Monday, December 31, 2007

Kazoo Kachoo

Don't ask me why, but as I was laying in bed this morning thinking about the things I planned to do on New Year's Eve day, all of a sudden I started thinking about kazoos. How something so obscure would do a firecracker in my mind is beyond me. Mind quirk.

It's like a catchy tune that stays with you... thoughts and memories of the kazoo have continued to pop up at odd times as I've had my hot tea (2 cup morning, may have a third), eaten breakfast, cleaned up, updated web sites...

So, now I'm going to try and exorcise the returning thoughts on kazoos from my mind by writing about them and maybe it'll nag someone else and leave me alone!

Kazoos were big when I was in my early teens. I didn't know why at the time, it was just one of those crazy fads that comes and goes. Everyone it seemed had a kazoo.

I took a look on the Internet and was really surprised to find out how pervasive kazoos were and are. I rarely hear about them, or hear them, anymore.

Did you know that Jimi Hendrix used one in one of the songs on his Electric Lady album? Maybe that's what started the craze, although that album was out in 1968 and it seems the bid fad I'm thinking about was later than that. Maybe not.

Probably it was the Beatles who made them so huge. They used them in two songs on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Who knew?

Pink Floyd, The Cure, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Kinks are some other bands that have buzzed on their kazoo in some well-known songs.

Another thing I didn't know about the kazoo is that the modern version we tingled our lips with was invented in Macon, Georgia. A guy named Alabama Vest created it in the 19th century. The first one was manufactured in that same town.

The kazoo is in the "mirliton" family, a group of instruments characterized by having a vibrating membrane.

Just discovered that January 28th is National Kazoo Day! I may have to see if I can find a kazoo before then!

If you want to know more about the kazoo, here's a site with more info:

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lots of good people and good things still left in this world!

Another neat story below that shows the better side of human nature.

Short version: A woman lost a treasured ring, someone found it when biting into some fudge she'd made and sold. They returned it.

Happy endings do happen. I'm sure the person who bit into the fudge is happy they didn't crack a tooth, too!

I bet that's the last time the fudge lady wears a ring with that much sentimental value while cooking!

There are those who might have kept the ring, thought about pawning it or having the diamond re-set into another ring or necklace. I think most of us would have made an attempt to find the owner.

I remember a number of years ago losing a diamond earring. I really loved those earrings even though they weren't ultra-expensive. They were my first diamond earrings so they had some meaning. They were a gift, not something I would normally purchase for myself.

I looked for weeks and weeks in all kinds of odd places and finally gave up.

Later in the year, can't tell you how much time had gone by, I had to stay with my grandmother for some reason. I spent the night in the guest room as I always did. I got up the following morning, stepped to the shower, then reached over to turn it on. I just happened to look down for some reason, not something you normally do when focusing on turning on the shower. There, right on the edge of the drain, sat my earring. If I'd turned the water on the earring would have gone into the drain before I could grab it, if I'd even noticed it.

Thank goodness no one had spent the night since the last time I had done so.

The fudge lady and I both thought we'd lost something of importance. Both of us found our piece of jewelry by happenstance. The big difference (aside from the cost and sentimental value) was the return of her ring involved the goodness of other people. Here's the story, it's short:

Man Finds Fudge Maker's Lost Diamond Ring Inside Candy
LAFAYETTE, Indiana — A woman whose diamond ring vanished while she was making fudge for a bake sale was despondent after scouring her home and finding no sign of it.
But Linda Vancel recently got a sweet surprise: A relative of the woman who bought the fudge found the ring when he bit into a piece of the candy.,2933,319000,00.html

United States, Canada and Mexico Agree to Mutual Assistance

This is a release I just came across, was from back in November. I'm not gonna comment on it 'cause I'll just get myself in trouble. Ha, I guess just saying that could get me in trouble!!!

United States, Canada and Mexico Agree to Mutual Assistance
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Ministry of Health of the United Mexican States today agreed to strengthen cross-border coordination and cooperation in the surveillance, prevention, and control of infectious diseases for the protection of the health, well-being, and quality of life of their peoples.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, Canadian Minister of Health Tony Clement, and Mexican Secretary of Health José Ángel Córdova Villalobos, commits the three countries to assist one another during a public health emergency, whenever possible, and sets forth examples of the types of aid the three countries may provide to and accept from one another during a public health emergency.

"The health of our three nations relies upon our cooperation with and assistance to each other in times of need," Secretary Leavitt said. "As North American neighbors, we owe it to our citizens to work together whenever possible to minimize the spread and impact of an infectious disease outbreak or other public health emergency that may affect our nations."

"International collaboration is important in protecting the health security of our citizens, and those of the international community," Minister Clement said. "Threats to public health and safety transcend borders and this agreement represents a meaningful step forward in improving our nations' readiness to deal with these threats."

"The signing of this memorandum reflects a true cooperative intention from our nations to join forces during exceptional public health emergencies of international concern, and may be used as a model for other countries and regions of the world," said Secretary Córdova Villalobos. "In working together to consolidate this effort, I am sure that we will find numerous opportunities to keep growing together as a region."

As outlined in the MOU, all three countries agree to cooperate to improve their public health emergency preparedness and response efforts in activities such as border health, laboratory testing, diagnosis and treatment, epidemiological investigation, and the control of infectious diseases. The MOU also commits all three countries to strengthen their operating procedures and processes for the sharing of laboratory information before and during an emergency; to continue the technical review and the sharing of assay methods, reagents and laboratory results; and to participate in trilateral or bilateral exercises to assess and strengthen public health emergency response plans.

In addition the agreement directs all three countries to develop and implement protocols to share:

Health care and public health personnel;

Medical products approved by each country's relevant regulatory agency and contained within each country's National Stockpile ("Medical Products");

Non-pharmaceutical supplies and goods not regulated by a country's relevant regulatory agency, but contained within the country's National Stockpile ("Supplies and Goods"); and
Sharing specimens and reagents with each country's national reference laboratories (as well as with relevant international health bodies).

Saturday, December 29, 2007

James Brown Memory

A few years back a group of us were in Augusta for a convention. One night we hit a local bar and restaurant on the river for dinner. We hadn't been there long before James Brown and his entourage dropped in. We didn't know it was one of the places he liked to frequent, but we soon learned he was somewhat of a regular.

It was interesting talking with him for a few minutes. If I hadn't been at the right time at the right place that little tiny exchange wouldn't have happened. Can't tell you the name of the restaurant 'cause I don't remember, can't tell you what I said to him 'cause it was no more than typical surface talk that you have with someone you don't know.

What is interesting is how when paths cross, no matter how lightly, some sort of connection is formed. I payed attention to new articles and was saddened to hear of his death. He was so alive it was hard to imagine a world without him.

Now I find that I click on stories about all the hoopla that continues to occur after his death.

Five of his children are contesting his will. It's a family brawl that I imagine will leave scars that will never heal.

Money has a way of tearing people apart. Brothers and sisters who have shared their closest confidences become bitter enemies when a parent dies and things have to be split.

Brown left a large portion of his estate to charity. Commendable. He also took care of his grandkids. Again, commendable. I would assume he felt his older children were capable of standing on their own two feet, taking care of themselves. Obviously, they disagree.

While he definitely didn't lead a perfect life by any stretch of the imagination, most of us will remember Brown for his antics, his enthusiasm, his music. I think it's time for me to stop reading articles about James Brown and let the memories of his music be what I think about when I hear his name.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Chickens of the World, Unite!!!

You have to wonder how much money they spent on the study referred to below... and who paid for it! The members of United Egg Producers must be really concerned about free range hens. The popularity of free range eggs has ta be cuttin' into their profits somehow or they wouldn't have commissioned a study or felt it worth a press release.

I'm one who buys free range eggs. I just like the idea that the hens are doing what's natural. I want them to peck on dirt, to chip at rocks, have beaks, run around outside or do whatever it is that chickens do when they're in the wild.

I read sometime ago that "free range" doesn't mean what it seems to mean. According to the info I read, technically the label can be used even if the chickens are only let out to roam for an hour or two or some set time. The rest of the time they can be in cages. I hope that's not true.

I know "they" (there's that elusive, pervasive, always-to-be-blamed "they" again) remove the beaks from the birds when they're crammed into small spaces. I don't know if all companies do that or if it's just done under certain circumstances. It's been a long time since I did any reading on chickens and egg laying. Somehow I always seem to have other tasks that crowd that one out...

Not sure if they get to keep their beaks if they're free range. Can you tell I'm not sure about much of anything when it comes to chickens... I hate the idea of torturing any animal. I'm not totally adverse to eating their by-products (eggs, milk, cheese).

When it comes to eggs, my main concern is the hormones and antibiotics that are prevalent in meats, poultry and pork. And probably many other foods we eat. That's a subject that deserves more attention than a single paragraph or even a single blog. Maybe someday I'll tackle it.

While reading the press release, I kept getting a giggle from the title "United Egg Producers." Somehow I don't think the chickens have united! Although, a poultry union sounds like it would be loads of fun... Chickens of the world unite, save your beaks, free worms for all!

Here's the article that sparked this ramble:

United Egg Producers: Are Free Range Birds Happier? Maybe Not!

ATLANTA, Dec. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Animal rights activists have long alleged that hens in modern cages live a horribly stressed life, but new research appears to debunk those claims. Researchers have discovered that free range hens experience just as much or more stress than hens raised in modern, conventional cages.

A recent study conducted by Dr. Jeff Downing at University of Sydney measured corticosterone, a hormone produced in response to stress or fear, in eggs from free range and modern caged hens. The study showed that the levels of the hormone were similar in both types of eggs.
Free range hens deal with pressures that hens in modern cages do not, researchers explained. For instance, hens in modern cages are protected from outside predators, while free range hens are not. "They are constantly in fear of attack by predators," said Downing. "A shadow (a bird flying overhead) comes over and they are completely startled."

Hens in modern cages also are protected from many of the manure-borne diseases and parasites that affect free range hens. And hens in modern cages are protected from extreme weather which adds stress to free range hens which are not protected. Modern cages also help prevent infection and spread of the avian influenza virus which can affect wild birds and outdoor flocks of hens. Free range eggs can cost up to three times as much as conventional eggs.

"This study confirms what America's egg farmers already knew," said Gene Gregory, president of the United Egg Producers, the nation's leading trade association for U.S. family egg farmers. "That well-run, clean modern cage housing systems have many benefits for hens as well as consumers." Separate research studies also show that hens raised in conventional cages tend to have fewer diseases and live longer, Gregory added.

Modern egg production under the UEP Certified animal welfare program provides hens with nutritious food, clean water, fresh air and sufficient space to allow hens to stand, turn around, lie down, stretch and preen. Farms are inspected annually to ensure compliance. Consumers should look for the UEP Certified logo on cartons from participating farmers. For more information visit,

UEP developed the UEP Certified program for modern egg production from scientific guidelines established by an independent advisory committee of top animal welfare experts in the U.S.
Source: United Egg Producers

It pays to be nice...

I love it when I hear a story about someone being rewarded for doing something good or for just being a good person. Life isn't always fair. OK, it's rarely fair, but I haven't found the place where we were promised it would be yet.

Here's a feel-good story of sorts. A waitress in Texas had a cranky customer she waited on in a local restaurant for around seven years. She says the 89-year old was rather mean. She smiled and catered to his wishes. The World War II vet died in July.

Right before Christmas Melina Salazar found out that Walter "Buck" Swords had left her $50,000 and a 2000 Buick.

Not a bad tip for waiting on him off and one. The article didn't say whether he was a decent tipper or if he stiffed her when he ate at the restaurant.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Day After Christmas Twofer... Striking Amazon off the list...

You get a two-fer today. I have a number of blogs, a few that are posted on the Fayette Front Page and the Georgia Front Page. All of my blogs are going to be about shopping on-line with Amazon. I rarely get irritated. There are few things in life that are worth raising your blood pressure over.

I'm irritated.

If it were solely about me, if something I ordered for myself came in late, I'd give it a rest.

This is about two grandchildren who didn't get their Christmas present 'cause Amazon goofed. Can you imagine being 5 years old and 11 years old, watching others open their presents while you had none? From your grandparents much less?

We called when we received a partial shipment from Amazon on the 20th. Waited until the 22nd to call. Got some snippy guy who said all was well, we were worrying for nothing, they were receiving a lot of calls and our shipment would arrive in time for Christmas.

Well, it's the day after Christmas, the kids have come and gone, and we still don't have the presents.

I sent an email complaining (rather nicely, maybe too nicely). Twelve hours later I got a response. Nothing about their snooty customer service, just an apology for delaying the shipment. Guess what? It's coming on the 28th. That's two weeks after we ordered it.

If they'd sent an email and said oops, we're having to back order, we're delayed, etc. I'd have cancelled the order and been able to get to the store to find a gift for the kids to unwrap. Nope, they said it's definitely going to be here before Christmas, don't get excited like all these other people.

The guy didn't even bother to check to see if there was a delay, a problem.

I won't be shopping Amazon anymore. I'll pay more somewhere else rather taking a chance on poor service and disappointed children. They did say that when the order arrived we could return it for a full refund. Whoop-te-doo. What good will that do? We've already told the kids what to expect. Now of course, it's going to cost us money to ship it to them or drive it up. If we want to see their faces as they open their gifts, we'll have to take a trip. I never mind, in fact I love, visiting. However, it's going to be sometime in January before we can travel as the reason we ordered on-line was my husband's surgery.

I realize I'm ranting. But this blog is mine to ramble. The other's will be a little more purposeful and direct.

Amazon stinks. Their response to the problem was slow, didn't address the problem and certainly didn't do anything to make me feel more inclined to shop with them again. My daughter-in-law (the children's parent) has been a heavy shopper at Amazon. Two shoppers down and I bet I can influence a few more in my extremely large extended family.

Anyone asking my advice on shopping on-line will be steered toward any company other than Amazon. I worked in Customer Service for quite some number of years, both in the ranks and in management. Guess what? I know how to handle unhappy customers. I know how much damage one unhappy customer can do. I tried to be decent because I have been on the receiving end in the past. Didn't work. From personal experience, I can tell you that Amazon doesn't get top marks by any means on taking care of unhappy customers. I guess I should have YELLED.

Double Blob Blog

We had a double Blob Christmas this year. Somehow toward the end of the day, after stuffing our faces and filling a couple of bags with torn wrapping paper, we ended up in front of the boob tube watching movies.

We started out with one of my old favorites, Gods Must Be Crazy and ended with two Blobs. First the old 1958 version with Steve McQueen (then known as Steven) then we succumbed to watching the 1988 version.

Bad dialogue, bad acting, bad effects, bad everything... Aren't old movies great? The remakes usually stink, and the Blob remake definitely reeked. Both movies could have been one page short stories and a ten minute movie-short easily.

Regarding the plot for the remake: I couldn't help but picture a group of people at a party, high on something, sitting around coming up with wild ways to jazz up the original story. The '58 version is probably 90% dialogue. They couldn't do that in '88, they had to have something to grab attention. They completely changed the blob's origins (not that the first one really ever speculated much in that area).

This time somehow we created it and it escaped (or was set free) and flung from the sky to the earth inside a meteor. It was faster, meaner, and managed to leave behind body parts, tremendously upping the gory factor. The blob had tentacles, which in my mind takes away some of the blob factor. I rather liked the '58 version where it just absorbed everything instead of being picky about which body parts it chose to eat. The acid was harder to believe in some ways. If it was that corrosive then it should have just eaten through walls rather than having to slip, slide and slink through corridors and shafts.

There were evil scientists / military, bad guys turning good (Matt Dillon's little brother was an environmental disgrace, throwing cans into the wilderness!). Good guys dying, snotty nurses, girls flirting with guys, the list of cliches and stereotypes is too long to capture in one short double blob blog...

Neither movies has any redeeming qualities other than yuk-value. They also both capture the idea the producers and directors had of life during those times. Great time capsules, whether there's any modicum of the true reality of life during the late 50's and late 80's is another story. I certainly remember the 80's a little differently (even without the evil Blob).

I highly recommend watching both movies. Be sure to watch the old one first. Don't watch them alone, you must have someone to laugh with, the more the merrier.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Price Tag Pet Peeves

Pesky price tags. How much time have you wasted trying to get price tags off gifts? They were designed by evil elves.

There's the tag that is stuck on with crazy glue. No matter what you do, you can't get it off the item. Vinegar or alcohol may take some of the gummy residue, but who wants to go through that stinky process? Soapy water, sometimes. It takes forever to get the main part off just to get to the gummy gook they used to hot glue it on with.

And the price tags that come off fairly easy... in a million little slivers. They're designed to thwart those who like to switch price tags in the store. With great success I would imagine. However, they thwart all but the most adept at home, too. It seems that with bar code technology that we wouldn't need price tags. However, it takes time for a store clerk to run back to verify a price on the shelf... because if I understand correctly, if it IS marked with the wrong price on the shelf (or all of the products), they must give it to you for that price. That could be just a store policy rather than a "law" but either way, I can see the store's side.

I can understand, too, why they can't just go to a straight bar code system. I want to know how much an item is when I'm shopping and I don't come equipped with a bar code reader...

The last of my price tag pet peeves? The ones that are part of the package. There's no removing them and who wants to give a gift that shows how much you spent? Well, there are times you might not mind. For instance, if you got the item on sale you might want someone to think you spent the price on the package. My Mom used to always "forget" to take the price tags off gifts she gave. She wanted to make sure we all knew the value of the gift so we'd appreciate it. Didn't work, but it did give us something to laugh about as we were growing up. Kind of an added bonus to look for the price tag and snicker with the siblings! She stopped as we got older. Another Christmas tradition down the drain.

I think only the value stores do the permanent price printing on the packages. What's fun is when they put them on sale so then you have the added bonus of a price tag that either splits into a million pieces or one that leaves gummy residue on the package. Bargain shoppers nightmare.

There has to be a better way.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A better way to give?

Working on the Fayette Front Page and the Georgia Front page I see a large, large number of releases and stories about all the good things people are doing in the world. Turn on the television, especially at this time of year, and you're bound to see a commercial or a story for or about a charity.

I hear huge dollar amounts tossed out. Millions are donated to feed the homeless, cure a disease, right a wrong.

So how come we're not making a dent in things? We're tossing zillions of dollars toward research. Zillions of dollars to rebuild homes. Zillions of dollars to feed people across the world.

Off and on I think about the industry of helping others. It's a huge business. HUGE.

It's not always a business that is a good steward of our donated dollars and time. I remember visiting the Atlanta office a very well known organization fighting a deadly disease. I should be so lucky to sit in an office of similar opulence.

Think about all of the people who make their living fighting diseases. We have managers, vice presidents, presidents, staff workers, accountants, doctors, scientists and untold numbers who would be jobless if they found a cure for the disease they're trying to eradicate. Do away with those who are now in poverty and we'd create a whole new group of out-of-work poverty fighters on the dole because they no longer had a job (no matter how minuscule the pay they're currently getting).

Now, I'm not saying that the people aren't working diligently to cure whatever disease they're fighting. There are many very dedicated individuals out there who would love to lose their job if it meant success.

However, the fighting poverty, fighting disease industry is huge. I remember when there was a big scandal of sorts some years back where charities were attacked for having such huge operating costs. Now everyone is proud to show that ten percent or some small percent is going to operating costs.

Call me skeptical, call me scrooge, but I find it difficult to see all the high dollar amounts going to various organizations and not see any major strides in fighting poverty or illnesses. I'm also smart enough to know that books can be cooked and operating costs can be downplayed by moving things into a different column. Not saying there are any shenanigans going on, just noting that it's possible.

I see our local charities and I can feel the dedication, I can see them helping individuals. I see their crowded offices and know that in many, many cases the space is donated by a local business person. I know they work for meager salaries. I see the impact they make in people's lives. I volunteer, donate, help raise money and know it's going to a good cause and being used wisely.

Take it a step higher and I start to lose a bit of faith. I still help when I can. I donate when possible, help raise money, give of my time. Wondering about something I can't know doesn't stop me from wanting to do whatever I can to stop cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, etc.

But I wonder if there's not a better way sometimes.

Funny. As I was typing this the Georgia Front Page phone rang. I picked it up. It was a charity (calling from Florida) wanting us to make a donation. Great timing...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Toilet Paper Weddings and Heart Warming Stories...

Toilet Paper Bride Update

Flipped on Fox News this morning as I was getting ready for work. There was the blushing toilet paper bride, all dressed in white paper, standing in a bathroom with her new husband. He didn't wear toilet paper. Someone flushed a toilet, not sure if it truly flushed or Fox just had the sound affect.

I guess the one advantage of having a toilet paper dress is that it's easy to get out of it. Hope it wasn't raining in New York...

Another story on Fox this morning...

An adopted son in Michigan went searching for his birth mom. He found her name, mentioned it to his boss at Lowes. The boss said there was a woman with the same name working at the store, head cashier. Turns out it was his mom and they'd been working at the same Lowes.

The pair are going to be on Fox News tomorrow morning. What are the chances that you'd search the world over and find your true mom one aisle over? Might be worth trying to catch that one on the tube Friday morning. Although, in today's media, it'll probably be plastered all over before the end of the day. It's Christmas and everyone likes a good sappy story at this time of year (well, everyone but Grinches).

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful, warm, love-filled Christmas holiday.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

We in America are just nuts

We have too much time on our hands. We've topped the Maslow's heirarchy chart and we're standing on our tip toes reaching for ridiculous.

What set me off this morning? A couple in Lexington, Kentucky are getting married in a bathroom. The bride is going to be dressed in toilet paper.

Yep, too many people sitting around in a room trying to come up with the outrageous.

They "won" a contest sponsored by The dress was designed by Hanah Kim (is she a famous designer? I'm not in the know on that one). Charmin is opening their New York bathroom for free use in honor of the wedding. Great advertising for all involved. And I learned something new... I didn't know that Charmin HAD public bathrooms in New York. Been a while since I visited.

I have to admit, I'm just nutty enough to be someone who'd have probably gotten a kick out of getting married in a bathroom in Times Square dressed in toilet paper way back when. Today, I'm a little more sedate, I wouldn't want the bathroom, but certainly wouldn't want to stand outside in the rain or strong wind either.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

FCC Allows Broadcasters to Own Newspapers

The FCC voted 3-2 today to overturn a longstanding ban and will now allow broadcasters in the nation's 20 largest media markets to also own a newspaper.

This could get interesting.

Do you remember when it was a huge stink to have mega-companies, monopolies?

It seems the every swinging pendulum is hanging in the opposite direction at the moment.

In reading about the move, it seems that pretty much everyone was against the switch. Both sides of the political spectrum, Dem and Rep, didn't want the change.

They made another move which is going to have an impact on Comcast... they voted to cap the size of any cable company at 30% of the nationwide market. Comcast is bumping up against that 30% already.

That was another 3 - 2 vote, but it wasn't the same three-two as the broadcast / newspaper vote.

Santa's mail...

I was just reading a short article on mail going to Santa. The "Universal Postal Union" is expecting Santa to receive more mail this year than last. In 2006 the number of letters sent to Santa topped six million! That's a lot of mail.

In Canada Santa has his own zip code.

Unfortunately, not all of the letters are children asking Santa for a much wanted toy. Many are children with serious needs. They ask for food, underwear, toothpaste and sometimes a roof over their head. Sometimes it's parents in dire straits hoping for help in providing the basics for their children.

Across the world postal workers stand in as Santa. They adopt families or children with verifiable needs and they get others to adopt these families.

I think it's admirable that the postal workers, and the many, many businesses and individuals who heed their plea for help, reach out to do something special for others at this time of year.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

U.S. Troops Help Renovate Iraqi Clinic

Every day I see how great our soldiers are! Tales of sharing, giving, reaching out to people across the world. Our soldiers are the kids next door. They're the Boy Scouts, the straight A students who volunteered to clean up the shut-ins yard, they're the ones who went on church missions to build homes in Mexico, they're the ones who held the door open for the lady carrying heavy bags and offered to help. They are the children we raised to do the right thing. We took care of them for years, raising them right, and now they're off trying to take care of us.

Here's another story about something good our soldiers are doing:

Soldiers and leaders of 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 11 to open a health clinic in Wahida, Iraq.

Four months ago, city council members came to the regiment's leaders with concerns about the existing clinic's lack of space and equipment, said Army Capt. Matthew Givens, from Columbus, Ga., the battalion's non-lethal effects officer.

Council members and soldiers decided to renovate the existing building by adding more examination rooms, an emergency room and an upstairs apartment for the doctors with two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom.

"This clinic gives the doctors a lot more to work with, and they will be able to treat more patients," Givens said. "With the upstairs apartment, doctors can stay overnight. Before, the doctors would have to come from Baghdad early, then leave and go back to Baghdad that same night."

Wahida has no hospital, Givens said. The new clinic will serve as the city's primary medical facility. It has enough room to bed patients overnight instead of treating them and sending them home.

"The clinic is going to be helpful to the Wahida citizens," Dr. Taher Awaed, the clinic's director, said through an interpreter. "The clinic is good. However, with a few more pieces of equipment, it will be perfect. But everyone is very grateful."

Givens said more equipment, including an X-ray machine, is on the way.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, doctors and medics from 203rd Brigade Support Battalion and 489th Civil Affairs Battalion, a reserve unit from Knoxville, Tenn., attached to 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, held a free medical operation.

Soldiers used four of the new health clinic rooms to treat men, women and children from all over the city. Patients came to the medical staff with ailments ranging from the common cold to blood pressure problems.

"This is a way for me to give back to humanity," said Army Capt. Aaron Wilson, from Watertown, N.Y., battalion surgeon with 203rd Base Support Battalion.

When patients were ready to be seen, they explained their medical issues through an interpreter to a physician or medic from 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team.

"Going through the translator is tough," said Sgt. 1st Class Wayne Pack, from Knoxville, Tenn., a medic in the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion. "You have to concentrate. You can't lose focus. After the conversation is translated, I sometimes wonder if I'm getting the full story. I enjoy it, though. We get to see a lot of sick people, and that's what we do. Most of these people don't have a lot of money. If we didn't do this, they wouldn't be getting any medical attention at all."

Awaed and Wilson agreed the villagers appreciated the free medical treatment.

"I can see it in their eyes," Awaed said through an interpreter. "They are very thankful for the coalition forces for their help. Together, we just try to help as many people as we can."

"Everyone I saw was so grateful," Wilson said. "They all smiled and said, 'thank you'. I just wish I could do more."

(Army Sgt. Natalie Rostek is assigned to 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs.)

Friday, December 14, 2007

So lame...

I have been so bad. How many times have I said that? So many things to do, so little time to write. And I love to write.

Wouldn't know it by the infrequency of my blog posts this year!

Did anyone watch the Iowa candidate debates? I still haven't figured out how that woman who moderated, controlled, decided on the questions, controlled, was chosen. One moderator? She gets to make the rules?

How'd they decide to put Keyes on the Republican side but ditch two contenders who've been included in all other debates on the Democratic side? Was it because Keyes was going to go after Republicans? And on the Dem side the gestapo queen wanted smoother sailing?

It was interesting to watch. Unfortunately, it was only interesting because the moderator was such a puzzle. She didn't allow the candidates the freedom they needed to show their personalities or to really share any pertinent info.

Ah well. At least this go around there are more opportunities to see the candidates. In the past they just kind of popped out to the world already annointed.