Archive for August, 2009

The Alhambra Dinner Theater Closes….

Alhambra Dinner Theatre, a Jacksonville institution for more than 40 years, has closed. Tod Booth, owner of the theater and director of most of its shows, said it’s still possible that someone else may come in and revive it.

The theater closed with Sunday night’s final performance of “Forever Plaid.”

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Booth said Monday. “But I cannot afford to continue, it’s cost me everything.”

The Alhambra, which opened in 1967, has been bucking a national trend for decades, one that has seen dinner theaters decline across the country since their heyday in the 1970s. No national count of all dinner theaters exists, but Booth said that the number of theaters which use members of the Actor’s Equity union, as the Alhambra had done, has dropped from 146 in 1974 to four today. Read the rest at

It breaks my heart that the Alhambra is closing. I suppose I’m part of the reason that it is shutting down, for we used to go. However, our income has fallen and we, too, had to cut back. No movies, no dinner theater, no expensive restaurants for us. Unfortunately, those places that we used to go will likely no longer be there when/if the economy turns around again.

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Massacre in Brunswick, Guy Heinze Jr. Arrested

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The only survivor among four siblings attacked in a Glynn County mobile home massacre died today, increasing the carnage to eight dead, police said tonight.

Capt. Marissa Tindale, head of the detectives division with the Glynn County Police Department, said Michael Toler, 19, died about noon Sunday. He had been listed in critical condition at a Savannah hospital.

A woman familiar with the family who also managed the trailer park where they lived said that Michael is the son of Russell “Rusty” Toler. That woman and a law enforcement source have told the Times-Union Rusty Toler is among the dead.

Toler’s three other children also died in the attack, the woman said. The Times-Union is not identifying the other children because their names have not been confirmed.

The only survivor is a young boy, said a member of his family and the woman. Police Chief Matt Doering has said Michael and the second survivor were initially hospitalized in critical condition. At a 3 p.m. news conference today, about three hours after Michael died, Doering said chillingly that the two survivors were unable to talk with family or investigators. He did not, at the time, acknowledge that Michael had died.

Tindale also said police will be announcing a $25,000 reward for information in the massacre at a 9 p.m. news conference, one of a number of briefings held by Police Chief Matt Doering since the attack.

Doering earlier today wouldn’t say whether a man charged with tampering with evidence and obstructing police in their probe of Saturday’s mobile home massacre is tied to the deaths.

“I would not call Mr. (Guy) Heinze (Jr.) a suspect, but I won’t rule him out either,” Doering said.

Doering also said there are “no known suspects at this time” in the attack that left eight people dead and one gravely wounded at the New Hope Mobile Home Park. He added, “There is cause for concern. We just don’t have a lot to go on. We’re not going to tell people it’s safe if we don’t know that.”

Shortly after making that statement, Doering said, “I’m 100 percent certain what happened and I’m 100 percent certain I know how it happened. What remains is who and the motive.”

District Attorney Stephen Kelley went to the crime scene in the single-wide mobile home today. Kelley said law enforcement faced numerous hurdles in solving the case.

“I’ve seen a lot of crime scenes in my 24 years and this is the most puzzling,” Kelley said. “What makes it so difficult is the fact of the sheer number of victims in one location.” Read the rest at

My mom lives outside a small town in Georgia and is very upset about this. Everybody should be wary when a monster is loose.

GLYNN COUNTY, GA — Glynn County Police have arrested Guy Heinze, Jr., for eight counts of murder in the first degree.

Heinze was released from jail Thursday afternoon. The first thing he did as he crossed the threshold: activate the ankle monitor the judge has made him wear while he awaits trial on drug, tampering and obstruction charges.

Around 6:45 this eveninig, he was arrested on eight counts of murder in the first degree.

Chief Matt Doering will be holding a news conference tonight at 9, in reference the New Hope murders.

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And You Think Your Job Sucks?

When I got the call from the school system for a temporary 1-year job, I was strongly inclined to decline. Did I say strongly? Perhaps that word is not emphatic enough. I dearly wanted to scream “Oh, HELL, NO!” and slam the phone down, but SwampMan had strongly counseled me that he was not at all happy about my decision to go into business with my ex-daughter-in-law doing children’s rooms. He had a point in that in the middle of a bad recession/beginning of a depression like this, there are not many people thinking about paying for people to decorate their children’s rooms, so just get over it.

So, I didn’t follow my first inclination of slamming down the telephone and running and hiding under the bed so they couldn’t come find me. I called SwampMan (big mistake) and told him about the job offer and my reservations about it.


“This is going to be a *very* bad job. Any time the ratio of staff to students is less than 1:10, that is a bad, bad sign. Here, the ratio is damn near 1:1.”

“Quit whining and take it. They’re in what, 4th or 5th grade? How bad could THAT be? Besides, what other paying jobs are available?”

How bad could it be? Maybe he was right. Maybe they were all little angels that just needed 1:1 staffing because…..umm……well, I couldn’t think of a good reason. I already knew from last year’s foray into kindergarten that children are highly protected but the staff is on their own. And there will be hell to pay if any of the little darlings that are attacking tooth and nail sustain a bruise while they make spirited attempts to break somebody’s finger. If there is an effective technique to ensure compliance, we can’t use it. If the children are out of control, then it is our fault and we did something wrong, and we better search our conscience for what it was.

Children, especially children that have cognitive problems, are very quick to learn that they can run wild and act like fools and kick and hit and spit and bite and the teachers cannot do anything about it.

I was, therefore, not terribly surprised on the first day when I was slapped, pinched hard twice, had a toy shovel of sand thrown in my face on the playground, and turned around just in time to catch a chair that was aimed at my head, thrown by a little cherub in time out who had no earthly reason to throw it at me except I was in her line of sight and had my head turned away.

I told SwampMan that I was going to be in the ER before the week was out because ALL the children bit, hit, scratched, and threw heavy objects with intent to harm. When they are not trying to harm each other, they try to hurt us and, in fact, we are the preferential targets because they know that their classmates will kick, hit, scratch, bite and throw chairs BACK. We cannot. He did not believe it.

The second day, I was standing beside a student when his crayons were flung violently across the room. When I reflexively looked over to see if anybody had been hurt by flying crayons, Cujo the crayon thrower latched onto my arm and bit the crap out of it, removing a chunk of skin and some flesh, grinding in his rabbit sharp teeth and powerful jaws in order to do the most damage. I waited until he finished, then I spun him around and pinned his arms behind his back to keep from getting pummeled and bitten further and waited out the kicking over of desks, shelves, anything within reach of his feet, and the backwards head butting that ensued. After the brief period of insane rage had passed, he was back to normal. I went to the office for wound dressing so I wouldn’t bleed all over the classroom.

Later that day, I was back in the office for another wound dressing for a more severe bite. This one necessitated a trip to an ER clinic after work where I was asked the breed of the dog that bit me.

The next day was fairly uneventful with just routine scratching, pinching and kicking incidents for me. Another woman was head butted in the face and cut the inside of her lips on her teeth. There was not a lot of learning going on, but no major mayhem, either (which erupts when the kids are pressed to do anything) for which I was happy. I *say* no major mayhem; the woman with the cut lip was definitely injured but no teeth were knocked loose which, in our class, was considered a good day.

On Friday, the day started out with another rage incident in which I prevented “my” student from maiming another much smaller student, a girl, who had apparently touched her foot against his under the table. The first I knew that anything was amiss was when his milk was thrown violently across the room and I had a heavy metal chair thrown at my head (ha, missed!) and again savagely bitten up and down my arm (this time I had padding on my arms because they were still oozing and swollen from the last bites). He managed to bite through in one spot near my wrist drawing quite a bit of blood that soaked through the padding, kicked, and, when I had him stretched out with his arms behind his back so that he could no longer reach me with teeth, fists, or feet, sustained repeated head butts to the chest. (Shopping note: I need to buy *very* heavily padded bras instead of the athletic variety. I have bruises y’all wouldn’t believe! You know everybody’s going to be talkin’ ’bout how I done went and got a boob job if I suddenly turn up in a double D size and how the schools must be paying their employees waaaay too much. The reality is that I can barely afford livestock feed, gas, and groceries on my salary.) SwampMan tells me I’m working for the insurance. I told him I wouldn’t need the insurance if I weren’t working!

I will count any day as successful now when I don’t have to report to the ER. Another woman in class had the misfortune to be working with one student when another tapped her for attention. When she turned, she was headbutted in the nose and had to be driven to the emergency clinic for a possible broken nose.

Why are the kids so frustrated? Well, they have severe communication problems. (They either can’t talk at all, babble things that make no sense, or only have the capacity for 1 or 2 word sentences, the vocabularly of an 18-month-old child.) When they want something and we don’t understand what it is, they attack. When they are mad at another kid, they attack. If their mom packed something in their lunch they didn’t want, they attack. Often we don’t know why for there are no antecendents for this behavior that we know of and for every incident, we have to painstakingly go back and try to find why. (As you may have guessed, there is a LOT of paperwork.) Maybe they have a tummy ache. We just don’t know. These are children that are happy and smiling one instant and biting the crap out of somebody (me) the next.

I have to be constantly on my guard because the child I’m assigned to is, in my estimation, quite capable of severely injuring one of the students or other adults in one of his rages. I guesstimate his weight at @ 150 lbs., and it is quite difficult to get him under control without causing him pain or leaving bruises. When he comes back to his senses, he cries when he sees my bleeding wounds, says “bite” pointing to my wound(s), and hangs his head, tears streaming down his face, and then kisses the booboo, hugs me, and asks “better?” anxiously. Of course I hug him and reassure him that I am just fine now and that the kiss fixed me right up but if he feels mad, he needs to go off by himself or tell me “mad” or show me “mad face” instead of biting.

I’m considering getting leather or metal wrist guards and kevlar carving gloves because he’s avoiding the padding now and trying to take out the fingers and wrists.

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If I Could Dance Like This, I’d Be Gyrating Down the Aisles at Winn Dixie

Remember what I said about how it was a shame that people had to dance around half nekkid because they didn’t have any actual talent? If I had as much as a quarter of the dancing talent of this lil’ gal, I’d be gyrating around Winn Dixie behind my shopping cart in my thong and tutu, picking groceries off the shelves with my toes. Oh yes hell I would. I’m not sayin’ her moves are sexually suggestive because they are NOT. Well, at least I don’t think so, but I’m not a man. Men seem to think that cooking breakfast is sexually suggestive. I would just be showing off my dancin’ moves just because I could.

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Friday Night Cinema

I sure do like to watch those old movies when people had actual talent instead of prancing around half nekkid posturing in sexually suggestive poses.

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WHO Warns of Severe Form of Swine Flu

Per the New York Times:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Doctors are reporting a severe form of swine flu that goes straight to the lungs, causing severe illness in otherwise healthy young people and requiring expensive hospital treatment, the World Health Organisation said on Friday.

Some countries are reporting that as many as 15 percent of patients infected with the new H1N1 pandemic virus need hospital care, further straining already overburdened healthcare systems, WHO said in an update on the pandemic.

“During the winter season in the southern hemisphere, several countries have viewed the need for intensive care as the greatest burden on health services,” it said.

“Preparedness measures need to anticipate this increased demand on intensive care units, which could be overwhelmed by a sudden surge in the number of severe cases.”

Earlier, WHO reported that H1N1 had reached epidemic levels in Japan, signalling an early start to what may be a long influenza season this year, and that it was also worsening in tropical regions.

“Perhaps most significantly, clinicians from around the world are reporting a very severe form of disease, also in young and otherwise healthy people, which is rarely seen during seasonal influenza infections,” WHO said.

“In these patients, the virus directly infects the lung, causing severe respiratory failure. Saving these lives depends on highly specialized and demanding care in intensive care units, usually with long and costly stays.”


Minority groups and indigenous populations may also have a higher risk of being severely ill with H1N1.

“In some studies, the risk in these groups is four to five times higher than in the general population,” WHO said.

“Although the reasons are not fully understood, possible explanations include lower standards of living and poor overall health status, including a high prevalence of conditions such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension.”

WHO said it was advising countries in the Northern Hemisphere to prepare for a second wave of pandemic spread. “Countries with tropical climates, where the pandemic virus arrived later than elsewhere, also need to prepare for an increasing number of cases,” it said.


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British Boy Treated for Brain Cancer in Jacksonville


Convinced that it was his best shot at survival, Alex Barnes’ parents rushed the 4-year-old last fall from their home in England to Jacksonville for six weeks of proton therapy.

The results were two-fold: Alex’s aggressive brain cancer all but vanished, and impressed British health officials have begun taking steps to establish the country’s first proton therapy center.

England’s National Health Service last week announced that it is accepting bids from hospitals to host proton therapy services. In a statement to the media, the head of the agency credited the initiative to the lobbying efforts of Alex’s mother, Rosalie.

“Her campaign to bring proton therapy services to England so that other children and adults can benefit from having the treatment here impressed me greatly,” said Health Minister Ann Keen, who had a one-on-one meeting with Rosalie last April.

Britain has a proton beam, but it is only strong enough to treat eye cancer. Health officials say the new device likely won’t receive funding until 2011 at the earliest.

They aren’t cheap — the University of Florida’s Proton Therapy Institute, which debuted next door to Shands Jacksonville in 2006, cost $116 million. The hefty price tag has limited the number of devices in the United States to six and worldwide to about two dozen.

Supporters say the key difference between proton therapy and conventional radiation, which uses X-rays, is the amount of healthy tissue it preserves around its target. Protons only destroy tissue at the tumor site whereas traditional radiation destroys everything in its path and beyond, leading to potential complications, they say.

For Alex, precision was crucial. Doctors worried that X-ray radiation would damage the boy’s hippocampus, the brain’s learning center, and his hypothalamus, which controls body function. That would have put him at risk for developing diabetes, cardiovascular problems and other complications.

Although the British government offers to pay for overseas proton treatments, the Barnes family skipped that process, fearing that Alex would die before his claim could be processed. As it stood, doctors only gave him a 25-40 percent chance of survival.

Local news coverage of the boy’s plight helped the family raise thousands of pounds for Alex’s treatment in America. Last September, the boy and his mother flew from their hometown of Fleckney to Jacksonville, where, as it happened, Rosalie went to high school and her parents still lived.

The boy, now 5, underwent surgery at Wolfson Children’s Hospital to remove a quarter-inch-long tumor in his brain. After a few weeks of healing, he crossed the St. Johns River for 33 proton therapy treatments.

In the e-mailed words of his mother, “Alex went straight back to school as soon as we returned home and he hasn’t missed a day since. His eyesight is perfect … and his hearing is sharp, too.”

Coverage of Alex’s story in the British press, coupled with Rosalie’s lobbying campaign, persuaded a contingent of British officials to visit the UF institute earlier this summer. The group spent most of their time quizzing the administrators about how they overcame the logistical hurdles to build the center, said Stuart Klein, the institute’s executive director.

The visit also led to a new partnership. Recently, British officials said they have selected Jacksonville as one of three sites worldwide where they will send proton therapy patients until their device is ready.

So, where will countries with national health programs send their patients for treatment when our medicine is socialized, too?

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More Florida Swine Flu Deaths, Absenteeism in Schools

TAMPA – A 50-year-old woman and a 34-year-old man became Pinellas and Polk counties’ second swine flu deaths as a Hillsborough County private school deals with a spike in absences attributed to the virus.

Both of those who died had other health problems, as have the six Hillsborough County residents reported killed by H1N1.

Details such as where the woman lived, what her other health problems were, and when she died were not available, according to Maggie Hall of the Pinellas Health Department.

The man died today, reported Daniel Haight of the Polk Health Department.

“These deaths highlight the seriousness of influenza, especially in those with an underlying medical condition,” he wrote in a press release. “”It is very important that a person with mild flu not expose those at higher risk.”

That’s what students at Tampa Catholic High School appear to be doing. Twenty percent of the 700 students are absent, many with suspected swine flu, their principal reported.

The outbreak has led to the cancellation of junior varsity football practice the past two days.

“We’ve told people to stay home if they feel like they have anything,” said Prinicipal Tom Reidy said. “I’m happy our kids and parents are listening to that.”

The increase in cases was not unexpected. Young people are especially susceptible to swine flu and on school campuses, the highly contagious virus can spread quickly. Hillsborough County Health Department Director Doug Holt predicted it would take two weeks for influenza to invade a campus once classes started; that’s how long Tampa Catholic students have been back at school.

To avoid getting or spreading the flu, health officials recommend that you:

* Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or otherwise appear ill.

* Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

* Wash hands frequently to lessen the spread of respiratory illness.

* Contact your physician if you are experiencing cough, fever and fatigue, possibly along with diarrhea and vomiting.

Geez. I know that we’ve been told to “wash our hands frequently” to combat swine flu. That advice is given, of course, by people that haven’t been in the classroom and don’t know that usually there isn’t even time to go to the bathroom, let alone wash hands frequently throughout the day. Washing hands isn’t going to make much difference, either, when a sick lil’ cherub whose parents were not supposed to send him/her to school ill coughs/sneezes directly in your face or uses the hem of your clothing for a snot rag.

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Just Hangin’ Out


I moved my small group of Wyandottes and Ameracaunas into a large pen today, a former dog kennel 10′ x 20′ x 6′. The old kennel is overrun with morning glories, weeds, flowering trees, blackberry briars, and grass. Ouch! We put shade cloth across the top of half of it and wire across the other half, then off to catch chickens. The Wyandotte rooster and hens gathered together happily and started exploring. The Ameracauna rooster and hens banded together. Only 11 chickens in 200 square feet of overgrown space appeared a little lost, so I gathered up 5 little bantam cross hens and the least aggressive little bantam rooster from that particular batch and added them in, thinking that since all of them were in a new space and fairly new to each other, they would probably all get along. I was worried about the bantams possibly getting picked on but, with me going back to work, I couldn’t possibly get 10 different pens of chickens fed, watered, and moved before leaving for work before dawn.

I needn’t have worried about the bantams, particularly the rooster. The very first thing he did upon being released in the pen was greet the hens, flirted with all the other hens, then grabbed the biggest rooster (the Wyandotte) by the comb and threw him down and attempted to breed him. That poor Wyandotte rooster and his hens have been hiding underneath the blackberry brambles since.

So, what am I going to do since I’ll have all that free time in the morning? Well, uh, I actually divided up some of the overcrowded chickens into less crowded pens, so now I have more pens of chickens to feed but the pens aren’t as crowded, so the grass won’t get as dirty when I won’t be able to move them twice a day to fresh pasture.

Hey, wait a minute….wasn’t I supposed to be making things easier on myself? DANG!

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Hope the Vaccine At Least Arrives in Time to Keep Health Care Workers Going

From Bloomberg:

“The Northern Hemisphere medical care requirements for the next six months are a train wreck waiting to happen,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in Minneapolis. “In the fall, even if nothing else changes in terms of the virus’s severity and our preparedness, it’s going to be a real challenge.”

In the U.K., where swine flu sparked a summer wave of illness worse than the previous 10 winters, about 1 in 10 patients hospitalized for the virus end up in intensive care, according to Liam Donaldson, England’s chief medical officer. In Australia, that proportion is about 25 percent, he said.

“They have had a relatively high level of intensive care admissions amongst hospitalized patients,” Donaldson told reporters in London yesterday. “We might end up like that, but we can’t be 100 percent sure.”

Bypass Patients

While fewer than 0.5 percent of swine flu sufferers may need hospitalization, those who do can remain in intensive care for up to three weeks, occupying a bed that could be used for 15 heart bypass patients. Christchurch Hospital, the biggest on New Zealand’s South Island, postponed non-emergency procedures requiring an ICU stay such as heart bypass as flu patients — three-quarters needing mechanical ventilation — filled up the 12-bed unit and nine other hastily created intensive-care beds, according to Shaw.

What’s more, a 10th of those critically ill patients needed their blood pumped through an artificial lung, a procedure known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, that only one hospital in New Zealand offers.

“I’ve seen nothing like this,” said John Beca, head of pediatric intensive care at New Zealand’s national children’s hospital in Auckland. Five of Beca’s six ECMO units have been used simultaneously this winter. He’s ordering three more.

The government has been cautioning parents about not sending their children to school when they are sick. Riiiight. That’s going to work really well to prevent the spread of disease!

Last year during cold and flu season, a lot of kids had a diarrheal and vomiting norovirus-type illness. They threw up on the bus. They threw up in the classroom. They threw up in the lunchroom. When sent to the nurse’s office so that their parents could be called and they could be sent home, they said “I threw up last night, but mommy (or daddy) said I had to go to school today anyway.” We have had a child come to school with eyes swollen shut from conjunctivitis. Children get very droopy after the medicine mommy or grandma or other caregiver gave them to reduce their fever wears off. Some children sit at their desk and cry because they feel so bad, and there is nobody at the telephone numbers given for emergency contact.

I know what it is like to be in the situation that many of the parents are in, too. I have had a job where I was told that I was denied a raise because I missed more time because my children were sick than any of the other women in my department. (I was the only one young enough to have small children.) In many cases, mommy has to decide which is better for the child: Staying home when sick but being without food or utilities because she loses her job, or sending the child to school sick.

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