Thursday, April 21, 2011

Picture time!

Here's another of my semi-regular postings of interesting pictures. As always, you can click on the picture for a larger view.

Today's pictures are from Stockholm, Sweden, and they show how incredibly photographic the city is.

With so much of the city surrounded by water, the locals must have been tempted to use some of it for public art, such as this scene in front of the legislature in 2005. It's a brilliant way to spice up an otherwise boring lagoon.

Earlier in the day I was on a hill overlooking a schoolyard. Most every exposed flat area in the schoolyard was painted with a short phrase in English, which I thought was very weird to see in Sweden, especially since there was no commonality shared by the phrases.

I thought the phrase shown in this picture was a very interesting and perhaps educational choice. One other was "Wish you were here," which I assume was inspired by a Pink Floyd song.

Finally, here's one of my favorite images from my trip to Stockholm. It is practically impossible to take a bad picture in Stockholm.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Obama: incendiary rhetoric bad for you, good for me

This is worth re-blogging. From ABC News White House correspondent Jake Tapper's blog:

President Obama at the GOP House retreat, January 2010:

“We're not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterize whatever proposals are put out there as, ‘Well, you know, that's -- the other party's being irresponsible. The other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens. That the other party is doing X, Y, Z.”

President Obama today (4/13, while introducing his budget proposal):

 “One vision has been championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party’s presidential candidates…This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. And who are those 50 million Americans? Many are someone’s grandparents who wouldn’t be able afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.”

I don't begrudge politicians for posturing, exaggeration (50 million Americans?)  or even for talking out of both sides of their mouth, but the blatantly provacative and exploitative use of Down's syndrome kids and autistic kids is disgusting, as is the attempt to smear the R's as insensitive to these causes. So much for the notion that Obama was a uniter and not a divider.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Knee surgery update

“When was your accident?”

I was in my 2-week post-surgical follow-up with my doctor (Dr. Grant)’s ace PA (physician assistant) Vince. He was reviewing pictures from my knee surgery, which was the first time that we had seen real images of my damaged knee.

“Accident? Huh?” I answered.

Vince explained that he was wondering what had happened to so colossally mess-up my knee. I realized what he meant because I had been asked it before. Nobody 40 years old should have this level of cartilage damage without being in some sort of accident.

“Oh, I wasn’t in an accident. But I played catcher for 30 years.”

Vince was startled, but managed to say “Really? That might do it.”

Vince did the 2-week post-op review, and I was lucky to receive rave reviews* – little swelling, good range of motion, and no infections or other complications. There is very little scaring and I’m allowed to resume normal activities “as tolerated,” except I must avoid high impact activities like running.

Though the surgery was a success, the reason for avoiding impact activities can be seen in some of the surgical pictures as seen through the arthroscope during surgery.

Originally, we thought that I had a simple meniscus tear prompting a couple of months of physical therapy to strengthen the surrounding muscles. A few months later, an MRI indicated a slight degradation of my articular cartilage. The pictures, though, showed twice as many areas of cartilage degradation, each many times larger than reported on my MRI.

 A little bit on articular cartilage, or chondyle: it’s the very slippery material on the front of the femur at the knee joint that allows smooth and easy bending of knees. How slippery? Cartilage on cartilage rubbing is 10X more slippery than ice rubbing on ice. The articular cartilage is ~4mm thick, and mine had worn to the bone, resulting in arthritis. Yes, I’m a 40 year old with arthritis, but hopefully not for long.

Knee parts: 
Copied from

Side view of a cartilage “divot:" (Click on any picture for a larger view).

 (Each white area is cartilage, each tan area is bone.)

To repair the “divots” in my knee cartilage, I’ll be going in for another knee surgery (autologous cartilage implantation) in a few months to have new cartilage laid into the gaps – like laying sod or filling a pothole. Just like after laying sod, I’m not allowed any movement for 6-7 weeks post-surgery that could rip up the newly laid cartilage.

Because the replacement cartilage will be frozen for shipment to Virginia, I can choose the schedule for the implantation surgery, so as to schedule when 6-7 weeks of downtime might be convenient. My two thoughts here are to either proceed as soon as possible (likely early June implantation, back on my feet by late July) or to delay until next winter, when I wouldn’t mind being couch-bound and unathletic for 2 months. What would you do?

* For the great 2-week review I have to thank my parents for taking care of me post-surgery and Move Better physical therapy for the post-op rehab.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Sharing some photos

Since I enjoy photography and have now enabled some graphics-intense ways to view this blog, I'll be posting some of my most favorite or most fun pictures from time to time.

Today's entry was shot in a parking garage in Luebeck, Germany in 2007. I was zipping around Germany with my buddy Kevin when we decided to visit the Christmas Market in the small but very cool Baltic city of Luebeck in north central Germany. The Aldstadt (Old City) is an island in the middle of a river and pedestrian only, so we parked on the outskirts, where we witnessed the locals' sense of humor.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Libya: zero to quagmire in under 30 days.

I just finished reading an excellent article on the politics of the Libya intervention (erm, kinetic action), by Victor Davis Hanson ("President Obama’s Ten Libyan Paradoxes"
here.) Hanson - a historian and classicist does a great job of illustrating the pickle that we (the US & NATO) are now in.

There aren't many favorable possible outcomes, and the likelihood of them occurring are very small. Consider the top-level possible outcomes:

1. MQ (Moammar Quadaffi) is deposed. A democratic secular government results.
2. MQ is deposed. An Islamic theocracy results.
3. MQ stays in power across all of Libya.
4. Libya splits - MQ continues to rule western Libya.
5. Total chaos.

The fact that only one outcome is truly favorable isn't what bothers me - these scenarios are not easy to control, nor is it easy to define a win. What bothers me is that Obama's strategy has left us exposed to all possible outcomes while pulling off the rare feat of both dirtying our hands with the military action and tying our hands beyond it.

I just can't see many (any) scenarios where we don't escalate anti-MQ activities in the event that MQ hangs on.

I'm also bothered by the context and precedent of the US intervention. Is Obama saying that we should have intervened during the Prague Spring in 1968 (a popular uprising against a dictator who used a modern military on protesters)? If Obama were the King or PM of the UK in 1861, would he have declared a "no sail zone" around the Union states at the beginning of the Civil War? (i.e. aid rebels by neutering the technological & military advantage of the status quo government.)

As for the context, the Obama rationale is to act in Libya to avoid a Rwanda-level genocide. This is of course plausible, but reacting in response to the worst case scenario rather than the most likely or most desired outcome is very poor governance.

Libya itself is small potatoes in the geopolitical world, so what happens on the ground there isn't something to stress about until US actions reach the level of Iraq (boots on the ground.) However, we SHOULD be worried about how other global powers might play this situation. What if China, in a bid to undermine US credibility, negotiated a peace agreement in Libya whereby the rebels get the east of Libya, while MQ gets Tripoli and the west?

This would of course stop (or postpone) the bloodshed, but would leave an enormous amount of egg on Obama's face as the outcome would deliver the necessary peace but directly in contrast to Obama's assertion that MQ "has to go" in order for peace. What happens the next time Obama (or any future US president) asserts that a regime or nation must change behavior?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Introducing new blog formats

Blogger has enabled new blogging formats perfect for reading via devices with non-traditional form factors (tablets, phones.) CogentPassion can you be viewed using these alternate feeds:

Flipcard (my favorite style, and a great way to get a concise view of many posts. Also perfect if you use Flipboard for the iPad, I expect.)

4 of these 5 styles are very graphic-oriented, which will probably make me want to increase the graphic content of this blog.

Let me know if you have a favorite among these new styles.

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China
Click to go to my online photography

World sun clock

Uncommon Man's Creed

"I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon -- if I can. I seek opportunity -- not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I wish to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole, I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master, nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid, to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, "this I have done." All this is what it means to be an American." -- Anonymous