Hardest Work You Ever Did?

See Tyler Cowen, over at Marginal Revolution, talks about working in a grocery store, but mentions he never actually dug ditches or anything like that. My story is similar, except I actually dug ditches for a summer, was a plumber’s helper, so had to handle sewage piping and help with sewer work. I’ve been in ditches that filled up with water in under a minute because we broke off the feed at the main, and been told “You think this is bad? Imagine having to do this in January.”

After that, in junior and senior years of high school, I worked for a well known Philadelphia meat packer stamping expiration dates on sausages. Once they came out of the freezer, the clock started ticking, so I got the dates on the next day’s trucks for delivery. I had a stamp gun and was pretty good about using it. But I can relate to a lot of Tyler’s stories about being the awkward kid in the shop.

I worked with teamsters. One day I was busting one of our route salesman’s balls, as the warehouse guys often did (we weren’t union, but the drivers were). He was a stout polish guy who was built like the truck he drove, who then proceeded to pick up my (at the time) skinny teenage ass and hold me over the dumpster, to remind me of my place. I lied about my age so I could get certification to operate a forklift.

Those were good times, but it’s what convinced me to start taking getting into college more seriously, and be serious about what I wanted to do. These days a lot of kids coming out of college haven’t ever had to hold down a job before, and even fewer ever did anything physically demanding. Not sure we’re better off for it.

Got the Jab

Got the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine today. I can report I do not suddenly feel Marx makes more sense. If it’s reprogramming my DNA, I can’t say that I’m noticing. So far, not much in the way of side effects at all. I had to go lay down because my equilibrium was feeling a bit off, kind of like if you had too much to drink the night before off. But I’m not sure if that was the shot, because I get that way sometimes just sitting at a computer too long.

I realize that a lot of people will choose not to get it, and I’m not the type that thinks we ought to be strapping people down and making them get their shots. But I tick all the risk categories except age, so I decided it was probably worth the risk of side effects.

Bitter feels a little at the injection site. I don’t. Hopefully I’ll feel OK tomorrow. When I get a flu shot, I usually don’t get the sore arm until the next day or two.

The Inauguration

Lest you all think I am talking about Joe Biden, I’m being inaugurated tonight, as my club’s president, a week ahead of Slow Joe. Though I believe our club’s transition of power will be a good bit more peaceful. I don’t think the outgoing president is planning any protests, nor do I expect anyone to storm the meeting room and steal my podium (because I don’t have one to steal.) Maybe they could steal the gavel or something. Though we have a backup.

Our inauguration is pretty low key to nonexistent. We don’t take an oath. It basically consists of switching the badge out on my lanyard from one that says “3” to one that says “1.” Whoop dee do.

One of the first things I am doing is recognizing one Board member for 20 years of service on the Board, which I’m happy to do because he’s a real nice guy, and over the years has saved the club a lot of money doing electrical work for us as a retired electrician.

Having observed people during this pandemic, I do believe it’s driving a lot of people stark raving mad. I’m sincerely hoping once the vaccine is rolled out and we tamp this down, the temperature will come down a little. I expect the next four years to be very challenging both for my club and for the nation. But I would encourage everyone to look after the health of their local community groups. Get involved. That kind of thing is going to become more important than ever.

Job Searching

Sorry for the dearth of posting, but I’m back out on the job market again after eight years with the current outfit. The work is drying up and I don’t think the company will sustain much longer.

I will say, the market is much much better than it was during my last rodeo in 2011. I only started in earnest yesterday, and I already have a phone screen tomorrow, and probably one today. I remember back in 2011, hardly anyone was biting, and there weren’t a lot of senior level positions that weren’t management, and a lot of outfits were doing contract-to-hire, which seems to be less common now, thankfully.

I also think LinkedIn is a far better tool than it was back in 2011, though I need to look at some other places too. I keep seeing ads for ZipRecruiter, but I don’t know if that’s loaded up with spammy recruiters, or a tool real companies who are looking for people are using. One thing about this go around over the last, most of my network are gainfully employed, which helps. Last time a lot of my colleagues were out of work and looking too.

So I’m pretty optimistic so far. I already have a few leads and one that looks promising.

I am the NRA again

I’d let my membership lapse after the initial period through a combination of apathy and a mild distaste for the undertone of politics beyond their mission that I felt the NRA had allowed to creep into their advocacy.

But the recent organized and directed assaults on the 2A reminded me that they are still the most effective advocacy for firearms freedom, so I re-upped. And this time I can’t let the membership lapse, I went for the Life membership. At least partially so I can vote and pretend I have input.

I am reasonably sure I’m not the only lapsed member come back to the fold; I certainly hope not, anyway. And here’s hoping they can continue to be effective.


Regularly scheduled blogging will resume after the Thanksgiving holiday, and I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving. I am taking some time off from work and getting things done at my club that need to be done, like getting the place ready for a campus wide IP network that I’ve talked about here before. Planning has been finished for some time, and now it’s time for doing.

Additionally, the Democrats have taken over my Township this past election, and what is the first thing they aim to do? Spend my tax dollars lobbying for gun control on behalf of Mike Bloomberg. At the local level, they are preempted from actually passing ordinances regulating firearms, so I don’t really care what any Supervisor thinks on guns one way or another. But I sounded the alarm and got a handful of people to show up to the Supervisor’s meeting to deliver a message: fix the damned pot holes, and if you want to see gun control, give our State Rep a call on your own dime.

But it’s not all drudgery. I like new toys. My club just obtained a new Cub Cadet Challenger 500, and boy is it a fun machine to tool around in. The 2001 Kawasaki Mule 3010 it replaces was a more sedate and practical work horse, but for some tasks I really like the Cub better. The big thing the Mule has going for it is bench seats, which is easier to get in and out of. That’s important in a working vehicle. But the Cub gets around the property better, has a winch standard, and doesn’t have any divider between the bed and the cab, so you can actually fit 10 foot boards in it diagonally without having to shoot them into the air over the cab where you have to be wary of low hanging branches. It’s a one mile loop around the property, so I appreciate the Cub’s greater speed and nimbleness. That basically means less time wasted getting from point A to point B.


Eclipse Watching

The lack of posting is because I was away on vacation. We decided to go camping along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had previously done this trip back in my 20s, but called it quits at Asheville. This time I endeavored to go to the true summit of Mount Mitchell, and finish the entire length through western North Carolina. Brief stop in the Smokeys, then onto Nashville were I watched the eclipse with my Uncle in Gallatin, Tennessee.

Mount Mitchell

Weather was perfect, both for Mount Mitchell and for the eclipse. Totality does make all the difference in the world. It was quite a spectacle. I saw the standing waves in the first minutes of totality’s recession. Approaching totality the light was strange. Shadows were fuzzy and sometimes crescent shaped. It was like the whole earth was being lit by a very white LED light.

Other than that, I was glad to get back into some camping. Things will return to normal around here as soon as I get my bearings back.

AFib Story

The lack of blogging has not been because I’m dead, fortunately. But I was hospitalized for a few days for atrial fibrillation (AFib). I’ll tell the story in case it helps any readers.

We were getting ready to go to the store when I suddenly felt my heart flutter in a very strange feeling way. If it had just been a second of that, I probably would have dismissed it. But it lasted long enough that panic set in. I knew something was wrong, but I was not sure what. I had no chest pain or shortness of breath, but my heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest and run off to New Jersey.

“I think I need to go to the ER,” I told Bitter, as I got to the top of the stairs, “Something isn’t right with my heart rhythm.” Then she starts to panic. In the car I start to calm down and debate whether I’m just having a panic attack. But I was feeling my pulse and felt like it was off.

We got to the hospital, and I told her to pull into a parking spot near the ER so I could get a better sense of how I was really feeling. I took my pulse again now that the car was stationary, and it was all over the place. Strong, weak, weak, strong, and not in a steady rhythm. I start thinking “I wonder if this is AFib? Is this what AFib feels like?”

To me, going to a hospital for treatment is one of my big phobias. It’s probably more acute than Indiana Jones laying in a pit of snakes. But when your pulse has all the rhythm of two nerds dancing at the prom, you tend to think in terms of lesser fears, and dying is the greater fear. Yes, please be sure my bed has extra snakes! I’ll take it.

I told Bitter to pull up to the ER and went up to the check-in desk and very calmly announced “Hi, I’ve never been to an ER before, but I think there’s something very wrong with my heart rhythm. I have a racing and irregular pulse.” They immediately took me back to the EKG and I was on an ER bed in minutes. I later saw on my chart the computer had flagged “Atrial Fibrillation” on the EKG, which I thought was pretty neat.

First they got me IV’d up and started me on Heparin, an anti-coagulant. AFib is not generally a life threatening arrhythmia, but it is a big stroke risk because the irregular rhythm can send clots flying around.

Then they started me on Diltiazem, a calcium channel blocker, to get my pulse rate and blood pressure down, both of which were sky high, the former from the AFib, and the latter from the sheer terror I was experiencing. Later the first blood work came back and showed I had very low potassium, so they started another IV for that. That shit made my hand feel like it was on fire until they dialed back the rate.

My pulse and BP did indeed come down, but I didn’t come out of AFib, so they admitted me for the night so I could consult with a cardiologist in the morning.

The Cardiologist said probably the best thing you could say to a phobic patient, or at least this phobic patient: “This is a pretty common thing. It’s a little less common in someone as young as you, but you have absolutely nothing to worry about. I will fix you. I’m going to start you on an anti-arrythmetic, and I think that’s going to get you back to a normal sinus rhythm probably on the first pill because you’re young and have never had this before. Worse case scenario, I have to do a ‘Cardioversion’ which is a slight electrical shock of the heart to bring you back into normal rhythm. But I’m really confident medication will fix you and you won’t need that.”

And that’s basically what happened. Within 6 or so hours of the first dose of Sotalol the night nurse came by before his shift ended he told me “Your heart is trying. I can see it go normal for a bit, but then go back into AFib. But I’m betting when I come back you’ll be in a normal rhythm,” and I was. Great. Can I go home now?

No! I had to get an “echo” ultrasound of the heart. But the main reason, I think, was that any person starting on Sotalol has to be monitored continuously for three days in a clinical setting because it has a serious but rare side effect of, well, killing people. Yeah, OK… you can keep me for three days then. Though by the second day I was thinking I’d rather take my chances.

Anyway, I’m back to a normal rhythm, though I’m on a blood thinner and the Sotalol at least until I follow up with the cardiologist, but probably longer.

Hospitals suck. The staff were very attentive and caring, but there are always communication issues, and I found it’s very important to keep mentally aware of what’s going on, what they are doing to you, and what they are giving you. Be able and willing to communicate that to staff as shift’s change, etc. You effectively cannot sleep in a hospital. I decided to sleep with earbuds in playing white noise, which helps, but they still come in to take vitals and that wakes you up.

I felt more exhausted and weak walking out with a normal heart beat than I felt going in with an abnormal one, and all I needed was some drugs and observation. I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone like the 88 year old gentlemen I shared a room with. He was also in AFib, but he had so many other problems they couldn’t safely cardiovert him until those problems were death with. I’m half his age and don’t have 1/4 of his problems, and I feel like the process chewed me up and spit me out.

The nursing staff strongly suspect I have obstructive sleep apnea, and since they have me wired up and check on me all night, I believe them. They referred me to a doctor for a sleep study. The Cardiologist said, “The stress you’ve been under, your low potassium level, and the fact that you have sleep apnea, were probably a perfect storm and your heart is now basically just pissed off.” He seemed skeptical of how much diuretic I’m on for blood pressure control. I have a feeling he might change out some of my BP meds during the follow up. Fine by me as long as it works.

Ultimately I’m glad I made the decision to face my fears and anxiety about over being poked and prodded, and the loss of personal control that comes with being in a hospital. Eventually I was telling the numerous phlebotomists I was introduced to, “Use the hand. You won’t get anything out of that arm. If you want to try, that’s fine, but I’ll wager you good money you won’t succeed.” Didn’t get any takers once they started looking at it.

Anyway, that’s my story. I hope someone finds it helpful.

Not Dead

I’m extremely busy. Also had a doctor’s visit yesterday. Because I have pretty serious white coat, I do home monitoring of my BP. Home BP has been good, but then when Doctor time starts creeping up, it starts to head into the high range. For me it’s like taking an exam. When I know it counts, I get nervous about it and it throws the result. I do best when it’s a reading I know I don’t have to write down.

Other than that, LDL is down to slightly elevated. HDL still good. Triglycerides were a little bit elevated, whereas they were normal last time. Since I’ve been busy, my diet has been atrocious, so considering that I’m not unhappy. Statins do work, at least at bettering your lipid profile. I have a theory that in a few years they are going to conclude the lipid theory was all wrong and the reasons statins work is through some currently unknown anti-inflammatory mechanism. I’m not just pulling that out of my butt — recently there have been drugs that have proved very effective at managing your lipid profile, but don’t show any effect on the rate of heart attack and stroke.

The big thing is I need to lose weight. Over the winter I regained everything I lost last summer. If there’s one thing I really wish I could do is go back in time, find my rail thin younger self grabbing that fourth slice of pizza, and smack the shit out of me while screaming: “Do you have any idea how hard it’s going to be to work that shit off when you’re in your 40s?”

Not Dead, Just Too Busy

I am trying to return to our regularly scheduled programming, but it’s not working out. I have been collecting clients over the past year, which is good because it’s how you stay in business in the consulting universe. But at the end of this year they’ve all gotten needy at once, and the blog has to be what pays the price. It’s not so much the writing that takes the time, but following the news. I haven’t been following the news. Bloomberg could be abandoning Everytown and investing in American Outdoor Brands Corporation for all I know.

I think my crazy few weeks is because everyone in the professional world likes to take the last few weeks of the year off, and so deadlines tend to get compressed from Thanksgiving through New Years to accommodate people’s time off. I appreciate everyone’s patience.