Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Brilliant Mind

Let's hear it for Tom Lehrer, a brilliant, witty guy who is likely to not be equalled any time soon. For those who have never heard of Tom Lehrer, he was a late fifties to mid-sixties mathematician, entertainer, pianist, and satirist who used his skills at word play and playing the piano to comment on the social and political issues of the day. His popularity helped land him a spot as a writer on the television show "That Was The Week That Was." TWTWTW was originally a British show that gained such popularity that NBC spun off their own version for american television. But I digress.

Tom Lehrer's formula for "musical commentary" was so successful that he was often imitated, but never outdone. A few of the more successful examples that come to mind are Mark Russell and The Capitol Steps.

So when I was choosing a name for my blog, the name came to mind from two different directions. For starters whenever I have commented on articles online (,, etc.) I had always used the name "RocketScience" for the name's obvious implications and meanings, and its roots in the phrase "It's not rocket science!". My love of the phrase combined with the responses to my comments, which were always filled with such vitriol from so many supposedly-yet-obviously-not-too-educated right wing nut jobs, I knew I had the best name I could think of. "Rocket science" naturally led me to thinking about Werner Von Braun, and Tom Lehrer's hilarious lampoon tune. The combination of a great name and phrase combined with the satirical "Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink" of Lehrer's they say, the rest as they say is history.

Oh yea, one more thing. A big thanks to Johnny Yen for showing me how to embed the video below. I'm truly lost without my techno-savvy Boswell!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Smoking Gun

Ammonia, arsenic, benzopyrene, cadmium, carbon monoxide, chromium, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, lead, mercury, nickel, nitric oxide, selenium and styrene.

For the better part of the last 20 years, these are some of the chemicals I put in my body. At least twenty times a day. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. I’m talking of course about smoking cigarettes. Mark Twain once said, “Quitting smoking is the easiest thing to do. I’ve done it myself a thousand times.” How right Mr. Twain was. For most of those twenty years, almost every time I lit one up, I told myself that this was the last one. Absolutlely, positively, beyond a shadow of a doubt the last one. Until the next time I lit up. I knew the trap I was setting for myself. I knew the horrible cycle of addiction I was creating, but quite simply, I didn’t care. I didn’t care what the risks were, what damage they could do, or the monetary expense. It felt good. I was cool. I was hooked.

You would think I would have heeded to the warning signs from my family. My paternal grandfather died of emphysema. My paternal grandmother smoked everyday for almost seventy years. At 88 she stopped, saying she worried what it might be doing to her. God love her. Twelve years ago my father suffered a heart attack. As he was being wheeled into the emergency room the ER nurse asked him if he smoked. When he replied that he did, she informed him that he didn’t anymore. Prior to that my father had smoked for the majority of his life. He recollects that when he was about 4 or 5 years old he would watch his mother smoke and just know he had to have one. He has described to me on several occasions the overwhelming craving he experienced in watching her light up. It turns out that my grandmother smoked while she was pregnant with my father. Case solved. My father was born addicted to nicotine! Babies are born addicted to crack and alcohol, so why not nicotene? Of course in 1939 no one knew what cigarette smoking could do to a person, so grandma gets a bit of a pass on this one.

I started smoking in college. All my friends smoked. Eventually I picked up and joined the ranks of the addicted. I can recall many a night in college and beyond when that beer tasted so much better followed by that nicotine chaser. After a night of smoky bars and endless packs of cigarettes, what could be better than that first cup of strong, morning coffee? DING, DING, DING, no more calls please, we have a winner! You guessed it, a good, heavy drag on the morning’s first cigarette! I can’t count the times that I would wake up and my chest sore and lungs feeling shrunk from a night of heavy smoking. And it continued and continued and continued. Days became weeks. Weeks became months and months became years. Before I knew it, I had smoked for the better part of 20 years. I don’t even want to do the math on the money I spent. When I first started smoking, a pack of cigarettes cost $1.50. Now, here in Chicago a person is lucky to buy a pack for less than $7.

To make the long story short, I finally managed to quit. But the road to that was long and hard! I tried cold turkey, nicotine patches, nicotine gum and any number of other bizarre and downright silly things to help me quit. When none of these things worked, I would sink deeper and deeper into a funk. Lost in the hopelessness of addiction. That’s right, addiction. Nicotene by far is the single most addictive drug there is. More than cocaine, more than crack, more than alcohol or heroin. Plain and simple. Nothing I ever did would “fix me.” One day I was at the gym (yes, the gym! Despite being a smoker, I was someone committed to a healthy lifestyle (insert ironic laughter here!) I love working out and teaching myself about proper/better nutrition and health. If I worked out and ate well, smoking was ok, right? Right!) and I was heaving and wheezing, unable to catch my breath. Suddenly my moment of clarity. My flash of epiphany. Stopping smoking wasn’t about being “fixed” by something external, this had to be an inside job. The solution had to come from within. I was looking for a magic bullet where there wasn’t one. Once the realization that this was an inside job and I made this commitment with new clarity, then I could employ those external things to help me, they would be tools to help, not be the things that did the actual footwork. I now knew that I had to do it for me. So, I scheduled several sessions with a hypnotherapist which helped to reinforce the confidence in my decision to quit. To help aid me with the physical aspects of nicotine withdrawl I sought the help of an acupuncturist. Acupuncture is a wonderful tool for so many things. It helps loosen toxins and negative energry and release it to aid the body in healing. Personally in me, it brings on a wonderful sense of calm with my body and my emotions. I feel very much at one with myself, and the decision to live smoke-free is not so much a struggle, but a joy and a pleasure. I don’t hack myself to sleep or when I wake up anymore. My taste has returned, and my workouts just keep getting better and better. I take the money I would spend a week on cigaretters and have turned that into a weekly savings account deposit. It’s pretty amazing how that money adds up. Smoking was one of the most stupid things I ever did. Stopping smoking was one of the most liberating things I will ever do!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Limerick of Fact

There once as a gov'ner named Palin,
who joined a campaign that was ailin'.
All looks and no brain
won't help the curmudgeon McCain,
with a campaign that is more and more failin'.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Failin' Palin

Despite the fact that it is physically impossible for a woman to step on her own dick, Sarah Palin seems to be doing an excellent job of it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

On The Eve of Change

“In this difficult time for the United States, it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.”
— Robert Kennedy, addressing a crowd on the news of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In two weeks, this nation will be at a crossroads. Will we choose the path of more of the same failed policies and ideology, namely fear, hatred and division; or will we choose change, hope and inclusiveness, putting the country back on track and on the path to a better future not only for ourselves, but for our children? Will we choose to believe ourselves to be no better than we are right now, or will we choose to believe that change is possible, and that together we can do and be better? If we choose the former, then we have not learned. If we choose the latter, then we will have acted upon one of the fundamental principles of our nation, the power to say, “no more” and change course. Insanity by definition is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If we elect McCain/Palin then the message is clear. We will have chosen insanity and more of the same misery that the last eight years has wrought. If we choose Obama/Biden, then we have learned and we have chosen hope, change and a core belief in ourselves.

The choice could never be more clear. Two recent events come to mind that demonstrate the importance of this election. One: in September the Obama campaign raised a staggering (and impressive!) $150 million dollars. I can say with 100% certainty that those contributions were not made by two people with $75 million each. What does $150 million dollars in one month say? Quite simply it says people are so hungry for change and true, inspiring leadership that they’re willing to dig into their piggy banks to make it happen. Two: for the first time since 1964 a democrat is poised to win Virginia. Is this due to a shift in demographics of a particular state? Partly. What it says, however, as clear as a fog horn on a pea soup night is that the people of Virginia are tired. Tired of the politics of fear and division. Tired of having their life savings vanish. Tired of an administration that cares more about Wall Street’s financial health than theirs. Tired of another foreclosed home. Tired of coming home to tell family that the job is gone. Tired of choosing between health care and food on the table. In 2008, Virginia is indeed the bellwether of a country in desperate need of a course correction. The country, to quote Howard Beale from “Network,” is “mad as hell, and it’s not going to take it anymore.” The country is also crying for help; and their cries are being met on the republican side by the tragedy that is the McCain/Palin ticket, with half truths, deceit, arbitrary decision making, and the politics of fear.

The McCain campaign, in their clever and not so subtle ways has worked hard to spread hate, bigotry, divisiveness and outright falsehoods in the name of winning an election. John McCain asks, “Who is the real Barack Obama?” What the country should be asking is, “Who is the real John McCain?” Is he the John McCain of 2000? A principled man, who could rightly then claim the title of “maverick?” Or is he the divisive, “scorched earth” John McCain of 2008, who would rather fan the flames of bigotry, deceit and false doubt in order to win at all costs rather than lose honorably? My father tells me such “dadisms” as “always to take the high road,” “when in doubt don’t,” “what your gut is telling you is usually correct.” Apparently these are dadisms that have been lost on John McCain. When the opportunity has arisen to take the high road, John McCain chose the low road. When John McCain should have heeded to doubt, he did not; and when John McCain should have listened to that little voice inside, he ignored it.

I can thank John McCain and his sinking Titanic of a campaign for one thing. John McCain in all his bitterness and his embrace of a negative campaign has made us take a long, honest look at who we are and where we want to go. As the Robert Kennedy quote at the beginning of this posting says, who are we? Where are we going? What do we want to be? Isn’t it time to take a look at ourselves and have the courage to face the honest answers? Has this country become so bigoted and racially divided that we can’t see the forest of open-mindedness, inclusion and tolerance for the trees of bigotry and division? Will we deny the superior presidential candidate his eagerness to lead with honor, openness and dignity simply because of the color of his skin? Are we so blinded by our bigotry and fear of change that we are willing cast rational thinking aside and bang our heads against the wall for another four years. Another four years of spiraling, out of control debt? Another four years of a war we didn’t ask for? Another four years of “me first?” Another four years of the same failed policies and backward thinking that only serves to isolate us from the rest of the world more and more?

On November 4 we can make a difference. The question is, will we have the strength and character to rise above our differences to pursue the greater good? The choice is ours.