Monday, September 29, 2008

Austin City Limits 2008

Too much travel, not enough sleep = sick me. Missed work and slept 18 hours out of 24 for a few days. I was still feeling tired and mucous-y when ACL started so I missed most of 1st day including half of David Byrne's all-Eno-collaboration set. Dang dang dang. Like most years, I skipped out on the headliners which was a definite necessity this year. At least the copious mucous trapped the particles from the ubiquitous dust clouds.

Fatigue curtailed my note-taking this year so I just have a few impressions and quotes. The best of the festival for me was the Neko Case show where she noted this was the last date of her Fox Confessor tour (and quite a long one too). She'd been through Texas before on this tour but I wasn't able to attend. So glad I got to hear these songs before she inevitably retired a good chunk in favor of new material.

Despite their statements to the contrary, Fleet Foxes easily take to festival performance and delivered my other favorite show of the festival. Relaxed presence, superlative musicianship, and entertaining banter all contributed to a great set. Fleet Foxes put out a wonderful EP and debut album this year and I expect great things from them in the future.

Jose Gonzalez:
Not a likely festival performer, but thankfully people kept relatively quiet. I almost corrected the exceedingly pompous guy behind me when he loudly informed his girlfriend that Gonzalez wrote "Heartbeats" and his "original vision" was clearly superior to The Knife's. I let it go. She was doubtful anyway.

The Kills:
"Come see us when it's dark. This is bullshit." Huh, from where I was standing the bullshit was clearly centered on your lame backing tracks, ridiculous faux-worn cowboy accoutrements, and general air of insolence.

Comments from the stage moved from "The bottled water has sodium in it. It will make you thirstier," to frontman Torquil referring to it as "poison water." Uh no, a little sodium is good when you're sweating so much. Brawndo, electrolytes, all that.

Really looking forward to this show as I looove several songs on their album and like most of the others. I was concerned that it wouldn't work on a festival stage, sadly it was worse than I feared. Far too wanky and lame for most of the set. "Electric Touch" was the highlight with "Kids" as a close second. Managed to summon the energy to dance a bit and wore myself out quickly.

Yet again Austin is confirmed as a big little city when I randomly bumped into five people I know, including two high school classmates. Seems like it's more challenging to not find run into an acquaintance.

Gillian Welch:
Marvelous as always. Alison Krauss came out to sing on "Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby" which was nice as I wasn't sticking around for her and Robert Plant's set.

In past years I've documented the various Here I Am! flags, but couldn't work up the enthusiasm this time. I did note with approval the perennial Beer Mug, Don't Tread On Me, and Bear Pride flags.

Uh, that's it I guess.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm fine

Hey all, sorry I haven't kept up the info stream. Myself and my residence are fine. Got power back quickly at my place, but cable/internet was out for awhile and I didn't have time to post from the hospital while I was working then I flew to NY for a planned trip. I'll put up a lot more tonight after I sleep a bit.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ike Day 2 & 3

Though I'm writing this over a week after the events depicted, I've backdated the post so the correct chronology holds.

The brunt of the storm finally hit the Medical Center in the wee hours. Rain lashed everything and the wind was strong enough to uproot young trees. The lights flickered when the generators came on, but otherwise there was no sign that power lines had failed. Through it all, a news crew van parked out front barely moved. It must have been heavily weighted. Never did find out if anyone stayed in the van. We heard that a few windows broke in the tower, though no patients were affected.

I left the desk a few times to assist others with baths and dressing changes, and of course to bust out some morale-boosting karaoke. One of the other nurses brought a karaoke machine and we hooked it up to a TV in a room. I sang John Denver's "Annie's Song," Foreigner's "Waiting for a Girl Like You," and The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry". Sadly, no one else took up the mic when I returned to the desk. In a post-apocalyptic world, I'd be useful. I can't bow hunt or fix cars, but I can patch up minor injuries, organize resources, and keep spirits up.

By first grey light, Ike was still over us though waning. Moving at only 10-15 mph and as large as it was it took a while for it to completely pass. The day crew came on shift reporting that the sound of the wind had interfered with a restless night's sleep. Seeking to avoid the travesty of trying to sleep on cots in an auditorium, our unit went en masse up to an ICU where most of the day crew had spent the night. In less than an hour, we were booted out. The PACU had developed leaks and patients needed to be moved back to the unit we were occupying. We scattered, most to empty consult rooms. I ended up in an office bedding down in a reclining chair. After a fitful couple hours, I moved to the linoleum floor. It was hard, but at least I could stretch out.

After a total of 5 hours sleep, I grabbed a quick shower and a meal before heading outside. A friend working at Texas Children's Hospital across the street had inviting me to drop by. We hung out and chatted for a bit before she got busy. Now that the storm had passed, there was a trickle of people bringing their kids in to the ER. After a semi-successful attempt at a nap, I went to work again pairing up with my former preceptor to care for a busy transplant patient. I can't take transplants yet, but I can pair with another qualified nurse to assist. She did all the charting and oversaw the care, I administered all the medications and changed out the fluids on the dialysis machine.

The mood was grim Saturday night. The storm was behind us, but no one had slept well and energy was low. The karaoke machine stayed in its bag. Sunday morning the managers sent the night crew to breakfast after we reported to the oncoming crew. Executive discussions occurred and we returned from eating to find out that we could leave. Friends took me home with only one detour around high water. Electricity was back in patches, but not at my apartment. The area of town where I live isn't low-lying so flooding wasn't a problem. Tree limbs were down everywhere you looked though. One had busted through the roof of my building causing a slow leak in the apartment above mine. The guy living there put a bucket under the leak and went back to his girlfriend's place.

I'd noticed the $1 store down the street was open so I walked to it looking to pick up the extra water and candles I'd forgotten to buy pre-storm. The store owners had a small generator powering one cash register. They handed out flashlights and let five people at a time roam the store. It seemed like some people lined up just as something to do. On the way home I noticed standing water all over the place so I cleared brush and leaves from a couple storm drains feeling particularly useful. When I got home I fell into bed. When I woke up around 8 PM, the power was back on. No cable & internet, but I wasn't going to complain.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ike Day 1

The city buses stopped running at noon today so I came in to work early. It felt like a Sunday morning. As I walked down to the bus stop, I saw varying levels of preparation for Ike. Some houses and stores had boarded up their windows, some just taped them, but most were left as is. Aside from the grocery store and a few casual restaurants, businesses were closed with handwritten signs in the windows, CLOSED SATURDAY, OPEN SUNDAY. One gas station had wrapped their pumps and shut down, the station catticorner was raising their prices as I watched from the bus stop.

The ride to the Medical Center was uneventful; less people out and about than usual, but still some riding bikes and walking dogs. As I came into the building clouds were beginning to roll in, though it was still warm and sunny. Out front was a line of cars picking up discharged patients.

After checking in with my unit I was assigned a bed upstairs in a cleared-out patient care area. Shoes off, ear plugs in, diphenhydramine pill taken, I slept for five hours before heading down to my unit at 7 PM. I’m working the desk now. There are more than enough nurses to go around so I’m answering phones, putting orders in, assisting as needed with patient care, those sorts of things.

I haven’t been outside since 11:30 AM. I’m told that now at 11 PM it takes two people to hold the door open due to the wind. Maintenance crews boarded up the windows on the unit so we can’t see outside. There’s a lounge down the hall where you can still see out, I’ll check it out when I get a break in a couple hours.

Updates to come as time and circumstances allow.

Letter meme

The rules: Comment and I'll give you a letter; then you have to list ten things you LOVE that begin with that letter. Afterward, post this in your journal and give out some letters of your own.

Seagulls Screaming gave me M (well, I asked for M and she assented):

Music - Big surprise huh? I'm one of those people that fly to other cities to see bands/music festivals. Magnificent Ms (or what I can make out on my CD shelf as I squint from here): M83, The Magnetic Fields, Man...Or Astroman?, Massive Attack, Marumari, Kathy McCarty, The Meat Purveyors, Ministry (early- to mid-period), Morrissey, The Moth Wranglers, The Mountain Goats, Movietone, μ-Ziq, My Bloody Valentine.

Movies - Love almost as much as music. Marvelous Ms: M, Metropolis, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, Mulholland Dr., Man Bites Dog, Manhattan, Manhattan Murder Mystery (three Ms!), Miller's Crossing, Mom & Dad Save the World, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Muppet Movie. Hey look at that, films by Preston Sturges, Coen Brothers, Woody Allen (2), Robert Altman, Fritz Lang (2) - great directors with distinguished careers all.

Elizabeth Murray - In high school I kept pictures of Murray's artwork taped to my walls after reading about her in the newspaper. There's a wonderful playfulness to her art that thrills me. Several times at museums, I've rounded a corner and been pleasantly surprised to see one of her works across the room.

Medicine - More than just a job.

Midnight - I love the turning of one calendar day to another in the dark of night. On my off days, when I see that it's around midnight I think, "Six to eight hours before I have to go to sleep. Awesome."

Memory - Just the idea of remembering is so incredible when you think about it. Moments imperfectly encoded into organic structure, then summoned forth by will or external trigger.

Moths that drink the tears of sleeping birds - Nature is frickin' amazing.

Monkeys - Well yeah. Monkeys. Even the word is fun to say. Course if I lived in one of those Indian towns where fearless monkeys maraud then I probably wouldn't like them so much.

Moshi moshi - So great that Japanese has a phrase that's only used in one context, answering the telephone.

Matt(s) - Two specifically, here's to you Mr. R and Mr. L.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

pre-Ike preparations

As expected, I got a call this evening from my boss at the hospital. The disaster emergency plan is active and I am to be there tomorrow at 3 PM in preparation for Hurricane Ike's landfall. After the nightmare of Tropical Storm Allison, Houston's hospitals put emergency plans in place to deal with future calamities. At my facility, the staff sign up to be on either the Prep and Recovery team or the Ride Out team. P&R works before the anticipated emergency, then evacuates or stays home. The Ride Out team staffs the hospital just before and during the event. Then the P&R team comes in afterwards to relieve the RO staff. Having no local family or pets to look after, I signed up for RO.

I'm neither nervous nor annoyed by the circumstances. I was well-aware that Houston is at risk of experiencing hurricanes and being a nurse at a hospital means contributing to disaster preparedness. It's part of the job. Frankly, I'm glad to go in. I have no car so I couldn't easily leave Houston anyway and the hospital will take care of all my needs.

Tonight I'll pack a bag in preparation for living at the hospital for a day or two. The expectation is that I'll work my regular 6:45 PM to 7:15 AM shift, then sleep in makeshift housing at the hospital. I'm guessing this will be empty patient rooms as part of the plan calls for slowing admissions and stepping up patient discharges in an effort to reduce the hospital census. As all non-emergent surgeries get canceled, it's possible that I'll be working somewhere other than my normal surgical recovery unit.

Currently the eye is predicted to make landfall near Galveston very early Saturday morning. Just looked up the bus schedule and dang, service shuts down at noon so I have to leave even earlier. Alright then, two antihistamine pills are in my near future as I need to be asleep by 3 AM. Updates as time and circumstances allow.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Drank found, imbibed


After reading a AV Club review, I was interested in trying Drank but none of the three non-chain convenience stores in my immediate area had it. Sure, it's distributed out of Houston but my neighborhood was not exactly ground central for screw hip-hop. Then one day I went into a store and there it was. I was way too excited about the purchase and considered drinking a can right then just to take the edge off.

Wait, let's establish some background. A Houston guy named DJ Screw invented a style of hip-hop called screw that slowed down and chopped up the music. Purple drank (or oil or syrup or any of the other names for it) was the drug of choice to accompany the music. Cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine is mixed with Sprite or what have you. Adding Jolly Ranchers is optional, that's how Oscar-winners Three 6 Mafia liked it ("Rainbow Colors", thanks Wikipedia). Codeine is a narcotic and promethazine is an antihistamine mostly used to combat nausea and as a cough suppressant. It also causes drowsiness. So, drink drank and feel kind of drunk, get a lean going. Oh, and DJ Screw and several other musicians closely identified with screw probably died from complications associated with consuming purple stuff.

Drank is marketed as an "anti-energy," completely legal version that will "slow your roll." Instead of prescription medications, the active ingredients are valerian, rose hips, and melatonin. It tastes like carbonated grape Kool-Aid and I can report that it does indeed make one sleepy. Both times I drank Drank, it was in the morning when it was time for me to go to bed (I work night shift remember) and I wasn't particularly tired. Drank worked to send me off to sleep.

The can lists the amount of valerian, rose hips, and melatonin it contains but of course as herbal preparations, there's no standard dosages for them. Oddly, Drank also contains 100% of the recommended daily value of B vitamins, something usually in energy drinks because they supposedly make people feel more alert. Even if that were true (I have my doubts, though not enough interest to research this, sorry), 100% of a vitamin isn't going to have powerful effects. On the down side, Drank is loaded with high fructose corn syrup.

Sadly, the store I bought it from no longer stocks it. I'll endeavor to find another source so that I might bring some on a certain camping trip coming up soon.