Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Arrhythmia 'N Bluz Part 4

And here I was, about to write about the holiday weekend, where my nephew graduated high school, for which my parents were in town, and how they finally got to meet Sweetpea.  But then real life intruded, as it is prone to do.

Over the aforementioned weekend, I began to experience a reoccurrence of the atrial fibrillation I last had in 2013.  I lived with this condition for many years and had surgery to correct it in 2002 and again in 2007.  Since then I’ve only had the one relapse four years ago, brought on by a long swig of ice-cold beer.

This time, I couldn’t identify a single cause, although the weekend’s carousing probably didn’t help.  But I knew the signs right off.  Chest felt funny and the smallest activity made me feel fatigued.

Per my cardiologist’s instructions, if I got down there within 48 hours of onset, I could get a cardioversion or “shock” treatment to jolt the heart back into rhythm, without the lengthy and invasive pre-op treatments and blood work.

Basically, it was a déjà vu experience, but with lessons learned.  This time, I knew not to expect to be out by 10 AM.  I got up super early and logged into my work computer from home, so I could clear any tasks leftover from the weekend and notify my boss that I’d be MIA today.

Sweetpea took me down to the subway station around 6:30 and agreed to pick me up at the hospital later, after working a half day.  She offered to come with me the whole time, but I told her it wasn’t necessary.  I’ve been to this rodeo before.

Anyway, I got down there, got evaluated in the Emergency Room, which confirmed my self-diagnosis.  They assigned me a room and had me take off my shirt and put on the dreaded hospital gown  This model was even more confounding than the previous ones.

I held it up and there was one hole, off to the side, bordered by snaps.  There were some other random snaps scattered about the other side.  I couldn’t tell if it was a head hole or an arm hole, so I stood there like an asshole until an orderly came in, who I asked for help.

Apparently, the one hole was an arm hole and he fashioned another arm hole out of the snaps on the other side.  These things need to have a schematic diagram printed on the inside.  Maybe IKEA can roll out their own line.  I wouldn’t have figured that out in a million years. 
They immediately stuck a port needle into my right arm but didn’t hook it up to anything.  Then later, they put one on my other side, at my wrist.  That one, they eventually used for the anesthetic.  The first one, they said when I asked, was merely a backup.  I think they just put it there to piss me and keep me tied down.
The port on my left wrist.

The staff was all very nice and as usual, I made sure they loved me.  I was polite, helpful, thoughtful, and joked around with them.  I wanted them to love me in case something went wrong during the procedure, so they’d try extra hard to save my ass.

There was a lot of waiting around again, but not nearly as much as the last time.  But it was nice they had a TV in the room, to keep me occupied.  It was even nicer when I could use the remote to turn off Spongebob Squarepants and put on ESPN and the NFL Network. 

It was ice cold in the room so they broke out a pair of hospital socks for me!
Score!

Around 11:00, I got word that approvals had been given, all systems were “go” and they were preparing to do the cardioversion as I wished (as opposed to prescribing meds or admitting me for overnight observation.)  And they were going to do it right there in the ER, rather than taking me up to the cardio unit, where they did my last one.  Hence, my small room began filling up with people.  One of them started putting the big adhesive pads on my chest and back, where the shock paddles were to go.

It was a weird point of view.  As I laid there, there were two people to my left, two people to my right and someone at the foot of the bed.  From my angle, it looked like I was looking through a bug-eyed lens at a small crowd peering down at me like I was a lab experiment.

The person at the foot of the bed introduced herself as the pharmacist and said she was there because she liked to see…

I cut her off and said, “Dudes get electrocuted?

Usually, when I’m put under, it’s an instantaneous blackout, like at the end of the final episode of the Sopranos.  One second I’m there, the next second I’m out and back again at a later time.

This time, when they pushed the drugs, they looked at me and said, “How do you feel?

At that point, I said, “Fine!  What’s the matter?  Want me to count?”  Nothing was happening.

But then a wave hit me and I go, “Ohhh, there we go.  Drowsy…  Good night.”  

And I was out.  And then awake again in two and a half seconds, which was really 10 minutes.  They put me out at 11:30 and brought me back by 11:40.

All went well, so they all packed up their shit and left me there to rest.  Heartbeat was back to normal.  I’d have loved to take a nap right there, but that was made impossible by the automated blood pressure cuff that kicked into action every five minutes for the next 2 hours.  But I could hear the now-steady beep beep beep of my heart on the monitor.  And that sure beats the hell out of Beeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Since I couldn’t sleep, I turned to the NFL Network just in time to catch a replay of the Steelers/Ratbirds 2016 Christmas Day game (which the Steelers won in a huge comeback).  I didn’t even have to take out my crossword puzzle or iPad.
Here we go!

Sweetpea got there just about 3:00, just in time to witness them pulling all the adhesive pads off my chest.
I knew I should have shaved first…

I think they waited for her to be there just so I wouldn’t fuss and whine when they yanked it all off.  After dispatching the smaller patches, the nurse asked me if I wanted to do the big one myself.  I was like, “Hell no!  We’ll be here all night…”

It takes me 45 minutes just to get all the way into a cold swimming pool.  I’m not good with the big shock.  Left to my own devices, I’d have had them bring me in an Exact-O Knife.  So I let her do the honors and I tried very hard not to recreate the waxing scene from 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Earlier, when Sweetpea and I were waiting, she asked when they were going to come in and get me ready for discharge.  I didn’t know… they just kept turning up intermittently throughout the afternoon.  She said we should use the Call Button.

I wanted to wait.  It was getting to the end of the Steelers/Rats game and I wanted to see the end.  I didn’t want someone talking to me and giving me instructions while I was trying to watch AB stretch out over the goal line for the big “W.”  So I said we should wait until 3:30 because that was an even four hours after my procedure.

Minutes later we heard an announcement; there was a trauma coming in, which was three minutes out.  All doctors were to get ready.

Shortly after, when the nurse came in to remove my adhesive pads, she mentioned that I’d be free to go but all my doctors were tied up in that trauma.  She didn’t know how long it would be, but only a doctor could produce my exit paperwork.

So you can imagine the steely stare directed at me from Sweetpea.  If I’d have used the call button when she first mentioned it, we’d have been out of there.

I promised I’d listen to her from now on.  But I DID get to see the end of the game.  Whoo hoo!  Here We Go Steelers!

We didn’t really have to wait much longer, though.  We were out the doors by 4:00 and on the way for a Chinese dinner.

What?  There are a lot of vegetables in Chinese food… It’s GOOD for me!  I have to be health-conscious now.

The last thing Sweetpea told me?

"Next time you want to see me on a weeknight, just ask."

I tell you, this one's a keeper.  I just have to make sure I stay around.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Odd Bits - The Confederate Edition

I have to caution liberals and other sentient beings about trying to get our current president/clown removed from office.

I’m not saying that he shouldn’t be… after all, we’ve never seen such a combination of incompetence, petulance and pure profiteering coming from the office of the President.  But if 45 WAS impeached or forced to resign, what happens next?

I say, there’s no point in removing Trump without also getting rid of the rest of the posse.  Next man up is Pence, and he’s the one who scares me. 

Trump is a pragmatist; I think he’s using the social conservatives and alt-right racists to bolster his numbers so he can go about the very Republican business of bolstering big business at the expense of the rest of us.  So sure, he throws out a couple bones… Muslim ban here, religious “liberty” (to treat gays as second-class citizens) there, and he mollifies his supporters.  But I don’t think he really believes that stuff.  He only believes in making money for himself and his family.

Pence is a true believer.  He really thinks the gay community are undeserving of common decency and respect.  He showed us that by signing one noxious state law after another when he was governor of Indiana.  He is a religious holy roller with a keen interest in promoting narrow Christian ideals into government policy.  Of course, he’ll gladly omit the Christian ideals of healing the sick or feeding the poor, because the needy obviously don’t work hard enough. 

And speaking of healing the sick, the next batter up, Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, is known for his draconian budget proposals and help no-one health care initiatives, which further squeeze the poor in favor of tax cuts for the rich. 

If either of these two become president, exactly nothing will change from what we have now, other than they will get these ponderous policy changes passed without shooting themselves in the foot every other day.  They’re consummate politicians, so they know how to get these things passed, in the houses they control, quietly and without disturbance.    The sideshow will leave and be replaced by the icy indifference of loan sharks.

None the less, the whole impeachment debate seems pointless to me.  I mean, the Republicans are going to have to be the ones to pull the trigger and I just don’t see that happening in the House.  The same racists, isolationists, and moralists who voted for Trump also voted for their GOP representative.  How anxious do you think they’ll be for overturning the will of their carefully gerrymandered districts?  No, they won’t buck the Prez until they’re made to by their constituents. 

And what happens when their constituents show up and complain at town hall meetings?  The dissent is blamed on those from outside the district.

I don’t think anything changes with the rank and file GOP until people start losing their insurance for real.  Granted they’ll still find a way to blame it on the Democrats…

Debunkery – The Statue of Limitations Edition
I haven’t enjoyed a good debunking in a while so I’m leaping at the chance to tear up this playground-level faulty analogy.

This issue is that some places in the south, New Orleans in particular, (and even here in Baltimore) are removing statues and monuments erected to pay tribute to Confederate soldiers and ideals.  Naturally, rednecks and racists are complaining about the loss of their “history.”  That brings us to this leap of logic:
In the grade-school level mind of the meme generator and those who re-post it, mosques = statues.  If the statues come down, so should mosques, because 9/11.

Here is the salient difference: The statues and monuments pay tribute to the idea of the Confederacy; a group of states who seceded from the Union because they wanted to keep other human beings in unpaid servitude.

A mosque is where millions of people pray to a different God than the Christians do, in a different manner.  A mosque doesn’t inherently stand for the destruction of the twin towers, other than in the minds of racists who cannot tell the difference between individuals and institutions. 

Sure, there may be mosques that preach revolution against the western dogs, but chances are, they’re located in the Middle East.  Removing mosques in the US serves no purpose but a twisted sense of vengeance. 

But every one of those Confederate monuments supports the idea that it’s OK for a race of people to be subjugated. 

The two examples are not remotely alike in form or function, which makes this an apples-to-oranges comparison and a ridiculous If/Then statement. 

I’m also tired of the argument: “But they’re removing our history!”

You know what?  Not all our history is something of which we should be proud.

People love to bring up Nazi Germany in persuasive arguments, but I’ll tell you what… There is a lot of history in Germany too, but you don’t see the Germans celebrating it.  Modern Germans (skinheads aside) are mortified by their country’s involvement in WWII; they’re not putting up monuments to the efficiency of their concentration camps or celebrating the nobility and devotion of the oven-operators. 

History should be remembered and learned from.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be commemorated.

But then, tell that to the people who are still fighting the war.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday, May 8, 2017

Dog Days

Things have been going swimmingly with my Sweetpea and me; so easily, in fact, that it makes me wonder why things were always so difficult for me in the past.

But the one variable that remains is a dogged one.  And I mean that literally.

Sweetpea has a 4-year old yellow lab, (aka The Beast), who she has essentially raised by herself.  That means they have an intense bond that is scary-strong.

Now, I’ve always loved dogs.  I think dogs are often better than people, especially judging by Facebook postings.  But I haven’t had a dog since I was in college.  In fact, no one in my family has; we’ve been exclusively a cat family for decades.

The Beast has never been mean or hostile to me; on the contrary, I get a huge greeting every time I come in the house.  And I’m not even bringing treats anymore.  Although I will admit that the intensity of the greeting has decreased since the treats have stopped.  I still get a few jumps and face licks, but as soon as he sees my hands are empty, he rapidly loses enthusiasm.  And when his “Mommy” and I come in at the same time, well, I might as well not even be there. 

Director’s DVD Commentary:  Yes, Sweetpea calls the Beast her “Son” and she is his “Mommy.”  And when we first started dating, she said her son needed a “baby-daddy.”  (And I applied for the job.)  I know some people get offended by using those terms with pets, but too bad.  They get to name their own relationships, not anyone else’s.  In my home, our pets were always called our “fur-brothers” or “fur-sisters.”  Ain’t no thang…

The thing about The Beast is that he’s extremely smart AND vocal.  He’s like having an 81-pound toddler with fangs.  When he wants to play, he expects to play.  NOW.  Dog doesn’t care if you’re tired or hungry or sick or have other shit to do; when he wants to play, it’s time to play.  (And it’s always time to play.)

And if we’re busy talking, or heaven forbid, hugging, he’ll start “talking,” in a sort of guttural, back-of-the-throat onslaught of vowels.  “Can’t you see me sitting here?  I’m right here, and I want to play ball!  If I had thumbs, I’d throw a bucket of cold water on you two…”

If you were to hear him, without being privy to what’s going on, you’d be like, “Who is torturing that poor dog?  He sounds like he’s being torn from his soul!

Like toddlers, they don’t understand the concept of “enough.”  She can take him for a 45-minute walk, feed him like a king, go outside and have a session or two of throw-the-ball-and retrieve, and as soon as they come in, he wants to know what they’re going to do next.

Hah!  Feeding… I bet that dog eats better than some of her schoolkids.  If we’re having breakfast, she makes him an egg, and he gets a slice of whatever else we’re eating with it.  If she grills, she makes him his own burger.  His regular meal has blueberries and cheese and broth and whatever else is left over added to it.
No, he doesn’t always get a full platter; he’s just licking up the meat juice.

They have a “training” routine that cracks me up.  She cuts up half of a weenie and a cheese stick and she puts him through the paces.  Sit, stay, leave it, kiss mommy, heel, down… etc., with each feat rewarded with a goodie.  The thing is, the only time The Beast will obey any of these commands is during the Routine.

I often joke with Sweetpea that he is actually training HER and this is really nothing but a highly-ritualized snack producing exercise.  I’m like, “I’ll be impressed when you tell him to stay when he clearly doesn’t want to stay and there is no treat in sight.”

But let me be clear; none of this really bothers me… I kind of get a kick out of it.  I like having a dog around and their dynamic amuses me.  But yes, it can be a pain sometimes. 

Here’s a typical evening.

When I go to her place after work, they’re playing ball (or just finished) and then she makes dinner.  He gets his dinner when we eat ours.  Then he gets a bit of our dinner once we’re done.

After cleanup, it’s back outside for another ball game.

When done, Mommy comes in to sit down with me and have a drink.  Dog stands there peering intently at Mommy, not moving when she implores him to sit with us on the couch.  (He has his own area(s).)
The Beast in his spot.

He brings a toy over, not to hand over for tossing, but to be tugged on, or for us to chase him.  (That’s his favorite thing… to be chased around the room.)  She reaches for the toy, but he backs away, head cocked, still staring intently.

If we go back to what we were doing, talking amongst ourselves, then the vocalizing starts, usually with a grunt or two.  Then it becomes the long, tortured vowel movements where you’d think an alien is about to burst forth from his noble chest.  If there is still no response, (to his liking) the barking commences and that’s when The Beast gets in trouble.

Labs have a Big Dog bark.  Barking inside the house amplifies that into a nerve-jangling knife-edge.  Then either he goes in the crate for five minutes, (bad) or Sweetpea goes in her own room and shuts the door (worse).

The funny thing is that I think he’s barking because we already caught onto his other trick.  When I first came around, when he wasn’t getting attention and the vocalizing didn’t work, he’d go steal something of ours… usually something of mine.  My shoes, my slippers, Sweetpea’s glasses… one time he nosed into my overnight back and pulled out a folded pair of clean underwear, with which he ran around.

So now, when I come in, my shoes go in the closet, my clothes stay in the bag and I zip it up.  There’s not much left of ours for him to steal.

But that’s how smart he is… like, problem-solving smart.  We defeated one ploy so he created another.
The Beast, staring at Mommy while she gets dressed to go out and not play with him.

Remember when I wrote about how we got on well from the start?  That is literally because Sweetpea told him about me and he understood.  I don’t doubt that a bit.

It might sound like I’m just bitching about the dog… I’m really not.  I think the situation is hilarious (other than the barking).  And he’s just a product of his upbringing.  For years, it was just the two of them.  He had her undivided attention for most of the time she was home.  Who would give that up without a fight?  No rooster wants to see another rooster in the henhouse. 

The weekends have a different issue.  On weekdays, Sweetpea gets up around 5 AM for school.  So on weekends, she used to just do the same, out of habit.  Dogs don’t understand weekend sleep-ins, so he was raised to be ready for the day at 5:00. 

I, however, am not.  But we’ve gotten him to where he doesn’t come wake us up until 6-6:30, so that’s progress.  (OK, maybe not “us.”  Sweetpea gets up to tend to him and I fight for another hour’s sleep.)

We had a good time this weekend though.  I found out that he loves to watch horses.  He sat and watched the Kentucky Derby with us and rarely flinched from the screen.
Talk about a dog and pony show…

So now all we have to do is find some horse videos for him, or maybe subscribe to an OTB cable channel.  If we leave it on all night, we just might be able to sleep til’ 7:00!

Anyway, it’s been fun being around a dog again.  I know he’ll get used to me being around.  And I’ll get used to saving rib bones for him from work lunches.

I’ve seen what he can do to a big, thick bone.  I definitely want to stay on his good side.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Odd Bits - The "What Deficit?" Edition

I had this all teed up from last Wednesday before 45 even released his comprehensive 1-page tax reform plan.  An article in the Baltimore Sun caught my attention: 
Mitch showing how much tax relief the middle class can expect. 

I didn’t even have to read the article to get all wound up.  GOP leaders open to tax cuts?  No fuckin’ shit.  That’s their default position!

But this was back before they knew how skimpy and detail-free the president’s “plan” would be.  Not that it really mattered.  Republicans are still clinging to the illusion that tax cuts for the wealthy trickle down to the rest of us.

Senator Orrin Hatch said, “I’m not convinced that cutting taxes is necessarily going to blow a hole in the deficit.  I actually believe it could stimulate the economy and get the economy moving.”

Yes, and elephants “could” fly out of my butt, Orrin.  Anything “could” happen.  But experience and a long memory tell us that it won’t.  Where was all the trickle-down from the Bush tax cuts?  Or from the Reagan tax cuts.  Both led to massive recessions that had to be fixed by the succeeding Democratic administrations.

Also, as I repeatedly state, look at Kansas, who upon gaining the Republican nirvana of control of both state legislature and the governorship, unleashed massive tax cuts for businesses and the top earners, which immediately tanked their economy and triggered large budget cuts to essential services.  GOP wet dream, huh?

When they cut taxes for the upper echelon, the only things trickling down to the rest of us are the tears of laughter from the one-percenters, howling over how the voters bought their bullshit yet again.

The other thing is the ringing silence from the deficit hawks.  There’s no question that these proposed tax cuts are going to run up the deficit.

When Obama proposed, well, anything… from infrastructure fixes to foreign aid, or even hurricane relief, the Tea Baggers howled in protest, waxing dewy-eyed about the deficit and leaving our children a bill they can never pay off.

But put a white guy in office who wants to slash taxes for the wealthiest among us?  Crickets…
It just goes to show how hypocritical the Tea Party movement was, and how racist.  If they were genuinely concerned about the deficit, they would be pitching the same rallies now.  But they’re not.  And that’s how they’ll go down in history: a racist response to a black guy trying to spend “their” money.

Skipping the “Free” part in Freedom of Speech
I keep seeing complaints about how President Obama is getting paid $400k for a speech to investment banker, Cantor Fitzgerald.  Perhaps someone can explain to me why there was no protest of every other former president or politician making paid speeches. 

It’s the same shit again… it’s only wrong when Obama does it.  Republicans practically invented the former pol paid gig, but they want to criticize this guy. 

“I guess some people just don’t belong…”
I bet if Obama had turned down the speaking gig, the lead story on Fox "News" would be, "Obama refuses to speak to 9/11 survivors."*

Granted, Democrats are complaining too, but I don’t see the problem.  He’s the ex-president, with a capital EX.  What’s he going to do for Wall Street that the current administration isn’t?  It was under his watch that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created.  There’s nothing Wall Street would like more than for that to go away so they could go back to misleading their customers with fine print legalese.

*Cantor Fitzgerald was one of the companies decimated in the WTC collapse.

Draft Day
While I didn’t watch any of the NFL draft last weekend, I was keeping tabs on who the Steelers drafted.  I’m pleased with their top pick, TJ Watt, brother of NFL standout linebacker JJ Watt.  But to me, the best news was when I saw they drafted a wide receiver from USC named JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Now all they have to do is draft a guy named “Mojo” and I’ll never have to worry about what game jersey to wear.

As my dad pointed out, Myron Cope would have loved this guy.  Guaranteed, he never would have used his full name…  He’d be just JuJu for eternity.  In fact, I don’t think anyone in The Burgh is going to bother with the “Smith-Schuster” part. 

I just hope this guy’s shoulders are wide enough to fit all those letters on the back.

Hog Wild
Just to finish up on a happy note, did you see the story about how three ISIS guys were killed by, get this, a stampede of wild boars?

There’s only one reaction possible…

AHHHHHHHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA

I know bacon is supposed to kill you, but I always thought it took a while.
This wasn’t even good revenge for the pigs, either.  The ISIS don’t eat no piggins… I say if they wanted real revenge, they should have stampeded through a SEC tailgate party.

And this must have been one great final insult to those poor slobs… killed by the very things they revile. 

The only thing that would have made it better would be if the hogs were wearing bikinis.  Or were educated.