Friday, January 14, 2011 Could the US Really Default?

This chart is a very eye-catching and jaw-dropping summary of the current financial status of the United States.  I sure never thought I'd see this kind of mess in my lifetime, but here it is. / Comment / Analysis - America: Paydown problems

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Getting off Matt

I scared the holy crap out of my poor dog on Saturday.  I mean, she thought the end of all things was at hand, and I was the instrument of this end.  She'd been nervous all afternoon, because I'd been yelling.  A lot.  And, poor thing, she doesn't follow sports or watch TV much, so how could she know that I was yelling in excitement and sometimes pure joy that the Seahawks were playing so well, were competing hard, then that they were leading.  The moment of Armageddon came in her perception at the same time as it came in reality for the New Orleans Saints, and it came not in the form of a Horseman of the Apocalypse but in the guise of a Beast.  Or at least a man, in Beast mode.

I have been one of those dwindling few who felt that two years of mix-and-match offensive lines, countless hurries and knock-downs and sacks had nearly knocked an All-Pro quarterback out.  He'd been hurt, hurried, and was stuck throwing forty-five passes a game because the running game was missing.  My interpretation of the success Charlie Whitehurst enjoyed - though limited - against the Rams, was that he had played 'within himself, within the game plan', but moreover, he had played behind a line that suddenly was getting healthy and beginning to gel.  And I admit that I was eager to see how Matt did behind an improved line that could give him time for his tempo routes and a running game to keep the Saints from blitzing his hand warmer into the turf.  I have felt that if only the Hawks could get 100 yards a game rushing, and run the ball 25+ times a game, that would take enormous pressure off Matt (and Whitehurst too).  With the O-line finally returning to health, and showing some good signs (rushing for 141 yards on 35 attempts; no sacks allowed and only 4 quarterback hits allowed), I did believe that Matt would play well - maybe even very well.  I just never saw his skills tailing off, only his health and the root cause of both ill health and incomplete, intercepted or fumbled balls - lack of offensive line performance.

Against the Saints, Matt had time to throw, and he completed 22 of 35 passes (with four drops and a tip of a ball that was not thrown high, that works out to 27-35) for 272 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Why did he have time to throw?  The line.  They were together again, and they were gelling better by the minute after the momentum from the Rams win.  Rushing for 150 yards on 25 carries forced the Saints to honor the run, and even if you took out the long 67 yard run that scared my dog just short or ruining the carpet, the hawks were able to gain enough tough yards on first and second down that it kept the Saints honest.  I still believe that Matt has another two or three seasons in him, and I was glad to see that the Hawks will work to re-sign him.  If we can keep a healthy line, a Beast, and a veteran All-Pro who has won a Super Bowl (just a nudge to the Steelers fans), the Hawks might break the midpoint in offensive standing in the league next season.  And with the defense getting some key takeaways and stops, there is reason for some optimism there, too.

I think perhaps my poor friend Nellie, the black lab, will not be quite so concerned this week when I yell, and I hope the tiny suspicion that niggles at the back of my small mind bears out to be true - that this team is getting healthy, coming together, and peaking at just the right time.  The last two weeks sure seemed that way, and though it is a tough hill to climb to beat a Bears club that has also been peaking the past three or four weeks, I sure feel better about climbing hills than I did two weeks ago.  At least as a metaphor for the Hawks playing well and perhaps winning as an underdog.

Thanks for the GREAT memory on Saturday, the 12th man induced deafness, the blocking and the throws that Brett Favre would love to have been making this year, but which were coming from Matt...This has been a great two weeks for a Seahawks, and I hope the ride lasts a bit longer! 

Striking prevalence of Axial Spondyloarthritis in primary care patients with chronic low back pain; a cross-sectional study

Among the most common causes of chronic pain is low back pain.  Recent study data indicates a "strikingly high" correlation between  chronic low back pain and Ankylosing Spondylitis.  In my case, I had unusual wear on the low back due to a severe knee injury which caused a limp for a number of years - a limp where the low back and hip took on the load bearing for the injured knee, as well as a shearing motion in doing so.  This strain could have been a contributor to chronic low back pain.  Then there was the osteoarthritis which was more advanced in me than typical in young people as a result of the injury and surgeries such as bone-grafting and other highly invasive interventions.  Then there were episodes of lumbar disc herniation requiring surgery.  All of these alone or as a group, as well as a chronic pain syndrome wherein the overstimulation of certain neural pathways causes perceived pain in the low back, could be responsible for chronic low back pain in my case (and at least some of these perhaps in your case).  Since it on average requires 7-10 years to diagnose  AS, and since AS is most successfully treated early in its' development, there is a new push to give primary care physicians better information so that that long period where AS is seldom diagnosed can be brought down to a shorter interval - and hopefully therefore, allow more effective treatment.

Not only does AS turn out to be present in over twenty percent of patients experiencing chronic low back pain, but that number may be significantly under-reported.  This abstract, and the full article are worth reading if you, or someone you care about is experiencing chronic low back pain.

Remember this:  Just because there is something that MIGHT be causing chronic low back pain (injury, prior surgery, wear and tear arthritis, etc.), don't rely on the fact that your chronic pain COULD be due to one of these other causes, get to an experienced rheumatologist who will carefully look at your status and make a diagnosis of AS if appropriate.   In my own case, the first rheumatologist I saw, about four years into the progression of symptoms, noted that I had injury and osteoarthritis and made the assumption that these were the cause.  My own outcome from treatment of AS would likely have been far more successful at early days in the development of the disease, than it has been since I saw an excellent rheumatologist about eight years into the situation.  If you are referred to a rheumatologist, or have endocrine issues accompanying your chronic lower back pain, see the rheumatologist and by all means get a second opinion.  Four or five years lost in fighting AS is a damn shame.

Press - News - 457 - Striking prevalence of Axial Spondyloarthritis in primary care patients with chronic low back pain; a cross-sectional study

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Community -

CBS writer Any Benoit - certainly not the only person who predicted a Saints thrashing of Seattle, but isn't it fun to look at his rather snide and self-assured language and chuckle after the Seahawks beat the Saints.  I guess the Hawks don't read Andy's column.  Or much else.  Thank God they don't!  With an offensive line that is whole for the first time since week 1, and the defense finding ways to get half a dozen key stops, plus a reinvigorated (or should I simply say a less hurried, less battered) Matt Hasselbeck, the team looked great.  What a win for the Hawks and for Carroll!

Here's some of Andy's best dismissive and bulletin board material:

The 2010 Saints essentially became the first wild card team in history to get a bye when they drew the matchup against the hapless/fruitless/pathetic/laughable/embarrassing NFC West Champion Seahawks. Seattle can obviously play the “nobody believes in us card”. It’s not even a card to play – it’s more just a fact. But it doesn’t matter because nobody believes in their ability to play the “nobody believes in us card” anyway. And nobody cares if the Seahawks have a chip on their shoulder or something to prove or are out for respect or whatever it is bad teams say before big games. So you say nobody thinks you deserve to be here, Seattle? You’re correct. And all the nobodies are correct, too.

Andy Benoit Blog - CBS Sportsline

Sunshine on Discovery Bay

Sunshine on Discovery Bay
As always, the photos we use are either my own, or in the public domain. Please let me know if there are any errors and I'll correct them immediately.