Random Stew It seemed like a good idea at the time.

3Jun/090

Mea Maxima Culpa

It's been over three months since my last post. My apologies to the readers of this site -- both of you.

Mea maxima culpa! What else can I say?

24Feb/091

Great Expectations

Wow. It's been over a month since I last posted an article. I apologize to all those readers who have been anxiously awaiting my next postChange we can believe in.When I posted my last article, the world was aglow with Obamania. The Big Change was coming and with it a new world order. The overwhelming response around the world to Barack Obama's inauguration was one of hope and excitement. Our new president was the media darling and had practically been deified by Oprah and her fawning hordes. Change we can believe in. A New Hope. Abraham Lincoln, F.D.R., and J.F.K. all rolled into one.

A New HopePresidents are judged by the effectiveness with which they met challenges and adversity. Barack Obama has the opportunity to become one of the greatest presidents ever to serve our country. We're facing the greatest economic crisis since the Depression. Our military occupies two countries on the other side of the world. We must deal with a madman in North Korea who may have the capability to deliver nuclear weapons to our soil. Much of the world regards us as overbearing imperialists and even our staunchest allies seem to view us with suspicion.

Heroism is not only in the man, but in the occasion. --Calvin Coolidge

So, into this minefield of challenges steps a great new hope. A man who has fired the fervor of much of America. A man who represents change and a new era. A man who, much of the world believes, can meet these challenges and reaffirm the idea of an America dedicated not to power but to ideals. But can he? How can he possibly meet the expectation level set for him? The bar seems to be incredibly high. What happens if he doesn't meet these impossibly lofty expectations? Will he be considered a failure? Will it harm his ability to accomplish great things? Will the fanatic fervor of his supporters be transformed into a bitter backlash of disappointment?

Being a hero is about the shortest lived profession on earth. --Will Rogers

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. President Obama must make some very hard decisions that will be unpopular with a lot of people. He's a man, not a messiah. And we're a culture that loves to tear down its heroes -- as witnessed by the recent news frenzies about athletic heroes Michael Phelps and Alex Rodriguez. We can't resist tipping the pedestal upon which our heroes stand. And the higher the pedestal, the more we rock it. It's going to be an interesting ride.

15Jan/092

On The Bookshelf

It's been quite a while since I last posted my reading queue. Here's what I'm reading at the moment.

I've always been a fan of Asimov, especially his Foundation series. So, reading a collection of his very early short stories is interesting in that the stories give glimpses of his future storytelling prowess, but mostly reveal a smart and talented young man struggling to learn his storytelling craft and find his voice.

Pearlman's book is fascinating. He not only discusses generating power through the use of proper structural frames and body mechanics, but also about achieving more power by removing impediments to power. Improve the efficiency of your techniques -- instead of relying on muscular exertion -- to achieve more power. Pare away superfluous movements until the techniques are fluid, efficient, and powerful.

Blink is, at its core, about listening to your intuition. It's filled with anecdotal support of trusting your gut but also offers up examples of where 'gut feelings' lead people astray. The author examines how some people seem to consistently make good decisions. He postulates that the best decision makers are those who have learned to examine the information available at decision time and quickly winnow the chaff from the grain -- to filter the pertinent factors from the white noise.

I've just started reading O'Hara's Choice, but it is quickly becoming the dog of this list. I never thought I would say that about a book written by Leon Uris. This is Uris' last book, and I believe it was published posthumously. This book is disjointed and lacks the flow of his other works. It's sad that the storyteller that wrote such great books as Battle Cry, Mila-18, Trinity, Mitla Pass, and Exodus, finished his career with a dud like this. I rarely give up on a book, but I may make an exception in this case.

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2Jan/090

Be Careful What You Wish For

I recently wrote about the difficulties I had getting an appointment with an ENT to fix a broken nose. I finally was able to see an ENT six days after breaking my nose. He came into the examination room with Michael, a medical student functioning as his assistant.

After a bit of chitchat about how I broke it while training for a black belt test, the doc examines my nose and X-rays (yes, it's broke). He said the nasal bone had a broken piece that was crushed inward and needed to be pushed back up into place. He then asked me if I would like to schedule a surgical procedure to set my nose or if I wanted him to go ahead and try to set it right then.

fistofcashI hate to admit it but, as someone who is self-employed and carries a high-deductible on his health insurance policy, when he said "surgical procedure" I swear I heard the cha-ching of a cash register.

"Doc, if you can set it now, go ahead and do it," I said. "But you hear that 'if' loud and clear, right?"

The doctor assured me that he both heard and understood exactly what I was saying. He then shot some topical anesthetic up my nose and told me he'd be back in about 15 minutes.

Fifteen minutes later, the doctor is back and asks me if I'm ready. Like a fool, I said yes. Michael, the medical student, tells me he has a morbid excitement as he's never seen this procedure performed. In hindsight, I should have handed him my cellphone to video the next couple of minutes; I'm sure it would've gotten a million hits on YouTube.

fingernoseeyeThe doc quickly puts on a glove, squirts a lubricating gel on his finger and rams his finger up my nostril, pushing on the misplaced bone fragment with all his might.

Now I know that I only had a broken nose -- not a major injury. But, trust me, having someone jam their finger up your nose, pressing on a broken bone, is a very intense experience. He literally lifted me out of the chair by my nostril. Still, that didn't work. He quickly reaches over and grabs an instrument that resembles a reinforced, stainless steel coke spoon. He jams that up my nose and starts prying on the bone piece to pop it back into place.

It was toe-curling, testicle-shrinking pain.

As this is happening, I glance at Michael and he's actually cringing!

At the very peak of the pain -- as I'm about to attack the doctor to make him stop -- the misplaced bone pops back into place. Instant relief. In fact, I felt high from the sudden relief and the huge amount of adrenaline that I'm sure was pumping in my system.

The doc then packs some gauze and antibiotic ointment in my nostril. While the doc applies a hard shield over my nose, Michael starts gushing about how he couldn't believe what he had just witnessed and he'll be telling stories about me forever. I'm so glad I could impress him.

The doc gives me a prescription for a few Tylox and some Percocet. As I checkout of the doctor's office, I joke with Michael and the office staff. In my 'sudden pain relief' state, I didn't notice that I did not receive any care or follow-up instructions. I go get the prescriptions filled and am actually feeling pretty good about now, even posting my picture via mobile upload to Facebook.

painThat night, however, the pain begins again. And worsens. And worsens some more. Tylox is not making a dent in the pain, but it is making me almost comatose. All Wednesday night, Thursday, and Thursday night, the pressure and pain is horrible. Almost to the pain point I felt when the doc was setting my nose. I'm thinking I have a raging infection in my sinuses and call the doctor's office. Unfortunately, I miss their return call but their message says I cannot have an infection due to the antibiotic ointment and to just continue with the painkillers.

On Friday, I call the doctor's office again, looking for an appointment with him. Instead, they say I already have an appointment scheduled for Monday and instead write a prescription for more painkillers but say I must come pick it up. After two nights without sleep and constant use of painkillers, I can barely walk around the house so I must wait until the afternoon when my wife can pick up the prescription. When she goes to the doc's office, the doc's nurse -- his normal assistant who was not there on the day I went -- tells my wife that I should continue with sinus washes. Sinus washes? I was never told anything about that.

So, while my wife was having the prescription filled, I give myself a sinus wash. An hour later, a huge plug of gauze, blood, and slime comes sliding out of my nose (sorry, no pictures). Again, the pain relief was immediate. A couple of hours later, I do another sinus rinse. And again, another plug comes out of my nostril. Now the relief is complete and the pain is gone.

On Monday, I see the doc at my appointment and he commiserates for a moment about my suffering. I told him about the sinus washes and the plugs; he nods and says the plug was probably pressing directly on my nose break. As the gauze absorbed more blood and slime, it grew and pressed all the more on the break. He apologized profusely for the lack of post-procedure instructions.

So now my nose is set and healing. In about 4-6 weeks total, I'll be able to start sparring again. Hopefully, I'll be a little more elusive when my opponent throws a big overhand right over my jab. If not, I know which of the two treatment options I'll choose.

Pain is only valuable once you know that you've learned from it. --Anonymous

And for those of you who say I should choose a more benign pasttime,

Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. --Lance Armstrong

16Dec/080

Of Broken Noses and Health Care Systems

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I've been training hard in preparation for a black belt test scheduled for this Saturday. Thursday night, I sparred with several visiting black belts who had graciously agreed to participate in my testing. Unfortunately, one of them caught me with a punch that broke my nose.

"Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?" - William Shakespeare, Macbeth, 5.1

So, Friday morning I call my doctor to see about getting my nose fixed. Unfortunately, my doctor was moving his office to a new location and could not see me. So I ask the receptionist if the doctor can just refer me to an ENT specialist.

"No, the doctor cannot give referrals without seeing the patient first. You'll need to go to Urgent Care."

"Can you make an appointment for me at one of your practice's other locations? With another doctor?"

"No, we've already booked up all the other doctors with referrals today. You'll need to go to Urgent Care."

Instead, I decide to call my insurance company to see if I can just make an appointment directly with a specialist, cutting out the middleman as it were. Yes, it turns out I can "self-refer" to a specialist as long as they are a participating provider.

So, I call the ENT and spend the next 30 minutes arguing discussing whether my insurance will allow self-referrals or not. Finally, they call my insurance company and find that I was indeed correct.

"Our first appointment for a non-referral is December 23.", I'm told.

"That's 11 days from now! I'm self-referring; what do you mean by non-referral?"

"You don't have a referral from your doctor."

"If I had a doctor's referral when could I be seen?"

"In 3-5 days, when your swelling subsides."

Arrrggghhhh... I feel the rabbit hole open up beneath me.

I give in and go to Urgent Care. After only two hours, I'm seen by a doctor. I tell him that all I want is a referral to an ENT. He says he can't give a referral without a diagnosis and he needs X-rays to ensure I have a broken nose. He ignores me as I volunteer to ensure a broken nose by punching myself in the nose.

So, I have X-rays and, yes, my nose is broken into 3 pieces (surprising given that I don't think it's that misshapen). The doctor says he will give me a referral to an ENT. Great, I think, I'm on my way.

The staff member charged with dismissing me tells me that I'll need to take my X-rays to the ENT when I see them. So, I ask if I can just have the X-rays right then to save a trip later.

"No, you must have an appointment with a specialist before we can release your X-rays." he says with a kind of sigh that tells me the he's been down this road before.

"But they're my X-rays! Why can't I have them? And once I have an appointment with an ENT, how are you to know whether I'm telling you the truth anyway?" I argue with him.

"I know. The system is screwed up isn't it? All I can tell you is that you need an appointment first."

Whatev.

I walk out of Urgent Care and call the ENT, hoping to get an appointment and immediately pick up my X-rays. The ENT has not received the referral from Urgent Care. I'm amazed that such things aren't automated, but apparently Urgent Care usually faxes referrals. The appointment manager at the ENT tells me that Urgent Care is usually prompt with referrals and since it's now late Friday afternoon, I should call back Monday morning for an appointment.

Monday morning comes...still no referral from Urgent Care. Monday noon comes...still no referral from Urgent Care. I call them and am told that they're running behind from the weekend and will fax the referral shortly. Monday mid-afternoon comes...still no referral. I call again and ask if I can pick up the referral in person to take the ENT. Of course not.

Tuesday morning comes...still no referral from Urgent Care. Tuesday noon comes...you guessed it, still no referral. Finally, the ENT staff has pity on me, calls Urgent Care, and has the referral faxed immediately. I wish they had done this yesterday.

So now I can make an appointment with an ENT. Unfortunately, the earliest opening they have is at 3:15pm on Wednesday at their office on the other side of town. Oh, and they'll be "working me in" so I may have to wait a while. Want to bet that they look at my nose, confirm that it's broken, and schedule another appointment to fix it?

26Nov/080

The Splinter

Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt. --William Shakespeare

On December 20th, I am scheduled to test for a 1st dan black belt in karate. As the date approaches, I'm recalling how I used to feel every semester in college as finals approached -- a strange mixture of anticipation and dread. I'm eager to prove myself worthy of the honor, yet wondering if I'm truly up to the task.

Logically, I know that I wouldn't be invited to test if my Sensei didn't think I was ready for this challenge or worthy of the rank. And I'm confident that I know the material and can perform well. But there's still the little splinter of self-doubt that has burrowed into me, causing a bothersome worry out of proportion to its size. A single heckler plainly heard over a large audience.

When in doubt, sing loud! --Robert Merrill

So, how do I pluck the splinter and quell the doubt? All I can do is to keep training and honing my skills, while trying to keep perspective on how far I have progressed instead of dwelling on my weaknesses and shortcomings. In other words, focus on the journey traveled instead of the remaining distance. I've heard it expressed as "not thinking in the gap". When assessing your progress towards goals, focus on your progress and accomplishments instead of obsessing over the gap between your current capability and the idealized goal. Because by the simple striving for the goal, I have progressed mightily and greatly increased my capability.

Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do. -- Pope John XXIII

19Nov/080

He Chose…Poorly

Today, I ran across this list of poorly chosen domain names and I'm still laughing about it. I would normally attribute the source of this list, but a quick search reveals that it has been plagiarized many, many times. So, what's one more? Instead, I present it verbatim.

All of these are companies that didn't spend quite enough time considering how their online names might appear - and be misread...

  1. Who Represents is where you can find the name of the agent that represents any celebrity. Their Web site is
    www.whorepresents.com
  2. Experts Exchange is a knowledge base where programmers can exchange Advice and views at
    www.expertsexchange.com
  3. Looking for a pen? Look no further than Pen Island at
    www.penisland.net
  4. Need a therapist? Try Therapist Finder at
    www.therapistfinder.com
  5. There's the Italian Power Generator company,
    www.powergenitalia.com
  6. And don't forget the Mole Station Native Nursery in New South Wales,
    www.molestationnursery.com
  7. If you're looking for IP computer software, there's always
    www.ipanywhere.com
  8. The First Cumming Methodist Church Web site is
    www.cummingfirst.com
  9. And the designers at Speed of Art await you at their wacky Web site,
    www.speedofart.com
4Nov/080

Election Debris

Election litterAs I drive around town, I am struck by the large amount of election sign clutter on the roadways. Everywhere I look, there is an election sign littering the landscape. I think of all the raw materials, energy, and time wasted on manufacturing, distributing, and placement of this litter; it's enough to make Al Gore cry...or maybe not.

junk mailWhen I arrive home and check my mailbox, it's stuffed full of election material. I wouldn't mind this printed material so much if it contained thoughtful and detailed treatises of a candidate's platform, views, and plans. Instead my mailbox is stuffed with election fluff: postcards, flyers, and brochures; none of which have a single useful bit of information other than to shout the candidate's name. Again, what a tremendous waste of materials and energy for something that will go straight into a landfill.

ringing phoneAnd it's not just physical signs and literature. Every day my voicemail is cluttered with recorded election messages. What's the use of a "do not call" telemarketer law when the caller is a computer playing a recorded message? How is it that election campaigns are allowed to skirt the "do not call" lists? Is the American electorate so shallow as to be truly influenced by a 20 second recording?

I am so glad today is election day so that the phone calls and junk mail will end. More election litterUnfortunately, I will still have to see roadside election signs for weeks to come. I know that campaigns are supposed to clean up after an election, but I somehow suspect that they're lacking in motivation and manpower after an election. I've noticed that some of signs are cleaned up, but I'm guessing that over half the signs are left to rot on the roadside.

I'm certain there's an insightful symbolism between the wasteful clutter and our frenzied election process, but I'm too tired to articulate it at the moment.

15Oct/080

Halloween – The Gateway Holiday

While driving around town, I've noticed a number of churches having events on Halloween night. I know that most Christians consider Halloween to be a harmless holiday that holds no threat to the spiritual lives of children. Yet there are some denominations that shun the holiday because they believe it celebrates, and therefore trivializes, evil and the occult. Apparently, they consider Halloween to be like marijuana, a gateway to more powerful and harmful influences.

You kids get off my lawn!It all begins harmlessly enough -- a toddler dressed up as a cute pumpkin as he shyly asks neighbors for treats. Soon, little Johnny's wearing a pirate costume and intimidating smaller children into giving up their candy. Next, Johnny is flinging toilet paper through the trees of the neighborhood crusty curmudgeon's yard. As a young man, Johnny is leading a cult and sacrificing goats in a clearing in the woods while chanting Satanic curses!

Dr. EvilFinally, Johnny adopts a sinister nom de guerre, hatches plans to conquer the world, and kills people using sharks with frickin' laser beams!

And it all began with a Tootsie Roll.


25Sep/080

In The End

In The EndA few months ago, I posted a list of dead-end jobs. Jobs with a sinister meaning to the term 'termination'.

This job doesn't quite qualify as a "dead end" job, but it's definitely in the end.