Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Racing to the bright future

I've got my sunglasses and my tickets out of the country.

With China and India racing to see who will be the new 21st century superpower to compete with the United States I sometimes just think it would be better for them just to sit on the sidelines and laugh as this country falls apart. With the media seemingly far more concerned with celebrity interviews, the latest escapades of OJ Simpson, Brittany Spears driving without a license, and who has an expensive haircut while civil liberties are tossed into a waste basket. Along with the stuttering fool living in the White House posing with Middle East leaders trying to play world leader and having something in the history books other than causing death and destruction there yet more signs point to the collapse of an already strained educational system. Some small Mexican village is still my idea to expatriate to but I've become interested in New Zealand now and finding some small town on the southern island there.

AIKEN, SC (WIS) - Authorities say a bank teller in Clearwater had a million reasons not to open an account for an Augusta, Georgia, man.
Aiken County Sheriff's spokesman Lieutenant Michael Frank says 31-year-old Alexander D. Smith tried to open an account Monday with a fake $1 million bill.
Franks says the employee refused to open the account and called police while the man started to curse at bank workers.
Frank says Smith has been charged with disorderly conduct and two counts of forgery.
Authorities say the federal government has never printed a million-dollar bill.
The largest denomination of currency ever printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) was the $100,000 Series 1934 Gold Certificate featuring the portrait of President Wilson.
Those notes were printed from December 18, 1934 through January 9, 1935 and were issued by the Treasurer of the United States to Federal Reserve Banks only against an equal amount of gold bullion held by the Treasury Department.
The notes were used only for official transactions between Federal Reserve Banks and were not circulated among the general public.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Saying Goodbye

As they say about life “it never just rains but pours. I just returned home from spending the better part of the weekend up in a North Carolina hospital saying goodbye to by mother. She is once again on a ventilator without any response to any stimulus to the outside world and has been that way for about two weeks. The decision has been made that if she does not show any improvement by Tuesday morning the doctors have recommended, and my brothers, sister and I have agreed, that she should be removed from the ventilator and allow nature to take its course. A few who read my previous blog may remember that she was in a similar situation last year and that the doctors caring for her then had told my siblings to call the family together because they gave her only a few days to live. But just for the sake of clarity I will back up and fill those who might not know in.

My mother’s habits literally for decades were the worst possible behavior one could pursue. All jokes aside the self destructive behavior she wallowed in during the 70’s after the divorce from my dad marked my siblings and I very badly and it took us years to come to terms with the her baggage and its effects on us. But situations never are stagnate and several factors reined in the worst, but not all, aspects of her behavior as the years went by. But the damage was done and has now finally come to the forefront. Due to a progressively worsening heart condition a defibrillator was implanted in her chest about eighteen months ago to try and control her erratic heartbeat. Her doctor then, repeating something she had been told since the mid-80’s, said never again should she smoke another cigarette. And for a few months I believe she obeyed her doctors. Around October of last year her condition started to worsen considerably forcing her to move in with my brother Joe Cool and his wife on a semi-permanent basis with only brief visits to her house where most of her stuff was still located. Around the first of November last year her defibrillator started going off several times a day with her being admitted to the local hospital and soon finding herself in intensive care and on a ventilator. Treatment for her heart was severely hampered by the emphysema she had developed from smoking since her 20's. Drugs that treated one illness were hurt by drugs given for the other. It was on a late Sunday afternoon last year as I was getting ready to take the kids back home that the doctor came up to tell us that despite their best efforts he expected her to only survive a few more hours. As I drove home I fully expected to have to turn around and return. Happily and ever so slowly her condition improved to the point that she was able to leave the hospital a few months later. But not before my siblings and I spent considerable time and money trying to many sense of her financial situation. And not before finding a receipt for a partially empty carton of cigarettes that were bought just about the same time her medical condition fell apart. A major blessing about my mother’s recovery that I can’t leave out was the fact that we would not have to hide her passing from my grandmother whose health was worsen even then leading to her passing in early 2007.

Adding insult to injury after she returned to Joe Cool’s house and care her ill-rational behavior reemerged forcing my mother to move into Uncle George’s house down in Georgetown after Mrs. Cool had done everything she could to make my mother comfortable and welcome. As the months went by mother’s condition improved to the point she returned to her own house and with the aid of her home computer actually resumed her medical transcription job. Her leaving Uncle George’s house was not something approved of by the family or her doctors but she refused to listen and like many times in the past she went her own way. All that changed four months ago after she fainted at home due to her heart condition and was rushed back to the hospital where she stayed until about a month ago when she was admitted to a nice nursing home in North Carolina. The doctors had warned my mother that her reprieve from what she went through last year was something that could disappear in an instant. About two weeks ago she was returned to a hospital and quickly was back on a ventilator after her heart stopped but was restarted.

Her condition is even direr than what happen last year and she has not been awake since the day she was admitted. The scores of men and women that have taken care of my mother since last year have been the best to her and every member of the family. Given her condition this time I hold no hope for another miracle and have made my peace. My concerns are with my sister’s children who are far closer to my mother than mine. Joe Cool who took the lead in getting her affairs in order since this roller coaster began and is not as strong as he likes people to think. And strangely enough my mother-in-law who herself is even now in the hospital recovering from a knee replacement. They had struck up a friendship when Dragonwife and I were married and have maintain it even though my mother has been a far poorer friend to my mother-in-law in many ways. You might ask why and I writing all this? I have no real idea since many quite frankly do not want to know all the dirty details of their own family much less someone only known over the internet. My whole reason for even beginning to blog was just to blow off steam and maybe under the rarest of conditions bring a laugh to some far flung soul. About the only thing that comes to mind for my little mental meanderings tonight was to tell people that even in the closest families expecting someone else to organize their affairs in the event of illness or disease is asking too much. The legal loops alone we have jumped through have been many, and that’s with my attorney wife taking care of many things. I’m tired and calling it a night. More than likely I will not be around much the coming days, even though I may drop in just to get this stuff off my mind, and hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Just another boring Halloween

Miss Wiggles was the first to notice the Halloween stuff on the shelves at one of the stores in our area. She and I were in a drug store picking up a prescription for Dragonwife who was home nursing a late summer pollen induced migraine. We were leaving the store when she broke away from me and ran over to the aisle where all the cute little customs of ghouls, vampires, demons, and maniac axe murderers had been setup to play with the highly overpriced, cheaply made, Chinese imports that stood a good probability of containing toxic amounts of lead. I set aside the ever present unanswered question of how in the world was it economically viable to produce and ship such trivial items across the Pacific so I could make sure Wiggles didn’t reduce the aisle to anymore chaos than it already had been done to it by previous other rugrats before her. As we checked out the various ghoulish toys I saw no reason to stop her from playing with the three foot tall dancing mummy figure as it twisted to the beat of “Monster Mash” but I must admit the thought crossed my mind that simulated blood soaked wrappings around the mummy’s mouth, I guess suggesting the mummy had a taste for human fresh, was a not something that would usual inspire a fit of giggles from my daughter. A tongue-and-cheek scary SpongeBob Squarepants episode will have her running to us for protection from whatever might be trying to scare the undersea inhabitants of Bikini Bottom. I let her play a while longer with several other items but finally had to tear her away so we could get home. Forcing her to put down the blood stain hatchet caused quite the stir, especially when she tried to bury it in my head Lizzy Borden style. Once we were in the car I did have to explain to her that Halloween was still a good while off since it was just the first week of September. I tried not to think how she might act in other stores as we got deeper into the Silly Season on the way to Christmas with all the glitz and hyper-commercialism.

For Miss Wiggles the days counted down far too slowly till Halloween. Just the thought of an almost unlimited amount of candy being given to her was enough to inspire a pseudo-sugar rush on its own. But the day did arrive and after a speedy dinner she donned the fairy custom. She and Dragonwife had picked it out several weeks prior from her extensive collection of princesses, fairies, and pixies collection of customs. Now I have to add that I saw, and still see, no difference between the appearance of a fairy and that of a pixie. But I have long since given up raising any question of the subject since I get looks questioning my basic common sense and intelligence from Dragonwife and Wiggles over the subject and see no need to make the matter worse. But much to my surprise, which it shouldn’t have been, right before we are about to walk out the house Dragonwife yells out asking Wiggles if she wanted to wear a different custom. And, of course, the answer Wiggles gave was yes so I spent twenty minutes waiting while Dragonwife and Wiggles went back into the huge mass of customs and assorted accessories trying things on only to walk back out wearing the same thing she had on before. Once again I kept quiet knowing the look I would receive if I raised any question. But I swear to God in heaven that if I ever find myself with them while they are shopping I will just find the nearest bar and start drinking until they come back for me. If they have to carry me out, well that’s the price of me being trapped in a situation I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

The neighborhood we live in is rather small with few kids the same age as my children but it was flooded with imported kids and parents trying to maximize the candy booty and keep the local dentist special interest group fully employed. People talk about a military/industrial complex, hell that’s nothing to the apparent candy confection/ADA complex and their blatant axis of evil promoting dental decay so they can keep themselves in Benz’s and mansions. My children’s dentists, hiding behind his friendly and caring behavior is just as bad as Saddam and laughs at the end of the day as he drives off to his 5000 square foot house on the lake.

Not long after that we walked through the streets as Wiggles pursued her sugary crack with complete abandon. We easily passed several clusters of people walking their own tiny costumed tykes around trying to keep up with them. By this time darkness had completely fallen and the various groups around us seemed to emerge and disappear out of the darkness silently and quickly with only the footfalls of little feet making way to another front porch. At one front porch Wiggles was engaged in conversation with the lady of the house being told, for what might be the fifty millionths time, how cute and pretty she was when I heard the footfalls of several more costumed monsters approaching. The newly arrived rugrats turned out to have a couple of Wiggles’ kindergarten classmates to which precipitated a brief but exuberant reunion and our joining them on what remained of our rounds in the neighborhood. I must admit to a slight frustration with Wiggles at this point. The couple running herd on the four kids Wiggles had volunteered us to join were nice people but I just was not interested in running with them. They were from outside the neighborhood and had just begun their rounds but the main reason was that earlier the gorgeous blonde neighborhood divorcee had caught up with us, she with her niece, and acted like she wanted Wiggles and her niece to get to know each other. I was more than willing for the two to become friends for no other reason than to silently entertain erotic fantasies with said neighbor as we escorted and developed the budding camaraderie between the two young girls. But Wiggles did not want to go the same way they were walking and put up enough of a fight that I did not want to have a scene in the middle of the street. So the blond divorcee and her niece disappeared into the night and I ended up walking around with the nice but very chatty couple. My disappointment was soon abated and it wasn’t long before I was beginning to enjoy their company.

We were soon laughing our butts off about a whole host of different subjects, namely the antics of our children and their crazed behavior in pursuit of free candy. The tone from my companions clearly had them believing that adults would never act in such a childish manner so I carefully avoided mentioning how some adults act at major sporting events or when crazed movie fans see their current hot movie or television idol. How might I have known that the couple I was walking with might have been offended by pointing that little matter out? The husband was wearing University of South Carolina Gamecocks cloths from the hat on his head to the university colors on his shoelaces. His wife was wearing a sweatshirt that exclaimed she wanted to have Brad Pitt’s baby in rather colorful terms that I sure would have had Angelina Jolie out to kick her ass. As our attention returned to the children we were somewhat surprised to find Wiggles and the four other kids spread underneath a street light with all their candy on the ground. What was going on was a kindergarten age commodities market as the kids wheeled and dealed candy they wanted versus what they didn’t want. It was getting rather late by this time and after giving the young Trumps, Bloombergs, and Buffetts (Warren, not Jimmy) time to complete their deals and then we collected our young ones and made our way home.

You would think the adventures for Halloween would be over by now, but that would not be the case. Dragonwife had been doling out the candy since the little scurrying ghouls had started coming to the door before sunset. So by now as Wiggles and I returned her attention span was past exhaustion and her desire to be doing something else was pretty extreme. Upon our arrival home she had pretty much tossed the candy bowl to me and ran off to have a shower and “collect her thoughts”. Wiggles marched off to have a bath still grumpy about how one part of her candy dealings fell through. I set myself on the couch with a well earned Corona to greet the dwindling number of candy beggars while watching a Scrubs rerun. Several groups came and went with little beyond me making a big deal over the various customs being worn by some of the younger children wanting to give them a warm welcome. Sometime during the second episode of Scrubs I was about to turn off the porch light and pop the top on my third or fourth beer when the door bell rang again. JD, the main character of the show, being as zany as usual was doing his best to sabotage yet another relationship with some gorgeous babe while making deep meaningful comments about the human condition. I tore myself away from the show after the second ding dong of the doorbell expecting one last grouping of tiny tots looking for the sugar handout. What I got after opening the door almost had me drop my beer and that is something I never do. I didn’t find young children standing at my door with a mom or dad in the background watching over them. What I got was a girl at least high school and more than likely older in a very sexy, low cut witches custom nicely showing off her upper and lower physical assets. Beside her was a guy dressed in a very detailed and apparently expensive vampire custom complete with bloody vampire teeth. His most striking feature was at least a three day growth of beard that placed him the same age as the girl. Behind them was a Captain Jack Sparrow and much to my surprise was another girl dressed in a Hooters waitress custom more than ready to assume the actual duties at that much maligned establishment. The sexy vixen witch walked up to me and in a low sultry voice that had turned me to putty in a microsecond said “trick or treat”. Despite the fact that the three others in the group broke out into intense laughter, at my expense, I was still ready to give the witch and her pseudo-waitress companion anything they wanted in the house short of my children. Even though I was puzzled about the over aged visitors at my doorstep I was able to collect a couple of meager wisps of thought and found the means to ask them about their choice of holiday activities. They turned out to be students at the local community college, and yes the vampire and witch were in a relationship as were Captain Jack and the very lovely waitress that was not as friendly as the other three. They had done the party thing earlier and on a whim decided to relive their youth by going trick of treating. The college kids and I actually got into a conversation on my porch even after I had handed out the rest of the candy to them. After Captain Jack only half jokingly asked for one of my beers it was my turn to get a laugh at their expense. The fact that my eyes kept drifting back to the ladies seemed not to bother them of their boyfriends. I found them funny and smart with all four having real plans for their lives. They were not caught up the over ambitious career craziness many their age develop trying to make their first million by twenty-five. They all expressed a desire to enjoy life rather than be a slave to a mortgage, two fancy cars, and 401K. I’m sure Dragonwife would have been appalled with their attitude and would have tried to lecture them to mend their ways. I watched them; some more than others, walk away into the dark. By this time Scrubs had gone off and John Stewart was on now explaining some facet of strange right-wing behavior. Dragonwife came into the room soon after all fresh and clean and asked if anything exciting happened after she left. I told her no, just another boring Halloween and took a sip of my beer.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Rare Honor

It was a warm sunny afternoon recently as Dragonwife and I walked up to the park shelter where one of the little girls that my daughter attends daycare with was having her birthday party. Miss Wiggles, my daughter, had already ran ahead and joined the gaggle of other four and five year old little girls playing in a sprinkler. Dragonwife and I introduced ourselves to the birthday girl's parents and took a seat at one of the picnic tables under the shelter. After the cake, ice cream, and presents were opened the girls ran off to play and the parents, while watching the kids, were able to kick back some and really talk. Dragonwife was in deep conversation with another mom and I looked up to see this old gentleman standing before me and introducing himself.

He was the great grandfather of the birthday girl and he wanted to tell me how cute my daughter was and how much she looked like a little girl he had tried to take a picture of in China during World War Two. He went on to tell me that he had served in the Air Corp and had first arrived in that theater at Bombay, India. He was an enlisted man serving as a gunner and radio operator on a B-25 bomber. He told me how his unit worked their way up to the Himalaya mountains in military vehicles not really made to operate at such a high altitude, breakdowns were common. But that the officers got fly over the mountains, or "the hump" as he called it, rank had its privileges just as much back then. The enlisted personnel had to drive over them in a convoy which was a logistical nightmare resulting in some issues that endangered the mission after they made it to the location were a base was being setup. The trip over took every ounce of strength he and the other members of his unit had to make it over the mountains. The cold, lack of sleep, and food were issues that not many people these days could handle. But his unit did and went on to run operations against the Japanese deep inside Chinese territory. As a very sad expression came over his face he told me about a little orphan boy his unit had taken in while there and how they had to turn him over to an orphanage after the war ended. I could tell leaving the little boy behind had deeply affected him. When the war ended he and many others went to Shanghai to catch a Liberty ship to come back home. Given what I have read about those hastily constructed tubs sailing back to the states in a Liberty ship was probably an adventure all by itself. We are not talking about a Carnival Cruise ship in any way. But due to sickness he ended up staying sixty days in Honolulu to recover. While recovering he did have a lot of free time and that even in 1945 the beach where Diamond Head is visible was still mostly green vegetation and not the gray concrete of high rise resorts. Before I could even open my mouth he said that seeing pictures of the same place now makes him sad because it truly is a paradise lost because of the over development. His voyage onward to San Francisco was again on a slow Liberty ship which made him wonder why he left Hawaii while crossing the rest of the Pacific. His voyage concluded as he stood on the top deck of the ship and watched as he passed underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. He was lucky that he got a chance to fly the rest of the way home and how he spent the next few years getting married and starting a family.

I could tell that there was a strength to this man that is missing from a lot of people in this country these days. Growing up during the Depression and then having to fight in some of the worst conditions a person could find himself. Don't believe me? Try going from a flat, low altitude area and then go for a short run in say Colorado Springs like I did after just a few days there from my time serving in the army at Fort Carson. That short run felt like it would kill me, and that was just close to the Rocky mountains. His unit had to drive over the Himalaya mountains.

I could have listened to him far longer but the party ended and his lovely wife was ready to go home. It was a true honor to meet that man and hear his stories about a world and a people that are long gone.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Tiny fighters and miracle workers

This past weekend I came in late Saturday night to help with the daylight savings change over on the various clocks in the hospital. The facility I work at was originally built in the mid-70's and has grown, like most hospitals, ever since and timekeeping is on a hodgepodge of different systems. Each time keeping system has it own characteristics and behaviors and at the very least has to be monitored to make sure they adjust themselves correctly during the Fall and Spring change overs. In a more recently constructed hospital all or at least most the clocks will probably be linked to one central time keeping computer which even given Congress's attempt to save fuel by manipulating day light hours would adjust all the clocks accordingly right at the appointed time with only some guy in IT watching.

Despite the fact that I've been working here for two years there are still many places in this facility I have yet to travel. My sterilizers, surgical tables, surgical lights, and the occasional simple X-ray room repair keeps me pretty restricted to just a few floors. So after meeting the late night changeover group in the basement the various two man teams struck out to complete the mission. My teammate, who I will call Captain Flash and as far as I was concerned the leader of our team because of his greater seniority, and I went straight up to the floors he was most familiar with to work with some of the more fussy clock systems just to have them done. As Murphy Law would have it that system's main computer for some reason only it would understand decided it would have nothing to do with the changeover forcing us to walk through and manually change the time. One of the departments on the disagreeable system in which we had to walk through was neo-natal intensive care unit. Walking into the first of three wards of that department frankly astounded me. It, along with the other two, had an almost cathedral-like ceiling rising at least twenty to thirty feet up with a huge rough triangle-shaped window at the top. Accompanying the cathedral-like look of the ward was a reverent silence that I'm sure remains during the hustle of a normal work day. Incubators looking like something from the far future lined the walls on either side each with a display screen mounted nearby showing the vitals of the infants inside. Both Flash and I knew we needed to make the times changes and leave as quickly and quietly as possible due to the tiny patients and their miracle working nurses and doctors. But I was shocked to do a rough count of at least twenty incubators in the first ward, all of them occupied. If forced I'm sure the staff could have fitted in about five to ten more but with the patients they had then they didn't have much room between the units as it was that night. One of the clocks was situated on a wall right behind one incubator and as I passed it to make adjustments I saw the tiny infant laying inside it. Underneath all the tubes and wires laying on a white sheet was a baby that I swear was smaller than my hand. Even though it never moved the steady electronic beeps and strong lines coming from the display screen showed it was still fighting. The other two wards each held similar, if not more, little ones like the first and Flash and I quickly made our adjustments and left whenever we got close to them. In the second ward as we were making adjustments several of the incubators began alarming. Worried that something bad had just happened I quickly looked to Flash and he must have saw my concern because he just shook his head no and went on with our task. The nurses in that ward got up from their workstations and in a very calm manner went about checking the shrilling units and after making a few adjustments returned to their seats. In the third ward I saw one little fellow, making a huge fuss, being removed from the incubator with a nurse taking the infant over to a rocker and rocking it till he or she quieted down. That baby looked pretty big and may have been close to leaving, I hope he or she keeps its fighting spirt because given the issues with low birth weight babies it will need every scrap of fight its got.

Questions that I never could ask whirled around my mind as Flash and left that department. Was the number of infants in the intensive care wards normal or had we just walked in at a busy time? If that number was normal what is the main reason for such a full room since I'm sure any designer worth his or her money would have built an excess capacity in case of an emergency? And like I wrote earlier they could have fit a few more units in, but not much. I'm sure the cancerous urban sprawl the Midlands has seen in recent years has something to do with the increase but surely not all. Several times I've read reports that infant mortality in this country is on the rise and while it would not be responsible for me to speculate I must admit the thought crossed my mind as Flash and I went on our way. Has prenatal care fallen so much that our fast food, couch potato lifestyle has worked its way to endangering our very children before birth? The only thing I was certain of was the dedication I saw on the faces of the men and women working that department. While adults can usually make their issues and concerns known to doctors and nurses looking out for them the tiny ones I saw that night couldn't, their entire existence depended on the knowledge and dedication of those trained professionals standing by waiting for the worst but hoping for the best. My final thought on the manner as we continued on was my hope that I could avoid that department from now on, I don't deal well with suffering children. And God forgive me because this was not meant to be political post but apparently some of our leaders can.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

American Idol winner, 2022

Spent last weekend at Joe Cool's house in the upstate of South Carolina. My brother and his wife, the lovely Mrs. Cool, pulled out the musical gear and we all had a Jimmy Buffett, John Denver, James Taylor, Toby Keith, and Dolly Parton concert in his house. Miss Wiggles is pictured here singing her favorite Buffett song "Bring back the magic". Which I might add has been her favorite for quite sometime and is very good at it. Everyone had to sing one song and I, feeling very toasty, sang the infamous Buffett tune "Why don't we get drunk and scre...." Since this is a family site I can not finish the title of that song but everyone should get my drift of the complete name. Spoilboy is currently using the computer along with several of his posse and I will have more to publish by tomorrow night. I really need to get a laptop.