Wednesday, October 31, 2007

California Wildfires Vegas Connection

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Firestorm
The recent wildfires that blazed through San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles counties had some eerie connections to Las Vegas. Whenever wildfires burn in California easterly winds bring souvenir smoke into the Las Vegas Valley. Smoke doesn't respect borders, and our sunny skies are tainted with the smoke and residue from the fires. We were given a bit of a break this time, at least early on when winds turned fickle as a new bride in a wedding chapel and blew the smoke westward over the Pacific Ocean. But after a few days, El Nino was back up to his bad boy tricks and wind covered the Vegas Valley. It is all clear for now.
The fires brought other connections to Las Vegas. Tanya Tucker reportedly was in Las Vegas when her Malibu home was evacuated. Her daughter Presley who was in Malibu, gathered up the four dogs and high tailed it out of there.
As often happens during such disasters, Las Vegas firefighters joined other Nevada and regional firefighters and headed lock, stock, and firetruck to Southern Cal to fight the flames. Many Las Vegas residents, including entertainers have homes in the affected area, others have family. In typical fashion, Las Vegas residents opened their hearts and weallets to help. Some hotels offered discount rates to displaced families and many community groups and churches organized drives to help those affected get back on their feet.
A strong bond exists between Las Vegas and Southern California. Literally that is I-15 but many residents of both locations feel equally at home in each. In fact one man boasted to me that he left LA for Vegas in a $ 60,000 Lexus and rode home in a $ 300,000 Greyhound.
Dr. Forgot

Vegas Weather

Say Goodby, October
October 31 is an interesting day in Las Vegas. People travel from the land of shake, rattle, and roll to roll the dice in Las Vegas in hopes of returning to the land of milk and honey with heavier pockets than whence they came. Why today? Of course it is Halloween and for some reason folks all ages like to dress up and get silly. Freud had some interesting theories on why people assumed different identities. Of course, Freud had some interesting theories about lots of things. But even outside the Entertinment Capital of the World, folks cross dress and get silly today. Witness the Today show where people dressed cross gender, cross race, and even cross species. If you missed it, you missed one of the best Halloween celebrations.
Reason #2: October 31 in Las Vegas is not just a day to mark ghosts, ghouls, goblins, grinches, and Goths, it is the day that Nevada celebrates its statehood. You see, our state is known as the Silver State. Comstock lode and all that. But during the civil war the Union worried that the Confederacy would somehow get Nevada's silver to help the South's war effort, so in a move to keep those silver mines rolling, Nevada was granted statehood October 31, 1864. Hence, Nevada Day is celebrated today, right? Wrong! In the interest of 3-day weekends, the holiday is now celebrated before or after the actual date.
Reason #3 is that 10/31 is unofficially the day that summer ends and winter begins. You won't find it marked on any calendar, as it is celebrated only by Dr. Forgot and his followers. Ok, there are no followers, but in the 40 years that I've lived in Las Vegas I cannot remember a time that the weather was not in the 80s and beautiful enough on October 31 to wear shorts, sandals, and a tee shirt. On November 1 the wind begins to blow, tempratures drop, and the electric blanket gets turned on for the first time. In Vegas, folks, that is winter.
In New England they say, "If you don't like the weather, wait a while." In Pennsylvania fall is the time to get ready for deer hunting. In Las Vegas November 1 is the time to observe that crotchety species that sheds its skin and migrates west - the snowbird.
Dr. Forgot

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Chili Today, Hot Tamale

The Ring of Fire
I had a roommate in college who introduced me to Mexican food and hot sauce. I came from an ethnic family near Pittsburgh so I thought I knew a little about spicy cooking, but the only Mexican family in Clairton moved away when I was just a lad, so my ethnic epicurian experiences were limited to sarma (ground beef wrapped in a cabbage leaf) and pogacha, a round bread about the size of a small pizza but two or three inches high. Served warm, or with sauer kraut in the middle, it was a slice of heaven.
When I got to college, 2,000 miles away in Utah, I thought all the local food was bland. Then I met my future roommate, David. He was from Peru and was worldly when it came to cuisine. He invited me to dinner to El Azteca for my first Mexican meal. The dining experience started off well when chips and salsa was brought to our table - free! I'd eaten in Italian and Chinese restaurante and aside from water, nobody ever gave me anything free, especially before I ordered the meal.
The salsa was hot, and David asked for Tobasco to sprinkle over his meal. I tried to do the same, but when I took my first bite, as the song says, "It burns, burns, burns, that ring of fire..." I probably had several pitchers of water during that meal but learned to love everything made from chili peppers. I think I put chili sauce on everything but ice cream.
A recent scientific article showed many uses for capsaicin, the chemical that gives chili peppers their fire. Surgeons are experimenting with bathing wounds with capsaicin to dull the pain. The theory is that bathing nerves with the extract will numb them for weeks which means patients suffer less pain and therefore require less pain medication. In another experiment Harvard researchers are experimenting with capsaicin to dull pain during dental surgery.
Las Cruces, New Mexico is the self-proclaimed chili capital of the world. Could it become the medical center for pain research? Nothing is impossible. In the meatime, remember my favorite chili-eating song, "It only hurts for a little while..."
Dr. Forgot

Halloween? The Hell, you mean!

What's It All About, Punkie?
Tomorrow little folks will dress up in the best costumes money can buy and go door to door looking cute to the oooohs and aaahs of the neighborhood sugar pushers. Later that night it will become socially acceptable for men to dress in drag and Miss Goody Two-Shoes to dress as a harlot. This day of celebration is one of the oldest of holidays we celebrate. Mankind has always enjoyed being scared, as evidenced by the success of many of our politicians. In Roman days there was the Festival of Pomona, the Celts celt-abrated Samhain and Christians christened the Saints and Souls. Costumes were made from animal skins as folks generally debauched themselves.
Today we don't need an excuse for debauchery but we have maintained one more reason to dress and act silly, go off our diets, and generally get crazy. But once you get all those goodies home you must decide whether to eat at a little sensibly, or use Halloween as one more excuse for breaking the diet.
Nutririonists tell us to follow the advice of ancient wise men... "all things in moderation." Some tricks to help you do that is to start by thinking small - offer mini bars instead of full size candy bars, try to mix goodies with healthy foods, such as chocolate covered raisens, and try organic chololate.
Teachers have the good fortune of having all those little high energy kidlings who are hyoed up on pre-Halloween sugar and anxious to share what they plan to be when they hit the streets. Forget trying to introduce the Pathagorean therom on October 31, if you teach you might consider Halloween crossword puzzles, craft activities that include making something Holloween-themed, or a writing activity that includes the origins of the day and personalize it by having students tell of their past and present costumes. There are also reading materials that would be good choices for the day. One of my favorites for introducing kids to poetry is, "Scary Poems for Rotten Kids." Older kids might also enjoy the classic, "Headless Horseman."
Finally, a little Halloween humor for your planning pleasure: What is the circumference of a Jack 'o lantern? Pumpkin Pi. What is the opening line in a ghost's letter? Tomb it May Concern. And finally, where ghouls go for their vacation? Lake Eerie.
Dr. Forgot

Growing up Clairton

Days of Runny Noses
Forget the Days of Wine and Roses, let your mind drift back to the Days of Runny Noses. I grew up in the post-war 1950s in Clairton, a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA. I was born at home because I wanted to be near my mother when it happened, although I don't remember much because I was very young at the time. My parents were in the iron and steel business. My mother would iron and my father would steal.
Kids im my generation started school in the first grade - we had not yet heard of kindergarten - just before 1950. We got our naps and lukewarm milk in the first grade. Somehow we were able to survive the steel mill curses of putrid air and the shingles on the rooves of our homes that turned black with soot within months after they were installed. In fact, Clairton was famous for its coke (not the drink nor the drug but the stuff used to make steel). Clairton Coke Works provided more coke than any other mill in the world.
State street ran along side the mills and whenever the coke was cooled, something called quencher rained down on the cars so heavily that windshield wipers were required to see and the stench was intolerable. We had no OSHA and no seatbelts. No child safety seats nor the myriad of other government required safety devices, but somehow we survived. Nobody ever "broke their neck" despite every mother's warning.
We did have candy cigarettes (nobody caught cancer from them but they might "rot your teeth") jukeboxes (Elvis did not doom us all to Hell), milk delivery in bottles, and the telephone exchange was CLairton - 3 followed by four numbers. Later the CLairton exchange was modernized to BElmont-3, then simply 233. Ah progress. Oh, yes, we still say "Dial a number," but no dials exist on today's phones.
We drove our teachers crazy by smuggling pea shooters into class (although at home we had pop guns that shot corks on a string) and listened to our 45s because 78s were so out of style. We saved S&H Greens Stamps and fastened our roller skates onto our shoes using a skate key. And when the doorbell rang it might be the Fuller Brush Man or a huckster looking to sharpen Mom's knives, but we opened the door for them.
We bought a pack of gum for a nickel, threw away the gum and kept the baseball cards. They have become more valuable than stocks. If we had a penny or two left over we were able to buy penny candy. The most fearful "disease" one could catch from another was "cooties," which some smart marketer turned into a game. Saturday mornings were for cartoons on the black and white TV - if you had one. If not you could build using Lincoln Logs or your erector set. Two boys together equaled 1:1 basketball, three boys together equaled a singing group. More than that equaled tag football.
Our fathers served in WW-II, our big brothers served in Korea and we got to serve in "Viet #$%&%$-ing Nam." Somehow we survived. Today we're helpless, bald, and use diapers. Wait, isn't that how we started out?
Dr. Forgot

Monday, October 29, 2007

No More Pencils, No More Books...

No more teachers' sassy looks...
The face of higher education has changed dramatically over the past decade or so. Back in medieval times, when I attended college, post-secondary education was highly scripted. Aspiring collegians took "College Prep" classes while others, who might want to enter the white collar work force took business classes and tech types took "Shop." Applications for college were completed in a timely fashion and we went off to study with classrooms and teachers much like those of high school. How that has changed! But not without a struggle.
Colleges and universities that tried nontraditional cutting edge delivery systems were often beaten down by the traditionalists. But some continued to buck the trend, fight the battles, and win the lawsuits intended to stifle them. Perhaps the college that had the biggest impact on delivery systems was the University of Phoenix, now highly regarded. Others became even more bold. Trailblazers such as Northcentral University began to offer college degrees totally online. No longer are students limited by the number of classroom seats or by certain times of the day classes are offered.
Results of providing more convenient delivery systems and class times resulted in a plethora of nontraditional students taking courses. No longer are college freshmen required to be fulltime students or take courses in a four year lockstep order. Students are now just as likely to be full time employees, stay-at-home parents, or even senior citizens. Technology and creative, outside-the-box thinkers have opened opportunities to many for whom higher education was just a dream.
So if you are a parent whose child is in a traditional college and he sends you a letter that reads, "No mon(ey). No fun. Your Son." You can reply, "Too bad. So Sad. Your Dad." Once he gets a job, follow up with, "Don't whine. Study online. It's sublime."
Dr. Forgot


Gouhls, Ghosts, Gremlins, Goblins, and Grinches
Get ready boys and girls. Just two more days before the kiddies dress up in costumes and go door to door in the neighborhood begging for treats. At least that's how it was back in the days when men were men and women were glad of it, and you could usually tell one from the other. My, my, my how things have changed on this "All Hallows Eve" celebration. Since the rules of proper behavior have become clouded regarding Halloween protocol, I've decided to share some of my rules. Feel free to follow them - or feel cheap if you prefer. It's all the same to me.
1. All goblins and their decendents (which we call bugs) who live in my computer must exit immediately on Halloween, never to return. That includes the little rascals who placed two "i the webpage cannot be found" on this blog. You see, Dr. Forgot is a technological Barbarian who, if he ever knew how to remove such items, has long since forgotten.
2. In order to wear a costume you must be shorter than a midget and too young to have acne. Last year on October 1 at 5:00 a.m. I was driving down a major thoroughfare and I saw what appeared to be a ballet dancer complete with pink tights and tutu standing beside the road. As I drew closer I could see that "she" was in fact a "he" who must have just left the party and did not want to despoil the host's "facilities" so he was satisfying the biological urge to relieve himself along side the street. There are plenty of other ways to make an ass of yourself besides donning a donkey costume.
3. No costume, no candy. Once the cute little ones have gotten their treats, teens from somewhere else come to the door. If their little brother was the one for whom the sheet was destroyed for the Caspar costume, then the older brother grabbed the pillowcase for his booty sack. No bother with a costume.
4. Trick or Treat in your own neighborhood. Their is no reason to load your 17 little ones in the Soccer-Mom's van and transport them from place to place. How much candy can they score? Dentists might love that plan but seniors in age-restricted communities often become suspicious when large groups tots arrive at the door.
5. Fido is not one of your children. It borders on cruelty to place a costume and mask on a defensless animal. It is kind of like having your kid play the violin for adult company. YOU think the kid is cute but the company would choose water totrure if given the choice.
6. If all else fails, bar your front door and place a sign over the bars that says, "Sorry, Grinch took all the candy," and go to a movie.
Dr. Forgot

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Who Am I?
I'm sure we've all wondered at one time or another who we are and where we came from. In the old days genealogists, such as they were, generally fell into one of three groups - Darwinians who insisted we must have evolved from apes (Remember "The Naked Ape?"), White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, who all seemed to be related to royalty and came over on the Mayflower (no matter how hard the family tree was shaken, no nuts, scoundrels or horse thieves seemed to fall out), or Mormons, formally known as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints whose beliefs allowed for post-mortem baptism of relatives and others.
Alex Hailey's "Roots" seemed to have blazed the trail, allowing not only WASPS but decendents of those of humble beginnings who came to America voluntarily or involuntarily, and whose anscestors did not speak nor keep records in English. Research of families became easier with the advent of internet resources. Soon the need to know that had been a groundswell turned into a torrent. Adoptees, children of blended families and those whose ancestors lived in tiny villages were able to trace their family history with equal ease. The phenomenon spread worldwide, especially in countries that had been settled or "invaded" by European immigrants. Birth records, ship manifests, and other family history records have become available to anybody willing to spend a little time and a little money.
While the LDS (Mormon) church has far and away developed the most thorough collection of documents anywhere in the world, resources from ethnic bulletin boards address specific questions to those seeking ancestors who might be of Croatian, African, Italian, Irish, Dutch, Hungarian, or any other conceivable ethnicity. I once posted the family name of my Grandmother on a bulletin board. She had immigrated to America alone at age 14, kept no family records and spoke little English. Some eighteen months after the original post I received an email from a person with the same last name as the one I sought. He lived in the Czech Republic and turned out to not only be a distant cousin, but was also interested in genealogy and was able to send me 200 years worth of family history that I'd not had. His grandfather (a first cousin to my grandmother) was a historian and prolific writer of family history. The experience was an exhilarating one.
Recently news reports told of Vice President Dick Cheney's wife's research yielding the surprise that he was related to presidential candidate Barak Obama. Walt Disney had it right when he included the Disneyland ride - it is a Small World after all.
Dr. Forgot

What Happens in Vegas...

A worker shortage? Bet on it!
Can't find a job? Don't tell that to employers in the gaming and hospitality industry. If you're an out-of-work dealer, food server or preparer, maid, front desk person, technology expert, valet car parker, casino or hotel manager, or any of the myriad of other workers in the industry, employers are crying for you. Once legal gaming in the U.S. was the provenance of Las Vegas and Reno but the spread of legalized gaming to New Jersey, riverboats, Indian reservations, and beyond has placed a premium on many industry jobs over the past couple of decades.
Is there an end in sight? The Las Vegas Srip alone has $ 28 billion in construction scheduled to open within the next five years. Pull out your calculator and you'll see that translates into the need for an additional 50,000 employees to tend the new hotels, casinos, restaurants, etc. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas boasts the top ranked hotel school in the country (so does Cornell, but that's another story) but neither UNLV nor the gaggle of dealer schools can keep up with the required pool of qualified employees. Many hotel/casinos have opted to hire students before graduation and complete their education on the job.
Although the travel and accommodation industry numbers are projected to dip slightly this year, double digit increases are expected within the next three years. Las Vegas has responded with some traditional methods such as opening additional dealer schools, and some not-so-traditional methods including such grow-your-own strategies as providing scholarships to high school students who opt to enter the hospitality industry via college training.
Las Vegas continues to grow all aspects of its community. That means shortages of employees not only in the hospitality industry but in all facets of customer service, teaching, and others. "If you hire, they will come."
Dr. Forgot

Rx for Pharmacists - Who's Your Supplier?

A Different Kind of Drug Crisis

Several years ago the American Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) determined that practicing pharmacists in the U.S. should have a Doctor's degree instead of a Bachelor's. So a new degree was born - the Doctor of Pharmacy, or Pharm. D. degree. Any applicant who desires to be a pharmacist must have graduated from an ACPE accredited school and earned a Pharm. D. Note: There is an alternative application method for graduates of foreign colleges of pharmacy, but the rule is clear for American grads.

The field of pharmacy has become a lucrative one with starting salaries often over $ 100,000 with "signing bonuses" of up to $ 50,000 for those willing to accept certain locations. The field of pharmacy has evolved from "count, stick, and pour" to a complex field. New drugs come on the market almost daily and not only doctors but pharmacists must stay on the cutting edge. Pharmacists also now can specialize in institutional pharmacy, pain management, or a variety of other areas of specialty.

A study done several years ago noted a shortage of 5,000 pharmacists in the U.S. Existing pharmacy schools are simply unable to keep up with the need for licensed pharmacists. Additionally, it seems like new pharmacys open daily on every corner and with 24-hour service, two or three pharmacists are needed where one had been adequate. Further, pharmacy is a graying profession. More pharmacists are closer to retirement than are entering the field. Hence, the shortage continues to grow.

In the past half decade or so at least five new colleges of pharmacy have opened. Despite that, the estimated shortage of pharmacists has grown to 6,000. Florida was the first state to allow pharmacists to perscribe drugs but some experts believe that within the next decade, nearly all states will follow.

One possible answer to the shortage is for ACPE to accredit colleges of pharmacy outside the U.S. The organization has one accredited program located in Lebanon, but plans no others. The problem will not go away as aging baby bomers become more intimate with their pharmacists. The solution seems to be either provide for international colleges of pharmacy to be accredited, allow para-professionals (i.e. pharmacy technicians, etc.) to assume more pharmacist duties, or continue the crisis.

Dr. Forgot

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Las Vegas - Valley of the Dollars

I'll See Your Tourist and Raise You One Newbie
Las Vegas is my home town. Home of Elvis (I'm sure he passed me on the Strip the other day) and more churches per capita than any other city in the world. Makes you wonder what all those people are praying for. Word has it that some of the churches actually accept chips in their collection plates then send their Sunday offerings to a local monestary to have the monks count the money and avoid any hint of impropriety. Not just any monks are permitted to count the money, they must be certified chipmunks.
Las Vegas is special. We don't have California earthquakes, Louisana floods, Florida hurricanes, or Texas Tornados. We do have the Eifel Tower, the Statue of Liberty (two, actually - one on the Strip and one on Sahara Avenue), the Staten Island ferry, and the MGM lion. We have an active volcano and the Via Venito complete with gondolas and singing gondoliers.
We import most of our prominent citizens such as The Donald, Steve Wynn, Sheldon Adleson, and Sigfried and Roy. In fact, since our community has been growing at the rate of 5,000 - 7,000 per year for at least the past decade, most of our prominent citizens were born elsewhere.
Imagine, that means about a million new Las Vegans since the beginning of the Clinton administration! Although some refer to the Clinton years as "Sex between the Bushes," our population growth has resulted primarily from people driving to the desert rather than from the miracle of birth.

We do have some home grown celebrities. Andre Agassi is probably the best known but there are others, not including Sigfreid and Roy's tigers.

Despite the rapid growth in the desert - everybody from Ohio, Illinois, Virginia, and points east, wants to have a green lawn just like they did back home - it is the tourists who drive the economy.

About half the tourists come from the left coast, or as San Andreas once said, "That's not my fault." But they fly in - Las Vegas McCarran Iternational airport is the fourth busiest in the U.S., drive and, I imagine some swim, as Arizona is across Lake Mead from Nevada. They come for conventions, for the gaming (that's gambling for the uninitiated), and for the for the food. And of course, because we all know that what happens in Las Vegas....

I love Las Vegas but I liked it better in the old days when the population was a little more constant - every time a baby was born some fellow left town. I miss the days when the air was clean and sex was dirty. But I continue to live here because beneath all that phoney neon, glitter and tinsel you'll find real, honest-to-goodness neon, glitter, and tinsel.

Dr. Forgot

Friday, October 26, 2007

Makes Perfect Cents

"You'll Never Take Me Alive, Copper!"
A Senator has proposed the elimination of the penny. The U.S. standard copper coin since the 1700s may be doomed to go the way of the Buffalo Nickel and the Susan B. Anthony Dollar. Ah, what hath the Senator wrought?
The proposal is not without opposition. A coalition that calls itself "Americans for Common Cents" suggests that the penny is not only a valuable asset, but its elimination will amount to a "rounding up" tax, which will cost poor families $ 600 million each year. Sounds like a cop(per) out to me.
Should the penny be eliminated think of the consequences: "A nickel saved is a nickel earned?" How about, "Nickels from Heaven," or "It ain't worth one red dime?" Would carpenters then have to purchase 10-nickel nails? A sawbuck for your thoughts. How about "A half dollar saved is a half dollar earned?"
The business world would have to adjust, of course. What would become of J.C. Penney stores? "Five and Dime" is already taken as is "Dollar Store?" Would the stock exchange have to ban penny stocks?
And what of sports and entertainment? Could pro basketball give us Nickel Hardaway? Would the movie director become Peso Marshall? And will Clint Eastwood's "Will Penny" rise to inflation? Would you pay hard earned money to view the "Three Dime Opera?"
Don't think the animal world will escape. What will the skunk have if not it's (s)cent?
Well, maybe the time has come for an overhaul, to coin an issue. May the debate continue. A Sacagawea for your thoughts.
Dr. Forgot