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For the last 20 years of my father's life, my mother chided, bitched, asserted, and otherwise impelled my old man to ingest products displaying the above-captioned label. I had, since age 16, refused mother's encouragement to "discover the wonder of alternative medicine." You see, I was not sick. Nor was my father, until 1999.

The most bittersweet moment relevant to this came shortly after his death; when I cleaned out his car, his desk, and some of his personal papers. Amidst all of this "stuff" of a person's existence were secreted dozens of the tiny baggies in which mother used to give dad his daily "prescription." Of course, dad had no intention of taking them.

After dad succumbed to his second bout of cancer, my brother and I put mother in a "Senior Independent Living Facility". Of course, mother wanted all of her precious pills and potions, therefore I had to clean out the cabinets in their home and box up all of the bottles of pills (an amazing amount bearing the same disclaimer).

Now, some did not, indeed, contain this disclaimer because they were approved by the F.D.A. to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. However most bore the disclaimer. Some were naturopathic remedies, some were "food supplements," and one, to my dismay, was called "cat's claw."

There is not a stitch of clinical evidence to support that "cat's claw" (Uncaria tomentosa) prevents nor cures cancer. Nonetheless, my father was being nearly force-fed this substance by mom. I asked mother, after dad's passing, if she needed the "cat's claw" for herself. Her answer left me nonplussed: "oh, of course I need it, so I don't die of cancer like your father did."

All health cases are different. I am certain that there are folks who use alternative medicines and are quite fit as a result. In fact, I, personally, was convinced by my doctor, who usually errs on the side of caution with regard to use of medicines, to take Arnica Montana, a homeopathic preparation, for headache. It works.

The saddest part of the warning hereinabove is that people are doing harm by ingesting amounts of substances so labeled. In my mother's case, even a case of multiple-mineral toxicity (or that's what the doctors told me) - that vested itself in a nasty set of kidney stones, failed to get her to heed myriad warnings. Not having suffered kidney stones myself, all I can say is that anecdotal experience tells me that the pain's up there on the scale of childbirth before the stones are either removed, blasted, dislodged, or just passed.

The last doctor's appointment I took my mother to was to a urologist (a friend of mine). She was concerned that her kidney stones would re-appear. I haven't spoken to my mother since then. It turns out that she'd revealed none - none - of the various dietary herbs, supplements nor homeopathic medicines she takes to this physician. The only reason I found out was that one of her other doctors and he had spoken about my mother's case and the truth came out.

I'm spending Thanksgiving this year in the company of healthy people. It'll be enough without having dad there for the first time without hearing my mother's sick utterances about how I could have "saved him if only you had followed my advice and taken him to Dr. Burzynski in Texas." Dr. Burzynski has plea-bargained to Federal charges ranging from medical misrepresentation to mail fraud. He still practices, despite being under indictment in several states.

Many extremely kind-hearted, well-meaning readers might reel in horror at my decision not to spend Thanksgiving with mom and brother. It's a simple matter. I try to avoid toxic substances whenever I can.

You see, it wasn't cancer that killed my father. It was 59 years of marriage to my mother.

Dear diary. Today it's very windy in Juneau. Wind speeds of up to 65 miles-per-hour are expected. The skies are clear. The air is cold. This morning when I woke up the outdoor temperature was one degree Fahrenheit. Over in the valley, near the glacier, it was minus ten.

Cold air temps coupled with gale-force winds adds up to a wind-chill effect of lots of degrees below zero. Of course, as we have learned from our Antarctic experience, the idea of wind chill is marginally archaic. The calculation of wind chill is a black art. The theory of wind chill is that moving cold air conducts heat away from the body faster than stagnant cold air, and so because there is a higher rate of heat conduction, the effect is the same as if the subject was in stagnant but much cooler air.

Physicists have proven, though, that while the concept is true in the large, when you get down to specific calculation the numbers don't add up. There are times when the effective cooling is much less than anticipated, and times when it is much greater. Things like altitude and humidity play a big role, but are not usually present in the calculation done by the weatherman.

Darkness, as in lack of solar influence, must play a role. It's dark here a lot now. It starts looking like dusk around 2:30 in the afternoon, and it's pretty dark by 4P. I'm starting to get used to it. The odd thing about lots of darkness is that it feels the same as lots of lightness. Your body stops telling time by solar position, so you're free to stay awake or sleep as you choose. Oddly, I've found it very easy to wake up at 6AM or even 5AM because those times "feel" to me to be identical to 7AM or 8AM.

There have been no auroras for me to see. The solar A and K numbers are low. The big display happened when I was in California a few weeks ago, interviewing for another major silicon valley job.

The weather in Juneau is very accurately predicted by NOAA computer models. I find the forecasts to be dead-nuts-on, usually. The models predict there will be competing high and low pressure areas to either side of us. Air will rush from the high to the low pressure zones. At ground level it will have to funnel through the spaces between the islands in Southeast Alaska. Those will accelerate the winds.

And all of this technospeak is a way for me to avoid talking about what is really bothering me. I know that.

I have become enamored by the idea the WTC complex was brought down by controlled demolition and not by the impact of the hijacked jets. I have seen the videos. I am now disturbed.

I am a logical person. I shouldn't believe in conspiracies. They get me on this one, though, because like everyone else that day I was glued to the television. As one born and raised in the New York area, and as a kid who watched the WTC towers built month by month, I felt a degree of ownership for the grief of the citizens of the NYC area. Part of my history was destroyed, too.

I remember the last time I was in one of the WTC towers. We'd taken a business colleague downtown to dinner, and we went for drinks to Windows on the World. That was over a decade prior to 9/11/01. Still, it was my history.

When I saw the towers come down, it made no sense to me. The explanations given for the collapse made no sense to me. The fact that WTC 7 came down hours later when there was little to no damage to that building made no sense to me. The fact witnesses were describing "secondary explosions" all day made no sense to me.

They say the most unreliable data one can get in a criminal case is eyewitness testimony. I can see why.

I watched the WTC implode into a cloud of ash before my eyes.

How come it didn't just fall down like a huge leaning tower of Pisa? How come there weren't any big chunks of the building blocking the street? How do two of the tallest buildings in the world disintegrate before your eyes as if being ground to dust from the top down - without any big piece of the building hitting the ground? Like when the upper floors of the south tower lean over as a chunk and separate from the rest of the building - how do they explode into dust before hitting the ground? How do sagging beams add up to that top section disintegrating in mid-air rather than crashing into the ground intact?

Why does it explode to dust? Why does anything explode at all in mid-air rather than falling intact and crumbling on impact?

I am ripe for the conspiracy theory. I am eager for an explanation that doesn't involve steel melting at temperatures that are present in any home heating stove. I am eager for someone to explain the explosions in the basement of the WTC complex that happened before the towers came down, and before the south tower was hit. I am dying to know why the south tower, that was hit after the north tower, came down first.

I want to know why all three buildings, WTC 1,2, and 7, all came down into their own footprints and didn't fall over the way buildings do in earthquakes. I want to know why WTC 7 collapsed so neatly of fire, when there were no firemen or fire in the building for nearly 7 hours, and when the buildings closer to the towers were nearly demolished by falling debris but remained standing.

I want to know why these were the first three steel-framed buildings in the history of the world to collapse due to a kerosene fire.

Maybe there's a physical principle of "conservation of anger". I seem to need to be angry about something all the time. Now that the right wing was whacked soundly by the American public in the election I have to replace my disdain for the neocons with something else. That something else is the suspicion that something is very rotten with 9/11.

And I gotta be honest. I don't have the slightest idea what it could mean that the towers were brought down in a controlled demolition, synchronous with the crashing of hijacked planes. That piece of it does not compute.

It makes no sense, at all.

And this obsession is another way for me to avoid thinking about what I don't want to think about.

Another mental diversion is this:

Last Thursday the governor-elect of the State of Alaska made a speech at a luncheon given by the Resource Development Council. The luncheon happened in Anchorage, Alaska, which is where I was attending the Resource Development Conference. I happened to be sitting at the table next to the governor-elect, and so I got a good look at her.

My impression of the new governor is that she's a small woman. Let's say she comes up to my chin. She can't weigh more than 110 pounds. She's very svelte - lots of treadmill time. She walks around with a cheap Samsung cell phone glued to her ear.

As she is the only state governor I have ever seen close up, I cannot make a justified comparison between her and other governors. All I can say is that she beat two much larger men. In fact, the sum of the votes given to the big guys didn't even come close to what she got. One guy, a Democrat, had been governor before. He's as tall as a basketball center and also thin. I think he was banking on his height and the fact that he wasn't afraid of cold weather. The not-so-thin guy is about six-feet tall and looked like he wanted to fight everyone for their lunch money. He was a Republican but ran as an Independent.

His campaign ads said: "Don't be afraid to vote for Halcro," which I thought was a pretty weak slogan, even though I wasn't afraid and voted for him. His experience as a rent-a-car magnate seemed germane to me, and also, he sounded quite powerful when he spoke. The tall guy sounded like a politician, which put me off.

Our new Republican governor, Sarah Palin, sounds and acts like somebody's mother, which she is. She's four people's mother, and also the wife of a guy who does stuff for the oil industry. Presumably the other, much larger guys who ran for governor and lost had kids and spouses, too. All three candidates wear glasses.

I thought Governor-elect Palin gave a good speech, though I could not get out of my head that a strong wind would blow her clean into the Beaufort sea. And then when she finished speaking and sat down she smiled and was promptly ignored by everyone in the room, because the raffle drawing was held and winning an iPod beats out a gubernatorial speech for attention-getting, any day.

If anything I think Sarah Palin is a good public speaker. There isn't always a lot of content behind her words, but she delivers them very well. She said one thing that stuck with me. The thing that stuck wasn't the object of her speech, but rather, the way she referred to the State of Alaska.

She called Alaska an owner state, and by direct implication, all Alaskans are "owners".

By direct implication, as holder of an Alaskan state driver's license, that makes me an owner.

The whole owner thing strikes a chord with me. Any deals done with the oil companies benefit the owners. In Alaska we don't have a state income tax. We have what amounts to a reverse state income tax. That is, we get money from the state every year for living here. Most of that money comes from the oil companies who pull crude from out of the earth under Alaska.

As far as most Alaskans are concerned, oil companies are good. Yes, we can sometimes fault them for the occasional environmental disaster or price gouging, but when that check shows up every year, all sins are forgiven.

In fact, all the gubernatorial candidates had one plank in common in their platform: build a new pipeline. All Alaskans want a new pipeline from the north slope to the south. This pipeline will be for natural gas. One use of the pipeline will be to provide natural gas to the drilling sites. Another use will be to provide natural gas to homes in Alaska. Most Alaskan towns have no natural gas service. A pipeline would change that.

And we'd get more money in our reverse tax checks, which makes it all ok.

So, while you in the lower 48 complain about drilling in the ANWAR and the impact to the natural wilderness, we in Alaska thank you for your concern and politely ask you to butt the hell out. New pipes are good. We have plenty of moose and caribou. What we need is more access to satellite TV and bowling alleys.

There's a tremendous dearth of bowling in Alaska, but that's another story.

Being a Republican or Democrat in Alaska doesn't mean the same thing it means in America.

For instance, being a Democrat means you support a constitutional amendment to allow native Alaskan tribes to hunt caribou, bears, elk, dolphins, seals, and whales out of season. Being Republican means you think the native Alaskans should have to go get the same fishing license everyone else has to get to harpoon whales for blubber and baleen for the winter.

In Alaska, Democrats support stem cell research, and Republicans point out there is no stem cell research in Alaska but if there was they'd be against it.

In Alaska Republicans favor reducing state congressional sessions to 90 days from 120 days because it saves the taxpayers a lot of money. Democrats favor reducing the session time because nothing gets done until the last two weeks, anyway.

In Alaska, Democrats support gun ownership and Republicans think it's ridiculous to go outside in bear country with anything less than a 12 gauge slug gun. Republicans think the gas pipeline should be built and Democrats are angry it isn't being built yet. Everyone wishes the Libertarians would stop bringing up water fluoridation as a major government conspiracy. It's so 1950's and makes everyone think we're out of touch up here.

I'm really good at avoiding things, as you can see.

Yesterday the city counsel struck down water fluoridation. They will no longer fluoridate water in Juneau, because vocal adults do not want to be "dosed" by the municipal government. There's a conspiracy, you see, to dose people with calcium or sodium fluoride who can gain no benefit from it.

Only children can benefit from water fluoridation, and as they cannot vote, the fact is irrelevant that water has been fluoridated in the United States for decades with proven effectiveness in children and harmlessness to adults.

Sometimes, the quaint craziness of Alaskans takes on a self-destructive aire.

I don't have a home. I've gone from thirty years of house ownership and having a warm fire and dinner on the table and the pitter-patter of tiny feet to owning nothing. My family was detonated in a controlled explosion.

I have accepted a good-paying, important position with a major U.S. company. I am abandoning, if only temporarily, this somewhat idyllic life in Alaska. Though, to be honest, as much as I like it here I have not found my stride.

I do not yet belong here, as at the moment, I feel I belong nowhere. Every place I go is a temporary stepping stone to some other place that I would like to call home, but have no guarantees I can.

I keep getting older.

I will start again. I will rebuild in the time I have left. There is a conspiracy. It has to do with love. In the end, all conspiracies have to do with love and I still have a lot of love to give.

Landmarks and Land Mines

It is a bit of a cliche to say it perhaps, but this year has roared past at a clip that nearly baffles the imagination. As we get into the cooler months (even here in the Lone Star state, believe it or not), I stop to reflect on the many anniversaries that the end of the year brings.

Six of my closest friends celebrate birthdays between the beginning of September and the end of the year. One of them is a man I have known for about 27 years—I have seen him change from a goofy boy to a confident and poised person in that time. Another dear friend, Suzanne, recently pointed out that Halloween was our 18th anniversary—eighteen years since I met this cool, teenaged lesbian at a costume party and found a friend for life. Tempis fugit, baby!

The end of December will make it a year since I started with Massage Envy in Frisco, Texas. It was weird at first, but it has brought me a great deal of success, professionally and personally, and I have grown in my chosen career field.

Two years ago, on Halloween, I started my life as a noder, after reading this site for several years. Two nodermeets, 125 (or so) posted writeups, a few fights, four quests (five?), chances to help out numerous newbies, a couple chances to help out some of the old-timers (sometimes with writing, sometimes in other ways), and a heck of a lot of hard and rewarding work—it has been a great ride so far. Here is to the next two years!

A more somber landmark—two years ago in September, my mother's 76-year earth walk came to an end in her tidy little home in rural Texas. Her life long addiction to cigarettes, in addition to a few less-voluntary abuses, led her to a long, expensive stay in the hospital. She finally got her wish and left the medical centre in Abilene, returning to her cozy house in the little town of Early, where I held her hand and talked to her while she tried to breathe comfortably. A day later, I got the call, awakening me from uneasy dreams at four in the morning. Sometimes I miss her still.

Three years ago, in October, my darling friend DL was diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment—it was a hard ride. We cheered her on, held her hands, I gave her massages and we did all we could to keep her spirits up. This year, cancer-free, she participated in the local 60-mile, three day Walk for the Cure. The symbolism is hard to resist ... she's gone a long way!

Ten years ago, November second, two days after his 91st birthday, my father shuffled off this mortal coil. We knew he could hardly live forever, but it somehow always seemed like he would. At that age, things have a way of shutting down, and once they started, it was a cascading effect. Life without him was hard at first, and sometimes I still see his face in my mirror.

They call 25 years the silver anniversary. Third of December, 1981, a couple of high school kids snuck out to see An American Werewolf in London. Fourth of December she got grounded for nine weeks for that! A quarter of a century has brought us some good times and some bad ones. I can't afford to buy her silver, but I know (for a fact) that's she'd rather have a nice dinner and a Sluggy Freelance book anyway! Maybe we'll rent An American Werewolf in London.

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