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Savage Survival


Darrell Bain's Monthly Blog - September 2012

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Bainstorming: Darrell's Bain's Monthly Blog.
Copyright © September 2012, By Darrell Bain

Responses to subjects brought up by this blog are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.

Subjects this month: Changing Opinions, Food trucks and Junk Food with Food Stamp Card, Book Reviews, Bain Brothers interviewed, Reading my  own book, My Exercise and Diet Regime, Simple Meal Recipe, NIH statement on effectiveness of medical treatments, State of America: lawyers and our legal system, Clifford Pickover’s Reality Circus, Excerpt from Starship Down.

Changing Opinions

If you can’t change your mind when evidence supports a previously discounted position then you can’t really count yourself as a thinking person. I voted for George Bush as did my wife. Then came the Iraqi war, based on the false assumption that Iraq had and intended to use weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapons), which I also believed. Betty, however, didn’t. She stated, “Oh, he just wants to have a war that his Daddy didn’t finish so he can say he did it better.”

Of course no Weapons of Mass Destruction were found so Bush and his cabinet quickly decided that the reason for the war was to get rid of a dictator and establish democracy in the Middle East. The whole thing turned out to be one of the most mismanaged, wrong wars in our history. Until then, I thought Vietnam was mismanaged but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Trillion bucks we spent in Iraq, not to mention all the young lives and wound up with what’s approaching a dictatorship again, and if not, it sure didn’t get rid of corruption and fratricidal religious killings.

I now believe Betty was right. Behind all the positioning and declarations Bush really wanted an excuse for a war that would one-up his Father.

And yet…many, many Americans still think it was a justified war, as I did at first. Nothing could be further than the truth. It wasn’t justified at all. Thorough international inspections had pretty well proven no weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq yet we invaded anyway. We’re in more trouble in the Middle East than ever. We’ve created rather than destroyed terrorist organizations. It would take another 9/11 every week for two years to equal the cost of the Iraqi war, not to mention all the other impositions on our liberty and death and terrible injuries to our troops. All for nothing.

Okay, we were fooled. I admit it. I changed my mind. Can you?

Many people won’t admit it and that’s just one example of how we refuse to think on occasion.

And to close, our troops performed magnificently. We should be proud of them, but not very proud of our leaders.

Food Trucks & Junk Food With Food Stamp Card

This story is from the Houston Chronicle. A couple of entrepreneurs are doing a booming business with bringing food into areas where there are no supermarkets. The problem is that over 90% of the food they sell is junk food and guess what? Over 90% of sales are done by customers using the Lone Star Card, the card issued to those entitled to food stamps.

I have nothing against food stamps where there is true need, but junk food? I really doubt that families buying all junk food really need the cards. Or if they do they also need some education very badly on nutrition. Just one more story in the myriad ways our tax dollars are wasted by our elected leaders. Gah! And by the way, that junk food sold from the trucks is marked way the hell up in price.

Book Reviews

Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez. This is a fictional novel of a new and very talented author, the same one who wrote Daemon and its sequel. It concerns autonomous drones and their increasing use in warfare and spying and how they can very easily get out of hand. He writes thrillers about real threats to society. I like that.

Space Trails by Darrell Bain. Back when I first began writing I had an idea I wanted to do a novel on, that of going to the stars and colonizing planets in somewhat the way our forebears did in the great homesteading movement west in the United states in the 1800s, but I couldn’t think of a way to make it work. It took a full twenty years of mulling the idea around in my head before I finally figured out a way to make my idea work. The result is one of the most unusual science fiction novels you’ll ever read. Going to another planet in a covered wagon? Pulled by horses? I won’t give it away here but you can read about the coming of age of a brother and stepsister in this novel. The ending is a real twister, too. I’m really pleased at the result and the novel has gotten excellent reviews! Try it.

Rick Bragg, The Most They Ever had. This Pulitzer Prize winner writes about the South of his boyhood in terms that will tear at your emotions. In this book he tells of workers in the textile mills before safety features were instituted and makes you see the brutality vividly. This is a terrific book that anyone should enjoy--if they can stand the pain.

The Practice Effect by David Brin. In his early career David Brin did some of the best science fiction you’ll ever run across. This is one of them, an unusual effect on an alternate world makes for a great and amusing novel. I wish he’d do more like this one.

Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp. You have to visit Eric Flint’s 1632 series to find a back in time novel to compare with this one, written well over half a century ago. The author is an expert on the times just after the fall of the Roman Empire and all his historical characters are correct and in their right place in time. A wonderful adventure. I’ve read it countless times and my wife Betty just finished it. She agrees with me.

To Hell And Back by Audie Murphy is one of the best autobiographical war histories you’ll ever read. His exploits in WWII are not self-congratulatory like so many books of this type are. He relates what happened in the style of present tense and his characters come to life just as easily as the war does in your mind. Another one I’ve read countless times simply because it’s so good.

Startide Rising by David Brin won both the Hugo and Nebula award. Need I say more? I’ve read this book at least a dozen times and just finished it again.

The Uplift War by David Brin is a stand alone novel but takes place in the same universe as Startide Rising. This time Chimpanzees have been uplifted and their planet, supervised by men, is invaded by one of the galactic powers. Everything that could possibly go wrong for the poor chimps and their humans does at first but Brin adroitly manages to find really innovative solutions for their troubles. Another of his books I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and read numerous times.

Bain Brothers Interviewed

My brother Gary and I were interviewed together recently. The url is: http://www.cnbring.org/the-cn-salute.html then look to the right at the archives and click on E-6 Darrell Bain. The interview of me and Gary will appear.

Our thanks go out to Cindy for allowing us to tell a little about our time in the military service and our time in Vietnam.

Reading my own book: Starship Down

I’m reading one of my own books right now, Starship Down. I’m one of the type readers who can always revisit an old friend and read it again with almost as much pleasure as the first time. I don’t do this with all of my books but Starship Down is one of my favorites and I’m enjoying the re-read. A civilian starship on a circuit of Earth’s colonies becomes irrevocably lost in space and has no other choice but to find a planet to colonize. Aboard the ship are convicts being transported to a prison planet, an army company being rotated, scientists, bureaucrats and teachers going or coming, colonists both rich and poor and many others including a crew of over two hundred. Add in a mad Captain, throw in some unexpected aliens and include several romances ranging from typical to unorthodox and I think I brought all the ingredients together for a good old adventure yarn when I wrote it. Try it and see if I’m not right.

My Exercise and Diet Regime

I am 73 years old and still exercise. I walk one day and work out on the Gazelle the next. The Gazelle is a low-impact inexpensive exercise machine that doesn’t hurt my bad spine. I’ve devised just about a full body workout on this simple machine. Those interested in it can email me from my web site www.darrellbain.com .

On my walk day, I first walk a fast two miles on a route with a half dozen fairly steep ups and downs. This takes about 33 or 34 minutes although I can do it in 32 minutes if I feel like pushing (and by the way, two miles in 33 minutes ain’t bad for a young man. I suspect I could outwalk about half the youth in America over a three mile stretch). After that I walk another mile with my dog at a more leisurely pace.

The following day I do my Gazelle exercises. For anyone with a bad back like mine this is a perfect machine. It doesn’t cause the spinal vertebrae to move much or crunch on one another like jogging or power lifting will so there’s no strain on the back, yet I get just about a full body workout.

My diet consists of low fat milk (2% butterfat. I’m not a freak about this and hate skim milk but love regular milk. The 2% is a compromise). Butter, Cool Whip, and any other dairy product we eat are low fat or “lite”. Any sweet is made using half Splenda and half sugar. I’ve gotten so used to this that store-bought bakery products taste cloyingly sweet now. The half and half was a compromise, too. I can’t stand the synthetic sweeteners alone, like unsweetened candy. Yuk! Betty still fries some food but it’s all done with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. We vary our evening meal with pork, chicken or beef and vary that with beans or peas or tuna sandwiches. I usually have a side dish of fresh pineapple, peaches or strawberries and always a slice of tomato.

My breakfast usually consists of two slices of cantaloupe, a banana, a small square of dark chocolate, two oatmeal/raisin cookies (made with half and half) and a glass of 2% milk. Once a month or six weeks I treat myself to a breakfast of either a banana or cantaloupe, milk and a big Cadbury fruit and nut candy bar. MMMmm! If we happen to be out of cantaloupe or bananas I’ll vary breakfast with either grape nuts or raisin bran cereal sweetened with half and half sugar/Splenda.

Betty makes lots of cookies of different kinds and cakes and such but all of them are made with half and half and I usually stick to cookies. My favorite is peanut butter or oatmeal raisin but I also like Gary Cookies (see Betty Bain’s Dessert cookbook, Articles, Muses and Favorite Diet Breaking Dessert Recipes. She tells some good stories while fattening you up).

I don’t usually eat lunch. Instead I drink a cup of Swiss Miss Chocolate morning and afternoon.

I’m not a fanatic about any of this, just follow my diet and exercise most of the time with occasional breaks for treats, like cobbler with Blue Bell ice cream, baked fried pies (Sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? Another compromise but compares favorably with real fried pies), store-bought chicken fried steak, pizza, etc. Not very often, though.

Believe it or not, fried foods taste almost as good done with extra virgin olive oil as with Crisco. We eat lots of potatoes, mashed, baked, cooked in olive oil with herbs and a little butter, etc. No French Fries, though. Ice cream pretty rare but again, no fanatic.

I began all this when I was diagnosed as a Type Two Diabetic about eight years ago. It took a while to get it all down right. I started off like a fanatic, no sweets except made with artificial sweetener, etc. skim milk, nothing fried, not even in olive oil and yada yada yada. I lost a lot of weight but was unhappy and quit it all for a while, then began to do the stuff sensibly. That is, all things in moderation. It is a helluva lot easier to stick to than diet and exercise that allows no fun at all. You just have to remind yourself not to let a treat like that breakfast of a banana, milk and big Cadbury candy bar become a habit again.

I love sweets. Always have but it is surprisingly easy to become accustomed to sweets made with half Splenda and half sugar (You can buy the bags of it already mixed together at grocery stores). Candy has to be limited and that one square of dark chocolate a day usually comes from a bag of individually wrapped Dove or Hershey dark chocolate bits. They taste pretty good to me but not if I try to eat many of them at one time. I just use the one square a day as a health aid.

Am I bragging? Well, yeah, at least a little bit. But there’s a downside. If I don’t exercise for a few days and don’t stick to a diet I hurt like hell from my bad spine and from my feet that have Tarpal Tunnel Syndrome, Varicose Veins and damage from the diabetes that happened before I was aware of it.

What else? That’s really about it. My weight stays pretty constant and so does my blood sugar, in the good range. I do have to take Actos, a small dose, for the diabetes.

All my lipids (cholesterol, Triglycerides, etc.) are very, very good. So good they make my doctor jealous.

My advice to anyone with type two diabetes or just wanting to lose weight/get in shape is to follow some kind of regime faithfully but allow yourself treats occasionally.

Simple Meal Recipe

For a simple meal, add some kind of ham to baked scalloped potatoes. The first time I tried it I added Spam. Actually, not bad. Pieces of real ham taste even better. Open a can of vegetable and you’re in business.

National Institute of Health Statement

According to a recent statement by the NIH, less than half of the Surgeries, Drugs and Tests ordered by doctors have no scientific evidence at all of their effectiveness. Makes you wonder why our health costs are so high, huh? For my suggestions on a workable Medical Care System that won’t bankrupt the nation eventually see the September 2011 Bainstorming issue here in the archives.

State of America: Lawyers and Our Legal System

How did our nation ever arrive at the point where we are now, with more lawyers per capita than any other country in the world? And how did we get to be so sue-happy as a people? I’m not really sure but like most of the rest of you, I sure as hell don’t think it’s good for us. Let’s get started with a few things which annoy us almost to the point of wanting to implement the admonition found in one of Shakespeare’s plays: First kill the lawyers! It hasn’t quite reached that point but if the trend keeps on then sometime in the future the people might actually reach the breaking point and start thinking seriously about it.
          Here’s one of the crappy things that not only makes no sense at all but actually borders on the dishonest: Legalese in every form or contract or advertisement that’s in any way at all important. Attorneys couch their words in such a way that I doubt even half the lawyers themselves understand what the (dirty word) they’re talking about.
          Next time you pick up a newspaper or magazine that has one of those two and three page ads for a drug, try to read it all the way through and understand it all. If you can, you must be a lawyer because I sure as hell can’t. For one thing, a lot of the damn print is so small you need a magnifying glass to go along with your reading glasses to even make out the words. The ads have big attractive headlines and attractive models, almost always good looking and/or busty females. No one in their right mind ever reads all that junk. It would take an hour to go through it all and you wouldn’t understand much of what you read except the good parts that are in bold print, but if you happen to have something go wrong there’s certain to be a corporate lawyer handy to point out that little fine print buried in the middle of the ad that tells you they aren’t responsible and/or they warned you. As I said it’s the next thing to outright dishonesty.
          Why can’t these things be written in simple English that the average person can understand? Besides, when you complain about high drug prices, call your newspaper or look up the magazine rates for three or four full page ads, then multiply that by thousands of the same ad everywhere and you’ll no longer be surprised at how much that drug costs. Damned well irritated, but not surprised, especially if it happens to be one you need for your health.
          How about TV ads? You know about those, I’m sure. The 20 second advertisement that extols the virtues of leasing a car or buying some high priced item at a real bargain, then twenty lines of fine print so small it’s impossible to read at the bottom of the screen, displayed for every bit of a tenth of a second, describing all the catch-22s involved. That’s crooked in my opinion. Yours, too, I bet, if you stop to think about it. And if they don’t display the small print, you’ll hear a mumble of disclaimers spoken so fast no one in the entire world could understand them. Again, that’s blatantly dishonest, I think.
          If you’ve got a minute, take out your home owners insurance policy and try to understand just what it covers and doesn’t cover. Our policy is over a hundred pages long and I don’t understand a tenth part of it and I’m a college graduate and an author with over fifty books published. Does that give you a hint about how intrusive and devious the legal profession has become? I could take those hundred pages and reduce them to no more than three or four pages that any middle school student could read and understand but I guess that’s too damn simple for the legal profession. They make their money by being purposely obtuse and congressional laws administered by bureaucrats who couch them in enough verbosity to make a dictionary go crazy add to the cost of everything. Regulations and rules dictated by lawyers are always obscure, murky and unintelligible and don’t let anyone try to tell you different. If they do they’re liars. Hell, I can’t even understand when I reach the donut hole in my Medicare Part D coverage except when I have to start coughing up more cash.
          There’s another reason for all the lawyer gobbledygook. We have become such a litigious society that businesses demand that every single possibility that might lead to a lawsuit be covered in minute detail. Any product you buy has an added cost for attorney’s fees for describing in the booklets that come with the product a jillion things not to do or safety rules to follow or labels that have to be added and so on. Businesses figure it protects them from suits but it doesn’t. All obscure language does is guarantee that when a suit does occur that even a jury of college graduates can’t figure out who’s right or wrong. Most likely they talk for a while then flip a coin or vote for or against the lawyer they like the least or most.
          I mentioned in the section on medicine that one of the reasons that medical costs are so high is that doctors and hospitals are forced to practice defensive medicine by ordering every test in the book that might have a possible bearing on the illness and even then their malpractice insurance costs are so high that many can’t begin to practice how and where they want to. An example: a few years ago in Texas OB-GYN malpractice insurance got so outrageously high that the state was having problems finding doctors to deliver babies or provide pre-delivery maternal care. The situation became so bad that the legislature finally had to provide laws which capped insurance awards for that specialty.
          How about disclaimers on television or radio? They are read so fast and in such a mumble that God Himself couldn’t understand what’s being said, much less a person listening.
          I could go on and on. Fine print, fast talk, contracts with so many pages of fine print in legalese you can go blind if you really try to go through it. Part of the housing collapse that precipitated the deep recession of 2007-11is still being felt and a good many of the subprime mortgages that defaulted were for that very reason. The buyers couldn’t understand the contracts because they weren’t intended to be understood. Those ballooning payments and increasing mortgage costs after a short time were most likely in the contracts but no one but another lawyer could have understood them and the mortgage companies purposely didn’t emphasize them. Now you might say all that comes down to caveat emperator, which means buyer beware or words to that effect. That’s all fine and dandy but before a buyer can beware of something they must first be able to understand the terms!
          If I could make changes to our legal system one of the first would be that that all contracts must be in language simple enough for moderately bright middle schooler to understand and written in at least 12 point font. Contracts should say simply: This is what you’re buying. This is what we cover if it breaks during the warranty period. Here are a few simple safety rules for you to follow. If you’re buying on credit it should tell you what your payments will be and what the total cost will be after you’ve completely paid it off. For instance: The price is 500 dollars, including sales tax. You pay nothing down and make ten payments. Here is what they come to total after we charge you interest on the ten month loan. There are no hidden costs. When the customers see the product is really going to cost them not 500 dollars but more like 700 dollars, they may decide to save 50 dollars a month for ten months and pay cash, plus another month to save whatever the sales tax will be. That would run less than a page normally, wouldn’t it? So why not do it that way? Lawyers again, of course.
          I’ve sat on four juries and read a lot of legal jargon and followed trials. It appears to me that unless a defendant is glaringly guilty or so startlingly innocent that charges should never have been brought that juries vote for or against a defendant according to which has the best lawyer. And the way evidence and witnesses are presented is almost guaranteed to bore juries silly half the time. I’ll confess I’m not sure exactly what changes need to be made and in what areas but I’ll bet a lot of respected judges could tell us if our politicians had enough sense to ask.
          One big area that is maddening to me is the amount of junk science allowed in court rooms. Take that big class action suit against silicone breast implants. There wasn’t a shred of real scientific evidence that the implants caused all those diseases they were accused of. At worst occasionally one would leak. In that case, the woman who had the misfortune should have taken the issue up with her doctor’s insurance company. Instead a bunch of legal beagles introduced a class action suit against he manufacturer and won a zillion dollars. The lawyers got most of it and the few women who were really harmed probably didn’t get enough to pay for new implants. I am almost totally against class action lawsuits, at least the way They are conducted now. As is, the lawyers get rich and the plaintiffs get a coupon for a discount on something. That’s the usual result. Class action lawsuits shouldn’t be allowed unless the lawyers involved get minimal fees. There wouldn’t be nearly so many needless cases tying up of courts, I’ll bet.
I’m sure my readers could think of many more examples of what’s wrong with our legal system but I’m running out of space and time.   

Clifford Pickover’s Reality Circus

I was really sorry to see Cliff discontinue his always interesting group. Some of the discussions were so intellectual as to be over my head (and I’m not exactly a dummy) but they were always interesting if sometimes a bit exotic, not to mention rowdy. He ran it for ten years while at the same time writing science books on just about any subject you can name. I just bought his latest book, A History Of Medicine. Betty grabbed it first. She has a B.S. in nursing. And of course I was in medicine for over thirty years in one field or another. I didn’t miss many but finally settled on the medical laboratory and obtained a degree in Medical Technology in my thirties.

As a consolation for Cliff’s group, one of the former members formed a group consisting of former members and any new ones who want to join. The url is  PickOverFlow@yahoogroups.com . So far I’ve found it almost as interesting as Cliff’s was. You can almost always find something of interest in the daily digest, just as you can in Bainstorming. Of course my blog is only once a month. The Pickoverflow is a daily digest.

As a final word here, anyone interested in just about any science subject can probably find a book Cliff has written about it. He also used to be the author of those diabolical puzzles in the magazine Discover every month.

Excerpt from Starship Down

 Chapter Two

          No one had told Jimmy Hollister he couldn't talk. He knew he shouldn't but he trusted Maria and besides, rumors were already flying. At dinner he ate with Staff Sergeant Maria Mirando of the weapons platoon from the army company. They had just begun seeing each other. She was a few years older but it didn't bother him. Maria was pretty even if she was older and there was nothing at all wrong with her figure or her mind, either. She was the first person in the military he had known at all well. He had been surprised and pleased, if somewhat disconcerted at the depth of her knowledge beyond her military specialty. It didn't fit the impression he had carried of the military all his adult life, that of narrow minded persons of low intelligence who thought force was the answer to all problems.
          "The captain's not taking it very good," he told her after relating how the ship had gone so far off course.
          "How so?" Maria was already party to the rumors but she wanted to hear it from a source close to the control room.
          "Oh, he's trying to find someone to blame instead of seeing whether the problem can be fixed or not."
          "Can it?"
          Jimmy shook his head. "I kinda doubt it, not the way Sissy Coffeehouse was talking. She's the chief astrogator, you know. She said we're probably in the same galaxy but God knows where in it."
          "Hmm. That sounds ominous."
          "You bet. Like we won't be going home any time soon, if at all."
          She paused with her fork halfway to her mouth. "Never?"
          "She told Captain Gordon we should start looking for a habitable planet. What does that tell you?"
          She smiled slowly then finished the bite of food. "It tells me I'm not gonna get my wish, looks like."
          "Uh huh. I joined the army for adventure and to do something different. So far all I've seen is occupation duty on McCallister's world and that rock is worthless if you ask me. I was hoping for duty on Bonnport and then damned if our company didn't get orders to go there. It would have been different and probably lots of fun if all I read about it is true. We were going to be stationed there for four years. I was looking forward to it. Now it sounds like that's down the tube."
          "Well, you can still get your wish. Probably more than you asked for."
          "What makes you say that?"
          "A new planet is always interesting and usually dangerous until it's been explored. And new planets are sure as hell different." He shrugged and grinned. "Ever look at the casualty figures for first contact teams?"
          "Um. Yeah. Not good."
          "Then there's other problems. You know we have a contingent of hard core prisoners on board?"
          "Yeah. What's that…oh, I see. What do we do with them?"
          "Right. And then there's the Ship's crew and the army and the government types being sent out as replacements for ones going back to earth. Put them all together and what's the ratio of male to female?"
          "Um. Not good again."
          "Right. And last but not least, the Carlsbad wasn't designed for colonizing. We'll be short of everything. Primitive. Hell, I don't even know if we've got any seeds aboard other than what hydroponics uses. And what happens when the recycling and fabrication equipment breaks down? Think of all the supplies we'll be short of or not have at all."
          "Suddenly I'm not hungry. Not for food anyway. But I've got a bottle of rum I snuck aboard and I've been waiting on a special occasion to use it."
          "Let's go pick it up then go to your stateroom."


Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
September 2012



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