Monday, April 23, 2007

Greatest Hits, Vol. I

I took a quick look back at my "Archives" tonight, and I realized that this site has been in action for about six months. That means it's moved from "momentary interest" to "on-going obsession". It also means it's time to look back on what's happened so far; hence my "Greatest Hits, Vol 1"!

To kick it off, . This was my first "real" posting, following the typical "Welcome" posting that most people start with. It's a tiny bit moody, but I do kinda like it. Up next, a two-part posting that came together for reasons I'm still uncertain about. The first part,, was a standard riff on items in the news, opened up by what I thought was an innocent observation or two about different blog hosting sites. Bam [to quote Emeril]! I was censored. An observation or two in the latter half of the post was "blanked" as well [of course, you just need to mouse over the open segments of this one to find out what I was getting at. Call it the "uncensored" version]. All this led to the follow-up, (Oddly enough, I've had very few hits on either column. The ones that draw the most comment seem to be those concerning American Idol. Go figure...

I've always liked, if that counts for anything. It's funny in a universal sort of way, not controversial, and it sort of runs out of gas in a wistful "pfffft". How could people not like it?

Finally, since most "Greatest Hits" collections nowadays include new material:

Blacksburg, VA

You didn't see this coming. Nobody does.
Yeah, there was evidence, warnings to be read,
Perhaps read, dealt with, but left unresolved.

No one deserved the pain,
Whether shot or just viewing
The carnage, feeling the fear.

You were all victims.
God grant you release
From the pain.

For those
who live,
please find serenity.

There are no safe places.

-Mike Riley

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Public Service Announcement (Sugar Sugar)

There's a public service announcement going around on radio that always gets my attention. The announcer reads a series of statistics concerning deaths from smoking [Yes, I smoke, but I usually listen carefully to the anti-smoking PSA's. It's either an attempt to hear the words that will help me to quit, or an ill-advised attempt to feel guilty for smoking], but saying that the deaths were caused by bears. It ends with the announcer saying, "No, these deaths weren't caused by bears. But what do you think the government would do if they were?" It's striking, and, as I say, always gets my attention.

Since I do smoke, I don't think it's fair for me to get into that situation. But can I please take a moment to attract your attention to another health crisis that has gotten media attention, but seems to draw indifference when the subject comes up? Unfortunately, I have some knowledge on this one, too. Let me share it with you.

This disease affects a little less than 21 million Americans, around 7 % of the population. While most who have it are aware, just over 6 million, or nearly 1/3, have no idea that they do. What's worse, 54 million Americans have an early-stage form of the disease. There is no cure, but treatment allows many of its sufferers to lead longer, healthier lives. The disease is diabetes.(This is the point where a lot of eyes glaze over. Hang in there, people, THIS IS IMPORTANT!)

Diabetes makes it difficult or impossible for your body to convert sugars, starches and other foods into energy needed for everyday life (For the record, fruits and vegetables in their natural state contain sugars, so just avoiding things like cake and bread isn't usually good enough. Neither is avoiding fruits and vegetables in their natural states...). Diabetes is a disease that makes it easier for other diseases to hurt or kill you [Yes. "kill". The complications of diabetes can kill...]. Among the diseases that are made worse by diabetes are heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, eye, foot and skin diseases. A very common complication of diabetes is neuropathy, damage to the nervous system that can cause pain, injury and/or disease.

It's not a pretty picture. But early diagnosis and treatment can minimise the damage, and allow you to live a [relatively, anyway] normal life. Treatment is improving on an almost-daily basis, due to continuing research.

What can you do? First of all, know where you stand. Get tested [usually, a simple blood test will suffice]. If it turns out you have diabetes, put together a health care team [your doctor, a podiatrist, an eye-care specialist, heart and kidney experts, a dietitian and, most importantly, a diabetic educator. Think of the educator as your diabetes specialist. They keep up with the latest information on diabetes, so that you can have the advantage of the latest techniques for treatment. As good as your doctor may be, most of them don't specialize in diabetes treatment], and FOLLOW THEIR ADVICE!

A personal note for parents: by experience, you've learned that a lot of things you're told not to do with your kids [not too much TV, no violent cartoons, etc.]didn't kill our generation. But watching what your kids eat may help not to kill them too young. Part of that number of diabetics at the start of this message is a rather large number of teens [and even pre-teens] being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, formerly found only in adults, and adults in their 50's and older at that. Having grown up fat, I can tell you the emotional scars take a long time to overcome. Adding the likelihood of disease, and the very real possibility of early death, just makes it an unacceptable option. I don't fault my parents for what happened to me; they made every effort to help me when I was young [Of course, I turned out to be stubborn]. For the sake of your children's health, please make the effort...

For more information, talk to your doctor. Visit this website;, home to the American Diabetes Association. If you're reading this outside the US, visit the Diabetes Association in your country. Becoming disciplined in such matters may not be easy: it's far better than the cornucopia of illness and disease that awaits if you don't. Thank you for your time...

-Mike Riley

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Plea For Civility, A Plea For Respect

Just about everyone I know who has used a microphone more than once has regretted something they've said into one [Almost every night I turn mine off after saying something, and think, "What in Hell was that all about?".]. It's not that those of us who use microphones are, as a class, stupid. It's just that, like most humans, the words sometimes come directly from the mouth WITHOUT proper filtration in the brain. And with the added amplification Mr. Microphone provides, the prospect of many people hearing our latest stupid moment increases exponentially. Plug that microphone into a radio or TV station and, well, you do the math.

All this is on the table because of a couple of incidents from recent days. In one, talk-show host Bill O'Reilly, not the most subtle speaker in the best of times, suddenly unloaded on his guest, fellow talker Geraldo Rivera, to the point that Rivera was obliged to "reel him in" in self-defense [I don't know about you, but when Geraldo Rivera is the "voice of reason", the Apocalypse must be close at hand...]. In the other, radio talk-show host [Isn't it interesting that all this mayhem is happening on talk shows? And people wonder why I have no desire to do one!] Don Imus used a racially-charged word in reference to a women's college basketball team. In both cases, the offending party apologized for his action. O'Reilly was given no public punishment [the cynical division of the Public figured it was all a publicity stunt, since Rivera works in the same trade as O'Reilly], while Imus is currently sitting out a two-week suspension.

Let's leave the O'Reilly incident [I'm with the cynical division of the Public on this one, personally] and move on to the heat Imus has taken.Before we go any further, a statement: DON IMUS USED AN UNACCEPTABLE WORD, OR PHRASE, IN REFERENCE TO THAT WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TEAM. He needs to re-evaluate his beliefs and phraseology. Sensitivity training may be appropriate. That being said, I do NOT believe that Don Imus is a racist. I think he has an unfortunate tendency [as do many in the "chat-for-cash" (no offense meant to those in the sex phone trade) business] to use provocative language in the name of getting attention.

Now, what has Imus done to resolve the situation? First, he apologized. Good start. Next, he accepted an invitation to appear on another radio program, this one hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton. Maybe not such a good idea. A black co-worker notes that Rev. Sharpton represents himself as a, or possibly the, leader for America's Black People. The co-worker feels that Sharpton is not an official voice for anyone or anything except his own agenda [his opinion, not necessarily mine]. As an admittedly uninformed observer, I think that the Black populace of this country is a diverse collection of peoples, and therefore would be hard-pressed to settle on any one person to serve as "leader" or "spokesperson". I reserve judgement on Rev. Sharpton's agenda, and if, for that matter, he even has one. Still, coming forward to hear different viewpoints on his remark is certainly a valid step in the "reeducation" of Don Imus.

Another issue that has arisen is the amount, and seeming ferocity, of "hate" words used by Blacks to punctuate their own conversation. Oddly enough, much of it seems to be directed at members of their own racial community. As a White person, I've never understood it. Some people say that, given the current verbal environment, Imus didn't say anything terribly offensive. That does not excuse his comment, nor does it mean that only Whites can offend Blacks with racially-motivated speech, EVEN WHEN THAT SPEECH IS BLACK-TO-BLACK.

It's time to clean up our words, and show RESPECT for each other. Only in that way will we merit respect for ourselves.

-Mike Riley