Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Don't drink the water and if Katmandu calls...hang up!

In what I have to believe is part of the design of natural selection, it seems to me that those that are blessed (?) with an inherent assumption of immortality are also the least blessed with common sense.

Maybe assuming only other people are the victims of an untimely death comes from living a life where no one they cherish has been taken from this planet, decades before the average.  Or maybe they are just dumb.

While I can understand there are many in this world that would never be happy living an average, ordinary life, why must they subject themselves to situations that pose incredibly high probabilities of death?  Like say, Himalayan peak mountain climbing. 

Never in my life has it seemed like a good idea to climb to heights that require you to bring your own oxygen.  I am a big fan of oxygen and I prefer to stay in conditions where carrying my own is not required.  The chances of dying an an attempt to summit Mt. Everest is staggering.  According to Wikipedia, "Curiously, 1996 was statistically a safe year for Everest climbers. Before 1996, one in four climbers had died making the ascent; 1996 saw huge numbers of people attempting the climb and the statistics for 1996 revel that only one in seven died"  So in an average year, you have a 25% chance of dying. Dying!

Any who, so last week, this professor from Western Kentucky University, Dr. John All, fell through a crevasse on Mt. Himlung in Nepal.  Haven't heard of Mount Himlung you say? Well, when access to Mt. Everest is understandably shut down last month due to an avalanche that took the lives of 16 sherpa you have to make do. Given there are few employment opportunities in the higher elevations of Nepal, these sherpas feed their families by risking their own lives to schlep the crap of citizens of industrialized nations (okay, most of them Americans and Europeans!) to the top of a mountain.  In an ironic twist, that I consider to be a sign from the universe, one of the sherpas that perished in that avalanche was on All's team.  Did that deter him from making this attempt? Nope.

In what appears to be another unbelievable part of this story, the professor (sounds a bit like Gilligan's Island, doesn't it, but I have to believe that the professor on Gilligan's Island would never have attempted these shenanigans) appeared to be climbing by himself. Who in the hell does this?!  At what point does one make the decision that climbing one of the highest peaks in the tallest mountain range in the world by yourself, is a rational idea?! Hasn't he heard of the buddy system?! 

Well, it doesn't go so well for the professor as his 240 lb. human body plunges into a 70 foot deep crevasse.  After dislocating both shoulders, sustaining internal injuries, and breaking 5 ribs and one arm, what did he do next you ask?  Well, logically he pulls out his smart phone to make a video of the scene. Folks,I.am.not.lying.  Locating and dislodging his smart phone out of his pack or pocket, or wherever it was at that point, with two dislocated shoulders and a broken arm would seem to be a logistical miracle at that point but he did it.  For those smart phone users out there, you know how much battery power is consumed while creating a video.  If I were stuck 70 feet below the surface of a Himalayan mountain peak (I think I just laughed out loud just now) I can tell you for certain, using my battery power making a video for posterity would be down there on the list with playing a game of Bejeweled at that point.  I'm thinking preserving the battery for things like the flashlight app might have been wise, but I'm no mountain climber!

But I digress, you've got to hand it to this guy, he somehow climbed out of the crevasse, and crawled back a significant distance to his tent.  After using satellite technology to send a SOS text to the rest of his team who were two days away from reaching him, he does the next logical thing, posts a plea for help on....wait for it....facebook!  

What was the title of this post?  "bad shape, need help".  Ya think?!  I have lots of friends on facebook and I often catch up on my newsfeed while waiting to pick up my son in car line.  Can you imagine scrolling through your newsfeed to find a friend of yours posts a plea for help from a peak in the Himalayans?  So you are thinking something like "well, if you had posted 5 minutes ago, when my phone had more than 10% battery power before videoing this idiot in front of me in car line, I could have reached out to that Nepalese foreign exchange student, who I'm friends with on facebook that attended my highschool 20 years ago, whose father is a sherpa on Mount Lohtse, oh wait, no, he died in that avalanche...hmmm guess I will just go back to playing Words With Friends"

Here is the link to his video.  If you suffer from virgin ears and are offended by the f-bomb, this is not a video for you: Facebook Link to Dr. All's Video

Now that I have you all wondering what happened next, the rest of the story doesn't get any more logical.  After putting even more lives at risk to rescue his dumb ass off that mountain in a helicopter, he is taken to an intensive care unit at a hospital in Katmandu. So you are thinking, finally this guy will come to his senses and do what most logical human beings would do, stay to recuperate in the hospital.  Well, you would be wrong. He checked himself out of the hospital, against doctor's orders, and decided to check himself into a Katmandu hotel instead. I guess the mints placed on the pillows of the ICU weren't up to his standards.  Granted, I cannot speak to the living conditions of a hospital intensive care unit in Katmandu but it seems that they would have significant practice at saving the lives of these dumb people and it would be preferable to most hotels in Katmandu, but what do I know? 

So my suggestion to you professor is this...the next time Katmandu calls, hang up. Or most likely it will be your dead body they will be pushing off the main trail to join the body of University of Louisville graduate, Francys Arsentiev who sadly ran out of oxygen (not.making.this.up) on Everest in 1998. Or just quit drinking the water, as perhaps it is something in the water at institutions of higher learning in Kentucky?  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ripped from the Headlines....When Truth is Stranger than Fiction

My life reads a bit like a Faulkner novel, seriously.  In fact, I have had several people tell me that I should write a book about it. I consider myself to be a prime example of a statistical anomaly.  I mean, who loses both their mother and brother to brain cancer before 40? {both were diagnosed at 38.  Guess what? I'm 38!} Less than two years after my mom died, I had an uncle that was shot and killed in a convenient store.  His crime...stopping by for his morning coffee and chat with a friend after working a double shift as an engineer, both his shift and one for a friend with Cancer who couldn't afford to miss a paycheck.  

The way I see it, life is seemingly strange and random and I have been on the receiving end of more than my fair share of tragedy in my first 3 decades, but similarly, more than my fair share of blessings as well. I have an amazing 97 year old grandmother with a facebook account and e-mail address who routinely engages me in political and social conversation.  So if I won the genetic lottery, as opposed to my mother and brother who both lost it, I may have almost 60 years left to grace this planet.

Anywho...I am also a statistical anomaly these days in that I receive the daily newspaper at the age of 38.  And...I have received a copy of the Lexington Herald-Leader, everyday, for over 17 years (ok, give or take a few days where my carrier decided that his/her warm bed was far more desirable than the snow and ice of a -15 below February morning, but who can blame them, right?!)

Very few of my friends...okay, only one that I can think of at the moment, "take the paper" as they say, every day. And, isn't that saying "take the paper" a bit strange?  First of all, I don't take it, they bring it {and drop it in my yard at the point geometrically farthest from my front door}. Secondly, I pay for it, it's not like I take it and run, which is what that saying implies to me. 

I can't say that I read it cover to cover everyday, or any day for that matter.  My husband is better about laying his eyes on every page, but it is astounding how many times, upon reading it myself, I will ask him about an article I read and most of the time he didn't read it.  Now, articles about asparagus or composting, those are very popular in this house and both of us will voraciously read those.  {I didn't say I live an exciting life, just a statistically crazy one, but when you and your husband can geek out together about anything, much less asparagus, after 18 years together, we must doing something right.}

So why am I writing this blog post today?  Over the past few days, I have actually had a few minutes to look through the entire paper.  And I am telling you, what was in there was stranger than fiction.  Here are a few headlines:

"Stowaway in wheel well of plane 'lucky to be alive'"
"Mummified body in storage unit ID'd; daughter accused of stealing benefits"
"Man kept mother's body in freeze: for 3 years, he spent her Social Security"
"Poll: Most Americans skeptical about many of scientists' truth"
"Christie named Father of the Year"

The first three article headlines, blow.my.mind.  The last two make me laugh out loud.

In the interest of keeping this blog post readable before you head out to vote in the primaries (hopefully most of my readers do this!)I will give you a cliff notes version of these articles and why I think this is just stranger than fiction.  Here we go...

"Stowaway in wheel well of plane 'lucky to be alive'" - Okay, so evidently a runaway teenager in San Jose, CA scaled the airport fence and stowed away in the wheel well of a plane headed to Maui.  Teenagers do crazy, seemingly illogical shit, but it was a Hawaiian Airlines, so we should give him credit for picking a plane headed to Hawaii, as opposed to an Alaska Airlines plane, right? Tragically, it turns out that this teenager is a Somalian refugee now living in California with his father, that was attempting to get to Somalia to see his mother. He evidently had no idea where any plane was going he just wanted to get on one going anywhere (sometimes I feel like doing this myself!) CNN quoted his father as saying ""My son, like many immigrant children, is struggling adjusting to life in this country," he said. "Our situation was aggravated by our displacement in Africa for many years after fleeing our home country of Somalia because of war conditions. As a result, my son was not able to receive any formal education before we immigrated to the United States. Yahya is a good kid who I love dearly.""  My heart breaks for the teenager, the father, and mostly for the mother. Having lost my mother, I can understand his mania, and honestly there are days that I could imagine depriving my brain of oxygen and exposing my body to -50 degree temps to see my mother again. There must be big things in store for this dude, in the order of the universe, as instead of turning into a human Popsicle, he lived to tell the tale, as they say.

"Mummified body in storage unit ID'd; daughter accused of stealing benefits" - There are so many sick and wrong things to this story that it is practically unimaginable.  In a nutshell, a daughter allegedly stored her father's dead body in a storage unit in Lexington for practically 2 decades and drew his social security benefits.  Times are hard for many Americans, no doubt.  Based on the decay of her father's body, they say that she drew $150,000 from the Federal Government between 1997 and 2011. In addition to the Social Security benefits she was erroneously drawing, this women earns $270 a month working from the National Psychic Network.   So how did the authorities finally figure out her father was no longer of this world...The Social Security Administration Centenary Project.  If you become a centenarian, you can look forward a call from your government. This heinous woman received one of these calls, attempted to imitate her father's voice, and officials became suspicious when she sounded much more like a woman than a man.  You have to give them credit for attempting to protect our tax dollars.  Low and behold, somehow the trail led from Texas to Lexington and there they found him. So I guess we can safely assume that this woman does not work in the capacity of a psychic for the National Psychic Network as ostensibly she would have seen this coming, not answered the phone, and moved the body, don't ya think? You know what is the most disturbing in all of this, her elderly mother has not been seen alive since March! I am not making this stuff up folks!

"Man kept mother's body in freezer: for 3 years, he spent her Social Security" - Here we go again, but unlike the heinous woman above, this guy at least had enough respect for his mother's body that he kept it in a freezer, okay, as least for awhile.  How did they find out what this loser was up to?  Federal investigators noticed that his mother, who would have been 96 this year, did not file a medical claim for three years. Statistically speaking, this is...an anomaly. So, they engaged the services of the Pulaski County, Kentucky Sheriff's office to help locate her.  To make a long story short, the son was the caretaker for his bedridden mother and she died in 2011.  After she died, in order to keep receiving her benefits, he put her in a deep freezer.  And in that freezer she remained until the son lost the home they were sharing so then he took her with him to another house but just left her in the yard for the winter.  Authorities suspect that the long, cold winter in Kentucky allowed for this frozen state to continue until the son waltzed into the Social Security office to get his own benefits.  At that point, the authorities had a lead on him so they went to find him at his new residence, where he committed suicide while the deputy stood just outside the door. Can you imagine?!  Again, I am not making this up folks!

"Poll: Most Americans skeptical about many of scientists' truth" - In reality, instead of laughing at this, I want to cry.  In a study conducted in late March of 2014, respondents were asked about their confidence levels in reference to what Nobel Prize winning scientists call "settled scientific facts".  There was almost complete buy in that smoking causes Cancer and that a genetic code exists.  Those suffering from mental illness will be happy to hear that only 6% respondents questioned that mental illness is a medical condition that affects the brain. But when it comes to global warming, the age of the Earth, natural selection, and The Big Bang Theory, we are a distrusting bunch.  Believe what you want about how we got here and in what manner we have evolved as a species, as it really doesn't make a damn bit of difference moving forward. But I am sorry people, the alarming rate at which glaciers are melting and man-made heat trapping gasses are forcing our planet temperatures to rise, puts the entire planet and our existence on this planet in jeopardy. Being blissfully unaware, or I guess in this case blissfully unbelieving, is a really dangerous thinking pattern.  So maybe natural selection isn't real because you would think by now, the human species that is here would be using their brains!

"Christie named Father of the Year"- In no way do I pretend to be Mother of the Year, so you know that saying, "those who live in glass houses, shouldn't throw stones", applies here, but how in the hell does Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey, or any other Governor of any other state in America, qualify as Father of the Year?!  You know those Governors.... they have copious amounts of time to spend with their children, never missing the school play, rendering life size robotic recreations of Thomas Jefferson out of household recyclables, coaching baseball teams, and manning the grill at the teacher appreciation cook outs.  I'm sure after Christie left the staff meeting that effectively shut down a major bridge commuting route in New Jersey, he went straight to the local supermarket to help his daughter sell her girl scout cookie quota. Who bestows this award you ask? That would be The National Father's Day/Mother's Day Council.  What in the world is that?  Are people actually paid to serve on this Council? Do they have a national headquarters?  This Council just smells of major greeting card stench! I am not really picking on Christie here, it is the premise of this that just boggles my mind. I am sure he is a good father, and parenting is the hardest job in the world, but come on now, let's be real.

I just might write that book about my life some day.  In reality, writing this blog is doing just that, over time, and in small doses, and I hope that you find it worth reading.  And hopefully when the Social Security Administration Centenary Project calls someday, it will be my voice that answers.