Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Random Ten

I just finished a call from my new niece. I'm supposed to call my sister at the prison she works in. The funny part of the call was when, before she gave me the last four digits of the phone number she told me "It's extinction ####,"

I'm hoping the news I get from her is that she has been offered a job at the local prison down here.

Sountrack for the morning has been:

Country Fried Blues - - - Taj Mahal
Wear Sumthin Green - - - Jimmy Reed
Baby, It's You - - - John Stewart
Summerwind - - - Bobby Darin
A Hundred Thousand Angels - - - Sinead O'Connor (live bootleg)
M'Appari - - - Bellini - From "Norma"
Mistral Gagnan - - - Lara
Forty Miles of Bad Road - - - Delbert McClinton (live bootleg from "The Boarding House" in San Francisco, me on snotty ass bottleneck guitar)
Le Maintenant - - - Jacques Brel

Bonus Track: I've been having a good mix this morning. My favorite side has been:

John Law Burned Down the Liquor Store - - - Chris Thomas Clark (live bootleg, me on snotty bottleneck again)

What's on your soundtrack today?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Contest Winner!

Jesse "Doc" Wendell! He wrote this comment when he thought I was being dismissive about his skill set.

You're confusing road bikes with off-road. Off-road rides ANYWHERE. Including up and down the sides of mountains.

The Wright Brothers built bicycles. If you think roads are going away, even after an oil blowoff, you're mistaken. Horses... they'll be around. Trails. All these call for bicycles, the single most efficient means of transportation ever invented. Even people who can't afford a horse, can afford a trail bike.

The WHEEL has been around forever, and there are plenty of wheels which don't require -- at all -- a rubber inner tube. There is enough other rubber in the world that in my lifetime, I'm not at all worried about running out of tires for bicycles, even if it is re-purposed use.

Again, what is going to matter isn't road bicycles, the kind the Tour de France rides on, but off-road bikes. With shock absorbers, that can go anywhere. Or the bicycles which are just for putting around, go down to the market and back, haul a load behind you back to the house. EVERYONE will have a bicycle. We are rapidly getting all of the tools to repair them right here in my home. Chelsea (daughter #2) works (when she's not in college) at the leading bicycle shop in our town) and is getting better and better at bike repair all the time. Not to mention all the various bikes I personally own.

As for being a medic, when was the last time you had someone put in a chest tube on the fly when your lung was collapsing? Made out of improvised parts? I can chest tube you or someone you love, using ordinary household goods including a glass bottle (just like those found in caning though bigger is better) successfully put in a chest tube when your lung decides to collapse due to your pulmonary edema from having smoked your whole life. I can also successfully do most minor surgery, for example, open your airway with a knife and a ballpoint pen casing. I lost count years ago of how many (100s of) c-sections I've watched, scrubbed in or passed instruments for. I'm not going to open the cranial cavity (short of drilling bore holes with a neurosurgeon talking me through it) or chest cavity, although I won't hesitate to stick a needle in your heart or do a pericardial centesis (sticking a big-ass needle in) to relieve a tamponade (a heart which is leaking into the sac around the heart.)

You should think of me as the hands and eyes of a full-blown emergency physician, who just is not likely to settle down in your town. That isn't how things are going to shake out in terms of their practice after this oil outage. But I will end up in your town. It's towns like yours which will need medics. And I can do much of the day-to-day'ness of what she (the emergency doc) can do, right now, and will learn the rest, fast. Because medics are going to be your doctors.

In the absence of oil, expect the standards of practice for medics and nurses practicing alone to change massively; we'll be allowed to radically increase our scope of practice. With a video camera and high-speed internet over my shoulder, I can hold the scalpel for a surgeon at the ivory tower medical center, whose job it now is to supervise 30 medics in the field who are performing surgeries and day-to-day primary clinical care. This is the kind of restructuring of standards-of-practice one would expect to see VERY fast in the absence of oil. It isn't that in this new community you're building I might fill in for a doc; it's that I would BE your doc, working remotely under telephone/video conferencing/supervision.

*smiles* Chemists are important. We all need medicines. But you have to be alive to use them. Worst case, you can trade for drugs with a neighboring town. When you need someone to put in a chest tube, you need them to come right fracking now. I am that NOW. And I have my own bicycle and up-to-date medical and surgical kit. *laughs*

Finally, people talk to me. With my walking stick, I am the picture of the old family doc. If we really do go back to this small-town no-oil world, what makes the difference is the internet and being connected to the outside. It won't be the dark ages. We'll have enlightened practice standards. But it will be folks like myself, and clinical nurses doing the actual surgeries and day-to-day work, under the guidance of docs in the main med centers in the metropolitan areas. Those docs -- just like Judges used to do -- will "ride circuit", once every three months, and see the worse cases, the ones which are too tricky for us to touch. But day-to-day, we're going to do all of the medical care, appendectomies, ob/gyn, routine bowel work, asthma/copd, hearts not requiring open heart work, heads not requiring surgery (bore holes okay in a pinch), and so on. We'll have say, two ICU beds locally, maybe three, one surgery and a recovery room. The autoclave for our surgical instruments if nothing else, can be fired with wood/steam.

This will work just fine. The small town will get better medical care than many people in the U.S. get now, because they'll have someone ready-to-hand who follows them from birth, who knows them all, and for whom preventative care is a must.

This is what I'm bringing to the table.

I graduated second in my class from the #1 ranked paramedic program in the United States. You can always trade for drugs. You want your doc living and working right there in town, available 24/7. Plus, um, with my own bicycle, in repair, ready to go. Heh.


There may be lots of rubber, but what about glues? Internet? Surely you jest. It's not because I think he's right about what skills he would be bringing. We still disagree on that. What tipped it in Jesse's favor was that he stood up for himself. That he has a sense of what he is worth, and the worth and abilities of his family. That's the spirit that will bring us through.

Here are some thoughts on courage:

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.

Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared.

Eddie Rickenbacker

This is no time for ease and comfort. It is the time to dare and endure.

Winston Churchhill

The cowards never started. The weak died on the way. The strong made it through. They are the pioneers.

Willa Cather

Private Joker is silly and ignorant, but he's got guts. And guts is enough.

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, "Full Metal Jacket"

That's why you have a chance Jesse. Guts is enough. I expect that when you were faced with a three or four mile ride to the site of the emergency, after somebody made the three or four mile ride to tell you that there was an emergency, you'd try. I imagine that when the bicycle proved to be less than useful, your daughter would figure out a way to turn into a cane crush or a pump for water. You'd stand up for yourself.

That's what we'll need. I'd probably find my way back to the White Mountains. That's where the Raven Soldiers gather in times of trouble.

Nohwi'odla nayid ntaahgoh, nhildizitigo adanizih, yexaaiidelah go deyah tc'indii

(our character has been tested, we proved strong, having been prepared we walk, all our people say this)

From The Song of the Ravens by Soulflyer, born to the Bear Clan, born for the Flute Clan

Email me your shipping information Jesse and I'll send your book.

Big Brass Blog

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thoughts On Torture

There's a lot of indignation in blogtopia (and yes, skippy! coined that phrase!) about the revealations that the highest levels of this administration gathered in the White House and were literally micromanaging torture sessions. Cheney, Rice, Ashcroft, Colin Powell (for shame sir, for shame!) and others were following torture of human beings in real time.

I'm not a torture moralist. If it was an effective battlefield or intelligence tool I would probably have used it without a second thought. I'm a torture pragmatist. It. Does. Not. Fucking. Work.

Yet, after John Yoo tortures both logic and any concept of a moral law to expand the definition, then, without any chance of challenge, declares the President to be empowered to break all previous and existing laws of the United States, and the World Court. When he empowers the government with the ability to break any and all laws to the point of sadistic, ineffective and base cruelty and does so without challenge. When our government has reached a point of depravity to where John (drape them marble titties!) Ashcroft becomes the sole voice of restraint and reason, one simply must admit that things have gotten too far the fuck out of hand.

The ACLU has called for a special prosecutor. This is too far gone. This situation shows that the whole mechanism of government in this country has been debased to the point where our jurisprudence system or our own simple humanity are not to be trusted. It's time for The Hague, or some other system of law, where we can expect it to be adjudicated by rational, and moral minds.

We don't seem to have those at hand in this country anymore.

They should be brought to a bar of justice that has the respect and trust of the world. That court does not sit in an America of secret prisons, extraordinary renditions, and torture corrupting the highest levels of power. An honest court, concerned with the rule of law and operating in an open and free society is not something we can say we have anymore without bouncing the needles of the polygraph like the tassles on the tits of a Fairbanks stripper at a lumberjack birthday party.


A Great Site

When politics and thinking about the future begin to wear me down, I take great comfort in being able to study the past.

I'm a big fan of Shelby Foote's three volume work The Civil War. It is a brilliantly researched work, elegantly written.

Now, however, there is an online site that will walk you through the major battles using animation. There is also a sound narration, but, after the first time, I turned it off in order to absorb the visuals without distraction.

Give it a look. Civil War Animated


Monday, April 14, 2008

Contest Update

Looking good folks! So far, to my thinking, The Disgruntled Chemist is a clear front runner. Skills in chemistry would be invaluable. Especially when it comes to things like being able to sort out the various compounds that occur organicly and turn them into more focused and utilitarian products.

I can make black powder but there are more than a few times where dynamite would be called for. In a situation like this things like abandoned cities and landfills would be turned into veritable mines for getting things like wire, metal for scrap.

Sorry Jesse, but a paramedic while nice to have wouldn't be compared with somebody who might be able to synthesize morphine. Or make soap. Things like bicycles would have a very limited shelf life. Where would the materials for tires come from? What good would a bike be when there is no such thing as a road anymore? Thing is, you'd be able to put your ability to adapt and to learn to good use.

Chemist, I know how to get yeast from culture. We would start by harvesting wild yeasts from the air for sourdough and then keep refining the process down until we get yeast. It might also be something that could be gleaned from the abandoned zones and then nurtured. The yeast that wineries and breweries use had to come from somewhere.

Anybody got soap? The contest will be running for a couple more days. Let's get creative. Don't forget bribery and flattery, those will all be useful skills.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Yet Another Book Giveaway!

Yes indeedy my it is about that time again.

I've just finished reading the new fiction work by James Howard Kunstler twice. It's an interesting book.

The premise is that the oil economy of the world has collapsed. Rather than get all geopolitical, much like the world would, in reaction to such an occurance, Kunstler instead focuses on one Upstate New York town. One man in particular.

It's a World Made By Hand where things that are taken so much for granted these days are either precious beyond obtaining, or simply gone, maybe forever.

People, being what we are, react all different ways. Most folks try to simply muddle through as best they can.

The events of the book cover one summer's experience. It's not a huge or daunting read, but it is a grim, yet strangely hopefull account of how things might shake loose.

Now we arrive at the contest. As with all my contests I promise that the judging criteria will be arbitrary, quite possibly unfair, and I will state at the very outset that I have been known to solicit and accept all manner of bribery and flattery.

The contest is simple. The protagonist of the book was a systems analyst in the computer industry who now makes his living as a carpenter. If the things you needed for your daily life were all of a sudden unvailable, what skills would you bring to your family and your community? I would probably find my skill and talent with horses, breeding, training and handling them to be something folks would need. My ability at the forge for shoeing the horses would be something I could use to raise my own standard of living and those of folks around me. I have excellent frontier skills in gunpowder making, again at the forge I can cast and fabricate things that would need to be made. My acoustic instruments would be in demand too. As would my library.

What would you bring? Answer in the comments please. Let's not forget the bribery part this time. I will send a copy of the book to the winner.

contest notification post at Big Brass Blog