Communion Of Dreams

Moments of change.
September 30, 2011, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Predictions, Promotion

September winds down. The leaves here in central Missouri are starting to change. This weekend Martha and I will celebrate being married for 24 years.

As the first World Alzheimer’s Month comes to a close I am waiting for at least two more publications who are doing stories on Her Final Year. There is an odd frisson, a sensation almost like standing on a cliff, looking out over a vista because I am afraid to look straight down to the river below. Is this an ending, or a beginning?

And I am reminded of this passage, originally written 5 days before Martha Sr died, now in the month of “December: Passing“:

There is something to this of that bittersweet moment, that sense of coming to conclusions you know are there, the resolution of conversations and plot lines that you get at the end of a cherished book. She no longer needs to wait for the usual markers of the day – when to get up, when to eat, when to nap. She got up this morning, and the rest of the day has followed as best we can to her wants and desires. Lunch an hour early, and including her favorite soup even though she just had it yesterday. (Campbell’s Tomato, if you want to know.) Supper about a half hour early. Bed more than an hour early. Because that is what she wanted.

Her worries we have answered as best we can, telling her that tomorrow we will see if we can help her find “the people she came here with.”

Unless she finds them on her own in her sleep.

We don’t always recognize the moments of change in our lives, or what they mean.

But sometimes, we do.

Jim D.

(Cross posted from the HFY blog.)

“These are not the droids you’re looking for.”
September 29, 2011, 9:39 am
Filed under: BoingBoing, Civil Rights, Constitution, Failure, Government, Society, Star Wars

Via BB, an interesting news item:

Couple in shock after drug raid

ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – A massive drug raid in Roswell last week targeted dozens of people at homes across the city.

But one of those homes didn’t have what police were looking for, and their unexpected visit left the people inside shaken and upset.

* * *

She said her husband opened the door to multiple officers in raid gear with guns drawn.

“We were completely shocked, upset,” she continued. “I was panicked because I’ve never had anything like this happen to us before, never.”

She said the officers demanded to come inside her home.

“And my husband asked, ‘Do you have a warrant? Who are you looking for?’ and they said, ‘Gerald Sentell,'” Parker said. “We don’t even know this person.”

OK, at this point, what usually happens in these situations is the DEA or other law enforcement agency comes in, ‘secures’ the house (including putting occupants on the ground, perhaps with handcuffs or suchlike, and if there are any dogs…), does their search and any apologies or reparations for damage to the house comes later after a big public outcry.

What happened this time?

Parker said she and her husband were wary of cooperating because they weren’t sure what was going on.

When asked if she thought the officers could have been imposters, Parker replied, “Yes. That’s very much what we thought, and that’s why my husband said no, you’re not coming in this house without a warrant.”

The DEA spokesperson said the agents left when they were denied entry by the couple.

* * *

The DEA said all of the officers involved in the raid were following procedure and did nothing wrong.


This both delights me, and outrages/frightens me.

I mean, I’m glad that Mr. Parker seems to have Jedi mind-control powers (not to mention the presence of mind to ask for a warrant under these circumstances) and so avoided going through the additional trauma usually inflicted on citizens in this situation. Seriously – that’s great. His door is still on the hinges, no shots were fired, the DEA actually respected his constitutional rights. Wonderful!

But the “following procedure” statement outrages me. So the DEA procedure is to conduct these raids without a warrant?


Think about that.

Then think about the fact that this probably comes as a surprise. I know it did to me. No, not that the DEA raid was conducted without a warrant (I call that stupid, but not terribly surprising). What’s surprising is that they didn’t just go ahead and conduct the raid, anyway, once they were there, under the pretense that one of the agents “smelled something” or “thought he saw drug paraphernalia” or some other excuse. Because that’s the usual script in these cases.

Yeah, it’s surprising that the DEA actually respected the 4th Amendment.

That should scare the hell out of you.

Jim Downey

September 26, 2011, 7:32 pm
Filed under: Science, YouTube

this will play with your head:

That’s counter intuitive, at least for me. I would have expected the force of gravity to be applicable and manifest along the entire length of it. Huh.

I wasn’t me! Honest!
September 21, 2011, 3:37 pm
Filed under: Failure, Humor

I noticed something a little odd a few days ago: one of my old blog posts was getting some unexpected hits. Now, this sort of random thing happens, and mostly you just have to accept that as part of the weirdness that is the web.

But it kept happening. Furthermore, in the report on search queries, I could see why. Some variation on “James Downey” + “bank robbery” was being used repeatedly. Which led people to this blog post: Jim Downey and the Bank Robbers.

So, just now, taking a break from doing conservation work, I thought to see why. I entered the same search parameters into the Great Google Machine, and this is what popped up:

Man Charged in Carrollton Bank Robbery

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – A St. Louis man is now charged in connection with a recent bank robbery. On Thursday police arrested 29 year old James Downey of the 3800 block of Louis.

What an idiot.

So, just to be clear – *I’m* the guy who helped CATCH bank robbers, not the guy who WAS a bank robber.

Now that we have that straightened out . . .

Jim Downey

Funny, he doesn’t *look* Catholic…
September 18, 2011, 8:35 pm
Filed under: Health, Humor, Survival

Was captivated by this story on TAM this weekend, was delighted to see that someone had done a short video of it:

Nice adaptation.

Jim Downey

It’s time to play with your brain again!
September 18, 2011, 11:32 am
Filed under: Science, YouTube

Via Penn Jillette on Twitter, this fascinating clip:

Have fun!

Jim Downey

Wait . . . what? Really?
September 17, 2011, 12:59 pm
Filed under: Civil Rights, Government, Privacy, Society, Terrorism, Violence

I saw the blurb headline, figured it had to be a joke:

NFL adopts TSA-style full body pat-downs for fans at stadiums

No, it’s not. A bit of an exaggeration, but not a joke. Here’s the news item:

NFL wants pat-downs from ankles up at all stadiums

The NFL wants all fans patted down from the ankles up this season to improve fan safety.

Under the new “enhanced” pat-down procedures, the NFL wants all 32 clubs to search fans from the ankles to the knees as well as the waist up. Previously, security guards only patted down fans from the waist up while looking for booze, weapons or other banned items.

The stricter physical screening policy impacts the 16.6 million fans expected to attend live regular season NFL games this season. The more thorough searches will spell longer lines for ticket-holding fans seeking entry to games. It’s sure to raise the ire of some fans who consider it an invasion of privacy.

Now, I don’t go to sporting events like that. I’m just not into being a fan for a sport. And so I wasn’t even aware that it was current policy to pat down fans “from the waist up while looking for booze, weapons or other banned items.”

People have been putting up with this level of hassle and personal intrusion? In order to pay a buttload of money for tickets to watch millionaires play a game, and then another buttload for overpriced food & drink in a likely taxpayer financed stadium owned by billionaires? Really?? Why?

Good lord, this has to be some of the most depressing news I’ve heard in a long time.

Little wonder that the TSA has been able to get away with the “enhanced pat-downs” and other crap – if people are willing to put up with being frisked in order to watch a game, *of course* they’re willing to put up with something marginally more intrusive in order to fly.

We used to value freedom. Personal liberty. Now we’ll give it up so we can spend a couple of hours at a football game. The conditioning to allow our ‘protectors’ to do whatever they want in order to keep us safe is complete.

Gah. I need a drink.

Jim Downey

September 16, 2011, 12:49 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Hospice, Kurt Vonnegut, Society

I posted this Quote of the Day item as a comment on John’s Facebook thread about yesterday’s “And who will that be?” blog entry:

“Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before… He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way.

— Kurt Vonnegut, “Cat’s Cradle”

Why? Well, in part because John (and most other people who heard it, including me) was understandably outraged about Mr. Robertson’s statement about divorcing a spouse who had Alzheimer’s. The simple ignorance of the statement is absolutely infuriating.

But I also posted it in recognition of something else I have learned: that I haven’t learned much about Alzheimer’s.

I should not say that. I have a book to sell, after all, one that I do honestly believe can help people. I want to see that book become a bestseller. I want it to become a reference for anyone who is in a care-giving role, and an insight into what it is like to be a care-giver for all their friends and family who are unsure how to react to their situation. I think that can really help matters for all concerned. And there are millions of people who are (or should be) concerned.

So I shouldn’t say that I haven’t learned much about Alzheimer’s. It undercuts my ‘authority’ as an author. It compromises the image of trust that I should work to build in the audience. It means that I can’t pull off the idea of being an ‘expert’ in the minds of the media elite who can help to promote our book and turn it into a success.

But I can’t lie about this. In fact, it may well be the deepest lesson to come out of the entire experience of caring for Martha Sr, then working hard for two and a half years to write this book: you do not “learn” about Alzheimer’s, or dementia, or being a care-giver by going through this.

Rather, you grow.

You grow to understand that there are few universal truths about care-giving someone with dementia. Yes, there are skills you acquire, and there are some excellent resources out there that can help. And I did learn things about the disease, and good nursing techniques, and even about myself. But I am not an expert on Alzheimer’s. Nor dementia. Nor care-giving.

You grow in ways which are not intellectual. Which cannot be readily taught, or summarized in a blog post or a powerpoint presentation or a tweet. Well, can’t be summarized by me, anyway. That’s why the book is over 400 pages long, made up of hundreds of individual entries, moments of experience, built over time. It’s growth, like a tree grows. That’s not intellectual. That’s not knowledge.

So yes, in some ways I remain ignorant. And I rage when others who have not been through this experience demonstrate their own ignorance, as Mr. Robertson did the other day.

But I hope. I hope that they will read our book. Share our experience. Maybe it will help them understand, before they go through the experience, themselves.

Jim D.

(Cross posted from the HFY blog.)

TSA news of the day.
September 14, 2011, 11:36 am
Filed under: Failure, Government, Travel

It’s probably a mistake for me to talk about the TSA a bit more than a month before I actually have to fly somewhere, but such are the risks we take.

Via BoingBoing, this wonderful (and telling) headline: TSA to stop groping children

The problem is, it isn’t exactly true. What’s actually going to happen is that the TSA is ‘adjusting’ some of their procedures for children under 12. From the actual article cited by BB:

In the next few months, the TSA will implement new security procedures for fliers under 12, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Senate. They can still get patted down, although it will be by a different method, and they no longer have to remove their shoes. Even if they have velcro straps and are super easy to take on and off anyway.

Until we see the actual details of the new procedures, it’s impossible to characterize exactly *what* the TSA will be doing with children. And if you’re over 12? Sorry, looks like you’ll still be subject to the usual “enhanced pat-down” we’ve all come to know and love. And if the complete benefit is that some children won’t have to remove their shoes, then sorry, this is little more than a sop tossed to mollify parents.

This is like the old joke of a food maker advertising that their product is now “3% less radioactive!” – it doesn’t really inspire confidence.

But that’s OK, because the TSA has our best interests at heart, and we can trust them not just to respect our civil liberties, but to protect us, right?


Airport Security Officers And Cops Snared In Multistate Oxycodone Ring, U.S. Attorney Says

Federal agents have broken up a drug ring that paid police and airport security officers to protect the illegal shipment from Florida to Connecticut of enormous quantities of highly addictive pain medication, authorities said Tuesday.

Three federal Transportation Security Administration officers, two police officers and 13 drug dealers in Florida, New York and Connecticut were charged with working for the ring that, in some weeks, dumped tens of thousands of oxycodone pills in the Waterbury area, according to a variety of federal and local police agencies involved in the investigation.

No, really – they have only your best interests at heart.

Jim Downey

Had to share.
September 13, 2011, 7:16 am
Filed under: Feedback

Yesterday’s blog post had a passing mention of the gentleman who had been in contact with me about creating an ‘online memorial’ for my dad, and how I thought that reflected a fundamental difference in approach to how we remember and honor people. Well, unsuprisingly it prompted a response from the fellow in question, who sent the following to my sister (text unchanged):

Ma’am. The paragraph below is from your brothers daily blog. He has a right to speak his peace. I don’t know if your father was a veteran or not, but I am. If he was a veteran, then he and I both believed in the cause to keep our country safe.

Either way, I, like your father also fought on the home front too on the mean streets of Saint Louis. The only difference between your father and I is that your father died in the line of duty and I did not. I don’t any control over that issue and I wish that I did.

Apparently your brother has some issues with me merely attempting to locate your fathers grave so that the memorial that I created for him out of RESPECT, and for others to see, can be complete with a picture of his grave site.

He, your brother, has no clue where his own father is buried. That in it self is disturbing to me. He wants to cry like a child in his writings and he can’t even go to his own fathers grave because he doesn’t even know where its at. He has “head issues” and needs some help. I hope he finds the help that he desperately needs. I hope that he never gets married and fathers a child or children because his own father is probably disgusted with his actions and words that he tries to preach. I will find the grave on my own even if it has no memorial marker at all, and will photograph myself.

See that he gets this note.

Just had to share that.

Jim Downey