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Tom Coburn is a Big Fat Jerk


Home of the Barking Moonbat


Saturday, March 05, 2005

Day Three and a Half, Garden Journal 2005

Well, I had to chase the neighbor's horses off before I sprayed, as they were doing everything in their power to knock the fence over while acting like they weren't knocking the fence over. They're worse than goats.

After spraying, I spent the afternoon running outside to hammer on the chicken coop and starting seeds. I've not got going: Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, Thai Pink Egg Tomatoes, Garden Huckleberry, Butterfly Bush, Yellow Coneflower (echinacea), Sorrel, TONS of basil but old seeds so may not be great germination rates, Mammoth Sunflower, Nicotiniana (Indian Peace Pipe), and Lion's Ear.

Soaking in prep for planting tomorrow: Birdhouse Gourds, Loofah, Giant Moonflowers, Morning Glories, two varieties of nasturtiums and pimientoes.

Tri-color pole beans will take a few days, as I want to prepare the planting area before I get them going. I'll be growing cantelope and peas with them. And it may already be too warm to get kale in the coldframes in the greenhouse. Damn! But that's alright, as I have to fix the thing.

So a little better. Problem now, I have no freaking place to put any of it. The plant room (don't ask) is getting packed to the gills!!!

Day Three, Garden Journal 2005

First, a message to Bush:


Now, for the garden.

First, I'm well aware I skipped Day Two. But you really don't want me doing a blow by blow account of every day, do you?

My task this morning is to run to the feedstore and grab some pesticide. Yes, you heard me: pesticide. While working on the chicken coop yesterday, I caught sight of our most dreaded critter out in these parts: seed ticks.


I immediately ran inside, grabbed the K9 Advantix to treat the dogs and took a shower to dislodge any that had ended up on me.

For those of you in non-tick disease areas, count your blessings. Around here, though, tick disease is a major problem, especially as it appears we're a pocket of ehrlichiosis --- although it's possible that last year, they finally acknowledged it's a problem for this entire area. One of the fellows I work with, actually, a biology instructor, actually did years of research on the ricksettias (which include some of the tick diseases), and he was shocked to find out we have ehrlichiosis down here.

But we do. I won't go too much into it because it makes me sad --- but I lost my favorite hound to it a year or so ago. :-( For the past two years, they've issued warnings about it for the horses because so many have died from it. And we almost lost a local kid from it this past winter. He spent months in ICU and survived, but has been left barely functional. I've heard stories of others getting it, as well, but this poor kid really stuck with me.

So meticulous attention to ridding an area of ticks is a must for us.

Once I get the chickens here, they'll be a huge help, as they love ticks and are very effective at clearing them out, and fast.

But the chickens aren't here yet and this has GOT to be nipped in the bud.

So that's the main task for today. I'm also finally getting it together to start seeds this afternoon. I'm horribly embarrassed --- one of my best friends around here is already well on her way, and emailed last night saying she wanted to give me some of her starts. Dang! I have nothing to give in return! But I suppose I shouldn't feel so badly --- she and her husband are ex-certified organic farmers, so, unlike me, they actually know what they're doing.

In any case, I'm off to the feedstore and will be spraying this afternoon. None too pleased about it but I'll be damned if I get tick disease or if any of my critters do!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Near Death Experiences, Part III

Tonight's segment comes from searches on Medline and Proquest, and consists of some abstracts and a document. I'm still refraining from commentary. Besides, my copy of Tibetan Book of the Dead hasn't yet arrived.

1. Schizophrenia, dissociative anaesthesia and near-death experience; three events meeting at the NMDA receptor.
Med Hypotheses 2004;62(1):23-8    (ISSN: 0306-9877)
Department of Pharmacology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The, Netherlands.

The three events, viz. schizophrenia, dissociative anaesthesia and Near-Death Experience, despite their seemingly unrelated manifestation to each other, have nevertheless similar functional basis. All three events are linked to the glutamate sensitive N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor complex, which serves as their common functional denominator. Arguments and speculations are presented in favor of the view that, the three events might be considered as functional models of each other. Antagonism to the recognition NMDA-site of the receptor induces dissociative anaesthesia and precipitates Near-Death Experience. Agonist reinforcement at the modulatory glycine-site of the receptor counteracts negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Both types of challenges towards the receptor are compatible with a glutamate deficiency concept which underlies the meeting of the three events at the NMDA receptor.

2. Near-death experiences and the temporal lobe.
Psychol Sci 2004 Apr;15(4):254-8    (ISSN: 0956-7976)
Britton WB; Bootzin RR
Department of Psychology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.

Many studies in humans suggest that altered temporal lobe functioning, especially functioning in the right temporal lobe, is involved in mystical and religious experiences. We investigated temporal lobe functioning in individuals who reported having transcendental "near-death experiences" during life-threatening events. These individuals were found to have more temporal lobe epileptiform electroencephalographic activity than control subjects and also reported significantly more temporal lobe epileptic symptoms. Contrary to predictions, epileptiform activity was nearly completely lateralized to the left hemisphere. The near-death experience was not associated with dysfunctional stress reactions such as dissociation, posttraumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse, but rather was associated with positive coping styles. Additional analyses revealed that near-death experiencers had altered sleep patterns, specifically, a shorter duration of sleep and delayed REM sleep relative to the control group. These results suggest that altered temporal lobe functioning may be involved in the near-death experience and that individuals who have had such experiences are physiologically distinct from the general population.

3. Near-death experiences with reports of meeting deceased people.
Death Stud 2001 Apr-May;25(3):229-49    (ISSN: 0748-1187)
Kelly EW
University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.

Few scientists have taken seriously the interpretation of near-death experiences (NDEs) as evidence for survival after death, even though most people having such an experience have become convinced that they will survive death and several features of NDEs are at least suggestive of survival. This article compares survival and some nonsurvival interpretations of NDEs in light of one feature suggestive of survival, that of reports of having seen deceased persons during the NDE. Several features of 74 NDEs involving such reports were compared with those of 200 NDEs not involving such reports. Although some of the findings could support either a survival or a nonsurvival interpretation, several other findings may weaken the primary nonsurvival hypothesis, that of expectation. Additionally, the convergence of several features suggesting survival and the convergence of features that require multiple kinds of alternative explanations, in individual cases as well as in large groups of cases, warrant our considering the survival hypothesis of NDEs more seriously than most scientists currently do.

4. What Emergency Department Staff Need to Know About Near-Death Experiences
Debbie James. Topics in Emergency Medicine. 
Jan-Mar 2004.Vol.26, Iss. 1;  pg. 29, 6 pgs


J.B., a 42-year-old white man, was taken to the Emergency Department (ED) by emergency medical services (EMS) after he was resuscitated at his son's high school football game. He had suddenly collapsed and 2 bystanders started Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which was continued until paramedics arrived 5 minutes later. he was placed on a cardiac monitor, defibrillated, intubated, and transported once an IV was in place and a rhythm established. Upon arrival, J.B. had 2 more episodes of ventricular fibrillation, which was treated according to the Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) protocol. he was transferred to the coronary care unit within the next 2 hours. Over the subsequent 24 hours, J.B. was stabilized, extubated, and closely monitored.

Two days later he asked his nurse to explain what had happened to him because he recalled "dreams" about how the paramedics had intervened with him at the game and how the ED staff had participated in his resuscitation. The nurse nervously stated that she was not at liberty to discuss his resuscitative care and encouraged him to consult his cardiologist about any concerns. J.B. did not inquire further about his "dreams."

Two years later, J.B. attended a cardiac rehabilitation support group meeting and heard the guest speaker present the topic of near-death experiences (NDEs). he was shocked to learn that several people in the group had vivid memories of "dreams" they had following their resuscitation. J.B. became emotional and fought the urge to ask the speaker questions regarding his close brush with death. he had not allowed himself to discuss the subject though the memories were as clear that night as they were 2 years prior. Before he realized it he was asking the speaker about his memory of hearing one paramedic saying to the other, "Hurry up, crank it up to 200.. .we're losing him, we're losing him!" he continued to divulge that he felt something funny and then heard the paramedic yell, "Hurry up dammit, crank it up to 300; we're losing this guy."

After J.B. had recounted the 200-300-360 sequence, the speaker explained that he had just given the exact energy settings that health care providers are taught to use to defibrillate patients. J.B. innocently asked, "then you think it happened like that?" The speaker compassionately responded, "I think it happened exactly like that" as she saw others in the group wiping tears from their eyes.

J.B. is one of the estimated 10 million Americans who has reported a near-death experience (NDE) associated with resuscitation. he had an immediate desire to disclose the NDE but based on the reaction of the person he first chose to tell, he suppressed any further desire to share.


Absolute consensus on the definition of the NDE among researchers has not been reached though most will agree that it is one of the most powerful emotional and psychological events known. For the last 3 decades, the term NDE typically describes a close brush with physical, psychological, emotional, and/or spiritual death. Pirn van Lommel, Dutch cardiologist, recently defined the NDE as "the reported memory of all impressions during a special state of consciousness."


Survivors often recall certain characteristics about their close brush with death. The most common characteristics include, but are not limited to, a bright light, encountering others, the presence of Deity, and peace and/or an understanding of love and knowledge. Van Lommel1 notes that specific elements of the NDE include an out-of-body (OOB) experience, pleasant feelings, and seeing a tunnel, a light, deceased relatives, or a life review.


Consensus about the stages of the NDE has also not been reached, probably due to the fact that no two NDEs are identical; however, patterns have emerged as patients report their experience. A composite of the stages described across cultures and centuries might include euphoria, an OOB experience, a tunnel experience, an unearthly world of light, and a decision-making period.

* Euphoria-a floating, peaceful feeling. Most report that they had no human wants or needs. They were not hungry, thirsty, in pain, hot, or cold.

* Out-of-body experience-a separation of body and spirit. Reports most commonly include watching the body from an outward perspective, feeling little to no attachment to the physical self.

* Tunnel experience-being pulled into a dark hole or the center of the earth. Some feel they were in a black vastness and/or moving quickly toward the center.

* An unearthly world of light-being in surroundings that are not of this earth. Some report seeing objects and beings that are unfamiliar or have features of light. Sounds such, as music, have also been noted in this stage.

* The decision-making period-being involved in the decision to stay or return. Some report knowing or being told that "it is not time" or that "you must go back" or being given the choice to return or not.

These stages are certainly not experienced by every person who has had an NDE. Some people report being in a bright light or a dark tunnel and having a "knowing" that they must return and that is the entire experience. Others describe all the stages of the event in elaborate detail.


For hundreds of years, people have reported stories related to their close encounters with death. Notations may be found in The Bible, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and many widely read sources, but not until 1975 was the term Near-Death Experience used to describe such encounters. Moody published Life After Life, a book containing stories and accounts revealed to him by over 100 people. he was criticized for his "nonscientiflc" study by other researchers. Moody's work has been accepted as the foundation upon which others have based their research. he identified perceptions frequently described by patients who had been successfully resuscitated. These include but are not limited to

* feelings of separation of mind from body

* sensations of drifting, floating, passing through solid objects

* awareness of actual events but an inability to communicate to living beings

* hearing loud, hissing, thunderous noises

* moving through a tunnel

* meeting a brilliant, warm Light

* experiencing peace, indescribable beauty, splendor, and a longing to be part of it

* recognizing others

* communication with deceased others by thoughts

* returning through darkness, propelled by force

* feeling a purpose about life

Kubler-Ross3 subsequently included this phenomenon in her publications related to aspects of death and dying. She reported anecdotes of deathbed visions, visits, and stories. The patients sharing these anecdotes described many perceptions which had been identified by Moody.

The first scientific study of NDEs was documented by Ring4 in 1980. he found that in a sample of 102 people who came close to death, 49 described an NDE that fit the core experience concept. Of the 102 subjects, 61 appeared to be unable to verbalize language to describe the feelings, perceptions, and time frame of the NDE.

Articles in the medical literature in the late seventies and early eighties primarily reported qualitative studies which focused on "stories"from patients who had close brushes with death. Sabom5 reported "recollections" of patients in his practice who had suffered a myocardial infarction. They too, recounted many of the same characteristics cited by Moody.

George Gallup reported a landmark study conducted by the prestigious Gallup Poll. He reported that "approximately 35 percent of those persons who have come close to death undergo an NDE."6

Greyson noted a lack of quantitative measures of the NDE and its components and introduced an NDE Scale. The 16-item final questionnaire resulted from an original 33-item tool Greyson developed after identifying 80 manifestations characteristic of an NDE. he used cluster analysis to reveal 3 factor clusters, which are transcendental, affective, and cognitive NDEs. Greyson reported that "this reliable, valid, and easily administered scale is clinically useful in differentiating NDEs from organic brain syndrome, and nonspecific stress responses. "7(p569)

Oakes, in 1978, published a 3-part segment entitled The Lazarus Syndrome in RN magazine. Here she reported the first nursing research study that focused on "what patients perceive in near-death events."8(p55) She noted that "strong cultural influences and religious beliefs affect a patient's expectation of what death will bring; and that this is reflected in the dying process."8(p56) Oakes concluded her 2-year study, in which she interviewed 21 postresuscitation patients, with a Care Plan for the Unique Needs of Those Who've Died.8(p60) The care plan included 5 major guidelines to consider when CPR becomes necessary. The first suggestion helped guide care when a patient is in cardiac arrest and apparently unconscious. Specific interventions included avoidance of threatening language, reassurance about care, and incorporation of comforting touch. The second guideline related to caring for patients who become unconscious. Reassurance and support, reality orientation, and care during transfer to intensive care unit (ICU) are recommended for the plan of care. Establishment of a low stress environment, which included considerations about personal care items, privacy, verbal support, was the third care plan item. The fourth guideline dealt 'with interventions regarding the post-CPR reports of NDE. Attention and active listening, nonjudgmental behavior, assistance in exploring the event, and documentation were discussed and encouraged in this section. Lastly, methods for follow-up care were reviewed. Care plan items included assessment of the impact on the patient, intervention with the family, and long-term support.

Orne reported her findings related to nurses' attitudes about NDEs and what they considered appropriate interventions. Results indicated "listening to NDE accounts and encouraging discussion" ranked highest among responses.9(p420) She concluded her study with a list of research questions which need to be answered. Two of these provided foundation for this study. They included "Is coping influenced by what is (or is not) said or done by nurses?" and "What strategies are most needed: reassurance, information, invitations to talk and explore feelings, or referral?"

Corcoran10 presented insights on how to best provide care for patients who have had an NDE. She reviewed the phenomenon, characteristics, incidence, and aftereffects. In addition, she provided a new concept. Research has shown that "NDEs have fairly common characteristics around the world, so, if an NDE is a hallucination, it must be a universal hallucination."10(p36) She urged nurses to carefully listen to patients' information regarding their experience without judgment.

Currently several researchers are exploring various aspects of the NDE and reporting the data in the Journal of Near Death Studies as well as major medical journals such as lancet.


Recognizing that no two NDEs are the same, it would stand to reason that the aftereffects of the NDE are unique as well. However, there are certain aftereffects that are reported more frequently than others. The most common of these include having no fear of death, less regard for material wealth, chemical sensitivities, and difficult disclosure decisions.

No fear of death

Though many state that they are not eager to die or separate from loved ones, they see death from a different perspective and therefore accept it as a part of life. Additionally, individuals who have suffered chronic pain and have an NDE often become more comfortable with death knowing that it will bring peace and comfort. On the surface, realizing that a patient may have an acceptance of death especially when death is imminent and suffering has become more apparent might bring comfort to caregivers and loved ones. However, if the patient is a small child who-now accepts death when his parents and family have not reached the same point can be very difficult for all concerned. Healthcare providers also may feel conflicted when the patient seems unconcerned about the possibility of death. Patients who request that no resuscitative efforts be taken in their plan of care may meet resistance from their health care team.

Less regard for material wealth

Near-death survivors often report a decreased desire for material wealth as they note an increase in the importance of relationships. Affluent near-death experiencers (NDEers) explain that the need for money, resources, and even fame no longer drives their behavior. As they integrate the experience and such a significant change in philosophy, they find loved ones have difficulty in accepting them as well as their life goals. Unfortunately, studies have shown that the divorce rate for NDEers is higher than the national average. Individuals who have strivecl to meet personal, financial, and spiritual goals suddenly find themselves on divided paths. For the near-death survivor the path may be lonely but acceptable.

Increased chemical sensitivity

Near-death survivors report strange reactions to certain chemicals following the NDE. Individuals state that they no longer enjoy drinking alcohol, experience hypersensitivity to medications they have used for years, as well as encounter unusual reactions to dyes used for diagnostic procedures. Problems associated with such sensitivities may include physical compromise in addition to delays in treatment when health care providers do not understand and/or accept the phenomenon.

Difficult disclosure decisions

Multiple factors which influence decision making regarding disclosure of the NDE were documented by James.11 These factors included considerations related to timing of the disclosure, the individual(s) to be told, motives for sharing the experience, as well as motives which lead to nondisclosure.

Timing of the disclosure

With regard to when the NDE is disclosed to another, James found that the NDEer may attempt to discuss part of the phenomenon immediately after the experience, or as soon as he/she can communicate, simply to validate that he/she was as close to death as was perceived. An in-depth discussion of the actual experience may not be the desire of the NDEer at such time because he/she may not understand what occurred and time may be needed for acceptance of the circumstances which led to the NDE. On the other hand, NDEers may desire to talk about the actual experience soon after the event to share with a loved one the beauty, peace, and joy of the experience. NDEers report attempting to share their story immediately, but felt as though others "did not understand, were not interested, or thought they were crazy or confused." NDEers who do not attempt to share their story immediately report trying to tell someone as soon as they felt they "needed or wanted to. " On the basis of the reaction of the confidant, the NDEer may wait years before disclosure may be possible.

Individuals chosen for disclosure

James concluded from her data that the NDEer will most likely attempt to tell a nurse or physician about the NDE regardless of the timing. The primary reason is because these individuals are more apt to understand the severity of the situation or condition. The next choice is typically a family member; however, a greater risk may be perceived as disclosure may impact a long-term relationship.

Motives for disclosure and nondisclosure

Motives for disclosure include the need for support or information, and because someone cared. Motives for nondisclosure are personal issues and noncaring behaviors. Personal issues may include that the NDEer feels it is not practical to share for various reasons or that he/she has negative feelings about the listener.


The NDE is not uncommon, but is so profound and personal that often the experiencer desires to disclose the event immediately after it occurs. This desire frequently results in an attempt to share the event with those responsible for the care of the experiencer. Health care professionals are often in a position to promote a path of physical and spiritual health and well-being. Therefore, their increased awareness and sensitivity of the needs of the NDEer are essential.

The need to create a healing environment was first documented by Florence Nightingale12 in I860 in her Notes on Nursing. In many cases, the NDE occurs in a health care setting, such as a hospital, ambulance, or clinic, wherein the nurses and physicians, and sometimes clergy and family, are immediately available to the NDEer. Health care professionals play a key role in the promotion of an environment of healing.

The decision as to which individual(s) the experiencer will select for disclosure depends primarily on the demonstration of specific caring behaviors of the caregiver. The NDEer must recognize the promotion of a safe environment before sharing is possible. The response to the first attempt at disclosure will have a serious impact on future disclosure decisions.


Possible interventions for ED staff caring for patients who have had an NDE might include but are not limited to the following:

* Actively listen to verbal and nonverbal communication. The patient may desire to share very personal data and may be searching for permission to proceed. Remain alert to phrases like "I had a strange dream," or "a weird thing happened."

* Foster a caring environment. Use positive language and pleasant tones of voice. Promote a healing atmosphere in every aspect of patient care. Realize that even in resuscitation efforts patients may be aware of certain behaviors.

* Listen. Allow the patient to describe what is on his mind and do not interrupt with explanations about drugs and hypoxia. Remain nonjudgmental.

* Be there. NDEers state that they told "the nurse show was really there." Make eye contact, slow down, look at the patient, and ask about their feelings. Hold the patient's hand and listen. Care.

* Research. Conduct research regarding the impact of specific interventions used in the care of the survivors of near-death events.

* Allow the patient/NDEer to decide how to proceed. Respect the confidentiality of the experiencer. If he/she would like assistance in discussing the NDE with the family, assist. If he/she asks about resources, refer to the local FOI (Friends of International Association of Near-Death Studies) Chapter.

* Prepare the patient who will undergo life-threatening procedures or surgery. If the patient has had a serious compromise during a procedure, be alert for clues and ask open-ended question. Establish a safe environment.

* Answer questions. Recognize the fact that many NDEers question their own sanity and need support and information. Reorient as needed. Listen. Explain that "sometimes people who have had this type of injury or illness have told about interesting feelings or dreams." Open the door. Validate the severity of their illness or injury.

* Inform colleagues. Assist other health care providers in understanding the significance of the NDE and the support the experiencer needs.

* Utilize available resources. For further information, such as frightening NDEs, NDEs in children, and additional aftereffects, contact the International Association for Near-Death Studies at www.IANDS.org.

* Share the story. Share NDEer's stories with those who survive close brushes with death. Listen.



1. van Lommel P, van Wees R1 Meyers V, Elffcrich I. Near death experience in survivors of cardiac arrest: a prospective study in the Netherlands. Lancet. 2001;358:2040.
2. Moody R. Life After Life. New York: Bantam; 1975.
3. Kublcr-Ross E. To Live Until We Say Good-Bye. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall; 1978.
4. Ring. 1980.
5. Sabom MB. Recollections of Death: A Medical Investigation. New York: Harper & Row; 1982.
6. Gallup G. Adventures in Immortality. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1982.
7. Greyson B. The near-death experience scale: construction, reliability, and validity. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1983:171:369-375.
8. Oakes AR. The Lazarus syndrome: eare for patients who've returned from the dead. RN. 1978;4l:54.
9. Orne R. Nurses' views of NDEs. Am J Nurs. 1986;4:419-420.
10. Corcoran D. Helping patients who've had near-death experiences. Nursing 88. 1988;ll:34-39.
11. James DL. Factors in the Nursing Environment Which Promote Disclosure of Near-Death Experiences [thesis]. San Antonio, Tex: Incarnate Word College; 1994:74-79.
12. Nightingale F. Notes on Nursing: What il is and What it is Not. London: Harrison; I860.

Debbie James, MSN, RN, CCRN, CNS
From The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Tex.

Reason 92 I'm suspicious of most people who end every conversation with a religious homily

The last self-proclaimed saved Christian who set foot in my place announced out of the blue (after appointing himself my *mentor* for goats) (????) that if I want to get a job, I better start wearing a bra.


First, I have a job. Second, I WAS wearing a bra, not to mention he showed up unannounced and uninvited and plopped himself inmy living room and proceeded to spew out a bunch of crap like that.

Third, he pulled that only a few weeks after I had to break up a fight between two self-proclaimed saved Christian ladies in my living room during a meeting in which they were both trying to con me out of something.


Microsoft better take heed

The majority of my readers are on Macs.

Be scared, Bill Gates. Be very, very scared

But it IS the economy, stupid!

First, a personal message to our president:


Second, a word from our favorite Economic Meltdown Theorist, Stephen Roach:

The long history of global economic leadership is replete with countless other examples of the demise of the powerful -- a pattern well documented and analyzed by Yale historian Paul Kennedy (see The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000, Random House, New York, 1987).  Starting 500 years ago with a world dominated by Ming China, the Ottoman Empire, India’s Mogul Empire, Moscovy, Tokugawa Japan, and the great nation-states of western Europe, Kennedy posits a simple but elegant thesis as to why these and the other strains of global leadership that were to follow were destined to fail.  In almost all these cases, he argues, the global projection of military power ultimately outstripped the nation’s domestic economic base.  Countless other examples in history fit this script to a tee


On the surface, a strict application of the Kennedy model suggests little reason to worry. 


I suspect there is a good deal more to the economics of over-reach than simply the defense-spending share of GDP.   Should a nation’s defense commitment be scaled by its actual GDP or by the factors that ultimately determine potential output growth in the future?  In my view, the key is the wherewithal of any nation to fund its leadership role.  Two factors will ultimately be decisive in that regard: national saving and productivity growth.  On both counts, there are grounds for concern -- the US is either in trouble right now (saving) or possibly headed for a rude awakening (productivity).  The national saving rate is critical because it determines what a nation can plow back into investment in new technologies and other forms of plant and equipment -- the forces that ultimately drive (or constrain) productivity growth.  There can be no mistaking the warning from this metric: America’s net national saving rate -- the combined saving of households, businesses, and the government sector (adjusted for depreciation) -- has averaged a record low of just 1.5% of GDP since early 2002.  That’s far short of the post-World War II (1947 to 2003) average of 7.8% and well below the 5% level prevailing in 1987 when the Kennedy thesis was first in vogue.


With US economic leadership on an increasingly shaky foundation, don’t be surprised at yet another swing of the ever-fickle pendulum of global leadership.  History teaches us that’s long been the rule -- not the exception.

In short, for all our huffing and puffing and credit cards with $25,000 limits, it appears we're on the downhill slide.

The problem is, everybody --- okay, a lot of people --- are denying this and claiming we are in an entirely new scenario. But is it?

No, I don't think so. Whether we like it or not, we are all still governed by the most simple, most basics realities of the world. There is such a thing as gravity, despite airplanes and rocket ships. There is night and there is day, at least in this part of the world. No amount of plastic surgery or expensive supplements can stop the procession of time. And if more money goes out than comes in, you will go broke.

The signs aren't particularly optimistic, despite glossing over or peppy analysis. And sure, it may take some time. But if you haven't already, you really need to be tightening your belts and preparing to fend off the wolves. It may take a week --- it may take a year. But we have grossly irresponsible leaders at the helm, so at this point, you're going to have to look out for your own ass. Which is the way it's always been, really --- but it's especially the case these days.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Near Death Experiences, Part II

You know, my father was a doctor and a studiously rational person.

Despite this, he appears to have had an NDE and to have accepted its occurence with nary a blink. Furthermore, during his last few months of life, there were all manner of ghosts and dead bodies and peculiar things going on, including his sudden acquisition of enough Spanish that some of the nurses assumed it was his first language.

It could be argued that my father was just an old hillbilly and old time doctor, meaning he was never really assimilated into the modern medical model. Possible, I suppose. Then again, you can't spend your life working in a particular culture without at the very least becoming somewhat assimilated into it.

Furthermore, my sister is a nurse and almost worse than my father when it comes to rationalism. Yet she had an NDE, as well.

In honor of them, tonight's report on NDEs comes from a search on Medscape. It's too late at night for me to say a lot about it. Besides, I kind of don't want to do any analysis yet. I just want to see what's out there.

First, from The Lancet, December 15, 2001 (Volume 358, Number 9298):

Near-Death Experience in Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in The Netherlands

The researchers included 334 consecutive patients who were successfully resuscitated in coronary care units in 10 Dutch hospitals during a period of up to 4 years. Near-death experiences were defined as "the reported memory of all impressions during a special state of consciousness, including specific elements such as out-of-body experience, pleasant feelings, and seeing a tunnel, a light, deceased relatives or a life review" (p. 2040). A standardized interview was conducted with survivors within a few days of resuscitation. Data collected on all participants included cause and duration of cardiac arrest, whether arrest occurred in hospital or out, drugs used during the arrest, as well as demographic information including education and religion. A weighted core experience index was used that scored elements of the experience on intensity. Patients were classified as having had no near-death experience, a superficial experience, a core experience, or a deep experience.


Of 509 resuscitations, 12% resulted in near-death experiences, with 8% classified as core experiences. This number is substantially lower than that seen in previous studies and may have been due to the fact that the prospective design prevented self-selection; this lower incidence is despite employing a wide definition. No patients reported a frightening or distressing near-death experience. No medical, pharmacologic, or psychological factors were found to affect the likelihood or depth of the near-death experience. Age did appear to be a factor, with younger patients significantly more likely to report an experience; this confirms findings in other studies and may in part be accounted for by the fact that younger patients are more likely to survive a resuscitation. Women were more likely to experience a deep near-death experience. Mortality shortly after the cardiac arrest was higher in patients who had had a near-death experience; 21% of patients who had had a near-death experience died shortly after the event compared with 9% of patients who had not had a near-death experience; this difference was more marked in patients who reported a deep experience (42% vs 9%).


There were significant differences at 2 years between the near-death experience and control groups. People who had had a near-death experience were significantly more likely to report belief in an afterlife and a decrease in fear of death. These people reported heightened social attitudes, including a reported change in ability to accept and understand others, greater involvement in family, greater empathy, and ability to share their feelings. They also reported that they better understood the purpose of life and sensed an inner meaning to life.

At the 8-year follow up, patients were still able to recall their near-death experiences almost exactly. All patients in both the near-death experience and control groups reported having gone through a positive change and described themselves as more self-assured, socially aware, and religious. However, patients who had not had an experience were less likely to have an interest in spirituality and to report a belief in an afterlife. The near-death experience patients, as a group, continued to strongly believe in an afterlife and did not demonstrate any fear of death.

A surprising and unexpected finding was the long lasting transformational processes that occurred in these individuals after the near-death experience. This result may be delayed for several years; the authors speculated that these individuals may deny or suppress their experience for fear of rejection or ridicule, which results in delayed after-effects.

In this study, psychological, neurophysiologic, or physiologic factors were not found to account for the occurrence of a near-death experience; although all patients in this study had been clinically dead, most did not report a near-death experience. While some studies have induced similar experiences through electoral stimulation of the temporal lobe, individuals who participate in this research report fragmented and random memories unlike the panoramic life-review that can occur in near-death experiences. Rarely are these induced experiences associated with life changing transformational effects.

Day One, Garden Journal 2005

Well, the mouse seems to be working well enough that I can pull this off, although the real issue is whether I'll get bored doing a garden journal and abandon it just before the most exciting parts.

Whatever. This afternoon, I went insane and filled the starter flats with soil, in preparation for starting seeds. Which will begin happening this weekend if I ever finish grading.

I'll likely start with chard, loofah and some birdhouse gourds and one variety of tomatoes (I have give I'm planting this year). And starting asparagus from seed, which ought to be interesting.

Next week, after I get this round of seeds going, I might start the giant moonflowers. But maybe not. It's really too early for them because they like lots of sun and heat.

In addition, just now, I potted up two varieties of strawberries. I'm growing the strawberries on my front porch, thanks to the &%$^^$ bunny. I have a nice big container for them, a large metal drum that the previous owner here welded in half to use as a waterer. I painted it (which at first completely horrified all my cowboy neighbors [what the hell is that woman doing now???], but eventually led to a frenzy of halved metal drum planters and even one full drum planter down the road) and grew sage, nasturtium, morning glories, cardinal flowers and some other stuff in it last year. This year, it will have the strawberries, morning glories, some gorgeous nasturtiums and possibly edible chrysanthemums. Unless I put the edible mums elsewhere.

In a few minutes, I'm repotting my gorgeous African violets. I never believed I would be the kind of person who grew African violets, but dang, I sure am.

I've also taken the grapes and elderberries from Forest Farm out of the dark and moved them in next to the ornamental peppers, jasmine and other goodies, til it's time to plant them.

And I'm halfway finished with the chicken coop. Although I can already tell that, this time tomorrow night, I'll have baby chicks either in the bathtub or in a box next to me on the computer table, til they're big enough to peck the dogs half crazy.

Spring's here. Who cares if it's 30 outside? That's just a temporary aberration. How do I know? I'll be mowing the lawn for the first time this season come Saturday. And the trees are leaving.

If I disappear ...

... it isn't because I've given up on the whole thing and run off to China or the Canadian Wilderness.

It's because I've managed to break my mouse AGAIN and in exactly the same way I always break it: by thinking that a little spring is actually a big piece of dirt.

He. I think I may need glasses.

I just managed to order myself a new mouse, but it will likely take a few days to get here and the keyboard stuff doesn't work for me. For the time being, I've gt the mouse working, but I doubt that lasts.

WHATever. If I disappear, don't call out the calvary. I'm simply suffering a broken mouse.


I just can't conjure it up for any kind of political or social commentary, even though the world --- well, the U.S. --- okay, the world --- is going to hell in a handbasket in no time flat.

I am exhausted, overworked, underpaid and have weird strange problems you people can't even begin to understand.

For example: I'm having to keep the large hairy four-legged beasts inside until I find someone to fix the fences --- actually, put up a new fence around the yard area. And yes, they're housebroken. But until you've had a huge German Shepherd girl doing mid-air spins in your living room, thereby knocking everything off the coffee table and a few things off the bookshelves, you haven't had trouble. Nosirree.

You don't even want to know about the dust bunnies. Jeebus!

Plus I went insane a week ago and put the huge bamboo like plants with beautiful purple flowers (during the summer, at least) outside on the front porch. I just had to clear some room out and I'm desperate to get all the plants in the plant room (don't ask) back outside. And the front porch is covered, yes and I've been covering the large unidentified bamboom like plants with purple flowers that the bees and hummingbirds love up every night, but they've still sustained major damage from the cold.

Shit. They must weigh 75 pounds each so no way I'm dragging them back in.

And it appears someone's cow has escaped and is somewhere on my property. I can hear her and I can hear signs of frantic romping about I'M FREE! FREE AT LAST!! cow activity, but I'm unable to locate the actual cow.

Doubleshit. Last time this happened, it turned into a three hour ruckus. The runaway cow was having a wonderful time and there were all kinds of huge cowboy dudes out there with their arms stretched out to the side ready to do some cow rasslin' and trying to sneak up on the cow who knew exactly what they were up to! and would let them get within a foot or two of her, then take off romping merrily away in the other direction. The old "shake the feed bucket!" doesn't work too well with runaway livestock, you know.

Why the hell do they always come over here? I mean, only have five acres, and they have a good 20 acres to romp around in.

A day or so ago, one of the pygmy goats from next door got loose and was romping around raising complete hell.

At least, it's not the neighbor's horses. Whenever the neighbor's horses escape, they come in MY yard. They have a thing about my front porch. Plus the neighbor's brother told me those horses would like nothing more than to get in the house with me. Apparently they've had some problems with them breaking into people's houses. Oh joy.

In any case, I just needed to whine a bit. After I finish my grading (ha ha!), I'll redirect my bitching at the fruitloop GOP and maybe even be witty about it.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Life and a quickly written Eulogy for The Geese

Yesterday, my order from Forest Farm arrived: variegated and Concord grape plants (to complement the Niagaras I planted last year), two elderberry plants of a variety which produces abundant fruit and gorgeous yellow foilage, and Heidi strawberries.

I can barely stand it. I've got my seed starting trays out and am slapping my hands to keep from getting started, thanks to a spell of cold weather.

I have so freaking much stuff to plant. I have beautiful yellow tea roses I picked up a year ago for almost nothing --- they had a bad case of black spot and were desperately in need of a chance to hang around outside. I have a jasmine bush and lilacs to get in the ground, chard to get started in the coldframe in the greenhouse, butterfly bushes to get going --- and my rescue ornamental pepper? I separated it a few weeks ago --- a smallish plant turned into three plants, all of which have taken off gangbusters. They're coming along nicely and already producing peppers --- which are now edible, thanks to months of no pesticides or fertilizers and careful nursing back to health.

I can't wait I cant wait I can't wait. The plants can't either. The tropical hibiscus does really well in the plant room (don't ask) over the winter, and it's just busting out desperate to get back outside --- it's huge. Huge!!! The ferns, all the plants have started taking off in anticipation of spring.

In any case, that's all pretty rambly and whatnot but jeez, people, I have 60 essays and 25 opinions to grade AND all this planting to do plus I have GOT to finish the chicken coop and I'm really having to hold myself back from stopping off at the feedstore and picking me up some chicks which I'll raise in one of the bathtubs til they get bigger and it gets warmer and time's awasting!

Which brings me to Death and the beautiful geese.

For over a year now, I've been keeping an eye on some abandoned domestic geese down the road. The geese were abandoned by some failed survivalist types --- I mean, what the hell did these guys think they were doing anyway? They're the ones who'd put up the poorly concealed survivalist camp down a ways right across the road from the bar and a tolerable hike over to the combination feedstore - deli - pizza parlor - laundromat - gas station - loan shark joint.

These complete asshole cretins abandoned their geese! I couldn't believe it, beautiful wonderful HUGE geese. I almost went and rounded them up but, to be honest, I didn't want to get shot. I mean, trespassing isn't exactly acceptable around here. Besides, these geese are huge and geese, as you all likely know, can easily take on a shrimp like me. If I were a 6'5" man, it might be different. But I'm not.

So I've been going by to see the geese every day for a year now, checking on them, sending up blessings and prayers and hopes for them, even slowing to a crawl and yelling out the window at them "I'm rooting for you, goosers, you can do it!" Whenever I'd catch them getting a bit too close to the road, I'd tap the horn to chase them back to the wash. I pulled off more than a few times to toss them food.

A week ago, I finally relaxed about them. It seemed the lovely beautiful big fellows had finally settled into their niche --- a sizeable natural pond formed into a gully.

And then, a few days ago, I realized wanderlust had struck them.

I drove by the pond. They weren't there. I drove down a bit and saw them in the middle of the field. What the hell were the geese thinking? They were heading right into hound dog - cattle dog - LGD territory! Hunting beagles and coonhounds, huge Pyranees who don't take kindly to NO foreign critters, cattle hounds who'd gladly terrorize them!

Not a good plan, goosers!! But I was on my way to work. I crossed my fingers, sent up prayers and blessing and hopes for them, and yelled out the window GET BACK TO THE POND, YOU FOOLS!! THERE'S DOGS OVER THERE!!!

They didn't.


So the beautiful goosers who have brought me so much pleasure for the past year are now gone.

They were so strong and so brave and so persistent over the past year, and I am simply certain they've gone to Goose Heaven where there's lots of bugs and ponds and gentle rains and green fields and lovely flowers to eat ... and no hounds. Or coyotes. Or speeding maniacs from Texas in shiny SUVs or half-drunk teenagers driving semi-truck cabs a hundred miles an hour down our twisty curvy roads.

I'll miss my beautiful goosers. :=(

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Tuesday Morning Self-Indulgent, Self-Congratulatory Pat on the Back

In the parlance of Okie, this is also known as tooting, as in tooting your own horn.

It's about teaching. And yes, it really is true that I really do love all my students, as if they were my own little libelous snorting troop of adolescent orangutans. And yes, it's true that my claim is seemingly contradicted by my own actions, which lately have included setting some of my students up by looking them square in the face and saying if you don't want to be here, leave --- which always results in about a third of each class scurrying out the door like jacked up little tarantulas or something.

Mind you, I always preface that with the simple statement of fact that attendance and high grades do correlate, and not because I take attendance. Attendance and high grades correlate because students actually learn, even if they don't think they are. Passive learning which I always make them put into action ASAP.

The students who leave are the ones who think it's easy because they've been allowed to slide through their entire life. The students who stay are the ones who know it's anything but easy.

Okay, so a bit of a sidetrack, but I overslept this morning and haven't had enough coffee yet.

My self-congratulatory, self-indulgent pat on the back concerns one student who first entered my classes last fall scared to death. A 25ish guy, your pretty typical cowboy who once missed a week of classes because he caught pneumonia staying up all night birthing calves. Laid off dude, barely hanging onto the family farm, thanks to Tyson and Big Business and whatnot, responsible for childcare, has brought his very young daughter to classes before, drags himself in despite hell and high water and by god he labors over his work. Once said in class his entire education consisted of a series of football coaches standing in front of the class cracking jokes.

I saw some real talent in his first work. Yes, his spelling is pretty rough and yes, it's obvious no one ever taught him what a sentence is, but he's one of the good ones who has figured out what a sentence is and learned to self-correct.

But those are the petty details. Sure, I note spelling and bad sentences and serious grammatical errors --- but what I really concentrate on is making them think and forcing them to articulate their thoughts about extremely complex and subtle things. Because my theory is, if they have enough passion about a subject, if they are determined enough, if they can acquire the basic tools required for understanding complexity and sublety and difficult arguments, and if they are given the basic tools for articulating these things, the rest will work itself out.

He's proof it works. He's proof that if you *suggest* about spelling and grammar, but don't penalize, if you keep the focus on content while pushing them to form, form will follow, as it should.

Yes, he came to the class with lots of innate intelligence and curiosity and interest which had been horribly neglected by our pitiful rural schools out here. But his work has only gotten better and better and better, until yesterday, he turned in a truly brilliant essay. A truly brilliant essay about an extremely complex and subtle and difficult subject.

It's so good that even he knows it's good --- and he doesn't know it's good because he's an egotistical boob, which some students are afflicted with. He knows it's good because he finally hit that point we all have enjoyed when suddenly the writing falls into place and suddenly you have that feeling that this - is - right, that the flow and the rhythm are right, the content is fabulous and this is a piece of work worthy of chopping a tree down for the paper.

I couldn't be prouder if he were my own son. And this, despite the truly gruesome salary I get and despite how physically horrible the work is --- I can easily spend 80 hours a week on my teaching --- this is why I continue teaching because students like this make it worth it.

Monday, February 28, 2005

More Republican Values

Crooked crooked crooked crooked crooked thieves, liars, perverts.

Via Kos, the real story on those jackasses at USNext is at Raw Story:

Social Security “fright mail” targeting seniors helped fund GOP leader’s trips to UK, Asia [...] A think tank which raised money by targeting elderly Americans with Social Security scare letters paid for more than $130,000 in travel expenses for the House Republican leader, his wife and his staff [...] The group’s letters target seniors of both parties, aiming to convince them their Social Security benefits are in jeopardy and thereby induce them to donate money. The mailings also encourage seniors to keep the mailing secret from others, perhaps even from family members [...] House Majority Leader Tom DeLay enjoyed the generosity of the group at least twice. The group paid for a $64,064 trip for himself and his staff to Moscow and St. Petersburg when he was Majority Whip in the summer of 1997. NCPPR also picked up a hefty $70,000 tab for trip for DeLay and his aides made in mid-2000 to Europe.

Yea, them's some good ole boy Republican values for you.

Near Death Experiences, Part I

I've been thinking about writing about NDEs for several weeks now. I've discovered, however, it's a fairly complicated subject --- especially because NDEs, like so many other things, have become so commercialized and trivialized by self-proclaimed seers and prophets and snake-oil artists.

Despite all that, it's still a pretty fascinating topic, unless of course you're one to insist that NDEs are merely the result of the brain being flooded by various chemicals and reacting to mere neurological twitches and spasms.

Sure, there's something to the purely scientific explanations, because there always is. But the purely scientific fails to diminish how very interesting NDEs are. They appear everywhere, it seems, persisting over time despite culture or religion or socialization or whatever. And there's a commonality about them --- which, sure, scientists use as further evidence that they're purely a neurological phenomenon.

But are they?

Now I'm not interested in NDEs because I'm religious person. In fact, my parents refused to raise us in any kind of organized religion --- they thought of organized religion as abuse. Which it often (usually?) is. So I'm not coming to this as someone who's been indoctrinated into any real belief in Heaven or Hell or Lucifer chasing me around with his pitchfork or whatever.

Nor do I have any particular belief in or fear of death. I've seen enough ghosts in my lifetime to be pretty skeptical that one day, we're here and the next POOF we're dust, gone forever, wormfood. I mean, come on now! I saw my first ghost when I was about 5. It was my dead cousin Barbara. I'd never met Barbara --- she'd died years before I was born, when she was about 11 years old.

I saw her one summer when I was staying with my spookiest grandmother --- my hillbilly granny. One morning about 5 a.m., I was awakened by Barbara --- she was standing next to my bed crying "Mama! Mama! Mama!" I jumped up and ran to my grandmother and screamed "Barbara's here! Barbara's here!" And my grandmother simply said "Well, of course she is." And that was the end of that.

I've seen a few more since then, but I don't want to scare you all too badly. I mean, I am actually pretty normal. Really I am!

In any case, my interest in NDEs really got riled up some years ago because my sister had one. She was giving birth to her last child. It was a Caesarian section and their first mistake was giving her inadequate anesthetic. Then they cut something by accident and all hell (so to speak) broke loose and her heart stopped and she was officially dead.

Now, my sister has blanked this experience from her memory --- fortunately, she's also a complete boob when it comes to the internet, so she won't rediscover it by reading the blog. I only know about it because I was at the hospital with her and, hours later, when she finally came around, she and I started talking and she told me. She still remembered it a few weeks later because I asked her about it. But, within the year, she'd blanked it out.

The thing is, she went to hell.


She said that first, she was up by the ceiling looking down on her body and the operation. Then she went somewhere and it was horrible and dark and there were the shadows of horrible disfigured people and bones and corpses everywhere. And it was what she defined as hell. But then, she heard her daughter crying and she came back to her body.

The English word "hell" is a cognate, or relative, of hel, the Norse goddess of the Underworld. In Norse mythlogy, those who die from old age or sickness or other undramatic cause are relegated to her authority and sent to Helgardh. Helgardh, also known as house of mists, is inhabited by every imaginable kind of spectre and ghost of those who have died before.

Which certainly sounds like my sister's experience.

Whether a soul can get out of Helgardh, I don't know --- I mean, Norse mythology is not my thing. The bit I've read from other traditions, however, suggests it's likely a midpoint, kind of like a busstop --- unless of course the Norse tradition is especially dogmatic and unforgiving, which it might be.

My father appears to have also had a near death experience, although that's a little murkier. Several months before his final death, he did essentially die, but was revived and ended up in a coma for a month. I was there when he woke up --- well, it takes them a while to revive from a coma --- so better said, when he revived enough to have fully open eyes and full consciousness and ability to speak. And he grabbed my arm and wanted to know if he'd had a stroke. I said no, you didn't. He was glad for that --- then he looked at me and said "Amazing! It was simply amazing! I can't even tell you ... " And he began smiling and clasped his hands about his heart and then suddenly the nurses realized he was awake and it was all lost in the fluttering of doctors and medical equipment and tests.

The seminal text for NDEs is the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I've been searching for an online version, which I haven't yet found, but will likely just order it tonight. I've been going through website after website of NDEs --- there is an amazing similarity between them, I must admit. But I haven't yet come up with any criteria for what I would consider a legitimate NDE and what I suspect might be people merely engaged in some attention seeking.

I mean, I do know others who've had them, some who I believe and one or two who I am very, very suspicious of.

And yes, I know about Kubler-Ross. But I have a few qualms about her --- something about it feeling kind of regimented to me or something.

In any case, I'm not too comfortable saying much else. I want to do some digging about in the Tibetan Book of the Dead and looking through some other things first. I'm on break here in a week or so --- I imagine then I'll have more to say about it all, especially as I've timed things so I won't have any grading then.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Although ...

Clara Sue runs a close second.

Native American Theology
Native American Theology

And by the way ...

My hero is Angie Debo. I need to remind myself of that from time to time.

History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians
History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians

New blog ...

Some Kosmopolitan front-pagers have started a new blog: The Next Hurrah.

I'll get it on my blogroll as soon as I conjure up my next shot of courage (given me and the template don't mix). In the meantime, visit it - it's a good one.

As for me, I'm fixing to post about Near Death Experiences. You know, my sister had one --- she went to hell even! I'm pretty fascinated by them, even though the scientific community just hates the subject.