Well, can't let the Olympics pass by without a brief comment.
I'm not a particularly patriotic Canadian. I think we should have done much better in the 65 years since WWII ended considering our vast natural resources, our paltry national defense budget, our trade relationship with the United States and our lack of the racial strife/problems that plague our neighbor to the south. I was appalled by the massive deficits we ran up in the '80's (my formative years, politically) and by our (relatively) high unemployment rates. I didn't (and still don't) think much of our unelected senate, our 'notwithstanding clause' in the charter of rights and freedoms, having a foreign 'queen' as head of state (figurehead or not) and the inclusion of a fictitious 'god' in our national anthem (not that I think much of national anthems in the first place.)
Still, I've been extremely delighted by the performance of Canadians in the Vancouver games. I am frankly disgusted by those who characterize the 'Own the Podium' campaign as anything but an unqualified triumph. Canada has won more gold medals than ANY OTHER COUNTRY (a stunning achievement in its own right, but even moreso when you consider that Canada didn't win a single gold medal the last two times we hosted the Olympics.) Aside from the women's curling team, I haven't seen a single Canadian falter or choke. Weather and mechanical failures aside, the Vancouver games have been awesome, and actually gave this cynical ex-pat reason to feel proud of his native land.
I was disgusted to learn that Texas Tech's brilliant and innovative football coach, Mike Leach, was fired for trying to instill some discipline and work ethic in Adam James, the spoiled brat son of ESPN commentator Craig James.
ESPN needs to fire Craig James and Texas Tech need to fire the boneheads who made this indefensible decision.
I hope the Texas Tech players have enough integrity and loyalty to sit out the Alamo Bowl. I know I would.
The Austin Unit hosted their Christmas party this year with the unit picking up the tab. I thought that was a nice idea, and wasn't about to turn down a free session or two and some decent grub. My friend Joanie and I had a fairly decent game in the afternoon, scooping 2nd in our section but we faded in the evening.
Here are my favorite and least favorite hands of the afternoon:
Favorable, 2nd seat, pass to you:
JT43 / A4 / Q9 / AKQJ9
I was tempted to not upgrade this hand (the 5-card suit is nice, but the CJ might be superfluous and the Q9 of D isn't too pretty) but the nice spots to go with the 5-bagger kept me from opening 1N. I opened 1C.
LHO overcalled 1H and partner passed. Mildred Breed bid 2H on my right and I decided to double (2S is probably better but my Spades aren't really Moyse-worthy.) Joanie, of course, bid 3D and it was up to me.
Bidding 3N here is pretty gross. Pard could be broke and you can't even duck H twice. But I just couldn't bear to let partner flounder in a 4-2 or 5-2 D fit. We're at the 3 level already, might as well be in game. I bid 3N.
Mildred kinda shrugged and passed. LHO led the H3. I bought pretty well, considering:
Been playing a fair bit lately so I'll have a hand or two soon. This is more of a stream of consciousness post.
John Edwards. I supported him. He's a weasel. Even I don't bat 1000. Sorry. (That campaign never took off. Wondered why. I think now we know why.)
Inspector Gadget died. Sorry to hear the news. When posting on someone's eulogy message board, spell his name right.
Obama. I thought it was funny that for the first 6 months of his presidency everyone called him 'Obama' and now everyone calls him 'the President.' I agree that 'President Obama' doesn't exactly roll of the tongue but ...'
Snakebite. My medical bills came to about $57,000 for a non-overnight, non-emergency, 16-hour stay in the emergency room.
Go Ducks. Oregon's playing in the Rose Bowl. Don't punch opposing players in the face. I went to UO my junior year. Eugene is cool. Grateful Dead. ROTC. Animal House.
Hook 'em. Texas plays for a spot in the National Championship game tonight against Nebraska.
Gate-crashers. Here in 'murrica we don't prosecute war criminals, but we do prosecute uninvited guests.
Health care reform. Actually no, just health insurance reform. Doctors who charge $57,000 for 16 hours of non-emergency emergency room care will be able to continue to do so.
Recovery has been exasperatingly slow, but steady. That little guy (I did manage to catch him and release him when his fangs got caught on the dishtowel I used to protect my hand after he bit me the first time) packed quite a punch. He turned the whole underside of my right arm from my armpit to about 3 inches shy of my wrist a solid dark purple. (I took a picture or two on my digital camera and will post them (over the fold, they're not for the squeamish) when I can track down the adaptor.)
Anyway, finally there was some pretty substantial improvement today. The bruising is fading/blotching and the swelling has finally all-but-disappeared everywhere but the bite-finger itself.
What did I learn? Baby rattlesnake venom is more toxic than the adult venom. And babies haven't yet learned to control how much venom they deliver so you're likely to get almost all of it. Even a 2 or 2.5 ' snake that's 1/2 or 3/4" thick (the distance between fangs was 1.2 cm or just under 1/2") can ruin your whole day.
The advice I got from poison control was awful. A 'dry bite' doesn't require medical attention necessarily, but a 'dry bite' won't swell up your whole hand. Yes, I was predisposed to weather the storm, but that would have, at a minimum, cost me my finger and likely my arm. Once they heard 'baby rattlesnake' and 'entire hand swollen', they should have known what to recommend and how strongly to recommend it. Maybe they get a bunch of hypochondriac callers or something, I dunno.
The health care system is disfunctional. In a perfect world, I call the low-cost clinic run by a nurse practitioner, I select the 'hands on' option (that allows me, within reason, to direct my own treatment, with the advice, but not control, of medical professionals) and get 4 doses of anti-venom. I pay the cost of treatment (maybe $200 + wholesale cost of prescription,) get treated, go home.
Instead, I get thrown into the model of waste, delay, inefficiency, bureaucracy, and misplaced incentives that is the modern American hospital. If you're wondering why the U.S. spends so much on health care and gets so little for it, my experience might be instructive.
So I called poison control about 2 hours after being bitten (twice) with my hand swollen up. I gave them some indication that I'd rather not rack up an emergency room bill if I could avoid it. I told them my hand was completely swollen and sore but if that was as bad as it was going to get that I was content to ride it out. I was asked about other symptoms (I had none) and was told that if the swelling hadn't progressed beyond the wrist that it was up to me whether or not to go in to the ER.
Long story short, by the next morning (16 hours after the bite) my forearm had swelled, my upper arm was beginning to swell, and some of my veins were bright red and I had some bruising. I called poison control back and they suggested I immediately get to an ER. They said they'd let the ER know I was coming (the anti-venom takes some time to mix.)
Brackenridge is a teaching hospital in downtown Austin. They admitted me as soon as I arrived, remarking on my calmness. I was impressed. Everybody was friendly. I was kind of the daily celebrity for a while, as snake-bites are relatively uncommon, particularly ones that had progressed for that long.
It was 2 and a half hours before I finally had anti-venom flowing into my veins. I was pretty appalled at the delay, but I wasn't about to piss off the people assigned to bring me back to health.
After 2 more doses of anti-venom my platelets and clotting factor (2 things attacked by the venom) were back to normal. In fact all my bloodwork was either normal or almost normal. The swelling had stopped progressing and had come down a nominal amount in certain areas. Unfortunately, my index finger had gradually deteriorated throughout the day. I had noticed small dark red blisters forming that morning, and those blisters had grown larger and darker throughout the day. Now they were black and covered an alarming area.
I wanted those poison swamps drained (since it was obvious that the blisters had a high concentration of venom in them and that since blisters have poor circulation the anti- venom just wasn't able to do the marvelous job it had done in the rest of my arm.)
I suggested the idea to every nurse, student and doctor who came to check on me, but the presiding physician, Dr. Ego, had other plans. He wanted to just keep giving me anti-venom every 3 hours and hope that EVENTUALLY the venom in the blisters would be neutralized. He was going to admit me into some intermediate care facility for at least 24 hours where my poison swamps would be allowed to fester and grow. I considered his plan insane. He said it was my own fault for waiting so long and that my platelets weren't high enough to risk opening up the blisters (which had by now morphed into one giant black blob of death, slowly growing while it turned the surrounding tissue black.) Of course, my platelets were fine, but I knew that Dr. Ego would never be swayed by logic.
I stayed for one more anti-venom treatment (for the road, as it was already being mixed when I learned of Dr. Ego's crazy scheme.) I informed the nurse that I'd be checking out after the current IV treatment of Crofab. I got all kinds of hysterical warnings that I would die or lose my arm, which did nothing but harden my resolve (while unfortunately scaring the bejeesus out of my friend Joanie, who had stayed by my side throughout.)
I got home (it was after midnight,) speared the blister, and drained about 70% of the swamp. I went to sleep and this morning, my finger's color had improved dramatically. The swelling of my arm hadn't changed much but has slowly subsided throughout the day. I drained 99% of the swamp this morning and have been periodically draining it (mainly to prevent infection) throughout the day. I'm on the mend.
Playing bridge again and had an unlucky set? Uh, nope.
I guess I've now crossed off everything on my Austin to-do list. The cute little baby rattler on my doorstep took care of that. I thought that baby snakes had weak poison and that snakes saved most of their venom for prey animals. I guess this little guy didn't get the memo.
10 hours later and my right hand (typing this left-handed) looks and feels like it got slammed in a car door (well with the addition of 2 pinprick puncture marks.)
100+ days in and the Obama administration seems more than anything like a continuation of the Bush administration. The primary difference between the 2 men seems to be that George Bush believed in something (slashing taxes for the rich, enriching his buddies with no-bid contracts, stealing elections, an imperial presidency) and was willing to fight for it, whereas Barack Obama may or may not have any principles, but is most interested in being liked.
American personnel tortured hundreds of detainees in the last 7 years. Dozens of those detainees were tortured to death. Barack Obama is fine with that. He wants to cover it up. He wants it to go away. That puts him in violation of the Geneva Convention, Article 121:
Every death or serious injury of a prisoner of war caused or suspected to have been caused by a sentry, another prisoner of war, or any other person, as well as any death the cause of which is unknown, shall be immediately followed by an official enquiry by the Detaining Power.
A communication on this subject shall be sent immediately to the Protecting Power. Statements shall be taken from witnesses, especially from those who are prisoners of war, and a report including such statements shall be forwarded to the Protecting Power.
If the enquiry indicates the guilt of one or more persons, the Detaining Power shall take all measures for the prosecution of the person or persons responsible.'
EVE-Online, the massively multiplayer online game I've been playing, has been called a sandbox with land mines. Unlike most other MMOG's, which are more like a theme-park (the gameplay is set up a certain way and everyone follows the same path,) EVE lets you make your own fun. Everyone's a spaceship pilot, but there are almost as many ways to play as there are players. If you want to fight against computer opponents ('rats') you can do that. If you want to blow up (and be blown up by) other players, you can do that, either as a soldier in a large corporation, in a small gang, or as a solo 'pirate'. If you want to make a fortune trading commodities (weapons, ships, implants, rigs, etc.) without ever leaving a station, you can do that. If you want to fly massive titans 10 miles long and lead armies to conquer vast swaths of space, you can do that (if you have the time, people skills, and leadership skills, of course.) If you want to manufacture the stuff that traders trade, you can do that. If you want to try to scam noob players out of their money by offering to sell something worth 1 million ISK (the in-game currency) for $999,999,999 you can do that. If you want to play for free by paying for your game-time with in-game currency, you can do that. If you want to mine the minerals that go into the manufacture of the things that manufacturers manufacture and traders trade, you can do that. If you want to make money by hauling cargo from remote stations to trading hubs in massive haulers, you can do that. If you want to do a little bit of everything, you can do that. But anytime you undock from a station, or fly from point to point, you run the risk of being obliterated by another player (though the risk is much lower in 'hi-security' areas of space.) That's where the land mines come in.
Which brings me to today's blog about yesterday's set. It was a sandbox with land mines too.
Jeff invited me to play a few against random opps. I served and declined a few 'private' folks and then lo and behold Wayne rang in. Moments later Jeff asked me to hold the last spot and Sondra arrived. Cool beans, should be fun.
The fireworks started immediately.
Q74 / AT95 / AJT9 / 42
Jeff opened 1S in 1st. Great hand, gorgeous spots, prime values outside of the expected trump suit, soft values in trumps, which is ideal. But with the modern standards for opening continuing to diminish, not worth a game force imo. I trotted out a forcing 1NT, planning to rebid 3S.
Jeff rebid 2C. I showed my hand with 3S. Jeff now bid 4D. What's that mean and how should I continue?
I wasn't sure if Jeff meant it as a fragment (5-1-3-4 or similar slam try) or was showing a diamond void or something else, but I thought that fragment was most likely, it being rather common to bid out 5-4-3-1 hands like that.