Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Future Is Here, Tomorrow

I'm no blogger "purist" so I have no hesitation about falling back on content from YouTube on occasion. And because I recognize that most followers have short attention spans (at least I do) I try to keep video segments short.

Such is the case with this gem which I stumbled upon recently: "Eve, AD 2000!" A news reel clip from the 1930's showing the fashions women will be wearing in the "future" (eleven years ago).

Hey I'm still waiting for the flying car and personal jet pack that, back in 1957, promised to get me to and from the office! Enjoy!

Runtime: 1m:30s

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Endless Summer

Events in the news recently, in particular the latest sickness to come out of the Republican Debates earlier this month, has me avoiding wasting any precious brain cells on anything happening outside of my property line. As a result, I decided to build that garden shed I have been promising, and putting off, all summer.

So for the time being I have abandoned the computer to re-familiarize myself with power tools, lumber and other masculine objects of interest.

Oh and the picture - yes, it really is a garden shed and not a 4th bathroom.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Deputy "RD" Westwood

Pictured here, my wife’s Nancy’s great grandfather, Deputy Sheriff Richard Dallin Westwood. “RD” as he was known in Moab, Utah, had been elected as the first sheriff of Grand County. Back then the county had no jail, so Sheriff Westwood would bring the prisoners to his home. The desperados were incarcerated in one room of the two room cabin, separated from him and his wife by a thin curtain in the doorway between the rooms. Mrs. Westwood provided the meals to the prisoners.

RD stepped down as sheriff but was often pressed back into service over the years when the county needed him. It was then on the fateful day of September 5th, 1929, RD was serving as a deputy under then Sheriff J. B. Skewes when he was killed – gunned down in a jail break by two escaped bank robbers.

This area of Utah was made famous after the release of the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Butch and Sundance were real outlaws and passed through Grand County after their heists to take refuge in a secluded fortress like area of red rock backcountry called Robbers Roost. The Butch Cassidy gang was more of a nuisance to the citizens of Grand County; rustling the occasional cow for food or stealing a fresh horse should they encounter one. For the most part, then Sheriff Westwood had little contact with the famous outlaws.

Still the Utah backcountry was a haven for men on the lam. Such was the case in 1929 when bank robbers R. H. Elliott and Dilbert Pfoutz wandered into the mercantile store on the main street of Moab. The two men handed the clerk a bag of coin asking if he could change it into bills for them. A second clerk, suspicious of the men, called the sheriff; Skewes and deputy Westwood arrived on the scene.

Lawmen Skewes and Westwood had been alerted by Mesa County Colorado Sheriff that a bank had been robbed in Grand Junction. Westwood checked out the men’s Chevrolet parked in the street; it was full of camping gear and it had Colorado plates.

Back in the mercantile Sheriff Skewes asked the men if they were carrying any guns. No, the two men replied. But their suspicions aroused, Skewes had Westwood take the two back to the new jail and hold the men until deputies could arrive from Grand Junction. RD, now age 66, was put in charge of watching the prisoners while Sheriff Skewes went home to eat dinner. Within a half hour, the sheriff received a frantic call from the jail.

Skewes arrived at the jail and broke through the throng of people huddled around the door. There on the floor in a pool of blood lay deputy Richard Dallin Westwood, two bullet holes in his shoulder, one in his left side and one in his arm.

The desperados had hidden a stolen gun in their pants. Once they were alone in the jail with RD, as he opened the cell to give the men their dinner, they murdered him with the hidden gun, bolted for the door and ran for the Colorado River hoping to find a boat in which to make their escape.

As dark was falling a posse was assembled to ride out at dawn to look for the killers. The two had split up, heading in different direction. But cold, wet and hungry, and fearing they would be shot by the angry posse, the men surrendered after being found some miles down river.

Fearing another escape attempt, the men were lodged in the more secure Carbon County jail in Price, Utah. The men eventually were tried and convicted of murder and given long prison sentences. One of the men died in prison, the other was eventually released on parole.

Deputy Richard Dallin Westwood is memorialized by the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial, in the “Fallen” section. Nancy’s father was 5 years old when his grandfather was shot and killed in the jailbreak. He says he can still remember the funeral.

This article was written with the help of remembrances of Nancy's father, Melvin Westwood about his grandfather and from a photocopy from an old "Startling Detective" magazine article, date of publication unknown.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fading from Gray to Black

My wife is witnessing the gradual but steady decline in her father’s mental capabilities. She often refers to herself as the “Social Worker for Her Family” and such is true. She helps her sisters, her children and now her father who cared for her all those years.

Her father lost his car in the inevitable car accident earlier this summer. It is a relief that no one was injured. Any illusions about him continuing to drive were hauled away along with the crunched vehicle. But more and more is being heaped on her shoulders as friends and family call to speak with her about their concerns following their interactions with her father.

The anecdotes now come in daily; he doesn’t remember the names of his fellow staff from the Horticulture department when they meet for their monthly coffee. He recognized a photo as being his nephew, but he couldn’t remember the boy’s name. Memories of events only months ago he places instead decades back in history. She wonders on what day it will be that he will take his daily walk and forgets how to find his way back home. These weigh on my wife; loving daughter, watching her father sink ever deeper into a murky mental abyss.

Her choices are none; she can only keep on and try to keep up. Likely soon she will take over writing his bills as she cannot find any remote semblance of order in his random piles of paper and clutter. She drives him to his appointments and the few social events he can manage; the Hort department meeting, no longer on campus, might as well be on the moon now as far as her father knows. She takes him there but he doesn’t know where he is.

He continues to work in his yard, push mower and hand held hedge clippers. Keeping the yard up is his measure of his independence. Plants he gathered on collection expeditions from all over the globe now planed in his yard he for which he no longer knows their names. The ladders have been taken away as a precaution.

I am of even less help to my wife; all I can do is watch. We bring her father over for dinner once a week where he endlessly repeats the stories of his research at the university and his experiences during WWII. I have heard them all so many times; but all I can do is nod and hope he doesn’t notice that I have long since stopped listening.

“I’ve lived too long”, he remarked to his daughter recently – a tacit acceptance of his realization that his brain is declining more rapidly than his body. All we can do is watch as the inevitable unfolds and prepare what we can; what he will allow. All that he was is in the past; he has no future – and sadly, he knows this as well.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Death with Dignity

I have absolutely no patience with telephone solicitors, and even worse “robo-calls” Who in their right mind would listen to an unsolicited cold call RECORDING!? So much for jobs creation, even Boiler Rooms are now outsourcing jobs to technology.

If you are on a No Call List, people or institutions you have done business with in the past are still allowed to phone you. So I listened to the spiel when the guy identifying himself being from the Oregon Death with Dignity organization called.

In 1994 Oregon passed a landmark law allowing people with terminal illness to end their lives; this is sometimes referred to as physician-assisted suicide. The law was brought into effect through citizen initiative and handily passed the popular vote. However, in 1997 the law’s opponents (primarily the religious) mounted strenuous opposition, eventually placing a new ballot initiative attempting to repeal the law. The attempt failed, the repeal was voted down. Oregon voters had now made it abundantly clear, TWICE, that people should have the right to determine their own quality of life and chose the terms and time of their death.

The opposition was vehement; claims were made that the law would lead to euthanasia – a wholly preposterous claim as a patient must be terminally ill with a life expectancy of six months or less. The patient must be mentally competent and able to understand the consequences of their decision. Two physicians must review the medical request of the patient prior to approval of the application.

It was then claimed that Oregon would become a Mecca for terminally ill patients, flocking to the state in droves to take advantage of this law – It’s NEVER happened. Critics even charged that the law would be applied disproportionately to the poor, physically disabled, psychiatric patients, even racial minorities – Not even remotely true. Opposition rests solely with religious belief; who believe only god has the right to end a life. But such restrictions should not apply to the fifth of the population (and growing) who don’t believe in god.

Still George Bush’s Attorney General, John Ashcroft, an evangelical Christian who “speaks in tongues”, in 2002 petitioned the got the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to approve the suspension of medical licenses of doctors who prescribed life-ending drugs to dying patients. But in 2005 the US Supreme court ruled 6 to 3 that Oregon had the right to regulate the practice of medicine. Oregon’s Death with Dignity law “survived”.

Neighboring Washington State has since passed their own Death with Dignity law in 2008. A similar law is now being proposed by the people of the State of Massachusetts.

On its web site, the Oregon Death with Dignity maintains an information page on “Religion and Spirituality”, listing all the major religious institutions and their official position regarding suicide. Not surprisingly the vast majority are in opposition. Religion, you see, not only wants to dictate how you live your life but when and how you are allowed to end it. But then religion is seldom about choice.

I told the caller that I would contribute to help with the campaign to pass a similar law in Massachusetts.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's a Miracle

Earlier this month 12-year-old Dale Ostrander was swimming in the cold Pacific Ocean; pulled from the shore by a dangerous undertow, he nearly lost his life by drowning. The boy, visiting the beach with his local church camp, was finally pulled from the frigid water after a second earlier unsuccessful rescue attempt, given aggressive life saving first aid, then rushed to the emergency room.

The three major national media networks reported the story but with a decidedly different publicity spin - focusing on the AP photos of Dale's distraught friends praying for him on the beach, the term “miracle” was repeated over and over by the news anchors. The overtly clear implication: the boy was alive through the result of "divine intervention" – it was a Miracle.

It was estimated that Dale Ostrander was under water for as long as 20 minutes. However there have been recorded incidents of people being revived after being submerged in freezing water for a much as an hour. The Pacific is cold, about 56ยบ F in this area of the coast.
Dr. Mark Morocco, an emergency room doctor at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles: “Your chances of surviving are better if you’re young… when people are plunged into cold water. The heart rate slows down and blood is diverted to the brain and other core organs. This so-called diving reflex is more pronounced in children, allowing them to better survive in frigid water.”

“Swift treatment helped." Morocco credited the rescuers for continuing resuscitation efforts even though Ostrander had no pulse and appeared dead.
Dale was received CPR from rescuers immediately upon being pulled from the water. Emergency Medical Technicians then on the scene continued to ventilate him until he arrived at the local hospital. There he was placed on a respirator until he was taken by Life Flight to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, part of the Oregon Health Sciences University Medical Center.

The doctors at Doernbecher were unsure if Dale would continue to be able to breathe on his own. Having been on a breathing tube myself, I know there is only one definitive way to find out if a patient can breathe for them self – remove the breathing tube. Fortunately young Dale began breathing on his own.

Weeks later when Dale was released from the hospital the story was updated by the national media. Though Dale will continue to need physical therapy to full recover, the Media continued promoting the “miracle” story, repeating how Dale’s fellow church members knelt on the beach praying for him during his moment of peril.

I pose this question about claims of divine miracles: what most likely was the significant factor that saved young Dale Ostrander from death ...


Or This?

Photo credits: AP News
Watch the "miraculous" ABC News Coverage of this story.