10/31/2006: The stark reality of losing Karen has finally set in. And…to put it in plain English, it’s depressing as hell.

In my first job out of college, I had to go to Southfield, Michigan for ten weeks of torture. Seven-day workweeks. 80 hours was normal; some weeks required more. It made my days as an aerospace engineering student look easy! There was a three-strikes-and-you’re-fired policy. I set a record for most weeks on strike two, and still passed.

I couldn’t have done that without Karen.

I can’t even count how many times I called her at home and poured out my heart. She was very encouraging and supportive.

In week 4, I had two strikes–I had gotten off to a terrible start, and blew two of my first three projects–and I was down to my final attempt on the 4th project (we were limited to 25 attempts, by which time we had to have our projects working), with less than a minute to go before submission. None of my previous 24 runs were even close.

I nailed it on the final attempt. Karen had prayed for me that day.

That scenario would be repeated in weeks 7 and 8. No way that happens without Karen!

The last two weeks were a cakewalk. When I returned home, giving Karen a bearhug–and treating her to a nice dinner–was my first order of business.

While things eventually soured between us–I was too immature and she was too hardcore on some points–we would go on to remain very good friends. I also became very good friends with her eventual husband–Doug. We (and another friend) drove to Promise Keepers in 1992 (Boulder, Colorado).

I have my misgivings with PK, but the trip was great. We camped out in Rocky Mountain National Park. (Doug took her there shortly before she died.)

When I was in cemetary Seminary, she was a very good sounding board for some of the progressive nutty ideas to which I was exposed. Sometimes she agreed; other times she said, “You’ve gotta be kidding!”

Most of the time she was right.

Over the years, I kept in touch with them, and even visited when I had a chance. They moved a few times, but I’d call them every so often.

From a healthy living standpoint, Karen did almost everything right. She grew her own vegetables, baked her own bread, avoided the high-fat/high-cholesterol foods, and exercised.

Still, about 8 months ago, she was stricken with breast cancer.

While some folks–including me–question her decision to forego medical treatments (instead opting for non-medical remedies), she had no second thoughts.

She opted out of surgery or chemo or radiation. Barring an act of God, that’s almost certain death. That is exactly what happened. On the upside: her slide was quick, with minimal agony. On the downside, her husband and kids probably could have used some more time.

In retrospect, I guess that was God’s way of punching her ticket. Rapture notwithstanding (and I’m not counting on that, as–unlike Karen–I’m not a pre-tribber), we’ll all walk through that door one day. One day, I hope to meet her on the other side, though I’m in no rush to get there.

Until then, I’ll miss her while I’m here.

Translating Common Engineering Jargon

I got this from a link at Stanford

Translation: We are still pissing in the wind.

Translation: We just hired three kids fresh out of college.

Translation: We know who to blame.

Translation: It works OK, but looks very hi-tech.

Translation: We are so far behind schedule the customer is happy to get it delivered.

Translation: The darn thing blew up when we threw the switch.

Translation: We are so surprised that the stupid thing works.

Translation: The only person who understood the thing quit.

Translation: It is so wrapped up in red tape that the situation is about hopeless.

Translation: Forget it! We have enough problems for now.

Translation: Let’s spread responsibility for the screw up

Translation: We’ll listen to what you have to say as long as it doesn’t interfere with what we’ve already done.

Translation: I can’t wait to hear this BS!

Translation: Come into my office, I’m lonely.

Translation: Parts not interchangeable with the previous design.

Translation: Too damn heavy to lift!

Translation: Lighter than RUGGED.

Translation: One finally worked.

Translation: Achieved when the power switch is off.

Translation: Impossible to fix if broken.

Two Cancer Stories, Two Sets of Choices

10/29/2006: This week, I’ve been hit with two sets of stunning news.

Yesterday, I received news that Karen, a longtime friend of mine–she and I go back 15 years–died of cancer. She left behind a husband (Doug) and three kids. In addition to grieving over the loss of his wife to whom he was very happily married, Doug–who often has to travel as part of his job–is logistically hamstrung.

The day before, I learned that a friend of mine from my Seminary days–David–has taken a disastrous turn in his bout with cancer. Chemotherapy has failed, and hope–while still present–is fading. His wife–Bonnie–is also a friend of mine from those days at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. They have three kids.

Seeing how each has handled their bouts illustrates the dilemmas that cancer sufferers face, and sometimes the choices are quite nebulous.

Both families are Christian. In both cases, prayer was very prominent in fighting the cancer. Each would probably say that it was at least as important as–if not more so than–non-religious elements of their bouts.

In addition to prayer, David resorted to chemotherapy and surgery, two of the common approaches to cancer. While these have not provided a cure, they have extended his life at least two years and allowed him more time with his family. He has also received support and encouragement from his community and also his Church family. Irrespective of the final outcome, there is no price you can put on that time extension.

Karen, on the other hand, chose to forego chemotherapy. Her mom had always been critical of the medical community–suggesting that doctors had a vested interest in keeping people sick, as it is job security. Karen absorbed a lot of that line of thinking. (Karen and I had some spirited discussions over the years on that subject.)

When she received news of the cancer, she decided she was going to pursue the non-medical route. She would pray for healing, and resort to herbal, natural means to fight off the cancer. While her husband was worried about that choice, there was no talking her out of it. He would be as supportive as he could be.

For a while, there seemed to be some success. Two months ago, her spirits were high, and she was confident of a healing. That was the last time I spoke to her. Things went very bad very quickly.

Time elapsed: less than 8 months.

Both David and Karen are (were in Karen’s case) very intelligent, each having razor-sharp intellect. Karen was part of a small circle of friends off whom I bounced ideas to see if I was on the right track or off the reservation. If you are a right-leaning evangelical, you can count on David to leave you scratching your head, if not heading back to the proverbial drawing board altogether. Both practice(d) what they preach(ed).

As a libertarian, I support the prerogative of people to choose–or refuse–medical treatments as they so desire. Cancer sufferers have pulled through without chemo or radiation or surgery, but this does not always work. Karen is evidence of this.

Others–such as radio personality Laura Ingraham–have seen success through a combination of faith and medical advancements. Similarly, David has received life extensions that would not have been possible 20 years ago. It is my hope that he will win this battle.

As for me, having had co-workers and family members–and some friends–who have suffered from cancer (some not making it), I can fully understand why one would be averse to medical options such as chemotherapy. In a recent case, a teenager–after suffering through one bout with chemo as he fought off Hodgkins disease–is refusing chemo now that the Hodgkins has come back with a vengeance. I don’t blame him one bit, and fully support his decision on that.

While the percentages are against me–I am at significant risk for certain cancers–it is my hope and prayer that I never have to fight that battle. Being single–and suffering from chronic osteoarthritis–I know how badly my independence can be stripped in a heartbeat. Admittedly, I am defiantly independent, and any debilitating illness would be an affront to that independence.

Should that battle be thrust upon me, I would probably take the same approach as the teenager. At the very least, I’d give chemo a chance. If the cancer came back, then I’d have to seriously consider letting nature take its course and pray for a Divine interruption of that process. If I’m married and/or have kids, then I’d opt for the full-court press, as David has.

Unlike Karen, I’m not anti-medicine. I’ve known a few oncologists in my life. The ones I’ve known are very caring people who got into that specialty because they wanted to make a difference. (I know a dermatologist who opted against going into oncology because of the high fatality rates.)

Could medicine have made a difference in Karen’s life? Objective evidence points to the affirmative. At the very least, it may have given her more time. In her case, those hardcore views at least accelerated her demise.

As a Christian, she is certainly in a better place now.

As for her family and friends, we long to meet her on the other side.

As for David, we’ll pray for victory on this side of heaven.

Here’s my sendoff for Karen. As an aerospace enthusiast, I present the missing man formation:

AP Continues to Voice Partiality to Islammunism

10/29/2006: This Associated Press article–printed by FOX News–is another example of Jihadist sympathies, or outright cowardice fueling an inability to call evil what it is, among our news media.

A 26-year-old French woman was nearly burned to death when Islammunist thugs attacked a bus in Marseille and set it afire. These are the same thugs who darn-near burned Paris to the ground last year after two teens were electrocuted when they hid out in a power substation.

Throughout the article, the only mention of the fact that the perps were Muslims comes–as an aside–in one of the last paragraphs.

GOP Faces Debacle on November 7

10/28/2006: The Democrats will take back the House on November 7. The only question will be by how many seats.

It is probable that the GOP will lose the Senate as well. The impending bloodbath will be the result of the following:

(1) George Allen (R-VA) really stepped in it with three syllables: macaca. That gaffe has forced the GOP to spend large amounts of money in a state that was once considered a lock. End-result: many candidates who could have used the money–i.e. Santorum (R-PA) and Talent (R-MO) and even Kean (R-NJ)–are now hamstrung. Allen will probably win re-election, but his blunder will cost the party dearly in other races. Advantage: Democrats.

(2) The Mark foley (R-FL) scandal, in which Foley sent sexually-suggestive e-mails and instant messages to teenage pages, has many Christian conservatives staying home. They won’t vote Democrat, but they may not vote at all. Advantage: Democrats.

(3) The GOP Congressional record since 2000 has been nothing short of abysmal. They have spent money faster than any body in world history, taking the deficit and debt to heights that–if dollars were miles–would take you to the moon and back 16.8 million times.

(4) The Commander-In-Chief, President Bush, has been ineffective at communicating our successes in Iraq. He has also failed to correct some critical shortcomings. Rumsfeld needs to go, as does Condi. The troops have seen success, but Bush needs to bring that reality home to the American people. Bush also needs to beat the drum to cut spending and restore the value of the dollar.

Of course, the best thing the GOP has working in their favor is the Democrats. With Screamin’ Dean at the helm, the DNC could easily snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. But this time, I think they will overcome Dean and win back the House.

If enough conservatives stay home, the DNC could even take back the Senate.

My $0.02 on the Stem Cell Fracas

10/25/2006: Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that I am opposed to the federal funding of embryonic stem cell (ESC) research. In addition to my moral objections to ESC research, I am opposed to federal funding of all scientific research. We have mature financial markets that are more than capable of funding such research.

Investment bankers and venture capitalists and hedge fund traders know where the real promises are, and where there is money to be made. If ESC was so “promising”, then every investment banker and biotech fund manager and venture capitalist would be falling over to pour investment dollars into it.

But that’s not what is happening.

ESC research is nothing new. Many scientists have been gushing over ESCs for nearly a generation. Research in this area has turned up dry. To date, the number of scientifically-verifiable medical treatments with ESCs is zero.

This is why the capital markets are not exactly hot to trot about it.

In contrast, Adult Stem Cells (ASCs) have proven a Godsend, as the FDA has specifically approved nine treatments. ESC proponents are batting zero, and are far short of intellectual honesty when they accuse their detractors of being uncompassionate and anti-science.

I also take personal exception to actor–and Parkinson’s disease sufferer–Michael J. Fox’s characterizations of people like myself on the matter.

For the record, I suffer from extreme osteoarthritis.

Five years ago, I finished my fourth marathon (in addition to an ultramarathon). I was in the best shape of my life. I walked to and from work every day (7 miles total). I ran five miles every day. I ran 20 miles on Saturdays. In fact, after 9/11, I was hoping to get an age waiver so I could serve in the armed forces.

Then, in early 2002, I started having pain in my lower back. Within weeks, that pain got so bad that I could barely sleep at night. I would finish one more marathon (in September 2002), but that was it. The diagnosis: degenerative disk disease due to osteoarthritis.

I would spend nearly two years rehabbing, and even got back to the point where I could run 20 miles per week. When the age limit for the Army Reserves was increased, I figured I might even be able to get in.

Then, in October of last year, things went south, and fast.

By June, I was missing lots of work due to my back problems. I could barely walk. The MRI showed that the arthritis had become worse, and I had two disks that had degenerated. In addition, arthritis is now racking my whole body: back, neck, elbows, hands, knees, ankles.

And one more thing: I’m not even 40 years old.

While my chiropractor has helped considerably–I can walk now, and am able to ride a recumbent exercise bike–I am no longer as active as I used to be. Forget marathons; I can’t even run one mile at a 12-minute pace!

On nice, cool, Fall mornings–when I would love to get out and knock out a five-mile run–I can only drool over what that used to feel like. (Running is addictive, and I am suffering from withdrawal!)

I was once an avid tennis player. That’s out of the question now.

I’ve always loved snow-skiing, but now I can only watch others do it.

I’ve always played in volleyball leagues. I can’t do those either.

When friends of mine go on long hikes, I cannot go. Walking more than one mile causes my back to stiffen up.

I’m even limited in what I can do at home: I must be very careful even moving the laundry basket.

I write all this to point out that Michael J. Fox is not the only one who suffers from ailments purported to have promises of treatment by ESCs. Nor am I unsympathetic to his suffering.

That said, as much as I would love to be able to enjoy long distance runs again; as much as I would love to able to enjoy snow-skiing, volleyball, softball, hiking, and tennis; I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I received such a “cure” from a “treatment” that involved such flagrant cannibalization.

And that, folks, is exactly what ESC research is all about: attempting to put a compassionate face on the destruction of human embryos. It would help keep abortion legitimate, and one day even pave the way for infanticide.

Now this is not to suggest that Michael J. Fox–or Nancy Reagan or the late Christopher Reeve–are pro-infanticide. However, there is a large sector within the “scientific” community that could give nary a damn about such objections that would hinder their “research”. To many–not all–in that community, such matters as the sanctity of life are roadblocks to “progress”.

For now, ESC research is perfectly legal, as there are no restrictions on the destruction of embryos. The issue is one of government funding, not the legality of the research itself.

Ergo, ESC researchers are Communists: rather than be forced to sell their ideas to the financial community, they seek to force you and I to fund their endeavors. They see your money and mine as their entitlement.

And I’ll fight their Communism every step of the way.

Lawmakers Wrong about CNN

10/24/2006: While I am as outraged as Duncan Hunter (R-CA) over the CNN airing of jihadi sniper attacks on American soldiers–it is a promo for the Islammunist cause–I oppose his calling for governmental punishment of CNN.

If CNN wishes to be the horse’s ass of broadcasting, then I support their right. After all, the First Amendment is what it is.

That said, it reinforces my decision to forego television. I read the Wall Street Journal; I read various newspapers online; I listen to the radio all hours of the day (but not to Rush or Hannity–they are knee-jerk GOP shills); I troll the blogosphere. I also spend lots of time going through Wikipedia.

Other than not being able to discuss the latest s[h]it-coms or “reality” shows, I don’t find my intelligence compromised in the slightest.

I guess what I’m getting at is CNN is slouching toward irrelevance, just as the other networks are. And for those who admire FOX, just remember: ideologically, FOX is today what CNN was 20 years ago.

If CNN keeps being the mouthpiece for Islammunism, then the free market–that’s the free people of the United States–will punish them in ways that no government can.

What an Idiot Looks Like

10/24/2006: Wayne Derkotch is not only a dumb schmuck who doesn’t understand basic sportsmanship; he is a criminal who had the audacity to pull a gun on a peewee football coach.

Pennsylvania is relatively gun-friendly; as a shall-issue state, they recognize my Kentucky CCW permit. However, it remains to be seen whether Derkotch had a valid CCW permit for the .357 magnum he was packing.

Permit or no permit, he had no business pulling that gun on a coach. His life was not in danger, and he was clearly escalating the matter.

This, folks, is what an idiot looks like:

Marine Barracks Bombing T+23 Years

10/23/2006: A special thanks to Black Five for pointing out the anniversary of the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut.

As much as I am a Reagan fan, that was clearly one of his few major blunders. We sent Marines to be referees, and left them to be sitting ducks. I remember the tragedy like it was yesterday. I was 16 years old, and in 11th grade, when that happened.

Thankfully, Reagan learned his lesson from that one. Whether Bush has learned that lesson remains to be seen.

When you commit troops, it needs to be balls-out all the way. Destroy the enemy, and then get the hell out.

When you force our guys to fight ticky-tack wars, we’ll get dripped dry every time.

Skilling Gets 24 Years

10/23/2006: Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role in the Enron scandal, which destroyed over $100 billion in shareholder value and wiped out the pensions and 401(k) holdings of thousands of Enron employees and investors.

The criminal liability of Skilling and the late Ken Lay underscores the importance of command responsibility for leaders.

On one hand, Lay and Skilling attempted to argue–with some merit–that they were unaware of the fraud that CFO Andrew Fastow was perpetrating. Indeed, some of Fastow’s transactions were so intricate that it took took very experienced CPAs–and corporate attorneys with specialized knowledge of such transactions–to sort out the fraud. While every CEO should have significant understanding of both Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and SEC disclosure requirements, it is not necessary that he or she be a CPA or a lawyer.

On the other hand, Lay and Skilling were responsible for understanding the mechanics of the business of Enron. They took a company that was low-profit/low risk and embraced a very high risk business model without warning investors of the implications of that move. As CEO, Lay and Skilling failed to rein in the activities of Fastow, the grand designer of the fraud.

Lay and Skilling were not the main instigators, but were–at the very least–criminally negligent in their oversight of a public company, and their disclosure to investors and government regulatory bodies.

However, the government failed in one respect in its prosecution of the Enron fraud: none of the Board members were prosecuted, and they were at least as criminally negligent as Lay and Skilling. They failed to ask the tough questions and hold the feet of their executives to the fire. They also failed by granting hundreds of millions of dollars in loans–sweetheart deals–to Enron executives. The Special Purpose Entities (SPEs)–designed by Fastow–were flagrant conflicts of interest that stood to enrich Fastow before investors would see a dime of return. They still signed off on that capital structure. They all–including Linda Gramm, wife of then-senator Phil Gramm (R-TX)–were deserving of prosecution or, at the very least, some heavy financial sanctions from the SEC.

That said, the prosecution of Enron–and the aftermath of the corporate scandals–is not all bleak. Since the Enron-Worldcom disasters, boards have done a better job of corporate governance. Board members are stingier and more scrutinizing toward executives, and executives–due to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act–are much more conservative and transparent with respect to their financial disclosure. Financial officers are now focusing more on compliance and less on creativity.

As for Skilling, I’d rather have seen him hit more in the pocketbook than anything else. Five years in prison–and seizure of all of his assets–would have been more appropriate.

He should be bankrupted, which is what he did to many of his investors.