07 July 2009

RIP Michael Jackson

I have to admit I feel sorry for the guy. I was never a big Michael Jackson fan, my tastes run more towards grunge and alternative music, but I did enjoy hearing his music from time to time and wouldn't necessarily change the station if he was on the radio. I thought "Off the Wall" was his best album, but I didn't really pay him much attention throughout the rest of his career except for the occasional news story regarding his latest exploits in terms of pet monkeys, hyperbaric chambers and the alleged molestation of children.

The saturation media coverage has become annoying to say the least. The low point for me was when one earnest commentator said that Mr. Jackson was America's version of Lady Di- an unfair comparison, I thought, given that Mr. Jackson actually worked for a living. Another proclaimed "Thriller" to be the greatest album of all time. I could see that to some extent if the basis was sales, but there have been better albums from various bands throughout the years- Nirvana, "Who's Next," "Dark Side of the Moon".....we could debate this for days. The story of his death even managed to knock the situations in Iran and North Korea out of the news mix, and Governor Sanford of South Carolina must have seen his death as a stroke of good luck.

The fundamental thing that the media seems to be struggling with is that people die. No matter how rich, how poor, how weak, how powerful we are, we're all going to end up dead. I think this basic fact of life has been lost on our modern society. We think technology can conquer all. Unlike our ancestors, death seems like a remote thing that happens once in awhile, but something we really don't talk about. Our kids don't see it like they did in past generations- when is the last time your family laid a body out for a wake in the living room ? That remoteness has made it something alien, not to be talked about when in fact it is a natural part of our existence.

"Strive diligently, for all things must pass." These are the words of the Buddha on his deathbed. He knew he was about to die and he left this advice for his followers. They are good words for us as well. Live a good life, be diligent in whatever you do, be moral and upstanding in how you deal with other people, respect life and always try to do the right thing. I struggle to do these things everyday but it is that very struggle which makes us human. Just like Michael Jackson.

06 July 2009

Welcome to the suck.

It's nearly 4.00 pm and I haven't done much for a Monday. I read the news, did a little work and went to the gym. Another day in depression land. I've suffered from this damned disease for the past two years and I'm frankly tired of it. The fatigue, the racing thoughts, the sleepless nights and bouts of anger. Depression sucks. It's not an affliction that people can relate to unless they have it. There are no outward symptoms, no scars or bandages to point to. It's a daily battle in my head and lately the bad guys have been winning.

In the two years that I've lived with this, I really haven't missed a day of work or spent one in bed, although I've certainly thought about it. Nope, no quitting here. Get your butt out of the rack and hit the floor running. Trying to work while your mind is racing in a hundred different directions is not much fun. Throw in a big dose of anger, sadness and a sprinkle of self-doubt and you have a recipe for disaster. Imagine the exhaustion of fighting your own mind on a daily basis. That's the joy of being depressed.

Some stuff helps. My doctor is a good guy, actually spends the time to listen to your problems before heading off to the next appointment. He put me on Cymbalta which helped to calm down a lot of those racing thoughts. It has helped to some extent, as does exercise and meditation. Still, I know that I'm not who I was once. Happy, optimistic, hard-charging always looking for a challenge. I'm a shadow of my former self. My wife is a saint, always there for me and willing to listen. It isn't fair to her either that I'm this way.

Depression makes you think crazy things. At the worst of it, when I still lived alone, I spent one night in my bedroom closet wrapped in my poncho liner- gripping my loaded AR-15. I was sure "they" were coming to get me. Looking back on it, I'm not quite sure who "they" were but I'm glad some innocent person didn't knock on my door that night. The only place I feel totally safe and at ease is in the woods behind our house. I spend a lot of time back there, clearing vines and brush, pruning some of the trees and planting wildflowers. I've counted 23 species of birds, lots of deer, squirrels, groundhogs and chipmunks. Sometimes I just sit on my favorite rock and listen to the sounds of the forest.

So, another shot at beating this so I can get on with my life. More exercise, more meditation and I'm going to ask the doc to refer me to a shrink. Gotta eat better too. Two years goes by quickly, too quickly. I can't waste another two.

05 July 2009

More DUI Checkpoint Silliness

Today's Pittsburgh Post Gazette loudly confirmed my earlier post about the ineffectiveness of DUI checkpoints. Although the article's headline proclaimed "Task force nabs 10 during DUI checkpoint, patrols" the real story was, as usual, buried in the details. The article states that 968 vehicles passed through the checkpoint. Of that number, 17 were given field sobriety tests and 1 arrest was made.

Other charges were made for drug paraphernalia and underage drinking as well as assorted citations for vehicle code violations. I would like to take a moment to thank the Task force for making my point.

Let's run the numbers.

By my math, one arrest for sobriety violations out of 968 vehicles equals a success rate of 0.00103 %. Even the Pirates would be embarrassed by these kind of numbers. If we are a bit charitable and take into account that 10 drivers total were cited, we get a 0.0103 % "success" for a night's work of overtime, taxpayer expense, inconvenience to the public and invasion of their privacy. Keep in mind that the other 9 citations, were probably for such horrific crimes as not having current registrations, a busted headlight or other such transgressions against humanity.

Note how this number nicely corresponds with the 1 % success rate that most of these checkpoints produce as stated in my earlier post. Nice work fellas, you must be very proud of yourselves.