30 March 2009

Deja Vu All Over Again?

This is a reflection of the Chemed building (I'm fairly sure) downtown. I've never known what exactly what Chemed does. The only clue I had was the wooden tennis racket I used as a kid which was painted "CHEMED." I can only assume this was a red herringal coincidence, since it makes as much sense as having a Johnson & Johnson or PNC Bank racket.

It turns out that Chemed is two companies. One is a hospice and the other (and I am not making this up) is Roto-Rooter. If this seems like an incongruent partnership, you're not alone. The suits over at MMI Investments (which owns 3.6% of Chemed stock) are having a hissy fit over the Chemed Board's recent decision not to split the company. Check it out (this is from MMI's SEC filing):

...the Chemed Board has decided to maintain Chemed's absurd conglomerate structure indefinitely, using the current market environment as an excuse to avoid taking this long-term step...

Absurd? I'll bet they had to argue with the lawyers to keep that bit of trash talk in there. MMI is done asking nicely. Now they want to replace 5 of 11 board members with outside ("independent") people.

The rationale for all this is that two companies are better for shareholder returns than one company. And MMI, a key shareholder, wants mo' money.

What gives pause in this situation is the fact that MMI is coming from the same perspective that has largely screwed up the free market; the perspective that the bottom line is the only line, and nothing can be more important than maximizing shareholder returns in time for the next quarterly report.

MMI is basically accusing the Chemed board of doing what MMI wants to do for itself: make its board wealthier. And MMI's rationale, at least based on what is written on its SEC filing, seems suspect. MMI lists some problems it has with Chemed but doesn't explain why they are problems. Indeed, pointing out that a company has former employees on the board seems like criticism for something positive.

Nevertheless, it is their company and they have to fight it out. The point I am making is that the same Wall Street tunnel vision that resulted in economic adversity is still there. And as long as it is, I know that at least I will be very wary of calls for de-regulation as I can now draw a straight line from tunnel vision to de-regulation to market failure.

26 March 2009

25 March 2009

West End Wall Art

Drop Da Can , Pick Up Da Burger

23 March 2009

Things Observed Downtown

Yes, that is a syringe (with needle, apparently)

Yes, that is a pumpkin

Yes, that is a crazy van

22 March 2009

This Week in Questionable Advertising

WHAT THIS IS: an ad promising an in-depth travel experience rather than the perfunctory superficiality of run-of-the-mill tourism.

WHY THIS IS QUESTIONABLE: the ad is for Disney Travels.

WHAT THIS IS: a fashion ad.

WHY THIS IS QUESTIONABLE: where do I start? For one thing, the necklace is the most expensive item on the boy. For another, THEY PUT A FUCKING NECKLACE ON THE BOY. Furthermore, this ad screams "Wanted: Art Director for national magazine, Long Island JAP stereotypes encouraged to apply."

This is as much a case for Children's Services as it is a fashion ad. Here is what the fine print says it would cost to clothe these children innocent victims for less than a year in this recession:

Girl's outfit:

"Collared raincoat" (yes, they pointed out the rare "collar" feature): 360
Cashmere sweater: 179
Mixed beads necklace: 90
Bison rain boots: 62
Jeans & Brooch: 32
TOTAL: 723

Boy's outfit:

Jacket: 47
Jeans: 50
"Bohemia" necklace: 165
Rain boots: 64
TOTAL: 326

WHAT THIS IS: an ad promoting pertussis vaccination (which, for the record, is the right thing to do).

WHY THIS IS QUESTIONABLE: for one thing, the ad compares nine months of pregnancy and hours of labor pains to a half-second vaccine prick. For another, the ad was paid for by Sanofi Pasteur, the world's largest vaccine maker.

21 March 2009

The One Where Ross & Rachel Think About Art

Life is a journey. We learn things along the way. One important lesson is to try not to make yourself look like a total jackass when it is easily avoidable.

Take this photo, for example:

This photo, which I saw a while back at the Weston Art Gallery, is from Deitrich Wagner's series Cumulus Brand.

There is a comment book in the Weston and when I flipped through it, I read dozens of critical comments along the lines of "How could you do this to your own son?" and "This is child abuse!"

About 10 feet from the comment book and RIGHT NEXT TO THE PHOTO ITSELF was the artists statement which included this sentence:

Sebastian, who is the subject of both photographs and the artist's newly-born son, is seemingly "tatooed" with a series of corporate logos (accomplished digitally through the use of Photoshop software) suggesting that we are targeted as consumers upon entering this world.

Don't be a jackass. Read the artist's statement before you unwittingly allow yourself to be defined by Mark Twain's famous line, "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

20 March 2009

Faith vs. Denial vs. Medicine

From the L.A. Times article "Aligning a medical treatment plan with God's plan:"

Faith in a higher power can often lead to more aggressive treatment than is medically warranted, research is beginning to show. As a result, the nation's medical community is now grappling with the best way to bring God into the doctor-patient relationship without subjecting patients to needless suffering before they die.

In a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., researchers found that terminally ill cancer patients were nearly three times more likely to go on breathing machines or receive other invasive treatments if religion was an important part of their decision-making process. Such treatments didn't improve a person's long-term chances, however.

Other recent studies have made similar connections. Religious cancer patients who had unsuccessful chemotherapy treatments were twice as likely to want heroic end-of-life measures, according to a report last year in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. A 2005 study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that patients with advanced-stage lung or colon cancer were more likely to want CPR, mechanical ventilation and hospitalization if they believed in divine intervention. They were also less likely to have a living will.

And in a survey of 1,006 randomly selected Americans... More than half said God could heal patients whom doctors thought were beyond the reach of medicine.

What the article says (implicitly rather than explicitly) is that seriously ill patients can be in denial about their condition. Sometimes this denial is disguised as faith. But it is still denial. While it is understandable that a person in such a circumstance would have difficulty accepting it, the data shows that not confronting reality is likely to result in greater physical suffering, not having one's affairs in order, and not being as close with family & friends at the end of life. One study also showed it could save about 40% in associated medical costs:

In a study published last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Prigerson and her colleagues found that patients who discussed their wishes for end-of-life care ahead of time accrued $1,876 in medical expenses in their final week of life compared with $2,917 for patients who didn't. They were also less likely to be in physical distress, less likely to die in a hospital and more likely to be getting outpatient hospice care. "One-third of the Medicare budget goes to the last year of life, and 80% is for the last month," Prigerson said. "Most of that is being on a ventilator or from an ICU stay."

There was no difference in survival time between the two groups.

Nevertheless, this is one of those things that is easier to look at objectively when it is someone else's circumstance. How many of us could say with certainty that we would make all decisions on the basis of data alone? Maybe a person who can be 100% head and 0% heart in those circumstances is already dead, in a way.

18 March 2009

17 March 2009

"Intended Consequences" by Jonathan Torgovnik

(Note: I rarely make "serious" posts these days but this is an exception. If you have a heart, it will probably break a little. Fair warning)

From an article by photojournalist Jonathan Torgovnik published in Aperture magazine on the children of Rwandan rape victims. These are brief quotes from some of the mothers.

I love my first daughter more because I gave birth to her as a result of love. Her father was my husband. The second girl is a result of an unwanted circumstance-- I never loved her father. When the younger girl was a baby, I used to leave her crying. I fed the older one more than the younger one, until people in the neighborhood told me that that was not the right thing to do. My love is divided, but slowly I am beginning to appreciate that this other one is innocent.

They raped me one after the other until I couldn't move. When I realized I was pregnant, I was in a refugee camp in Congo. I did not want to have a child by a man I did not know, in a place I did not know. So I returned to Rwanda in search of relatives-- someone to help me give birth or advise me how to raise a child. When I got to my village, I found that most of my family had been killed. I had difficulty giving birth; my body had been damaged from the rapes. But I gave birth to a good girl.

I had never had sex until I was raped during the genocide. I never loved that man; I feared him. Even now, I hear people say they enjoy sex-- I don't know what it means to enjoy sex: for me, sex has been a torture. I have hope and faith in God and in the survivor organizations that support us. They encourage us to live positively. I strive to see that my parents' killers are not going to laugh at me. Instead they are going to see me making progress every day and staying alive.

I don't encourage my children to hold onto ethnic ideologies. Don't look at whether one is Hutu, or one is Tutsi. That's not what is important. Today, there are hills in Rwanda where you will not find a single surviving Tutsi. My message to the world would be that the Tutsis in Rwanda have really suffered-- we have been tortured, we have been discriminated against for a long time, and in 1994 we were almost all killed off. The message I would say is: do not let this happen again.

Sadly, there are probably many Sudanese mothers saying the same thing.

16 March 2009

Behind the Scenes at DAAP

This weekend I ignored some college basketball and went up to DAAP. DAAP, as Cincinnatians well know (or should), is one of the premier institutions of its kind in the country and therefore, I figured, a good place for someone like me with very little aesthetic sensibility to get inspiration. Never mind why. Here are some pics of what I saw in this very cool place, starting with fashion design:

(click to read the writing)

Student lockers

Dirty mind? Run with it.

14 March 2009

Unusual Architectural Details

Observed on a building in my 'hood. I have no idea what they mean or why they were put there, but I would surmise there must be some kind of story...

wall pattern baldness?

PETA rodent control?

triumph of the conjoined?

13 March 2009

Kampai to Sake Bomb!

Had my first Sake Bomb (3672 Erie Ave) dining experience last night. There were ten of us so I can't speak for everyone but I believe the general consensus is: great food, great service, cool atmosphere.

The only disappointment was the miso soup (except for Liz who was disappointed with everything except the chopsticks). The three of us who ordered the soup found it... well, I wouldn't say bad, but it was different enough from the usual delicious miso flavor we were used to that it turned into a disappointment. I would still consider ordering it again because it's possible it was a fluke that it was bad that day. It's also possible that they make it differently from what we are used to and therefore it didn't get a fair shake. I still think I wouldn't like it but I can't discount the possibility.

After the soup I ordered the Yum Yum roll because the spicy crab (I first typed "crap") and cucumber combination seemed like it would work. It did, and get this: the menu said "spicy" and it was actually spicy (an opinion which was unambiguously seconded by a fellow diner's perspiration attack). Finally, a place that does it right. I am most pleased.

After the Yum Yum I ordered fairly conventional sushi: fatty tuna, crab stick, smelt roe and eel. They were delicious.

And after that we received a dessert platter that we put away quickly and happily. Some items: fried cheesecake, fried bananas (w/ chocolate sauce), green tea ice cream. There were others, maybe they can be identified from 5chw4r7z's photos.

Like I said, great food, great service, cool atmosphere. I would definitely go back.

Yum Yum Roll

Fatty Tuna + Phatty Martinis

Also Yum Yum: Dessert Platter

10 March 2009

This Week in Local Signage

Thursday Happy Hour is at Sake Bomb!

Let's be honest. You have no life. If you did, you wouldn't be reading this blog.

With that out of the way we can start the healing. After all, the first step is admitting you have a problem. The second step is to get boozed up this Thursday after 5pm at Sake Bomb in Hyde Park.

Some of you already know this. The rest of you deserve an apology for not being personally contacted. You will get this apology in person if you show up and convey your anguish in a long series of plaintive wails. After I've had enough I will tell you to shut up and buy you a drink (i.e. apologize).

Be there.

07 March 2009

Vet Clinic Wall Art

Seems like a good way to let people know they're in the right place...

03 March 2009

Platform Tennis Championships!

From-- of all places-- the Business Courier:

Greater Cincinnati will host the National Platform Tennis Championships and the Presidents Cup for the first time this week.

The American Platform Tennis Association and the Greater Cincinnati Platform Tennis Association are teaming up to host the 75th annual event March 5-8.

Platform tennis is a version of tennis played with paddles, on an elevated deck about one-fourth the size of a traditional tennis court.

Four tournaments will take place over four days. These include the Men’s Nationals and Presidents Cup and Women’s Nationals and Presidents Cup. Organizers expect 176 teams to compete for the national title.

The tournaments will take place at 14 venues across the area, including the Camargo Club, Cincinnati Sports Club, Hyde Park Golf and Country Club, Kenwood Country Club and Maketewah Country Club.

1) No, I don't know the difference between the "Nationals" and the "President's Cup."

2) Yes, I also was surprised to learn that there has been a paddle tennis championship for the last 74 years.

3) I've played just about every racket-based sport, but never paddle tennis. Word on the street is that it is gaining popularity. I know one local country club is building two new paddle courts in addition to the four it already has. This weekend we will see the future, and it is paddle tennis.

4) I'm not sure if calling it "paddle tennis" is a faux pas. But I'll probably find out this weekend.