Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Long Recovery Week 8

After the swelling in my arm started going down, physio began in earnest. My first exercise was what's called the pendulum. It's exactly what it sounds like. I lean with my right arm on a table or counter-top and let my left arm out of the sling and let it hang like a pendulum. I swing it forward and back, side to side, then it circles, first clockwise, then counter-clockwise. I swing it for about three or four minutes, twice a day. The idea is that it gently pulls on the muscles that are now super-tight and holding my arm in my shoulder socket. All those muscles have been traumatized and many surgically reattached. They were, and are, extremely tight to say the least.
Funny things were happening with my arm. Suddenly my left arm began drying out and flaking. My right arm was fine, but my left arm suddenly developed a taste for vast amounts of moisturizer.
And I could feel strange sensations in my arm as all the new hardware rubbed against flesh and bone. Sometimes, it even feels like it gets caught against a tendon or ligament [shudder]. It's a strange, strange feeling.
Slowly, time passed. Days became weeks. Weeks became months. Months became years. My writing became a pattern of clichés.
But seriously, time did go by slowly as I was mostly housebound. If it wasn't for the fact that I had just ordered the first two seasons of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea on DVD, I might have gone mad.
I couldn't even write or surf the Internet much as it was too uncomfortable to sit at my computer for very long.
Christmas rolled around and I began to venture out more. Thankfully I had done most of my shopping before the accident, and Amazon did the rest.
At physio, I got to do more exercises. I got to lie on my back and, gripping it with both hands, I had to raise a cane over my head. At first, I could barely raise in 90 degrees, or just above my head. Now I can get it about 150-160 degrees over. Still got a ways to go.
Next came The Violin. Still lying down and with my forearms straight out in front of me at a 90 degree angle, I gripped the cane and moved it from my right to left, trying to move my left forearm away from my body while keeping my elbow in place at my side. This works to stretch my shoulder were the Bankart repair took place and the flap of muscle was sown over my shoulder socket to keep my arm in place. This I can only do to about 35 degrees. More work needs to be done here, too.
You're not reading this over dinner, are you?
As long as you're grossed out, here's how my scar was doing after about seven weeks.

Other exercises were added to regime like Walking Up the Wall. Simply put, I stand in front of a wall, put my left hand on it and use my fingers to "walk" my arm up it until my shoulder screams out "Enough already!"
However, the physio is going slower than expected. All these exercises that I've been doing are passive exercises, meaning that the injured area is not doing any work during the exercises it's all being done by the other arm, gravity, or in the case of my physiotherapist, someone else entirely. The normal recovery protocol for a Bankart repair would allow for active weight-bearing exercise at this point; however my arm is still too sore and stiff for this, so we are continuing with just the passive exercise. This will make for a long recovery period.
At least now I'm out of my sling.

Harper and Kyoto

According to this CBC report, a leaked 2002 letter from current Prime Minister Stephen Harper (then leader of the now-dead Canadian Alliance party) to party supporters called the Kyoto Accord a "socialist scheme" designed to suck money out of rich countries.
Other choice Harper quotes from the letter include:

"We're gearing up now for the biggest struggle our party has faced since you entrusted me with the leadership ... I'm talking about the 'battle of Kyoto' — our campaign to block the job-killing, economy-destroying Kyoto accord.
"Kyoto is essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations.
"We will do everything we can to stop him there, but [Prime Minister Chrétien] might get it passed with the help of the socialists in the NDP and the separatists in the BQ [Bloc Québécois]."

Harper also says that the accord is based on "tentative and contradictory scientific evidence" and it focuses on carbon dioxide, which is "essential to life."

There is the old notion that most politicians are generally 20 years - a whole generation - behind the general public in discovering the important issues of the day. Who'd've thought that Stephen Harper was a Neanderthal? (Okay, hands down - that was a rhetorical question, dammit!)
With leadership like this, it's a wonder we're not already dead.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Wild Westcoast Winter Weather

Here's a recap of this winter's wacky westcoast weather (as tabulated by the Victoria Times-Colonist):

NOV. 6
A subtropical jet stream known as the Pineapple Express brings warm, moist air from the south Pacific Ocean to the West Coast, setting rainfall records. Its impact is worsened by the remnants of Typhoon Cimaron, the strongest storm to hit the Philippines in eight years. The storm floods hundreds of homes, closes roads and overloads the region's storm sewer system.
- The amount of rainfall received at Victoria airport: 38.8 mm
- The previous record for Nov. 6 set in 1975: 20.1 mm
- The amount of rain recorded at the Sooke Reservoir over 24 hours: 181.4 mm
- The high temperature for the day at Victoria airport: 17.1 C
- The previous record high for the day set in 1958: 15 C

NOV. 10
A vicious windstorm lashes every coastal area from the Alaska Panhandle to Vancouver, Victoria and the Gulf Islands. The brunt of the storm hits the capital region about 3 a.m., uprooting trees, knocking out power, and forcing the cancellation of flights and ferries.
- The reported speed of winds in the Strait of Georgia: 70 km/h to 80 km/h
- The record speed of winds at the airport: 50 km/h gusting to 70 km/h

NOV. 15
One of the worst rain and windstorms in recent memory slams into Vancouver Island, cutting power to thousands, closing highways, swelling rivers, and virtually sealing off the Island from the mainland. Port Alberni bears the brunt of the storm, with Highway 4 closed in both directions, cutting the town off from Tofino and Nanaimo. In Vancouver, the heavy rainfall triggers dozens of landslides that muddies the city's reservoirs and triggers the widest water warning in Canadian history.
- The amount of rain that fell in Port Alberni over 24 hours: 130 mm
- The speed of maximum gusts at Port Alberni: 105 km/h
- The amount of rainfall recorded at the Victoria airport: 40.1 mm
- The previous record for rainfall at the Victoria airport set in 1998: 35.2 mm
- The depth of mud covering Highway 19 north of Sayward junction: 50 metres
- The number of Island homes without power at storm's height: 50,000
- The number of homes without power across the province: 210,000

NOV. 19
For the fourth time in less than two weeks, a Pacific storm drenches coastal B.C. Victoria escapes the brunt of the blow, as the storm goes island hopping instead. B.C. Ferries shuts down service for several hours between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay until the winds begin to subside around noon.
- The speed of gusting winds at Saturna Island: 111 km/h
- The speed of gusting winds at Gonzales: 80 km/h
- The speed of winds at Victoria International Airport: 31 to 52 km/h

NOV. 25-29
A series of snowstorms sweep across southwest B.C. with record snowfalls and icy temperatures. In what is becoming a tired refrain, the storm that hits the Island downs more trees, knocks out power to thousands, and generally leaves Islanders reeling. B.C. Hydro says the storm caused more damage than the famed Blizzard of '96. Snow and ice contribute to as many as four deaths on Vancouver Island, and cause extensive damage.
- The amount of snow that fell at Victoria International Airport on Nov. 27: 15.6 cm
- The old record for snowfall on Nov. 27 set in 1985: 10.2 cm
- The amount of snow that fell at Victoria airport on Nov. 29: 7.3 cm
- The previous record snowfall set in 2005: 5.2 cm
- The number of homes on Vancouver Island left without power at one point: 44,000
- Number of B.C. Hydro crews working in the Greater Victoria: 30
- Number of B.C. Hydro crews usually working in the Greater Victoria: 12

DEC. 11
Bang! High winds hammer B.C. again, blowing down trees, killing power, and halting ferry sailings. On the lower Island, a tugboat crew pulls two people from the Inner Harbour after their small boat flips, and the wind severely damages the 120-foot tent and particle-board sets of the Bethlehem Walk in Central Saanich.
- Number of B.C. Hydro customers without power on the Island
and Lower Mainland: 190,000
- The speed of gusting winds at Victoria airport: 70 km/h
- The speed of gusting winds on Discovery Island off Oak Bay: 102 km/h
- The number of homes in Greater Victoria without power: 4,000
- The number of homes in Cowichan Valley without power: 14,000

DEC. 13
Bang! Bang! For the second time in three days, hurricane-force winds buffet the Island. More trees fall, more homes cut off from power grid. Gusting winds upend an unoccupied Cessna 150 at the Victoria airport and blow it 30 metres.
- The number of B.C. Hydro customers without power on the Island: 70,000
- The top speed of gusting winds at the Victoria airport: 94 km/h
- The spans of electrical line down between Bamfield and Port Alberni alone: 172
- Estimated minimum number of B.C. Hydro crews needed to repair Bamfield line: 25

DEC. 15
Bang! Bang! Bang! The third storm in five days, and one of the most powerful in history roars across the province. The winds shatter records, and destroy trees from Stanley Park in Vancouver to the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. Race Rocks records hurricane-force winds, and weather experts compare the storm's power to Typhoon Freda in 1962. Sooke and West Shore are particularly hard hit as fallen trees and power lines blocked roads, crushed cars and damaged houses.
- The speed of maximum gusts at Race Rocks off the southwest tip of Vancouver Island: 158 km/h
- The top speed of wind gusts at Victoria airport: 78 km/h
- The record for wind gusts at the airport set in 1967 and 1972: 109 km/h
- The number of people without power in Greater Victoria: 25,000
- The number of people without power on the rest of the Island: 10,000
- The total number of people across the province without power: 250,000

DEC. 20-21
Victoria and southern Vancouver Island dodge the impact of another windstorm; it strikes hardest in the north, knocking out power in Courtenay, Campbell River, and Port Hardy.
- Speed of gusting winds in Port Hardy: 83 km/h
- Speed of gusting winds in Campbell River: 75 km/h
- Number of B.C. Hydro customers without power: 20,000
- Number of days Bamfield had been without power before this storm hit: 9

JAN. 1-2
The Pineapple Express whips across the Island again, flooding roads and homes with record amounts of rainfall. Tofino is hardest hit, but the Sooke River also crests, putting nearby campsites underwater.
- The amount of rain at Ucluelet on Jan. 1: 181.3 mm
- The previous record at Ucluelet for Jan. 1, 2003: 75.8 mm
- The amount of rain at Victoria airport on Jan. 2: 46.5 mm
- The previous record at Victoria airport set in 1953: 45.2 mm
- The amount of rain recorded at Tofino over 30 hours: 270 mm

JAN. 7
Heavy rain again causes flooding problems in Greater Victoria. Thousands of people wake up to flooded basements and yards, and municipalities field hundeds of calls for pumps and sandbags. At the Home Depot on Shelbourne Street, people line up before the store opens to get the last few wet-dry vacuums the store has left.
- The total rain at Victoria airport: 34.6 mm
- The previous record set in 1953: 33.3 mm
- The total amount of rain that has fallen in capital region so far in January: 149 mm
- The rainfall average for all of January for the capital region: 115.2 mm
- The record monthly rainfall for January set in 1953: 358.9 mm

JAN. 10
In what is now a familiar pattern, snow follows rain into beleaguered Victoria, coating streets and slowing the morning commute to a standstill. The icy conditions lead to countless fender benders and jack-knifed semi trucks, including one that blocked traffic at the bottom of the Malahat near Goldstream Park where motorists trying to get into or out of Greater Victoria were left waiting for hours.
- Amount of snow recorded at Victoria airport: 12.2 cm
- Record for snow at Victoria airport set in 1980: 14.6 cm
- Number of car accidents in Parksville area alone in one afternoon: 22

But hey, no signs of climate change here! Just ask our Prime Minister!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Post #300

1. Vancouver: 1.5 million people and two bridges. You do the math.
2. Your $400,000 Vancouver home is just 5 hours from downtown.
3. You can throw a rock and hit three Starbucks locations.
4. There's always some sort of deforestation protest going on.
5. Weed

1. Big rock between you and B.C.
2. Ottawa?
3. Tax is 6% instead of approximately 200% as it is for the rest of thecountry.
4. You can exploit almost any natural resource you can think of.
5. You live in the only province that could actually afford to be its owncountry.
6. The Americans below you are all in anti-government militia groups.

1. You never run out of wheat.
2. Your province is really easy to draw.
3. You can watch the dog run away from home for 3 days.
4. People will assume you live on a farm.

1. You wake up one morning to find that you suddenly have a beachfrontproperty.
2. Hundreds of huge, horribly frigid lakes.
3. Nothing compares to a wicked Winnipeg winter.
4. You can be an Easterner or a Westerner depending on your mood.
5. You can pass the time watching trucks and barns float by.

1. You live in the centre of the universe.
2. Your $400,000 Toronto home is actually a dump.
3. You and you alone decide who will win the federal election.
4. The only province with hard-core American-style crime.

1. Racism is socially acceptable
2. You can take bets with your friends on which English neighbour will moveout next.
3. Other provinces basically bribe you to stay in Canada.
4. You can blame all your problems on the "*#!% Anglo!"

1. One way or another, the government gets 98% of your income.
2. You're poor, but not as poor as the Newfies.
3. No one ever blames anything on New Brunswick
4. Everybody has a grandfather who runs a lighthouse.

1. Everyone can play the fiddle. The ones who can't, think they can.
2. You can pretend to have Scottish heritage as an excuse to get drunk andwear a kilt.
3. You are the only reason Anne Murray makes money.

1. Even though more people live on Vancouver Island, you still got the big,new bridge.
2. You can walk across the province in half an hour.
3. You can drive across the province in two minutes.
4. Everyone has been an extra on "Road to Avonlea."
5. This is where all those tiny, red potatoes come from.
6. You can confuse ships by turning your porch lights on and off at night.

1. If Quebec separates, you will float off to sea.
2. If you do something stupid, you have a built-in excuse.
3. The workday is about two hours long.
4. It is socially acceptable to wear your hip waders to your wedding

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

William Shatner - Rocketman

Mere words are not enough...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Long Recovery Week 4

When I first came home from the hospital, my biggest disappointment was that I could not easily snuggle my cat Linus. Whenever I sat down, my busted left arm and shoulder needed to be protected and propped up with pillows. And my right arm needed to be beside the arm of the chair or sofa so that I could use it to push myself up. I couldn't lower myself down onto my bed at first because it's so low -- it has no legs and sits on the floor.
After a couple of days, I figured out a way to finally properly snuggle Linus.

Only then did I feel like I was finally on the road to recovery. For those first two weeks, Linus stayed near me and watched over me. There wasn't much he could do to help me, but knowing he was there made a difference. When I walked aimlessly around the house, he walked with me. When I came back from the doctor or from physio, he greeted me at the door to ask how I was feeling. When I rested after my exercises, he rested with me.

Three weeks into my recovery, Linus suddenly stopped eating. He seemed mostly okay, he just wasn't eating or drinking. Then he began staring mournfully at his water and food dishes as if he just couldn't remember what he was supposed to do. His urination, what little there was, became more painful. He became weak and his legs started giving out on him. The vet was stumped.
The only choice became sadly obvious.
Linus passed away on December 19, 2006. He was almost 17 years old.

I really miss him.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Long Recovery Week 2

I get to go home.
After more than 38 hours in hospital (4 of them in surgery having my left shoulder rebuilt after a bicycle accident), the nurse says I can go home. She pulls out a bag of my clothes and says, "Here. If you need help putting these on, I'll be back in a few minute."
I have a new 22cm-long surgical incision in my left arm and shoulder, freshly sutured and covered with a large bandage. My arm is tightly held in a sling. I'm loopy on morphine. How the hell am I supposed to put clothes on?
I can start by removing my hospital gown. It's practically falling off anyway. Because of my arm, it can't be fastened properly around me. Every time I've gone to the bathroom, my ass has been hanging out for all to see.
One little shrug and it's off. Modesty dies quickly in a hospital.
What's first? Well, underwear, I guess. It normally goes on first anyway (unless you're Madonna). Don't see why a busted shoulder should make any difference.
I'm not going to be able to reach down and hook the underwear over my feet while standing up. Bending over hurts. Doing much of anything hurts. And I have no balance. While I might able to get the right foot in the right hole with the right hand, getting the left foot in the left hole with the right hand will be impossible, and trying it with the left hand would probably leave me kissing the hospital floor.
The last thing I want to do is fall down again.
I sit on the bed. In a sitting position, I can hook my underwear over my feet and pull it up my legs with my right hand. Near the top, I can stand up and pull it over my butt.
Ta da. Blue Fruit of the Loom boxers are on.
Well, this procedure worked so well for underwear, it ought to work for pants, too.
And it does. Mind you, I have to figure out how to buckle them and my belt with one hand. It's not as easy as it sounds, but not so hard either.
Socks and shoes go on at the same time, too.
Now comes the shirt. My left arm is clearly not going into any sleeve, so I put my right arm in the right sleeve and then toss the left half of my shirt over my left shoulder. With my arm against my abdomen, I button it (one-handed) as far down as I can go.
When she returns, the nurse seems surprised that I was able to do it all myself. She pretends not to recognize me -- who is this well-dressed man and what have you done with my patient?
Thus beginith my recovery.

My sister is playing taxi driver for me today (as she will for many weeks to come -- thanks, sis!).
The first order of business is to get me out. I have no idea where I am in the hospital. Left to my own devices, I might have been wandering the corridors for years trying to find the exit -- the Flying Dutchman of Jubilee Hospital, ending up a crazy old man who mutters, "I beep at airports -- wanna see my scar?" to anyone who will listen.
But no, my dreams of becoming a human derelict end quickly as my sister finds the way out.
I walk gingerly. Falling down would be a disaster right now. But my first few haltingly hesitant steps are soon replaced with more confident paces. I'm not setting any records, but I start to feel safe on my feet.
Sis has brought the van -- a good thing. I don't think the MG would have been suitable. Climbing in isn't so bad, but the next stumbling block is the seatbelt -- I can't fasten it. I can pull it around myself, but sis has to snap it into its latch.
Can't do up a shirt properly, can't fasten a seatbelt. What else can't I do?
She drives me home, apologizing the whole way for every bump, stop, turn, braking maneuver and acceleration that occurs. Actually, it's not too bad. The right turns hurt the most as the inertia pulls at my left shoulder.
Finally, home. What does a man look like arriving home after major surgery for a crunched shoulder? Like this:

The first thing to do is to make me comfortable. The obvious place is the couch with lots of blankets.
My left arm is useless, so I have to sit on the right end of the couch so that I can use my right arm on the arm rest to help push myself up when I stand. I also need some pillows to support my battered left arm.
The downside is that now I can't curl up with my cat Linus, who has missed me and clearly realized something was up. In fact, we pile up extra pillows on the left side to keep Linus at bay; he's a large cat and likes to walk on me, and god forbid he should walk on my injured shoulder. Still, being home with my cat is a great start to my recovery, and he even seems to understand that although I am injured and can't really snuggle him, I did miss him and am glad for his company.

This is pretty much how I stayed for a couple of days. Sleep was impossible. Between the dull ache in my arm and my back stiffening up, there was no sleep to be had. In fact, I considered it an improvement when I was able to move to various chairs around the house during the night and not sleep in any of them. At least I was moving. But before I worried about my first night's sleep, there was another problem that I needed to face.
I needed to pee.
My bathroom is small. Tiny. The toilet is in a small alcove with little if any maneuvering room. And the transition from standing to sitting is painful and uncomfortable. And I am still wobbly. Pulling up my pants is awkward. So I have little choice. For the time being, I'm going to pee in the sink.

A couple of sleepless nights later, I was starting to smell. I needed a shower.
The only restriction I had about showering was to try and avoid having the shower spray directly on the incision. A little collateral water damage okay. I would also have to change my dressing afterwards. My dressing looked like this:

In order to have my shower, I would have to get undressed and get my arm out of the sling. Then I would gently get in the shower and somehow do all the necessary hair and body washing one-handed, then dry off, then get dressed again. My sister volunteered to stand by if needed. I told her that if she heard a splash and a thud followed by screaming, chances are that I would be in need of some assistance.
In actuality, the shower went well. Slow and steady wins the race.
The only problem was that I couldn't get my underwear on. Because of the aforementioned limited space in the bathroom, I had not yet managed to sit down on the toilet, and sitting down was the only way I could get pants and/or underwear on. Getting tired and a little frustrated that I couldn't devise a plan for my underwear, I had no choice but to call my sister through the closed bathroom door.
"Sis, I have a problem."
"What is it?"
"I can't get my underwear on."
"How did you get them on in the hospital?"
"I was on morphine. I don't remember."
"So I thought you could hold them in front of me. I'll step into them and you can start them up my legs. I should be able to grab them when they reach my calves and I can pull them up myself."
My sister reluctantly agreed. I opened the door a crack, and passed her my underwear.
"Are you ready?" I asked. She nodded.
I opened the door, naked as a skinny-dipper at Mackenzie Bight. She knelt in front of me, holding out the underwear and averting her eyes. I stepped in and reached down to grab the waistband.
"You'll have to lift them higher. I can't reach down that far."
She leaned in a little closer, and lifted them a bit higher. Now I could grab them.
"How's that?"
"That's great, sis, thanks. I got 'em. Don't hit your head on anything on your way up."
"Okay, glad I could--- oh, oh, you...."
She turned red and ran.
I went back into the bathroom and chuckled.

Then we changed the dressing. What did my incision look like? It looked like this:

I'm guessing 17 sutures. It's hard to tell, and they were dissolving sutures, so after a couple of weeks they were all gone anyway.

I had two big problems that first week. One, my arm was swelling up. I expected swelling around my shoulder and upper arm. That only made sense, that's where the injury and the surgery was, but the swelling was going down my arm towards my fingers, too. In fact, my fingers soon became giant white sausages. My whole arm was swollen and I was concerned, but the swelling soon passed and my arm returned to normal, Or what passes for normal these days.
The other problem was sleep. Or the lack thereof. After a couple of days, I moved off the couch and tried my bed. But nothing worked. I could not find a comfortable position or place to sleep. Worse, I was getting pretty wired from the Tylenol Extra Strength I was taking. I spent a couple of nights absolutely tripping out on the stuff. I took this picture at 3:00 one morning. Why? Because when you're basically immobile, dead dog tired, and hopped up on Tylenol, there really isn't much else to do at three AM except take your own picture.

My first physio appointment was a week after surgery. It snowed that day. Yes, my first trip out of the house with my busted shoulder and arm was on a day it snowed six inches.
At the rehab clinic, I meet Jim, my therapist. "Bike accident, eh?" he says. "Let's see what you did to yourself."
He consults my chart. "Uh huh, uh huh, hmmmm, uh huh, uh huh. Now that's interesting. Usually you don't see both of these injuries together. Usually, it's one or the other. But not both. Very unusual."
My elation upon hearing this knows no bounds.
There's not much treatment during this first session. Not much can really be done until the swelling in my arm starts subsiding. But he does ask if I have any problems.
"Can't sleep," I mumble between yawns.
"We can fix that."
He asks me to lie down on my back on the examining table, and he grabs some pillows. He sticks one under my head, a couple under my knees, and slides another one under my left arm, between it and my body.
Oh my. Suddenly, I'm totally relaxed.
That night I set up the pillows on my bed the way Jim did. I'm worried about Linus. Our ritual the past few years has been that he always jumps on the bed and curls in between my left arm and my body. If he tries that, it's going to hurt. I settle in with the light off and await Linus's arrival.
He hops up on the bed. Somehow he knows that the left side is off-limits. Without hesitating, he curls up in the crook of my right arm.
We both sleep for eight solid hours.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Check the Sofa for Loose Change

Time to gather up all that loose change. According to this CNN story:
"In a U.S. government warning high on the creepiness scale, the Defense
Department cautioned its American contractors over what it described as a new
espionage threat: Canadian coins with tiny radio frequency transmitters hidden
The government said the mysterious coins were found planted on U.S.
contractors with classified security clearances on at least three separate
occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 as the contractors traveled
through Canada.
The U.S. report doesn't suggest who might be tracking American defense
contractors or why. It also doesn't describe how the Pentagon discovered the
ruse, how the transmitters might function or even which Canadian currency
contained them.
Further details were secret, according to the U.S. Defense
Security Service, which issued the warning to the Pentagon's classified
contractors. The government insists the incidents happened, and the risk was

The story goes on to name China, Russia and France as the chief suspects. All three countries apparently run spy rings in Canada virtually unnoticed.
The Canadian spy agency, CSIS, says it has no knowledge of the coins.
So I guess all those crazy paranoids who've been telling us for years that the government keeps track of us with transmitters in our money weren't so - ahem - looney after all.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Winter Storm Number 14...? 15...? 16...?

The insane weather of this winter continues. After another crazy windstorm yesterday, we awoke to snow this morning. And another windstorm is due tomorrow.
It has been nuts!

Rush to Execution

While the US is busy denying it, Gwynne Dyer thinks that the US wanted Saddam executed ASAP.

"It's as if they had taken Adolf Hitler alive in 1945, but ignored his responsibility for starting the Second World War and his murder of six million Jews and just put him on trial for executing people suspected of involvement in the July 1944 bomb plot. With all of Saddam's other crimes to choose from, why on earth would you hang him for executing the people suspected of involvement in the Dujail plot?
Because the United States was not involved in that one. It was involved in the massacre of the Iraqi Communists (the US Central Intelligence Agency gave Saddam their membership lists). It was implicated up to its ears in Saddam's war against Iran -- to the point of arranging for Iraq to be supplied with the chemicals to make poison gas, providing Baghdad with satellite and AWACS intelligence data on Iranian targets, and seconding US Air Force photo interpreters to Baghdad to draw Saddam the
detailed maps of Iranian trenches that let him drench them in poison gas.
The Reagan administration stopped Congress from condemning Saddam's use of poison gas, and the US State Department tried to protect Saddam when he gassed his own Kurdish citizens in Halabja in 1988, spreading stories (which it knew to be false) that Iranian planes had dropped the gas. It was the US that finally saved Saddam's regime by providing naval escorts for tankers carrying oil from Arab Gulf states while Iraqi planes were left free to attack tankers coming from Iranian ports. Even when one of Saddam's planes mistakenly attacked an American destroyer in 1987, killing 37 crew-members, Washington forgave him.
And it was George W. Bush's father who urged Iraq's Shias and Kurds to rebel after Saddam was driven out of Kuwait in 1991, and then failed to use US air power to protect the Shias from massacre when they answered his call. The US was deeply involved in all of Saddam's major crimes, one way or another, so no trial that delved into the details of those crimes could be allowed.
Instead, the spin-doctors in the current Bush administration put the Dujail trial first and scheduled the trials for Saddam's bigger crimes for later, knowing that they would all be cancelled once the death penalty for the Dujail incident was confirmed. The dirty laundry will never have to be displayed in public. But it does mean that the man who was hanged last Saturday morning not only had a farce of a trial before a kangaroo court; he was executed for the wrong crime."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Here's some pics that I took of the sunrise a few days ago.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Linus Two Weeks Gone

It's been two weeks since Linus passed away.
I still see him out of the corner of my eyes, like he's just turned around a corner or into a room.
I still call him occasionally.
Mind you, I haven't cleaned his cat box by mistake yet.
Still, I miss him. Very much.

The Big Ouch: What Happened Part Three

"Go towards the light," said the voice.
I could see the light, beckoning, calling.
I have not had any surgery or anesthesia since having my tonsils removed as a child. I have no recollection of being under.
"Go towards the light."
Sometimes things go wrong in surgery. You don't wake up. Could this be happening now? Could the surgery have gone horribly wrong and now I was to find out the answers to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything?
"Go towards the light."
Or was something else happening?

1:15 am.
The nurse comes by and offers me a drink of water. It will be my last drink before surgery. She asks when the last time was that I went to the washroom. It's been hours, so she suggests that I go.
She helps me out of bed, and I stagger along the floor, my busted left arm and shoulder in a sling, my right arm dragging my IV rack. I make it out of my little area, but I have no idea where the washroom is.
"Which way?" I ask.
She points to my left. A door is open, with a light shining behind it.
"Go towards the light."
"A fine thing to say to a person hours before surgery," I harrumph.
"Oh great," she mumbles, "it's going to be one of those nights."

It's amazing how much your life can change in an instant. This morning, I was dreaming of an 18' kayak. Now, after tumbling off my bike, I'm wondering if I can go to the bathroom without screaming.
Kayaking is a distant memory.

There was no screaming. In fact, the entire process was mostly painless. I return to bed, and sleep in fits and starts. I awake around 7, about 45 minutes before surgery. Breakfast arrives for the other patients, but not for me. The nurse warns me that should a breakfast accidentally arrive for me, I shouldn't eat it. I haven't eaten in 18 hours now, but I'm not hungry. In fact, I will go about 30 hours between meals. I was never hungry.

The nurse returns to explain the procedure. Around 7:45, the anesthesiologist will come and sedate me. (This never happens.) They will wheel me into the waiting area, then the operating room. The anesthesiologist will then inject something into my IV and put me out, and from my point of view, I will wake up right away in the recovery room. No time will pass for me. I may be a little disoriented, but it should pass quickly. No dreams.
The anesthesiologist does arrive, with questions for me, plus papers for me to sign. Then an orderly comes and wheels me into PreOp.
I don't give it a lot of thought, but it does occur to me that I may be facing my last conscious moments. Mistakes do happen. Things sometimes go wrong. But I'm resigned to my fate. It's in the lap of the gods.
I'm wheeled into the orthopedic surgical room. The operating table is narrower than I thought it would be and there's some discussion of how to transfer me from my bed to the table. Finally, I say that I will walk over to the table. Someone helps me up and off the bed, and I cross over to the table and lie down.
It hurts, of course. Lying down on my back is the most painful position. Someone calls for "shoulder extensions"; the bed is so narrow that my shoulders hang off the sides, and for my mangled left shoulder, this isn't helping.
I'm not aware that the shoulder extensions ever arrive, and now the anesthesiologist has my attention. He explains that during surgery, they will be freezing the areas they operate on. This will reduce the pain when I come around. I'm all for that.
He starts by poking something between my left shoulder blade and neck. He's trying to find a certain nerve or muscle group, I guess. He wants me to tell him when I feel a tingling like a mild electric shock.
"Feel anything?"
"Feel anything?"
"Feel anything?"
"Feel anything?"
"No. Wait. There's a bit of tingle. By the shoulder blade."
"Okay, good. That tells that I'm in the right area--"

Then I open my eyes.
Which is odd because I do not remember closing them.
But my first sensation is a good one. My left arm, even though it feels sore and swollen, also feels attached and whole again.
I focus on a clock on the wall. It's almost noon. Four hours have passed in a blink.
There's a machine beside me automatically checking my vitals. I can feel it inflating to check my blood pressure.
I glance over at my left arm. I have a long bandage stretching from above my shoulder to half-way down my arm.
A nurse appears. She says everything went well, but the surgery was four hours, not the planned two and a half. They found additional damage in my shoulder to repair. They kept re-locating my shoulder and it kept falling out. So in addition to screws and a plate in my arm, they also performed a Bankart Repair. This is a procedure that ties a strip of muscle across the joint to hold the arm in place in the shoulder socket. I don't know it at the time, but this will slow down my recovery, and probaly permanently decrease my range of motion.
The nurse leaves as she tries to find a bed for me; they did the surgery even though they did not have a room to put me in afterwards.

What else did they do to me? They put in a plate and screws to fix my arm. They repaired a small break in the shoulder socket; unfortunately it was where some tendons and ligaments were attached so they had to be repaired. Also, a lot of muscle had to be re-attached as it had come away from the bone. Here's what my shoulder looks like now:

Yes, the plate and pins are permanent. I will never have an MRI and I will beep at airports.

The nurse returns, they found a bed for me. I ask for a drink of water. My throat is killing me -- it's raw from the breathing tube they had down it.
I'm wheeled to my room, pumped full of antibiotics and morphine. I'm tired and I feel like sleeping, yet I also don't want to sleep. Mostly, I just sit dazed, occasionally nodding off.
Karl will visit me around 5:00 PM -- I spent more of his visit asleep than awake. Others will visit me. Louise, Brenda, my niece Kai all stop by. Paula and Bernie visit. For some perverse reason, Bernie is mostly concerned that my right hand still works. Paula thinks I look like I've been hit in the face with a sledge hammer. Not that there's anything wrong with my face, but because the shock of this life-altering moment is still sinking in.
Dinner arrives around the same time Karl does. It's a fish patty thing, which wasn't very good. The mashed potatoes are excellent. The nurse tells me to go easy -- it's my first meal in 30 hours. I nibble at it.
Details are a blur, but I am constantly poked, prodded and checked by nurses. Everything seems to be normal.

I'm sharing my room with three other patients. Across from me is a young guy who's here for the long haul. He's just ordered a tv. He knows all the nurses by their first names. They are asking him for advice on his course of treatment. I'm guessing dialysis.
Beside me is an old lady. I'm never sure what is wrong with her, but she seems to have all sorts of ailments. She is constantly being taken out for tests.
The third roommate is an older man who's left left hand got into a fight with a table saw. I give the victory to the man only because all his fingers are still attached.

Afternoon fades into evening, and into night. It's early in the morning now. And I need to pee. There's no nurse around, so I slowly sit up. My back is killing me. I carefully stand and walk to the washroom, dragging my IV rack. A nurse has already helped me do this a couple of times, so I already got the hang of it. When I return, I stop at the window and look out. I can't see much -- most of the view is blocked by the roof of another part of the hospital. But I can see the tops of some trees, some streetlights, and clouds.
I miss being outside.
And it will be along time before life becomes normal again.
I carefully climb back into bed.
Sleep eludes me.

In the morning, I go down for x-rays. It is there that I see for the first time the steel and pins that are now part of my arm.
Holy jeez. I'm bionic or something.
The rest of thr day is a blur. More drugs, more pills. More blood tests. They want me out -- they need the bed. In mid-afternoon, I get the word. I can go home.
My long recovery begins.