Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekend at the Lake

     We met the kids and Mr. Grandbaby down at the lake this weekend. They were interested in continuing the paint job in the living room, and our function was to play with the baby while they worked.

     Tough deal, I know.
     Actually, he had finished up his first week of "school", and had a pretty good case of Day Care Rhinitis.

     But I learned a couple of things:

     - Even a sniffly, fussy grandbaby is an almost instant cure for depression. I still don't have any solid job prospects, but I feel better going into this week than I have in a while. Thanks, little buddy.

     - Pusser's Rum and Diet Mountain Dew are an abomination not only to the quality of the rum, but as a combined flavor. (Don't look at me that way, this was my daughter's idea.) I will say though, that after the first one, the drink takes on an oddly intriguing attraction.

     It's Sunday, we're home, and I have the first signs of a cough coming on, a slight rum headache, and a big, peaceful smile on my face.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

     I asked my dearly beloved if she wanted to do anything special for Valentine's Day. I always ask rather than plan, as it depends on how she feels.
     To my delight, she said she'd like to go out to dinner.
     "Olive Garden."
     OK. Not haute cuisine, but perfectly good food, and more importantly, it's what she wants. Needless to say, they don't take reservations, but I decided to take advantage of my looser schedule, and have us arrive before 5:00 and beat the after-work crowd. At least those who didn't already go out this weekend.

     And that haute cuisine thing? I realized that, the way we feel about each other, we could go to Krystals and it would be a romantic dinner for two.
     So there.

     I'm looking forward to a lovely evening. Here's wishing the same to all of you.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

So, What the Hell Happened to Rick O' Shea?

     Well, a bunch of stuff happened around the Holidays that put me off my feed, writing-wise.
     I had been embroiled in an ever-increasing battle of wills at work regarding my willingness to follow the strict, black-and-white rules put forth by my supervisor.
     I had been building up a full-steam head of anger and resentment anyway regarding their lack of interest in my opinions.  I know that sounds rather less than humble - allow me to explain.

     (Warning: this is long. I've had a lot of these thoughts bottled up for a very long time, and have finally decided to use the venue of this blog to vent. Feel free to skim, skip or ignore as you wish.)

     I came to this job with nearly twenty years experience in the field, the last ten as a lab director. I was hired as a staff tech, but that was fine. They already had a lead tech who deserved the position, and after all the politics that led to me leaving my hospital job, I wasn't keen on getting back into all the supervisory activities anyway. Figured I'd just do my exams, and let someone else do the heavy lifting for a change.

     The problem came when I realized that this fellow tech was my Boss. And she took the job Very Seriously. No ego, bitchiness, power-tripping or anything like that. On the contrary, she was sweet, kind, generous and as good of a person as you could be.
     With absolutely no offense meant toward her faith and culture, I honestly feel that this person's background was a determining influence on our work environment. She was originally from central Pennsylvania, and was a devout Lutheran. Her work ethic was absolute, and was defined by two things: Duty, and Rules.
     Duty to her meant absolute, unquestioning obedience to any authority, as defined by the chain of command established within our little organization. And Duty also meant following any and all Rules established by those authorities.
     As lead tech, she was the authority in the lab. Her duty was to enforce the rules, regulations and protocols set forth by the power-mad, bitch-on-wheels lead tech who had been her boss until her recent retirement.
     The Protocols. Yes, the Protocols were holy writ, carved in stone, and inviolate. They even overrode the doctor's orders:

     "Just do the one leg."
     "Thanks, but I have to do both."
     "Protocol? But I don't have time for you to do a full exam, and I'm only concerned about his left leg."
     "Sorry, Doc. Take it up with (lead tech); my hands are tied."
     (Doctor): *blink, blink*

     So, coming from a successful lab shaped in some part by my own hand, I began analyzing the Holy Protocols and suggesting modifications and improvements.
     Oh, my goodness...

     To her credit, as a good hearted and very patient person, she did not cry, "Heretic!", although that was the expression in her eyes. She instead very patiently explained why we would not be implementing these changes, with the clear implication that, as her subordinate, it was not my place to question, much less modify any standing protocols.

     "But if we do it this way, it'll be both faster and give a better exam."
     "We can't do that."
     "Why not?"
     "Because we don't do it that way here."
     "I know (mental deep breath), I'm saying we need to do it differently."
     "Why not?"
     "Because that's not our protocol."
     Yep, anyone who knows me well and has worked with me in the last few years is now reading this and going, "Oh, shit..."

     The hair on the back of my neck raised, but I kept my peace.

     Keep in mind, at this time, the lab consisted of two techs: me and her. The idea of a two-tech lab being a heierarchy rather than a collaboration was both alien and offensive to me.

     When I ran my lab (with two techs), all decisions were made in an open format. I welcomed any input on any idea. Our medical diector was a great guy, and a regular Joe as well as a crack surgeon. Our policy meetings usually involved him wandering into the lab between surgeries, and the three of us talking about the situation.
     I figured that any decision that affected the lab should be discussed by everyone in the lab. That way we all know the deal, and have had at least the opportunity to provide input.
     Policies and protocols were understood to be fluid entities. The purpose of any business or scientific venture (and a medical lab is both) is to constantly improve, reinvent itself, and increase in efficiency and quality. Improvement requires change, of course, so change was not only embraced, but pursued: "How can we do this better/faster/cheaper?"

     That was then, this was now.

     I had wandered into an alien culture. One that embraced tradition rather than change, respect for authority that manifested as a silent fear (under the rule of the previous lab Queen, my current supervisor had been forbidden to speak directly to the doctors without permission), and the most inefficient, paper-swamped office I have ever seen.
     My last accomplishment at my old job was to render the lab paperless. Totally chartless. Our MD was a computer and tech geek like myself, so it was like getting to play with really cool hardware and software that also improved the efficiency of the lab tremendously.

     Back to the new job: when I found out that we were going to get digital machines, and eventually go to electronic medical records, I got excited. This was my area of expertise. They needed my help to do this right, and I was seriously pumped to help out, contribute, make a difference, and do something for my new "family".

      I had forgotten "my place".

     I appealed to the lead tech, who apparently viewed computers as a necessary evil intruding on the comfortable, established paper-based system.
     Apparently, the digital information from the exams would not go to the doctors for review and interpretation. None of the doctors had computers in their offices, and many of their staff were doing well to grasp the concept of email.
     No, the digital data was to be relayed to our workstations, where we would then copy it down onto our familiar paper worksheets. This meant that on a busy day, the doctor could not review a patient's exam until we had transcribed all of the velocity values, and provided written descriptions (!) of the images obtained onto a worksheet.

     So that he would not have to use a computer.

     During this transcription process, the doctor waits, the patient waits, and the next patient waits. And our schedule gets further behind.
     When I cautiously questioned the efficiency of this arrangement, I was told that we would simply have to do our exams faster to make up the loss of time.

     At this point I'm afraid I told her that this was the stupidest thing I had ever heard of in my life, that the solution to gross inefficiency was not "go faster", and that the expression was not "work harder, not smarter".
     I owed it to my patients and to my own sense of professional self-worth as an experienced vascular technologist to provide the best exam possible using the best technological and clinical tools at my disposal, and most especially my best clinical judgement, which had proven itself sound and reliable for many, many years. 
     Rigid protocols and archaic, inefficient methodologies could go to hell.

     I was released from employment by that organization on January 21st, 2011.

     I had really mixed feelings about being fired. I had been working under a "something's got to give" emotional state for a while now, and this effectively took the teakettle off the fire.
     So there was tremendous relief mixed with the understandable anxiety of realizing that I was currently unemployed in the worst job market in several decades.
     I have filed for unemployment, which I will probably not get due to the circumstances of my departure.
     I have been pounding the pavement, by computer, telephone and on foot, looking for work.
     I have applied for employment in every computer, outdoor, hardware and bookstore in town, and certainly every gun store.
     I have applications in as a beverage chemist, an assistant manager at a wild animal safari park, and at Walmart.

     You may notice that healthcare positions are glaringly absent from that list.

     Whatever I get, the circumstances of my wife's health (and to some extent mine), require that the job has insurance benefits.
     I could make do working part-time at a pawn shop gun counter, and paying out-of-pocket premiums for myself, but private health insurance won't cover my wife.

     Part of the profound depression that I have been sliding in and out of in the last few weeks is related to that.
     No job that I have is mine alone. I am the sole provider for our family, and have an obligation and responsibility to give care, support, comfort and security to this dear woman that I am married to.
     During all that happened leading up to my termination, I never lost sight of my responsibility to her, and had in fact already started putting out feelers and resumes so that I might leave on my own terms, and make a transition to a new, secure work environment.
     For her part, she was sympathetic, supportive, and encouraged me to get out of that crazy place and find somewhere that I could be happy.

     Instead, I got my knickers in a bunch and got fired.

     So, I haven't felt much like blogging lately.

     I still read most of my regulars, but can't seem to summon up a comment. The news washes over me without much effect. I'm not reading much. TV is mostly a vast, passive mental sinkhole. No friends. No shooting. I spend the day job hunting and working on our financial and insurance situation. At night I stay up too late and watch what I've DVR'ed during the day. I've quit exercising, and I'm overeating, especially late at night. I'm trying not to drink too much.

     OK, enough wallowing and moping. Enough venting.
     I'm writing again here because my mind is clearing. Last night lying in bed I realized that I felt something approaching... satifaction. I had put in a long, hard purposeful week of job hunting, and was excited by some of my potential prospects. I had applied for COBRA coverage, which will keep us in health insurance for another year and a half, if necessary. We have money in the bank.

     After my pavement-pounding yesterday, I stopped by my local tobacco emporium and bought a new corncob pipe to replace the one I broke last year, and some fresh black cavendish. Then I went to the beer store, got a job application (!), and bought a sixpack of good IPA.
     Last night I went out to the garage shop, smoked my new pipe, enjoyed a beer or two, and disassembled a S&W Model 37 that I think I want to make my new carry gun. I'll clean it up, smooth out the innards, and I think try my hand at hammer bobbing.

     I realized last night and this morning that I'm coming back. Not to how I was, but to a better, happier me. With freedom, potential, and minus that stupid job. I'll work hard, take care of my wife, and something will come along.

     To anyone who has made it through this whole outpouring of whatever, thank you for your patience. The more the dam has been holding back, the bigger the flood when it bursts.

     And for those of you who had the kindness to keep checking in on me, even after I had become the blog equivalent of those embarrassing neighbors that leave their Christmas lights up all year: Thank You.

Lighter, more interesting, and much shorter content will follow.

God Bless you all,


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Unintentional Humor: NASA Edition

     This brief article was in the December 2009 issue of Popular Mechanics, and regards JPL researcher's attempts to study the weightless state, with the overall goal of preventing bone deterioration in astronauts.

     The scientists "...have succeeded in levitating small mice using a 17-tesla magnet. The magnetic field is so strong that it affects the water in the animal's tissues, prompting a repulsive magnetic forse that suspends the rodent in the air. It takes a superconducting magnet operating at minus 456 F to float a 10-gram mouse within a 2.6-inch bore, which is kept at room temperature."
     "The magnetic field is applied evenly to keep the mice hovering in place..."

(and here's the part that sends me into totally unreasonable giggle-fits every time I read it),

 "...and scientists say rodents acclimate to the test in about 4 hours."

     Yeah, but for those four hours...

     I mean, for their little brains to be overwhelmed with little mousey, "WTF!WTF!WTF!" thoughts for four solid hours?
     And then, how do you know that they're "acclimated"? Do they just suddenly realize, "OK, I'm floating. It's cool".
     And is someone observing them to see when the "Oh, $#*t!" look leaves their little beady black eyes?

     I'm sorry, but every time I read into the implications of that single dry statement, the old ethologist in me gets the giggles. Poor little mouseys.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

...Not Dead Yet...

     A quick note on my absence:

     My schedule and routine has changed significantly. Computer time is limited to a brief period in the morning (like now). Personal use of the computers at work is iffy, even at lunch. No time at all between after work and bedtime. Weekends we've been out of town or crazy-busy getting ready for the Holidays.

     I still have things to say, and I still love you guys (awww...*sniff*). When I can, I'll try to toss up a quick post, and then work out a way to get some actual wordsmithing in.

     Watch this space...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pattern of Behavior

     You have probably heard on the news that Julian Assange, the slimebucket responsible for the Wikileaks brouhaha, is being sought by Interpol on "unrelated charges" of rape and sexual molestation of two women in Sweden.

     Unrelated? I disagree.

     Sounds like this guy has a habit of screwing over the innocent for his own morally twisted needs, with a total disregard for the effect of his actions on others. A narcissistic sociopath of the highest order.

     And since he is responsible for embarrassing the likes of China, North Korea, Israel and various Middle Eastern countries, probably a dead man walking.

     For myself, all it would take is to be one of those women's fathers.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Test Post from Kindle

New Kindle.
Seeing if I can post reasonably well from this device over a 3G connection.

(From computer): Well, ain't that nifty...
Awkward, but possible. My world expands a little.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Three Ages of Cat: A Haiku Trilogy

The tumbling fluff
eyes full of God's innocence
attacks his cloth mouse

Lean lord of shadows
sniffing lust at the window
moans coarse in the dark

Fat sage of the fire
who sits content in wisdom
seen through half-closed eyes

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Zombie Overload

     I'm reading World War Z, have watched the first installment of "The Walking Dead", and just spent some quality time playing Left 4 Dead. Too much? Am I feeling scared? Paranoid?
     Actually the main thing I'm feeling is an obsessive urge to buy a Saiga 12 gauge. I always thought they were kind of neat before, but now they've just got "Zombie Gun" written all over them.

     A couple of notes regarding some of those other items: World War Z is pretty interesting so far. The detail and complexity of it is very impressive, and very absorbing. And if you haven't seen "The Walking Dead" yet, get in on it while you can at the beginning. This is easily the best cinematic representation of the zombie apocalype since, well, anything George Romero has ever done.
     To make things even more interesting, the zombie mythology, if you will, is very consistent between WWZ and Walking Dead, so you can immerse yourself in the "reality" of each.

     Right now, though, I think I'm going to take a break and go watch something a bit more lighthearted.
     Like Zombieland.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wow. Just Wow...

     I can honestly say that I never understood the depth and character of the pro-Obama liberal mindset until I saw this:

                 "Fear-mongers deliver victory for Republicans".

     Granted, this is Chicago, where a reality-distortion field seems to be in effect that only Larry Correia could adequately describe.

     Best read with a strong adult beverage and some blood pressure meds. All I had was a Prozac and a cup of coffee.
     It didn't help.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


     Did my civic duty yesterday.

     The wife and I actually tried to vote early while I was off last week, but that would have meant voting at the courthouse. I didn't mind de-weaponizing myself as much as it was a parking issue for the wife.
     For a government building, their handicapped accessibility is minimal, and usually occupied by judges and staff.
     Seriously. I even stopped a police officer about it one time, and he said, "Oh, that's old judge So-and-So. He doesn't get around real well any more, so we let him park there." Said while looking at my wife in her wheelchair. Nice.
     Anyway, I went to vote after work at a nice church school gymnasium with about one hundred or more people, winding around in a long line toward a grand total of six voting machines.
     After the hour or so in line, people were leaping at the freshly vacated booths like seats on a ride at Disneyland.
     My turn came, and I employed my strategy: if there was a Libertarian on the ballot, I voted for them. The "R's" took precedence over the "D's", if that was my only choice, and any incumbent was out.
     My wife asked me, "Who did you vote for?"
     "I have no idea", and explained my strategy.
     "But that's not fair - you don't even know these people."
     "Honey, sometimes, it not about voting for people, or even against people. Each of these people has aligned themselves with a set of ideas, and I'm voting against some of these ideas."

     Of the people, by the people and for the people, and all that. But it's the ideas that are dangerous.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


     Had a well-deserved week off.
     Besides catching up with various chores and running around doing useful and/or entertaining errands, we took a couple of days and went down to the lakehouse to see Barrett and the kids (notice how he gets first billing?).

     All too often we take a vacation and fail to enjoy it. Having grandchildren eliminates that possibility. Besides, you can always learn from example - the boy clearly knows how to relax:

     Normal Life, work, gunblogging and other traditional activities will resume shortly.

     But right now, I'm good.