Standard night-time in-the-bed while fast-asleep dreams can be crazy, sort of like visiting the Dalí Museum while you’re drunk and on acid. But they are mild compared to what may happen if you doze off while watching television.
I did that a few nights ago. Here’s what I remember about my TV dream: The president of the U.S. was named Ebola. He was a short Italian man, married to the singer Taylor Swift, who kept singing bittersweet tunes such as “You leave-a me and I willa cut off your dinky pepperoni!”
The president escaped onto the White House lawn. There, a thousand protesters had gathered to accuse Ebola of every crime and problem known to humankind.
So you’re perturbed over a letter to the editor. You’re so mad you vow never to read our newspapers again. Here’s my advice: “Don’t get mad, get even.” In other words write a better letter.
I love letters to the editor, even though some make me cringe.
In the past 10 years, I bet I’ve read and edited more than a 1,000 letters to the editor, ranging from complaints about the president, ex-presidents, animals, local government decisions, police, dog poop, fireworks found in mail boxes, the smell of sewage, bicyclists who text, Democrats, Republicans, the cost of groceries, trash on the beach, our columnist Bob Driver and yours truly.
The novelist Henry James once wrote a remarkable story called “The Beast in the Jungle.” It told of a man, John Marcher, who believed that something important, and possibly catastrophic, would one day happen to him. He was not sure what it would be, but he believed it would surely come and give meaning to his life.
He had a friend, May Bartram, who cared deeply for him. He did not value her as he might have. He did not allow May to come close to him, for fear his coming big event - the beast in the jungle - might somehow harm her. He was too busy waiting for the transformation of his life to occur.
Years passed. Archer and May remained friends, but never attained the glory they might have known if Archer had allowed May to replace his long-awaited beast, the great unknown event. That event never arrived. At the story’s end, Archer realizes that the “beast” he had waited for was the fact that he would never experience a grand event. His life had been a futile, humdrum waste. The closing of “The Beast in the Jungle” is regarded by many critics as one of the most powerful pieces of writing known.
If you wanted to nudge the courts to establish a right to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal, you couldn’t pick a more sympathetic plaintiff than Brandon Coats of Colorado. As a teenager, Coats was in an automobile accident that left him severely disabled. Now 34, Coats is a quadriplegic who has had a state medical marijuana card since 2009. He worked as a customer service representative for Dish Network from 2007 to 2010, when Dish fired him after he tested positive for marijuana use during a random drug test.
Coats sued Dish. On Tuesday, attorneys argued his case before the Colorado Supreme Court.
“We’re not arguing that it’s a constitutional right,” Coats’ attorney, Michael Evans, told the court, “but we are arguing that it’s lawful (to use marijuana outside the workplace).” Dish maintains that it fired Coats in keeping with its zero-tolerance drug policy, which comports with federal law and even Colorado law, which provides only an “affirmative defense” for marijuana.
If this column doesn’t appear for a few weeks, here’s why: I’ll be in a mental ward, recovering from gadget overload. I will have tried to learn too much, too fast, about three things: (1) A new Kindle, (2) a new iPod, and (3) how to start my own blog.
1. MY NEW KINDLE. As you probably know, a Kindle is an electronic device that lets you download and store books, newspapers and many other things. I’ve owned a basic Kindle for three years, and I love it. But it recently died. So I bought a new Kindle. I assumed it would be as simple to operate as my old one. I was wrong.
My old Kindle had a keyboard and switches that I could actually feel as I pressed them. In contrast, my new Kindle - called Fire - is designed for brain surgeons or 8-year-olds with tiny, ultra-sensitive fingertips that can touch the necessary screen points with a micro-accuracy that I don’t yet possess (and perhaps never will.). Also, instead of clicking on the files I want, I must slide my hands up and down across the screen like a fairy godfather, hoping to reach the regions I’m looking for.
It’s candidate debate season. Just about a month out from the election, which this year is Nov. 4, it begins to dawn on people: Oh, there’s an election coming up in a month. Wonder who’s running, and what they stand for?
Civic clubs, special-interest groups and news media are eager to step in to help voters get to know the candidates and what’s at stake by offering public debates. At St. Petersburg College, we’re joining the effort by presenting a candidate debate on Thursday, Oct. 2, at the Seminole campus, 9200 113th St. N. SPC’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions is partnering with the Tampa Bay Times to engage the candidates for the Pinellas County Commission and state Legislature in a series of debates from 6 to 9 p.m.
I hope readers will turn out to get to know those who seek to represent them in county and state government. Television commercials and mailed fliers aside, a live debate is perhaps the best way for voters to get to know the candidates. Besides putting candidates on the record on key issues, these events also test their knowledge of the issues, their ability to articulate a clear position, their skill in thinking on their feet, and a little bit about their personality.
Most Americans like to be well informed. When a large or small event occurs, we want to know at least the basics of what happened and what’s going on. One of the inventions for handling this desire is the press conference.
A well-run press conference is a thing of beauty. The other kind can be a bungled, confusing disaster.
The norm is for a senior official or a designated spokesperson to stand at a lectern while speaking into a microphone. The news media and the general public gather around and wait. Then, any of several things can happen.
AHEC iQUIT sessions The Gulfcoast North Area Health Education Center provides free services to help people quit any form of tobacco.
In October, two IQUIT classes will be presented at these Florida Department of Health in Pinellas (DOH-Pinellas) health departments:
• Wednesday, Oct. 22, 10 a.m. to noon, in Conference Room 109A, at 205 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N., St. Petersburg.
• Tuesday, Oct. 28, 1 to 3 p.m., in Conference Room 1226, at 8751 Ulmerton Road, Largo.
AHEC’s tobacco training and cessation program, iQUIT, provides services that include in-person classes and free nicotine-replacement patches, gum and lozenges (while supplies last and if medically appropriate). The program is sponsored by AHEC and the Florida Department of Health.
To register for these free sessions, call Nicole Kelly at 813-929-1000, ext. 204, or email email@example.com. Visit www.ahectobacco.com.
Breast Cancer Basics CLEARWATER – Morton Plant Mease Hospitals will sponsor a lecture on breast cancer detection and treatment to bring focus to breast health during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
Breast Cancer Basics will be presented Wednesday, Oct. 22, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., at YMCA of the Suncoast, Teen Room, 1005 S. Highland Ave.
Jola Baginski, ARNP, will discuss breast cancer detection and treatment. There is no cost to attend. To register, call 800-BayCare.
City Power Toastmasters Club meeting ST. PETERSBURG – The City Power Toastmasters Club, a nonprofit communication and leadership club, meets Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. at the Municipal Services Building, One Fourth St. N., Sixth Floor, Room 600.
The club teaches self-confidence and skills to help listen, think, speak and gain leadership qualities. Participants gain poise, positive body language and speak more easily.
Guests are welcome to visit for free with no pressure to join.
Fall Fest Open House LARGO – Pinecrest Place, a Brookdale Senior Living Community located at 1150 Eighth Ave. SW, will host Fall Fest Open House – Wednesday, Oct. 22, 11 a.m. – Attendees will enjoy seasonal treats such as pumpkin pie and cinnamon ice cream.
During the event, guests will have an opportunity to tour residents’ homes for a firsthand look at the spacious floor plans.
RSVP is required by Oct. 20. To RSVP, call 581-8142.
Roger Day performance SAFETY HARBOR – The award winning children’s performer, Roger Day, will perform at the Safety Harbor Public Library on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 4 p.m., at 101 Second St. N., courtesy of Ruth Eckerd Hall.
Day’s energetic live show incorporates his trademark wit, whimsy and wordplay, all grounded in the joy of a powerful love and respect for children. He creates an imaginary world populated by pachyderms, sherpas, isopods, and mosquito burritos. He urges kids to reach their potential by using their bodies and brains, mind and muscle.
Wednesday afternoon book club
TARPON SPRINGS – The Tarpon Springs Library offers a Wednesday afternoon book club called “Expand Your Horizons.” Fiction and non-fiction books from a variety of genres are discussed each month. For the date of the next meeting, call 943-4922 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amendment 2 debate GULFPORT – A debate on the Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, or Amendment 2, is set Thursday, Oct. 23, noon, in Grant Hall at Stetson University College of Law, 4101 61st St. S.
Attorney John Morgan will argue the merits of the initiative with former State Supreme Court justice Kenneth Bell, who has questioned whether the amendment might result in marijuana getting into the hands of children. Morgan is a proponent of the medical benefits of marijuana.
Annual candlelight vigil LARGO - Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office will host the sixth annual candlelight vigil Thursday, Oct. 23, 7 p.m., at Largo Central Park, 105 Central Park Drive.
The vigil is a time to remember those who have died as a result of drug and alcohol related overdose; help those who are currently living with addiction; and bring hope that the community working together can make a difference for the future.
The vigil will bring together a wide range of groups from the religious, government and private sectors of the community. Pinellas County School students also will attend. Attendees will hear the personal stories from the families of those who have lost loved ones to drug overdose or are struggling with addiction today.
For more information about the vigil, or to add your story and video to the memorial wall, contact Laurie Serra at 727-424-6906 or email email@example.com.
The event is being hosted by NOPE, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and Operation PAR in partnership with the LiveFree Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Pinellas County (firstname.lastname@example.org), among many other community partners.
Garden tour LARGO – Vegetable, herb a tropicals tours will be offered Thursdays, Oct. 2 and 23, 9 to 11 a.m., at Florida Botanical Gardens, 12520 Ulmerton Road.
Participants will explore the vegetable garden and compost demonstration areas in the Florida Botanical Gardens and learn about growing their own food. Tours are limited to groups of four to 16 people and recommended for adults only.