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How many mass murders are too many to act?

Like many I have a heavy heart after the senseless murders of 20 children and 8 adults in Newtown. As a parent I can’t imagine how the families of the slain will continue on.

I was so excited when my kids went to school to begin their growing process. They were beginning the learning process and entering society in earnest to become the fine people they would eventually become. It was such a proud time for me as a parent.

Now, due to the repeated tragedies like the most recent in Newtown, as my grandchildren embark on the same course and begin school, I am absolutely terrified. No longer is school the safe haven of learning as in times past. It is now too often a battlefield of the most horrible kind.

I don’t understand why these things have to happen, and I certainly don’t know how to prevent them. I am no expert on social diseases like this but I can look at things logically and one thing is without question in my mind.

It seems to me that these incidents, frequent as they are, are far worse than they might be due to the use of automatic (or semi-automatic) weapons. It’s bad enough that these imbalanced individuals open fire on innocent groups of people but far worse that they can use guns that rapid fire lots of ammunition.

Why are these weapons even available in this violent age? I’m not for nor against gun control in general, I’m not informed enough to be on one side or the other. But I do know that there is not a single legitimate reason for anyone in the general population to have automatic (or semi-automatic) weaponry at hand.

Why can people buy and sell these weapons legally? I’m not talking about handguns for personal defense nor hunting rifles. I am strictly referring to semi & automatic weaponry like these madmen are using that can fire lots of bullets at a group of innocent people in just a few seconds.

I know many states have made gun laws stricter, but people still legitimately have these weapons. That must stop. We must make federal laws that make owning and selling these weapons a major felony. There is not one legitimate reason for these weapons to be in the possession of anyone not in the active military or police forces.

A common excuse for owning semi and automatic weaponry is “collecting”. Gun owners state they “collect” these weapons as a hobby. Give me a break! Collecting is for stamps and comic books. Not weapons of mass destruction.

How many children and their parents must die before our federal government enacts laws making them not only illegal to buy and sell but even to own? That’s right, federal law should make it a serious felony to own semi and automatic weaponry of any kind. It should be a major crime to have these weapons in possession, no matter how much they cost the owner.

Private ownership of semi and automatic weapons is no better than owning grenades, rocket launchers, or explosives. They are all used for killing groups of people, and in fact semi-automatic rifles are used far more often to do so.

How many kids have to die?

How I ended up blogging in the ICU

My recent visit to the hospital is generating a lot of questions about why I was there, and the best way to deal with them is to detail the episode here on my personal blog.

As near as I can tell, being I have no memory of the actual event, is I tripped over something on the floor at home which triggered a big fall. I apparently hit my head on the footboard of our bed which then bounced off the hardwood floor. The impact on the floor was massive, as the loud sound of my head hitting the floor is what wakened my wife from sleep (this about 12:30 at night).

I was unconscious from the fall for about half a minute, and when I came to I had no recollection how I came to be sprawled on the floor. I was bleeding from two spots on my head and my right elbow that must have hit the bed on the way down.

My wife wanted to do the emergency room right away, but I wanted to see if the bleeding would stop on its own. I didn’t even have a headache from the impact, so I thought nothing was seriously wrong. We wanted to keep me awake in any event given the possibility of a concussion with such a hard fall, so for the next few hours we stayed awake and watched the bleeding for signs of stoppage.

The worst injury I suffered strangely enough was my tongue. I apparently bit it when I hit the floor, and it was bleeding in the back of my mouth. Within an hour of the fall my tongue was easily three times normal size, resulting in difficulty talking. It hurt tremendously too.

About 5 AM that morning I got really nauseous, and that’s when we realized my tongue had been bleeding down my throat since the fall. I threw up a massive amount of blood, and that’s when I said we better go to the ER.

We’re just down the street from one so we jumped in the car and hit the local hospital. They took me right in since I was still bleeding everywhere, and after getting the story they ordered a Cat Scan to check my brain. They spotted two spots where my brain was bleeding, and set in motion an ambulance to take me to Memorial Hermann in the Houston Medical Center. They have a famous neuro ER there and that’s where they wanted me to be.

My wife and I both knew this could be serious when the ambulance picked me up in just minutes. They told me they would take me to the ER at Memorial Hermann, but they were immediately going to transfer me to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) there due to the possible severity of my injury.

Everything happened really quickly but soon we were there and I was whisked up to the ICU. The neurosurgeon on duty explained that there were only two outcomes to my injury. Either the brain would stop bleeding quickly on its own, and I would be safe and discharged soon, or it wouldn’t. The latter would require opening up my skull to allow the bleeding to drain to stop any pressure from building up on the brain.

What complicated this was the fact I was taking Plavix, a blood-thinner, for my heart. This medicine has a known history of preventing bleeding on the brain from stopping. That’s the sole reason I was in the ICU, to constantly monitor the situation so they could take me to surgery immediately should the bleeding not stop.

I have to admit that although scared about what was happening, the ICU and the staff at Memorial Hermann were top-notch. The ICU was actually a whole floor of private rooms, and I was pretty comfortable considering I was hooked up to all sorts of monitors and two different IVs.

Long story short (too late, right?) I was in the ICU for 24 hours under close observation, and after giving me blood platelets to help my brain fight off the bleeding it was noted that it worked. The bleeding dissipated and they let me go home with detailed instructions on what to do.

I go back to the neurosurgeon in two weeks for a final cat scan to make sure the bleeding hasn’t started again, after which I should be back to normal. It’s amazing how serious a simple fall turned out to be, and how good medical care made a big difference. Thanks to all the healthcare providers who worked on my behalf to get me back in the real world.

Goodbye to a great man

As delivered at my father’s funeral in 2004:

My father was one of those people who understood that to achieve greatness could only be done through maintaining strength of character in all that you do.  He instilled in his children the unerring credo that you must always do the right thing.  It doesn’t matter if doing the right thing is difficult, or if doing the right thing is the popular thing to do.  What matters is you always stay true to your convictions, and your actions must be consistent with your beliefs.

My father was a very simple man.  Some people might say he was too simple in this world that is growing ever more complex.  But he understood that in everything there is a right way and a wrong way to do things and the only option is to do the right thing.  He once told me you build your reputation in the world by always taking the higher ground.  You build that reputation one positive action at a time and you are the only one who can tear that reputation down through your own actions.  Not your detractors, not your enemies, only you can tear your reputation down.  He once confided in me that he didn’t understand why people didn’t just treat others with respect and compassion.  He was continually confused by this fact so obvious to him but one that is often not followed by others.  It’s a question I cannot answer, in fact I’m not sure there is an answer.

My father instilled in me a strong work ethic, for working as hard as you can is the only way to have no doubts about yourself at the end of the day.  He taught all his children to always help others, for some day we might need help ourselves and good deeds have a way of getting repaid when the time is right.  He taught us to be strong for those around us, but not to be afraid to bend when you have to.  He was a man that others knew they could depend on in their time of need.  He taught us that leading by example was the best way to be true to yourself, and to those around you.

My father lived a hard life, but he took that in stride and did the best that he could with the cards he was dealt.  And in so doing, he taught us to do the same.  Don’t cry about it, fix it was his philosophy, and it was a lesson hard learned, as important lessons often are.  He showed us that when you have troubles, the best course is often to set your own troubles aside and help those less fortunate than yourself.  Most importantly of all, he taught us that we are not the most important thing in the world.  Instead, the most important things were those around us.  He lived his life being there for the people that needed him, and those who knew and loved him will always thank him for that.

My father always led by example and to those of us fortunate enough to know him that example was a very good one.  He was not a man to get lost in the fluff of life, instead he believed you lay a solid foundation in the life that you have and then you build on that foundation until the structure is a good, strong structure.  You build your character one deed at a time until the structure defines the person behind it.  And then you open that structure up to your loved ones so that they might be protected by it too.

My father was a great man.  He touched everyone around him in such a positive way.  He loved his family with a passion that was unquestioned, and he was proud of each of us in so many ways.  He is the reason that we have become the people we are today, and I thank him for that.  For I can think of no better thing in the world than to be the legacy of this man.  Thank you Dad for all that you’ve done.  Thank you Dad for showing us to always think of others.  Thank you Dad for all the examples you set for us.  And thank you Dad for being there for me when I needed you.  You are so missed but you live on in all those you have touched.

James Grady Kendrick

November 1, 1916 – November 21, 2004

Geek in training

This is Taylor. She wants to be a geek when she grows up. Honest. So far she likes Android and Intel as you can see.

Rant: Our healthcare system is totally broken

I don’t rant about non-tech stuff often but I am fuming right now and this is the place to let off some steam. I have been experiencing the healthcare system in the US for a long time, and the longer I participate the more I realize just how broken the system is.

I am a Type 2 diabetic like millions in the US. I was diagnosed a decade ago and have been successfully treating it with the help of a good endocrinologist. Until two months ago, when I was told by this doctor’s staff upon arrival for my standard quarterly visit that my health insurance was no longer accepted. I was shocked by this unexpected change, and left untreated.

This put me on a quest to find a new endocrinologist who specializes in diabetes. I figured that wouldn’t be difficult given the constant news that millions have the disease. Silly me.

What I found was that even in a large city like Houston, there aren’t enough of these specialists to go around. The practices that specialize in this treatment are full, and everywhere I turned I was told that no new patients are being accepted.

While my search was ongoing, I was going through the last of my prescribed medications for diabetes, running out of one after another. Eventually I was down to standard insulin, and began using it alone to keep my glucose level under some semblance of control.

Today I finally badgered an endocrinologist’s office to accept me as a new patient. The caveat was it would be three weeks before I could be seen. I explained to them that was fine, but I had exhausted all of the medications I have been using successfully for 10 years, and had just run out of insulin; my glucose level would quickly be at a dangerous level. It was explained to me that prescribing me even insulin was out of the question before seeing me the first time. If my glucose level reached a dangerous level then I would have to go to the emergency room for treatment.

I understood their stance on this, but it didn’t help me at all. So I called the cardiologist who has been treating me for a decade and explained the situation. I asked them to prescribe the insulin for me so I could last until the appointment with the endocrinologist in three weeks. They couldn’t do that since they are not treating me for the diabetes and they were not willing to assume liability for complications.

Again I could understand their position, but I was still in a very bad position. Then I remembered that standard insulin doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription, so I headed to my local pharmacy to get some, along with glucose monitor test strips to properly control the dosage.

Imagine my surprise when the insulin and test strips together cost me $200! The test strips alone were $125 per 100 (I use 4/day), and the insulin $70. These two items under prescription cost me maybe $20 total.

This clearly shows how broken our healthcare system is, when items cost so much without insurance. I doubt that my health insurance makes up that much of a price difference and can buy drugs and covered items for far less from the major pharmacies than they sell them to me, the patient without insurance. That is just wrong.

Blogging with the HP TouchPad and wireless keyboard rocks!

Two blog posts in a given month, I must be trying to set a record. :) I am hoping that the nice WordPress app on the TouchPad will make it easier for me to keep blogging here on the personal blog. So far that is the case, especially using the HP wireless keyboard for the TouchPad.

This keyboard is only slightly bigger than the TouchPad’s length, but it is very comfortable for typing, even rivaling my Apple keyboard. It is probably no accident that the HP design is similar to that of Apple, except in the webOS black, of course. 

I am putting the keyboard through its paces for a review and find it well designed for heavy usage. It is extremely light and small as you can see in the photo, so throwing it in the bag is a no-brainer if I believe a blogging opportunity might present itself during an outing.

Been too long

I have been neglecting this blog for far too long. The ZDNet blog is now going nicely so hopefully that neglect will change. I am blogging this using the WordPress app on the HP TouchPad which should help too.


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