Author Archives: The Head Seminarian

Logistical Nightmares II

I have recounted some of the positive effects I had on the Army’s medical supply system, in theater and out. When you do something in the service, especially in wartime, you have a blank check to complete your mission. The comptroller wanted a tally of what you spent but you were free to spend as much as needed.

When I went to the private sector, it was the opposite. Looking back, I was no longer a logistician. I became a bean counter and actually cut the supply lines in order to track every penny spent by providers. My job was partially one of automating the space between the loggies and the nurses. Here’s how it went.

I finally got my BA in sociology in 2015. As many know, the paper pedigree opens you up to new job opportunities. I was a college graduate, but I was also terribly sick from bipolar. Still, I managed to get hired somehow because of the magic paper and my enthusiasm for returning to logistics.

Now back in the service, we in supply either controlled what left the warehouse or the supply was behind cabinets you couldn’t access without a keycard. Those approaches helped us curtail abuses by providers. Now I know when someone in healthcare needs something fast, you tend to not give a damn about logging your choices. But it was for their protection as well as helping us keep track of what was being used. Let me explain a little.

At one of my Army gigs, every type of supply used in a unit had its place in a cabinet and underneath it was a button you could push whenever you took something and the machine would debit the amount you took in the computer system. It couldn’t have been made easier, but for some reason people couldn’t abide by the rules anyway. That in turn made it difficult to know what to bring them on a daily basis, because the levels in the machines were off every single day. So there was no easy solution to allowing providers to access what they wanted while keeping track of what they accessed. That problem was much more intractable at this private hospital I began to work at in 2016. People, it was a mess. There was no locked cabinet with simple pushbuttons to encourage people to account for their supply. It was just sitting there on shelves and there was a computer adjacent to them and they had to badge in and enter their transactions by scanning the barcode below the product. Needless to say, providers were not encouraged to do the right thing because everything was right there for the taking. And when their closets were short on supply, they’d bitch to upper management about the logistics shop. We had to tell them time and time again that if you want the right amount of supplies, you have to use the damn scanner so the computer can generate a proper pick sheet and then we bring you the right amount of shit. The lesson never took with most units. Thus, we had the extra task of counting the closets before we generated pick sheets so that the proper number of supplies were brought up.

It fell on me to go to war with the providers. I am sad to say that I participated in making it harder for the nurses just so we could tightly manage supply. On one level, we were just trying to make the system work for everyone. There were egregious mistakes that I made, though. Once I tried to stop nurses from abusing the special order system to order basic supplies. That function on the computer was only to be used for supplies outside what was in their closet, not for them to push a panic button and make logistics hop to whenever they ran out of the basics. I tried to punish them by removing the button and got myself in a lot of hot water. There were nurse managers who supported some of my reforms but I did not feel like I had the backing of upper management in logistics. No one was guiding me on how to do things, I had to learn the system on my own and come up with my own fixes to these dilemmas. And I was crazier than fuck throughout all of it.

I developed a vicious case of anxiety over the job and quit after seven months. Following this position I took a job as a produce clerk while I waited for a disability rating from the VA. It was favorable, and I’m totally and permanently disabled which means my work career has come to an end. I think that’s a fair conclusion. Being housebound is not the greatest thing for me, but it might be a shade better than not doing a thorough job in the working world. If I get wound up and stay that way, I can’t do anyone any good. It’s simply too easy to wind me.

Morning, For Real This Time

We did it.

We removed the most toxic president in modern history using the arsenal of our democracy. He’s currently having the shittiest game of golf in his life.

It’s been a long road to get here for me. Since 2016, my negativity about the state of the nation had steadily been increasing. The impeachment fiasco pretty much broke me. So I am happy that I am now able to hope again. It’s important to me in middle age that I not be my usual cynical self. No one wants to be around Debbie Downer and it’s high time I realized that. It’s not always fucked. You have to take the bad with the good without losing your light.

All I can say to everyone in our tribe now, is relax and feel good about this successful operation. And then it is time for the Biden administration to deliver on the promises they made. I will be happy if we just deal with this damn virus even if it takes a year. There’s no normalcy to be found while bodies keep piling up.

Go in peace, friends.

It feels like fucking Independence Day, doesn’t it?

Between Hope And Annihilation

It’s the morning after the election, and I am sad to take note of how many people voted for our unstable, mercurial, homicidal incumbent. It’s clear that we on the left have not come fully to grips with who we are as a nation.

As the land lays right now (8am), we don’t have a clear winner yet. Mail-ins favor Biden, and we already have a Trump campaign a) declaring victory. and b) announcing it’s going to go to the mat to stop votes from being counted. The latter activity seems to me to be a good sign that the Trump machine is worried about the result. But hope has been hard to come by these last twelve hours; we were all heavily invested in a “blue wave” that broke well before it could drown Trump and anyone he trucked with in these last four years. It never materialized. Our Senate is going to be lost to the GOP again and that should tell us something (EDIT 11/5: this observation was faulty and premature).

It’s time to start understanding that we are not a righteous or a particularly smart nation. But is it our fault we are always so wrong about it? Or have we been so psychologically tormented by Trumpist control of the nation that we will latch on to just about anything that claims it can end it? I am not sure. But this is the year that we should disabuse ourselves of the notion that good will always triumph over evil. Evil always has even odds. I’m reminded of Hunter S. Thompson’s somber coda in Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas which goes a little like this:

There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.

Those of us who read know how it all turned out; the American dream was too elusive for capture. That was true in 1971 and I suspect not much has changed. Lucy, ever the little white supremacist, has always had the football and ever it shall be. They had acid, we have Twitter. We believe in each other’s inherent power but I’m afraid that’s not always the stuff that moves a mountain.

I hope everything turns out the way we need it to. But we should gird ourselves for a bitter conclusion because our fellow countrymen, women and otherwise clearly do not know up from down. If we win, let’s not forget too easily that we came close to being blown out yet again. If we lose, let’s nonetheless remember that optimism is not the elemental force we thought it was. We shall always continue to vote for what is correct and proper, but we must leave a little room and prepare for annihilation. It’s the only fair thing we can do for ourselves in this cussed nation. This is a fight, and you always stand a chance of getting hit with a punch you weren’t expecting.

Logistical Nightmares

I was trained as a medical supply logistician by the Army. It’s the only job I’ve really ever felt good about. My first instinct was to help people get well. Yet, along the road in my career, I found myself in the service of the devil. I went from making it rain for healthcare providers to counting beans to deprive caregivers of quick logistical service. It’s been a weird ride.

I had a good feel for the job, coming in first in my class in advanced training. I spent a few idle years at Fort Bragg doing nothing for anybody until George Bush decided to blow up the Middle East in 2003. I was shipped to Iraq and began a six month stint in the deserts around Karbala with a forward mobile hospital. Sadly, my co-workers and leaders had no acumen for the job; we were constantly being torn up by providers because we couldn’t do simple tasks like keeping them in gloves. None of us had ever deployed so we didn’t understand the scope of the job. In due time, I was separated from the logistics shop to work solely with the pharmacy. Procuring drugs was an important job and I was pretty good at it. I created my own system by hand for reordering supplies, counting each day what we had and judging the velocity of a product by comparing the previous day’s total.

Now, pharmacists are the most wound-up people you could ever work for. I went through three of them while in Iraq and they were all the same, constantly fulminating and panicking that supplies would dry up. In fairness to them, I may have been a little unaware of just how important some drugs were. Nevertheless, the pharmacy always got what it needed even though I kept a tight shop. I became a master trader, and I built a network of goodwill in the units stationed around us. Later we moved to Baghdad and I repeated the mission for another six months, doing a job I was proud of. It feels weird to say it, but I felt good about my time in Iraq even though I was part of a machine that had decimated a country for no good reason at all except to commandeer and control the second largest pool of oil on the planet. At the time, I was too naive to understand that.

When I came home in 2004, I spent one more year at Fort Bragg and then was transferred to Fort Bliss and began work at the William Beaumont Hospital. At first, I worked with the regular crew in the warehouse, filling OmniCell units daily to a dozen areas in the hospital. The director of logistics took a shine to me though, and once again I separated from the normal crew to work at the hospital as kind of a facilitator between the warehouse and the providers. Having a logistical face at the hospital that providers could access seemed to calm the nerves of medical professionals who felt that we were too far removed from the healthcare mission. And that was true everywhere I went; the relationship between logistics and healthcare was always antagonistic even if it was a matter of life or death. We did not understand or appreciate each other at all.

I started unraveling a bit at William Beaumont. I didn’t know what was wrong yet, but there was something shaking loose in my brainpan. While I started to lose control I was sent to leadership training to become a sergeant (not my choice; I was always content being a specialist who knew his shit but they push upward mobility), and did a terrible job there except when it came to testing which earned me another award. But that shit had nothing on Korea, which I was shipped to after exactly 364 days in Texas.

I got picked up as a sergeant as soon as I arrived. Good lord, I was a terrible leader. What a year. I could not keep track of my soldiers to save my life. The opportunities to show my skills as a logistician disappeared because I was now technically no longer in that business. I was a laughingstock and I couldn’t get out of my own way. I began to hide from everyone and I could not sleep. It was in Korea that I took my first medicine for depression. I was not diagnosed but was given trazodone for my troubles. Trazodone was tricky; if you took it at the right time and got enough sleep it was OK but god forbid you fall short of your sleep quota. It would actually make me feel worse than I had before I took the drug. That would be true of a great deal of the medication I was to use going forward.

I was separated yet again from the daily grind at the warehouse. This time it wasn’t because I was good at what I was doing, though. I was given a mission to reorganize the warehouse a little. I kept watch over two soldiers, moving and consolidating supplies from the top floor to the bottom floor of the warehouse during non-business hours. I knew how the computer supply program worked more than most and so was able to alter locations, quantities and print reports. I had that going for me, but mostly I was removed from the day shift so that no one had to see me suck. I was hated. I think that year in Korea was one of the worst in my life. I was getting tired of being separated from my wife and young sons. Near the end of my hitch in Korea in 2006 I began to think seriously about leaving the service. I wasn’t up for the leadership role and I was not going to be sent anywhere again. It did not occur to me that life would become infinitely harder if I left the Army. It was a steady job that paid OK but I couldn’t see past hating my work suddenly.

Our final move was to Colorado to Fort Carson. Again, I completely failed as a leader. But I did get a chance to show off my logistics chops because as in North Carolina, I was the only one with a good grip on the ordering system. Incompetence tends to pool in the Army. I made it rain again; happy customers were getting supplies regularly. In three months time, guess what would happen? Another trip to Iraq was on the schedule. By now I was suffering mightily in the throes of undiagnosed bipolar but it would be a long time before I found out what was troubling me. I was positively livid about a possible trip. I was not going to accept another deployment and made that clear (I had initiated separation plans and they stop-lossed me). Fine by them; they didn’t want me anyway. They would send me to do some bullshit task in leadership where I would lose it completely. That’s another story, though.

First we had to ramp up for deployment. Customers began submitting large orders to prepare, and I fielded many with skill. I went on a week’s leave about a month before the deployment and I left a group of orders to be submitted to my soldiers and my sergeant. When I returned, the orders had not been touched at all. I was very frustrated my co-workers’ lack of urgency. Desert training was scheduled shortly thereafter and I hatched a plan to get the orders filled while we were at the training base. In my head it was unacceptable that these orders not get filled before we left. So I put them all in at training and got in trouble with the comptroller sergeant because we had not allocated the money to pay for all of that supply. I didn’t give a fuck. To me, it wasn’t about the money-the unit needed to be prepared for Iraq and once training was finished we would only have about three weeks to get our shit together before we packed up. I worked hard to get the remaining needed supplies at home and the unit eventually left without me.

That was the end of the Army portion of my logistics experience. I always thought I was on the side of the angels because I consistently got results that customers needed. My experience in the civilian world was the polar opposite. I guess I can tell that story next. Hopefully I feel like it.

Not Even Trying To Hide It

Here at the seminary, we try not to pass up opportunities to mark certain notable events. I’m a little hungover, but my brain nevertheless got stuck on this exchange between Mark Meadows and Jake Tapper:

MEADOWS: “We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas — “

TAPPER: “Why not get control of the pandemic? 

MEADOWS: “Because it is a contagious virus just like the flu.”

TAPPER: “But why not make efforts to contain it? 

MEADOWS: “Well we are making efforts to contain it.”

TAPPER: “By running all over the country and not wearing a mask? That’s what vice president is doing.”

MEADOWS: “Let me just say this. What we need to do is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it’s therapies or vaccines or treatments, to make sure that people don’t die from this. But to suggest that we are going to actually quarantine all of America –“

TAPPER: “No one’s saying that.”

You read that right. That’s the Trump chief of staff officially signaling an end to any efforts on the part of the administration to control the pandemic. They’ve simply given up. Not that they tried in the first place, mind you. But Americans should be terrified as fuck about the prospects of a second Trump term. Trump himself is now on record saying no one will be talking about COVID anymore should he best Biden on the 3rd. Rather, the president is much more concerned with claiming to have saved Christmas greetings instead.

I can’t believe some of you motherfuckers are gonna vote for four more years of this lying, do-nothing bullshit artist. If cases and deaths are spiking, which they are, we could be staring down the barrel at a situation where we will have nearly all been infected, with deaths in the millions before someone coughs up a working vaccine. How is our already overtaxed healthcare system going to treat all these new cases if that’s all we’re preparing to do? We’re going to be fucked. And it’s all because Trump has no work ethic, no sense of responsibility, and no curiosity about solving real problems suffered by real people. It’s an insane possible future.

November 3rd cannot, for America’s sake, go the wrong way. It’s a real choice we face between healing and mass death.

Vote Joe Biden.

Please.

For you, your kids, my kids, somone else’s kids, your momma and your poppa. Get out there and pick someone possessed with a sense of duty to Americans.

On Hating Mike Love

You could say I am a pretty big Beach Boys fan.

I came to the group late in my mid twenties, having learned that my faves The Beatles were jealous about the musical powers of Brian Wilson. I thought that was odd, because to me up until then they had always been little more than a novelty act.

As many of you know, that is not the case. Listening to Pet Sounds for the first time changed my life a little. It’s definitely on my list of musical epiphanies. The arrangements and the harmonies were almost magical to me.

Time’s not been kind to the boys. Brian Wilson’s cheese fell off his cracker in the seventies, and the Beach Boys became that novelty act I suspected them of being.

That second part is Mike Love’s fault. That guy’s a fucking dick, milking his old act for every buck he can get. He has worked hard over the years to disenfranchise his troubled cousin Brian because he was not stable enough for touring. I don’t completely fault him for that; I went to see Wilson on the Pet Sounds 50th anniversary tour, and he was a sad sight, ruining all the special work he created with what I’d kindly call a lackluster performance.

Still, I have always resented Love for his viciousness towards Brian and his shameless carrying-on without the genius that brought the Boys to stardom.

And now he’s become a Trumpster. Who saw that coming? Selling his legacy out to help that imbecilic boob of a non-president is not surprising I suppose; he’s never been much possessed of scruples. But I’m sad and angry about it all. The whole lot of them should hang it up and no one should give any of them another dime.

Fuck Mike Love. Real hard.

How did the boomer generation go from acid and free love to this? Was it rehab and gonorrhea? I’ll never understand it.

What’s Left Of Conservatism

No rational person would support Donald Trump in 2020. That circus freak is still going to get 50 million people or more to vote for him, though.

Ever wonder why? I have a guess. Besides them all being members of a death cult of personality.

Dead babies and Stalin.

There’s really nothing left of the conservative movement except for its opposition to abortion and its hatred of socialism and it’s more severe brother, communism. Everything else is basically out the window.

For example, used to be a time when fiscal conservatism meant something. Now it’s only part of a catch phrase for glib libertarians who tell you should you be unfortunate enough to have a dialog with one that they are “fiscally conservative, socially liberal”. Republicans give no fucks anymore about manic spending sprees; the only difference is to whom they are shoveling cash to (hint: not to you).

So with things like fiscal discipline a thing of the past, the only thing conservatives are very concerned about any more is abortions that they are not having and the socialism that no one is pushing. Donald Trump and the pack he runs with know you are suckers for those hot buttons.

He has so much contempt for you that he asserts that abortions are happening after birth, which is something sane folks like to call murder. And no one is using abortion as birth control in the main. It costs way more than a pack of jimmy hats. The pro-choice position is that abortion is safe, legal, and rare.

Then there’s the fear of socialism, which only usually occurs when a major moneymaker needs taxpayer money to make more. Joe and Jeanette Average aren’t as lucky. Take a look around and find me the corporations whose output has been seized by the state. And we’re definitely not communists. This country has never been more full of god-botherers so please miss us with the charge that America becoming more godless. I mean, it kinda is, but still it’s not the way you all think it is out there just because you can’t pray with your students. And there’s definitely no functioning proletarian movement anymore-I think that we’re about down to 10% of the workforce that is still unionized.

So not only do you suffer from a paucity of salient issues to vote on, your two big issues are ghosts. But that won’t stop some of you from being so panicked about dead babies and Stalin that you will throw your vote to some demented, unqualified, twittering, do-nothing orange rage goblin rather than take the chance that those two things are happening in your world. And you’re taking the rest of us with you when you base your voting on your fear of them. I won’t ask you to stop, because if you had any sense, you wouldn’t have let it all come to this.

Hey Nineteen

That’s exactly how many days are left before we either elect a man of integrity or re-elect an insane homicidal clown.

This fucking country primarily needs to get a handle on this virus, tout suite. Trump’s already decided that herd immunity will happen, and that approach of course requires no special effort on Trump’s part and that’s the way he likes it. However, herd immunity usually only comes about after a vaccine has made its way through the population. Epidemiologists are agreed that the policy to infect as many people as possible is as harebrained as it comes. Should Biden be elected, I hope it is not too late for contact tracing and mass testing- and if we must quarantine again, let it be for the sake of ending the pandemic for good.

Let’s crack that nut soon, Joe, mmmkay? I want to eat out again and go to a damn movie.

Next, let’s redevelop a vigorous federal government to tackle social problems that states and locales cannot. That’s a broad request; but I merely want the government to be able to do what it needs to uplift and protect the country and its people. This whole insanity about “regulations” drives me nuts. Regulations are there so that there are limits to negative behavior. I know these days it’s like some kind of curse word, but it became one on purpose so some incurious people could reflexively just hate anything that the government puts into effect.

Let’s see. Is there anything else on my Christmas list?

I want us to rejoin Paris and lead the way to a greener future. There’s no point in surviving a pandemic if the earth is on fire and people are drowning. We have to have the appetite for massive social projects on the scale of the TVA and the Interstate Highway System; it means jobs for anyone who wants them.

I want dope to be legal and I want the jails emptied of drug offenders. If there’s anything America needs, it’s a good bong rip so they can mellow the fuck out, especially in light of the nerve workout that Trump has subjected all of us to the last four years. We are so uptight and high-strung by all our daily stress. I want pot shops on every corner from San Diego to Ocean City. Our day to day would be so much easier to endure. I like my beer, but a little green don’t hurt no one. The time for its taboo has come to an end.

While I am on the subject of jail, I would like to see Reality Winner pardoned.

I want an end to the filibuster and an end to the electoral college. All the roadblocks to democracy must go.

I want to pack the SCOTUS with liberal justices. I don’t care if I’m not supposed to say it aloud. That seat stolen from Obama deserves hard fucking payback. In general, I want Republicans to pay for all the hardball they played with us with impunity instead of negotiating and compromising in good faith. It is time to scorch the earth Republicans stand on and plow their soil with salt. Let them not forget easily that we fuck back if fucked with.

I’m amassing quite the list here.

I’m sure I could go on, but I won’t. I just felt like doing some writing today for fun. I am almost done with my med change and am getting better by the day.

She’s Ready

Most people find the vice presidential debates unnecessary, dry, and boring. Last night’s was anything but.

Because there will probably no debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump that won’t be a five alarm conflagration, it devolved upon the vice presidential hopefuls to perhaps actually talk about the issues.

Some of us were worried that the oleaginous Pence would dispense of Harris in the same manner that he coolly handled Tim Kaine. But Biden purposely picked someone with more pluck than he, and she completely made Pence her bitch the whole ninety minutes.

I would tell you if she sucked. Scout’s honor.

I daresay Harris had fun flaying Pence. There was a light in her eyes. She was nearly bouncing in her chair, ready to fight. She had command of all of the issues. She made it very clear early on that she would not be interrupted, and that was important since Trump and Pence are using interruptions to throw their adversary off track. Harris was having none of it. She answered all of the questions and left Pence wasting his time trying to rebut her attacks. While Pence droned on about how great things are and how wonderful Donald Trump is, Harris swatted down all of Pence’s arglebargle, indicted him and his running mate, and laid out a hopeful blueprint for the future.

What we now know is that Pence and Trump’s vision of America is stale. Everyone is tired of all of it, how it sounds, how it looks. We’ve mostly realized we have made a treacherous detour by electing a failed businessman/internet troll who sucks his own dick all day long and his smarmy god-bothering sidekick. Last night, not only did Kamala Harris make that clear, but she showed she is worthy to represent today and tomorrow’s Democratic party, and the world may just get brighter with her at the helm come 2024.

COVID Island Baby

I figure if anything needs a commemorative post, it’s the news that Donald Trump caught himself the ‘rona. I’ll keep this brief.

After months of denying, scoffing, flouting scientist’s recommendations, and cavalier behavior at superspreader events, he has finally, I think, gotten exactly what he deserves.

I don’t feel bad at all that he is sick. Why should I? Did he spend even a minute mourning the 208,000 people who died while he did nothing?

No.

It is what it is. Fuck him in the eye.

I’m supposed to take the high road as a compassionate liberal. I’m supposed to be better. But Trump, who has foisted so much pain on this country in nearly four years, is a creature beyond sympathy-at least my sympathy. And if that’s tasteless, so the fuck be it.

I tell you what though, we may all need to get right with JHVH quick, because it would appear that it might have been Amy Coney Barrett’s introduction as SCOTUS nominee that caused the outbreak in the Rose Garden. You see, the nominee had COVID not too long ago, and recovered-but there’s speculation that she might still have been “shedding the virus”.

It is nonetheless conceivable that He received Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s eternal soul, and emptied a bowl of wrath upon the heads of those who could not wait to erase and replace her.

Trump’s in a high risk category for dying from COVID, but he will get the best care in the world and I figure he will survive by dint of that. But one thing is most likely; if he does live, he will remain un-chastened by his ordeal, returning to us just as annoying and useless and dangerous as before. This is not a person possessed with any sort of self awareness at all that we are talking about.

I expect Biden will tread through these next two weeks or so with class and poise along a path to eventual victory, which makes him a better person than me, and that is why he is a politician and I am whatever the hell I am.

Enjoy this little ditty on me. Because there’s no more fucks being produced at my fuck factory.

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