Saturday, January 28, 2023

Oh the Never Ending Pencil Tests Continue...

Channeling Rube Goldberg today ... cel tests, sketch shapes, rough timing, you know, the usual things.  I think the stove pipe needs to be longer for proper balance, along with the rotating cogs.  Next: DETAILS! Ok, really NEXT is more than a roughed in background.  

Original sketch:

First run for layout:

And after a little more work...

(c) 2023 Jim Middleton, The Animating Apothecary

Monday, January 16, 2023

A Completed Animation Bit

 It's just as important to ask permission before entering a room as it is to leave one.

(c) 2023 Jim Middleton, The Animating Apothecary

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Open Letter of Encouragement to Jamie Raskin

 from: Jim Middleton, Retired Pharmacist

to: Jamie Raskin, Member of Congress
1 January 2023

Let me add to the outpouring of good wishes from your friends and constituents who have learned of your diagnosis of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.  

I am not a constituent, but I have recently shared your diagnosis and have undergone your likely upcoming protocol.

Let me say at the outset that you can get through this - heaven knows you’ve had enough pain in the past few years to get through nearly anything.   I truly dislike the tired pat phrase from clinicians that “patients tolerate this program well.”  Each diagnosis has its unique aspects, and each treatment has its unique set of responses.  While this is a difficult diagnosis to have labeled upon one, there can be worse things to experience.  However, this is still a protracted process that represents a significant disruption in a busy person’s life.   But at the end, you’ll still have a life, and likely a pretty good one.

I am presuming they’ll be going with the R-CHOP protocol.  This R-CHOP, 18 week (6 treatments, 3 weeks apart), protocol has brought me to a two year remission status from a “4th stage” (although they no longer use staging for this condition, I am told) and GI bleed-out status (from an avocado sized stomach tumor that grew in a matter of a few months).  After four of the six cycles, the scans indicated no further cancer growth, so the last two were to nudge it to a likely certainty.

The irony of receiving the treatment was that, during my years in hospital pharmacy, I compounded the CHOP portion weekly for our oncology department.  Rituximab is relatively new to the mix and seems to turbocharge the effect of the individual components - so much that, for the first treatment, it was given at the end of the chemo infusions to prevent the tumor from peeling out prematurely and causing increased GI bleeding.  

To prepare you for what may be expected, here are some effects I noted during my infusions, along with the time it took for me to recover from some of the side effects.  Again, you’ll get through this.

An IV “Port” - In retrospect, I’d suggest getting one.  They said I’d likely not need one, but - especially by the 4th cycle of treatment - my veins became far less patent for the infusion and pre-protocol blood draws.  Having the U of M hospital IV team digging around with ultrasound to find a vessel is, well, about the worst experience I had during the treatment.  

Hair loss - Yes, this in inevitable, and occurred within three days of my first infusion series.  Hair loss happens everywhere - everywhere - eyebrows and eyelashes less so (I lost about 2/3 of both).   Nose hairs? Yep.  Ear hairs? Yep.  However, you won’t have to shave but every 3-4 days.  Underwear slides on and off easier.  Shaving returns to normal at about three months after you’re done, and the hair returns, somewhat darker, but likely thinner.  Even encroaching alopecia will seem to reverse itself  - until the body realizes that if it had a mission in that department, it too can return.  Drat.

Fingernails and toenails - they thin out within weeks, becoming brittle, easily cracked, or “sliced” by a random stroke of a strand of hair or sheet of paper.  Learn to love Jello (gelatin helps) and B-complex vitamins.  It takes about six months for things to return to normal after your last set of infusions.  You can follow the ridge of the fingernails as it progresses to “new growth.”

Oral lesions - canker sores seem to predominate, on your inside cheek and tongue.  I found liquid Vitamin B complex extremely helpful.  It comes in a dropper bottle - swish it around, swallow, and do it at least twice a day

Constipation - Yep, it happens.  All the consequential discussions I had with patients on these treatments were helpful to employ in practical practice.  Daily docusate (Colace) is your friend, and it can be as little as 50mg or as large as 150mg.  It’s a benign treatment - docusate is, essentially, soap.

Now about the drugs in R-CHOP (Rituximab - Cyclophosphamide - Doxorubicin - Vincristine - Prednisone)

Rituximab - for the first R-CHOP treatment, rituximab usually follows the other CHOP infusions - it is powerful enough that,  if given first, it can peel back an existing tumor and cause increased bleeding (during the second infusion, I sensed an actual “pop” in my stomach where the consequential tumor was located).  Sometimes it is preceded with some diphenhydramine (Benadryl) - that can cause sedation and, later, a dry mouth.  Keep sugar free candy nearby.  It helps.  I had hardly any negative infusion effects with the rituximab - to the point where they didn’t bother with the Benadryl for the majority of the series.  

Vincristine (Oncovin) - from the beautiful periwinkle plant - it causes some neural damage (again, Vitamin B complex helps a lot) - I developed tingling in the fingertips and some mild tremor in my hands after routine tasks.  I began some casual physical therapy - a manual typewriter for a while, with lots of doodling with my primary hand, as if just learning cursive.  Both activities were quite helpful.  Also, I found my fingertips quickly became  “smoothed” by the treatment - so be careful if handling eggs.  Things slip from the fingers very easily.
Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) - It certainly earned the name “red devil.”  This is the nastiest part of the infusion series.  Ultimately, it can affect your cardiac muscle - my long-term outcome was a slowed resting heart rate (ie 50-55bpm).  A relatively short-term effect was mild hypertension (usual 105/60 went to 140/90).  The heart rate change has remained with me, but the blood pressure returned to normal after about two months.  Urine will be red for about 12 or more hours - redness may extend to other bodily fluids, but none that I noticed - watch for a blown vein during the infusion - extravasation is not to be a minimized horror (hence my recommendation for a port, it would have been especially useful by the 4th treatment, since they went digging for a patent vein at that point).

Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) - I experienced burning eyes during the last part of the infusion

Prednisone - on the day of, and following the IV treatment - I found it to create five days of irritability - some increased appetite is expected - plan to crave mid-morning mini-snacks, and you may have some fluid retention - most often as puffy feet.  Be sure you take it with food, or with something coating the stomach lining.  It really chews on your stomach lining.

All of these drugs will annihilate your immune system.  So, within 24 hours, you’re going to get some sort of Colony Stimulating Factor (CSF).   After six of these, you’ll have pretty much a brand new immune system.

There are a couple of options with the CSF - an automatic infusion with lots of high-tech and non-recyclable parts that costs the equivalent of a new 1996 Saturn; or,  a return visit the next day to the outpatient clinic.  The little cartridge was cute and clever, but there is some bit of fussiness with keeping it dry, and your already disrupted sleep will be complicated by trying not to lie on it.  It is also helpful if a return visit is disrupted due to weather, distance from the clinic, or unforeseen circumstances.  It has an industrial strength adhesive holding it in place.  Removal is somewhat entertaining.

With these three week cycle - you start feeling almost “normal” by the last 3-5 days, but then comes another infusion series.  It becomes most annoying near the end - impatience and apprehension should be expected.  But keep repeating, “I’ll get through this.”

Other observations:
Need a CT scans with oral barium slurry beforehand?  Go with the berry flavor.  Even vanilla becomes hard to manage after the second liter bottle (yes, there’ll be two bottles).  Coffee/mocha is utterly dreadful (we took a vote in the clinic waiting room one day).

Radio-opaque injections with the CT  - you’ll get warm tingly sensations, not totally unpleasant, but a bit of a surprise, with some possible nausea afterwards

I found the R-CHOP protocol made things taste unappetizing for a while - almost as if you can taste the added preservatives - buttery mashed potatoes were my go-to nutrition.

Well, that was a nice walk down an 18 week ordeal that had a good conclusion for me, anyway.  I anticipate you’ll feel nearly “back to normal” overall at about 6 months, and after a year, you’ll be relieved it has been a year...then two years...and onward to a long, happy and - in the eyes of we grateful American citizens - productive life.


Monday, January 02, 2023

Random Chatter

In a Wheeler and Woolsey film, "Cracked Nuts," they attempt a "Why A Duck" banter over a map where they point to where "General Diddy died."  "Diddy?" "Yes, he did."  That was it.     Always thought that was a general problem with W/W films - a promising premise, but it drops without development. 

So, seizing an opportunity to get this cramp out of my left hand, why not type up something:

Two guys talking while looking through file cabinets at a soon-to-be closed newspaper office.  

- Now there was a scandal in November, 1987...
- Scandals after Labor Day?
- Yep.  Happened at the bureau downtown.  Detective Diddy died.
- Diddy?
- Yes, he did.  So did his deputy.
- Detective Diddy had a deputy?  You don’t say.
- No, Me not Donsay.  That was his deputy.
- Detective Diddy had a deputy detective Donsay?
- Yep.  Don Donsay.
- And Diddy?
- Yeah, he did.
- No, Diddy’s first name.
- Also Don.  But he went by D-1.
- Dewan?
- No, Dee-one.  Wiped out the department.
- The Detective or the janitor?
- Gun fire, cross fire, it was mayhem in November.  Everyone died.
- All of ‘em?
- Yes, it was over her.
- What are you talking about?
- Their secretary - Olive M - they were having an affair.
- M as in Auntie Em?
- No, M as in Muckinfuss.  
- Oh come on, that’s a made up name.
- No - here’s the file.  Diddy, Muckinfuss, and Donsay.
- So D-one was a Don Juan.
- There was an editorial about that.
- Was there an investigation?
- You bet.  They had papers to sell.
- And there were conclusions?  For this Diddy, Muckinfuss, and Donsay scandal?
- Well, for the three of them the conclusion was that November.  For the rest , they decided from then on only to hire Native Americans.
- Better detectives, all that intuition.
- Yeah, and the names were easier.
- Who became the secretary?
- She’s still there.  Her name’s Brook.
- Brooke, that’s nice.
- No, just Brook - no e.  They call her Babs
- Like my Aunt Barbara - they call her Babs, too
- No like in babbling.  She won’t shut up.  Ah, here’s the file, and no paper cuts!  

They leave the file room, pass two Native American clerks.  One native turns to the other.
- Palefaces.  No imagination.
- And they all look alike.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Let's Do Sumpthin' Diff'ernt - A Car!

 Taking a break from trains this afternoon...

 And put it on a road -- 

... just wingin' it at this point ...

(c) 2022 Jim Middleton, The Animating Apothecary

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Dual-Duel - Draft for an Unproduced Evening of Relationship Vignettes - Pre-Cellphone

 DUAL/DUEL - A distraction in three scenes
Draft by Jim Middleton
For a series of short views on relationships for a local college theatre (1980, project abandoned)

Minimal props and two 20-ish characters

Lights up

A Phone is ringing.

SHE:  (answering the phone): Hello.  Just a second.  I think he's in the shower.
She turns on the cold water tap at the sink
A yell comes from the distance.

SHE: Yeah.  He'll be right down.  
HE: Hey, I was in the shower!  
SHE: Telephone.
HE: Oh. Hello.  Fine and what's the matter?  Let's make it eleven, ok? Sure. Bye.
SHE: You let that guy walk all over you.  
HE: Naah – he wanted me in at nine.
SHE: Oh you toughie.  
HE:  A will of iron.
SHE: (looking at the wet floor) You spring a leak?
HE: I like the wet look.  
SHE: Not on my floor,  
HE: Mine too; share and share-
SHE: I clean it, it's mine; cleanliness is nine-tenths of the law.
HE: I love it when you're forceful.  Come here and wrinkle my towel.  
SHE: No perversion in the kitchen.
HE: I need an appetite for breakfast, which you weren't supposed to make.  
SHE:  I got tired of french toast.  
HE: I could have made omelets.
SHE:  With that cheese and god knows what all running out of the center?  
HE: So I like mine with a little life in it.  
SHE: To the showers, knave.
HE: Just trying to help.  I mean, it's my day off.
SHE: In ten seconds I'm going to put on Disco Duck and start dancing.  
HE: I'm gone.

He leaves.  She pulls out a newspaper.  The shower starts, she continues reading.  HE starts singing an off—key opera.  SHE casually turns to the sink and hits the cold water again.  HE screams.

Scene fade out and in.

The phone is ringing.  HE answers it.
HE:   Hi.  This is John. (changing voice now) And this is Marsha. (back to  original voice) We're in the shower right now and can't come to the phone.  If you'd like to leave a message and don't mind talking to a machine that's probably much smarter than you are, you can do so after the tone.  If you're  calling long distance, you've just been charged for one minute by listening  to this.  Beep!  
SHE (over the phone):  Smart stuff, raisin brain.  What if my mom should call  and get that crap?
HE: Oh she did already.  
SHE: What?!
HE: She said she was in a hurry for a hair arrointment, that your Cosmopolitan  is still going to the old address, and remember to wash behind your ears.  
SHE: She didn't.
HE: Do you mind if I have her forward the  Cosmo?  I love those covers.  
SHE: I don't believe this.  She hasn't even met you.
HE: Let's ask her over for pizza and beer.  She doesn't like anchovies, does  she?
SHE:  You are such a jerk.  Wait until I get home, young man...
HE: (reverts to answering machine voice)  Hi. This is John.  And this is Marsha.  We're in the shower right  now and can't come to the phone.  If you'd like to leave a message...  
SHE: Oooh.
SHE hangs up.
HE:  (smiling) have thirty seconds.  He hangs up.  
HE: Beep!

Fade out and in.
Dark.  In the bedroom.  Soft sounds of nature outside.

SHE:  That was a nice dinner.  Thanks.  
HE: My pleasure.
SHE:  Sorry I was late.  One of the salesmen screwed up a contract...
HE: Don't worry about it. I know you're hot stuff.  I was held up at the  store,  anyway.  
SHE: What for?
HE:  Some little kid was throwing grapes and shorted out the terminal.  
SHE:  Little kid?
HE: You know, that dangerous age – between one and forty.  Good aim,  though.
SHE:  Beaned you, huh?
HE:  Right between the eyes.  You know, whenever I get a little weak brained  and think I'd like a kid,  I  just go to the market and that takes care of  me for a good six months.  
SHE:  You were a kid once.
HE:  Yeah, but I outgrew it.  
SHE:  Sure.  
HE:  Sure.
SHE: By the way,  can we keep the stuffed penguin out of bed tonight?  
HE: Sparkie sleeps where I sleep.
SHE:  Just don't hold him that way.  It looks so gross.  
HE: What way?
SHE: That  way.  You look pregnant.  
(rustling sounds)  

HE:  How's that?  
SHE:  Better.

HE:  Do you want to get married?
SHE:  I thought you just said you didn't want to have any kids.  
HE:  I didn't say I wanted kids.  I said I wanted you.  

SHE:  You'd have to meet Mom.  

HE:  You'd  have to meet Dad.  
SHE:  I can handle any man.  
HE:  Oh yeah?
(more rustling)
SHE:  Yeah.
(more rustling)

HE:  Good night Sparkie.
(The stuffed penguin sails across the room.)  

(various rustles and "mmmf s”)
The phone rings.
HE: Oh cripes.  
SHE: Shush.

It rings again.  The answering machine takes over.  

MACHINE:  Hi,  this is Marsha.  You are getting drowsy, very drowsy.
Shortly you will be sound asleep but still able to hear my  voice.  When you hear the beep you will leave your name and  message and then forget ever having made this call.  Peep.
VOICE:  Hi, Marsha?  This is Dave calling. again.  Say,  if you're not doing anything this Thursday, how about seeing that new film over in Ridgeway?
(voice fades)
Program fades
Sound and picture out.

No Account Accounting - A Double Entry Mystery from 1979

 NO ACCOUNT ACCOUNTING - A Double Entry Mystery
Early Perpetration by Jim Middleton (1979)

"Did you read where two engines crashed in Pennsylvania?"  
"Only in America."  
"I heard it also happened in Mexico City."  
"Only in North America, then."  
"And in Germany."  
Dolor paused for a moment.  "Oh bless your heart! " he spat, and slammed the  door.

                        * * * 

   "That was at about eight o’clock this morning, officer.  He didn't say another  thing to me all day."
    The officer rolled a cigar butt between his toes.  "Then you did see him before the murder."
    "No, but when I didn't see him, I knew he wouldn't talk to me."  I thought about that for a moment.  "We weren't very close," I added.

    Dolor lay on the floor between us, the deep, tiny hole in his  chest filled with blood.  How clever, I thought.
    "I was thinking to myself."
    "Sorry. Didn't mean to interrupt."  The officer returned to his  report.

    Dolor was a real oxnard.  A damned fine accountant, but an oxnard.  Always wore white shoes and brown socks.  Always had warm milk for  lunch.  Would go out of his way to see a Tammy movie.  A real oxnard.
    "How was he killed?"
    "Looks like someone ran a Bic fine-point through him,"  the officer said.
    I noted that the officer was using the murder weapon to fill out  his report.  Such hollow mockery, I thought.
    "How do you spell 'mockery?'" he asked.
    "With the 'w' silent, as in 'elk.'"  I thought about that for a  moment.  "We weren't very close,"  I added.

    The officer was stiff, yet courteous; efficient, yet smelly.  After taking Dolor's watch and his two gold teeth "for evidence", he bade me a good afternoon.  I bade him a dozen cookies.  

    As I  recall, Dolor lay a long time in the hallway.  For a while I considered  propping him up in a chair so nobody would stumble over him, but a couple of orderlies dragged him away before I  could get around to it.  Just as well – I couldn't find a chair.

    The next day I was juggling some books when my new desk arrived.  To make room for it, I put my old one out into the hallway.  I considered  propping it up in a chair so nobody would stumble over it, but the desk managed to keep people out of my office, so I  kept it around.   However, a reporter did weasel his way in that afternoon.  He smelled of last night’s blue plate special, parts of which were sticking out of his coat pocket.

    "What's the low-down on this guy who got croaked?"  
    "He was an oxnard."  
    "Well, we can't print that.  Can't you give me anything I can use?  Any slander?  Any hearsay?"
    "How about a 'no comment’?"  
    "Great!  That's just what I need."
    He kissed my lampshade and ran off, yelling,"Copy!  Print it!  Put me to bed!” pausing only long enough  to trip over my old desk.  Too bad I couldn't find a chair. 

    It was all verified in black and white the next morning.

* * * * * * * *  

* * * * * * * *

    President Salpingo threw the paper down and sat on it.
    "This is bad for business," he said.  "People will be running out to buy pens after this, and we don't

make pens.  Sales are down this quarter as it is.  Did this guy have any children?"
    "Only one," I said.  "A brother."
    "I'm sorry I have to ask these questions," he said.  "I realize that you weren't very close."
    "It's a nasty business."
    "We'll be keeping in touch," he said, pushing a button on his  desk.  His secretary came in, loosening her blouse.  Salpingo bit his tongue.
    "No!  I buzzed once, not twice!"
    I returned to my office, where I found the following note stapled  to my window:


    Looked like our office boy wouldn't be bringing me coffee and doughnuts that morning.  I entertained a second opinion when a cobra hugging my legs was sliced by a scimitar lunging from the ceiling.  
    Black widows knitted knots in the adding machine, and a smoke bomb seared through the window.  I stepped into the hallway to a barrage of Bic pens and old shoes, and folded myself under the old desk.

    "What happened then?" asked Salpingo.
    "I remembered that to stop a pen, you had to kick it in the ball."  
    "Good use of the old gray matter," said the president.  "We'll be keeping in touch."  
    As I left, he buzzed twice for his secretary.

    My wife was burning our roast to save it when I got home. 

    "What's cookin', babe?" I asked, ignoring the smoke.  But it was good smoke.  It smelled fresh.
    "You don't love me anymore!" she cried, slamming the bedroom door.  I was glad to see we were on speaking terms again.  
    I put the roast out for the cats, making a mental note to give the survivor a decent burial in the morning.  Then I went to the bedroom and kicked  the door down.  She was waiting for me near the closet, grasping something in her left hand.
    It was a Pic fine-point.  
    "You!" I sputtered.
    "Don't come near me or I'll break this pen!"  She thought about that  for a moment.  "We weren't very close," she added.
    "You can't be purulent about this, woman!"  I was getting brave now, inching away from her only half as fast as I had been.  She lunged at  my pants and wrestled me into  the closet.
There, my arm brushed up against something hairy.  It was  a leg.  I felt I knew that leg I felt.
    "I told you we'd keep in touch."  
    "Salpingo!"  I rose in shock.  
    "Yes, Salpingo!" he said.  

    My wife immediately rose to the occasion, flailing about with her  pen.  At one point she came within three inches of hitting Salpingo's left ear – and stabbed him right between the eyes.  He fell to the floor.
    "Ong and some milk duds," he said.  Those were his last words.

    I crawled out of the closet and found my wife in bed, casually smoking the evidence.  Without her clothes, she was still a fetching  sight. 
    "I did it all for you," she said.  "You won't report  me, will you?"
    "Of course not."

    The police came for her minutes after I called.  I can still  remember the look on her face when they carried her away.  Too bad I can't remember her face. 

    I retired from the Lactasia Chemical Rubber Company soon thereafter, having salted away some good embezzlement, and went to Jamaica for an extended vacation with Salpingo's secretary.

    You know, funny thing about that girl – she can only count to two.

Looking Sidewarys - 1979 Essay on Supportive Personnel by a Pharmacist Still Figuring Out How to Hold a Spatula Properly

 Looking Sidewarys: Supportive Personnel and the Retail Experience  

(1979 Essay by yr hmbl typst)

"Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible  things before breakfast." – Lewis Carroll

Tucked aside in some tawdry antechamber, hidden between notes brittled by two years of well-deserved dust, there lies an essay I carefully clipped from a library journal in my pre-Xerox years (meaning, before I had a job or money to use their machine) that, to this day, I feel remains the Final Word and  Definitive Statement regarding Supportive Personnel (read  "technicians").  It was well argued, and, in the course of its dialectics, came to a consummation devoutly to he wished  (ouch).  So moving was the conclusion that I instantly called the piece my own, and I remain certain that if I had it now, or could at least remember what the moving conclusion was in  the first place, this small distortion would proceed to slide more smoothly.  However, since my days of digging through tawdry antechambers are well past (it always being my philosophy to let sleeping dust lie), I press go ahead, au  naturel.

Throughout my sojourn at college, there was a lot of talk about these pharmacy technicians.  Internships were scarce in that protoplasmic era, and these doggone technicians weren't  making it any easier, we collectively surmised.   And the obscure future – when our hands  would be stamped with the indelible RPh – what then?   Technicians  would he there too, peeling into the job market, hundreds of  them for every pharmacist.  How could we ever rent the ‘Vet of  our dreams while on unemployment?  Our overly-educated  prospects seemed dimmer  than Tokyo's odds in a Godzilla movie.  Lordy!  Technicians would be everywhere!  

Many a student examined such a fate, a life without Brooks Brothers suits, matching pants, and clean shirts, and would shake their heads, and with typewriters tucked under arms go on to dental school.

But this is sheer fol-der-ol, just  another one of those pernicious, unhealthy attitudes you  read about (you are reading this, right?  I’d hate to be talking to myself, but then I do that already).  After all, what is a technician?  Webster's (and  intuition) tells us that a technician is a skilled worker in  a technical field.   And community pharmacy is a technical  field, indeed; an hour's paperwork could choke a goodly sized  cow.  Automation may have supplanted the traditional  ideas of secundem artem, but the fear that an intern's or pharmacist's position would be vanquished in the name of Supportive Personnel is a hollow one: it doesn't take five  years to learn filling insurance form or run counting machine.  It just seems that way.  Also, interns come and interns go, where a great technician is apt to persevere and be considered a platinum-level asset.

Time is important in developing a skilled worker (the lack of it merely causes frustration, and Frustration Personified is being an intern worrying about a p 'col exam while trying to  figure out why Blue Cross would ever reject that stupid form for the third time).

So far, this illiterate escapade has had a lot to do with  paranoia and precious little with Supportive Personnel and the Retail Experience.  Protracted time in college can do that to a person...that and the shock that you've been trained as a bench chemist to manage a hardware store, with the carefully accumulated education just a means to that end.  This is where technicians make the difference, by allowing the pharmacist to develop a new secundem artem.

Namely, the wave of the future – Clinical pharmacy! (cue the balloons)  And, as Kermit would say, "Yaaaaaay!"

So, let us examine, herald, and fully support this all-important Supportive Personnel.   Until recently, there was no set program for a pharmacy technician, no special training beyond hands-on experience.  Often, a technician began as a clerk who just happened to be assigned to the prescription counter.   What was lacking in all this was standardization.  In a world of semantics, one man's technician would be another man's clerk.  

Without some academic continuity, the position of technician would have little meaning besides the title.  Ohio offered the first collegiate-level program, and in Michigan community colleges, similar courses are being offered.  This State has also taken to the idea of certification for technicians, and the MPA has opened its doors to membership, as well as providing educational seminars for technicians.

Is certification of supportive personnel the answer?  If it is, I must have forgotten the question.  I think it had something to do with a tawdry antechamber, but I've  been wrong before... 

Addendum, in 2022:
(At the writing of this collection of sentences, pharmacy technician certification was an option, rarely pursued, and frankly, not heavily promoted among the average pharmacist in the 1970s.  Even a survey in the early 2000s suggesting mandatory certification, or even licensure, revealed  strong resistence in Michigan, mostly among rural, independent pharmacies.  Certification can still be obtained through study and testing, without a specific college-level training, and pharmacy technicians are now required to be licensed with the State of Michigan.  The 2001 survey can be read in its entirety at -  Pharmacist Attitudes - oddly enough, a survey paper on this very website and blog).


Sunday, December 18, 2022

1976 - A Time Magazine Film Review Parody - "I Was A Teenage Geriatric"

Some background - after sitting through the initial weekend release of Mel Brooks' Silent Movie, our high expectations were dashed with what seemed to be a phoned-in, thoroughly derivative performance, without any appreciation for silent comedy or comedy in general (we thought Marcel Marceau was the one saving grace).  Completely disenchanted, especially after the timeless Young Frankenstein, we expected the critics to be brutal.  However, Time magazine reviewed it as if Silent Movie had invented cinema - we were dumbfounded, so we figured - hey - if that's what critics want, perhaps Ron Ugly, our generic nom-de-plume in the days before staying up for SNL, should weigh in:

I Was A Teenage Geriatric: A New Film by Mel Brooks and Jerry Lewis

Screenplay by Mel Brooks, Jerry Lewis, and Dorn DeLuise
Additional Dialogue by Marty Feldman
Based on the Book, Worlds in Collision, by Immanuel Velikovsky
Directed by Mel Brooks
A Bud Yorkin-Norman Lear Presentation Distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox
150 minutes, Rated PG, 1976 release

It's a marriage made in Heaven. Those two veteran clowns of cinema, Mel (Blazing Saddles, Son of Silent Movie) Brooks and Jerry (Three On A Couch, Son of A Bitch)  Lewis, have been united by Twentieth Century-Fox in a film that must rate as one of the best of the decade.  Briefly setting aside their usual restraint,  Brooks and Lewis have opened all taps – I Was A Teenage Geriatric is brassy, incautious, funny without mercy.  No innuendos for this duo; they tell it like it is.

EASY LAUGHTER.   Jerry Lewis plays Stanley, a lovable but inept dishwasher in the Bellevue Stratford Hotel which is about to host the Pennsylvania American Legion convention.  Mel Brooks is Don Pardo, a disgruntled Mafia underling who has designs on controlling the northeast area's massage parlors.  To do so, he has sent his stevedores to poison The Boss (a superb cameo by Ed MacMahon), who just happens to be staying at Stanley's hotel.  Through some daffy mixup, the deadly vial finds its way to the kitchen where Stanley dutifully pours its contents into the dishwater and scrubs away.  That night, after the convention dinner, several legionnaires develop a strange respiratory disease.  In the ensuing confusion, someone drops a box of pepper down the ventilation shaft and we are treated to the sight of rescue workers fighting to hold onto the stretchers while holding back the urge to sneeze.  As you might expect, they don't always succeed, with hilariously disastrous results.

The hotel closes, and Stanley blames himself for the disaster.   In despair, he jumps off a convenient bridge, but as luck would have it, lands on Don Pardo's yacht.   From there, the plot takes off in all directions.   The reason I have gone to such detail over this is because all this action takes place during the opening credits alone!   The sequences that follow are purely episodic in nature--a series of set pieces that allow Mel and Jerry to show us their genius and off-the-cuff inventiveness.  Together, they negotiate a Brobdingnagian length of stairs to deliver a piano to a bawdyhouse; the little dishwasher befriends a blind flower girl; Don Pardo has perpetual problems with the clams in his chowder squirting him. 

DESPERATE SCHEME.   But their fun can't last forever. The FBI is on Pardo's trail because of the legionnaire catastrophe, headed by Marty Feldman as Agent Heever C. Hoover ("No relation," he explains).   In fact, the entire final hour of the movie is devoted to the chase.   It winds its way from Philadelphia's Opera house (with Pardo, in disguise, hawking peanuts to the audience while Stanley has a makeshift sword fight with the orchestra leader) where they disrupt II Trovatore, across New England (for a frantic chase on skis),  and ending up in the Big Apple, with Stanley and Pardo trapped atop the Statue of Liberty.   While the FBI frets about shooting at a National Monument ("The last arm we ordered took three months!"),  Stanley stoops to pick up a penny– for good luck– and bumps Pardo over the railing.  Stanley tries to help, but Pardo's shirtsleeve gives way, and the Mafia leader falls to his death,  yelling perhaps the funniest line in the film.

BIRDS. Naturally, Stanley is hailed as a hero. With the reward money, he helps the blind girl regain her sight and re-opens the Bellevue Stratford to record-breaking crowds.  In the last scene, Stanley and his girl are seen walking hand-in-hand down a freshly paved road to a brighter tomorrow.  It's a powerful ending, but Brooks and Lewis wouldn't leave us with just that.  As Lewis tells his new found love of his future plans, a flock of birds flies over and – well, you'll just have to see it for yourself.

Once again, Mel Brooks has shown himself to be a master of direction and Jerry Lewis appears as one of the most gifted comedians of this century. One can only hope that this union is more than just two ships passing in the night— I Was A Teenage Geriatric is definitely ahead of its time.

                                                                                                                            -Ron Ugly 

Chat GPT Rewrites a 50 Year Old Graduation Speech to Sound Like Every Other Graduation Speech

The Original Graduation Speech (loosely based on some word-salad from June, 1973)

We drew straws to see who would give the first speech and I lost. (I had to give the first address among four selected to do so that evening, on a football field, facing west)

As I look out over this graduating class, I see a future with a lot of baldness and divorce.   I am also staring right into a sunset, so my squinting should not be taken for sober, single-minded,  sincerity.
I have been credited with the phrase, "It's easier to pick up a book than a girl." I would like to take time now to rescind that statement.  I'm a bit older now, a little wiser — I've been to Paris — and now I find I can't pick up either.  Can't even look at a book.  They send chills down my spine. Of course, girls send chills down my spine, but that's another story.  In my case, that's a short story.  As a rule, people make me very nervous.  There has to be more going on inside than I’m able to see from here.  And again, I’m squinting.

I have a note here to include some quotes from the Bible, Shakespeare, or the recent IRS tax codes, so let me state for the record, “Jesus wept, do you think I meant country matters, and save your receipts for seven years.”  There.  Got that out of the way.

I have concluded that the purpose of education, whether in the context of high school or other higher centers of learning, is to keep the busy person busy.  He becomes one less person to worry about — one less person everyone will have to keep an eye on.  The lazy student, if he plays his cards right, has little to worry about.   He'll pass, be forgotten, perhaps later on become a member of the state senate.  However, remember that a busy person just becomes more efficient at time management, because no matter how busy I am, I’ll always make time for Dark Shadows.  I may be asking you for your blood type later on.  

All this Eastern philosophy, more Tao than Mao,  makes for fine talk at a graduation ceremony.

Some will say that this is really just our beginning...that we're on the verge of the real world now.

I contend that high school is poor preparation for the real world, especially when its conclusion comes so rapidly.   Being assigned to remain behind a book for four years is the best time machine in the world, but it tends to cause a bit of myopia, it tends to narrow one's field of vision.  I can torture ants with these glasses of mine, but I can’t change the oil in my car.  I can tell you things about Zachary Taylor that could make you blush, but I can’t tell a first down from a home run.  I think both have something to do with going out doors.

A bookish life can also make a person idealistic, and idealism is an almost certain early death.  It works only in books.   And life is more than an epigram.  And an epigram is not much different than an epidermis - it gives only a thin covering to what lies beneath.  

I shouldn't complain; it got me where I am today, and next year, it will get someone else up here.  And in ten years, there will have been ten more of me up here.  And I don’t relish that thought any more than most others.  Ten Jim Middletons.  There’s another chill down my spine.

So what's my advice to future classes, besides investing in hats and saving for legal fees?

Knowing that any advice will be forgotten with the last piece of graduation cake, I would like to say this:  life is too short to be taken seriously.

There will be people who will take it seriously, and they will fill pages in history books with noble deeds, noble ideas.   But those are for books.   And while I love books, while I have found comfort there, I know that they are hardly life.  So, kids, get out there and get muddy.

Thank you, and good luck to you all.    

(as a follow up, on January 26, 2023, I ran this through an AI writing checker, and it said, with 80-90% certainty, that it was written by a HUMAN! I have finally attained the recognition I have so long sought!)  Try it yourself at -

Now, Chat EPT (AI) “rewrote it” thusly (Version 1):  - note - each of these following examples, checked by another AI program, recognized their kindred spirits as a fellow AI generator!

Dear fellow graduates, family, and friends,

As we stand here today, on the brink of a new chapter in our lives, I can't help but feel a mix of emotions. Excitement for what the future holds, but also a sense of sadness at leaving behind the familiarity and comfort of high school.

But as we look back on the past four years, we can't help but feel a sense of accomplishment. We've persevered through the highs and lows, the late nights studying and the early morning wake-up calls. We've made friendships that will last a lifetime and learned valuable lessons that will stay with us forever.

So as we move forward, let's remember the resilience and determination that brought us here. Let's not be afraid to take risks and embrace new opportunities. And let's not forget the importance of balance – while it's important to work hard and strive for success, it's also important to take time for ourselves and the people we love.

But most importantly, let's remember to enjoy the journey. Life is short and unpredictable, and it's easy to get caught up in the stresses and pressures of the real world. So let's not take ourselves too seriously, and remember to find joy and laughter in the little things.

So to all of my fellow graduates, I wish you the best of luck on your next adventure. Whether you're headed to college, starting a new job, or traveling the world, I have no doubt that you will all achieve great things. Congratulations and thank you for the memories.

And, a second run, just to see if it could become more bland and traditional --

"We drew straws to see who would give the first speech and I lost. But as I stand here today, looking out at this graduating class, I am filled with pride and hope for what the future holds for each and every one of us.

"As we embark on this new journey, it is natural to feel a mix of emotions - excitement, anxiety, uncertainty. But no matter what lies ahead, we must remember that education is a lifelong process and we should never stop learning and growing.

"High school has been a time of growth, not just academically, but also personally. It has taught us how to think critically, communicate effectively, and work collaboratively. These skills will serve us well as we navigate the complexities of the real world.

"But education is not just about the grades we earn or the awards we receive. It is about becoming well-rounded individuals who are capable of making a positive impact on the world around us.

"So as we leave these hallowed halls and venture out into the unknown, let us remember to embrace every challenge and opportunity that comes our way. Let us strive to make a difference in our communities and the world. And most importantly, let us never lose sight of the fact that life is too short to be taken too seriously.

"Congratulations to the class of 20XX. May all your dreams and ambitions come true. Thank you, and good luck to you all."

OK, it seems Chat AI actually “read” the original from 1973 - a bit - and perhaps may improve with a third try:
"As we stand on the threshold of a new chapter in our lives, I am filled with both excitement and nerves. We have all worked hard to get to this point, and it is a momentous occasion to be celebrated.

"As I look out at this graduating class, I see a bright future filled with endless possibilities. You are all capable of achieving great things and making a positive impact on the world.

"But I also know that the journey ahead will not always be easy. There will be challenges and setbacks, but I have confidence that you have the determination and resilience to overcome them.

"Remember to always stay true to yourselves and pursue your passions. Education is a powerful tool that gives us the knowledge and skills to achieve our goals, but it is up to us to put that education into action and make a difference.

"I encourage you to embrace every opportunity that comes your way and make the most of your time. Take risks, be curious, and never stop learning.

"To the Class of [Year], I offer my heartfelt congratulations and best wishes for the future. You have all accomplished so much, and I have no doubt that you will continue to achieve great things in the years ahead.

"Thank you, and congratulations once again to the entire graduating class."

That seemed a regression, so once more, to determine if it can distill anything else out of whatever personality I had at age 18: 

"As we stand here on the cusp of a new chapter in our lives, I am filled with both excitement and trepidation. The road ahead will not be easy, but it is a journey that we undertake together, united in our shared experiences and hopes for the future.

"Looking out at this graduating class, I see a group of individuals who have overcome countless challenges and obstacles to reach this moment. We have learned, laughed, and grown together, forming lasting bonds that will endure even as we go our separate ways.

"But graduation is not just the end of one journey, it is also the beginning of another. As we embark on this new path, we are faced with a world full of possibility and potential. It is up to each and every one of us to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead, to chase our dreams and make a positive impact on the world around us.

"So as we bid farewell to our high school years, let us also embrace the uncertainty and excitement of the future. Let us remember to always stay true to ourselves and to never lose sight of our goals. Let us remember to be kind, to be compassionate, and to be grateful for all that we have.

"And most importantly, let us remember to have fun. Life is too short to be taken too seriously, so let us embrace every moment and make the most of it.

"So here's to the class of [year], and to all that the future holds. Congratulations, and best of luck to you all."

Fifth time's a charm, if only to get more foundational material to parody later:

"Graduates, we drew straws to see who would give the first speech and I lost, but I'm honored to be able to speak to all of you today. As I look out over this graduating class, I see a future filled with endless possibilities and opportunities.

"I know that many of us have spent the last four years working hard to prepare for this moment, and I want to acknowledge the dedication and determination that it takes to graduate from high school. This is a significant accomplishment that should be celebrated and recognized.

"However, I also want to remind us that this is just the beginning of our journey. As we move on to the next phase of our lives, whether that be college, a career, or something else entirely, I encourage you to keep an open mind and to continue learning and growing.

"Education is an ongoing process, and it's important to remember that we don't have to have all the answers right now. It's okay to be unsure or to make mistakes along the way. In fact, these experiences can often be some of the most valuable and transformative in our lives.

"I also want to encourage you to be kind and to support one another as you navigate this next phase. It can be a challenging and overwhelming time, but we are all in this together. Remember to reach out to your friends, family, and mentors for support and guidance when you need it.

"As you move forward, I hope that you will always remember the value of hard work, persistence, and determination. These qualities will serve you well in whatever path you choose.

"So, graduates, as you step out into the world, I wish you all the best of luck. Remember to have fun, stay curious, and keep learning. Congratulations on this amazing accomplishment and I look forward to seeing all that you will achieve in the future. Thank you."

And that is about all I can stomach for this exercise.  I do see a lot of boilerplate blandness that populates the typical graduation address - and likely where future graduates expecting to “say a few words” will go for their inspiration without perspiration.