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Wanna read about my hernia operation, Part One?

I know very well that neither you nor anyone else wants to read about my operation—well, okay, perhaps one in a thousand does wants to read about it so I will offer it up for that one in a thousand, that one that is willing to wade through such drivel just in case it might be educational or funny or foolish or all three—just in case.

I recently managed to shed fifteen pounds of avoirdupois from my 67-inch frame—that’s five feet and seven inches in height, a total of 67 inches. Okay, perhaps by now it is more like 66 inches due to the compaction of vertebrae in my backbone—that’s one of the privileges, or perhaps the vicissitudes of aging.

Mind you, I am not stooped or hunchbacked as was Quasimodo the Bell Ringer, nor do I ring anyone’s bells—in fact, I never have and probably never will. As for my height, whatever the total number of inches I rise from the ground upwards may be, I am militarily erect, and in my not-so-humble opinion I would stand tall even if I were the little fellow on television that was always saying, “Zee plane, boss, zee plane!”

Had I been taller I would have ruled the world, but as it is I’m content to be in charge wherever I may be.

Out of respect for any reader that may take umbrage, I will refrain from repeating something that Mae West said in one of her films when she responded to a tall stranger’s knock on her hotel door. She looked up and told him that he was “a tall one,” and he responded that he was “six feet, six inches.”Oh, well, what the hey! I’ll tell it anyway, and if anyone takes umbrage they shouldn’t have read it. What Mae West said was something on the order of, “Well, come on in, big boy, and we’ll talk about the six inches.”

But as is my wont, I have digressed—-back to my operation. On a fateful morning in late December 2011 while waiting for the water in the shower to reach a reasonable temperature (I’m a wuss when it comes to cold showers), I was admiring my image in the mirror, an image sans clothing, while examining the areas that still needed slimming down (just as an aside, cold showers don’t work for me).

In my pinching and lifting and rearranging for effect while holding my breath (stomach in, chest out) I found something that send me scurrying to the physician who was unfortunate enough to have me on the list of people assigned to him to monitor their health, a doctor in the Internal Medicine Clinic at the Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio TX. I first called his nurse and confided my fears, and after enduring my plaint she checked with the doctor and returned my call, telling me to “Come on down!”

I told the doctor that I had discovered a lump in my lower left abdominal area, a lump that was present when standing but one that disappeared when I sat down or lay down. He suspected that the lump was an inguinal hernia, but then used a hands-on search—with my trousers and under-wear on the floor—and said, “Yep, you have an inguinal hernia in the left groin and also a smaller one in the right groin.” What he actually called the hernia on the left was “a potential candidate for surgery.”

He said the smaller hernia could merely be followed, and at this stage he felt that surgery was not necessary. He set up an appointment with a doctor in the proper clinic at BAMC (Brooke Army Medical Center, now renamed as SAMMC, San Antonio Military Medical Center). He said that BAMC/SAMMC might decide that surgery would not be necessary and then added, “But they really like to do surgery over there.”

On that cheerful note I will conclude the first part of a quadrilogy, one comprised of the suspected hernia, its diagnosis, the surgical repair, and recovery. I am breaking the series into four parts because I have been criticized for making my postings far too lengthy. It’s something similar to the old joke about two drunks in a bar, a bar bet and a cuspidor. Click here to read the joke—it’s funny and you can share it with your children. However, you’ll probably need to define the word cuspidor. The joke is in the last paragraph, and the post is a long read, but don’t be discouraged, and please don’t fast-forward to the joke—you’ll miss a lot of excellent prose!

As an aside, the Free Online Dictionary defines quadrilogy as “A series of four related dramatic, operatic, or literary works.” This posting definitely qualifies to be classified and presented as a quadrilogy. My discovery and its diagnosis were dramatic, the surgery was operatic (Get it? Operatic, as in operation?), and this carefully couched and presented 4-part series is the very epitome of a literary work.

This constitutes the first part of my dramatic, operatic and literary quadrilogy and I’m sticking to it.

Stay tuned.

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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in health

 

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Oh, no! Exit fat, French fries, sugar, salt & gravy . . .

On a recent Sunday morning I unrolled my home-delivered plastic-bagged copy of the San Antonio Express-News, the only daily newspaper in the seventh largest city in America, with a potential audience of some two million readers. Prominent on the front page was an article announcing planned changes in menus of military dining halls, specifically at Fort Sam Houston, Texas but eventually in military dining halls world-wide. Click on the image below to read the front-page portion of the article.

As a retired military person I can appreciate and accept all the changes except one. I do not mourn the loss of fat, French fries, sugar and salt and I welcome whatever substitutes replace those items, but gravy? GRAVY? Not gravy, please dear Lord don’t let them outlaw gravy. Without gravy there will be no SOS, a dish that is embraced emotionally and gastronomically by everyone that has ever served in any of the United States military forces. SOS is primarily a breakfast entree—gravy with chipped beef, hamburger meat or sausage added, and usually served as a stand-alone spread on toast or biscuits with various other items added if desired—bacon or sausage, perhaps, or eggs cooked to order, or pancakes or all the above.

Those in the stratospheric zones of the military hierarchy—commissioned officers and their families—usually refer to SOS as creamed chipped beef on toast, or creamed hamburger on toast, or creamed sausage on toast—creamed is simply a euphemism for gravy. However, the unwashed hordes in the military services, the enlisted population including NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers) are comprised of those always willing to call a spade a spade—oops, delete that phrase—it is so not politically correct—make the phrase willing to tell it like it is instead. That elite group of military persons refer to the breakfast delicacy as Shit On a Shingle, with the toast being the shingle and meat gravy the shit, thusly SOS. As a side note, that culinary masterpiece known as SOS is also called Stew On a Shingle and Same Old Stuff. The words may be different, but the visual appearance and taste of the mixture are the same.

Please say it ain’t so, Barack!

Please say it ain’t so, Michelle!

Please don’t do away with gravy—that will sound the death knell for SOS, a breakfast choice for untold millions of men and women in America’s armed forces, in peace and war in virtually every country on the planet, a breakfast delicacy that has been around since long before World War II, and in my opinion helped the United States win its wars—with the exceptions of Korea and Viet Nam and possibly Iraq and Afghanistan, wars that are still unfolding. Although we are claiming the war in Iraq to be a victory, it will probably be rated as a failure in future history books, as will Afghanistan—that is purely my opinion, and I freely admit that opinion is similar to a certain body orifice, the operation of which is controlled by the sphincter muscle—everybody has one, and that’s mine.

Please don’t throw SOS under the bus, Mr. and Mrs. Obama. I believe in change just as much as anyone, including battle-hardened Democrats, but I draw the line on the elimination of SOS from military dining halls. As a home-care giver for many years, I have been a frequent morning visitor to San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center and to Lackland’s Wilford Hall Medical Center, and although I have lost my reason for being a home-care giver, I will continue to use both entities for my own medical care, and you may be assured that I will, at every opportunity, enjoy an SOS breakfast in the hospital cafeterias as long as it is served.

And you may also be assured that if SOS is dropped from their breakfast menus I will look elsewhere for SOS and give my business to those other locations, including such ubiquitous outlets as Whataburger and the myriad Jim’s Restaurants in San Antonio, both of which proudly serve sausage gravy on biscuits for breakfast.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: In my outcry against the demise of SOS I used the term eggs cooked to order, and I must tell my readers that in the hospital cafeteria at San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center you can in fact have your eggs cooked to order, except you cannot have soft-scrambled eggs, eggs over-easy, eggs over-medium or eggs sunny-side up. You can only have them hard scrambled, fried hard on both sides, scrambled hard in an omelet or hard-boiled. The rules are in place to prevent salmonella.

But listen up, and I’ll whisper this in your ear: Go to the hospital cafeteria at Lackland’s Wilford Hall Medical Center and you can get your eggs made to order. Just tell the cook what you want and you’ll get it, up to and including fresh eggs cracked in a bowl and served raw, as many as you want and none having been anywhere near flames or heat, usually ordered by those trying to bulk-up for competition in such sports as wrestling and boxing and, of course, for those that just enjoy flexing their muscles for the opposite sex, and in some instances for the same sex.

Hey, it happens—at my age I don’t flex and I never have, couldn’t even if I tried because I never ate raw eggs, but even at my age I still get flexed at—not all that often, but once in awhile. I believe some men follow the advice contained in a song my brother used to sing, namely that, If you can’t get a woman, get a clean old man.

That’s the end of my story and my postscript and I’m sticking to both.

 

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A brisket for Nephrology . . .

This is a letter to my wife, one of the purest and sweetest beings that God has ever created. Her immortal soul returned to its Creator on Thursday, the eighteenth of November, 2010 at 9:15 in the evening. Immediately after joining Him she left His presence, and anointed with the divine influence of His grace she returned to our mortal world for a few brief moments. Her return is documented and discussed here.

Hi, sweetheart,

I know you’re watching and I’m sure you were part of the annual get-together in the Nephrology Clinic at Brooke Army Medical Center, but I’ll recap the luncheon for you just in case you overlooked some of the folks that attended. It was held on Thursday, December 16, the day that would have been your day for dialysis. You’ll remember that Thursday is the least busy day for the unit. There was only one patient that morning, and I believe that was an in-hospital patient.

All the nurses were there: Gracie, Linda, Irene, Gloria, Jackie, Tammie, Jim, Carver, Henderson and Patti, the Head Nurse, along with Kathy, the dietitian, and Dr. Reynolds, the officer-in-charge of the Clinic. Many of the dialysis patients were there, including the Big Colonel and the Little Colonel. The Big Colonel expressed his sadness at learning of your death, and offered his condolences to me and to our daughters, saying that we and you would always remain in his thoughts and prayers.

Dr. Reynolds welcomed us to the event and asked that we never forget those that are longer with us, specifically naming you and Mrs. Kirk, that beautiful little lady with the short gray hair and the ever-present smile, always commandeering a wheelchair and chauffeured by her husband. She followed you from this realm just a few days after you left us.

Dr. Reynolds introduced the chaplain, and following the chaplain’s brief prayer with blessings on those present and those not present, we lined up at the trough for lunch, and what a spectacular trough it was. The tables stretched at least thirty or forty feet along one wall and each table was loaded—the staff should be enjoying leftovers for several days, probably through the weekend and into next week.

You should be very proud of me because with you beside me, coaching me at every step, I prepared a seven-pound brisket, from HEB of course, and brought it still hot on my arrival at the clinic, along with sauce, chips, bread and four gallons of sweet tea from Bush’s Chicken in Converse—incidentally, there has apparently been a complete change of personnel at that location—I recognized none of the staff there.

Rita met me at the entrance of the hospital with a handcart to help carry everything. I also brought another large framed piece of art to add to our gallery in the clinic. That makes a total of fourteen pieces lining each side of the hallway from the entrance all the way to the dialysis section. I’m told that your “art gallery” is an attraction for other hospital staff and patients and visitors. I know that you and I did not make the donations as a memorial, but it doesn’t hurt that it serves as a memorial to you.

Cindy helped me create gold foil stickers for the pieces, and I placed one on the lower right corner of the glass of each, and I also placed a label on the flat-screen television you donated to the Nephrology Clinic to replace that little dinky tube television that was there. Each of the gold stickers reads, Donated to Nephrology by Janie and Mike Dyer. And just in case you are wondering, Rita still watches The View every morning with religious fervor.

I wish the hallway were a bit longer so I could expand the gallery in your name. I also wish that I could create another Taj Mahal to honor your name and your life, but I’ll have to be satisfied with the Taj Mahal that resides in my heart and in my memories of you and of my life with you. Just as is the original Taj Mahal in India, the Taj Mahal in my heart and memories is a symbol of our eternal love.

I helped the nurses set up the banquet tables (Irene made me don plastic gloves before I could help sanitize the tables). When the signal was given to Come and get it! I joined the long line, loading far more on my plate than necessary, but I admit shamefully that very little was left when I finished. I shared a table with Ernie, his wife and his daughter. You’ll remember Ernie as the camera-bug transplanted to San Antonio from El Paso so his severely handicapped wheel-chair-bound daughter could receive treatment here. He is still following Cindy’s blog and working on his photographic skills.

Unless you were preoccupied in another area, you probably noticed that I visited you in the cemetery that Thursday afternoon. There were few visitors that day, but the machines and their operators were present as always, hard at work maintaining and enhancing the grounds, watering and grooming and planting and preparing new communities for military wives and husbands and for the orphaned children of military families. The perpetual care provided by our government for those families ensures the beauty and the future of one of the largest such cemeteries in the nation.

My visit with you that Thursday afternoon was bitter sweet, as all future visits will be. I accept the sadness that cloaks and permeates each visit, but I exult in the knowledge that the sadness is temporary, because I know that at some time in the future I will join you and our immortal souls will be reunited.

And I know that, in the glorious morning of the Resurrection our bodies will be raised, and become as incorruptible as our souls.

Sleep well in heaven, my darling. I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.

Mike

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2010 in death, Family, flowers, health, marriage, television, Writing

 

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How to win friends and influence people . . .

No, I’m not Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, nor am I a reincarnation of Dale Carnegie, nor am I promoting the book or attempting to sell copies. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I have never read the book, but over a period of time approaching eight decades, I’ve developed my own system of winning friends and influencing people. My system is absurdly simple—one needs only to show a genuine interest in another person and the  system—my system—will begin to work its magic.

For quite a few years now I have spent considerable time in the waiting rooms of chemotherapy units at two major hospitals here in San Antonio, Texas, namely the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston and the Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base. In my experience, most of the people in those waiting rooms tend to draw inward, to retreat into themselves. It’s an understandable characteristic—they are filled with concern for those for whom they wait and their thoughts are of that person, whether for a spouse, a child, a close friend or a casual acquaintance. Most deliberately avoid making eye contact with others in order to maintain their solitude and their thoughts—if eye contact is inadvertently made, most break the contact immediately and return to that solitude, or at best acknowledge the eye contact with a nod—rarely do they speak unless the other person speaks first. They seemingly prefer to read, knit, crochet, write, spend time on cell phones or laptop computers or, in the case of younger persons, hand-held digital games. They sleep or attempt to sleep, or stare at the floor, a wall or the ceiling, and if a window is available they stare at the outside world.

Over the years I have initiated conversations with men and women of all ages, and in virtually every instance those people have opened up in varying degrees. Yes, I intrude on their thoughts and on their knitting, their reading, their gazing at something or nothing, and even their attempt to sleep if the opportunity presents itself. By initiating conversations with others I have met some interesting and lovely people, both men and women—young, middle-aged and advanced in years, and I have never been rebuffed.

I watched a young woman constructing greeting cards a few weeks before Christmas of last year, apparently oblivious of her surroundings. She had the components in a voluminous handbag, including colored pencils, small black-and-white prints, pre-cut cards and glue. She was coloring the prints and attaching them to the cards. After I observed her actions for awhile, I expressed an interest in her work and we became friends. We shared our stories of family members undergoing chemo treatments, and discussed chemotherapy in some detail—between the two of us we had gleaned at least a conversational knowledge of the process and its successes and failures. She said that she was making Christmas cards for family and friends, something she did every year, and promised to send my family a card. The one pictured below arrived at my home shortly after Christmas of 2009—the cardinal is hand colored, the snowflake is jewel mounted, and the card is layered in six different levels with ribbons and other decorations. It’s a beautiful piece of art, original in almost every respect—I have matted and framed it and will always cherish it—that gift is a beautiful keepsake and a reminder of how to win friends and influence people.

On another day in the waiting room at Wilford Hall, I sat next to a lady that was reading a Robert Ludlum novel. The book was a paperback, printed in large type, and the way she held it allowed me to read most of the synopsis on the rear cover. It dealt with a man that was searching desperately for something that did not exist, at least not outwardly—he was searching for himself. I excused myself and told her that she appeared engrossed in the novel, and I asked her if she was a fan of the author. She tilted the book to show me the front cover and said that Ludlum was one of her favorite authors. I asked her if the story involved a man searching for something without knowing that he was searching for himself.

She naturally assumed that I had read the book but I told her, truthfully, that I had never even heard of the title. She then asked me how I could know the story without having read the book, and I told her that I had psychic powers and had read her thoughts. Her jaw dropped, her eyes widened and I heard a sharp intake of breath, and I hastened to tell her that I was just joking, that I had read the synopsis on the rear cover of the book. In the long conversation that followed, I learned that she was Hispanic, a native of Mexico and that she believed in mediums and their psychic powers. We parted as newfound friends—I promised that I would not read her thoughts if we should meet again, and she gave me the traditional Spanish blessing of Vaya con Dios, a blessing I have tried to follow since our meeting—and for some years before that, of course.

I could ramble on for several reams of paper describing other times that my system of How to win friends and influence people has yielded benefits, but I won’t—I’ll be merciful and close this posting with a word of caution: If you decide to use the psychic powers approach, gauge your audience carefully, tread lightly and be prepared to beat a hasty retreat—as I did with that lady.

Try my system—you’ll like it!

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Government: A three-legged stool theory . . .

Over a period of many years I have spent, and continue to spend, considerable time in the waiting rooms of various clinics in two military hospitals, Brooke Army Medical Center and Wilford Hall Medical Center, both in San Antonio, Texas. I often take a paperback copy of Thoreau’s Walden along to help pass the time. In addition to Walden, the book includes Thoreau’s On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, his classic protest against government’s interference with individual liberties. From the back cover: One of the most famous essays ever written, it came to the attention of Gandhi and formed the basis for his passive resistance movement.

While in the waiting room I also read any literature that might be available. There is always a wide selection from which to choose, donated by patients and staff—paper back books and hardbound books, detective novels, romance novels, westerns, self-help books, children’s books, medical literature, and periodicals ranging from Reader’s Digest (I love the Humor in Uniform section) to Cosmopolitan with its ubiquitous tips for good sex, usually professing to be “what women really want” or “what men really want,” all probably written by men—and then again, perhaps not.

Any publication, regardless of theme, has the potential of increasing one’s store of knowledge—one simply needs to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Prompted by a front-cover blurb that read, Exclusive interview! President Barack Obama, I recently read an article in Black Enterprise—Your ultimate source for wealth creation, in the issue dated April 2009. The article was written by a Black Enterprise journalist following a 15-minute telephone conversation with the president, an interview purported to be “the first black publication to get an interview with the president,” and “the first magazine to gain an exclusive with Barack Obama since he took oath on Jan. 20.” From that 15-minute phone interview, Black Enterprise journalist Derek T. Dingle produced a well-written article that covered all, or part of, five pages in the 8.5 x 11 inch, 96-page publication.

I recommend the article to any reader, regardless of one’s political affiliation. Different readers will have different opinions on its content, but there is definitely knowledge to be gleaned—and although I run the risk of repeating myself, I will repeat myself—one simply needs to separate the wheat from the chaff.

This is the pearl I gleaned following multiple readings of the article and an unbiased—really—attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff (yes, it’s another repetition, but it’s one that is important).

The president’s stool is wobbly.

Yes—I said it, and I believe it. The president’s stool is wobbly, and at this point I feel an urgent need to define stool, a word that has many meanings. In this context (from Wikipedia), it means a backless seat consisting of a small flat piece of wood resting on three or four legs, and specific to a milking stool, a low three-legged stool used to sit on while milking a cow.

My contention that the president’s stool is wobbly was formed on the first page of the article. The last sentence in the article’s third paragraph reads as follows: In less than a month in office, he signed the $787 billion economic recovery package, purportedly the largest overhaul of the U.S. economy in history.

The first sentence in the next paragraph reads as follows: That action, the president asserts, represents only “one leg of the stool” in his mission to revamp the economic and financial system.” In the same paragraph, the president refers to three other plans; to ensure the financial stability of banks, to help struggling homeowners modify their mortgages and stabilize home prices, and to review structuring plans of domestic automakers.

By my count the president created a four-legged stool in those two paragraphs—one leg for economic recovery, a second for bank stability, a third for mortgages and home prices, and a fourth for restructuring plans of domestic automakers. Of course, as all are aware, he has created many more “stools” in the interim, and it’s a sure bet that all have at least four legs.

In my far distant past, in addition to numerous other farm chores, I spent a significant amount of time sitting on a milking stool, one positioned properly to facilitate extracting milk from one of various milk cows. And guess what? The stool had only three legs.

A true milking stool—a professional milking stool, if you will—has only three legs. Three legs only, not four, with each leg cleverly placed equidistant from the others. The terrain on which the milking operation is performed will always be level if selected by the milker, but if selected by the milkee, the terrain may not be level. With a four-legged stool the milker will constantly be required to maintain equilibrium while milking the cow. A three-legged stool will always be stable, regardless of the terrain, and the milker can concentrate on the intricacies of his task.

Hence the three legs as opposed to four legs—the three-legged stool will provide the milker a steady platform from which to operate. The four-legged stool serves the milker well if on level terrain, but if the terrain is not level the stool will wobble, and as any old-time milker will testify, the job is precarious enough without a wobbly stool adding to the discomfort and dangers already present. The stool may be a bit canted from a true horizontal surface—in that event, the milker must compensate for the slope in order to finish the job.

In those long-gone and little-missed good old days, a milker arrived at his work site by a circuitous route, stepping over, around and sometimes in barnyard patties that often lurked in unlikely spots. Given the fact that young milkers sometimes milked in the half-light of morning and evening, plus the fact that such milkers were wont to go barefoot in summer, some missteps were predictable and numerous.

A milker often worked in extreme cold, or in extreme heat in a malodorous atmosphere, all the while ducking a constantly swishing tail and dodging hind-leg kicks aimed at the milk bucket or the milker or both, all the while attracting and stoically enduring the attention of flies, fleas, wasps and mosquitoes—a milker had no choice, because both hands were gainfully employed.

If we look closely enough, we will find that the president faces similar obstacles and distractions in his administration. I believe we can compare the president’s job with milking a cow, albeit a far more complex job, far more intricate and in a much more favorable working environment, and the effects, whether success or failure, are far more reaching than a botched milking. In a botched milking only the cow will suffer—if the president’s job is botched, our people, our nation and our future will suffer.

In summary, the president’s stool is wobbly because it has more than three legs and is not on level terrain. He should remove all legs above the count of three, ensuring that the remaining three legs are equidistant from each other. And if his stool (his presidential platform) is canted, he must compensate for the slope—he must hang on (please ignore the inadvertent pun) by using whatever muscle or muscles are available in order to finish the job .

Some may feel that I have taken an inordinate amount of time to support my contention that the president’s stool is wobbly because it is not on a firm foundation, and that he may be—nay, will be—distracted from his mission by the need to counteract its action and thereby risk failure to attain his goals, or at best attaining some but not all of his goals.

I offer no apologies to anyone—not to the president nor to my readers—not for my analysis of the Black Enterprise article nor for my analogy of the milking stool. The president is working from a precarious perch on terrain that is not level—he should either change the terrain or remove some of the legs on his perch. I believe my three-legged stool theory of government is  as plausible, as reasonable and as workable as any theory that has been formulated in the past, and I offer it up for consideration, whether for our nation, for other nations, or for the world.

An afterthought that comes to mind:

I frequently hear the term double down used in reference to political operations, meaning that by adding additional items, usually to bring specific people on board, to a change that is not gaining wide acceptance, in hopes that the change might be pushed through.

Double down is a gambling term used in blackjack—if a player is initially dealt a pair—any pair, whether aces, face cards, tens or other values—he is allowed to double his original bet by splitting the pair, giving him the opportunity of besting the dealer on two hands rather than one. However, it also means he may lose two bets instead of one. If the player splits the pair, the dealer will give each hand one or more additional cards, face up, as requested by the player using the term, “Hit me.” In all instances the dealer will insist that the player “make one hand good before looking at the other.”

I mention the term double down only because it has often been used in this president’s administration. I submit that my three-legged theory, if followed properly, would produce far better results than doubling down. However, the gambling metaphor still applies—the president should make good the first three legs of policies offered for consideration before proposing further changes—in other words, make one hand good before looking at the other.

This is a note for any readers of this posting:

There is some wheat in this posting, wheat that warrants your time and effort to search for it among the chaff and then separate it. Yes, I know, it’s another repetitionI said it’s important, remember?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2009 in Humor, Obama administration, politics

 

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