Wednesday, March 31, 2010

No Comment

[Vomit Warning]

There's a bit of chatter going around in my pathetic circle of bored deadbeats today about this post by Melissa McEwan at Shakesville.

Granted, the gawd-awful new Justin Bieber video does truly redefine the verb to suck, not to mention the damage done to music and all related art forms. (Anybody want the ringtone for your cell?) But why anyone would even bother to blog about it is just baffling.

Let's just hope Joseph Alois Ratzinger and his entourage aren't finagling for backstage passes.

When I have nothing much to say, I don't blog. Or I blog about Fucking. But I sure as shit wouldn't waste a fractional part of my day listening to a shitty song, watching a shitty video by some kid (ok, I already did, so blow me!) who turns red and makes grunting noises from the effort to grow one fucking pubic hair, and then blogging about it!

But I'm not here to write about that piece of trash video, the sickening musical genre, its colonialist rape aspects, or the absurdity of a girly-boy singing about his love interests in an attempt to sell a few million records to 12-year-olds who think they want him between their legs. I couldn't give a Ratzinger's ass.

No, sir. What is noteworthy about that blog post, and what caught my attention is, what you'll find at the bottom of McEwan's post in brackets. Jesus H. Christ. You know, this is just one of those posts which gets completely and unintentionally overshadowed by humor.

It's just my job to share with you, my dear readers, what amuses me. Because I'm a sharing kinda dude.

Now feel free to speak your mind in comments.

[Commenting Guidelines: Please note that the critique in this post does not include condemnation of Melissa McEwan as a person, artist, or blogger. Comments that present an argument based on an erroneous assertion that this post is criticizing McEwan personally, or her talent, will be considered off-topic. Comments that do criticize McEwan personally, or her talent, will also be considered off-topic. Also unwelcome is bullshit commentary that seeks to imply, directly or indirectly, that commenting guidelines of Shakesville are irrational and unique to the blog, and exist solely to complicate the situation by enabling RTI (Rapid Troll Identification], and facilitation of commenter ridicule by the incessant puppet show of hall monitors vigorously shaking their pom-poms for the blogmistress, and regular readers with hall monitor aspirations, all due to abject commenter failure to read and/or completely comprehend expectations as put forth in this guideline and those stored elsewhere in the dark cavities and crevices of the blog. Ignorance and laziness are no excuse. Failure to adhere to these guidelines (seen and unseen) will result in a swift and immediate ass-branding by the red-hot Advanced Feminist Iron roughly 3 or 4 times before being banned and redacted in shame. Otherwise, feel free to express your honest opinions, but proofread for maximum clarity several times and then slowly count backwards from 1,000 before you hit "publish." Above all else, if you are unclear, don't ask for clarification as this immediately identifies you as entry-level. If you thought Sarah Palin's target-practice pop-off map of House Democrat seats was bad, go ahead, test me.]

A Fucking Sense of Humor

The Fucking people are happy with the idea, but the Fucking mayor isn't too pleased about a German firm which plans to make a beer called Fucking Hell.

Yes, the common English term for surprise and/or frustration is now a brand name thanks to a German firm which has been granted permission by the European Union's Trade Marks and Designs Registration Office to brew beer and produce clothing under the name.


"Hell" in fact is a term for light ale in southern Germany and Austria, so see, it all makes sense.

Still, the mayor of Fucking isn't too pleased with the notoriety that this beer, which is set to be released in August or September, is going to bring to his town that's already had 12 or 13 signs stolen over the years. According to Radio Netherlands Worldwide, though, Fucking residents voted to keep the name recently despite the problems caused by tourists who just can't help but take pics in front of the traffic sign on which the village's name is printed.

Tourists need to grow up. It's just a Fucking sign. I just cannot grasp the mentality of people who would drive out of their fucking way (oops, pardon my French!) to get a Fucking picture of a Fucking road sign, or worse: steal the Fucking sign.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go apply for a passport, consult my European road atlas, and plan a Fucking vacation. I'll find a little Fucking hotel or B&B close to a Fucking bar where I can take a short Fucking walk and raise a pint of Fucking Hell before retiring for an evening of sweet Fucking dreams.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Morning Raccoon Blogging

I'm starting to feel like Ellie Mae Clampett with all my critters lately.

This critter has been hanging around off and on this week (mostly on), and isn't very shy either. He knows what he wants and no two-legged human is going come between him and a free meal. However, he does approach the bowl slowly, as if this dumb human isn't going to notice that he's 3 inches closer to the food bowl than he was when I turned my head to look away for a second.

Then he looks at me like, "But I'm not getting closer, I'm not! I swear!"

I kan haz kat fud, pleze?

It's a thin line (and one consonant) separating a pest from a pet! But I'm not going to encourage this.

Some Wiki facts:

When fed with cat food over a long time period, raccoons can develop gout.

Raccoons without a fear of humans are a concern to those who attribute this trait to rabies, but scientists point out that this behavior is much more likely to be a behavioral adjustment to living in habitats with regular contact to humans for many generations.

With their broad auditory range, they can perceive tones up to 50–85 kHz as well as quiet noises like those produced by earthworms underground.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Pussy Blog: Beggars Banquet Edition

Happy Friday!

At feeding time, the Tot just will not stand still for a photo op!

If I kneel down he'll come running over to get in my face before I can even get a picture snapped.

Sissy, on the other hand, will make the effort to open her eyes and that's about it.

Sweet Pea and Tiger will congregate and do some eye-begging.

This has been an exhausting week of recovery. There's a world of difference in my appearance between Monday and today, but I'm still looking forward to a very lazy weekend of rest and relaxation.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

God Is Dead. The US Mint Killed Him. (Briefly. Three Years Ago.)

I got one of those chain emails today ranting about the tea-bagger issue du jour. The particular affront to the sensibilities of the people involved in this chain is the alleged lack of "In God We Trust" on the new dollar coins.

This is hilarious on so many levels I don't know where to start. I just envision a certain rabidly-obsessed segment of society so deranged, so unstable and insecure, that the first thing they do when handed change from a purchase is to start scrutinizing each coin to be sure we haven't lost our collective faith.

And lo and behold, it finally happened. A coin fails to substantiate our core belief system. So the lunatic segment goes on a rampage, not only refusing to accept the coins, but insisting that we shut down all circulation of the "force them out of circulation." Because if we don't, well, the alternative is just unthinkable.

I don't know about the rest of you, but unless you frequent the post office and pay in cash, how often have you ever gotten a dollar coin handed to you as change from a purchase, even during the decades when they DID have "In God We Trust" on them?

Talk about a campaign having the opposite effect. I now feel compelled to got fetch me a boatload of those things and spend them everywhere. Yeah, my pants may be down around my knees from the weight of $20 or $30, but I can get my message out there.

You want to make a sale? You'll take my fucking Godless dollars or I'll go elsewhere. Accepting a faithless dollar isn't going to turn you into an atheist, or kill off your God, any more than getting your hair styled by a homosexual is going to have you clamoring for a same-sex relationship.

Just relax. It's just a fucking dollar. God should be offended to even be associated with it. But if you are one of the people who had the misfortune of taking one of these in change, and you feel dirty, or that your belief system might be jeopardized by the mere possession of it, send them to me. All of them. I'll pay you back with one Goddollar plus your shipping expenses.

Oh, wait. What's this? Is that a motto I see with my own God-given eyes?


According to the U.S. Mint, an unknown number of new one-dollar George Washington coins (at least 50,000 of them, by one estimate) were erroneously struck without the motto "In God We Trust" and found their way into the batch of 300 million issued on February 15, 2007.

A rumor began circulating soon afterward to the effect that the religious slogan, which has been a standard inscription on U.S. coins since 1938 and the national motto since 1956, was intentionally omitted from the entire run of one-dollar coins.

Bummer. But you know what happens when the US Mint makes a mistake like this and a few get into circulation? They become Numismatic collectibles, and if only 50,000 were released into circulation out of 300 million, the value as a collectible would be significantly more than a dollar. Pity the poor fools who swapped them out for a dollar bill, assuming even that part of the email chain wasn't a complete and total fabrication.

Current eBay rate for a smooth rim (i.e. Godless) dollar: $16.49.

But for all you folks who got your panties in a knot over the prospect of God going missing, you might want to keep your eyes peeled for an even bigger rarity: a coin which was run through the edging machine twice.

Washington Dollar edge lettering appears twice, in two very clear sets of letters, side by side, as in "GGOODD WWEE TTRRUUSSTT." The coin was obviously run through the edge lettering machine twice, and the second run had such perfect placement that the first impression isn't even touched. No coins sold as of yet; appears extremely rare.

Double your pleasure and your trust!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Various & Sundry

I'm having one of those days. Maybe 3 weeks of broken facial bone issues and liquid diets is hitting my limit of tolerance. Maybe it's the healing process that's getting on my nerves. Itching in places I cannot comfortably scratch wears on my nerves.

Blogs that have to put a [Trigger Warning] on a post which links to an article about a 90-year-old man killing his 89-year-old wife in a nursing home are getting on my nerves. A [Trigger Warning] for THAT? For Christ's sake, it goes on in every damn city in the country every goddamn day! It's sad, but...triggering? How do some people even face the day? If that's all it took to trigger me I think I'd just shut everything down and play solitaire all day.

What not just rename the blog "[Trigger Warning]" and be fucking done with it? That would have all the posts covered.

Work got on my nerves today. Systems and procedures and processes. The whole shebang.

I went to the Department of State website today to check out passport applications, just to see how complicated they have become since 9/11/01. I haven't applied for one since the late 80s. Not big changes but there was a question in there regarding where you plan to travel and what dates.

That irritated the hell out of me. Do I need to have plans before I apply for a passport? I just can't have one and be spontaneous? The damn thing is valid for 10 years. And there's only room there to list one trip and one date. Stupid pointless annoying question.

Stop me because I could go on and on.

Let's switch gears before I have to [trigger warning] cut something.

Question: iPhone or Droid or other?

What do you like/dislike about your phone?

I know a couple of people who have gotten a Droid recently. They seem to like it.

I may be stuck with AT&T and their products for awhile. I have my mother on my Family plan with AT&T with a RAZR which is about 10 times the phone she really needs, but it was one of the most basic I could have gotten at the time.

Now with all the QWERTY keypads and shit, I can't even think about upgrading her phone. There is no point. She just needs to be able to dial or pick up and answer. Period.

The Droid is a cool phone but Verizon doesn't seem to offer a basic phone like that (the RAZR), even for "free." So I guess I'm stuck keeping her on AT&T as well as me and txrad. When I decide to upgrade or when I need to, guess it'll be an iPhone. Or not. No biggie and no rush either.

Gonna go wash my nappy hair, shave my face and see if that doesn't elevate me to a better frame of mind. Then I can go sit and watch TV and see what Rush or Glenn said today to throw me right back into a tizzy.

Is it Friday yet?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pelosi DID Have the Votes!

Finally, on Sunday, the House passed health care reform! The historic vote was 219-212.

It's very clear who the assholes are, and their constituents need to show them the exit.

Let's start with Boehner. I've been completely fed up and disgusted lately with him and his ilk spewing nonsense.
The House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, said lawmakers were defying the wishes of their constituents. “The American people are angry,” Mr. Boehner said. “This body moves forward against their will. Shame on us.”

Sorry, dude. Do you mind if I call you dude? You got it all wrong. You represent a district in Ohio, not the nation as a whole, and whether or not your agenda truly reflects your constituents, or just your well-to-do, white right-wing Republican constituents, remains to be seen.

If you look at the map of voting patterns by members of the House, it would seem to me that a slim majority did indeed follow the wishes of their constituents: the left coast, New England, more lefty segments of the midwest, the independent progressive areas of the Southwest, and some impoverished areas of the Deep South where people most definitely should benefit from this reform measure.

So, in short, Rep. Boehner, with all due respect, blow your inaccurate statement right out your ass. And there are quite a few of your esteemed colleagues I'd like to see packing their shit up in boxes.

Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, denounced the bill as “a fiscal Frankenstein.”

Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida, called it “a decisive step in the weakening of the United States.”

Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, said it was “one of the most offensive pieces of social engineering legislation in the history of the United States.”

Bullshit. Enough of these tea-baggeresque inaccurate theatrics. Without a doubt, these selfish, hypocritical, reprehensible stink bombs who pass themselves off as leaders will continue their fight against fairness and compassion for millions of Americans who struggle daily against a corrupt system favoring huge profits for executives and shareholders at the expense of Americans in dire need.

I sincerely hope they pay a price at the polls someday.

The legislation is far from perfect, and frankly I am embarrassed that this is the best the United States of America can do right now, with the slimmest of margins. However, the alternative would have been unthinkable and far worse. At least now we have a door wedged open which will allow us, in the future, to improve upon what we now have, to reap the harvests of what's right about it, and to repair what is still broken, such as the outrageous hardships imposed on women who want or need an abortion.

Despite my embarrassment that this is the best we could do after such a long hard slog over the past year, I will still take it with pride that we are moving forward again.

It is a rare day when I can say this, but I am very proud of President Obama and especially Nancy Pelosi today. I am proud of the 219 Democrats (well, most of them. Stupak is still a jerk.) who voted to send this important legislation to the President's desk.

Feeling good about the direction of America is such a rare event, I feel as if I'm dreaming.

Click the map to visit the New York Times Interactive Map of Votes.

Lastly, I'd like to give a special shout-out to Representatives Mike Ross and particularly Marion "Good Riddance" Berry, both Arkansas Democrats. Rep. Berry was initially on this NYT map yesterday as a yes vote and somehow turned into a no vote. Given that Rep. Berry represents a huge swath of the poverty-ridden Mississippi Delta in eastern Arkansas, this is a shameful vote. "Good riddance" indeed. Both of those votes should have mirrored District 2 which you'll notice on the map in western Mississippi. Kudos to Bennie Thompson of that state for actually showing some guts and rational leadership. You made a Delta boy proud.

Marion Berry's pathetic spineless excuse? That the anti-abortion provisions of the bill don't go far enough. So, it's better to continue punishing children born into poverty without access to health care. Nice going, prick.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pain In Perspective

Being home from the hospital less than 48 hours after having facial surgery involving two incisions, two titanium plates, and two or more screws (I didn't inquire about the quantity of screws), it just doesn't seem right that I hurt everywhere except where I had surgery!

This additional pain started to kick in Friday afternoon when I awoke from my 2nd nap around 4:00 PM. It increased throughout the evening and into this morning. The worst of it was this morning when I was trying to get myself out of bed. It was dark outside and I had no idea what time it was. It hurt so much just trying to raise my head and turn it in the direction of the clock that I decided it just wasn't that important. I needed to urinate but not "like a horse" as the saying goes.

It seems like I spent a good 20 minutes just devising a strategy about how best to pull myself out of bed. Getting one leg out from under the covers was a nice start. Then the other. Then getting my right leg off the side of the bed and slightly turning my body so I could put one hand on the dresser to use as leverage. This was not easy.

I remember the surgeon telling me to not be a "couch potato." He wanted me to be active and to practice getting my mouth open nice and wide. What is odd is that I don't remember anyone telling me about the possible side effects of general anesthesia, particularly when these side effects are far worse than anything I have experienced since being hit by a car while riding a bicycle in the late 80s -- an experience that sent me head over heels onto a street, flat on my back, and subsequently left me bed-ridden for about 2 or 3 days, despite the fact that I walked away from the accident feeling fine. Apparently, the quickest method of recovering from this anesthesia hangover is to drink lots of water and flush out all the nasty residue.

I have a very clear memory of the pre-op meetings with various nurses on Thursday evening. The guy who was setting up my IV drip might have given me something to lay the foundation for the general anesthesia. I only suspect this because he said something along the lines of "welcome to Margaritaville" as he was injecting it.

Things started to get a little funny after that. I remember my surgeon showing up and asking me if I was ready. I remember a nurse saying that I wasn't going to remember or feel anything, and they were going to give me something else to make damn sure I didn't even remember getting the anesthesia -- some kind of memory eraser which would backtrack for extra insurance. But then again, at this point I could have been hallucinating the whole damn experience.

I remember being wheeled on my bed cart to the surgery room. Someone said I'd need to be transferred from that bed onto the surgery platform thingey, and if I was involved in that transfer, I sure as hell don't remember it. I remember someone slapping those monitors on my skin and that may have been the last of my memories while my body was comprised of the same parts as it was when I was born into it.

I always thought anesthesia would be like being awake and having a memory and then it just stops at a certain point. In fact, there was a big fuzzy area that may or may not have been reality. There were conversations that I'm pretty sure were not reality. And then, as if no time had elapsed at all, I was being awakened and it reminded me of waking up about an hour before landing after a long 9-hour flight to Europe in which I slept maybe 3 hours after two glasses of wine.

The surgeon was speaking to me. Probably said something about the surgery being a success. I may (or may not) have asked him if he had to do the bone graft. He may (or may not) have answered me. I may (or may not) have asked to look in a mirror. And then I have absolutely no recollection whatsoever about being transferred back to my room. I have no idea how I got into a standard open-butt hospital gown vs. the warm and cozy Bair Paws gown filled with warm air and wind speed of my choosing.

I do remember the doctor telling me I would be staying overnight, that txrad had shown up, and was told the surgery was successful, but that he could come fetch me in the morning. Prior to the surgery, I had been adamant about being sent home the same day, and that was a possibility, but I also knew that with my surgery being moved from early morning on Friday to Thursday evening, it increased my chances of having to be in the hospital for a night. But honestly, at this point do you think I cared? I was quite happy to not be going anywhere.

The nurse was hooking me up to a blood pressure monitor and an IV drip, as well as that thingamabob they clamp on your index finger to measure something... pulse? She turned out the light and left me to rest. The beeping of devices continued throughout the night with the occasional boa constrictor on my arm checking my blood pressure. I'm guessing that happened every hour.

Around 11:00 the nurse came and refueled my drug stash. She came back around 2:00 or 3:00 to deliver another round, and to remove the blood pressure & pulse monitor.

"I'm going to miss that thing," I said, referring to the blood pressure device. Then the real drama kicked in. I woke up a short time later, and this time I was relatively awake for the first time since surgery, and I needed to pee. Immediately. I'd been getting IV liquids all night and I'd been sipping water frequently.

I got up and started trying to figure out how to get in the bathroom. My IV was attached and because it was hooked to a machine regulating the delivery which was plugged into the wall, I couldn't just wheel it into the bathroom. I started trying to figure out how to call a nurse. I grabbed the phone and dialed zero. It rang and rang. At this point I was seriously about to break out in a cold sweat when I noticed a cord on the floor. It had the red call button for the nurse on it. I don't remember what I said he she answered. I think I just said "help."

I swear I think I had to get up to pee about 6 or 7 more times before morning, but at least after the 2nd time, I had become a pro at pulling the IV tube out and going to the bathroom without needing to wait on a nurse, even though they were quick to respond. I think 15 seconds was about the longest I ever waited, but it was nice to get up and do it myself without having to rely on anyone, even though I was paying for the full-service.

The red button did come in handy a bit later when I called to have some more drugs delivered. Now I may have been totally out of it, but I swear my mind was like a Swiss watch when it came to establishing the drug schedule, and by the end of the night I was giving them a 20 minute heads up that it was almost time! I think I had 3 different nurses on duty during the course of the evening and I sure as hell wasn't going to let any of them get lax on me when it was time to put the party favors in my IV drip!

It was around 7:40 Friday morning when breakfast arrived. I had been sleeping like a baby on a water bed when it was delivered. I saw a cup of yogurt, a big glass of milk, a small glass of apple juice (at first I thought it was a urine sample which had been put there by mistake), and finally, a mysterious entree on a plate under a stainless steel cover. Visions of scrambled eggs and pancakes were dancing through my delusional head as I lifted the cover to find a bowl of oatmeal. Ahh, yes. Silly boy, you're still on a liquid diet, remember?

This was the first food I'd had in 23.5 hours. I put some of the brown sugar in the oatmeal and sucked that bowl dry through a straw. Then the apple juice. Then the yogurt, and finally I leaned back on the bed, clutching the glass of milk, savoring each sip. Just as I finished, the next nurse on duty arrived at promptly 8:00 to inquire if I needed anything for pain. I let her know that last dose had been brought in around 3:00 and that yes indeed, I did think it was time for another round, on the house.

Unfortunately, I wouldn't really get to enjoy sailing away on that round. From that point until the time I left, it was like a non-stop visitation experience. My surgeon popped in to see me and removed the fat wad of gauze he had stuffed between my cheek and gum which was now soaked in blood and breakfast.

His assistant stopped in to see me right after he left, and then the nurse from my ER visit on Tuesday night popped in to see how I was doing. Another nurse came in with some souvenirs for me to take home, and then txrad walked in just as I was thinking I might get a few minutes more of sleep.

The nurse returned to unhook everything and I said, "I hope I got the bulk of the drugs that were in that IV." Probably not terribly original, especially since this is Austin, Texas, but she grinned ear to ear nonetheless.

My surgeon's assistant had some prescriptions for me which she called in to the supermarket pharmacy close to our house. One is an antibiotic horse pill I'm to take twice a day for a week, and the other is a pain pill. I think it might be the pill form of the liquid pain med I was getting through the IV. Or close enough. It goes by the name of Lortab 7.5 but it's basically like a turbo-charged Vicodin.

Yeah, baby. Yeah!

I took one of those puppies last night about 8:00 and was ready to hit the sack by 8:30. I had some pretty elaborate dreams about being at a flea market. Sounds mundane, but imagine a flea market being run by David Lynch and Dennis Hopper. Also my silver neckchains were turning into metal snakes.

Anyway, I think I have digressed. I was talking about pain. I've never thought I had pain tolerance. I have managed to get through 49 years of life without any surgery other than wisdom teeth removal, never had to deal with a lot of pain, and certainly never broke any bones. I have looked around me at people going through surgeries, some multiple, some life-threatening, and I wonder how they do it. I have always been in awe of such people and never imagined I'd ever be in that group.

I'm not sure how I was able to come back in the house on the night of March 1st, after I fell and busted all this shit up, wipe my face off, and go to bed. And SLEEP!

The next morning when my doctor referred me to a surgeon and told me I was probably going to need an operation, I was mortified. On March 5th when I saw the surgeon for the first time, he suggested that we wait a week for the swelling to go down, and then re-evaluate. He thought it might not be necessary, or if it was, it might only involve an incision through my mouth, and a worst-case scenario might involve multiple incisions. I chose to focus on the "no surgery" possibility because I'm a wimp.

A week passed and as I went for my follow-up, I had come to terms with the inevitability of surgery, but was still hopeful I could get by with just one incision in my mouth, but the doctor seemed to be thinking this would be two incisions minimum. And if my lower eye socket was severely fractured, it could involve a bone graft! I was just shocked by all this since I'd been relatively pain-free thus far. Sure, there was some discomfort, but constant throbbing pain had been dealt with effectively by taking ibuprofen.

Then the following Tuesday night during dinner when my jaw locked up on me, I was entering the proverbial World of Pain. Aside from feeling like a rod had been jammed into my jaw bone preventing me from closing my mouth, I had throbbing pain like fire shooting down my throat when trying to swallow. It was bad enough that for the first time in my life, it was ME who initiated the call to my doctor, and it was ME who told txrad I needed to go to ER.

And then things would get even scarier. While in ER, my surgeon asked them to go ahead and do another CT scan. Apparently the one I'd had done two weeks earlier hadn't been great quality. He viewed the scans on Wednesday and called me. My injury was worse than he thought.

When I went in on Thursday afternoon for my pre-surgery consultation, he told me this was one of the most complex breaks he'd ever seen in his 20 years of experience. It was not going to be an easy fix and there was a possibility he wasn't going to be successful. In that case, he told me he'd send me to Dallas to the surgeon who trained him two decades ago.

I feel the same about mistakes as I do about pain. I try to avoid both. But when I make a mistake, it might as well be a whopper. I was starting to wonder if my little excess tequila incident and falling on my face hadn't turned into the biggest fuck up of my entire life. How did one little drunken incident at home on the privacy of one's own patio turn into a rare injury not seen by a specialist with 20 years of experience?

My surgeon was reassuring though. He said, "If I didn't think I could fix this, I'd just send you to Dallas right now. But I want you to know it's going to be a challenge."

He then had me initial several pages of forms which outlined potential issues caused by this surgery, including blindness, if the surgeon happened to get a little too jittery with the knife around certain nerves. How I maintained my composure during that meeting, without passing the fuck out, is beyond my comprehension. This was escalating into all my worst fears being rolled into one tight little package.

But I hadn't come this far just to change course. It was now at the point where I had to continue with him and invest just a little more faith, and roll all my dice that night, or start over with a new face in a new city, a few days later.

I had a level of comfort with my surgeon, a bond which allowed me to understand what he was saying even if he didn't say it. When he said, "I know you can't open your mouth wide, but when you're under the anesthesia, I will get your mouth open wide," I was hearing this: "I am going to pry your pie hole open so wide it's going to make the corners of your lips crack and bleed, and you better know this is true." And I was OK with it. I needed to get fixed and this was the guy I trusted to do it.

Now the ball is mostly back in my court. That cheek bone, even with the plate, is going to have a tendency to go back where it was unnaturally if I don't work on stretching my mouth open in the coming days. It is my responsibility to get it moving again, to get it flexible, so it will heal normally as desired. That may be a bit more pain, but I have to do it.

Now is not the time to sit back and tell myself the worst is over. It is over as long as I do my part and with a bit of luck I guess. Just a little more pain isn't too much to ask when the alternative is an overnight trip to Dallas.

And for a replay of surgery no less.

[Note to my friends in Dallas: just kidding! Dallas isn't THAT bad.]

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Pussy Blog: Hospital Socks Edition

Bet you never expected to see a pussy blog on the day I was released from the hospital after having two titanium bone plates screwed into my face the previous night.

To hell with discomfort; this is an important tradition!

The Tot was very glad I came home this morning. I'm sure he missed his daddy last night.

I'm still wearing my "Bair Paws" purple socks which matched the gown I was wearing during pre-surgery "setup." The gown was this elaborate contraption to which a hose was hooked up to blow air into it. At first I thought they had me wearing some kind of funny fat suit. Then they handed me the control which allowed me to adjust the air temperature.

Oh my God! Here I was, buck naked in a purple plastic gown pumping warm air around my body! They should totally sell these in the winter. I could have spent months watching House Hunters, Property Virgins, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow while enjoying a toasty tropical breeze enveloping my body!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Unexpected ER

Hope you had a great St. Patrick's Day. Mine was certainly unique.

Last night while having dinner (thankfully I was nearly finished), I heard a bone pop in my jaw and suddenly I couldn't close my mouth at all. I had food in my mouth which I had to spit out because I was afraid to attempt swallowing.

This was freaking me out because after 2 weeks of recovery with no significant pain aside from the first couple of nights, I was experiencing piercing pain from my mouth to my left eye, across my left cheek, all the way to my ear. And swallowing was one of the most painful things I've ever endured. It was even causing pain in my throat glands.

After a few minutes of not being able to get the jaw to snap back into normal position, I was freaked out enough to call the doctor at 9:45 PM. He suggested I apply heat to it and try to relax for about 15-20 minutes to see if it would pop back into place. He seemed to think it was a muscle seizing up on me, not a bone issue.

I was in such agony that I could not relax even for a minute. txrad drove me to the emergency room. They gave me a Valium, hoping that would relax the muscle. It didn't help although it did make me silly by around midnight. Unfortunately I was still in too much pain to even enjoy the silly feeling.

They gave me a Vicodin and did another CT scan once the machine "warmed up" which took maybe 45 minutes! We waited quite a while for those results to come in. Finally I was released around 3:00 AM and given a 2nd Vicodin for the road, so to speak. (Glad txrad was driving!)

I was in bed by 3:45 and slept surprisingly well. I awoke at 8:10 this morning, still unable to close my mouth, but it wasn't as severe as last night. I've been in varying degrees of pain today but none anywhere near as severe as last night.

I did have an unexpected 3-hour nap this afternoon but guess I needed it after the trauma of last night and little sleep.

When I got up I had a message from the surgeon on my phone. When I called him he confirmed that it was a "boney issue" rather than primarily a muscle issue causing the lock-up. He's also going to try and arrange to have my surgery done Thursday afternoon as soon as my physical exam is completed around 5:00pm.

I'm very optimistic this will happen even though it's only 12 hours ahead of the scheduled surgery time on Friday morning. Every little bit helps when pain consumes you.

I guess if you don't see a post here by Thursday evening, you'll know I'm knocked the hell out, so to speak!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

This has been a strange month. Two weeks ago today was the first day of a long recovery after my fall the previous night. My face looks much better although there's still some blood in the white part of my eye, and there is a definite indentation at the left side of my left eye where the orbit is broken. I can't really tell from looking at my face that my cheek bone is broken. However, it's very obvious when I try to eat or open my mouth wide. And the numbness on the left side of my face is really irritating sometimes.

It's also been two weeks since I had a drop of any alcohol. Sixteen or seventeen days ago I would not have considered that a possibility. Funny how life can turn on a dime when it needs to. And I can't help but see the irony that I'm now sleeping better than I have in years, and generally feel better than I have in years, with more optimism than I've had in years, all while having at least 3 broken bones in my face.

In spite of my progress, the countdown to surgery is under way. I go in for a pre-surgery appointment and physical on Thursday after lunch, and then surgery is scheduled around dawn on Friday. I've never had surgery before so this has been weighing heavily on me, but I'm honestly so tired of not being able to chow down that I am looking forward to it, and to the permanent recovery after that.

I just hope the post-surgery recovery goes faster than the first time around when I was sipping food through a straw for a week and then easing my way into soft meals. Without a doubt, I have a few more days of straw sucking starting on Friday. The month of March is shaping up to be one big blurry month of discomfort from start to finish.

I am, needless to say, looking forward to April. I will turn 50. And that's not a bad thing either.

Monday, March 15, 2010

RIP Peter Graves

Peter Graves has died of a heart attack at age 83.

This was one of my favorite programs growing up.

Until I read the obit I never realized this little factoid:
He was Jim Phelps, the leader of the Impossible Missions Force, a super-secret government organization that conducted dangerous undercover assignments (which he always chose to accept). After the tape summarizing the objective self-destructed, the team would use not violence, but elaborate con games to trap the villains.

It was only a few years later in 1980 when he really cracked me up in Airplane! with his deadpan delivery of outrageous stuff in the role of Captain Oveur.
Captain Oveur: You ever been in a cockpit before?
Joey: No sir, I've never been up in a plane before.
Captain Oveur: You ever seen a grown man naked?

Thanks for the memories.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Pussy Blog: Lazy Sunny Day Edition

What a beautiful Friday it has been with ample sunshine and mild temps just perfect for hanging out to catch some rays.

Sissy catching a few on the warm bed.

The Tot retreated to the living room prematurely today for some odd reason.

Tiger passed out in the yard. His mane is so huge it obscures his head!

Sweet Pea enjoying the late afternoon warmth on that black fur. Sun brings out his red tones.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Health Care Diary - Part 3: A False Sense of Security

Like most Americans, I felt relieved having employer-provided health insurance. It gave me a sense that, in the event of an unexpected health crisis, I'd be covered. The safety net was there for me.

To a degree, that's true. Let me give you an overview of the health insurance plan I selected from 3 options I was given, and how it works given my current predicament.

I haven't had to go to a doctor in two decades. I know that puts me in a small minority. Knowing that I'm not prone to run to a doctor unless my condition seems serious, I opted for a plan with the highest deductible and the least monthly cost.

Mine is an HSA plan in which my employer makes a contribution each pay period into a savings account which I can use at any time for any medical expense. I was also fortunate in being able to add txrad to my plan as my partner. This turned it into a family plan with a $5,000 deductible instead of a $2,500 deductible.

While evaluating the three available plans at the time I signed up, the deductibles seemed rather abstract until you find yourself in a situation where you are having to seek treatment, and then it becomes a concrete reality. My insurance, my "safety net," covers nothing until I hit the $5,000 threshold in medical expenses!

Fortunately, the HSA account had accumulated a bit over $2,000, so my out-of-pocket expenses were technically reduced to $3,000, or so I thought.

This past Monday I was notified by my HR department that my oral surgeon is out-of-network. This caused me to switch into panic mode for an hour or so as I pondered the ramifications.

First, the out-of-network deductible is $7000 on the family plan, and this is a completely separate tier from in-network, meaning that each threshold must be met separately. In theory, I could be out-of-pocket by as much as $12,000.

Although my in-network doctor recommended the surgeon, and I was very impressed with my initial exam and consultation, I thought I'd have to switch to an in-network oral surgeon to keep my costs reasonable. But get this: there are no in-network oral surgeons under my insurance plan in the city limits of Austin. In fact, there are none in Travis county -- a county of over one million people. All of the in-network oral surgeons are 35-50 miles from my house, in neighboring counties, one of which is suburban San Antonio, not suburban Austin.

I began to berate myself for not signing up for health plans B or C which offered a family plan deductible of $6000 and $3000 respectively. And then I started doing the math.

Plan B has a $6,000 family deductible, regardless of whether I am in or out of network. Sounds better. However, they only cover 80% in network and 70% out of network expenses beyond the deductible amount. Furthermore, the cost per pay period is $108 vs the $30 I pay now. That's an extra $2,028 per year which, over the course of 3 years, would eat away over $6,000 for a plan with a deductible of only $1000 less than my current plan.

Plan C has a $3,000 family deductible for either in or out of network. That's $4,000 less than my current out of network deductible. However, only 80% of my expenses beyond the deductible are covered. And that cost per pay period is almost $205. That's $4,550 per year more than I'm paying currently in order to have my deductible reduced by $4,000!

Plans B and C sound OK from the standpoint of the deductible, as it is the same for in and out of network. But here's the rub: that 70% and 80% coinsurance payment.

I do not yet know what my surgery will cost. I should have an idea within the next day. But given the scope of it, I'll be very surprised if it is less than $10,000, given that I paid $365 last week for one simple x-ray and an office visit. With plan B, that would be $4,000 over the deductible, and with 70% coinsurance, I'm left owing $1,200, for a total out-of-pocket of $7,200 including deductible.

With plan C, I'm $7,000 over the deductible, and with 80% coinsurance, I'm owing $1,400, for a total out-of-pocket of $4,400.

Plan C sounds much better than my current out of pocket of $7,000. And that's where the monthly employee contributions for the insurance start to quickly eat away at that savings.

Annual Employee Contribution Recap:
Plan A (HSA): $780
Plan B: $2,798
Plan C: $5,320

With Plan C, I might have an out-of-pocket savings of $2,600 right now as I walk out of the hospital. But with an annual contribution of $4,540 more than I'm currently paying, the savings is very short-lived.

With my HSA plan, my coinsurance is 100%. $7000 is what I pay, period. Even if the surgery costs $15,000 or $20,000. In the event my surgery does cost $20,000 vs the $10,000 I used in this example, the end result is an ever greater contrast with plans B and C.

It took me awhile to figure all this out and start to calm down. I feel that I made the best choice for me, despite the upfront costs. What Americans need to understand about our current health care system is that, despite having health insurance, you would be wise to have an emergency fund set aside. The amount should probably be equal to your deductible if you are on my Plan A. And it's probably not a bad idea to have that $5000-$7000 set aside even if you are on my Plan B and Plan C, due to the coinsurance which will come out of pocket.

This is what drives many into bankruptcy. I'm sure many people have opted for the higher up-front costs of plans B and C, despite the strain on their budgets, thinking the deductible looks best, and paying no attention whatsoever to that coinsurance percentage. Having $100,000 in medical costs can result in $20,000-$30,000 out-of-pocket. And how many of us can easily set aside an amount such as that for an unexpected emergency?

Among the millions of Americans who do have health insurance, I wonder how many of them understand the importance (or even the need) to set aside a few thousand dollars for medical care. And among the tens of millions of non-Americans who live in a country with "socialized" medicine, I wonder how many of them can't even grasp what this post is about.

Once my deductible(s) are met for 2010, it's smooth sailing for the rest of the year. But God forbid I have another emergency in January 2011, because this cycle starts all over again. Health care reform: who needs it?

The IT director at my first job used to say this: "You pay now or you pay more later." That applied to IT enhancements, in his usage. But I have found it applies to a whole lot more in life which is why that has stuck with me for the past 15 years or so.

With health care you pay now AND a whole lot more later. There is no "or."

Related posts:
Part 1
Part 2

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

RIP Corey Haim

He was 38.

And I thought my problems were bad.
"I was working on Lost Boys when I smoked my first joint," he told the British tabloid.

"I did cocaine for about a year and a half, then it led to crack," he said.

Haim said he went into rehabilitation and was put on prescription drugs. He took both stimulants and sedatives such as Valium.

"I started on the downers which were a hell of a lot better than the uppers because I was a nervous wreck," he said. "But one led to two, two led to four, four led to eight, until at the end it was about 85 a day."

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Rediscovering An Old Me

Monday night marked the one-week anniversary of my Great Tumble. I decided to celebrate by watching a 30-year-old film I first saw when I was 20. Back then I was so infatuated with the film that I must have watched it 12 or 15 times in the movie theatre before owning (or renting, I can't remember) a copy on Betamax tape.

It was the 1980 film, Hopscotch, with Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson. In 2010, the film has aged and it caused me to focus more on how life has changed in the past thirty years. Matthau is dead. Sam Waterston has aged beyond belief. The concept of a guy writing a book on a typewriter, with or without the presence of Liquid Paper, seems comical. It was almost as inconceivable as the notion of dropping coins into a phone box and asking an operator to make a "bill to" call to Salzburg, Austria.

Revisiting this film after so many years was like attending a 30-year high school reunion and realizing that those days are gone. Nevertheless, I found it an oddly comforting way to celebrate the events of the past week.

The conclusion of Monday evening without a drink was another milestone: seven days being sober.

I did have a triggering event at work yesterday afternoon. Something happened requiring me to do a rush of unexpected work late in the day when I was already tired, and I was thinking about how much I wanted to wash away that frustration after work with a tequila shot. I managed to derail that desire after a few minutes of analysis and making an effort to put everything in perspective. Attitude, and the way I choose approach the unexpected, are key. Clinging to negativity can be hazardous to your health.

After going to bed last night, I didn't fall asleep for nearly an hour. It wasn't restlessness; it was a far more relaxing evaluation of myself and my current mental state. I feel like I have been reunited with a part of myself that I had forgotten even existed. It is the me I haven't hung out with since I was in my 30s. It is the me who was completely capable of entertaining himself in the evening without the crutch of booze. It is the me who had no blog or no Facebook page. It is the me without any concept of what my life would be in my 40s. It is the me who was excited about the 21st century. It is the me of then merging with the me of now.

My evenings belong to me again; they do not belong to a bottle filled with amber hooch.

Even the depth and quality of my sleep is something I haven't experienced in years. I was feeling like the new mattress, which I purchased in November to help with my back pain, had been a waste of money. As recently as two weeks ago, I was seriously wanting to check the purchase receipt to see if I was within the 90-day return window. My quality of sleep was horrendous and some mornings I had to carefully ease myself out of bed to avoid a severe back spasm. What a relief to know it had nothing to do with the mattress and everything to do with how I was living my life.

I have also discovered that I'm no longer stressing about finances. The VISA card with a $500 credit limit no longer needs to be monitored on a weekly basis to determine whether or not I need to send a payment to avoid hitting the charge limit. I no longer fret over the debit card tied to my checking account, and feeling like I need to enter receipts in Quicken to be sure I'm not going be short when the mortgage payment is due. The Hooch Emporium, with its 5% discount for cash or debit card payments, is going to miss me. The feeling is not mutual.

I am finding it very difficult to put this feeling of freedom and liberation into words. I will keep trying.

As someone who hasn't had solid food in a week, I'm in remarkably good spirits. However, I'm keenly aware that a pile of french fries would sure kick those spirits up another notch.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

How I Allowed Something I Love To Almost Kill Me

First, let me be clear about one thing. I am not the kind of person who will use my personal experiences with alcohol as an excuse to get on a soapbox and start warning anyone of the need to abstain from the "evil" of it. I will save that soapbox rant for cigarettes. Or for things with which I have no personal experience, like heroin or meth.

txrad and I were smokers and drinkers when we met back in 1990. I'd only been smoking for less than 2 years, and only picked up the habit while hanging out all night in Denver coffee shops because... well, sitting around in a bohemian environment guzzling coffee and chain-smoking cigarettes seemed pretty cool.

We both started working at an advertising agency headed up by a vegetarian who was hostile to cigarette smoke. That proved to be a good fit for us because within months, we had both quit smoking and drinking, and had given up meat for a vegetarian diet -- something I'd tried several times previously and unsuccessfully.

We maintained this for years.

In 1997 we moved to Austin and we spent $0.00 on liquor, beer, wine and cigarettes. In 1998, while at a company picnic, I decided to have a glass of wine. It wasn't to celebrate anything. I simply felt like getting a little buzz going because I could see the writing on the wall regarding the company's future. Thus began some light and occasional drinking that year.

In 1999, my premonitions about the company were becoming reality. The future was uncertain, barely two years after packing up and moving from Los Angeles to Austin. Drinking increased although certainly not at any outrageous level.

The rest speaks volumes about me and how I chose to handle the stress of an unstable decade ahead.

There is something else worth noting in this chart. From 1998 through 2001, a lot of the alcohol expenditures were with meals while dining out, so the cost relative to the amount of alcohol consumed was high.

By 2002 we had largely quit dining out during the week. We were spending far too much money eating out almost every night of the week, and we decided to start cooking at home to save money. We figured we'd also save money by drinking at home. Pretty soon, what we were spending on booze far exceeded what we'd been spending on restaurant meals.

I would venture to guess that 2004 was the year when drinking excessively every night of the week became the norm. That was also the year I started my own company, and by the end of 2006, that was also, for all practical purposes, needing to be shut down due to lack of clientele and clients unable or unwilling to pay their debts. My company was insolvent; I'd loaned tens of thousands to the company to keep it floating, all of which I had borrowed, and there was nothing to show for it.

And I was aware, even in 2004, that moderation with tequila was difficult for me. I tried this:

Nice try. It didn't work. So, party on! Forget about it, at least at night.

2007 brought on some new employment for both txrad and myself, but that didn't stop the drinking which by now was a well-established part of our nightly routine, and one which accounted for the 2nd largest percentage of our budget, right behind the mortgage payment.

Yes, you read that right. We have essentially been drinking (and smoking, since about 20% of this is for cigarettes) a 2nd vacation home payment every month. Or a Maserati Quattroporte payment. Pick the guilty pleasure of your choice. And this had been going on for 5 years at roughly the same level.

Trust me, I knew what we were spending. If I was able to pull together a 10-year chart from Quicken in a matter of minutes, you know I've been monitoring my spending month-to-month. I was appalled by it. But I kept telling myself I could take corrective action "next month."

It hasn't been a great decade on the political front either. And I used liquor to numb that pain as often as I could. A Bush speech was a guaranteed night of severe intoxication resulting in an inability to absorb the last half-hour of whatever he was blathering on about. Same for election years: tie one on real good at every state primary. I'd get rip-roaring drunk on Friday and Saturday. I'd get ripped on Thursday because it was Friday-eve. I'd get trashed on Wednesday because it was Friday-eve-eve. Sunday was ripe for ripping because the weekend was over. And Mondays were a perfect excuse to let hell break loose because it was simply Monday.

What I failed to grasp is that this excess would eventually take corrective action with me if I didn't act first. The first evidence of this was in March, 2008 when txrad fell down a flight of concrete stairs and landed on his head on cement. He suffered a concussion, fractured ribs, a dislocated shoulder, and a speech impediment, all of which required several months of recovery. And to this day he still has a slight slurring of speech when saying certain words.

There were medical expenses he incurred which have yet to be paid, aside from what the insurance company covered. That was the same night I wrecked my car trying to drive home which was another $2,000 out-of-pocket for repairs because I was too scared to file an insurance claim given that my bumper and license plate were missing in action and probably sitting in the parking lot of an apartment complex where I plowed into a retaining wall of rock.

But the heavy drinking continued.

I always thought alcoholics and people with alcohol-dependencies were the types of people who wake up in the morning and need a beer or a cocktail, and continue drinking throughout the day and into the evening. Because I never wanted a drink in the morning or afternoon, I figured I had to be OK. I just wanted to get drunk at night.

And it wasn't enough just to get a buzz. It wasn't enough to be sloppy drunk. Something about me had to go that extra mile. You know, the point where you wake up every morning and have no idea what you watched on television the night before, no remembrance of eating dinner that was so carefully prepared, and no idea of conversations we had. Basically there was a black hole for the last hour of each previous night before I collapsed into bed. Some life, huh?

I don't think it helped that I was drinking premium tequilas which minimized hangover conditions. I rarely would have a headache the next morning. Rather, there was a dull numbness looming over me which would dissipate by mid-afternoon. I could get through the most trying workday, only to go for a replay in the evening. It had gotten to the point where I had no idea what it feels like to sleep well, to have multiple dreams, to wake up refreshed, and to have energy during the day.

And then came my accident last Monday evening in which I had an intimate moment with the concrete patio. What I apparently didn't learn in March of 2008, I think it got me this time around. I guess it wasn't up close and personal enough to witness txrad's trauma and take corrective action then. I had to go through it for myself in order to break this pattern of destructive behavior.

Tuesday night was rough in terms of breaking the habits. I was standing around in the kitchen watching txrad prepare food, and didn't know what to do with myself or my hands. When I'd reach for some water my hand would inevitably go to the spot where the shot glass has sat for the past few years. Sometimes my hand would instinctively go there when I wasn't reaching for water. And it wasn't like I wanted a drink; I felt too crappy for that. It was simply habit, as well as knowing that I didn't feel as good as I should be feeling at 7pm, and 8pm.

This scenario replayed on Wednesday night. I felt frustrated. I didn't know what to do with myself. Everything else was the same: same TV shows, txrad busy preparing food in the kitchen, but no beer on the coffee table in the living room and no shot glass of tequila in the kitchen to reward me for getting off my ass to go in there.

By Thursday night I had realized that I needed to keep a glass of water on the coffee table in the living room where I had previously kept my beer. My habit was to have a drink there within easy reach.

Saturday night I had come to the realization that I needed more changes here to keep me distracted. It's not enough to simply abstain from alcohol while doing every thing else exactly as I have done for the past 8 years or so. Watching the same TV shows wasn't cutting it because I associate almost of all of them with a steadily increasing intoxication level as the evening progresses.

I decided what was needed was a serious distraction. Something we haven't done in awhile. I put in a James Bond flick, Casino Royale. I needed action for distraction and I needed duration to keep me awake past 9:15. It worked because I stayed awake until 10:20 and managed to finish the film. And I didn't need to jump up every 15 minutes to do a shot. (I did need to jump up every 15 minutes to pee from all the water I'm drinking, but that's OK.)

I don't even remember how long it's been since we sat and watched a DVD without losing track along the way due to intoxication.

Am I completely done with alcohol? I will probably resume having a glass of wine or two at some point. A couple of beers some nights. I don't want a bad tequila experience to ruin an appreciation of lighter adult beverages which I enjoy, but don't render me shitfaced. The problem is having tequila in the house. Even when we'd open a bottle of wine at night (which was getting increasingly infrequent), we'd move on to a beer after finishing the wine, and then a series of tequila shots until I had achieved the black-out phase.

The most-recent warning sign I should have heeded was when we discovered jumbo sized 1.5ml bottles of premium tequila at a great price. They would have been a great deal if they had lasted a month instead of 3 days.

Even some fine scotch in the house didn't get abused. I had 2 bottles of scotch sitting in the pantry which lasted for more than half of 2009 and into 2010. That was something I enjoyed sipping and savoring once a week, or sometimes once every 2 or 3 weeks. I would pour only enough for 5 or 6 sips... to warm the cockles, so to speak. But then I'd move on to the beloved tequila.

The only nights when responsible drinking would take place were those nights when there was no tequila present. And I usually went to bed feeling incomplete. I can hardly believe I allowed this to control me for so long, and at such an expense: on the finances, the "repairs," and the health.

It has also had an impact on my social life. I felt chained to the house because it was a "safe" space to drink. I didn't like going to parties because I knew I'd get drunk, and then there's the issue of driving home safely. In retrospect, I think this also had an impact on visits to my mother. I would limit my stays to one or two nights at most because I was ready to get back to my drinking and smoking routine. As a 40-something, the idea of sneaking around my mom's house or yard, trying to get a sip of booze (which I never did), or a quick drag on a cigarette (which I did do) seemed ridiculous.

I think the best plan would be to transfer the monthly filthy-fucking-cigarette budget to beer and wine. We'd be healthier and our finances would be healthier. I like beer and wine; I enjoy both. But I don't love either of them. By the 3rd glass of wine I'm pretty tired if it. Same with beer. But with tequila, an adequate amount was insufficient. Too much was never enough. For some reason, I wanted enough to escape life.

I've come to realize that life isn't that bad. I have a pretty damn good one and there is much to be thankful for including a job I love, a partner I love, a house I love, a city I love, and friends I love.

2010 is a year of change. I may not feel like it's going to be positive change for the country politically, but it can be positive change for txrad and me. Both need to happen, and I have far greater control over one than the other, so it might as well start here, at home.

Feel free to discuss. Berate me. Chafe me. It probably won't be anything I haven't already said to myself. I'm weak, but I'm getting stronger.

I may even pull out another movie tonight.

Election Day in Iraq

YAY! We have succeeded in bringing American-style democracy to Iraq: low voter turnout.

Photo credit: Michael Kamber for The New York Times

Bring the troops home.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Spicy As Hell!!!

File this under "Learning Experiences."

I sent txrad out for Thai food today. I took about a quarter of his rice and half of the veggies & tofu in red curry and he threw it in the blender.

He got the plate; I got the spicy shake. (He also poured a little of my shake on his plate.)

I took one sip and it set my throat on fire. I poured half that glass back into the take-out container and refilled the glass with milk. I can drink it but it's still spicy as hell, and I happen to love spicy foods.

What a sensation! That was enough spiciness to make my bones all snap back into place.

RIP Jon Swift

I'm a little late on paying my homage to the late Jon Swift, that "reasonable conservative" who passed away earlier this week at age 46. His real name was Al Weisel.

I can't even remember how we came in virtual contact, but it certainly had to be via Pam's House Blend or Shakespeare's Sister blogs.

Aside from his very impressive writing about politics and the media, I always felt honored, and humbled, when he would remember to include me on his yearly emails seeking my "best of" konagod post to be included in his round-up of best posts of the year.

And the amount of effort he put into that endeavor was amazing. He was so supportive of small bloggers who otherwise would not have much, if any, exposure to a large group.

To get a feel for his sense of humor, all you had to do was read his blog header.

Although it wasn't uncommon for him to have lengthy lapses between posts, I had been feeling some uneasiness that he hadn't posted since March of last year. Last weekend I clicked the link to his blog in my blogroll, hoping to see some life, and there was none. At that point I had a premonition that something was seriously awry.

It was just a couple of days later when I received an email from BlueGal with the news. I'm not sure if it makes any sense whatsoever to say that I wasn't surprised, and yet, at the same time, was astonished.

Al/Jon, you were a good man. And you left us way too soon. But it's good to know that your positive energy, which can never die, is swirling around us still.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Health Care Diary: Part 2

As part of the insurance deal I signed up for at work, my employer makes a contribution in each pay period to a Health Savings Account (I assume that's what HSA stands for) and I can use this at will for prescription drugs or other medical expenses not covered by insurance. I also earn a small interest percentage on the funds accumulating in the account which currently stand at around $1.50 per month. Something is better than nothing. That's $9.30 I earned in interest in 2009.

I had not printed off my statements since October and decided to get caught up this morning. I noticed something interesting on my December statement. There is a bank charge of $15.00 of the debit card associated with the account. And to add insult to injury, there's $1.05 sales tax applied on top of the $15.00 bank fee.

Cool, isn't it? As if it's not enough to get royally screwed by the health insurance industry, the bank and the state can find a way to prick you just a wee bit more. So much for the meager interest I thought I was accumulating.

Not to complain too much though. It was a good day. Went out at 11:45 this morning for my 12:15 appointment with the surgeon. More paperwork to complete and a short wait before the nurse called me in for an X-ray. I told her I was under the impression that wasn't going to be necessary since I had the CT scan. She said the doctor really wanted to also see an X-ray. Different view I guess. This is the facility that does not take my insurance so I was trying to keep my costs down as much as possible.

That took about a minute or so. Then I was taken to an exam room to wait for the doctor. It was another short wait...maybe 10 minutes before the good doctor arrived.

I must say, I was highly impressed with the doctor. He had a great personality, knows his craft, and is very adept at making you feel comfortable, even in the face of some uncomfortable prospects. He discussed my broken bones and said he prefers to lump them into two groups based on functionality.

In other words, because my eyesight is fine from the bruised eye, and I can move the eyeball around just fine, and I can easily breathe through my nose, he isn't so concerned about the broken bones in those areas.

The broken cheek bone, which is inhibiting my ability to open my mouth much more than is necessary to insert a straw or a pill, is a big concern. He applied pressure around my face with his thumb and told me to make a noise if it hurt, but "not so loud as to scare any children in the other rooms."

He hit a tender spot or two but he also knew where they were going to be. In the end he asked me to "open wide" so he could take a look in my mouth with the tongue-depressor. I think he knew he was making a funny, trying to elicit a "hell no!" from me or something.

Much to my surprise, he did pry my mouth open a bit... and it was just enough for me to catch a glimpse of some sequins on St. Peter's robe reflecting the disco lights at the pearly gates.

Muthafocker! That hurt!

He left the room for a minute and I sat up in the exam chair and immediately started making faces with my lips and mouth at txrad. Wow. The pain I had just felt had transformed into a beautiful experience of mouth-movement ability! That, my friends, is a good doc!

He told me to come back next Thursday and let's just wing it. If he thinks I need the surgery on my cheek bone by then, he'll tell me. And if I want him to do it, I will tell him. The cheek bone surgery could probably be done from an incision in the mouth. The eye socket, if necessary, could be done around the eyebrow where a scar would not be so easily noticed. Then he remarked that he has bushy eyebrows, so easy for him to say!

Meanwhile, I am under instructions to not chew anything, and he advised getting a child's toothbrush for my teeth since it might be easier to get in there. I picked out the Winnie the Pooh brush you see on this post.

This doctor is so good that, even if it ends up being covered out-of-network and I do need the surgery, I'd probably go for it simply because of the comfort and trust level. It would be under 2 hours most likely, and I'd be able to go home the same day.

I put the $365 charge on my HSA debit card, so no out-of-pocket for me on this visit, and left as a very happy man with uplifted spirits. Day #4 was my best day yet this week.

Before I got to the car I realized the doctor reminded me of a cross between Eugene Levy and Craig Crawford, and as I've joked on this blog before, there's not much crossing to cross between those two!

Friday Pussy Blog: Stretching Tot Edition

The Tot is by far the most versatile cat here when it comes to being photographed.

He's so funny at night. He has this occasional heavy-breathing disorder and I can hear him in the room if I'm taking a nap during the day. He'll usually be in the window or stretched out on the floor in the sun.

At night he'll come and sleep on the clothes I've dropped beside the bed.

In contrast, I can never seem to get many different shots of Sissy. She's always in the same spot with the same look on her face.

The exception is when I got to take a nap during the day. She wants to sit on my throat, facing me. Not very relaxing for me! Maybe next Friday I'll have a shot of that ready to post.

TGIF. It's been a positively GRUELING week for me. But things are definitely on the mend.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Health Care System Diary: Part 1 of God Only Knows How Many

I want to document my experience with the American health care system to determine if there really isn't a better way for us to do things in this country which might result in more efficiency, less hassle for those who need care, and at a lower cost.

Tuesday morning was my first doctor's appointment after my fall on Monday night. That wasn't bad. After waiting perhaps 20 minutes after my 10:30 appointment I was taken to a room to be weighed and have my temperature taken, and then into another examination room where the nurse took my blood pressure, asked me a few questions and then told me the doctor would see me in a few minutes.

I might have waited 10 minutes before the doctor arrived. Not bad at all. He examined my face, asked me a number of other questions, and then told me the name of a surgeon he would recommend who specializes in the type of bone work I would need in my face, and who could do the x-rays. He did mention that the surgeon's office does not take my insurance plan but that I could be reimbursed for the expenses by my insurance provider. That raised a red flag or two.

As I was preparing to leave, his nurse brought me some paperwork detailing the scans I would need of my brain and face, an office of the Austin Radiological Association about 6 miles away, and they would take my insurance. So I assumed this visit was in lieu of going to see the surgeon right away. They were able to schedule our appointment for 8:30 Wednesday morning.

I got there, filled out another pack of forms containing repetitive information from forms in the same pack as well as from forms completed the prior day at the doctor's office (which also asked for repetitive information). After about 20 minutes of waiting I was directed back to the room with the big scanning device. That series of scans took maybe 15 minutes and then I was free to go.

As soon as I got home, my doctor called me and asked if I'd picked up a disk of the scans. I hadn't. He asked me if I'd made an appointment to see the surgeon. I hadn't. He told me to go get the disc of the scans so I sent txrad to fetch them and drop them off at the doctor's office. Unfortunately the doctor didn't mention that they weren't for him. I was a tad curious when on the phone with him because it was obvious he had already seen the images. He had in-depth knowledge of my fractures!

This was Wednesday morning, and of course when I called the surgeon's office, I got a message saying their hours are Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. I'd have to wait another day.

I called this morning, hoping to be able to get in today but they can't see me until Friday at 12:30. Also they mentioned that the exam and x-ray would be out-of-pocket since they do not accept the insurance plan I have which is provided by my employer.

I asked them if I'd really need the x-ray if I'd had the CT scan done, and they said, "oh, if you have that then we just need you to bring the disc of that scan." Then it hit me: Sheldon had dropped the disc off at my doctor's office because the doctor didn't clearly state that it would be needed by the surgeon I would be seeing.

So off we went this afternoon back to the doctor's office to fetch the disc. The nurse couldn't find it but said I could walk to the hospital next door because there is an Austin Radiological Facility in there, and they could pull up the scan and make me a copy of the disc. Great!

We walked over and the desk clerk seemed very confused about where I'd had the scan. She finally figured out that it was an ARA facility not affiliated with the Seton hospital where I was currently trying to retrieve a copy, and because that facility was not a Seton facility, she could not access the data to make a copy.

We walked back over to the doctor's office and waited for the nurse. Fortunately, she produced the CD within a matter of seconds and we were on our way.

Quite a bit of small inconveniences and miscommunication but nothing too severe. Annoying, but hey. Not a dime out-of-pocket so far! :-)

But the big question remains: What about this situation where the surgeon's office doesn't take my insurance? An office visit out-of-pocket is one thing. Facial repair surgery is quite another.

Damn, what a fine system we have in this country. Who needs any kind of reform?

Meanwhile, I got to see an image of my brain on my own computer today from that disc we picked up.

Meet the Kona Brain:

Damn I have a lot of metal in my mouth! But just a lot of gray matter upstairs.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Curling Hopes Are Dashed

I guess I won't be going to the Lone Star Curling Club on Sunday after all. The last thing I need right now is to fall on my face again, although I do need to keep it on ice. Keep ice on it gently.

It is amazing how quickly your life can be turned upside down by one bad mistake. Monday night I was discussing with txrad how excited I was to be going back out to the curling club open house on Sunday to throw a rock or two.

We were making dinner and doing tequila shots, as usual. Shortly after dinner I walked out the back door and one second later I remember the extreme impact of my face against concrete. I distinctly heard the multiple snapping of bones.

I pulled myself up and went to the bathroom to survey the damage. Blood was running down the left side of my face. txrad was watching TV and had no idea this had happened. I was so annoyed with myself I decided to save the news for morning. I washed away the blood, applied some arnica gel to help with the bruising and swelling, and went to bed.

It was not a very good night. At some point I awoke, hoping that the memory had been a dream, but knew from my pain that it wasn't. I had busted my shit up real good.

txrad called and scheduled an appointment with a doctor yesterday morning at 10:30. The doctor referred me to another clinic where they do the CT scans. I had that done on my face and brain this morning.

I suppose the good news is that I have no brain damage and my jaw isn't broken. The bad news is that I have extensive facial damage with fractures around my sinus cavity, the eye orbit, and my cheek bone, and this will apparently require several hours of surgery.

The doctor wanted me to make an appointment with the surgeon as soon as possible but unfortunately the surgeon's office is closed on Wednesdays. Great.

Tomorrow I should be able to get in there, with any luck, and get a fuller assessment of what I'm in for this month.

This is by far the worst injury I've ever had in my life, and will be the first time I've ever needed surgery. Lots of people have had to undergo similar procedures. People have horrific car accidents, some people engage in extreme sporting activities during which time, an accident can lead to broken bones and smashed faces.

During the Olympics I would cringe when hearing about an athlete who was competing again after x number of surgical procedures to correct this and that. And this is one reason why I would never have made a decision in life to become a race car driver, or a skier, etc. Do it long enough and sooner or later something bad can happen.

My friends, as I know now, it's really no different with irresponsible drinking. Do it long enough and sooner or later something bad can happen. I can't tell you how many times I've been en route to a liquor store and mumbling to myself that "nothing good can come of this."

And even though you know you need to clean up your life, doing so is always just one tomorrow away. Well, welcome to tomorrow.

I should be completely freaked out at the prospect of surgery. Part of me is a little anxious about it. Part of me is angry with myself and I could also sit here and continually kick myself mentally for being so stupid and irresponsible Monday night but that's not productive either. You can't change the past, as much as you might like to rewind and redo.

The biggest part of me is more focused on cleaning myself up to make sure this never happens again in the future. I'm no longer agitated about leaving my 40s behind in about 7 weeks when I turn 50. No big deal. Something about pain and the idea of facial surgery makes birthday milestones inconsequential.

The joys of still being a 40-something ended around 9PM Monday night. The time between now and my actual 50th birthday will be about nothing but recovery and progress, and living my life as a 50-something quite differently from how I lived my life as a 40-something. Time to grow up and enjoy middle-age.

The real irony here is that I was looking forward to the first week of March passing without any incidents. It was two years ago this week when I was dealing with a very similar situation with txrad, and I was ready for that 2-year anniversary to come and go. But here we are in a role-reversal. I guess the score is even now.

That post two years ago ended with this question: "Have we learned anything yet?"


I love tequila but let's call it a tie game and forget overtime.

I love my face, my bones, and my health & well-being far more. And I love txrad. All of those things are far more important to me than any reposado or añejo.

I'm just not sure why it took an event such as this (or these) to make me put things in perspective. I never thought of myself as being one that couldn't ascend until I figured out where the bottom was.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Glenn Beck's Quiz Results Finally!

After my Friday Glenn Beck post, and the follow-up on Saturday regarding the Nolan Chart quiz server crash, I decided to give it one final shot today.

I got in! I took the quiz. Based on the multiple choice options presented in the quiz I'm really not surprised by the results. But I am going to dismiss the entire theme of Glenn Beck's Friday show, centered around this quiz, as being an exercise in determining who you are and where you fit in the chart.

Sure, I do have some Libertarian leanings. I even called myself a Libertarian for awhile. I suspect I fell into this quadrant in the Nolan quiz because so many of the questions were conservative hot-button topics, one of which was on the issue of gay marriage. I said it was none of the government's business being involved in marriages and they should get out.

I would really like to know how I'd score if that question hadn't been in there. But as I've said, the questions were limiting in the sense that I had to pick from four possible answers, and sometimes the best of the four still doesn't quite describe my viewpoints. It's complicated sometimes.

(Not sure what the flowers have to do with the chart, but...)

Whatever. I'll gladly take the northwest corner of that box over the south and east side.