17 May 2006

Gone Fishin'

Well, not quite. But it all amounts to the same thing, doesn't it?

We'll be celebrating our Tenth (wowie!) wedding anniversary with a week sailing in the Mediterranean with a few dear friends. First Born Son and Second Born Son will be in the tender care of their grandmothers and kind aunties.

Man, it's going to be hard to leave them behind, but oh boy oh boy oh boy, we get to leave them behind! I look forward to getting reacquainted with the woman I married without anybody interrupting us for the eleventeenth time with a story about the bumblebee he saw outside yesterday.

We hope you all can somehow cope with our absence. We will return June 1. To cheer you up in your inconsolable grief I offer you this charming graphic from Direct Democracy:

Which is a county-by-county map of Our Dear Leader's approval ratings (blue being <50%, of course).

See you in June. Cheers!

16 May 2006

Damn that's cool.

Living in the Northwest, I'm no Airbus fan: I like Boeing. But this is still really cool.

How to build an A380 in seven minutes.

The transforming power of eyewear

I picked up First Born Son, all of three and a half years of age, from school today, and as he scrambled into his car seat he spied some old sunglasses on the floor.

"Daddy," says he, "I need to wear those sunglasses, because it's very sunny out and sun might get in my eyes."

Sure, I thought, they're old and scratched and he can destroy them if he likes, so why not? I gave him the sunglasses and, delighted, he put them on.

As I started to pull out, he saw my sunglasses on the dash, and said, "Daddy, you need to wear your sunglasses also, so we can both be heroes."

I'm pretty sure he doesn't quite understand the meaning of the word "hero." Or, who knows? Maybe he does and it was just part of his little inner fantasy world. Either way, I went ahead and put on my sunglasses, as instructed.

And we were heroes.

Improv Everywhere

Read about a bizarre and elaborate, but highly amusing, prank here.

14 May 2006

He's running again

There's just no other explanation for this.

Each word a hammer

Every ER has a "Quiet Room." Small, drab, windowless little rooms, with a couch and a couple of chairs, a phone and some tissues, all alike. Nothing good ever happens there.

I've walked into the quiet room hundreds of times. Eyes look up to meet me, full of apprehension and dread. Nobody is ever happy to see me. They are afraid of me, I think. They want very much to talk to me, but they are deathly afraid of what I will say.

"My name is Dr. Y. Are you David's wife?"

"Are you her father?"

"Is John your brother?"

"Are you Anne's husband?"

It's a weird conversation. I begin with pleasantries and very concrete small talk. They play along. Always. The stupid little social niceties frame the conversation and allow it to develop in a bizarre but comprehensible manner.

"Did you know your dad had heart problems?"

"You know the accident was pretty serious, right?"

"Was she awake when you saw her last?"

Start with a question. Either rhetorical or very concrete. Sometimes it prompts a long story, but usually the answers are pretty short and direct. But the question sets the stage. Sometimes a subtle shift in tense can presage what's coming. Deep breath.

"I wish I had good news for you."

"I think you know that he was pretty sick."

"Her breathing was pretty bad when she got here."

"You know the paramedics were doing CPR."

Then let it fly.

"I'm sorry to tell you that he died."

Each word a hammer.

"I'm sorry to tell you that she died."

With each hammer blow their faces crumple like so much tin.

"We were not able to restart his heart, and he died."

Each word a hammer.

"The paramedics did everything they could, but she died."

Weeping and wailing. Rage. Questions. Disbelief. Shouting. Quiet acceptance. Silent tears. It's never quite the same, after. I can talk a bit more, but it doesn't matter. They don't hear or remember anything I say from that point on. Perhaps a polite lie that the deceased did not suffer. Who knows? True or not, it seems to be good to hear. Offer more information. Ask some more questions, maybe. Then an awkward departure. That's tough. What do you say to end that particular conversation? "I've got paperwork to do"? "I've got to go take care of the living"? You show up, introduce yourself, devastate a total stranger with eight words, and leave. They tell me I'm pretty good at it. An artist with the hammer. I guess that's good, though a dubious distinction. Lord knows I've had enough practice.

So I promise to come back, I put my hammer back in my pocket, leave them amidst the wreckage of their lives, and move on.

12 May 2006



A new low.

And in the right-leaning WSJ.


10 AM is too early to open the bubbly, so I'll chill it for later tonight.

More here.

Best Chief Complaint

1AM, Friday.

"I need a refill on my Viagra."

No foolin'.

The subsequent conversation went something like this:

Me: (exasperated) You came to the EMERGENCY room at 1AM for a refill on your Viagra?!?

Patient: But it is an emergency.

Me: (incredulous) This is the most trivial, non-urgent thing I have ever seen in the ER. How on earth could it be an emergency?

Patient: (completely impassive) I've got a date tonight.

I didn't have the heart to ask whether his "date" was yet to begin (at 1AM) or whether the girl (?) was waiting in the car. And no, I did not refill his medication, either. I gave him a stern talk abou responsibility and planning ahead and proper use of the ER, scolded him for wasting $200 of the taxpayers' money with such foolishness, and sent him out to his now-joyless date and a follow-up appointment with his Primary Care Physician. Perhaps it was mean of me to deny him the refill, but I work on the same philosophy as the National Park Service: "Don't Feed the Bears."

The mind reels.

09 May 2006


Volkswagen apparently is trying to make a point about the safety of their newest Jetta in their new ads.

Warning: brace yourself.

I don't know whether this is good advertising, whether it will be effective, whether it is honest or ethical. But man is it memorable.

And for my part, I can say that the point seems fair to me -- that modern cars are ridiculously safe. I admit that it's dangerous to draw conclusions from personal anecdote, but in my ER, I see a *lot* of blunt trauma. There is a strong correlation between age of the car and severity of injury (controlling, of course, for seatbelt usage and alcohol involvement). The medics usually bring in a photo of the accident vehicle, and it astonishes me daily at these utterly wrecked cars and their essentially uninjured occupants.

08 May 2006

Do I hear 29?

Gallup has a terrible new poll for Bush: 31% approve, 65% disapprove.

Of course (I'm almost getting tired of saying this) this poll represents a new low for Bush's approval, but it's also worth noting that the disapproval is also a new record for W. The net approval is -34, which is the worst in the past 50 years by any president but Nixon. It's worse than Carter and Bush I, who each bottomed out at -31. The record for diapproval was 66%, which was Nixon's, one week before he resigned.

We should be so lucky.

05 May 2006

Simple Pleasures

Sitting on the back deck, coffee in hand and laptop, erm, on lap, not even pretending to work.

02 May 2006

Worst. President. Ever.

I think George W. Bush will likely be remembered as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. Of course, it may be a bit premature to say so when he is not even half-way through his second term: there needs to be some time for reflection, to let the collective wisdom of history come to a consensus. Well, just in case “history” has a short memory or a short attention span, I thought I would help it out with a not at all comprehensive list of the scandals, mistakes, incompetence, bad policy, and corruption which, to date, has plagued the Bush Presidency.

In no particular order, Bush has:

  • Expanded spending more than any president in history, and cut taxes, while waging a war, thereby converting a budget surplus to record deficits with no end in sight.
  • Cut the estate tax, dividend tax, and marginal income tax, benefiting the wealthiest, while cutting corporate taxes and shifting the burden of taxation to the middle class.
  • Tried to eviscerate Social Security.
  • Failed to provide for the future solvency of Medicare parts A and B, while expanding taxpayer funding by $1 Trillion for a drug plan which has no source of funding.
  • Signed an unprecedented “Pork barrel” Transportation bill.
  • Never vetoed a spending bill (or a bill of any sort).
  • Allowed workers to go 10 years without increase in the minimum wage.
  • Presided over an economy which has been growing, but has stagnant income for the middle class.
  • Signed the bankruptcy bill which benefits large creditor by making it harder for low-income consumers to get out of debt (while leaving loopholes in place for high-income debtors).
  • Pursued policies which are anti-labor and pro-corporation at every turn.
  • Issued regulations which have weakened worker safety and worker compensation rules.
  • Failed to fully fund the “No Child Left Behind” act.
  • Allowed the number of Americans without health insurance to reach 46 million without any action.
  • Enacted the catastrophic Medicare part D, a giant giveaway to the Pharmaceutical industry but a costly failure to Medicare beneficiaries.
  • Cut Medicaid, weakening health coverage for the nation’s poorest.
  • Politicized science: promoted ineffective abstinence-only policies while opposing condoms, birth control, Plan B, and Ru-486; has also obstructed approval of the HPV Vaccine.
  • Signed an Energy bill, written by industry, containing giveaways to the energy industry but no real energy security for America.
  • $3/gallon gas
  • Allowed ENRON & cohorts to manipulate the energy market, resulting in billions of dollars of costs to states and consumers.
  • Withdrew from Kyoto Global Warming treaty.
  • Politicized science: defunded and suppressed science relating to global warming.
  • Acknowledged the reality of global warming but opposes measures to combat it.
  • Promulgated countless environmental regulations rolling back pollution standards, weakening endangered species protection, and favoring energy extraction industries at the expense of environmental protection.
  • Promoted pro-corporation initiatives such as “Clear Skies” & “Healthy Forests” with dishonest and deliberately misleading names.
  • Issued regulations allowing aging power plants to be rebuilt without updating emissions equipment to modern standards.
  • Lost New Orleans.
  • Cynically used religion and religious activists as a political tool.
  • Demagogued gays as a threat to the family, and endorsed the Defense of Marriage Constitutional Amendment.
  • Spent billions on an ineffective and unnecessary missile defense system.
  • Ignored multiple warnings that might have prevented 9/11.
  • Opposed the formation of an independent 9/11 commission.
  • Ignored the recommendations of the 9/11 commission.
  • Used 9/11 and the war in Iraq for partisan political advantage.
  • Ousted the Taliban, but didn’t put enough troops in to secure and stabilize the country, leaving the warlords in charge.
  • Let Osama get away.
  • Opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, then used its formation as an opportunity for a little union-busting.
  • Indefinite and illegal detentions at Guantanamo Bay.
  • Decided to invade Iraq knowing that it was not connected to 9/11.
  • Lied to the American people about why he had decided to invade Iraq.
  • Bungled the above-referenced invasion.
  • Dishonored American servicemen by openly dismissing the Geneva Conventions regarding torture, creating the environment in which Abu Gharaib happened.
  • Opposed congressional legislation prohibiting US personnel from engaging in torture.
  • Cut Veterans’ benefits.
  • Neglected nonproliferation initiatives and created hostile relations with Iran and North Korea, with the consequence that both are more likely to become nuclear states.
  • Pushed the PATRIOT act and other systematic efforts to reduce the scope of individual civil liberties.
  • Violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by wiretapping US persons without judicial oversight.
  • Inflamed international tensions with belligerent and simplistic rhetoric: “Axis of Evil,” “With us or against us,” “Bring ‘em on,” etc.
  • Withdrew from the Ballistic Missile Treaty
  • Ignored Genocide in Sudan
  • Opposed formation of the International Criminal Court
  • Alienated allies and damaged US credibility and relations with the world community
  • Actively undermined the UN
  • Polarized the political spectrum. Counter to his promise, he has been a Divider, not a Uniter.
  • Expanded power of presidency in an unprecedented manner.
  • Declared through legally dubious “signing statements” that the President has the authority to disregard laws which conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution.
  • Declared that the President has inherent powers, never before asserted, and legally questionable, in areas of national security, which are immune to congressional regulation.
  • No accountability for failures at any senior policy-making level.
  • Used fake “news” reports to promote administration policies and covertly paid journalists to do the same.
  • Unprecedented abuse of recess appointment process to evade the Senate’s right to confirm political appointees.
  • Relentlessly expanded Government secrecy.
  • Used selective leaks of classified information for political purposes.
  • Presided over a Republican culture of corruption, including indictments of prominent Republicans within the executive and legislative branches.
  • His Vice President shot a guy.

01 May 2006

You've got to be kidding me

Apparently, by the benevolent hand of Our Dear leader, today is Loyalty Day.

No shittin'. Really.

Funny, I thought today was Mission Accomplished Day.

How'd that turn out, anyway? Oh never mind.

Jesus' General has his hysterical take on Loyalty Day here.