Archive | November, 2007

>The Nurse Dilemma and Parenthood

29 Nov

>At the family Thanksgiving (last weekend, thanks to the many family members in jobs that don’t shut down for holidays), one of my nieces, a NICU nurse on track to become a Nurse-Practitioner, was talking about health care and other topics. (NICU, neonatal intensive care, “preemie” babies, babies born with other severe problems, heartbreak kids, all; hospital stays are long and survival rates are not high — but most of those those babies had slim chances to none at all thirty years ago)

“We need universal health care,” she said, “Like all the other civilized countries.”
I made polite noises and lifted an eyebrow quizzically; I don’t enjoy arguments. I did point out that government health care doesn’t work so very well, to which she responded, “They pay a set amount per procedure, no matter the outcome! And they keep reducing the things they do cover.”

She noticed the implied contradiction; she’s no fool.

In further conversation, it came out that it tears her up to not be able to help; to send kids back to homes without power, without proper care, without parents who can or will do what it takes to care for them.

The easy, bumper-sticker libertarian question is, how much of my tax money do you want to mitigate your angst? Yeah, simple, neat, isn’t it. I’m not asking it.

Here’s a more difficult question: neo-natal nursing is high-stress work. The pay’s decent money but they’re not getting rich. What they are doing is working through tears, working with gut-churning emotional conflict, keeping little vegetables alive while Mums and Daddy dither, putting in endless hours with babies who will make it but whose parents never show up until the day the baby is sent home. They try to save the baby the rich teen-ager gave birth to on the toilet and left there, the baby whose new grandmother, on calling 911 and being told what to do, replied, “I’m not reaching in there after that.” They work with utter-jerk surgeons, nasty cold men people hate, unfeeling guys who, on hearing the baby they worked on for eight hours has died after a struggle, drive in from an hour away, walk right to the NICU, tenderly lift the tiny corpse from the nurse’s arms, look down and say softly, “We tried, buddy, we tried,” hand the baby back and stride savagely out of the hospital, never making eye contact with another human being.

So the question is: what’s it worth to keep these people from burning out?

I don’t have an answer.

Maybe we’re better off leaving the decision to bean-counters — just as long as we don’t run out of nurses who’ll take on the job.

One thing we’d better do is get better at prevention. A significant proportion of the babies that end up in NICUs are born to drug-addicted mothers, to mothers who were malnourished, to teenagers who denied and hid their pregnancy. There’s no law that’ll stop that, no government program that can fix it but it can be slowed, one mother at a time. To the extent any of us can personally lend a hand to help on an individual basis, we should. And for pity’s sake, we’ve got to try to change the trend of people seeing children, their own children, as an inconvenience.

Margaret Sanger, a figure both admired and loathed (and with good reason for both opinions), often stated her goal as trying to “ensure every child was a wanted child.” So put, it’s a good goal and one that can be just as easily done by helping (even glorifying) parents as by preventing pregnancies or worse yet, terminating them; and since all three are options available in a free society, there’s probably at least one of them you can lend a hand to. (Not to pile yet another soapbox on the heap but it usually does more good and more directly affects individuals in a positive way to work for a positive goal. It’s a lot easier to get people to try a new thing than to stop them doing something they’re already doing).

Politics is can be fun but bumper-sticker politics is full of pitfalls. There’s no digging out of most of them from an ivory tower or even a blog; if we want a better, more free society, if we hope to roll back the growth of Mommy/Daddy Government, it’s up to us to roll up our sleeves, pick up a shovel and use it to dig a path out rather than slinging mud. Sure, you’re just one person; maybe you’ll only ever be able to help one other person. But you’ll have made that much change.

Wave signs, get on the evening news — or help a scared and lonely girl? Which one will you look back on with the most pride?

Which one will help keep nurses — nurses whose help we may someday need for our own families — from burning out?

Which one will do the most to slow the demand for socialized medical care?

[It seems I have been a bit unclear. I’m not talking about “charity,” I’m talking about doing what you can, within your own ethical framework, to push the younger critters within your easy reach a bit closer towards civilized behavior anent reproduction. This is rife with self-interest: if we end up with a huge bunch of barbarians and their preventably-hard-started offspring, it’s going to make our “golden years” a lot less nice than they’d otherwise be and in a huge number of ways. Among other considerations, I’d as soon not be having to shoot the worst of them on a weekly basis when I’m greyhaired and rocking on the porch. Hollowpoints are expensive! YMMV.]

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>The Result Of Our Efforts

28 Nov

>…Cos it’s not just me down t’the Skunk Works, you know; there’s a whole bunch of us and we were all happily diligent geeks today. Once we were (nearly) done, we moved the MC boys out of the improvised control-room in a coat closet they’ve been in for about a month while still doing the things that keep my paycheck from bouncing, and into the result of all our efforts, this serene splendor:

Pretty cool, hey? Of course, my view of most of it was under that console (sans operator, thankyouverymuch), badly lit by glaring worklights, stuck to the carpet-tile glue, fishing around in the computer floor and wiring up various and sundy things. There are times when being the most limber and agile of the techies is not exactly beer and Skittles (nasty-sounding combination, IMO). I’d put up a photograph of that part of the work but A) it’s ugly even once it’s all neat and tidy and B) the man there is running a TV station or three; it is considered rude to joggle his elbow.

It will be even kewler once it’s finished; there’s another row of displays below the big three in the background, plus some more flashy lights’n’stuff. A lot of it even has a function, too!

Face it: I work aboard a starship! Or about as close as I’m likely to get this time around, anyway. “Phasers on ‘irk mildly’ and full warp ahead!”

>’m Busy

27 Nov

>Things have het up at the Skunk Works yet again. But so you won’t get bored in the next 20-some hours, here’s a treat: the marvels of Engrish!

If this is your sort of thing, you’ll find it addictive. Remember, read a little at a time and be sure to stop to catch your breath.

…And if you start to get a bit puffed up, know this: the host is a linguist and he has links to sites that track equally silly misuses on the other side of the looking glass!

>Speaking of Uncles

26 Nov

>Or perhaps foster fathers, I’ve just heard Lazarus Long Robert A. Heinlein speak. And so can you, if you’ll follow the link. He sounds even more like his characters than I expected!

(Thanks to Matt G, who posted a link to the website when writing about a recent, wonderful essay by Marko. I didn’t link to Marko’s article at the time, thinking my readers would have already found it, but if you haven’t, you should).

>Books, Reality

25 Nov

>I’ve been re-reading Dean Ing’s Systemic Shock, which I think is one of the better modern after-the-Bomb novels, though a little dated now. (It’s followed by at least two sequels, “Single Combat” and “Wild Country” and he may have used the same background in one or two more novels). Ing’s not to everyone’s taste; while his characters are well-rounded, he’s more gadget-happy than many readers can follow. For me, it’s warm and friendly; I come from a long line of gadgeteers and reading Ing is like listening to a favorite Uncle. In Systemic Shock, the essential premise is a limited nuke-and-biological exchange between the West (US and Russia, et al) and a loose alliance of Red China, India and the oil-producing Islamic nations. (I’ll probably read the entire trilogy. His hero reminds me of a boy I had a terrible crush on, when I was about that age).

With that novel as a backdrop, I stopped by Carteach0’s other blog this morning to find this news item.

I’m reminded Mr. Ing has written a how-to book, as well: The Chernobyl Syndrome It’s a survival handbook. Despite the title, he covers everything from camping to child-rearing; but it’s the sections on dealing with fallout, improvising air filters and pumps, and similar topics that I’ll be reading again. If you don’t have a copy of this book, take a look at the reviews and consider adding it to your library

>Everyone Else Did It!

24 Nov

>(Go, Lemming, Go?)*

What American accent do you have?

Your Result: The Midland

“You have a Midland accent” is just another way of saying “you don’t have an accent.” You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for worked on the air in TV and radio.

The South
The West
Philadelphia
The Inland North
Boston
The Northeast
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

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* Though the lemmings really didn’t.

>Pink Guns

24 Nov

>They bother me.

Despite my geekery and arts’n’craftiness — yes, I do own a table saw and a brace of routers — I’m plenty girly, floral bedspread strewn with sleeping housecats and plush-toy animals* and so-almost-stereotypically on. But I’ve always been bothered by pink guns.

Maybe it was the Barbie-bubblegum-pink polymer full-sized EAA Witness that showed up at a local gunshow, looking like a steer in a tutu; it was pretty jarring to encounter without warning! Too, it’s always seemed to me that a self-defense tool should be obviously what it is, if it is to have any deterrent effect. I’m all for shootin’ the bad guys (don’t bother to draw unless you are intending to do so) but life’s simpler if they up and run.

Tam has her own take on the topic. Incisive as ever and obvious only after she’s pointed it out.

Oleg Volk sums it up, neatly.
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* Per the Data Viking: “At Customs, calling them ‘stuffed animals’ leads to an interesting conversation.” I keep havin’ a mental image of J. Random Guy being pulled out of the line after so doing; his bags are opened and a big violet teddy bear falls out. “And just where,” asks the aggrieved servant-of-the-people, “did you shoot that?” Betting there are no extra points awarded if you answer by pointing at the creature’s plush-toy’s center of mass.