Thursday, June 30, 2005

I'm Sorry

I just heard a Fresh Air interview, downloaded from, of Mark Zupan, one of the best Quadriplegic Rugby players in the world, about the new movie Murderball.

I have not seen this movie but I will. Mark Zupan is very articulate and was a great interview subject. I learned a couple of things today:

a) Anyone who has a broken neck from C1-C7 is considered a quadriplegic; anyone with a broken neck from T1 and lower is considered a paraplegic.

b) When I think of quadriplegia, I think of Christopher Reeve. The truth is that a quadriplegic has impairment in all four limbs but not necessarily loss of all function in the limbs. Zupan has quite strong arms but has serious impairment in his hands.

c) Quadriplegics generally maintain the ability to get an erection. Paraplegics often have difficulties in this area. Given the choice between full use of one's hands and full use of one's penis, most quads consider themselves "luckier." There might be a certain level of rivalry between quadriplegics and paraplegics. I wonder if people who are totally blind feel superior to people who are legally blind but have some remaining vision. "Ah, but you're not completely blind. I win that paper-scissors-rock game of Who Has The Greatest Disability!"

But this little blog entry isn't about the movie, which I've already mentioned having never seen. Nor is it about quadriplegia (which looks spelled wrong; I had to check as I started writing this). Nor is it about the amazing capacity for humans to overcome bad fortune and enormous odds to become both successful in the workforce (Zupan is a civil engineer) and in the sporting world.

This is about apologies.

Mark Zupan and his teammates from his college soccer team went out drinking one night after a game. Zupan drank way too much and climbed into the back of his friend's pickup truck to sleep it off. His friend, Chris, having had way too much to drink himself, drove off in the truck not knowing Zupan slept in the bed. On his way home Chris lost control of the truck and the truck spun, nearly causing him to have an accident. A police officer saw the truck spin and arrested Chris for drunk driving. What neither Chris nor the police officer knew was that Zupan had been ejected from the bed of the truck, flew over a wall, and landed in a canal where he lay for fourteen hours with a broken neck.

Mark Zupan became a quadriplegic. Chris became the one who put Mark in the wheelchair forever.

Here's the rub: who has the harder life? My understanding is that the movie addresses this issue but it got me thinking.

Chris did something stupid (drive drunk) and it got his friend seriously hurt. Chris had no idea he was putting his friend at risk but the fact remains: no drunk driving = no drunk driving misadventure.

Mark said in the interview that he never expected an apology from Chris. Mark seems more of a "shit happens" kind of guy. Chris didn't know about Mark being in the truck, so Mark expects no apology from him.

The problem is that Chris probably needs Mark to forgive him. I'm sure Mark saying the words wasn't enough and perhaps nothing would be enough. Chris probably needs to forgive himself; but if he does then what does that say about his character? I put my friend in a wheelchair and I've forgiven myself. Good for me, but Mark is still in a wheelchair.

And I take the thought out of the story of Mark and Chris. Have you ever hurt someone? Of course. Have you ever asked for forgiveness? Hopefully. Were you forgiven? Does it matter?

Does it matter?

By asking for forgiveness, one gives the reins of one's guilt to the person who was wronged. The wronged person can withhold forgiveness and create more guilt. The wronged person can grant the forgiveness but keep a measure of superiority about it. The wronged person can grant full forgiveness and both parties can move on. Or can they?

Huge problem or minor faux pas, the wrong was still committed. Neither will likely forget it. In my experience one only forgives themselves after the passage of time. The size of the wrong will determine how much time it takes.

If I put my friend in a wheelchair could I ever completely forgive myself? Probably not. I might dedicate my life to helping that person but it wouldn't be enough. I might do what I could for a little while then completely disappear so I wouldn't be constantly reminded of it, but it would still be part of me.

I screwed this up. I caused this hurt.

There's nothing I can do to take it back; that's not how life works. The only thing I can do is keep trying to not screw up in the future.

That's all any of us can do.

I'll make you a deal: You keep trying to do the right thing and so will I. When you stumble I will lend you a hand. If I trip you, accidentally or on purpose, I will lend a hand. If I do not see that you have fallen, raise your hand and ask me to lend mine.

That way we can all get through this life thing.
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Monday, June 27, 2005

What were they thinking? Vol. 1

Today, no kidding, a caller reports an unsafe driver. The driver is a woman who is breast-feeding while driving.

Yes: behind the wheel, DRIVING THE CAR with a baby suckling her nipple.

I have no words.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Lifecycle of a Blogger

Read this: Lifecycle of a Blogger

I'm stuck on step 3. I am a sitemeter addict. I am a Battle of the Blogs addict (even if that is so much more about style than substance - not that I mind).

Friday, June 24, 2005

Spell with Flickr

O_02VE version 1S, Seattle

ELetter L

Try it at
Spell with Flickr

Tom, your agent called. She said "Shut Up Already!"

NEW YORK (AP) - Tom Cruise criticized NBC "Today" show interviewer Matt Lauer on Friday when Lauer mentioned Cruise's earlier criticism of Brooke Shields for taking anti-depressants. Cruise told Lauer he didn't know what he was talking about. "You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do," Cruise said.

The interview became more heated when Lauer, who said he knew people who had been helped by the attention-deficit disorder drug Ritalin, asked Cruise about the effects of the drug.

"Matt, Matt, you don't even - you're glib," Cruise responded. "You don't even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, OK. That's what I've done."

Wha-wha-wha-What? Tom Cruise knows the history of psychiatry? He feels qualified to discourage the taking of anti-depressants?

Some folks are pretty and can act. Hold onto that, Tom. The first won’t last, and being hired for the second will be in jeopardy if you keep running your mouth.

Everyone… please keep taking ALL of your medications as prescribed unless you’ve discussed your decision with your doctor. But you know what? Don’t go by me. Do what you feel is right.

But don’t go by Tom either. Or Matt. Or Al. Or even Katie.

Classic Movie

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Why's, Part Two

What's with the graveyard imagery?

1) I’m not a goth. I do like the whole dark side of life but I’m not all weird about it. Sure I convinced my best friend and her husband to skip a pre-paid city tour of Paris so I could tour the catacombs and see thousands of skulls. Sure I went with the same friends to a church in Dublin where we saw (and touched, yes!) mummies which inspired Bram Stoker’s description of Dracula. Sure I have all sorts of skeleton knickknacks. Some folks collect ceramic pigs, I collect skeleton stuff. Sure my wife had to tell me specifically that I couldn’t build a coffin with my new tools, no matter how “cute” I promised it would be when finished. See, I’m not all weird about it. Really! I’ve managed to not see a fresh dead body and I’m pretty happy about that. Some day I’m sure I will see one but I’m not signing up to view autopsies on my weekends or anything.

2) My parents met at a funeral. No kidding. I’ll explain this in greater detail at some point but it’s very complicated and probably a little touchy, since my dad’s brother was the deceased and my mom’s cousin was the widow.

3) I like the way the template turned out. I don’t have the ability to make a super-template like Jaws but I think mine looks okay the way it is now.

So the answer is: because it appeals to my happy-go-lucky dark side. And if you happened to see any unique skeleton or skull paraphernalia, send me an email!

The Why's, Part One

Why is the blog called the Panic Blog?

Just over a year ago I was diagnosed with acute anxiety disorder without agoraphobia (well, I think I was probably nearing agoraphobia since the panic attacks were coming more and more frequently and my areas of discomfort were growing wider and wider). I was off of work for about six weeks, unsure whether I had a brain tumor for part of the time, and was pretty quiet about my condition until I found the correct diagnosis. When the diagnosis came and the drugs started to work (which I found surprising) I figured there must be something to this “Panic Disorder” thing.

Upon returning to work (and the rest of the world) I had to choose between being very low-key about this or embracing it. Embracing it is what I did. I told folks my story, I wrote it up in the dispatch newsletter, and I got the personal plate PANIC for my car.

I don’t go around explaining my plate or my story to new folks or strangers, unless for some reason they ask, but I find that I love the ability to give scary-weird look and honestly tell recruits that I am, indeed, crazy. I’ve also learned that there are so many folks with anxiety issues and depression issues that it’s not worthy of joining a circus or being interviewed by Babba Waawaa. Oh well, story of my life: not ugly enough to be “cute ugly” yet plenty ugly, not short enough to be a midget but plenty short. Is it weird to want to be so normal as to be invisible and yet want to be totally unique at the same time?

Anyway, there’s the article I wrote for the newsletter. You might find it interesting.

Acute Anxiety

or ‘Where was Eric for 6 weeks ?’

A secret part of me always wanted to be like spoken word performers Spaulding Gray or Henry Rollins but I felt I never had anything particularly interesting happen to me.

Recently my life became more interesting.

I wouldn’t normally discuss issues like this in such a public forum except for the fact that you might find my situation informative, helpful, or at least get a cheap laugh at my expense.

Note also that what I’m going to describe did not seem to be an obvious progression of events. Only now can I draw a straight line through everything.


I’ve always been pretty shy and always hated meetings and events where I had to introduce myself to a group of people. It’s been pretty easy to avoid these situations or just grin and bear it, figuring it was just “stage-fright.”

The actual panic attacks came at weird moments. They began years ago with reading in front of a class in college. A couple years later I had one at a managers meeting at the hotel where I worked. At work it happened only when I initially had to introduce myself on my very first day in the chief’s conference room and once at an trainers meeting.

They were all typical stage-fright symptoms: sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, some shaking. They lasted about 30 seconds and went away. Ugly and embarrassing but I could push through it.

I avoided going to briefing, avoided non-mandatory meetings, etc, but it didn’t prevent me from traveling the globe or going to Field Training Officer (FTO) school or otherwise doing my job, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Two years ago I got the flu (fever, vomiting, the whole extra-value meal) and ended up having the some strange lingering symptoms, especially overwhelming fatigue. My doctor tested for Mono, as well as other stuff, but eventually called it allergies and acid reflux. Medication for that helped some but I’ve never felt completely ‘healed.’

Panic attacks started coming in stranger and stranger places: twice at movie theaters, once when out to dinner in a restaurant, once at a bookstore. Big places seemed to be bad: stores with high open ceilings like Costco or Fred Meyer. I’d get all light headed and fatigued almost instantly, especially when alone.

So I stopped going to those places when alone. I declined going to Kenai for training. I didn’t go to movies as much or at all. I didn’t go out to eat as much. I bailed on going to Europe with Pam and Linda R. I had a horrible time at a Dave Matthews Band concert and swore off rock concerts. Some days I’d be on my way home from work and knew I needed groceries but just couldn’t do it. Too tired. Feeling too weird. So my social life was spiraling inward (which is the agoraphobia part of it).

Tuesday the 10th of February, 2004, was my normal 8 hour day and I actually got to go home on time (woohoo). It was also Michael’s last day of training before going into observation and he did great. All and all I was feeling pretty good. I went home and started boiling beans for homemade soup (part of my South Beach diet which I’d been on for about six weeks and had lost about 15lbs) and called Matt, son of a coworker, to plow my very steep driveway.

As the kitchen got hotter I began to feel very weak. By the time Matt arrived I had him move my car because I could not physically stagger out there to do it. When he brought back my keys I called my wife at work and told her I was feeling really faint and thought I needed to go to the hospital.

She left work immediately but I was feeling so faint that I did what any reasonable police dispatcher would: I called the back-door number to the Fire Department so they could send me an ambulance without my co-workers knowing.

Medics responded, put me on a heart monitor, decided I was well enough to go to the hospital in my wife’s car , and went on their way.

The hospital visit resulted in chest x-rays, EKG, and blood work; all confirming I was not having heart problems. They did find I had low blood potassium which was probably the result of the dieting, and could account for some bizarre heart behavior. Bonus, I thought, I’m not dying and I’m hitting the McDonald’s drive-thru on the way home for super-sized fries.

By Friday of the same week I was taking potassium supplements and had an appointment with my regular doctor. As I sat on my couch waiting for my grandmother to give me a ride, I had the same overwhelming sense of weakness, light-headedness, and rapid heart-rate.

Same story: call my wife, call my grandmother, call the medics (who this time yelled at me for not dialing 911). Same deal: grandma’s car to the hospital.

Another EKG, heart enzyme tests, etc., which determined I was still not having any heart problems and this time my potassium levels were fine. They called it a virus, told me to really stay off my feet for a couple of days and that I should be fine. Wrong!

I described the symptoms to my doctor and she came up with two possibilities:

a) this could be a panic disorder, or

b) it could be a brain tumor.

Great, I thought, it’s all in my head or it’s *really* all in my head.

I had an MRI and it was, thankfully, (say it like Arnold in Kindergarten Cop) “not a tumor.”

Which left me with the mental health situation: embarrassing, frustrating, and temporarily debilitating. And why did it all come to a head on the 10th of February?

As it’s been described to me, it’s very chemical. The dieting didn’t help matters (I did not vary my diet enough to keep me on an even keel) and my life has lots of stress: work, just getting married, moving into a duplex from an apartment, gaining two high maintenance dogs, etc. Mostly positive stuff, but still stressful. So all this added to my already chemically imbalanced brain (no big surprise) and “wham” very physical symptoms.

Luckily there are medications designed exactly for this type of thing: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). It takes some time for most SSRI medications to build up in one’s system and take full effect and this is why I was gone for almost a month after I started taking them. It’s no quick fix. And I had to push myself to get out on my own.

There were seriously days when I could drive to Lowe’s but not get out of my car to go inside because of the fear of being too weak to get my shopping done and get home.

So I’d drive through the parking lot, feeling really stupid, and just drive back home. Ack!!!

Here’s why I bring all this up and share the gory details of my life: There is hope. Meds work (and if mine hadn’t there are several others from which my doctor could have chosen for me), and now I know a lot about what triggers me (big open busy environments.. oh and probably meetings too)

And I have some tricks to distract myself so it doesn’t result in more than a couple of seconds of problems (and distraction works – I can’t imagine it happening while I’m actually on the phone or on the radio because during those times I’m totally focused on what I’m doing).

As of this date, I’m good as new… or close. I’ll probably have to get up and take a walk at meetings more than your average person. I’ll probably still avoid situations where I have to speak in public (so I won’t actually BECOME like Spaulding Gray or Henry Rollins) but I’m okay. Baby steps….

Bottom Line: if any of this sounds like you, or someone you know:

a) Don’t be embarrassed, you didn’t do anything to cause this

b) Don’t self-medicate. Luckily I don’t normally drink alcohol or do any other drugs, but if I did, I’m sure I’d have used it as another tool to just avoid facing those situations. Bad Deal

c) See your doctor, chances are there are plenty of medical options for you

d) Don’t put it off. The more these things happen and the more inwardly your life spirals, the harder it will be to get ‘back to normal.’ Luckily, though it’s been going on for a while in my case, it wasn’t nearly as serious as it could have gotten had it gone unchecked for longer.

Note: ironically, I specifically mentioned last issue in the article “Is Your Drug Dealer Charging Too Much” that I didn’t use Prozac… yet. Though Prozac isn’t my drug of choice, I’ll be much more careful in my mockery from now on!

Monday, June 20, 2005

One Trick Pony

I wouldn’t be a good paramedic.

Let me restate that: currently I would not be a good paramedic.

Am I good under pressure? Well, so far so good.

Do I get all squeamish? Not so much - so again, so far so good.

Do I dig helping people? Oh yeah.

But the reason I wouldn’t be a good paramedic, or even a first responder, would be that I’m something of a one trick pony when it comes to life-saving skills.

My one trick is electrocution. In the event that someone is being electrocuted, the recommended course of action is to whack them with a broom. This prevents the rescuer from touching the electrified individual and therefore being electrified himself.

This course of action does not, alas, work for choking, sprains or fractures, bee stings, snake bites, paper cuts, or stubbed toes. But it sure is fun. And you can tell if someone is REALLY choking if you smack them with a broomstick several times.

It definitely weeds out the fakers.

All of my coworkers know not to cough too hard around me. They also hide the brooms.


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Real Life Hammer Film, No Christopher Lee

Priest unrepentent after crucifying of nun

Tanacu, Romania
- A Romanian Orthodox priest who ordered the crucifixion of a young nun because she was "possessed by the devil" and now faces murder charges was unrepentant on Saturday as he celebrated a funeral mass for his alleged victim.

"God has performed a miracle for her, finally Irina is delivered from evil," Father Daniel, 29, the superior of the Holy Trinity monastery in north-eastern Romania, said before celebrating a short mass "for the soul of the deceased", in the presence of 13 nuns who showed no visible emotion.

He insisted that from the religious point of view, the crucifixion of Maricica Irina Cornici, 23, was "entirely justified", but admitted that he faced excommunication as well as prosecution, and was seeking a "good lawyer".

Cornici was found dead on Wednesday, gagged and chained to a cross, after fellow nuns called an ambulance, according to police.

Mihaela Straub, spokesperson for the police in the province of Vaslui, said Daniel and four other nuns had claimed Cornici was possessed and should be exorcised.

Before being crucified she had been kept shut up for several days, her hands and feet tied and without food or drink, he said.

Cornici had entered the monastery just three months before, after visiting a friend who was a nun there, police said.

As her coffin entered the church of the monastery Saturday no church bells were sounded while nuns cast distrustful glances at the strangers, including two AFP reporters, present at the ceremony.

Claps of thunder from an approaching storm were sometimes the only sounds to break the silence."This storm is proof that the will of God has been done," Daniel said.

"You see it?" said the priest, gesturing at the body, lying in an annexe and still showing the marks of the gag. One of the nuns, Sister Martha, added, "She can't be laid in the church because she was possesed."

Daniel has lived for the past four years in the isolated monastery located in the hills of one of the poorest regions of Romania, without running water or electricity."Over there, in your world, the people must know that the devil exists.

Personally I can find his work in the gestures and speech of possessed people, because man is often weak and lets himself be easily manipulated by the forces of evil," said the bearded young priest."

I don't understand why journalists are making such a fuss about this. Exorcism is a common practise in the heart of the Romanian Orthodox church and my methods are not at all unknown to other priests," he said. current realities and adapting themselves to modern life," Bulai said.Since the fall of the communist regime in December 1989, the Orthodox Church, which represents 85 percent of Romania's 22million inhabitants, is rated in many opinion polls as the most trusted institution in the country.

Vitalie Danciu, the superior of a nearby monastery at Golia, called the crucifixion "inexcusable", but a spokesperson for the Orthodox patriarchate in Bucharest refused to condemn it."I don't know what this young woman did," Bogdan Teleanu said. - Sapa-AFP



Wha-wha-wha-what? Okey dokey, I get that Romania might be a cultural backwater and consequently the Romanian Orthodox Church might be characterized as a little repressive, but crucifixion? That’s just rude.

And how does a church based on a man crucified by non-believers come to think that crucifixion is a good way to exorcise demons?

My grandmother would probably say that this is just another example of The Man trying to keep a sister down, and I think she would probably be right.

The fact that the main church doesn’t want to condemn the crucifixion until they find out “what the woman did” is appalling.

It reminds me of a non-PC joke:

Q: What do you tell a woman with two black eyes?
A: Shouldn’t have to, you’ve already told her twice.

Sheesh. Crucifying chicks for talking back? There’s simply not enough wood in Alaska, and that’s saying something.

Okay, ladies, I’m kidding.
I do not condone crucifixion, even if some people pay extra for that.

Happy Father’s Day

Friday, June 17, 2005

Good for the Soul

When someone asks me a question where the answer is both “yes” and self-incriminating I nearly always answer with a grin and a “well, that would be wrong.” For example:

Q - “Eric, were you looking at that chicken with lust in your heart?”

A – “That would be wrong.

This goes back to the Reid Techniques of Interviewing and Interrogation (oh I kid you not, dear readers, I actually have my learn on in this matter) where anything but a firm denial is likely just covering a guilty conscience. Answers to direct questions that are not direct denials are usually fertile grounds to plant the seeds of confession. Other examples of this are (and listen to people around you or to people on the news, you’ll hear these):

Do I look like the kind of guy who screws chickens?

Now why would I screw a chicken?

You are out of your mind! A chicken? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

Notice that none of these answers to the chicken-lover question are denials. Given a little time (and I mean a little amount of time… Reid School tells you that any “interview” over four hours long will probably be thrown out of court as coercive) a guilty person will confess when the psychological pressure for them to do so is strong enough.

And if that sounds sinister, it's not. Innocent people will not confess. Here is the innocent person’s type of response.


Hell No!

What? no, No, NO!

For all you chicken-lovers out there, a simple “no” is one indicator of innocence but if you are guilty, you are probably going to confess within the four hour time limit. No Christina Aqualingua or pinning notes to your lapels required. And you can start the clock with every new interview. People really do want to confess.

Again, listen for those non-denial denials. You'll hear them. And because I hear them, I think I subconsciously started adding a wry smile to my voice when I give one of those answers. Now I consciously do it because it makes me smile. Who am I fooling anyway?

But about the chickens, that was just for example. Really. To "love" a chicken, now that would be wrong.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A Poem for Kelli

Before you I was alone
Before you I was ignorant
You taught me that Three’s Company was about misunderstandings
That dogs really were man’s best friend
That pronouncing it “excape” was “exspecially” cute
I never knew loneliness because I had no idea
how being apart from you felt
I never knew emptiness and fright
until they rushed you into emergency surgery
Until they took you away and I did not know
whether you would ever come back

But now I know these things and a few others
I can close my eyes and picture yours, golden and joyful,
I love your smile, your laugh, your playful touch,
the way your hair smells, the softness of your skin,
the way you make me laugh till I cry
the crazy giggling conversations late at night
broken bats and the dinner theater
the eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee of an imaginary mosquito

I have never known love like I have for you
Love deeper than the ocean and wider than the sky
There is nothing I will not do for you
Your love has broken my hip
I have fallen for you and I can’t get up
If I had known you were out there all along
I would have stalked Fred Meyer like a dingo stalks a baby
I would have sent you flowers that said
“Come knock on my door, I’m waiting for you”

But not in a creepy way

Jaws was a lady

Read "Stupid Girl"
Read it now.
Print it out and highlight the last line.
Hang it on your fridge, your cubicle, your computer monitor, your pets.

I might amuse you here and there but Jaws will actually blow your mind.

Remind me to NEVER enter "Battle of the Blogs" against Jaws.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Rules

When I was a young bright-eyed and bushy tailed recruit, going on ten years ago, a trainer gave me three rules to live by:

1. Never let anyone borrow your car. In my jurisdiction if you give someone the keys to go to the store for milk and they don’t come back, the car is NEVER going to be listed as a stolen car. Some jurisdictions recognize the term “fail to return” and will list vehicle that way in their state computers and will use that as probable cause to pull the vehicles over. We don’t. You give someone the keys and you give them the right to use your car forever. This is very disappointing news to callers.

2. Never let anyone stay at your residence for more than two nights. Guests become tenants in just a few days in our jurisdiction. The difference between a guest and a tenant is that you can boot a guest out of your house if you become angered, irritated, or bored with them. Tenants have to be given 30 day eviction notices, even if there is no rent money involved. It’s kind of like inviting a vampire into your house, but with less biting (hopefully). Also disappointing.

3. Never get married. I live in a community property state. This means (to the Po-Po) that everything is jointly and separately owned by both spouses. The consequence of this is that if your wife gets mad at you and decides to… oh, I don’t know… cut the crotches out of all your pants or take your prized autographed baseball bat to your prized car, then you are SOL (spit outta luck).

Of course I eventually broke all three rules. At least I knew the consequences beforehand.

There was a fourth rule but it’s not universally applicable.

4. Marry someone who works for the department. Then cheat on them with someone who also works for the department.

This was more of a tradition than a strict rule (like hunting for eggs on Easter).
This is one tradition I do not observe, although there’s quite a record of observance in the department. There are no ornaments to hang or special carols to sing, but there is something to be said for traditions.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Never had 'em. Really.

Yesterday I got a call at work from a woman who was being (pardon the unfortunate pun) discharged from the local mental hospital but wanted paramedics to come and look at her hemorrhoids.

I reported this to my coworkers, one of which immediately said
"Eric, sing a hemorrhoid song. You must have a hemorrhoid song. "

Well, I didn't at that moment.

About three minutes later I had the first verse. By the end of the day, between 911 calls, I had much of the rest.

I don't know why, but when I sang the first verse I did this Billie Holiday voice almost to the tune of Aint Misbehavin'. I don't think I've ever done a Billie Holiday voice before (and I'm about the worst singer this side of William Hung) but it worked out nicely.

So here it is, the act that you've all been waiting for. Allow me to introduce, all the way from the Last Frontier, the one, the only, Preparation E and the Ointments singing the song which will surely make it to the top of the charts:

My Hemorrhoids

You’ve got me hurtin’
and quite annoyed
You’re chaffed and burnin’,
my hemorrhoids
oh I hate you, my hemorrhoids

I’m goin' to the doctor,
so he can inspect 'em
I’m surely hopin'
it’s not a prolapsed rectum
oh I hate you, my hemorrhoids

Well - I’m not too happy
‘bout the swollen tissue
and when you’re gone
I know I won't miss you
oh I hate you, my hemorrhoids

Some think I’m a whiner
And I’m just complainin'
But they’ll be in my shoes
if they continue strainin'
And they’ll hate them, their hemorrhoids

Oh yes they'll hate them, their hemorrhoids

We all hate them - our hem... orrh... oiiiiiiiids

Monday, June 13, 2005


I saw her sitting in a maroon Dodge Colt. I was stopped at a red light on my way to work and she was parked in the lot of a Speedy Auto Glass. Both the street and the lot were otherwise deserted. She was alone in her car with her head down on the steering wheel. At first I thought FSOW – female slumped over the wheel, a sign of either a major medical problem or a drunk driver passed out in the car. Then she looked up and I saw she was crying. I looked away and when the light changed I drove away.

I thought a bit about her later. She looked to be about 20 years old. Why was she crying? Did she just break up with her boyfriend? Did her husband get arrested and she didn’t have enough money to bail him out? Did the Office of Children’s Services take custody of her kids? Did she just find out she was pregnant? Did she have a miscarriage? Did she get fired from her job? Did she find out that the man of her dreams was cheating on her? Did she just tell her parents that she was a lesbian and they kicked her out of the house? Had someone died? Had she lost a pet? Was she super hormonal or clinically depressed or sleep deprived and had just burst into tears for no reason?

The trick is that I’ll never know. I thought of a song by Elvis Costello:

She looked like she learned to dance from a series of still pictures
She's madly excited now, she throws her hands up like a tulip
She looks like an illustration of a cocktail party
Where cartoon bubbles burst in the air,
champagne rolls off her tongue like a second language
And it should have been her biggest night
The satellite looks down on her as she begins to cry

All over the world, at the very same time, people sharing the same sorrow
As the satellite looks down, her darkest hour is somebody's bright tomorrow…


Sunday, June 12, 2005

Giving and Receiving

Jason slowed his late-model Ford Explorer as he approached the entrance to Fred Meyer to do his weekly grocery shopping. Next to the busy thoroughfare in the outskirts of the Freddy’s parking lot is a Schucks auto supply store. The hedges surrounding Shucks provide camouflage for the local homeless population who are known to dart into the street without warning. Jason has an aversion to striking pedestrians, since that one incident, so he always slows and does crack-head recon before turning into the parking lot.

Beauregard sat in the back seat of the Explorer and did his own recon. Jason and Beau saw the strange form tucked between the hedges at about the same time. The form shifted and moved and shaped itself into a dirty thin man in his late twenties who stood and walked toward the street. Beau was the first to notice that behind the man was a dirty thin golden retriever. Jason immediately sped up slightly and avoided eye-contact but Beau leaning his head out the window and barked at the emaciated dog. Beau, it should probably be explained at this point, is Jason’s black lab / pit bull mix.

Jason doesn’t like panhandlers and made the conscious decision to drive to the opposite end of the parking lot to avoid a face-to-face with the skinny guy and skinnier dog. As he made the SUV comfortable for Beau and locked it up, he turned to find both subjects just a few yards away and approaching closely.

“Hey, um, I was wondering if you could spare a few dollars so I can feed my dog,” the man asked.

“Sorry, I don’t carry cash on me,” was Jason’s standard reply.

“Oh, well thanks anyway. I saw that you are a dog owner too and I thought maybe you could help me out. Um, thanks anyway,” said the stranger who started walking, slump shouldered, back toward the hedges.

Jason walked into the store and could not stop thinking about this panhandler. He’d been hit up hundreds of times but never by a guy with a skinny dog. He trusted his first reaction - the one that said never to give money to strangers, the one that said that panhandlers will spend the money on beer or crack or crystal meth, the one that said charity is best given to charitable organizations who have rules and complex ways to make sure money goes to the truly needy.

But this guy seemed different. The guy was so dirty and thin that it was obvious that he lived on the street. The guy did not speak in the machine-gun pace of the cracked-out or the slurred ramblings of the perpetually drunk. The guy did not seem like he was acting; that he was smooth-talking panhandler by day and devious criminal by night; that he was Marshall Mathers one day, the real Slim Shady the next day, and Eminem on weekends and bank holidays. This guy seemed the real deal.

Screw it, Jason thought, and he screeched his shopping cart toward the pet section. There he picked up five or six foil pouches of Pedigree dog food, no can opener required. He then went to the deli and selected two sandwiches, a bottle of water, and a bottle of soda. He took these items to the customer service desk and placed them on the counter. He identified himself as a Fred Meyer employee, asked to ring these items up, and asked to use a Sharpie pen. The customer service clerk looked at him like he was from another planet but rang up the items and, after Jason paid, gave him a pen.

“Watch me. I’m blacking out the UPCs on all of these. There’s a guy outside panhandling who is very skinny and has a seriously malnourished dog. When I leave the store I’m going to find him and give him these things without the receipt. I want to be crystal clear with you that I do not want you to take any of these things as returns.”

Jason then turned to the store security guard / loss prevention guy standing behind the customer service desk and continued his speech, “If he tries to return the food or if he keeps hanging around harassing customers, I would like you to trespass him.” The security guard nodded and said, “Sure, I’ll keep an eye on him.”

Jason, still churning inside with the conflicting emotions of probably being taken in by some con-artist but maybe doing a good deed, did his own shopping and left the store to look for Mr. Skinny Dog.

He found the man and his dog by the can recycling stations on the side of the store. Sometimes people will give bags of recycling items to the panhandlers so that the panhandlers get the can and bottle returns and the shoppers don’t have to deal with the hassle of waiting in line to feed the cans and bottles into the machines.

The skinny man saw Jason and gave him a “Hey” in greeting.

“Here,” Jason said, handing him the grocery bag and trying to sound firm but not lecturing, “I bought you some dog food and a couple of sandwiches and some water and soda.”

Mr. Skinny Dog looks at the bag, looks at Jason, then sits down shakily and rips open a package of dog food and gives some to the dog. He gave Jason a stunned “thank you,” then did something Jason was wholly unprepared for: he hung his head and started crying. Not the ‘single tear down the cheek’ kind of crying but ‘barely holding it together, not able to speak for fear of really sobbing’ kind of crying.

Jason turned and started quickly walking to his Explorer, getting a little misty himself. By the time he’d packed his groceries into the SUV and had taken the empty cart to the nearest cart cage in the parking lot, he was feeling pretty good. No longer overwhelmed by the incredible emotion of the moment, he had the glow of one who has done a good deed as he walked back to his SUV to drive home.

Just before he reached the Explorer a shabbily dressed young woman stumbled out of the bushes and walked toward him, asking for money.

“Sorry, I don’t carry cash,” Jason said, then added, “and, funny thing, I just bought some food for a homeless guy and his dog up by the store.”

Twice in one day Jason was wholly unprepared for a response.

“FUCK YOU!” she shouted, “You don’t have to give me any fucking money but you don’t have to fucking LIE to me, man. You BASTARD!” she spat out and stomped off.

Jason, dumbfounded, looked upward and said aloud to God, “I was doing so well, what happened?”

Beau heard him and gave Jason a look which was the canine equivalent of “The Lord works in mysterious ways, Jason, but you’re still a good guy.”

Saturday, June 11, 2005

One, Two, Three, What Are We Fighting For?

Let me start this little piece with a confession: I feel like crap. The cottonwood is snowing allergens outside; my sinuses are full and my head hurts. I have medicines for this but they don’t work as well when the sky is swimming with the evil plankton of spores.

That being said, I have things to write about, some of which you might find disagreeable.

Disagree! That’s the American way.

I believe in the Constitution of the United States of America. Here’s my take on parts of the Bill of Rights.

Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Okey Dokey. This means that there is to be no national religion. The Republican Party can be full of evangelical Christians but the government shouldn’t get involved with preventing people from practicing the religion of their choice, be it Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, Scientology, or those Hale-Bopp comet folks. If someone, in the name of religion, breaks the law then they should be punished like anyone else. Fly a plane into our buildings and we will hunt you down and kill you. Bomb our buildings and we will hunt you down and kill you. Starve your children, beat your children or your spouse, or burn down someone’s house or threaten them and we will hunt you down and punish you appropriately. But we don’t storm every mosque because a handful of evil wing-nuts interpret their sacred text to allow killing civilians.

This also means we can write, speak, blog, chant, sing, paint, draw, sculpt, hum, or mumble pretty much whatever we want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. We can also distribute our work through books, letters, posters, sky-writing airplanes, emails, and flower arrangements if it doesn’t hurt anyone. We can also criticize our government and demand a hearing on the behavior of any government institution from the CIA to the local Department of Parks and Recreation.

Also, bonus, we can burn any flag or effigies of our leaders or pretty much whatever symbolic protest we want so long as it’s open-burn season and it doesn’t hurt anyone. And you don’t have to like it if we do.

Would I burn the US flag? No. I happen to be a pretty patriotic lefty. Should I have the right? I already do and I’m pretty happy about it. I can also use any word I feel the urge to, ditto flipping you the bird and being generally disrespectful. I can be as rude and as stupid as I like.

I can’t throw rocks and I can’t flip over someone else’s car and I can’t spit on folks and I should be properly punished for doing so, even if my team wins the NBA championship.

There’s also nothing in there about not praying in public schools. Pray all you want, just don’t force my kids to partake in prayers they don’t perform at home.

Amendment II: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Okay, I’ll buy it. I don’t own any guns but I’m glad I have the right to go buy one if I so choose. Hey, buy all the guns you want. Keep them clean, give them a nice cozy gun cabinet, and shoot all the animals you have permits for or all the skeet you can flip into the sky. Be careful and mindful where and when you fire them, though, because if you hurt me or my family accidentally or purposefully I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger - within the law, of course.

Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

This speaks for itself. Don’t come a-knocking if you don’t have a warrant, G-man. The government shouldn’t be able to shake folks down just because they have the badges. And remember that I work for the Man but still believe we need to be protected from the Man from time to time. The men and women working for the Man are not perfect.

I’m adding some emphasis to the next one to illustrate my point regarding Gitmo and to better explain myself to J-bro, a brother whom I love and respect but with whom I disagree on this issue.

Amendment V: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

We can hold you in times of public danger, Mr. and Mrs. Afghani, but you still deserve due process. Three years of interrogation is not due process. Sorry, Secretary Rumsfeld.

Oh and Mr. Bin Laden we will continue to hunt you down and we will kill you. Given the unlikely opportunity, I would personally pull that trigger or plunge that knife into your heart you evil bastard.

That’s my Constitutional rant. I’m a great deal to the left of the mainstream Republican Party but I’m frankly disappointed with the disorganization and often short-sightedness of the Democratic Party. The fringe has yet to produce much but more than one trick ponies and wing nuts.

I’m quite proud to be an American but I reserve my right to dissent when I think the government is not acting in the interest of the people of our great nation.

I wish to also express that I am going to sleep tonight sick as a dog but sleeping peacefully because of the brave men and women who fight to protect the rights I’ve mentioned. Declared or not, we are at war and it’s going to be a long, hard, bloody one.

Good night.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Long Form

I know a couple Photoshop tricks so I am capable of making picture one-liners (if not necessarily capable of thinking up the funny premise itself).

Sometimes humor is best served in large portions.

Here is a large portion I ran across today:

Ever worry about your wife cheating?

Want to know where your daughter is late at night?

Need to know when your girlfriend's temperature is rising?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Baby Steps

Today. Hospital. Routine appointment for my wife. I go for expensive coffee while she gets signed in and starts waiting for her appointment.

Elevator. Up one floor. Should have taken stairs. Lazy.

Sign in elevator. "Instructions for Emergency Intercom." Eight steps.

Eight steps? During an emergency in an elevator, how many people can follow more than two steps? Shouldn't the whole explanation for the intercom be "push here." If the person answering your call can't walk you through the eight steps THEY have for you, what good are they?

Eight steps. My head hurts. I think the fourth step is to apologize to everyone who you have hurt under the influence of an elevator and/or an intercom.

Up one floor. I should have taken the stairs. There's probably only a few more than eight steps there. No intercoms.

All these thoughts before my expensive coffee.

Originally posted as a comment on The Surreal Life but I thought it worth sharing here. Plagiarizing myself. Lazy.

Not Like Victory

Have you ever been awoken by a smell? Tonight it happened for the second time in my life.

The first time was last summer when our youngest dog, Sugar Baby, had Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis. Yes, for you fans of medical terminology that involves blood and guts (literally).

Side note: I almost never use the word “literally” any more. I cringe when I hear it misused so I avoid it a most costs.

The smell of Sugar’s … um, red rear gravy … woke us both up from a dead sleep. Kelli gagged so hard that she was hoarse for days. I was equally sickened but fought through it to clean it up. We then went to the animal hospital. $1500 and several days later she was good as new.

Tonight just before midnight, two hours after I had gone to sleep (party animal that I am), I awoke to a similar but different smell. No blood but it was as if a dog had pooped on my pillow. I checked my pillow and, luckily, no poop there.

Further investigation revealed that beside the bed was a pull-up diaper full of poop.

The diaper was originally around the rear end of our oldest dog, Bailey. Bailey likes to sleep on the bed with us and her diabetes plus her age (nearly 9) has lead to a certain amount of nighttime incontinence. Yes, my dog has peed my bed enough times that we diaper her each night. Usually she manages to wake us up to let her outside if she feels the need to “go number two.”

I am glad for the diaper; it made clean-up a breeze. A retched-smelling breeze, but a breeze nonetheless. Lucky for me there was no big mess to clean off of her body to make the evening complete. Sure, babies get messy all the time and mothers and fathers have to clean that up at all hours, but except for the parents of Robin Williams there usually isn’t a great deal of hair to deal with down in the diaper area.

So yes, after cleaning up the diaper, I had to spot-check (pardon the pun) my dog’s hiney for more mess. I’m the dog’s ass monitor.

All of you out there in the blogosphere who have pets that are maintenance-free: enjoy it while it lasts. To the parents of tiny diapered humans out there: I feel a tiny bit of your pain.

To everyone else: isn’t “Red Rear Gravy” a great name for a band?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Too knackered from work to really write today, but I'm never too tired to brag about my wife. From the first picture (prior to surgery) to the last picture (13 weeks out) she's down 58lbs and looking great. It's all downhill from here. Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 04, 2005


Re: Recent news reports about abuse of the Quran or Koran or whatever the Muslim holy book is called. I know this is a big-time no-no in the world of Islam and I should probably respect that but I really can’t be bothered to care all that much. Newsweek screwed up some facts (but not really the gist of the complaint) and some folks died during a demonstration. That’s bad.

But there’s something worse.

Please correct me if I’m wrong:

1. The United States government is detaining “persons of interest” in a holding facility at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.

2. Since Gitmo is outside the USA, detainees are not afforded the constitutional rights of due process, protection from unreasonable search and seizure, etc.

3. Since our “War on Terror” is not really a war, we don’t consider these detainees prisoners of war and therefore we have determined that the Geneva Convention does not apply to them.

4. Per MSNBC there are about 540 detainees at Gitmo, some have been there for more than three years but never charged with a crime. Most were captured in Afghanistan. All are being interrogated to learn more about al-Qaida.

Learning about al-Qaida is a worthy pursuit, but at what price?

Are the rights we are violating in Gitmo not the very rights we are fighting and dying for?

Does this seem paradoxical to anyone else?

Charge them, convict them, sentence them (even to death if appropriate) or
charge them, acquit them, and let them go.

How can we expect other countries to play by the rules (allow weapons inspectors, etc.) if we don't play by the rules.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends...

My beautiful wife Kelli and I were on our way downtown to take the dogs for a walk when we saw an odd sight on the way. While stopped at a street light we saw this old bearded gnarly-looking guy with an army jacket standing on the corner holding his arms out as if he had his hands on an imaginary steering wheel.

“What is he doing?” Kelli asked.

“Uh, dunno,” I replied with the eloquence of soliloquy for which I am famous.

Then Kelli got it. He was panhandling but he had no sign so he was hold up his hands as if there was a sign. He was a panhandling MIME.

Oh for the love of dog.

Two cars ahead of us, someone was giving him money. This was just so absurd; we were laughing our heads off. We even gave him a wave on our way by.


It’s at this point I’ll mention that I hate panhandling. I advise all my friends and family to NEVER give money to panhandlers. I was appalled to hear that some local preachers have given sermons on giving to the homeless in an “alms to the poor” aim. I'd advise the parishoners to give money to social service organizations instead.

The panhandlers on the streets of my fair city are, for the most part, homeless alcoholics. The reason they are not in shelters or taking advantage of the many social programs we have available is that each of those shelters and programs makes it a condition of aid that the participants not drink alcohol.

Well, one has the right to refuse assistance, one has the right to drink alcohol, and one has the right to beg for money to buy the alcohol. I support all three rights. I will not support them with money, though.

Plus, it looks so crappy to have every large intersection in town occupied by at least one panhandler. We survive on tourism dollars. Nothing says “World Class City on the outskirts of the majestic Last Frontier” than a bunch of the unwashed with cardboard signs flagging traffic for busloads of tourists to see.

And it’s so organized. There are panhandling co-ops. All you need are the following players: a) a short Native guy or gal, preferably wind-burned and sorrowful-looking b) a designated buyer of alcohol (one who hasn’t been drinking in a while, since liquor stores will usually not sell to actively intoxicated individuals). A group of five or six works best. Two rotating sign holders, the rest rotate into sobriety for the liquor runs. They can make themselves a nice little “on deck circle” in the nearby bushes. In the winter those big electrical boxes give off a decent amount of heat so they can stay there all day.

A day of panhandling can net a group or hearty individual between $150-200.
The panhandlers themselves freely tell reports and police that they make more money panhandling than they could doing day-labor or the other non-skilled jobs out there. And they can drink alcohol while doing it.

I remember when there was only one, this one old guy sitting outside Sears with a “will work for food” sign. He was an embarrassment but he was also so pathetic that plenty of folks gave him money and food. He was there for years with no competition. Then they sprang up everywhere. It’s a whole underground industry.

And it’s gotten out of hand. I remember taking a call from an exasperated woman who had bought a condominium along a greenbelt by one of the creeks that run through town. It seemed like an ideal location for a single mother. After she moved in she found out there was a huge number of homeless folks living in the woods near the creek. The bike trail that looked so inviting was a handy area for homeless block-parties. She had to walk her daughter to and from the bus stop right in front of her condo to protect the girl from rude comments and the possibility of physical harm. That was bad enough but the final straw, the scene which made her burst into tears with frustration, was looking outside onto the tennis courts to see that the homeless had washed their clothes in the creek and hung them on the tennis nets to dry.

What to do? I believe very strongly in the right of free speech. This includes begging. I will defend these rights with all the tools at my disposal, but I will not encourage more begging by giving them the least bit of money. I know this is only a tiny gesture but I don’t believe in being rude to these folks – yelling at them or such as I drive by. I also don’t believe we need any new laws on the subject – the police have enough to do that they cannot be tasked with patrolling corners for beggars. I can only encourage all of you to never give money to panhandlers, no matter how sad their stories or how pitiful they look.

I do enjoy a good show, though, so I applaud the homeless mime. No money, but a friendly wave. I don’t agree with your lifestyle, brother, but I like your style.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Customer is Always Right (on target)

My wife works at a big warehouse store. I won’t identify it directly but the name rhymes with Tossed-Toe. Her job, which I will not identify directly either, involves having people come up to a counter at which she works and drop off slips of paper which are later redeemed for salves, ointments, drops, capsules, and pills.

She has great customer stories; here is one of many:

A woman customer who is not originally from this country (I will not directly identify the country she is from but we once dropped two big bombs there many years ago) never fails to perform the following ritual every time she comes to the store.

She grazes the vendor sample tables while shopping and consequently always has food in her mouth. She also has two distinct speaking traits: a) she spits globs of food when she talks and b) her voice gets louder (and therefore her range grows longer) the longer she talks.

After a coworker (who shall not be named directly but might or might not hang around with The Sunshine Band) was on the receiving end of a dried meat shower, he dubbed her “the Jerky Shooter.”

This would be bad enough but the woman never knows exactly what she wants. She asks for “my pills.” The worker will ask her “which ones” and that immediately generates the response “they are round white pills.” If anything, she will get vaguer and vaguer with more questions and therefore the talking gets louder and louder and the food flies farther and farther.

Once, the opposite happened: She came up to the counter and indicated she needed more of a particular ointment. She held out an empty tube of said ointment. I will not say where on the body the ointment is applied but it rhymes with Duh-China. At the same conversation the woman managed to land a glob of spit directly on the back of the employee’s hand. The employee was unable to resist flinching back in revulsion and shaking a bit.

Every employee suddenly has to take a bathroom break when they see the woman in line. They are pooling money to bribe the vendors to NOT feed this woman. I am thinking of loaning the welder’s mask I use for making cookies to my wife for use during waiting on this woman.

All fear The Jerky Shooter.