A New Start

I’m feeling inspired to create this year. Not sure what that means… but we’ll start with writing again. If you’ve liked any of the non-Pulitzer winning things I’ve rambled about in the past, I’m moving everything to a new location.


So long troutdog – hello new troutdog! I hope to see you on the other side.


On Call, A Timeline

Managing the right staffing levels for your business is key to maximizing profit and maintaining employee satisfaction. I know this because I watched one of the business channels once. Also, I had a subscription to the Wall Street Journal for three months in 1999. For most businesses this isn’t rocket science. Even restaurants that have variable customer flows can track trends and mostly know which holidays and events are going to impact their staffing needs. Hospitals, on the other hand, are the dumpster fire of staffing and resource planning.

In a nutshell you fully staff every floor weeks or months in advance because you have zero idea how many people on a given day will decide to walk into traffic while texting, or will perform the infamous – “hold my beer, watch this” routine. The end result is some days every room in the hospital is full, and some days half your floor is empty.

The hospital is terrified of having to pay for a gaggle of nurses with nothing to do and access to closets full of cool medical supplies. Stedy Stand® jousting tournsara-stedy-1aments in the hallway, syringe darts, compressed air + tubing + tape + wheelchairs… a MacGyver playground. The chaos and mayhem that would ensue is unimaginable.

The brilliant solution is to wait until about an hour before the next shift starts, realize “oh crap, we have too many nurses” and then then start calling people to put them “on call”. On call means that I get paid approximately 75 cents an hour to sit at home and wait for “the call”. The rule is that when I get “the call”, I have 30 minutes to be at work. You can’t go anywhere and can’t start any type of project in which immediately dropping what you’re doing would be a bad thing.

So the “on call” timeline usually looks something like this:

0530  – Phone rings, you’re officially “on call”.
0530 to 0730 – Happy dance, more coffee, catch up on whatever social media outrage happened overnight, more coffee, renounce all social media, more coffee.
0730 to 0800 – Make serious plans for completing home projects: Laundry, organizing Tupperware drawer, clean-up the workbench and put away tools from some project three weeks ago, replace all burned out lightbulbs and smoke alarm batteries, start writing a best selling novel.
0800 to 0845 – Check social media to see if there’s suddenly world peace and political harmony. More coffee.
0845 to 1000 – Carry load of laundry to basement, get distracted by dog barking and then start watching YouTube videos.
1000 to 1100 – Check the fridge at least four times in case anything new magically showed up. Watch a breaking news story about a grain elevator that collapsed somewhere in North Dakota. Spend 15 minutes Googling grain elevators. Decide the coffee isn’t working and you’ll just close your eyes for a couple of minutes and then start your projects.
1138 – Phone rings, you’re no longer on call and need to go in.

Dammit, how am I supposed to get anything done?



Weekly Wrap Up #2389

Thoughts for the week. Because thoughts posted on a Friday probably won’t be read and I can’t think of anything else to post on the Instagram. Even I’m tired of posting dog pictures.

– I finished “Suicide of the West”. I do recommend it. The author has an understanding of classical history that makes me wonder what classes I took in school. I vaguely remember learning something about the pilgrims and I think there was something about robber barons and Egyptians. Definitely pyramids. I remember pyramids. The libertarian in me mostly liked the book, but I’m probably not smart enough to know if I really do or not.cruise2

– After swearing I wouldn’t watch another one, I sat through most of the second Jack Reacher movie. Firstly, what the hell did Tom Cruise do to his face? There’s a weird Wayne Newton thing going on. Second, on what planet did someone think Tom Cruise would make a good Jack Reacher?

– Sticking with the movie theme, I finally watched “The Last Jedi”. Brace yourselves Star Wars geeks… it was unwatchable. Horrible. I’m out.

– On the golf front, I’ve spent approximately 83 hours at the range in the last few days. I’ve got the ball going in the air about 40% of the time. Only a few clubs have been thrown. To the ten year old having her first lesson, I apologize for the words you heard. Those are golf words and you’re going to have to learn them at some point.

– Here in Idaho we went from cold and wet to 100 degrees. To all the friends and family we convinced to move here… you actually believed me when I said we don’t have much heat until late August? <insert Dr Evil sinister laugh>

– Several hundred dollars in ice cream (don’t ask) sitting in the freezer is not conducive to the diet. If this is some sort of Zen/Buddhist/navy seal willpower thing, I’ve failed.

– I’ve been mountain biking with the hound quite a bit lately. It’s pretty hard to tire out a Vizsla when you can’t keep up with him (see ice cream note above). mtb dog

– I’m going down the vitamin/supplement road. I saw some stuff on YouTube, so it’s got to be legit. D, B12, apple cider vinegar. I chase it down with bourbon. Not sure which one is making me feel better.

– Been doing the time restricted feeding thing for a bit now. Down 10 pounds. If I could keep my feeding window from being mostly nachos I’d probably be able to ride uphill better. The downhill part is going well (something about mass + velocity).

– Mrs Troutdog and I officially cut the cable cord. Doing the streaming thing only. The interface sucks and I don’t have the patience to find anything to watch. The end result is that I rarely watch TV anymore. I’m not sure what I’m doing with my time now, but it’s not TV.

– I’m developing a serious love/hate relationship with old people. Some of them are the coolest patients and I could spend all day listening to their stories. Some of them are the nastiest human beings you can imagine. Generally, If they weren’t a nice person to begin with and managed to make it to 80+, there is no filter anymore. Don’t be one of those people.

Until next week (unless I win the lottery, turn pro on the senior PGA tour, get picked for Dancing with the Stars, or the zombie apocalypse)…

Dean Vernon Wormer: Here are your grade point averages. Mr. Kroger: two C’s, two D’s, and an F. That’s a 1.2. Congratulations, Kroger. You’re at the top of the Delta pledge class. Mr. Dorfman?

Flounder: [drunk] Hello!

Dean Vernon Wormer: 0.2… Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

A Good Walk, Ruined

I generally don’t think of myself as a quitter. Well, except for diets, workouts, resisting nachos, yardwork, and learning Spanish. I’ve lost count of the number of boxed sets of learn conversational Spanish CD’s I have in the closet. Every time I see a new ad advertising a new method of “learn  Spanish in your spare time”, I buy it. When I had a monster daily commute, why not make productive use of your time? Within a week I’d be back to listening to late ’80’s angry punk rock during the drive. Much better to stoke the road rage fire with. My commute is now approximately five minutes, so at best I might learn a word a day. Two complete sentences every year!

Which brings me back to quitting. Specifically, golf. I’ve quit golf before. Several decades ago we moved to Houston Texas. Lovely people, terrible climate, and not much to do except eat and play golf. I was exceptional at the eating part. I took up golf  and used it mostly as an excuse to eat at the clubhouse. When we left Texas I suddenly once again had access to more diverse outdoor things to do, and the golf clubs disappeared into the garage somewhere. plaid

Fast foreword a frighteningly long period of time and a buddy began pestering me to play again. Having reached an age where my mountain biking, skiing, and rock climbing probably isn’t as sustainable long term as it once was… golf seems like something I can do for much longer. Besides, once you reach a certain age you stop caring what people think about your plaid pants.

So, I began the journey once more – with results about the same as I had in back in Texas. When I started purchasing golf balls by the truckload because I was losing so many, I decided it was time for lessons. I cycled through several instructors without much success until just recently.

My first lesson with the new coach went so well I ran out and bought a ridiculously expensive push cart because I was going to start playing every day. During my second lesson he made a few more changes and for the first time ever I actually hit a golf ball correctly. Not just correctly, spectacularly well. Crushing it distances I didn’t think were possible. I went to bed that night dreaming of turning pro. Senior tour, here I come!

The next morning I went to the range to practice and reinforce my amazing new swing… and chunked an entire large bucket of balls about twenty feet in front of me. I literally could have thrown a ball further and straighter than I was hitting with the clubs. Less than 24 hours later the brand new swing was gone. Even the old swing was gone. Expletives were flying.

I actually walked back to the car and left the clubs on the range. I was going to drive away and be done with this horrible sport. I came to my senses enough to go grab the clubs, but I was definitely done. Fuck golf. It’s for old people anyway. I’m going back to mountain biking.

I stewed for a solid two weeks. Then with my tail between my legs, I snuck back to the range. Same result. I’ve never felt so helpless and uncoordinated in my life. I’m not a superstar athlete, but I’m at least semi-coordinated. How is it possible for me to be so bad at something? The thought of quitting again just bothered me. How can all those little old ladies whack it down the fairway with some success and I can’t?

I made emergency calls to every golf course near me and found an instructor with an open time the next morning. Within a half-hour he had me hitting at PGA pro quality again (in my head anyway). I went to the range the next day and – the swing was still there.

I’m proud of myself for not quitting. I’ve never played a sport that I simultaneously enjoyed and hated so much. I figure if I can persist with this, maybe that resolve will spill over tclubso dieting. Anyway, I’m headed back to the range today. If I can sustain two practice sessions in a row, I may actually attempt to play a round again. If not, look on craigslist for a complete set of golf equipment. The clubs will be cheap because most of them will be in two pieces.

Sandy:  I want you to kill all the gophers on the course!

Carl Spackler:  Check me if I’m wrong Sandy, but if I kill all the golfers, they’re gonna lock me up and throw away the key…

Sandy:  Gophers, ya great git! Not golfers! The little brown furry rodents!

Carl Spackler:  We can do that… we don’t even have to have a reason.


Make Your Mark

I listened to a discussion the other day that I liked. It was centered around the thought that happiness is more closely related to acceleration than velocity. When an airplane is at cruising speed you never notice how fast you’re going. But you do notice it when you take off. It’s the relative change from low to high that we remember. On paper you may have every reason to be happy, but if every day is status quo and never changes… it’s easy to feel dissatisfied.

The moments we remember, the events that give us the feeling of happiness are those times when things are new and changing. Going on a vacation, trying a new sport or hobby, visiting a restaurant or museum you’ve never been to. If you’re not continually accelerating you may have an impressive velocity, but are you really noticing it?

Last week I had an encounter with a * patient that made me think. This gentleman was not from around these parts as the saying goes. He was from a country in a different hemisphere that very few westerners would even remotely consider visiting. When it came time to sign his discharge paperwork, he very carefully made an X.

This fellow had never had the opportunity to learn how to read or write. He did not know how to write out his own name. That brief encounter impacted me fmark2or some reason. It’s so easy to forget what a bubble we live in here in the west. Sometimes (very often) we take for granted how fortunate we are. Any why are we so fortunate? Because we won the ovarian lottery by being born here and not in this gentleman’s country. He had no options from day one. So many people in this country have every opportunity you can imagine, yet spend their time unhappy and complaining.

What do these two things have to do with each other? Nothing really. Just sitting here, marveling at how fortunate my family is and how grateful I am. Grateful that I have the ability to worry about something as trivial as daily happiness and what am I going to do to continue accelerating forward.

Today’s acceleration will definitely not include yardwork.

* HIPAA overlords, this is a hypothetical patient. Not real. Definitely did not happen. I made this up. Fictional. Please don’t report me.


Tyler Durden:   I know who you are. I know where you live. I’m keeping your license, and I’m going to check on you, mister Raymond K. Hessel. In three months, and then six months, and then a year, and if you aren’t back in school on your way to being a veterinarian, you will be dead…

Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel’s life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted.

A Public Shaming

I’ve joked about weight loss and my lack of conditioning for years. Lots of self-deprecating comments about being weaker than a kitten, squishy around the middle,walle wheezing like a two pack a day smoker walking up stairs… In my head I was joking, but I was never really concerned because I just knew that a couple of afternoons in the gym and I’d be back in race shape. It’s not that hard, I just need to put my mind to it.

I have cleaned out the fridge and cupboards multiple times the last six months because starting tomorrow I’m eating “clean”. I’ve subscribed to Blue Apron and Cook Smarts. I religiously read several paleo web sites. I have the bible for body mechanics and movement, Supple Leopard, on my desk. I just recently purchased a Soda Stream so I’ll drink more water rather than buying crap at the store. I’ve read Jocko Willink’s book and subscribe to his daily 4:30 am discipline tweets. I have a fully outfitted gym in my garage. I have zero excuses.

I have a stack of jeans in my closet that I don’t want to throw away because I know I’ll fit in them again shortly. I wear the same three things over and over because I hate how everything else looks on me… but I’m not about to go buy clothes because I’m loosing weight any day now and that would be a waste of money. I spend way too much time researching stationary trainers, the Peloton Bike ($2k, seriously?), the Woodway Curve treadmill ($7k, WTF?). Last year I signed up for a bike race but never showed up because I was forced to admit I probably wouldn’t be able to finish. I wrote the other day about catching sight of myself on video and being horrified. Clearly that wasn’t enough to prompt me to do anything about it.

Yesterday, reality hit hard. I went skiing for the first time this season (it’s been a really bad snow year). I know I haven’t done much exercise for, uhm, a while, but that’s never really stopped me before. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to do as many runs as normal and I’d be a bit sore then next day, but otherwise no big deal.

Late in the day I took a silly little tumble on an awkward slope. No problemo. Went to get up and… my quads weren’t strong enough to stand up. I literally did not have the strength to stand. I sat in the snow and contemplated taking off my skis so I could get on my knees, when my nephew skied up and asked if I was ok. I said of course I was and wrenched myself up in a heroic effort. I managed one more run and that was it. I’d clearly strained my back and knew it.

This morning I’m sitting here with plenty of ibuprofen, a heating pad, and feeling sorry for myself. How in the world did I manage to let age get the best of me like this? How sad that I’ve lost so much strength I couldn’t even bleeping stand up? I’ve seriously claimed how ridiculous it was that someone would let themselves go like that (in my inside voice). Karma baby. One of my greatest fears would be to end up on my own hospital floor. Having my coworkers help me on a bedpan because I didn’t take care of my back is not an option. I’d fly to one of those surgery centers in India before that happens.

I hope this was the last straw. I know what to do and I have the tools to do it. I’ve done it before. I was in amazing shape (ok, maybe not amazing but pretty good) four years ago. Can I do it again? It takes an average of 66 days to create a habit. Why is it so mentally hard to break the cycle of eating and sloth? Isn’t there a pill I can just take instead?

I’ve already committed to more skiing, cross country skiing, mountain biking, and a river trip this year. If I continue down my current trajectory I’ll have to bail on all of it. I don’t want that. You have my permission to publicly shame me. Call me out on my diet. Ask if I’ve worked out. Tell me I look squishier than usual.

If pain and public shaming don’t work, I’m doomed. I contemplated posting the “before” bathing suit picture so I’d have daily motivation to change. Rest easy, the Facebook (or my ego) isn’t quite ready for such a shocking image – one that you couldn’t unsee. This morning I officially weigh 203.6 lbs (after pooping of course). I was 176 four years ago. That’s a lot of cake and nachos. Let’s see what happens.

Milton Waddams:  “The ratio of people to cake is too big”

Skin In The Game

Common sense says I shouldn’t do this, but as a registered contrarian I can’t help myself. The school shooting the other day has sparked plenty of emotion, and for good reason. It’s hard to fathom such evil striking with such randomness. I can’t picture what I would feel finding out a loved one or friend was taken for no reason.

In the heat of such emotion it’s understandable to lash out and want to take action. And it’s always easy to take action against something when you have no skin in the game. As Jules says in Pulp Fiction, “well, allow me to retort”.

Starting at age 16 (or younger) we operate motor vehicles that weigh more than 3,000 pounds, often driving them 30-40 miles an hour in town mere feet away from  accidentpedestrians. We hurtle 70-80 miles an hour on the freeways. These monstrosities kill 37,000+ people a year. That’s 100 PEOPLE A DAY being killed. An average of 2000 of those are children. There are about 5.4 million vehicle accidents per year. Records estimate that there have been 3.6 million vehicle fatalities in the US since the advent of the automobile. Motor vehicle accidents are estimated to cost the US $100 billion a year.

Despite training, licensing, and testing, we continue to murder our fellow citizens. We drive drunk. We text and talk on the phone while driving. We drive too fast for conditions. Common sense says that if we have something that’s killing 100 people a day, shouldn’t we be marching on our state capitals and demanding our legislators take action? What sort of monster doesn’t care about 2,000 children a year being needlessly killed? Where are all the Facebook memes?

It would be appropriate to lower the speed limits to 15-20 mph on any city road. No more than 40 mph on freeways. Require annual requalification and background checks. Massively increase registration fees to pay for statewide safety measures. Caught with a phone that’s turned on should require jail time. A DUI means permanent loss of driving privileges. All vehicles must be retrofitted with breathalyzer devices in order to start. Increase the driving age to 21.

There would be a massive uproar across this nation if any of that were proposed. Why? Because it would personally impact your life. It’s easy to be judgmental when the actions you want won’t effect you. *

There are 300+ million guns in this country. As much as you may like to, you cannot put that genie back in the bottle. Virtually every criminal shooting is done with guns acquired outside the system. As in, they didn’t follow the laws and regulations. Shocking, I know. All the laws and regulations that get proposed after each mass shooting would not have prevented any of them from happening. Why? They either got their guns illegally, the system failed massively (as was with this latest one), or there were huge mental health red flags that were either missed or resources weren’t available.

I don’t know what the answer is. You could send the military to every home in the country to search and seize all guns, but I have a sneaking suspicion that wouldn’t go so well. We could choose to stop spending trillions overseas on silly wars and devote some of that money to mental health services in this country. And to ensure that the existing laws and systems and agencies we already have actually do their job. Or we can choose to let the Tide Pod eating generation drive legislation that only impacts normal law abiding folks.

It’s not an easy issue. Guns aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and I get that. But don’t get caught up in the sensationalism that is modern media. Because if you’re not fired up about 100 PEOPLE A DAY being killed by vehicles… aren’t you being just a tad hypocritical? (and I know you wouldn’t knowingly watch a movie or TV show that sensationalized guns, right?) You have every right to do what’s right for you and yours, and if guns aren’t for you I respect that. I choose to have the option to protect my family when the flesh eating zombie apocalypse comes.

* I spent at least twenty minutes trying to figure affect vs. effect. I’m still not sure in this context. Grammar is not my strong suite. I’m comma-happy and I know it.


Why I Fear AI

You’ve seen Terminator. War Games. 2001. iRobot. Westworld. It’s all over the news. AI is coming and you should be frightened. I know I am. Not of super learning machines that will take over the world and destroy humankind with plasma energy waves that will destroy all organic matter. No, I’m frightened that I may go postal one day after dealing with aggravating user interfaces. wopr

Take YouTube. I’ve been watching too much of it lately and I’ve noticed you need to be very careful about what you watch. This morning a recommended video popped up about how a tankless water heater works. Thinking that might be interesting I clicked on it. About a minute in (my average attention span) I decided life was too short to keep learning about water heaters. Go back and refresh my YouTube home page and… Boom! Approximately 37 recommended channels of home building, plumbing, and do it yourself videos. Thank god I didn’t click on the figure skating video.

Seriously, we’re not smart enough yet to do some sort of statistical averaging in our recommendation engines yet? Same with most ad engines these days. One innocent search forchia the latest innovations in chia pets and you’ll get some seriously odd ads served up for the next month.

And don’t get me started on the Facebook’s drunken monkey top post/most recent sort methodology. Silly me thinking most recent meant everything in chronological order. Or the Outlook mobile app deciding that I no longer need to see a month at a time on my calendar. Three days should be enough for any man. Or WordPress and/or Facebook randomly deciding what picture to display on a post. I’ll have three or four images in a post and Facebook seemingly randomly decides which one to pick to display.

No, I’m not worried that AI will destroy mankind. I’m worried that society will suddenly abandon badly crafted software, causing massive portions of the tech world to collapse. The economy will implode and hoards of unemployed tech workers will wander the streets with no discernable life skills. The craft coffee industry will die, the Tesla market will dry up, and millions of hipster skinny jeans will end up in the landfill.

Ok, that may be a bit pessimistic. Maybe Netflix will finally figure out how recommend movies based on something other than genre. Maybe Google maps will figure out how to make their walking directions useful. I’m pretty sure giant media organizations and massive corporations won’t be influencing the content we consume any time soon. It’s not like we’re going to have automated bots infiltrating social media. Oh, wait…


I May Have Restarted Winter

Much of the US is currently experiencing what experts like to call “winter”. Cold temperatures, wind, and frozen precipitation known as “snow”. Much of the northern hemisphere is engulfed in this same phenomenon. The 2018 Olympics may go down as the coldest on record. Here in the west we have not seen this same weather pgisstriattern. Locally we saw one snowstorm on Christmas day… and nothing since. After writing this, I’m preparing to go play golf. In FEBURARY. I may or may not wear shorts.

I am a little worried that I may have inadvertently restarted winter though. Yesterday I washed and cleaned the truck and we all know what happens when you wash the car. I also took my mountain bike in to the shop. I went for a ride the other day (in FEBURARY) and had a minor issue with the front brakes rubbing.

The bro at the shop seemed like a good guy. He had all the lingo down. “Hey bruther, how ya doing?” “Ah, that’s just righteous dude!” “Oh, such a buzzkill when you can’t get your flow on.” I think I understood most of it. He seemed genuinely sad for me that my ride wasn’t working. He put my bike up on the stand and starting giving it the once over. Like a doctor doing a proctology exam he pushed and measured, occasionally shaking his head and muttering to himself. Finally he looked up with sad puppy dog eyes and said, “bro, you’ve got some stuff we need to take care of”.

I am such a sucker. You do not want me negotiating anything for you. Apparently I have issues with my forks, fork seals, drive train, pistons, pads, badly designed first generation brakes, chain stretch… my eyes glazed over at that point. My aggressive, no nonsense response was “uhm, ok”.

I suspect the only original thing I’ll get back is my seat. The shop called shortly after I got home and said they’d have to order parts. It’ll be next week before it’s ready. Did I want to take advantage of the 12 month no interest financing plan?

Wait a week to hit the trails again? No problem. Check the weather to ensure we can still ride and… cold and active weather pattern is developing for next week.

If you’re not a fan of winter, I’m sorry. I may have jinxed this early spring for you. I guess I’ll get the ski gear ready to go. Will probably have to take stuff in to the shop for a tune up. Wonder how much that will cost me?

The Problem With Mirrors

So, I installed security cameras outside the house the other day. The cameras have revealed two very interesting details. The neighborhood I live in has alleys with our garages in the back. The first detail that shocked me was the amount ofcatfreeway activity that goes on in the alley at night. People walking back and forth, cars driving by. And cats. Oh my god, the cats. My driveway is like a regular cat freeway at night.

I’m not sure what to think about this. On one hand I’m ready to put concertina wire, moats, and laser firing automated robots around the property. On the other hand this has clearly been going on for the last six years and I had no idea. Ignorance is bliss I guess.

The other detail that horrified me was catching sight of myself walking around. For the love ohunchbackf god I’m a hunchbacked, potbellied, splay-footed troll. Why didn’t anyone tell me just how bad my physical condition has gotten? The problem is that when you don’t like what you see, it’s very easy to avoid mirrors. I glance in them just long enough to ensure something awful isn’t hanging out of my nose and that appropriate zippers are zipped. Clearly I haven’t been gazing into the mirror much the last few years.

Nothing like a dose of reality to force resolutions to happen. Eating clean starts right now. Ok maybe not now, it is super bowl weekend. Monday. Monday for sure. For the perimeter defenses, I’m not sure what to do yet. I’m thinking motion triggered tear gas rounds and blaring Justin Bieber music. Ok, maybe not the last part. A judge may find that too harsh.

Oh, and if you see me hunching over please tell me to stand up straight.