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Modern TV is Killing the Dream of Justice

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Let me get on my old-man pants and wave my cane angrily from my porch for a minute….

Lately it seems the trend in television shows is to either not have any likable characters, or to continually bludgeon the good guys down, episode after episode.
The Walking Dead went down the first track.  A well written, well acted show, which balanced inter-personal drama with zombie attacks – what’s not to like?  But then quickly every character became 90% flawed, and I quickly stopped caring about any of them.  Everyone became so annoying or stupid, that you began hoping the zombies would get them.  Time to stop watching.
One of my favorite current Sci-Fi shows, Falling Skies, seems to be heading down the latter path.  After fighting the aliens, taking huge losses, suffering massively, at the end of last season it finally seemed like the humans might be making some forward progress with the help of their new allies.  Maybe they could start winning some fights and work on rebuilding humanity?  Nope, this season starts off with the alien allies all gone, and all the main characters killed, in jail, or in Nazi-styled indoctrination camps.  Awesome.  Several seasons of hardship, sacrifice, and always trying to do the right thing, and what do you get?  Right back where you started.  Like running on a treadmill.
And my current most egregious offender: Game of Thrones.  (FWIW: I’ve read all of the books).  They kill Ned Stark, who is essentially the most kind, just, and noble man in the realm.  His daughters then suffer innumerable hardships, mental and physical abuse, etc… at the hands of the scores of psychopaths, sociopaths, and generally evil people who seem to make up 90% of the world.  Then the infamous Red Wedding kills off about 80% of the people left who you could root for.  Having just wrapped up the latest book, let me tell you: don’t get too attached to the remaining few good people left, and don’t assume for a second that any of their minor victories won’t be immediately snatched away from them, while evil cackles from positions of wealth and power.  I love the writing style, the deep characters, the complex machinations, but I hate how the people who are trying to do right keep getting killed/punished/tortured, and the people who are mostly doing evil seem to keep coming out on top.
George Martin:   “I killed Ned because everybody thinks he’s the hero and that, sure, he’s going to get into trouble, but then he’ll somehow get out of it. The next predictable thing is to think his eldest son is going to rise up and avenge his father. And everybody is going to expect that. So immediately
[killing Robb] became the next thing I had to do.
 
Since Song of Ice and Fire so often subverts reader expectations and avoids traditional fantasy storytelling structures, should fans have any real hope that this tale will have a happy ending? As The Boy recently said on Thrones, “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”
When I watch TV or a movie I am looking for entertainment, a bit of escape. I like action, I like good guys to win, bad guys to lose.  Justice to triumph.  But it’s also a bit deeper than that.  I want the idea that acting with honor, justice, mercy, and goodness WILL make the world a better place, and WILL have positive repercussions in my own life, to be echoed and strengthened.  While I’m not looking to TV to determine my own moral code of conduct, it’s nice when that concept doesn’t get kicked in the face once a week…
Also, I don’t remember this from the TV I watched 10 or 20 years ago.  Occasionally the good guys would take one on the chin, but the next week they’d be fighting their way back on top, justice triumphant!  So this feels like a new thing to me…

Medium

I’m really enjoying this site Medium for interesting stories.  Check it out!

My Broken Leg – part 1

What Happened

On Saturday July 13th, 2013, 36 hours after returning home from a whirlwind work trip across Texas, I ran in the 5K Foam Fest in Haverhill, MA with my wife and our friend Brendan.  We were Team Squirrel Power, with awesome custom shirts made by Emma and Brendan.  The run was a “fun run” loaded with obstacles including mud pits, bouncy castles, walls to scale, three story slides, electric wire, and more.  The run started on a steep uphill which sucked away all my breath, and left me panting and unable to re-catch my breath.  I made it through several obstacles, and just under half way through the race, when I entered the bouncy castle.  Basically it was a giant inflatable bouncy house you had to run/bounce through.  To enter or exit the bouncy room, there were inflatable ramps letting you transfer from the muddy ground, to the inflated floor three feet higher, and then back down to terra firm when you completed navigating the castle of doom.

When I was heading down the exit ramp, my wet and muddy shoes slipped on the sloped inflated plastic and I fell.  My left foot slid down into the mud and immediately became stuck fast, which meant when my body weight arrived, the foot couldn’t budge, and so my ankle turned, my leg pushed sideways, and everything came apart.

My ankle was dislocated, and my foot was pointing in the wrong direction.  If your normal healthy toes pointing forward are the twelve o’clock position on a clock face, my toes were pointing at around eight o’clock.  I also broke both the fibula and tibia.  The tibia’s end broke off into two pieces.  The fibula enjoyed a combination of two serious breaks.  One was a diagonal break through the bone, with a few fragments coming lose.  The other was a spiral/vertical break splitting the bone in two lengthwise rising up out of the diagonal transverse break.

The Dislocation:

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I was taken to the Lawrence General Hospital Emergency Room in an ambulance.  After some time I was given pain killers and knocked out briefly so the dislocation could be reset.  The doctor apparently did a very good job at re-aligning everything that had been dislocated.  I’m not sure if it was the Propofol they used to knock me out for a few minutes, or the massive pain while I was unconscious, or what, but when I came to again, I was overwhelmed with panic.  I was sobbing and hyper ventilating, but not due to the pain.  I was irrationally afraid and had lost any semblance of emotional control.  The panic slowly ebbed but then came back in waves over and over, more and more slowly each time, each wave bringing with it a fresh bout of tears and hyper ventilating.

The Breaks:

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I was kept over night, then surgery was performed on my leg Sunday morning.  Screws were used to re-attach the two broken off chunks of the tibia.  Two screws were used to secure the spiral/vertical break, joining the two halves of the bone back together.  Then a plate with six screws was used to re-attach the upper and lower parts of the bone to allow the diagonal transverse break to be supported.  While the pain on Saturday was intense, the post-surgery pain on Sunday was far worse.  All of the bone break pain was still there, will major surgery, screws, plates, and massive sutured surgery incisions being added to the mix.

I was finally able to leave the hospital on the following day, after I was able to demonstrate that I could use crutches.

Once home I started off nesting in the living room on the couch.  I stayed there until Thursday, when i moved my post-operative care over to the Lahey Clinic.  Lahey is closer to me than Lawrence, has a stellar reputation, and my primary care physician works at Lahey, so it seemed the thing to do.  They removed the cast/splint, cleaned the leg, evaluated the x-rays and determined that everything looked as good as could be expected.  They put my leg into a red fiberglass cast and sent me home.

I moved upstairs to the bedroom.  The bathroom is closer, the TV is easier to use (I don’t have to shut out daylight with curtains like I do with the projector setup downstairs), the bed allows for slightly more comfort than the couch, and I could finally sleep next to my wife, whom I’d been missing for close to a week.  I haven’t left the bedroom/master bath since.

Fifi 2000?-2012 Rest in Peace

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I spent this Christmas morning digging a grave. Never in my life have I felt this sad.

Fifi, our iguana, has been so much more than a pet to my wife and I for over 8 years. She’s been a companion, a friend, and the closest thing to a child that we’re likely to have. We found her at a Humane Society Shelter in Tocama Washington in April 2004. She was sick, emaciated, lethargic, brown and yellow in color, and sad. She was dying. While the Humane Society meant the best, they didn’t have the knowledge or equipment to properly care for an iguana, as they mostly deal in dogs, cat, and small mammals. We knew we had to rescue her, and took her home with us. We stopped off at the pet store, and purchased a large cage, heat and UV lamps, a food dish, and the like.

She had a number of severe medical problems, including skin burns, an infected cut/abscess on her finger, and issues with her heart and liver. We got her extensive medical treatment. She ended up having to have her left front arm amputated due to infection spreading in her bones. We gave her subcutaneous saline injections every day to help keep her hydrated. We gave her antibiotics. We gave her heart medicine and special vitamins. We fed her, and bathed her, and cared for her.

Not only did she not die, but she tripled in weight, got a healthy green color back, and grew to be healthy, active, and happy. Over the next 8 years her vets always commented on what a wonderful disposition she had, what a great patient she was, and how healthy she seemed. Her missing limb didn’t slow her down, as she climbed bookshelves, cage walls, chicken wire garden fences, Christmas trees, and us.

Most people, when they think of reptiles, think of them as being weird, cold, scary, dumb, personality-less, and usually can’t imagine why we’d want to have one. Everyone who’s ever met Fifi has been struck by how much personality she has, how sweet she is, and many people have fallen in love with her. She has had probably 100 pictures of her drawn by various kids, and many more photos taken of her. She had a very real personality, with likes, dislikes, moods, happiness, sadness, anger, sleepiness, joy, and excitement. She was always sweet and patient. She let kids handle her, and never bit anyone out of anger. She was good with other animals, although she was always dominant and was queen of her castle.

She quickly became a huge part of our lives. Every day we’d give her downies (put her down into the water in the base of her enclosure – as she got older she relied on us more for going up and down, I think not due to any actual disability, but simply because she realized she could make us do the hard work for her), let her do her business, and then give her uppies when she was ready to come out of the water. She’d let us know when by climbing up on a rock int he water and staring out at us. We’d make her a bowl of food: fresh organic collard greens, and some iguana salad (a mix of fruits and veggies that Emma made in bulk and froze every month or two). She’d eat and bask under her heat and UV A/B lamps on the top branch in her enclosure while we changed out the dirty water in the bottom with clean warm water.

In the summer she’d come outside with us, and lay in the sun on the deck, or romp around the yard, or lay in the hammock with us. We had to keep an eye on her because eventually she’d either want to come inside from the deck (she’d walk over and press her nose against the door glass, just like a dog wanting to go in), or if she was in the yard she’d want to go explore the woods, or she might get bored of the hammock and jump out to go exploring. She loved the sun, the grass, the trees, and exploring and tasting everything in sight. Other times she would hang out with us inside. She’d watch movies with us in the living room. She really perked up when we watched classic Godzilla movies and paid close attention to the screen. She had not-so-secret dreams of world domination, and Tokyo would be the first to go. She’d hang out in the kitchen while we cooked, occasionally getting treats of whatever we were making. She loved bread products: bread, pancakes, waffles, and the like. She’d hangout in my home office with me while I worked, staring out the windows down to the driveway and yard below, and then watching me while I worked. She’d snuggle down with my wife in our bedroom and watch TV. She loved to burrow herself under the pillows and blankets to make herself a little cave. When Emma would have cramps, Emma would put a heat pad on her stomach and Fifi would lay on top of the heat pad, and they would keep each other company. In the winter she’d hang out in the library with us, basking in the heat of the fire, stretched out on the back of the Diva lounge, while we read or listened to music. If she ever had to go to the bathroom she would always move off of furniture or carpet and make sure she was on linoleum or tiles. We held her and carried her around and petted her. She was our baby.

In the first house we lived in when we rescued her, we had koi ponds in the back, and she would climb around and bask in some low trees and bushes near them. When she’d get too warm she’d drop into the koi pond and swim around. The first time she did this she nearly gave my wife a heart attack She swam down to the bottom of the pool and stayed there. We didn’t know at the time that iguanas can hold their breath underwater for 30 minutes.

We took her on a picnic in the Seattle Arboretum. She laid on this big horizontal branch in a tree, and we spread out our picnic blanket beneath her and the three of us ate and enjoyed a lazy afternoon in the sun. She wanted to go swimming in the pond there, but we figured she would be hard to catch again.

She came with us when we drove across country, moving from Seattle to Boston. She didn’t like being in the car. She hardly ate. But she was SUCH a good girl and was calm and quiet and traveled so well. She got to sun herself at rest stops all across the country. One of the only times she ate was when I got her a plain pancake at a Perkins in a hotel when we were rolling out in the morning. When we stopped at Mount Rushmore, we smuggled her in to the no pet area and got her photo with the giant stone faces in the background.

She was featured in a calendar starring disabled pets. She competed in a couple of Halloween pet costume contests with quiet dignity, even though she felt ridiculous in her outfits. She was the star in our family Christmas cards every year.

She came to the beach with us this summer. She laid in the sand and watched the waves. I half buried her in the warm sand.

This summer we built 3 foot high chicken wire fences around our raised garden beds to combat the bunnies and woodchucks (I’m looking at you Mr Whistlepig!). Fifi was used to being able to just jump up into the gardens. This fence thing was an unwelcome surprise. After many attempts, she finally made it all the way up, and over the fence. We were so proud of our three legged beauty that we let her romp around and eat live collards and stomp on squash and do whatever she wanted. She’d earned it.

She loved climbing around in our Christmas trees every year. We used to have a fake christmas tree which we kept in her room back in Seattle when it wasn’t December so she could climb around in it. One night we came home from having dinner out and found her very stuck in the built-in wires for the lights in the tree. She’d gotten herself stuck good. We had to cut the wires to get her out and then remove all the wires from the tree. Silly lizard!

When ever we were out of town, we’d always worry about her and hearing from whoever was watching over her while we were gone always brought a sigh of relief. When we got home from any trip the first thing we’d do is to go check on Fifi and give her a kiss. When were away we’d often talk about how much Fifi would enjoy being wherever with us, or doing whatever we were doing. When we were in Aruba we fed a ton of wild iguanas Starbucks and talked about Fifi.

When she was irked or annoyed she’d snalt at you. When she was happy you could see smile. Sometimes she’d close her eyes and pretend you weren’t there. She was like a cat in that sometimes she’d want nothing to do with you, and other times she’s snuggle her head in close and curl up on your and sleep.

When she was comfortable, safe, and content she would flop her front leg back behind. We’d stroke the soft pad of her paw when she did this and comment on how cute she looked. When I carried her around I’d usually hold her sort of like a football, with her head near my elbow and her back legs on my hand and her tail drooping down in front of me. Sometimes she’d prefer to be held higher up and closer to my body. She’d tuck her head into my neck as I walked around.

Once we moved to Boston we had a huge enclosure made for her. It was over 7 feet tall, 6 feet wide, about 2 feed deep. it had real vine branches, a full size pool in the bottom with a water fall and heater. It had UV bulbs, heat lamps, a nighttime heat emitter, multiple levels she could climb around to, and a place we could secure her food dish. It was her home, keeping her warm, humidified, and giving her a high perch to look out over the world.

She lived a long full rich life. She did things no other iguana has done. She was loved by so many. She was lucky to find us and have us take care of her. We were luckier to have her in our lives.

On the morning of Christmas Eve, we went downstairs and discovered that she had vomited and had diarrhea and didn’t look like her usually perky self. She’d thrown up once before years, due to an unfortunate combination of too many Mother’s Day pancakes and some rocks causing a blockage in her intestines. I’d made waffles a couple days before and had fed her a couple small waffle treats over the last couple of days. A houseguest had fed her some waffle as well, more than we’d usually allow her, but he didn’t know and she is a voracious waffle monster. She loves waffles so much. So I figured she’d just made herself sick with waffles. We took her down to Angell Animal hospital just to be safe. They checked her out, took some X-rays, and she had a bowel movement, complete with a large rock and a little blood, while they were examining her. They’d diagnosed her with a rock related blockage, and said she just needed to pass it all and we should keep an eye on her for the next couple of days, and if she didn’t get better, to setup an appointment after Christmas. It seemed reasonable so we took her home and gave her some antibiotics they prescribed. She had another bowel movement with some blood (and some strawberries), which had us worried, so we called the vet, who assured us that we’d likely see a little blood in her next couple of stools, but that it just had to heal up on its own and would be okay. She didn’t seem to get any better, and then took a sharp turn for the worse. She was pale, and couldn’t hold her head up. We called Angell again and got her into the car. She passed away in Emma’s arms in the car before we even made it to the highway. We still drove down to the hospital breaking the speed limit every mile of the way and crying non-stop. There was nothing they could do for her. She was gone.

I’m not an emotional person. I tend to be stable, stoic, less empathetic. I internalize and quash most of my emotions. We joke and say that I cry once per decade. In my 20s I cried from happiness during my wedding vows. In my teens I cried from a breakup (and probably other times in my earlier teens). But I don’t really cry much. I don’t express or talk about strong feelings much, especially “negative” ones. When I was in my early teens, we had to put down our Rottweiler, Anya. I grew up with her and was very close. I’d learned that when they put dogs down, they use a drug that paralyzes their diaphragm so they stop breathing. There was good evidence to support that the dogs brains remained active for up to five minutes after they stopped breathing. As such, when they put her to sleep, I had her head in my lap, and I petted her and talked to her for about 10 minutes after she’d stopped breathing so she wouldn’t be alone or scared and would know how loved she was. I felt choked up, but I didn’t cry. I was a pallbearer in my great-grandmother’s funeral. I miss her, but I didn’t cry. Obviously this situation is different. I’m older. She died unexpectedly, not in old age after a slow deterioration to help you prepare. There’s lots of things that are different. But whatever the reason, I’m a complete wreck. I cried almost non-stop for hours and hours, until I fell asleep, woke up cried some more, etc… I cried while digging her grave. I cried while we wrapped her up. I cried when we buried her. Today, I woke up, showered, came back in the bedroom, sat down, and cried for 10 minutes uncontrollably, before I could finish getting dressed. I’m a mess.

I feel so incredibly sad. So lonely. So angry. So upset. When I’m not crying, I feel empty and pale. I’m not hungry. My favorite treats taste like cardboard or ashes. All I want to do it curl up in the dark in bed and sob. Writing this post keeps bringing me to tears. I’ve never felt this sad in my life. Much less for three days running. The times between breakdowns are longer today, but I’m not feeling any better/happier. My heart is broken and all I feel is loss.

The house is hard to be in. Her enclosure which sits empty. Her favorite spots to hang out in every room where she’ll never lie there again. Her pictures around the house. Her Christmas cards on the wall. The Christmas tree she can’t climb in. The fire she can’t bask by. Our bed she’ll never snuggle down with Emma in again. My office where she’ll never keep me company and look out the window again. We’ll never make her breakfast in the morning again. All the little things that we keep finding. Her medicine bottle, her collard greens that I just bought from the store, her pillow, her nail clippers. All of it just triggers an unresistable wave of sorrow. I escaped to the office today for a few hours, because I just need a break from keeping falling apart. Of course I’m writing this now and making myself dissolve into tears again anyhow. I’m hoping that by writing some of this down, instead of having it repeating in my head endlessly that it will help somehow. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do.

I’m so angry too. I’m angry at the vet that misdiagnosed the seriousness of the situation. I’m angry at myself for a 100 reasons. I should have recognized that it was more serious and forced the vet to do more. I should have prevented her from eating that rock. I should have done more. I should have spent all day with her, instead of going to the grocery store, assuming she just had some indigestion and would be fine. I should have gotten her out with us every single day, and not let her sit in her enclosure alone on days where I was “too busy”. I should have told her how much I love her 100 times a day. Unlike humans, she was so dependent on my care. She was my responsibility. I was in charge of making sure she was healthy and happy and I failed her. She died too soon and in pain and it’s all my fault. There isn’t anything I can do to fix it. She’s gone and I failed her.

I know there’s probably nothing that realistically could have been done or anything that would be different, but I can’t help feeling responsible and she was sooo sweet and so good and she deserved so much better. Animals are so much more pure than people are and she was so dependent on me and I was so blessed to have her in my life. And now she’s gone and I feel like all the joy in the world left with her. I knew she wouldn’t live forever, but I wasn’t prepared and I wasn’t ready and it’s not fair. I’m so sad and so lonely and so angry and so upset.

Fifi, I love you and I miss you and I’m sorry. You will never be forgotten.

 

UPDATE:  I’ve added lots of photos and videos from Emma.  Please take a moment to check them out here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/devondragon/sets/72157632350095104/

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Ready for a ride