Thursday, February 28, 2013

Convergence: a bracing look at global geopolitical and financial future

Gritty Questions on the Historic Collapse

We find the comments regarding Germany's gravitational pull towards the East to be particularly insightful.....

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Woman climbs Everest -- twice in one week

We began "Extraordinary Comebacks" (vol 1) with the story of Sir Edmund Hillary.  Everyone knows he was first to climb Mount Everest;  few know he failed on his first attempt, but made it on the second.

(Hillary Clinton, a great comeback story on her own, was named for him.)

So much of life requires that "second effort."  A second effort is sometimes all that separates the victor from the also rans.

Now we come across this incredible story:

Woman sets Everest record - chicagotribune.comk


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Financial comedown for Hollywood mogul

Former TV Macher Merv Adelson Talks About Financial Ruin and His Las Vegas–Mob Ties


Friday, February 22, 2013

Washington's Birthday more than a million years ago

Dream no little dreams.  They have no power to stir men’s souls.  Daniel Burnham, Chicago architect

There was no President’s Day when I was 7.  There was Lincoln’s Birthday, there was Washington’s Birthday, and they each got their due.  As father of our nation, President Washington rated a school holiday.  My friend Dale and I took advantage by flying kites.   

Washington’s Birthday, February 22, 1959 was very blustery (on the west side of Cleveland), and I aimed to take full advantage.  Tying together two balls of twine, I let my kite go.  It flew across our entire playground, and danced over the tall elms of the residential neighborhood, more than 150 yards away.  Our dream to fly to the highest possible was realized.  The thrill was unforgettable.   It was the first such (positive) thing I had done, more or less, on my own.

So it is with life.  Sometimes, we need the challenge and thrill of two balls of twine, not just one, to stir our souls, and soar higher than we had thought possible.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

BRAIN ON FIRE by Susannah Cahalan

One of the most thoughtful and hard-hitting books I have ever encountered.  As the author of a series of books on comeback stories, this is surely one, but so much more.    Briefly, the author succumbs to an extremely rare auto-immune condition where her body attacks her brain, hence ‘Brain on Fire.’  Quite literally.  Almost overnight, she goes from a spunky New York Post reporter to one variously thought to be suffering from alcoholism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, or even retardation.  (Recalls how Fran Drescher had to seek diagnoses from no less than eight doctors for an accurate assessment of her condition (cancer)).  Ms. Cahalan had none of these.

She had, instead:  anti-NMDA (N-methy-D-aspartate acid) receptor encephalitis.  Her own antibodies were attacking her own brain. 

An unsettling look into biology.  Let’s just start with the imagery: Re her condition,  “about 50% of the time, it is instigated by an ovarian tumor, called a teratoma….from the Greek teraton, or monster.  These twisted cysts were a source of fascination even when there was no name for them (before the late 1800s).  The first description dates back to a Babylonian text from 600 B.C.   These masses of tissue range in size from microscopic to fist sized, or even bigger, and contain hair, teeth, bone, and sometimes even eyes, limbs and brain tissue.  They are often located in the reproductive organs, brain, skull, tongue and neck and resemble pus-soaked hairballs….the good news is that they are usually – but not always – benign.”

You still with me?  Ms. Cahalan did not have a teratoma, though it might have been ‘good news,’ since if you have one, and it’s removed, you tend to recuperate faster.

Which leads us to the question, what caused the author’s  anti-NMDA (N-methy-D-aspartate acid) receptor encephalitis?  Sadly, and unsettlingly, the cause of her seven-month descent into hell was never determined.  Was it from a sneeze on a crowded bus, her cat, germs in her kitchen?  What turned on the rogue antibodies?  She doesn’t know and will likely never know what prompted her body to attack itself.

That part of the medical equation we have to live with.  Other parts, not, and that’s what results in the author’s scathing indictment of the medical field.  On her way out of the book, she lets fly with some well-deserved knockout punches to several of her attending physicians, who were just “too busy” to take time to pinpoint her malady.  At the same time, she heaps unlimited praise on Dr. Najjar, who did take time.  His story, from a struggling young student deemed a dunce, rising all the way to become one of the top neurosurgeons in the world, is another great and restorative (if your faith in humanity needs some restoring, and after this, it will) comeback stories.  If you have a good physician, one who is willing to do what is necessary to prevail against disease, you will get down on your hands and knees and thank God for him or her after reading this harrowing and heart-breaking story.

There is real pathos here, and poetry, amidst the heartbreak:  “Recalling moments like these, which occurred frequently during this tentative stage in my recovery, I wish I could, like a guardian angel, swoop down and help protect this sad, lost echo of myself.”

The good news:  our author recovered well enough to resume her life and write this book.  She documents how it saved at least one life, and the implication is that it has saved many more.  She was no. 217 in the world to ever be diagnosed with AMP – the year after, there were hundreds, then thousands.  Word was getting around.  Yet, she shows how some self-possessed neuro-experts never get the memo.   Shame.

You will never, ever think about mental illness or autism in the same way.  For many of these individuals, the catalyst is infection, hard to find, hard to treat, and expensive to treat (the author estimates her bill at $1 million, covered by insurance).

In that regard, this book breaks new ground.  Not many do.  In her book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin suggests reading catastrophe stories.  This true tale is exponentially so, to be trapped in your own body by your own deteriorating brain.  Read it and weep, and then be glad our author’s trip to hell was round trip, and she’s back, and now she’s savings others, and changing the entire medical world, through the power of language, once taken from her, now restored.

PS    Ms. Cahalan has a back page blurb from my acquaintance and former Clevelander (we grew up in the same neighborhood, few years apart) Mira Bartok, author, THE MEMORY PALACE, another superb and highly recommended memoir.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The strange comeback story of Sixto Rodriguez

Forty years after recording his first album, Sixto Rodriguez, 70, is on the brink of international stardom.  Momentum is building:  He was just featured on the back page of TIME, Jan. 28, 2013 issue.

 It's never too late, they say.  Here's a very strange story that lends credence to that outlook....


Can you come back against lung cancer?

Afflicted with lung cancer, this gentleman was given six months to live -- 45 years ago.

How did he come back against it?  We heard his story on the BBC and found it neatly laid out here at the NY Times.

Please read