Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Facts and Figures

Facts and Figures

Statistics are not something I usually worry about. But with this Covid-19 crisis going on there are pages and pages of numbers and graphs and models being shown all over the place; internet news sources, social media pages, newspapers, regular network TV and cable TV. I’ve even seen cartoons alluding to facts and figures. And I guess it’s good that all this information is so readily available. However, given the American tendency to argue about everything, I wonder if there’s any value in spreading all these numbers around. It’s especially worrisome if there are conflicts in various sets of research results or predictions based on different extrapolated models. (Extrapolated models – two words I’ve never used and barely understand)

We Americans like to think we’re pretty smart. And, to borrow a phrase I saw in an article yesterday, we think because we’ve attended the University of Google we know lots and lots of stuff about nearly everything. Supposedly, according to Google, we’re the best-informed population to ever squat in any place on this planet. A friend of mine recently posted a longish article describing what real research looks like. It was all I could do to finish the thing. But I did, and I decided then and there that I would stick to a more pedestrian layman’s form of research. Real research is hard work. Checking multiple sources, finding original sources, weighting the bias in a source, looking up words to see if they mean what they seem to mean, reading footnotes (who the hell reads those things?) constitute hard mental labor.

So, I skim the news, pay close attention to visual aids, read columns from really smart people who get the information down to my non-expert level while throwing in some good jokes, and then formulate my opinions (also known as brilliant observations) from all of that. Then I run my mouth as if I’ve done months and months of research. Just kidding.

And that brings me back to data analysis. The Corona Virus numbers are confusing. Depending on the source, we are either headed for complete extinction or we’re well on our way to beating the pants off this thing. Just figuring out how each study arrives at the little lines on the graph is a daunting task. Some studies include something they call “unreported cases” or “suspected cases.” Apparently, they use some fancy algorithm (what the heck is an algorithm, by the way?) to get the numbers of these cases. This is what statisticians do. They make informed guesses. Which is suspiciously like weather forecasters, and we know how often they’re right. But the actual facts in their charts and graphs don’t always match up with each other. A lot of people have been killed by this virus. But some people doing the counting are saying a person died from the virus even if that person already was very sick from lung cancer or heart disease or some other awful ailment. And some of those who died “from the virus” were never actually tested because tests were not available at the time.

All of this doesn’t matter. People are getting sick. Some people are getting very, very sick. And some people are dying. This is not unlike the flu. But the official line is that it is not like the flu. This virus is much more virulent; we don’t know enough about it, it spreads faster, it affects more parts of the body, good treatments are not available, there is no vaccine. And here’s one of the “brilliant observations” I mentioned earlier: arguing about whether it’s like the flu or not is just kind of silly. Let the medical people figure that out. And let the medical people figure out the best treatments and let them create a vaccine in due time. If I’m sitting here on the River arguing on line with a very kind poet lady from Petaluma, CA about whether the University of Sacramento’s study on hot spots is better than the University of Michigan’s, I’m doing nothing good at all. We should be talking about what a fine poem she just wrote. We can commiserate on the terrible nature of this disease. We can offer sympathy to each other for the personal losses we have experienced during this crisis or others. We can even offer each other suggestions on how to deal with the loneliness of quarantine. But arguing about statistics won’t help either of us and our arguments very well could be based on opinions derived from lack of expertise.

I know a couple of people who are actually doing the hard research. They study the studies, they read the deep journals, they compare, check sources, understand science and know how to apply filters to all this information. And they are very cautious when they speak on what they’ve learned. They also don’t argue with angry voices. One of my friends has done a whole lot of research and he has also listened to nearly every briefing put out by the White House, the CDC, several state Governors, FEMA and even the Public Health Agency in Canada. He told me, quietly, that it would be better to listen only to the people directly involved in the sciences of epidemiology, virology, internal medicine and general health care. He advised me to stay away from politicians and the politically motivated, pollsters, commercial news sources and statisticians. Another friend out in California (which seems to be a test lab for societal problems) also watches daily briefings and pays close attention to the numbers, pointing out discrepancy after discrepancy in an excellent, near daily recap. He’s a calm and reasonable fellow but his increasing frustration reflects the chaos he observes.   

And, of course, don’t look for much good, solid information on social media. For every accurate, reasonable, fact-checked piece on Facebook you’ll find hundreds of bits of foolishness and fantasy. Social media is fine for many entertaining things but it’s not the place to learn science and medicine. Enjoy the funny skits, excellent musical postings and friendly banter from relatives and acquaintances. Just don’t rely on social media for answers to important questions.

I need to bring in some more firewood for the wood stove now. And I think I’ll read some poetry. A friend sent me a volume of James Wright’s work and that will require enough concentration to effectively distract me from all this statistical business. Hope you all have a fine day in your varying degrees of isolation.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Some Thoughts on Pandemic Panic

Some Thoughts on Pandemic Panic
By Jim Bourey

Pandemic panic still moves on like an out of control stagecoach in an old western movie. Naively, I thought it would subside after a week or so. The medical response folks were cranking things up with people making plans, assessing their supply situation, asking for help from the government. At first it seemed like people in high places were going to make a quick response to the needs. But political squabbling got in the way and it took the better part of a month to get that aid package done. Meanwhile, some parts of the government did what they could and, if we do a little research, we can see that it was considerable. Some of my friends have done the research. They have checked in medical news sources. They checked with the data collectors – including those who are independent. They checked with world-wide health organizations. And the findings are (not reported in our more hysteria driven media) that we are meeting the challenge here in the US.

But the panic continues. Food supplies are still good except for a few odd sections of the supermarkets. Shortages can mostly be blamed on continued hoarding during this alert status. Truckers are out doing their jobs. Food production folks are working. Farmers are working. Essential service people are doing their essential things. And thank goodness for all those terrific health care people who are still treating things like heart disease, cancer and most everything else while they battle this flu-like attack. Fire companies, police departments and the military are all geared up to provide protection and support where it is needed. Even the media, in all it’s doom-saying glory, is out there freely disseminating a huge amount of information twenty-four hours a day. And let’s not forget the entertainment sector as it fills screens across the land. We could be in a TV and game playing stupor all the time if we chose to. And yes, some do choose that option.

We know all of these things. Yet folks are still in a panic. Some politicians seem to work pretty hard at driving the feeling. I’m not accusing them of doing it nefariously but there aren’t many voices of reason being heard. Top directing officials make plans, announce them, provide data backing their decisions and recommendations then get hammered within minutes with a barrage of disparaging, contentious comments and tweets and “special reports.” It would seem that there is no inclination to wait and see if they’re right. Nope. Self-appointed “experts” start shouting before the last syllables are out of the mouths of people who are actually doing the work of dealing with the problems.

And there are problems. I’ve been alive over seventy years. I’ve seen crisis after crisis. Polio was a big scare when I was a kid. Meningitis. The Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam, gasoline shortages, several epidemics and threatened epidemics including swine flu, SARS, opioid escalation, 911. It seems like every year we face something. There may be an initial panic period. But it usually dissipates pretty quickly. This time the panic seems to be hanging on for a long time. I’ve been trying to figure out why. Some blame social media. Others blame the ineptitude of the president. He’s an easy target, always saying foolish things that need to be explained or walked back by his more rational team members. And there are rational folks on his team. His medical advisers are smart and qualified. His Surgeon General is a reasonable and diligent person. A few of his other advisers have a handle on the issues. But for some reason, political I suspect, they are not given any positive coverage. Blatant insults, antagonistic questioning, lack of willingness to wait for results are the reactions to these people who are working so hard to deal with these issues.

The politics of disease containment is something I didn’t expect to see in my lifetime. But we have it. And it’s been around at least since the HIV/AIDS crisis. We are slow learners, I guess.
Using a medical crisis in the unending games of politics is just wrong. But it’s not going to stop anytime soon.

So, we go on. We try to use our common sense, though many don’t seem to have that resource available. We minimize contacts with other folks. We pay attention to our physical condition, go outside and walk where we can, eat properly. And we should be careful to get our news and information from the less agitated sources. Check out the information you read. It’s actually possible with the amazing capabilities of the internet – though it isn’t always easy. Stay in touch with your family and friends. But ignore a whole lot of the crap you scroll across on social media. Lots of unbalanced opinion is on there disguised as reality. Be patient. Let things work. Have a little faith. And have a fine day.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Book Review "A Paris Table" by Allen J. Kourofsky

A Paris Table
By Allen J. Kourofsky

Bloated Toe Publishing

After WWI a renaissance of sorts occurred in the arts and letters of Europe and the Americas. Some of the participants in this movement thought of it as political and personal rebellion. Many authors and artists decided to move away from the rigidity of their homelands and they migrated to what they considered as more tolerant venues. Paris became a focal point for many of these rebels. Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Dorothy Parker and John Dos Passos were all part of the literary movement in Paris. Artists included Picasso and Modigliani. Musicians, clothing designers and hangers-on of various sorts added to the mix of the vibrant café scene.

Author Allen Kourofsky enters this era with an interesting coming-of-age story set mostly in cafes and side-streets, a bookstore and a brief side-trip to the Riviera. He uses real people as characters, cameo appearances by contemporary figures who help advance the story. The narrative is from an omniscient point of view focused on the conversation and thoughts of a young American who may or may not become a poet. This unnamed character was scarred by his service as an ambulance driver in the Great War. He is in Paris against the wishes of his father who had hoped his son would be a businessman. To support himself he has taken a job as a bookkeeper in a bookstore.

This novel moves along at a steady pace. The opening pages introduce the main character as he is identifying a dead body and this foreshadows the rest of the story which is revealed in a lengthy flashback. We see the earnest young writers and artists as they drink and talk. They do a lot of drinking and talking. They talk about their work but it seems they devote much more time to the conversation and refreshments. We meet the hero’s acquaintances, friends and lovers in these raucous settings. We follow him to his job and to his seedy room as he thinks about his poetry. Some lines of poetry show up now and again but he rarely writes. His memories of the war, of home and family and his uncertain hopes are exposed in inner dialogue.

As I read this novel, I was struck by the author’s ability to capture the tone of the times with relatively spare description of the surroundings or the characters. He uses voice for the latter and iconic Parisian images for the former. And I was also struck by his non-linear narration, similar in many ways to that of Dos Passos. It is an effective technique and particularly suitable for this story. This is a literary novel, not an action-packed thriller. And though there is a love story this is not a romance. It is gritty while retaining a cerebral quality. Again, not unlike Dos Passos.

Technically, I feel this novel could have used a slightly firmer editorial hand to eliminate some repetition. But the writing is of a high enough caliber to let this small matter slide. If you have an interest in the wild and raucous “Roaring Twenties” particularly the ex-pat era of American literature then I highly recommend this book. And if you just like a good, thoughtful coming-of-age story then, again, this is a fine book for your summer list.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Great Pajama Wearing While Shopping Movement Mystery

Conspiracy? Something like that might have been what was happening. Or maybe it was a warped corporate policy designed to dominate the retail market. And believe me, I did my best to look into this thing. Someone needed to investigate and this is that exciting story.

A few years back I noticed some people in the big box store (the one we all know) wearing pajama pants. It was November and fairly cold, not weather for that kind of garment. Most of the pj wearers were female and they looked as if they were part of the low-income demographic group. It didn’t seem important.

As the months passed this trend increased. More women of all age groups were wearing pajama bottoms while shopping, mostly in that same big box chain. I saw them in upstate New York, downstate Delaware and just outside of Washington, D.C. The women didn’t seem well off. And now and then I saw pajama bottom wearing men. I didn’t see this trend in Sears or Macy’s or even Old Navy. People in Old Navy seemed to favor sweat pants.

I took an informal survey of people I know, people across the spectrum of economic solvency. Not one person, rich or poor, would admit to wearing sleepwear while shopping. My survey sample included about eighty individuals. Some pre-election poll results rely on smaller samples than that.

The trend continued to grow. I started to see sleepwear wearers in the grocery store. One day I decided to ask a couple individuals why they were wearing pajamas for shopping. Every one responded that they were either going later to, or had just come from, that big store and that they liked wearing these comfortable clothes when they shopped there. So it seemed that shopping at one particular retail chain was driving this abhorrent fashion trend. Why, I wondered?

I went to one of the stores and asked for the manager. This was the conversation I secretly recorded:

Me: Mr. ________, I wonder if you could answer a question for me?

Manager: Okay. What is it?

Me: Why do so many people, especially women, wear pajamas while shopping in your store?

Manager: Why do you ask?

Me: Well I’m trying to find out what is driving the trend.

Manager: Why?

Me: Because it seems odd and I’m curious?

Manager: Don’t you have better things to worry about?

Me: It could be important.

Manager: Good bye. Have a nice day.

As you can see this manager was obviously avoiding my probing questions. So, I went about five miles down the road to another store in this worldwide chain and asked to see the manager. She kept me waiting for fifteen minutes before having someone escort me to her office. Again, I recorded the conversation:

Me: Can you tell me why so many of your customers wear sleepwear as they shop in your store?

Manager: Why don’t you ask them? Furthermore, why do you care?

Me: Well it seems to be an odd fashion trend and it seems to originate with your company. Why would that be?

Manager: With all due respect, sir, I really don’t have time for this nonsense. Please get out of my office. Security!

Again, an official of the company was concealing information. I called corporate headquarters and could not get any answers from the automated call-receiving system. And no one returned my calls after I left detailed messages that the system asked for. Why was this company afraid of my investigation? Was there something illegal going on?

I decided to go undercover. I went to one of their stores, one I had never visited, and bought a nice flannel sleepwear outfit. Normally I sleep in the nude so I had no appropriate garments in my home. The next day I headed to the closest branch of this chain and proceeded to push a cart through the aisles, engaging in casual conversation with other customers attired as I was. I recorded these conversations and here are some samples.

With a large woman driving an electric scooter cart:

Me: Hi there. Nice pjs. You shop here often?

Woman: Get lost ya’ freak!

With a younger, very thin, very agitated woman pushing a cart full of electronic equipment:

Me: Hi. You’re certainly well equipped. For video and sound, that is. Those are very nice pajamas you’re wearing. Did you buy them here? My wife might like some of those.

Woman: What? What did you say? Are you some kind of pervert? Are you? Get the hell away from me you pervert! I’m going to call the security people. Go away!

My last approach was to another young woman of substantial size who had two small children in tow. All three of these people were wearing sleepwear. The little ones had pjs with footie things.

Me: Hi there. The family that wears pjs while shopping together stays together, right? (I chuckled at my little witticism)

Woman: Que pasa?

Me: Why are you all wearing pajamas for shopping here?

Woman: Que? Yo no hablo ingles. Dejanos solos, idiota!

Me: Have a fine day.

Were all of these customers aligned with this corporation in some kind of organized movement? Was it dangerous? I was more determined than ever to get to the bottom of these questions. I needed to go deeper undercover.

Online I applied for a job with the company. I carefully avoided stores where I had spoken to the manager. That’s easy to do since there are so many locations in this vast retail empire. Within hours I had an interview and was hired as a store greeter. The very next day I was given an orientation and got my special yellow vest with the asterisk on the back. At no point in the orientation was there mention of encouraging customers to buy, and then shop in, pajama bottoms.

On my first day I followed company protocol and merely greeted customers and checked their receipts against items in their bags and carts as they left the store. I accosted two people trying to shoplift and was complimented by my immediate supervisor. The next day I began (casually) asking other employees about the pajama trend. All denied any knowledge of conspiracy or corporate policy. It wasn’t until the morning of the first day of my third month on the job that I got a break. A new person was cleaning the bathrooms near customer service. He was an older gentleman and he told me right away that he had transferred from another store so he could be closer to his new girlfriend.  I casually introduced a question about the sleepwear issue, which seemed to have increased even more in the three months I had worked as a greeter.

I recorded this part of my conversation with the new janitor.

Me: So, do you think the company encourages people, in some way, to wear pajamas while shopping.

Janitor: Why sure. A couple years back the company hired a few women in each area to wear pajamas and walk around the stores like they was shopping. I noticed they never checked out those carts they was pushin’. And I know they was hired ‘cause they’d come to the manager late at night and get a envelope.

Me: I see. Are all the people wearing pajamas getting paid? And why did the company care about this?

Janitor: Well no, dummy, they ain’t all getting paid. People copy other people. And the big bosses in the company came up with the idea because they think if people are real comfortable shopping in these places then they won’t shop nowhere else. You see? Nothin’ as comfortable as walkin’ around in pjs, right? Warm and cozy. That’s all it is. Comfort. Now look at that woman over there walkin’ out with two TVs. Go check her out. Do your damn job, fool.

It seemed I had finally solved the mystery. It was just another case of corporate greed destroying the good fashion sense of a vast part of the world’s population. And isn’t that a sad commentary on our times.

Monday, December 4, 2017

My First Holiday Blog of 2017

It’s December 4th and the annual holiday improvement in kindness, generosity and all-around goodness is more and more apparent. Well, maybe.  Haven’t noticed any of that in the political world. And it doesn’t seem to be happening in our shopping places. The folks on the roads are certainly not making strides in any of those areas. Social media does show an occasional sign of good will. But that sign is usually followed by eight or nine posts of name calling vitriol.

Of course, when it comes to politics there is no middle ground. My kind hearted liberal friends think they’re fighting evil incarnate. My well intentioned conservative acquaintances think they’re being unjustly vilified and demeaned by, yes you guessed it, evil incarnate. The issues are pretty big, I guess. That tax bill is important. The immigration questions are still questions, no resolution there. Foreign affairs seem to be pretty much bogged down in wars both ongoing and up-coming. While the economy seems to be rebounding a little, there’s still a pretty big crowd of homeless folks here at the public library every day. And I know lots of older people who are just getting by. And, of course, that health insurance problem is not getting fixed by any of our intelligent, caring legislators. Some of my acquaintances who rely on the new government sourced plans have been hit with premiums so high that they are just planning on taking their chances with no insurance.

When I read yesterday’s newspapers I saw lots of space dedicated to the increasing scourge of heroin and other opioid use. A bunch of money is going towards that problem but the good results of those programs are not too apparent. Another pile of articles was dedicated to sex assault cases of prominent politicians and entertainers. I grabbed the comics just to get a little relief. Then I did a crossword puzzle. Then I read the advertising flyers. After the eighth page of the Boscov’s ad I finally calmed down enough to start drinking.

What’s my point? Hell if I know. Kindness? I know in “one on one” situations most folks are kind. And pretty much all of my friends are generous with their time and money as they support charities, causes and churches. But that underlying current of hatred for people who hold opposing opinions is pretty apparent. It’s kind of like one of those quiet cancers that swims around in the bloodstream and then suddenly bursts to the surface of the body in a terrible lesion. And there are a mess of lesions popping up everywhere and often. Quick treatments are applied and the sores subside but the main disease is still cruising around. Who knows when the cancer will be too big to contain?

I’m done worrying today. I might not resume my pose of cynical indifference for now. I might adopt a new pose of holiday cheerfulness, kindness and goodwill. Even though it’s not totally sincere it might catch on. Gotta make the effort anyway. You’re welcome to join me. And have a fine day.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Technology and Worse

Let’s start with the worse. Maybe it should be worst. Today we had the unfortunate Walmart shopping experience. I always ask myself, as I walk those well stocked aisles, why the heck do I come into this place when I dislike it so much? It often boils down to sausage. Walmart carries those big bags of pre-cooked breakfast sausage patties. They are better than any other brand and I like them. Also, Walmart has several items on their shelves priced lower than any other store. Being forced into frugality at about the same time as my dear wife entered retirement I needed to start worrying about the price of basic necessities. So, sausage is the big thing and cheap goods are the other reason we go into the big box.

Today, as my wife was over in the sausage aisle, I happened to be cutting across the store heading for the fire-starting stuff. My walk took me through the ladies clothing area. As I passed through that section I happened to glance to my right and I saw something I’ve never seen in any store. A rather large lady was standing in the underwear area trying on brassieres. That stopped me in my tracks, as it were. Now this lady did not have any part of her body uncovered. Nope. She was trying on bras over her already supported bosom, presumably, and her Jeff Gordon t-shirt. I may be wrong, but if one wants to get a proper fit in an undergarment doesn’t one need to remove the outer layers of clothing first? I’ve seen plenty of weird stuff in Walmart but this was a new level of weird. I watched the woman try on two selections just to be sure I wasn’t wrong about what I was seeing. I wasn’t.

If I was a technologically savvy Walmart shopper I would have whipped out my smart-phone and snapped a couple of photos or a video of the “trying on lady”. But I’m not savvy in that way. My phone wasn’t even in my pocket. It was back at the house, turned off, which is the state it is usually in. My chances at internet fame were shot before they even got started.

And this brings me to my next grouchy old man rant. Techno-snobs. I just coined that term. If you or someone you know has already come up with the word let me know and I’ll retract my claim.

Techno-snobs are people who carry the latest in cell phone innovation. They are the people in restaurants or at the dinner table furiously moving their opposable thumbs over those phones, sending and receiving messages, playing games, scanning their stock portfolio or watching porn. Those are the people who prefer texting to talking. They look at the gentle old lady who eschews the use of cell phones as a threat to humanity. Techno-snobs will snub, laugh at and sometimes insult the folks who avoid using modern devices.

It's obvious that I use a computer since you’re reading this little blog. And I also use the cell phone for calling people up, sending messages and sometimes finding an answer to a vital question on the internet. Just the other day I settled an argument by learning that duck eggs have more fat than chicken eggs. That answer probably averted a violent barroom fistfight.

But I’ll never fault someone for putting a cell phone in a drawer for a month or two. Even if they never use their flip-phone, only use a landline or go searching for a payphone, they’ll not be laughed at or scorned by me. More power to them. And I hope you techno-snobs out there read this and have a change of attitude towards those non-users. Talking to people in person is okay. Talking to people on a landline is fine. Writing a letter and mailing it in an envelope with a stamp attached is to be commended. Be kind to non-texters. You’ll be a better person for it. In fact, you might want to take a twenty-four hour break from technology now and then yourself. It might clear your mind and it might add to your good Karma storehouse. And we all can use more good Karma.

So go on and have a fine day. See you on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Aging and Its Consequences

Remember when you had little kids running around the house, learning to talk, learning to walk/run and learning to use the toilet? The cute toddler would come running up to you and say “Daddy (or Mommy) I went poo-poo in the potty and it was real big.”  Or something similar to that. Well folks, someday (hopefully) you’ll live long enough to learn just how much old age is like those toddler years. A good movement will be the highlight of your day. Any movement at all will be noteworthy.

Yesterday my dear wife and I were in a checkout line where senior citizen discounts are offered. My wife said to the clerk “Make sure we get the senior discount.” The clerk looked at me. “And how old are you sir?” For the life of me I could not manage to say the three syllables that she wanted to hear. “Se-e-e-v-en-en-t-t-t-y” I finally managed to croak. When I was in my sixties, even when I was sixty-nine, I could utter my age. But something happened when I entered the seventh decade. It was like going through a very large, very thick door into a room full of darkness. Some of my friends and relatives made it to this age and didn’t seem to be bothered. Others never did make it to this age (lots of those folks) and of course they never had to worry about it. But here I am, spending far too much time considering the realities of actual old age.

And as I consider these realities I see (as in the example in the first paragraph) just how many things seem to be repeats of stuff that happened way back in early childhood. Get a knee or hip replacement, as so many seniors seem to do, and be treated to the ordeal of learning to walk again. Lose your teeth and learn the delights of soft foods as you wait for new dentures. Relate an interesting story or joke and learn that you don’t know the words to describe just how big the thing you seem to need in the punch line really was. Language is once again a mystery.

And we won’t mention bodily processes and abilities that have faded even more than our command of language. Of course, there are many seventy-plus seniors who have retained most of their physical and mental faculties. A few have daily exercise regimens that include running, walking, weight lifting or swimming. Still others pursue the more sedentary sport of golf which mostly consists of driving a golf cart a few feet for the next poorly hit fairway shot. I suppose enough swings could count as a form of exercise. But, for many of us, daily exercise is just too much trouble. In my case mowing the lawn with my push mower and weed trimmer, splitting and stacking firewood, shoveling snow and slow ambles on rural dirt roads will have to be enough. If the exercise doesn’t have an immediately visible result (other than sweat and swearing) then I don’t have time for it. Also, I need my physical activity to a keep my mind at least minimally occupied. If my mind is idle then it wanders back behind that big thick door I mentioned earlier.

Spending too much time peeking into dark corners of that hidden room is too scary a business. It’s in there that we consider questions like these. Burial or cremation, what’s the best choice? Is the will up to date? Should I write my own obituary and eulogy? And those are just the practical questions. There are also the big metaphysical questions. Is Heaven more like farm country or Las Vegas? Is Hell more like Los Angeles or Las Vegas? How long are the lines to those afterlife existences? Will I have to say my age out loud? And what about judgement? Is judgement more like being on Judge Judy’s show or more like pleading a case at the Supreme Court?

Well, I’m going to go do some exercise right now and try to prolong my time in this mortal place. I think I’ll bend my elbow a few times while holding a gradually diminishing container of goodness. How’s that for a metaphoric closing?

Now have a fine day.