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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Caleb Memorial Update

We're still a bit short...

A while back I wrote a short post about my cousin Caleb, a young man of rather remarkable talents who passed away in his early twenties following a motorcycle accident. Pixie and I have been trying to raise funds to have his name engraved on a "Bikers' Memorial Wall" in Ohio.

The people who run the wall charge $150 per name, which sounds a little steep until you understand that it's really a rather large memorial, they need to pay for upkeep on the site, and they fund several scholarships with the leftover money. It's a good thing. We're hoping to have the funds raised by February 22.

We've had several generous donors, but we're still a bit short of our goal. If anyone wants to donate five or ten bucks, you can do so HERE. You can learn more about Caleb here, and you can get more information on the memorial wall here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008



The good news is that it's supposed to be fifty degrees warmer in a few days. Fifty degrees! That's wondrous!

The bad news is that it will still be below freezing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I'm starting to get teste about it...


RE: My Recent Testicular Woes

I've been back at work the past couple days, swollen, bruised bag and all. It's going fairly well, except for getting in and out of the car, the stairs, and all that pesky moving around all the time. It would all be bearable, except...

There's this midget that lives under my desk at work, you see. Every five or ten minutes or so he whacks my right man-berry with a ruler, then sits back and cackles in glee as I squirm in pain. Just about the time I forget he's there and can concentrate on work again, "WHACK."

Damned midget.

Our Tax Dollars at Work

Uncle Jay Explains Congressional Recess

Monday, January 21, 2008

This is Not Good


It's been three days, and I still can't walk more than twenty or thirty feet without having to stop. I sit down and stand up like an old man, holding onto the arms of the chair with all my might... The left guy is fine, but the right one is still at least three times normal size (the damned thing looks like a plum). It aches when I'm still and hurts when I move. It hurts to sit straight; I can only sit for a few minutes at a time, then I gotta stand up or lie down.

This can't be right.

I don't know how I'm going to get to work today. I can't imagine sitting for eight hours. I have a doctor's appointment Tuesday... I hope they can tell me how long this is going to last.

Our insurance people promised they'd cover the cost of the procedure, minus the $250 deductible. I hope they keep their promise... I lost a day's work last week, and it looks like I'll lose more wages this week. That worries me.

On the upside, I've heard almost every testicle joke, pun, entendré, and obscure reference in the book. Some of them are pretty clever!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Oh, the Indignities

Wun Hung Lo

"Here you go," said the nurse. "I need you to go in there and put this on." She handed me one of those patented little nighties with no rear. I took the nighty from her. It was cold.

"What do I need to be wearing when I come out?" I asked.

"Just that. Nothing else," was the reply.

Obediently, I ducked into the little restroom and took my boots off. I poked my head back out. "Nothing else?" The nurse looked at me. "Nothing else," she said. "You can't get a vasectomy wearing jeans." I sighed and closed the door again.

I managed to achieve full frontal and rearal nudity, and tied the little nighty on. It was pretty breezy. Back out into the "procedure room" I went, holding the rear of the nighty closed with one hand. The nurse was waiting. "I need you to hop up on this table," she said. To this very day, that was the last time the word "hop" has entered my vocabulary.

"GAAAAAHHHH!" I hollered as my rather delicate (and overly-exposed) tuckus hit the table. "That's COLD!" I positioned myself on the table best I could.

"Yeah, we keep it in the freezer and wheel it out just before the procedure," said the nurse. "I'll be with you in just a minute. First I need to soak all the instruments in this ice water..."

I lay on the cold table, staring at the ceiling, listening to the miscellaneous noises of nurses preparing instruments for "minor medical procedures." I started to get a little worried. I don't much care for pain, you see, and just from what I could see from my vantage point on the cold table most everything in the room was designed to poke, prod, cut or zap various parts of the human body... Worrisome.

"Okay," said the nurse after a while, "I need to strap you down now."


"We're going to restrain you," she said. "You'll be all woozy on happy-juice during the operation. Some men thrash around a little. The last thing you want to do is kick the doctor while she's got a scalpel aimed at your testicles." She got out four padded rubber rope-thing.

"You're serious?"

"I'm serious."

I put my head back on the table. Somehow being strapped naked (almost) to an operating table while various women wander by playing doctor wasn't nearly as fun a person might suppose. The nurse tightened the strap on my right hand and moved to my left side.

"Okay, I'm just going to put an IV in this arm before I strap it in," the nurse said, grabbing a nasty-looking needle. I looked up at her. Her shirt had cartoon cats on it. She grabbed my arm and started feeling for a vein, frowning. After a few moments she strapped a rubber band around my arm and started slapping my wrist. She frowned some more. I started to get a bit more nervous.

"Okay," she said, an intent look on her face, "you're just going to feel a small prick."

"Odd, that's just what I told my wife last night. OW! Hey, that hurt!"

"Sorry," she said, pulling the needle out of my arm. "I missed. I'm going to try again. Just relax."

"Relax? I'm strapped naked on a table with people putting needles in me. This isn't exactly petting puppies, you know. OW! Stop that!"

"Sorry," she said. "I missed."

She tried five more times, then gave up. "I'm sorry," she said. "I can't seem to get the needle into your vein. I'm going to have to get someone else to give it a try..."

"It's okay," I whimpered. "I'm sure you did your best." The nurse went to a phone and mumbled something, then nodded to herself.

"Okay, someone's on their way," she said. "In the meantime, I need to tape your penis up out of the way." She lifted my little gown up and grabbed a roll of tape.

"You do realize that shrinkage is NOT a theory," I asked her.

"Trust me," she said, "this is a lot worse for you than it is for me." She grabbed what little pride I have and taped it up with tape I can only assume came from the same freezer they keep everything else in. "Gaaaah! That's COLD!"

"Oh, that's nothing," she said. "You just wait for a minute..." She turned around and got a bottle of something off the shelf. "I have to put this on your scrotum," she said, pouring a bunch of goop on my boys.

"HOOOOOO!" I hollered. Then, "eeeeeeeeeep" as I tried to inhale. Then "HOoooooooo MAN that's cold! What is that? Liquid nitrogen? My oh my oh geeze that's cold!"

About that time the doctor lady breezed in. "Hi, how's everything going here?" she asked me, looking around.

"I'm strapped naked on a cold table with five puncture wounds in my arm and my balls are marinating in liquid methane," I said. "I've had better days."

"No IV yet?" the doctor asked the nurse. "Must have bad veins. Call me as soon as you start the drip." She hung her coat up in the corner and went out the other door. At almost the same time the first door opened and another nurse came in.

"Oh," she said, glancing at my ever-shrinking penis, "a vasectomy, huh? Trouble with the IV?" The first nurse nodded, then the two of them team tackled my left arm, poking it repeatedly with various sharp instruments.

"Ha! Got it!" the second nurse said after a while. "That should do the trick!" The first nurse went over and called the doctor. Within minutes the doctor was in place. "Okay," she said. "Let's start the IV." She then mumbled some numbers and Latin phrases. The nurse did something to the IV, and the world started spinning. The last thing I remember was me saying, "Geeze your hands are cold!"

When I woke up the doctor was gone and the nurse was just tucking my gown back into place. I don't really remember much, but I did manage to put my clothes back on (with the mandatory athletic supporter) and sit in the nice wheelchair. I heard the nurse talking to my beloved Alpine wife Dagmar, but I was too busy feeling happily medicated to pay much attention to what they were saying. They wheeled me out the door and got me sitting gingerly in the car, and before I knew it I was home, wearing my jammies (and that damned tight jock strap they told me to wear), laying on the couch, a bag of frozen peas pressed on my crotch.

I napped off and on most of the day, feeling rather tender and fragile. By nighttime I had noticed that my left boy was fine -- no pain at all. But the right one hurt like no one's business. I went to the bathroom to check things out a bit... Indeed, the left guy felt fine, but the right boy was swollen to about three times normal size.

"Honey," I called as I tottered delicately out of the bathroom, "did the doctor say anything about the procedure? Did something happen that I should know about?"

"Vell," said Dagmar, "the nurse did say dat dere vas a lot of bleeding on vun side, und that you'll probably be swollen and bruised for quite some time. She said you'll probably be in a lot of pain for a while."

"Something went wrong?" I asked.

"I don't know," Dagmar answered. "De nurse said they had to stop the procedure halfway through to try to stop the bleeding, and that you'll be in pain for a while. She looked pretty nervous vhen she told me."

It's now been almost exactly 30 hours since the procedure, and I'm still walking funny. My one little guy is fine, no pain or swelling at all, just a little itch where the stitches are. The other is all swollen and is a monstrous shade of purple... I tell you what, I sure hope this gets better soon! I'm afraid to sneeze.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

We Ooze Cool

iHave an iPod

Well, after drooling over iPods for, literally, years, and watching hip-looking young people with wads of disposable income do cool dances on the television commercials, Dagmar and I finally counted our pennies and bought an iPod.

We opted for the $79 iPod Shuffle. You can see a photo of it to the right. Ours is kind of a metallic purple, holds about 150 songs, and is much smaller than the photo would imply.

It's about the size of a half-eaten saltine.

I feel so hip. Cool, even. I'm part of the "in" crowd. I am popular, and the envy of all the neighborhood urchins. Or at least that's how I felt when Dagmar let me hold the empty box as she eagerly stuffed the ear buds into her head and ran out the door to go to work.

"Vow!" she said to me over the phone a few hours later. "Dis ting is really cool! I really, really like it!"

We've had it a few days, and we still both like it, which is a good sign. A person hates to spend $79 on something they rarely use, but so far we've been pretty entranced with our little toy. Dagmar takes it to work and uses it at the gym every day. When she brings it home I plug it into my head when I'm working on my computer as it's nice to have tuneage without lagging down my hard drive. (My computer's so old and creaky I can't run iTunes if anything else is open at the same time without really dragging things down. Even web-based Pandora crashes my system occasionally if I use that instead of iTunes.)

So now that I'm cool and hip with my time-shared iPod, I have questions galore. Queries. Interrogative statements.

If I wiggle the little ear buds over this way a little and push 'em in my ear a bit with my delicate little index fingers I can hear the bass WAY better. Being a former bassman in various bands, I like hearing bass response, you see. Has anyone out there bought after-market ear buds? Is the bass better than the standard "comes with your iPod" ear buds? How do you like them? It seems strange to buy $90 Bose earphones for an $80 player, so I'd kinda like to know if it'd be worth it...

Both Dagmar and I have noticed that the standard ear buds kinda hurt our ears. They're a little uncomfortable and sort of wear on the edges of the ear raw, just a bit. Does this go away? Do iPod users grow callouses on their ears?

Is there any other iPod etiquette of which I should be aware?

Man, I feel so cool. Can you feel my coolness?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sad Days in the City

Ritualistic Murder

Ritualistic murder. That phrase really bothers me. There are so many bad implications to that phrase -- "murder" implies that someone is dead by another person's hand; "ritualistic" implies that the person who committed the murder assumes no responsibility for the act, rather the responsibility is pushed off onto someone else (a priest, teacher, guru, book) who said the action is good and must be done. The word "murder" implies that the killing is NOT condoned by society at large.

There's nothing at all good about the phrase "ritualistic murder."

In April a family moved to Sioux City, enrolling their two little girls in one of the local elementary schools. The two girls, ages eight and ten, were found strangled to death in the basement of their home, which had then been set on fire. Police found their 25-year-old step-father in the house when they responded to the fire call. He said he had to kill the girls because a spell he cast had "gone bad" and could have "severe consequences."

The Sioux City Journal article termed it "ritualistic murder."

Note: Everything from here on out are my opinions as of today, and I hope not to offend anyone. These are simply my thoughts. They may be wrong, and I reserve the right to change my mind tomorrow. I'm just trying to think things through.

I skimmed very briefly through the comments people posted on the Journal's web site, and found them bothersome for the most part. Some comments were condolences for the family, and showed general (and genuine) concern. Other comments, the bothersome ones, were from proponents of various religions pointing their fingers at each other, each trying to blame the other for the man's actions. Still other comments wondered whether the step-father had a mental illness. No one seemed to think that the man who killed his step-children might actually be responsible. The tenor of the comments were, "sounds like psychosis to me," or "Wicca should be outlawed" (though as far as I know no one has confirmed the man's religion).

I'm only going to say one more thing regarding the religious aspect of this. Freedom of religion means freedom of ALL religions, not just Christianity. To me the argument that "he committed a horrible act in the name of his religion, therefore we must ban his religion" is specious. I'm not familiar with any religions outside the Judeo-Christian heritage (at least not familiar enough to say anything with authority), but I'd be surprised if killing children is condoned by ANY modern religion. It's my opinion that the man who committed this atrocity went beyond his religion, whatever that may be. Now, does freedom of religion mean that I can start my own religion and go start killing people in the name of my religion? No, it does not. People in the United States, both citizens and visitors, must obey the laws our society puts forth. Our laws supersede our religion, but we go through contortions to ensure that everyone can practice their religion, whatever it may be, WITHIN the confines of the law, and that no one feels forced to practice another's faith against their will.

Did the man who did this suffer from a mental illness? That may be. I could also make an argument that anyone who murders another human being is, by definition, mentally ill. This may sound vaguely cruel, but I feel that having a mental illness should not be a mitigating factor in murder cases, with the exception of the severely handicapped. Was the man hearing voices? I don't know. I do know that mental illness is real, and can do powerful things to a person's mind. If the man was obeying the voices in his head when he strangled the two children, do we let him go free? My vote is no. The man should get treatment if it's needed, but he should still be held responsible for his actions. Should he go to prison if he suffers a mental illness? I don't know, but he needs to go somewhere.

Is fanaticism a mental illness?

Could we, as a society, have stopped this tragedy? Could we have saved the two girls? I don't know. Were there warning signs? Was the man who killed the girls an abusive man? Had he been "in the system" in the past? Was he known to law enforcement officials? I don't know. And if there had been warning signs, should someone have acted? Where do personal privacy and public safety meet? Who makes the judgment calls? I don't know. I just don't know. Should laws be changed? I don't know.

I don't know, but I'm sure thinking about these issues today.

I hope the family can recover from this. I wish them well, and hope they find solace somewhere. And I hope that the Sioux City community can try to learn and grow from this tragedy rather than spend time pointing fingers.

A Family in Need

An e-mail crossed my in-box this afternoon. It was about a small boy here in Sioux City who lost his brother to cancer last February. The family struggled to meet the medical expenses attendant with cancer, and after the boy's death, struggled to make payments to the funeral home to pay for the funeral. Four days ago the father passed away after battling cancer himself. Two illnesses and two deaths in less than a year.

The cemetery won't let the family bury the father until they come up with $2,700.

A group of people (I'm not sure who) started an e-mail to raise money for the family. They're trying to get $15,000 -- enough to cover the unpaid portion of the boy's funeral, the father's funeral and cemetery plot, and a little left over for the family to use as they see fit.

The deadline has already passed, so I'm not soliciting money, but I thought I'd share the story. There are things to think of.

The funeral home and the cemetery provide a service, and should be paid for that service. But gosh, how sad.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A thought, I think

Hey, I won! I won!

It's great fun to win things! Especially when you didn't have to buy a ticket or sign up for "Jelly of the Month" or anything.

I have been tagged by the inestimable Pistols at Dawn of Save Your Generation with the "Thinking Blogger Award." And he said nice things about me, too.

Ain't that nifty? To be honest, the last time I had a thought I had to be very, very careful not to scare it, as it was small and lonely.

Anyway, the Thinking Blogger is a meme. My job is to tag five other bloggers who make ME think, and to link back to the award's origins.

Now the hard part. To narrow my list to five. I hate leaving people out... Take this list with a grain of salt.

1. Katrocket. She always makes me wonder... Life in the big city sure is different than what I'm looking at here in Iowa.

2. Pixie. Enough emotion for four people, wrapped in empathy, expressed eloquently. I'm always startled by the different ways people approach life.

3. Steakbellie. Anyone who can be a world-ranked competitive eater and still blog about things that matter has to be pretty cool... He can cram more into eight words than anyone I know.

4. The last two are dark horse entries. The Andersen Family, headed up by Dad Andersen, is another lesson in "there are different ways to look at life."

5. Bouncing Around in My Head -- to me this is what a blog is all about. Trying to figure the world out one word at a time.

That's it. There are many more blogs out there that also deserve the award, but I'm limited to five and it's well after midnight. Time to go take some Alka-Seltzer and go to bed.

Good night, all.


Caucus Night!

A Few Last-Minute Thoughts

Man, 'tis caucus night, finally. It's been VERY interesting the last few days watching the candidates gyrate about the state. The phone calls have tapered off, thankfully, but the mailbox is overflowing. Yesterday alone I had two direct-mail pieces hanging on my doorknob (one from Richardson, one from Obama), two Obama fliers, a Clinton, two Edwards, and a Kucinich. They're very colorful. I didn't read any of them.

Some random thoughts, in no particular order (these are strictly my very own opinions):


Republican Mitt Romney has really turned me off the past few weeks. Every time I turn the TV on, there's his face. I'm kinda used to "commercial overload," but Romney's ads seem to be overwhelmingly negative. It seems like he never says anything at all about himself, but relies instead on telling people how lousy Mike Huckabee is. It goes beyond commercials, too, now that I think of it -- when I see clips of him doing interviews or whatever, he's always telling people how bad the other candidates are, smiling in a friendly fashion the whole time. I dislike that. He's sneaky, and comes across as a back-stabber.


The other front runner on the Republican side, Mike Huckabee has also disappointed me. I want to like Huckabee, I really do, but I can't. He has a lot of good qualities -- the willpower to lose a lot of weight, he plays bass, he's affable... But affability only gets you so far, unfortunately.

A few days ago, Huckabee called a press conference to announce that he's NOT running an attack ad. He told everyone there that they had made a commercial attacking Mitt Romney, but upon further consideration he decided to take the high moral road and not air the ad. He then proceeded to play it for the press. The ad made its way onto the Internet, from what I've heard, and has been viewed a zillion times. I find this to be deplorable -- if you're moral enough to stay away from attack ads, why did you make one? And if you want to show the world how moral you are by not airing the ad, why did you show it? To me this is a BIG indicator of how Huckabee would operate as president -- skirting legalities and wandering on the edge of morality, waving the Christian banner the whole time so no one can question him.

Another Huckabee blunder, in my mind, was his appearance on a late night talk show. He crossed the picket lines, ignoring the working class simply so he can put himself in the limelight. He very much showed that he will ignore other people's plights in his pursuit of power.


I like Joe Biden. He's stayed away from the foot-in-mouth disease that plagued him for so long early in the campaign. But I really haven't heard much from him at all lately. I keep forgetting he's in the race, to be honest, but I did see one of his commercials on TV the other day. He looked taller on TV than he did in person.


Poor Hillary Clinton. She's inherited baggage. In my opinion, she's too divisive for the country's well-being. I foam at the mouth and start gagging and making strangled retching noises when people mention George Bush's name. I can't help it. It's a reflex. Unfortunately, many people have the same reaction to Clinton. I think she has some good ideas, I think the country is ready for a female president, and I think she's capable of leading. I also think she's exactly the wrong person to bring the country together right now, and that's what we need -- someone to bring us together, someone who can get us to stop foaming at the mouth and start working for the good of the country. And that's the one thing I'm not sure Clinton can do.

I did see her two-minute speech last night on TV, and thought she did a fine job. She didn't look cold or calculating, two traits people have hung on her from the beginning of her candidacy, but she didn't really say anything of substance either.


Chris Dodd dated Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and hangs out with Paul Simon. I haven't seen much about Dodd, to be honest. My gut feeling is that his platform is an amalgamation of all the democratic candidate's platforms, which isn't bad. He seems like a capable man who would be comfortable leading the nation.


John Edwards is the Dick Clark of politics -- he's going to look like he's 32 until he retires. I supported Edwards early on, and I still back his platform. I'm impressed with his plans for education and the elimination of poverty. He seems to be very committed to the cause, and has some good ideas. I think he'd make a fine president, but I simply can't get excited about him yet. If he's the candidate, I'll vote for him with no reservations. But I'm caucusing for someone else.


Who? I haven't seen a single mailer, commercial, yard sign or staffer for Mr. Gravel. I have no idea what he stands for. I'm sure I can look it up, but...


I really hope some of Dennis Kucinich's ideas get into the mainstream conversation. Unfortunately, he comes across as kinda kooky. Much like Fred Thompson, most of the attention is on his wife, not on his policies.


In the past few months I've seen a TON of negative e-mails come through my inbox. Most of them are either pictures of Clinton without makeup, or are making fun of Barak Obama's name. To be honest, I thought we left that sort of thing on the grade school playground, but I guess not. If small-minded people want to make fun of someone's name, that just shows their true colors, I guess.

I've only heard one honest criticism of Obama. "He's inspirational, speaks well, and gets people fired up, but he never really says anything..." That's true, I suppose, but it's also true of most of the other candidates. I've also heard rumblings wondering whether he's experienced enough to be president. Hard to tell.

I like Obama's platform, and I like his energy. He seems to be honest about his past, and by all accounts is an ethical man. He's my second choice in the caucus. I think he'd bring the country together.... But my first choice is...


Bill Richardson really seems to have a proven track record. He's been a congressman, he's been a Secretary of Energy, he's been ambassador to the United Nations, he's been a governor... I'm impressed by his qualifications, but I'm just as impressed that a Republican friend of mine in New Mexico says that Richardson would be good for the country. THAT'S the healing power we need!

He's also a proven negotiator. He's succeeded in getting hostages released from Hussein's Iraq, getting deals in the Pacific Rim signed where others failed... He knows how to treat people with respect.

What really caught my eye about Richardson, though, are his ideas about our treatment of veterans. He's proposing some VERY innovative programs, including a card that veterans can carry that will allow them treatment at ANY hospital in the United States rather than having to drive hundreds of miles to a V.A. hospital. I also like his idea of giving veterans a break on their income taxes when they re-enter civilian life, and giving veterans a 5% deduction on income taxes for life. If anyone deserves this, it's the men and women who have volunteered to do the dirty work for us! Richardson has a bunch of other ideas as well.

I've heard Richardson speak (as well as many of the other candidates). He's not the best speaker in the world, but certainly isn't the worst. He's not the most polished, but he's not a lout either. He came across as a very open, honest person who truly wants to make a positive difference. Of all the candidates I've heard, the only ones who actually talked "nuts and bolts" were Vilsack (remember him?), Biden and Richardson. The rest spoke almost entirely in generalities, as if hoping not to confuse us with real, actual facts and numbers. But Richardson, when asked specific questions, gave specific answers.

I'm caucusing for Richardson. And that's my opinion.


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