Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Sleep Test

In this case, that term may be an oxymoron.

My cardiologist insisted that before he could go any farther, I needed a sleep test conducted to see if I had obstructive sleep apnea. I said I didn't, didn't snore, didn't stop breathing. I'd asked Steve, just in case he knew something I didn't. He had more opportunities to be awake while I slept than I did, after all.  No matter. Schedule the test and then get back to the cardiologist. There's a high correlation between apnea and A-Fib. Let's treat the right thing.

I happened last Monday. In case you are wondering why it's taking so long to blog about it, I've been catching up on my sleep since, and with everything else in my life these days, there hasn't been a decent chance. "Everything" includes planning for my fall retirement, scheduling and prepping the house for its appraisal, working, more late night working, scheduling my SS phone interview, locating documents of various kinds, dealing with a fraud alert on my main credit card that turned out to be legitimate and required changing my account number and card, and getting ready for Steve's birthday party.

So: busy.

Monday night I left the house packed and mildly irritated. I had enough time after getting home to pack up and turn around. I've gotten to really appreciate my routine of unwinding time after work, putting my feet up, reading emails, checking a few favorite websites including blogs and weather radar, and maybe an hour or two of prerecorded TV. Not that night! After locating the necessary toiletries, meds,  food for next day's meals, next-day clothes, and pillow with a fresh case, there wasn't time for the rest. Since I was to see the  Doc after the test, making me already late for work, the plan was to head directly to work after all that was finished.

As I pulled in to park, I noted my mood, deciding that I needed to check it at the door and start over. There'd be time to try to unwind while they were fixing us all up, I'd been told, going from 8:00 to my usual 10:30 bedtime, along with TV in each room, and a recliner for feet-up reading. The Kindle was fully charged and packed as well. I was as prepared as I could be.

That was blown out as soon as I arrived.

The room was set firmly at 70 degrees. For me, if I'm going to be sitting for a couple hours, that temperature requires long sleeves and pants plus a snuggly fuzzy lap blanket. You may be interested to note that what I was directed to change into immediately upon entering the room involved short sleeves, even shorter pants, and there was no blanket anywhere other than those tucked tightly around the bed, military-style. It seemed too  much work to pry them off and have to remake the bed for sleeping later. The PJs were from home, and perfectly suited for the 75 that the home thermostat is set for in summer, and even then often include a lap blanket if reading or extended TV watching is involved.

Making it even more uncomfortable, the recliner was set right in front of one of those wide institutional room units that cover the area under the window, thus blowing their cold air at the chair from all sides non-stop.

I took a chill. Well before allotted bedtime I left the recliner to snuggle under the many layers of blankets, trying to find a comfortable angle for my knees (fail), continue reading (fail), warm up (fail) and unknot my shoulder muscles (fail) so I could get to sleep (fail).

When I asked my tech whether they couldn't kick up the temperature in the room a bit, at least before the sleeping part started, he went over to look at the thermostat, then said, "No." His reasoning was that once the leads were all connected, if I started to sweat some of them might become disconnected, and he'd have to come in and wake me up to get reconnected. Plus then he'd have to put the fan on me and that would chill me down anyway. And he couldn't do that.

That's later, dummy. Not now. Plus, if you know what the plan is, obviously you can do it if you have to. Or, you can warm the room now and cool later? Anyway, who says I need to sleep under all those blankets on the bed? I hate heavy covers. They hurt my knees when I have to move.

He wouldn't be budged. Even though I didn't call him dummy out loud.

We started while I was still in the bed and keeping moderately warm. He brought in a C-pap machine and tried it on me. First step is putting this nose mask over your face, bringing a webbing of straps around your head, and hooking them together and tightening until there's a seal. He asked me to just breathe through my nose while he was setting it up. Problem is, my air ran out.

I switched to mouth breathing, and informed him I could not breathe with the mask. "That's because I haven't turned the machine on." But he had, you might note, attached the tube from the machine to the front of the mask, blocking any other air flow. Once he did turn the machine on, air poofed out all around the mask edges. He declared it to be the wrong kind of mask, and brought back a bigger one, covering the mouth too.

This time he left the tube unconnected while he did all the strap pulling and adjusting to get the seal around the edges of the mask. I could still breathe. Until, that is, he turned the machine on. The air pressure was so high that I literally could not exhale, not even though I was fully awake and trying with my full diaphram strength. I felt like they were trying to blow me up like a balloon! The thought of having this on my face while sleeping was enough to start me into a panic attack! I ripped the mask off and complained about the problem.

He seemed surprised. It was almost as if he wondered what was wrong with me because everybody else liked this level of flow. Maybe I'd get used to it while I slept.


He went away for a second, turning the flow down to nice gentle level, suggesting a lot of people liked this one. Yeah, no fooling. I could tell there was air pressure, but I didn't have to try to fight anything, breathing wasn't at all challenged. This maybe  I could live with if I had to. But not tonight. This was only a preliminary fitting. The machine went away.


When it was finally time to hook me up, I had to get back out of bed and sit in a cold chair for about a half hour. Whatever warmth I'd gained from the bed vanished, of course. Some of the leads hook up just like a EKG, snapping into adhesive patches. You know, the adhesive I'm allergic to. The ones on the head get pasted into the hair. Crazy as that sounds, it actually works well. They do warn you to bring plenty of shampoo for your morning shower to get it out of your hair. That also works well, by the second soaping.

Once all the leads are attached to their respective places, they are pulled together behind your head like an electronic ponytail, bound in a couple places, and once you are in bed for the night, plugged into the wall. Your tech retires to their own room with all kinds of monitoring equipment, asks you to move in certain ways from eyes to feet, even snore, and checks that all are working. Then it's lights out and... theoretically ... sleep time.

I had been a bit drowsy before all the hooking up started. Since I normally drop off a couple minutes after hitting the pillow, I expected that to happen here.

Oh no ya don't. Not a chance. Not only were the shoulders tensed, my always-warm feet were cold. That's never a good sign. I couldn't pop an arm out from under the covers to bunch them up and hug them for shoulder position comfort after rotator cuff injuries to both, as it was still way too cold out there. And, my brain just Would. Not. Shut. Down.

I tried. I thought of gentle waves lapping along the lakeshore. Leisurely strolls through a forest. Watching clouds form and unform animal shapes. Sinking softly down, down, down  into the best pillows in the world.

My brain, on the other hand, turned the spotlights on and started dancing its own charleston, doing a jazz-hands version of "Hello my darling, hello my baby, hello my good-time girl." My neck felt frozen in place, unable to snuggle into the billow for best comfort. Part of that was all the wiring, part the cold. And of course, because the brain was awake, the kidneys were too. And that meant calling the tech, having him come in, turn on the lights, unplug what needed unplugging so I could walk 15 feet, and come back as soon as he saw via his ceiling camera that I returned to the bed, replug everything, turn out the lights, leave and close the door again.

The door thunks when it closes. Just a bit.

It's enough.

I tried to put off calling him in to unplug me. It's bad enough having to go several times in the middle of the night. It's just that much worse having to call somebody, announce why, and have a whole production made of it. As a result, there were long periods where I just lay awake and aware of the need, postponing the inevitable. Thinking about not peeing is not conducive to sleep. You know you're not going to win that one. It's never just about not, but how long before not turns into must, and how long you have to figure in to keep must from turning into nevermind.

There apparently were brief moments of dozing off. I have the paperwork to prove it, even though my recollection is about three hours of grumpy alertness. The one hint that I'd been out briefly was the sudden awareness that a different piece of music was running through my head. At various times I identified "Rally Round the Flag, Boys" (why on earth?), or "Itsy Bitsy Spider", or bits from Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto. Other old show tunes popped up in there, but I couldn't place them.

Twice the tech's disembodied voice came through the speaker, asking me to lay on my back for ten minutes so they could record how that went. I do  understand that most people's apnea is worst in that position. However, I do not sleep on my back. I am a side sleeper. Period. It's the only way that is comfortable. The first time I tolerated it for about 5 minutes, then heeded my body's demand to roll. I told the room's microphone that I didn't know what they were looking for, but sleep was not going to be part of it.

The second time was an exercise in passive-aggressive behavior. Hadn't he learned anything yet about me not sleeping on my back? I'd teach him. We'd had a discussion about a potty break and he promised to come in and unplug me after ten minutes on my back. So, I laid there. I'd relax, be still, and show him. After a bit, that got boring. I moved my feet in various rhythms. Hands too, drumming different ones including the 9/8 beat from old belly dancing days. Knees up towards the chest. Knees down. Move the feet some more. Finally I started making noises, eventually turning them into a gravelly version of singing along with whatever the tune was parading through my head at the time, then picking out a few more.

 After a while I decided it had been way more than ten minutes and he wasn't holding up his side of the bargain. For whatever odd reason that seems to make sense during sleep deprivation, I decided to wait him out, give him more rope to hang his reliability with, proving to him that even if he waited longer there would be no sleeping on my back for his dumb test. My annoyance didn't bother him a bit, apparently. Maybe they get to read? I finally called him in. "I know it's been longer than 10 minutes!"

Three AM was my return to bed from my last potty break. I looked at my cell phone to check the time. After that my dancing brain finally gave in. That meant that 6AM's wake-up call came way too early. But I have a pill to take at every 6:00, so once freed from the wall hookups and after the bathroom beeline, I started the morning routine. There was of course more paperwork to fill out. A shower to take. Coffee. A ton of carbs offered for breakfast, but rummaging in the fridge revealed a couple of cheese sticks. Morning news on the TV, and while the traffic would be irrelevant once I was on the road, the weather report and latest flooding news was helpful.

With an hour to kill before my Doctor's follow up on the study, I headed out to my car, set my timer, and grabbed a nap. It was facing the sun so I turned it around so the car itself gave me shade. You wouldn't think that I'd be complaining about heat after the night of too cold, but there's no accounting for fussy.

The news was all good. The first, rather surprising tidbit, was the doctor informing me that my tech would be leaving their program shortly. Who discusses that with patients? Unless maybe there had been others about as pleased with him as I had been?

Second, I had apparently gotten a bit more sleep that I'd thought, with lines on the graph to show how much and when. It was just very short interrupted bits earlier in the evening, longer solid bits in the wee hours. As far as obstructive sleep apnea was concerned, I had about 10-15 bits an hour. That compares to about 5 in the general population, and 30+ in those needing the C-pap machine. My blood O2 levels never dropped to a concerning low. So while it wasn't the lowest apnea level, for the purposes of the test, I came out negative. No machine needed.


Time for work.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cheney: Still A Dick!

'Nuff said?

No? Still hiding in that cave with no news input, eh? Well, stick your head out and do a teensy bit of research. See what he's been up to lately. Listen to him lie about everything, denying what happened during the Bush/Cheney administration, denying things he said which are readily available on tape proving the lie. Listen to him blame everything happening in Iraq now on Obama, especially things which happened during Cheney's time in office, as if Obama had a time machine and could go back in time to exercise his Presidential power.

I apologize for the nausea you'll experience, for the astonishment and anger at the blatant lies and self-agrandizement. But now that you're out of your cave, you'll realize nothing's has changed. Well, except possibly that his Haliburton stock has increased in value by a number in the order of thousands of times.

Cheney: still a Dick!

So why, oh why, is anybody still listening to him?

Saturday, June 21, 2014


I love a good thunderstorm. It's why I had a screen house added on the west side of the house, so I/we could safely sit and watch them approach. It also keeps the gazillion skeeters at bay, but that's actually secondary. (At least until you step outside.)

I had to deal with Jordan's fear of thunderstorms when she was young and I got Grandma visitation weekends. Her mother feared the storms, and Jordan took that example to heart. One day I picked her up and headed homewards at the start of a corker of a storm, and she started cowering in the back seat. I decided she needed a new role model, so I started telling her how much I loved thunderstorms. I even made a game of it for her, suggesting she watch the lightning strikes and discover what colors the lightning bolt really were. I suggested they only seemed white because they were so bright, implying she'd know something most people missed if she only paid attention. I, of course, had to drive, and couldn't watch so much, so after each bolt, asked her what color that one was. "Yellow." "Green." "Purple." (Who knew? I thought they were all white!)

Afterwards, when a storm rolled in during a visit, we adjourned to the screen house and watched them together. I never knew her to fear storms after that.

It's different with dogs. You can't suggest to them that there's nothing to fear. You can't explain that they are inside and dry and safe. You can't explain that the abuse which made them insane around thunderstorms in the first place will no longer happen.

When we adopted Ellie, we didn't realize just what the "fear of thunderstorms" notation on her records actually meant. Koda had been a bit nervous during the heart of one. He'd howl along with the sirens. He might tremble slightly, ask for cuddling. We naively thought that was what we'd have to put up with. We dismissed the effect of something else noted on her form: when she was not being petted inside with her former owners, she was kept outside. In a crate. Not, mind you, a big fenced kennel with a snug doghouse. Just a crate.

I learned the first day that crates were not going to be an option with her, much as I believe in them for housebreaking and other issues. In her case they had been abusive. She'd try to dig her way out of one to the extent of bloodying her paws. So the crate stays in the basement. A harness and leashes keep her under control. They work most times, along with tenderness, firmness, and lots of petting and treat rewards from everybody in the house.

Well, except from Fred. He mostly ignores her, particularly when she's playing dominance games. Occasionally he participates, but from him it's more typical to throw a look over his shoulder while otherwise remaining unmoving, as if to ask what kind of insignificant mosquito is trying to bother him now? If he is playful, the two of them mock-fight, a gentle game that gives them both moderate exercise. Fred is getting slimmer, so it's good for them both.

It's different when the rumbling starts. Ellie can pick it up well before we can. She starts getting restless, running up and down the hallway, jumping in and out of chairs. She sticks her muzzle in the dog food dish, swinging it back and forth and tossing the dog food out in all directions, then repeating with the water. What a mess! If Paul's door is closed with him on the other side of it, say with Yuki, she tries to dig her way through the door. She won't settle, won't be held, trembles hard and tries to run away from a storm where there is no place to escape to.

That all happens when I am home and awake in the living room. If the storm starts at night I know it, not from thunder waking me - I sleep through that all the time - but from Ellie. She is accustomed to sleeping at the foot of my bed or on the floor next to it. The bedroom door will be closed and the allergen filter fan will be on. The white noise helps me but seems to do nothing for her to hide thunder. In a storm she jumps onto me, wherever she happens to land. It might be on my head. Once on the bed, she tries to cover my head, dig under my head, go to the other side of my head and back again. I'm lucky that so far she's done me no actual damage, but then again this stuff wakes up even me pretty fast.

Scolding her does no good. Pushing her down to her allowed spot, anywhere below my waist, say, does no good. I can push her down with my hand, hold it there to keep her placed, and she'll dodge around it and back up to my head. Hugging her to my chest in a cuddle does no good since she squirms out of the hug and crawls back up to my head. I do gather the information on how hard she is trembling during the process, but that's not exactly conducive to sleep either. It simply means I switch from irritation at her behavior to sympathy for her fear.

Giving up on sleep, and in an effort to at least protect my head, I'll head out to the living room with her, plunk down in the recliner with a blanket, put on the TV to help cover the noise, and try for some sleep. About the only thing I accomplish is protecting my head. She won't jump up that high when I'm in the recliner. She does, however, jump in and out of my lap, often enough and vigorously enough that sleep is still impossible. Fred, by the way, just sleeps through it all unless she makes that momentarily impossible.

Other dogs I've had would find the kennel crate a safe haven. If they were scared or needing to be separated from, say, sleepers, that was always an option. Not with Ellie. I can't kick her out of the bedroom and shut the door because she'd start digging through it. We can't disengage.

It's been a stormy couple weeks. We haven't had to deal with flooding here. It's high ground and the drainage is just fine. The sump pump is working hard, and thus far, successfully. But we have Ellie. New behaviors have begun to emerge. She has figured out she can fit under my bed despite the storage totes under it. I hear her rustling papers under my head through the mattress and box spring, and no, I haven't bothered to check on possible damage. Then I hear her trying to dig through the flooring. That's the part that usually inspires me to actually invite her up onto the bed, despite my previous experiences with her there.

I phoned our vet the other day. I heard about doggie tranquilizers before, dismissing them as being for lazy owners with behavior problems owning dogs. Now I begin to see their point. It wasn't my behavior problems which did this to Ellie. But the vet said those meds need to be taken over several months to do any good. For now, she suggested melatonin, the hormone that assists in sleeping. It might make her sleepy enough to calm her during a storm, and can be given morning and/or night when storms are expected. Plus, the stuff is cheap, OTC, and if it doesn't work out for her, humans can use it too. She takes it easily, so long as a bit of chicken is wrapped around it. Snap! Swallow! Gone!

I think it helps a wee bit, but the storms have simmered down at the same time. It's hard to really tell. While she may be a bit calmer, it's not a cure-all.  The thing that has really helped is Steve, hearing an early morning storm, offering to stay with her in the living room while I head back to my bedroom and grab a couple more hours of undisturbed sleep with the alarm turned off.

What a guy!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Night the Living Room Shrunk

It was much improved from when we had stuff packed and stacked in preparation for moving into the Arizona house, when half the living room space was taken up. We could still move through easily enough back then, and keeping it was not only cheaper than a storage unit, it beat moving it all twice. There were/are still boxes cluttering up part of it now, as Steve and I have been packing up more of the library to haul down this October, and they were stacked both on and in front of the sofa, much to Fred's disappointment. He loves to stretch out along the couch, but was now limited to half of its length. It's the softest spot in the house for him.  But looking around, other than that and the usual surface clutter, the living room seemed to have plenty of space.

Until, suddenly, there was none.

Monday night I had just been home from work long enough to change into PJs, empty my lunch cooler, put up my feet, and turn on the TV in preparation of picking something to watch. Steve stumbled into the living room, set down his tea, looked around, and went back to his room for what I saw later was his cell phone. From the way he was moving and his expression, plus his lack of communication, I knew he was in pain.

That didn't surprise me. He had been all that day. Not the knees so much this time. Just hurting all over, enough for a pain pill, and later, two.  He'd indicated that afternoon on the phone that when these timed out without effect, he was gong to switch to a Percoset, though I found out later he'd not taken one.

As he sat down, he popped a nitro pill,  looked over at me and finally spoke. "I think it's time to call the boys." That puzzled me momentarily. "The boys" was his expression for the dogs, back when Koda was still with us, before our second dog was female. And why call them? Both were right here with us. He couldn't mean his sons, could he? That made even less sense  in the current context. I barely had time to puzzle that out before he spoke into his cell, "I need an ambulance." If that wasn't my clue, the sight of him popping a second nitro pill told me what was going on. (I'd thought the first was his beta-blocker, looking just like mine and much like the nitro.)

We have great response in our town. Before he finished his call the first of our first responders was knocking on the front door, letting himself in past a wildly barking Ellie. Paul came out and removed her to his room. Placid Fred got to stay next to his master. By the time Ellie was gone, three more first responders had entered. I think we wound up with 5 in all, but it became hard to keep track.  There was equipment spread out in the center of the floor, they were questioning Steve, me, and their dispatcher, heading back out either for more equipment or better (quieter) communication out of the hubbub, asking me to show them his prescriptions collection, later going back and bagging them up to take along to the ER.

"The boys" get younger all the time. When asked how the pressure on his chest felt, Steve used a Sherman tank metaphor to illustrate the weight. One of them actually had to ask what that meant: "Is that heavy?"

Steve's met most of them. He was supposed to be still while they were taking an EKG, though they still asked him questions. Since they seemed to be ignoring their own instructions to him, he did too, by introducing me to as many of them as he could. Each went something like, "And this is _____, he's the one I was telling you about ________ and he lives right over (points) that way." It's not just that he's had to call them before. When he sees one of them while he's out and about, he stops to chat. And even with that Sherman tank sitting on his chest and all the questions about his health history, long and short term, and "Does it hurt when I press here? How about here?", Steve is introducing me to The Boys.

Gotta love the guy.

I'm just trying to keep Fred out of everybody's way instead of trying to climb up in Steve's lap, answer different questions being thrown by multiple people at once, watch them move the boxes that were stacked on the floor in front of the couch to the remaining space on the seat of the couch to make more floor room (poor Fred), wondering how many people are in there now, squeeze past the bottleneck to locate his pills so the guy doing the paperwork could list them all, marvel that the gurney actually made it into the house past the cars lined up on the driveway where little room was left for anything to pass, along with another two attendants, listen to one guy repeat his complaint that something's batteries were dead, inform a couple of the guys who've been here over the years that what they think they remember about Steve was really from when Daddy lived here and was on 24-hour oxygen....

Whew! Yep, that noise and chaos was making the living room really shrink!

At one point when the nitro still wasn't taking effect, Steve asked should he take the third that he was told was allowed if necessary by the original prescribing doctor. They had to consult over their radios, and the answer came back about 5 minutes later that he should follow his original doctor's instructions. So he popped a third. About 7-8 minutes later somebody else sent instructions over the radio that the third pill was not to be taken. Too late. Steve suggested he might be able to recover is if they wanted him to throw up. They started to take that as a sign that he was feeling nauseated, but he quickly explained it was humor, not a new symptom.

Eventually Steve was loaded for transport, minus his shoes. They were right there, would have slipped on his feet easily, but no. So I started compiling things to take to the hospital when I followed behind in my car. Shoes, the book he was reading, wallet... wait, the ambulance hadn't left yet and he'd need his ID and insurance cards, so I sent Paul out with that. Then I changed back into "real" clothes and added my stuff to the pile, but not until the deputy left. I'm not sure when he popped in, but he needed address information after the rest of the crowd left. Eventually I got out of there too, with Paul promising to take care of the dogs' night routines before he went to bed. It was now my bedtime as I left for the 16 mile jaunt to the hospital. Who knew when I'd really hit my pillow?

I had to stop on my way out, seeing a familiar face. Patty, known from the city council and for helping take care of Daddy, had walked over from her neighborhood to see what was happening after the ambulance had mistakenly gone to her neighborhood first. Same street name, just a different leg of it. I filled her in briefly, and headed out. That's life in a small town.

I'm going to skip all the parts in the ER, including biting my tongue so as not to annoy Steve's doctor when he let it be known what a right wing wacko and Bill O'Reilly fan he was politically, and skip to the diagnosis. It wasn't a heart attack. There was no trace of the enzymes they look for, and the EKG was completely normal. Since the nitro finally eased the pain, they think it was an esophageal spasm. Apparently nitro only effects heart and esophageal tissues. Eliminate one, the other is all that's left. He needs to check in with his primary care doc. And by 2AM we were finally home. I turned off my alarm just before the head hit the pillow. I presume Steve did the same, except he doesn't set his alarm in the first place.

It was lovely walking through an empty living room, aside from a pair of welcoming pooches.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Was He Worth It?

That's the outrageous cover on Time, asking whether bringing home our one Afganistan POW was "worth it".

For those who've been sleeping through the last week, or won't read this for a couple decades (the internet is forever, ya know), President Obama just traded 5 Talibanis from Guantanamo for one US soldier/POW. News follow-ups indicate he may have been away from his post when his capture happened. It turns out he has done that a couple times before, for a couple hours each time, and returned. News items also say either his health was frail after 5 years, or his captors were threatening his life if the exchange weren't carried out, or both.

The faked outrage following the exchange is itself outrageous, for so many reasons.

1: We don't leave our soldiers behind. If this trade wasn't done, what kind of message does that give to others who are considering joining the military? It doesn't matter whether he was "worthy" of rescue, as so many claim in their 15 seconds of so-called fame. The uniform is.

A side note is the claim that 6 of our soldiers died in attempting rescue. The government says that is not established. But let's suppose for a moment is was. Does that make a difference? Soldiers give their lives for lots of reasons in a war, and rescuing a buddy - or body - is an honorable one. Let's turn to Hollywood for a minute, if only because some of their movies illustrate points memorably, in ways we civilians can relate to.  "We Were Soldiers",  Viet Nam era, picked because it just aired on TV, showed the importance of bringing every body home, even though some were killed in the attempt. "Saving Private Ryan", picked because of yesterday's 70th D-Day anniversary, demonstrated the same thing, with many losing their lives just to send home a single soldier. Nobody asked how worthy these soldiers were, how high the price. It is just how it was done, and hopefully still is. Decades later remains are still returned from 'Nam, when located. Knowing that every effort will be made to bring whatever is left of them home is part of what gives soldiers the courage to fight.

2: Some of the foremost critics now are exactly those who a few months back were suggesting this kind of exchange and criticizing the President for failing so far to rescue Bowe Bergdahl. Sen. John McCain was one of the loudest then, - yeah, you're on tape, John - and one of the loudest on the opposite side now. You'd think with his POW history... well, nevermind. We've seen his chameleon side when he ran for President. Should we have asked back in the 70's whether this fairly inept pilot was worth bringing home? Or should we just understand how politics are involved in today's furor, coming from a party whose opposition to our President is openly stated to be it's number one priority? Not fixing this country's problems, but making Obama look bad regardless of the consequences to the country, to you and me.

3: As to Bowe's alleged history in leaving base, there are questions to answer, of course. When did we decide that our citizens were guilty until proven innocent, judged in absentia? It's stated he was disillusioned by this war. Who wasn't? And that's even without having just watched a young Afgani boy being run over by one of our tanks in the street. Plenty of soldiers in plenty of wars have written home that this isn't the glorious cause they thought it was, complained that they were lied to, frustrated by terrible conditions, needing a few hours occasionally to get it back together before returning to duty? Let's wait to find out the truth, and then mete out whatever punishment may be appropriate, starting with those 5 years served.

4: Thirteen years ago those 5 Talibanis captured and sent to Gitmo were considered too dangerous to let go. They were never tried, never could be. It is our country's disgrace that they were tortured while in our hands, our foolishness that any of us thought it would produce useful information. Now, the war is winding down. Pull-out dates have been announced. At the end of a war, countries return their captured from the other side. These guys would properly have had to go back. This way we had some say in under what conditions this happened.

How dangerous are they now? They are all old men. 13 years ago they were relevant. Younger men have risen from the ranks and taken their places. Much as they might be respected in their culture, they'd have a tough time both in coming back up to speed with what's happening now, and in reclaiming their status and position from their replacements. Of course, the fact of our having tortured them gives them incentives to try, rather than retire gracefully, so kudos to our side, eh?

5: If "dangerous" was the criteria for an exchange, how about President Reagan's trading of arms way back in the day? That didn't come back to bite us in the butt, uh-uh, no way, no how. And let's not even get into how legal that might have been. Or not. Mostly not.

So was he worth it? Shame on you for even asking!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

R.I.P. Alice

Wait! What? You thought this was an homage to The Brady Bunch? Yes, that was in the news, and the world is missing a comedic actress, but this is much closer to home. Actually, literally, closer to home.

It started with packing up more of the home library to take south in the fall. One of the books was a very old joke book, and it brought to mind a joke/riddle I read years ago and never forgot. Back in the day, boys and girls, back when your grandparents were little, there were things called telegrams. Unlike email, you had to pay for them, pay for each word. There was a set price for ten words, and then they got really expensive. Since punctuation wasn't part of the Morse code, the word "stop" was inserted for periods. Those were free. And stories about telegrams always had a penny-pinching miser in them.

In this case there was a very important telegram to send, and the miser had to figure out how to send all the information without paying a single extra penny. This was the final message: "Bruises hurt stop erased afford stop analysis hurt too stop infectious dead stop"

After puzzling it out for a while, if you still couldn't quite work out the message, they gave you the answer. "Bruce is hurt. He raced a Ford. And Alice is hurt too. In fact, she's dead."

The fact that Alice is named in the joke called something else to mind, particularly since I had a run near the old neighborhood this morning. When we moved to Shoreview, our newest kid, Paul, had just made our family big enough to crowd us out of the little 3-bedroom mobile home and into a real house. It had some oaks in the yard, perfect for hanging a tire swing on. But we needed another tree, a weeping willow. I finally had a yard I could do things to, and I'd always loved weeping willows. We dug a hole in the front yard, down through a foot of sand, and finally struck a smelly black layer of decayed organics. Our house had been moved in over a vacant lot, given a modern basement, and the sand had been smoothed over all the years' collection of decaying vegetation to allow a lawn to be put down. We weren't sure if that stinky stuff was going to be good for the tree or not, but planted it there anyway. Digging one hole was plenty.

It turned out to be exactly the right rich wonderful spot the willow needed. Within a couple years it had grown enough to be turned into a climbing tree for the kids, pruned with branches spaced just right for access and safety. Stephanie named "her" Alice. When we moved to Georgia, that next yard got its own Alice planted, and two weeping willows were planted in the back of this house. The last two weren't named, however. Steph was grown and gone. There was a new generation to appreciate the willows, one not familiar with tree naming. These willows also grew fast and were pruned for climbing, and Jordan and her brother Adam spend many an hour high up in them.

One year the first one blew over in a storm and became firewood. Steph came up with Ben the next year to help in the chopping down after the last one had a huge split in the trunk and was deemed unsafe. There are no plans to plant another Alice here, and Arizona is hardly the place for one.

With some time after dropping a package in Shoreview this morning, I decided to swing over a couple blocks and go past the old house there, site of the first Alice, see how she was doing. Alas, she was no more. There was, however, a stump in the middle of the front yard, a bit over a foot tall.

R.I.P., Alice. All you Alices.