Insomnia Log

This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Friday, March 30, 2007

What Do You Call Eight Fired U.S. Attorneys at the Bottom of the Ocean?

A Good Start. (Falsely attributed to Alberto Gonzales.)

Here's the deal. There's no doubt that U.S. Attorneys, like all other political appointees, serve to pleasure the President. That means, among other things, that he can hire them (subject to appropriate confirmation) and fire them at will.

However, if a U.S. Attorney is fired in order to stop an investigation that the administration doesn't like, that is called obstruction of justice. This would certainly qualify as a high crime or misdemeanor.

The Senate is responsible for making this determination, and if there is any evidence of this crime it should be allowed to do so.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Go Away, Cars, You Bother Me

The Boulder City Council recently approved replacing our downtown parking meters with parking kiosks. Instead of scrounging for change for the meter, the kiosks would allow parkers to pay with credit cards.

Now, I would understand if the city wanted to make parking more difficult. After all, that might encourage people to use buses and bikes (not to mention other shopping areas.)

And I would understand if the city wanted to make parking easier. After all, it's hard enough for the downtown area to compete with the exciting new Twenty Ninth Street shopping experience.

But this change is just dumb, with no rational explanation I can find. The city is exchanging one minor parking inconvenience (finding change for the meter) for another minor parking inconvenience (finding a nearby kiosk, paying and getting your parking permit, going back to your car, and putting the parking permit on your windshield.) Not to mention all the extra litter from all these used parking permits. And we will be spending millions for the privilege.

I don't like to rant without having all the facts, so I've gone back through all the information available on the city website. I've gone through the city council minutes. I've reviewed the presentation made to the council by city staff. But nowhere I could find was this simple piece of information, one that seems key to making a decision like this: How many parking meters are being replaced by each individual kiosk? In other words, how far will people have to walk from their cars to find a kiosk at which to pay? If there is one kiosk for every two meters, that doesn't seem so bad. But if there is one kiosk on each block people will grumble and just add one more reason to shop elsewhere.

I've also discovered that other cities that have installed similar parking systems have coincidentally found that it is surprisingly easy to increase parking rates, as well as extend the areas in which payment is required. So, maybe there really is a reason why this was approved so quickly.

Assuming we all agree that paying for parking in the downtown area is appropriate, here is my perfect parking experience: I pull into an empty parking spot. I press a button, maybe swipe my credit card. Then I go on my way. While I'm gone the charges add up, $0.25 every 12 minutes. When I'm done shopping, I drive away, and the accumulated charge gets processed. No guessing on my part how long I'm going to be. Just payment for time used. If I happen to stay out longer than three hours, just put the $25 parking ticket/overtime fee on my card, and just keep ticking away.

Convenient parking that people don't have to worry about, that would be worth the money the city is spending.

Oh, well, no big deal. I'll just ride my bike downtown and lock it for free to a parking meter.

Oops, maybe not.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Abuse of Power or Neglect?

The Senate has overwhelming voted to remove a provision of the so-called Patriot Act that gave the Attorney General the ability to bypass Senatorial confirmation when appointing U.S. Attorneys. The Senators claim that the administration has abused its power in taking advantage of this provision.

Well, excuse me, it seems to me that the ones who abused their power here are the members of the Senate. They are the ones that passed the huge abomination without even reading it. So eager to appear to be doing something in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and so afraid of looking weak, they felt "forced" to pass the bill offered by the Bush Administration.

The Senate certainly had it in their power to prevent this. In fact, it is their job, their sworn duty to read and understand the bills they vote on, and to base their votes on that understanding. All Senators have sworn to bear faith and allegiance to the Constitution and to protect it against all enemies. To allow the Executive branch to author a bill to weaken the Constitution and then to pass that bill without an appropriate level of scrutiny certainly violates at least the spirit of that oath.

Senators, stop acting like you were taken advantage of, and start doing the job you were elected to perform!

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mr. Castro, Let Our Terrorists Go!

One of the major arguments for denying basic Constitutional rights (such as habeas corpus, due process, ban on cruel and unusual punishment, jury trial, confronting of witnesses, etc.) to the prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay is that the prisoners are outside sovereign U.S. territory.

Well, if Gitmo isn't part of the U.S., then it must be part of Cuba. That means that we should be turning these prisoners over to the government of Cuba. Or at least we should be looking at Cuban law to determine how to treat these people.

To make it easy for those running Gitmo, I've summarized some of the relevant aspects of the Cuban constitution.

The Cuban constitution claims sovereignty over the entire island of Cuba, and the Cuban government does not recognize the jurisdiction of the U.S. government over the Naval base at Guantanamo Bay. According to the Cuban constitution, foreign residents within Cuba are equal to Cuban citizens in terms of rights provided by the constitution. This implies that Gitmo prisoners are due all of the rights guaranteed by the Cuban constitution.

According to the Cuban constitution, all prisoners are guaranteed inviolable personal integrity. Trials and sentencing must be by competent courts based on existing laws and as guaranteed by law. Every prisoner has the right to a defense.

Also, no violence or pressure of any kind can be used to force people to testify. If such violence or pressure is used, any statements used will be null and void, and those responsible for the violation will be punished.

So, as I see it, we have a few choices with regard to these prisoners. We can bring them to the U.S. and provide them with the guarantees of the U.S. Constitution. Or we can turn them over to the Cubans and them them provide them with Cuban justice. Or we can treat them under the guarantees of the Cuban constitution. Or we can let them all go free.

Mr. Bush, your choice.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cheney Is Just in Time

March is DVT Awareness Month. And, just in time, VP Cheney suffered DVT after his recent mega-trip (25,000 miles in 9 days).

DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) is a blood clot that generally forms in the leg, usually when someone is immobile for an extended period of time. It is sometimes called "economy class syndrome" because sitting on a plane for hours is one of the best ways to get it. And sitting in first class does not exempt you (Cheney was traveling on the luxurious Spirit of Strom Thurmond, and the even plusher Air Force Two).

There are lots of theories about why being on a plane is worse for DVT than, say, sitting in a movie theater. Dry air, low air pressure, a tendency to be cold have all been suggested. If you are sitting on a plane, definitely stay warm and stay hydrated. (I bring an electrolyte replacement drink like Gatorade.)

What causes DVT? Some doctor will no doubt correct my over-simplification, but it has to do with the fact that there is no direct pumping of blood back towards the heart (in the veins) from the legs, other than the natural pumping action that occurs when the legs and feet are moved. Given immobile legs and other conditions, a clot (thrombosis) can form in the deep veins of the leg. If you find yourself on a plane, make sure you get up and walk around at a regular interval (every 30 minutes or so). Flight attendants don't like it, but tell them your doctor told you to. (Dr. Insomniac here!) If you can't get up, make sure you do some leg exercises in your seat. And don't cross your legs.

If a mysteriously painful leg that may even become permanently debilitating weren't bad enough, it is much worse if the clot breaks loose (an embolus) and travels to the lungs where it lodges. This is called a pulmonary embolism (PE), and it can kill. No kidding, this is one of the top killers in our society.

Many DVTs and PEs occur in the hospital, when patients are immobile for an extended period of time. That's where mine happened. There are a couple of very simple things that can be done to prevent legs clots while you are hospitalized. One is an anti-coagulant called heparin. The other is a set of compression stockings that actively massage the legs and encourage good circulation. If you have prolonged bed rest, immobility, surgery, or fractures, make sure you tell your doctor you want these measures to be taken.

Six months after my incident, when I was taken off the anti-coagulants, I asked my doctor why these measures weren't taken in my case. I was totally immobile because of three fractured vertebrae, and would seem to fit the risk profile. However, he said it was not within the standard of care, and even then it still wasn't. Pretty scary.

One of the big issues with DVT is that it is often misdiagnosed. A patient may think he or she pulled a muscle or has a cramp or some other minor annoyance that will go away in a few days. However, if the DVT goes away, it may go someplace you don't want, namely your lungs. Even if your doctor doesn't suggest it, if you have such a pain in the leg and you've been on a plane trip (or extended car trip) recently (in the previous two weeks or so), you should demand to be tested.

Another misconception about DVT is that it only happens to older people or people with other medical conditions. In fact, although typically not listed among the risk factors, being an active athlete (for example a runner) makes you a higher risk. Nobody knows why, but it's been suggested that running a marathon, for example, may cause small injuries in your legs that may encourage clotting.

In fact, a too common scenario is the athlete traveling home from a race by plane or car, and suffering a DVT shortly thereafter. Of course, these would almost always be misdiagnosed, with potentially disastrous results. At least the VP was with medical experts who were trained to look for DVT in his circumstances. Most athletes have never even heard of DVT, much less suspected that they may be affected by something so trivial as flying home after a race.

In my circumstance, I had competed in a triathlon two days prior to ending up in the hospital, possibly predisposing me to DVT. This fact was on my medical chart, but unfortunately nobody put two and two together and take preventative measures.

Luckily for me, I was in the hospital when I had my PE, and they were able to diagnose it and treat me. What's the treatment? Actually, all they do is put you on anti-coagulants for several months, so that you don't form any more dangerous clots, while waiting for the one(s) you have to slowly dissolve.

So, if you are an athlete or are in one of the other (more publicized) risk groups, pay attention. If you fly, go on a long car trip, or are on extended bed rest, realize that DVT is a risk. Take reasonable preventative measures. And, if you have an unusual pain in the leg (or worse, if you have unexplained shortness of breath or one of the other PE symptoms), get it checked out sooner rather than later.

The clot you don't know about can kill you. The one you do know about will just make your life inconvenient for a few months.

Me, I now try to avoid flying. When I can't avoid it, I get a prescription for Lovenox, an anti-coagulant, and inject myself before getting on the plane. Very unpleasant, but worth it in my mind.

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 09, 2007

Signs of Spring

What's the difference between insomnia and amnesia?

I can't remember. Can I just sleep on it?

I knew spring finally had to show up. The first sign is that the ice on our street has finally been reduced to a single snowball a block away, some puddles, and potholes too numerous to count.

Days are getting longer. And that can only mean one thing: My least favorite day of the year. That would, of course, be the first day of daylight saving time. That valuable lost hour of sleep won't be regained this year until November, leaving me further sleep deprived for a month longer than I'm used to.

The change in DST this year has caused some consternation among software folks all over. It seems like lazy programmers didn't account for the fact that the start and end day of DST might change. Kind of like a mini Y2K.

You'd think a big company like Microsoft would have this all figured out well in advance. But in my office we use Microsoft Outlook for all of our scheduling, and it just ain't so. A couple of days ago, we got an email from our IT guy, with an emergency patch from Microsoft that we were all supposed to run. This patch would supposedly fix all of our appointments so they would be scheduled correctly between the new start of DST and when it used to start three weeks later.

Well, the meeting update notices were flying through our email system, until we got another notice from IT warning us not to run the patch. The new instructions? Look at your calendar and see if your meetings are all scheduled at the right times. If not, change them manually.

I think I'll wait until Monday to do that. If the world happens to end due to the DST bug, I will have saved that effort.

What's up with daylight saving time, anyway? I'm pretty sure we don't actually save any daylight. We just give up an hour of sleep and have to get up earlier.

Congress passed the law to extend DST as a way to save energy. However, they forgot to take into account the fact that we will all have to turn on our lights in the morning when we get up, and will no doubt use most of the energy we save.

Do you think anybody would notice if I "forgot" to adjust my clocks, and just showed up an hour late to everything all summer?

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Slap Happy

In France they just enacted a new law that bans so-called "happy slapping". Anybody who films and distributes images of acts of violence can be convicted, with penalties of up to five years in jail and about $100,000.

Boy am I in trouble. My link to a David Bowie video (banging on not just six strings, but twelve!). My image of Stephen Colbert being eaten by a bear. My pictures of Donald Rumsfeld and Ward Churchill facing off with assault weapons. Shots of violence against puzzles. Not to mention my photos of aspens exploding with color.

I sure don't want to end up in some dark, dank, drab French prison with the despicable likes of the Marquis de Sade, Voltaire, and Thomas Paine. There's only one way out of this. The new law makes an exception for professional journalists.

That's right, professional journalists get to show as many gruesome videos as they like. I figure all I have to do is have at least one advertisement on my blog to make me a professional. So, here it is:

The Bastille!
Come for the censorship, stay for the french fries

There I did it, I finally sold my soul! Someone please bake me a cake.