Thursday, September 30, 2004

Who's your grandma?!

From a very good friend who ought to know:

website of the day:

Of course, not to be confused with:

Don't forget to watch the debates tonite! (9pm EST). Not that you'll be able to avoid them, seeing as how they're on every major news network as well as NPR and PBS! NBC even moved The Apprentice to Wednesday night (this week) to avoid conflicts.

Mad Props

Mad props to the folks at Merck for volunteering today to immediately pull the arthritis and pain med Vioxx from the worldwide market after data from a clinical trial showed that the drug produces an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes (sheesh!).

Scary? True, but you've got to give them credit. It is safe to assume that these folks may actually have a soul after all? I'm probably overly optimistic...

As a good friend would say that his uncle would say, that Matt Drudge would say, "Developing..."

The Senators Return!

No, not John Kerry - fortunately for all of us he is still on the campaign trail, preparing for tonight's big debate. But the Montreal Expos have officially selected Washington, DC as their future home. The Washington Post article linked above (may require a quick registration to view) suggests that the Expos could be playing in Washington by April 2005, in a brand new stadium less than a mile from the Capitol Dome!

I, for one, think this is fantastic, and am psyched about the nation's pastime returning to the nation's capitol - the thought of an errant homerun ball hitting a congressman on the head makes me giddy (and probably wouldn't hurt their intelligence much).

The only question now is what to name them. The "Washington Senators" played in DC for years, but that franchise (and the old name) is owned by the Texas Rangers - yes, President Bush's old team - and it's not likely that the word "Senator" inspires the same awe that it did 50 years ago. I think the "Expos" deserve a new name, since they haven't played well under their current one in years. I suggest the Washington Capitols (with great nickname potential - the 'caps'), but other suggestions have included the Washington Water-Gaters, among others. Any ideas from the peanut gallery?

Currently Reading
On Paradise Drive
By David Brooks

Sunday, September 26, 2004

a short post script

We are all endebted to brilau for pointing out this groundbreaking social commentary from a national news source. At least we know that our nation's most brilliant minds are tackling society's tough issues.

For some really serious thought, this is a fun place to look. Don't get lost in there.

Currently Playing
Out There Live
By Dar Williams

my only "liberal" issue?

So, not to blaze off into completely unrelated territory, but the whole "runaway drug pricing" thing is really bothering me. I have (until this point) resisted the urge to say anything because my knee-jerk conservative tendencies whisper sweet nothings in my ear and tell me that everything must be okay in Pfizer-land, otherwise the U.S. wouldn't have the amazing range of healthcare options that it does.

But a series of damning revelations about drug companies has finally tipped me over the edge, and I'm furious with the way these companies manipulate public opinion, especially those of people like me who want to believe them, and generally give them the benefit of the doubt.

Unfortunately for me, I'm now in quasi-independent land, which is a terrible place to be, because I realize that all of the prescriptions (pun certainly intended) to fix the drug industry will only make things worse...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The biggest lie that drug companies want you to believe is that drug pricing is directly related to a research motive rather than a profit motive. But drug companies are consistently among the most profitable companies in the US (Fortune 500). Now, me being me, I don't see a problem with this as long as these companies are producing world-class research and innovative treatment methods from their high profit margins. No reason to punish the companies just because they're successful, right? If we did that, no one would want to create innovative treatment methods, and the U.S. is certainly cutting edge. That's the beauty of a market economy.

But what really pisses me off is that most of the cutting edge research for new drugs and treatment methods is publicly funded at universities or research labs! This stuff is funded by taxpayers and then co-opted by drug companies to be marketed at exorbitant prices to the very people who funded the research in the first place! If this is not perverse, I don't know what is.

Most of the "research" done by drug companies is for "me-too" drugs (not my term). Me-too drugs are company specific versions of drugs already on the market (for example, Lipitor is 1 of 6 drugs of the same kind that have been on the market since 1988). When Viagra came out and was wildly successful, every drug company decided that it needs its own version...that is where the high profits are going (that and large yachts in the Caymans). Drug companies also spend millions upon millions of dollars convincing people that they "need" new me-too drugs that weren't even on the market until recently! (anti-depressants or erectile dysfunction medication) Granted, depression is a serious illness and warrants research (I won't comment on erectile dysfunction), but what did the world do for thousands of years without these medications?! We found alternate ways of coping rather than medicating ourselves at the drop of a hat, and we certainly managed to reproduce alright (to the current level of 6 billion people on the planet)...Okay, I know I'm opening myself up for some legitimate criticism here, but somebody's got to say it!

The worst part of it is that the solutions are even worse than the problem. You can't price-regulate without companies simply moving their operations elsewhere. If the government negotiates lower prices, it is not a fair negotiation. The US government is so huge that it can simply impose its will on the drug companies. And let's be honest...we could buy cheap drugs at Canadian prices if the US government were willing to subsidize health care to the degree that Canada does! It's not that Canada magically has lower drug costs...they're subsidized! This book recommends regulating drug companies like a "public utility." But let's think about the public utilities around the country. Would that really be a step up? I mean, really??

The only solution I can see is for the US government to limit access to publicly funded research conclusions to those companies who agree to limit their profit margins on drugs developed from that research. This way, companies can decide to keep their profit margins high (opting out of the government research results), and develop drugs themselves by whatever methods they choose. But if they want to benefit from the money of US taxpayers, they have to re-examine their fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders and decide that profit can't be their only motive. I imagine that faced with such a dilemma (given the currently weak research going on at drug companies) most of them could "see their way clear" to reducing their profit margins on those drugs developed from taxpayer driven research. However, if drug companies are willing to do this, I think the US government should support these companies and protect their patents around the world. Oftentimes, these companies are robbed of their intellectual property by nations who simply steal the rights to drugs and manufacture them generically for their own populations with no compensation to either the US or to the drug makers. This only makes the problem worse. In other words...let's just be fair, to the companies and to US citizens.
Grace & Peace

Saturday, September 25, 2004

unrequited love

'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam, 1850, line 27, stanza 4

The overcast sky brings this year's early Autumn to the "shallow south," and my cup of coffee is inviting pensive reflections on recent Autumns past. Together they bring to mind the oft-quoted lines of Tennyson, and I am tempted to reach back through time and shake the man thoroughly to try and dislodge exactly what he meant. Do you really mean that?? How in the world can it be true?? Have you survived love lost?

Is unrequited love better than no love at all...?

Clearly more than academic, this question shakes my foundation, and serves as the reason (excuse) for my weeklong writing hiatus. Rest assured, I have five postings in draft form on every topic around, but in the face of personal anguish, these intellectual considerations seem ephemeral and cold. So I offer a quick glimpse into my own highly-personal musings (which I swore I wouldn't). Because, without understanding (at least in part) where I am, and what the hell I'm doing here, I can't address with a clear mind anything else.

What I really want to know is the answer. I find myself the keeper (the victim?) of unrequited love - and it devastates me. Like a tragic game of Hot Potato, I wish I could pass this off...but the time is run out and there's no one else around.

Love is, at its best, a glimpse of the divine. It illuminates the Trinity, the very inner workings of the Godhead, in ways the uninitiated can only imagine. When you love (the truest of all verbs) it is impossible not to see in this union a glimpse - a shadow - of divine communion. It is breathtaking and life altering, and I don't think humans were created in the Garden to have that level of intimacy taken, or ripped, away. Such is the tragedy of the Fall, and we are all so weak...

But unrequited love is perhaps the most perverse. Love is not meant to rest or stay put. Like water it flows, first from above and then steadily downward until it reaches down to the depths or is returned above. And like water, when love gets trapped with no outlet, it stagnates, becomes polluted, and unpotable. How can you possibly love someone that does not love you back? The very essence of love somehow necessitates an exchange, a flow, back and forth that is self-reinforcing and indescribably affirming and satisfying. Doesn't unrequited love somehow become a selfish thing, attempting to satisfy a pure longing with a cheap imitation, when the object of your love does not receive or return this love? Is it even love? Or is unrequited loves somehow supremely selfless - the ultimate sacrifice - continuing to give (or at least offer) despite all evidence of ever receiving anything in return.

Is unrequited love ultimately selfless...or selfish?

But maybe I don't have a choice. It is not like love was never returned to me at all - not like I always loved from afar. It was shared, then denied. And it is not like I can simply turn it off just because I am "supposed" to now. Would I even want to? That which invites the most devastating and the most uplifting moments of life should not simply be discarded once it has been birthed. Just because it is a little worn or a little used. Why would I ever pretend that love is not what it is, and what it will always be until the end, or attempt to substitute one love for another, as if each love does not have its own unique DNA that cannot be replicated?

So I am bound to the course that I am's not like I have a choice. I just wish I knew where the hell I am going, and how the hell I got here, and why I can't turn down the volume just a little bit, enough to concentrate on something else for a minute because it is blasting in my head and I can't seem to get a thought in edgewise.

But Autumn is always melancholy and full of too many memories. So I'll sit and drink my coffee and welcome the changing leaves and try to love like there is no tomorrow. Because who knows? Maybe there isn't.

Grace & Peace...

Sunday, September 19, 2004

not to be too obtuse, but...

Since my postings tend toward the ridiculous with their overweening sense of self-importance and gravitas, I thought I would shift gears early on and give you a taste of the lighter side of me that doesn't take himself too seriously. These are some of the best in the blogosphere (aka the "blogging industrial complex") that I have discovered over the past several weeks.

I ran across the first link on the blog of a good friend of mine from California (also new to the blogosphere). I can't remember where the second came from, but in the interest of journalistic integrity, if I found the link on your blog, let me know and I'll post a credit ASAP.
  1. is written by a guy who ran across a digital camera memory card in a taxi cab. In order to find its owner, he has been posting pictures online and making up stories to go with. You have to appreciate the humor in that. For the voyeuristic among you (or for those addicted to reality tv - hey, there's real pathos there! Real, unscripted emotion!), this is for you... (Edited 9/22 to add: APPRENTLY THIS LINK IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE BECAUSE LAME IDIOTS LACK A REASONABLE SENSE OF HUMOR)
  2. is the ongoing adventures of a "good girl in search of a good date." The true story of the ups and downs (mostly downs) of the absurd dating world. If that doesn't get you by itself, the title of her most recent posting (I wannna bone a Zamboni Driver) definitely should.

Much more to say, but the gorgeous weather outside beckons, and my bicycle is feeling lonely. Grace & Peace...

Currently Playing
By Elliott Smith

Friday, September 17, 2004

What we hold in common

Lately, my free (and not so "free") time has been spent reading various weblogs, emails, articles and other various pronouncements on issues ranging from a difficult reading of Ephesians 5 to the linguistical merits of Ebonics. This weblog world is a new one for me (see the disclaimer below), and I find myself at turns both overwhelmed by the enormity of this new world, and frustrated by the opinions that I read. The frustration stems from several things:
  1. I feel instinctively that the people expressing these opinions should be the very people that agree with me (sociologically, religiously, demographically, etc.), and I find myself mystified at why they do not. While I am used to being in the minority among strangers, it is unfamiliar territory among like-minded friends. (much more on this later...suffice it to say that my comments will likely include many references to the word hermeneutic, so stay tuned for some exciting intellectual pomposity).
  2. Because these people "should" agree with me, I feel not only pressured to articulate a reasoned defense about topics on which I am not an expert, but also that the "majority influence" of this environment intrinsically places the burden of proof upon me to reassert what is inevitably the "traditionalist" opinion.
  3. I think the majority do not always realize the pressure they are exerting, and likely don't intend to exert. Or maybe I exert all the pressure on myself, and it's my own damn fault. But it's hard to hear conclusions I consider misguided from the very people I lean on for support, and not feel the desire to step in and say something. This "us" vs. "them" mentality develops, and I feel like "we" are always on the defensive, and the only ones ever forced to retreat.
  4. There have been several times in the past where merely mentioning a position immediately gets me labeled a "chauvanistic judgmental bigot." These leaves me somewhat gunshy of even expressing an opinion.

This being said, I want to take a step back and reflect on how much we actually have in common. I'm not interested in provoking an argument, or even tendering a "debate. " I doubt you are either. I'm merely looking to join the dialog, and it is excellent to see so many intelligent people wrestling with such tough issues. I just wish I had a few more people "in my corner."

However, with a sense of compassion and fellowship, this kind of discourse can only build us all up. And, I hope it does exactly that. In fact, that's really all I want. So I intend to proceed with that mindset - that your opinions aren't meant to attack me, and that mine are likewise not meant to offend you. And I am really not a chauvanistic judgmental bigot...

So, if I seem harsh, or come across as abrasive (which is virtually guaranteed), just let me know. Chances are I'll ratchet down quickly, and usually I don't intend to come across like I do. Although, I wouldn't be me if I didn't send a few barbs now and then, and I expect nothing but the same from you. Grace & Peace...

Monday, September 13, 2004

An (in)auspicious beginning

ATTENTION! Please read the following advisory warning before continuing through this feeble attempt at a weblog:

There are so many problems with this whole endeavor. Of course, the main problem is simply overkill - the brute fact that everyone and their mother now blogs like a fiend. There is simply not enough time to keep up. No one actually has the time to read everyone else's blog.

And I always end up coming to new trends late. I didn't own a pair of cargo pants until they were on their way out. I still don't own an .mp3 player or a digital camera. (to be fair, I had a digital camera at one time, but it's gone now). The only reason I got a cell phone is because I went to France and it was literally the only way to communicate.

However, there may be cause to hope...and for this hope I jump in (belatedly) with both feet. The main impetus is the fact that so many fabulously intelligent people (some of whom are my illustrious amigos) are contributing to a dialog of which I wish to be a part. Specifically, some recent publications full of insightful introspection of some of the "great matters" of our day (20-somethings circa 2004) have left me desperately wanting a forum to air my thoughts within the confines of this group, but with the possibility of a wider audience.

THEREFORE, here is my "mission statement" regarding this blog (such as it is):

I will not use this space to air the intimate details of my life (too emotional, too personal), nor the banal practicalities of daily existence ("went to the store today," etc.) . To the extent that I do decide to comment on the day-to-day matters, it will be limited and relevant, or at least confined to a specific time and place.

What I would like to do is use this space to expose the ruminations of my convoluted mind to some lux et veritas. I hope to comment on important topics with whatever perspective I may have, and "join the debate" mentioned above. I remember once deciding to use my diary for this very purpose...organizing my thoughts around some important ideas, but I could never move beyond the painful intimacies of my personal life that are so much better suited to the diary format. But for someone ostentatious enough to think it's necessary to start planning for my memoirs now, this might just be the perfect format.