Friday, September 23

So many books, so little time

About six years ago Google counted the books in the world and come up with 129 million plus. This figure has been updated by others, not entirely scientifically, to more than 134 million and counting.

An average person reads 200-300 words per minute. At this rate, someone (with math skills greater than mine) has calculated it would take 60,000 years to read every book currently catalogued in the Library of Congress.

Nobody has that kind of time. Certainly not me. I have other things to do. So I compensate. 

I read book reviews and familiarize myself with at least what the editors of The New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books and the The New York Times Sunday Book Review section, think is worth reviewing and possibly reading. Also ads in these publications are often a good source of of information for new books. 

In 2013, more than 300,000 books were published in the United States. Assuming that number remained steady in the ensuing years, selecting those to be reviewed is a formidable, awesome and challenging task.

During the 1980’s and 1990’s, I reviewed books for the Sunday edition of The State in Columbia, S.C. The office of the editor over-flowed with books stacked in open bookcases, on the floor and still in unopened packages. I can only imagine what a corresponding office must look like in New York and London. 

At this point in my life I prefer to devote my reading to non-fiction works, concentrating on memoirs, and books on world affairs and international issues. I do make one exception: Alan Furst, an American author of fifteen historical spy novels dealing with the period 1938 to the late forties. His is the last book I could not put down. 

What do you like to read? I would be interested in hearing from you. Send comments to:

Monday, August 29

Remembering a day of my youth

When I was in high school (Keith Academy, Lowell, MA., 1946-1949) I clerked after school in a Kennedy’s Butter and Egg Store, one of many such stores in a large New England chain. I don’t know if the store belonged to “those Kennedy’s” but that was it’s name. The store was on Central Street in downtown Lowell and did a crisp business every week as hundreds of people walked by and came in for butter cut from large tubs, eggs collected from baskets, bulk cheese of many kinds, fresh ground coffee (three choices), bulk tea, and a few shelves of tinned goods, crackers and cookies. Usually three of us were at work:  the store manager, another full-time clerk and myself; an after school helper who stocked shelves, cleaned windows, swept floors and waited on customers. 

In the fall and winter it got dark early and many’s the night I walked home in darkness and cold. I had this job to help out at home. At the end of the week I would turn my pay envelope over to my mother and I would keep a small amount for myself. An older sister did the same and eventually my younger brother would also fall into line. My father had disappeared years earlier and did not support his wife and five children so when we became of the working permit age, 14 it was, we got work permits and found jobs.

When the store closed at six in the evening the manager and the full-time clerk headed their ways and I went mine. I walked down Central Street past another ten or so stores and then turned left on Market Street. A long walk up this street past mills that still employed hundreds, across the canal and past the Lowell Boys Club and a series of Greek coffee shops and stores would take me to the entrance to the housing project where we lived. Shortly after turning onto Market Street I walked past the Lowell Police Station. It was a long red brick building, two stories high. On the ground level past the main entrance there was a series of cells. In the warm weather open windows afforded people passing by a glimpse of them. 

On one early Autumn night as I walked on in the twilight I was passing the police station and I heard a commotion. At the end of the building a window was open for ventilation and I stopped to listen and look. I was a teenager, I was curious. Police were cutting a man down from the bars. He had hanged himself. A policeman saw me looking through the window and yelled at me to “Go on. Get out of here.” I did as I was told and hurried on home.  

When I arrived home a neighbor lady was in our house talking with my mother. My sisters and brothers were there as well. I told them what I had seen at the police station and my story was dismissed as exaggeration. I was disappointed that no one believed me and felt deflated. I had seen an important thing and wanted to share it. We had supper and nothing more was said.

Later that evening, probably around nine, the neighbor who had been in my house came to our door and told my mother she had a phone call on the neighbor’s phone. We did not have phone in our house at the time. My mother went next door and when she returned she was obviously shaken. An aunt had called. The aunt’s brother, a veteran of the recently concluded World War II had committed suicide in the local jail a few hours earlier. He was a veteran seared by war who had a massive drinking problem and was known to the local police. They occasionally locked him up until he sobered and then they turned him loose. He was not a criminal they had to keep an eye on. He was just a man scarred by his war experiences and they tried to help him.

Tuesday, August 23

Two women and the MRSA infection, Post 2

Last week I put up a post (below) about two women and a life-threatening MRSA infection. I told the second woman, who had scheduled elective hip replacement surgery, about the first contracting the MRSA infection following necessary hip replacement surgery; this brought back her own experience some years earlier. She cancelled the elective surgery.

The post generated several comments from women and men I believe are worth sharing. None of the following is medical advice and readers must make their own decisions.

###“I think it is clear to say God used you in this.”

###“Thank you for reminding all of us that medical procedure involves danger that must be very seriously considered.”

###“Thanks for the warning. It is something I didn’t think about when I had elective surgery 1 1/2 years ago, I will definitely keep this in mind should I be so foolish to ever consider elective surgery again.”

###“This is very sad indeed. With all our advances in science and technology why can't we deal with these infections before they begin!!! I  have a dear friend who went through this twice and was on antibiotics for more than a year. It took her a full two years to recover and she still can't walk.”

###“I am so sorry for these two ladies. I just had a hip replacement in May and thankfully I did not have those experiences. I did delay my surgery so that I could have it done at New England Baptist Hospital, they are an orthopedic hospital only. They also have the lowest rate for MRSA infection. They test you for the infection 2 weeks before your surgery and if you have it in your system they treat you before you enter the hospital. You also use a special soap for a few days before the surgery to cut down on skin infections. I am so glad I picked them.”

###”Medical mistakes are the third leading cause of deaths in the US, only cancer and heart attacks kill more. Medical errors cause an estimated 250,000 deaths per year. I've had eleven surgeries, some minor, some very major so I've beaten the odds.... so far. With some exceptions it pays to live in New England with access to Boston.”

###“Interesting and frightening story.  But we know that technology has advanced significantly since, and yes, I’m aware of MRSA, but I have to say that I have had two (2) hips, two (2)  knees, and a (1) shoulder, totally replaced and they all work beautifully, thanks to the good Orthopedists down here in SW Florida. So to the ‘M” sisters, come down to SW Florida to have your procedures done, They probably do more replacements here, than in most other places in America, due to the demographics of the area.”

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Saturday, August 20

Two women and a frightening tale

This is a story about two women, both born before the outbreak of World War II, who are connected only through me but who shared a medical event that is downright scary, and can be life threatening,

The first woman I will call BM grew up on the East coast, became a professional woman and moved to California. Decades later she has returned to New England to live among family. 

The second woman is a very private person who lives in New York City, and whom I will call JM. She had a fine career in the medical field, and is active in public life. She recently confided to me she had scheduled elective surgery to have a hip replaced later this year.

BM had an absolutely necessary hip replacement in California several weeks ago. The procedure, including a week in physical rehab went well. She was extremely pleased. 

Shortly after BM got out of the hospital she developed an MRSA infection and was re-admitted to hospital. The Mayo Clinic website says, “Most MRSA infections occur in people who've been in hospitals or other health care settings, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers…MRSA infections typically are associated with invasive procedures or devices, such as surgeries, intravenous tubing or artificial joints.” 

In the hospital ICU, BM was given three injections of powerful  drugs every day for seven days to fight the disease. 

After discussing this with BM, I emailed JM and urged her to include MRSA infections in discussions with her doctor and his staff to be on the safe side. This is a summary of her reply:

“Your MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) caution brought me back to reality - and earth. I had so wanted to believe that this one procedure would make me perfect again that I chose to forget the horrible (surgical) past and my vow 'never, ever, to go for elective surgery for anything....unless blood is issuing from every bodily cavity!’ "

Well, dear Arch, JM continued, here is what I repressed to myself. I contracted “a very serious, life-threatening case of MRSA from a first hip surgery 3 years ago and I was in intensive care for 17 days while they shot me full of mega drugs, and after months of daily continued drug injections at home, I (obviously) survived - but was told that I would be 'forever immune' to the life-saving properties of those same mega drugs”

JM concluded in sadness: “God works in mysterious ways and so, minutes ago, I received a call notifying me of the funeral of (name deleted), an old friend, and former co-worker,” who died Wednesday from MRSA after having hip replacement surgery.

JM was going to the funeral. 

Thursday, August 4

I don't believe it

I don’t believe the news that Donald Trump’s campaign raised $82 million in “small donations” from his supporters in July. No one raises that kind of money in a month. 

The names of donors who give less than $200 need not be disclosed to the Federal Election Commission in otherwise public filings by the presidential candidates. They can claim any number that comes to their head and say it came from hundreds or thousands of supporter. Would the Trump campaign do this?

In my opinion, in a heartbeat. Trump could pump his own money into the campaign and label it “small donations” to give his campaign an aura of  authenticity. He has refused to make his taxes public and has a record of overstating his personal wealth in business dealings. 

The more important story about money, however, is the debt Donald Trump will carry into the White House should he (God help us) somehow be elected. The man is in debt more than $100 million to banks (e.g. Deutsche Bank of Germany and its subsidiaries) that clash with U.S. bank regulators like clockwork. No other presidential candidate in the history of America has carried such a potential conflict of interest burden into the Oval Office. 

The news about the alleged $82 million naturally struck fear into the beating hearts of the Hillary Clinton campaign. The Trump claim raised Hillary’s fund raising effort to a new pitch. It is like morning following the night. One candidate makes a claim and the other capitalizes on it. I got an email today from Hillary’s campaign manager asking for a $75 donation to help compete with the (alleged - my word) Trump success in July. 

I’ve already sent my contribution to Hillary for August. If I believed Trump’s claims I would do more but I don’t believe it…

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Saturday, July 30

9/11 Memorial Museum - An Inspiration

9/11 Memorial Museum - An inspiration

The events of 9/11 were and are a tragedy, but the new World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial Museum is a testimony to the courage, resourcefulness and determination of the American spirit.

I visited the World Trade Center in January and rode 101 floors to the top in 47 seconds. It was an exhilarating experience. On this week’s trip to New York I visited the 9/11 Museum (opened in September) and was awed by it all.

The museum bears solemn witness to the nearly three thousand victims of the two attacks (February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001) and all those who risked their lives to save others.

From the entrance hall through the concourse and and down the ramp to the Educational Center located on the original foundation level of the twin towers, is an experience to remember for a lifetime.

There is so much to see and appreciate. This is truly a spectacular response to the terrible events which bring it about, but it is also a determined response to the terrorists who caused it that America remains strong and we will not be defeated.

I hope everyone who sees this post will click on the link to the  9/11 Memorial Museum and spend some time visiting the museum. I believe you will be glad you did.

Wednesday, July 20

On advertising

Some thoughts on advertising

I was not consulted when individual advertisers worked up their copy for inclusion in The New York Times Style Magazine (July 17, 2016), and certainly was not consulted when the issue went to press. This is high fashion in spades: clothing, jewelry, makeup, household furnishings, etc. Top of the line, first rate stuff, bar none.

My status as a paid reader, however, gives me the right to comment, to  criticize or praise, as I see fit.

Three pages were devoted to trench coats. The opening copy read: “In the Trenches, The classic silhouette is back, as big and boxy as ever.” The pages were each filled with a model wearing Burberry and Paul Stuart trench coats. 

What would expect in an ad for a trench coat? This is a manly garment invented a hundred years ago for wear by military officers and men of action. Think Bogart. 

The advertisers obviously did not. The model in the three-page spread is a thin teen-ager of small build, who probably still shaves only once a week, and who is absolutely swamped by the coats he is modeling. He has the pouting look on his face that models, female and male, adopt for some strange reason. Like a show of emotion would shatter their psyche. 

I’ve worn trench coats over the years. They give you feeling of strength and savor faire. These three pages of ads would not sell me a trench coat. 

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