Friday, April 30, 2010

Macy Jaye -- Cover Girl

Macy's 3rd Grade teacher puts out a newsletter, and each one includes a bio of a selected student. The latest edition features my favorite cover girl. Note her response to the "Favorite Food" question.

(Click to enlarge)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Where's The Outrage Over Gas Prices?

In 2004, then President Bush was under fire for not doing enough to curb the high price of gas at the pump. There was the usual attempts to wrap the criticism in the flag and play up the suffering of "ordinary Americans".
At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said the administration would not temporarily stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help lower oil prices and it would not publicly call on OPEC to roll back production cuts scheduled for April 1.

"We've ... made clear we're not going to beg for oil," said Mr. Abraham, although he later told reporters that the administration has been working behind the scenes to try to bring prices down.

"We have had a lot of contacts at a lot of levels," he said.

"We're not begging," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat. "We have men and women over there" in Iraq.

Iraq has the world's second-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia. The slow revival of exports from Iraq, despite U.S. control of the country, has been a factor driving up oil prices.

Mr. Kennedy and other committee Democrats said they were outraged that the administration is not doing everything in its power to alleviate the strain on drivers, consumers and businesses.
People were suffering, soldiers were dying and Bush wasn't doing anything about it. The price of a gallon of gas at the time of the above quote: $1.74.

Flashforward to 2006: gas prices had doubled since Bush first took office in 2001. The price of a gallon of gas was now approaching $3.00 a gallon in some areas. Democrats were outraged. The public was outraged. Everyone was outraged. A huge business opportunity was lost when no one could come up with a workable plan to fuel combustion engines on outrage. It was clear that Bush and the oil companies were in cahoots. Congress was swift to act by pushing legislation to impose windfall profit taxes on oil companies. Finally, we were told, the national nightmare of $3.00 per gallon gas prices was ending.

In April of 2006, Bush announced a plan to halt oil purchases for the strategic oil reserve, leaving more oil on the open market in a bid to lower gas prices.
Bush said the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve had enough fuel to guard against any major supply disruption over the next few months.

“So, by deferring deposits until the fall, we’ll leave a little more oil on the market. Every little bit helps,” he said.

Wholesale gasoline futures prices for June delivery dropped 8 cents a gallon to $2.10 on the New York Mercantile Exchange immediately upon Bush’s remarks.

In a separate development, Bush ordered a temporary suspension of environmental rules for gasoline.

Easing the environment rules will allow refiners greater flexibility in providing oil supplies since they will not have to use certain additives such as ethanol to meet clean air standards. The suspension of oil purchases for the federal emergency oil reserve is likely to have only modest impact since relative little extra oil will be involved.
This is not to imply that withholding oil from the strategic reserve and relaxing some EPA rules in and of themselves magically lowered gas prices. But the president was taking steps. He was "doing something".

It's now October 2006. Gas prices have fallen into the low $2 range. Democrats lined up to praise the president for addressing the issue and getting prices lower, just as they had been calling for. Op-ed pieces across the land hailed the end of high gas prices. Everyone was happy

No, just kidding. Instead, the op-ed pages were filled with speculation about whether Bush was now conspiring with oil companies to lower gas prices.
Of course, the relationship between commodity prices and electoral results is a noisy one. A host of other factors could influence the polls and, ultimately, control of Congress, like Bob Woodward's book, or Rep. Mark Foley's instant messages, or Macacawitz-gate. But that hasn't stopped speculation about conspiracies led by the Bush administration, and those close to it, to engineer a sharp fall in the prices of oil and gas during campaign season. A big chunk of the American public suspects funny business. A USA Today poll from September found that 42 percent of Americans believed the administration deliberately manipulated gas prices ahead of the elections.
In other words, 58% didn't believe that.

By 2008 gas prices were on the rise again. There was an election coming up, but for some reason Bush and the oil companies decided not to lower the price of oil to help out John McCain. This didn't win him any points with the media though. No, now high gas prices at a time when low ones would be politically savvy were actually going to help Bush.
Contrived or otherwise, today's soaring gas prices are a tangible bonanza for Bush/McCain. Offshore drilling would put billions in their cronies' pockets, but would not lower gas prices a single cent. Nuke power could mean billions more in radioactive lucre for reactor builders who may never deliver a single electron of electricity.
I could cut and paste that whole crazy rant, but for one thing it would be poor netiquette and for another I don't want to make your brain hurt.

Your friend and mine, Nancy Pelosi, penned a press release calling for investigations and an end to tax subsidies and all kinds of neat sound and fury stuff.

Mr. President, we have worked together to enact the first increase in fuel economy standards for cars and trucks in 32 years, dramatically boosting efficiency standards for buildings, lighting, and appliances, and investing in homegrown biofuels. I respectfully ask you again to work with the Congress to allow the Justice Department to pursue oil cartel price-fixing, allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to investigate and punish price gougers, end taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil and invest those funds in renewable American energy. Lastly, your Administration must use the authority given to it by the Congress to end market manipulation. We cannot wait to act in the face of these prices increases.
Some of her rhetoric was good. I'm all for ending tax subsidies for oil companies. Where the Speaker and I part ways is that I also support ending them for farmers, auto companies, banks, unions, etc.

Now it is 2010. We aren't all riding public transportation to work. Wind farms aren't abundant. Neither is solar energy, steam power, flower power, hopenchange power or any other power except good ole fossil fuels. That is not to say anyone should expect oil to have been replaced by these things by April, 2010. But shouldn't we be a lot closer than we are if it were so bloody important?

I mean, I would have at least expected Washington D.C. to become a leader in alternative energy. A pilot wind power program. Solar panels on the Captiol Building. A saw mill on the Potomac. Something. Instead, we have calls for the ramping up of nuclear plants and the price of gas is still near $3.00 in most places.

Is the price of gas now unmoored from the actions of the President? Is $3.00 gas suddenly the result of market forces? Are "ordinary Americans" no longer burdened by high gas prices? Is there no need for the President to "do something"? Are the powers that be no longer reaping profits from the backs of car owners? Shouldn't the FTC and the Justice Department get involved?

Where's the outrage?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spin The Red Circle

I lost a friend today. My faithful companion, slayer of goblins, killer of Nazis, adventurer, hero, and occasional eater of DVDs.

My XBox 360 has died.

It lasted a long time for a 360. I've read countless horror stories of owners having to send theirs in to be fixed three, four, twelve times. Type "red ring of death" into Bing and it returns 74,700,000 results. For once, I am not making a large number up. Try it if you don't believe me.

I got the 360 after my original XBox died in 2006. It was a shiny white monstrosity, so much bigger than a PS3 yet so much more fragile. I remember the first night I brought it home. It didn't work then, either. I spent two hours on the phone with tech support trying to figure out why the controller wouldn't sync with the console. Finally, having exhausted the Level 1 support guy's Binder of Useless Ideas, I exchanged the controller at Best Buy and I was up and running.

The first game I ever played was The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, a D&D-type game with an open-ended world to explore and Captain Picard doing the voice of the king. 360 and I killed thousands of creatures in that world, turning the fields and woods and rivers red with the blood of our enemies.

Other games would follow: F.E.A.R. Gears of War. Bioshock. Silent Hill 4. We reduced Hitler's army to dust in Call of Duty 2. We reduced what I assume was Zombie Hitler's zombie army to dust in Call of Duty 3. We blasted Stormtroopers in Star Wars: Battlefront. We defeated the Covenant on Halo and Earth not once, not twice, but thrice. I chased the cake and fought GLADos in Portal (spoiler alert: the cake was a lie).

And all throughout our adventures, 360 wheezed and chugged and made noises like an asthmatic steamboat. The DVD tray spun continuously until I thought the disc was going to fly out and decapitate me. It would occasionally freeze, forcing me to restart it. Looking back, I should have been suspicious when the I brought it home and took it out of the box. It was wrapped in what I now realize was a smallpox-infested blanket from the colonial era.

So, it's back to square one. I pulled the hard drive off ol' 360 in hopes of salvaging my saved games. And my new 360 and I will have new adventures. There will always be more Nazis to kill, stormtroopers to annhilate, and unicorns to molest. Maybe this time I'll be able to hear their anguished cries instead of that teeth-scraping grinding noise.


Macy completed her mile run for school this morning in a time of 9:49, approximately four days, nine hours and thirty-six minutes faster than I could have done it. She bested her time from last fall, so good on you, Macy!

And they're off!

She did an excellent job of maintaining a pace.

Crossing the finish line.

After the run, sharing a drink and a laugh with her friend Cassidy.

She was still moving so fast, a blur on the landscape.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Siouxicide Solution

I have a modest proposal for resolving the fight over the use of the Fighting Sioux nickname for the University of North Dakota. I belive it would both calm the fears of those who believe the nickname demeans the Sioux tribe and fosters negative stereotypes while allowing the spirit and strength supporters have come to expect and love in their beloved UND sports teams.

I give you Fighting Sue.

She's strong, feminine (long hair and eye makeup counts as feminine in this context), and ready to kick some tail. Also, she will be able to avoid charges of stereotyping and racism (while "woman" is a protected class, I believe it is mitigated by the fact that "white" is the least protected class, with a score of -1500 on the American Protected Class Matrix (below), which assigns a score from 1 to 10, with 1 being least protected and 10 having the strongest protection).

(Click to enlarge)

I can see it now; Fighting Sue shirts, hats, warmup jackets, lunchboxes, dipilatories, testosterone supplements: the possibilites are endless. And best of all, we can once again live in perfect harmony with our Native American brothers.

Selected Performances From EIEI-Oops

Macy's school play was Friday. She played the part of Dog, a tough-girl hero in the mold of Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor. It was a gripping performance, and if there was such a thing as the Elementary School Tonys she would be a frontrunner. I'll say no more; let her performance speak for itself.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Time For South Park To Move On

[WARNING: this post contains strong language and depicts scenes some closeminded, uptight, sensitive people are likely to find offensive. Trust me though: they're really really funny.]

In the wake of the latest French Maneuver by South Park network Comedy Central, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have shown none of the willingness to forgive that they did after their first controversial episode in which the Muslim prophet Muhammed was censored by executive decree.
“In the 14 years we’ve been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn’t stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn’t some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle’s customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn’t mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too. We’ll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we’ll see what happens to it.”
What was all the fuss about? Well, if you're unfamiliar with South Park consider yourself a poorer person now than you were when you started this sentence. It's a show that uses crude animation to tell the adventures of four young boys in South Park, Colorado. They are crude, rude, profane and endlessly funny. It's the type of show you either love or hate, depending on your ability to laugh at sacred cows. In a world where shows like Fox and Friends and The Daily Show claim to be equal opportunity offenders but are really ideological shills, Parker and Stone truly go out of their way to offend every sacred cow on every side of every aisle.

You like watching Republicans get lampooned? One episode referred to a conservative talk show guest on The O'Reilly Factor as a "pissed-off white-trash redneck conservative". If you're the type that thinks making fun of the Right is funny, but the Left isn't to be mocked, you wouldn't like South Park. The other guest was identified only by "aging hippie liberal douche".

South Park makes fun of the handicapped. It has not one but two handicapped characters. The first, named Timmy, can only communicate by saying his name in different cadences and volumes. The second, Jimmy, needs crutches to walk and has a severe stutter. Naturally, Jimmy was introduced in an episode where he challenges Timmy's status as primary crippled character in an episode called "Cripple Fight". The halves of a two-part episode were titled, "Do The Handicapped Go To Hell" and "Probably".

Celebrities have taken more than their share of punishment from Rob Reiner (anti-smoking crusader who constantly has a cheeseburger in his hand) to Sally Struthers (African adoption advocate who looks and talks like Jabba the Hutt) to Barbra Streisand (depicted as a 100-foot-tall mechanized Godzilla-like creature who tries to destroy the town). Tom Cruise-bashing is practically a subplot on the show. Originally questioning his sexuality in an episode called "Trapped In The Closet", in which the actor literally spent almost the entire episode in a closet, refusing to come out, the show fired shots in his direction sporadically, culminating in the show's 200th episode (titled "200") in which Cruise leads all the celebrities lampooned over the years first in an effort to sue the town and later in a plot that set off the latest controversy.

Cruise realizes that there's one person who is absolutely untouchable when it comes to satire -- the prophet Muhammed. He agrees to drop the lawsuit against the town if the citizens will deliver Muhammed to him. His plan is to use a device (built by Rob Reiner) to steal Muhammed's "goo", a magical substance that will make Tom Cruise untouchable.

While you may think the plot is silly (and it is -- that Parker and Stone can make such a ridiculous plot not only funny but expected is part of their peculiar genius), it doesn't sound like anything to get up in arms about. You would be wrong. After "200" aired, a Muslim group made a statement warning the creators that they were walking a dangerous path.
"We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show," Al-Amrikee wrote. "This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them."
I especially like the covering statement at the end. Hey we're not threatening you. We're just saying that if you keep doing what you're doing, you're likely to end up shot and stabbed to death in the street. Just telling it like it is, man. Riiiiight.

The singular saving grace that keeps South Park relevant and fresh is the fact that they skewer every religion (as well as everything else). Not equally. Truth be told, Christianity has taken by far the most abuse. From a town priest that's been caught "giving a blessing" to a nun in the confessional to depicting the Pope as a dessicated old man who can only speak in grunts, the show has been absolutely brutal to the sensibilites of Christians of more delicate constitutions. In one episode ("Bloody Mary"), a bleeding statue of the Virgin Mary is originally identified as miraculous but is later disavowed when a visiting Cardinal realizes it is bleeding from its, um, ladyparts, declaring "A chick bleeding out her vagina is no miracle. Chicks bleed out their vaginas all the time." If you like your Christian satire to be more Ned Flanders and less a show where Satan's boyfriend is Sadam Hussein, than you're likely to be offended by South Park.

And that's okay. You don't have to like it. But you should support it's right to exist and to "do what it does". Because the show doesn't just skewer Christianity. One of the shows regular characters, Chef (voiced by Shaft signer Isaac Hayes) was killed off after the actor voiced displeasure with the show's treatment of his religion, Scientology. Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, Christians -- poking fun with the sharpest stick possible didn't present a problem. When the stick got pointed at his own sacred cow, Hayes got mad. Parker and Stone got their "revenge" with the biggest "f--k you" episode in television history. The point they were trying to make was obvious: this show makes fun of everything. If anything is off the table, then it all has to be off the table. And with one exception, Comedy Central has laughed at protesters, threats and boycotts all the way to the bank.

Comedy Central's cowardice was excused by Parker and Stone the first time around, because, the network was honest about their motivation -- they were "scared of getting blown up". In that episode, the creators wanted to depict Muhammed in a non-satirical manner. He was to be shown handing a football helmet to Family Guy's Peter Griffin. That's it. When the scene was supposed to air, viewers instead saw a black screen with the words, "Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network". To show just how cowardly the network was and how willing they were to kowtow to any group who threatened violence (as opposed to boycotts and protests), the end of the episode depicted Jesus Christ and then-President George Bush defecating all over each other and an American flag. It was a disgusting image. The only thing more disgusting was the rank hypocrisy Comedy Central displayed in greenlighting it while censoring a cartoon image of Muhammed holding a football helmet. Let me be clear here: the network had a choice, allow both the Muhammed depiction and the Christ/Bush scene, or allow neither. I personally would vote for "allow both". The more squeamish among us might say "allow neither". Comedy Central chose the most cowardly path: greenlighting angering groups they knew would pose no physical threat while caving in to a group from whom they feared violence.

This time though, Parker and Stone are genuinely mad. They're getting tired of the network standing behind them on every controversy that comes along except for this one thing. It's clear that Comedy Central is too skittish to do what's right. I'm not privy to the inner workings of their contract with the network. I do know that South Park is too dedicated to free speech to remain on a cowardly network like Comedy Central. I think Parker and Stone should look for a new home. Free speech isn't easy to live with. It requires you to put up with hearing things you don't like. I'll let this exchange from the episode "Cartoon Wars (part 1)", in which the townspeople mull over how to repsond to the threat of Muslim violence, serve as the last word:
Professor Thomas: "We bury our heads. In sand. We take twenty to twenty-five dump trucks, fill them with sand from Monarch Lake, and then dump the sand along South Park Avenue. By using approximately eighteen dozen shovels, we can each dig a hole in the sand, stick our heads in the holes, and then have the person to our left bury them. If we can manage to get every person's head buried deep, deep in sand before the Muhammad episode airs, we could avoid looking like we're responsible for any part of this at all."

Stephen: "No, no, wait a minute, it's ridiculous. What we need to do is just the opposite. Freedom of speech is at stake here, don't you all see? If anything, we should ALL make cartoons of Muhammad, and show the terrorists and the extremists that we are all united in the belief that every person has a right to say what they want! Look, people, it's... been real easy for us to stand up for free speech lately. For the past few decades we haven't had to risk anything to defend it. But those times are going to come! And one of those times is right now. And if we aren't willing to risk what we have, then we just believe in free speech, but we don't defend it.
And then you're Canada. Nobody wants that.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hard Advice (4/20/2010)

Boston: My ex is dating a friend of mine. The ex is admittedly attracted to pubescent girls (11-14 years old)—though he swears he hasn't and wouldn't act on the attraction. I am sure he has never told this to anyone else. My friend he is dating has an 11-year-old daughter. Do I have to say something to my friend?

Absolutely. If science has taught us anything, it's that all men everywhere are raging perverts. While there is no such thing as a woman who wants to sleep with younger men, it's a well-known fact that all men want to sleep with children. If you were a true friend, you'd plant some child porn on your ex's computer and call the police.

Los Angeles: My stepdad acts like a child! If he doesn't like something or someone, he makes it known, and often in an uncomfortable and rude way. He will mumble things under his breath, punch the wall, or refuse to attend a family dinner if he knows someone he dislikes is attending (i.e., sister's boyfriend). Now, due to an altercation that happened between those two, my sister and my mother haven't spoken for almost 4 months now! My mother continues to defend my stepdad's childish behavior for that and any other times he's out of line. How to I help her to realize that his behavior is NOT acceptable?

All men act like this. Whereas women are rational, sane, caring children of Gaia, men are pigs. They cannot help acting this way, so pay them no mind. And if you ever see a woman acting like this, a man made her that way.

Chicago: I'm about midway through my first pregnancy and definitely sporting the baby bump. Today I had my first unsolicited belly touching by an elderly co-worker, which made me uncomfortable enough to want to avoid other such belly rubbings. I'm not a super social person, and while I have been open in talking about the pregnancy, I totally didn't expect, but clearly should have, the belly touching by other people. Is there a nice way to deflect or discourage this? I just can't imagine why people would think it's OK to randomly touch someone else's pregnant belly. Had she asked, it would have been one thing, but I feel like the sneak attack as I walked into the office is totally different.

I dealt with this in a column a while back and said that when I was pregnant I had lovely experiences with other women, including strangers (hands off, men!), touching my belly and sharing their pregnancy stories.

Oh wait, sorry. That's from the actual response to this question. Kind of puts the fake answers into context a bit, huh.

Shepherd Park, D.C.: I had a similar experience to the pregnant woman's unsolicited belly-rub the other day: As I was waiting to donate blood, an aide to the big boss came over to let me know that Boss would be going ahead of those of us waiting. No problem—she's a busy woman. But as the aide—an older woman—is standing behind my chair telling me this, she's rubbing my back. Apart from saying, "Get your paws off me, old woman," how do I let someone know that I don't care for being touched by strangers? I think I managed to say "Please don't do that", but she didn't seem to hear me. And why would someone do that? (If it matters, I'm a 50-year-old woman myself.)

Can she come over and rub my back? She probably did it because she thought it would be a nice gesture to calm you down before you had a needle stuck in your vein. She clearly was wrong. An, "Oh, thanks, I'm not a back rub person" should do it, although it seems unlikely that in normal circumstances she'll move in for another rub.

Oops -- another actual response. If a strange woman who comes up and starts giving you a backrub, you should be thankful. If a man touches your pregnant belly, have the mace ready. Got it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Belle Of The Ball

Macy and I had a lovely time at the Butterfly Ball last night. For those not in the know, the Ball is a chance for fathers and daughters to get all dressed up and dance the night away. I got to take Macy up on stage as part of the Grand March and introduce her in front of about 500 people. We snacked on lots of good stuff, including chocolate fountains and cataloupe (Macy's favorite). The pretzels were apparently pretty agreeable as well. When plates temporarily became scarce, Macy was forced to improvise.

We shook our tail feathers to music provided by a DJ. How cool is Macy? She asked the DJ if he had anything by The Clash. He didn't, proving conclusively that Macy was cooler than him.

Macy was very impressed with the flowiness of her dress and I was tasked with twirling her at every opportunity on the dance floor. I managed to record a demonstration which I will now share with you.

Afterwards, as is our tradition, we went out to a late dinner and showed off our class and sophistication by munching on mozzarella sticks and spinach dip at Applebees, just like rich movie stars do. Despite some trepidation, Macy tried the dip and loves it, as I assured her she would. My steak came out somewhere on the well done scale between "hockey puck" and "volcanic remnant" so I had to send it back. I eat steak rare, but I'll tolerate anything up to medium. This was too much to be borne. The manager came out to tell me that I did indeed know the difference between rare and well done and that they would be bringing me another piece of cow immediately following the execution of the chef. Oh, and it would be free. It was probably the suit.

An interesting side note: I first tried to take her to Seasons At Rose Creek, a fancier (but not as fancy as the upper echelon of Fargo dining) place, and one at which I worked during college. There was no one at the hostess stand, the lights in the dining room were off (despite it being ten minutes after nine; the place closes at 10:00). We looked around, didn't see anybody and left.

We got home a little after ten, where Macy announced she would be sleeping in the next morning. Ah, the life of a debutante.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rights I Just Made Up: The Right To Not Be Allergic To My Execution Drug

An inmate in Ohio scheduled for execution by lethal injection is protesting that, since he is allergic to anesthesia, the state can't execute him using their prescribed method.
A doctor is studying what impact, if any, the allergy could have on the execution process after lawyers for Darryl Durr uncovered evidence of Durr's allergy in his 800-page prison medical record. Durr was sentenced to die for raping and strangling a 16-year-old girl in 1988.

"One of the things the Ohio Constitution guarantees is that he has a quick and painless execution," said defense attorney Kathleen McGarry.

"If he's going to react to the anesthetic drugs in such a manner that he's going to have a violent reaction, either vomiting or seizures or whatever the spectrum is that could happen, then obviously the execution has problems," she said.
I get that, while we execute certain prisoners, we need to do it in as humane a way as is possible when murdering someone (and, while I personally support the death penalty in general, let's be clear -- when we execute someone we are committing murder). But seriously, if I was the doctor who was "studying the impact" I would give the defense attorney a prescription that reads like this:

(Link via Overlawyered)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Who Needs A Gall Bladder Anyway? (Updated)

Tomorrow is the big day for Donna. She is scheduled for surgery at 5:00 AM. I took the day off so I could hang out at the hospital being glad it's not me. Donna should be discharged around lunchtime, after which I will be playing nursemaid. We dicussed things beforehand and it's decided: if Donna is too out of it from the anasthesia or otherwise incapacitated, I will step in and tell them we want to keep the biggest stone they pull out of her.

I already have plans for it, you see.

Updated (4/15/2010 10:19am) Donna is out of surgery and doing well. The surgeon says there were no complications. At this point Donna is not sure if she feels lighter or not. With luck she will be discharged around noontime.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Scenes From An Emergency Room

Last night Donna woke me up at 2:00 AM with the words no man wants to hear. No, not, "I'm pregnant." It was-- no, it wasn't, "I told my ex-boyfriend he could crash here until he gets back on his feet." What she said was-- no, she did not say, "it's okay, it happens to all men sometimes." Would you shut up and let me finish?

What she said was, "I think I need to go to the emergency room." She was having sharp pains in her side. She guessed it might be a gall stone. It would later turn out she was right (ooh, foreshadowing! How literary of me). But before we get to that, there was the little matter of going to the worst emergency room on Earth. Okay, it's not really the worst. There's probably one in Guatemala that edges it out. But it's bad. It's called MeritCare (a.k.a. MeritScare -- 'nuff said) and I've never had a good experience there.

MeritCare was the hospital in which Macy was born. She had to go back there various times in her early life with various maladies, some accidental (like the time she fell into the fireplace) and some born from catching this bug or that. Each time we waited in a crowded room for what seemed like multiple epochs before being seen.

I remember when Macy needed stitches in her lip after a "friend" had pushed her into a table at daycare. There I am, waiting in the aforementioned crowded room with a 2-year-old screaming at the top of her lungs and bleeding profusely from a split lower lip. After 45 minutes of this, a kid, maybe seventeen, walked in, approached the desk and told the night nurse that he had pains in his stomach. He was ushered straight back. I approached the desk after the nurse returned, passing the time by constructing elaborate torture scenarios involving cheese graters, battery acid, and a pile of Now That's What I Call Music CDs. There was also something in there about the chair from A Clockwork Orange with the little eyeclamps and the complete Dane Cook movie anthology.

I got as far as, "My daughter has been bleeding all over your floor for almost an hour and you let some seventeen-year-old with a tummy ache go straight back?" before she must have seen a glint of grated cheese or Dane Cook in my eyes. Okay, that was redundant. Anyway, she suddenly decided we could go back. That was the last time I stepped foot in MeritCare's emergency room until last night.

Surprisingly, we were the only ones waiting. Shortly after Donna was ushered back several groups came in, one after the other. One man was carrying a child of maybe four who had the worst cough I have ever heard. It was like what an air conditioner might sound like if it only blew in fits and starts and had a fan blade ricocheting around inside the housing. Seriously, I think this kid had the plague. He was coughing that broken-fan cough directly into his father's face. I love me some Macy, but if she ever made that sound I would make sure she was pointed away from me at all times.

Eventually I was told I could go back to where Donna was getting all hepped-up on goofballs though an IV. She was feeling a bit better by then, though she was sleepy. I told her to doze off and I amused myself by watching a security guard, inexplicably loitering outside the neighboring room, ogle the women of the night shift as the walked by. He kept nervously picking at his fingernails and chewing them. He was making me nervous. Eventually his tic migrated from his nails to his nose. At one point he did the old scoop-and-sample. That's right: he reaped what he'd sown, tasted the fruits of his labors, sampled from the booger buffet. I am not joking. What made it even more insane is that we had made eye contact a couple of times, so he knew I could see him. Dude, you may carry a gun, but you'll always be the guy who eats his boogers to me. Still, as far as visits to the MeritCare ER go, this was the best one ever.

Eventually the doctor came in after reviewing all the test results (blood and ultrasound) and told Donna what by this time should be no surprise to anyone -- her gall bladder needs to come out. They squeezed the last bits of happy juice from the IV into her veins and sent her on her way. She has a surgical consult tomorrow, so she can expect to go under the knife soon. Okay, it's an arthoscopic knife, but still. Donna is feeling much better now and she was able to go out to dinner and open her birthday presents. Oh, did I mention today was her birthday? Happy birthday!