Jim Varagona

Month: October, 2006

>Adrenaline is Real

>I took the wife to a schoolhouse last night. It has been transformed into a music/event venue and happened to be showing Game 5 of the World Series on a 15 foot screen. I’m usually hesitant about trying new places without someone else vouching for it, but I had a good feeling about this.

The Lucas School House in Soulard is a quaint joint with leather seating abound. Their drinks were quite strong and tasty, which helped ease the building tension of the game between our Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers, who didn’t seem to even bring their C-game, unless you consider the one game they won at the hands of the almighty Cheater, Kenny “The Gambler” Rogers.

As the innings went by, we were joined by my mother-in-law, Dan (my best man), and Shannon’s friend Jeni and her friend Neil. Dan, the hippie that he is, tried reasoning with me that nothing was real, not even us at that point in time. I let him keep talking but I think it may have been the Caucasians. Dan frequently wonders what is real, but he was onto something last night. For the first time since I was a youngling (about 1.7 years), my home team was going to win the World Series, and in their new stadium to boot. Was it real?

I discussed with the others what our plan of action would be. Would we overturn cars and set fire to trash cans in our own city like the Red Sox fans did after beating us in 2004? It doesn’t make much sense, but overturning a Yugo is enticing, only because it is possible.

As Adam Wainwright, our youngster closer, threw the final strike, the adrenaline in the crowd skyrocketed. I’m not a huge sports nut, at least comparing myself to the jock types I despised in my earlier years, but sometimes the good feelings take hold, and you just must let go. We did, and we couldn’t breathe. My wife and I were afraid her heart condition from her childhood would get the best of her, but it didn’t, of course, because this was euphoria.

The excitement poured into the streets as people screamed, honked, drove and marched through the streets to let the people without televisions and radios know what was up. the six of us hopped in Shannon’s two-door car and drove into the madness of Downtown St. Louis. The traffic was barely moving and nobody cared. My mother-in-law was soliciting kisses from passers-by to share the love. Once we noticed a couple of fans abandoning their parking spot, everyone jumped out to hold back traffic so that I could maneuver my way into the spot.

I realized that we lost Dan somehow in the chaos. Sometimes he needs guidance, so I called him and tried to guide him to us as we arrived at the Stadium, which was about six blocks from our parking spot. As he made his way closer to us through the crowds, we managed to get into a still roaring Busch Stadium. It was an amazing sight that we took in from several rows up from third base. We danced and screamed in the forty degree weather that felt like seventy from our hearts pumping and the bit of alcohol left in us.

The wife and I were very ecstatic.

I still couldn’t find Dan though. He kept calling and we’d try to figure out where he was. At one point it sounded like he said he was at third base, which scared me a bit, but knowing him, I headed that way. He wasn’t on the field, but who knows if he though he was? After a back and forth of row numbers and seat numbers, I found him and brought him to the group.

Dan asked us if we wanted to streak on the field, but I wasn’t sure if the adrenaline could keep me warm through that, and I wasn’t sure if the perimeter of cops on the field would gas or mace me. He asked again if he should run out on the field, and we jokingly said sure.

Enter that package of bacon…I don’t think so.

Two minutes later, Dan hopped over the short wall right past third and walked several feet out. A female usher motioned to an officer on the field, and he proceeded towards Dan. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. He didn’t make it that far. Dan held his hands up like there was some misunderstanding. At one point he even gave peace signs to the cop, but he was cuffed anyway. We just laughed hysterically in disbelief.

After I snapped out of it, I thought it may be a good idea to find out where he was going. I had never had to bail any friend out of jail before, but he was my best man, so I felt a duty to track him down once again.

We got mixed information from different workers at Busch. Most of the security had no idea where the security office was, which I found bizzare, so we had to find it on our own. I asked around there and they told me he was probably already taken to the city jail. Just then I got a call from Dan in his holding cell, still in the Stadium. He couldn’t believe that was real. It was though. I told him to call me when he got word of what was to happen.

In the meantime, I drove Jeni and my mother-in-law back to their vehicles back in Soulard. As I started on home, Dan called again saying to pick him up before he was raped. A cop he knew from his grade school years let him loose. I headed back only to find that police cars blocked every street into Downtown leaving only a perimeter leading us back onto the highway. That was only after we had to creep along in the celebratory traffic in the streets.

About a half hour later, we reunited with Dan. He still couldn’t understand. I couldn’t comprehend the night either. Our boys won. And I was to look forward to 3 hours of sleep before training to supervise the electronic voting machines on Election Day.

Tiredness is real too.

–I realize I have some photos posted but none of Dan on the field. My camera batts died right before it happened. I’m working to get Jeni’s photos to post. In the meantime, here’s a crappy photo from my phone with Dan flanked by po-po’s circled and pointed out for you.

UPDATE (11/1/06): A better photo of Dan (in gray fleece) on the field after being grabbed by a cop…

World Series (300x250)


>Responding to Responses

>Man, don’t you hate when you go two weeks between blogs. My last posting about my personal opinion about embryonic stem cell research really touched some nerves. While I appreciate Maire‘s opinion, I have to say that her two main points didn’t do much for me or fellow diabeto, Mr. Momarsh.

The violence against women argument doesn’t do much for me. For an argument coming from feminist groups, it doesn’t say much about females if you say that they are completely susceptible to offers to buy their eggs. Why is it so wrong for offers like that to be made on the backs of our alternative weekly papers or on college campuses? People do desperate things for money, but at the same time, it must be their own responsibility to research the pros and cons of the procedure. It only makes sense for something that pays $2,000-$10,000 to look into things. And besides, this legislation bans buying or selling eggs for the purpose of obtaining cells.

I agree that SCNT is cloning. My argument is that feeding it to the general public in 30 second ads doesn’t give them much background, and as much as listing a web address is giving background information, I don’t think a lot of people actually take the time to read those partisan informational sources and consequently any opposing or bipartisan sources. I think when folks hear cloning, they think of Dolly in human form. Now, Dolly was conceived through SCNT, but the process is not taken any further than the blastocyst stage when extracting embryonic stem cells, which I don’t think is really explained thoroughly by either side too much. By creating a blastocyst from my adult stem cells and an unfertilized egg, the idea is that it is an extension of me to heal me.

I must also emphasize that SCNT is a very small part of the current initiative being voted on in Missouri. The process hasn’t progressed very far anyway to be a viable option anytime soon. The main point in my mind is to make use of the cells in embryos that are thrown out from fertility clinics and from abortion. Keep in mind that this is all legal already, but not federally funded. The most important passage from the initiative states it will “prohibit state or local governments from preventing or discouraging lawful stem cell research, therapies and cures”. I would think that by making this an amendment to the state’s constitution, it would help clarify the issue. While Maire states that the researchers she works with do not like the idea of this as an amendment, I have seen plenty of researchers on the other side as well, which only show how divisive this issue is.

The issue will continue to spark debate well after it is voted on because I am sure other states will follow with similar measures. It would be helpful to list more factual information in the ads and to inform anyone involved in any related process of the full scope of what is involved.

On a larger scale, I wish there was a check and balance system in political advertising to lessen the back and forth of he said, she said. There should be a bipartisan board made up of equal numbers of folks from the various parties, including the “others”, that review each ad before it is run and release it to the public only after its claims are verified. I realize there are groups now that have ad watches in effect, but it should have to be done before the ads are aired instead of questioning them after folks are basing decisions on the information in those ads. I think it would cut down on campaign spending and wasting by negating the need to respond to every ad by the other side and simply state your case instead.

That’s a dream though. Politics don’t work that way in America, and it’s a shame.


>For Those Against Stem Cell Research

>For those that question stem cell research, tell your family, friends, and co-workers with diseases that could benefit, that their quality of life means nothing to you. No babies are being killed for these cells. They come from otherwise “discarded” embryos.

The current Conservative administration has not outlawed abortion, so it will occur. I don’t think more women will abort for the purpose of furthering stem cell research, so until someone repeals Roe V. Wade, why not make something good of something you find despicable.

And yet other cells come from embryos stored by couples at fertility clinics. Once they get pregnant, or reach a desired goal, the rest of their stored embryos are thrown out at some point. So until someone decides to save all of these discarded embryos and make a commune of discarded humans from them, I say help find cures from the cells, which were taken from the woman with her consent, so don’t throw in a violence towards women debate here.

Opponents of my opinion have said that you can get the same benefit from adult stem cells, but adult stem cells can’t transform into any cell, which embryonic cells have the ability to do, no matter what part of the body they’re from.

As far as cloning goes, I have yet to see any scientific document from an American scientific publication that states this will lead to the cloning of humans. Now there is SCNT (Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer), which is labeled as cloning by the opponents (the link is to what I consider to be a funny, yet blunt domain for the opponents…http://www.nocloning.org/). It is therapeautic cloning, which differenciates from reproductive cloning, what people generally think of when it comes to cloning.

In SCNT, the nucleus of an unfertilized egg is replaced with the nucleus of an adult somatic cell. The egg evolves into a blastocyst, which is one of the earliest stages of an embryo, with about 100-200 cells. Compare that to an adult human with over 10 trillion cells. Once at that stage, the stem cells are taken and may be transplanted back to the patient with no danger of rejection, since they are an identical match. Maybe in that case, the adult stem cells could provide the same benefit, by creating embryonic stem cells.

Reproductive cloning would involve taking that blastocyst and continuing to help it along until it can exist outside of the body, but the chances of a healthy embryo coming from SCNT are still small.

I’m sure everyone knows of somebody that has died with a disease that could be helped with this research. And cures may not happen right away. What in science does without years of research? Whose to say that those folks and those with those diseases now do not deserve a better quality of life? If you are against that, then you are inhumane.

I myself have Diabetes and know others with it as well. It would be great to live without multiple shots in a day or a device connected to my body at all times in order to live. It would be great to not have to bleed everyday to better control my blood sugar. A life without messing up one insulin calculation and suffering with a seizure or being nauseated for days sounds really nice. And I’m sure Michael J. Fox would love to simply sit still. And Christopher Reeve would have enjoyed walking again or simply to live another day, but since you are humane people, we must deny people what may be available to us through science.

That makes as much sense as a war in a country that had nothing to do with killing our people and only takes more of our people’s lives, especially considering that our tax money could be going towards saving lives instead of killing our boys and innocent Iraqis, not to mention it has more factual evedience backing it than the reasoning for that war. It’s a shame that the President used the only veto of his tenure to prevent more lines of cells to be backed by federal funding. It only shows his continued ignorance. This whole debate may be based on an idea that doesn’t have many years of research behind it, but the possibilities are backed by fact. This would require a bit of hope on our part, but as Michael J. Fox said when in St. Louis on October 5, “You can’t quantify hope. And I’ll come down on the side of hope every time.”

Missouri, the state I have lived in all of my life, will be voting on this issue. This is from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

All eyes will be on Missouri for the Nov. 7 vote, the first of its kind in
the nation. Some say the outcome could provide clues on national voter sentiment
on a contentious political divide, perhaps spawning similar referendums in other
states. To this point, the legislative battle has largely been confined to
Congress and state general assemblies. In the case of Illinois and a handful of
other states, lawmakers have backed embryonic stem-cell research with state

The measure seeks to ensure that any forms of stem-cell research that are
legal under federal law also would be legal in Missouri.But voters are being
asked to do more than simply preserve the status quo. The measure would negate
the state Legislature’s ability to ban certain forms of controversial research,
such as those involving cloning technology.

Once again, it’s this cloning technology that scares people away, but I urge folks to look beyond the word “cloning” to see that it isn’t bringing cloned humans into the world. Cloning technology is used in the world today to bring people like me our insulin. A lot of biotechnology today involves “cloning technology”, but this involves human cells, so it creates the idea of creating humans. When used in SCNT, I believe an extension of the person is being used to save them. For it is their own adult stem cells that are being used in the process to prevent rejection. And while some would say that the blastocyst is a child being murdered, I would say you’ve gone too far. It’s amazing that the anti-abortion movement doesn’t stand up for the lives of those with these diseases, those fighting in wars, and those innocents our country kills in war. It’s a bit of a double standard if you ask me.


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