Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Clinic Quick Tips: A Patients Guide To Medical Care - Chapter 1

Welcome to...

Clinic Quick Tips: A Patients Guide To Medical Care!

The goal of this guide is to help you, the patient, navigate our complex, and often challenging healthcare system by giving you tools, tips, and advice to make the most of your next clinic or doctors office visit.


Please note that this guide is not meant to substitute the advice of your healthcare provider, who should be consulted before you attempt any of the advice listed in this guide.

If at any time while reading this guide you begin to experience any of the following conditions:
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Nausea
  • An erection lasting for more than 4 hours, especially in women
  • Bubble guts
  • Decreased libido
  • Increased libido
  • Excessive floppiness
  • Bad credit
  • Blood in your urine or stool
Please immediately stop reading this guide and call your primary care provider or nearest walk-in clinic, yell incoherently, then proceed to a different medical facility, preferably in an entirely different medical system, for care. When you arrive there, complain loudly about them not being prepared for your arrival, even though you called ahead of time.

Chapter 1: Preparing For Your Appointment

So you have finally made an appointment with your primary care provider to have that rash that's been bothering you for the last 7 years, good for you! Although the appointment is on Monday, and today is Friday it's been raining all day, so since you're bored you might as well head down to the walk-in clinic and ask them to fix you up!

  • Tip #1: Before you leave your house make sure you're prepared for your appointment. Showering and changing your clothes will only delay your care; just like in CSI your medical team needs to see you in your original state! So make sure you don't give your child anything for their fever, change the underwear you sharted in, or even brush your teeth, or else it might obscure valuable diagnostic information!
    • Bonus Tip: If you suspect that you medical condition might require a sample, try to obtain it before presenting to your clinic. While most medical and lab personnel will make a big stink over "sterility," all that really means is, "extra clean," so sending that old yogurt cup or baby food jar through the dishwasher before placing your urine, feces, mucous, or mysterious anal clot inside is perfectly OK! Make sure you place it on the desk while checking in so they know you were savvy enough to bring a sample with you.
  • Tip #2: When checking in for your appointment make sure you use obscure language or codes to convey what you want to be seen for. Reception and Patient Registration Staff are exhaustively trained in order to decipher just exactly what is wrong!
    • Don't have any codes or anachronistic language to describe your cough or urinary tract infection? No problem! Just describe a problem that is the exact opposite of what you want to be evaluated for.
    • Examples: Urinary tract infection = "problem down below," cough or minor chest congestion = "chest pain and can't breathe," vomiting and a little dehydrated = "throwing up dark urine," crushing substernal chest pain that radiates to your left arm, with difficulty breathing, and profuse sweating = "minor chest cold."
  • Tip #3: While waiting to be called back for your visit, get comfy! Using multiple chairs can help to make your wait far more comfortable. Can't hear the TV? Turn that bad boy up as loud as you want! You pay the salaries of the people here after all, and if they ask you to turn the TV back down, just remind them of that! Also, feel free to write on, tear up, or even keep any magazines or other literature that is in the waiting room, it's there for a reason!
    • Bonus Tip: When your name is finally called, take your time responding and getting up. This, combined with loud sighs, and complaints about how long you had to wait let the medical staff know that you're important! Didn't have a long wait? Doesn't matter! The same techniques can be used to make sure the clinic staff keep a move on and don't slow down your day!

Chapter 2: Making The Most Of Your Visit        ...COMING SOON!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

So You've Decided To Go To A Walk-In Clinic...

A Primer To Navigating Modern Medicine

   Well, here we are. You've finally decided that the crushing sub-sternal chest pain that radiates to your left arm or the rash you have had for 4 years finally needs some doctorin'. Good for you! Below are some tips, tricks, and pointers to make your next visit to the Walk-In Clinic or Urgent Care a satisfying and successful one!

Let us know.

1. When checking in with the receptionist, try to keep your complaint as vague and misleading as possible. For example; if you feel like you might be having a heart attack, try saying, "I just don't feel well, I think I have a cold." And if you feel like you have a cold or maybe strep throat try saying, "Oh god!  I'm dying! I can't breathe! My chest hurts!"

 You're the boss!

2. Make it a point not to step on the scale when the nursing or ancillary staff ask you to. They only ask so that they can make fun of you later. Your deeply held belief that despite being 5'1" and 385lbs, you're only fat if you step on the scale is absolutely correct.

Go crazy!

3. The Walk-In and/or Urgent Care setting is absolutely the correct place to have your long-standing and complex mental health problems managed. If possible, try not to bring a medication list, the name of your psychiatrist, or a friend or family member who can assist. Please remember to try being as combative as possible.

No soap? No worries!

4. Had a hot day working outside? Covered in cow or other animal feces? Not a fan of bathing? Then come on down! The staff would be more than happy to take a look at and treat your 4 year old plantars wart, chronic hemorrhoids, or crotch rash!

Secret Agent man!

5. No need to give up your name for a number! Feel free to thoroughly explain to any staff around how everything from the scale to the thermometer, to the question "Do you feel safe in your home?" is all part of a vast government conspiracy! Not a patient? Not a problem! You can accompany your family member or friend to their appointment as well! The Man isn't going to get one over on you!

MoneyMoneyMoneyMoney... Money!

6. Any fool knows that all medicines and medical care are free thanks to Obama, and you're no fool! Make sure you let everyone from the receptionist to the nursing staff to the cleaners know that you're not happy about your $5 co-pay and $1 prescription. It's a well-known fact that if you complain about it often enough your visit will be completely free!

Closing Time! 

7. Just like how restaurants only give out the best food five minutes before closing, you can beat the rush and get better care if you show up just a few minutes before the clinic closes. This is especially important if you have a complex and time-consuming medical problem that has been plaguing you for months! Those turned off lights, empty waiting rooms, and locked doors just mean that you're getting exclusive and premier medical care!

   And there you go! Hopefully these tips will help you to get the most out of your next medical experience. They are tried and true measures that will lead to a happier, healthier, and more narcotic-possessing you!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Armchair Shrinks and Monday-Morning Psychiatrists: Why Google and Amazon don't make you a professional.

No shit, there I was; having lunch with someone who shall remain nameless when the topic turned to my schooling.

That Guy: "How's school going?"

Me: 'Pretty good, I'm one class away from completing my degree, but I still have a few other classes to take as pre-requisites for PA school."

TG: "Cool, got any professors you like?"

M: "Yeah, they're all OK for the most part. There's one who is kind of a dick. A bit abrasive and at times a little condescending or over bearing, but he at least knows what he's talking about about."

TG: "Oh, man, Classic Ass Burgers!"

M: "Huh? What the hell is that? Is that what you're ordering?"

TG: "No! Your professor sounds like he has the classic symptoms of Aspergers!"

M: "Oh yeah? What makes you say that?"

TG: "Well, he's rude and doesn't seem like he understands other peoples emotions, lacks empathy, but is very intelligent. Classic!"

M: "..."

TG: "What?"

M: "You know you're in absolutely no way qualified to make that diagnosis, right?"

TG: "Oh, and I suppose you are since you are almost done with a psychology degree? College isn't everything you know! I've read plenty of articles and I have a copy of the DSM-IV!"

M: "Oh, man, Classic Syphilis!"

TG: "What!?"

M: "Sounds like you have the classic signs of neurosyphilis! You're forgetful, have depression, and are obviously irritable."

TG: "So that means I have syphilis!? You have no basis for that! How would you even know?!"

M: "Well, I have access to the internet and to a variety of texts on diseases. So I've decided that's what you have."

TG: "You aren't a doctor, you have no idea!"

M: "College isn't everything, you know."

 TG: "Whatever."

   This conversation wasn't out of the norm. In fact, TG and his associates tend to hand out psychological diagnosis like they're free candy. Candy coated in SSRI's and anxiolytics, probably. They do it often enough that I'm surprised TG doesn't carry a pocket guide on him so he can quickly reference which disorder he intends to foist upon the next unsuspecting person like an overly aggressive store clerk... who also tells everyone that you're autistic. What a terrible store.

   Psychology (and to a lesser extent, Psychiatry) hasn't been a science for terribly long in the grand scheme of things. It also isn't considered a "hard" science in the sense that there are unfortunately few lab coats, no beakers, and usually very little in the way of fire or explosions. All of this tends to foster a view that Psychology is somehow a "lesser" science, with little in the way of hard facts, rules, or laws. And if that's the case then nothing can truly be "wrong" since its almost impossible to prove anyway. Add in the dearth of pop psychology articles, poorly conceived "psychological thriller" movies, and all of those fucking e-mail chains about how "you only use 10% of your brain!" and you can start to see why, while no one will watch a few episodes of Breaking Bad and try to be a chemist, all sorts of pricks will read a few headlines and promptly go Freudian on your ass.

   So what does it matter? Well, it matters because wandering around telling people that someone has a mental illness when they don't is the same as running around screaming that they have herpes. You don't know, you have no business knowing, and if you had either of those you wouldn't run around doing that because you'd be a fucking doctor, or you'd have herpes yourself. Maybe both.

Mental diseases and disorders are complex things, some we understand fairly well, others we don't, and then there are even more which we once thought we understood, but now realize that we do not. They also tend to be incredibly stigmatizing. Did you know you are 9 times more likely to be murdered by someone without Schizophrenia than by someone with the disease? The fact that you're more likely to get stabbed by almost anyone other than someone with Schizophrenia doesn't change the fact that people with the disorder are treated as ticking time-bombs best left locked up and medicated. Hmm... "ticking time-bomb," why does that description sound so familiar...

Gee, it's almost as if even correct labels can make life difficult for people. And the prevalence of how often psychological terms are used as throw-away descriptors doesn't make it any better. How often have you heard someone say, "Oh, I'm OCD about keeping my desk neat." Really? You suffer from either an obsession consisting of unstoppable distressing and intrusive thoughts regarding the cleanliness of your desk and or feel a physical compulsion to perform rituals relating to such, the absence of which causes you distress? No? Then you don't have OCD fuck-wad. The misuse of these terms may seem like a little thing, but it causes a societal attitude that tends to either be patronizingly dismissive of mental health conditions or so overly-fraught with anecdotes and misinformation that it harms the sufferers of these illnesses.

Psychological and Psychiatric diagnosis is hard. There are few biological markers that are able to be tested in a living human and there are severe limits as to what can be achieved via brain imaging and testing since your average hospital doesn't have the millions it takes to purchase an fMRI let alone the millions more required each year just to maintain the damn thing. And that's not even taking into account the number of times they'll have to scram the magnet because someone forgot that giant super-magnets and ferrous metals don't mix.

The lack of those concrete biological or physical markers for many mental illnesses can often lead to misdiagnosis even by well educated and highly experienced providers. The fact that insurance companies have essentially incentivized giving someone a diagnosis by equating that label with payment certainly doesn't help either, but that's a topic for another discussion.

So if it takes decades of training and experience to become a licensed Psychologist or Psychiatrist, and they can still get it wrong sometimes, then what makes TG think he can pop off a diagnosis simply by reading off a check-list of symptoms from the DSM?

 Personally, I'd blame the Internet and Narcissism, but if my almost-degree in Psychology has taught me anything, it's that I don't know shit about Psychology, and neither do most people.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Intro to Psych Buzzwords, Moral Butthurt, and why being upset about American Sniper says more about YOU than it does the movie.

After hearing all of the talk regarding American Sniper (a movie I have not seen, but a book I have indeed read) I can’t help but think about how America loves her storybook  endings.

Much talk has been given that the movie glorifies war and that Kyle is nothing more than a “hate filled killer”. Others bring up rightful issues with how movies portray the non-special forces/warfare service-members in movies as either being inept, or barely there when in fact they make up the bulk of our fighting forces and always have. But the most I’ve been able to gather has been in comments from individuals; sometimes in person, sometimes on social media and other various platforms. And while the individuals range in age, sex, background, education and a variety of other aspects one thing remains constant: the Hollywood Life Fantasy.

That we as a nation love our scripted storylines isn’t something new or groundbreaking. From the little girl (or boy) who wishes for that feet-sweeping love experience to the disaffected middle-aged office drone who spends their lunch breaks fantasizing about reenacting the most pivotal scene in cinema we love it all. So what else do we love? We “love our troops.” Yes, the quotes are there for a reason.

We love John Phillip Sousa send offs for the rosy-cheeked young lads marching off to defend our freedom, and the only thing we love more than that is the Norman Rockwell homecoming of that same cheerful boy, now a little older and wizened, but still red-cheeked and carefree. What don’t we like? The middle and the end, naturally. (For the current conflicts replace those two cultural icons with Toby Keith and, I dunno, Instagram?)

For the 99% of the nation who has never served in the Armed Forces and the 96% who has never had a close friend, family member, or loved one who served, the scenes of war can only be comfortably approached in a small number of ways. They can either be big budget productions filled with Tom Hanks killing Nazis off-screen in a conflict that took place almost half a century ago, or they can be washed out, unrealisticand half-assed looks at a current conflict where any legitimate scenes of war are flashed by quickly, like a band-aid being pulled off of a child and then everyone has to weep about how horrible it all is.  Not to say that war isn’t horrible. It is, except when it isn’t, of course.

Somehow, in the course of two wars that have seen unprecedented media coverage; reporters filming live firefights, in-depth interviews with the average grunt on the ground, outspoken combat vets sharing their stories, and even interviews with enemy fighters the only thing that has increased in the era of the 24-hour news cycle have been sales of yellow ribbon magnets (don’t want to bother the paint on the minivan with a sticker, ya’ know), and Call of Duty episodes that have multiplied like some sort of first-person-herpes.  Dibs on First-Person-Herpes as an indie-rock band name.

So what’s my point? My point is that to the average American seeing the reality of war, and not just the kind they think they know about from CNN and the Hurt Locker, is almost instantly offensive. And that offense seems to occur whether you’re a rabid Fox News watching war hawk, downing Bud Lite and screaming racial epithets while watching Blackhawk Down. Or a filthy MSNBC loving, Code Pink hippie, splashing bong water and patchouli oil on yourself before the Rachel Maddow Show comes on.  And impressively, both groups are offended for pretty much the same reasons. Although you’ll never get them to admit it.

War is primal. Killing is something we likely figured out around the same time as fucking all those millennia ago and both activities have seen innovative technical leaps and bounds in that time (don’t believe me? Just go to and search "55-gallon lube.” It’s truly a great time to be alive). But despite transitioning from the rock we used to bash Ork’s skull in to the thermonuclear ICBM we used to incinerate Ivan’s skull, killing has remained a personal and primal thing. And just like your gas-powered 480hp vibrator, its not something to discuss in polite company.  And war is anything if polite.

America likes the products of wars. Be it hippie or redneck, both groups love the national ideals, freedoms, safety, economic prosperity, technological advances, and other things that war has brought them.  Even if they won’t admit it. But just like I would prefer to not see how my steak is butchered before it’s brought out to me, most people absolutely do not want to know the details of went into bringing them the way of life they know. Why? Because it reminds them of just how primal we are. Because it reminds them that while they sipped latte’s and drove to work at the factory, and sat in class, and slept in their beds at night, their peers were out performing that offensive, distasteful, and terrifying work they don’t want to think about.  Because then they might have to make an uncomfortable assessment of  the true cost of their way of life. And because when you imagine that patriotic young lad returning home from war with a seabag over one shoulder and his barracks cover cocked to the side you don’t want to imagine him slitting the throats of enemy soldiers in hand-to-hand combat in some sweltering shithole before taking cover from incoming mortars and then trying to decide what to put on his ration crackers before catching some shuteye. I’ll give you some insider knowledge: go with the jalapeno cheese spread.

Americans want their stoic warriors who can sometimes cry over the loss of their comrades, but not the same ones who ruck up, reload their mags and bring unholy American death upon those that they’re fighting. Unless it’s been heavily edited to the point of a Disney movie death scene. And they sure as hell don’t want to be confronted with the knowledge that the average fighting man or woman might not feel bad about their kills. Because if that twenty-something soldier, sailor, Marine, airman, or hell, even Navy SEAL you went to high school with doesn’t feel bad about killing the enemy that tried to kill them. And he or she is supposed to represent the best of our nation, then how far removed from it are you? And if they’re more like you than you thought then it stands to reason that they’re considerably less like the Saving Private Ryan’s, Green Zone’s, and M*A*S*H’s you’ve been lead to believe.

People hate when their set ideas are challenged.  Service-members exist as one-dimensional sound bites who can be either loved or pitied, but almost never hated.  Our enemies too are one-dimensional characters who do “evil” and most certainly enjoy it. After all, they’re foreign psychopaths who talk funny and dress weird.  So when confronted with a reality that makes our poster boy and girl military members seem both human, relatable, and have characteristics we only want to ascribe the “enemy” what happens? Remember, the enemy kills because they enjoy it, and we only kill because we have too, and at no time are we supposed to celebrate our victory over someone who wanted us dead, even if psychologically and realistically, it’s a perfectly natural thing to do. Hell, we aren’t even supposed to hate out enemy, not really. I’ve heard more than my fair share of freshman Intro to Psychology graduates prattle on about how “You must have to dehumanize your enemy to mentally protect yourself and blah, blah, blah, I watch too much Dr. Phil.” Of course I’m being a little hyperbolic. Those types would NEVER say they watch too much Dr. Phil.

So what’s the result?

Snooty articles on The Guardian and bitchy Facebook comments apparently, made by armchair generals, Dr. Phil stalkers, and the “morally superior” who hate that they’re being made to see a reality that they’re supposed to be carefully insulated from.

If you didn’t understand, or were offended by American Sniper, then this movie isn’t for you. It’s for those that fought, those that sacrificed, and those that understand the saying by Richard Grenier; “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” The book, and the movie is written by and for those rough men and women. And while you can and should hold your personal opinions, you should, at the same time, be honored to catch a glimpse of what it looks like to sacrifice for the greater good.

Now drink up and go celebrate.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Washington, Washington, Six Stories Tall, Made of Radiation...

   Although I'm a pretty liberal guy, I, like most other humans, am a bit of a study in contrasts. I believe we need secured borders but an easier pathway to citizenship. I believe that for the most part the government has no right to interfere in the private lives of others, but I also know that people are idiots which is why I feel that vaccines should be mandatory.
    I think Democrats are naive cowards, Republicans are out-of-touch fools who are afraid of change, and Libertarians are just children who are angry they have a bed time, but still want Mommy and Daddy to fix their boo-boos and make dinner, so long as they can still feel like they're in control. I don't mind paying taxes, but want to know how my money is spent. I like SNAP, WIC, TANF, Social Security, Medicaid/ Medicare, the ACA, and a variety of other "social safety net" type programs, but sure as hell want them monitored for waste, fraud, and abuse. To be clear, I think requiring drug screening for benefit applicants is all three of those things; waste, fraud, and abuse, when we aren't even requiring our elected representatives to take a drug test.
   And as the saying goes, I just want gay, married couples to be able to defend their marijuana plants with guns. So it comes with some surprise that, despite knowing I possess often hypocritical and conflicting ideals, I find myself a bit angry over an article I read regarding a candidate I don't know (Joni Ernst), running for a position I don't care about (the Iowa Senate position), in a state that only becomes important during election season. The article is here.
   The article is a campaign attack ad masquerading as an Op-Ed piece written by Paul Begala, who CNN describes as:
  ..."a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator, was a political consultant for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992 and was counselor to Clinton in the White House. He is a consultant to the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action."...
    The basic premise of the article seems to be, "Joni Ernst wants to keep her guns so she can shoot cops and soldiers if she doesn't like the government. She's cray-cray, and I should know, I have a bunch'a guns too, but I don't want to hurt anyone, ever!" Now, Joni Ernst may be crazier than a shit-house rat (which, for some reason, we've deemed the craziest of all rodents), she may indeed want to shoot a cop because she doesn't like Obamacare, I don't know. But judging by what Paul Begala says, he doesn't know either.
   The crux of Begala's claim that Ernst thinks the purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to be able to shoot government employees you disagree with comes from this statement made by Ernst in a speech to the NRA:
   "I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family -- whether it's from an intruder, or whether it's from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important."
   If you're wondering where in that statement Ernst mentioned that she would rather shoot an American service member than have to pay taxes for welfare, you're not alone. Begala seems to focus in on the last part of the statement; "... or whether it's from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important." And implausibly takes that to mean Ernst thinks the 2nd Amendment makes it legal for her to kill anyone she disagrees with in government.
   Begala goes on to elaborate just how crazy Ernst is by claiming the 2nd Amendment only applies to taking up arms FOR the government, not against, giving the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791 as an example of what happens when you violently oppose Uncle Sam (hint: George Washington himself finds you, kills you, and breaks all your shit). Begala also cites the Civil Rights movement as an example of how even the egregious and violent segregation that the government imposed was solved more by Rev. King, Jr's speeches of peace than by the Black Panthers bombs. These things are true. Peace should always trump war and the non-violent solution to a problem is always preferable to the violent one. It is also true that it is illegal to commit an armed insurrection of the government, but Begala's points and demeanor indicate that he feels it is something that should/ could NEVER happen in this country.
   Germany, Japan, Italy, Spain, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Russia/ USSR, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, and fuck it, most of Africa. What do those countries have in common? Governments, and a population that at one point or another thought, "Governments do bad things in other countries, but not here, right guys?" So, what part of Ernst's speech am I going to use to make my point? This part: "...should they decide that my rights are no longer important." Which is the part of the speech wherein Ernst states that the right to defend her life and the life of her family from all those who wish to do them harm is not something to be encroached upon by even the federal government. It's the part that says when you attempt to take away my life I have a right to stop you. Whether its because you just kicked my door in to steal my TV and I startled you, or because you kicked my door in to drag me off into the night on the orders of the government.
   Those of you who know me know that I openly mock conspiracy theorists. I think that conspiracy theories are a product of a first world life-style. In short, if your daily concerns involve being eaten by lions or shitting yourself to death from contaminated water, its unlikely you have the time for the mental masturbation needed to come up with the idea that 9/11 was perpetrated by the Illuminati Lizard People. And on the off chance that Big Tin Foil is right, and the Illuminati Lizard People are behind a vast network of global conspiracies, then I wholeheartedly apologize. And its hard not to look at someone who, in America at least, claims that they need guns to fend off the Government's Men-In-Black who are threatening to drag them off into the night for their blog post about Obama being the antichrist, and not see them as some sort of right-wing, nut-job, conspiracy theorist who is likely a danger to others.
   But what if you changed the country of origin to Iran in 2014 (or Iraq in 1990, Germany in 1938, Japan in 1935, Russia/ USSR at fucking anytime, or Cambodia in the 1970's), and the name of the leader-in-question to Ruhollah Khomeini. Then suddenly the idea of the government dragging you off to your death for saying the wrong thing seems a lot more plausible, doesn't it? I wonder how many people in Iran spent New Years Eve of 1977 thinking it couldn't happen to them?
   Do I think the US Government is going to turn on its people, in whole, or in part, in such a manner that requires armed resistance? No. I think that the very nature of the American people and government make us relatively resistant to that. And I certainly don't think anything in the last several hundred years would have warranted such an event (The Civil War doesn't count, since the Confederate States of America were no longer part of the United States). But I also don't know what the future holds, and not knowing what the future holds is part of what makes many of those amendments, such as the 1st,-4th, 9th, and 10th, so important.They safeguard our ability to rule ourselves, and serve as a reminder that it is the people who give the government its power. A hunting rifle, pistol, or even an AR-15 may not do much in the face of a large, organized, and well armed government. But a populace that can bite back, even with small and blunted teeth, when its back is against the wall, is one that can have its own agency in determining its future.
   So while Begala can tell me all he wants that the ghost of George Washington wouldn't agree that it's ever OK to take up arms against the government, history tells me that Mr. Washington was just as much of a hypocrite as the rest of us. And while the voting booth is preferable to the sword, having one if the other fails can make all the difference.
   So at the risk of sounding like a tea partying, overly jingoistic, conspiracy theorist I'll close with a passage from the Declaration of Independence,

   "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world." (Link)

    And while I hope that this nation will never turn to the darkness that has enveloped so many others, if it does, I hope that the Americans of that day are willing to fight to restore their rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Wow... this ended up having way fewer dick jokes than I though...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

This is why we can't have nice things

My thoughts on vaccines and the people who decry them are generally well known. But since I should put something on here that I haven't simply copied and pasted from my Facebook, here it goes.

In short: If you choose not to get vaccinated for any reason other than allergy or immune system compromise you deserve to get polio and are complicit in the deaths of those who cannot get vaccinated. Go get yourself a grim reaper robe, champ.

In long: There has always been a minority contingent of people opposed to vaccines. In the early days of the practice this was perfectly understandable and even necessary as vaccines were not nearly as safe or effective as they are now. People had to perform a cost-benefit-risk analysis when it came to deciding if they should be immunized. More than 100 years ago this involved some actual risk as the possibility of infection, allergic reaction, or just simply having the vaccine fail to protect you were decent possibilities in an age when food safety consisted of "less formaldehyde in the milk means we have to pay those filthy Irish farmers more!" some MD's still considered blood letting to be a viable option for the Spanish Flu and chiropractors thought they could cure asthma by twisting your neck in a way that would make Jason Bourne jealous and give Jean Claude van Damme a hard on (Wait... they still do this? Oops!).

    However, today the effectiveness and safety of vaccines is unparalleled. Until recently, diseases like Polio had all but been eradicated within the United States while cases of measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis (whooping cough), and a variety of other commonly vaccinated against illnesses had become so rare that getting them netted you a personalized spot in the CDC's MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report), which is kind of the Rolling Stone of disease control and prevention, only with less boobs and more awful infections and injuries.

   Vaccines are not just crucial to individual health, they are crucial to the health of large populations. Remember how I said that Polio had all but been eliminated? Well, thanks to people failing to get vaccinated it's coming back ( For an explanation as to why immunizations work to keep the greater good safe I suggest this video   It demonstrates herd immunity using gummi bears and takes a little over 2 minutes so even the most ADD of you can handle it. Plus it uses bright colors and relatively small words.

    Not only is Polio coming back, but everybody's other favorite old school disease, the mumps, is also making a solid comeback, and not all of it can be attributed to filthy hipsters trying to ironically contract an illness no one hears about anymore.

   "But wait!" You mewl while flapping your arms about ineffectually, "We didn't get vaccinated a hundred years ago! My grandfather never got vaccinated and he lived to be 100 years old and never took a sick day!" 

   Your grandfather also lived in a time when going from New York to Paris in a metal tube powered by explosions was the sort of thing Jules Vern would have laughed at as being too outlandish. He lived at a time when men were men, hard work was valued and the average life expectancy was around 60 years so you better get crackin' or you'll be dead of old age before you know it! ( He lived at a time when widespread epidemics were confined to a few of the really nasty bugs, took months upon months to spread and and infant mortality percentages from illness and injury were anywhere from the mid-teens to high twenties ( The fact that your grandfather made it out of childhood while you whine about getting a flu shot is a testament to the kind of man you'll never be.

   Citing the past as an excuse for your present failings is just about the worst thing you can do. The Americans of a century ago didn't spit in the face of progress, they embraced that shit. When Orville Wright decided he was sick and tired of those feathered fucks soaring through the wild blue yonder he didn't just shrug it off and say "Eh, it's too hard to understand how flight works," he built a machine and took the fight to those smug bastards. And did we stop there? Fuck no! In the same amount of time it takes to make a $2000 bottle of scotch we went from a kerosene powered bird harasser to stabbing the moon with our flag just so it knows who owns it! And because that's not enough we went back so many times we got bored and decided to play golf ( and go 4-wheeling (

   Of course for every Louis Pasteur there is a John R. Brinkley ( and that's why I have to address the vaccines and Autism "controversy." Why do I put the quotation marks around the word "controversy?" Because it isn't one. Because the one study that was used to start that scare has been discredited so hard that the author lost his license to practice medicine and was criminally charged ( Because that's what should happen when you craft a fake study with the intent to defraud people and end up causing a world-wide health crises that continues to this day. So why do people still think vaccines cause Autism? For the same reason that people think aspartame causes cancer, GMO food is bad for you, and homeopathy is real. A basic misunderstanding of science and statistics coupled with a media that knows how to get customers inflamed in an attempt to drive ratings. And it's not helped when Americans are so poorly trained on what a "credible source" is that we take potentially life ending advice from a woman primarily known for showing her tits for money and some dude famous for a role in which he literally talked out of his ass (,, Since that's a lot of shit to tackle I'll just go for the low-hanging fruit; correlation vs. causation.

Correlation is used to described two events that change together but do not cause the change to occur. Causation is used to describe two events that depend upon each other for change. Yes I know it's more complex than that, blah blah blah. Anyway, two correlating events would be ice cream sales and temperature. As the temperature increases, so too do ice cream sales. That makes sense, right? Now what if I told you that it was getting hotter because people were buying ice cream? You'd look at me like I had a dick growing out of my forehead. No rational human being could assume that simply because those two things increased and decreased together that they would be causing the change in the other... right? ...Guys?

I'll just leave this here...
Causation is pretty much what it sounds like, one event causes the other. A good example of that would be ingesting alcohol and becoming intoxicated. There is a direct and provable link between the two. What if I suggested there wasn't? That those two things just happen at the same time but aren't causative? What's that? Why, yes, that is a dick on my forehead! A simple misunderstanding of words and their meanings is actively causing the deaths of thousands of human beings each year. Think of that the next time you hear someone dismiss an argument by saying, "It's just semantics!" In fact, if we had all just been thinking in the first place we wouldn't be here now.

[By the way, the Jason Bourne Chiropractor comparison is courtesy of an Irish comic by the name of Dara O'Briain and his routine is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. Check it out!]

Monday, January 6, 2014

Dissappointed? Sure. Surprised? Hell no.

So, this happened:


   Apparently al Qaeda has taken back Fallujah in every real sense of the word; national flags torn down and replaced, no ISF, IA, or IP's anywhere to be found (no real change there), large scale firefights,  it's like someone got into their flux capacitor enabled blue Bongo truck (or maybe it's a maroon Opel?) and went back in time to 2004.

And you know what? Fuck 'em, they can have it. I don't know anyone who deployed to Iraq because they genuinely wanted to help the Iraqi people and give them freedom. Save that shit for interviews with people who have more stars on their collar or stripes on their sleeves than brains. And you know what? They don't believe it either. Speaking for myself, at no point in either of my deployments did I shoulder on my 60 pound med bag on top of another 60 pounds worth of armor, ammo, water, and other assorted gear to wander around the 100+ degree night and splash oh-so-playfully in a canal whose express purpose was less "irrigation" and more "open air feces conveyance," while getting shot at and hoping like hell that the piece of concrete I'm kneeling on isn't camouflaging an IED because I wanted the Iraqi people to be able to get a 10 piece extra crispy on the way home from the local al Walmart.

Sure, there was talk down at the street level of the war about "winning hearts and minds," but no one took that seriously. Come on, we may have been filthy, uneducated enlisted men, but even the cannon fodder knows that giving some guy a generator and case of JP8 tainted water after blowing up his house, shop, friends houses, and car is a lot like giving your wife gas station flowers and half a box of chocolates as an apology after she catches you defiling her sister and best friend at the same time... in your shared bed... with all of her co-workers watching. Its so half-assed its worse than no apology at all.

No, I didn't leave the comforts of America and spend two, 7 month all expenses paid vacations in the largest cat box around because I wanted to give the Iraqis freedom, or because I wanted "fight the terrorists in Iraq so they don't come to America," or because I believed it was making the world or my nation safer. I did it because I was ordered to, and that's what you do after you sign on the dotted line and raise your hand. I did it because I wasn't about to let a platoon of men that I had grown to love (and hate) like my own family go without me, because I didn't trust anyone else to take care of them, and I wouldn't want to go with anyone else. And I doubt I was alone in that.

Its an old cliche` that you don't fight for a flag or a country, you fight for the man next to you. And just because its a cliche` doesn't mean it isn't true. That Iraq has become a bloody shit hole and all of the gains made by the men and women who fought and bled there are being lost doesn't come as a surprise. Hell, even the most boot Marine around in 2005 thought it would all go to hell when the US left. And that's coming from someone whose capabilities are trusted so little that he's required to have dummy cords on his other dummy cords and has to inform a superior when he goes to the head. 

The sting of having fought in a war that was initiated by lies, managed by fools, and paid for with the blood of our nations youth doesn't lessen much with time, but it becomes more bearable. Seeing the ground we fought for retaken by the enemy just freshens the feeling. It also brings up anger, disbelief, and at least a little bit of betrayal considering the governments treatment of veterans lately, but if this development is going to spawn anything other than a few more drunken nights of "no shit, there I was..." war stories, then it should be action. Action to educate, remember, and prevent things like the Iraq war from happening again.

OIF and OEF has created an incredible segment of American society. We now have hundreds of thousands of young men and women who are more educated, informed, and trained than generations of American warfighters that came before them. We have a generation that has the means to achieve great things in life and the drive to do so. The battles in Fallujah, Ramadi, Nasiriyah, Baghdad, Kandahar, Bagram, Sangin, and Gardez weren't fought by the meek. They were fought by the very finest our nation has to offer. And the fight isn't over yet.

As it stands many of our fellow vets are homeless, jobless, suffering the physical and mental pains of war, behind bars or headed there soon. We have elected officials who seem to want to forget the Iraq war, the actions that lead to it, and the consequences that came as a result. I find it hard to watch senators screech and flap their arms on TV in an effort to get American troops sent in to Syria or Libya, it would seem that the McCain's of the senate and house have forgotten what it's like to have fought in a needless war. Perhaps they need a reminder.

Perhaps they need to see the men and women who have fought in Iraq or Afghanistan leading from the front in local, regional, and national politics, challenging the embarrassment our national legislature has become. Perhaps they need to see modern day veterans creating organizations that not only help their fellow warriors in need, but bolster our collective voices. Perhaps they need to see vets as something other than a talking point or line item, or political weapon, and instead see them as the most powerful force for potential change in our nation that is out there. Perhaps they need to see that while most of America is willing to sweep this whole bloody mess under the rug and pretend it didn't happen, her veterans, the men and women who agreed to be the pointed tip of our nations spear with no questions asked, are not willing to "go gentle into that good night."

Losing Fallujah and Ramadi hurts. But losing our memory of how we got there will be lethal.

Yut, err, kill. Blah, blah, blah.