Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

“Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

-Albert Einstein


Friday, March 29, 2013

A Short Commercial

            Guards at Gitmo are required to wear clean gloves when touching the Quran.  At the same time, an American college professor requires his students to write the name Jesus on a piece of paper and stomp on it.  Only one student had the courage to refuse.

            The words “Christmas” and now the word “Easter” are being sacrificed on the secular socialist alter.  But to those of us like that college kid, who still hold to religious freedom, I want to wish a happy Easter.

            If you’ve missed the terrific series on the History channel called, “The Bible,” you have the chance to watch the final episode Sunday night.  This is not an amateur production.  It is top quality and highly appropriate to be seen on Easter Sunday.   

            This isn’t a normal blog, but I wanted to push this production because I’ve been impressed with its quality and authenticity.  Be sure to watch or record “The Bible” on the History channel Easter Sunday.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Light at the End of the Tunnel

     I recently read where a prominent cancer doctor advised men against taking PSA tests.  The guy is either an idiot or works for the government, but I guess that’s not a dichotomy. 

            I have lost friends because they didn’t either know about or bother to watch their PSA levels.  I’ve also known guys, myself included, who caught cancer in time by monitoring these levels.  A lot of procedures will begin to fall by the wayside as a result of new limitations on health care, particularly for “seniors;” thanks to Obama Care.  Here’s what they do in Sweden for prostate cancer - it’s called, “Watch and wait.”  In other words, they do nothing.  It saves the government money and “seniors” are disposable. Couldn’t happen here, right?

            My dad had colon cancer, which brings me to the topic of colonoscopies. A colonoscopy is another necessary evil, but another procedure I recommend very seriously.

            I did a paper in college on “Personality as Related to Occupational Preference.”  I concluded that proctologists were very humble people, but I later decided that in addition, many are frustrated spelunkers (those who enjoy exploring caves and unknown territories).  A spelunker can easily become a speleologist,” which is a field specializing in the actual study of caves.  This may be a pre-requisite for proctology.

            I had a frank discussion with a friend today who was facing his first colonoscopy.  Having had a couple myself, I tried to describe the process in order to help him deal with his obvious apprehension.

            I tried to assuage his fear by telling him that the preliminary process of cleansing the colon is the worst part.  In preparation for the big event, you are given a formula made up of left-over material from the bomb that did a number on Hiroshima combined with jet fuel.  This mixture should never be allowed to fall into the hands of the Taliban. There are cases wrongly blamed on alien abductions, where people disappear in a blast of fire and smoke leaving only a hole in the roof directly over the bathroom.

            Then there’s the procedure itself and the demonic tube from hell.  The innocuous tube destined for the hind quarters appears to be reasonably short, but that’s because there’s a hole in the floor where an additional half-mile of hose is hidden. But I reassured my friend that this magnificent device that would de-flower him was handled lovingly by a nurse called “Kenny,” who was moonlighting from a government-funded clinic in San Francisco.  That’s the only place where the proctologists pay you for services rendered.    

            To cheer him up, I described the option of watching the action on a monitor during the journey through inner space and the joys of exploring the “nether regions.” Many doctors take pride in sharing their explorations with their patients.    

            I explained the possibility of finding that Green Hornet decoder ring my friend swallowed accidently at the age of seven.  He could only remember swallowing a Canadian Mounted Police whistle, which might explain why his dog comes running to him after a spicy Mexican meal and a few beers. 

            Some doctors seem happy to provide a descriptive narrative through the entire journey as you watch it on the monitor.  It’s amazing.  You feel as though you are right there with Charles Bronson in a scene from the movie, “The Great Escape,” as British prisoners tunnel out of a German prison camp. If you missed the movie, picture a gopher with a camera and flashlight strapped on his back as he scampers through the twists and turns of his tunnel.

            But there’s light at the end of the tunnel.  If the doctor gets carried away in his geography lesson with his descriptions of stalactites and stalagmites and forgets where the journey ends, the patient can watch as the hose from hell passes his soft pallet and busts through his lips.  You can almost hear the blaring sirens and the see the spotlights as the German guards discover the prison break.  But the shrill siren sound is only the patient screaming.

            Maybe I was too graphic in my description because, despite my encouragement, I think my “trusting” friend decided to get a second opinion. . . .and a therapist.    

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dick Whitaker

            Several hundred friends of Dick Whitaker packed the large patio area of the Toll House Hotel in Los Gatos for a celebration of Dick’s life this past Saturday.  As many of you know, Dick was a life-long buddy of mine. 

            I wrote a tribute to Dick and many friends asked me to post it on my blog.  I wrestled with this idea, because I know that many readers didn’t know Dick, but his escapades may bring a smile anyway.  For those who knew Dick and missed the event and for those who asked to have a copy of this, I decided to post it.             

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            “Many of you have heard some of this before.  It’s only a small part of our tribal lore, but for those who haven’t - I think you deserve to know the truth.

            “I’m sure a lot of wonderful things will be said about Dick Whitaker, but most of you don’t know him as well as I did.  There’s another side to this lovable character. A slightly nefarious side.

             “Dick was an amazing guy, but he didn’t have magical powers, despite rumors to the contrary.  I remember the days we all worked picking prunes; back when there were orchards. I’m sure many “seniors” are familiar with prunes.  To demonstrate his miraculous powers, Dick once turned a rosy-cheeked teenage boy into a wrinkled old man in less than half an hour.  But it wasn’t really a miracle. The truth is that he did it by locking the poor kid in a prune dehydrator.  

            “How do you eulogize a guy who began his career by turning a five foot snake loose in the girl’s bathroom in the 7th grade?  Girlie screams of terror could be heard from Los Gatos all the way to east San Jose.

            “How the Principal knew specifically which two suspects to pull out of class I’ll never know. 

            “And what kind of a human being would light my little brother’s fort on fire when Tom was in the middle of a physical examination of his girlfriend?  And then, steal the stethoscope and wear it around his neck until his senior year of high school? 

            “Dick wasn’t dumb.  He learned to preface his later medical examinations by reaching for his stethoscope and stating reassuringly, “It’s okay.  I’m a doctor.”

            “What kind of twisted mind would cause a kid to toss a blanket over my little brother’s head, blinding him, as Tom went careening down a hill on our home-made wooden cart?  My poor brother ran off a cliff and ruined our best race car.

            “How would you like to have a 14 year old son who would steal his dad’s brand new van and take it for a terrifying race through the hills of Los Gatos, only to end up in a muddy vineyard, destroying what could have been fine wine and a nice van?  But what a ride!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Folsom Prison Blues

Folsom Prison
     Folsom Prison is a fascinating place. It’s not somewhere you want to spend a vacation, but for those of you who have never spent time there – I think that would be most of us – I thought it would be interesting to take a look at this famous resort. I should mention that Johnny Cash was not an inmate, but he did perform at Folsom. Charles Manson and other killers were housed in Folsom Prison, which is second only to Alcatraz in fame.

     I once wrote a novel entitled, “Granite Veil” and later revised it and published it on Amazon as an eBook under the title, “Folsom Parallax.” (You can download “Parallax” and “The Huckleberry Days of the ‘50s” on Amazon for $2.99 each.) During a year of research for the novel, I was offered a personal tour of Folsom and learned a bit about its history.

     When you walk down the corridor between rows of cells, it’s just like in the movies where hands with mirrors pop out of the bars to see who is approaching. Inmates actually do make license plates and prisoner containment cages for the most violent. But the history of the prison is interesting. Cell Block #5 is the oldest cell block in the state and probably the most unique. It has been painted pure white with stark black doors. I used this contrast metaphorically in the book, but the actual history of the prison is very interesting. At least it was to me.

      If you’re interested, click on “Read More” below where I’ll quote a little history directly from my novel:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Special note: “A Celebration of Life” for Dick Whitaker is planned for 1 pm, March 16th at the Toll House in Los Gatos.
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Peace through Power

     If you go way back in your memory to your school days, you may remember that the toughest guy in the school yard seemed to get the most respect.  Maybe the respect was based on fear, but the other boys wanted to be friends with the tough guy.   Kind of like a wolf pack responds to the alpha male.  Aggressive impulses by lesser fighters were turned against the weaker kids; the kids who were safe to bully.  There’s an important point here. 

            President Ronald Reagan forced the Soviet Union to back down, not because America was weak, but because we were strong.  President Reagan said, “Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong.”  Reagan used intimidation based on America’s strength to dismantle the Soviet Union by putting them in an untenable economic position militarily.  They knew we had the upper hand in weaponry and they didn’t have the financial ability to catch up. President Reagan also had their trust and respect.  Very important.

            But look at us today.  We are disarming and weakening our military and disarming our citizens. We have destroyed our economy, and our president apologizes for our former strength.  Consequently, we are no longer respected. We can’t even intimidate Mexico, for Pete’s sake.  

            America has become feminized. Nothing against women, but we don’t live in a woman’s world.  Arab nations have no respect for women.  Machismo dominates Latino cultures and many others.  Yet we expect these countries to respect and give credence to our female Secretary’s of State, Hillary Clinton or Madeleine Albright.  We are dealing with cultures that only respect strength and masculinity, but we send them women …  and John Kerry. 

            Peace through strength is exemplified by one of the best stories in our history. The source for this is Phil Schreier of the National Firearms Museum. This goes back to the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804 when a small group of men changed the history of America. Their strategy demonstrates how lives can be saved and conflicts avoided through a perception of strength.

            It was a long forgotten air rifle that changed history.  This weapon was used against Napoleon in 1790 and came to America in 1803.  It was called the Girandoni air rifle. Only one of these rifles was carried by Lewis and Clark.  Just one. This innovative rifle had a butt stock of cast iron that held 800 pounds of air pressure per square inch.  Your car tires hold roughly 35. 

            The gun barreled was rifled for accuracy.  The gun held 22 rounds of 46 caliber balls and was extremely accurate and very powerful.  It was also silent and didn’t release smoke when fired.  It could shoot all 22 rounds in less than 30 seconds.

            Lewis and Clark’s small group of men encountered numerous bands of hostile Indians in their journey west, but were never attacked after they demonstrated the fire power of this magnificent gun. They demonstrated the gun for each tribe along the way.

            The power of this gun so intimidated the natives that word spread and conflicts were avoided throughout their entire trip.  Not a single life was lost by Lewis and the boys nor were any natives killed, all due to the perception of strength.  That’s the point.

            Fear and respect can avoid confrontations and the loss of life. Our country has lost that respect and we see the results around the world.  Small nations ignore us.  They attack us at home and our embassies abroad with impunity.  They burn our flag and laugh at us. They no longer respect the America that was once the tough kid on the playground.  We are now the wimp on the playground; the wimp that other wimps push around. Our leader bows, apologizes, and meekly hands over our lunch money to the bullies. Ever wonder which side he’s on?

            In a previous blog, I mentioned the brilliant men – the giants – who founded our country.  Look at our leadership in this country today. I’ll repeat an ancient Chinese proverb: “When small men cast large shadows the sun is about to set.”