Obamacre: Not

I just wanted to post something so you all know I’m not dead.

This is exactly my opinion of the last several weeks:

This is precisely what didn’t happen:

Yes, yes, I know; “poor little bunny“.

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Obamacare Can’t Compare To Bacon

I’m still feeling under the weather. Functioning, but not firing on all cylinders yet.

Mrs. Curmudgeon kindly made me a cure all. She took a huge pork roast, wrapped it in bacon, and then slathered it in bourbon, maple syrup, and other things (I have no idea what). She parked it in the crock-pot for a many hours. All day long it smelled like heaven. (If heaven doesn’t have bacon I ‘aint going there.) No matter how crappy I felt I couldn’t help but smile with anticipation.

It was delicious.

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Obamacare Is Just Another Day: Part 99

Me: “I’m still sick? Still? Now? You’ve gotta’ be kidding me!”

Me: “No shit dude, you’re toast. Haven’t posted squat. Just some blather about a newscaster… and you haven’t watched TV news since you had a black and white set so your concern makes no sense. Also you’re speaking in the third person.”

Me: “Fine fine, I’ll write something in my blog.”

Me: “Whatever, you’re probably going to just phone it in.”

Me: “Hell yeah I will. Nothin’ but fluff.”


Despite being awesome, I couldn’t kick the cold myself. So I got all humble and went the Dr. for a dose of magic potion. (OK fine they’re antibiotics but what are antibiotics if not a miracle? Hell, given the choice between magic potion and modern medicine, smart money might very well be on the latter. Sure Sauron and his potion of strength sounds cool but it’s all chickenshit compared to beating polio and anyone who wants superhuman strength can just buy heavy equipment.) Note: In case you were wondering, they don’t like the phrase “magic potion” at the pharmacy.

I figured I’d be fine in a few days. Nope! I recovered a bit and then crashed again. Christ on a cracker, how long does it take to shake a cold? Apparently forever.

Fuck it; I logically reasoned that I’d clock in at work whether I’m dead or not. If I’m going to be miserable I might as well get paid. It sorta’ helped my attitude to be productive (if not the usual powerhouse) and I’m not contagious so why the hell not?

Even so it has been weeks and I’m a walking dead battery. Wake up, drag your ass to work, barely scrape across the finish line, a couple hours sitting on the couch like a zombie, and then sleep. Eat. Or don’t. Who gives a shit. Lather rise repeat the next day. Even the cat thinks I’m lazy.

I’ve more or less dropped out of society (which for me isn’t that far anyway) and the Foxinator is said to have muttered something about a “man cold”. I swear I haven’t been whining or watching TV so the accusation is denied. If you crawl under the porch and quietly sleep for a month that’s not a man cold, that’s… that’s… I suppose it makes me an honorary teenager? Yes that’s it; useless, lazy, disinterested, and smelly. I’ve been temporarily demoted to teenager.

In desperation I went through about six hundred dumbass phone calls and misdirected papers to get a refill of magic potion antibiotics. I’ve had mixed results.

Anyway I can safely say two things:

  1. The passage of time may be like sands through an hourglass but at some point the only way you know what week it is comes from looking at the dwindling firewood pile.
  2. There have got to be much sicker and much older people that, when dealing with the hassles of calling in a prescription refill like I just faced, just give up and die instead. Seriously, the only reason I persevered was because I was not particularly ill. (My surprise at the pharmacies manifest incompetence might be in part because I usually use a more “citified” service and had higher expectations. This time chose a rural place because I didn’t feel like driving far. I think more people are killed by Gertrude the octogenarian and Betty the woman with the IQ of tapwater who jointly can’t operate a FAX machine in rural bumfuck nowhere than high tech database mixups at Walgreens. Lesson learned, next time I’ll drive to freakin’ Baltimore if I have to. Watching a half dozen rubes screw shit up for 8 hours is just too painful. Nuff said on that.)

I’ll leave you with this:

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Brian Williams, Lying, And The Nature Of Sin

I’ve been sicker than a dog and stuck indoors. This has led me to consume far too much media. Forgive me but I must vent.

The kerfluffle du jour involves people claiming to be “shocked shocked” that a news anchor lied. (This “urgent matter” is everywhere. Apparently the murder of a couple thousand innocents and debt larger than ever amassed in the history of man is irrelevant compared to a flake in a suit talking out of his ass on Letterman?)

I call bullshit.

First of all of course the media’s favored pet lied. Secondly lying is for little whiny pussies.

casablancaIn the interest of backstory (in case a reader lives in a cave in Mongolia) I’ll start with the story of Brian Williams. He was an “embedded reporter” who showed up half an hour after a helicopter got shot down. (Thankfully, with no injuries.) Over time it evolved into “his” helicopter got shot down and everyone in his profession decided he was super extra heroic for this experience. It brought him gravitas and career advancement but it was unearned. What have we learned about unearned self esteem in the last few decades? That’s right folks, it’s toxic. In due time (in this case a dozen years or so) the truth came out. He got outed as a lying jackass. In the course of a few weeks a popular fellow has become such a pariah that folks wouldn’t piss on him if he were on fire.

First of all, lets dismiss with the “shocked” nomenclature. It’s schadenfreude and it’s delicious but nobody is surprised. You’d have to be a kool-aid freebasing wingnut to think otherwise. He’s in a profession that lies, that serves a product that is lies, that constructs, initiates, designs, publishes, and sells lies. A system that pats itself on the back with the smug belief that it has pulled one over on the clueless rubes in flyover country; all the while sinking into bankruptcy and irrelevancy. Anyone who thinks network news is trustworthy needs to go back to their Pokemon cards and let the adults talk.

The rest of us have already accepted that the media is an inbred den of hucksterific nimrods; the kind of narcissistic twits that beamed with joy at a “gentleman’s C” in journalism while the rest of were either trying to beat our heads against second order derivatives or making a living on the oil derricks. (OK maybe I just hate communication majors, we’ve all got our biases.)

We’ve felt the media’s lies poured on our faces for decades. That’s why we enjoy watching them burn. To us, virtually anything said by anyone in any media is, has been, and will continue to be false and self servingly so, unless and until we can find solid independent verification. Note that I didn’t say their stories “may be” bullshit but “are likely” to be bullshit. As in, more often than not. As in I’m surprised their lungs don’t implode from spewing such sustained inaccuracy. By now anyone who’s get their head screwed on right wouldn’t trust the media even if they said the sky is blue. They’d go outside and check for themselves. (Which, come to think of it, is a fine way to live.) It would be better for us all if we quit pretending there was such a thing as trustworthy media.


But that’s not what interests me. What fascinates me is how the tragedy unfolded perfectly. It happened with clockwork precision, on time, in order, and as it should. Williams is a perfect little one many tragedy.

Anyone who’s read tragedy knows exactly what happens and in exactly what order. Read Greek tragedy or Shakespearean tragedy or whatever other such story strikes your fancy. It’ll be Brian Williams; spot on. Tragedy is not about Oedipus’ hot mom or Hamlet’s issues with royal succession. It’s the intersection of what’s right and wrong and how the mighty fall. Those ancient themes matter because we’re all human and we all face the same decisions. It’s tempting to do wrong and wind up with your head in your ass. Tragedy reminds us not to go there. Today’s loser is a suit wearing tool from television. Tomorrow’s loser might be a race huckster, a politician, a preacher, a thief, or that bitch in the HOA down the block. It’s the same story. They fall prey to temptation, indulge in hubris, fail to behave in an appropriate manner, and the miserable ending chapter, the denouement, is appropriately unpleasant.

In this case, as in the case of all good tragedies, it’s William’s own failures that brought about his downfall. That’s what makes it so special. Williams brought this on himself and we, had we seen the story printed in a novel, would have spent the ensuing chapters screaming at him; “don’t do it dumbass”.

Once the ball got rolling he still could have stopped it. He didn’t. What a chickenshit. We all aim higher. Most of us make it. Life ‘aint easy but sometimes the right path is crystal clear and we’ve generally got the balls to take it.

Suppose Williams stepped off the plane after his fateful trip and said “No, no, it wasn’t I that was on that helicopter. Heavens no. I had a delightfully uneventful trip and am glad of it”. So what? Nobody gets fired for not getting shot down. Maybe he’d have had a slightly less stratospheric career arc. Maybe not. Regardless, when he failed to tell the true and correct story he fucked himself. That’s not a new thing. It’s the oldest of man’s moral conundrums.

For a dozen years he let it fester, let it grow. He could have ended it at any time. On Letterman (years ago) he could have made the right call: “Gee Dave, I took credit for being on that helicopter but that was a dick move and I shouldn’t have done it. Things really didn’t go down that way. Also I cheated on a history test in college, accidentally killed my wife’s geranium, and dented a rental car in Albuquerque but blamed it on the parking attendant.” So what if he had? There’d have been a bit of a scene. Letterman might have given him some shit. Maybe he’d listen to a few zingers comparing him to Dan Rather of a decade before.  But hey, you gotta’ take your lumps and then he’d be right with the universe.

He didn’t. Time passed. Each year makes it harder to retreat. At each retelling the story becomes more heroic. I for one think that’s the true heart of tragedy. A lie, whether large or small does not fade, it remains. Who knows what it feels like to have that on one’s shoulders? Does one simply feel hollow and dull? Does one lose sleep at night? Is a big salary worth it? Do they eventually believe their own bullshit?

I wouldn’t know. For the most part I’ve been pretty honest. So honest, in fact, that it pisses people off. I can live with that. It’s not particularly hard either. The minute something goes down, that single fucking instant, you come clean. “Hell yeah officer, I had the pedal down, gimme’ a ticket and I’ll pay the bitch.” “You’re right fellas, I went fishing and caught jack shit so I’m not awesome like all you guys. I’ll try again next week.” “I went hunting and got a freezer full of doe but nothing worthy of taxidermy and I’m happy with that. Suck it bubba.” Or my all time favorite; “I tore this damn tractor engine down three times and the son of a bitch still won’t start. Also I hired some drunk who set it on fire. I should have my tools seized and stay away from anything that has a piston.” Humility is a good thing and the truth really does set you free.

It’s the opposite of tragedy. It’s honesty. Fate might some day chew my ass into dust but it won’t be because I lied. Unlike the bobbleheaded media, I’m not dumb enough to think I’m beyond the truth.

 

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Obamacare Is Just Another Day: Part 2

The clinic’s lobby had two attendants, forty chairs, and no people. Admittedly the women behind the desks (form two lines?) were on the phone constantly, are they serving as a call center for other clinics? If not, why not? Who else could be calling them?

The place shined with grant money and there were posters on the wall for many wellness programs, smoking cessation gadgets, walkathons, and a gaggle of support groups. I’d have traded them all for a mural of an angry drill sergeant screaming “get off the couch and take a hike”.

Despite being the only one in the lobby I waited. Half an hour later a nurse(?) led me into the “cattle processing area”. This is where they ignore you while typing shit into computers. Because medicine.

She took my weight while I was still wearing six layers of jacket. (It was five below out and I’d as soon hang my jacket on a rack in a clinic lobby as I’d lick the bricks of a Tijuana gutter.) I, like virtually everyone in the climate, was duly recorded as twenty pounds heavier than I’d have been in say, Baltimore. I could see the statistics floating through my head. “Everyone up north is fat. President forms committee to address health issues.”

She tapped a bit at the keyboard, glanced at my records, which were floating across the screen d’Orwell, and decided to get my height. I stood against the wall as she carefully took the measurement.

“So does height ever change?” I asked.

“Huh?”

“What do my records say for my height?” I asked.

“Um that’s confidential.” She looked worried.

“The new measurement, I’ll bet ten bucks it’s pretty close to the old measurement. Unless I got new shoes.”

“Uh huh.” She ignored me. I noticed she’d written my height on a stick it note but didn’t type it in. I know my weight too. It hasn’t changed much. I might have lost a few but not enough to brag or counteract the weight of a jacket.


Then came my blood pressure. I was pleased it wasn’t an automated machine. I’ve no hint that the machines do a worse job, I just assume they do.

She grabbed the cuff and I took off my shirt (and sixty pounds of jacket). The cuff looked puny. I put my arm down on the table and…

Look I’m a humble guy but I deserve a little happiness too. So just let me have this. Just humor me. I beg of you. Let me have this one bit of glory:  I’ve been working out. Hard. For years. I’ll be damned if my biceps look just a little bit better than they once did. I wanted to flex and say something muscle headed. “Look at them guns baby! I’m a hunka’ man!” I didn’t, because I look like a bag of crap in a furry suit, even so, my biceps look OK.

The cuff didn’t fit so she swapped for a bigger one. Yowza! I rock.

She had an array of cuffs. They had ideograms for bigger and smaller sizes. I don’t know what I was hoping for, maybe cuffs lined up from weakling to studmuffin but I was sorely disappointed. The cuffs for me had a big puffy ideogram that was clearly the “Michelin man” body type. Great, hit the gym like a boss and you get the fat ass cuff. Life is like that.


She asked me to describe my symptoms, which I did. It’s a cold. They’ve seen it before. She dutifully typed it all in.

I was pleased that I was asked (for the third time) if I’d been to one of several African nations. At least they got the ebola memo.

Then came the social engineering. I always have fun with this.

“So, do you live alone or with someone.” Her fingers poised over the keyboard.

“To what end do you ask?”

“I don’t know.”

“I live in a shack in the forest with seven dwarves and a monitor lizard named Rufus.” Ask a stupid question, I’ll give a stupid answer.

I know it’s not her fault. I know it’s because medicine. I can’t help myself. I love the social engineering questions…

“Do you smoke?”

“Rolled up car tires.”

“I’ll call that a no.”

“Thanks.”

“Do you drink.”

“Pure mountain spring water and the blood of my defeated enemies.”

“I’ll call that…”

“Not much.” (By local standards I’m a teetotaller. Notwithstanding my attempt to cure my cold with whiskey over the weekend.)

She got to the next question and paused. I was waiting for it. She grinned.

“Go ahead. Ask if I’ve got guns in my house.” I said.

By now she’d figured out the game. “I think I’ll leave that one blank.”

Folks, you gotta’ enjoy life. Am I right?


The doctor was excellent, competent, and looked like Fez from That 70’s Show. I swear I left college feeling like I was 80 and looking like I was dead. How young can you be and still be a doctor?

A full course of medical school and I still look like a teenager? Send me to the American hinterlands to improve my rugged good looks.

A full course of medical school and I still look like a teenager? Send me to the American hinterlands to improve my rugged good looks.

From his point of view I probably looked like some ignorant inbred redneck that wasn’t cool enough to hang with the Duck Dynasty guys.

Go ahead, ask me another social engineering question.

Go ahead, ask me another social engineering question.

Everything worked fine except when he told me to eat “soap” and I got confused. “You eat soap… soap… like tomato soap.” Eventually I got it. Don’t blame me, I was sick.

All our doctors are like that. When you finish med school you must have to “do time” in the backwater? I haven’t received medical treatment from an individual who at first glance appears to have been born in America since the 1990’s. Poor guy. His dreams of becoming a rich expatriate pediatrician probably didn’t include freezing his balls off in a deserted clinic three hundred miles north of nowhere.

That said, he was a great doctor. I’ll never see him again. It would be cool if he stayed forever and had local friends and put down roots and maybe kicked ass at the ice fishing derby in town… but around here doctors are imported and leave as soon as they can.

Not to say his advice was bad. Nor the medicine. He was spot on and that antibiotics have done their usual miracle. I am ever grateful for antibiotics. And doctors.

On the way out I asked for a lollipop and they gave me one. How cool is that?

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Obamacare Is Just Another Day: Part 1

After facing an illness, kicking it’s butt, and then… No, wait I spoke too soon. Let’s try again.

I faced an illness which cleverly performed a tactical retreat, waited a few days, and then beat the shit out of me. Don’t you hate it when stories start like that?


Mrs. Curmudgeon, for the fifty seventh time, told me to go to the doctor. I consulted my chart. I’m a nerd. I accept that. I have a little crumpled piece of paper. I’ve been tallying my temperature and attempts to self medicate. (I have a terrible memory. If I take medicine and don’t write it down, twenty minutes later it’s a total mystery if I did or did not take it. You may laugh but without my crumpled piece of paper the only way my addled mind would know I’ve overdosed on Tylenol is when my liver sends me a postcard from hell.)

So what do I gather from my review of my crumpled paper? Temp goes up, temp goes down, took Tylenol here and it worked, took Tylenol there and it didn’t do shit, this other day I said screw it and took whiskey instead, seems like that did no better or worse than the Tylenol, temp goes up, temp goes down, lather, rinse, repeat. Conclusion? I’m going to die.

“I will go to the Doctor.” I croaked. Mrs. Curmudgeon smiled and fled the building.

First of all I live in the hinterlands so there’s no chance in hell I’ll ever get to see an old fashioned doctor. Do they even exist? The best I could do was hope to wheedle an appointment at a “call in” clinic in a nearby town. The alternative is to drive many miles to the nearest “civilization” where I’d wait in line four hours while sick children drooled on me and tattooed freaks noodle with cell phones until my name is called.

Ring ring. “Corporate morass clinic, how can I help you?”

“I’d like to see a doctor.”

“We don’t have a doctor.”

“OK fine, then I’d like my truck’s front end realigned.”

“Um… we’re a clinic.”

“You have no doctors. You have… clinicians? I’m not sure what a clinician would do?”

“The doctor only comes on Mondays. Would you like to see a pediatrician?”

“He’s an educated man, I think he’ll deduce my age.”

“It’s OK, almost half of his visits are adults.”

“So you have a pediatrician to treat adults?”

“If it’s nothing too complex.”

“Can he listen to my lungs and make sure I don’t have bronchitis?”

“Of course.”

“Sign me up. Also…”

“Yes.”

“Does this mean I get a lollipop?”


The clinic was as divorced from fiscal reality as the rest of America in 2015. Brand new building. Brand new lot. Tall expensive overhead parking lights (on an unlit road?). Spiffy parking lot on which you could land an aeroplane. Nicer siding than any house in town. Well lit sign.

No doctor. No customers.

Obviously somebody got a big ass grant for rural health and wellness through the government or laundered thought the “keep the rednecks alive charitable fund and political PAC”. There are many such edifices all over America. When you’re in a town that could fit in a minivan and the local Post Office is 6,000 square feet it seems the other shoe is forever waiting to drop.

Continued in part 2, where I act like a wiseass.

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My Inner Neanderthal Has Failed Me

When you’re sick it’s hard to concentrate. I’ve got a nice stock of books on my kindle but no brain cells to process them. Also, being sick means I’m exhausted like I ran a marathon so I sleep all day and when it’s night time of course I can’t sleep. Illness is a bitch like that.

What do you do when you’re dumb and bored? Television!

So there I was, watching Nova on Netflix and all I can tell you is that either Nova has changed or I have. When I was a kid growing up in backwater nowhere, a rare glimpse of Nova on one of our two channels was the tantalizing hint that there was intelligent life in the world. (If I saw Nova and Dr. Who in the same day, it was like a trip to the edge of the intellectual universe and a vacation in a faraway land where people had cool accents and lousy BBC microphones.) What can I say, it wasn’t easy growing up a small town long before the internet.

Now I’m watching Nova and all I can think is “No shit Sherlock, I already knew that… can you speed up the mental on-ramp chucklehead voice over man?” But alas no, it plods along at the speed of what… an eight grader? Was it always like that?

Anyhow I was watching a Nova episode about Neanderthals. I’ve been following this topic in the popular press and more technical articles with considerable interest. Genetic studies are slowly kicking the crap out of old theories and I think it’s been a long time coming. I’ve had many a beef over the years with Anthropology as taught when I was in school.

It seemed oddly self referential to little white chickenshit professors. Something was missing. Based on nothing other than my gut and ample scepticism I thought they were missing key points about the cunning (and adaptive!) killer that is man. Most of what I’m seeing on Nova repeats is about five years behind the times of what I’ve read elsewhere and nearly all of it torpedoes the horseshit that was “settled science” not too long before that. It’s nice to see knowledge disseminated, and did I mention I was too sick to read a good book instead?

Back to Neanderthals. The old theory was that anatomically modern humans swept out of sub Saharan Africa and promptly murdered the heck out of the pre existing European population of semi-retarded Neanderthal rednecks. They did this super well because they were like better at making spearpoints or some shit.

Really? That’s the theory? It seemed a mite odd to me. Dumbass or not, the folks who’ll kill a Mastodon with a stick have clearly got something going on with the whole “hard to kill” department. They wouldn’t seem (to me) the type to go easily into that dark night. Then again I’m not a tenured professor of staring at rock chips, so what do I know.

Apparently more than I thought. Genetic studies have come up with a new theory. Anatomically modern humans swept out of sub Saharan Africa and joined in a smelly prehistoric sexual free for all with the pre existing Neanderthal population. This makes sense to me. Of itself the “ruttin’ in the Alps” theory still leaves the question of why we wound up with Homo Sapiens instead of Neanderthal or some hybrid of the two but there’s a ready explanation at hand. While Nova never really came out and said it clearly, they hinted that the incoming population outnumbered the pre-existing one by a large factor. This too makes sense to me and explains why the genetic contribution of Neanderthal is a relatively small percentage.

So there you have it, a theory that sounded like shit when I was a student is turning out to be shit as the science of genetics matures. Cool.

The next concept, which seems a bit fuzzier to me, was that the main genetic effect of Neanderthal breeding has to do with biological resistance to certain diseases. I have a feeling that’ll get fleshed out more as eggheads sort the data.

I clicked the show off.

I started thinking about my Curmudgeonly genes. I seem to be the canary in the coal mine for colds. You can punch me in the head with a truck and that’s just sorta’ a bummer but some sticky child sneezes on me and I’m a dead man. Same for my limited knowledge of my family lines. Seems like they live forever if you don’t kill ‘em… so long as they don’t wind up being the lucky ebola lottery winner. (And I swear if there’s a one in a million chance someone hacked up on a doorknob it’ll find my hand.) How the hell did my gene line make it past the black death? A long line of European cannon fodder to produce me, an American with a glass jaw for flu? Answer me that, Nova!

Mrs. Curmudgeon found me sitting in the dark in front of a wood stove that had gone out. She coaxed my ass back to bed. I’m pretty sure I was mumbling something about Neanderthals and Bubonic Plague but she’s used to such crap.

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