I’ve moved…

Hi, folks,

I’ve decided to move this blog from WordPress.com to my own website. The new address is www.ThisStep.me. I’m doing this for a couple of reasons. I want a little more control of the website so I can be a little more creative. Also, I’ve decided to change the focus of the website from being about my role as an UUMP to being more about me with being an UUMP as just one aspect. So this will be the last post here. See you over there.


The Dresden Philes

So I’ve been reading The Dresden Files series of books by Jim Butcher. I’ve really gotten into them since my wife suggested them, and I have gotten through 10 books in the last six months. They’re really good, very well written, and funny. If you don’t know, the series is about a wizard named Harry Dresden who works as a private investigator in Chicago, and has to solve supernatural mysteries. The cases get progressively harder as the series moves along.

Anyway, before I started reading them, my wife discovered that there was a TV series as well. She watched the first couple of episodes and declared that they were unworthy, and they totally mangled the characters and storyline. So, I didn’t give watching another thought until a few days ago.

So I started watching them. There is only one season with 12 episodes shot back in 2007. I watched them all. It was like a train wreck…I couldn’t look away. They didn’t try to recreate the books, except for episode #8, which was based on the first book. These seemed to be smaller cases that Harry worked. The constraints of a 40 minute TV episode did not allow for the usual depth that the books provide. They seemed very compressed and the resolutions seemed rushed and simplistic. They reinterpreted one character and I actually thought that was intriguing the way they did it. But another main character got a name and physical description change that was a little jarring. And the backstories of Harry and the other characters were rewritten in ways that didn’t make sense to me…the originals would have worked just fine. And the one episode based on the first book gave me the feeling that…hmmm…imagine that you’ve sculpted a scene out of Play-Doh and you’ve used many different colors and put in a lot of detail. Then someone smooshes it all together, throws away half of it and then tries to recreate the scene, but with less detail. It looks OK, but it pales in comparison to the original.

As disappointing as the series was, a part of me is a little sad that it got canceled.

So, what do you think? Have you read the books or seen the show? Both? What’s your take?

Wyo Rep would prefer that we leave rather than listen to our concerns

hanshuntwtfSo, last Thursday, my wife wrote to all of the Wyoming State Legislators to express her concerns regarding pending gun legislation, specifically one that would expand carry laws to allow guns in public schools. (She also expressed concerns about fracking in the state.) She noted that if this legislation passed, it may affect the decisions of young families to either move or stay here.

Well, within 10 minutes, Rep. Hans Hunt (and here) wrote back saying that if she didn’t like what the legislature was doing then she should, “by all means, leave.” (The full text of her letter and his response appear at the end of this post.)

My wife was so taken aback by the backhanded response that she decided to post it on Facebook to get other folks’ take on it. Well, her friends were so shocked as well, that they began writing letters to Rep. Hunt and sharing it with their friends. Local news media got wind of it and asked to interview her (Ch5 | CST | BG | CE). It has also been blogged by a few folks (here | here | here). And just recently it was posted on The Maddow Blog.

I wrote my own thoughtful letter to Rep. Hunt, to which I have not received a response. I kind of doubt he will be responding to email for a while…I think it hurts too much to sit right now. Anyway, as part of my personal outrage, I created the meme above. Since posting it on Facebook on Saturday, it has had over 600 share. The irony of his arrogance (“proudly 4th Generation”) is that roughly 60% of Wyoming’s population are transplants…born elsewhere. He is blindly pro-gun, willfully ignorant of the evidence of the dangers of fracking, and holds Liberals (especially out-of-staters) in contempt. The sad thing is that many of our state legislatures hold the same opinions, though they hold them silently. Rep. Hunt’s behavior makes him unfit to hold public office, in my opinion.

Thankfully, the expanded carry bill, although it passed the House, died in the Education committee in the Senate.

My wife’s letter:

Dear Representative,

I hope you are taking care of yourself during this busy session. I know it is a challenging, compressed time.

I am writing to express my grave concern about House Bill 105. Ample evidence has shown that schools and guns do not mix, and in particular, guns in the hands of amateurs/non-professionals is extremely dangerous, especially in any highly-charged situation. to expose our children to greater risk in their schools by encouraging more guns on campuses is something that we cannot allow.

My husband and I moved to Wyoming not too long ago. We believed it was a good place to raise children. With the recent and reactive expansion of gun laws and the profoundly serious dangers of fracking, we find we are seriously reconsidering our decision, which is wrenching to all of us. However, the safety of our family must come first. We are waiting to see what the legislature does this session. I know of other new-to-Wyoming families in similar contemplation. Your choices matter. It would be sad to see an exodus of educated, childrearing age adults from Wyoming as a result of poor lawmaking.

Rep. Hunt’s response:

I’ll be blunt. If you don’t like the political atmosphere of Wyoming, then by all means, leave. We, who have been here a very long time (I am proudly 4th generation) are quite proud of our independent heritage. I don’t expect a “mass exodus” from our state just because we’re standing up for our rights. As to your comments on fracking, I would point out that you’re basing your statement on “dangers” that have not been scientifically founded or proved as of yet.

It offends me to no end when liberal out-of-staters such as yourself move into Wyoming, trying to get away from where they came from, and then pompously demand that Wyoming conform to their way of thinking. We are, and will continue to be, a state which stands a head above the rest in terms of economic security. Our ability to do that is, in large part, to our “live and let live” mentality when it comes to allowing economic development, and limiting government oversight. So, to conclude, if you’re so worried about what our legislature is working on, then go back home.

My response:

Dear Mr. Hunt,

I hope you are still reading these messages…I know you are getting a lot of them, and it must be hard to hear from so many people who think differently than you.

I am writing in regards to the response you sent to the email from my wife, Rev. Audette Fulbright. I wanted to make sure not to respond rashly and to give a thoughtful response to you.

It is true that we have some misgivings about the “political atmosphere” here in Wyoming. Many of the bills that have been introduced recently do not serve all the people with compassion and forethought, and that concerns us greatly. But this is our home and we are not leaving.

It is very nice that you are a fourth generation Wyomingite. You should be proud of your heritage. However, as a native, you surely are aware that the majority of the Wyoming population were not born here. Therefore, it surprises me that a legislator would have such contempt for out-of-staters, even if they do think differently and hold different values than you.

I wonder if you respond the same way to other native-born Liberal Wyomingites who disagree with you…or is it just those from out-of-state?

We, like many others, chose Wyoming as our home. And like others, we bring with us our beliefs and considered opinions. And as engaged citizens of a democracy, we refuse to keep keep our mouths shut when we disagree with the majority.

I understand the concept of “live and let live” and agree with it in most cases. But when that mentality becomes self-serving, ignoring the best interests of the people and the environment, then it is time to speak out.

Allowing unregulated practices such as fracking only serves to increase the profits of big energy companies without regard for how it affects current or future generations. And even if you choose to ignore the evidence of the dangers of fracking, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Please do more research now and don’t wait for it to be “proved” to your satisfaction.

The people’s right to bear arms does not translate into the right to own or carry any type of weapon they want. Please learn the difference. The answer to gun violence is not to add more guns to the mix. The solution is much more complex than whether people are or are not allowed to carry guns in certain places. Expanding carry laws is simply a reactionary move and will only add to the danger and will not address the root problems.

In conclusion, I must say that I was very disappointed in your letter to my wife. I found it disrespectful and not befitting a representative of the people. Thankfully though, and to Wyoming’s credit, your reaction is not representative of the welcome and support we have enjoyed since we moved here.

On being sick and what it has made me appreciate

stethoscope-appleTwo weeks ago, on Saturday, I got an attack of abdominal cramps. This is actually something I had gotten used to over the past year or so, and I thought they were attributed to something I had eaten. I would start to get a growing pain in my upper right quadrant and it would be pretty intense for about 20 minutes or so and then subside as if nothing had happened. However, this time was different. The pain did not subside as quickly as before and I felt pretty bad the rest of the evening.

The next morning I was feeling better, but then started feeling progressively worse throughout the day. After lunch we went to pick out a Christmas tree, and on the way home, I started feeling nauseous and thought I would have to pull over. I managed to get the tree set up and the lights on. But later I wasn’t able to participate in the decorating. I did end up vomiting and was in bed the rest of the evening. I couldn’t get into a comfortable position and ended up sleeping sitting up in the recliner.

Over the next two days I continued to have cramps and vomiting. I tried to manage the pain with acetaminophen and ease my belly with tea and a little food. But my digestive system had shut down and I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable. I didn’t feel like eating and all I wanted to do was sleep, though it would not come easily.

By Wednesday, my symptoms were still not much improved though my acetaminophen therapy was managing the pain for the most part. My wife, who had been taking such great care of me this whole time, finally put her foot down and took me to Urgent Care. After they listened to my symptoms and progress over the last few days and poked around my belly, the doctor refunded our money and sent us over to the ER. He said there are some tests they could do, but they couldn’t do all the tests I would need.

In the ER, they gave me morphine which was a blessing. I was able to relax and rest a bit. They did blood work and a CT scan and found that my white cells were elevated (from an infection that’ I’ve been fighting), but the numbers on my pancreas and liver were otherwise OK and they didn’t find any other obvious causes for my pain. The doctor rattled off a litany of possible causes, many of which sounded pretty scary. They admitted me and kept me comfortable throughout the night on some stronger pain medicine, Dilaudid.

I had an ultrasound the next day which revealed 20-30 gallstones. This revealed a lot about the symptoms I’ve been having. Apparently, all those abdominal cramps I had been having over the past year, were really me passing gall stones. However, this time the stone irritated my pancreas and duodenum and caused pancreatitis. We talked about the options and decided to go ahead remove my gallbladder. The surgery was scheduled for that night (Thursday).

The surgery went really well, despite the concern that they may have to open me up further if anything else was found inside. They removed it laparoscopically, which means they only had to make 4 small incisions. I was asleep a split-second after the anesthesiologist explained what was going to happen and I woke up, seemingly, a second after that, feeling like there was something stuck in my throat.

I spent the night in uneasy sleep, needing regular pain management into the next day. However, wanting to be discharged, I was a good patient, doing my breathing exercises and walking around so that my pain meds could be switched to Percocet and I could go home.

I was committed to staying on the Percocet only as long as I needed it. I stepped it down Sunday and took my last one on Tuesday. I faithfully took my antibiotics and took the last one this morning. I am so looking forward to my food tasting good again and not having a yucky tummy.

There are a lot of things that being sick has made me appreciate:

My wife. I shudder to think what would have happened to me if she had not been there to take care of me and insist I go see the doctor. I love you so much, Sweetie, and I plan to make you glad you decided to keep me alive.

The hospital staff. As much as I dislike and distrust our healthcare system in general, the real people who do the caring work of making us healthy again are amazing and I can’t thank them enough for everything then did for me while I was in the hospital.

Universal Healthcare. You see, I am between jobs and don’t have health insurance, having decided to save the money by not adding me to my wife’s plan, anticipating having a job soon. I have had insurance my entire life and have never had to use it except for some very minor things. I have contributed a lot of money to premiums over the years, but during this small window of time, that didn’t matter…I wasn’t covered and that forced me to stall the decision to go to the doctor. Had we had universal healthcare in this country, this would not have been a concern and I would not have had to suffer as long. It was hard to decide to go deeply into debt in order to be healthy again. As hard as it will be, we will manage it, but I grieve for those who must decide to forego healthcare because they can’t manage the expense.

The taste of food. During my recovery, while on antibiotics, the foods I normally enjoy have tasted very bland and I had to be careful what I ate because I knew I wouldn’t be able to digest it properly without the healthy flora in my belly. Now that I’m done, I’m looking forward to tomorrow when it is out of my system and I can start enjoying those foods that I love once again.

A working digestive system. Ever since this started my whole digestive system has been on the fritz, whether due to fighting an infection or enduring an antibiotic regimen. It has slowly gotten back to normal and I am grateful for that.

The support of friends. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, support, prayers, and messages of concern I’ve received over the past week. I know that it made a lot of difference in my attitude and will to recover quickly. Thank you all.

Open letter to US House and Senate Republicans

The people have spoken. Not only did President Obama win a landslide Electoral College victory, but he handily captured the Popular Vote, as well. Our representatives need to heed this mandate and stop the petty obstructionist nonsense and get back to work moving our country forward.

Ever since Mitch McConnell’s failed call for Republicans to make Obama a one-term president, the House has voted overwhelmingly “No” on every measure that the President supported. The most recent travesty was voting against the Veterans’ Jobs Bill, which would have put our troops, who have sacrificed much for our country, to work rebuilding our infrastructure. Republicans need put aside this nonsense, silence the extremists, and do the work they were elected to do…represent the citizens.

The people have examined the facts and rejected the lies the right has been promoting. They have rejected the ridiculous assertions made about women’s health issues and affirmed that women are capable of making their own decisions about their bodies without the help of their legislators. They have affirmed the right of gay couples to marry. They have rejected the myth of trickle-down economics and the notion that corporations are people. They have seen first hand the effects of global climate change and are ready to respond to it.

The Republican party is at risk of imploding. The party that, at one time, worked for positive social change has been so altered that it is no longer recognizable as being representative of the people. Some serious soul-searching is in order.

We are currently recovering from the worst economic downturn in decades…a downturn that was initiated well before President Obama took office, caused by policies put in place by the Bush administration. The President has managed to turn it around and the economy is making a slow comeback…a comeback that may have happened much faster if Republicans had not stood in the way.

Starting now, the House and Senate need to work on several things…overturn Citizens United, cease the attack on women’s rights, reject the influence of the religious right and affirm the civil rights of gay couples, make common-sense decision on how to respond to climate change, create real tax reform that assures everyone is playing by the same rules and paying their fair share, reject extremism and the notion that bipartisanship means the left coming around to your way of thinking.

Do this, or you may find yourselves out of a job in 2014.