When rude robots attack

Today turned out to be even stranger than the day before.

No, my truck wasn’t struck by a flying condom traveling down the freeway like I believe it to have been yesterday. Also, nowhere did I see Houston Mayor-Elect Annise Parker being all Christmasy by donning her gay apparel. Sorry, I just had to use that one. I didn’t see Houston’s first openly gay mayor-elect yesterday either although I mentioned her in this venue.

But the top of my windshield or edge of my truck’s roof did get struck by a brick-sized chunk of what appeared to be concrete as I drove home from Houston to Beaumont on Interstate 10. The piece of whatever it was just seemed to come out of nowhere. It reminded me of a similar incident that I wrote of here. There were plenty of big trucks in the three lanes ahead of me so the chunkaroid could have come from one of them. I wasn’t close to any overpasses, which is good because I am concerned about having an overpass collapse on top of me. I mean, I’m not obsessed with the thought, but with the state of our infrastructure these days you have to keep on your toes. People who are psychopathic or who otherwise have nothing to do occasionally will likewise throw objects onto vehicles from overpasses. I just threw that in to scare the hell out of you.

The strangest part of my day happened as I stood waiting for an elevator at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Hospital in Houston. A veteran who appeared to be fairly disabled and was traveling in a rather speedy wheelchair was kind enough to physically accompany me to MRI after I had asked a VA employee in the hospital how to get there. I had been there before and would have eventually found it but this considerate man insisted on showing me how to get there. It was as this gentleman and I were standing at the elevator that a robot rolled silenty up behind us and told us to move so it could get on the elevator.

It turns out this is one of the robots the hospital purchased in 2004. The hospital bought two of the so-called “Helpmate” robots which were named “Jewels” and “King Tut.” I’m sure there is a cute story behind the names. Oh well. The robots are basically rolling couriers that can deliver up to 200 pounds of medications and supplies to different locations in the hospital. They are programmed with a map of the hospital. When they encounter an obstacle such as today, they also have the ability to announce — in either English or Spanish — that something is in the way and then ask that the obstacle be removed.


 With the disabled fellow and I being the obstacle, I found this walking, talking storage cabinet to be rather imperious. But the way things have been going for me lately, I figured if I said anything the robot might have done something like zap me with death rays. Even if it didn’t I don’t think it is wise to cross a robot with an attitude.

Here is an update for those interested in the reason for my visit to the hospital. I met with the neurologist who turned out to be a good listener. We went over my blood work drawn and analyzed earlier this week as well as previous blood tests, for readings of areas which could indicate a cause for my neuropathy. None of the markers, including thyroid function, were  abnormal with the exception for those tests that might indicate diabetes.

Despite my primary doctors saying I was a “near-borderline” diabetic although not fully over the line, an analysis found that my last test showed a somewhat high reading and an average of the last three tests indicated a bit higher reading than normal. The higher readings appeared to coincide with a very unnerving weight gain over the last six to eight months that my former internist said could have been due to some medicines I am taking.

The doctor also took note that I had been experiencing a shooting low back and hip pain which could indicate a pinched nerve, hence my trip to MRI this morning for an appointment which will be next month to get images of my back.

As I await tests the doctor is adjusting the Lyrica I am taking for the neuropathy and I must seriously begin dieting, no small feat at Christmas season, to see if diabetes or another reason is causing my pain.

I was frank but diplomatic with the doctor in saying that with about a third of the cases like mine being caused by diabetes, I was concerned about a physician just seeing some numbers and immediately focusing on that disease as the cause rather than some of the hundred others. And he indicated that he understood my concern.

So, I go into the holiday season still not knowing what’s interrupting my life but perhaps a little closer to finding out some answers, or not. As for now, I think I’ll be okay if I don’t have dreams tonight about pushy robots.

The ever-traveling bad day

 As you may have noticed, I didn’t post anything yesterday. That is because I spent eight hours at the local VA clinic, the latter hours awaiting on my foot X-Ray results which ultimately were not sent back to the doctor by closing time.

 Later in the evening I called the Tele-nurse line and asked them about my X-Rays and I was told no evidence of a fracture was found. You could have fooled me. But come to think of it, the VA didn’t find a fracture when my other little toe was broken about six years ago. When I had foot X-Rays several months back because of neuropathy problems in my feet, the pictures then showed that a fracture had occurred in that toe.

 For reasons I don’t want to discuss because they are too long and ridiculous to go into, I question the workmanship involved in the X-Rays. That is all I will say, take it as it is. Then again, the toe might not be broken. It looked worse than my other toe when it fractured though.

 As you might expect, the episode yesterday at the VA was not fun. It has basically ruined both my days — yesterday and today.  I have not been a delight to talk to. For instance, I almost called a deputy sheriff running the X-Ray machine at the county courthouse an a**hole. That wouldn’t have been good. Accurate, perhaps, but not good.

 The point in all this is that a bad day has consequences that sometimes go beyond one day. Only you can prevent a bad day, sez Smokey! Or something like that.

It's like this, Catfish

 It feels like an odds and ends type of day. That means I write about odds and ends of life, liberty and the pursuit of dinner.

ohohohohohohohohohohohohoohohohohohohohohohohoh — The oho line. Figure it out and win a prize. Yeah, and if you believe that …

 It’s laundry and more specifically drying time. That was such a beautiful song. Wasn’t that Ray Charles? “Oh it’s drying time again, you’re going to leave me/I can see that faraway look in your eyes … ” Oh  yeah, it was crying, not drying. No s**t man, Ray sang that, faraway look and all.


 All the politicians and cable news pundits are talking about how a few elections such as a single congressional race in New York state and the contest for governor in New Jersey will be the big “report card” on the Obama administration. I thought they did that on the first 100 days. The truth is, it gives the talking heads something to talk about, as if they were totally without a subject of discussion. It just beats me to a smashed doodle bug.


 The Texans looked awesome yesterday. Buffalo, not so much.


 I just got back my EMG report from two weeks ago. It would be nice to have a neurologist to explain it to me since one did the test. But I suppose the Department of Veterans Affairs has a plan. Yeah, I bet. Especially since I don’t have a “personal” primary care physician or physicians assistant or nurse practitioner. You see, my clinic is short two primary care people right now, or they was last week. So who knows when I will get a doctor for my very own who can oversee the testing that Dr. G-V recommended in his report: “Screen for causes of peripheral neuropathy (metabolic, toxic, nutritional).” Yeah, and all that good doctor stuff


Whazzup? (Photo courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department © 2006)
Whazzup? (Photo courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department © 2006)

See you later, Catfish.

I just felt the need to call someone Catfish today.

Doesn’t the urge hit you every once in awhile to call someone

Catfish? No?

Tired? Turn to the obit page.

Three matters bothered me this morning when I traveled to the Houston VA hospital for an EMG, nerve test, on my feet and legs. Nothing that was a bother had anything directly to do with the test.

First I woke at 4:50  a.m. I did so to catch the shuttle van from the local outpatient clinic to the hospital. As it turned out — my being the filling between almost 500 pounds of veteran sandwich in the van ride — my own drive to Houston with morning rush hour traffic and all might have turned out to have been more pleasant had I driven my truck instead. So the hour at which I awoke, the uncomfortable ride to the hospital and dealing with some of the VA’s most accomplished bureaucratic assh**es while trying to work out another matter completely were what made my day much less than perfect.

The EMG itself, performed by a friendly doc with a heavy Latino accent wasn’t really much of a problem at all considering I would get my legs or feet shocked from time-to-time. The shocks weren’t like getting shocked when one grabs hold of a live wire. Believe me. Been there done that — ow, ow s**t!!!

Mostly it was the early morning rise that got to me. Even though I somehow managed to sleep most of the way back from Houston sitting upright in the van, I still feel halfway dead. As such, it is most appropriate that I pay tribute here to a great man whose obituary I noticed today.

Many may not recognize the name Vic Mizzy right off, unless you watched the running gag with the television credits which opened the 1960s TV comedy “Green Acres.”  Mizzy, who died in Los Angeles Saturday at 93, wrote the theme for Eddie Albert-Eva Gabor farce. The Gabor character would make some bizarre comment about the opening credits which would feature Mizzy or other crew’s names, something one would hardly if ever see on any other TV show or movie.

But it was probably another of Mizzy’s TV songs which is more widely known, however, that being the theme of the “Addams Family,” complete with the song’s finger snaps.

True, Mizzy may not have cured cancer or polio, or have won a Nobel Prize (no comment please). But some of his songs help us remember some of the zaniest TV programming that aired during a time that cried out for hilarity, the 1960s. Those themes remain catchy and appealing today.

Snap, snap. Keep Manhattan just give me that countryside …

VA to open care to about 250,000 new vets

If you are a military veteran who has thought about signing up for veterans health care but couldn’t, and if you don’t mind socialized medicine, then you just might be eligible now for VA care.

The Department of Veterans Affairs suspended opening up health care to so-called “rich” veterans in 2003 because of budget constraints. These are the vets who do not have disabling illnesses or injuries that are related to military service but whose income is above a set threshold. The income levels are geographically-based and an enrollment calculator for benefits can be found here. Don’t let the word “rich” fool you. It’s certainly not a $100,000-$200,000 level.

Dr. Blase Carabello, acting director of the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, said the rule allowing the addition of about 250,000 additional veterans for health care should take effect June 30 “if the regulatory process proceeds smoothly.” That is always a big “if” when dealing with the VA or most any other federal branch.

Congress opened the VA health system in 1996 to veterans other than those with service-related disabilities or the indigent. Poor funding and an explosion of veterans seeking health care closed the system to new enrollees under the Bush administration in 2003. Those, such as yours truly, who were already enrolled were grandfathered.

It is true I bitch about the VA health care system sometimes. It is certainly not a perfect system and it isn’t the best model for a socialized health care. But to be fair, it does pretty well  in most places with the funding it receives. Each VA regional system is a little different from the other, although they have indicated that they want to fix that. If you are dead-set on one type of medication, you aren’t always going to get it in one VA system but might in another. Some systems, hospitals and outpatient clinics are exceptional. Some are dreadful.

But when the VA is all that you’ve got then, well, it’s all you got. Like just about any service of any kind in the United States, if things aren’t working well for you then you need to raise 10 kinds of hell and you might just get your feelings across. The same goes for dealing with the VA.