25 December 2004

As I go back and forth

I'm having a very different holiday season than I have had in previous years.

First, since I am living in the home I grew up in until I get married in April, this is the first time I have experienced the build up to Christmas in this home since 1993.  While I always visited frequently after I had moved out, I forgot what it's like to be here just about every day, how my mother makes her home as festive and beautiful as any out there.  This is a peaceful abode of holiday beauty during the month of December, and it has only become better with age.  I took this for granted for so many years while I was growing up, and I feel fortunate to experience this all over again at a time when I can appreciate how wonderful it is.

While I am reminded of many past Christmas seasons this year, I also can't help but look towards the future.  This is my last Christmas as a single man.  When I became engaged last February, there seemed to be so much time before the end of this year, and even more time before our wedding in April 2005.

Not anymore!

In less than four months I will have a wife, a ring on my finger, and a lifetime of possibilities.  We celebrated Christmas tonight with her family, and I realized the whole time that I feel a level of comfort that I didn't realize could exist; I never imagined holiday celebrations with another family that could be as enjoyable as those I have had with my own.  Until this year, that is.  I now realize that I have two families, and while I could never let the love and admiration for the one I have known all my life diminish, I see now that I have been given the opportunity to create the same type of memories with another.  And, of course, the families aren't mutually exclusive.  It's even more of a blessing when both can interact with each other.

I am feeling fortunate at this early hour on Christmas Day 2004.  I've been given a great deal of gifts this past year, gifts that you can't wrap and put under a tree or tie a bow on.  This is still a special day, but I feel as if I've had a year's worth of special days.  And I can only imagine what this next year will bring, and what the rest of my life will be like.

I don't know why I am being so reflective at Christmas when the normal time to be this way is at the New Year. 

Merry Christmas to all, it is indeed a good night.

18 December 2004

More of me than I thought

I suppose it was just a matter of time until I realized this, but I seem to have an alter-ego.  There's been a few events in the past week that have led me to accept this, and now I just have to figure out how to control it from showing up at inopportune times.

When you see me out and about, you may think I am me, but in fact you may actually be dealing with...MR. RETAIL

Now I know I spent almost twenty years of my life working for a retail drug store in just about any way that one can, culminating in a long, wacky stint in management, but I've been done with that for almost two and half years.  You'd think I would have come to terms with Mr. Retail then, but I didn't.

When I spent 50-60 hours per week working at a store, I found that whenever I went shopping I was in-an-out, finding and purchasing my items all in a single bound.  I rarely if ever paid attention to what was going on around me while a customer, unless something was actually happening to me that was so hideously wrong that I had to speak up.

Now I find that it's different.  Now, every time, without fail, I cannot go into any type of retail establishment without analyzing everything.  Is it a good idea to have the pharmacy at the back of the store?  Do they really need seven cashiers when there are only six people shopping?  How are they going to sell all those ugly green pie plates?  What's a gerkin anyway?  It goes on and on.  

The realization that I might be obsessing just a tad about this came to light this week, when it took me seven separate store visits to get four 5x7 reprints made from a negative.  Most of the blame for my odyssey lies with faulty equipment, with a small portion going to human incompetence.  Stuff happens.  Still, I can't remember how many times I placed myself on the other side of the counter during all this, thinking about what I would have done and said differently, when I was trying to get someone to fix the problem.

I've thought about it constantly since then, and have analyzed every single second that I've been in a store since.  All of the sudden, everything is moving at a thousand miles per hour.  Just like it used when I was operationally responsible.

I've been out of the game for two years, and during that time, never once have I said that I regret leaving.  I still don't.  Ask me if I want to go back to work in retail and I have two words for you:  hell, and no.

So why now?  Why am I thinking about how they can schedule properly this time of the year when I go buy a single gift card at Target?  Why do I keep track of how long it takes me to check out at Kohl's?  I walked down an aisle at a grocery store today and thought to myself "wow, someone really needs to spruce up the frozen dinners."

When I was a manager, I used to tell people that retail wasn't just a career, it was a lifestyle.  And it was.  I found that if I was going to be a success, I had to dedicate myself to working hard, which mostly meant making sure I devoted a ton of time to my work.  One of the things I realized when I left was that I had reached an incredible level of burn out.  I looked forward to recapturing a lot of time when I stopped working in retail.

Lately, I have noticed that time seems to be going by faster than it did when it seemed like I spent all of it at work in a retail environment.  Maybe it's just a coincidence that I have this thought right before I start obsessing about the retail world again.  But more likely, I am reminding myself exactly why I don't do this anymore:

Because I turn into MR. RETAIL

His official motto shall be "You can take the boy out of the store, but you can't take the store out of the boy."





Double shot

I missed last week...

1. What is your all-time favorite Christmas Carol or holiday song?  "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band Aid (the original, 1984 version-the "re-make" that was done for this year sucks eggs)

2. What percentage of your Christmas shopping have you completed? 99.9% (it indeed has been a remarkable year)

3. Other than yourself, which of the following would you most likeyour child to have as a role model and why:
    A) Doctor
    B) Politician
    C) Professional Athlete
    D) Businessman
I can think of specific examples of each that I would accept, so I think it's too ambiguous to answer!

4. What current television show would you most like to see disappear permanently? "The Bachelor" (and it's female alter-ego I suppose); I would like to have said all reality shows but since it asks for something specific I'll go with the one that I think is the dumbest.  Now would you please accept this rose?
5. Have you used any themed photo wall calendar in 2004?  Do you already have one ready for 2005, and if so, what is next year's theme of choice? 2004 was the first year in a while that I did not use one, and I have no plans to use one for 2005 either.

Armand:  Read this quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson recently posted in Armand's journal, "Uncommon Sense."  Given the context of the quote, how have you been most successful in your life? That I have somehow managed to make it this far.

And now for this week...

1. What is your all-time least favorite Christmas Carol or holiday song?  It's absolutely impossible to choose just one because I used to be subjected to non-stop music from Thanksgiving on at work.  But I'll try: anything by the Beach Boys, any version of "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree", Madonna's "Santa Baby", and a song called "It's Christmas" featuring the Oak Ridge Boys and a tone-deaf group of children.  My ears are bleeding at the mere thought of that last song, so that's the winner.  You've probably never heard it (and I thank the folks at Albertson's for somehow putting it on their satellite selection for lo those many years) and tonight when you go to bed you should thank God that you haven't!  OK, I'm done now...

2. Who is the most difficult person on your shopping list to buy a gift for, and have you already purchased his or her gift, yet?  My mother.  Her gift has been purchased.  (I hope she likes spam)

3. What picture are you least proud of:
    A) Your most recent professional portrait
    B) Your driver's license photo
    C) Your passport photo
    D) Your work ID photo
    E) Your senior class portrait-I look like an elf

4. How many Christmas/holiday parties have you been invited to this month and how many have you (or will you) attend? 2/2
5. A previously-unknown rich relative appears and offers to buy you the car of your choice.  What would you like? If I suddenly become a Republican and no longer care about the environment, then I want a Hummer.  Since that is not likely to happen, I'll go with a Lexus.

6. What is your favorite thing to wear around the house when you know no one else is at home?  Is that what you're wearing as you answer these questions?
A pair of comfortable jeans and a baggy pull over of some kind.  No, I'm still in "sleep attire" as I do this.

15 December 2004

Under the big top

Now that Scott Peterson's fate has been decided, I wonder where the circus will head to next.  What makes a person say to themselves: "I don't have anything to do today, and even though the Peterson trial has nothing to do with me, I think I'll go down to the courthouse so I can hoot and holler when the verdict is delivered"?

I'll never understand it.

Lots of people are talking about the death penalty lately.  Since I'm never one to avoid getting involved in a discussion, I am only happy to offer my feelings on it.

I don't like it.

If it were up to me (and we should all breathe deeply with thanks that it is not) the death penalty would be history, or put to death, as it were.  I just can't support it, no matter the reason.  I don't care if I have undeniably proof that someone has committed the most heinous crime possible, I can't support having that person executed.

I live in Illinois, and we currently don't have anyone on Death Row.  Ex-governor George Ryan commuted all death sentences to life in prison without parole a few years back, because there was proof in more than  a few cases that innocent people were under death sentences.  The system here was broken and there was no guarantee that anyone could receive due process in capital cases.

(I suppose there could be someone on Death Row in this state as I recall that while there is a moratorium on executions, there is no moratorium to passing a sentence of death.  Just don't hold your breath waiting for anyone to die.  Oh, that was bad.  I am sorry.  Really.)

That's enough for me, the possibility that one person who is innocent could find themselves strapped to a gurney waiting for a mixture of poison to flood into the vital organs.  This is something that has to have a zero tolerance when it comes to mistakes.  You can't kill an innocent person.

As I recall, that is the reason why the person is under a death sentence to begin with, for killing an innocent person.

I have issues with the racial demographics of how the death penalty is given out, and I cringe at the places in this country that consider executing teenagers and those who are mentally retarded, but those are mitigating factors at best.

There's punishment, and then there is PUNISHMENT.  This country tends to not make prison harsh enough.  I realize that there are cost issues involved, but when it comes to murder, I would think that it would be real easy to keep costs low.  It would take a little originality, but it can be done.

Take the case of Timothy McVeigh.  He's been dead for several years now, after being convicted of detonating the bomb that destroyed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.  He was only on Death Row for a few years.  He wanted to die, and successfully motivated the government to move towards executing him with lightning speed compared to other executions.

So McVeigh is gone to wherever it is people like him go.  Most of us assume that it is hell, but in reality, none of us knows where he is.  I'll get back to that idea in a moment. 

I've been to the memorial in Oklahoma City.  It's quite beautiful, serene and peaceful, yet while you are there it is impossible to remember the awful reason that it exists.  It's there because Timothy McVeigh was an evil, cowardly person.

If it were up to me (and I will pause again for all to breathe), I'd have spared McVeigh's life.  Instead I would have dug a hole at the end of the memorial, about six feet deep, six feet wide, and six feet long.  Then I would have encased it in plastic.  When I was sure that no one could get into it or damage the foundation, I'd have tossed McVeigh in there.  I'd make sure that he received the minimal amount of sustenence, and I'd let him rot there for the rest of his days.

There's no question that he's better off dead.  I think just about everyone would agree.  That's what prison should be like for those who commit first degree murder, an endless cycle of dark days enclosed in just enough to space to survive, and therefore to be reminded every single day, of the crime that was committed, and of those taken away.  I tend to believe that it would cost less to do this than it would to go through the appeal process and the execution itself.

I am confident that I will never commit a murder, obviously.  Many things give me this confidence, but I have to say that the thought of being put to death for committing such a crime does not deter me from it.  The possibility that I could be left to rot in such a hopeless situation that I believe prison should be definitely motivates me NOT to commit murder.  Given the choice of death or life in prison, I'd choose death.  In a heartbeat.

Why should it be my choice?

I may not make any sense.  It wouldn't be the first time.  This is a deeply personal issue, and I understand that many people can and will have many different feelings about it.  I am not one to say what is right and wrong.

But, above all else, this is why I do not support the death penalty under any reason: no one has any idea where we are sending someone who is executed.

I think about it this way: how many times have you seen or read about a situation where someone has been murdered, and the family and friends are coping with it the best that they can by turning to faith, saying things like "They are with God."  I hear it all the time, and not just restricted to life that has been criminallly taken away.  It applies to almost any death situation.

I was taught that God is the ultimate symbol of benevolance, that no sin is too large to be forgiven by God if indeed the person that has sinned has repented and asked for God's forgiveness through Reconciliation.  There's no litmus test, no level of sin that cannot be considered.  What happens if a condemned criminal expressed their remorse sincerely before their execution?  We think we may be sending them to Hell, but due to the presence of a truly forgiving Lord, could we possibly be sending them to Heaven instead?  How can we possibly know?

This would seem to contradict the entire idea of execution.

Of course, this is a theory that can never be proven nor tested.  If I am wrong, and the death penalty is eliminated, we are delaying sending the condemned to Hell.  But I would argue that if we punish those given life in prison for these crimes properly, they will spend the rest of the lives here on Earth experiencing a type of hell, before they evetually make it to the real thing.

Now think if I am right, and that those guilty of any sin can repent, and therefore even an executed criminal could make it into Heaven upon leaving this Earth.

Wouldn't you want to make sure they experienced just a little bit of hell before the got there?


11 December 2004

Introducing Dr. Biff McSparkland

I've been terrible at doing weekend assignments for the last month or so.  This week, the task at hand is to create a memorable Christmas character and explain how he/she/it saves the Holiday.  I've always gotten a kick out of the many ways bad television has explored the grumpy, mad-at-the-world guy who hates Christmas yet is somehow thrown into the mix one December and emerges not only unscathed, but full of enough Christmas spirit to last until all the pine needles fall off the real tree.  So in this spirit, I give you the Ballad of Doctor Biff McSparkland, just your typical ER doctor, burned out, alone and not interested in Christmas.  Hopefully you'll see this on Lifetime next year.




‘Twas the night before Christmas and on Santa’s sleigh

Was a jolly old man who had lost his way

In the skies over New York there’d been a great flash

Then into Rudolph’s side, a meteor did crash

The collision knocked out his nose of red light

Leaving him helpless to navigate this flight

The sleigh then began to tumble and pitch

Leaving Santa tomumble “Son of a …Kringle!”

“Rudolph is hurt, he’s ruptured his spleen

Gotta find a place to land this thing!”


Far below Santa, a man drove alone

Dr. Biff McSparkland, on his way home

With no family or friends, he’d no plans the next day

So after a night of sleep, he’d work Christmas away

At the hospital ER, tending to sickness and wounds,

And griping endlessly about cheesy Christmas tunes

(Biff was unhappy and needed a change

But that’s a story for a time less strange)

So on the road he drove, when he heard a great roar

Great, he thought, another accident, no more!


Santa had landed his sleigh in a field

(Remarkably without losing any of his toy yield)

Poor Rudolph lay on his side in great pain

For the space rock had caused much more than a sprain

Santa, grief stricken, yelled “Now what do I do?

I can’t possibly treat such a large boo-boo!

Christmas is ruined!  Oh those poor girls and boys!

And what am I going to do with all these toys?”


It was at this time that Dr. McSparkland arrived

And looking at Santa, said “what’s all this jive?

I heard your crash, is everyone all right?

And why are you wearing that?  Your coat is too tight!”

Santa replied “We hit trouble over Schenectady!

And I fear poor Rudolph needs a spleenectomy!”

It hit Biff then, just how much he was needed

“I’m a doctor,” he said.  “Then help him!” Santa pleaded.


Biff did his thing, and Rudolph recovered

(Minus one organ, but no less discovered)

Next morning, the toys were under the tree

While Santa, back home, remembered with glee

His pal, Dr. Biff, who had saved the day

Next year he’d reward him in some special way


Meanwhile Biff had gone home and rested

Rose a little early, gone to the kitchen and tested

A new recipe that he had thought of last night

When he placed a small package in the fridge by the light

So at work Christmas Day, Biff shared with his team

A new meal tradition, the Roast Christmas Deer Spleen!

10 December 2004

Just a quick question

I've always wondered about this, and tonight when I saw it again it reminded me:

Re-runs of "Saturday Night Live" used to be on Comedy Central, and now are on E!  SNL is a 90 minute show, but both networks cut each episode down to an hour.  So a full third of the original is cut for re-broadcast.

I've noticed that regardless of the channel the re-runs are shown on, the two musical performances make it into each cut episode.  The one I saw tonight had Bruce Springsteen on.

Why include the musical performances in the re-run?  If you have to cut something out of a comedy show, why not eliminate the parts that are intentionally not funny?

And you wonder what it is that keeps me up so late at night...

08 December 2004

Piling on, or: How I learned to start drinking and stop worrying about the NBA (by David Stern)

If I am NBA Commissioner David Stern, I'm in a bar right now, working on my twelfth martini of the afternoon, wondering how to get out of my job before I start showing up at games at halftime and dance the watusi with the LA Laker Girls.

Dave's day plunked right under the little black rain cloud when news came down that five members of the Indiana Pacers have had charges filed against them for their part in the brawl in Detroit on November 19.  Everybody has heard about the fight, so I won't rehash the details again here, though I will say that along with the players, seven fans have been charged, and it's about time.

Mr. Stern knew this was coming.  Though not unexpected, I'm sure this announcement reminded him that he has a big problem with thugs in his league.  They have taken over.

If it didn't, then he probably finished off that bottle of Crown Royal he has under his desk when he read the detailed account of Carmelo Anthony's appearance in a street DVD entitled "Stop Snitching" that warns the residents of some neighborhoods in Baltimore that "snitches" can get killed.  My favorite part of the article:

In the scene involving Carmelo Anthony, the basketball player refers to Black (alleged snitch) and laughingly says that he might put some "money on his [expletive] brains."

Carmelo Anthony is 19, left Syracuse University for the NBA after one year, plays for the Denver Nuggets and now makes millions of dollars a year.  Plus, he gives back to the community!  What better way to appeal to your fan base than implicitly endorse the practice of witness intimidation?  The only thing better would be to get busted in an airport on a marijuana possession, then try to blame it on a friend stashing it in your carry on lug...oh, wait, scratch that.  Melo's crossed that one of his list as well.

Um, I hope that wasn't considered a snitch.

"Can I refill your glass Mr. Stern?  What are you drinking again?  I think you're mistaken, sir.  I don't have any Everclear behind the bar..."

And that brings us to the Joker to David Sterns's Batman: Latrell Spreewell.  LS has made a name for himself soooo many times over the years that you'd think he had tried to choke a coach to death a lot longer than a few years ago.  Earlier this year it was well publicized that Spreewell felt insulted that his team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, weren't offering him a contract extension that bettered the salary of fourteen million (I need to pause here so I don't hyperventilate) that he is beng paid this season.  When asked why he needed a higher paying contract, Spreewell answered "I've got a family to feed."  Upon hearing this, I did a little research and discovered that Latrell Spreewell has 2, 381 kids, and they all eat lobster and caviar three times a day.  Since then I have made it my day's work to place and maintain thousands of jars on convenience store counters all over the country.  It will indeed be a Merry Christmas in the Spreewell home (or should I say township?) this year.  Can't wait to see the look on his face.

Ah, but this is not even the reason why Stern is currently begging a bartender somewhere on the Lower East side for just one more Pina Colada.  It seems Latrell was a little more spunky than usual this weekend in LA when the Timberwolves played the Clippers.  I had heard that Spree made a vulgar comment to a woman in the stands, but was unable to get an account of what exactly happened until I came across this great piece on it by Bill Simmons of ESPN.

Clearly, a man making a measly fourteen mill can't be expected to tune out the hecklers that make grown men cry in LA.  Have you ever been to a sporting event in LA?  I'm telling you, they are ruthless there.  Completely over the top.  I once saw a mob storm the field at a Dodger game and accost a batter who just left the winning run at third by striking out in the ninth.  They fitted him with a pair of cement shoes, carried him into the clubhouse, and dropped him into the jacuzzi.  Vicious.  And I can't talk about the part with Rip Taylor and Rula Lenska.

Spree's punishment for his obscene responses to the fans in LA was a one game suspension, and I'm sure he spent that day shrouded in darkness, deeply in prayer so that he may be a wiser man in the future.  Don't get me wrong, fans who berate players at sporting events are generally idiots, but when an athlete, particularly an NBA player, gets tired of it, why don't they just pass out copies of their bank statements?  I know once I saw concrete proof that Rex Helzadorman just made three times what I will make in my lifetime just for missing that last free throw, that I'd shut the hell up. 

So about now David Stern is in a cab, on his way home, with a blood alcohol content of .17; when he wakes up tomorrow it'll be a nice day for a second, until his headache kicks in.

It's not the hangover.  That'll go away eventually.  His thug-over is going to be around for a while.

06 December 2004


I'm looking at this and noticing that I am not much for writing lately.  I've posted three items in the last ten days.

I could say that I've been busy with Christmas shopping.  That'd be a lie.

I could say that I've been ill, but I'm feeling quite well, thanks.

Boredom?  Not really, there's plenty going on.

I can supress the truth no longer.  The fact is that I am recovering from eight broken fingers and two busted thumbs. 

All because I couldn't resist writing this entry.

It's hard to type when your fingers are taped together.  I have mallets for hands.

Don't mess with Mom.

My spleen...

I'm not much for the NFL anymore.  I grew up a Bears' fan, but the constant over-hype onslaught that began after the Super Bowl win in 1986 gradually drew me to the edge.  When pre-season games became the lead story on the ten o'clock news (not the sports report, but the entire news), I felt things had gone a bit too far.

There's only so many ways you can dress up a 5-7 team, people.  Sure, I'd prefer they win instead of lose, but it doesn't matter much anymore.  Give me the Iowa Hawkeyes over any NFL team anyday.

I think about this because tonight I watched a pro game that brought me back to those times when I used to live or die with the Bears, a time when I was much younger.  Anyone else see the Steelers 17-16 win over Jacksonville tonight?

I am in physical pain after just watching that game.

When the first alien species reaches this planet and they write the history of mankind, I think the substance that they will be completely blown away by will be testosterone.  Forget war, weaponry and general mayhem; they will be in awe of a hormone that let grown men slam into each other for the sole purpose of moving a ball forward, that they put on funky uniforms for protective means when in reality, it just made the crunches and snaps louder.

Who needs points?  Even the place kickers in that game looked like the could skin a bull with their bare hands.

Crash!  Crunch!  Slam!  Watching that game tonight was like watching a fight scene on a "Batman" re-run. 

Bill Cohwer's game face should be the next they sculpt on Mount Rushmore.  He could catch meteors with his lower lip.

I hear the whirlpool calling my name...

04 December 2004

The end of another week

1. Think back to weddings you have attended (other than your own):  what was the nicest part of the one you liked the most?  I've always felt that the difference between a good wedding and a great wedding is the quality of people at your table.  The last wedding I was at was perfect: myself, my fiance, my two siblings with their spouses, and two of my favorite cousins with their spouses.  We had a great time.

2. What is your favorite color and which room of your home has the most of this color in it?  Hunter green.  I don't have any rooms this color at the moment but the dining room in my old home was that color.

3. What is your favorite kind of popcorn:
A) Unsalted
C) Extra Butter
D) Kettle Corn
E) Caramel Corn

4. Take a little time (!!) for a quick inventory of the clocks in your home:  how many do you have and what is the widest difference between any two of them? Three, and all say the same time

5. When was the last time you used a real rotary dial telephone to place a call? Back in Mayberry when I called up Thelma Lou to see if she wanted to go to the picture show in Mt. Pilot...I can't remember the last time I used a rotary phone.

Shannon:  What is your favorite sport and why?

Baseball.  I started watching it when I was five and have been hooked ever since.  There's no other sport that I've been devoted to for over thirty years.  I am hoping that I might calm myself down a little once the Cubs finally win a World Series.  It could happen...

01 December 2004


A visit over to Albert's journal reminds me that today, December 1, is World's AIDS Day.

AIDS became a common medical term during the time of my adolescence.  I don't recall hearing too much about it in school, certainly not in any science or health classes.  There just wasn't much known about it then, except that if you contracted it, there was a 100% chance that you were going to die from it.

Though AIDS has been around for twenty-five years or so, I somehow have been fortunate enough to not have personally known anyone who has passed away from it.  But I have struggled with the very public deaths from this disease of people like Ryan White, Arthur Ashe, and especially Freddy Mercury.

I used to have a copy of an excellent HBO movie titled "And the Band Played On."  It is a brilliant account of how AIDS arose in the US, how the people at the Centers for Disease Control worked hard to figure out its mysteries, the bureaucracy that they were sometimes helpless to overcome, and how the disease affected the lives of people from all types of society.  It's a powerful, emotional movie that should be required viewing for junior high school health classes everywhere.

I can think of a few neo-conservative movie houses that should show it as well, but that is another topic.

In one of my moves over the last few years I have managed to lose my copy of that movie. 

There have been tremendous medical advances in the last decade that have taken away the guaranteed death sentence that AIDS once was, but that prosperity has not reached other parts of the world where AIDS is as deadly as it has ever been.  Check out www.data.org if you want a fuller understanding of what places like Africa are experiencing today with this disease.

I was in Seattle in the summer of 2003 and looked up a friend I went to high school with who was a doctor at the University of Washington.  When I called his office to speak with him, I was told that he was in Mozambique.  Through the miracle of e-mail, I was able to touch base with him and found out that he is in the middle of a three-year program in the southern half of Africa.  It is his job to help educate people about AIDS and to try to get more of the medicines and such there to halt the epidemic.  God bless him, he's a better man than I can ever hope to be.

It is wonderful that we have been able to develop therapies and drugs that have turned AIDS into a manageable disease instead of the relentless killer that it was for so long.

But it doesn't bring back those infected that were not fortunate enough to live long enough to see these innovations.  And that is the saddest part in all of this, and why the world needs to keep working towards eliminating this disease.  The biggest weapon out there today to eradicate AIDS is education.

We all still have much to learn.