many are brought to their knees - sort of like the Knights of Kne when confronted with an equally vile word.
“Stop! Don’t say that again, we beg you! Can you not show us the same mercy you would to a lazy bum on the street, an illegal immigrant or, as God does forbid, a gay?”
My poor comrades, no not comrades, I never said comrades! Never would! I’m no commie. I leave that to HIS followers. Fellow patriots, yes that is it. Lovers of America all which must be why we are constantly trying to f.....

“Dude. What the hell are you doing? All we said was ‘yes we can’ come into the library to do some work”.

AAAARRRRGH! Those words! Make the pain stop! For the love of Limbaugh, make it stop!”
They scatter in defeat. No match for Satan’s noir chant. Their ears bleeding. I cannot blame them. Their eyes gush tears like Glenn Beck confronted with, well, anything. (He cannot be blamed for that congenital affliction that positioned his bladder in such close proximity to his eyeballs.) No mere supply side mortal can resist the agony inflicted by those words. I must hurry before they find me. Though the verdant bile rushes to the back of my throat like an algae clogged stream in one of Al Gore’s books, I must continue.

For months we have fought against the insidious and ghastly forces let loose by an unsuspecting popular election that went horribly wrong. Who could have predicted that even DeBolt would fail to save democracy from itself. We who understand have vowed to fight with our last breaths, well actually with other’s last breaths, preferably minorities, because that is how we prefer it, but fight we do in our own way. Democracy has been shaken to its core because so many of the people have chosen unwisely. Democracy only works when our side wins! The party of Lincoln! The last one of ours who passed any civil rights legislation, but we remember and beat that dead horse until noting remains but 4 well polished horseshoes. WE fight their policies and proposals with powerful weapons of righteousness- metaphor, misdirection and misinformation - but it is the only way to stop the evil. Our only hope, and the only hope of the Nation which should do exactly as we say, to survive the creeping socialism. ARG! The thought sticks in my throat like some satanic strawberry milkshake loogie and abject horror threatens to consume what remains of the sanctity of my self-perceived sanity staving off surrender and shoring up my surviving sanguinity.

But I have seen it with my own eyes. I feared my orbs would be blighted with the reading so I furtively glanced at it with the corner of my eye so as to not lose all my sight. First tried reading it in a mirror but the text kept looking like the lyrics of the White Album so I had to just glance. That most dread of texts. No not the Koran or Talmud - or any of the Left Behind series - WORSE! Many think it only a legend but it is terrifyingly real! The Obamnion! To write those words curdles my blood and only by reciting the healing mantra, ‘fair and balanced, fair and balanced’, can my desperate and wrenched soul cling to my weary bones. Each page edge falls off into the black abyss that swallows or taxes men’s souls, or at least a sizable chunk of one’s net income if any of it’s vile prescriptions come to pass. Eating a plate of fried calamari in front of Dagon himself would not put me a greater risk than the mere reading of this abomination. To hold on we need only imagine what Jesus would do - you know, if he renounced everything he said and believed in and turned into his evil twin Skippy. That is our inerrant guide away from the malevolent and miserable maelstrom of miscreancy and malfeasance maintained within this monstrous missive.

I apologize if my story is not linear but the wind was fierce and all my talking points memos were scattered like dried leaves in a wind turbine. Dear reader it is my hope that I do not doom you merely through the relating of what that foul and icky tome contains! What ever you do - do not read it! Save your soul from becoming lunch to he who can trace an unbroken line through Hitler to the Old Ones themselves! Though Cthulhu wasn’t particularly anti-Semitic - he was more egalitarian. Considered ethnic diversity a pleasant way to introduce some variety into his steady diet of souls. DoH! By speaking his name aloud I have no doubt compounded my peril. He may even now be rearing up from his undisclosed location to add me to his catch of the day - or maybe just to accidentally shoot me in the face as I hear is now his way. Focus! Friends, do not fall victim to their retched facts and figures. Be content to shudder at the careful translations that clog your email inbox or which can be safely shared via the healing filter of Fox News. The original is too horrendous for one such as us to read without being consumed by dire insanity! Look too closely and evil will compel you to articulate a proper argument and engage in thoughtful discourse which of course would be surrendering to that same evil. Far better to remain distant and dismissive avoiding discourse while directing distain, distemper, disinformation, diatribe and discord, drinking less of their diatribe than a delirious and dehydrated dromedary until such time as they are driven to despair and the dread diabolical despoiler is dislodged by DeBolt determined Democracy.

Within its pages an insidious plot unfolds. All this reliance on science! Teaching children vile physics which claims that pulling oneself up with your own bootstraps is physically impossible. Not if God gives you a boost you atheist lap dogs and Sam Harris clones! All those dread lies told to the young. They must not be enticed by his apple. Hard work will make them successful! Oh the horror of such lies! Hard work will make their corporate owners successful or at least increase the bounty of their golden parachutes- at least until their job can be outsourced for the benefits of our 401K’s! Fight his facts - spread the word far and wide my friends. And take solace in the knowing that our message will be heard - the only frictionless surface in the universe is bullshit on the Internet.

The death panels! They are real my friends. But it is far worse than you imagined! The dark knowledge threatens to paralyze my pen even now which rattles in my hand like a stale Twizzler in a paint shaker. The fiends have enlisted brain eating zombies to perform the counseling as it is now called. Unsuspecting elderly will be herded into a room and white coat clad zombies will consume their brains like so many Hostess Snowballs. Well, not exactly like Hostess Snowballs because the brains will be fresh and far more flavorful, but you understand my meaning. Oh the cruelty of this cannibalistic cabal of criminally corrupted and barely corporeal cadavers!

Our healthplan is much much more loving and kind. The cold claims them so much more humanely once left on that ice-floe with none of the pain and terror of cranial cannibalism. They drift off to sleep and provide a Polar Bear alternative to all those cute little seal pups everyone adores.

Any that escape this cannibalistic counseling will be captured and ground up by the liberals for Soylent Green. And used not to feed the working man and his family tending our gardens or cleaning our houses off the books without benefits, but to feed homeless beggars who make our daily commute less pleasant. How many accidents have befallen hard working middle managers - caused by having to avert one’s eyes from those who have chosen to be poor! It’s a traffic hazard that could only been conceived in the horrid mind of the most hateful of the Old Ones.

More unholy language drips from the covers of the Obamnion like cheez-wiz from a Philly beefsteak sandwich on a freshly starched white dress shirt. Universal healthcare! The words say it all in the code of liberal doublespeak - universal - universe - extraterrestrial - code word for ALIENS! Illegal ones at that. Yes all those Mexicans who come to steal jobs from Americans who won’t be caught doing them will be covered. Healthcare for the children of the poor! They should be more careful and abstinent instead! Now if they could have kept them indefinitely in their wombs as fetuses we could see defending them, but once they are borne that’s a whole different story. Even infants can be fitted with proper bootstraps...

His plan is to consume everything around him and make everyone bow to his power - no wait sorry - that’s from the Walmartnium, it’s hard to remain focused amongst so many threats. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks and disdains the very notion of democracy - no that’s Cheney. Damn! My mind is being clouded by the close proximity of all this evil text.

This foul litany dares to claim that he is a native of this country! Yes, dear reader, the notion rips at my psyche like a Haliburten contractor before arbitration but we must be strong. What if he was born before we officially liberated those heathen islands from the clutches of those generations of Polynesian settlers constantly partaking of vile sex before marriage on long sandy beaches. Though many claim that such acts sound much better in the telling than in the practice due to the natural and considerable abrasive properties of sand - but I must remain focused and abstinent. Though the abstinent part seems to not be a problem for some reason since I joined the brave defenders. No doubt the coeds are enthralled by the false promise of liberalism. That's the only reason - I was just getting into the music on my iPod and tapping my foot in the restroom at the bus station coming back from that Defense of Marriage rally when that dreadful policeman tried to accost me. Why did that officer hate freedom so? Come to think of it, his name badge did say LeClar - that explains it! But I digress due to the heat of the moment. Fiendish francophile fabricator of fallaciously fecund falsehoods!

Friends do not lament the Hawaiian’s plight! It’s not like they were intelligently designed there in the first place! They were just early illegals squatting on land divinely promised our forefathers. Whose rows of hotels were foreseen and defended from the eastern peril - at least until they got smart and decided it was much easier to just buy the damn island. Focus! My thoughts are jerked hither and fro like a rubber pinata. Where were those Louisiana judges when we needed protection from this unholy spawn? Why did it have to happen in Hawaii? Why not in some place we he could have been properly shunned?

Another vile chapter describes his unholy bailout and Faustian bargain with big business - no wait. I kinda like that part since I have stock I’m trying to unload... Creeping socialism! anything that limits our inalienable right to take profit at any cost. He wants to take away our freedom! Never mind that protesters go to his rallies with slung AR-15’s while Cindy Sheehan was lead away for wearing a loaded T-shirt. Alas I am increasingly adrift in this alarmingly avuncular and all consuming alliterative apostasy. My mind snaps and darkness envelopes me like the straight jacket I used to have to wear before I was all better...


Happy Halloween.....


My Anniversary Post: Evolution of Functions Requiring Multiple Mutations

I realized that I had missed the one year anniversary of this little indulgence. Unable to think of anything particularly profound to say on my own accord, I decided to share, with an attempt at illustration, something which I find truly amazing. The evolutionary means by which a new function can come about as a result of a sequence of mutations. With some of you (that small set of actual visitors to Plinydom) far better versed in these subjects than I, it is with some reluctance that I posit this little exploration but please be kind and if errors are found, I will be only too happy to correct them. I'm a visual guy. I need imagery to solidify concepts in my mind and I often engage in thought experiments intended to visually represent complex (sometimes abstract) processes. It's my way of forestalling Alzheimer's - that and the NYT crossword. So here goes...
An argument against evolution is made that complex function changes cannot result from a process that requires multiple sequential mutations, by means of natural selection. This is part of Micheal Behe's arguments from irreducible complexity.

It's actually a question that is worth answering and the great work of a nearby academician, Dr Joe Thornton, from Oregon State seems to provide an elegant answer to this question. I find it elegant at least. The answer would appear to come from a better understanding of the various mechanisms available to evolution beyond natural selection. This is not to say that other mechanisms are not important but just to illustrate one pathway.

I know some will cringe at this falsehood but if we simplify things a great bit we can think of evolution as having 2 random and 2 nonrandom mechanisms that can effect changes for the purpose of this very high level conversation. On the random side we have genetic mutation, and genetic drift. On the nonrandom side we have natural and sexual selection. It's the combination of these forces that leads to the complexity we see from evolution. For this discussion the potential impact and contribution of sexual selection to evolution is ignored.

Imagine for a moment that this first simple drawing represents, at some time, 0, an organism's chromosome and one particular gene of interest (the blue one).

We know that a variety of factors can result in random mutations anywhere along the length of this chromosome and on occasion one may affect the sequence of base pairs within the Blue gene.

If we sampled this organism's population at a later time, 1, we might find evidence of two alleles to this gene present in the population. How can that be? Shouldn't natural selection end up favoring one over the other? Maybe but not necessarily. Depending upon the mutation and its location within the gene, the cascade of processes that the gene translation products are engaged in, etc., the effect on the proteins resulting from expression of the gene may be trivial or profound. If individuals with either allele function reasonably well, then the presence of either may have no impact on reproductive success of the organisms carrying either gene and all we would see, is an increase in genetic diversity within the population (both blue and green alleles where before only blue was present).

Life is not static so additional random mutations could pop up at any point in the same gene. Once again, any new allele may or may not confer an advantage or burden on the individual organism. If not, the mutation is essentially a neutral genetic change. Genetic diversity is increased within the population by the random process of mutation. In this case , as drawn in the next diagram, the population at some time, 2, may include three alleles - blue, green and now red.

Random mutations may increase the genetic diversity of a population but evolution's second random force may reduce it. (I say may, because deleterious mutations will generally be selected against.)

From time to time, completely random events, such as the one depicted in the next diagram may change the reproductive success of members of the population with total disregard for any genetic advantage or burden caused by a set of alleles. In other words, changes in the genetic make up of a population can result from something other than highly nonrandom natural selection. Stuff happens also would seem to apply to genetics as well as all other aspects of life.

In this example the random addition of a rock crushing the individuals with the blue and green alleles does in fact change the genetic makeup of the population. This despite any disadvantage of the green or blue allele. One doubts that the red allele would have improved the organism's crush resistance so its persistence is merely a case of luck. Now Red alleles predominate to the next generation. Random events which reduce the genetic diversity of a population are responsible for the second random effector of evolution: genetic drift. There is nothing adaptive about this change it's just at the level of 'it sucks to be you' for the blue and green alleles.

It also important to remember that up till now, there is no reason why another random mutation can't result in a return of the green or blue alleles given enough time. Evolutionary critics often cite this fact to suggest that genetic drift is not an important component of evolution since there is no net gain. That might be true if genetic drift occurred in isolation from the other forces of evolution. That of course isn't reality and in nature genetic drift is mated with the extremely nonrandom hand of natural selection.

Although genetic drift may not be able to effect the big adaptive changes we see in species, it appears to provide critical opportunities for those multi-stage changes needed to explain some complex adaptions. Genetic drift may in essence randomly tee up opportunities for complex changes by providing enough novel neutral alleles (i.e., mutations conferring no particular reproductive advantage or disadvantage) having some intermediate structure that itself, is neutral to the survival of the current generation, but very useful when combined with a later random mutation. In this example the peptide resulting from expression of the red allele is similar enough to that from the blue allele so as not to hinder the reproductive success of individuals with the red allele (neutral).

If it did, the red allele would not stay around for very long since natural selection suffers foolish alleles poorly.

But it is possible that this neutral red allele may provide a genetic beachhead for a later random mutation as is described in the drawing of a population at time, 3. Here the Red* allele represents a situation where an additional mutation has occurred somewhere in the Red allele. The eventual result is represented by the little spheroid addition to the peptide - caused by the new mutation or as a result of the combination of the new mutation and previous neutral ones.

This combination may provide a novel function previously absent, or improve upon an existing one. The same mutation might occur in an individual with the blue or green allele (resulting in a Blue* or Green* gene) but the resultant configuration might be detrimental and therefore be selected out. The Red* peptide need not be perfect in its new role just provide enough selection advantage to affected individuals for natural selection to work its magic. At this point natural selection can drive improvements in this new multi-stage mutation complex leading to further genetic wonders. Of course this refinement process is not in any way actively goal directed. Later refinements come about from the force of natural selection on subsequent random mutations within this complex that lead to improved survival.

And thus, a series of random events coupled with natural selection can give rise to the evolution of complex functions requiring multiple steps. I know I'm a geek but this is great stuff. I hope you enjoy it as well.


I Should be Flogged

Some people are claiming that there is a great schism underway in atheism - I don't believe it...


A Grand Metaphor From a Small Event

Most of the available seasonal flu vaccine in our area was distributed to private pharmacies. Unfortunately, pharmacists can’t administer vaccines to kids under 15. This policy wasn’t even lifted in the face of a global pandemic. Since very little vaccine was distributed to pediatricians, it ran out quickly and few kids got it. My wife, after a legion of phone calls to various places found out that Target was hosting a clinic and had vaccine for the kids. Target also accepts our insurance. My wife got to Target and a snippy RN told her the following:

Rent-a-nurse: “We aren’t taking insurance you’ll have to pay.”

Mrs Pliny: “ I called as was told that you took our insurance.”

Rent a nurse: “Well, they told you wrong. We aren’t with Target. You can call around if you want but nobody else has any vaccine, we have plenty, so we can do what we want.” (that is verbatim)

Later, Mrs Pliny asked. “My daughter is coming off a probable H1N1 flu about 2 weeks ago. Can she still get the vaccine?

Rent a Nurse: “you’ll have to ask them at the pharmacy. Make sure you do before you pay because we don’t give refunds.”

Mrs Pliny filled out the paperwork and stood in line to ask her question and pay. She asked the pharmacist who, and you can’t make this stuff up - walked over to rent a nurse and asked her. She said sure.

Mrs Pliny got back in the vaccine line where rent-a-nurse rudely gave her a hard time about who she was in reference to our daughter (Mrs Pliny and my daughter do differ substantially in ethnic appearance, but to my knowledge there is no black market in paying to get kids immunized...)

Rent-a-nurse: “She can’t get the vaccine if she’s been sick! Who told you she could?”

Job-patient Mrs Pliny: “You did when you sent us over the pharmacist who came over and asked you.”

Egg dripping from face Rent a Nurse: “Oh, well I guess it’s ok.”

Such a small event but such a grand metaphor for bureaucratic intransigence, short sighted guild policies and problems with for profit medical care. GUT help us when one of those avian bad-boys comes a calling.


H1N1: so much for the guidelines

Pliny is once again confused...

The CDC guidelines and recommendations for vaccination priority for H1N1 flu is as follows:(http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/vaccine_keyfacts.htm)
  • pregnant women,
  • people who live with or provide care for infants younger than 6 months (e.g., parents, siblings, and day care providers),
  • health care and emergency medical services personnel,
  • people 6 months through 24 years of age, and,
  • people 25 years through 64 years of age who have certain medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications.
Old Pliny is in 2 of those categories: health and emergency worker with asthma.

Two of the county health services covering the counties Pliny works in decided to set up indigent health clinics in separate locations to immunize people 'who couldn't afford the vaccine'. No H1N1 vaccine was released to any of the hospitals in either county. No matter that these people work where most of the H1N1 patients congregate and where spread of the disease is most problematic. So much for the CDC guidelines.



And now, for something completely different... A shockingly bad short story idea, but I was in another of my moods... Proof positive that Pliny is a sappy romantic. I was short of good ideas so this will have to do for now. Yes I know that it plays fast and loose with time conventions but hey - it's a story!

Dr Brandon Ames watched a younger, and far softer version of himself kiss his wife and daughter goodbye just before they entered that TSA security zone at the airport. This earlier version looked immersed in all manner of the trivia of everyday life, not yet having anything truly of consequence with which to compare it. He watched as the girl and her mother navigated the maze shedding various clothing bits in a ritual of compliance with authority and a safety charade. The two people he loved most in all the world waved and blew his young echo kisses as they rounded the corner on their way to the gate. Off on that grand adventure that awaited. He saw himself hesitate for a few more moments lest he miss another glimpse of them. He saw the reddening in those young eyes at the thought of being apart from his family for even a short time as he headed off to exit the terminal. His old eyes blurred at the thought of that young man’s future and his own past. They always did.

The 18 minutes they spent in that security line turned out to be time very poorly spent. Five hours and 17 minutes into their flight, the well dressed young woman just ahead of Ames would detonate a bomb and kill all 271 people aboard. It would take 13 minutes and 17 seconds for the plane to hit the water from the time of that first desperate message from the cockpit. This moment, and his family's last fearful minutes alone had monopolized his nightmares and daydreams for 31 years. During the last 11 years of his life he had physically witnessed this ritual 19 times. He wasn't aware of that fact, of course. The physics didn't permit it.

This time would be different. This time the roster of souls bound for this flight held 272 names.

Ames didn't just relive this incident in his mind but in actual fact. This unlikely turn of events came about because Brandon Ames had been and was a time traveler.

He’d been working in theoretical physics at the time of his family’s death. The three of them were supposed to check out a new place to live and a career opportunity that lead in an exciting new direction. A last minute snag at the lab had meant that he’d had to reschedule his flight and had intended to meet them in 3 days. Instead he’d spent the last 42 years trying to live with that decision. Or rather in changing the history of that particular moment in time. He spent several fortunes building a team of experts and developing the technology that allowed him to fail over and again.

This time the plan was perfect. Of that he was certain. That thick manila envelope, as critical to success as what he was about to do, had been mailed. The recipient would know exactly what to do with it. He was confident of that.

Calm and patience, two attributes most would not have associated with him usually, were all that he felt waiting his turn at security. The little sealed 3 ounce toothpaste tube in his carry on didn’t warrant a second glance from the screeners. They might have reacted differently had they known that it contained enough DMSO and sedative to incapacitate dozens of adults. He didn't know it of course but his wasn’t the first time he had smuggled this concoction through security. But he had finally worked out the damning kinks in his previous attempts so that this time, it would be properly employed.

Near the gate, he could see Evelyn Gross staring off into space as she sat waiting to board the plane so she could murder 270 innocents. Thinking her life's journey was somehow more important than all these people's lives. He couldn’t seem to recall the revolutionary name she had adopted after seeing the light in the service of a god with an insatiable appetite for blood. Nor did he bother thinking about the perversely brilliant method used to conceal her explosives. It really didn't matter. It was irrelevant to the plan. Knowing what he knew of a probable shared history of which she was unaware, he managed a slightly ironic smile at seeing her in all her resurrected glory. He didn't care why she did it and never had. He was just determined to stop her from terrorizing his family.

If an observer could have witnessed all this outside of time they would have seen that this was to be his twentieth attempt at uncooking this particular egg. Each time he had attempted to alter the timeline before, the cascade of events evaporated in his hands. The timeline reverted to the same agony of loss as all that preceded it. In a perverse cycle of failure and loss he had preempted their boarding of the plane 7 times. He had gotten his earlier manifestation to alter their plans on 4 occasions. He had even killed Gross 3 times, thwarted her actions on the ground 3 times and twice in the air. Each triumph was reversed by cruel causality and the inescapable fact that absent the pain of his family’s loss, he would never have completed his work on time travel and thus would never come back to prevent the tragedy. He was not aware of the truth of this but understood the theory well enough.

He had no real way of knowing how many times he had tried and failed to alter the past. Just the building sense that this indeed was the case. Success always just beyond his grasp. This sense of recurring failure began to eat away at him almost as much as his original loss. He wondered if they suffered anew each time he tried and failed. Was his own obsession and grief dooming those he loved to an eternal hell. Imagining their demise once was more than he could bear. Imagining a recurrent loop of it was his own personal hell particularly if he were the cause.

There remained only one possible solution. If, as he came to suspect, the event itself could not be preempted then he would have to save his family on the plane without anyone knowing. The last few years of this particular loop had been devoted to the extraordinary task of synchronizing a time jump with extra passengers while the targets of the jump were in motion. Their existing technology, amazing as it was, allowed only jumps from fixed locations with identical mass. The only way to break the causality loop would be to rescue his loved ones just before the tragedy and catapult them to the future where they could live out their lives. A future where he had suffered and worked to perfect the time machine. They had to be on the plane and appear to die or else his young avatar would never complete the work that would allow them to be rescued in the first place. It was all rather convoluted.

A devoted team struggled along side him for years without success. Though it wasn’t a word that this group readily embraced it appeared that such a feat really was impossible. All but Ames gave up hope. None was present when Ames finally happened upon the solution that would break the cycle. He wondered how he had missed this for so many years. It wasn't a solution that his team would have considered. But their pasts were far different from his. All it took was to redefine the problem. And to redefine success.

He'd come to the lab a changed man that fateful morning. Gone was that guilt and infinite sorrow. Gone was the hope tightly bound by caution that had been with him on every previous attempt. His face beamed with the same radiance his family’s had when rounding that corner 42 years ago. He shook the hands of each of his team members and activated his new program that would finally break the chain.

By no accident, he was seated on the plane in the aisle seat next to them and had to fight to not stare. He noticed that his wife was losing a similar fight. He turned to her and she apologized, telling him how she was struck by his resemblance to her husband.

Ames smiled and told her that surely she wasn’t married to someone who looked as old and broken down as he. Angel that she was she was mortified that she might have offended him. He assured her that she had not. The sound of her beautiful voice after so long. No longer just an echo in his mind or an imperfect ort captured on some video or voice mail. His daughter's laugh and that impish twinkle in her eyes. All the years made worth it.

They talked for hours. It wasn’t something that either did readily with strangers. But it came easily this night. Her daughter chimed in from time to time and ended up telling him all about their coming trip and how she couldn’t wait for her father to join them. Both opened up about husband and father and Ames saw himself through the eyes of the two loves of his life. He was reminded once more why he had been unable to let go.

His watch chimed and he took leave to go to the lavatory ostensibly to take some medications. He walked past the murderer knowing that she would not terrorize his family this night. Not this time.

The ultimate plan was in motion. The baton had already been passed. This timeline would be preserved by a hall of mirrors army if need be. Any who might follow would have an easier road than he. At least part of their sorrow would be displaced by what was about to happen. He was sure of that as only one can know. They would never fail in the end. This timeline would be stable. Only one thing left to do.

When he got back to his seat he noticed that the little girl had something on her chin and handed her a tissue. He acted mortified when it was realized that the tissue had toothpaste all over it. He apologized again when the child’s mother wiped it away with her hands and told him it was no problem. He told them he would let them get some rest now since they both seemed to be very tired after their long day.

Five hours and 12 minutes into the flight, mother and daughter were at peace in each other's arms. Maybe they had dreamed of an adventure that would start tomorrow. He laid a blanket over them and had just enough time to take each of their hands before he drifted away to join them in this their last great adventure to a different and as yet undiscovered destination than the one planned. None of the three heard the explosion or felt the violence of the descent to the ocean below that came moments later. None felt fear or pain or longed for absent loved ones. The chain was broken.


Some Prosaic Silliness in the Defense of Wonder

This piece came about after reading a series of postings from a number of sources that stated that anyone lacking belief lacks a sense of wonder. I obviously disagree...

To hear tell by many that do, absent belief tears our psyche’s rug out from under,
eschewing magic and seeking only the rational seen as a colossal blunder,
They smile knowingly that we are accursed and left without a sense of wonder,
(Perhaps all said because our contentment would rend their views asunder?)

One wonders why they can’t be with their faithful knowledge content,
instead of at nonbelievers their spleens to vent,
Best if they had just left us be,
instead of falling to the temptation of insisting on rabid labels for people like me.

Not true of all, who hear the call,
I encounter quite many who lack such gall,
No, it’s usually a more obvious failing,
Amongst a demographic most enamored with Sara Palin.

Really, I say, nothing to rival the words of herders, and merchants, shamans and prophets and mystics quoted chapter, line and verse?
So sad I say, perhaps they should close that book and open their eyes to what surrounds - the real bleeping universe!

Not clear on why reality is considered such a drag,
Or how one becomes engrossed when some tele-evangelist’s tongue does wag,
Nor sure the attraction of diversions built,
on foundations made of generous portions of shame and fear and guilt.

But if appealing to wonder is to be the tack,
You may want to rethink the strategy and take it all back.
For the universe’s wonders do more to inspire,
Than threatening us with brimstone and fire.

Can the imaginings of any man do justice to its truth,
particularly the machinations of ones from our history’s youth?
So sorry, but I’ll take my natural wonders over theirs,
For I’ve taken samples and seen how each compares.

(Truth be told I do find wonder in the practice of belief,
Just not so much from the canon, but more from those who feel it grants relief.
I read the texts and wonder why it sings to some and not to all,
wouldn’t really bother me but for the plans of some who hear the call.)

I change the channel and there they stand, their heads up and down do nod,
swaying bodies, eyes closed with arms stretched up like rabbit ears to god.
Such teaming masses drinking deep from a well I do not see,
makes me wonder if for human kind it’s possible, from superstition to be free.

So many great books and not enough time to read,
Why spend the time over and over studying some ancient creed.
Decades of study, what new will be defined or in the mind emplaced,
Even Julia Childs' steps in but one year can be retraced.

One must work hard to miss the myriad clues to the grandeur of reality,
But since denial was true of the first recruit, I suppose it’s now a part of the oath of fealty.
Sad to me, so many to see, seeking mysteries with nose deep in some sacred text,
and thus they are blind to all the wonder around that hints at true context.

For amongst all that philosophical and mystical chatter,
what can compare to the existence and nature of antimatter?
Peer up into the night sky and travel back in time,
or sit with down turned eyes ensconced within some shrine?

A few lines of vague text from long ago,
or an echo of creation still visible in 400 lines of snow?
The atoms within your very being forged within a star,
What creation lore, from any text, could ever hope to be on that par?

I’d rather be star stuff than any sculptor's clay,
I say again, what miracle in any text more wonder can convey?
Some part of me once lit the sky out shining any heavenly light,
The source of my stardust most certainly did ‘not go quietly into any good night’.

Wonder of amazement provided by the nature for any and all to see,
wondering about the beliefs of men, is more just questioning to me.

Or what wonders can one find amidst the pages of an old book,
more amazing to the mind than the migrations of a chinook!
cryptic codes and metaphors, the truth they do belie,
Me, I find more mystery in the travails of those parr and fry.

A minute of arc in empty space revealing faint milk of trillions of suns as they shine,
Or an ark carried by tribesman some simple rules to enshrine?
Forty thousand swallows, from trial and selection their descent to roost a ghostly dark aurora,
It stirs me more to wonder than a hundred songs from the Torah.

Cataclysms so intense that they outshine a galaxy of stars for a time,
Or tales of pillage and genocides and other manners of crime.
Witness the death of stars and what king’s passing can possibly stir awe and rue,
But many still cling to the notion that only religion can provide our social glue.

No easy answers to reality’s challenges neatly dispensed from pulpit to pew,
even as a child my thoughts involved how best off my paw to chew.
Repetition over and over and over again, stopped time refusing to zip by,
Numbed my senses even more that could the largest TseTse fly.
(The only wonder that I ever did receive,
is when this will end and when can we leave...)

Ironically, like our DNA, religion is composed,
of bits and pieces tried and true, repurposed and transposed.
Some left over Assyrian, four parts Hebrew, six new, with a smattering of Rome does result in a very strange new brew,
wonder is that no one cares, or wouldn’t even if they knew.

Physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and more, our understanding and wonder do sublime.
To teach our children otherwise would be this nation’s biggest crime.
Scaling walls of superstition, though weak of foundation, seeming higher every year,
returning again to the middle ages is for some our biggest fear.

The record of eons writ large on eroded walls of stone,
or canon prohibitions on the hygienic uses for a bone?
Fossil remains of magnificent beasts etched by wind and rain in an ancient hollow,
or whether his relative or his associates is who we must now follow?

Gossamer roils so beautiful at this distance, not quite vacuum thin,
Nurseries for new stars we see forming from within.
Or graven images of punishment same for crimes big or small,
or with empathy seemingly not even crimes at all?

Two earnest young men in dark suits come by and interrupt our quiet dinner,
Not enough that my food’s getting cold, they must call me a sinner.
‘What would I say if I was to hear that Jesus came to America before ascending to the sky?’
I’d say you’d been smoking too much weed and shouldn’t proselytize when you’re so high.
(the wonder here, that beanbag round not fired into their rear...)

Wonder of amazement provided by the nature for any and all to see,
wondering about the beliefs of men, is more just questioning to me.

What of sects numbering as many as the stars,
Each leaves behind its own subset of mental scars.
Debating hidden meanings in translation of translation of translation of word of mouth passed through many a year,
Since eating blood is taboo and IV fluids can a patient feed, that life saving transfusion must we fear.

Who begat who among a tribe, and a myth where a prophet climbed a mountain and saw a burning tree,
Or the evidence of what begat the tree of life burned into the DNA of every cell within thee?
From a ship’s deck, a flying fish soaring above the waves a hundred feet or more,
or the genealogy of a bunch of shepherds and a wretched record of gore?

Super dense whirling ovoids keeping cadence with precision unmatched,
Or a confusing anthology rewritten many times and just as oft patched?
Two by two, animals fill an ark, the kind of stories told to little shavers,
aren’t up, down, charm, strange, top and bottom far more interesting and adult flavors?

They say that belief and science are the same,
convincing others has become a desperate game,
but while a prophet says to follow me for I am the way to providence,
a scientist says to follow too - but means the chain of evidence.

No sense of wonder no joy of discovery because we don’t believe?
What says it of their faith if about others they must deceive.
Observe, consider, hypothesize, test and then predict,
much more wondrous than to simply follow some prescribed edict.

Curiosity, science sees as no fault,
But in religion it may result in a pillar of salt.
Understanding light unravels no rainbows and steals none of nature’s thunder,
the universe vast and real is full of wonder.

My senses a mere pinhole into an infinite room by any measure,
like Carter’s first torch light glimpse at a pharaoh’s treasure.
Thanks to they not content to rehash old predilections,
on giants shoulders can I stand and see more of nature’s confections.

When some believers speak of wonder I must admit it often tickles my paranoia,
but on further reflection makes me return to the words of Indigo Montoya.
When they speak of wonder with a smile from that passage what one gleans,
I think to myself, “I do not think it means what you think it means...”

Even without the lore my sense of wonder is intact,
For in truth the universe is most amazing in stark fact,
I can accept that these things stir you, and give you peace,
as long as you recognize that nature alone provides me wonders that will never cease.

Here today and then tilled under,
wishing it away is not wonder,
that is reserved for eyes opened wide,
Not denial or wishful hoping from Thanatos to hide.

Contemplate my mortality full of lament and deliverance from death pining?
Does my end mean that I'll stop trying? Life’s not worth defining?
I think not and take comfort in the knowing, even the stars in time will die,
though if they knew, would not stop shining.

The National Heathcare System Experiment

I have voted for Republicans in past elections. I have voted for Democrats in past elections. More accurately, I have voted for individual politicians who have been affiliated with both major parties.

This surprises a lot of people with whom I come into contact since they equate my general level of social liberalism and service with political liberalism. This is an error. I am a social liberal and political conservative to a large degree. My political conservatism comes from my long affiliation with the Law of Unintended Consequences Party. I do not think that throwing money at problems is a good substitute for forethought, prudence, ingenuity and creativity (hasn't ever worked for me so why should I think politicians would do better). Nor do I think that emotional spur of the moment responses to events constitute good governance. Fiscally dubious programs with ill defined goals and absent milestones rarely result in good long term value. Deciding on governance for me often involves balancing rights, responsibilities, security and costs.

Lately I have found myself voting for more Democratic candidates. Some people believe that is because I have become more liberal. Not true - the Republican Party has become less moderate. My beliefs and values have remained pretty constant. The parties have shifted. The best metaphor I can come up with is imagining walking a straight line along the beach during shifting tides. Sometimes my course results in dry feet and other times my feet are in the water. The Republican tide is at low ebb to my way of thinking so I find myself walking along the Democratic line most of the time at this juncture in history.

That bastion and archetype of modern conservatism, Ronald Reagan, turned that tide in my opinion. Many people like me believed in fiscal conservatism but that was not what Reagan and company were peddling. They simply chose to promote run away spending on different priorities. That isn't conservatism to me. It wasn't any love affair with the Democrats for me, it was just that their run away spending was more in line with my social liberalism. Thinking that you know what's best for everybody else is often one of those hackneyed recipes for disaster - not caring is often worse.

I say these things as a preamble to my next thoughts. The reform of healthcare. As one who knows from years of experience, this system must change. It isn't broken - that would imply that it ever was good in the first place. It wasn't. It is a disgrace. It has worked as long as it has because clinicians have worked around the problems. That no longer is an option. The thing is collapsing. My social liberalism considers it immoral that we have uncovered citizens denied coverage in this country. My fiscal conservatism worries that we'll break the bank with the wrong approach.

New adminstrations know that the first 100 days of office is where they often get the most things done. Problem is that you cannot reform a 2 trillion dollar a year industry touching the lives of all Americans in 100 days. To think otherwise is why Clinton failed before. It cannot be done well. A rapid emotional response will result in a poor program. I think we see a lot of that now.

But it must be changed.

Here's how.

The National Healthcare System Experiment.

Year 1: Identify the true thought leaders in healthcare delivery and their actual reform models.

Year 2: Fund as many as 10 different experimental care delivery models in 10 different States by enrolling volenteer uninsured and uncovered populations supervised by the GAO. Party leadership agrees to abide by the science aided by public pressure to do so. The goal is to identify the best way(s) to deliver care for the long term. The payment structure can follow after we really know what we should be paying for.

Year 3: Repeat the experiment in 3 different States with each of the 3 top performing models. Performance involves metrics of access, compliance, outcome assessment, and cost.

Year 4: Implement the winning model in all 50 States' Medicaid/Medicare programs.