Friday, October 2, 2015

This is not an easy discussion, but it is one we need to have.

The mass shootings are horrible, and I believe that we, as a society, have a moral responsibility to take preventative action. Now, what we need is to define a meaningful course of action. 

Help me out here: considering recent history which includes mass shootings where the law forbids firearms, what do we do? 

Help me to define a law or an action that would have prevented this most recent shooting, or one of the earlier ones. *How* do we make sure the crazy, sick, angry and lost people don't get a gun (or a knife, or a bat, or a rock -- FBI statistics show that more people are murdered with a knife in the U.S. than with a gun)? 

Norway has some of the world's most strict firearm laws, yet Anders Behring Breivik was able to bypass them all, obtain weapons, and kill many youngsters. There have been mass shootings in Finland and other non-U.S. lands. In fact, when corrected for population density, The top 5 countries for mass shootings per capita all have “restrictive” gun policies--the U.S. is seventh in that list when corrected for population density. 

Perhaps it is a culture of violence (movies, games, music) and a lack of respect for human life (capital punishment, easy abortions) that is to blame?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

I am very frustrated and angry this morning and I need to vent somewhere, so here it is - ignore if you wish:

I have had a habit of starting my morning with some simple yoga-like stretches and exercises. To help with motivation and avoid distraction, I've played a yoga-meditation music video from YouTube through my Apple TV device through the TV in my den. As of this morning, I can't do that. Why? Because YouTube has changed their API interface and Apple is not going to support the new standard unless you have a NEW Apple device. My Apple TV device is a couple of years old. While it can still play Netflix and a bunch of other free and pay stuff, the only regular use this one got was my Yoga music video. Here is the downside to the "Cloud." The vendors can change the rules, remove functionality, at any time they choose to do so, and we, the paying consumer are....well, let me just say helpless. I am perfectly happy to buy new devices when I NEED to upgrade or choose to add new functionality. I'm not happy to have functionality taken away from a device I paid for because of the calculated decision of the vendor. Imagine Google saying, "Oh, that self-driving car you paid $50,000 for--it will no longer drive on county highways. State and Federal roads only. I think I'm done with new technology. I'm definitely done with You Tube (Google) and Apple. The next devices I buy, if any, won't have any relationship to either company. Google has had a lot of my life--including this Blogspot. Apple has gotten a lot of my money. I'll respect my current contracts, but I won't be renewing any Apple or Google contracts. I'll do without Email or pay someone for the service before I'll continue my association with them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

TL;DR: Money ain't everything

I wish we had a truly fair and equitable way to fund public education in Texas and all states -- a good (and safe) educational opportunity should be available to all -- and high completion rates should be a goal we can all support. Having said that, I don't think that funding is the only issue to address. The U.S. outspends nearly all countries of the world on education per student (only Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Norway spend more per student). TEXAS, for Pete's sake, outspends Sweden, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, France and most of the other countries. Yet in Texas and most of the US our educational outcomes are comparatively dismal. Some of the states with better results spend less per student, some of the highest-spending states have poor results. (SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2014). The Condition of Education 2014 (NCES 2014-083), Public School Expenditures.) 

Dare I say that some of the responsibility must lie at the feet of the family (or, more accurately, at the lack of familial support and guidance)? The U.S. Office of Special Education Programs says, " “When parents become involved, children do better in school, and they go to better schools." 

I think this is key. We need social policy that promotes family involvement (and the ability to be involved) in the raising of children. And "family" can be very broadly and liberally defined. Maybe the ONLY place I fully agree with Ms. Hillary Clinton is in the statement that, "It takes a village." We need parents who will (and are allowed to) hold our schools (public or private) to high standards. And, on a side note, I believe that standardized testing should only be an indicator of where work is needed and certainly not the be-all and end-all of school and student evaluation. 

Well, that's my essay for the day.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The circle of life

Today, in church, the funeral schedule was announced for the remembrance of a dear older sister who recently passed after a decades-long struggle with cancer. The birth of a new baby to another family was announced, and another baby girl, the grand-daughter of the sister who passed, was blessed. Her grandfather, husband of the recently departed, stood in the blessing circle. Life, with its pain and joy, is affirmed, the rituals strengthen and comfort, the hand of friendship is offered, and life goes on.

Monday, January 12, 2015

I am. And that's not even easy!

Note the power in the phrase, “I am.” As in Je suis Charlie.

A friend who is a practitioner of Wicca tells me that, in her opinion, all incantations and spells should begin with the phrase, “I am,” as the intent is to work change on and within the spell-caster and not others.

The Bible tells us that Christ was the great “I am.” John 8:24 (KJV)

Over the past week, I’ve been watching the Netflix series Cosmos narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. In the most recent episode I viewed, he stated that a great differentiating factor between human intelligence and that of other life forms is our advanced capability to recognize patterns and connect those patterns to other (possibly) related patterns or events.

Je suis Charlie.

Jesus. I am.

I don’t know the linguistic connection between the modern French Je suis and the American English name for the Biblical Son of God, Jesus, but it does appear that there is a pattern there!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Appointments are not always EZ.

Up at 4:30 to meet a 5:30 hospital appointment for Glenda's scheduled 7:30 carotid artery surgery. She was checked in, undressed, in a bed, prepped, attached to IV and monitors by 6:15. At 7:30 they informed us that the surgeon would not be available until noon due to a scheduling conflict.  Sigh.  So, now we wait. Glenda, at least, is napping. I wish that I were. But at least I can eat. She is on a NPO regimen until after the surgery.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Health can be not EZ.

Over the past month, my dear wife, Glenda, has had a series of sudden falls. Twice, now, those have led to EMS response, treatment at the ER, and hospitalization. The first EMS call was on October 1, 2014. She had been on our bedroom patio, leaning against the spa, and simply crumpled to the concrete patio floor. At that point she was unresponsive, so I called 9-1-1. By then she was responsive but could not stand, so I got a towel under her head and unlocked the front door for the medics. They found her blood pressure to be really low but found all else normal. They helped me get her to the bed and advised us to see her primary care provider the next day. We did that. At the doctor's office at 9:30 the next morning, her BP was even lower, so they immediately put took her by ambulance to the nearest ER. There she was tested, monitored, and hospitalized overnight. We left the hospital on October 3, 2014, with a list of follow up and consultation appointments. One of those appointments, scheduled for noon on October 24, 2014, was in Cardiology for a "tilt table" evaluation to test the impact of various postures and positions on her BP. She was also given a "Holter" monitor to wear for two weeks. This is a cell-phone based EKG machine that constantly transmits her heart function information to a contractor (CardioNet) in Phoenix. 

We never made that appointment. At about 4 AM on Friday the 24th of October, she got out of bed to go the bathroom and only made it far enough to go down face-first on our ceramic tile hallway floor. I found her responsive but dazed, laying with her hands twisted under her jaw and chest and in a huge (and spreading) puddle of blood. Hitting the tile had split her skin open above her right eye, and scalp wounds bleeeeeeed. I applied a compress, and, again, called 9-1-1. upon initial evaluation they found her disoriented with BP of about 66/24. This time they did transport her to the ER right away and she was again admitted. During her two day stay she was seen by every medical specialty you can think of, and, again, discharged with a list of appointments to keep.

As of today (October 29, 2014) stitches have been removed with no complications. It took forever to be seen because the stitches were put in by the ER so they had to be taken out by the ER, so no appointment, and she was triaged to the lowest priority known to medical science.  The black eyes have reached their “purple” stage, but the twin bumps and the laceration on her forehead are beginning to look a bit better. The home health care nurse and the physical therapist will be at the house at three this afternoon. One of the things they will do is a “safety inspection” to help avoid future falls. I’m sure they’ll tell us to get rid of our coffee tables, throw rugs, and small pets. They already have her using a walker. The challenge here is she’s not been tripping – most of the falls happened while she was standing rock still and just crumpled.

We saw the electrocardiologist yesterday (October 28, 2014) and he diagnosed her with syncope (blackout) with collapse (fall) caused by orthostatic hypotension secondary to autonomic nervous system dysfunction. That means that when she stands up, her body does not regulate her blood pressure, which falls to around 80/40 or less and the brain becomes oxygen deficient leading to fainting. The doctor had seen the report from CardioNet and found nothing worrisome there. One of the keys in his diagnosis is that when her BP crashes, her pulse rate and respiration remain unchanged and normal, and that with a BP crash, the autonomic system should race the heart and respiration to keep things oxygenated. So some thermostat somewhere is disconnected or not registering. In the meantime, ensure hydration, increase sodium intake, and continue to use a walker when up. 

She is scheduled for vascular surgery to open up the right carotid (85% blocked) on Monday, November 3rd. The left carotid is at 50-60% blocked, so they are going to leave it alone for now. They don’t think this is the cause of her syncope and falls, but that it does need to be taken care of, especially with her history of stroke in 2009. We’ve been advised to expect one day in ICU and 2-3 days on the ward post-surgery.

After this surgery is over, she has a consult with the neurology clinic on November 19th to rule out Parkinson’s. But, the diagnosis we’ve now been given is much the same as Parkinson’s in symptoms and impact, minus the tremors, and, from what I can find, there really is not much in the way of treatment for either problem. We are hoping that the vascular surgery on the carotid will actually fix this problem. The vascular surgeon has told us that there are nerves near the junction of carotid with brain that do play a role in regulating blood pressure, so there is a very small possibility the blockage has been her problem here, but he’s not optimistic about that, primarily because the blockage is not truly bilateral.

I think we are doing all we can do at this time, including prayers and priesthood blessings. We are appreciative of the care and prayers we have received from so very many.