Friday, December 26, 2008

Can You Really Trust Your Dentist?

A couple of posts ago I seemed to have struck a nerve talking about doctors and their waiting rooms. This time I am actually trying to hit a nerve, by talking about your friendly neighbourhood dentist.

Few dentists earn graduate degrees online because dentists typically go to a traditional medical school and then dental school. However, despite their extensive training, you should consider a few of these horror stories before you go in for your next cleaning.

For some reason, people seem to have a fear of going to the dentist. This is not a situation that I suffer with. Even though I’ve had more than my fair share of root canals, I think my saving grace is I have a high pain threshold. As a result most of my dental visits have been worry free.

My biggest concern seems to be that my dentist has the hairiest hands and the world’s biggest watch. The hair on his knuckles tickles the roof of my mouth and his time piece would look more appropriate on a chain around Flava Flav’s neck rather than on his wrist. I would be able to constantly tell the time, but since it’s only a couple of centimetres from my nose I tend to keep fogging it up.

My dentist also likes to play classical Musak while he’s drilling. This wouldn’t be too bad if it weren’t for the fact that he likes to join in with the arias, sharing his open-mouthed humming to the hit parade of the 18th Century.

No, if anything scares me about the dentist it’s the stories that I hear from other people or, worse yet, the stories that make it into the news. I always thought that evil dentists were the stuff of films. Sir Laurence Olivier did for dentists in Marathon Man, what Anthony Perkins did for showers in Psycho. I know more than a few people who imagine sitting in a dentist’s chair hearing a Teutonic accent ask them “is it safe?” At least you got a laugh with Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors but that’s cold comfort to many.

I guess if society has a fear of dentists, the biggest fear dentists have of society is that we’re not going to pay them. How else can you explain the actions of the two down-in-the-mouth guys in recent news stories?

In October, a 58-year-old patient accused the Rush Green Dental Practice in Romford, England, of injecting Novocain in preparation for an extraction but then refused to pull the tooth until he handed over an additional $50 in cash. The patient had to go home to get his ATM card, probably drooling all the way. He didn’t make it back until the Novocain had begun to wear off. I would like to know why someone would want to go back to such a dentist in the first place. I would be using the Yellow Pages, or a Ouija board – anything to choose another dentist then to go back to this clown.

Meanwhile, police in the Bavarian town of Neu-Ulm said they were investigating a dentist who allegedly barged into the home of a 35-year-old patient in September, tied her hands, forced her mouth open, and removed dentures worth the equivalent of about $500 because the woman’s insurance company declined to pay. Apparently, to use a bridge you must pay the toll first.

But the scariest of all dentists is from the Seattle area. I don’t know what is more frightening, the doctor himself or the naiveté of his patient. Thomas Laney, a dentist and oral surgeon, was able to remain licensed and in business despite unorthodox training; a controversial past, including ten lawsuits against him; and a reprimand in a patient's death. Well, he has been sued again, this time by a woman who said he botched a breast reduction on her three years ago when she was 15. Yes, you read right – a breast reduction!

Call me madcap, but I tend to draw the line with my dentist on anything concerning above or below the mouth. Sure, I give him latitude when working with the parameters that I’ve laid out, but anything that requires an unnatural adjustment of the chair is strictly off limits.

In the most recent complaint, the woman, now 18, saw Laney for a breast reduction in August 2005, but just recently filed a complaint in October in King County Superior Court.

The woman had been a high school athlete with disproportionately large breasts that hampered her ability to play sports, even when she wore three sports bras. According to her lawyer her breasts also caused neck and back pain, so it was not a cosmetic procedure, but a medically necessary one.

According to a plastic surgeon who supported the woman's complaint in court records, Laney lacked the training and education needed for the surgery. The surgeon wrote that Laney violated "the standard of care" by allegedly incorrectly marking the woman's breasts post-op and by placing her nipples "cross-eyed." The surgeon also wrote that Laney gave the woman deformed breasts and "railroad" scars, by allegedly leaving her sutures in too long.

Needless to say, this has left the unnamed patient very self-conscious about her body. She’s in college now, but according to her lawyer, she cannot live in a dorm with a shared bathroom and has never had a boyfriend.

Meanwhile, Laney, who is still practicing, said through his lawyer, Steve Fitzer, that the woman and her parents understood the potential risks of the surgery. "No doctor and no patient want complications," Fitzer said. "But the reasons you have elaborate and lengthy discussions, and sign elaborate consent forms, is because these complications are possible."

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here when I say that I’m pretty certain there isn’t a form warning you that you could end up with “cross-eyed nipples.”

He said such forms were signed. He also said Laney no longer does cosmetic surgery, but did not know why. I could hazard a guess and come up with at least ten reasons why he’s not.

The patient’s lawyer countered that the consent was invalid, because the parents were not "fully informed" about Laney's training and experience. Laney was doing full-body cosmetic surgeries without having done a residency or fellowship in the subject.

Maybe I’m hasty in saying this, but the reality of life is when we go into a dentist’s office, rarely do we read the fine print on the sheep skin hanging up in his office. While I’m on the patient’s side in this one, having her lawyer state that the parents were not fully informed on the dentist’s training and experience is like saying America was ill prepared to vote for George Bush twice based on his record (perhaps that was a bad analogy).

On the other had, as with the issue of toddlers springing molars, rambunctious puppies, dirty old men and S&M roll players, teeth and breasts are rarely a winning combination.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem

Back in 2002, when the birthplace of so many religions was under siege I felt compelled to put together an audio piece, trying to be as impartial as possible, not choosing any side.

You may remember the time in question. Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian fighters throughout the northern West Bank and launched air strikes in response to a Hezbollah missile attack across Israel's border with Lebanon, surrounding more than 100 armed Palestinians who were holed up in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

I was moved by the story to create a montage of news with Mahalia Jackson’s Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem as the background from which I weaved the news clips through it.

I had forgotten about the audio but the odd thing about it was that even though I had not put up a page to connect to it, my version of the song was making its way around the Internet. So I thought I would put the link back up again for any and everyone to listen to it and draw their own thoughts and conclusions.

As I said, I tried to be as impartial as possible, and I think I succeeded, because at the time that I prepared it, and aired it on radio in both Montreal and Toronto, I got a lot of angry emails from people on both sides claiming that I was biased towards the other. Believe me, with the news clips that I had available, I made it as unbiased as I possibly could, but you decide. Make up your own mind. Here’s the link:

By the way the three newsworthy voices you'll hear, besides the reporters and the people on the streets, are Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Let me know what you think.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Doctor's Waiting Room

So, it has been some time since I have written any blog entries. I apologize for my lack of creativity. I have been quite busy with my usual work schedule, plus there is the nagging issue of my convalescence and physiotherapy as I continue to recuperate from my recent quad surgery and relearn to walk again (it’s a slow process, but I’m doing fine, thanks for asking).

I usually write when I have a free moment or an imposed downtime and when the spirit moves me. There is no better downtime then waiting outside of a doctor’s office for your appointment as you listen to the second hand on the wall clock tick way past your initial appointment time.

Is there something written somewhere that if you have an appointment for, say, 2:30pm, you should prepare to bring a tooth brush? I’ve never been able to understand how one has to wait hours after their arrival to see a physician for an appointment that usually lasts just a few minutes. But I digress.

The waiting room at a doctor’s office is itself a little depressing. For one thing, it’s usually full of sick people. I think there is a correlation between the length of time you have to wait in the waiting room and the level of contagion the person beside you appears to have.

Right now I’m sitting beside a sniffling, sneezing woman as I type this. I have a longing desire for a polymer coating over my entire body, or at the very least a windshield wiper for my laptop screen.

Somewhere in the mix of patients is a woman (I’m guessing it’s a woman) who when she left the house this morning, failed to miss a pore when applying perfume.

Sitting across from me is a guy who is constantly grinning and making gestures to someone else in the room. At least I hope he is and it’s not some imaginary friend.

There is also senior citizen guy who actually has Hungry Like A Wolf as his ringtone. No, seriously. And his phone seems to ring about every ten minutes or so (remind me to do a blog entry one day on ringtones).

There’s a little old lady, who when standing is shaped like the letter “C” and who clearly predates electricity. She’s pacing slowly back and forth with a walker probably thinking that, like a shark, if she stops moving she might just die.

Then there is the receptionist. In an open concept waiting room this is a woman who probably learned to whisper in a saw mill. When she asks for your Medicare card and loudly clarifies she has the right name, she then proceeds to discuss whatever ails you at the volume level best used by carnival barkers. It’s oh so gratifying to share your afflictions with the rest of the room.

Once you have gotten past your initial embarrassment, you can then sit in the waiting room watching for future patients to walk in, and like a game show, try to guess what their ailment is before the carnie behind the desk starts up.

The excitement of this round of the game is only surpassed by the one-sided phone calls you get to hear from said receptionist. One can only imagine the little old lady on the other end of the line, clinging to her rotary phone, sitting there like Whistler’s mother trying to hear and comprehend what the receptionist is attempting to tell her. That can be the only explanation to the repetitive screaming that our carnival barker is now employing, cranking up her vocal volume with each repetition of the clinic’s address and operating hours.

Some people in the waiting room have come prepared. I’ve brought my laptop, others have brought copious amounts of reading material, and some have taken the opportunity to prepare their taxes. But there are those who have come unprepared; the ones who are forced to read old issues of Life Magazine and ponder the idea of how the music world will survive now that Elvis has been drafted into the army (I swear, there are publications in this waiting room that are fresh off the Gutenberg press). These are the people that I feel sorry for – the ones in waiting room purgatory, never knowing if they will make it to heaven or if this spot is their eternal damnation.

I, on the other hand, am content, knowing that I have cleared my entire schedule for this moment, brought sufficient provisions, and I can wait it out with the best of them – unless of course the battery on my laptop runs dry. If that happens, then I’ll have to flip though the magazines to find out how that Cuban missile crisis worked out.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

If Man Were Meant To Fly . . .

While I don’t take to the friendly skies often, I do love to fly. I love most manner of flight. I’ve been on jets, small fixed wing, helicopters (which is my favourite) and even the Goodyear blimp (which is slow and majestic but it will ruin your hearing).

I have no problem with people learning how to fly. A few of my friends are licensed pilots and I have even taken the controls of an aircraft in the past. Most people who make the effort to learn how to fly are responsible individuals who have the utmost regard for safety and security, unless of course they are in a sleeper cell. The cost of learning to fly and the time involved usually weeds out the dunderheads who might otherwise soar into the clouds and then accidentally plummet into populated areas.

When the Wright Brothers took that maiden voyage at Kitty Hawk just after the turn of the last century it was a simpler time. They didn’t have to concern themselves with connecting flights, lost baggage or the type of liquids they were carrying. They just had a dream – to successfully sustain heavier-than-air human flight. From that day forward, every Tom, Dick & Harry thinks they too have a dream to leave terra firma on their own. Sometimes this frightens me. I recently came across a couple of stories to illustrate this harrowing trend.

Rev. Adelir Antonio de Carli was a 41-year-old Roman Catholic priest in Brazil. Back in April he came up with the bright idea that he could take off from the port city of Paranagua with the help of 1,000 helium-filled party balloons.

It was all for a good cause. He was hoping to raise money to build a rest stop and worship center for truckers. He had intended to fly to the city of Dourados but strong winds, or one could say the hand of God, swept him out to sea.

I often get this image of God looking down at this planet and shaking his head at times for some of the things we attempt to do. He has faith in most of us and I’m sure He has faith in his loyal soldiers, but every once in awhile along comes a Rev. Carli, floating on a lawn chair in the sky. I’m sure the good Lord said, “Rev, since you’re already aloft, perhaps you could come into the office for a word?” The flying father disappeared over the Atlantic back in April, but medical examiners said DNA tests confirmed body parts found floating off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state in early July belonged to the padre. 1,000 helium-filled party balloons should really be used for . . . parties.

Meanwhile, back in the United States Glenn Martin has a dream. He wants to make it possible for all of us to strap on a jet pack and soar into the heavens. This will make our commute to work faster, just as we all envisioned it on The Jetsons.

Martin demonstrated his contraption at a recent air show in Wisconsin. It weighs roughly 250lbs and is about the size of a piano. Actually, he strapped his 16-year old son into it, which in some way must contravene several child welfare laws.

As thousands looked on, Martin’s helmeted son, fastened himself to the prototype jet pack, revved the engine and hovered about three feet off the ground. With two spotters preventing the jet pack from drifting in a mild wind, (gee, the priest could have used these guys, but no, he chose faith) the younger Martin hovered for 45 seconds and then set the device down as the audience applauded. It was Kitty Hawk all over again.

In theory, the Martin jet pack can fly an average-sized pilot about 30 miles in 30 minutes on a full five-gallon tank. This is where I have a problem. As I mentioned earlier, there are some idiots who shouldn’t leave the ground. It’s sad enough that we let them leave the house, never mind letting them drive vehicles, or use heavy machinery.

With the high cost of fuel these days, we are constantly reminded of the stories of people who are trying to get that last drop of gas out of their cars. Our highways are littered with vehicles that have coasted to a halt because their drivers couldn’t properly gauge how much gas they had left. It’s one thing to coast to a stop. It’s another thing to literally fall short of your desired goal to get to work, clipping trees, power lines and the back of the heads of unsuspecting pedestrians.

If it were available today, the Martin jet pack would set you back $100,000 and is designed to conform to the FAA definition of an ultralight vehicle, weighing less than 254lbs and carrying only one passenger, meaning you won’t need a license to use this thing.

I don’t want people above me calculating the math, trying to figure out how much further they can get on five gallons. Starting with that first flight in 1903, leading up to today, flying is not meant to be in the control of everyone – it’s not necessarily for the masses. And speaking of mass, this contraption is for an average size pilot. Look around the United States. There are no average sized people left!

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

With Friends Like These . . .

I’ve been very lucky all my life with the friends that I’ve had. There are many childhood pals that I am still in contact with and I am very quick to state as an adult male that I have best friends. Sadly this is a statement that most men leave behind with their childhood. I could never understand why this is.

Women grow up saying, “I’m going out with my best friend,” or “I’m going out with my girlfriends,” but when a guy talks like this there always seems to be some question about sexuality involved. I don’t know why this is.

Well, as a heterosexual male I’m not only proud to say that I have best friends, but I am also very proud of my friends. I don’t know what I would do without them. At the top of the list is my friend Mario. He’s more than a friend, actually. I love the guy. It’s like having the kid brother I never had, especially since I grew up in an estrogen factory with four older sisters.

I defy anybody to find a better friend. I have already mentioned him in several blog entries, especially post knee surgery, with all the help that he has been to me above and beyond the call of duty (you can read the previous posts to find out more). I’ve even written about him in a newspaper article about when he taught me to snowboard more than a decade ago (you can see that story on my website by clicking here).

Friends support each other. They can be argumentative, but they should never be combative. True friends have your back and never put you in situations where they dare you to do something you shouldn’t or wouldn’t. True friends always have your best interests at heart. As comedian Dave Atell once said, “A friend will help you move. Best friends will help you move . . . a body!” Everybody should have friends like this, but I know that I am extremely lucky because I have such a friend and not everyone does.

As a matter of fact, I have a couple of stories that deal with people that perhaps you shouldn’t really call your friend. Two practical jokers are behind bars for setting their passed-out drinking buddy's crotch ablaze while boozing in Grover Beach, California recently (yes, another story with alcohol involved).

Matthew Craig Pillers and Jack Brent Nicholas Keiffer pleaded no contest to a felony great bodily injury charge. Elliot Tuleja was passed out when the men poured cologne on his groin and set him on fire on January 18th. Hilarity ensued! Tuleja had second-degree burns on his testicles. Prosecutors say the 22-year-old Pillers, a parolee, was sentenced to two years in prison and the 19-year-old Keiffer got 45 days in San Luis Obispo County jail.

Maybe the idea is to stay away from parolees, but I can guarantee you that if I fall asleep in the presence of my friends, I don’t have to worry about waking up with dry roasted nuts!

I also try to stay away from people who can’t securely deal with a firearm. I’m not a fan of guns; have never fired one or handled one, but my friend Mario has. He is issued one and it comes with 48 bullets (he keeps reminding me of that count); 47 more than Barney Fife had. Mario is a police officer. He knows how to use weapons and he knows how to use handcuffs. These are vital talents to have on the job and possibly when dating.

I would never be around such irresponsible clowns as these guys. In Great Falls, Montana, Henry Haviland, 23, and Zachary Enloe, 20, were having a mock gun battle. They had unloaded their pistols – a 9mm and a .45 calibre – and were having “quick draw” contests at each other.

After they were done, they went their separate ways, but several hours later, they were in an apartment when Haviland “dry fired” his gun at Enloe again. Enloe dove for his pistol and turned and fired at Haviland – “forgetting” that he had loaded it back up in the meantime. Haviland was hospitalized in serious but stable condition with a gunshot wound to his face. Enloe was charged with felony criminal endangerment.

This was one of three such events reported in Great Falls in the past three months. A 17-year-old boy was shot in the leg and 18-year-old Kirk Jordan is facing felony charges in an almost identical incident. The bullet hit the victim's left leg and then went into his right foot.

In May, Airman Jonathon Higgins was accused of firing a shot that killed fellow Airman John Howry while the two were joking around at a party at a home near Great Falls High School. Higgins is charged with negligent homicide.

Meanwhile in mid-June, 24-year-old Brian Walsh was sentenced to 25 years in prison for pointing a gun at his friend's head and killing him in May 2007, though he said he thought the gun wasn't loaded at the time.

As the NRA would say, guns don’t kill people. Stupid people kill people. It’s wise to choose your friends carefully and to always be vigilant. I know I have chosen my friends carefully and Mario is the best. We’ve even talked about going on a trip together someday. That wouldn’t be a bad idea, because spending quality time with good friends is always a worthwhile adventure. But just to be on the safe side, I think I’ll say no to Montana.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cold Plague

Okay, so it has been awhile since I had the chance to post here. I’ve been a little busy with work and all, plus there is still the matter of my convalescence from recent tendon surgery involving my right knee (it’s coming along slowly, but nicely, thanks for asking).

There are many things that I wanted to write about, but I think this time around I’ll just deal with water. I’m sure you’ve seen many news items of late telling us how much water we should be drinking. I’ve never been a big water drinker. At its best water is colourless, odourless and tasteless, which means I have no use for it. It’s never been a thirst quencher for me.

But as creatures made up mostly of water on a planet that is mostly covered with water, it might be understandable as to why we are preoccupied with the substance. With two thirds of the planet somewhat wet, we still send spacecrafts to other orbs in search of more water. We can’t seem to get enough of the stuff.

This brings me to Dr. Daniel Kalla. He is an emergency room physician in Vancouver who, when he’s not busy saving lives in his chosen profession, he’s scaring us to death with medical thrillers in his creative profession. His latest book, his fifth, is entitled Cold Plagueand, as you can guess by my preamble, it deals with water.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Dan on several occasions on the radio and he’s always been an engaging and fun guest. His previous titles include Pandemic, Resistance, Rage Therapy and Blood Lies.

Let me pause for a moment to tell you a little secret about my interviewing style. When it comes to authors, I never read the book before conducting the interview. I find as a listener when I hear a conversation with two people who have travelled the same literary journey, I feel like someone who has entered a cocktail party and wandered over to a conversation that has already begun. I don’t know what’s being discussed.

I much prefer to engage an author in the discussion of their writing technique, their background and mostly their personality. An author without personality only writes technical manuals and they rarely get interviewed – or read.

Besides leaving the listeners in the dust, the other drawbacks I find to reading before talking is one of two reactions – either I loved the book and will gush profusely about the work, or I hated it and will have to feign interest (the latter is infinitely more difficult because in my mind I would be saying to myself that I’m only spending 20 minutes with this guy but reading his book took days off my life that I’ll never get back!)

Since I talk to a lot of authors, people think I get a lot of reading done. Sadly, that is not the case. I’ve already stated the reason why professionally, but also my schedule is so crammed with work for the nightly radio show and for the television show I host that I don’t get much recreationally reading done either.

But, Cold Plague is a book that I cleared a lot of my schedule for because I couldn’t wait to read it. If I had read Dan Kalla’s latest book before interviewing him it would have been a gush fest. That’s why I’m leaving the gushing to posting here on the blog.

Reading a medical thriller as I continue with my physiotherapy, being manipulated by torture specialists, might be considered ironic, but I found this book compelling. It deals with what could be considered the purest water ever found, hidden for millions of years, miles under the Antarctic ice.

Yes, it’s man’s preoccupation with water again. With water so pristine – untouched by human industrialization – just think of the natural healing powers it must contain; think how rich those who found it could be if it were marketed to the masses.

But is it a coincidence that this therapeutic water is being consumed during the same time as a cluster of new cases of mad cow disease in France? Is the human outbreak of the trifecta of rapid onset symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and schizophrenia somehow connected? And what does that mean for the rest of the world if we as a society can be done in by a simple water bottle? Those are some of the questions you’ll be asking yourself as you take the rollercoaster ride that is Cold Plague, along with the book’s hero, Dr. Noah Haldane of the World Health Organization.

Cold Plague has short, crisp chapters with the excitement building with each page turn. Without spoiling anything, I was halfway through the book, telling myself how much I enjoyed the pace, when I was suddenly rocketed into a different direction that I had not expected and I was now compelled to finish the book as fast as possible to find out what happened. I just couldn’t put it down. The sun was coming up, birds were chirping and I was still reading.

When I talked to Dan I asked him how he comes up with his thrillers. He said that as a doctor, he wrote what scares him. I don’t know if it’s a good idea to know what scares doctors but Cold Plague certainly has a chilling effect. As I said, I don’t drink water, but it got to me.

While I don’t usually like to pigeonhole books into reading seasons, I have to say that Cold Plague could be one of the ultimate reads of the summer. It’s perfect for a lazy day in the backyard, on the porch or even at the beach, when you’re relaxing on a deck chair enjoying nature and hydrating with some nice bottled water . . . on second thought, just enjoy the book, skip the water.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Loin Fruit

I’m a single guy and I don’t have any children. As time goes on it looks less and less likely that I will have offspring. This was not the game plan, just a matter of how the dice have rolled so far. I don’t have anything against children – on the contrary, I adore them and I am constantly surrounded by them as I have been an uncle since I was seven-years-old and those nieces and nephews now have children of their own.

I was the last of five children, so my parents certainly did their part during the post war baby boom. Back when I was a kid our family wasn’t necessarily considered large – on the contrary, in some corners of the Catholic bastion of Quebec our family might have been considered merely average or even small. By today’s standards, however, we would have been thought of as the freaks of the neighbourhood.

A soccer mom goes by in a minivan with three or more kids and tree huggers not only talk about the gas guzzler she’s driving but the oxygen her ankle biters are using up. This is not a view that I share. I say the more the merrier. If you have the means to take care of a massive amount of loin fruit then more power to you.

So it is with great amusement that I see the reaction of the media and some in the general population when conversation focuses on the Duggar family of Arkansas. In case you haven’t heard, it’s just been announced that Michelle Duggar is pregnant – again. And when I say again, I really mean again! She announced, just around Mother’s Day, that she is about to have her 18th child.

The latest edition of the family will be joining seven sisters and ten brothers sometime around New Year’s Day, and I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here when I guess that the newest Duggar will have a first name that starts with the letter “J.” I am confident in making this prognostication because all of its siblings have names starting with “J.”

Let’s go through the roll call. It starts with 20-year-old Josh and ends with nine-month old Jennifer. In between are Jana, 18; John-David, 18; Jill, 16; Jessa, 15; Jinger, 14; Joseph, 13; Josiah, 11; Joy-Anna, 10; Jeremiah, 9; Jedidiah, 9; Jason, 7; James, 6; Justin, 5; Jackson, 3; and Johannah, 2.

As you can surmise by their ages, a few of these kids showed up in tandem, but for the most part we are talking single births here. As Joy Behar from The View was quoted as saying when Michelle was due with number 17, The woman must have graffiti on her uterus.” When I think of Michelle, however, I get the image of the clown car at the circus and in my head I can actually hear that calliope music.

Not only can the Duggars now field two complete baseball teams, Michelle and her husband Jim Bob say they plan to keep having children as long as God wills it. At the age of 41 Michelle still has a few child bearing years left. Think about this startling fact; this woman has been pregnant eleven years of her life! I think it’s also fair to say that she and Jim Bob enjoy sex and are apparently quite good at it. Clearly they are not into birth control because at this point simple pantyhose could be a contraceptive.

Some people are saying that this has to stop, that Michelle should put a cork in or that Jim Bob should have his swimmers taken away from the diving board. But as I see this well-oiled machine of the Arkansas family in their 7,000-square-foot home, where all their children are home-schooled, all I can think of is if it works for them – the children seem to be well adjusted and cared for, and nobody is left out – then what’s the problem? (By the way, you can watch a lot about the Duggar family as they prepare to film another television series for Discovery Health).

If you don’t want to have 18 children, that’s your choice. But if you want to have a boatload of kids and you can find someone who will go along for the ride, then more power to you. However, I am reminded of the joke that comedian Tom Dressen has on his CD entitled That White Boy's Crazy:

In the Guinness Book of Records the woman who has the most children was from Harvey, Illinois. My Mom knew her very well. She was married. Her and her first husband had 11 children and then he died. She married again and had seven more children. Again, her husband died. Again she remarried and this time had five more children. Alas, she finally died. We went to the funeral and as they were lowering her into the ground my mother said, “Well, they’re finally together.” I said, “Her and her first husband?” and she said, “No, her legs!”

On the other side of the scale, I would like to share a story that deals with a sperm bank. There are all kinds of bank robberies, but this one is different. A lab technician who allegedly tried to make a quick buck by stealing samples from the sperm bank where he worked has been arrested after a doctor tipped off police.

The employee allegedly stole the sperm and tried to sell 101 vials of it to a doctor for about $625. The doctor declined and called police, who arrested the lab employee and a relative. According to a police spokesman, “The doctor contacted police because they usually refer patients to infertility clinics for treatment. They are never approached with sperm vials on sale.”

Meanwhile an infertility expert described the alleged theft as "bizarre" because vials that are not properly labelled would be, “worse than useless. Anyone would have a hard time selling sperm vials. They must be stored in a liquid nitrogen container. It doesn't make any sense.”

Police said the two men will be charged with stealing and cheating, and each could face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

What I find utterly fascinating about this story is that the sperm bank in question is located in Mumbai, India. It is one of ten sperm banks in the country. So here’s my question. Why does a country with 1.13 billion people need a sperm bank? They seem to have been doing quite well without them.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

From Crime To Crime

This is the week that I have started physiotherapy to rehabilitate my knee after my recent surgery. I have had to endure this procedure before at the hands of therapists who no doubt would have worked for the Nazis in the 40s. As I grimace through the contortions while they manipulate my limb (ironically, it was an unplanned contortion that got me in this mess in the first place) I take little solace in the fact that I can read while they torture me.

The reading I have chosen to undertake at this time is an excellent collection of short stories written by Dennis Palumbo entitled From Crime to Crime: Mind-Boggling Tales of Mystery and Murder.

I would like to think it was sheer coincidence that I would read such a tome while plotting my revenge on those all too willing to cause me pain. The truth of the matter is I have been eager to read this book for some time.

Dennis Palumbo was recently a guest on our radio show on a couple of occasions; an interesting gentleman who has had more than one interesting career. Formerly, he was a Hollywood screenwriter, working on such television shows as Welcome Back Kotter. He also penned one of my favourite movies of all time, My Favorite Year (a DVD I will now make the point of picking up).

Dennis gave that all up to become a psychotherapist in Hollywood, a profession in a town where there is no shortage of patients. But he hasn’t given up writing completely, thus his latest collection of short stories.

If you are a fan of the old “drawing room mysteries” then you’ll love this collection. There are twelve stories in the book, but the first nine deal with the same core characters; a group of friends who call themselves “The Smart Guys Marching Society,” a collection of amateur sleuths who resemble the author and his closest friends.

There is a therapist, an actor, a journalist and a lawyer, plus rounding out the group is Isaac, an older pseudo relative of the therapist’s wife who has joined the group that meets every Sunday at the therapist’s house for food, guy talk and the solving of the occasional mystery.

Let me throw out a hackneyed term that many use when reviewing a great book. This book is a true page turner! There were times when I had other things that I needed to do yet I found myself saying, “Just let me read one more story!” I honestly couldn’t put it down.

All of the clues for the stories are laid out for you to try and figure out the crime. I felt quite superior when I figured out the “who” in the first story, even though I didn’t get the “how,” and of course I then proceeded to go 0-for-the-rest-of-the-book! Still, it was an enjoyable read all the way through and I even laughed out loud a couple of times, which really confounded my physiotherapist.

As I mentioned, the last three stories have nothing to do with “The Smart Guys Marching Society.” While I did enjoy them, especially one dealing with a young Albert Einstein, I found myself wanting to read more of the exploits of the crime solving quintet, whom I began to think of as real friends that I got to know. Without giving anything away, I think my favourite story was one that dealt with a lovely young lady, a truly unique and bizarre crime and a yacht. That’s all I will say.

Since most of the stories had food involved, I will liken this book to a great restaurant meal. You have the first nine stories which are akin to your main course. After enjoying the experience you then find yourself with a handful of delectable mints which themselves are quite enjoyable, but they don’t take away from your enjoyment of the meal. It’s a restaurant that one anticipates they get invited back to for another meal soon.

I hope there will be more of “The Smart Guys Marching Society” in the future. Heck, I’d even kill to get more stories out of them and right now I’m thinking that physiotherapist would make a pretty good looking corpse.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Evolution of Man

For those of you wondering how my convalescence is coming along after my recent knee surgery, while I have not yet begun physiotherapy, I have reached the point where I can put weight on my leg while still using crutches.

Needless to say this has slowed down my pace considerably as I hobble about like an old man. You’ve no doubt seen these senior citizens. As you watch them, hunched over, moving with a slow gait, you can’t help but wonder if they are suffering from some sort of arthritis or they just don’t know that suspenders are adjustable. (For the record, I have now reached the third evolutionary level when it comes to my current walking style - see accompanying evolutionary picture).

This long period of down time has me wondering about the marvels of the human body and the evolution of man in general. The Stuph File on the radio is often filled with people who have not yet seemed to have fully evolved; people who want to be at one with animals or folks who can’t use reasoning rather than violence to get their point across. As they say on Law and Order, these are their stories.

Let’s start with the violent guy. As children, we are taught to share. It is part of our own personal evolution when we learn that we can’t have everything we want. Yet as we age, there seems to be a point where we start to devolve. We’ve all heard the stories about, if not personally met the crotchety old men who don’t have time for manners, say what they want and are just plain miserable. But rarely does it lead to violence over cake!

An Italian pensioner ended up in hospital after a fight with another man over who would get the last piece of cake at an all-you-can-eat buffet. As 70-year-old Niccolo Bruno grabbed the cake a second pensioner, 62-year-old Alfredo Mancini, stabbed his knife into the unfortunate Bruno at the food counter of a restaurant in Novate Milanese, northern Italy.

Mancini who then tried to hobble out of the store on a walking stick was arrested by a pair of off-duty police and is facing jail on charges of bodily harm. Bruno was taken to hospital but later released after doctors treated the stab wound. It is not known who actually got the last piece of cake, but I’m sure many are now asking for the recipe because that would have to be really good cake!

Okay, let’s move on to our animal loving friends. The next story comes from Moorestown, New Jersey where police officer Robert Melia Jr. was arrested at his own police station for numerous charges of sexual abuse of three underage girls. Also charged in the case was Melia’s girlfriend Heather Lewis.

The 38-year-old was not only in violation of the law because of his dalliance with youngsters; he was in trouble because he couldn’t stop there. This case went from merely sick to truly bizarre because Robert was also charged with four counts of sexual abuse of a cow (and no, we’re not talking about Heather), or as the indictment put it, “specifically by having a cow perform fellatio upon him.”

Let your imagination wonder a little bit on this. One would have to imagine that this form of bovine bestiality cannot be done randomly. Even if you’re in a barn naked a cow isn’t going to just meander over and vacuum out your crotch. Some sort of enticement, perhaps a salt lick, would have to be applied. In other words a lot of thought went into this and that’s the part that frightens me the most. What the heck is going through the mind of this police officer that it has come to this and how does his girlfriend feel about being runner up to a bunch of teenagers and ol’ Bessie? It’s just “udderly” ridiculous!

The final story makes me wonder if we really have evolved enough from the apes. Sometimes we can’t seem to get away from them. An Orlando, Florida woman couldn't believe it when she noticed the man next to her on her flight was hiding a monkey. He snuck it on the plane at Orlando International Airport.

Picture yourself in poor Mikie Mallory’s place. She boards the flight and sits down next to a guy that has what looks like a fanny pack on around his waist, only this one has a larger pouch. As she described it, “He opened it up and was playing with something and I look over at him and I see this hair. And he says, ‘It's my pet monkey.’ And I'm thinking, oh, no it's not!”

Mallory informed flight attendants and the man and his monkey were quickly removed from the Cleveland-bound Continental flight, which was still at the gate, but not before the incident raised questions about how a man smuggles a monkey onto an airplane. “Whether the monkey came through security overtly or covertly, the monkey was screened,” said a Transportation and Security Administration spokesperson. The TSA said it's not illegal to bring pets through security and whether they board a plane is between the passenger and the airline. Continental clearly did not know about the monkey.

Let me see if I’ve got this straight. I have to practically go through a strip search, check my shoes for bombs, lose all hand creams, hair gel, body wash and bottled water, but some guy can get on board with a monkey! And apparently this isn’t a crime! Pets can go through security checkpoints and passengers carry pets through security all the time. This case is more a matter of the man violating Continental Airlines' policies and possibly putting passengers in danger, but he's facing no criminal charges. Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. But hey, we are evolving . . . slowly!

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Know Your Body Parts

How well do you know your mate? Admittedly, I’m a single guy, but if I were in a relationship I think I would know almost everything there is to know physically about my better half (mentally would be a different situation, you never really know someone else’s mind completely).

But there have been a couple of stories in the news lately that has me rethinking the idea of spousal knowledge. The first story comes to us from Malaysia. A Malaysian woman woke up to a real-life nightmare, discovering that the naked man who had slipped into her bed in the middle of the night was a thief, not her husband.

How bold was this thief, you ask? Well, according to a police report filed in the eastern state of Terengganu, the 36-year-old housewife was asleep when the thief, noticing that her husband was fast asleep on the couch, quietly stripped off and lay down beside her. Lord only knows what his motive for doing this was, but I can’t imagine sneaking into some guy’s house, while he’s there, and lying down naked next to his wife! At the very least I would be thinking of the beat-down that was coming my way if I were caught and I’ve always been very cognisant of one of the many guy rules that are etched in stone which is “don’t get into a fight when you’re naked.” It’s on the list right after “no talking at the urinal.”

The dozing woman's suspicions were raised when she spoke to him and his voice sounded strange. She then went to another room and found her husband fast asleep on the couch. That's when she screamed, causing the thief to flee by leaping out the window together with the items he was stealing. One can assume that he also took his clothes with him.

Okay, perhaps I can give the woman the benefit of the doubt in this one. I’m guessing that it was probably dark in the room when the thief hopped into bed, but still, except in bedroom farce comedies, rarely does a stranger get into your bed and you think it’s your mate.

I question the thief more for the obvious reasons I mentioned earlier and also for the fact that in the middle of a robbery he decided it would be a good time to take a nap in someone else’s bed. Even Goldilocks had the good sense to use the bears' house while they were out!

But this is just one case of mistaken identity with someone you should know. There is another recent story that comes to mind, this one from New Mexico.

20-year-old Amanda Moya was at her boyfriend’s Albuquerque home late last month. It was 10:30 on a Wednesday morning and they were watching porn together. Gee, what a romantic way to start off “hump day.” Usually, I’m thinking about breakfast at that time but some people have different priorities.

Anyway, they’re getting into the film when all of a sudden Amanda is livid because she believes that one of the actors on the screen is actually her boyfriend. Does she stop to ask him if he’s ever done porn? No, she just starts chasing him around the house with a knife.

The victim, whose name was not released, said to the 911 operator, “She almost shanked me and everything. She put the knife right under my throat.” The boyfriend, wearing only a pair of shorts, ran outside and down the road, still talking to the emergency service operator on his mobile phone. He said Moya had already stabbed him in the face and bitten him on his chest. The dispatcher told the victim to keep running and try to get inside a store. He finally managed to flag down a deputy who was responding to his distress call.

Deputies arrested the Glenn Close wannabe and charged her with aggravated assault and aggravated battery. As if this wasn’t enough it gets even more bizarre. She was also charged with child abuse because deputies say she left her eight-month-old boy alone in the home while she chased her boyfriend down the road. And the couple shouldn’t have been near each other. The boyfriend was quoted as saying, “She already has a battery of charges against her. She’s not even supposed to be around me.”

In case I haven’t stated the obvious point, no, it wasn’t the boyfriend in the movie. She just couldn’t tell the difference between her boyfriend and a porn star. This is probably something that the boyfriend will now be bragging about for years to come. Still, if you can’t recognize someone you have been intimate with then you’ve probably only been intimate with them by the hour.

And while we’re on the topic of professionals, the news out of Amsterdam, where prostitution was legalized in 2000, is always fun. Clients in the Netherlands of the world’s second oldest profession may soon need to check for a sex licence. (Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but it is the world’s second oldest profession. The world’s oldest profession is farming. Remember, before, after and sometimes even during sex, a guy’s thinking about food. It’s only when he’s eating that he’s only thinking about sex.)

The Dutch cabinet said it wanted to crack down harder on the country's sex industry, in particular unlicensed sex operators, as part of efforts to combat human trafficking. According to a government statement, "That is why the cabinet wants to make it an offence to use the services of a sex operator without a licence or a non-registered independent prostitute."

I can only imagine what is involved in getting a sex license. Is it like getting a driver’s license? Is there a written test and a road test? What do you have to do to earn a learner’s permit? Perhaps it’s just a simple case of knowing all the right body parts.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bizarro: Comic Genius!

A while back I wrote a post about one of my favourite writers, Chuck Lorre, (Chuck Lorre - Now There's A Writer!) who is the creative mind behind the two hit television series, Two & A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. I’m sure if you were to just simply hold his computer keyboard upside down and shake it, what would fall out would still be funnier than what most people write.

Well let me tell you about another comic genius, both literally and figuratively. Dan Piraro is the man behind the wildly popular comic strip Bizarro.

Oh sure you’ve chuckled at his work before and perhaps you have even noted the symphony of guffaws that sometimes peppers its way through a commuter train as various people hit upon his twisted comic at different times along the journey.

I’m sure on occasion, as you simultaneously laughed and shook your head at his work, you have quizzically asked yourself, “What kind of mind comes up with this stuff on a regular basis?”

We have been lucky enough to have Dan on our radio show on a couple of occasions, so I’ve had the chance to ask that question, but you have the same opportunity by visiting Dan’s blog. The great thing about his blog is not only do you get to see his work, but in many cases, you get a brief explanation as to the origin and thought process that accompanies his genius (and usually in his explanation, more genius spews out!)

While Dan and I might not see eye to eye on everything – he’s a vegan, I’m a raging carnivore (I have never even eaten a salad, I don’t graze when I dine) – the one thing you can’t deny is this man is really twistedly funny. I am often jealous of people with such talent so if you hear stories of either Dan Piraro or Chuck Lorre just simply disappearing one day, you can safely say that I might be the prime suspect.

In the meantime, you have got to check out Dan’s blog and enjoy his thoughts on a regular basis. It’s the kind of humour that the world desperately needs more of these days.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Lord Works (And Appears) In Mysterious Ways

Whether you are religious or not you have to be aware of the fact that religious icons, at least in the Christian faith, have been popping up everywhere lately. As I remember from Sunday School, the teachers used to say that God was everywhere. Who would have thought that the appearances would be so wide reaching?

Judging from various stories in the news lately, either Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary have a knack at showing up in the most unusual of places. In the past these “appearances” would draw crowds from far and wide; believers who wish to pay their respects. The person whose property the Lord chose to visit would welcome the flock with open arms.

Today, commerce is involved and deities have been showing up in food. You may remember back in 2004 when a grilled cheese sandwich bearing the image of the Virgin Mary sold for $28,000 on eBay.

It was the GoldenPalace online casino that bought the edible Madonna. They were also the same folks who purchased for $10,600 the pretzel that looks like the Virgin Mary cradling the infant Jesus; and they coughed up a measly $232.50 for the chicken breast that resembles the visage of the late Pope John Paul II. It’s all righteously yummy goodness! (And for the record, since we are talking miracles, chicken is truly the miracle food, regardless of what PETA says. It’s one of the only things that we eat before it’s born and after it’s dead!)

Well, there is a lot more food out there. Just this month, in Marion County, Florida, Pastor Renee Brewster found the good Lord in a potato. Pastor Brewster reluctantly started making potato salad for church but was not entirely comfortable doing it, since it was usually the job of a more potato savvy underling.

Despite the fact that we still live in a world with wars, flood and famine, it is not unusual for people to request help from the Lord for all matter of mundane tasks, from winning a sporting event to finding a parking spot, so why not ask for a sign from the Almighty to get you out of making potato salad?

In her own words Pastor Brewster said, “I was hesitant about making the potato salad because Sister Frankie makes the potato salad at church and I said, ‘Lord, if it’s not for me to make potato salad then send me a sign.’”

Right on cue “The Big Guy” gave her that sign as she cut the potato in half and discovered it looked rotten. She only took a second look after her 10-year-old granddaughter said she saw an image of Jesus Christ on the Cross in the split potato. On closer inspection, she saw the image, as well.

She froze the potato heart and used the rest to make the salad, which was served during the weekly rescue mission. Said Brewster, "I just want people to know God is still as real today as he was back then and he can show up anytime he gets ready."

Let it be known that even though she asked for a sign and actually got a sign from God, Pastor Brewster still had to make the potato salad, so the sign didn’t get her out of the task. What I would like to know is where Sister Frankie was during all of this?

Let’s get away from the food for awhile because we can spend all day talking about edible appearances. The face of Jesus has also appeared on screen doors, on tree trunks, on dirty windows and on expressway ramps, just to name a few locations. I hasten to add that when I say “the face of Jesus,” I’m going with the standard images that we have all seen depicted of him in stain glass and on religious merchandise. Considering the region of the world that Jesus hailed from, I’m not willing to buy the fact that he would look like Ted Nugent. But I digress.

My two favourite religious sightings, after the grilled cheese, both came last month. The first one was in an ultrasound in Ohio. Monet Sledge was in preparation for her first baby, but instead of seeing the image of an infant, she saw something else along with her baby girl – she saw Jesus, with arms stretched out, on the cross.

Monet showed the picture to her sister Tequoia Smith, a married mother of four who has seen her share of ultrasounds. Smith was expecting to see little body parts, like a face, arms and legs, but instead she too saw the image of Jesus on the cross, crown of thorns and all. Despite this revelation, or perhaps because of it, doctors say the baby is perfectly healthy and due August 12th.

Some people are encouraging the mom to sell the image on eBay, but she has not decided whether or not the image is for sale just yet. For now she is just embracing the picture as a positive message from above.

"People say maybe my baby is gonna be blessed and maybe it is a good sign," said Sledge. "I don't know. I've done wrong in my life, maybe he's forgiven me early."

Not so fast Monet! A four pointed cross and a crown of thorns . . . that could be a painful birth. Perhaps you should pray for a caesarean!

But what I consider the oddest religious sighting of late is this one. A Monterey, California man says he can see the image of the Virgin Mary in his leg after a motorcycle accident. Marc Lipton said he was riding his motorcycle when he lost control and slid about 50 feet along the road. Lipton wasn't wearing leather chaps at the time because he was close to home.

Lipton said he believes the Virgin Mary protected him from further injury when the motorcycle slid out from underneath him. Now, the Roman Catholic Church has very strict guidelines regarding what is deemed an official sighting of the Virgin Mary, so we are still awaiting word from the Diocese of Monterey who will investigate Lipton's leg as a legitimate apparition.

So we have seen either Christ or Mary on all sorts of food, all sorts of buildings, various structures and now . . . a scab! The Lord really does work in mysterious ways. Heaven help us all.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Home, Sweet Home

As I continue to convalesce after my knee surgery, I have been pondering the amount of time that I must now spend at home. I don’t get to go out anymore except to doctor’s appointments as I still cannot put any weight on my right leg. Going up and down stairs is a royal pain – I have been reduced to travelling the stairs in my house much the same way Linda Blair did in The Exorcist.

Lucky for me, I truly, truly love my house. Purchased only three years ago I've stated from day one that this was the place I was going to be carried from feet first. I can literally spend every waking moment in my house, so the idea of going stir crazy is not even an issue.

Sadly, there are many people who either don’t like their homes as much, or don’t get to enjoy it the way they would like to. The reasons stem from structural damage to the residence, the neighbours they might have, or even the people they live with. I have several recent stories culled from the radio show to highlight these points.

There is a guy in Baldwin, Pennsylvania who probably enjoys his house. Too bad lightning keeps hitting it. This poor guy was sitting at home reading a book when lightning tore through the chimney. Luckily a neighbour came to the rescue and got him out from the subsequent fire. The house was built by the man’s father. When “conductor boy” was a kid, the house was also struck by lightning. Firefighters arrived and were able to put out the flames, but I’m almost certain if they listened closely to the heavens they might have heard God say, “Damn, missed again!”

Sometimes who you live with can cause some trouble on the home front. On the show we have had our share of stories dealing with people who just can’t seem to let go of the items in their houses. Knick knacks they hold onto too long, stacks of old newspapers, hundreds of cats, tacky mementos, even the occasional dead relative.

In Detroit, police said they believe an elderly woman has been living with the corpse of her dead sister on her kitchen floor – possibly for as long as the last three years. On the radio we have had a plethora of stories with dead relatives in the house. They were usually stashed in their rooms, in the cellar, in a freezer, or under the floor boards, but never, ever just lying around on the kitchen floor for about a thousand days!

Investigators said the corpse was partially mummified and portions of the body appeared to have been eaten by a dog and cat living at the residence. Police made a visit to the woman’s home after a neighbour phoned to say she had not seen the deceased woman for a long time.

Let’s stop here for a moment. It’s sad to admit that in my case I probably couldn’t pick my own neighbours out of a line up. I just don’t know them. But if I were to notice my neighbours, I think I would be more aware of the fact that I hadn’t seen one for three years! At what point over a third of a decade do you decide to act on a hunch that someone might be missing?

I’m also guessing that twisted sister didn’t entertain too much. It’s difficult to have the girls over for a game of canasta at the kitchen table when your heel keeps digging into that funky aromatic foot rest on the floor.

Authorities took the old lady to a crisis centre for treatment and said she appeared to be suffering from mental problems. APPEARED TO BE?!?! That’s like telling Noah to expect a light shower! Needless to say, this woman won’t be enjoying her home anymore, and the real estate agent is going to have a hard time explaining the previous owner.

Our last story deals with a homeowner who probably liked his home too. Unfortunately it’s now missing! Yuri Konstantinov is a 50-year-old Russian from the Astrakhan Region. He returned from holiday to find his entire two-storey house had been stolen by a neighbour. The home had been taken down brick by brick and all the contents sold – even the kitchen sink! Just the foundations were left. It seems kind of pointless to go to the trouble of locking your door, only to find that even your door is gone when you return.

According to authorities, the neighbour decided to take it away piece by piece, dismantling it for construction materials. A police spokesman said, "This is not the first such case we have come across, and in remote areas it is considered normal by some people."

Just what kind of place are you living at if it’s considered normal for an entire house to disappear? What kind of neighbours do these people have? Perhaps when I get better and can leave my house again I should pay a little more attention to my neighbours. Just in case my house disappears, I may indeed have to pick one of them out of a line up.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Can You Always Trust Your Doctor?

As I mentioned in a previous post (Out On A Limb) I was due to have leg surgery to repair some damaged tendons above the right knee. The repair was going to require cadaver tendons which the doctors assured me they were going to find.

Well, I was all prepared for the surgery on the scheduled day but it had to be cancelled due to the lack of a cooperative cadaver. I had mentioned to the doctors that I was willing to procure my own cadaver or at the very least give them a list of names but they weren’t going for it.

So while I was waiting I kept hearing story after story of questionable medical practices. Not the kind of information you want to gather just before you go under the knife. Stories, like this one:

Doctors in New Zealand lost a man’s false teeth during his back surgery but found them four days later — stuck in his throat. The 81-year-old entered the hospital and his upper dentures were removed before the operation. But somehow the false teeth got back into the heavily sedated man’s mouth, where they were lodged for four days! Didn’t anybody hear this guy whistle while he breathed?

After the operation, the patient complained of extreme pain, nurses noticed his voice was husky and he couldn’t eat very much. Doctors put a laryngoscope down his throat, found the missing denture plate and removed the teeth. Experts said a cyst in the center of the man’s spinal cord had pushed on his brain stem, damaging the parts responsible for swallowing and the feeling in the back of his mouth. It’s never good when you need a laryngoscope to see someone’s smile.

Then there was the story of the wrong kidney. Doctors at Methodist Hospital in Minnesota were taking out a cancerous kidney from a patient, but they only realised they took out the wrong kidney when a hospital pathologist examined the orphaned organ a day after the patient's surgery, and evidently found no trace of cancer.

Hospital officials would not talk about the next steps for this patient, but there are several options depending where the cancer is located in the remaining kidney. They can either treat the remaining kidney for cancer or wait for a transplant. It’s never good when you go into the hospital with two kidneys and come out with none.

According to Kathleen Harder, a University of Minnesota researcher who studies medical errors, said mistakes of this magnitude are rare but do happen. "They remove the wrong ovary, take off the wrong leg," she said. Many hospitals have stepped up efforts to catch errors in the operating room. But as in this case, she noted, the problem can occur long before the operation begins. "It's wrong in the chart ... and that sets it up for a train wreck."

So you can imagine my trepidation when I got the call and was told that someone else’s body parts were chilling in a vat waiting for me. I immediately thought of all the things that could go wrong. They could operate on the wrong knee (I covered that one by marking the right knee “you are here”); I could have an unforeseen reaction to the anaesthesia and either die or be drooling in a cup for the next 40 years (they don’t even make you count backwards anymore, it’s just plop on the mask and lights out); or everything could go smoothly but my leg would have a mind of its own like Peter Seller’s hand in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

I also thought of all the things I could do if they lopped off the leg. I could become an iguana smuggler. No, really! Just this past week a jury acquitted a man of smuggling endangered iguanas in his hollowed-out prosthetic leg but convicted him of concealing and possessing the endangered species.

The jury rejected charges that Jereme James stole Fiji Island banded iguanas while visiting the South Pacific in September 2002. The neon-green-striped iguana is an endangered species, prosecutors said.

However, James faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison when sentenced in July. During an undercover probe, James told investigators he had sold three iguanas for $32,000. Four iguanas were seized when a search warrant was served at his house in April. If you’re going to have a hollow leg, you might as well put it to good use, I say.

Anyway, much to my relief, I woke up from the surgery and felt sufficient pain in my right leg to know that they must have been around the correct general area. There wasn’t much time to concern myself with the pain as hospital stays aren’t what they used to be. They wanted me out of the building. When did we get to a point where your stay for major surgery became shorter than the stay your pants has at the dry cleaners?

They gave me a list of things that I can and cannot do, such as not putting any weight whatsoever on my right leg, yet they don’t supply crutches for you to leave the building. They just wheel you out of the hospital and wave at you like the Clampetts at the end of each episode of The Beverly Hillbillies.

Thank God that my best friend Mario had everything covered. (Okay, there are too many posts lately where I’m praising Mario. Either he’ll soon be depicted in stain glass somewhere or he’ll be running around in a cape and tights!)

Mario got me gently placed into his vehicle, stretched over two rows of seats and cleared it with the City of Montreal to fill all the potholes between the hospital and my house so the ride wouldn’t be too jarring. Isn’t he a saint? He’s also staying with me for several days while his girlfriend is at home trying to figure out how to take out the garbage. I don’t know what I did to deserve this treatment, but when all is said and done, I think I’m going to save my money and buy Mario a small Caribbean island.

So as I sit here in complete and utter pain (no painkillers for me, they are for the weak), I look forward to the day when I can tap dance, run a marathon or compete in Olympic hurdles. I didn’t do any of these things before (okay, maybe a little tap) but who knows whose tendons I have and what they were capable of doing. I’m just looking forward to the day when peeing doesn’t involve a balancing act.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sniffing out Zero Tolerance

One thing that truly annoys me in a lot of the “Stuph File” stories that I share on the air is the idea of some schools, primarily in the United States, that have a zero tolerance policy so unbending, it stifles the creative juices and growth of the very students it purports to protect.

Stories like the ones dealing with first graders who are expelled because their mothers packed a plastic knife in their lunch so they could butter their bread. In this post 9/11 world I can still cut my miniscule mystery meat on an international flight with plastic utensils, but a six-year-old is about to drive his entire campus into lockdown because Mommy thought he might like to spread his peanut butter with something other than his index finger (actually, other zero tolerance laws that include potential deadly food allergies, probably rates the peanut butter more dangerous than the knife!)

Let’s not forget the little perverts who are out there; overly affectionate seven-year-olds who for life will be deemed as sexual harassers on their official files because they kissed another girl on the cheek. You think I’m making this up? Last year, a boy in North Carolina was separated from his class for a day and kept from an ice cream party as punishment for kissing a classmate (I’m guessing he won’t be dating much in the future – and is destined for extensive therapy). The case drew worldwide attention – and ridicule. So you can’t bring anything to school, you can’t kiss anyone and heaven forbid should you sniff something!

Baby boomers out there who went to school in the 60s and 70s might have fond memories of “test day” in class. This was when the teacher would bring in newly minted sheets of paper, fresh off the Gestetner machine. Oh, the aroma was infectious! You would spend the first few moments sniffing your test before getting down to business and not once did any of the students slip into hallucinogenic trances or off into a coma. If these machines were around today most students and a few teachers would have criminal records.

The zero tolerance crowd must be ecstatic that the Gestetner era has gone the way of bathtub gin and schools are safe once again, now that the aromatic monkey is off the kids’ back. But wait; there is another scourge on the horizon as witnessed in a story this week from Colorado.

A school district there is defending its decision to punish a third grader for sniffing a Sharpie marker. Eight-year-old Eathan Harris was originally suspended from Harris Park Elementary School for three days. Brain-dead principal, Chris Benisch, reduced the suspension to one day after complaints from Harris' parents.

Little Eathan used a black Sharpie marker to colour a small area on the sleeve of his sweatshirt. A teacher sent him to the principal when she noticed him smelling the marker and his clothing. "It smelled good," Harris said. "They told me that's wrong."

Eathan's father, John Harris, says the school overreacted for treating Eathan as if he was huffing, or inhaling, marker fumes. "I think it's outlandish," John Harris said. "It's ridiculous." Eathan shyly shook his head "no" when a reporter asked if he knew about "huffing."

The brain-dead principal stands by his decision to suspend Eathan, saying it sends a clear message about substance abuse. "This is really, really, seriously dangerous," Benisch said. In his letter suspending the child, Benisch wrote that smelling the marker fumes could cause the boy to "become intoxicated."

For those of you who may be on the fence with this issue, I know what you’re thinking. Perhaps there is something to this and you can get high from a magic marker. Maybe that’s where the word “magic” comes from. Well, a toxicologist with the Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center says that claim is nearly impossible. Dr. Eric Lavonas says non-toxic markers like Sharpies, while pungent smelling, cannot be used to get high. "I don't know whether it would be possible for a real overachiever to figure out a way to get high off them," Lavonas said. "But in regular use, it's just not something that's going to happen. If you went to Costco and bought 50 bags of Sharpies and did something to them, maybe there's a way to get creative and make it happen."

Surely the brain-dead principal would listen to the educated words of a toxicologist, but no, the school district leaders were unfazed by the poison control center's medical opinion. "Principals make hundreds of decisions everyday based on our best judgment. And in that time, smelling that marker, I felt like, 'Wow, that's a very serious marker,'" Benisch said. It makes you wonder what this clown was sniffing!

Instead of common sense prevailing here the brain-dead principal has gone to an even further extreme, promising to draw an even clearer line on markers. He has purged every permanent marker from the building. Now, isn’t that the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard? Perhaps Eathan’s parents should sue – in a joint case with the Sharpie company.

Meanwhile, Eathan Harris says he's happy to be back in school after his suspension, but he did confide he worried the school's disciplinary action might hurt his dream of one day becoming a professional football player. Wait Eathan. When you get to that point, you’ll have a whole host of substances that you can deal with. Until then, let’s hope your mother doesn’t use dryer sheets on your clothes, or the teacher might have to put you in the corner naked with nothing to sniff.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Old Soldiers Never Die . . .

There is the saying, “they don’t make them like they used to.” It usually comes up when someone from a previous generation reminisces about the good old days when a loaf of bread was just a nickel.

I never thought that I would be one of the folks to dredge up that old chestnut, but here I am. The irony, however, is I’m not even talking about something from my generation, but rather from the one that preceded me.

For the last couple of weeks my best buddy, Mario, and I have been watching the phenomenal HBO series Band of Brothers. I had seen it before when it originally aired on cable and I’ve always maintained that it is one of the classiest miniseries depicting a great story of true heroism during some of the darkest days of World War II. I had always vowed to get the DVD version and this past Christmas it was my gift to me.

Mario had never seen it but I convinced him, as I try to convince everyone, of the value of watching the full ten hours so over a period of a couple of weekends we made it a male bonding exercise as we watched the ravages of war.

When watching this story unfold, learning about the lives, training and battle scars of the men of “Easy Company,” from the 101st Airborne, one thing was painfully clear. This was a special breed of men, but not a rare breed for the times. I am reminded of the recent Tom Brokaw book entitled The Greatest Generationwhich chronicles this time period. These were guys who, hardened by the depression, were polished into the tough diamonds in the rough, ready for some of the harshest battle situations modern man had seen.

Throughout the series Mario and I concurred that our generation isn’t quite up to the task that they went through. It was a different era and these men were moulded by their times. Oh sure, we have some strong individuals today, especially in our military, but not to the numbers that once were. Today these men are the exception, not the rule. Collectively our generation is a little soft, even the tough ones like Mario, who is a police officer.

But where are these men today? Even in their old age they are still tough as nails. I am reminded of this because of a couple of stories that appeared in the news within the last month. Both stories deal with veterans – men who are perhaps slowed by age, but who still have the same sense of right and wrong. Men that you really shouldn’t mess with, but for some reason there are dolts from the younger generation who are just too slow to realize this valuable point.

For instance, there is a guy in North Texas named James Pickett. He’s 80-years-old, a World War II veteran, former fighter and a lifelong John Wayne fan. Back in February he was confronted by two armed brothers inside his home on a Saturday night.

Police believe the siblings, joined at the hip by DNA and a few shared brain cells, went to Pickett’s home with the intent to rob him and even possibly kill him, but Pickett was having none of that.

When his doorbell rang and he opened it, the two brothers, Paul and Holden Perry, barged inside. Pickett said, “He just come through that door stabbing and beating.”

However, just before he went to answer the door, Pickett had placed a pistol into his pocket. The Perry brothers stabbed and beat – Pickett simply shot. The brothers ran, but didn't get far before calling an ambulance. One of the bullets just missed Paul Perry's spine.

A neighbour of Pickett called him a hero. Pickett’s response was, “Well, I ain't got no business being a hero, by no means.” Pickett might not know a double negative but he certainly knows how to defend himself.

Both brothers face assault, burglary and robbery charges. Deputies assured Pickett they aren't likely to get out of jail anytime soon. However, he didn't seem that worried. “I think I'm a ten times better shot than he is,” he said. “... But, they best not come back.”

Like his hero John Wayne, that’s what you call true grit! Perhaps this is something the younger generation knows nothing about, but it’s a lesson the Perry brothers won’t soon forget.

Another youngster who won’t forget his valuable lesson is a lad in his mid teens in Santa Rosa, California. In late March he thought it might be a good idea to try to rob a former U.S. Army paratrooper . . . yes a former member of the 101st Airborne.

81-year old Donald Clouston was walking with a grocery bag in each arm and $100 in his pocket when the boy approached him with a large knife. The kid said, “Old man, give me your wallet or I'll cut you.”

In what has to be considered fair warning Donald told the boy he was a former paratrooper who fought in three wars and had been threatened with much bigger knives and bayonets. The former Staff Sergeant then put his bags on the ground and told the boy that if he stepped closer he would be sorry. The boy stepped closer . . . he was sorry.

Donald kicked him in the groin, knocking him to the sidewalk, then while down he also kicked him in the teeth. While the delinquent was doubled over contemplating the hard lesson he just learned Donald calmly picked up his grocery bags and walked home. He reported the attempted robbery to police 45 minutes later.

The cops are still looking for the kid, described only as 15 or 16 years old, and are asking for help from the public. I suggest they look for someone who’s not smiling and has a bag of frozen peas on his crotch.

Perhaps these kids should just stay home and watch the DVD of Band of Brothers. They’ll learn about dedication, camaraderie, battling through hardships, and yes, true grit. And they’ll also learn to respect older men who knew the meaning of freedom and fighting for their rights, who could drop them like a ton of bricks.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.