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Robert Rayford (Robert R): AIDS in St. Louis in the 1960s

The sad story of Robert Rayford (aka Robert R), the first documented case of HIV/AIDS in the United States, shows that if timing had been a little bit different, the AIDS epidemic could have happened a decade earlier than it did, and its epicenter could have been St. Louis instead of New York. His story raises some uncomfortable questions. How did HIV end up in St. Louis, of all places? And why did it stay local to St. Louis rather than becoming an epidemic?

His story made me uncomfortable, and sometimes that’s how I know it’s time to dig in a bit more.

Read More »Robert Rayford (Robert R): AIDS in St. Louis in the 1960s

Pros and cons of RightTrack or SnapShot devices

Insurance companies are starting to offer discounts if you plug one of their devices, often called a RightTrack or SnapShot, into your car’s ODB2 port.

One of my college buddies asked me about them when his insurance company offered his family a 5% discount to plug these into their cars, and then make them eligible for up to another 25%. Those are compelling numbers. So what are the potential drawbacks?

Read More »Pros and cons of RightTrack or SnapShot devices

Give me a little time to process what I just saw…

I finally got around to seeing Supersize Me, the documentary film where the filmmaker ate three meals a day at McDonald’s for 30 days to see what would happen.I need to think more about what I saw. But here are some random thoughts that occur to me after seeing it.

The first thing that comes to mind is Rod Carew. Carew was the second-greatest hitter of his era (since I’m a Kansas City Royals fan, of course he can’t be as good as George Brett). Early in his career, Carew was slumping. He asked his hitting coach what was wrong. He happened to be eating ice cream. The coach ripped the container of ice cream from his hand, threw it in the nearest trash can, and told Carew to quit eating junk. He tried it. He quit eating junk food and quit drinking soda. He was 38 before his batting average dipped below .300 again.

I know I’ve read several times on John C. Dvorak’s blog the comment, “Someone wants us fat.”

When I worked in fast food, if we didn’t try to “suggestive sell”–that is, when someone ordered a soda, ask, “Is that a large?” or something similar, we could be reprimanded. I didn’t upsell unless the manager was in earshot. I was always in trouble. I know for a fact the reason I didn’t get fired was because they didn’t want me talking–I knew lots of things that company didn’t want getting out. (None of that matters now; the company folded in 1993.)

In the film, Morgan Spurlock visited a school of troublesome kids. The school served healthy lunches–fresh fruits and vegetables and foods that were prepared fresh, rather than out of a box. The behavior problems largely disappeared. Television and video games get a lot of the blame for the rash of ADD and ADHD. And maybe kids do watch more TV and play more video games than we did 20 years ago when I was a kid. But kids today do eat a lot less healthy than we did. We ate out a couple of times a month, generally. Kids today eat out a lot more than that, and there are a lot more convenience foods in the grocery stores now than there were then.

Spurlock experienced depression. Depression is almost an epidemic. All I have to do to get hits on my web site is write about depression. In college I became a hero when I wrote about depression in my weekly newspaper column–professors were asking me to lunch, asking me to guest-lecture classes, and students I didn’t know from Adam were stopping me and thanking me. I thought I was the only one who ever felt depressed. Turns out it was the people who didn’t ever get depressed who were weird! And every time I write about depression here, I get tons and tons of hits. People are desperate enough to solicit advice from some guy they never met who isn’t a doctor and hasn’t so much as taken a biology class since Gulf War I–me. Maybe the problem is what they eat.

But hey. There’s big, big money in depression. I did a quick Google search, and 90 tablets of the low dosage of Paxil (let’s see what ads that gets me) costs $189 in Canada. Of course, in the United States, we pay more. Assuming 90 tablets is three months’ worth, that’s $2.10 a day. I know what GlaxoSmithKline’s saying: ba-da-ba-ba-ba, I’m lovin’ it!

And of course the fast-food companies want us fat. When we’re fat, we order more. We eat larger portions more frequently. The less healthy we are, the more they benefit. And the more the drug companies benefit.

Another symptom Spurlock experienced was fatigue. That’s another common problem. And who benefits from that? Coca-Cola, Pepsico, and Starbucks, mostly. Who can function anymore without that jolt of caffeine in the morning?

I’m not saying it’s a big conspiracy. I’m not real big on conspiracies. I’m perfectly willing to believe the fast-food phenomenon happened and the companies that sell drugs and caffeine were the lucky beneficieries.

I’ll tell you something: I gave up fast food at 25, when my dad’s cousin started having serious health problems. That was a reality check for me: my closest male relative died at just over twice my age, and then when another one of my closest male relatives reached that age, it was just a lucky break that he didn’t die also. I woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, asked myself if I wanted my life to be half over, and started eating turkey sandwiches from Subway (with just veggies and mustard–hold the fatty crap) for lunch pretty much every day.

And a lot of times when things have started going wrong, I haven’t been eating as well. I know that’s true for me right now.

I’ve seen Dr. Mark Himan on TV a couple of times the past few months. The things he says make a lot of sense. My wife and I have one of his books and another one on order. I think it’s time for me to read the one we have. I’m 31 now, and sometimes I feel like I’m losing my edge. Maybe I should do what Rod Carew did, and see if I get it back.

R. Collins celebrates his birthday

R. Collins Farquhar IV, aristocrat and scientist.
To my longtime readers and adoring fans. May you someday become enlightened.


I have just returned from my four-week tour of Europe in celebration of my 29th birthday. Aristocracy, unfortunately, is in decline in Europe just as it is in the United States, with the old money dying out and the Nouveau Riche taking over, but as there are more ruins of the old aristocracy in Europe than in the States, it still makes a worthwhile visit. I predict that within a generation, the old aristocracy will, sadly, be little more than a memory. I have made many predictions in the past and all of them have come true. You may read them by visiting and signing up for the premium-level subscription. I accept payment in U.S. currency, Pounds Sterling, and gold.

Speaking of the Nouveau Riche, I do wish I had spent my send-off with Raunche rather than with my so-called relatives. Little of my fine aristocratic blood seems to have seeped into them, sadly. I visited them on 27 November (November 27) for what they called “dinner.” They said it was something about Thanksgiving. Well, yes, for my enlightened readers, every day is reason to give thanks for the bountiful irrefragable enlightenment which follows my every footstep. I was very glad they were beginning to recognize this, and I told my manservant as much as he pulled my Rolls into my mother’s quaint little driveway.

After a feeble attempt at badinage, I noticed a smirk on my brother’s face. I always know I am in for something fetid and callow when I see that look. He suggested we sit down to dinner. I had my manservant sit at the table while I sojourned outside for a few puffs of my pipe. (My unenlightened family has not yet discovered the healing properties of tobacco smoke.) I always have my manservant eat my meals before I do, as it reveals two things. First and foremost, if my manservant lives, then I know the meal is not toxic. Second, I can interrogate him as to whether the meal was fit for aristocratic consumption.

I took a sip of my brandy (decaffienated, of course), thinking I might need it to face what awaited me inside. I needed not proceed with the interrogation upon my return. As my brother was stuffing his face with his third helping of a vile concoction called turkey and noodles, I scanned the table. Most of the usual traditional foods consumed by the rabble on that particular day were present: turkey, some vile concoction made with old bread that is commonly called “dressing” (I can only assume the French came up with that idea), mashed-up cranberries, some concoction that appeared to be made with apples and cream, mutilated potatoes and yams, and large quantities of white bread. No exotic animals. Nothing requiring the skills of a chef. Not even any haggis. Haggis is what commoners once ate in Scotland, but at least it is Scottish. Someone in this family needs to remember our roots. If they must be commoners, the very least they could do is be Scottish commoners.

Then, on the corner of the table, I spotted something worthy of an aristocrat’s refined palette: a jar of caviar.

But the caviar was not blended with red onions, scallions, sour cream, cream cheese and spices and wrapped in flaky puff pastry fit for an aristocrat, but it sat in an unopened jar, in the middle of a plate, garnished with small commercially-produced cakes resembling hockey pucks in plain white wrappers. My manservant told me they were a product manufactured by Hostess, commonly known as “Ding Dongs.”

My brother is a big enough ding-dong that I can only presume they are named after him. I need not contribute to his ego by indulging in them. Besides, my aristocratic gastrointestinal tract probably cannot handle such things.

I instructed my manservant to save one for Jacques Pierre Cousteau Bouillabaise Nouveau Riche Croissant le Raunche de la Stenche.

“Have some caviar and Ding Dongs,” my brother offered, before he resumed shoveling noodles into his face. I thought about offering him a second fork. I can only assume that this insult to my aristocracy was his idea, no doubt a result of a conversation with the Archduke of Stenche. I shall have to inquire at an appropriate time.

I decided it was time to depart. I instructed my manservant to warm up the Rolls. I waited a minute for some acknowledgment of me having graced their table with my presence. Finding none, I departed, unappreciated. No matter, as there were vintage antique radios to be refurbished and Europe was ever waiting. As the 31st great-grandson of William the Conqueror, I sought to return to Europe to plan my next conquest.

I can only assume they resumed stuffing their faces with noodles.