Film At Eleven

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:03 am

When you drop by Uncle Andrew Dot Net this summer, please take a moment to visit BirdieCam. We have a batch of immature flickers frequenting our suet feeder who have yet to master the art of hanging upside down from the Starling-resistent suet basket:


The result, until they get the hang of it, is many spirited but amusing attempts. A fun way to kill ten or so minutes at work. 😉


Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:42 am

It’s been a heck of a growing season so far.

I’m not a gardener and I don’t play one on TV. (If I could play one in a video game I might give it a whirl, particularly if my plants had a tendency to uproot themselves and come after me brandishing hideous green lianas covered in razor-sharp thorns. Ooo oo, and rocket launchers.) My favorite landscaping foliage is concrete, my favorite piece of lawn art is a gas grill. Nature Boy I am not. Fortunately, Margaret is, and she takes full advantage of the scary-huge garden space that came with our place.

This year has been exceptional. The brutally hot kick-off to Summer may have had something to do with it, but our plants—particularly the tomatoes and the sunflowers—have been growing like gangbusters.


Our sunflowers are usually this stately, but not this early. I can’t wait to fail to see the look on Anastatia’s face when she goes out to the garden (she went out to say goodbye to it before she left with her dad on a trip to San Fran—God, what a cute kid) and immediately gets lost in the sunflower forest. Maybe we ought to put a gingerbread house somewhere in the middle. 😛

The tomatoes are another matter. We have never in our lives had tomato plants this tall, this beefy, this, well, frightening.


They suck up their entire—what, two, three gallon?—reservoir of water every damn day. They are tall enough to peek through our bedroom window, and late at night they mutter ominous things about wanting midnight snacks and how if we don’t make with the fish-meal smoothies we’d better sleep with one eye open. These things are huge. I keep wondering what the hell we’re going to do with the plants once Autumn gets here. Firewood, maybe? Anyone looking to build a garden shed or something, see me before you shell out for lumber.

This brings me to my actual reason for writing this post, a book recommendation. If you have any interest whatsoever in gardening or are close to someone who does, I highly recommend The $64 Tomato by Willliam Alexander.


It’s the stirring—okay, not really—account of an IT manager and his physician wife’s efforts to turn their rambling three-acre suburban New York backyard into a proper English-style vegetable garden and orchard. Ya-hoo!

If just about anyone else had written this book, it would be exactly as precious, as prissy and self-absorbed, that is to say as pathetically yuppie as it initially sounds. Oh, the trials and tribulations of having the massive income and copious spare time necessary to hire someone to fully landscape the back yard of your beautifully restored colonial damn-near-mansion! The deer, the webworms, the tomato blossom end-rot! Can’t you just hear the strains of “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen” on the wind as it whispers through the struggling apple trees of the fruit orchard? Pfleh.

But Alexander writes with such dry humor, such warm and self-directed irony, that what could have been a massively masturbatory missive by a member of the misproportionately moneyed menschosphere turns out instead to be quite charming and absorbing. His epic battles with the wily apple maggot, an insanely clever groundhog he dubs Superchuck, and the physical toll that being a “gentleman farmer” takes on his middle-aged information-technology-crafted body are engaging and fun to read. You really feel for him, particularly because he is so obviously aware that he has brought it all on himself.

This book is a great afternoon read, just perfect for a sunny day when you are trying to find something to do to avoid going out and weeding the bean patch. 😉


Mmmm, That’s-a Gooood Mindfuckery!

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 2:11 pm

My friend Dylan sent this over to me, knowing my penchance for helping friends borrow a cup of broadband from their feckless neighbors. Yee-ikes! Guess you really oughta know who you’re siphoning from before you put your lips to the hose. 😯



Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:30 pm

Looks like impulse item purchases are down at grocery stores due the the rise of the automated checkout. Apparently, the grocers have yet to figure out how to tap into the market for impulse purchases in a part of the store more or less defined by the absence of time spent standing around waiting to pay for your stuff.

As wrist-slitting, defenestrating, head-in-ovening tragedies go for me, this isn’t. I am an avid consumer of neither impulse items nor atuomated checkstands at grocery stores. The former because I rarely find myself in dire need of a butane lighter, sugar-free gum or “Ten Tips To Drive Your Man Wild In Bed”; the latter because I think they’re evil. Eeeeeeviiiilllll.

Look, it should be pretty obvious to anyone who knows me that I am not, by any means, a technophobe. (And if you require proof, might I submit the following: after perhaps a maximum of ten hours in my company during our recent sojourn to Hawaii, my ten-year-old niece Caitlin felt it necessary to produce the following illustration of her take on the relationship between myself, my wife and my laptop. Cute kid. :roll:) I have absolutely no problem with technology in general, or automation in particular. For instance: I am more than happy to receive phone calls from robots letting me know that my mail-order prescriptions shipped or when the guys from Sears are going to be bringing the new stove. That’s good automation. That’s automation that works for me. And yes, it’s unfortunate that a living human being most likely has been kicked out of a job because a computer can do it for less, but let’s face it; automation by its very nature takes jobs from humans, and does so in proportion to the evolving sophistication and reliability of said technology. (Hell, at least someone still has to be paid to maintain the phone robots. 😉 )

But the atuo-checkout stands at the grocery store are of another order entirely. They use technology to allow me to do someone else’s work for them, someone who would otherwise have to be hired by the store. That pisses me off. It’s one thing to allow a machine to call me up and tell me when my Lipitor will be arriving; it’s another thing entirely to allow a machine to give me on-the-job training as a bag boy. I feel I have a sufficiently broad range of skills already, thank you. I don’t think of my time in line at the QFC as an opportunity for an inspiring “If you give a man a bag of groceries, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to bag groceries you feed him for life” kind of moment.

I used to only use the automated checkout at stores I didn’t like, where I had only run in because I more or less had to and couldn’t care less wether the the store continued to exist or not, much less whether the carbon units who worked there managed to keep their jobs. But lately I’ve found that even limited exposure to these horrid things is unacceptable. I hate everything about them, from the philoshopy behind them to the cheap, somehow clinical feel of standing in a line waiting to supplicate myself before an altar of greasy plastic and painted aluminum. I can’t help but thinking that, if this trend continues, in five years I’ll be standing in front of a similar machine in the waiting room of my doctor’s office, preparing myself to receive my first automated colo-rectal exam. “Please turn your back to the screen, bend over at the waist and spread your buttocks,” the prim mechanical female voice will say. *Shudder*

So if impulse-item-promoting technology fails to catch up with the rest of the system and people fail to balance the savings in labor with increased sales of Tic Tacs and National Enquirers, I will be the first to applaud. Perhaps I will call QFC’s customer comment line personally and let them know how I feel about it. Of course, I’ll have to leave a voice mail.


Quick Question….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 6:44 pm

This thought has been bouncing around in my head for the last week or so, and I’ve just got to ask:

Should it bother anyone amongst the many supporters of Israel both in- and outside that country that a serious core of their support in America comes from the conservative movement? That many of these people—including, purportedly, our President—are evangelical Christians? That they are, in all likelihood, dedicated to the survival of the nation of Israel for the sole purpose of seeing it destroyed as part of the prophecy of the Apocalypse?

Does it really make sense to count these people among Israel’s allies? Is “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” enough justification?

Just pondering is all.


And You Thought I Was Having Fun…..

Filed under: @ 10:02 pm

Comments from the 143rd Annual AVMA Convention, Honolulu, Hawaii
For the record all quite annotated, because I’ve been spending all my time being a student instead of sitting around thinking of things to write, but there are a few comments I feel it necessary to make.

Saturday July 15th 2006
Now I’m ready to take notes although I think they’ll probably be pretty gibberish.

Observations from the first day of being a combined tourist and conventioneer.

Sucks. Don’t ever want to do it again because all I really want to do is to wander down to the beach and lie in the sand either sun or rain bathing depending on what is coming down out of the sky.

Had my fill of being a fuckin’ haole, eaten plenny plate lunch even in the last 24 hours. Want, well, I want more time. I want to be at home, I want to be here and playing or I want to be somewhere that is considerably less interesting than Hawaii to learn all this cool stuff. Why do they insist on putting conventions in salubrious locations? I wouldn’t even be this restless in Seattle. Denver was fine because I had no means of getting around on my own, Minneapolis and Baltimore were good because I had no familiarity with the area, but Hawaii for business sucks.

Sunday July 16th, 2006
The whole day was spent without computer access. I am now most thoroughly spoiled, the one day I’ve spent at a convention with a computer has permanently spoiled me for taking notes any other way. It’s so much easier to let my fingers pay attention to what is on the screen and let my eyes and brain pay attention to the speaker. There’s no, read NONE, table space in the great majority of the lecture halls and if you want to take notes you balance your note taking device on your lap. Okay to do with a notebook, but very difficult, to say nothing of nerve wracking, if it’s a heavy-ish piece of equipment that is EXPENSIVE and a well beloved piece of equipment that belongs to your husband.

Besides, it’s kind of cool to be sitting there typing out notes while everyone else has paper and pen.

Better to be here today than it was yesterday. The big problem with yesterday, I think, is that I was touristing first thing in the morning (some really cool garage sales and mighty malasadas from Agnes’ bakery) and then had to go and sit class. Today it was get up at odarkthirty and come to class with the promise of having the afternoon off past 1500. As I have done nothing today except for going to class it’s not as irritating.

I have seen a few faces that I recognize, mostly from other conventions, but I did meet up with one woman that I know. Ran across Denny Koontz who used to work for one of our sister hospitals in Lynnwood and who now works for a very busy practice in Portland. Was chatting with her, telling her about how things have been going at 5 Corners (where she has worked on occasion) talking about how we were going to be getting this new medical director named Joel and the guy sitting next to me piped up with “Do you mean Joel C&*(&(?” (name changed to protect the innocent). Stunned into insensibility, I said “Yes” and it turns out that he works for the practice from where Joel will be coming. And they didn’t know yet that Joel was looking for another position.


3000 friggin veterinarians at this bloody conference and the one who happens to overhear me talking with a friend about our new medical director works at the exact place from said medical director is coming. I hope that he will keep his mouth shut.

Why Modern Surgery is Way Cool
I try, at CE conferences, to do a couple of things. I try to go to lectures that I think will be practical for me, i.e. things that I think have some application for me in practice. I try to go to lectures that are about things that I think we could add to the services we already offer (new surgical procedures, new treatment options for commonly seen diseases etc.), and I try to go to lectures that are way above my head. The way above my head lectures have dual purposes, the first is to see how far above my head they really are (and I’m frequently surprised that they’re not as much as I think). The second is to update myself on what sort of cool shit is going on in the profession.

Today’s way above my head lectures were given by two different speakers, one from UPenn, the second was one of my small animal surgical professors from WSU (who is currently at Tennessee, yes, this sentence does make sense).
And they were SO COOL!

UPenn dude was talking about coil embolization of portosystemic shunts. I’ll translate that into English for you non-medical people. He was talking about how to block blood supply in areas where blood supply shouldn’t be. And the way they’re doing it at Penn is to, with a long arterial catheter like they use in angiography and angioplasty in people, place little surgical steel or platinum springs in the abnormal blood vessels causing the blood to clot and the vessel, eventually, to collapse. This is cool.
What is more cool is that they can also thread these enormous long catheters into blood vessels in tumors to block the blood supply to the tumor and so kill it from the inside out. This is really cool, but what is the coolest is…
Before they block off the arterial blood supply of these tumors they’re injecting chemotherapy agents into the tumor and then once the blood supply is blocked the chemotherapy agent has no way to get out of the tumor thus allowing for larger doses to be delivered directly to the target tissue with fewer systemic side effects.

This is very cool.
And they’re blocking the arterial blood supply with surgical grade superglue.

And on the subject of superglue……
That was what Dr. Tobias (my prof from WSU) was talking about. She has been doing some research studies on superglue closure of various internal lacerations (lungs, kidneys etc.) Her stuff was pretty darn cool, but the coolest part of her lectures was….

The superglue that they’ve been studying? Not any fancy surgical cyanoacrylate. They’ve been going to WALMART to get their glue.
The exhibit hall is, as always, so full of hucksters that you can’t turn around without being offered a brochure, a pen, or what have you. This year’s gimme of choice?


I have signed up to win an iPOD at about fifteen different booths. Now granted, Andrew gave me one of my own, a 4 gig Nano for my birthday, but what I’m trying to do is to win one so I can fill it full of books on tape for my Mom who will be in hospital for 3 days later this month having a knee replaced.

iPODS, lots and lots of iPODS.
Also beach towels.

17 July 2006 (Monday)

Surgical lectures all day today. I’ve been learning about skin grafts and skin flaps and new surgical methods for treating gastric dililtation and volvulus. For the non-medical readers, a GDV involves a dog’s stomach becoming bloated (food, gas, what have you) and then taking a 180 to 360 degree trip around its long axis thus effectively twisting the esophagus and the upper part of the small intestine. Surgical emergency. You have to get these dogs into surgery within a few hours to decompress and derotate the stomach (and frequently the spleen) or the lack of blood supply causes irreparable damage and your patient dies. In twelve years I’ve only ever been presented with two of these; one was euthanized, the second I had help with. For some weird voodoo reason they don’t seem to happen during the day and so the night shift sees all of them.
I am pleased to note that we are treating our GDV patients in much the same method as they are being treated at the university hospitals. Our procedures, the materials, drugs, and monitoring abilities we have available are similar or exactly the same. I picked up some really good tips on how to deal with the surgical aspect of it, I hope I can remember what I need to remember when it comes to being presented with the next one.

One or two mentionable things today.
Dude that was doing the “moderating” for today’s surgical lectures should have been upended in the Ala Wai (I’ll get to that in a minute) after his first introduction. Now granted, I’ve been a little hypersensitive and grouchy lately, but be said the word “BASICALLY” about three times a minute. It basically, was basically the most irritating thing I’ve basically heard in a very long time. No joke. That sentence was as similar as I can get to his introductions of the speaker without getting into specifics about the speaker, or the moderator’s, name and background. What astonishes me is that (according to his own information) he has been moderating lectures for AVMA conventions since 1998 and no one has mentioned to either him or the Powers That Be that he’s REALLY ANNOYING.
And as regards the Ala Wai……..

The Hawaii Convention Center has really been the loveliest venue for one of these things that I’ve ever encountered. Big, air conditioned rooms, airy, wide open courtyards with wonderful landscaping, doves and mynahs flitting about, plenny water fountains, and thoroughly sufficient (outnumbering the facilities for the men about two to one) ladies’ rooms. The third floor, where I spent most of the day today, has an enormous central atrium surrounded by lecture rooms. Follow this atrium to the end and you find yourself in a courtyard that opens out into a garden and a landscaped terrace for the smokers. Follow the terrace down and you’re right along the path that borders the Ala Wai. Frequent visitors to Waikiki over the last several years (to decades) will understand the humor of this lovely vista, of which visitors are encouraged to take advantage, ending at the Ala Wai. For those that aren’t familiar, I’ll elucidate (FINALLY).
The Ala Wai is a canal that runs through Waikiki. In its various incarnations it has served as the “driveway” for various canoeing clubs in and out of the harbor, a place for locals to fish, and a large, open air SEWER! (I said the locals fished there, I didn’t say that they necessarily eat what they catch). As recently as this spring, when Oahu was experiencing one of the longest stretches of rainy days in history (forty or forty three days in a row depending on whether you ask Tony or Joan), it became a death sentence for some poor schmuck who fell in and went on, within a few weeks, to develop fatal necrotizing fasciitis.
“Welcome visitors to the Hawaii Convention Center! Please make use of our remarkable conference facilities, enjoy our lovely gardens, and don’t forget to visit the largest source of Flesh Eating Bacteria on the Pacific Rim!”

I should have gotten a photo, but all I had with me was my camera phone and I’m not sure Andrew has yet figured out how to transfer photos from my phone to the computer.

And so the day is done, I’m done with my conferencing and I’ve learned lots. I should be able to use a good deal of what I’ve learned and I’ve filled at least half the hours I need for continuing education over the next three years.

Tomorrow we get to play!


Life is Hard….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:21 am

Sure, I’d rather not get up at five in the morning to drive Margaret to the Hawaii Convention Center for a day of lectures, but if I must, at least I’m actually doing it in Hawaii, where I can stop at the Olomana Lookout and get an early morning shot of my home town:


Also, I got to stop in at Leonard’s Bakery in Kapahulu for some malasadas. Might as well get some extra pounds for all my trouble. 😀


The Garage Sale Fairy

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:44 pm

That is how my Mom is known, to friend and foe (if she has any foes, that is) alike.

Every Saturday, Mom piles into her minivan with a group of friends to hit every garage sale on the Windward side of Oahu. She is known for her amazing, exotic, eccentric and sometimes excruciating finds. This little doozy fits under at least two of these categories. Requires QuickTime or another MPEG video player to view.


Recently Spotted

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:33 am

In the parking lot of Trader Joe’s:

I Miss Bill

*Sigh* Me too, Man. Me too.


I May Yet Throw Up

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:15 am

Captured on my camera phone whilst waiting at a stoplight Monday evening.

On a whim, I Googled “pgntmom” and whadayaknow, check out the very first link that came up. Given her stated location (Washington), I think there’s a pretty decent chance that these two are one and the same.

I. Hate. This person. I’ve never met her, and I hate her. Like, drag her from the car and pound her with my fists hate. Well, almost. Maybe “drag her from the car and write the phrase ‘PERSONALITY DEFICIT’ across her forehead with a Sharpie hate”.

“Oh, my husband and I are just so proud of little JonBenet—um, Kennedy! Sure, it’s hard work being the mother of a up-and-coming socially warped, pathologically body-conscious, bizarre child/adult angel/whore chimera—why, today alone we have a 9:00 class in applying makeup for that fresh-off-the-runway look, an 11:00 round table on the importance of straddling the fine line between child modeling and kiddie porn, and a 1:00 hands-on on vomiting quietly to oneself late at night so Mommy and Daddy can pretend they don’t know. Oh, and baton twirling at 3.

“But it’s all worth it when I see the rouge-enhanced glow on my darling daughter’s face and know that she’s fulfilling her lifelong dream to be popular with boys, to one day become Miss America, or even Miss World, so she can finally get past the shame of having been just a little on the chunky side in junior high when that BITCH SONJA ROTHBERG CALLED ME FAT!!!

Folks who know me well understand that, despite my many rants on this blog, I am mostly a shades-of-gray kind of guy. Being a moral relativist at heart means acknowledging that the world and its parts—including people—are more complex and hard to pigeonhole than folks like Pat Robertson would have us believe. But even I have limits. There are some activities that are axiomatically proscribed under the guidelines of civilized social intercourse. You do not fly airliners full of civilians into buildings to indicate your displeasure with a particular political, social or religious entity; you do not fire guns into the chests of wild animals for the sole purpose of mounting their heads in your den; and you do not sexualize your child to help resolve your own failed aspirations to beauty-pageant glory and shattered dreams of fairy-tale happily-ever-afterness.

This is by no means a complete list, and you may feel free to reorder it based on your own priorities.


It’s Too Darn Hot

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:35 pm

When did I become such an unbelievable wimp about the temperature?

I’ve noticed over the course of the summer that my thermostat seems to be set a lot higher than it used to. Our last week in London really hammered it home for me; high eighties and 80% humidity left me absolutely soaked in perspiration. Since returning home, a couple of similar scenarios (rooting around in the rafter storage area of the office at FP, for instance) have proven conclusively that I can’t take temps notably over 75 without breaking–“shattering” might be a better term–into a full-blown deluge.

And I grew up in Hawaii?

It’s really quite strange to me. In many respects, I’m in better shape than I’ve been in a handful of years. I weigh less, I’m exercising. Why the sudden segue into hyperhydrosis? Are these hot flashes? Is this the Change of Life? Have I entered Man-O’-Pause?

Not surprisingly, this problem is more prevalent in the summer, particularly this summer. I can take Washington’s new-and-improved, Global-Warming-Friendly summers just fine; all I need is my shirt off, a chilly bottle of Gatorade or a can of Minute Maid Light, and a cool breeze coming off the water as we paddle our canoe along the coastal crenellations of Lake Washington or the Nisqually Delta. No problem. This doing shit outside fully clothed (or worse, in heavy protective clothing) in the heat, like yard work or home maintenance….Man, that’s for the birds. Go shut the windows so we can crank the AC.

*Sigh* Central air conditioning. I scoffed at the squat, begrilled condenser brooding beneath the dining-room window when we first came to look at this house. The inspector we had hired tested it out and marked it down as fully operational. “Bully for it,” I thought to myself. Never realizing what a treasured member of the family this thing would turn out to be. It’s on right now, straining valiantly to keep the house at a respectable 78 degrees Fahrenheit. I love our central AC, with a deep, abiding passion that only develops in the face of earnest and unconditional servitude. I’m certain that, one summer soon, our AC will break my heart, shutting down in the blaze of August with nary a premonitorial whimper. But for now, we’re still in our honeymoon phase.

I guess the thing that annoys me the most about this change in my tolerance for heat is how, well, typical it really seems. Margaret and I have reached the point in our professional lives where we’re making some serious bank, at least compared to where we were in the early days of our life together. We sure as hell never used to need air conditioning, even when we were roasting in that convection oven of a trailer of ours in a Pullman wheat field (okay, maybe we could have used it there–in fact, we even had it, though the wiring for the thing was so dicey as to make us not want to use it for anything more dire than a true 5-Alarm heat wave–but truth be told, we couldn’t afford to use it, so for the vast majority of the time we did without.) I still remember lying on the floor of our trailer in hundred-degree weather, directly under the ceiling fan, sweat pooling in my navel, the cats wrapped around the bases of our two toilets to cool their fuzzy bellies, waiting for the frigging sun to go down so we could begin moving around again.

But now our relative prosperity seems to have rendered me soft. Heat making you a little uncomfortable? No problem, just throw some high-priced electricity at it. I heat the house with one kind of volt-sucking machinery (computers) and cool it with another. We have a hot tub outside and central AC inside. What’s next, a Lincoln Town Car to better haul my ever-widening ass around? His N Hers golf carts? A riding mower? Christ, just what kind of pampered little princess am I?

Of course the other way to look at the situation is that there is no point in my living in substantial discomfort if I can avoid it. We don’t waste energy where we don’t appreciate, even treasure the benefits that come with the expenditure. During the winter we keep our house at 65 degrees, because it’s easy to keep warmer when it’s chilly; just throw on another layer of clothing. We use compact fluorescents, we bought a home less than two miles from Margaret’s place of work (and less than thirty feet from mine) to cut down our commute and therefore our fuel consumption. We don’t drive gas-guzzlers, we recycle, we don’t heat our house with spotted owls or baby seals….

I guess I’m having trouble deciding whether my decreasing tolerance for heat is due to a change in my body, my mindset, my tax bracket, or a combination of all three. I just can’t seem to choose which of my glaring faults to feel bad about first. Or worst.


Even Happier Fourth

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:46 am

You know how, every once in a while, you come up with just the perfect retort to something someone says to you, and no one you know is there to hear it? Well, welcome to reason #12 why I started a blog.

I zipped out this afternoon to pick up just a few more fireworks. (Margaret mentioned offhandedly that people at work had expressed total delight at the idea of shooting down parachute fireworks with Roman candles, and dammit I didn’t buy any parachutes!) While I was out I stopped in at the nearby Starbucks to burn off some of the $20 gift card that a friend’s Dad had generously given me as a thank-you for salvaging the data on his ailing-and-failing computer. While I was waiting for my order, I mentioned to the java jockey behind the counter that I was out buying (still more) fireworks. The lady at the counter paused in the middle of handing a five-dollar bill to the cashier for her venti Frappucino, turned to me and, brandishing the fiver in my face, said with a sneer, “Why don’t you just burn up a few of these instead?”

To which I promptly replied, “….says the woman buying a five dollar cup of coffee.” 😛

Happy Fourth

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:29 am

NPR did their traditional yearly reading of the Declaration of Independence this morning. Just beautiful. Also possibly the best conceivable use of the stirring but approximately twenty-year-long New Age musical piece “On the Threshold of Liberty” by Mark Isham.

Happy Independence Day, everyone. Happy Birthday, America.


Some Days It’s Just Not Worth Chewing Through The Restraints

Filed under: @ 6:44 pm

Please note that I actually started writing this on Saturday afternoon.  What with one thing (work) and another (more work) I wasn’t able to finish it until this evening.  My apologies.  I’ll try to get time sensitive posts done more promptly.

Yesterday was (I thought) the last day of my mid-week “weekend”. I had Thursday and Friday off with the expectation of working a Saturday through Tuesday shift, one day off mid week, two more on and then a three day weekend. This is a typical schedule for me, I’m not passionately fond of it, but it’s not unusual so I live with it.

Spent a lovely day, barring a mild bout of heat stroke and yes I was too drinking plenty of water, in the garden. Weeding, digging early potatoes, planting lettuces, and spraying, deadheading, and yet again revising the staking job on my rosebushes. Andrew had dinner all planned out so I didn’t have to worry about the possibility of having to come up with dinner, I could play all day. So I did…that is until I was starting to think about planting cucumbers at which point my body said “ENOUGH” and got all dizzy and hot so I came in and bagged it for the day.

But overall not a bad day.

Mom called as we were eating. She wanted to know what they could bring for our upcoming Independence Day barbecue. Also she needed to talk to me. She said that she and Dad had to fly back to Illinois on the 17th. Said in that voice. With that tone. Can’t be good.

I asked what was wrong and she said that my uncle Don is dying. Whoa.

Granted I have not been very close with my mother’s side of the family since Gram Do died in 1989. Even then it was mostly a question of seeing the aunts, uncles, and cousins every couple of years when we flew back to Illinois for a few weeks in the summers. But Don has always been something special. The oldest of my mom’s siblings, Don has been, from my youngest memory, someone I’ve been impressed by. A lawyer in his professional life I grew up thinking that it would be cool to have that sort of dedication to something. He had a building with his name on it (okay so it was probably only rented office space, but still….) “DORWARD LAW PRACTICE” and he took care of all sorts of (to a very young child) BIG IMPORTANT things for the family.

Of the golden Illinois summers of my childhood I have flash memories. Mom and Aunt Do (Doris) playing catch with me in the swimming pool at Aunt Do and Uncle Gene’s house. Don talking with my Gram Do (actually her name was Agnes, but since most of us couldn’t pronounce Agnes, we called her Gram Do {for Dorward} to differentiate her from Gramma Hammond) and her throwing her head back erupting with that nasal cackle of laughter that no one will ever be able to replicate. A snapshot of Don holding Gram’s cranky old poodle cross, Mimi. Don taking my sibs and I out for a walk in the cornfields. A dual purpose trip; he said if we were very very quiet we could hear the corn growing and then when we weren’t, and didn’t for the record hear anything growing, he loaded us up with fresh sweet corn to take back to Do’s poolhouse for dinner.

A lot of my memories of all of Mom’s side of the family revolve around those trips: playing cards and dominoes, sitting at the ENORMOUS table in the poolhouse for dinner, being afraid of the crickets in the bathroom, cornfields, the swimming pool, gathering eggs from Doris’ chickens, and the never ending trill of the summer cicadas.

Don’s ran for, as I recall, Commissioner of Woodford county in the early ’80s. For a long time we had a “Donald Dorward For Commisioner” sign on the inside of our back door. Featuring a photo that my dad had taken. He looked all serious and properly respectable but I knew that it wouldn’t have taken much to crack him out of that serious professional semi-smile into a full mouth laughing smile.

We were almost never at Don’s house when we visited Illinois. Don’s first wife, Helen, has some issues (I believe she’s probably bordering on obsessive compulsive, but I don’t know) so she never really wanted us running around the place. And she and Gram never really seemed to get along well together so if we wanted to see the most family for the most time we all congregated at Doris and Gene’s house. I do remember one foray into Don and Helen’s house. I must have been in junior high by then and Don and I had been talking about science fiction. When we went over to his house he took me downstairs into his library….. I had never seen such a huge collection of science fiction and he was a GROWN UP and he was INTERESTED IN SCIENCE FICTION. He gave me two, both of which remain in my collection today: 2001 A Space Odessey by Arthur C. Clarke and The Stars Like Dust by Issac Asimov. And he sent me a Waldenbooks gift certificate for a high school graduation present.
Don was a good Christian, Republican and he was a life long member of the Masons. Managed to work his way up to some pretty darn impressive grand high poobah status before his (now ex) wife blackballed him during their divorce. Tried to get Matt to join DeMolay when he was in high school which went over REAL well with both my brother and my parents. We don’t talk politics or religion a lot when we meet up with that side of the family.

He remarried some years ago. Carol is a much nicer and much more sane auntie than Helen ever was. I’m positive that the years of his marriage to Carol were much happier than those of his marriage to Helen.

First it was Parkinson’s disease. Then the Alzheimers came to claim him. I haven’t seen him in years and there’s no doubt that he wouldn’t know who I was if I went to see him now. I’ll miss the man that helped to make the memories.

And then (of course there’s an “and then”, how could the title be relevant without an “and then”?) as I was digesting that my boss called.

She’s not technically the boss, the practice is owned by a corporation, she’s the medical director but boss is close enough. She wanted to tell me something. Something kind of shocking, but she thought I needed to know before she made it generally known.

She bought her own practice and she’ll be leaving on July 31st.

As a person and as her friend I can’t be anything but happy for her. She’s been upset on multiple levels, some more obvious than others, since our home grown small corporation in which she was a bigwig, was purchased by a national corporation out of Los Angeles and her bigwig status immediately evaporated. There are other issues, the salaries aren’t as flexible, the doctor contracts are a nightmare, the corporation doesn’t treat support staff as well as the old corporation did….. So she decided to strike out on her own. Good for her, I wish her well in her endeavor.

As a doctor and as a corporate employee, however, this is a FREAKIN’ NIGHTMARE. Our “really needs seven but currently can only afford six and we’ve only had five since late March when we let the nitwit go” doctor practice will be dropping from five doctors to four. This is a nightmare.

And the corporation will be in charge of installing a new medical director. This is worse. I’m not taking the job, I’m not that much of a loon. They can install a corporate toady, someone who practices medicine (and expects their subordinates to practice medicine) the exact way the corporation dictates if they so desire. They’ll have open insurrection on the part of their professional staff, but they can do it and we (the professional staff) don’t have much of any say on it. Or corporate could install a friendly medical director who would look upon the WORD FROM ON HIGH at the home office (or HO as we like to call them) as mere suggestions to be debated and decided upon or discarded as desired.

If I were betting I’d lean heavily towards the corporate toady. This is a freakin’ nightmare. Anyone out there want a medical director’s job? Anyone out there want to employ a slightly worn around the edges but experienced small animal veterinarian?
I got of the phone with the boss lady and decided that I really shouldn’t have gotten out of bed.

5 Years In Jail And A $500,000 Fine

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:15 pm

That’s the penalty any business would incur for sending this sort of thing through the mail, were I anointed Supreme Dictator For Life.

So I pull our mail out of the box this afternoon and amongst the unrequested catalogs, digital TV offers and announcements for huge sales on all my favorite brands of recreational vehicle is a small, nondescript envelope from Geico. Now, we don’t currently do business with Geico. In fact, we are highly unlikely to ever do business with Geico, mostly because of my previous encounter with their truly annoying advertising practices, but also because, if we really wanted to make a stink about it, I’m sure we could get our current insurance provider to give us a rate comparable to Geico’s. Nobody in this business actually has a serious hand up on anyone else: they all charge you what they think they can get you to pay. If you have a good driving record and you’re seriously clenched about saving a few bucks, you can get just about any company to lower their rate to you by playing one provider off another. I just don’t have the patience or initiative to do so.

Anyhoopty, so this envelope from Geico has a disturbing legend emblazoned on the back:


Now at this point I know, I mean I really truly with all my heart, lungs and other viscera know, that this letter is yet another bullshit advertisement. Much in the same way that water is wet, french fries are tasty and the Reverend Falwell secretly dreams of fellating Fabio, it just is. No doubt about it. Whatsoever.

But now the bastards have my curiosity. What kind pathetic, flaccid attempt to capture my attention—and my business—will the document contain? Will it refer to the dire warning printed on the envelope, ala, “You could be throwing money away every month if you throw away this letter!” Is the advertisement contained within also designed to resemble an official customer communique? By ripping open the envelope, do I sign away my right to not have these turkeys interrupt my dinner with phone solicitations, as apparently was the case with the “complimentary” issues of National Geographic Magazine that arrived unbidden at our door, followed by a phone call asking if we’d like to sign up for twelve, twenty-four or thirty-six more? (And boy howdy, did that piss me off. What an obvious attempt to sandbag the rules of the National Do Not Call Registry. “But we do have a prior relationship with the customer: we sent him free shit he didn’t ask for!” I’m starting to think we need a three-tiered registry: National Do Not Call, National Go Fuck Yourself, and National The Next Thing You’re Getting From Me Is A Letter Bomb.)

So my curiosity got the better of me:


Nothin’ but ads. Of course.

This strikes me as more than merely asinine; it borders on deceptive advertising. Hell, it practically borders on intimidation. How am I supposed to know what dire consequences discarding the document unopened might bring? Maybe they’ll send Rocko and Icepick over to my house to rough me up. Maybe the letter is designed to burst into flame a presecribed period of time after the recipient fails to open it, setting fire to my recycling bin and then my house. Maybe that damned lizard they use in their commercials is really a Komodo Dragon, ten feet long and capable of running at speeds up to 13 miles per hour, lusting for the gamy tang of terrified human flesh.

Were it up to me, I’d force companies that participate in unsolicited advertising via the mail in the exact opposite direction, requiring them to put big labels on the outside of their mail that say things like “WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING OF CONSEQUENCE INSIDE”, or maybe “INFORMATION YOU DID NOT ACTUALLY ASK FOR CONTAINED HEREIN”. If their product/service is so freaking awesome, why do they feel they must disguise their advertisements as something else?

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