Thursday, November 14, 2019

The News Of The World In Review

In the rat-a-tat-tat of the daily news onslaught, with its barrage of Trump escapades, Brexit updates, Democratic debates, Mexican drug massacres and the inevitable California forest fires, a veritable plethora of important current events are swept under the sooty carpet, never to be seen or heard of.  The television newsmavens are totally obsessed with the Top Ten Tragedies and the incredible shrinking newspapers have been reduced to 16-page leaflets featuring ballscores, crossword puzzles, advice columnists and woefully shrunken comics.  We conscientious reporters at The Flying Pie consider this to be a crying shame because there is vital information out there to be studied, fussed over, tittered at and hung out on the line to dry.  So, without further ado, here’s the latest:

England Agog As Toilet Thief Strikes

Now, you’d probably agree that local police would be all in a frenzy if a downtown jewelry store was robbed of $1.25 million in glamorous gems, if a Brinks truck was bashed and brutalized to the tune of a cool million or if a little old lady from Pasadena embezzled a similar sum from the coffers of her employers at the Church of the Blind Redeemer.  So why is everyone smirking in their Guinness at the news that a solid-gold toilet has been heisted from a palace in London?  Millionaires have feelings, too.

Thames Valley police believe a group of thieves used at least two vehicles to accomplish the task, breaking into the Blenheim Palace around midnight and carrying out the shiny package by 4:50 a.m.  The toilet, a work of art by the 58-year-old Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan valued at $1.25 million, had only been installed days earlier for an exhibition and was actually connected to the plumbing of the building.  As a result, its removal caused extensive damage and the Blenheim—a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the birthplace of Winston Churchill—was forced to close for the rest of the day.

The Palace is the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough, who appear none too bright.  One of them, Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill, told The Sunday Times on installation, “It’s not going to be the easiest thing to nick (steal).  Firstly, it’s plumbed in and secondly, a potential thief will have no idea who last used the toilet or what they ate.  So no, I don’t plan on guarding it.”  Well, ho-ho, Lord S., the joke’s on you.  Seems the culprits don’t mind cleaning up a $1.25 million toilet.  Odd as it may seem, while the thing was on exhibit, visitors were allowed to book three-minute appointments to use the art object for the usual ablutions.

“The fact that it is very welcoming, inviting for anyone to use, gets to the heart of a lot of questions around exclusivity in the art world and museums in particular,” said Nancy Spector, the curator who worked closely with Cattelan when the golden crapper was earlier displayed at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.  “This notion of having a very intimate, private experience with a work of art—and a work of art that speaks dramatically about its own value—is fascinating on many levels.”  Uh, okay Nancy.

It would be unfair to say that noone really gave a….well, you know.  British police eventually arrested a 66-year-old man in connection with the theft.  His name has been kept confidential, according to law enforcement, to protect an unconvicted party from heavy ridicule.  We’re not so sure about that.  Any man who steals a solid gold toilet from an English museum is likely to be flush with admirers, celebrated in pubs across the land, the ultimate working-class hero.  “Let’s raise one to ‘Enry!”  Long live his fame and long live his glory and long may his story be told.

A Note From The Tooth Fairy: “Would You Just Take A Check?”

A seven-year-old boy long troubled with a swollen and aching jaw was finally taken by his parents to the Saveetha Dental College and Hospital in Chennai, India.  Doctors poked and prodded and eventually called in the surgeons.  Good idea.  When they operated, they found 526 miniature teeth in his mouth.  We know this because when they were finished the team took five hours to meticulously search through and count the dang things.  “It was reminiscent of pearls in an oyster,” one doctor said.

Each tooth varied in size from 1 mm to 15 mm, displayed a crown covered by enamel and had a rootlike structure, according to the hospital’s statement.  “Though there is no problem in the growth of the other teeth in the boy, the growth of molar teeth is permanently affected and he will require molar implants after turning 16,” doctors reported.  Surgeons said the condition is known as compound odontia and is attributable to genetic or environmental factors.

“His parents thought he was screwing around,” said one of the admissions crew.  “He’s probably bought a lot of credibility for the next time he has an issue.”  In the meantime, he can resort to the age-old encomium: “Bite me!”

That’s a Stretch

These clever Miami burglars came prepared.  First, they cut a nice hole through the ornery concrete roof.  Next, they carefully shimmied down into the warehouse.  Finally, they knowingly disabled the alarms.  And what were they after?  Expensive electronic equipment?  Valuable museum relics?  Don Shula’s original steak recipes?  Nope, none of these.  The stolen booty: 34,000 pairs of high-end fajas, a Spanx-like undergarment popular in the local Hispanic community.  Yeah, but 34 thousand pairs?

Detectives from Miami-Dade’s Cargo Theft Unit—one wonders whether that’s an undercover division—noticed black market sellers exchanging garbage bags full of the critters and were able to bare the operation.  The burglars, alas, have never been found but local law enforcement agencies are on the alert.  Are Cuban penis-pouch briefs the next to be victimized?  Hysteria prevails on Calle Ocho at the thought.

Clauvino, After and Before

Next Time, Try A Valium

Shorty almost made it.

Clauvino da Silva’s daughter visited him often at the Bangu 3 prison in Rio de Janeiro, where he was ensconced for 73 years and 10 months for nefarious activities as a leader of the Red Command, one of the most powerful criminal gangs in Brazil and controllers of much of the drug trade in Rio.  Da Silva was nicknamed “Baixinho,” translation “Shorty,” for his limited stature.

As the girl was leaving one day, a prison guard thought her more nervous than usual and pulled her aside.  A video shows what appears to be a young woman with long black hair wearing glasses and a pink shirt, as did da Silva’s daughter on the way in.  Then, a guard takes off the girl’s glasses and lifts off a black wig, revealing an oddly smooth head.  With a deep sigh, the disguised person peels off the pink shirt and bra, revealing a muscular man with tattoos.  Then, a silicone mask, pulling it over his head.

The daughter was questioned by police along with seven other people who recently visited the prison.  One of them, a pregnant woman who was not searched on her way in, had apparently hidden the wig and glasses on her person without notice.  The cops are investigating the possibility of additional aiders and abettors.

Da Silva is no rookie at escaping from Brazilian prisons.  He was among a group of 30 who escaped a facility called Instituto Penal Vincente Piragibe in 2013.  On that occasion, he departed using the prison’s vile sewer system.  It’s hard to maintain anonymity, however, when you smell like a pig farm, and Shorty was soon recaptured.  Give the man credit, if nothing else, for improving his modus operandi.

Return Of ‘The Birds’

In 1963, movie director Alfred Hitchcock scared the bejezus out of everyone by releasing a film in which thousands of birds—mainly ravens, gulls and sparrows—unexplainably attacked the citizens of Bodega Bay, California.  Freaked out moviegoers emerged from theaters staring at the skies and temporarily regarding their feathered friends with a new respect, all the while reassuring themselves it could never happen.

Fast forward to 2019 where marauding bands of wild turkeys have invaded the town of Tom’s River (where else?), New Jersey, terrorizing all in their path.  The birds have broken windows, blocked driveways, roosted on cars and chased people, though no nipping has yet been reported.  “I can’t get out of my door!” one frightened resident told News12 New  Jersey.  “Sometimes, I can’t get out of my car.  They will chase you!”

Tom’s River spokesmen say its animal control officers are powerless to intervene since they don’t have licenses to trap wildlife.  Officials speculate the birds may attempt to dominate or attack people they view as subordinates.  Wildlife officers contend this behavior is most common in the Fall when young male birds start competing with flock elders and the behavior has nothing to do with payback for Thanksgiving.

These northern avian shenanigans cause us residents of Fairfield to feel grateful for our more civilized turkeys, which merely paddle across our paddocks in search of a stray oat or two, avoiding humans and behaving in a proper turkeylike manner.  They may sit on the fences for awhile discussing world events but they almost never play rap music and they keep their radios adjusted to a reasonable volume.  Big George, president of the local turkey colony, called the behavior of his obstreperous northern cousins “featherbrained and embarrassing and a breach of the turkey code.  And just when we were beginning to talk people into a vegan Thanksgiving.”

Holly, Before and After
March Madness Revisited

Hark back to the end of college basketball season when all the amateur prognosticators were filling out their brackets for the whoop-de-doo NCAA tournament, an annual rite of Spring.  Who doesn’t enjoy being the office King or Queen-For-A-Day, the lucky genius who collects the jackpot and gets to smirk for the next 12 months?  Well, if Alaskans missed their chance in March they got another one in October.  You see, that’s when Fat Bear Week occurs.  And no, we are not making this up.

There are an estimated 2000 bears in Katmai National Park & Preserve, a glorious and massive 4-million acre stretch of wilderness in Southwest Alaska.  Each year, the bears spend the Summer trying to get as fat as possible to prepare for hibernation, and most of them do a pretty good job of it.  Thus in October, bear fans get to vote on who is the fattest of them all.

This year, the bears were whittled down to a bracket of 12 contenders.  Naturally, the four heavyweights got first-round byes.  Voters on the park’s Facebook page then chose their favorites from each matchup, the winner moving on to the next round.

When the competition began, Katmai Conservancy media ranger Naomi Boak had her eye on two of what she called “mortal locks to advance.”  Those would be No. 435 and No. 747 (he’s as big as a jumbo jet).  “So big,” said Naomi, “that he looked like he was ready to hibernate in July.  He’s the size of TWO bears!”  Boak says she is not fat-shaming but rather fat-glorifying, since the biggest bear has done the best job of getting ready for the off-season.  “They lose one-third of their weight over the Winter,” she claims, “so they need all that weight to survive.”  Oddly out of this year’s contest is last year’s champion, Beadnose, who failed to show up.  Naomi is concerned and disappointed, she says, “But whatever happened, she went out on top.”

The ultimate 2019 Champion is No. 435, or Holly to her many friends.  She beat out Lefty in a landslide.  After 12 hours of online voting, it was Holly 17,500, Lefty 3,600.  The Katmai hype machine had this to say: “She is fat.  She is fabulous.  She is 435 Holly.  And you voted her the 2019 Fat Bear Week champion.  All Hail Holly, whose healthy heft will help her hibernate until the Spring.  Long live the Queen of Corpulence.”  Call it tough terrain, but they’re having fun up there in Southwest Alaska.

In an Octopus’ Garden In The Shade*

“It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of men’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.  This is the dimension of imagination.  It is an area we call the Twilight Zone.”

And that may be where Florida fisherman Alvin McCallister, 72, wound up when he was lost for two weeks off the Sunshine State coast.  Curious things happen in the Twilight Zone, none curiouser than those which happened (or didn’t) to poor old Alvin.  Rescuers ultimately found him on a small, rocky islet 200 miles off the nearest coastline where he shipwrecked 14 days earlier, subsisting off seagulls, mussels and urchins.  With the help of local mermaids, of course.

MCallister avers he was cared for and fed by the sea creatures but also was taken advantage of sexually.  He described to rescuers in graphic detail incidences of forced sex which left him with abnormal injuries and inflammation to his genital and anal area.  Apparently, where there are mermaids there are also mermen.

Alvin is believed to have ingested some form of toxin such as lead or mercury sometimes found in dangerous quantities in certain varieties of the mussels he probably consumed.  He was also severely dehydrated.  Doctors at St. John Baptist Hospital announced, “The patient shows symptoms of extreme dehydration and is still suffering from mild hallucinations.  We feel, however, that it is extremely unlikely he was sexually exploited or sodomized by living sea creatures.”

Sure.  Easy for you to say.

That’s all, folks….


*Alert anti-hoax journalist Maarten Shenk claims the above article was fabricated by an outfit called World News Daily Report.  He claims McCallister never made such claims and is not certain Alvin even exists.  Gilbert Shelton once posited that a story needn't be 100% true if it was good enough.  We're going with Gilbert.  Besides, Fake News is all the rage these days, right?


Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Skylark Sings In Solemn Skies

“Nothing is ever as bad as it seems.”---Greg Gutfeld

The daily news is not always cheery in the era of Trump the Planetkiller, but hidden away in the onslaught of environmental atrocities are tales of wonder from the outside world.  Much-maligned China has tripled its New Energy Vehicle (electric car) sales from 331,000 in 2015 to over one million in 2018.  Globally, total 2015 sales were 540,000, up to 1,800,000 by the end of last year.  The U.S. is tagging along with totals of 116,000/400,000.  As a result of the strong growth of electric vehicles, China has seen a surge of start-ups focusing on building New Energy cars.  Singulato Motor announced at the Beijing Auto show that it has received a new round of funding worth three billion yuan (U.S.—$473 million) and has established a 10 billion yuan fund for EVs with the Suzhou municipal government for investing in related areas such as batteries, engineering, motors and artificial intelligence.

Despite all those smoggy newsreels from Beijing—and maybe because of them—the Chinese government has been at the forefront in driving the switch to New Energy vehicles.  It also has the notion it can lead and dominate the EV market.  Those wily Chinese are aiming to have electric cars account for 12% of overall sales by 2020.  That’s some vision.  On the other hand, EVs still remain a niche market in the United States where growth actually declined last year.

U.S. sales are slogging along due to the limited mileage an EV can travel without being recharged and the limited number of charging stations, whereas these little depots are popping up like KFC franchises all over China.  The State Grid Corporation of China, the world’s largest utility, said earlier this year that it planned to build 120,000 public charging stations for electric cars by 2020.  “Without great expansion of the grid, EV sales cannot grow,” advises Christian Meunier of Infiniti.  “When you have the grid, there’s no reason to come back to internal combustion engines.”

Electric car prices have steadily decreased and Tesla, Inc. now produces a Model 3 automobile for $35,400.  Tesla’s new China factory intends to start production soon of at least 1,000 Model 3s a week, the centerpiece of its ambitions to boost sales in the world’s biggest auto market and avoid higher import tariffs imposed on U.S. cars.  All new Teslas, by the way, will be outfitted with Autopilot, which does not mean you can go to sleep while your little vehicle tootles off to Omaha.  Try that in China and they’ll put you in the jianyu.

Getting a big charge in China

In For A Dime, In For A Dollar

Brazilian photographer Sebastian Salgado is not fooling around.  Irked at the destruction of large swaths of tropical forest to make way for mining operations near his home in southern Brazil, Salgado and his wife Lelia decided they would rebuild the entire forest.  No, really, all of it.  That was twenty years ago.  Since then, Salgado and a small team of professional planters have installed more than 4 million trees and no, they weren’t all snorting cocaine at the time.  The merry band restored more than 1,500 acres of forest, one of the greatest environmental initiatives in history.  So don’t feel like a big shot next time you insert a couple of dogwoods in the back yard.

Forest saviors Sebastian and Lelia

The Empire Strikes Back

Despite Der Fuerher’s successful attempts to sell off previous national lands, including almost half of the Grand Staircase Escalante in southern Utah, the Big Cheese has been foiled in efforts to peddle the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Coulee Dam and Smokey The Bear.  And on April 19, a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration couldn’t simply sidestep an Obama-era moratorium on selling coal dug from federal lands.  In response to a lawsuit from four states and a host of environmental groups, His Honor ruled that the government must consider the environmental impacts of coal mined on federal lands.  Trump’s evil elves had reversed the earlier moratorium but failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, which requires government agencies to assess environmental impacts on any project.  Before more coal mining can occur on public lands, the government will be forced to negotiate with the case’s plaintiffs.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Donald’s Doofus Brigade suffered a series of ringing defeats in its daily attempts to weaken environmental regulations.  Jayni Hein of the New York University School of Law tells us “they’ve won only two of 39 environmental regulation cases.  They are in such a hurry to overturn Obama-era actions, they’re taking short cuts.  Courts are finding that they aren’t doing enough to comply with bedrock environmental and administrative laws.”

A court ruling in March blocked the Orange Menace from expanding offshore drilling in Alaska and off the northeastern coast.  In that case, the administration tried to overturn a moratorium on drilling put in place to protect rare and endangered species like polar bears and some deep-water corals in the Atlantic.  The judge found that the president had no power to lift the moratorium, which was based on the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953.  “This bodes well for upcoming legal actions to protect national monuments,” says Hein.

Finally, the Trump administration’s ploy to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments, a fraud created using the Antiquities Act, may not stand up to closer examination the next time it hits the courts.  Stay tuned for all the beautiful details.

Inside the Grand Staircase

Well, Blow Me Down!

A new report from the International Energy Agency released last Friday claims that wind power could be a $1 trillion business by 2040 and the power provided by this technology has the potential to actually outstrip global energy needs.  Talk about a breath of fresh air.

The IEA expects global offshore wind capacity to increase fifteen-fold and attract at least a trillion dollars of cumulative investment by 2040, driven by falling costs, supportive government policies and some remarkable technological progress, such as larger turbines and floating foundations.  The IEA report finds that offshore wind technology has the potential to grow far more strongly with stepped-up support from policy makers.  “Offshore wind currently provides just 0.3% of global power generation, but its potential is vast,” says IEA executive director Fatih Birol.  “All it takes is a major infrastructure commitment to develop wind power.  There’s no question that offshore wind power is capable of producing more electricity than the world currently uses today.”

Whodathunkit?  Civilization is racing willy-nilly down the highway to oblivion.  Someone should take note of those clever hitchhikers at the side of the road.

Shooing Sequoia Paranoia

The conservation group Save The Redwoods League has recently purchased Alder Creek, a 530-acre forest north of Yosemite National Park billed as the largest privately-owned giant sequoia property in the world.  Someday, when the darkness lifts and the White House has been returned to humans, the group will relinquish the land to the U.S. Forest Service for safeguarding.

Alder Creek’s sequoia trees number 483, many with diameters of 6 feet or greater and include the mighty Stagg Tree, believed to be the fifth-largest tree in the world.  The Stagg is 250 feet tall with a width of 25 feet.

Giant sequoias can reach heights of 300 feet and are esteemed for their rarity.  What sets them apart from almost all other trees is their ability to live up to 3,000 years, or almost as old as Mick Jagger and Willy Nelson combined.  Only two other species, the Great Basin bristlecone pine and the Patagonian cypress have members older than giant sequoias.

The sequoia trees are only found in 73 groves across 48,000 acres of Sierra Nevada territory, mainly in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Sequoia-King’s Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Park and Yosemite.  “Old growth of any species is extraordinarily rare,” says Samuel Hodder, president and SEO of Save The Redwoods League.  “There is precious little left of the natural world as we found it before the Industial Revolution.  Alder Creek is the natural world at its most extraordinary.”   The property has been owned by the Claude Albrert Rouch family since the 1940s and primarily used for logging.  While the family were basically lumbermen, they always made sure the sequoias remained unscathed.

The mighty Stagg tree, one of the five largest trees extant

Reefer Madness

With the climate changing faster than many species can adapt to, scientists are trying to speed up evolution by fostering the spread of creatures who can take the heat.  Think of it as natural selection with a boost from humanity.  To that end, Australian scientists Peter Harrison and Matthew Dunbabin recently teamed up for a brilliant field experiment.  A robot designed by Dunbabin carried coral larvae that Harrison had gathered and dispersed them on a section of the Great Barrier Reef.  What makes these larvae unique and the experiment promising is that they are heat-tolerant, meaning they might not only survive but flourish in warmer waters.  Harrison had collected the larvae from corals which had survived deadly marine heat waves in 2016-18.

“These surviving larvae are likely to have greater ability to withstand heat stress as they survive and grow,” he assures.  “I first thought about the larval restoration concept some decades ago when I was part of the team that discovered the mass coral spawning phenomenon on the Great Barrier Reef in the early 1980s.  Literally billions of coral larvae are produced during mass spawning events from healthy corals, but as coral cover and health have declined to the point where too few larvae are producing from remaining remnant coral populations, we now need to intervene to give nature a helping hand.”

The robot has the capacity to carry around 100,000 microscopic coral larvae per mission, and Dunbabin expects to scale up to millions.  The robot gently releases the larvae onto damaged reef areas, allowing them to settle and develop into full-grown corals over time.  “We call this the Swiss-army-knife of underwater robots,” says Dunbabin.  “It was designed to do multiple tasks with customizable payloads, such as photo surveys, water quality monitoring, marine pest surveillance and control.  And now we have coral larvae dispersal.  It will be like spreading fertilizer on your lawn.  The robot is very smart.  It even has an onboard vision system that allows it to see its way through reef environments.  We should start to see juvenile corals after about 9 months when they grow large enough to become visible on the reef.  Coral reefs are spectacular.  Even now, when I jump in the water and see all the fish and colors, I am still in awe of these eco-cities of connected life.  I can’t help but feel I need to do something to help restore them to what they were.”

We’ve Got The Fever!  We’re Hot!  We Can’t Be Stopped!

The world’s leading scientists have calculated that global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees centigrade.  Last time we looked, 2020 was….well….the day after next month!  The good news is that 30 of the world’s largest cities, representing over 58 million urban citizens, have taken it upon themselves to reach that crucial milestone already.

The 30 cities are: Athens, Austin, Barcelona, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Copenhagen, Heidelberg, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Melbourne, Milan, Montreal, New Orleans, New York, Oslo, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, Rome, San Francisco, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver, Venice, Warsaw and Washington, D.C., in spite of the Big Cheeseball.  All it takes is committed, intelligent city leadership and a little determination.  Do you know where is your city councilman is tonight?  If he’s not on the E-Train, find him and poke him with a stick.  You’ll be glad you did.

That’s all, folks….   

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Not Dead Yet

“It’s not that I'm afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”---Woody Allen

November 2, 2019: Bill Is (Gasp!) 79

Every year on the second of November---All Souls Day in the Catholic Church and the Day of the Dead in Mexico---Austinite Dave Moriarty holds a Not Dead Yet Party for his aging friends in the capital of Texas.  This is a true test of will power for the partygoers since Moriarty’s place is situated at the top of a challenging flight of stairs.  Some would-be customers abstain due to the rigors of the ascent.  Calloused questioners might wonder if it’s worth still being around if you can’t even make it to a senior citizen party, but not us.  Even raising the question might bring a cascade of tears from our old Austin pals like Harry Edwards, whose physical impediments have restricted him to schnapps-tasting, lawn croquet and sitting on the front porch reading books about the care and feeding of nutria.

It’s a sad fact that many of us are flagging or, alas, have already flagged.  It seems like just yesterday that we were tossing around the old horsehide on the B&M Railroad’s vacant lot, fishing in the Shawsheen River, riding the Ferris Wheel at Canobie Lake Park, not giving a fig about the future.  The days move slowly in childhood, it seems an eternity from the end of baseball season in October to the beginning of Spring Training in February.  Once Christmas has passed, it will be several millennia before it returns.  When Summer is done, the long, dry desert of education takes centuries to navigate.  For God’s sake, where is the ice-cream man today, it’s almost seven o’clock?  I can’t wait til I’m an adult and no longer have to live in an oligarchy.

Then one day, a shock arrives.  Grammar school is finished, it’s on to greater heights.  Best Friends Forever will be left at the side of the road as we move on to new places, different buildings, changed schedules.  How difficult will it be, this high school, with its glib Marist Brothers, its arcane subject matter, the two-mile morning trek through occasional sleet and snow?  Are we still so eager to trade in these harmless nuns and their little rulers for grown men with little tolerance for foolishness?  And what about THIS—it’s only five years until we have to sign up for the military draft!  US—in the Army?  There must be some mistake.  Potential enemies of the USA are collapsing in laughter at the thought.

We have now become better aware of time.  Grandparents pass away.  Someone’s father dies.  The kids on the block are less visible now, off on their individual pursuits, which used to be our own.  Where have you gone, Jacky Mercier, the neighborhood lifts its curious eyes to you?  High school, with all its thrills, chills and spills races by in a flash.  Those girls, for so long not welcome in our clubhouse, are suddenly prizes to be desired.  Will we go to college or get a job?  What will happen to our unfortunate friends who answer in the latter?  And if we do go to college, what will we study?  The parental suggestion box is heavily influenced by potential salaries, something to be expected from a generation which grew up in The Great Depression, but not necessarily our cup of tea.  Most of us will be the first in our families to so much as sniff a university.  Here is our first big opportunity to let someone down.  What will we do?

The Old Philosopher at the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

The Old Philosopher Rambles

Questions, always questions.  Since life turns on the tiniest flight of fancy, how would things have turned out if a high-school graduate stayed home, say, and matriculated at little Merrimack College instead of wandering all the way out to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater?  Is there something innate in most of us that would eventually lead us to a similar destination, just via a different route number?  Or are the twists and turns of each option so profound that our predilections are overwhelmed and we are sent whistling off on an unanticipated new course?  The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind, but some of it might have to do with The Great Plan.  Some have one, some don’t.

Siobhan Ellison knew she wanted to be a veterinarian when she was seven years old.  Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night—nor even an uncompromising husband—would stay this woman from the swift completion of her appointed rounds.  Bill Killeen, on the other hand, had some notion of a career involving writing and publishing, nothing in particular, let the Fates have a hand in it.  Ergo, Siobhan rode the express train directly to her station, while Bill took the local, dismounted at numerous depots and dabbled in this and that.

One characteristic they both possessed, however, was the desire to call their own tune and maybe that matters most of all.  You may wind up in Rhode Island instead of Roanoke, but wherever you land, you’ll be making your own decisions, choosing your own game, and happiness partly derives from being unencumbered by the unwelcome dictates of others.  Siobhan and Bill were blessed with an abundance of self-confidence, of course, an unexplainable element in limited supply which seeps into one’s pores (or doesn’t) during youthful trips through the jungles of family life, schooling and the street.  Self-confidence will carry you to any number of curious subway stops.  You just have to make sure to get off at the right one.

Above, Bill in Monument Valley with Jimmy of the Navajos; Below, our hero at the Alamo with lover boy Nestor.

Getting There Is Half The Fun.  Or Maybe One-Eighth.

My best friend at Central Catholic High School was a Polish kid with a shortened name, Tom Rys.  Tom was a rather plain looking fellow with a quick wit, a good sense of humor, who was fascinated with Jack Paar and Charles Schulz’ Snoopy.  Rys was not particularly athletic but he was a definite sports fan, often hitchhiking to Boston with me for Red Sox games and once to see the great Jim Brown lead the Syracuse football juggernaut into battle against Boston University.  When it came time to decide on a college, Tom opted to go along with me to Oklahoma State.  Two weeks before departure, we compared notes and agreed to meet at the B&M railroad station on a given date.  And that was the last I ever heard from Tom Rys.  He took the road most traveled and stayed put.

So there you have it, the Great Fork In The Road.  This way lies comfort, familiarity, an escort of friends and family; on the other path, there be dragons.  Dirty Harry famously remarked that a man’s got to know his limitations and if yours don’t include the abilities to adapt to a turnstyle of new experiences and to quickly rebound from certain adversity, maybe home isn’t such bad place after all.  On the other hand, Dr. Seuss advised: “There’s no limit to how much you’ll know, depending on how far past zebra you go.” 

In case you ever wondered, it’s a long train ride from Lawrence, Massachusetts to Ponca City, Oklahoma, and the entertainment aboard is mind-numbing.  Thank God for the change of trains in Chicago, where I took the afternoon off to see the Cubs play the St. Louis Cardinals.  Alas, Stan (The Man) Musial also took the day off, not that it deterred the Cards any.  A mere babe in the Windy City woods, I took the wrong el back to Union station and missed my train.  Fortunately for me, there would be others and OSU classes didn’t start for a few days.

If you’ve never been to Ponca City, let me save you the trouble: there are more exotic destinations in which to whittle away the hours.  There is no railroad station in Stillwater, however, so any old port in a storm.  I detrained and caught a bus for the final 42 miles of the odyssey, then a cab to campus.  The taxi driver asked me whether I wanted to go to my dormitory or the administration building, Whitehurst Hall.  Being a rookie without a clue, I foolishly chose the latter and wound up lugging two enormous suitcases apparently filled with mercury the agonizing half-mile to my dorm, a large and undistinguished building called East Bennet Hall on the very edge of the school’s abundant property.  Arriving in dilapidated condition and with skin barely clinging to my fingers, I had a fleeting thought: maybe that damn Tom Rys had the right idea after all.

Anniversary Time in Cedar Key; Bill & Siobhan in Antelope Canyon.

The Halls Of Academe

The first thing I learned about college was that you weren’t in high school anymore.  None of your professors were one whit concerned at the study load the others doled out and you were immediately inundated with work no human could ever complete.  Being constantly behind was just a way of life, you grew to accept it.  At the same time, there was a great feeling of exuberance because you now became the captain of your own ship, free to bulldoze your way through life, learning things trial-by-error, trying not to knock any Ming vases off the table.

My roommate in East Bennet was a kid from Indiana named Roger, who pined for his high-school sweetheart on a daily basis.  I was astonished to find someone who didn’t appreciate his new-found freedom, feel the excitement of daily choosing his path, examining the boundless possibilities.  But Roger wasn’t the only one.  The place was full of homesick wretches unused to being away from the farm, separated from all they knew and loved, weeping at each new missive from home.  A full third of the crew I spent time with were gone within two months, unable to contemplate life without Mom, Dad, Rover the dog or Hotlips the girlfriend.  Houston, we have a problem: there are Tom Ryses all over the place.

A lot of things are determined in a person’s life by age 20, far more by 25.  If I have any advice to give after stomping around the planet for 79 years, it’s this: when given a choice of directions to follow, always opt for the one allowing the most independence you can reasonably manage.  Don’t be afraid to push the envelope a little.  Take risks, without being foolhardy.  You like those?  We have more, unrelated as they may be to the bulk of the column.  First, consider yoga so that you don't become all stiff and starchy and wind up not being able to tie your own shoes.  Second, as John Lennon advised long ago, Give The Gym a Chance so the bones in your feet don't crackle the next time you play jump-rope.  Third, even though it's great fun, avoid eating at restaurants too often.  Their objective is to wow you by any means necessary, which means resorting to oceans of salt, plantations of sugar and sauces full of mysterious substances guaranteed to add to your already burgeoning body fat.  And last but not least, be kind to your web-footed friends, for a duck could be somebody’s mother.  That last one is a song from the nineteen-fifties, but good advice in any century.

Where Bill's third decade began.

On Pills: A Birthday Sendoff From Dr. Seuss

I take three blues at half past eight
to slow my exhalation rate.
On alternate nights at nine p.m.
I swallow pinkies.  Four of them.
The reds, which make my eyebrows strong,
I eat like popcorn all day long.
The speckled browns are what I keep
beside my bed to help me sleep.
This long flat one is what I take
if I should die before I wake.

That’s all, folks….
Happy Birthday to me.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Good News!

Two years ago, things weren’t looking so good for Emily Zamourka.  A thug grabbed her violin after a performance and destroyed an instrument that was worth thousands.  Emily found an electric violin she could play but then she was pushed off a bus, fracturing her wrist.  In short order, Emily Zamourka found herself living on the streets of Los Angeles.  To keep body and soul together, Emily took to singing on the L.A. streets and even in the subway.

One day, Zamourka wound up on the wrong train and got off, irked, at the almost-deserted Wilshire-Normandy Metro station.  “I was just thinking I’d sing a little bit to make myself feel better.  And I see this police officer walking towards me from a distance and it kind of hesitated me because they really don’t want people making a nuisance….and opera is LOUD.”  But Officer Alex Frazier was not interested in deterring Emily, only in taking a video of her performance.  He posted it online and the singer’s miseries came to a crashing halt.

The next thing she knew, Emily was standing on a Los Angeles stage on October 5th singing Giacomo Puccini’s aria, “O mio babbino caro.”  It was her first time ever singing on a stage in front of an actual audience.  “Eventually, I did touch your spirits,” she smiled.  “I’m so glad about that, being able to touch your hearts with my voice.  Thank you so much for all of this that’s happening right now.  I am so overwhelmed.”  Zamourka has also been offered a recording contract by a Grammy-nominated music producer.  And for the cherry on the cake, two GoFundMe campaigns have routed up over $95,000 to help her find a place to live.

There are four million stories in the naked city.  This has been one of them.

Emily Zamourka, belting out an aria.

Up On The Roof 

In an era of diminishing traditions and faithless fallow sports fans who abandon their teams at the slightest provocation, Jeff Lanham is a refreshing throwback.  Lanham is the owner of the Hog Rock Cafe in Milan, Ohio and a lifetime Cincinnati Bengals supporter.  In case you haven’t noticed, that once prominent franchise has fallen on hard times and remained winless for the first six games of the 2019 season.  A couple of weeks ago before the battle with the Arizona Cardinals, Jeff pledged that he would take to the roof of his restaurant if the Bengals lost and remain there until they finally won a game.

Cincinnati lost to Arizona, of course, and again to the Baltimore Ravens the next week, so Jeff remained in his tent high above Milan, ever hopeful.  “We just need to get our starters back,” he told WKRC-TV.  “If we get them back in the lineup, we win and I can come down.”

The legendary Wildman Walker spent 61 days living on a billboard in 1991 waiting for the Bengals to stumble their way to victory.  Wildman visited Jeff on the roof the other day, bringing with him a signed photo asking Lanham not to break his record.

“There is only one Wildman Walker,” attested Jeff.  “I have no desire to upstage a local hero.  I am merely up here duking it out with the Fates in search of an overdue victory.  Maybe we can beat the Jaguars Sunday”

No, you can’t.  Jacksonville 27, Cincinnati 17.  And the ongoing saga of Jeff Lanham continues unabated.  Next week, the Drifters will be over to sing him a little song.

Cincinnati Bengals fans Lanham & Walker roofing it.

You’re Fired (tee hee)!

Nobody likes to get fired, least of all good old Josh Thompson of New Zealand.  Things looked bleak, however, for the Aukland ad-agency copywriter when he got a note from management calling for a meeting “to discuss some matters in regards to your role with the company.”  Uh oh.  To make matters worse, the human resources department encouraged Josh to bring a “support person” to the meeting.

Thompson knew it was curtains for him, so being a merry man of mirth he decided to bring along Joe the Clown.  Joe takes his work very seriously, so he made sure to construct a proper number of balloon animals for the meeting.  When Thompson’s termination papers were handed over, Joe mimed the act of crying profusely.  “He nodded sadly, along with me, as if he was also receiving the bad news,” Thompson told BBC Australia.  “It was clown professionalism at its finest.”

 The publicity from the affair soon netted Josh a job at another ad agency.  “If anyone is in a similar situation, it’s only natural they’d want to bring a friend or family member with them,” said Josh, “but if there’s a clown available—especially Joe—I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute.”  As for Joe, he relished the opportunity.  “You know, as a clown you’re mostly relegated to kiddie parties and the like.  There are not many opportunities like this one.  When the boss clown offered me the job, I jumped in with both size-22 feet.  It’s my first actual firing job but I look forward to many more in the future.  By the way, they won’t let you in those executive offices if you’re carrying a big pail of water.  Doesn’t seem very sporting, does it?”

Not as good as Clarabelle, but what do you expect in Aukland?

The Bird Is The Word

The Franklin, Massachusetts Police Department is second to none in roadway diligence.  Which is why Sergeant Jason Reilly and Officer Andressa Rosa promptly rolled into action when a large Australian emu galloped past them as they finished up a traffic stop.  Unable to corral the fleet roadrunner and a little uncertain what to do if they did, the two cops tracked down the bird’s owner and set off on a chase that also involved an animal control officer and the Franklin Police Safety Division.  The emu owner, one Kathy Gatchell, revealed the culprit’s name was Pippa.

“We tracked Pippa through the woods for over an hour,” Kathy told WFXT-TV.  “Every time we got close, she’d run.  I think she thought it was some kind of game.  The police officers said she was laughing at us.”

Several members of Gatchell’s family showed up and tried to play emu calls on their cell phones to hornswoggle the bird.  Pippa was a little curious about all these emus suddenly turning up in the area.  While trying to figure out what was happening, she was quietly approached by Ashley Gatchell, who crept up, jumped on her back and prayed for deliverance.

Ashley’s gambit worked, and Pippa stood stock still as one of the pursuing officers took off his sock and placed it over the emu’s head, calming the bird.  The posse was then able to bring the critter home, “where it could no longer terrorize the motorists of Lincoln Street,” according to police posts.  The police department thanked everyone who had aided in the capture and signed off with their new motto:

“No Job Too Small, No Bird Too Big!”  Who says cops have no sense of humor?

Either Pippa The Emu or Phyllis Diller, we're not sure.

Elsie Never Behaved Like This

Not wishing to be upstaged by a mere emu, Hilda the cow escaped from her farm in Bavaria last weekend, leading pursuers on a merry chase.  Hilda, no slip of a lass at 1300 pounds, got in a bit of a snit for no apparent reason, wrecking an entire greenhouse, trashing an approaching scooter, then damaging a police car and knocking its occupant to the ground.  The cow’s frazzled owner tried to talk some sense into Hilda but she bull-rushed him and knocked him into the middle of next week, causing minor injuries.

The Lower Franconia police are not a force to be mucked with, however.  They promptly dispatched a fleet of emergency vehicles and even a helicopter to deal with this “highly aggressive and outraged bovine.”  The cops boxed Hilda in, then an accompanying veterinarian whipped out a blowgun and shot her with a tranquilizer dart.  The cow was then safely returned to her farm, where she finally got her own television set.

“I like to watch Mr. Rogers reruns,” she smiled.  “It’s not that much to ask.”

Bad cow Hilda, the only mixed martial arts bovine in Germany.

Car 54, Where Are You?

Ever lose your automobile?  I have.  I was driving to Miami on the Florida Turnpike one day and stopped to use the facilities at the Fort Drum food and gas island.  When I exited the building three minutes later, my car was gone.  Damn fast thieves, I thought, in a dither.  Back inside, I found a security officer—a very large, solemn African-American woman in full cop regalia.  I gave her my unfortunate news, expecting her to immediately swing into action.  She didn’t move a muscle.

“Have you looked on the other side,” she asked, calmly.  It can’t be that simple—or dumb—I thought.  But those who traveled this highway in the old days remember that these buildings were exactly the same on both sides.  When I went to the other exit, there sat my vehicle.  I went back to report to the security lady.  Against her better instincts, she almost cracked a smile.

“I guess this sort of thing is not unusual,” I said.  “Happens every day,” said she.  Ever since this incident, I have had dreams of losing my car and never finding it.  Once, while Christmas shopping in Jacksonville, I misplaced my car in a large mall parking lot and had to ride around on a golf cart with a security guard to locate it.  Several of my friends have temporarily lost their vehicles at airports, which is easy to do.  Years ago, I started writing the floor and row where I parked on the innermost currency bill in my wallet.  Works great.  Despite all the sparkling opportunities, however, I have never completely lost my car.  Like, forever lost it, like Connor Spear did.

Connor was rushing to a music festival in Bristol, England, last month when he parked his black Vauxhall Corsa SXI on a residential street.  When he returned to the area the next morning, he couldn’t find the road where he’d left it.  Despite scouring the streets for hours, his car was still missing weeks later.  Spear told Sky News “I parked it up before the festival started and have no recollection where I put it.  Being in a different city was confusing.  Not finding it where I thought I had left it, I was a bit shocked and really very confused.”  Since losing the car, Connor, an apprentice at an electric company, has been walking to work .  His mother, Sally, told the press, “You know what youngsters are like—parking there without taking a photo of the street.”  NOW she tells me, thinks Connor.

Spear, obviously not a well-to-do man, offered a 100-pounds reward to anyone who could find hide or hair of his car.  A couple of days ago, a caller from Bristol contacted him claiming he had spotted the Vauxhall meandering around the city.  Connor will be investigating personally as soon as he can get a ride.

"I know I left the damn thing around here somewhere."

That’s all, folks….


Thursday, October 17, 2019


You Gotta Have Heart

So a team of Israeli scientists decided to make one, using a 3-D printer.  Before you slap yourself on the knee and collapse in laughter, they actually did it—a stunning achievement which could alter the world of medicine by eventually ending the reliance on donated organs.

The world’s first “printed heart” was made with actual human biological material and was much smaller than the average human heart, but the accomplishment demonstrates the potential to print full-sized organs in the near future.  “This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers,” the team’s lead researcher, professor Tal Dvir of Tel Aviv University, told the Jerusalem Post.  “People have managed to 3-D print the structure of the heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels.  Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future.”

The team took fatty tissue from patients and reprogrammed some of it into stem cells.  Those cells were then differentiated into cardiac and endothelial cells, which make up the lining of blood vessels, initiating the process.  The inspiration for the study was both Israel’s and the United States’ issue with heart disease, the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. and the second leading cause in Israel.

The research team said the next step will be to train the printed heart to act like an organic human heart by transplanting the printed versions into animals and eventually, humans.  Within 10 years, they expect organ printers will be in hospitals around the world and the procedures will be routine practice.

“YO!  In the kitchen!  Crank me out one beater for a 40-year-old male, a couple of kidneys for 10-year-old Siamese twins, a double breather for a 70-year-old grandma and a nice liver for Jack, my ex-alcoholic brother-in-law.  He’s been sober one full year and he showed me his token.”

“Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport….”

“I have big-time lab work to do.”  Scientists in Queensland, Australia are being hailed for their major breakthrough in cervical cancer research using gene-editing technology.
“This is the first cure for any cancer using this technology,” alleges Nigel McMillan, lead researcher and director of immunology at the Menzies Health Institute at Griffith University, where a team used the CRISPR-Cas9 system to target cervical cancers in mice.  As a result, 100% of their mice subjects were cured.

During the five-year project, scientists injected specialized nanoparticles into mice bearing tumors caused by the gene E7, which can be found in cancers caused by the human papilloma virus according to McMillan, whose work has been published in the journal Molecular Therapy.

“We would then edit it by introducing some extra DNA that causes the gene to be misread and cease being made,” McMillan said.  “This is like adding a few extra letters into a word so the spellchecker doesn’t recognize it any more.  Because the cancer must have this gene to produce, once edited the cancer dies.”

CRISPR technology is already being studied as a potential treatment for HIV, inherited diseases such as Huntington’s and progeria, as well as other forms of cancer.  Cancer genes are “foreign” to the human genome, avers McMillan, making them even harder to pinpoint.  Of their discovery, he concluded, “This is the missing tool kit we have in our gene therapy toolbox.”

We here at The Flying Pie think Nigel and the boys deserve a big American salute, so let’s belt out one chorus of the unofficial national anthem of Australia:

“Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree;
He sang as he watched and waited til his billy boiled,
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Okay, so everybody can’t have The Marseillaise.

The Melanoma Blues

Melanoma is a dirty little critter which can eat your insides out without your even knowing about it.  Get it once and your dermatologist will want to see you every six months til the twelfth of never.  Siobhan had a suspicious brown spot just above her wrist which seemed to linger forever, so she went out to Jonesville to see ace skin doctor Christina Mitchell.  Christina pulled out her magic flashlight and discerned the source of the problem.  “I think you have a thorn in there,” she said.  It was more likely a tiny piece of hay which penetrated her skin and hid, and the doc removed it with nothing more than an arcane chant.  Melanoma, schmelanoma.  Siobhan left with a new lease on life.  But now dermatologists have an even better tool than Dr. Mitchell’s magic flashlight.

Melanoma skin cancers are not easily identifiable by sight and even highly trained clinicians sometimes get it wrong.  Artificial Intelligence to the rescue.  Recently, a computer trained using images of skin cancer achieved a 95% detection rate test score, putting it at the head of its class for melanoma diagnosis, well ahead of the 87% success rate for human doctors.  You can read all about it in the Annals of Oncology, if you can find one.

Between 2 and 3 million non-melanoma and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year, according to the World Health Organization.  “One in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer and one in every five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime,” says the WHO.  But due to its ability to quickly sift through large amounts of information, AI can help health professionals with complex decision-making and point out nuances that they might have missed.

We’re still going with Dr. Mitchell til she messes up.

We’re Sick To Our Stomachs! (of being sick to our stomachs)

Do you have gastrointestinal issues?  Welcome to the club.  Approximately 70% of U.S. citizens over sixty are dues-paying members.  And it’s a frustrated group since often the precise source of the discomfort is unidentifiable.  Not that the G-docs won’t try.  I, for one, have been ultrasounded, x-rayed while drinking water and forced to suffer the slings and arrows of endoscopy, all to no avail.  Food charts don’t work, nor do exotic diets, digestive enzymes, acupuncture, omeprazole, kefir or any one of a dozen other treatments.  I once even digested a radioactive egg at the crack of dawn, then laid under a scanning machine for an hour so an Ocala specialist could find nothing.  And no, I don’t have an ulcer, even after 33 months of the Trump pseudopresidency.

Now, however, a team of scientists from MIT has unveiled an ingestible sensor pill equipped with genetically engineered bacteria capable of diagnosing bleeding in the stomach or other gastrointestinal problems.  What would we do without good old MIT, always poking around finding solutions to man’s greatest dilemmas?

Taking a “bacteria-on-a-chip“ approach, the team designed this little beauty to combine its living cells with ultra-low power electronics that convert bacterial response into a wireless signal which can be read by a smartphone.  In its findings published in the journal Science, the team stated that the altered cells are designed to respond to heme, a component of blood, as well as sensors that can respond to a molecule, a marker of inflammation.  The technology has been a decade in the making, following the work of synthetic biologists to engineer bacteria to respond to pollutants or markers of disease by emitting light.  Until now, though, specialized equipment has been needed to see it.  So, to make it more applicable in the real world, the MIT crew decided to combine the bacteria with an electronic chip, which could then use the natural response as energy for the wireless signal.  The device has so far been tested in pigs and found to be viable.  The researchers anticipate that this type of sensor could either be deployed for one-time use or designed to remain in the digestive tract for several days or weeks, sending continuous signals.

Sounds good to this patient.  Even better than that tasty radioactive egg.

Oh, And Before We Forget….

There are two new medications for Alzheimer’s Disease worth mentioning, both already developed and approved by the FDA.  This permits expedited clinical trials and hopefully fast-tracking us closer to a cure.

The first treatment is an unnamed drug now used to treat HIV.  Scientists discovered that the genetic blueprint in Alzheimer’s patients is altered as the disease progresses, similar to the genetic shuffling experienced in individuals with HIV.  The idea is that placing a halt to the movement of those specific genes can prevent the development of the disease.  According to lead scientist Jerold Chun, “For the first time, we can see what might cause the disease.  We also uncovered a potential near-term treatment.”  Give that man a big cigar.

Next, researchers at Mount Sinai have found that medications used to lower blood glucose in diabetics, such as metformin, may have a direct effect on the decrease in the plaques and tangles connected with Alzheimer’s.  Although this can be helpful now for diabetics with Alzheimer’s (that’s called hitting the daily double) who are already taking the medication, further research is necessary before testing on Alzheimer’s patients without diabetes due to the potential for dangerously low blood sugar levels along with other side effects.  Optimistically, the research outcomes add another piece to the dementia puzzle.  “Hopefully, now we can find drugs that would have similar effects on the brain without changing the blood sugar levels,” said Vahram Haroutunian, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Time’s a-wastin’, Vahram.  There are currently six million Americans afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease and a predicted increase to fourteen million diagnoses over the next 40 years.  Pretty soon, nobody will be able to tie his own shoes or remember the words to “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”  Everybody will stand up for the bottom of the seventh, look around, scratch their heads and sit down again.  If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, nothing will.

Calling All Cars

“This is your morning low-dose aspirin calling to remind you that you have not ingested me yet.  I hate to be pushy, but you know what the doctor said.”

Patients could be getting this message soon from one or another of their medications.  A new pill has been created that contains a tiny sensor that records when it is taken.  Information transmitted to a patch worn by the patient is then sent to a smartphone.  If you can’t remember whether you took your pill, just check with your phone.  This stroke of brilliance helps avoid double-dosing and those super-expensive tips to the ER via ambulance.  Or no-dosing and those even more expensive trips to the cemetery via ambulance-with-frills.

It’s encouraging for us members of The Geezerhood to know that the miracle of modern medicine is rushing to the fore to save us from the abyss, even repainting the finish line a couple miles further down the road in some cases.  Even as we speak, there are body-parts farms somewhere in the bowels of Oklahoma churning out faux gall bladders, islets of Langerhans and sections of small bowel to replace the insufficient worn-out originals.  You already know people with completely new hips and knees, pretty soon you won’t recognize them with their replacement eyes, ears and noses.  There’ll be auctions, of course, for the higher-level brains and bustlines, and all body parts will receive several-years guarantees.  In short order, repair shops will open to service the legions of new customers.  Make sure to wear a bathing suit to your service provider since many will offer a free wash with each visit.

Cheer up, it’s a whole new world out there and anything might happen.  Right now, as a matter of fact, scientists at Johns-Hopkins are rumored to be on the verge of constructing a pill which immediately reverses the damage done by maple-frosted donuts, an incredible feat which will reverberate throughout society.  Next up: healthy chewing tobacco.

That’s all, folks….