Monday, February 26, 2007

Catching Up

It's been a busy few weeks here at Pendragon Hold, our little acre of sand in North East Florida. Today was the first day of a two week "vacation" which will include surgery, terrace gardening, leaf raking, carting, piling, and shredding, pain, and my Bob-knows-what-numbered attempt at kicking the evil nicotine addiction that's been riding my back for over thirty years now. Stick with me here, this may take some explaining.........

I know I have been somewhat lax in my posting habits of late, but I have every excuse a guy could come up with, many not even made up. I HAVE attempted to keep up with my favorite blogs, but have failed in that miserably as well, as you might have noticed by a lack of comments from THE Michael. No, he's not dead, at least not yet. I have been working a few extra shifts at work, because they have needed the coverage due to piss-poor staffing, AND due to my enjoyment of the extra green stuff they rewarded me with for doing so. I'm no richer now than I was a month ago, but I didn't have to contemplate selling an organ to pay the mortgage, thank Bob. And yes, extra 12 hour shifts, at my age at least, are payed for dearly. THE Wife has had issues with mood and knee pain, which hopefully the magic of pharmaceuticals will help with, mood wise, and she will be having her surgery this Wednesday, for the purpose of digging around in there to find out how bad it's deteriorated due to working hard and bad arthritis. We are crossing our fingers and hoping like hell he can clean it out, shoot some more of that chicken feather based lubricant back in there and keep her going for a few more years before I have to learn to live with a six-million dollar wife. "We can make her better; we HAVE the technology.....". Yea, sure.

One of the nurses at work discovered the new prescription Chantix, which is a new pill developed to deal with weight loss but has a happy side effect of helping many people quite smoking. She's not had a cigarette for four weeks now and hasn't tried to kill me or anyone else so far. And, get this; INSURANCE covers IT! So, before they realize their error, I got MINE and will be starting the regimen tomorrow. I am supposed to stop inhaling in seven days after starting the program. That was about the time I found out I was allergic to ZYBAN last time I tried to quit. If I find out I'm allergic to THIS stuff, I'll KNOW that fate is picking on me. I won't be amused to visit the ER once again. The doc doesn't think I'm likely to have that happen with CHANTIX, so wish me luck.

This week I was able to purchase the final number of landscaping timbers necessary to finally complete the terrace/herb garden that's been under construction for something like five years now, and all that remains to be done is to shred about 37 metric tons of leaves to make garden compost soil with. Oh, and I will have to dig up some actual dirt (which in my case is actually sand) to mix with all that. This calls for manual labor. HARD manual labor. PAINFUL at night requiring hot baths and advil kind of labor. But, it's a labor of love, so that's OK.

So, between taking care of THE Wife post-surgery, working on this garden project, cleaning house (DOG HAIR), cooking the meals, cleaning house (MORE DOG HAIR), listening to THE Wife complaining about the pain, cleaning house, and all those other domestic duties I try like any good husband to avoid like the plague, I should be too busy to notice that I took two weeks off of work and didn't go anywhere and probably will be so glad to get back to work and RELAX, that I won't notice whatever nicotine fit this medication allows to filter through. I love my life, I really, really do!

In an honest effort to cater to our feathered friends without having to get medieval on the squirrels, we shelled out for a squirrel-proof bird feeder. So far it seems to be doing the trick, either that, or these little bushy-tailed rats haven't noticed the treasure-trove of seed inside of it. The longer they can't brainstorm a way into our bird seed fort knox, the longer they live.

I am hoping that THE Wife is given major painkillers which allow her in her drug induced haze not to notice that I am trying to keep up with my blog. By wife doesn't really like my blog. She thinks I love this blog more than I love her. Nothing could be further from the truth. But face it, this blog doesn't require paxil, I enjoy reaching out beyond my almost isolated existence, and no, I don't do this 5 hours a day, like she likes to think it does. So, the number of posts you witness from this one onward will be a good gauge on how well I cope with domestic bliss, post-surgery drama, and being dog tired from terrace garden maintenance, amongst other things.

Admit it, photoshop just can't compare to the real thing, now can it?

Speaking of photoshop, I have been stopping by a once favorite blog for a good read when I had the time when I noticed that a certain link was absent. It seems I have been held to blame for a certain amount of hurt feelings that I had nothing to do with. Well, fine. I have feelings to. My link list reflects the fact that two can play that silly game.

OK, THE Wife is home from a hard day's work, I've fed her, and I have to devote my attention to her, so I leave you with the above. I will keep you all informed as best I can, but remember, a wife has an amazing ability to keep her husband off a keyboard when she wants keep your fingers crossed.

And that's the latest from Pendragon Hold, where sand is plentiful, but beaches are far removed........

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Crashing to Earth, and why it needn't happen......

(Paul issued this challenge to me, which I accepted. Thanks, Paul.)

Picture the Hindenburg (Oh, the Huge Manatee!!!) catching fire and descending to the ground, only in extreme slow motion. THAT, my friends, pretty much describes our health care system, if you can really call it that. While more and more Americans lose any kind of affordable insurance, the cost of providing health care of any caliber continues to skyrocket. As the treatment centers of last resort, emergency rooms are being overwhelmed, as the uninsured and those who don't understand what a medical emergency really is tax a system that threatens to melt down under the strain. In the ultimate paradox of the 21st century, the most advanced nation on this Earth in terms of medical technology isn't able to provide the most basic health care in a rational and cost effective manner to a large and growing segment of it's population.

I could be wrong about this since I THINK I heard this on the news or in some article, and please point it out if that's true, but there are only two nations on Earth that do not provide SOME level of state sponsored universal health care, those two being the United States, and Australia. The only two. Maybe they didn't include Somalia in this study, but perhaps that's because Somalia hasn't even had a government for some time now. If this IS a fact, it's a sad, and totally illogical fact.

Anyway, the monkeywrenchs stuck in the gears here are so glaringly obvious, I can't understand why they haven't been dealt with long before now. The first and worst fubar that's making all this possible is this long-held delusion that the free-market and health care can possibly have any relationship to each other, unless you are deliberately dreaming up a guaranteed way to bring down that zeppelin. Can you imagine what would happen if we turned over the entire government to Haliburton to run for us? Yea, that's right, Senators and Congressmen dragging down obscene CEO salaries while services are cut left and right in the name of "efficiency". Forget being poor, you wouldn't live long enough to file your tax return.

When operated on a non-profit basis, a hospital is adhering to the principle that you try and control your costs within reason, you charge what is necessary to deliver that care in the best manner possible, and tack on enough profit to maintain your infrastructure while upgrading your services as needed. You don't throw money at executives just to do their job, and yes, they are EXPECTED to earn what they do get. You don't concern yourself with stockholders, because patients and those who are charged with delivering healthcare to those patients ARE the stockholders, and they are not there to get rich, they are there because they are needed, and are paid a decent wage to do their jobs. Unfortunately, we here in the United States think EVERYTHING is a tree ripe for the picking, and thus you have "for-profit" hospital chains attempting to reward stockholders and greedy executives while at the same time understaffing their hospitals and refusing to use what profits they do generate to enhance their ability to do what they are mandated to do. Meantime, the insurance companies are balking at paying even what it honestly costs to deliver these services without hiking up the rates for their policies, so determined are they to suck out their share of the loot for the benefit of THEIR stockholders, becoming nothing but money sucking middlemen who skim off profits while making the problem worse. Yes, there are certain services within our society that can clearly benefit from competitive free enterprise, such as package delivery and other such straight-forward services, but health care is a much more complex monster that does not fit that model. Capitalism requires big losers outnumbering winners. In health care, that is the worst kind of model you should be wishing to embrace.

It has already been proven by economists in study after study that the Federal Social Security and Medicare system has been able to deliver it's services much more efficiently and at far less cost than any private enterprise could hope to match, since it deals directly with the consumer without having to pay delivery ransom to some middle man. The shortest distance between two points, even in capitalism, is a straight line uninterrupted by middle men serving no other purpose than to add bottlenecks and suck out more money from the stream.

Another major problem we face in this country is this sense of entitlement and unrealistic expectations that the health care system has created by being as good as it has been in extending lives, without a corresponding increase in the QUALITY of those lives. We have also used this system to interfere with nature's mechanism of strengthening our gene pool by weeding out the weak and non-productive amongst us. People who a hundred years ago would not be expected to live long enough to pass along those damaged genes are now living and reproducing and creating a whole new breed of human that otherwise would never have survived to place such strains on the rest of us. We value life so much, yet we seem blind to the horrible quality of life that we promote by extending life at all costs. We can't even seem to accept that some people simply are not designed to live to be a hundred, and go to great lengths to keep people alive no matter how horrible and empty that life might become when we warehouse them in nursing homes and tend to our guilt by periodic visits to these people who were once such vital forces in our lives, but whom we refuse to grant the dignity of a good death when their own personal physiology's say it's time to go. This only drains more money from the effort to keep the rest of us healthy in the face of injuries, disease, and more easily dealt with infirmities. It's no wonder that the more "primitive" a society is in relation to us, the hardier it's stock seems to be. How many of OUR women squat down in their cubicles, have their babies, and go back to work after cutting the cord? I don't suggest it's a good idea to promote that kind of maternity, but that's just how tough it is in some societies and humans there are built to deal with it when necessary.

We also have a pharmaceutical industry, in all it's free-market glory, that focuses most of it's energy on developing drugs that MANAGE disease rather than CURE it. There is no profit in curing a disease, but there is plenty of profit in keeping the sufferer of that disease alive as long as possible, paying for those drugs forever. What is the ratio of cure versus management type drugs in the last forty years? Do we need a study to point out the obvious? Imagine the Federal government taking over this job, rewarding bonuses to research teams who actually produce drugs that benefit consumers more than they do a drug company.......can ya wrap you head around THAT? Imagine getting a drug for diabetes or heart disease for slightly over what it costs to produce, rather than what it costs some drug company CEO to buy a new yacht. Yea, I know, I must be some pinko commie just to even imagine it.

Despite the complexity of modern health care, there are remarkably simple and straight forward fixes that can be applied, but probably won't because it would remove the profit motive and we simply can't have that can we? Here are my ideas (which I will not take credit for in their originality) that won't make it very far, due to their logic and the incredible PAIN it would inflict on such an entitled populace which wants all the rights but none of the responsibilities.......

Universal health care delivered straight from the Federal government much like Social Security and Medicare, taking the premiums straight out of everybody's paychecks just like the rest of all those terrible taxes, based on income level, of course. Based on the claim that the larger the "group", the more affordable it is to cover them, well, what "group" is larger than all of America?

Nationalize all hospitals, using the VA hospital model. Pay physicians handsome, but not outrageous, salaries based on their time in service, their expertise, and their ability to deliver quality care to their patients, rather than how many lippo-suctions they can get out the door in one half-day. Pay bonuses according to specialties and how onerous it is to become proficient in them. We also have to take into account how much sacrifice most physicians pay in their training years and in their day to day lives when they have to be available to their patients at all hours of the day and night. As far as bad doctors go, remove any incentive from the system for any one physician to protect another from bad practice. Shared peer responsibility can go far in weeding out bad doctors, before the civil and criminal law needs to step in and intervene, after the damage has been done.

Provide for another level of national service on par with military service. Pay for the nursing school tuition of those who wish to serve as nursing assistants in national hospitals for four years. If at the end of those four years they have decided they weren't cut out to be nurses or some other allied health occupation, they can be given tuition for any four year degree, but they will have provided a much needed service to this country in the meantime, and didn't have to pick up a rifle in order to serve their country.

Provide for doctor's training in the same model.

Finally come to grips with our growing epidemic of obesity and other self-inflicted ailments which are placing such an inordinate strain on our system. I really don't see any inalienable right to gain 400 pounds and expect the rest of us to deal with it. Everybody should be required to have a yearly physical in order to be covered for health care, and those who are gaining weight should be required to control that weight, through diet, exercise, and whatever medical intervention should prove to be necessary. Showing up with a hundred extra pounds over what your frame should be bearing should get you a ticket straight to a Federal "Fat Camp", where you are treated for your eating disorder or whatever metabolic problem that might be causing it. If you think this is some onerous attack on your personal freedoms, fine, keep stuffing your face or refusing to deal with your problem even though you are offered help in dealing with it, and you can forget getting any kind of health care unless you also happen to be rich and can fly to mexico for your next heart attack. I for one am tired of the unproportionate effects you are having on heath care overall, and I have an equal right not to have to pay for it.

Yes, other countries bit the bullet long ago and nationalized their health care systems, and yes, some of them have had to rely on some degree of rational rationing, and there are always going to be complaints, yet you do not see those same countries rushing to copy this messed-up system we are laboring under. I agree that we are better off in many areas of our lives utilizing free markets to provide us with products and services, but health care is not a product or a service that can prosper under a free-market system. Like I have said, capitalism cannot really function without two extremes, winners, and losers. If we are really the caring people we claim to be, then we should not be proud of making a buck at the expense of the basic health needs our our fellow citizens.

There are probably many other sane and rational approaches we can use to address the growing problems we have with health care in this wonderful country of ours, but I sincerely doubt that those answers will be found under the guise of the free-enterprise system. Yes, you can buy an hour's worth of time with a prostitute, but it's not love you're buying. All we really need right now is love, my friends. All we need is LOVE. Even if it includes TOUGH love.........

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Return of THE Michael

I'm sort of in a funk, post wise. It's not that nothing at all is happening or that I don't have an opinion concerning things that invoke opinions, none of which ever seem to solve something or settle an argument once and for all (like global warming, which,incredibly, is still being considered an "argument" in some people's minds, or should I say, chunks of grey matter that seem to have no apparent function). So, bear with me here while I attempt to leave you with something to contemplate, rather than supply you with a resolve to never, ever visit this blog again and be subjected to a chain of words that never seem to lead anywhere (but, I assure you, they do. They lead, eventually, to the end of this post.).

There's not a hell of alot of advantage to being almost poor, except that this year, I was able to file my taxes online for free. I didn't have to buy a tax program, hire someone to read complicated tax codes and translate them into something usable, nor did I have to go to the post office and bring home more paper to burn once I was through with about 10% of it. If you scroll through the list of approved online tax preparers on the IRS site, you eventually come across one who will let you, provided of course, that you live in the right state, aren't to young or too old, make too much money, or are an avowed communist, to file your taxes right there on the screen and then have it deposited right into your checking account. They promise you that you should get your money within no more than two weeks, but I got mine within the week. Cool! Then I watched all that beautiful stuff disappear as I paid my property taxes and trash pickup fee with it. I DID have a little left over, which I hope to get some landscape timbers to finally finish off our terraced herb garden, which has been under construction for something like four years. It's not enough to deal with my poor defunct septic system, but that's OK, because I am firmly convinced that somewhere below the ground there, a strange confluence of events have occurred that somehow initiated the world's first cold fusion reaction. What else could explain where all this shit is going? hehe Now all that remains is to figure out how to harness the enormous energy this impromptu fusion reactor must be putting out..........

If you own a computer (well, of course you do, you're reading this blog!) and a printer, you know well how expensive these damn ink cartridges are. Get yourself one of those refill kits and refill those cartridges yourself. It's not rocket science and you'll save a ton of money. Unless you own an Epson printer, of course, in which case you're screwed. You CAN refill em if you pay extra for a "chip resetter", but that can be dicey, so since I wanted a scanner/printer/copier combo machine anyway, I found a not-so-expensive one from HP and it works great, refilled cartridges and all. I just can't seem to get those $20 bills to come out right........

Meanwhile, over at Freedom's Place, it's been a roaring free-for-all, having survived it's first civil war with minimal casualties. I'm rather proud of this thing I have created, as well as those hardy souls who have dove head first into it and made it a lively example of creativity and free expression. Thank you all so much for your support and participation. Does anyone know of any Rastafarians, Japanese Buddhists, air traffic controllers, or Muslims on Prozac that might care to join us? Just let me know.........

Anna Nicole.........nevermind.......already over that..........

NASA has proven once again that their people are indeed made of the right stuff. Using mission planning techniques that rival those that put Man on the Moon, an astronaut of the female persuasion has demonstrated that hormones are an untapped resource that could very well get us to Mars, provided of course we have an adequate supply of pampers.

We bought ourselves a couple of cool bumper stickers for the car, one that says "BLESSED BE", the other, "WHERE THERE'S A WITCH, THERE'S A WAY". A car with Virginia license plates honked at me on the road today, and at the stop light, the lady driver rolled down her window and yelled at me, no, not "Burn in Hell!", but rather, "Thank You!". I smiled and yelled back, "You're welcome!" That's certainly a refreshing alternative to road rage, doncha think?

We have two people at work that I am really worried about. One is a nurse whom I have worked with for quite a number of years now, and the other a young man, a fellow PCT, who is funny as hell and full of life. They are both Army Reservists, and they are slated to be mobilized to Iraq come 2008. I love and care about both of them. Please, Congress, put a brake on this juggernaut once and for all and don't take these two fine individuals from us.

Speaking of nurses and PCT's, we have had a shortage of both in the CCU where I work, since the company the owns us went "private" and started penny pinching, putting a hiring freeze on in the middle of a growing census that we are having a hard time keeping up with. The ER has been filled to overflowing almost every other day, there are only 16 beds in my unit and they are always full, and the hospital is already in desperate need or more beds to handle the influx of sick and old people. More and more often I am having to work the unit alone without any help and it can get wearing, especially since I have been trying to schedule extra shifts to help out. The money is sure nice, but it sure seems expensive when I come home exhausted.

Next Morning......

Sorry, I didn't get this out last night; it didn't seem finished. Which leads me to upcoming Valentine's day.....what do you get a witch for Valentines? Hmmmm.......a chocolate voodoo doll? A pair of fuzzy dice for her broom? How about a nice little nothing I'd like for her to almost wear? (wait, that's for ME.......grin) Maybe some chocolate covered strawberries and some bubbly stuff........and a nice, husband cooked dinner, candles and all. Yea, THAT's the ticket.

OK, let me wrap this up and post it. Sorry if it seems I'm slacking lately, I'll try to be brilliantly creative and post amazing things more often for your reading pleasure. It's the least I can do for my adoring fans. Yes, I actually said that. Me bad.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Do Flat Fish really Flounder?

I suppose everybody has been wondering what in the hell happened to THE Michael......or rather, "what happened to WHO?" Either way, I have a good excuse. Notice I said excuse and not explanation. Back in my Navy days, every time I tried to supply an explanation for whatever it was I did or didn't do that wasn't up to standards, I was informed that no matter how valid my reasoning was, the proper definition of anything I could come up with was EXCUSE. Sigh.......eventually the consensus is arrived at that you had to have been smoking pot and screwing your own mother, instead of frantically trying to find an alternate flight back to base after yours had been cancelled, to no avail. Makes you WISH you'd done that instead.

Anyway, having digressed, I first got distracted by a little brush fire that erupted suddenly over at Freedom's Place. It was a test that we all aced admirably, or failed miserably, depending on your point of view, unless you are like me, who recognized it as a FUBAR just waiting to happen, yet would prove to be an illuminating experience for all of us who thought they knew exactly what freedom of speech was all about. I hope we learned something, I know I did. In the end we lost a very talented blogger, although I must admit that he was a reluctant participant from the very beginning, who will prosper regardless safe in the bosom of his own personal forum. I wish him the best.

Back here in Pendragon Hold, well, it's been weird. For once, our annual battle with the IRS finally came out in our favor, and we will be getting back at least enough to pay our property taxes and this new EXPLETIVE trash pickup fee we have been forced to pay despite overwhelming opposition to the plan by the citizens of this county. I can only hope we do to THOSE bastards what the American people did to the Republicans this time around.

Then, as though getting our clocks cleaned by multiple hurricanes a couple of years ago wasn't tragedy enough, a cute little storm snuck into central Florida and almost wiped quite a few communities off the face of the Earth. We've had our share of tornadoes before, but this time they had a field day with us. Please keep them in your prayers, it was really bad and their were alot of tragic deaths.

THE Wife's knee, the bad one, having last year received a series of injections of that stuff made of chicken feathers to keep it lubricated, started hurting again, so it was back to the orthopedic guy for another lube job. The first one was only promised to last perhaps six months, and it's been a year, so it was a pretty good temporary fix, but he ordered up an MRI to get a closer look, and the results weren't pretty. Her arthritis is pretty bad and he's going to have to go in and clean it out before trying the lube job again. My worst fear is that she's going to have to finally get that knee replacement that's been in the works for so long now. She damaged that knee when she was fairly young and it's rather amazing it's lasted this long.

I'm equally worried about my good friend and canine wonder Shiloh. His hip problem has really been bothering him to such a degree that he's nibbled the hair right off the spot right in front of his tail on his back. It sorta looks like a reverse mohawk. I treat him with liquid advil whenever he seems to be suffering the most, but there's not much else I can do. Sigh.

The winter that finally decided to show up here in America has been taking an occasional dip down into the South here and we have been having some faux cold days, even a couple of light freezes. The deep freeze that has the East in it's grips now will probably provide another excuse for the oil companies to jack up the price of gas again. This is against the obvious fact that this winter has so far been extremely mild and hasn't taxed the reserves at all. But then, since when has Exxon-Mobil needed any logical reason to suck even more mullah out of our pockets after posting the largest profits ever stolen from customers in history? Can we just go kill them all now? It would make us all feel SO much better.......

One of my coworkers has been taking a new quit-smoking medication and after three weeks seems to be doing pretty good. What's got ME excited though is that it seems that for some strange reason, our insurance actually covers this medication, so I'm going to be visiting the Doc to make sure I'm not likely to be allergic to THIS opportunity to finally free myself from the grips of this EXPLETIVE addiction. Wish me luck, OK?

If things would just slow down around here I'll try to get back to my normal posting pattern, and I really am trying to keep up with your blogs as well. As for Freedom's place, well, I am still trying to figure out if I created a monster that needs to be put out of it's misery or given another chance to live up to it's potential. It's sucks being being the administrator sometimes; you're damned if you do, damned if you don't, or the dam just breaks anyway and all you're left with is a bunch of pissed off beavers.

(THIS JUST IN: Seems our director of graffiti and cultural affairs has decided to leave our ranks as well, having decided we that we don't walk the walk as well as we talk the talk. She provides her reasoning, as did Tim, back at her own blog. I suggest you go visit, and give her outlook the airing it deserves.)