Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year's

New Year's sometimes puzzles me. For example, I've never been sure why there is an apostrophe between Year and s.

Furthermore, I've never understood why dropping that ball in Times Square officially starts the next, or new, year. For that matter, why is there no apostrophe between the Time and the s? Huh?

Pay attention. Here comes an awkward segue.

Nor can I understand why the New York Times would ruin this happy season by announcing they have hired that pompous wingnut Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard for op-ed pieces. Pestilence followed by disease. However, maybe that's a new place to insert unused apostrophes. Between Kristol and his s.

Note to readers: now that I got that out of my craw, we shift back to New Year's.

The NYT shines best when it lets writers editorialize about horses. No, not the horse Bill Kristol rode in on. I'm talking about Verlyn Klinkenborg's thoughtful opinion piece today. She writes a sensitive piece about the rhythms of rural life, of horses and of New Year's. She has a beautiful touch, beautiful contact with that reality. It's only a few paragraphs.

Happy New Year's with or without the apostrophe.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A new kind of Christmas

For the past four days, the Mystery Woman has been feeding about 20 of us, even though some of us brayed like jackasses. Come to think of it, seven of our crowd are certifiable jackasses.

We spent the holidays tending to my daughter's menagerie while she and her husband played Christmas in Baton Rouge with his relatives. That meant we had to feed and, at times, medicate three horses, seven donkeys, four sheep, seven dogs (five resident, one foster and one visitor) and six real people.

Note: we are all city people. Or were.

The learning curve made Mt. Everest look like a molehill but everybody pitched in with good cheer. High adventure on the edge of the Texas Hill Country.

The uncle from Seattle donned his rubber boots and mucked the horses like a professional shoveler. Well, he was born in Kingsville but moved out of state when he was a mere child.

Speaking of child, our resident child was officially in charge of feeding the sheep, which were almost as tall as she. The kid did a good job except she does have a better understanding of "fight or flight" because the sheep could get too, too close.

Somehow the mother from Miami managed to let Santa know we were at the ranch. But she had to assemble the last of the toys by her lonesome because the Mystery Woman was damned tired of all that fresh air and fell asleep. Me, too.

Our 87-year-old matriarch took it all in without breaking stride. She has seen Christmas before. But she did grin a whole lot. The grin was infectious.

One of mine managed to find his sister's ranch. He got here during a lull in the critter chores. When he left, it was with only some stuff on his shoes. And some laughter in his heart.

I was the official ice-breaker. No, seriously. Since I wake early, my job was to break through the ice in the horse troughs. And to make sure the inside dogs got outside in a hurry.

Throughout it all, the Mystery Woman maintained a serene approach handed down from her ancestors. We ate good.

And I think we have this Manger Thing down pat.

Hope you are having good holidays, too.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Luddites of the world -- UNITE!

My college buddy and long-time business partner Sam Kinch, Jr. is a helluva political writer. But when it comes to any kind of machine, he is a Luddite PhD. And I'm not far above in the technological food chain.

Herewith is today's email exchange between us:

An email arrived from Kinch. The subject matter was "two really good cartoons" but with no attachments

"No attachments," I wrote back.

Some time passed.

Then another email from Kinch saying "You'll just have to take my word for it. They were really good cartoons."

So I wrote him back, "Which one did you like best?"

(We've been doing this for nearly 50 years.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

High season for Medicare madness

This is grim, but the story needs to be told. Writing in the Science section of the NY Times this week, Jan Hoffman describes the deadly descent of seniors caught up in the "high season of Medicare madness."

"A few are floundering inside “the doughnut hole,” the coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug plans, when recipients must pay full cost for medications. As a result, some choose medicine over food; others, food over medicine. Some choose their spouse’s medication over their own. Some split prescriptions with friends or cadge samples from their doctors. Their blood pressure and cholesterol levels are rising; complications from untreated diabetes mount."

This is happening in America. In NY city and throughout the nation.

A fortunate few seniors land at the desk of Frederic Riccardi, described as an attack dog disguised as a health insurance counselor for the Medicare Rights Center.

Read the story.

Makes you wonder what AARP is doing for its 38 million members -- other than selling them insurance.

Monday, December 17, 2007

AARP conflict of interest?

Here we go again. The third year of Medicare prescription drug coverage is kicking off. Note: there have been significant changes.

And once again, we are not in control of our own lives. Already three million older Americans are hitting the gap this year. The what? You know, doughnut hole. The what?

We outnumber the bastards. There are three million of us and only a handful of them. Why don't we organize! Unite! Make T-shirts and wave placards!

We could call ourselves AARP. And when the drug companies offer goofy legislation and self-rewarding regulations in Washington, we can pretend we are the defenders of our 38,000,000 members. That's not a typo. AARP has 38 million members, thereabouts.

So, explain to me again how it is that with 38 million members, AARP let this Part D program get passed? Worse, how is it that the insurance companies this go-round have re-written the rules because the original plan didn't make them enough money!

Oh yes. I forgot. AARP sells insurance.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Baseball steroid scandal

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Quirky little tidbits...

The lines are already getting long at Post Office. I went twice last week. The first time, I ran out of patience and left. The pick-a-number system revealed too many people ahead of me. However, being a smart male, I got there early the next trip, 8:15. This time there were eleven folks ahead of me. Ten were male. Seven of those ten were wearing pants with elastic waistbands. My people!

Don't expect much from me for Christmas. Several years back, I figured I was spending way too much time searching for presents that were just right. To hell with that. My eureka moment came when I realized everyone on my list can always use another clock. Besides, at my age, time is the most precious gift I can give. This weekend, I came face to face with the danger in this quaint approach. More than 20 clocks were sitting on the table with new batteries and the price tags removed, just waiting to be wrapped. Twenty. Then one of the clock alarms started ringing...

Among the reasons I cannot vote for Mitt Romney, what with all the domestic spying authorized under the Bush administration, I don't want the Mormon missionaries to know where I live.

Why can't cops shoot to wound rather than kill? Because, that's why. In New York, policemen hit their intended target only 43% of the time when they are within six feet of the bad guy. Outside six feet, the percentage plummets. So, at the academy, they teach shoot to stop the threat.

Say adieu to the American entree. People just don't want 17 bites of all that protein anymore. Enter sushi, tapas and dim sum. Seventeen bites?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Christmas present touts -- special books

Quickly, while there's still time to shop, here are touts for the men in your life, and the little children. Or do I repeat myself?

If the guy likes baseball, football or wrasslin' (and who doesn't?) give him a copy of "Play by Play" by my old buddy, Bill Mercer. Full disclosure: Mercer is one of the co-authors of our book, "When the News Went Live" which is about being reporters covering the JFK assassination.

Mercer is a member of the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He's been at broadcasting sports before Marconi was born. Early on, Mercer re-created the ball games using his imagination, ticker tape from Western Union and a beer or two. The book is both a history of sports and of broadcasting. He writes good, too.

Now, for the kids. Remember the pitiful pop-up books of your childhood? Well, forget those. The technology has changed. In dramatic ways. Even adults are captivated today's pop-up books. The pages come alive with intricate movement, great color and a lot of expensive hand work.

Caution: if your kid is too young, the book will be a goner in a hurry. Having said that, here are two books that I highly recommend:

"The Night Before Christmas," a pop-up by Robert Sabuda, is the most amazing book I've ever seen. Open a page, any page, and the characters come to life. Beautiful, intricate, expensive. But I repeat myself.

"The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," a pop-up by L. Frank Baum and Robert Sabuda. You won't believe what the pop-up characters do and I cannot do justice in writing about the magic. Each two-page spread is a miracle of art and motion unfolding together.

We have each of these books. And they aren't leaving the house.

National Politics

News on Aging

Geriatric Medicine News

Senior Health Insurance News

Social Security & Medicare News

Posts From Other Geezer Blogs