Monday, October 31, 2005

I've been having fun the past few days not eating. On Thursday I had gum graft surgery. Yeah, "gum graft." Don't read if you're easily disgusted.

What they do is take a couple of bits of tissue from the fleshy portion on the roof of the mouth. Then they stitch it where your gums are receding, which in my case was the lower front.

The operation is not half as bad as it sounds. They gave me a couple of shots to numb the mouth, but I was otherwise awake and alert, and even carrying on a conversation with the nurse, sort of. At the end they cover the palate with a retainer (oh, joy), and the graft with a bit of material that looks like used chewing gum.

The recovery is what sucks. I can't speak clearly, and I can't eat solid food. I've had more oatmeal in the past four days than in the previous 44 years. I've taken to eating bananas with a fork to get the pieces small enough for me to process. Jello and pudding cups and a couple of scrambled eggs (that took an hour to eat) have rounded out my diet.

As for pain, I'd really just describe it as discomfort. There are moments of pain when a bit of "food" gets into the affected areas, but mostly I'm just being hungry and uncomfortable.

Aren't you glad you asked? Trick or treat! No candy for me.

Friday, October 21, 2005

"The young mother charged with dropping her three sons into San Francisco Bay had a large extended family that tried to help her cope with the crippling effects of schizophrenia and a breakup with her children's father, relatives said.

"Yet the support, as well as occasional input from mental health professionals, wasn't enough to keep Lashuan Harris from moving into a homeless shelter, going off her medication and getting overwhelmed by her illness."

(article continues at the San Diego Union-Tribune)

The whole story is tragic, but that last line really got to me. In this last year that I've worked for a provider of emergency housing, I've personally seen this type of thing happen many times over, if with less dramatic endings.

Typically the county hospital will release a mentally ill patient with a few days worth of medication and a prescription that they have no money to fill. They are then literally dropped at the door of the shelter, where the meds are likely stolen the first night for their street value. It's not long before they're out on the street, attracting the attention of police, and beginning the cycle again.

I could tell the stories of at least a couple of our clients who've died over the past year, in part due to problems in the mental health system...

... A woman who left our shelter with her 30-day supply of medication and a two-liter bottle of vodka and consumed them all in one night at a nearby fleabag hotel. At least she had the courtesy to die off-site.

... A man released to us from the hospital with a feeding tube, a colostomy bag, and covered in his own shit. We explained that we were not able to provide the liquid diet he needed to survive, but the hospital would not take him back. He fought with staff and other clients and insisted on shitting in public and was kicked out of the shelter. (We tried to have the police pick him in protective custody, but they wouldn't help either). Within a week he was found dead behind our dumpster where he'd find the solid food scraps that he ate against the doctor's orders.

These are the stories that I'm not supposed to tell, lest I damage the reputation of my employer. There are good stories too, don't get me wrong. We do help a lot of people. But the system as a whole fails for many. Which brings us back to the woman in Oakland who just threw her three children into the San Francisco Bay...

... "She told my mama she was going to feed them to the sharks," said Britney Fitzpatrick, Harris' 16-year-old half-sister. "No one thought it was that serious."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Two quotes for today:

"If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem" - Richard Bach

"You are the crispy noodle in the vegetarian salad of life" - Chinese cookie fortune received by my co-worker at lunch today. It was an apt description.

Meanwhile, over at Highway 17 Music, I just got in some Epiphone Les Paul Juniors. I haven't made any money yet (just not quite breaking even), but I'm enjoying my little guitar business as a pleasant diversion from my "real" job.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Today another "urban legend", thought to be a wacko conspiracy theory with no basis in fact, proved to be true after all. Many brands of color printers do include information on every document to trace that document back to you.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has cracked the code on at least one line of printers, and is working on cracking the codes on others. (See stories: Washington Post - Red Herring). Industry leaders and government officials have now confirmed that they have been working together on the coding for years.

The official purpose of the coding is to prevent counterfeiting. By being able to trace a counterfeit bill back to a particular printer at a particular time, law enforcement can find out who is making their own money at home.

A couple of problems arise, however.

1) There's nothing to prevent government/law enforcement from using the codes to track other printing, such as protected anonymous speech. Those living under repressive regimes (here and elsewhere) can have their self-published works tracked back to their door. This is a high-tech, and more effective implementation, of how the Soviet Union used to track down dissidents by their typewriter imprints. The hidden data, placed there without the users knowledge, is a potentially dangerous invasion of privacy.

2) EFF reports that the codes were very easy to crack. There's nothing to prevent individuals with the proper knowledge and tools from cracking the codes and using them in order to commit crimes against others. This supposed "law enforcement tool" can easily be turned against us by criminals and terrorists looking to harm those they want to target.

The further we get from 1984, the closer we get to 1984.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

It's time to pretend I'm a rock star again... Here's the first song I've written and recorded for a while - The Awfulizer.

"The Awfulizer" is a term my brother, Miles, came up with last summer to describe somebody who finds the worst in every situation. I thought it would be a great title for a song and asked if I could use it. I wrote the song in August, but haven't gotten around to recording it till now.

It is a rather bare bones demo (with a very sloppy lead), but I wanted to finally get it off my to-do list. I'm hoping that my nephews, Andrew and Keith, will be motivated to do a better version someday.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

One week into the official launch of my new used guitar shop, Highway 17 Music, I'm already closing my first eBay auctions, and looking like this might actually make some money! (If the buyers actually pay...)

I'm certainly having fun, at least, and learning a few tricks of the trade. It will certainly be a while before this can be my main income, but I'm offically declaring week one to have been a success.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

With age often comes obesity - "A 30-year study finds that most adults - 9 out of 10 men, 7 out of 10 women - are likely to be or become overweight as they grow older..."

Interesting. I've been conducting my own 44-year study and have come to the same conclusion. Seriously, did somebody get paid to spend their entire career figuring out that when we're old we get fatter and lazier than we were when we were twenty?

"Our results, while not surprising, are worrisome," said Dr. Ramachandran Vasan, an associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine and lead author of the study. Well, again, no shit Sherlock. There's nothing new here, either. Carrying around extra pounds leads to a variety of problems, including diabetes, heart problems, etc. We knew all that already. Why is this news?
Gee Dub, Yeah, Blues
© 2005 by K.R. Goldstein

Well, I woke up this morning
Feeling kind of strange
My country looked the same
But the nation somehow changed
I went to see my doctor
And I asked him what to do
He said my constitution’s sufferin’
From a case of gee dub blues

Oh, yeah, I’ve got them gee dub blues
Every time I hear the news
Another case of gee dub blues

I went back to my apartment
And found ten police inside
All my books and records open
And into my files they’d pried
They asked all sorts of questions
And I suggested they were rude
He said, “We’re just investigatin’
“A new case of gee dub blues,” oh, yeah... (chorus)

Born too late
For social security
Paid all my life
But there’ll be none left for me
Oh, why must it be my fate
To retire in 2028?

Well, I thought I’d see my brother
So I went to catch a flight
At the gate they lined us up
To the left and to the right
They pulled me out for extra searchin’
And I asked them how they choosed
He said, “You like you been sufferin’
“From a case of gee dub blues,” oh, yeah... (chorus)

I wound up in a courtroom
Where I thought I’d get my say
But by eminent domain
They paved through that right today
So I walked up to the judge man
And I asked for his excuse
He said free speech been quarantined
Through this case of gee dub blues, oh, yeah... (chorus)

And even though they’ve banned the news
I still get them gee dub blues

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Hungry? Can you wait 'till Wednesday? Save your money and your appetite and go out to dinner on Wednesday, October 5, as part of "Dine For America."

Dine for America is a benefit for the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund. Search the web site for a participating restaurant near you.

(The web site has been busy and slow to respond, but keep trying!)

Saturday, October 01, 2005

I am pleased to announce the opening of my new business venture: Highway 17 Music. I will be selling used and new guitars online at my web site and through eBay auctions.

You will find Highway 17 Music at:

A few of you have seen snippets of this site and concept over the last month or so as I've been gathering permits and dealing with wholesalers, but as of today, we are officially open for business.

At this point this is a part-time operation, meant to supplement my income, not replace it. In the coming months we will see what the growth potential is and unveil additions to the store.

For now, take a look around and let me know what you think. And... If you or a friend are in the market for a new guitar, please stop by! (And feel free to pass the link along...).

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