31 May 2011

Billings' High School Graduations: Above Average

I like to look over the lists of kids in the Gazette, graduating from the four local high schools, "provided all academic requirements have been met," as they say in the fine print at the top of the newspaper page.

It seems that West and Senior graduate about the same number, around 400, while Skyview is a little over 300. There seemed to be some discrepancy in the number of graduates with honors until I found that West and Senior use the same classification, going down to 3.25 GPA, or B+, and about 33% of the graduating classes received some form of honors, while Skyview cut off the honors at 3.5 GPA, on the cusp of A-, so that only 19% of the graduates received honors, though the number inducted into the National Honor Society (NHS) was about the same for all three public high schools.

Billings Central Catholic High School had 9 kids out of a total of 85 with a 4.0 GPA, with one selected as valedictorian and the others as co-salutatorians. Wow. About half of the graduates had GPAs worthy of honors.

I thought it was interesting that there wasn't a very close correlation of GPA and NHS: in other words, some of those with honors were not inducted into the NHS, perhaps it is a voluntary selection, and some without honors were selected or inducted into the NHS.

It looks to me as if we are not quite in the same category as Garrison Keillor's mythical Lake Woebegone, where the "children are all above average," but we seem to be getting closer, especially judging by the increasing number of kids with honors of some sort. I wondered if a B is the new C.

30 May 2011

Memorial Day 2011 Around Billings & Laurel MT

Lying at attention, still gladly serving under their flag.

The good sounds of Amazing Grace on the pipes could not be muffled or made worse by the rain. These guys and their drummers marched on at the Veteran's Cemetery on the edge of Laurel. There was a good turnout to hear a stirring speech by the Commanding General of the Montana National Guard. He mentioned three of his men who didn't return alive from Iraq.

Here Is My Plan For A Rainy Memorial Day In Montana

Here is the model. We should start maybe the day after Memorial Day. OK? This is the most concentrated rain I've seen in thirty one years here in Billings. The creeks and rivers in the towns and low places all around us can't handle this much water so they are all overflowing. And there is still snow collecting in the mountains which has not started to melt. I think it will be dreadful further downstream as time goes along.

This is what the fields look like, or worse, between Billings and Laurel.  I stopped to take a picture and almost got stuck in the mud on the side of the road.

25 May 2011

Caffeine and Conception in Mice and Women

Though the fallopian tubes of some mice apparently are slowed in their propulsive action by caffeine, and thus conception is delayed, this apparently does nothing for women. A nice review in Junk Science.com, a useful blog.

24 May 2011

These Are Worth Reading

John Thorn's Baseball in the Garden of Eden is sub-titled The Secret History of the Early Game. This is probably the most interesting presentation of 19th century baseball history available today, and probably the most truthful as it seems that a fair number of those preceding Mr Thorn were not quite telling "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."Mr Thorn carries the honor of being the Official Baseball Historian for Major League Baseball.

I like the well-written though apparently scholarly way he goes about his business but then every once in awhile excitedly inserts himself into the dusty search of the archives in a surprising way. If Ken Burns, Jim Bouton and George Will all write glowing blurbs then you probably have the real stuff in your book. There are some very useful end-notes and acknowledgements.

It turns out that to get at the real beginnings of the game you have to start later and then work your way backwards, so that is why the book covers the 19th century exhaustively, even going well into the 1930s and the building of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown NY.

I hate to have to admit this but before I started reading this book I did not recognize the name of the author. I looked up Doug Glanville on Google and sure enough there he was just like his book said he was.

One of the reasons I like baseball is that, like cricket earlier, it has a literature starting in the early part of the 20th century, and at least some of the best players are insightful enough to write really good books. This is one of those.

Glanville is an Ivy League graduate, from the Univ. of Pennsylvania, and played centerfield for the Phillies, Cubs and Rangers between 1996 and 2004. 1999 was his best year, hitting .325, 11 home runs, 73 RBIs, and stealing 34 bases. He seems to be painfully honest in his analysis of himself and others playing at this level, both physically and mentally.

What One Does On Really Rainy Afternoons

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's Winners. Read them carefully. Each is an artificial word with only one letter altered to form another possible word. Some look very useful and all are funny and clever.

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with. 

2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly. 

3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people, that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The Bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future. 

4. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time. 

5. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high. 

6. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it. 

7. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late. 

8. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness. 

9. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.) 

10. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer. 

11. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you. 

12. Glibido: All talk and no action. 

13. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly. 

14. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web. 

15. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out. 

16. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating. 

And the pick of the lot: 

17. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

And then there are these:


1. coffee, n. the person upon whom one coughs.

2. flabbergasted, adj. appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3. abdicate, v. to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. esplanade, v. to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. willy-nilly, adj. impotent.

6. negligent, adj. absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7. lymph, v. to walk with a lisp.

8. gargoyle, n. olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. flatulence, n. emergency vehi cle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. balderdash, n. a rapidly receding hairline.

11. testicle, n. a humorous question on an exam.

12. rectitude, n. the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. pokemon , n. a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. oyster, n. a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism, n. the belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. circumvent, n. an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain

This is the phrase and poem that is going through my mind as I watch the rain come down today for what seems like the 5th day in a row. Those of you of a certain age will know of what I am speaking and to whom I am referring. The rest of you can Google it easily.

Warren Spahn was one of my boyhood heroes, one of those guys who played before World War II, then went off and fought the Germans, and came back to start playing baseball again, missing three full seasons.

The poem referred to the remarkable performance by these two pitchers for the Boston Braves in 1948, when in early September—in those days the World Series started in early October—they managed to win 8 games in 12 days to win the pennant, and eventually the World Series. In addition to winning 363 games in 21 seasons—"hitting is timing, pitching is upsetting timing—Spahn was a pretty good hitter, knocking out 35 home runs in his career, before the onset of the designated hitter and the frequent use of the bullpen.

I saw him pitch in Milwaukee in the late 50s. There is a statue of him outside Turner Field in Atlanta but I remember his leg kick as being higher, enough to make runners stay close to 1st base.

The picture above left is taken of our back yard this afternoon. That water looks like it is heading toward our basement. The picture to the right is taken from the protection of our garage. The water is simply pouring down out of the skies and the gutters are full. All of this will probably wind up somewhere downstream. We had a flash flood warning on the TV. That could be serious as I remember a woman was carried away in her car on the road to Roundup, and drowned back in the 80s.

Creamy Chicken and Green Chile Soup

I stopped in early today at my favorite lunch place, The Soup Place on Broadway. It is a little mis-named because they have pretty good sandwiches too, including many variations on my favorites, the family of toasted cheese.

They have a set menu that includes a variety of soups, fairly standard fare, and then they add three special soups made that day. Once of the choices today was a Green Chile Soup with onions and little black beans and a generous amount of creamy chicken, enough to have a piece of chicken in every spoonful it seemed to me. This was fairly mild on the tongue though it did steam up my glasses.

In addition I had a Nathan's hotdog on a nicely toasted bun with a small amount of butter on both sides. A judicious squirt of ketchup was the only condiment though onions and sauerkraut were offered. You can see that I was fairly hungry, always a good condiment, so I had a few bites before I took the picture.

This went well with the soup and very well with the serendipitous glass of Red Tree pinot noir—I thought I was having a pinot grigio—but my waitress thought differently, and that was a good thing too.

The Soup Place on Urbanspoon

The History Boys at Venture Theatre

This is the final weekend of the play at Venture Theatre. I haven't seen any review of it in the Gazette. Where are you Jaci?

Written by Alan Bennett, opened in London in 2004, made into a movie in 2006 and then out in the hinterlands of the USA in the last couple of years. To be produced in Billings this early is a good thing.

It is about a group of schoolboys and their teachers in the 1980s trying to get the former into Oxford and Cambridge by coaching them for the examination. It could be fun. Thurs, Fri and Sat evening.

See the entry in Wikipedia, where the picture to the left comes from.

23 May 2011

This Seems Reasonable to Me

"Mr. Obama, return to your 2007 borders. It would be the best political decision you have ever made, and you would unite the entire democratic adult world in support of your action."

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/05/23/obama-should-return-to-his-2007-borders/#ixzz1NCVvsaIT

21 May 2011

The AHT Guide to Hamburger and Cheeseburger Styles

I may have cited this website and perhaps even this particular blog entry at some time in the past. My defense will be an aging memory and the importance of defining carefully what we are talking about, and thus worth repeating an amazing blogsite that probably is a small book. There are lots of other great pictures of burgers. AHT stands for A Hamburger Today, an allusion to Wimpy's famous offer.

New Ways of Doing Business

While driving west on Central Ave, just south of Interstate 40 (I40) in Albuquerque recently, looking for a place to stop for the night we came across this cluster of signs. We did stay here and there really is a dental office right in the main office building of the motel. I didn't ask if the dentist owned the motel or what the arrangement was.

By the way, the signs identifying this road and others as part of the original Route 66 seem to be everywhere in New Mexico. It seemed like every other exit on I40 had a little sign indicating a portion of old Route 66 was near that exit. I guess they built roads that lasted in those days. There are a few places that look like they come from the '30s or the '40s. Our connection with Route 66 has to do with a trip my Rohrschneider grandparents took from southern Wisconsin all the way to San Bernadino, California in 1926. I have some pictures of them somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico in which the road is barely recognizable. My mother Joann was about 5 years old at the time.

From the Australian Tea Party

Check out this website. Can stupidity be cured? Or at least kept under control? Perhaps this is really Malthusian evil masquerading as environmental fundamentalism?

First Things

The current issue of First Things, June/July 2011, has a very good article on the level of Carbon Dioxide and climate by the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics, William Happer, of Princeton University. I wish someone would point this out to our politicians, especially our President. Their inability to understand simple science may get us into real trouble one of these days. It is also printed X2 in the blogsite Watts Up With That

20 May 2011

The News In Other Parts

When we are traveling I enjoy taking the time to have an extra cup of coffee and read the local papers. This usually means a hike, usually short but sometimes surprisingly long, because the motel only has the USA Today, which apart from the sports section is not really that good. The Arizona Republic and the Albuquerque Journal is where I learned some good news and bad news recently. The good news was that your pets will not be abandoned if the Rapture should come along tomorrow, 21 May 2011, in the former. The combination of loving pet-owners and atheism has solved this problem. I saw this mentioned in a Phoenix paper but I can't remember when so here is their online address. They are understandably quite busy right now. The latter showed the following depressing headline a few weeks ago.

You may have guessed that NMSO stands for New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. They have declared themselves bankrupt and are now disbanded I guess if that is not too punny. I read the whole article several times and still was not able to get at the reasons behind this drastic solution to their financial woes. Almost certainly that means some combination of not enough income and too much expenditures, which likely means not enough donations and the musicians' union demanding too much in salary. I don't know if this is a full time orchestra or not. Probably not. It reminded me of the difficulty of non-profit organizations these days, especially our own voluntary organizations here in Billings. I saw this snippet online, so maybe there is some hope.

The other thing we like to do when traveling is to see what our kids and grandkids are up to. We visited our daughter Ms Gomez's 5th grade class on Monday morning before heading west into a dust storm on Interstate 40. They were an eager and curious bunch. We wish them the best as they go into middle school. Here is a picture of the whole group.

19 May 2011

What Is Wrong With Our President?

We are really testing the conventional wisdom I heard while growing up in rural Wisconsin after WWII: that our constitution and political practices were so strong that they could withstand anything, even a Truman or an Eisenhower, depending on which political direction one leaned in those days. Things have gone from bad to worse. I thought there surely was some OJT in the space of a couple of years. Wait a minute, I don't think we can afford that much stupidity.

A Useful Kind of Clock

Here is an early and continuing example of the kind of harm government by bureaucracy can do. I had forgotten that the EPA was this old. The next thing you know they will declare carbon dioxide a pollutant.
Oh crap, too late.

16 May 2011

My Friend Bill Died

One of the onerous tasks of the aging traveler returning home is finding out who among his friends has died while he has been away. My wife woke me from my afternoon nap today with the news that Bill McNamer had died some time last week while we were having a good time in Albuquerque and Phoenix.

He apparently had another fall, and developed yet another episode of the "old man's friend"—Sir William Osler actually called it the "friend of the aged"—and just couldn't get up the strength for another round.

I've been watching him now for some years, glad to discuss things with him as a friend, but also as a physician noting his gradual decline as he advanced unsteadily into his 90th decade, feeling fairly sure there wasn't much that I or any medical person could usefully do for him. I had lunch with him a few weeks ago at a little restaurant near his home, but still too far to walk for him. He seemed very tired but fairly serene as we discussed the local and national items in the news.

I learned a lot from him: for example, the importance and goodness of frequent naps during the day, and how to narrow the search for something good to read as one aged, and the usefulness of writing letters to one's children in later life.

I enjoyed our short time together. I said good-bye a few weeks ago but I was thinking requiescat in pace my dear friend. We had some time ago discussed the correct order of the words. Bill decided and persuaded me that it didn't make much difference.

He gathered some letters to his children together in the form of a book a few years ago: Keep The Faith he called it. I saw it on the shelves at Barnes and Noble, next to a book by his loving wife Elizabeth.

We've Been Looking at Parts of AZ

We flew on the bait-and-switching AllegiantAir from Billings to Mesa AZ. You know, the one that advertises one way per person of less than $100 but never has seats left at that price, and charges for every thing they can think of. They are on time though.

Saguaro cacti are protected species in AZ. I found these on the old Williams AFB, now Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. By the way, if you are coming from the west on 202 be sure to get off on Power Rd. There is no sign for the airport coming from that direction though there is a big sign if you come from the north on the same highway.

We were looking at houses in Sun City West, Sun City Grand, Arizona Traditions, and Corte Bella. There are a lot of nice-looking houses in these 55+ communities. We must have seen at least forty of them courtesy of good friend and realtor Gene Stumvoll. He and his wife Marlys used to live in Billings and now make their home in the northwest Phoenix metropolitan area, where Gene has noticed that there are signs of business picking up in home buying and selling. We apparently are about to become snowbirds.

05 May 2011

The VIP Treated At St Elsewhere

White House painting of Eleanor Roosevelt borrowed from Wikipedia

With the contemporary interest in morbid death pictures I couldn't resist this gem found on the way to looking up something else, this interesting article on the death of Eleanor Roosevelt. Those of you of a certain age will perhaps remember that she died at home in early November 1962 after being seen and admitted to Columbia/Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City by fairly prestigious physicians associated with Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, a fairly prestigious medical school amongst many prestigious east coast medical schools. This professor is also interested in medical mistakes and the part they play in morbidity and mortality statistics.

As I recall, even as long ago as medical school—and the early 60s of the last century was a long time ago—it was rumored to be common knowledge that Mrs Roosevelt died from miliary tuberculosis, a potentially treatable disease; and it seemed to be the conventional wisdom that she had suffered from leukemia or lupus which obscured the more lethal complicating tuberculosis diagnosis; and that somehow this devastating complication had been missed and untreated. At least that is how I heard the story. Perhaps this version was suggested by a similar illness discussed at a Massachusetts General Hospital clinico-pathologic conference published in the New England Journal of Medicine—much read by medical students in the Boston area in those days—a few months after her death.

So, almost fifty years later, while looking for the cause of death of some other Very Important Person, I came across a review article by Dr Barron Lerner, the Angelica Berrie Gold Foundation Associate Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, in which he reviews the published material on Mrs Roosevelt's final illness and death and also presents his findings on review of her medical chart from Columbia/Presbyterian Medical Center, a copy of which had been on file since 1990 at the FDR Library in Hyde Park, New York; and the autopsy findings from the same prestigious hospital. That would have captured the attention of almost any older physician, all of whom have their own stories of missed diagnoses, by themselves as well as by others.

After reviewing all this material it turns out that Mrs Roosevelt had a very serious bone marrow disease—aplastic anemia—resulting in decreased numbers of red cells, white cells and platelets, a severe pancytopenia. This was thought to have first been noted by the patient in 1960, when an auto accident may have been precipitated by faintness from anemia. She was given transfusions in 1961 and also started on prednisone, the all-purpose last-rites-medication in those days. Though it apparently does not do much for aplastic anemia, not much else was available, and unfortunately for this particular patient, prednisone has a nasty habit of compromising immune function.

Of course she saw multiple doctors and endured multiple tests but she did not get better. A bone marrow aspiration was not cultured. Her chest films remained normal. Eventually she was started on isoniazid and streptomycin, the heavy duty anti-tuberculous drugs of the day, not because her physicians were convinced that was what she had but because they couldn't think of anything else to do, and tuberculosis was curable. (I wonder if the writers of House are aware of this case?) Another bone marrow aspiration and biopsy was taken, this time cultured, in the summer of 1962. About two weeks before her death, the biopsy grew some TB organisms that were eventually shown to be resistant to both isoniazid and streptomycin.

Mrs Roosevelt declined any further heroic measures. She died November 7, 1962. The autopsy was very interesting. Tuberculous organisms were grown from almost every organ tested, but she formed very few granulomas, the usual hallmark of miliary—resembling a millet seed—tuberculosis. so then, perhaps much to the relief of the physicians caring for the patient, it looked like the underlying pancytopenia (aplastic anemia) combined with prednisone led to a re-activation of a dormant and rare form of widespread disseminated tuberculosis. Even though her physicians doubted that that was what she had, she was treated as if she did, but it did no good because the organisms were resistant to the drugs available at the time. What a great story. There may be more to the story but that isn't what was told and rumored around the medical student population of the time.

Hey, Look At These!


04 May 2011

How Many Presidents Do We Have?

It's hard to believe what I read here, and then correlate that with the bold, aggressive President I saw telling us what he did on Sunday evening. Could this be true? Have there been other big brouhahas that have been foisted on us unsuspecting commoners by these elite toadies and turds?

03 May 2011

An interesting website

This lady was surfing around one day a month or two ago. She came across my blog and asked me to spread the word. I have looked at her site and it looks interesting. Check it out for yourself.

Obama Mania

I was watching TV Sunday evening and saw the very quick reaction of crowds of mostly young people to the news of Osama bin Laden's death on the various news networks. I also saw and heard the Obama attempt to get out in front of this apparently unexpected crowd. I suspect the delay in the Presidential obituary was because of the surprising and unexpected enthusiasm of the commoners in New York and Washington DC. My guess is that at least some of the demonstrators were celebrating our military success well before the President took responsibility and claimed the whole operation as distinctly his and only his—I wonder if he would have taken responsibility if the assassination had failed?

Those who would always make political hay when the sun of any civil or military disturbance shines were surprised on Tuesday when the President didn't apparently get much of a bump in his Presidential popularity polls after this extra-ordinary feat engineered entirely by Obama. Is it possible that only the Kool-Aid drinkers would think he had done something unusual and good for his political fortunes, while the rest of us were still thinking that it was about time the Seals were allowed to do their job, and about time someone in power gave some thought to our Main Street economy, to our rapidly rising debt, and how to protect our savings from a predatory government.

Will we have forgotten this feat by November 2012?

Just thinking about things.

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime
At The BrewPub on Broadway

Downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix
Downtown Phoenix in the Winter Time

Good Cheese Here

Good Cheese Here
Vermont Cheddar & Minnesota Blue


Dehler Park, Billings MT, July 2008 This is what Bart Giamatti recommends for good mental health.

Me and Joan

Me and Joan
Early elderly and middle middle age: We May Know Something You Don't

Mrs America

Mrs America
Fortunately these girls had a good-looking mother

Rimrocks @ Billings MT

Rimrocks @ Billings MT
“In beholding old stones we may feel our anxieties about our achievements–and lack of them–slacken . . . Vast landscapes [and seascapes] can have an anxiety–reducing effect similar to ruins, for they are the representatives of infinite space, as ruins are the representatives of infinite time, against which our weak, short-lived bodies seem no less inconsequential than those of moths or spiders.”—Alain de Botton in Status Anxiety

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral
12 April 2009

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs
A Lot of Muellers Are Buried Here
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