Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday bits.

--My soon-to-be 10 year-old got excited about her upcoming birthday being celebrated. She recalled having heard my wife and me discuss the feasibility of taking her into the land of Big City to the Great Wolf Lodge for a weekend. Apparently, this is a really cool place for young kids. Indoor year-round waterpark. Log cabin rooms. Rustic  bunk beds and furniture made from hewn logs. Activities. Kid food. Sounds kind of fun. Uh, not at almost $500 for a single weekend night. The Wife and I had this hypothetical conversation about 10 months ago. Kids never forget. We need to speak in Spanish, more.

--Guess who got appointed to make the call, and to explain it to the disappointed kid? Why am I always the bad guy? 

--I explained that I had bought a running V8 van with cold a/c and a nifty luggage rack for that price, last year. (Which we've been using the heck out of.) I told her that she needed to be able to have something at the end of the weekend, to keep. So of course I'm getting her a cell phone. The gift that keeps on billing me.

--That sucker is going to be bulletproofed, lemme  tell you.

--I haven't gotten out to the range this spring, yet. Given the beaut weather that we have, this is criminal.

--My partner is doing a lot better, and is recuperating at home, where he could actually get some real rest. Seems that some of the perceived slowness in his recovery was from the protocol-dictated course of anti-seizure meds that they gave him.  Well, hell, of course a neurotransmitter inhibitor is going to make a person slow. They changed recipes, and he got a lot better. Soon he won't take any of that. Talking to him, he looks and sounds great. He gets tired, though. He's running on at least 5 cylinders. But he's got 8, at least. Maybe 12.

--Sure wish he'd been out with me on a tough call last night.

--With the temperate weather and rains and sun, I should be mowing twice a week. I'm averaging once every 10+ days. Lawn looks shaggy. I run the risk of being the roughest in the neighborhood. I don't want to be That Guy. I  also don't want to have the nicest lawn in the neighborhood, either.

--Tomorrow, I stay at the fire house. This will be my first time staying there overnight. William Dafoe springs to mind.

--I've been carrying my new 637, newly back from my gunsmith, in my custom 3R holster a lot lately. It's  a good fit. I need to review both.

--My prof in Homeland Security said that none of the crime originally reported in the SuperDome in NOLA during Katrina was ever substantiated. Anyone have any good sources on the issue?

--Yet again I find proof that 80% of the calls for service in a given small town are made by 5% or less of the people in it.

--You think that your spouse is giving you a hard time about something, and you come across a couple that is dog-cussing each other, and each other's kids. Then you realize that your spouse is actually pretty cool.

--I got accused recently at a civil disturbance of being against the 2nd amendment, because I told a man who had completely lost his composure to stand away from the weapons on the scene. I didn't get mad, but I set him straight: "I'm all about supporting your Constitutional rights, bud. But you called me here to diffuse a situation that you blew up. Can we try it my way for a few minutes?"--I  am  reminded of the kid who climbs a tree to retrieve his kite, can't get down, calls the fire department  to get him down, and won't let go of his kite to get on the ladder.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

HIPAA

"HIPAA" is the dirtiest word I hear, some days. And given the profane things discussed in my day-to-day life, that's impressive.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was an important piece of legislature, passed too late in a time when people had suffered from their healthcare information under one insurance agency not being properly shared with another.  Part of that improper information sharing was the OVER-sharing of patients' private information. This law had provisions to protect Grampaw from having the highlights of his colostomy broadcast throughout the parish, or news of his grandaughter Suzie's prescription for antibiotics for a social disease picked up on spring break making its way around campus from the quack shack.

As soon as it was passed in 1996, everyone began to focus on the privacy concerns in HIPAA. So much so, in fact, that I've seen more than one healthcare professional misquote it as "HIPPA," for "Health Information Privacy Protection Act."[sic] Which does not exist.

If they can't even get the NAME OR THE ACRONYMN right, how are they expected to get the content of that large document right? Answer? They don't. I've had more garbage told to me under the umbrella of "We can't tell you that. Sorry. HIPAA."

I once was on duty on a deep night shift in the early aughts, when Dave, a buddy of mine from one of my undergraduate Criminal Justice classes and a sergeant for another police department in our county, was given a rather difficult roadblock to deal with. See, Dave had to work a major multicar crash caused by a drunk driver going the wrong way on a major highway. Dave and his comrades blocked the highway, saw that the wounded were transported by EMS, and had the highway cleared by the wrecker agencies.  Part of Dave's duties was to create a landing zone (LZ) for a private helicopter ambulance to land to pick up the suspected drunk driver, who was badly injured in the wreck. After it was all cleared up, Dave sensibly enough radioed our county dispatcher and inquired as to which hospital he should go for the mandatory blood draw that he was going to perform on the driver, who was now a suspect for Intoxication Assault. The county dispatcher called the helicopter ambulance dispatcher, who then, unbelievably, informed the county dispatcher that she could not release that information because of "HIPAA." 

Dave was audibly frustrated over the radio. I went to the PD, printed out the exceptions when medical information could be released, circled the section of Law Enforcement Exceptions ("...to identify or locate a suspect, fugitive, material witness, or missing person..."), circled the pertinent portion twice with a black Magic Marker, and faxed it to Dave's PD, to the County Dispatcher, and to the office that I thought might be the dispatcher for Moronic Private Helo Medical Transport. Then I sat down and read the document. It wasn't that hard.

The other morning, while visiting my partner in the hospital, I saw his wife smile as he happily dug into the fruit and yogurt that I'd fetched him from the cafeteria, and I whipped out my camera phone to take a quick picture, mostly to send to both their phones. The ICU nurse jumped in, speedy-quick: "You can't take his picture without his explicit permission. It's against HIPAA."

Okay, now look: I appreciate her looking out for my buddy. I really do. More than I can express. I appreciate that my partner isn't quite as fully alert right this minute as he is when he's at his best. But she had stood right there when he had told the doc that I was his partner, like family, and was thus privy to the doctor's briefing him. She had heard me jokingly suggest that he really wanted a Foley catheter while there, and she had heard him laughing with it. I'm on his team.  I come in peace. I mean him no harm. His wife, who saw me taking the shot, had leaned in close to him and smiled for the picture.

But most importantly, I'm not subject to HIPAA. I'm not a medical professional. I wasn't handling his information. I'm in no way licensed, medically. It doesn't apply to me.

"Consent is not needed for photography done by the patient’s family members or friends..."

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Best to take things a day at a time.

One of the most important things about dealing with a loved one who is hurt is that you cannot take a short period of "look how good he's doing!" and project that out to "He'll be just fine by  X time." When you do that, your heart gets set on X as the deadline by which good things will happen. If it hasn't occured by X, your  hopes get dashed.

It's just an arbitrary time, people.

There are undoubtedly other applications for this outlook, but right now, we're reassessing how long it will take my partner to get better. And it's going to take a little longer than we let ourselves dare to possibly dream.

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Hospitals suck.

My partner up and got his bell rung, and we're waiting around the ICU to make damn sure that the doctors and nurses don't screw things up.

I'm with his wife at Big City Trauma Hospital, which happens to be in pretty much the WORST part of town (aren't they always?). My main job is to keep the night watch, send his family home so that I can do that, and be a stoic for his wife for times when doctors with more medical training than bedside manner (or sense) announce to his wife and mother, "He has a bleed!" without preamble or much explanation.

Looks like the old boy is going to be okay, but my runnin' buddy is out for a bit. The things that some guys will do to get to use their sick time. . .

It's mildly amusing to see how we fill an ER waiting room when one of us goes. My buddy has a lot of friends and family.

I find that I'm both, now.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Professional. (Student.)

Recall that test that I went in to get? Turns out that I got a 92. It was a take-home test that my professor had given to us two weeks before, and I started working on it just after midnight of the morning that it was to be turned in. My wife is furious at me for getting an A on something that I put so little effort into (It's 40% of my semester grade.). "You'll never learn if you don't get stomped with a D or something when you do that! Instead, you get rewarded for procrastinating!" she fumed. "How do you do that?!?" (It was just a 12 page paper, plus a page of works cited.)

"I did it because this is the crap that I've been thinking about for over ten years," I answered. This is what I do."

And by that, I mean that I evaluate the state of our Homeland Security from a street-level bureaucrat's perspective, and from a graduate student's perspective.

And I play with kids in sandboxes like this one, and this one, and this one, and... well, lots of smart folk.

My evaluation of Homeland Security is that we're spending $58 Billion a year real money (and losing another ~$40B) for something that doesn't work. The guys that we're catching? The cases are thin, man. They're usually turned in or caught by citizens. And TSA, which won't publish its efficacy (National Security, don't you know) is rumored to be missing 70% of what it's there for, while being proven publicly to be responsible for thefts, frauds, inappropriate gropings, ridicule by public servants, and general abuse of office.

How many freedoms do we want to give up? Remember how we said "They hate us for our freedom?" Have we decided "Well there's your problem, right there!"?!?

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

New tag: "My Life As A Giant."

Recall that I got a beer with a friend last week? She took a picture:

I could have sworn that was a pint glass. (No, it didn't have Miller anything in it.)

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Refusing to abdicate one's own responsibility.

Friend Marko riffs on the ethics of going armed.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Random Wednesday thoughts.

--I went to visit a friend in Waxahachie (by-Gawd) Texas the last couple of days. We wondered around the Ellis Courthouse on the square. That's a beautiful courthouse, and I'm picky. Every time that I go to a Texas county that I've never visited before, I try to get a size-up of their courthouse. There are 254 Texas counties (many of which are ~30 miles square, but not all), and most of them have a courthouse, many of which are over 100 years old and still in service. Some have retired their old courthouses but still keep them for other uses. Some counties share their judicial district with another local county, and thus use their that county's courthouse.
I enjoyed the detail of the stonework over the porticos at the entrances:



I also dug the turrets:

Forgive my poor photography. I was using a crappy not-Smart phone at dusk.

--I'm still liking Sallie Ford And Sound Outside. They've got a rough retro sound that I enjoy.

--I went to a pub last night to get a (wife-approved*) pint with an old friend from high school. I enjoyed our chat. She's extremely liberal. I'm a bit right of center. We disagreed about gun control. We're still really good friends. It's not all about politics, friends.

--Pubs are nice places to get a drink and chat. I've hardly ever done that. However, at 9:00PM, the place basically turned into a club, and the music went all doosh-doosh-doosh-dooshdooshdoosh, doosh-doosh-doosh, making us old people find it hard to hear each other. These kids, with their techno music, these days. . .

--This past weekend, I borrowed a flatbed trailer and picked up 3 cubic yards of enriched compost  humus dirt. They said that it was about 1900 lbs when I picked it up.
 I had mediocre tarps, and the wind kicked up, to 50 mph gusts, which meant that I probably lost almost a half a yard. But given the sheets of rain that fell on it over the next couple of days, I'll bet that we shoveled 3000 pounds of the stuff into our raised beds. My wife had gotten out the nail gun and thrown together some 8'X4' beds with doubled 2"X6"s, and lined the sides with black plastic. We put down layers of newspaper under the beds, and shoveled in the compost dirt, mixed with cow manure, vermiculite, and peat moss. While it's organic, it's also basically not much like any soil found in nature. We should be able to grow some stuff in this. It was a dirty job that even my nine-year-old got into.

--We filled Mom's raised bed frame and her front yard flower beds with the stuff, too.

--After all that rain, there seem to be some ruts in my yard from where I backed the trailer onto the soft dirt, and then back out. At least I didn't get the van stuck. This time. I need a yard roller.

--I go in tonight to see how I did on my Homeland Security test in grad school. I'm not enthusiastic. Then again, I'm not really enthusiastic about the state of our nation's homeland security, either.

--I had my daughters do without TV or computer for two days. Given the results, I think I'm going to do this some more.

--My chickens are back to laying about an egg a day. Two of them are laying eggs the size of duck eggs.

--I got to take the weekend off from fire training. It was the first weekend off this year. It was very nice to have the weekend off from training, because I worked at my paying job all weekend. This stuff makes you tired, when you don't get any sleep on top of it.




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*You think that "wife approved" part is silly? Not me. I'm in this thing for the long haul, friends.

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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Why was I not made aware of this?

The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band "Clap Your Hands"
EPIC beard.



And why does the washboard lady, in a room full of interesting people, draw the eye?

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Music from Canada.

While I do not want our nation to be Canada, I can dang sure appreciate some of the cool stuff they make up there.

First, we start with music from a group that is described as a national treasure to the province of Quebec. (And if you don't understand how a province can claim a regional folk band is a national treasure, then you know even less about the Quebeckers' fierce sense of independence than I do.) Play it through, and see if it doesn't stick in your head. It does in mine:


Not speaking any French, I asked my friend Amy, who's a high school French teacher in Texas. She said: "No idea. Some of the words I heard: 'fish (or possibly drink), laugh ha ha, little' .................. crazy Canadians."

While I may not know about French, I'll bet that trying to decipher the Québécois dialect makes the Provençal dialect look like a snap. Kinda like a Texan managing to parse Cockney, but then having to try to parse Scots.

Then I had my friend Jane, a true Canadienne, attempt to decipher it. 
She came up with: "Its a bunch of crazy lyrics like 'I'm going to the fountain to go fishing for fish... his small rusty key chain, all rusty, all rusty... the fountain is deep, deep, deep' :)" Given that Jane serves Poutine in Texas, and her mother has a thick Québécois accent after 25 years in the US, I'll give her the final word on it.
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Well now that I've planted that earworm in your head, let's try moving to this one, that is not only a great tune, but is a magnificent use of one instrument by five people:
Technically impressive, and just damned good, too.
I wonder if we'll be hearing more of Walk Off Earth. While it's a cover (of this very good song), I think that they made it their own.

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Monday, March 05, 2012

Epic weekend.

This past weekend was my three-day weekend off.

On Friday evening, Scott, my best friend of 29 years, called me and said that he and his parents and kids were having dinner and seeing movies nearby. I hopped in the car and met them at the cinema to see Act Of Valor, which I had it on good authority was worth seeing. It was. I found that the reaction to the movie by the packed theatre was almost identical to what Tamara observed: no one moved for 5 - 10 seconds after the lights came up, and what slight voices were heard were very hushed, as about 300 people (?) left. Something about a dead warrior's best friend telling the dead man's son about his father's outlook on life, and quoting Tecumsah to him, that hits you (well, me, anyway) right in the middle.

I won't reprint those strong words here. I suggest that you read them all (just three short paragraphs), because there is iron and tenderness in the admonition there.

Scott and I went with the kids for ice cream afterward, and who doesn't like to watch kids enjoy ice cream? I ask you.

On Saturday, after fire training, I dropped by my shift partner's house to drop something off. He had out cases of quality Belgian, American, and German beers, and entreated me to try a sample, with his old roommate. Never one to insult a gracious host, I had a sample. He pushed another into my fist. I explained that I had to drive home. Nonsense, he argued. His bride would be happy to do so. She smiled and said that she would be glad to do it. I looked at her face, and saw the love of a good woman spouse for her life partner. She really wanted me to stay, because it gave her pleasure to see her husband happy. We ordered pizza a spiced mussels from a local Italian place, and commenced to enjoying great beer, and better stories around the kitchen table.  My shift partner's friend had some great ones about his time in the Navy, and he appreciates good beer like I do. Before long, my partner and I were conducting SFST's on each other, and laughing about the outcome. It was all very silly, I assure you.

It was 3:00am when his wife dropped me off at my house. I had dropped by their place at about 6:00pm. 

I woke up on Sunday feeling great. Seriously. I haven't had a "choir meeting" like the one on Saturday night in years and years, yet I felt as right as rain.

And I was late. Dad wanted to go see a matinee with me. We picked up my car, and went to luncheon on Mexican food, and went to see Act Of Valor again. I watched for tactical techniques. Word is that a lot of the scenes were shot with live ammo. The operators were for-real operators. Many of the scenes were shot with Canon SLR digital cameras, from first-person perspectives, so that you see what the operator sees. I thought it a shame that the director had the guys in low-light using IR goggles but red-dot lasers, when he could have shown the IR beams that they all had on their M4s, through their goggles. But that was a very small criticism. I almost never see movies twice. This one was worth it.

I thanked my wife and my partner's wife for making Saturday night possible. Understanding spouses make a huge difference.

I'm about to go to work, and I'm looking forward to it. Such is what a good weekend can do for you.

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Thursday, March 01, 2012

The passing of conservatives.

My conservative friends often think that I'm a damned liberal, and my liberal friends either think that I'm an uber-conservative fascist pig, or that I'm a bag of self-contradictions.
Let me make this clear: I don't take my stance to be contrary, or to "stand out and be different." I would LOVE to be able to side with a great big majority.

But right now, the two majorities are:
--people who think that it's more fair, and even intellectual, to distribute everything but rights.
--people who think that we should not distribute the wealth, but still should assert control over others' rights.

I've said all this before.
Lately, I've been thinking how great it would be to see an openly atheist or agnostic candidate run for President. I think all of the discussions about a candidate's fitness to lead, based upon his religion, are bollocks. Given that I want the President not to impose his religion upon the nation, I'd prefer him or she to keep their yap shut on the issue. The same goes with information about his marriage.

Let's do this, shall we? Let's get to reducing the interference that the government has in our lives, and reducing the expenditures. Let's just drop the social issues for a bit, shall we?

And while we're at it (and Republicans, I'm talking to you, because even though you're screwed beyond belief with your mix of social interference and laissez-faire party planks, you're still the only big party willing to attempt to be the Grownups in the room, so I lean faintly in your direction.), let's quit listening to idiots like Rush Limbaugh, who had me at "why should I pay?" (a legit question) but lost me at "lemme see you nekkid."

Oh, and finally, as a person who leans TEA Party and Libertarian, I propose that we mourn the untimely passing of Andrew Breitbart. He raised interesting points, and flew in the faces even of a lot of Conservatives. He challenged the status quo. His passing diminishes the exchange.

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