the long journey is nearly complete

Well, how about that! I have passed the National Healthcareer Association’s certification exam, my next to last step on becoming a medical assistant. It’s been an incredible ride, to have success in an academic program in a year such as this. I’m not quite out of the woods just yet; in just over a week, I will start my practicum at a clinic in Woodinville, Washington. I am required to put in 165 hours of clinical time, the last bit of my training. This last step will be a massive challenge, but also a fantastic academic opportunity. I imagine I will learn more actually working with patients, in a clinical environment, than I have in any classroom. I am extremely eager to start! If all goes well with my practicum, the state of Washington’s Department of Health will grant me a license (well, after I pay for it) to practice healthcare. One more mile to go….

At that point, then, I will have obtained the credential of CCMA, or certified clinical medical assistant. There are four different guilds that have been granted legal authority to certify low and mid level practitioners; the NHA, the AAMA, the RMA, and the NCCT. All of them may certify medical assistants, with slightly different titles, but for all intents and purposes, all four are greatly similar. My certification focuses more on the clinical aspects of healthcare, whereas the others may focus more on administrative, or both.

The NHA exam was an absolute bruiser. It was 150 questions, multiple choice, and we were given 3 hours to complete it. That may sound favorable, but those details mask a brutal, demanding trial. I needed 2 and a half hours to complete it… There were very few black and white answers on the exam; most of them were abstract, so to speak. The exam would present you with a scenario, and you would need to pick the most relevant answer pertaining to the legal scope of practice, ethics, and training of a medical assistant. Only about 65% of students pass it on their first try. Not everyone in my class made it.

That was last Tuesday, the 10th of November. To be honest, today’s the first day in a while where I’ve felt I can actually relax. I was in a daze after that exam. I had a sense of accomplishment, sure, but I was also exhausted and burned out. I have been hitting it hard since my academic training started, January 7th of this year. When I was younger, college didn’t work out so well for me. This time, as an adult, I pushed myself incredibly hard. For the first time in my life, I have succeeded academically. At age 48. An old dog, a new trick.

So today, I’m allowing myself to relax a little. For about an hour, anyway. I played my beloved video games, something I haven’t had time to do in a very long time. I was holding off the advancing alien horde, defending Earth, before my work ethic/guilt started nagging at me again. After this post, I’m going to practice some more with the sphygmomanometer and read more about the endocrine system. There is no off position on the hardcore switch!

Be that as it may, this is all still very surreal. I still have the practicum, the last, largest hurdle to jump through, but I have come farther that I thought I might. I am thrilled beyond belief to be entering this field. I have come to enjoy the subject matter greatly; healthcare is like a job and a hobby to me. In this regard, I realize I’m very fortunate to have found something, later in life, that I enjoy, and, if my grades are any indication, something I show some aptitude for.

I have a cumulative 4.0 gpa for the entire program. I am on both the Dean and President’s list. I am a member of the American Association of Medical Assistants, and I have been invited to join Phi Theta Kappa. I find it odd that I am being recognized for my intelligence and dedication in a field that, until I started this program, was completely foreign to me. Yet, here I am.

I fully realize that I will be entering a field that is already dealing with a substantial burden. I’ll hit the ground running with the flames at my feet, but I feel more than up to the challenge. If I can contribute, in my own way, to helping improve peoples’ lives, the sense of accomplishment and pride may be more of an intrinsic reward than the paycheck.

It is also surreal, and humbling, to consider how far I have come, and how much I have turned my life around. It was not easy to get here. 2019 was an incredibly difficult year for me. I had already been on a long, extended medical leave from my former employer, for a rough, intractable anxiety and panic disorder. It just would not abate. Things collapsed for me in the summer of that year. I ended a 13 year relationship, as neither of us were happy. I had become addicted to opioids. Needless to say, this phase of my life was incredibly painful and difficult. It took me a few months to recover. It was hard to leave that relationship, and it was profoundly difficult to kick the painkiller habit. I didn’t sleep for about a month. But I came through. The anxiety disorder was still debilitating, however. Eventually, my skilled psychiatrist, Dr. Dispensapill, reached deep into his back of tricks, and tried a medication that is very rarely used anymore. Damned if it didn’t work, and continues to work. Since August of 2019, I have had no panic attacks, and no anxiety (well, plenty of test anxiety, but that’s situational, not clinical), and I am the happiest I have ever been. I returned to work, I enrolled in school, and I have excelled. There is no way I could have done that had my anxiety disorder still been present. Say what you want about psychiatry, and many reactionary people do, but I can say that it has definitely helped me.

My training started in January of this year. I had a only a vague, naive idea of what a medical assistant did. They just take vitals and answer the phone, right? Hoo-doggy! I could not have been more wrong. It turns out, they don’t let just anybody walk in off the street and start practicing medicine. You need a little training, first. I was not prepared, at all, for the amount of material they threw at me. My textbook is over 1300 pages long! It was a serious mental shock, at first, being in an academic environment for the first time in a very long time, and absorbing information that was completely new to me. I quickly settled in, though.

All of it was fascinating, all of it. I was expected to learn an enormous amount of information in a rather short time. I called it med-school light. But, as it I found it so interesting, I dedicated myself completely to this new endeavor. Every class was something new and fascinating.

So, in less than a year, I learned, and became quite proficient in, skills and knowledge that, had you told me I would have had just a year ago, I would have chuckled in disbelief.

The technical skills, though challenging, were a blast to learn. Palpating a pulse. Drawing blood. Using a sphygmomanometer. Calculating medication dosages. Giving an injection, wherever you need it. Audiometry. Assessing vision. Not only running an ECG, but knowing what the process meant. Lavage. Pediatric measurements. Microbiology. Laboratory procedures. Autoclaving. Sterile fields. Using the AED. A jolt of adrenaline (it doesn’t go in the sternum, Pulp Fiction style).

Administrative components, as well: scheduling, ICD coding, CPT coding, patient screening. And, just for fun, I can now tell you everything about health insurance you need to know. And yes, in America, it’s a bit of a mess.

Soft skills, also: the long history of medicine, the names that made a difference. I’ve now achieved a rudimentary law degree; healthcare is replete with legal and ethical obligations, and I’ve come to understand them fairly well. Basic psychology was part of the ciriculum. I’m more Jungian than Freudian. Learning terminology was brilliant, as well. Most of what you hear in healthcare has its roots in Greek and Latin (that’s another story), and I can practically speak the ancient tongues now. Terms that I’ve heard all my life; now I know what the heck that actually means.

Above all else, my most favorite subject, the one I found to be profoundly captivating, was anatomy and physiology. Brilliant, fascinating stuff. The human body is an amazing machine. We can talk about the different body systems (cardiovascular, pulmonary, endocrine, nervous, integumentary), but these are all just simply arbitrary designations of convenience. It’s all one system, working together, dependent on each other, all the time, constantly striving towards homeostasis. It’s an absolute miracle when you look under the hood. The more I learned of the internal workings of the human body, the more it both reinforced the concept of intelligent design, while at the same time rendering it completely absurd. That’s for another time, as well.

There were 3 things I learned in the program that are not only crucial to healthcare, but, I found, greatly applicable to my everyday life. The first was the concept of adaptability and flexibility. Plans, schedules… those are adorable, but when you are dealing with the sick and injured, or with life in general, things do not often go according to plan. Or ever, really. It is a skill to change and adapt to the environment around you while maintaining composure and dedication. Think of your feet, move to the next issue. The second thing I learned was the concept of empathy. Empathy was drilled into our heads since the first week of class. You never judge how a patient came to be how they are, you are there to help them get better. However, the concept took on a deeper meaning to me, the more I studied. As I mentioned, I greatly enjoyed anatomy and physiology. At the end of each chapter, of each particular body system, were several pages of what could go wrong with that particular system. Some of it was absolutely heartbreaking. Each of us in our own way is broken. My empathy developed into a deep sense of compassion. A lot of work goes into a human being. All life is precious. The third thing I learned, and kept to heart, was simply this: you never stop learning. I have found that the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know. There is no ‘done’ in healthcare, or any emerging field. There is always more to learn. I have developed an insatiable desire to learn more. Being a healthcare practitioner requires continuing education, but there is no need for the industry to mandate it to me. Though at this point my academic commitments may be complete, I intend to keep learning and studying. We have come a long way since bloodletting and leeches, but there’s still so much we just don’t know.

Near the end of my third quarter, on the last day of class, my instructor told us a story that finally hammered home the importance of what I was learning, what I had dedicated my life to. He was always a supportive and jovial man, but not at that moment. We were finishing our training in advanced life support. He told us that he wished someone who knew this material had been there for his son, who would have been 25 the following week.

Well, as you can tell, I’m quite excited to continue this journey. Thank you for reading, and thank you for letting me sound my triumphant, barbaric yawp. I’m excited, thrilled, and profoundly optimistic about where my life has now taken me.

Wash your hands! Wear the mask!


Straight A Student!

BAM! How ’bout it?!? That’s 3 quarters down, 7 classes, all 4.0s. Not bad, for a 47 year old college drop out. I’m well on my way, but I still have some serious work to do. I don’t start the 4th quarter until September 29th (my birthday!), but my foot is still on the gas. A classmate and I are meeting regularly; we’ve already gotten the exam prep books, are making flashcards, and she and I are committing as much to memory as we can. The 4th quarter will be 6 more weeks of classroom instruction, followed by my practicum. I’m not sure where that will be yet, but one day at a time. If all goes well with that, I’ll be eligible to sit for the federal exam.

It’s been an amazing 8 months. I never really thought I would have such an affinity for healthcare, let alone be somewhat good at it, if my grades are any indication. I still have a lot to prove to myself, as I have yet obtain a license and actually treat a patient, but I’m more confident than ever. It turns out, I really love this stuff! Healthcare is really cool! It annoys me when people malign seeking professional medical care. You have a problem, you get it fixed! Although, how we as a society pay for it is a whole different matter…

I’ve got a long way to go, but I’ve learned a lot. I can take your vitals, any of them, however you like. I can clean and dress a wound. I can set a cast. I can stitch you up. I can run an ECG. I can draw blood and prepare the specimen for lab work. I can give you an injection just about anywhere, and I even know how to prepare the dose! I can explain how the law relates to healthcare, and I can talk all day about my new favorite subject, physiology. The human body is an amazing machine. I really can’t help you much when it comes to how the brain works, that’s a little tricky; but if you need to know about the endocrine system or how the circulatory, respiratory, and lymphatic systems work together, just let me know!

Well, back to the books. Wash your hands!

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Medical Terminology (and the ancient Romans were kind of jerks)

Well, the third quarter is underway, and so far it’s going great! I’m taking 2 courses; one is Pharmacology and Medication Administration (this is what the chemical is, this is how I will inject you with it) and Administrative/Clinical review (this class is a lot of fun –  the instructor basically sets up exam rooms, and we practice on-boarding patients; the instructor, playing the MD, then gives us a procedure to carry out with the patient), which ties together everything I’ve learned so far. We are also studying medical terminology, and where it comes from. Not sure why that wasn’t covered in the first quarter; perhaps they just wanted us to get familiar with the jargon before we closely studied the etymology.

Everything in healthcare seems to have a needlessly fancy name, but there’s a good reason for that. Just about every bit of terminology a practitioner uses is either Greek or Latin in origin. There is also the occasional eponymous term, a word named after the person who discovered/invented it (Pap test, Alzheimer’s, Tommy John surgery). I’m oversimplifying the history a bit, but a long time ago, when Hippocrates and his colleagues figured out that illnesses and diseases were actually environmental and not divine punishment (although that unfortunate concept still exists today), and began to actually study the human body, the ‘English’ of the day was either Greek or Roman. Many people in the known world (which was much smaller then, than our own) spoke one of these two languages; much like a good portion of the known world speaks English today. This way, a physician in Rome could correspond with a physician in Roman occupied England, who perhaps spoke a local dialect, and they would know what they were talking about. The practice continues today.

The word ‘doctor’ comes from the Latin ‘docere,’ which means: to teach. It also shares its roots with the word ‘docile.’ The thinking here is that one cannot properly learn and absorb information if one’s mind is not calm and focused on the matter at hand.

But, as it turns out, the ancient Romans could be a little flippant. The word ‘hyster’ comes from the Latin ‘hystera,’ the word they used for uterus (think: hysterectomy). The Romans believed that women got moody and emotional because of their menstrual cycle; therefore, the word ”hystera’ shares a root with the word ‘hysteria.’ Well, that’s charming. Sure, some women do occasionally get a bit out of sorts on their menstrual cycle, but that is not a character flaw or an indication of a psychological or psychiatric disorder. A woman’s endocrine system is simply in overdrive, if you will, forcing an ovum into the uterus. So there you have it. The etymology of medical terminology is fascinating, but glib, dismissive opinions are nothing new.

Wash your hands!

3rd qtr so far

Cute Animal Stories and Physiology

cat nursing puppies

The link above is a very cutesy video, but it had me reaching for my textbook.

According to this video, the mother cat had recently lost her kindle (I love collective nouns) and was, quite naturally, profoundly depressed. This animal foster family took the cat in, and found the cat to be needy, sad and distressed. It was only after the introduction of a litter of puppies that had lost their mother (what is this, a Disney movie?) that the cat came around.

There is an endocrine gland (that means it makes hormones) in the middle of your brain called the pituitary gland, answering to your CNS by way of the hypothalamus, a bridge between the CNS and the endocrine system. The pituitary gland is often called the master gland, because it does a lot of stuff, probably gets paid more. One of the hormones it secretes is called oxytocin. In mammalian females, oxytocin plays a major role in commanding the body for pregnancy, birth, and nursing. However, in both genders, oxytocin, by the very nature of its primary function, also engenders feelings of attachment, belonging, and intimacy. This cat was flooded with oxytocin, was depressed, and needed attention. When the puppies were introduced, the oxytocin returned to its primary role, and the cat became a surrogate mother. At this time, the cat’s pituitary gland produced another hormone called prolactin, and enabled the animal to nurse the puppies.

I’m not trying to reduce the powerful emotions this cat felt, emotions that would also easily occur in a human being, by explaining it away in technical terms. I’m not trying to take the ‘awww’ out of it. Just two things:

1: It is profoundly interesting that external, emotional events have a direct, physiological impact on how your body functions. Your emotions are very real, can be very strong, and, if you need proof, take a look inside and see the physiological process. If someone tells you to suck it up, if someone shames you for mental illness, if someone tells you to stop feeling a certain way, then they are A) ignorant of how the body works, and B) an asshole. “It’s all in your head!” Well, of course. Everything is. But that’s ontology, for another time.

2: It’s also profoundly interesting that we’re looking at two completely different species here. That’s incredible. That speaks to the strength of the survival instinct, but that’s for another time.

Well, I’m procrastinating again. Gotta hit the books. Wash your hands!

Fight or Flight in America as a Sociological Phenomenon

Crisis Fatigue

The link above is an interesting article. The physiological phenomenon known as ‘fight or flight’ exists in most living creatures, and is deeply ingrained into every human being. It’s a crucial component of the survival instinct, and has been for hundreds of thousands of years, existing as well as in our progenitor ancestors.

As simply as I can put it: Your 5 senses and your intuition will perceive a threat. This gets crunched in your consciousness, a poorly understood concept. This threat then gets sent to your amygdala, a part of your brain, for verification. This triggers a response in another part of your brain, the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus wears many hats (and we really don’t know how), but it kind of serves as a command center for a lot of things. In this sense, it triggers the fight or flight mechanism. Admiral Hypothalamus will activate your sympathetic nervous system, a part of your electrical wiring, which fires up your adrenal glands, which generally have about 8 cups of coffee in them already. Your adrenal glands will freak out and push the panic button, and secrete a number of hormones, mainly adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. The adrenaline will ramp up your blood pressure and your pulse, and accelerate the actions of your lungs and muscles. The cortisol will adjust your glucose (stuff you get from food) to provide a burst of energy. The norepinephrine will flood your brain, increasing alertness and response times. Every other system takes a back seat, including rational thought. At this point, you’re ready to kick some ass. This goes back to the time when our ancestors had to face off grizzly bears. We don’t have to do that anymore (except for those idiots in Yellowstone who want a better picture), but fight or flight is very much with us today, in response to both physical (a mugger, a mean dog, road rage) or emotional (fight with your spouse, boss wants to see you, the principal called) experiences. Eventually, the response will abate, and you are left exhausted and weak.

Problems happen when people are under constant fight or flight, and the response does not get a chance to wear off. This will result in anxiety, depression, PTSD, heart problems, or all of the above.

I know nothing of sociology. However, this article posits the idea that American society has been living under a steady, constant fight or flight response ever since 2020 started. We are now suffering from the effects of 3 social phenomenons that are causing Americans a huge amount of stress. It started with the emergence of a virus we thought we may be able to control, but we were very wrong. Then, racism reared its ugly head once again, when George Floyd (and, let’s face it, he’s not the only one) was murdered by a police officer. This has triggered a massive social disruption of anger and violence. Perhaps worst of all, the federal leadership (dammit, GOP, I hate to say I told you so… I take no glee in his failures) has been fully exposed as incompetent, dysfunctional, and unwilling or unable to rise to these challenges. In fact, our President’s behavior has gotten worse, and it is clear that he is in way over his head. In the meantime, the violence continues, and the pandemic has now killed 111k Americans. At this point, things do not show any signs of significant improvement or healing. As with an individual, problems will arise when the fight or flight response does not get a chance to settle down. We are seeing that now, in the hatred, anger, depression, isolation, anxiety and general “I’m pissed off today” attitude in nearly every American. If things do not settle down, the damage to society, as with an individual, will be massive, and will take longer to heal than we can imagine.

Well, I’m just babbling instead of doing my homework. Sorry for the long post. I better hit the books. Wash your hands!

0ddd8e77e289472b8e16ff3d8817bf06_medical-assistant-symbol-clipart-clipartxtras_351-444Hey everybody! Happy New Year!

2020 should be pretty good for me. Things have been alright. I was finally able to come off of my long medical leave when they finally got me on the right meds. It works! I was able to return to work at Chase Bank, and it’s been hilarious. My once beloved company, which, despite Chase’s reputation, has been very kind to me, is in a bit of trouble; the market is woefully understaffed. Everyone is overworked and stressed out. Poor people. But not me! It feels great to be working again, I’m at a great branch, I have a great boss, and I’m just having a good time.

Well, yours truly will start school next week! I am headed back to college to certify as a Medical Assistant. I have a long year of classes and studying ahead of me, with a national certification exam at the end, but I am greatly looking forward to it. I’ve enjoyed banking (er….) but I’m looking forward to a career change. Never too late to teach an old dog new tricks! I’ve looked at my textbooks, and the stuff I’m going to learn looks fascinating. Paging Doctor Schall! It’s interesting; I’m going from corporate banking to American healthcare. How ’bout that?

Needless to say, this will push my third novel back by at least a couple of years. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve written so far, and I’m already 30k words into it, but it will have to take a back seat for a while. Anyway, once I’m established with a good job as an MA, I plan on returning to it.

I hope everyone is well! Happy New Year!

Slow progress…

Hey everybody! It’s been a while since I posted something, so I thought I would keep the digital world updated. I’m well into my next book, and having a ton of fun writing it. I’ve returned to the world of the sentient animals, but reintroduced humanity. Of course, things go sideways. Should be fun to write how this one plays out. Anyway, I’m already 20k words into it, so it’s either going to be long, or I’m going to have to do some trimming.

I was checking sales, and I’ve managed to sell about 300 copies of A Pack of Dogs. Thanks, everybody! And congratulations if you actually managed to finish that mess! You’re a trooper! I am learning as I go, and the new novel is already a fair bit tighter.

On a side note, someone wrote a review of my other novel; Index, Washington. They were kind enough, and gave it 3 out of 5 stars, but they didn’t like the mushroom-trip scene where I inserted myself, as the author, into the story, interacting with the protagonist. I could say I was trying to be meta or something, but really I was just messing around. Anyway, they said it made the story weird. Well, the novel was about bigfoot, mothman, chupacabras, inter-dimensional demons, a buncha UFO’s, and a whole lot of drug use. I’m not entirely certain what part of that novel was NOT weird…

I hope everybody is well!

The Seattle Freeze

Hey everybody! How’s it going? Thought I’d post something on the blog today. I hope you are all doing well! My new novel is coming along pretty good; I’ve started in on chapter 3. For those of you unfortunate enough to have read my previous works, rest assured, I’m doing this one a little differently. Hopefully, it will be readable, let alone better.

I thought I would muse on the cultural phenomenon known as The Seattle Freeze, and the internet community’s hatred of my hometown. You see it pop up now and then. I am a native of the Emerald City (that are not very many of us left), and I have spent most of my life here. Just thought I’d weigh in.

Evidently, my beloved Seattle is not well received by the rest of the nation. Just do a google for ‘I hate Seattle’ and you will come up with tons of results. Most of the time, the criticism focuses on the weather, the traffic, the homeless and drug problems, and, more to the point, the people of Seattle themselves. You read about the Seattle Freeze, and how people are so unfriendly here. People also bitch about the Seahawks. Well, as a native, bleeding rain, let me address the concerns of the world:

First, the weather. Yeah, I get this. I completely understand. The weather here kind of sucks. We get many, many days of little to no sunshine, and, in the winter, the sun goes down around 2PM. The lack of light really can really mess with your head. However, it’s worth noting that most places in America get far more rain than Seattle, annually; they just get it all at once. Our annual precipitation is spread out over half of the year, in that perpetual, gray mist, obscuring the sunlight. I call it living in the cave. Don’t like it? Well, hang in there until March! Another way to look at it is that the atmosphere is simply an extension of the Pacific Ocean’s sprawl. As in, the tide is really in today. Maybe it’s because I’m a native, but the weather here has never really bothered me. We rarely have any kind of winter, and we rarely have inhospitably hot summers. It’s 40-70 degrees here, year round.  The weather is rarely a problem. No heatwaves, no droughts, no massive snowstorms. We do, however, have to deal with an occasional earthquake or volcano, but those are few and far between, thankfully. Our weather, though perhaps not always sunshiny, is generally cool and comfortable. Air-conditioned outdoors. I kind of like it. Ultimately, however, I have to ask: Does anybody wonder why it’s called the Emerald City? Everything is freaking green here! This is a great place to be a plant! You look at the rest of the country; in fact, just drive over Snoqualmie Pass, and you will notice that the rest of the world is kind of dirt-brown. I love the green and gray of Seattle.

Okay, the traffic. I have absolutely no rebuttal here. I am in complete agreement. The traffic in Seattle F*CKING SUCKS. This is an axiomatic truth. Again, I say this as a native, people in this town do NOT know how to freaking drive. This is the only one that really gets to me. This city is not big enough to have New York or Los Angeles level traffic problems. And, traffic or not, people here drive like they are on the Fury Road, on a bunch of crack. Seriously, people. My hometown has GOT to learn how to drive. We are, finally, developing a great light-rail system, but it’s about thirty years too late, and will eventually be finished right about the same time my 16-year-old niece is collecting social security. I took the Link light-rail the other day; it’s great, it makes you feel like you’re in a big city. But yeah, the traffic here is awful, and people drive poorly. I own this; Seattle is a terrible place to drive a car.

Okay, the homeless and drug problems. I can not make any snide or humorous comments here. These are serious, societal problems. It is more than obvious, when you peruse Seattle, any neighborhood, that we have a major homeless problem. There is a lot to unpack here. Drug addiction, mental illness and the lack of affordable housing are plaguing Seattle. However, this does not stop at Seattle’s borders. This is becoming a nationwide problem and should be addressed at the national, federal level. Sadly, with our current federal government, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. All we can do is put a few bandaids on the problem, but until we change how American society addresses mental illness and affordable housing, it’s probably not going to get better in the near future. I wish that the Congressional delegates we hire to send to D.C. would at least attempt to get some federal dollars to come our way to address these issues, as the problem is acute, and people are dying on the sidewalks. Again, we have a homeless problem that is only getting worse, but this is not a Seattle problem, it is an American problem. I don’t have any quick answers, but, last I checked, I am not an expert at anything and I don’t make decisions on how we spend our tax dollars. It is pathetic that the richest and most powerful nation on Earth can’t take care of its most vulnerable citizens. But hey, it’s nothing that some massive corporate tax cuts and a needless war with Iran won’t solve, right?

Alright, the Seattle Freeze. It’s real, I’ve seen it. But on this issue, I can only speak for myself. I am very shy and introverted. I get bad social phobia. I don’t like to go out; I would rather spend time at home, writing, reading, or watching bad movies while I cuddle with my girlfriend. Or I like to get out of the city altogether, which is a great perk of living in Seattle; mother nature is always a quick drive away. Anyway, I don’t drink and I don’t dance. That’s just me; I have absolutely no problem with people who enjoy recreation in a different manner than I do. I am told that I am very pleasant and easy to get along with, which I suppose is true. I like people, I’d just rather spend my free time in a quiet, peaceful atmosphere. I’m no misanthrope, I’m simply just not the outgoing type. Sadly, however, Seattle has a reputation of being full of people like myself, only they take it a few ugly degrees further, and are publically rude, intentionally isolated, and don’t return your phone calls. Well, that does suck. It can be extremely hard for someone new to Seattle to make friends. Seattlites come across as aloof, distrusting, and better than everybody else. Well, I may be aloof, but I usually trust people, and I sure as sugar know that I’m no better than anybody else. I can’t really speak for the city, but we need to fix this. I suppose a good place to start would be by just being nicer to strangers in public. This is easy enough, and I enjoy doing it. You never know what troubles another person may be having that particular day, so it’s a good thing to go out of your way to be pleasant to someone you don’t know. I will at least start there. I would encourage my fellow Seattleites to smile a bit more, and actually say hello to people. You still won’t catch me at the dance club, but we could all stand to be nicer to the people around us.

Lastly, the Seahawks. Richard Sherman is gone! He’s gone! Marshawn Lynch is gone! Sure, Russell Wilson can be a bit too boy-scouty, but he’s not talking trash. Get over it, people! But hey, if the Seahawks are considered one of the NFL’s most hated teams, I’m kind of okay with that. But, whatever, New England. You go right ahead and keep thinking the Patriots are great, even though they cheat their asses off. Whatever.

So, that’s just my two cents. I love Seattle, and it’s too bad that the rest of the country has such a poor opinion of my hometown. Which brings me to my final question: If you know the weather is bad (which it is), if you know the traffic is bad (it definitely is), if you know that the homeless problem is not being properly addressed (we have a lot of work to do), if you hate the Seahawks (12!), then why do people keep coming here?!? Don’t get me wrong; I love that I have watched my small hometown grow into an international city, and the influx of new people, from all over the world, has really created a great cultural scene, but is the rest of the country really that bad? Well, feel free to set me straight, and I’ll post again soon. Take it easy, everybody!



Book Review: The Outsider, by Stephen King

220px-The_Outsider_by_Stephen_KingHey everybody! How’s it going? I thought I’d post another book review.

A while back, I read The Outsider, by Stephen King. We all know Stephen King. He writes very scary stories. Lots of people get killed in his books, as he generally dabbles in horror. Frightening, supernatural, horrifying things happen and it’s very scary. A lot of his books get translated into films. This never, ever works, except for a few exceptions. Last year’s film ‘It’ was pretty good, because clowns are scary and the kid from Stranger Things was in it, wearing glasses. Eleven! Also, two of his novels, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, were both brilliant films. It’s odd, because these were not horror stories. They were prison dramas. Uh… write what you… know?

Anyway, back to The Outsider. I have often thought that Stephen King is a better storyteller than he is a writer, as much as I have greatly enjoyed his work over the years. In my opinion, The Outsider is an example of this. I’m not saying he phoned this one in, but it just does not really rise to the level of horror and terror that he has easily mastered. Also, the scary stuff, in any story, is how the main characters react to the terrible events going on around them, and in The Outsider, everybody is just kind of standing around. Don’t get me wrong, the characters are compelling and well-written, but, by and large, the dialogue is a bit bland, and everyone seems okay, and a little too easily accepting, of the presence of a terrifying supernatural entity. Granted, I’ve never been in the presence of a terrifying, supernatural entity, so maybe some people are just okay with it. Me? I’d crap my pants.

Anyway, the first part of the book is mostly a police/crime tale, with a detective trying to solve an unusual murder, the gruesome killing of a child. Hey, Steve goes there. That’s what he does. The rest of the book consists of the characters, who are antagonized by a paint-by-the-numbers bent detective, eventually discovering that the real menace is a mysterious creature called The Outsider, a sort of bizarre shape-shifting thing from you-never-find-out, who sometimes has straws for eyes (?), can heal cancer, exudes some sort of oil, and can speak very eloquently and matter of factly.

It’s a good read, but not one of Mr. King’s masterpieces. Like I said, the main characters are remarkably insouciant, given the circumstances. And the eponymous antagonist is so under-explained, you are left wondering exactly what kind of evil King was trying to convey. I noticed some references to situations and events from other King novels; that was kind of neat. The Stephen King-o-verse!

Most of the action takes place in that hotbed of supernatural terror, the state of Oklahoma. Not sure when King got tired of Maine, but there you go.

So, it’s a good book, just not one of his stronger reads. I did not dislike it, by any means, it was just a tad flat.

Anyway, just my opinion. Feel free to tell me your thoughts, or if I’m wrong. Thanks, everybody!

Book Review: The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

thHey everybody! I hope everybody is well! Just thought I’d check in and post a book review. I am forming the outline for a new novel. Hopefully, this one will be a little more readable. Hey, I’m learning as I go.

I recently read The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. I have to admit, I had pretty high expectations going into this one. I had been told, by many people, that this book is a masterpiece. I had also been told that the book is profoundly bleak and depressing, moving. And, as a lover of post-apocalyptic fiction, Mad Max: Fury Road being the finest film ever made, I was eager to finally read this instant classic.

Oi. I’m terribly sorry. Maybe I’m not smart. Maybe I’m not cultured enough. Maybe I didn’t get it. But I am here to tell you: I found this book to be profoundly mediocre. Don’t get me wrong, there were some good things in it, but I also had some serious problems with it.

Here’s the plot, in a very brief nutshell: A father and his young son walk down the remains of the western United States, southwards, towards Cormac never says where, after some catastrophic, society-destroying apocalypse. They look for food and hide from bandits. Yup, that’s about it. I know that harrowing tales of survival can be compelling, but, seriously, that’s about it.

Here’s the good stuff: The descriptive narrative is actually very well written. McCarthy does a fantastic job of painting a brilliant mental picture. You really can feel yourself in the story. The action moves along well enough, with a few spots of pausing for contemplative situations. McCarthy’s command of the English language, and his penchant for poetry, is quite strong.

Here are the problems I had with the book: Remember my synopsis I wrote a couple of paragraphs above? Seriously, that’s all that happens. As a reader, you do care about what happens to the father and son, and you root for them, but there is literally nothing in the way of character development at all. They walk, say they are scared, they look for food, they hide from bandits. They say ‘okay’ a lot. That is seriously about it. Now, I know full well that I am no literary genius, but you’ve got to give us something! But it gets worse: You never, ever get to find out what caused the collapse of civilization. I get it, McCarthy did not feel that relevant to the plot, but at least give me something! Nuclear war? A terrible plague? Four more years of Trump?

Ultimately though, here’s the biggest problem I had with the book: McCarthy, being the genius that brought us No Country For Old Men, which had all the closure of the Mueller Report, did not feel, when he wrote The Road, that he needed to follow basic rules of grammar. Like punctuation. I’m serious. When the father and son have a conversation, which usually consists of dialogue saying how scared and hungry they are, McCarthy does not bother with quotation marks. Not kidding. So when the dialogue gets longer than a few exchanged lines, you actually lose track of who is saying what. Also, McCarthy leaves out the apostrophe of contracted words. For example, he writes the word ‘won’t’ as ‘wont.’ Or ‘didn’t’ as ‘didnt.’ I found this odd and confusing. I honestly thought Maria and I were reading an unpublished draft copy or something. I don’t know if McCarthy’s choice to do this was because it’s considered meta, or avant garde, or if Cormac McCarthy is just too good to be bothered with proper grammar, but it got kind of distracting.

So there you go. I know I will probably get some flak for this, but I found the novel to be underwhelming. Maybe if I did not have the preconceived notions before I read the book, I might have enjoyed it more, but I really did not get it. I don’t know, maybe it’s me. Feel free to set me straight.

I understand the book was made into a film, with Aragorn from Lord of the Rings playing the father. They filmed extensively around the ruins of Mt. St. Helens. That’s kind of cool, I guess.

Anyway, just thought I’d post my thoughts. The next review I’ll post is Stephen King’s The Outsider. You’ve heard of Stephen King. He writes the scary stuff. Well, feel free to tell me if I’m off base with my review, and I hope that everybody is having a great 2019.  Bye for now!


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