Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Movie Preview: Skyfall: 23rd Bond, 50th Anniversary, and 2nd Queen Elizabeth

Bated breath. I looked it up just to double check. It's not "baited", a common homonymous mistake, but "bated" and that's how I'm waiting, with bated breath, for November 9, 2012. The 23rd movie in one of the most popular movie series of all times, James Bond, has its world premier on October 26 in London, England with the movie being released across the planet soon after. (IMDb: release dates) The release of this movie coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first Bond movie Dr. No released in 1962.

Like every little boy, whether now grown or not, I have had a certain chauvinistic soft spot for the ladies man, high stakes gambler, world traveller and dangerous spy. Okay, this isn't your romantic family man taking the baby out in the stroller but I can dream of playing a part in the international intrigue and Machiavellian machinations which determine the fate of the free world, can't I? Ha ha.

Over the years, though, my interest in the character has waned. While Roger Moore was serviceable, I always thought the series had become more of a cartoon. Yes, it's a movie. Yes, it's a fantasy. But one of the important elements determining, for me at least, the success or failure of a film is the suspension of belief. Okay, Superman is impossible but if I can accept that Superman could be possible, the rest of the story comes together. Of course James Bond is totally unrealistic but if I get make the leap, if I can suspend my belief, everything else is going to be an entertaining two hours.

Daniel Craig has brought back to the franchise a more realistic look and feel. Okay, it's still unrealistic but it is less of a cartoon. The opening of the first Craig foray into the character in the 2006 movie Casino Royale was a novel and startling break with the previous films when our hero, instead of doing the standard high speed car chase, chases the bad guy on foot and we are all introduced to the decades old urban sport of parkour.

50th Anniversary
The James Bond film series is the longest running film series in history and the second highest grossing series behind Harry Potter. (Bond=$5 billion, Potter=$7 billion) Six actors have played Bond in 23 official films. (There 3 other Bond films from companies other than Eon films.) For those true aficionados bitten by the bug, I see that MGM is offering a Blu-ray box set of the first 22 films called "Bond 50".

Skyfall Trailer
I have watched the following trailer several times. It's great. The amount of excitement and anticipation developed in just this short clip is amazing. I'm sorry, am I salivating? As I previously said, Daniel Craig brings a touch of realism, a bit of dark to the character and as I'm watching this trailer, I couldn't help thinking that this Bond is a guy you don't want to mess with. He will rip your head off and hand it to you on a plate.


Final Word
Gee, here I was thinking it was the Terminator who kept saying, "I'll be back." 50 years and still going strong.

Casino Royale received a top rating on Rotten Tomatoes of 96% while Quantum of Solace only came in at 65%. What is this third outing with Daniel Craig as Bond going to give us? I'm sure expectations will be running high - I know mine are - and we'll all find out in three months.


References

Wikipedia: Skyfall
Skyfall is the upcoming twenty-third spy film in the James Bond series, produced by Eon Productions for MGM, Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment. Directed by Sam Mendes, it features Daniel Craig's third performance as James Bond and Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva, the film's villain.

Wikipedia: Portal:James Bond
All things James Bond on Wikipedia

official movie web site: Skyfall

official web site: James Bond 007

Postscript: 2012 Summer Olympics
If you didn't see the opening ceremony, let me fill you in on a short bit of comedy starring none other than the Queen herself. Artistic director for the opening, Danny Boyle, was granted supposedly unprecedented access to Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth to put together a short film shown in the stadium and on TV during BBC's coverage of the event. The actor Daniel Craig playing James Bond enters the palace to escort the Queen to the games. He arrives in a room with the Queen working at a desk. Most thought this would be an actress but apparently there were startled gasps from the audience as the woman in the film turns to face the camera and it is none other then the Queen herself. The two leave in a helicopter for the stadium then supposedly parachute into the stadium. Just after the descent, the Queen enters the stadium to officially open the games. It was a jolly good show.

Published on Jul 27, 2012 by olympic
YouTube: The Queen Sequence - Opening Ceremony - London 2012 Olympic Games
Highlights from the Olympic Stadium at the London 2012 Olympic Games. -- 27 July 2012


******************

New Skyfall US domestic trailer (released just after I published)
This reveals more of the movie but I still think the first trailer above is a far more dramatic tease.


2012-07-31

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Monday, 30 July 2012

Managing Your Personal Finances

Okay, this may seem like an odd topic and maybe even an obvious one but somebody said something to me the other day which got me thinking about it and asking how anybody is supposed to know this stuff. I certainly didn't. I have heard tell over the years that the school system, well the system of my day, should have spent more time focusing on the practical things of life instead of the traditional disciplines.

Latin? Why the heck did I take Latin? The theory was to know the roots of our language but how did that work out? Why wasn't the focus on French or Spanish and doing what was necessary to see the practical value of learning those languages? And the title of the textbook? Living Latin. Now there's an oxymoron for ya.

Shop (for boys)? Well, I suppose but I can tell you that not once, not one single stinking time in my entire life has it ever come up that I needed to solder a watering can. Or make an ashtray. I could have used sewing on a button or doing a proper hospital corner or making an omelette. Hell, I can always buy a freakin' watering can.

I have heard in the last couple of decades that schools have taken to instructing students about basic finances like opening an account at the bank, how to write a cheque (sorry, "check" to you Americans), and how to calculate compound interest. When I grew up in the 1950s, schools didn't touch upon any of those topics. I think this is terrific but now that we are all in the wonderful age of computers, I wonder if everybody is doing enough in this regard.

Back in the mid-1980s in the age of DOS and the spreadsheet Lotus 1-2-3, I took up using my computer to manage my personal finances. I created a simple spreadsheet that laid out in a columnar fashion my income and my expenses and projected those items at least four months into the future. By dating when I got paid and when my bills were due, I could see at a glance how much money I currently had and how much I would need at any point in time. If I had $110 in my bank account and I could see that on Monday of next week I had to pay a bill worth $80, I knew that I had $30 to do other things. If I only had $70 in my account, I knew I had one week to figure out where I could get an extra ten bucks. ("Hello, Dad? I'm sure you're wondering why I'm calling...")

You may be reading this thinking this is so trivial it's kind of a dumb idea but I have periodically run into people who do nothing at all. And believe me, when it's a member of my family, it drives me bonkers. How the heck can anybody control their finances? How can anybody properly plan anything if they have no idea of how much they owe? In an age of growing consumer debt, I am imagining that there are a lot and I mean a lot of people who are not doing any financial planning at all.

Over the years I have migrated to Microsoft Excel and expanded my one spreadsheet to multiple sheets covering all financial aspects of my life. For instance, I have one to track my mortgage. I can see how much I owe and I can calculate into the future how much of my payment is interest and how much is paying down the principal. It was this more than anything else showed me in concrete terms what compound interest was and just how damn important a topic it is. I projected my mortgage to the end of the amortisation of 20 years then started playing "What if?" scenarios by sticking in supplemental payments and seeing what the effect was on the overall mortgage. I was stunned when I would put in an extra hundred bucks, yes just one payment of a hundred dollars and could see the effect cascade throughout the life of the mortgage and translate into saving me potentially thousands of dollars in interest.

What happened? Impressed by the potential savings, I started scrimping and saving to put together money to make extra payments on my mortgage. Every time I did this, I put the number into my spreadsheet and calculated the savings over the long run. It was amazing and it was also inspiring. Take a hundred bucks and blow it on something frivolous? That wasn't going to cost me one hundred dollars, no it was going to cost me maybe eight hundred dollars in extra interest I would be paying. Instead of being entertained by frivolous things, I became entertained by my mortgage and trying to pay it off early and save myself a ton of money in interest. Never mind a hundred dollars, even ten dollars would count!

An acquaintance put an addition on his house worth forty thousand dollars. He had a 25 year mortgage. I was so gung ho about my mortgage spreadsheets, I made one for him. I could show that if he continued to make the minimum payments over 25 years, he was going to pay back to the bank something like $120,000 or three times as much. What!?! I could show that if he paid an extra one hundred dollars per month which would come directly off the principal, he could pay off his mortgage in 15 years and the final total would be around $75,000. Is that unbelievable or what?

He didn't do it. To this day, I remain confounded by his lack (excuse the pun) of interest in his mortgage. Then again, I have come to realise that his approach to managing his finances was more like living hand to mouth. If he had a bill to pay of $100 but he only had $80, he paid on credit. It was as simple as that. Unfortunately that is a perfect example of somebody to think of when I read in the newspaper about growing consumer debt.

There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no one independence quite so important, as living within your means.
-Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933), American President (1923-1929)

Final Word
Is my spreadsheet the be all and end all? I'm sure others have devised better systems but my point is that it's better to do something than nothing at all. Living hand to mouth is no way to live and living in an unplanned fashion is a precarious way of living your life. However let me end by pointing out something which may not be at all intuitive.

We always associate being rich with big houses and flashy cars. Many times these accoutrements of the good life belong to professional people like doctors or lawyers. Being a professional doesn't mean you know any more about managing your finances than the next guy. I know stories of doctors who have gone bankrupt and lawyers who have spent it all. I also know of humble people in my home town who managed to become millionaires, not because they earned what a doctor or a lawyer makes but because they wisely managed their money over the years.

I have included below references to two fascinating books about finances. I would highly recommend to anybody trying to organise themselves and their finances to read them to better understand what's possible and what you yourself can do. I may not be Donald Trump and I may not win the lottery, but that doesn't mean I can't be wise about living my life and paying for it.

Slow and steady wins the race.
-Aesop, The Hare and the Tortoise


References

my blog: Book Review: The Millionaire Next Door
The authors originally set out to study millionaires in the United States. They visited posh neighbourhoods but discovered those people driving luxury cars and living in expensive homes didn't necessarily have much wealth. They began to discover something odd which went against their preconceived notions of what or who a millionaire was. These people may have had high incomes but they were spending it all.

Thomas Stanley, one of the authors was quoted as saying, "Most people have it all wrong about wealth in America. Wealth isn't the same as income. If you make $1 million a year and spend $1 million, you're not getting wealthier, you're just living high."

They found a group of relatively unknown people in society who were actually wealthy. Now not wealthy in terms we would usually consider, certainly not wealthy like a Donald Trump, but they did have a net worth of one million dollars or more. It just didn't show when you looked at them.

my blog: Book Review: The Wealthy Barber
At the tender age of 25, a young David Chilton sits down and writes a short book which encapsulates some wisdom about financial planning in an easy going, easy to understand story. This accessible guide to becoming financially independent goes on to apparently sell over 2 million copies in North America. When I first "discovered" the book in 1991, I became so enamoured with its message, I bought a dozen copies and gave one to every member of my family and then to several of my friends. It opened my eyes to some very common sense ideas which for some reason had escaped me.

Wikipedia: Compound interest
OMG!!! If you don't know anything about this you MUST learn it immediately!!! Are those enough exclamation marks?

About.Com: Basic Budget Worksheet for Setting Up Your Personal Budget
This is similar to what I do but it is even more detailed and complicated than mine.

2012-07-30

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Sunday, 29 July 2012

Jack Daniel's: a nice whiskey, a nice company

In a litigious era of courtroom drama and resolutions determined not by mediated settlement but by the decree of a judge, it is a surprise and a breath of fresh air to see somebody take the higher road with a gentler hand.

Patrick Wensick (born 1979) is an American author and it would seem an individual with an amusing take on life. From the About of his web site:

Patrick Wensink was born in Deshler, OH in 1979. Since that time he has done a lot of things he is not proud of. But he's also done some pretty interesting stuff. Over the years he has bottled and sold his own line of Wentastic BBQ Sauce, got married in a doughnut shop and even found the time to author a few greeting cards. After wandering from Ohio, to Arizona and Oregon, Wensink and his wife settled in Louisville, KY. He is obsessed with music, movies and barbecue.

His latest novel entitled Broken Piano For President is about a gentleman called Deshler Dean who has invented a hamburger "more addictive than crystal meth", scored a six figure contract for his "terrible art rock band", and seemingly does his best work when he's blackout drunk. It is this last characteristic of the protagonist which led to a book cover that Janis Joplin herself would be proud of. For those not in the know, Ms. Joplin had a penchant for, amongst other whiskeys, Jack Daniels.

Yes, the cover for Mr. Wensink's book bears a more than a passing resemblance to this brand of sour mash Tennessee whiskey apparently the best selling whiskey in the world. Considering his central character is a drinker, this would seem to be an appropriate reference. However this did not go unnoticed by the distillery who, as a cultural icon of the American landscape, felt there is a need to protect its reputation. After all, we can't be diluting the impact of national treasure any more than we should be diluting a fine whiskey.

As such, Jack Daniel's sent Patrick Wensink a cease and desist letter however it has to be one of the friendliest cease and desist letters of all time. While legally they may have had the right to pounce on Wensink, they opted for the gentle hand of good ol' Southern hospitality. This is an excerpt of the letter:

“We are certainly flattered by your affection for the brand, but while we can appreciate the pop culture appeal of Jack Daniel’s, we also have to be diligent to ensure that the Jack Daniel’s trademarks are used correctly. Given the brand’s popularity, it will probably come as no surprise that we come across designs like this on a regular basis. What may not be so apparent, however, is that if we allow uses like this one, we run the very real risk that our trademark will be weakened. As a fan of the brand, I’m sure that is not something you intended or would want to see happen.

“As an author, you can certainly understand our position and the need to contact you. You may even have run into similar problems with your own intellectual property.

“In order to resolve this matter, because you are both a Louisville “neighbor” and a fan of the brand, we simply request that you change the over design when the book is re-printed. If you would be willing to change the design sooner than that (including on the digital version), we would be willing to contribute a reasonable amount towards the costs of doing so. By taking this step, you will help us to ensure that the Jack Daniel’s brand will mean as much to future generations as it does today.”

What does this mean for Jack Daniel's and Wensink?

Instead of looking like the big mean corporate giant, Jack Daniel's kindly demeanor shows the mark of a true gentleman. As Wensink wrote on his own web site: "If it wasn’t signed by some lawyer, I’d imagine ol’ Gentleman Jack penning it himself, twirling his bushy mustache." I would say that anyone hearing of this tale of trademark infringement will walk away impressed by the distillery's classy approach. You don't kill flies with a hammer.

As for Patrick Wensink, one can only assume that any publicity is good publicity and this will further serve to get the word out about his novel. He writes that he will not be taking any money from Jack Daniel's but it is supposed he is complying with the request to change the cover. Wensink says the current books on the shelf will be collector's items

Uploaded by patrickwensink on Feb 14, 2012
YouTube: Broken Piano for President
Ha! A book trailer for the novel. A what trailer? It's just like a movie trailer except it's for a book. (See my blog: Book Trailers)


Final Word
Patrick Wensink has penned an amusing essay about trying to get his novel published. (Getting Published After Six Years Of Failure) He will be able to add this, the friendliest of run-ins with a corporate brand, as another interesting step to getting his book to market. I would hope that if I am ever contacted by the legal department of a firm with a net income (yes, net income) of over a hundred million dollars, they will take a similar friendly approach as opposed to threatening me with legal Armageddon.


References

Wikipedia: Patrick Wensink
Patrick Wensink is an American author (born 1979). His most recent work is a novel entitled Broken Piano for President. The novel received increased publicity when the whiskey company Jack Daniel's sent a politely worded cease-and-desist letter to the author asking that he change the design of his book cover, which closely resembled the label on Jack Daniel's whiskey. His other books include Sex Dungeon for Sale! and Black Hole Blues.

official web site: Patrick Wensink
About: Patrick Wensink was born in Deshler, OH in 1979. Since that time he has done a lot of things he is not proud of. But he's also done some pretty interesting stuff. Over the years he has bottled and sold his own line of Wentastic BBQ Sauce, got married in a doughnut shop and even found the time to author a few greeting cards. After wandering from Ohio, to Arizona and Oregon, Wensink and his wife settled in Louisville, KY. He is obsessed with music, movies and barbecue.

official web site: Broken Piano For President
In 2007, my agent (who is no longer my agent) shopped around an early version of Broken Piano for President. It did not go so well. One editor at Viking went so far as to call the book “nauseating”. Thankfully, Lazy Fascist Press fears no nausea.

Broken Piano For President - Jul 19/2012
The Whiskey Rebellion
This shows the entire cease and desist letter from Jack Daniel's.

Mar. 16, 2012
Getting Published After Six Years Of Failure By Patrick Wensink
I’ve been a failure at every job I’ve ever held. You’re looking at someone who’s been forcibly removed from the premises as a legal assistant, flat-out fired from a children’s museum marketing department, and, once, preemptively quit a job proofing insurance documents in fear of a pink slip. Plus, I’ve been ignored-to-death by more freelance copywriting gigs than I can count.

Postscript
In researching the above story, I ran across the following. It is a separate story but is related in that it is also about a cease and desist letter claiming trademark infringement. However from there things are decidedly different.

The online retailer ThinkGeek, as an April Fool's day joke, launches an ad for a new product "Canned Unicorn Meat" using the slogan "The Other White Meat". The National Pork Board writes a cease and desist letter claiming ThinkGeek is infringing on their slogan.

ThinkGeek - Jun 21/2010
Officially our best-ever cease and desist
Recently we got the best-ever cease and desist letter. We're no stranger to the genre, so what could possibly make this one stand out from the rest?

First, it's 12 pages long and very well-researched (except on one point); it even includes screengrabs of the offending item from our site. And we know they're not messing around because they invested in the best and brightest legal minds.

But what makes this cease and desist so very, very special is that it's for a fake product we launched for April Fool's day.

2012-07-30

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Saturday, 28 July 2012

What to do with the rest of your life

This year I turn 60 years old. A friend amusingly described this as entering the fourth quarter. I chuckled at his football metaphor while adding that the fourth quarter is the last quarter. Okay, we traded supposedly clever and witty references to overtime but whatever the case, the fourth quarter happens just before the end of the game.

Now it may seem like I'm having a moment, a bit of the morbid has slipped into the mix and ain't I just a ray of sunshine? However I am merely talking about the inevitable and if we ignore it, aren't we behaving like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand? I am currently revising my will and setting up power of attorney to ensure things will be taken care of in the event of my demise or incapacitation. I can't have my heirs fighting over my boxed set of Twilight DVDs. (I've asked for them to be placed in the casket and buried with me.)

As I sit here all by myself in my apartment, a single man supposedly without a care in the world (Oh now isn't that rich?) who is reflecting on the first three quarters I find myself faced with that age old question of what to do with the rest of my life. Is it now that we sum up our contributions to posterity and realise we have fallen slightly short of setting the world on fire?

The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
(The best laid schemes of Mice and Men
oft go awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!)
Robert Burns, To a Mouse (Poem, November, 1785)
Scottish national poet (1759 - 1796): The Quotations Page

To continue the football metaphor, the fourth quarter is arguably the best quarter. It is certainly the most exciting quarter as it is here the entire game is decided. While the match up to now has hopefully demonstrated a solid strategy, the spectators are now looking forward to the team bringing it all together for that winning touchdown with the Jumbotron showing the happy face of the wide receiver as he is hoisted onto his teammate's shoulders. Shake up that bottle of bubbly, pop the cork, and then hose down your fellow players.

Okay, enough of the football; let's get back to that perplexing existential question. As always when I seek an answer, I go the omniscient master of all things indexed on the Net, Google. My initial search (see below) was to type in "what to do with the rest of your life" (without quotes) in the search bar.

Robert Fuller, Ph.D.
An article in Psychology Today penned by Dr. Fuller was first on the list. I was unfamiliar with the man but found him to be thoughtful and kind. Considering his work over the years as a humanitarian in various forms, Dr. Fuller's answer echoes other things I've read over the years. One of the most fulfilling of what we can do in life is giving to our fellow human being. It isn't necessarily charity per se, but the kind word, the emotional support, and the helping hand we offer.

The actual contribution made by people emptying bedpans is less the clean pans and more the dignity or indignity sown among those for whom they're working. The indelible contribution of a teacher is less the knowledge she imparts than the confidence she builds in her students. What you give a child is not your time, but your self.

Is it not simple? We feel good doing good. And what better way to do good than to improve the life of another?

However, Dr. Fuller goes on to look at us as individuals and what possibly each of us would love to do. He quotes the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche:

Look back upon your life and ask: What up to now have you truly loved, what has raised up your soul, what ruled it and at the same time made it happy? Line up these objects of reverence before you, and see how they form a ladder on which you have so far climbed up toward your true self.

Our true self? Once again, I thought of Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs.

my blog: Passion: Can you live without it?
Maslow was an American psychiatrist whose most notable contribution to psychology was the hierarchy of needs. In this theory he described how each of us develops through 5 stages:

1. physiological: breathing, food, water
2. safety: security of body, employment
3. love/belonging: friendship, family, sexual intimacy
4. esteem: achievement, respect of others, respect by others
5. self-actualization: creativity, problem solving

Normally, this hierarchy is portrayed as a pyramid with physiological at the bottom, it being the most basic of needs. As we satisfy one need, we move up to the next level, the next need. The top level, self-actualization is where a person becomes who he or she is. This may be an athlete, a musician, a doctor, a good parent or a painter. It is where we define ourselves and give ourselves identity.

I have always said that I am a "5th level" person. My activities define me, give me purpose in life, and motivate me to work hard. It is interesting to look at anybody who falls into this category. The person in question doesn't necessarily do it for money or some material gain; they do it, well, just because it's there. I don't work hard because I'm getting a whole whack of money (although a few dollars thrown my way are always appreciated); I work hard because I love to solve problems, achieve something, and even help somebody. I don't do it because I have to do it; I do it because I want to do it. Isn't that what any of us would want? Imagine having a job that paid you a reasonable amount of money. That's good. That's practical. Now imagine doing a job which excites you, fires up your imagination, and fulfills your need to create something in life which would be valued by others. You didn't stay late at the office because of a deadline or your boss told you to, no you stayed because you were excited by your job. Ah, ain't that heaven? That's how I define level 5.

Final Word
I'm starting the 4th quarter. What will I do? What will I manage to achieve? My stay on Earth is a finite one and I would think I should try and make it a good one. Now just what "good" means exactly remains to be seen but I would hope there would be a celebratory bottle of champagne, shaken, uncorked, then sprayed as a symbolic display of enthusiasm for whatever success I may attain.


References

Psychology Today - Sep 13/2009
What Shall I Do with the Rest of My Life? by Robert Fuller, Ph.D.
If you have to stick with your job to pay the bills, then you may feel that asking this question of yourself is pointless. But it's not. Rich or poor, young and old, we all dream of something different, something better, if only when we gaze at the stars. And, regardless of our lot in life, we can give this perennial question a new answer-either by doing differently what we've been doing, or by pursuing something else on the side.

Wikipedia: Robert W. Fuller
Robert W. Fuller (1936) earned his Ph.D. in physics at Princeton University in 1961, and taught at Columbia University where he co-authored the book Mathematics of Classical and Quantum Physics. The mounting social unrest of the 1960's, and Fuller's commitment to educational reform--which he had already demonstrated as a Columbia dean--led his alma mater, Oberlin College, in 1970, to make him its tenth president, succeeding Robert Carr. At age 33, Fuller became one of the youngest college presidents in U.S. history.
...
co-founded The Hunger Project
...
citizen-diplomat in Russia
...
identify rankism--a term he coined, and defined as the abuse of the power conferred by rank.

Google search: what to do with the rest of your life

my blog: Passion: Can you live without it?
I have been blessed a few times in my life to have experienced true passion. However I am certain you may think I'm talking about something romantic but what I am actually talking about is passion for what you do. To live passionately, to work passionately; this is about the passion you have or should have about your personal goals in life, about your life itself.

Postscript
I'm turning 60 this year. How many times have I mentioned this? Am I a little obsessed? Ha ha. Well, maybe I am and maybe I need to figure out what to do about it. Unlike others, I don't have everything figured out. Ha ha. All the best to you in your world. :-)

my blog: I'm 60. Now what? Oct 20/2012
Sixty. Hmph. So the moment is here and this is what it feels like. Hmph. What was I expecting? I do realise however that to a twenty something, I am officially an old man. But just what the heck does old feel like? Are we back to the idea that age is a state of mind? Hey, my puffing because I'm winded or my vitamin supplements or the grey hair showing up in my beard isn't what I would call a state of mind. Nope this is the real deal. This is it.

2012-07-28

Site Map - William Quincy BelleFollow me on Twitter

Friday, 27 July 2012

Blogging: What the heck are we all doing?

I sit down and write a posting. You sit down and write a posting. She does it. He does it. They do it too. Who's reading? Does it matter? Does it matter if what's important is the writing? But where is any of this going and what exactly does it mean to me? Or to you? Or to her, him, or them?

The big eternal ever reaching existential question: Why? Pourquoi? ¿Por qué? Warum? Kwa nini?

Some of us sit down daily and pump out a couple of hundred words or in some cases a couple of thousand. Some of us do it once a week. Some of us wait for that singular moment of inspiration when our fanciful muse decides to lead us to the keyboard.

Our topics are varied. It can be something personal: an anecdote, a distant memory from the past, or even a current trial by fire. It can come from the news: politics, current events, or the odd and humorous. It can be about our life: marriage, children, family, or even the dissolution of said family. Finally, the tone can be serious or funny in the form of a personal observation or a detailed well referenced in-depth look at said topic.

However what is the point? What's the plan? Where is any of this leading or is there some Zen-like mystical aspect to the process which explains why any of us do it? As the Chinese proverb states, "the journey is the reward", and in this case, the journey is the writing?

I always looked upon writing as the exclusive domain of the professional writer. How could a humble lowly scribbler like myself ever hope to string together in any sort of logical order the hundred thousand words of a normal length book and get somebody at one of the major publishing houses to consider looking at it even if it was to prop up a leg to stabilize a wobbly table?

A couple of years ago, I looked at a blog for the first time in my life. Somebody wrote this? Wait. Ha ha. I mean did somebody like me write this? Just your ordinary run of the mill everyday person? I became very intrigued by the idea of scribbling my thoughts. It had never occurred to me to write and I had no knowledge whatsoever of blogging and the self-publishing of one's own essays, musing and personal reflections for the entire world to see.

On May 31, 2010, I wrote the first entry of this blog and the rest as they say is history, well my history as this is a drop in the proverbial bucket in the great vastness of the worldwide blogosphere. As I look around me, I see scores, no hundreds, no thousands, no tens of thousands of people all doing the same thing: writing. It isn't a question of who's reading, it's a question of writing. It's the writing of the mundane, the insignificant and minutiae of our lives. It may be important to many or it may be important to only a few but it is important to each one of us who writes.

Royal Pingdom - Jan 17/2012
Internet 2011 in numbers
39 million – The number of Tumblr blogs by the end of 2011.
70 million – Total number of WordPress blogs by the end of 2011.
(What? No count of Google Blogger where I am ensconced?)

Royal Pingdom - Jan 16/2013
Internet 2012 in numbers
87.8 million – The number of Tumblr blogs by the end of 2012.
exact number not given – Total number of WordPress blogs by the end of 2012.
(What? Still no count of Google Blogger?)

Wow, that's a lot of blogs. They represent a lot of words. That's a lot of people writing God only knows what and it begs the question: who's reading any of this stuff? The same stats state that there are 2.1 billion Internet users worldwide. By my calculation, that means for every one of the 70 million WordPress blogs, there are 29 readers. (2.1 billion divided by 70 million is 30 so I'm saying one person is the writer and 29 people are the readers.) Of course, each reader could be reading more than one blog and not all blogs would even have 29 readers. I'm estimating that my blog has at most two readers so it stands to reason that other blogs have some of my remaining 27. Hmmm, yeah, like Dooce has hogged how big of a chunk of the pie? Ha ha. I should be so lucky. Then again, considering how I am eclectic if not eccentric in my choice of topics with a male perspective to the world, I can in no way compete with Heather Thompson queen of the mommy bloggers. (Unless I start writing 50 Shades type of stuff. That has turned out to be a good way of connecting with mommies.)

Royal Pingdom - Apr 11/2012
WordPress completely dominates top 100 blogs
WordPress is in use by 48% of the top 100 blogs in the world. This is an increase from the 32% we recorded three years ago.

I've been using Google Blogger but if you ask me why, I'm not sure. I think it was random chance that led me to it and I haven't changed, I probably won't change out of inertia. I pay little attention to the look per se concentrating on the content. The stats services I get seem good enough so I see no compelling reason to upend my blogging life by migrating to another platform.

Making Money
I make no money blogging. Some people do. Heather Thompson of Dooce makes a living blogging and there are a few others. Nevertheless those are the exceptions to the rule and the vast majority of bloggers are like me, writing for the sake of writing and unconcerned about any monetary reward. I suppose it's odd when you think about it. If any one of us put in as much effort trying to make money, how much better off would we be? Seriously, if I stopped writing and took up some extra work, doing some consulting for instance, how much better off would I be financially at the end of the year?

It's another question to be begged. Just why the heck are all of us putting in countless hours writing stuff that very few people at the end of the day read? What is the point? Yeah, yeah, back to that Zen thing of the journey is the reward but at some point I need, we all need a reward to pay the bills. Then again, maybe you have all your bills covered and have arrived at that metaphysical and financial pinnacle of just how much money does anybody need to be happy? After you've purchased the big honking flat screen TV and paid the cable with the movie package, all you need is enough to cover a basic microwave to do your popcorn. Life is good.

Final Word
I haven't got the foggiest idea of where any of this is going. Are you going to come back in five years and find me still blathering away about God only knows what? I've heard people say that blogging is therapeutic so maybe I am using this writing outlet as a substitute for getting psychoanalysed. [Said in a German accent] "Vould you like to lie auf der Couch?"


References

Wikipedia: Pingdom
Pingdom is a service that tracks the uptime, downtime, and performance of websites. Based in Sweden, Pingdom monitors websites from multiple locations globally so that it can distinguish genuine downtime from routing and access problems.

Pingdom
Pingdom has a very strong and narrow focus. That focus lies on covering the uptime monitoring needs of 90% of the companies in the world. Instead of branching out into other areas, we will instead place all our efforts into maintaining the best uptime monitoring service available.

Royal Pingdom
Ramblings from the Pingdom team about the Internet and web tech



Books / Writing
Between the covers, between the lines
NaNoWriMo: My 30, ah, 18 days of writing madness
NaNoWriMo: Are you out of your freakin' mind?
NaNoWriMo: Hopeful or hopeless?
NaNoWriMo and an inspiring author: Dean Wesley Smith
Book Trailers
November: It was a dark and stormy night...
One Million Words
Blogging: Using Google as a research tool
Blogging: Does crossposting increase traffic?
Writing for Blogging for Money for a Living
Kindle E-books Overtake Paper Books
Writing: Stories in tweets
Blogging: Just another drop in the bucket
Dean Wesley Smith: Dean of Star Trek
Gay male romance for women
Amanda Hocking: indie author goes viral
authonomy.com: maybe this doesn't help writers
Holly Lisle: before I'm 25, I want to write a book.
Writing: November Challenges
NaBloPoMo: National Blog Posting Month
Assembly Line Writing: churning it out
James Patterson: some don't like me, many more do
Writing: Less is more: the drabble
NaNoWriMo: Write a novel in 1 month?
On Writing by Stephen King

2012-07-27

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Thursday, 26 July 2012

Health: Hope truly springs eternal

This past Saturday, I decide to go to the movies. The theatre is merely six blocks away so it's not like I have a long way to walk. Yes, walking is difficult for me but six blocks shouldn't break me. As a reminder, the difficulty in walking is not because I have a problem with my legs or something, it seems that walking puts stress on my upper body which in turn tenses my neck and causes my herniated cervical disc to push against my C6 nerve and send referred pain through my shoulder and down my left arm. Sometimes it's bearable and sometimes it can be excruciating.

Just in case, I decide to take one 75 mg capsule of pregabalin, a pain reliever one doctor said is the best thing for the neurological pain caused by pinched nerves.

I manage to sit through half of the movie. My pain just keeps going up to the point where I can't ignore it and I can no longer concentrate on the film. I go to the washroom and am about to leave the theatre when I think to try one last time. I go back into the theatre but stand off to one side. When this happens at home, I stand up and pace although at home I have access to cold packs and can calm things down a bit by icing my neck.

After a few minutes, I realise this isn't cutting it so I leave. Well, there goes the price of full admission but at least it's the afternoon so the price is discounted.

Surprising enough, getting outside and walking home sort of calms down my pain. Yes I have the usual shooting pain in my left forearm, but the general achy pain which I get in my shoulder and arm diminishes. Go figure.

Here it is not two days later and I'm sitting in my apartment typing this at 10pm. I have walked to work and walked home, a distance of six blocks each way. While at work, I managed to walk two blocks to the store and back. I have not taken any pain medication all day. That doesn't mean I haven't felt pain; I just managed to put up with it and not take anything. However, I did go to work prepared by putting three 75 mg capsules of pregabalin in my pocket just in case. I actually feel a little proud I managed to get through the day without taking any drugs. I have been worried about this on-going health issue and the number of times I've had to indulge. I'd say I've taken more pain medication in the past four months than in my entire life combined. That can't be good for the liver and kidneys.

So, here I am feeling pretty good about today and myself and what bizarre thought flitted through my head? Maybe, just maybe I'm getting better.

Let me be objective. For my rotator cuff injury, my reading has led me to believe I'm looking at six months to a year. Fine. I can deal with that. My problem, my really really big huge honking problem is the herniated cervical disc impinging my C6 nerve in my neck. That I would say hasn't improved my iota and is an on-going source of discomfort, pain, and agony. My pinched nerve is the wild card. I am confident that everything else will heal over time and with physiotherapy and my own exercising, I should be able to regain my previous level of physical fitness. However, a herniated disc may heal and it may not. I have read estimates of "40% of the time herniated cervical discs heal on their own" to 90% of the time but what is the case for my particular herniated disc? After talking with my family doctor, a sports medicine specialist, a neurologist and a kinesiologist, I don't think anybody knows one way or another with any certainty. However as I arrive at the four month mark from my accident, I can't say that I objectively see a difference.

Nevertheless, still I hope. I sit here typing away and think, "Hey. My pain isn't excruciating. Maybe I'm getting better." Or I may think, "Gosh, I haven't said the word f**k out loud in over 15 minutes. Maybe I'm getting better." It's at this point you're allowed to say, "Oh boy, he's finally flipped."

No, it's just a question of that hope thingy springing once again. Isn't it just inexhaustible? No matter how dark and gloomy it is, there's hope forever encouraging us to carry on. Of course, what's the alternative? Roll over and die?

Final Word
I'm finding that pain tempers my expectations. I watch somebody go jogging by me and I'm pissed I can't jog (Hell! I can barely walk!) but I am nonetheless grateful I'm not in agony. Pain turns into something of an avoidance game. Please don't make me suffer pain and I won't get pissed off at not being able to jog; I will be happy just to sit in a chair.

Yes, my expectations are now tempered. I previously wrote that I had thought about taking a trip to China this year but that idea is completely off the table due to this health issue. Now I would be ecstatic to go for a pain-free walk around the block never mind walking on the Great Wall of China.

Hope springs eternal. It's tempered but it's still there. Praise the lord and pass the drugs.


References

Wikipedia: Hope Springs Eternal
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
- Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

Wikipedia: An Essay on Man
An Essay on Man is a poem published by Alexander Pope in 1734. It is a rationalistic effort to use philosophy in order to "vindicate the ways of God to man" (l.16), a variation of John Milton's claim in the opening lines of Paradise Lost, that he will "justify the ways of God to men" (1.26). It is concerned with the natural order God has decreed for man. Because man cannot know God's purposes, he cannot complain about his position in the Great Chain of Being (ll.33-34) and must accept that "Whatever IS, is RIGHT" (l.292), a theme that would be satirized by Voltaire in Candide (1759). More than any other work, it popularized optimistic philosophy throughout England and the rest of Europe.

2012-07-26

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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Beatles: Across the Universe


Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind
Possessing and caressing me
Jai Guru Deva OM

Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe
Jai Guru Deva OM

Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world

Sounds of laughter shades of live are ringing through my open ears
Inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on, across the universe
Jai Guru Deva OM

Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world

Jai Guru Deva
Jai Guru Deva
Jai Guru Deva
Jai Guru Deva
Jai Guru Deva

References

Uploaded by MusicOrGTFO on Mar 22, 2008

Wikipedia: Across the Universe
"Across the Universe" is a song recorded by The Beatles. It was written by John Lennon, and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The song first appeared on the various artists charity compilation album No One's Gonna Change Our World in December 1969, and later, in different form, on Let It Be, the group's final released album.

Wikipedia: No One's Gonna Change Our World
No One's Gonna Change Our World is a charity album released in the UK on 12 December 1969 for the benefit of the World Wildlife Fund.

The compilation was put together by comedian Spike Milligan. It features liner notes by Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The album is largely known by fans of The Beatles as the first release of the song "Across the Universe" - the title of the album comes from a line in this song, "Nothing's gonna change my world." It was also the first release of the Hollies song "Wings", one of the last songs they did with Graham Nash in early 1968.

Wikipedia: Let It Be
Let It Be is the 12th and final studio album released by the English rock band The Beatles. It was released on 8 May 1970 by the band's Apple Records label shortly after the group announced their break-up.

Wikipedia: The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960, becoming one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music.

allmusic: The Beatles by Richie Unterberger
So much has been said and written about the Beatles -- and their story is so mythic in its sweep -- that it's difficult to summarize their career without restating clichés that have already been digested by tens of millions of rock fans. To start with the obvious, they were the greatest and most influential act of the rock era, and introduced more innovations into popular music than any other rock band of the 20th century. Moreover, they were among the few artists of any discipline that were simultaneously the best at what they did and the most popular at what they did. Relentlessly imaginative and experimental, the Beatles grabbed a hold of the international mass consciousness in 1964 and never let go for the next six years, always staying ahead of the pack in terms of creativity but never losing their ability to communicate their increasingly sophisticated ideas to a mass audience. Their supremacy as rock icons remains unchallenged to this day, decades after their breakup in 1970.

Some personal notes
I grew up with The Beatles and I can define periods of my life by the latest album of the day. I got Long Tall Sally for my 13th birthday in 1963, me falling in love with pop music as I started my teen years and my first forays into the world of social slash sexual relations. I got Rubber Soul at Christmas and the songs still remind me of the holidays, sitting at the window watching the snow fall in the yard while listening to the various tracks.

Back then, at high school, there was always this fight about who was better, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. Posterity will decide or but maybe it has already decided. The Rolling Stones are, no doubt about it, an influential rock band but unlike many in popular music, The Beatles transcended rock music.

2012-07-25

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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Health: There's a knife sticking out of my shoulder

Okay, I don't really have a knife sticking out of my shoulder but this is a metaphor (Or is it a simile?) for an odd observation I've had during this, the worst sports injury I have ever suffered in my entire life.

During the past almost four months now, I have been diagnosed with muscle strain, a possible pinched nerve, maybe a torn rotator cuff, okay not a torn rotator cuff, a traumatised upper left quadrant, a traumatised rotator cuff, a slight separation of the bones in my left forearm and consequently a displacement of the bones in the wrist and elbow, an unseating of one of the two branches of the upper tendon of the biceps, and finally a pinched C6 nerve more than likely caused by some herniation of the C5-C6 and C6-C7 discs leading to referred pain in my left shoulder, arm and hand.

I have had an EKG (to rule out having a stroke). I have had the rotator cuff test done on me twice. I have had an x-ray of my shoulder, an x-ray of my neck, an MRI of my shoulder and an MRI of my neck and an EMG (electromyography).

I've talked with medical professionals such as my family doctor, a sports medicine specialist, a neurologist, a chiropractor, a massage therapist, a physiotherapist, a kinesiologist, an acupuncturist, plus family, friends, and colleagues. I have explained the problem I am constantly having with pain. They have collectively suggested medication, physio, massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, muscle stimulator electrodes, glucosamine supplements, vitamin E and vitamin C plus magnesium, non inflammatory foods, a traction table, and one acupuncturist suggested I needed an emotional cleansing. Yes, you heard me, an emotional cleansing. She writes, "Your pain and discomfort are more emotional than physical (80% emotionally caused), I am convinced that by cleansing your emotional burdens you can be permanently relieved of your pains." I'll come back to this WTF in a moment.

I have asked myself on numerous occasions why it has taken over three months to arrive at what I now think is a comprehensive and accurate assessment of my condition. I have also asked myself why I have been bombarded over the past months with such a variety of diagnoses and opinions plus suggestions for dealing with my issue. My conclusion is this: I don't have a knife sticking out of my shoulder.

What is my little bit of humour about this? If I had a knife sticking out of my shoulder, anybody whether medical professional or layperson would easily see what my problem was. Let's get that big bad knife out of my shoulder then let the healing begin!!! Woo hoo!!! However, my problem is a herniated cervical disc. You can't see it. You can't see anything. My problem is completely invisible. I stand before you looking completely normal. On top of it, I can talk coherently, smile, and crack jokes. I can move my left arm around without pain. Okay, so where's the fire? What's my emergency?

The Rotator Cuff Test
When I first visited my family doctor with complaints of shooting pains in my left forearm, we discussed the various physical exercises I had been doing the day it all started. He tested me to see if I had damaged my rotator cuff. Basically, the doctor visually examined the shoulder, did a little poking and prodding looking for anomalies and to see if I would hit the roof screaming in pain, then asked me to put my arm in different positions. If you have torn your rotator cuff, this means you have more than likely detached or partially detached a tendon from the bone. Either you can't move your arm into a position (the tendon is detached) or you feel a lot of pain (the tendon is partially detached). For me, I could put my arm in any position the doctor wanted all without feeling any pain.

Conclusion? I had not torn my rotator cuff. And that's a good thing because if you have detached a tendon, surgery is necessary to reattach it.

Conclusion? I had strained my muscles and needed to stay off them to let them heal.

It all seems reasonable given the results of the above simple rotator cuff test. However things didn't work out as expected and my pain didn't subside, it actually shot up a few times. Okay, diagnosis number one may not have been totally accurate, what else could be wrong? Conjecture? Pinched nerve in the neck? However an x-ray of the neck at the two month mark didn't reveal anything telling. (I still wonder if the x-ray not having the same refinement of image for soft tissue as an MRI failed to show what's necessary to make an accurate diagnosis.)

Imagine me sitting there feeling all sorts of pain only to be told there's nothing wrong with me. I just have to be patient and let my body heal. Ah, maybe I haven't made myself clear. This f**kin' hurts like a goddamn bitch. Okay, I was polite; I only thought that. No, I was actually confused. I now think I was in so much pain, I wasn't thinking clearly and wasn't doing a good enough job of advocating for myself. My doctor says he's going to get me a referral to see a neurologist about a possible pinched nerve but that appointment is three weeks away. What? That means I have to sit at home and put up with three weeks, 21 days, 504 hours, thirty thousand two hundred and forty minutes of pain. (That may seem like an amusing breakdown of the time but when you're in pain; even a minute seems like an eternity.) What would my family doctor have done if I had a knife sticking out of my shoulder? Take a couple of aspirins and come back to see me next week? I am assuming (I'm hoping?) I would be whisked by ambulance with all due haste to emergency where a team of medical professionals including trauma specialists would work feverishly and tirelessly with the utmost Hippocratic dedication to get that foreign body out of my flesh.

But I didn't have a knife sticking out of my shoulder. I seemed to present a clear picture of a rotator cuff which wasn't torn but traumatised. My family doctor was going to let it ride as muscle strain but I just kept complaining of pain, some mysterious pain caused by heaven knows what. And what do we do with mysteries? We do our best then call it a day and go home. After all, we're not the one suffering from pain.

Acupuncture
A colleague told me he had suffered a sports injury involving his rotator cuff a few years ago and acupuncture worked miracles. He mentioned it several times. He insisted. So I made an appointment and went. Of course, were our injuries the same? (no) Did he have a herniated cervical disc? (no) I can clarify my position on acupuncture by saying that this Doubting Thomas was so desperate, he would have stood on his head and spit wooden nickels if that would have helped. (It doesn't by the way. Then again, I couldn't find any nickels made out of wood so I may have invalidated the experiment.)

The acupuncturist was a nice enough lady, I suppose, but I quickly realised that with me at least, she was in way over her head. She said I would need multiple visits to arrive at more satisfactory results adding that the pain relief from this particular session would last no more than 24 hours. She went on to say that from my story, I had personal issues that had not been properly dealt with and I should consider having an emotional cleansing. I jokingly said to this, "Are you going to make me cry like a baby?" I did add that traumatising my upper left quadrant and herniating a cervical disc leaving me in constant pain might be one personal issue I had not yet properly dealt with. I don't think she got my sarcasm or she chose to ignore it.

We did the session and I left. The so-called pain relief didn't last 24 minutes, never mind 24 hours. Walking puts stress on my upper body which stresses my neck and causes the bulging disc to press against my C6 nerve resulting in pain going down my left arm. Pain relief? Don't make me laugh.

Afterwards I did some research on the Net about acupuncture and discovered that scientific literature showed that randomly sticking needles into a person produced the same results as the supposedly legitimate points of acupuncture. Using "fake needles" like toothpicks also produced similar results. What was the conclusion about people claiming that it worked? The theory was that there was a psychological effect of going through the procedure and of being touched by another human being. The patient felt he was better off not because of acupuncture but because of the power of human touch.

That was all very well and good but I was looking for somebody to "unherniate" my herniated disc. I was looking for somebody to take the knife out of my shoulder. I decided to not go back. Besides, if I had shown up at the acupuncturist's office with a knife sticking out of my shoulder, I would have been just a tad miffed if she suggested I needed an emotional cleansing.

I'm offering what I know. No more, no less.
Everybody had something to offer me. A chiropractor cracked my neck. A massage therapist rubbed my shoulder. The acupuncturist stuck needles in me. Okay, but can you take the knife out of my shoulder? No? Well, would you kindly explain to me the connection between what you're offering and the correction of a herniated cervical disc impinging on the C6 nerve causing referred pain in the upper left quadrant?

I was very much struck while sitting talking to the acupuncturist so highly recommended by a colleague that she had no training in medicine and she had no ability whatsoever to remove knives from shoulders. She knew how to stick needles in me but she did not know how to correct a herniated cervical disc. She knew how to perform this "emotional cleansing" but she was unable to remove the impingement of C6 nerve. She offered only what she had to offer. It was up to me to determine whether or not any of these people could in any way be effective in my treatment. (I do not see any of the previous three practitioners anymore.)

Desperation and Jello
Desperate people do desperate things as the saying goes. And if you're in pain, believe me that makes you quite desperate. Please! For the love of God, would somebody take my finger out of the light socket!

As I go down this list of recommendations I have gotten from both professionals and laypeople, I can't help thinking of a saying a wise woman once told me. If you throw enough jello at the wall, eventually some of it will stick. Is that the idea behind trying anything, just about anything in a desperate attempt to correct a problem? I have a knife sticking out of my shoulder. Arguably vitamin E does contribute something to muscle growth; glucosamine supplements may help my cartilage and maybe an emotional cleansing would help me come to terms with Mommy liking my brother best, but if I step back and look at the big picture, the real crux of the matter, the true source of my health issue, the principal and overriding cause of my pain is... drum roll... the knife sticking out of my shoulder.

It's as obvious as the nose on my face... as shown on an MRI
I can't help feeling that everyone, both medical professional and layperson, seems to suffer to varying degrees of this human condition or maybe failing of out of sight out of mind. I can't see the problem therefore I don't appreciate the problem. Or even I can't see the problem therefore there is no problem. I'm certain that everyone means well and sincerely hopes to be passing on to me some tidbit of wisdom but does the person in question recognise when they might not know the right answer to my particular problem?

I slap down $120 for a fifty minute session of massage therapy. This young lady rubs my shoulder and neck, puts electrodes on me to stimulate the muscles, and inserts three acupuncture needles. Afterwards the head woman comes in and tells me I need to start a weekly regiment of sessions to deal with my pain and get me back into shape. At no time did anybody investigate my herniated cervical disc. (Then again, it's not like they had an MRI scanner tucked away in the corner.) At no time did anybody discuss the impingement of my C6 nerve. At no time did anyone offer to take the knife out of my shoulder. I walked out with exactly the same level of pain as I walked in with. Walking increases the impingement of the nerve and bingo! more pain.

When I went to emergency, the doctor on call who saw me did the rotator cuff test, read the subsequent shoulder x-ray and I could say almost triumphantly announced I had not torn my rotator cuff. Okay, that was the question I had originally asked but she failed to explain my on-going pain and did nothing to investigate the pinched nerve in my neck.

What do I know now?

Wikipedia: Rotator cuff tear: Diagnosis
Since most cervical pain is commonly mistaken for shoulder pain, the physical examination should include a thorough assessment of the cervical spine in order to eliminate other contradictions such as a "pinched nerve", osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Both my family doctor and the emergency doctor tested my rotator cuff and concluded I hadn't torn it. Good. Unfortunately, at that point they both seem to have incorrectly concluded that any on-going pain stemmed from the trauma I suffered. Neither one of them went on to investigate the possibility of a pinched nerve. If my family doctor got me in to eventually see a neurologist for nerve conductivity tests, it was because I had arrived at a point where I wouldn't shut up about the pain.

Final Word
Do we tend to not see what we can't see? Wait. What the heck did I just say? Ha ha ha.

Okay, what I mean is this. I work in a technical area. With nearly 30 years of experience, I can "smell stuff". That is an amusing way of putting it but I mean that my experience gives me a certain intuition about things. I sit down with the new guy to look at a problem. He sees five issues to be dealt with. I look at the very same problem and I can see fifteen or twenty issues to figure out. What's the difference between us?

But what if I bring in somebody from another area and get them to look at the same problem? Heck, what if I ask my garage mechanic to look at the problem? I'm sure my mechanic would suggest an oil change. And an emotional cleansing.

Anybody can see a knife sticking out of my shoulder. But even if I show somebody the MRI of my neck, they may not be able to interpret it correctly to conclude there is an impingement of the C6 nerve.

In the above example, I say that I can see fifteen issues while the new guy only sees five issues. According to my research, problems in the spine such as a "pinched nerve", osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis are ofttimes overlooked as the causes of shoulder pain. (I can state that my pinched nerve causes shooting pains in my forearm and the back of my hand coupled with tingling and sometimes numbness in my fingers.) I would hope that the professional examining me would know this but I now have the experience with two doctors who didn't.

When I was 18, I slipped on some stairs and broke a bone in my left foot. I had to wear a cast for six weeks but that was pretty much it; the entire problem was cut and dry. I would give anything to have had that happen to me. I was going to write that maybe I would have preferred having a knife in the shoulder but I've been given to understand that getting stabbed hurts like a bitch. Then again, would it have hurt like a bitch for four months with no end in sight?


References

Wikipedia: Rotator cuff tear: Diagnosis
Diagnosis is based upon a physical assessment and a detailed history of the patient, including descriptions of previously participated activities and acute or chronic symptoms experienced. The physical examination of a shoulder deals with a systematic approach constituting inspection, palpation, range of motion, strength testing, and neurological testing.

Note
Since most cervical pain is commonly mistaken for shoulder pain, the physical examination should include a thorough assessment of the cervical spine in order to eliminate other contradictions such as a "pinched nerve", osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

2012-07-24

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Monday, 23 July 2012

Starar: Truly Right


If time was a shoe i'd run to you
Cos my running boots won't do
If space was a place for 2 to go
With the stars we'd be alone

And we could run with the wind
Much faster together

We can drive fast just to feel alive
Cos all I need is your love to make me feel fine
We can take turns at who takes the wheel
This love is all that is truly real

I'm gonna request our favourite song
We'll be dancing all night long
Fictional dance rooms set the scene
I can dream yeah I can dream

And we could run with the wind
Much faster together
And we can fly through the sky
Like birds of a feather

We can drive fast just to feel alive
Cos all I need is your love to make me feel fine
We can take turns at who takes the wheel
This love is all that is truly real
We can sail straight through a raging storm
But all I want is your love to keep me warm
Now at night I no longer need a light
This love is all that is truly right

And we could run with the wind
Much faster together

We can drive fast just to feel alive
But all I need is your love to make me feel fine
We can take turns at who takes the wheel
This love is all that is truly real
We can sail straight through a raging storm
Cos all I want is your love to keep me warm
Now at night I no longer need a light
This love is all that is truly right
We can drive fast just to feel alive
But all I need is your love to make me feel fine
We can take turns at who takes the wheel
This love is all that is truly real
We can sail straight through a raging storm
Cos all I want is your love to keep me warm
Now at night I no longer need a light
This love is all that is truly right


References

Uploaded by Stararband on Feb 1, 2012

Wikipedia: Starar
Starar are a brother and sister duo formed in Lincoln, England in 2009 consisting of Jenna (guitar, keyboards, vocals) and Steven Starar (bass, drums, keyboards, vocals). Their debut album Who was released on June, 7 2011 on Optimum Records in the United Kingdom. They have subsequently released digital-only EPs independently on iTunes as announced on the band's Twitter feed.

Their style of music has been described as a combination of various influences including pop, jazz and country music and "of a rock/pop genre with an electro edge."


official web site: Starar

Facebook: Starar
The sibling songwriting duo, Jenna and Steven Starar.

Twitter: Steven Ellen Starar
@stevenstarar: Drumming is my madness: Lincoln, UK

YouTube channel: Starar

Thanks to Steven Starar himself who pointed me to their Facebook pages where they published the lyrics. I sincerely wish this duo success in their musical career.

2012-07-23

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Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sex: What men want. Okay, what I want.

I have a pair of balls. Does that give me the right to speak on behalf of the entire male sex? If you know anything about this blog, you know the author absolutely detests people making unsubstantiated statements in the guise of so-called facts when they are really giving us their opinion. The worth of that opinion is very much dependant on the education and experience of the individual in question but even then their opinion is probably not supported by a university sanctioned analytic methodology of double blind testing with a statistically significant cross-section of the population. Consequently their opinion is just that, an opinion; it's not a fact. Obviously some opinions may be more worthwhile than others but I would ask if anybody can prove what they're saying? Okay, two plus two does equal four. But does God exist? Did the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapse due to a controlled demolition? And was there a second shooter on the grassy knoll? Oh wait. I almost forgot about Xenu.

I said that two plus two equals four but does it always equal four? Did you know that two plus two sometimes equals "10"? What's that crazy person talking about? Base four, my friend, base four. (see References below) That little example is to prove that even those beliefs you hold as immutable (fixed, unalterable) may change depending on the perspective.

So, coming back to my testicles, somebody could argue (but I'm going to argue for them) that the title of this article indicates I can give you my opinion but I can't necessarily talk for all men. Others may be able to do so better than I and when I say others, I don't necessarily mean men.

In 1974, Shere Hite shocked the world with her revelations in her book The Hite Report on Female Sexuality: 70% of women do not have orgasms through in-out, thrusting intercourse but are able to achieve orgasm easily by masturbation or other direct clitoral stimulation. (Wait. That was a revelation? Hel-lo!) In 1981, she shocked the world again with The Hite Report on Male Sexuality offering up the responses of 7,239 men, 13 to 97 years old about everything from masturbation to being faithful or not being faithful. Somehow I would think that Ms. Hite is far more qualified than yours truly to be telling the world what men think. As a matter of fact, I would say she is far more qualified than a lot of self-professed gurus of sexual slash relationship advice. My point is, to get back to the article's title, is that I am writing about what I want. Yes, I'm a man but I will not pretend to be writing about your man, your boyfriend, husband, partner or imaginary friend Roger Rabbit, batteries not included. This is merely one guy putting down on paper some ideas which have percolated over his soon to be sixty years. It's either the wisdom of the ages or the foolishness of all time. I prefer the former; the jury is still out on the latter.

Men think women don't like sex
I read The Hite Report on Male Sexuality when it first came out in 1981. That's over three decades ago. How much has changed since then? Have relationships between the sexes improved or are we still fumbling around in the dark so to speak? Some of what has appeared in the headlines recently such as Rush Limbaugh's on-air rant about Sandra Fluke would lead me to believe that in some circles society hasn't improved one iota. Then again, how long does a new piece of information take to disseminate throughout the world before it becomes "common and accepted knowledge" air quotes? 72% of Americans apparently believe in angels while 45% believe in Darwin's theory of evolution (only 40% believe in creationism). (2009 Harris Poll) Heck, the Flat Earth Society (Wikipedia) continues the good work of trying to persuade us all that we are not living on a sphere.

Ms. Hite made mention of something I have never forgotten. In interviewing the seven thousand plus men, she ran across a common thread which seemed to be basic part of the male psyche: men believe women don't like sex.

What?

I read that part of the book a second time. And a third. Yep, there it was in black and white. Men believe that women do not like sex. How did they arrive at such a conclusion?

Over the years, I have cogitated (sometimes I ruminate) over how anyone could assume such a thing but the more I thought about it, the more logical it all seemed.

Anthropologists have said that men are the hunters and women are the gathers. Out of this, arguments have been made that genetically, men are geared to spreading their seed while women are striving to set up a stable environment to raise children. True? False? Whether we can take this down to something as basic as our genes, it would certainly seem that our society and our culture play an enormous part of shaping the behaviours of the sexes.

The Double Standard
If a guy sleeps around, he's a man and that's considered something positive. If a woman sleeps around, she's a slut and that's considered something negative. In such an atmosphere where the threat of social stigma is so great a woman could see her standing in the community reduced to zero in the blink of an eye, is it any wonder a woman would be cautious if not scared of engaging in anything sexual? I am sure that this fear would in some cases extend into marriage. Yes, even with my husband I should be cautious out of fear of him thinking that I'm a loose woman.

Men believe women don't like sex? No surprise there. It all seems perfectly logical.

Hysteria
A recent movie of the same name portrays an era of only 130 years ago, the late 1800s, when women were believed (and taught) to be free from any form of sexual desire. (see my blog: Movie Review: Hysteria (plus my ramblings about the female paroxysm, er, orgasm)) The comedy or the sad reality of the story (this isn't a made-up story, this is based on the reality of the day), medical doctors were treating a mysterious illness called hysteria by masturbating women. Yep, you heard me correctly. Women were complaining of various health problems and the remedial course of action was for a doctor to manually manipulate their genitals but it would seem that nobody, neither doctors nor women, understood that a woman was experiencing an orgasm. Is there a better example of people who did not understand what's going on?

Betty Dodson
Flash forward to the 1970s and 1980s. Ms. Dodson as a sex educator has been a pioneer in promoting masturbation for women so they could get in touch with their sexuality. (my blog: Sex Ed: Betty Dodson: educator, author, pro-sex feminist) I'm sure anybody would at first glance consider this to be bizarre but Dodson's web site has numerous emails from women confessing to have never had an orgasm in their life.

27 and Never Had an Orgasm - Jun 6/2009
I am 27 years old, never had an orgasm. I'm married 5 years with 2 kids.

What? Really? We may at first find any of this strange - Lessons on masturbation? - but imagine how strange it would be to be 20, 30 or even 40, married and with kids but having never had something as fundamental to the human experience as an orgasm. It's hard to believe but Dodson's web site certainly indicates there's more going on - or should I say not going on - than anybody would at first realise. Let's not forget how secretive we all are when it comes to anything to do with sex and if you're having problems, where do you go to get reliable information?

Rush Limbaugh
A young lady, Sandra Fluke, is asked by the Democrats to testify about the government providing birth-control pills. The Conservatives are aghast at the idea of the pill and Rush Limbaugh goes off on a rant about Ms. Fluke being a slut for wanting free contraceptives because she obviously wants to have sex all the time and at the government's expense. (my blog: Rush Limbaugh: That's spelled with one F and one U) Okay, Mr. Limbaugh is a douchebag but a douchebag with a radio show and a large audience of Conservative dimwits who subscribe to same narrow minded, anachronistic, sexist view of society in general and women in particular. However is it any wonder that in light of such vitriolic attacks on the feminine sex that women have taken a stance of keeping their heads down and trying to stay out of the line of fire? Sandra Fluke was talking about birth-control for health reasons specifically for regulating hormones and Limbaugh calls her a slut. Limbaugh is a f**kin' idiot. Now how can any man in North America hope to get any woman to relax and come out of her shell in the bedroom if she's worried about having her reputation smeared across the front page? Thanks, Rush. You're a dick.

True Story
The year is 1992 I think. I'm doing some computer consulting work at a small company and I am talking with Bill the manager and Lori the head secretary. Out of the blue, Bill decides to tell me a joke and says, "What's the difference between a woman and a walrus? ... One has a moustache and smells like fish, the other lives in the sea."

I was stunned. He says this in front of Lori. She nervously laughs not really knowing what to do. After all, Bill is her boss and signs her pay check. I didn't know what to say either; I was positively appalled he would say such a thing in front of a woman for starters but secondly; the premise of the entire joke is based on a sexist stereotype to which I do not at all subscribe. What an absolute idiot!

However I have to come back to the etymology of this joke. It is based on the idea that women smell. Down there. I'll come back to the veracity of this idea in a sec but I wonder if the women reading this remember the late 1970s, early 1980s? I believe this is when feminine deodorants hit the market. Now think about this for an instant. An entire industry is dedicated to telling women that they smell and have to do something about it. What?

Even before feminine deodorant, were women told to douche? The Wikipedia article "Douche" reads: Many health care professionals state that douching is dangerous, as it interferes with both the vagina's normal self-cleaning and with the natural bacterial culture of the vagina, and it might spread or introduce infections. The same article goes on to state that today 27% of women ages 15 to 44 douche regularly.

What is the message being given to women young and old about their own bodies?

The walrus joke is boys' locker room talk based on the utter ignorance of the feminine sex. I have a confession and because it is sexual in nature I'm sure it will titillate some but I think the truth is important.

At a very early age in my sexual life, I discovered that women smell wonderful and taste great. I believe that performing oral sex on a woman is the most intimate and sensual act of sex a man can do. To any man reading this who does not perform oral sex, you are missing out on a wonderful way of connecting with your partner. Every man should do it. I will say unequivocally that in sex like many areas of life, giving is far more rewarding than receiving. Oh I like to receive, don't get me wrong, but giving; ah, now that's truly gratifying.

Bill the manager was trying to be funny like two boys in the locker room. His choice of joke was abominable and I, as his locker room buddy, should have chewed him out in front of Lori for perpetuating a falsehood. I'm sure Bill's wife is a deprived woman.

My point
Men believe that women don't like sex. That statement is not true; women do like sex but we continue to live in a society which is very confused about its sexuality and confusion reigns. It is not at all surprising that belief is out there when Rush Limbaugh and walrus jokes perpetuate the message to women that not holding back is fraught with perils.

Over the years, I have met women who were open and women who were closed or shy. I have come to realise that we all are the product of our up-bringing and the society in which we live. Sometimes the results are good; sometimes they're not so good. Nevertheless we are all trying to do the best with the cards we were dealt and we all deserve a break for the obstacles we have to overcome and sometimes the obstacles we may never overcome. As odd as this may sound, as unbelievable as this sounds, there are women who die having never experienced an orgasm.

To connect, to truly connect with another person, I believe we must give our trust to the other person and we must have the trust of the other person. However, the ideas expressed by Rush Limbaugh and walrus jokes will continue to make life difficult if not impossible for women. A woman will spend her entire life learning to hold back out of fear of public humiliation then at some point, is supposed to magically open up. Seems a little unreasonable to me if not impossible. What is it going to take to change the world? As a man, I can protest Rush Limbaugh. As a man, I chew out the next guy who tells a walrus joke. As a man, I can try and shut out the cacophony of sexist negativity and hopefully show that I am not like the rest and merit trust.

Why am I writing this?
A fellow blogger, a female blogger, was thinking of writing some postings about relationships and sex and asked me to respond to the question:

"Where do men like to be touched?"

I thought about it for quite a while, hesitating to speak my mind out of fear of delving into things which could provide more titillation for potential readers than ideas for legitimate discussion. Finally, I decided to respond with the following.

*********************

Do I answer with one word? (I get my face slapped) Or do I turn in a five thousand word essay? (You turn to the crowd and say exasperated, "Would somebody pleeeeease shut this guy up!?!")

I am betting that each man you ask and each woman will turn in "safe answers" describing all areas of the body with charming romantic and affectionate descriptions of various activities such as a walk in the park, watching TV on the couch together, etc. It will make for a cute article in Reader's Digest. They will skirt the obvious sexual one.

Some may go with an answer which for me at least, seems relatively new: the mind. Yes, touch a person's mind, the idea being that the mind is our biggest sex organ. Once again, smiles and polite nods elicited with maybe a few smirks and snickers.

I couldn't help thinking of the double standard and The Hite Report on Men and Male Sexuality (1981). I have never forgotten that Shere Hite said, after interviewing more than 7,000 men, that the most common "theme" of their take on sex was this: women don't like sex.

So, here is my answer. This is what I would say to a woman.

Touch me as a man. Give me the sense that we are connected. Give me the sense not only that you are available, but that you want me. I'm not asking for sex twenty-four by seven, I am asking for the possibility. I'm not stupid. I am mature and yes, I can delay gratification. I am cognizant of children, family events, financial matters, job problems, health issues, headaches, and yes, the latest episode of Desperate Housewives airing in 10 minutes.

Touch me? A quick kiss as either you or I fly out the door. Holding hands on a walk. Snuggling on the couch watching TV. Giving a suggestive caress on the buttocks cleaning up in the kitchen pre or post meal. Or even brazenly grabbing me in the crotch behind our guests back while whispering in my ear, "How's my stud muffin?" Silly? Stupid? Or suggestive? Sensual?

Possibility. Touch my sensibilities. Touch my imagination. I guess, in the end, that is touch my mind with the idea of promise. Oh yes, one more "P" word: passion.

*********************

It would be presumptuous of me to speak for all men solely based on me sharing the same gender but I believe that in the same way a woman wants to be wanted by her man, a man wants to be wanted by his woman. I don't mean love or friendship, both important ideas, I mean sexually. Sex is primordial. Sex is a fundamental building block of a relationship. And yes, the brain is our biggest sex organ. Being wanted does arouse the mind and if you arouse the mind, anything is possible.


References

Wikipedia: World Trade Center controlled demolition conspiracy theories
The World Trade Center controlled demolition conspiracy theory is a conspiracy theory which contends that the collapse of the World Trade Center was not caused by the airliner crash damage that occurred as part of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and the resulting fire damage, but by explosives installed in the buildings in advance.

Wikipedia: Base (mathematics)
In mathematics, a base or radix is the number of different digits that a system of counting uses to represent numbers. For example, the most common base used today is the decimal system. Because "dec" means 10, it uses the 10 digits from 0 to 9.

Wikipedia: Shere Hite
Shere Hite (born November 2, 1942) is an American-born German sex educator and feminist. Her sexological work has focused primarily on female sexuality. Hite builds upon biological studies of sex by Masters and Johnson and by Alfred Kinsey. She also references theoretical, political and psychological works associated with the feminist movement of the 1970s, such as Anne Koedt's The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm.

Amazon
The Hite Report on Male Sexuality (1981) by Shere Hite
Over 7,000 men, ages thirteen to ninety-seven, speak out about: What they think of women--as wives, lovers, and friends; why a majority of men like marriage but are not faithful; what they think about love--and why they often distrust it; how they feel about giving women clitoral stimulation; why they often masturbate even with a regular sex life...and more.

LiveScience - Oct 18/2011
Busted! Gender Myths in the Bedroom & Beyond by Stephanie Pappas
The difference in men's and women's attitudes toward sex are often taken for granted. Men want sex, women want commitment; men look for attractive mates and women go after social status.

But not all psychologists are on board with these gender-essentialist statements.

In a new review, University of Michigan psychologist Terri Conley and colleagues sift through psychology studies and find gender differences aren't always as black-and-white (or pink-and-blue) as they seem. Here are six gender differences that may not be innate after all.

In Bed With Married Women - Apr 15/2010
My Wife's Body By An Anonymous Husband
My wife, like millions of women in this world, has a poor body self-image.

my blog: An open letter to (older) women about body image
Body image, mental image: I'm not perfect but I'm beautiful anyway.

my blog: Sex fantasies make for better sex lives
Sexual fantasies are tied to the level of sexual satisfaction of an individual. A person who reports sexual satisfaction is more likely to fantasize and a person who fantasizes reports sexual satisfaction.

2012-07-22

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