In 2015 and so far in 2016, toddlers have shot and killed more people in America than foreign terrorists (see here, here, and here). Insane, right? And what are we doing about it? Not surprisingly, the lefties would have you believe that this is about too easy access to over 300,000,000 firearms in the hands of private citizens. Typical. Once again, their knee-jerk reaction is to take away my god-given, constitutionally-guaranteed right to own an arsenal, no questions asked. Clearly they don't understand the root cause of this problem.
I had a brain MRI yesterday. It made me think of Ted Cruz. I hate Ted Cruz. So thinking of him wasn't pleasant. And it's my daughter's fault. Come with me on a brief journey as I explain why my daughter is responsible for making me think of Ted Cruz during a brain MRI.
Let me start with Mr. Cruz. I've never met him but I'm quite sure I hate him. I believe he is a misogynistic (see here), racist (see here and here), bigoted (see here) ideologue who would, given the opportunity, turn the United States into a theocracy. He is a political Voldemort, developed by central casting to be the perfect villain.
Knowing how I feel about him, my daughter sometimes shares Ted Cruz internet gold with me. Last week she shared the meme pictured below. It resonated with me and I laughed out loud. That's the first part of this little journey.
Here's the second part.
If you've ever had an MRI, you know that they're loud. (If you want to know why, click here.) At 125 decibels they're louder than a rock concert so you get ear protection. Typically you'll have a choice between ear plugs and headphones. With headphones you can also select music. I always go for the headphones and usually request a Pink Floyd or classic rock Pandora station. This time I requested classic rock.
They loaded me in the machine, got my IV ready, put my headphones on, left the room, and turned on the music. Something from Vivaldi's Four Seasons washed over me. Now don't get me wrong, I like classical music but it's not what I ordered.
And then I thought of Ted Cruz. Thanks, Brooke.
Since being diagnosed I've received quite a few headlines for how I should eat: "Juice! It will cleanse you!" or "Protein! Now more than ever!" or "Go vegan! You'll love it!." Cannabis oil is often suggested as a food additive.
To be clear, I'm not complaining about that advice. In fact, I really appreciate it. All of it comes from terrific people with nothing but my best interests at heart, and for that I'm grateful What I believe, however, is that the best use of "Now more than ever" is to follow it with "Eat what you like!" Because, who knows?
The eating advice I choose to follow is that of my oncological nutritionist, not because I'm sure she's right but because I like what she says. Simply eat lots of fruits and vegetables, make sure you get enough protein (and yes, some red meat is okay), and don't lose weight.
That's a diet I can live with.
For two weeks in August, 2015, I had whole brain radiation therapy. Ten days of being locked to a table for seven-minute sessions intended to slow or stop the growth of the metastatic cancer in my brain. During treatments I saw blue lights and smelled chlorine, neither of which were in the room, a testament to the power of the machine and the mysteries of the brain..
Although we didn't know at the time how effective the radiation would be in fighting the disease, I was told there was a 50% chance it would affect my memory recall, a 20% chance my verbal communication, and 100% chance I would lose my hair.
Clearly, losing my hair is small potatoes in this battle. But about five weeks later, when a single hair brush stroke took out a fist-sized clump of hair and the shower drain clogged the moment I stepped in, I felt vulnerable.
For the first time, my disease had come out. No longer hidden in my lungs or lymph nodes or brain, it was visible for anyone to see. I really do have this thing, don't I? Over the next few days my hair continued to leave me, eventually reduced to islands that refused to be bridged by comb-overs or other manipulations. I had the rest buzz cut and felt neater but the cold wind on my exposed scalp reminded me of my disease.
Despite the feelings of vulnerability, I felt a stronger sense of belonging on my next visit to Dana-Farber. Now wearing my disease openly, I felt a deeper kinship to my fellow warriors. A Band of Bald Brothers. And Sisters. And we exchanged elevator glances that confirmed our shared experiences.
It's now several months later and my hair seems to be coming back. No longer just a tail of striped brown and gray in the back, it's coming in above and around my ears, over the temples, and even a bit on top. Nothing yet worth brushing but it is providing at least some insulation from the Boston winter. It's no longer instantly dry after showering and the long back with the short top could possibly be mistaken for age-appropriate thinning or a hipster haircut.
I hope my friends at Dana-Farber will recognize me.
Ben Carson has been doing a terrific job dumbing himself into irrelevance, so I hesitate to pile on. But I need to share the latest email I received from him/his campaign/his enterprise:
Seems innocuous enough even if I can't fathom why one would waste their time with this book. But look there at the bottom, that little tag: "Paid for by Carson America, Inc." So now his "campaign" is paying to market his wife's book. If there was any illusion that Ben was running a campaign for the presidency, this should eliminate it. Only Ben has an organization name* that effortlessly becomes the name of the family business when he stops campaigning.
Am I seeing this wrongly?
*Some of the other organization names, in no particular order: Carly for America; Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; Marco Rubio for President; JEB 2016, Inc.; Kasich for America; Cruz for President; Hillary for America. You get the picture.
Gun enthusiasts use the second amendment to end arguments about gun regulation. The constitution says I can own a gun. So I want one. To protect my family. Against terrorists and immigrants. And the government. Or just because. And with all those enemies, I want lots of guns. Big guns. And I don't want or need anybody getting in my way when I shop.
Their second amendment backstop is an incoherent single sentence, very possibly the worst piece of legislation in US history:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
That is the version that was ratified by the states in 1791. The version passed by Congress has two additional commas:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Some say the commas change its meaning. I'm sure that's so but with or without commas the amendment remains incomprehensible. I'm not a linguist so I can't tell you why it makes no sense. But I've read enough to know something nonsensical when I see it. And I see it here.
So what were its authors thinking? Were they really envisioning unfettered access by every American to unlimited arsenals of guns and military rifles? The New Yorker takes a fun look at this with a fictional correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
To those that believe they need assault weapons to protect themselves from a government intent on taking their guns away, first, stop reading those comic books. Second, if the video game dystopia that you fear were to happen and the government moved to suppress your rights, do you really believe your Berettas and Bushmasters would stop their tanks and planes? Perhaps the NRA should get to work so that good citizens can buy artillery pieces from General Dynamics.
Fortunately, the vast majority of Americans are not so unhinged. A CBS/New York Times poll in October found that 92% of all Americans--including 87% of Republicans--support background checks for all gun buyers. Yet we have an NRA-owned congress shouting tyranny because President Obama proposed just that earlier this week.
The Supreme Court hasn't helped. They have debated no less than six cases related to the second amendment. Most recently, in 2008, they argued whether the word "militia" implied gun rights for the military versus individuals. In the end, they chose the more liberal (not Liberal) meaning by the smallest of margins.
I'm puzzled by the hysterical opposition to universal background checks. How can something so innocuous cause so much fury? I wonder if it's that same crazy convoluted second amendment. The one that remains open to interpretation, that a single justice could have swayed to a vastly narrower interpretation in 2008.
It seems that as long as second amendment ambiguity remains, any change to gun regulations, no matter how trivial, will be resisted. Gun advocates fear the slippery slope and their uncertainty over purportedly enshrined rights will stoke further fear and irrationality. Perhaps a clearer statement of gun rights would calm the waters.
So we need a second amendment amendment. But that's even less likely than common sense legislation from the current Congress. Maybe we'll see some change in the next election. More likely, we'll see more carnage.
Well, I did it again. During the first hour of the first day of registration for the 2016 Pan Mass Challenge, I went to their website and paid the $235 fee to register. I'm not sure why I was in such a hurry to do so. Happily there were some donors who seemed in a hurry to donate and $500 or so of research funding rang in. Thank you, donors.
But maybe the reason I was in a hurry is because deep down I worry about the cancer coming back so I tried to beat it. Maybe if I hurry up and register while I'm healthy I'll stay healthy through the PMC. Of course that makes no sense as I did exactly the same thing last year and was knocked out of riding by disease progression two months before the PMC, in June.
But this year will be different, right? I've had two terrific scans with my new experimental medicine and I believe I'm in better shape than at this time last year. So what's to stop me?
Well I guess cancer could. But it won't. This drug is working too well, my scans look too clear, and I feel too strong. Right?
I'm wondering, why did I create a personal website? Not only is it mostly about me but it's public. Anyone can see it. Is it narcissistic? Does it hint of exhibitionism? Probably. But that's not my intention. After playing with a number of web-building sites because I thought building a website would be a good experience to have (I don't know why), I noticed that a website is a terrific medium for capturing stuff. Specifically, Weebly, the engine behind these pages, is particularly good at things like capturing thoughts (in a blog like this) or collecting and displaying vacation pictures. I suppose I could keep the website private or password-protect it although I'm not sure how to do that (or if it's possible). So here it is. Open. Public. I hope you enjoy it.
About seven weeks ago, I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, a rare occurrence for a non-smoker and otherwise healthy person in his early 50s. Although I hope it is not the case, I can imagine some religious people wondering whether I was afflicted due to my disbelief in God. If that’s true, it’s hard to imagine a more petty and vengeful all-powerful God.
What I’ve been exploring for the past few weeks are my feelings related to my illness. Although they have run the gamut of emotions, one I’ve not felt is anger. I can imagine that if I did believe in an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God, I would have some questions for Him. The absence of a God belief has allowed me to accept the randomness of this occurrence as I would a lightning strike or a piano falling out a window. I’ve spent no time wondering or lamenting “Why me?” and have focused instead on my treatment and what I can do to enjoy whatever time the latest in medical science can provide me.
I’ve been fortunate to receive encouraging messages from many friends and family members and cannot imagine dealing with this illness alone. I have noted that many — if not most — of the messages include some form of, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” For some I suspect it’s simply a turn of phrase. Others have described more explicit prayer activities in church or synagogue. I’ve not felt offended in the least by these expressions, recognizing that they are an attempt by those who care to do something — anything — to help, and for that I am grateful.
However, these mostly well-educated well-wishers have me wondering what they think about their prayers, and how they resolve the dissonance I quickly ran into as I thought about it. If God is willing to answer their prayers, why has He chosen to afflict me in the first place? If He has a reason or plan for my affliction, why would their prayers change His plans? Is He surprised in his omniscience that so many people care for me? Will He realize that He made a mistake? And how is it that my mortal sin of disbelief can be overcome by their fervent prayers?
Since the misfortune of my diagnosis, there have been a number of positive developments. Scans showed that the cancer was not visibly present in my brain, bones, or organs. It was “contained” to my lungs and lymphatic system. I was found to have one of only a few genotypes of lung cancer that have been identified, and there are oral therapies that target these mutations with very few side effects. I’m feeling dramatically better after only five weeks on this therapy. And I’m fortunate to live in Boston, only minutes from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute where I’m being treated (and where some of the research related to my therapy was done and continues). As my wife diligently communicates my changing situation to our friends and family, a number commented that they “knew God would hear their prayers.” Again, I wonder how they avoid the dissonance I would experience over such beliefs.
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to discuss this with some of my believing friends and family. Under normal circumstances I might avoid such discussions, but perhaps, feeling empowered by my illness, I might just ask them some of the questions I posed above.
I often hear that religion provides people with comfort in times of distress in their lives, making me wonder whether my beliefs might change in a similar way. I can unequivocally state that my beliefs have not changed despite my current situation. I find it much more comforting to know that my illness is the result of the randomness inherent in any complex system and to place my hopes in the incredibly skilled scientists and physicians battling this disease, rather than the capricious whims of a dictatorial deity. Belief in a supernatural agent as the cause of, and presumably rationale for, my illness would only add stress and anxiety to an already difficult situation.