A Near-Real-Time Granddad Experience

[A disclaimer that should have been included in the previous posts on my grandfather as well: I love him. These are just the daily frustrations and comical happenings we experience together. Sure, some of this sounds harsh, but it's mostly meant to just show loving, but truthful, aspects of helping one's grandfather overcome his own resistance to getting well. Everything I do is out of love, including chronicling these tales for future reference. Seriously, this stuff is funny.]

My mom calls around eight to tell me my grandfather wants to cancel his physical and occupational therapy visits for the day. His bowels are acting up, according to him. Somewhere between diarrhea and constipation (which I think is called “normal” for the rest of us). He also has an eye appointment with the dumbass who nearly killed him during the initial retina surgery.

When Misty (who is legitimately feeling ill but who will still work from home in the afternoon) and I arrive at my parents’ house, my grandfather is in the bathroom — his walker in the hallway, a 15-foot oxygen cord trailing through the bathroom from the walker basket that holds the tank and to his nostrils on the raised toilet seat. He flushes. Misty looks at me with surprise from the coffeemaker where she’s brewing our morning cups. “He flushed,” she says. It’s something he’s recently started doing. Before, brown or yellow, he’d let it mellow. Continue reading

More Granddad

I feel a little bad for being so hard on my grandfather in yesterday’s post — especially since earlier in the day he’d expressed his appreciation for my being around for him, even though he gives me a lot of bullshit (his words). It’s important I make clear here that I love my grandfather. I do. In some ways, we’re probably too alike, and being around him has given me reason to question some of my own perspectives on living. But that doesn’t wash away everything. Like when he tells me or my mom that he wishes we were in his place, so we’d know what it felt like. Continue reading

My Grandfather

Misty has encouraged me to write about my experiences with my grandfather. I’ve been resistant. Something in me just isn’t quite ready. But I’m going to try to begin getting some of it out anyway. Sometimes I may seem disjointed and incoherent. When that occurs, I will clarify myself in the comments (and possibly edit this post) or another post, if brought to my attention.

The basic story — the elevator pitch I give to every doctor, nurse, therapist, friend, family member and any other interested party — with slightly more detail is this:

My grandfather lost the month of January. He can’t even remember it. Continue reading

Moral Education

It appears the Texas State Board of Education has taken up work with Russian textbook reviewers:

A Russian news site, znak.com, also reported last week that a popular series of math textbooks would be dropped from an official list of recommended educational texts because it used too many non-Russian fairy tale and other characters in its illustrations.

“What do we see from the first pages? Gnomes, Snow White — these are representatives of a foreign-language culture,” an expert of the Russian Academy of Education, Lyubov Ulyakhina, told the site in a question-and-answer interview. “Here’s some monkey, Little Red Riding Hood,” Ms. Ulyakhina continued, “of 119 characters drawn here only nine are related to Russian culture. Sorry — no patriotism — this is not funny; this is our mentality.”

Definitely sounds familiar.

Keeping with the education theme (and my regular bashing of my Sunday The New York Times), I wanted to point out the op-ed by Keith Robinson, an assistant professor of sociology at UT, and Angel L. Harris, a professor of sociology and African and African-American studies at Duke, entitled, “Parental Involvement Is Overrated.” They claim their research shows that controlling for socioeconomic and other factors, parental involvement in schools plays little to no role in student achievement. This, of course, is contrary to what we all consider common-sense – something that no study could find otherwise. Continue reading


I don’t know that I’ve ever told the story of how Misty and I met and what she went through – and goes through – before and after our wedding. People may be able to piece together parts in one area of the picture, but few have seen behind the curtain and know the extent to which she helped me, and suffered while doing so. You won’t learn specifics from this entry either, but, hopefully, you will better understand the gravity of what Misty did for me through my expressions of appreciation. Continue reading

Christian Mocha: $6.66

I’m sitting at Rooster’s Roasters, an overtly Christian coffeeshop in Cedar Park, Texas. The total cost of my order – a 20-ounce, quadruple-shot mocha (my recent usual) – came out to $6.66. The girl behind the counter said, “That’s an awful number! Especially for this shop.” I had thought the same thing and said that number should be deleted from their system altogether. She was happy to add my tip to the total. When she brought my drink to me, I christened it the Evil Mocha.

For my friends, it would seem a little odd to find me frequenting a Christian-owned coffeeshop with pictures of Jesus and boards with quotes from the Bible extolling the virtue of hard work hanging about. But it isn’t weird to me. Most American businesses are Christian-owned. This one just happens to be blatant about it. And, who knows? Maybe they’re a nonprofit that donates their funds not just to a church but to other community-building efforts? More power to them.

Now, I was once told by a divinity school graduate that if you see a fish-looking symbol of Christ at a mechanic’s shop, prepare to be screwed. Doesn’t seem to apply so much to coffeeshops. Continue reading

’90s Bloggin’

Misty and I have recently been listening to a bunch of alternative ’90s music on Pandora. We’re living without stereo or cable/satellite TV, so everything must be Roku-ed, Chromecasted or caught from the air. It’s not a bad life.

The music of my late-teens early twenties puts me in a reflective mood. I’m only 33, but the songs harken back to a time that — looking back now — I was severely depressed but nonetheless offered at least another twenty years of opportunities. In hindsight, we can all see avenues not taken. The cliché metaphor of path’s in a wood diverging and the one not taken — except lives continue to converge and diverge. They are so bound up in choices made and unmade that it can ultimately be hard to see where they start. At which divergence did I choose the path I imagine? Does this imaginary scenario stem from this or that or another imaginary premise? Which choices depend on which previous choices? Somehow, I doubt I’m the only one to which this occurs when listening to music from certain periods of life.

These are reflective questions. The ultimate question is the one confronting us as I write and you read: How do we feel about our lives now? Continue reading

More Poisonous: E-cigs or Economists?

I know certain people (C.Z.) will say that I should have already canceled my subscription to and stopped reading The New York Times. But I just can’t. I need that weekly fix of newsprint on my fingers, forehead and doors. Regularly, though, I find myself frustrated by what I’m reading. And so I retire to this blog to piss and moan about it.

Look, e-cigarettes are dangerous. But “Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes” is a bit hyperbolic. Especially when you go on to say, “The problems with adults, like those with children, owe to carelessness and lack of understanding of the risks.”

I mean, poison? As someone who just started smoking an e-cig in place of regular cigarettes (haven’t had one since I walked into the vaporizer shop a month or so ago), I was a bit worried. But if you’re only telling me I shouldn’t drink it, inject it or allow much on my skin because it’s transdermal, let’s not call it a poison. Legit e-cigarette sellers tell you this when you buy your first e-cig. Good places walk you through everything as if you were buying a new car. It can take up to 45 minutes.

Everyone likes to say, “But it hasn’t been proven . . .” Exactly. Nothing has been proven about e-cigs. You can’t say they hurt you anymore than you can say they can. So let’s just back off a little and not get our whities in a wad just because those who vape happen to exhale a visible water vapor.

On the other hand, there was finally some honesty from an economist in yesterday’s Times:

Do you want to know a dirty little secret of economists who give policy advice? When we do so, we are often speaking not just as economic scientists, but also as political philosophers. Our recommendations are based not only on our understanding of how the world works, but also on our judgments about what makes a good society.

Now, of course, that isn’t the entire truth. The entire truth is that “scientists” shouldn’t be put after the word “economic” in anything but satire. The dismal science isn’t dismal. It isn’t a science. At best, it belongs in the social science department. It may well belong in the humanities alongside literary criticism, philosophy and rhetoric. But it sure as hell isn’t a science.

Economists are just lacking politicians. They cloak their personal beliefs and ideologies in the shroud of some numbers and present their biased policy proposals. Half of them operate from a purely fictional Adam Smith/Milton Friedman premise. We’d do better to listen to anthropologists. Seriously.

So I’m glad the Times published this piece. At least one of them has come clean, even if he did far overuse the word “scientist” in his piece. He should never consider himself a real scientist. His are beliefs. Often wrong beliefs — like his argument on the minimum wage. But that’s just him being intellectually dishonest and, at the same time, encouraging readers not to believe other economists who agree with a minimum wage hike. Quite clever, actually.

But let’s be done with this, too: Economists are not scientists. They have no special view into the economy or its future or what this or that policy action may do to it. They’re just wannabe politicians. Take their opinions thusly.

“Tommy,” by Rudyard Kipling

I have to agree with a fellow who recently disagreed with new Army regulations preventing some tattooed soldiers from being commissioned as officers. Why deny those granted entry during wartime and who likely are combat-tested from leadership positions? At the end of his post, the gentleman quoted a few of the ending lines of the below poem, which I think we all should read and remember.

Rudyard Kipling

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
    O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
    But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
    But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
    The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
    O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
    Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
    But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
    O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
    While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
    But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
    There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
    O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
    But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
    An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
    An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

Trying (and trying and trying) the SHOP for Insurance

Misty and I attempted to get health insurance for Booda Studio‘s employees, mainly ourselves for now, again today. Once again, we failed — through no fault of our own. This is the plight of attempting to get insurance through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) health insurance marketplace.

When the ACA (“Obamacare”) enrollment period started for individuals and families, the SHOP was slated to launch a month or so later. As the problems with the individual and family site developed and snowballed, the administration put off the small business site for a year. Now, the only way to get insurance for one’s small business is to see a broker/enrollment specialist. (Oh, you can also apply through the mail.)

So, okay. That’s a bit of an annoyance. Now we actually have to go see someone instead of just fighting through the traffic on the official site. Real traffic now instead of virtual traffic.

I look up where we can go to enroll in our area. There’s one place — the county’s Mental Health and Mental Retardation (MHMR) center. I call them. They give me the number to a woman named Carla. Carla, apparently, works out of Round Rock, which is over an hour away. She only comes to her office here on Fridays. We make an appointment to meet with her a week later, today.

Google Maps is off a little but we still arrive with time to spare — and without a return phone call from Carla asking for more specific directions. We find our way into the building and the receptionist tells us Carla hasn’t been in or called them all day. She calls, gets Carla’s voicemail (as I had earlier) and leaves a message with my number.

Three hours later, no phone call.

This may be why the ACA enrollment numbers aren’t as high as folks would like. There’s already the distinct possibility that we may fall into that donut hole of folks who earn too much to get subsidies but too little to afford a worthy plan out-of-pocket. But making it this much more difficult — having seemingly one person covering three counties in Texas, delaying the SHOP site, etc. — clearly only worsens the situation. We want to get insurance through the exchange because we support it. We’d prefer a robust public option (at the minimum) or a single-payer system. But right now we’d just like to get insurance as soon as possible.