Friday, December 16, 2011

Hey, where ya been?

I haven’t blogged in awhile lately due to being overwhelmed at work, home and with the additional duties I have following my mom’s death.  I looked yesterday in my Live Writer and found that I had thirteen drafts of blogs I simply never published.  You will be glad  you were spared most of that nonsense.

I will blog more when there is stuff to say.  Here is a sample of subjects I’ve not talked about:

1.  Toys for Tots.

2.  Hey lookit, I’m mainstream!

3.  The Salvation Army is not your enemy, your stupid brain is.

4.  I didn’t want to do this again, but…

5.  Please introduce me to a sane vegan.

Talk to you all again soon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Talking and Doing

I was reading months back during one of my thousand hospital visits over the summer that people who talk about things they plan to do, usually never get them completed. 
The study indicated that when people announce a goal, they receive immediate satisfaction for simply having the goal that actually achieving it is no longer necessary. 
I’ve seen this in action in my own life and in the lives of people over the last few months.  When my mom was sick and then soon after she died people from all over offered to do “anything” to help.  I am a person who likes to do things myself but there has been a couple of things that I simply cannot do on my own.  Each time I’ve called on someone to help, I realized that people have varying views of what “anything” meant in terms of actually helping.  I can say confidently that I’ve not received any help that I’ve asked for.  Pretty interesting huh?

Now given what I know about this study, me expecting any actual help is my failing, not theirs.   I should’ve known that people who offered were simply being nice.  There’s nothing wrong with this either.  At a low point in my life, people giving me nice gestures was a positive thing.  Things only went badly when my expectations of their gesture were more literal and less symbolic.
So I’ve thought about a few questions that beg to be asked:
  1. Is there any use in talking about what you want to do at all?
  2. Why not simply meet a need that is in your ability without fanfare?
  3. Would you do what needs to be done if nobody ever knew about it?
It goes beyond my own personal example and swells into personal goals.  I see someone announce on their social networking that they’re on a diet and are trying to lose 25 pounds.  The applause that follow in the comments session dismantle the goal before it began. 

I’ve been excited to talk about a few things I’ve been working on over the last year but I do not dare.  Either people won’t care and that will discourage me or people will pretend to care and my brain will put up the Mission Accomplished banner on my project and I’ll start fitting myself for a flight suit.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

An evening with Spider-Man and Curious George

The weather was particularly good for Halloween this year and for once it accommodated trick-or-treating.  It’s always a challenge to get the right costume in the Pacific Northwest as the weather is generally cold and pissy.
Last night I was going to walk around my neighborhood with Spider-Man and Curious George.  Each of them had their own challenges that made the next two hours scarier than any horror movie.

1.  Spider-Man has a nervous stomach.  Once in costume he decided he needed to stay inside for the evening while throwing up.  I finally convinced Spider-Man to go with me and George and he could keep his mask half-off in the event he needed to honk.

2.  Curious George is willing to walk but chooses his own direction too often to keep tabs on him at night while reminding Spider-Man to say “thank you” after each visit and pointing out bushes he can puke in.  26 pounds of George will be carried through several blocks.

We get two houses down from ours and Spider-Man starts howling at the leaves on the ground.  I knew he’d get over it so we wiped the gooey strands dangling from his mouth and pressed on.  With tears in his eyes he went to about 6 or 7 front doors with George before Spidey announced that he had to pee and couldn’t wait.

Me:  You’re going to have to wait.

Spider-Man:  I can’t hold it!  I’m starting to pee a little

Our neighbor opened her door to the sight of Spider-Man holding his crotch while jumping up and down next to a giggling monkey.  “You can use my bathroom, come on in!” She said mercifully.

I needed to go in and help since Spidey wasn’t able to get enough of his costume off .  We walked into our neighbor’s downstairs water closet where George started to empty his bucket of treats into the toilet while Peter Puker started throwing up into the sink. 

With my left leg held out I kept George away from the toilet which looked like the neighbor’s had already placed a large tootsie-roll and had forgotten to flush.  With my left hand I got Spider-Man released from his costume and with my right hand I rinsed out our neighbor’s sink.  While the toilet flushes, Spider-Man looks down to button his pants and his mask cascades off of the top of his head into the bowl of now clean water.  So far we’re off to a good start. 

My wife messages my phone and asks if we’re having fun.  Unfortunately I didn’t have a free hand to reply and let her know that Spider-Man and George have nearly devastated the bathroom of  one of our neighbor’s, in less than a minute.

After saying thank you to our friendly neighbors for the use of their water closet, the three of us trudged on into the night without incident.  We returned home about an hour later with about seven pounds of chocolate and high fructose corn syrup.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Patient Experience

I've written a great deal about my mom and her stay at the Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, WA. My mom's experience there was a mix of great care and disappointing communication. As her durable power of attorney it wasn't always easy to get information from them. Sometimes they called my brother instead of me and often they called several phone numbers instead of the ONLY number I gave them to contact me personally. Then of course there was the matter of their clumsy communication leading me to believe my mom was dead, when she was very much alive.

Her initial experience with the hospital was pretty bad. In fact I filed a grievance against the hospital and worked with their risk management department that led to specific hospital policy changes. I never threatened lawsuits or acted like a jackass. I tried to stay positive and work with them to help them be a better hospital. After all, they're the closest hospital to me and my two children were born there. I actually NEED them to be a good hospital.

They had hired a film crew to come up from California and record different patient experiences for training of their doctors and staff inside their medical system. This was to sort of help them understand what can happen, not just in some theoretical hospital, but theirs. I agreed to be a part in this training and I told my story. I was told by the filmcrew that it was a powerful story. Plus, I got to wear makeup!

The person at the hospital that is in charge of their Patient Experience department has emailed me several times trying to nail down a time that I can preview this video that was made. Unbelievably each time she emails me she asks how my mom is doing. My mom of course died over two months ago, in that hospital. I've yet to reply to her concern about my mom for a couple of reasons:

  1. If you're in charge of the patient experience, should it be in your interest at all as a professional to check to see how a person's experience may have ended, especially if they were in the critical care unit for weeks? Seriously, I would likely go check to see how things went or check the social security death index before I went and asked "Hey how is your mom doing? How was her experience in our hospital?
  2. I haven't found a way to answer the question without sort of blasting through the obvious and risk making her feel bad...but also part of me doesn't care if she feels bad. What am I supposed to say about her experience in the hospital? Well, glad you asked! Aside from her dying everything went great! Thanks again for asking!

Now I know there is at least one of you out there that is saying in your dumb old head something like this:

"All you have to say is that your sad to let her know that your mom passed away and that you're grateful that she cared enough to ask."

Now if you're this person let me tell you right now that nobody likes you. Least of all me! You think I haven't thought of that? You think you've brought something new for me to chew on? Sometimes a person has to feel stupid for a minute. It helps that little voice most of us have remind us just how obnoxious we should let ourselves be before we should expect to get punched in the face. Please, for the love of all that is holy, listen to that voice before you email me or message me with that suggestion. Okay?

I miss my mom intensely and I still have a hard time getting my head around the fact that she's gone. She was the only family member I talked to everyday and she trusted me completely with her affairs during that awful couple of months. I battled hospitals, filled out endless paperwork, and spent dozens of sleepless nights with the hope that she'd still be here now. So if you work for the stupid hospital and you're in charge of the "patient experience" do a little homework to prove you actually give a bit.

With that in mind I'm simply not in the mood to answer her question. Not now.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Kings of the Dinosaurs

There are tons of parenting blogs.  I know this because I've read a few and they often are parents of small children and they run akin to akin to 'kids say the darndest things.'  I don't ever plan to do that to you...but that said...

My son, like most five year old boys loves dinosaurs.  When I was his age I loved dinosaurs.  He memorizes little facts about each of them and reminds me which ones are fast, which ones are intelligent and which ones are meat eaters.

His dinosaur of choice?  You probably already guessed that it's the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  After all, he's the King of the Dinosaurs right?  The tyrant lizard?  The biggest, baddest of them all?  Not so fast.

I always had admiration for the large meat eaters myself but Tyrannosaurus Rex seemed to get a little too much press for my liking.  Sure he looked good in all the pictures chasing down some poor little Velociraptor but he seemed to be all image and no substance.

My favorite was the Allosaurus.  Allosaurus was the forgotten badass meat eater.  Allosaurus is the disrespected ass kicker of dinosaurs.  Even in the Land of the Lost the Allosaurus was off in this lost city and known as "Alice".  The show treated him like the weird old lady that lives in the creepy old house at the end of the street.  Hardly the image that is deserving for a first class bone crunching, meat chewing lizard like Allosaurus.

My son dismisses my claim that Allosaurus deserves respect and goes on talking about his beloved T-Rex.  We go back and forth on this subject and have up until recently refused to agree to disagree.

While reading a book on dinosaurs I pretended to read something about the Allosaurus.  Our dialogue went like this:

Me:  Oh look here.  It says that scientists have analyzed Allosaurus scat and were able to discover some of the things he ate.

Son:  What does it say he ate?

Me:  It says that there some small rodents, some plants, and lots of T-Rex bones.


Me:  (Laughter)

With a piece of paper and a dozen colored markers I began drawing two dinosaurs.  Allosaurus on the left was wearing a bow-tie (the nose ring of Republicans) and on the right was the stunning T-Rex wearing a pink skirt.  Above the picture it read:  Senior Prom.  My son saw what I was drawing and he grabbed it and began tearing it up while running out of the room.

I'm glad we have recently reached a compromise.  My five year old son proposed the notion that they both be Kings of the dinosaurs and they could work together to fight crime.  I agreed to his proposal.  We shook hands and I also made the concession to stop disparaging the reputation of the T-Rex by characterizing him as an effeminate cross-dressing lizard in sloppily scrawled drawings.

On a side note we may be starting a new comic book about our new dinosaur crime fighting duo.  Stay tuned.

Friday, September 09, 2011

10 Years and We’re Still Idiots

10 years have now gone by since the only memorable September 11th in our nation’s history.  In 10 years we should have learned a great deal but as far as I’m concerned, the country we live in now isn’t any better than it was then.

1.  We can’t get into a stadium without mandatory bag searches.  In my overly-careful neck of the woods we have to stand in bag lines even if we don’t have a bag. 

2.  The airports are a complete joke and everyone knows it.  Even the TSA officer who pulled me aside for a random search in an unnamed small city in the Midwest knew it was a joke.  He asked if he could search my bags and he seemed genuinely disinterested.  I told him that I do not consent to searches and he just waved me along knowing it was just an obligatory waste of time anyway.

3.  The 9/11 report demonstrated that among the reasons for the attack, the strongest reason was the presence of our troops on the ground in the Middle East and our continued bombing of a Muslim country (Iraq).  Our meddling in the region is still significant and making our country vulnerable and weaker.

4.  We are spending trillions now in our foreign empire and arguing at home over teacher pay and entitlements.  I’m for entitlement reform obviously but why is our militarism and expense of foreign adventurism off the table from a budget standpoint?

All of the memorials acknowledging the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001 will be nothing more than a celebration of American resolve and cheering USA! USA! USA! like idiots.  All of the reasons for that attack are still present.  Instead of removing these reasons we continue our war against a tactic and we are going broke doing so.

10 years after Pearl Harbor we had defeated the enemy, rebuilt our economy and were bored enough to find another war in Korea to keep us occupied.  Now we’re nothing more than a broke and paranoid nation and our leaders are out of ideas.

I’ll return to more interesting posts than this but I couldn’t let this anniversary go by without going on record that I am not looking forward to the empty-headed remembrances that will be going on this weekend.

Friday, September 02, 2011

My Mom and Organized Labor

I mentioned that I had interesting articles coming up about my mom and I may have already broken the first rule of setting expectations:  Aim Low.  I have a friend that begins many of her stories by saying, “Let me tell you one of the funniest stories you’ve ever heard…” and she has to be warned that unless it involves a midget, a clown, and a dozen tubes of plastic wrap, she’s probably not going to come close.  So if this wasn’t interesting to you, I apologize in advance.

I’ve shared before that I had the misfortune of attending awful public schools and without the aggressive involvement of my parents, I probably would’ve accepted much of the pedestrian narrative told to me by teachers who were simply not very good at what they did…and didn’t mind telling you that sometimes.  I’ve had former classmates give me the “the schools weren’t that bad” line but they usually retreat when I’m done reminding them of the facts that always clear up the sentimental thoughts of their youth.

As a child my mom, because of polio, missed large amount of school because of her long hospital stays.  I remember her telling me that what she wanted more than anything else was to be able to go to school.  She felt awful about the schools her children ended up in.
My mom became involved in the public schools and was a huge advocate for education of all kinds.  She tutored students in all subjects, volunteered in classrooms, and was a friend to teachers.  Growing up in my house it was not uncommon to come home and find a teacher in our house talking to my mom.  In the last years of her life, two people that helped her with things around the house or errands were both local public school teachers.

Thirty-one years ago almost to the day my mom was in the middle of a huge labor dispute.  My mom was chairman of the school board in our school district and the district’s teachers were coming up on the renewal of their contract.  I remember it vividly and I remember the conversations that went on in our house.  Months before the contract had expired, she knew the union wasn’t that serious about coming to an agreement and that a strike was likely.  Public funds were in short supply in 1980 and the country was facing inflation and unemployment.  Raises were in short supply, but the need for them had never been greater.  Contract negotiations were tense all over our state, but for this little rural school district, things were about to boil over. 

The decision to hire substitute teachers district-wide made front page news.

It’s impossible these days to talk about unions without having one of two pre-approved opinions on which to span a discussion. 
  1. You believe that only organized labor rescued the average worker from the Robber Barons and without the unions we would still have child labor and work seven days a week making mere pennies while living in houses with dirt floors.
  2. You believe that unions are the enemy of the worker and create widespread unemployment while protecting their own interests and anyone in a union is just a lazy bum who is afraid of competition.  You may concede they were once necessary, but are no longer.
My mom thought neither of these arguments were necessarily true.  My mom respected the right of people to collectively bargain and protect their rights to do the job they were hired to do and be treated fairly.  She also thought being forced to join a union to do a job was nonsense. 

But for the purpose of this blog she believed that the public schools belonged to the public and that no kid should have to miss a single day of school because of what anyone thought about the unions.  The school board made state-wide news for hiring in advance, substitute teachers for the whole district.  School opened on time and negotiations with the union continued.

Personally, I hated the news because I was hoping for a longer Summer vacation.  I was stunned though how opening the schools on time brought such controversy and how the media spun the events.  We had print and TV media at our house regularly trying to get comments.  My mom refused to comment.

On the last school board meeting before the contract was eventually signed the media was out in full force.  Parents, teachers, and even some students turned out and I remember my Dad and I taking my mom to the meeting (she never drove).  Other school board members with the protection of a sheriff’s deputy entered in through a side entrance to stay away from the picket line and arguing mobs that had formed outside.

My mom wanted to go into the front entrance since there were fewer steps (she walked with an exaggerated limp and stairs were not her friend) so this meant driving across the picket line with angry teachers (some had already been in the news for allegedly damaging cars with their signs) and making her way through the charged up crowd.  This was going to be awesome, I couldn’t wait to see the first teacher that hit my dad’s truck with a sign.  Nothing would’ve pleased me more than seeing my dad take one of these “educators” on a field trip to the pavement with his fist.

My dad slowly and patiently drove his truck up toward the entrance and my mom opened the door and a hand was extended to her by a man who would later become my high school Civics teacher.  My mom took his hand and she eased out of the truck and they walked along side talking.  That teacher, while not a good teacher in my view, was a welcome visitor in our house for years.  Maybe my mom didn’t have the good sense to be concerned about what could happen to her but instead she decided to be an honest broker and treat people with respect.  More respect than they deserved I remembered thinking.

The media told great untruths and were generally sloppy reporting on what happened and the events of that time eventually changed my mom’s mind about public education entirely. That’s a subject for another day.

I work near the Machinists Union building which serves as a headquarters for the local that is employed by the Boeing company.  In front of their building is metal artwork of people carrying signs by a burning barrel.  I’ve always been impressed that they chose to have that in front of their building instead of artwork portraying people actually working.

For me, Labor Day is the three-day weekend that tells me College Football is here and clothes are on sale at back-to-school sales everywhere.  There is no better time of year to head out to the stores to look for new clothes manufactured by child labor. 

Thursday, September 01, 2011

No, I haven't forgotten

I haven't forgotten to blog, but instead I've been rather busy with all that life is throwing at me right now.  I have some cool stuff coming up though.  On a lighter note, I've take advantage of the couple of days of actual Summer weather to ride my motorcycle which has thankfully returned from the shop and is running strong.

I'll be back soon.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Friend Showcase–Robert the Grump

I like being around creative people and Robert is second to nobody when it comes to easily creating art with words.  He is a gifted writer even though I suspect he doesn’t aspire to write at all. 

Years ago he was reading some smutty fiction on the Internet and he said that most of it was below any acceptable standard and that he could do far better.  In a matter of a few hours he had crafted this well-written and completely disgusting novelette.  On a complete whim he created art that was better and more satisfying than that of a bunch of jokers who took themselves and their writing too seriously.  It’s a complete mockery to everyone who enjoys writing for one person to hold this much talent and not even care about it. 

For work Robert and I have travelled throughout the United States hitting a large number of great, and not so great, cities.  In each city we would see all the normal sites to be seen but would also include areas of historical or architectural note.  His love for history is apparent in that he may be the only person I currently know that I can have a thoroughly geeked out conversation about multiple eras of world history. 

Robert was a podcasting pioneer.  In the 90’s there was an internet radio network called TalkSpot dot com.  It was an early effort, run by some bigtime radio insiders (including the talented James Golden aka Bo Snerdley of the Rush Limbaugh Show) to bring radio to the internet.  Robert did a show called the Game Dive which focused on PC gaming.   The show had a huge national and international following and stretched the available bandwidth of the upstart company regularly crashing servers.

Robert is also a story teller.  He recounts the characters that have come and gone through his life and has a brain that files away the interesting parts about each.  If you have spent any time in Robert’s life, there is probably a folder in the hard drive of his mind with your name on it.

We both grew up in in poor families and he was the first person who ever really stated his feelings on it in a way that reflected my own sensibilities on the subject.

“There’s no virtue in being rich or poor, it’s only important to learn the right lessons from it.” – Robert the Grump

Robert’s friendship to me and my family has, in the last ten years or so, has been a constant through the highs and lows of life…and to be sure in the last ten years there has been some awful lows for both of us.  I’m hoping for a better upcoming ten years filled with more hilarious stories.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Friend Showcase–Dave Johnson

I’ve been meaning to do a series where I talk about some friends of mine that have impacted my life in some way or have a specific talent I admire.  Dave has really none of these attributes, but I’ll go ahead and talk about him anyway.

Seriously though I’ve known Dave Johnson for about 10 years where we have worked together primarily in some role within the video game industry in the Pacific Northwest. 

Dave is a very funny guy who is creative.  I know you can describe some people as creative just because they’re clever sometimes, but Dave is actually a guy that always has to be creating something.  He defines creativity and is able to back it up with his talent.

In the 90’s Dave co-founded a website called Atomic Potato.  It was a great parody entertainment news site that was reasonably popular.  It had advertisers and was threatened with lawsuit.  If that doesn’t say “on the verge of making it big” I don’t know what does.

Dave drew a daily comic strip called Dog Complex which he took as an opportunity to learn how to do a professional strip.   Daily he made tweaks to style and presentation until the point came where Comic Industry insiders said he was “ready” and offered him money in exchange for his work.  I won’t bore you with the rest of the story but you can own over 400 strips in this wonderful collection.

Dave bugged me one day to begin Podcasting with him.  I did and we have been off and on for now about four years.  Our latest effort is the Dangly Bits Show.  We have some shows in the can and will be starting again soon after my life goes back to normal.

Dave is now perfecting his chops in animation.   

Dave shared Spotify with me.  I must give him full credit for it and even if you heard about it from me, you must know that your life is only better because of Dave. 

Aside from Dave being talented, he is a great father, a reliable and faithful friend and a first class dillhole.

Friday, August 12, 2011

10 Busy Days

Life has been interesting the last ten days since I posted. I will try to itemize it here in mini stories...hopefully you find it interesting.
  1. I've been getting the memorial service together. It has taken a great deal of coordination to get all the players in place. My good friend and talented musician/songwriter Mollie Ziegler will be leading music during the service. This is a special treat for me as my mom liked Mollie very much. Click her link to go to her Myspace page which has a few tracks from the New-Agey grooves of her album Seeker.
  2. A fabulous speaker and pastor Jim Shiner is coming from Ocean Shores, WA to officiate the memorial service. I went to a service years back for a friend whose baby had died and Jim performed what I thought was the most touching and comforting service imaginable. Jim is a good friend and was my mom's choice for her service.
  3. Three days ago I was cleaning my garage and my mom's walker was there glaring at me. I prayed ever so briefly that I'd find a meaningful place to donate this walker so it would get to someone who needed it. The next day I was walking out of my new awesome neighborhood pancake restaurant and saw a man who needed a great deal of assistance walking and had his younger and more agile wife was helping him. I asked him if he used a walker and he had one at home but it was hard to put in the car and they said that what they really needed was one that they could take with them to outings and appointments. The wife was smaller than the husband by quite a bit and she was concerned that she wouldn't be able to keep him from falling. I told them I lived just 3 minutes away and I'd get them that exact walker they needed. They were grateful and obviously I wouldn't let them pay me. The woman's son owns one of the best doughnut places in our area and she wrote a note to her son for me to present to get a free dozen doughnuts! Three cheers for bartering and voluntary association baby!
  4. I was called in for jury duty. My verdict: The cop did it.
  5. My cousin Don has been such a blessing to me. We don't get together often enough for sure but I never feel out of sync with him. I was a five year old snot-nosed ring bearer in his wedding so many years ago.
  6. I've been riding motorcycles 23 years without an endorsement on my license. Some people call it riding illegally but I just like to think of myself as an undocumented motorsports enthusiast. This week I took the advanced riders class (one day knowledge and skills class) and finished tops in the class. Seriously.
  7. At the DMV I had a long conversation with a guy from Ethiopia who has lived here four months and is just learning English. He was exposed to English some at the university back in Africa but has only been speaking it for four months. I was able to carry on a longer conversation with him than I'm able to with many people who cobble together some kind of English and live here their whole lives.
  8. I had to cancel a vacation that we had planned a few months back. I haven't had a meaningful vacation to anywhere in years. This is seriously driving me nuts.
  9. Spotify has been a dream come true for me. If you don't have it then you're really just wandering through life like an idiot. Why are you doing this to yourself? If you don't have it, click the link, put in your email and wait for the invite. Install it and then listen to any music you want for free (LEGALLY!) until you puke. Wipe your face, get a breath mint and then email me a kind thank you.
Well, thanks for waiting patiently for 10 days while I got some stuff together. I'll be dedicating some posts to my mom coming up and rooting for Ron Paul in the Iowa Straw Poll tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Memorial Service for Lee Green

When:  Saturday, August 20th, 11am

Where:  First Baptist Church of Monroe
             17922 149th St SE
             Monroe, WA 98272

Kids and family welcome.  Reception to follow.

This is a large church that seats plenty, all are welcome.

Please help me in passing this information along.  My mom was a friend to countless in and around the Lower Snoqualmie Valley and beyond, most I've never met.  As always your help with spreading this information is very important.  (and I'm really grateful for the help you've already given)

Whether you knew her from church, several book clubs, the Duvall Civic Club, the Duvall Historical Society, Sno Valley Senior Center, through her work with Riverview School District #407 or just from her cameo appearances on the Dave and Steve Show then you are all welcome to come celebrate her life with my family. 

If you have any questions, please contact me through facebook or email me at tracy (at) tracy green (dot) com and I'll be glad to help you out.

Friday, July 29, 2011

My Mom - Peace at last.

My mom died last night about 9:45pm. She left this world peacefully and comfortably surrounded by family and the wonderful staff at Evergreen Hospital that cared for her over the last month or so. I was grateful to share time together with a close friend, my sister and my niece.

I would like to acknowledge a few people for their instrumental help over the last month or so:

Amy Edge-Salois - As a nurse and friend Amy helped me wade through the piles medical jargon and helped me ask the right questions of doctors, specialists and other nurses. This improved my mom's care directly and helped me get good information to my family members who are scattered throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Robert and Debra Scharer - I'm grateful to you both for getting information to the hundreds in the Lower Snoqualmie Valley that were asking about my mom's health. Your efforts helped free me to focus on organizing my mom's care without the burden of retelling day-to-day updates. You both meant a great deal to my mom, she told me so.

Many of you have helped me personally by providing quick diversions, notes and cards and well wishes. I plan to thank you all personally and privately in the coming weeks and months.

I was surprised by the hundreds of emails, texts, and comments I received thanking me for sharing this piece of my life as they quietly followed the details. I never dreamed that sharing this experience would have impacted so many personally.

More information will follow as I know many questions now are begging to be asked. I will answer them, that I do promise. Please allow me today to just catch my breath. I will not be taking phone calls today unless they are from my brother and sister.

I have some very interesting posts planned soon that will contain information about upcoming arrangements and some incredible stories about my mom.

Thank you once again and much love to all of you,


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Holy Bible and Conrad Hilton

I stayed at a Hilton recently in downtown Portland. I had some time to kill so I looked through the drawers and discovered two books in the nightstand. The Gideons left a hardback Bible. I'm always thankful for the Gideons and I find myself reading the Bible a fair amount while in a hotel.

It wasn't the Bible I grabbed this time but the book sitting next to it. No disrespect to the Scriptures at all, but I became fascinated by the other small paperback book entitled Be My Guest by Conrad Hilton.

I didn't finish it but I took the copy with me. If it's not complimentary and the Hilton company wants it back, I will gladly pay for it. I asked at the front desk but no one knew what I was talking about.

I got about 40 pages into it and read about how this God fearing, humble and devoted family man began his empire. He celebrated his Roman Catholic upbringing and praised the value of his parents. There was an attractive genuineness to his words in this book that I instantly admired him even though minutes before opening the book I knew nothing about him.

He provided for his family a life they would never know without the benefit of his hard work and the values to which he was so devoted. This life he gave to his family for generations has given them so much wealth that they likely don't give the virtues Conrad cherished so much a second thought. Paris Hilton is an obvious example.

Made me think a bit about the legacy I'm leaving my own kids. They obviously aren't going to inherit much wealth from me but I hope I can help them not be bankrupt of character, integrity and faith. I'm probably just an average parent, nothing special. But my stay at the Hilton made me want to be better than that...if only just above average.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My Mom (part 2)

Facebook updates have worked well to update the masses though not everyone reads through their newsfeed everyday (me included) so they miss updates here and there and then the requests for updates come rolling in.  Information changes on a daily basis so it might be a good idea to bring everyone up-to-speed on how she is.  Please help me out some with getting this information out.  I’m not answering phone calls about how she is doing except from a few people who are collecting information for those not connected to the Interweb tubes.  You’re welcome to call me to let me know that you’re ACTUALLY GOING TO DO SOMETHING to make my life easier.  I’ll gladly take that call.  (I’ve had a couple of people offer to do “anything” to help and then slowly back away when I took them up on their offer like they just wanted credit for offering.  Don’t do this unless your ultimate intuitive longing is to get punched in the face.)  Thankfully I’ve had a few important people helping me and my mom out that I don’t know what I’d do without.  They know who they are.

First some facts:

  1. She is at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland in their CCU.
  2. She is welcome to have visitors though understand as of the time of this post, she is not able to respond.
  3. If you want to send cards and letters email me at tracy (at) tracy green dot com.  (say it out loud and let common sense do the rest) and I’ll give you my address.

Back story:

My mom was moved from Evergreen Hospital on Monday of last week.  I joked with her that she had to be moved because she simply wasn’t sick enough to be pampered in the Critical Care Unit.  She pretended to be upset about it and we prepared to make the transition to her facility at Kindred Hospital in Northgate, just north of Seattle.

This hospital was going to be her next step in terms of getting stronger and weaning off of the ventilator which she is now connected to through her trachea. 
I waited with her for the ambulance to arrive and I signed for all of her belongings. 

 My mom at age 79

When the RN and EMT arrived to transfer her to the next hospital I waited until they transferred her to the gurney and then I gave her a kiss and told her I’d meet her at the new place.  I went home and had a quick bite to eat thinking that they’d beat me by a few minutes but I’d be there to help her get checked in.

After a stop at my house to eat something I headed on to Northgate and went into the building and told them I was here to see my mom.  They informed me she hadn’t arrived yet. That was okay, I took the opportunity to get a little sleep in my car.  You can imagine that any opportunity to sleep over the last few weeks is a good thing.  I slept for about an hour and she still wasn’t there.  Another hour went by and I called Evergreen who informed me she had been discharged and nothing more.  The 40 minute ride to the new hospital took about three hours due to the ambulance having a defective ventilator.  They waited for a new one to be brought and when it arrived (from several miles away) it didn’t have the right connection hardware with it.  Finally an entire new ambulance came and she finally arrived, still strapped to the same gurney she was moved to over three hours ago.  She was anxious and warm from all the time spent in the ambulance.

Over the next couple of days she progressed to sitting in a chair and doing both occupational therapy and physical therapy.  It was nice to finally see positive signs of improvement. The next day I arrived and she was in bed and hadn’t done any therapy.  She seemed slow to respond.  The next day she was even slower to respond and was just staring at the wall blankly.  I asked nurses to explain the change in her appearance and they did not have a clear answer except that she was given something for her anxiety.  The next day after that she was staring blankly and not responding at all.  I asked for a doctor but one wasn’t available.  They promised to have the doctor call me and the doctor never did.  The next day she looked most sickly and had a fever and tremors.  I expressed my concern.  They initially said she was fine and just resting but finally saw it my way to see that a doctor sees her.  I was promised another call from the doctor.

The next day a call from the doctor did come.  It wasn’t to address my concerns but instead to tell me that they suspect that my mom has had another bleed in her stomach and needed to be transferred back to Evergreen Hospital to be looked at by the same surgeons and doctors who treated her before.  This sounded like bad news.  A few hours later I met with the doctors at Evergreen.

They informed me that she was not bleeding but in fact she had an infection around her feeding tube which had been pulled out while at the other hospital.  She had not received any nutrition or hydration for about 4 days.  We were back to square one with an aggressive bacterial infection from the feed tube leaking into her under her skin and kidney failure from days without hydration.  Staff at Evergreen informed me that had she not arrived sooner she would have certainly died.

Which brings us to today.  She is trying to recover from this aggressive bacterial infection and is being stabilized in the Critical Care Unit.  Obviously I’m furious that this mistake has caused her to have a serious setback when she was on the road to recovery.  I’m furious that medical personnel were slow to recognize her in failing health while directly under their care.  I’m furious that my mom has fought valiantly through these challenges but may not be able to overcome…I’m not sure what to call it honestly.

I have nothing more to say about the care she received at the Northgate facility for obvious reasons.  There will likely be an update on this in the future.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Wisdom of Howard Cunningham

Happy Days was a pretty formational television program for me when I was a kid. In 2nd grade my friend Todd Light and I used to pretend to be Richie and Fonzy. I was Richie because Todd made a decent Fonzy. To this day I've not told him that.

I own the first three seasons on DVD because they were all of the shows that aired before they began filming in front of a live studio audience. The early episodes maintained the look and feel of the movie that inspired the series, American Graffiti.

In Season 2, Richie began to take an interest in politics when a cute blonde girl he liked was a huge Adlai Stevenson supporter. Richie began researching Stevenson to be able to spout off facts about him to impress this girl and he finds himself giving a big rally speech in favor of Stevenson. The typical 30 minute TV show conflict was that his father, Howard Cunningham, supported Eisenhower and routinely voted Republican.

This could be a pretty typical story line. Conservative father frustrated by his more liberal kids and the show closes with Bob Dylan singing "The Times they are a Changin'" but that's not at all how this episode went. In an argument with Richie their dialogue went like this:

Howard: What I'd like to know is how in your right mind could you even consider supporting Stevenson!

Richie: I did research!

Howard: You did research huh? Well, did your research tell you that the Democrats solve problems with war and that Republicans are the party of peace and prosperity?

I have to hand it to the writers of this show for this small tidbit of historical accuracy. For right or wrong the Republican Party of the 1950's had peaceful conservatives like Robert Taft who was known as Mr. Republican. Taft hated overseas meddling and resented the United Nations for dragging America into the Korean War.

Democrats hated taking the rap for wars and foreign intervention so they would always try to paint Republicans as eager to use the bomb. Anyone who remembers the 1964 race, even if just from a history book, remembers Goldwater portrayed as an extremist hothead who could not be trusted with atomic weapons. At the same time Goldwater was running ads condemning his nation's policy of intervention in a country nobody had heard of at the time, Vietnam. His commercials talked about not sending our boys to "fight in no-win wars."

Ultimately the episode ended the way you would expect. Richie didn't get the girl. Stevenson lost. Fonzy supported Ike. And we all learned an important lesson:

We should listen to Howard Cunningham and cute girls eventually ruin politics for everyone at some point.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Love Guitar

I'm a minimalist and known by many of my friends for not really owning much stuff. I try to live life simply and not be encumbered by junk. I collect three things in my life...wrist watches, Pepsi Memorabilia, and Guitars.

When it comes to guitars you won't find the usual stable of Gibsons and Fenders in my group. You will find a more obscure variety of brands and models that appeal primarily just to me.

I played in a band with a great guitarist named James. James was a great guy who, aside from a couple of stints in jail, I admired. James took some luthier classes at a technical college and had become pretty handy at making guitars. Being too poor to buy a guitar he found a broken body of a Strat copy at a garage sale and bought it for two dollars. He used it all as a template to make a new guitar. His primary hunk of material for the new body came from an old coffee table. I'm not entirely sure it was even 100% wood.

When James finished that guitar it played very well. He sounded great every time he plugged it in. When I played it however, it sounded like a monkey playing table. It was at that point I realized that the brand of guitar you're playing doesn't really mean that much. Hence my unusual collection.

My latest guitar is a rare reissue of the 1958 Stratotone Jupiter by Harmony. The Harmony company was one of the big three American guitar makers after World War 2 and specialized in many introductory models. They also made many models of guitar for Fender including an 40 year old spruce top acoustic guitar I own. See the Jupiter below.

Aside from their own guitars they made under the Harmony name, they also manufactured guitars for Sears and Roebuck and created a similar model under the name Silvertone. This is the guitar thousands of boys ran out and got after seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Since that time girls have not been able to resist any adolescent, pimple-faced boy plunking away on a Jupiter. That's a scientific fact.**

The Jupiter is unusual (cupcake knobs, floating wood bridge and a large gaudy looking pickup switch) in that it is hollow but has no f-holes like you'd expect to see on hollow body electrics (and violins for example). The result is a very low fat jazz box kind of sound in a bluesy Les Paul kind of body style. Very cool.

Harmony was also known for their knobs. Lots of knobs. I'm still not even sure what all these knobs do but I enjoy trying to figure it out. The more I play this guitar the more I enjoy playing in general.

I'm not a great guitarist. I stopped playing for quite a long time while battling chronic wrist problems. Most of those problems have gone away and I can now play for 20 or 30 minutes in a row without pain. Since my Junior year in high school playing the guitar has been a major joy in my life. I'm excited to begin playing more.

The Harmony guitar company was revived once again in 2008. They bought up about every model of vintage Harmony guitars off of Ebay and reverse engineered the originals to recreate all of the frequencies and wood densities of the instruments of that time. Their respect for the history of these great instruments resulted in some very unusual guitars. Since the economy has tanked they've cut production almost completely and possibly made the reissues more rare than the originals. Thanks to my wife, I have mine and I couldn't be happier with it.

I know a lot of guitar players that shake their head immediately when I explain how much I love playing a Harmony guitar. When they do I know they're dismissing history and dismissing instruments that have an unmistakable character and sound that are rarely produced in mass-production guitar factories around the world. They can go ahead and enjoy their special edition whatchamacallits from the major factories. If that's what they enjoy, more power to them.

I need to go now. Ed Sullivan will be on soon.


**I'm unable to back up this at all but it's still a fact.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Living Libertarian

When this blog began back in 2005 (and my previous site before that) I focused a great deal of time based on looking at current events through a libertarian lense. When talking about politics it can get so simply boring talking again and again why both parties are basically wrong on the breadth of issues.  It’s even more tiresome explaining to people that on all the major issues that really impact the future of America, the two parties are in agreement.

I live in a blue state and I have many liberal and progressive friends.   They joined me enthusiastically in condemning the wars pre 2008, but I can’t seem to find any of them all that concerned about American deaths that happened even this week.  I remain anti-war without regrets.

Even when it comes to voting and political activism, libertarian action is rather still-born.  My state has now legally institutionalized the two-party system and libertarians no longer even appear on the ballot.  I can’t even throw away my vote the way I want to. 

Instead of these realities I’d just like to focus on the freedoms that do exist, and the new freedoms that our society gains.  I was inspired by a book written by Harry Browne entitled “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World.”

Harry Browne (who I cast a vote for in 1996 and 2000 presidential elections) focused on how we approach the notion of freedom incorrectly.  Harry focused on freedom as something that makes everyone happy and allows you to expect nothing of other people.  The book is now about 40 years old so some of the concepts are a bit outdated.  If he hadn’t tragically left this world early, I think we would’ve seen a new edition of this book.

I make a lot of choices in my life to live as free as possible and many of them simply make sure that no one else is having to pay my way.  It can be harder and trickier, but always comes with the satisfaction that I’ve done my part not to introduce coercion and violence into someone else’s life.

Politically my ideas may be outlawed from ballot access but I continue to trudge on seeking the opportunity to freely engage in whatever life brings my way.  I hope to see this blog reflect on many of the happy experiences I will have and less on what’s so wrong with things I have no control over.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Subliminal Waffles

I've always prided myself as someone who doesn't really respond to corporate branding or mass media advertising. Somehow in my own mind I had this mental filter that allowed me to have good sense no matter what my eyes were seeing. I no long have much confidence in this.
I mentioned briefly in my post a few days ago about my toaster that I've been hungry for frozen waffles. I'm not at all sure why but every morning I do one of two things. I've grabbed a frozen waffle from the freezer or I've gone to the shopping list and written down "frozen waffles" to replace the ones I've eaten. This has been a rather unexplainable phase. Unexplainable until this morning.

As I open the refrigerator I find myself viewing straight into some artwork that my son has made. Today I finally realized that his paint brush was likely a former frozen waffle. Any good sense that I thought I had is obviously weakened or only ever existed in my mind in the first place. It appears that every morning at the same time I open the refrigerator and glance idiotically at the door and then go looking for waffles. Just put a collar around my neck with a tag that reads: If found please return to Ivan Petrovich Pavlov.

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Mom [updated]

I shared a while ago on another post about my mom’s health and how Evergreen Hospital stumbled through their communication enough to give me what would seem like a death notification to any reasonable person. I have received a large number of questions about what happened. I’ll do my best to explain it here.

My mom had been complaining about back pain for awhile. It wasn’t severe at first but each day it seemed to increase. I took her to the doctor about 5 weeks ago and he ordered x-rays and nothing seemed to be wrong. She was given a mild pain killer and sent on her way.
About 5 days later I called her on the phone and she said the pain was too great. For her to admit any pain as being too much is significant. We measured her pain as 7 on the 1 to 10 scale and we both agreed that if she got to 8 we’d go to the ER. I called her later and she said the pain was bad. I asked her, “is it an 8?” She answered, “No.” I asked “Is it worse than before when it was 7?” She answered, “Yes.” I usually have to play this game when it comes to pain.

My happy mom before kids
My mom is a polio survivor. For my entire life she has walked with a limp and her mobility or physical capability has been an issue. She is also no stranger to hospitals as she spent not days, but months in them as a kid.
The ER ordered a C scan and they discovered a compression fracture in her back. They were concerned about some of her other levels, including kidney, blood pressure, and her breathing. They were also concerned that the contrast dye from the C scan would make her sick. I asked them to admit her so that she could be under observation and they refused, citing that if they did admit her she would pay for the whole thing out of pocket.*** Just the thing someone who lived through the Great Depression wants to hear. So she went home with me.

I took that week off of work to care for her. Nobody would do much for her until she saw her primary care doctor. I finally got her an appointment with a new primary care doctor near my house for Wednesday. Each day at my house she was in more pain, breathing became worse and she was largely uncomfortable. Finally when she saw the primary care doctor, the doctor looked at her for two minutes and called 911. Pretty much all of the things they were worried about in the ER (and refused to admit her) came true and she was headed back there in an ambulance.

It wasn’t long before they discovered that her stomach was bleeding and she was put on a respirator. After a move to the critical care unit of the hospital they discovered a large bleed in the back of her stomach that was life threatening. I authorized surgery for her and she was off to get it repaired. Turns out this was the source of her back pain.

After the surgery she got a little better. She was taken off the ventilator and breathing on her own. She was “alive and kicking” as she put it. After 30 hours off of the ventilator she was breathing heavily again and not feeling well. She was also in a great deal of pain. Then more bleeding showed that the surgery didn’t work. Several scopes revealed nothing as the bleeding always stopped when they looked. Very sneaky.

Once again they called me and informed me that she was free bleeding into her stomach.  The place of the bleeding was the same as the first surgery. She needed a second surgery to repair it. The surgeon told me he wasn’t exactly sure how he was going to fix it but would try everything. He did, and so far it has worked. No bleeding since the second surgery.

My mom though has stayed on the ventilator and is very weak. Turns out an 86 year old with post polio syndrome will take time to get strong again. She is now in a hospital which specializes in helping patients regain strength in their respiratory muscles so that they can vent Carbon Dioxide off on their own without the aid of a ventilator.

What’s most discouraging at this point is seeing how weak she is. My mom is a very sociable person who loves to talk and interact with others, but is unable to talk due to the ventilator. She is obviously frustrated too. I remind her and encourage her daily that this is temporary and that getting stronger is the way out.

She has struggled this far, I hope she has the will to keep going. If she does, I’ll be with her every step of the way.

*** – I filed a grievance with the hospital about this and the other issues I’ve had there and so far their investigation has shown not only a breech in their own policies but against best practices in general. I’ll have more on the outcome of this in the future.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I’m breaking up with my toaster

We’ve been together for about a year now and at first, like any new relationship things were hot and it was fun just learning what buttons to push.

Lately it hasn’t been the same.  The toaster just takes its time with my toast knowing full well that I have the same amount of time to get ready in the morning that I had months ago.  It seems later and later each morning and the toast eventually just flips up without conviction or concern.  “Here you go.” it seems to say as it casually flips my morning quick meal at me.

If the indifference were not enough, the buttons aren’t responding either.  Frozen.  Bagel.  Nothing works.  I end up getting it the way the toaster will put out and if I don’t like it then I can just pound sand for breakfast.  I’m getting pretty sick of it.

I want a toaster that can adapt with me.  Maybe handle some variety like a frozen waffle every once in awhile.  I don’t always have to have it quick, but I’d like it to care a little bit if I’m pressed for time.  I need a toaster that recognizes my needs.  Toast.

Tomorrow I’m insisting the toaster leaves the house.  I don’t even want to be friends anymore; the experiment is over.  Go deliver half-assed attempts at toasted bread for someone else.  I’m done with it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In Defense of Dillholes

My good friend Dave Johnson wrote a rather scathing blog post about "dillholes" in small industries who have bad attitudes because they appear unable to work cooperatively in a collaborative environment. I hope to help Dave and many others understand the mindset of the "dillhole."

Dave presented a scenario where a person asks for a "huge favor" and then is ultimately unhappy with the results. Dave paints the person as an ungrateful Oliver Twist asking for more gruel then complains that it should taste like a steak dinner. The problem with this is that the person never asked for gruel in the first place.

People who are skilled often forget that they are asked for help because this is a recognition of their great talent. Dave conveniently describes this person as someone in a tight spot and ultimately responsible for their own work. But as Dave also pointed out, everyone in an industry brings their own talents, both green and skilled.

The person needing help may not know how much help they need. I've found myself in situations where I'm asking someone for help and what I think is just a favor is the equivalent of lifting a cinder block using only your testicles.

As a more experienced business analyst where I work, I'm asked for favors all that time. When asked for a favor I understand it for what it is: A recognition of my skills.

When I'm asked to lift a school bus, I can complain that the favor is too large and too much is expected of me, or I can assume that the person asking simply doesn't understand what would be required. Since I'm the one with the knowledge, I would be the "dillhole" if I didn't try to convey it at that point.

Setting proper expectations and explaining size and scope of a project is a fundamental part of anything you do for anyone, whether personal or professional. When an obviously talented person forgets this basic piece of communication they set themselves up to be the unappreciated victim and then write blog posts about it.

All of us at one time or another are the dillhole. We don't necessarily come upon this distinction deliberately but sometimes step into it like a flaming lunch sack on our front porch. If only the skilled person could've helped us understand the size and scope in the first place, the collaboration would have already begun.

Maybe if the skilled and talented could come out from behind the pulpit and communicate thoroughly and respectfully, the dillhole could be seen for what he truly is: Just a jerk asking you to do his work.

You didn't really think I'd defend the dillhole did you?


Monday, July 04, 2011

Hot Damn, I love Independence Day

There's almost nothing I don't like about this holiday. Period.

I was in 2nd grade during the Bicentennial so I had the great fortune of spending a great deal of time learning about the popular history of our country. I remember 1976 like it was just a few years ago, even though I was merely 7 years old.

My grandmother told me about a grandfather several greats back that fought in the Revolutionary War and showed me his name in an old family bible. I remember the parade that year in my little dumb town and how my 2nd grade class marched in it with our flag we made as an art project. I remember a girl I liked was at the parade with red, white and blue ribbons in her hair. I remember reciting "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" in class. I remember the weather being great. From that year on I have loved Independence Day like no other holiday. Sure Christmas has the lead, but the 4th isn't far behind.

I love the story of our independence. I love the idea of freedom and the promissory note (as Martin Luther King put it) written to future generations that we'll keep trying for freedom as our understanding of it matures.

You'll see no sappy tributes to those who allegedly "protect our freedoms" from me. This day is about the concept of liberty and the concept of self-ownership. Freedoms belong to all people, not just those who live inside our borders.

I'm going to go blow some stuff up now.

Have a great Independence Day!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What happened after I woke up this morning

I could also entitle this post: A study of a crappy morning in black and white.

I got a new phone and had set the alarm for 7:30. The alarm was different than what I've been used to as my normal wake up sound was the voice of Steve Damm from the Dave and Steve Show singing a little song. My whole household is familiar to the morning melody of "Just stop what you're doing and be polite please..." Anyway...

The new alarm wasn't the new alarm at all and 7:30 was actually 7:15. What was actually happening was my phone was ringing. I saw it was the number from Evergreen Hospital so I immediately answered it. My mom has been in the Critical Care Unit for the last 8 or 9 days.

The conversation went like this:

Hospital: Is this Tracy?

Me: Yes.

Hospital: Your mother has taken a turn for the worse. You need to come here as soon as possible.

Me: Okay, I'll be right there.

You know what the subtext of this conversation is. You don't want to say it, but you know exactly what it sounds like. My heart sank. I called my brother who had just returned to California and my sister who lives a bit further north. I wanted her to have a chance to see mom.

I told my wife that she'd have to take our five year old to soccer camp this morning and explained what I was told on the phone. She whispered "okay" with the same sort of heavy seriousness that I was feeling inside.

I got in the car and during rush hour I made the 40 minute trip to the hospital (which is normally 15 minutes). Each minute that went by while still in the car made me more anxious. Once I arrived at the hospital I made my way up to the Critical Care Unit and went to her room and saw the nurses cleaning up the room and the bed was empty.

One of the nurses turned around and asked me "Are you her son?" I managed to eek out a "yes." The next words she said hit me hard. "She's gone." I lookd over at the empty bed and the other nurse asked "Would you like to see her?" I nodded.

The nurses began then talking about some side things they needed to do and if it was possible for one of them to take me to see my mother. I began to change my mind and think maybe I didn't actually need to go to the morgue.

I got to thinking though that this didn't add up so I spoke up.

"Wait, can someone tell me what is going on?" I held my hands out to stop everyone and just get an answer to my question.

"What have you been told?" One of them asked.

"I think the whole conversation should've started with that question, don't you think?" I pointed out what should've been obvious.

It turns out that "gone" meant being prepped for a surgery that I didn't know she was going to have and they called me down there "as soon as possible" to simply wait in a waiting room when I could've waited just as easily from home. Nice huh?

My day started with a 45 minute drive with the idea that my mom was on death's door. It got better when I got to spend a couple of hours with her today talking and watching TV and showing her junk on my new phone.

Next time you have a crappy morning, remember mine.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Customer Service

I had two customer service experiences today.

The first one was with Sears. I had a giftcard for Sears and I decided to get some car work done there and use the card. It wasn't my first choice, but I figured I already had money in the bank there.

It took 3 1/2 hours to complete the work that they promised would be done in 2 1/2 hours. In response to this they kept me updated on what was going on and apologized for the length of time. Because they used the basic customer service principle of setting expectations, I never felt like the hour was a waste. Good so far.

I start to drive home and I heard a noise. I heard an awful noise. Coming from under the hood I hear a screaching noise. This concerns me as the only real work I had done was a new tire and battery service.

I pull off to the side of the road and look under the hood and I can tell it's coming from the fan. The fan is also not moving because a tool is wedged into the fan casing and against the blades. I shut off the engine. I now have to get the engine cool enough and figure out how I can safely reach down (or up from underneath) to get this tool out of my fan. This sucks. I get home one hour later.

I talked to their manager today and told him what happened. He begins by telling me that he is "at the losing end of this discussion" and that I should tell him "what will make it right." I did tell him, and he agreed and Sears will have my business again. It cost them very little to keep me as a customer.

My other experience was at my doctor's office. Had a 10 o'clock appointment to address my chronic cough that I've had for 3 weeks. What passes for normal at my clinic is that the 10 o'clock appointment is really more like 11 o'clock and getting out at noon for a 15 minute office visit isn't a huge surprise. Today though I explained that I needed to get out of there on time.

10:40 rolls around and I've not been called by the nurse yet. I have my older son who I'm taking to school at 11:10. The school is about 10 minutes away so I figured that the hour and 10 minutes cushion was enough for a short office visit. They indicated that it should be.

I finally get someone and they tell me I can go wait in an exam room but the doctor would not be with me for awhile. So basically I could wait in a different place where I wouldn't bug anyone about what time it was.

I explain my problem and how I didn't have all day to wait and asked if they would honor the appointment time they made for me. The nurse told me there was nothing she could do. She got her manager.

The manager pretty much explained the same thing. They're running late and there's nothing they can do. She did say that I could see the doctor on time if I got an earlier appointment. Apparently only the first person who sees the doctor in that clinic gets their appointment time, everyone else has to wait.

She offered to call my son's school. That was a nice offer but I explained to her that I pay for my son's school and I don't pay for him to wait with me at the doctor. They said if I took him to school and came back they would make sure someone saw me. I asked how this was possible to do this in the future, but not now. How could someone see me when I got back if they couldn't see me when I was there for my actual appointment.

I raised enough hell to get the doctor to see me but like clockwork I have to leave to take my son to school. I told her I'd be back in 20 minutes. The doctor didn't get the memo about seeing me when I got back and told me she didn't want to wait 20 minutes.

I can believe that if my auto insurance company paid for my tire and the garage was getting their pay from a 3rd party I can bet the tool lodged in my fan would just get lost in the shuffle, similar to my doctor's visit.

After the complaining I did today I will probably need to check my butthole and make sure the doctor didn't leave anything in there.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Perfume smells or Poo Poo smells

A female co-worker has explained to me that there is a spray can in the women’s restroom which has a notice on it that it should not be used due to allergies.  This is very much how my company works.  The people here like to put notes on things.

When I first started the two stalls in the upstairs men’s bathroom had a note above them explaining in a whiney fashion how to properly use the toilet from the standing position.  Apparently someone years ago got some pee on the toilet seat and this now deserved a notice.

Back to the women’s bathroom.  The note also explains that the use of a spray will be available again as soon as a suitable non-scented alternative can be found.  In the meantime everyone smells what goes on in that room.

I have allergies and I can sympathize with people who are impacted by scent.  I wonder how many people have an averse reaction of smelling everyone else’s bowel movements?  Does this even make sense?  Everyone has to smell each other’s fecal matter because someone may get a temporary headache or a runny nose from potpourri?

What reasonable arrangements can be made in this case.  One thing is for sure:  Everyone is smelling something they don’t want.  Whatever the solution is, I know that in this place it will be handled by a small sign.  Idiots.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Bad at picking friends

I have some good friends in my life. I'm not a person who has made a great number of friends but the friends I've made I've had for a very long time. They're people I could count on in almost any situation. They've stuck by my side through the ups and downs of life and have celebrated the awesome times and gently guided me in the bad times. I'm fortunate.

I have a five year old son who is in the beginning stages of picking friends. He already seems discriminate as he looks for those unwritten character qualities that makes a lasting friend.

As a country, the USA is pretty awful at making friends. Outside of countries that are the equivalent of family (UK, Canada, Australia, and even France) we can't seem to make a lasting ally. The Shaw of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, Bin Laden and other Mujahideen. All of these friends we eventually had to turn our back on or outright kill. But not after handing over billions in foreign aid first.

Now we're using NATO, a treaty that exists to defend ourselves against an enemy that no longer exists, to fight Muamar Gaddafi. Although not a full fledged friend, Gaddafi was at least a guy who was receiving some aid and up until a little while ago was on the "up and coming new friend" list under Bush and Obama.

Maybe it's not our friends that are the problem. Maybe it's the USA. Maybe it's because we're always so unsure of how to spell, or even pronounce, our friend's names. I had a girlfriend years ago whose last name I didn't know how to spell. Writing her name was a source of embarrassment as it showed that I didn't know the most basic thing about her. Osama? Usama? Kaddafi? Gaddafi? Is it SaDAMM or SADamm? We never knew.

I wonder who we're making friends with in Libya today that we'll need to kill in 20 or 30 years.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Freeze Dried Ice Cream

I don’t review food often (never) on this blog.  This is as close as I will get:

I didn’t know what to expect.  Before last night I had never tried it.

From a texture standpoint I’d compare it to packing material.  Not offensive, but sort of very light bricks.

From a flavor standpoint…well it’s ice cream.  Really.

Obviously it’s not cold and doesn’t make a mess when eaten by kids.

I’m taking it camping this summer.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Great time in Wisconsin

Just got back from a few days in beautiful Wisconsin. I say beautiful even though a huge storm rolled in the very hour I got there which included several inches of rain and hail and about a dozen tornadoes. Still beats the crappy weather in the Seattle area.

I've stated before that a generic description of my job is that I'm a financial management business analyst. I specialize in business systems aimed at solutions unique to schools. That's as deep as I'll go without boring you. You don't stop by here to be bored do you?


...something amazing happened at this conference I attended. At some point in this conference of 1100 people they announced that there were attendees from Washington state. I don't recall exactly when that was as I was probably trying to digest the conference breakfast. Hearing this a woman attending the conference was trying to find out who was from my state. She found me.

I was sitting in a chair on the side of the conference hall when this woman came up to me and said "Oh my god, I finally found you." I deducted two things from this introduction:

1. My awesomeness can be easily sensed.

2. She has mistaken me for someone else.

She then goes on to tell me that she is very uptight about moving her daughter out to Washington state and that her husband isn't able to go with her. Her daughter got a job "out west" and they know nothing about the area and was hoping I could answer any questions they might have.

I asked the lady what town her daughter is moving to. It turns out she's moving into the same little bedroom community I live. When I told her that I lived there and was happy to help her with any questions she had, she cried. Seriously.

I got out some paper and drew her a map (in the age of the Internet...c'mon I should've just given her directions to Bing maps) and gave her some directions to a list of things she needed and patiently answered her questions.

She said that she was so upset that she had to attend this conference which was across the state from where she lived instead of preparing for this move that had her so apprehensive. Instead she said that attending the conference and talking to me was the best thing that could've possibly happened. Here is what you could learn from this:

1. You can't predict the future and getting uptight about crap isn't necessary.

2. What may seem like the last thing you need could be the very thing you need.

3. My awesomeness is obvious to midwesterners.

4. Talking to me solves everything.

I got an email from the lady today thanking me for all my help. Nice.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I felt like a jerk tonight

I don't know how to explain this really.

My wife went into a store to return some rented videos and I drove around the parking lot with one kid on the verge of throwing up into a cup and another fast asleep. I'd circle around in the time it would take for her to return to parking lot and I'd pick her up.

I make the first turn and a guy jumps out in front of my car. He's waving frantically. Not the kind of wave where he's trying to get me to stop but the kind of wave that says "Hello Stranger!" in a not quite right kind of way. The guy is obviously not right. I complete my circle around.

I pick up my wife and circled back around to find out what was up with this guy. He came up to the side of the car in a very excited way and I rolled down the window. The discussion went like this:

Me: Hi buddy, are you okay?

Him: Yes, I'm okay. I haven't eaten in three days.

Me: Why haven't you eaten?

Him: I'm homeless.

Me: Where do you stay?

Him: I sleep under a bridge

Me: Why are you homeless?

Him: I'm just homeless.

Me: That's not an answer. Why are you homeless?

Him: Because I get beat up at the shelter.

Me: Is that why you're outside?

Him: I'm mentally disabled.

This is where I felt like a jerk. I knew he was mentally disabled. I'm not trained in it but I know it when I see it. I didn't need him to say it though. He didn't owe me a confession. When he told me his face was sort of downcast and my heart broke.

I will help anyone who needs help and generously. Anyone who knows me knows that's true. But as someone who thinks like an adult I understand that not all help is really help. I just wanted to know what his need was. He just wanted to eat. I could tell immediately that he was honest and in need of genuine help. But somehow in my quest for info he felt that he needed to confess his disability. It happened and I didn't want it to.

I don't know if I can explain why I feel so bad. I didn't need him to be humble I just wanted a bit of background to know what I needed to do. I'm firmly convicted to help who Jesus called "the least of these."

I gave him some money and told him not to spend it all at once and save the change to get more meals tomorrow. He was excited to eat.

He probably isn't thinking about our interaction but I can't get it out of my head.

It's an interesting teaching moment for my older son. He has seen me talk to homeless people several times. He listens to me talk to them and asks me questions about why they are the way they are. Most of the time they never get my money but I'm never mean or disrespectful to them.

Everything went fine tonight and I was glad to help. I just felt like my questioning made the guy feel like he owed me something...and that made me feel like a jerk. You can bet when/if I see him again I'll have a meal with him and apologize. You can also bet he won't know what I'm even talking about.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

I hate the weather here

I grew up in the greater Seattle area and I didn't mind it as a kid, but now I'm a bit annoyed by it. And what is "it" you ask? "It" is soggy weather.

It rains frequently in Seattle. You may have heard. But you may have also heard on Jeopardy or some smart-ass weatherman tell you that it really doesn't rain that much in Seattle and there are other areas of the country that get more rain. This point I won't argue.

Seattle doesn't get much accumulated rainfall but one area of rainfall I know we have everyone beat is in total hours of rainfall. It rains and drips and plops, drizzles, and showers...all different words for the same shitty weather. Seriously, it sucks.

It's been like this since November. Drizzly. Most of the time you're out in it and not even getting wet. It's just damp. Everything is constantly damp, all of the time. Little leagues and softball teams start off the season by postponing games and playing on infields with puddles. It's a bit warmer but always wet. Anything you do outside you do knowing that eventually you'll be cold and wet.

There is moss in the yard. Lots of it. The stuff is almost impossible to get rid of. If you do get rid of it in the spring you'll need to get rid of it again by the end of summer. It never totally goes away.

Intermittent wiper delay is a must in the Puget Sound region. It doesn't rain hard enough to justify having the wipers on before the windshield growls back at you as the moist blades drag across it. It's as if the wiper delay was designed by a Seattleite.

It's overcast almost all the time. No blue skies and almost no sun breaks. The winter drags on and drags you behind it. You sleepwalk through March and April and are greeted by hail storms and occasional snow flurries and more rain. Holy Crap more're sick of it but it just keeps coming down.

Then the first couple of warm sunny days arrive. High 60's and sun with blue skies and very few high clouds. The dreary skies and musty smells give way to great spring smells and you can actually hear birds. A sort of sun silliness takes over with all of the sunlight and you're tempted to forget what the last 7 months were like.

But I didn't forget. I remember what every last stupid soggy day was like. I remember all the days I wanted to do something but didn't want to wear a body condom to stay dry. If you say "The weather around here isn't all that bad really" I'm going to punch you in the face.

I'm waiting for the warm part of Spring and hoping that Summer will be warm and pleasant. If it's not then look out...I may be coming to a town near you.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

I witnessed a car accident

You can never know what will be a part of your morning routine.

At an intersection I see every morning I saw a traffic accident involving a roofing truck and a compact car. It was a classic fail to yield turning left and got t-boned sort of accident.

I was the first one at the accident scene and looked over the car to make sure there was no gas leak or fire and then I checked on the lady who was in the compact car that was REALLY smashed up. I found myself yelling "are you okay?" several times to what appeared to be a lifeless body. "Help is on the way!" I yelled. "I'm right here, everything will be okay." I didn't know if I believed it but I wanted to be comforting given that I didn't know what was going on.

It only took about 2 or 3 minutes before police and fire rescue showed up but just before I heard the first siren she opened her eyes. I felt such a relief and I talked to her more with a little more confidence.

An hour or so ago I got a nice email from her thanking me for staying there with her and being an official witness to the accident. I was stunned to hear from the police department that in this busy intersection I was the only one who stepped forward to say what they saw.

I don't want to be too cynical and say that nobody cared because it wasn't true. There were several calls to 911 that had help on the way quickly. I think in the age of cameras everywhere people naturally think that the facts about an incident like that will be discovered without a real person's testimony.

One thing I learned from this was that even though I was nothing but someone there to be supportive, the lady in the car said that it made a difference and she was very scared. Her husband learned of the accident from the car's communication system telling the monitoring company she had been in a collision. He was glad that someone was right there with her after the accident.

I guess aside from the 911 calls and cameras there is still a role for people. I wanted make sure she was okay and felt powerless to do anything but never counted on making a difference just by being there. I'm not a hero by a long shot and I'm not even pretending to be, but I'm glad I was there and that being there helped somehow.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pepsi Throwback is here to stay!

I know you don’t care.

I know most people don’t care.

I enjoyed Pepsi so much as a child that just thinking about it in a glass with that sort of crunchy barrel shaped ice is enough to make me cry.  You laugh?  You laugh at me?  DO I LAUGH AT YOUR DREAMS?  I do, you’re right…but I’m a jerk.

I rarely drink a sugary pop that often anymore but when I do, I’m reaching for Pepsi Throwback until it’s discontinued again or some knucklehead in a boardroom changes the formula to something similar to the more conventional taste of fizzy ass tonic now occupying Pepsi bottles.

You go ahead and laugh at me,  see if I care.  For this has been the happiest I’ve been all day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


For some reason every job I've had the last 15 years has sent me to Wisconsin. I've been a few times and I'm going back this April.

The reason I'm going back is to attend a Financial Management conference scheduled months and months ago with regard to schools. It will be fun to hear about how they're handling things in that state given the protests in the Capitol building.

One thing that I find pretty interesting as I watch is the deliberate attempt to put a halt to business by breaking their quorum rules. Right now their state Senate assembly can only operate as a committee. Could you imagine if Federal lawmakers in Washington DC left the country to stop the healthcare bill?

Breaking a quorum to stop business is a normal parliamentary trick that is used but it's only real helpful when there are time limits set to certain types of business. The idea is that you can just wait out business based on rules that the assembly uses but in this case the legislation will wait and in fact since the remaining legislature exists as the only operating committee they are forfeiting all of the priorities of the assembly over this one issue. The democrats to fled the state are counting on protesters to bully the remaining assembly into changing their mind.

Overall this may be a good thing as the legislature can't "fix" all of their state's other problems. Maybe a shutdown of government will help people understand how little they need it most of the time.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I could never go to CPAC. I know this to be true of myself. When I find myself in the same room with nutbar conservatives I get very uncomfortable. Hell, sometimes I'm uncomfortable hanging around other libertarians as there is usually one that jabs his elbow into my ribs and says "You know 9/11 was an inside job, right?"

So anyway, Ron Paul won the straw poll. He got 30% of the votes and you know what it means? It means that his Campaign for Liberty did a good job of organizing people to go to CPAC because paleo-conservatives and libertarians love pissing off neo-conservatives. I sounds crazy to mention all these fringe groups in the same sentence, but it's true.

Ron Paul cannot win the election and more importantly cannot win a Republican primary. Too many Republicans want our military might bossing the world around, a fence to keep Mexicans in Mexico (unless they're watching their kids or doing their laundry) and of course they want gay people back in the closet...especially gay people in their own party. Insane.

The real news is that a relatively unknown candidate who introduced himself to CPAC came in a distant 3rd place with 6% of the vote. A guy who I endorsed in December of 2009. I like Gary Johnson and if he runs he will get my matter what Ron Paul decides to do.

Ron Paul should not run because he actually has a role to play in congress. His job there at a significant time in this nation is just too important. We need more sensible Republicans in congress like Ron Paul...and fewer like the current Speaker of the House.

I'll be posting on a bunch of non-political stuff soon...promise.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Well hey there!

I was never really gone, just lost my way.

I've changed up a lot of things on the home front and am trying to get used to some transitions.

1. I've been out of the Microsoft environment now for quite awhile and have been using Ubuntu more at home. I've just now replaced about everything I was doing in the Windows world. My motivations are really more economical than they are some sort of binary revolution. This is the first distribution of Linux I've used that doesn't make me say "how I'll go back to Windows and get some work done." Like always it's free and if you make a boot up disc you can just try it out on the disc without installing it on your system. It may interest you though it's probably not for everyone in the PC world.

2. Having 2 kids is more work than I thought. Let me put it a different way. Being better than my own parents has turned out more difficult...mailing it in as a parent is rather easy. I'm doing my best not to do so.

3. Politics has been rather boring lately. Same old story. Welfare/warfare rolls on...but I'm watching the newly elected federal officials and have found a couple of things to be pretty exciting. Al Franken and Rand Paul have been talking and getting along swimmingly and Ralph Nader and Ron Paul have talked about the need for a Progressive/Libertarian coalition. This could really help carve out a debate about the role of government should be in this country.

4. A federal judge amazingly ruled that not engaging in commerce is well...not commerce. Imagine that!

5. We've put the Dave and Steve Show on hiatus while we're working on other projects (Dave is working on being fancy animator, Steve is opening a hot dog stand, and my Business Analyst job rolls on while I'm pounding out a new writing project that I'll share later.

Anyway, I missed you. You know who you are.