Random thoughts from flyover country

Wednesday, November 28

You think it's bad HERE?

I don't want to downplay the gang problem in the Tulsa area, but at least we haven't had funerals in Roman Catholic churches shot up. It seems that a fine, upstanding, young, rising music star named James Holman, age 32, died, and the funeral home rented St. Columbanus Catholic Church for the service. Unfortunately, someone at the service decided to take out some rivals. Two members of the Gangster Disciples were shot resulting in one dead and one wounded. Police recovered two guns at the scene - one from the newly dead thug and one from the wounded thug. The shooter(s) is(are) still at large.

Oh, yeah: "Holman, identified by police as a gang member, was gunned down last week at an apartment building in the Washington Park neighborhood."

Final note: Chicago will most likely have 500 murders or more this year. Last time I checked, they were up to 477 or so year-to-date. Illinois is the only state that has no provision for law-abiding citizens to carry handguns either concealed or openly, and Chicago still has the most draconian gun laws in the United States.


Tuesday, November 20

With the thanks of a grateful nation...

Nothing like serving your country in war and/or peace for 20 years with the promise that after you retire that the government would provide for you and your family. Now, with one war "ended" and another fixing to wind down, the government finds itself facing a "fiscal cliff" of its own making and its first reaction seems to be grabbing military retirees and throwing them over the edge. According to Military.com, not only is the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) targeting future pay raises for active duty military which have gone up more than civilian pay over the past 10 years (Can you say "recession?"), it is also targeting TRICARE and future retirement benefits.

The CBO suggests raising TRICARE enrollment fees, deductibles, and copayments. It also recommends phasing the increases in over a five year period in a "tiered approach" so higher-ranking retirees pay more than lower-ranking retirees.

This would result in higher collections from retirees, thus discouraging us from relying on the military health care that the government promised us rather than using civilian employer health insurance. The higher deductibles and copayments would also lower costs by discouraging us from using medical services (death panels by proxy).

The CBO also wants to save money by restricting access to TRICARE Prime by retirees under age 65 and their families.

It's nice to know that the government honors our service and the sacrifices we and our families made in the course of that service, isn't it?


Monday, November 19

Open Carry in Oklahoma

As of 1 November 2012, individuals with a Concealed Weapon License (henceforth know as a  Handgun License) issued under the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act can carry legal* handguns either concealed or openly. Initially (before 1 November) there was a great deal of hand-wringing in the media about Open Carry with the concomitant alarm about how businesses would handle it and what the "risk" would be to law enforcement. Letters to the editor and comments on TV and radio station websites were full of the expected whining from the hoplophobes and scaredycats about having to see a handgun on someone's hip.

On 1 November the media covered Open Carry quite breathlessly as if waiting for something bad to happen. The only "thing" that happened was a luncheon at the Trail's End Barbeque in Owasso where about 50 folks from the Oklahoma Open Carry Association (OKOCA) showed up carrying their sidearms to celebrate. Of course there were, again, the letters and comments from the hoplophobes and scaredycats, saying how worried they were and how uncomfortable open carry made them.

I open carry every day at work, because it's part of my job. I have open carried off duty only a few times since it became legal (mostly to avoid conflict with my wife) and then only to run to the grocery store or Hallmark, mostly because it's generally too cool to run around without a jacket when I'm not at work.

Interestingly, even though a sign maker reported a run on "No Guns Allowed" and "No Open Carry" signs, I haven't seen any that weren't there before. One of the branches of my bank has a sign that reads "Please remove all hats, sunglasses, and hoods before entering. Failure to do so will result in being denied entry." It does NOT have a "No Guns" sign. Next time I need to get change, I think I'll leave my hat, sunglasses, and jacket in the truck!

Only twice have I seen other people not readily identifiable as police officers carrying openly. One of those was the local Regional Coordinator for OKOCA and her husband who had to remind an event organizer that just because he got a permit to close a street didn't give him the right to deny open carry. I don't think we'll really see that much open carry until the weather warms up again, but it's nice not to have to worry if the wind is going to blow your cover garment up and expose your holstered handgun which was breaking the law under the old law.


*(Pistol means any derringer, revolver or semiautomatic firearm which:

a. has an overall length of less that sixteen (16) inches,
b. is capable of discharging a projectile composed of any material which may reasonably be expected to be able to cause lethal injury,
c. is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand, and
d. uses either gunpowder, gas or any means of rocket propulsion to discharge the projectile.)

Wednesday, November 7

Well, we're qualified!

Qualification week started Monday, 22 October, and everyone did very well. We had two practice days the previous two Sundays, and turnout was excellent. People paid attention and worked hard to improve their skills.

I was in the first firing order on the 22nd and qualified with 100% on the handgun course with my S&W Model 686-6 revolver. In fact, I had the only 100% handgun score for the week, much to the dismay of the combat Tupperware® shooters. We changed duty ammunition for the revolvers to the Speer 135 grain Gold Dot Hollow Point .357 Magnum and .38 Special +P rounds, and accuracy was exceptional. Duty ammunition for the semiautomatic shooters remained Federal 155 grain JHP which has proven accurate and effective.

The best news is that NO ONE had to shoot the course of fire more than the two times required. (You get three opportunities to qualify twice on each course of fire.) I'm very proud of the hard work and dedication demonstrated by my fellows.


PS. I would have posted this earlier, but 57 hour work weeks have really interfered with my play time.

Friday, October 5

Qualification prelude

Qualification is upon us once again, and the ranges open for practice Sunday morning. There will be the usual crowd of dedicated, conscientious officers wanting to hone their skills and the guys and gals who just like to shoot for free! Of course, those two groups are not mutually exclusive. Over the next few weeks, they will fire several thousand rounds of 180 grain .40 S&W ammunition. A few of us will add several hundred rounds of 125 grain .357 Magnum, and a similar amount of 158 grain .38 Special. (Yes, there are still a few of us old-timers toting .357 Magnum revolvers with .38 Special bugs.)

Then, there are the others, those that don’t like guns, don’t like to shoot, don’t practice on their own time, and don’t even remove them from their holsters between qualifications. Those are the folks who will fail to qualify on at least one of the three opportunities on their qualification days. (A shooter must qualify on two of three chances in order to work armed. If they fail, range personnel conduct immediate remedial training and let them attempt to re-qualify. If they fail that, they don’t work until they have retrained from day one of the firearms course and re-qualify since qualification with firearms is a job requirement.)

I’ve already heard some officers whining about qualification, their issue weapons, and the likelihood that weather will be inclement. Sometimes I think they’re in the wrong career field. I heard one of them refer to his issue handgun as a “boat anchor.” I’ll be working with him personally to resolve any problems he thinks he has…


Another follow-up; another cancer update

    Last week I had my second post-surgical radical robotic prostatectomy follow-up (every three months for the first year), and I’m still showing a prostate specific antigen (PSA) level of 0.0 so far. This is good news, although my doctor will continue to monitor my progress for the next four and a half years.

    While I was there, the nurse practitioner told me that they’d had a number of men in their late forties/early fifties who had PSA levels in the double digits and were scheduled for biopsies cancel their appointments after the USPSTF issued it’s recommendation against PSA testing. That’s just sad because, odds are, they’ll be back, in worse shape, and with a drastically shortened life span and diminished quality of life.

    Next update on this subject will be in mid-December.


PS: I would like to thank the scum-sucking, stalking son of a bitch on the Yahoo Message Boards that linked to my blog celebrating my prostate cancer. Although I'm certain it wasn't his intention, he has aided me in my efforts to educate mature men about the second most prevalent cancer that affects them. To him, I can only hope he follows the recommendation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to the letter. -S

Wednesday, June 20

Quick cancer follow-up

After six weeks of convalescence from my surgery, I returned to work. My supervisor said he was going to give me a slow and easy post until I got my strength back completely. That lasted from 0700 hours to 0900 hours when he came to my post with another officer to replace me. Then he took me to a much busier, more visible, more active post. And his idea of taking it slow? I only worked fifty-five hours that first week. Since then, I've averaged around fifty-three hours a week with a peak of sixty-three and a half hours. Well, I was bored sitting around the house.

Okay, I promised an update when I posted this, so here goes. The results of my lab work showed a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level of 0.0 (undetectable), which is to be expected since I don't have a prostate anymore. This is, boys and girls, a very good thing because it indicates that the cancer was fully encapsulated in my prostate and had not metastasized. So, every three months during this first year, I'll get checked out. It'll be every four months the second year, and then every six months for years three through five. At the end of five years, if nothing pops up in the meantime, I'll be considered cured.
The bad news is that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises against PSA screening. They have all sorts of reasons that don't address the fundamental fact that prostate cancer in younger men (younger than 75 years of age) will likely kill them within 15 years or less of diagnosis if left untreated, and the last few years won't be a picnic. Interestingly, there are no oncologists or urologists on the panel. If my primary care physician followed the task force's recommendation, my rapidly increasing PSA wouldn't have been noted, and I wouldn't have been sent to a urologist for a consultation. Without that consultation and recommendation for a biopsy, my cancer would not have been diagnosed until I couldn't urinate due to a rapidly enlarging prostate (which was already somewhat enlarged) or my bones started hurting because that's where prostate cancer goes. The end result of following this task force's recommendation would have cost me my life.

Guys, this is not for sissies. Get regular check-ups, and, when you get them, insist that you get your PSA levels checked. If they are rising or high already, have your doctor refer you to a urologist for further screening and possibly a biopsy. The PSA test isn't a good way to check for prostate cancer, but it's all we have right now.

Monday, June 18

Old School

Well, my boss finally listened to me. Y'see, CLEET has rules about the Armed Security Officer class: You can only carry the type of handgun with which you take the class. If you take the class with a revolver, that's what you have to carry. If you take the class with a semiautomatic, that's what you have to carry. If you want the option to carry either or both, you have to take the class twice, the whole class, and pay for it again, full price. I took the class with a revolver. It was my choice. When I was assigned to my current assignment, the office issued me a Glock 22. I tried to tell the boss that I was in technical violation of CLEET rules, but he had me qualify with the Glock and told me to carry it while he checked with CLEET. Funny thing was, he never got an answer back from CLEET. So, during an off-site event for which we were tasked to provide security for our local political figures, I explained, again, that I took the class with a revolver and that was what I had to carry to be in compliance with the CLEET rules. The following day, I went to the office, turned in the Glock, and drew a Smith & Wesson 686-6 .357 Magnum with a 4 inch barrel. The armorer then provided me with a crappy Uncle Mike's Duty Holster, 18 rounds of 158 grain round-nosed lead .38 Special, no speedloaders, and no speedloader pouches. Luckily, I had a decent leather holster, lined, black basketweave, that fit the 686 like a charm. I also had two HKS Speedloaders and two double speedloader pouches. One speedloader pouch and a double drop pouch went on my duty belt loaded with Remington 125 grain SJHP .357 Magnum ammunition. I was finally in compliance with CLEET rules. When I showed up at work carrying the L-frame, people noticed. One of the maintenance men pointed it out to the others, and one of them nodded sagely and said, "That's old school." Police officers ask about it, and senior people in the local government do, too. Strangely, the police seem to be in awe of the revolver, especially when my captain tells them I shoot it better than the other officers shoot the Glocks. Our elected officials seem oddly comforted by the old guy with the old gun. They don't know about the S&W Model 37 in a front pocket. This last weekend, I found two more HKS 586 speedloaders at the gun show. Yesterday, I put the other speedloader pouch on my duty belt, giving me four speedloaders full of .357 Magnum and two SpeedStrips full of .38 Special for the backup. The other security officers don't understand why I wanted to carry a revolver, but my superiors just look at my qualification score and nod. Guess I'm staying "old school." ECS

Tuesday, March 20

Cancer diagnosis and treatment

After several months of rising PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels followed by a biopsy, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January. I sat with my wife rather stoically, somewhat stunned, as the urologist detailed my options. Options. You've just been told you have cancer, and you're expected to listen to options. Well,...yeah. What else are you going to do? One thing to consider, according to the doctor, was that the cancer was detected very early. My Gleason Score was 6, and pathologists couldn't diagnose prostate cancer below that level.

The options were: 1) wait and watch; 2) radiation: a) implantation of radioactive seeds in the prostate, b) external radiation, c) proton beam therapy; 3) hormone therapy in conjunction with radiation; 4) radical prostatectomy: a) robotic, b) traditional. After hearing the options, I went home with the doctor's instructions to read everything I could about all the options in order to make an informed decision; he wasn't going to insist on any one of them because I was the one who had to live with my decision.

Option 1, watch and wait, might have been appropriate if I was older, 75 or so, because the odds are that something else would kill me before the prostate cancer did. My urologist described this as not my best option.

Option 2, radiation in its various forms, would have a number of debilitating, uncomfortable, and downright inconvenient side effects. Radiation poisoning of the cancer cells inside the prostate means that you will suffer from radiation poisoning since there is no way to keep from radiating parts of your body other than the cancer cells. Damage to the colon, bladder, and urethra can cause problems long after the cancer has been destroyed. I'm told proton beam therapy might minimize those side effects, but it is terribly expensive and not proven to be more effective than traditional radiation.

Option 3, hormone therapy with radiation adds chemical castration to radiation milieu. Yeah, that sounds good.

Option 4, prostatectomy, removes the prostate (at a minimum) with the associated cancer and can have long term side effects like most of the other options above. There are the possibilities of incontinence in various degrees of severity and of sexual side effects. Disadvantages include a hospital stay and recovery from major surgery. In my case there was an additional risk due to previous abdominal surgery that even if I chose robotic surgery that the doctor would have to open me up to deal with scar tissue and adhesions.

My wife and I did our research and discussed all the options. Her bottom line was, "The important thing to me is that you stay around. Anything else I can deal with." I decided that the robotic radical prostatectomy would give me the best result: remove the cancer, minimize the time of treatment and recovery, and lessen the chance of long-term debilitation.

I had the surgery two weeks ago (It took 5 hours because the urologist worked through the scar tissue and adhesion issues using the robot.), and I'm feeling great. The pathology report indicated that less than 1% of the prostate was cancerous and that the cancer was confined to the interior of the prostate. Can't get much better result.

Today I went to the hospital for X-rays which showed no problems. Tomorrow I go back to the urologist and have every expectation that I'll be free of the catheter in the evening. Long term side effects will take a little longer to determine, but for right now I'll be happy to sit comfortably.


Tuesday, January 31

How is Peggy Joseph doing?

Ever wonder what happened to Peggy Joseph? You remember her, don't you? She was the woman who pulled her kids out of school to go see Barack Obama and found herself in front of a television camera where she breathlessly exclaimed, "It was the most memorable time of my life, I...it was a touching moment because I never thought this day would ever happen. I won't have to work out how to put gas in my car, I won't have work out how to pay my mortgage. If I help him, he's gonna help me."

Well, Peggy, how's that working out for you? Putting gas in your car regularly? Making that ol' mortgage payment? Getting those checks from your savior like clockwork?

Me? I lived through all the hype of the last presidential election, getting called a racist because I didn't support someone whose politics I find abhorrent, voting for someone whom I considered marginal because he was the only choice we had. I was forced to retire from one job because I still believed in customer service instead of minimizing the cost to the stock holders, to move into another career. So now I get two retirement checks and a regular paycheck in a growth industry with all the overtime I can handle. I'm putting gas in my truck and making my mortgage payments without any help from Barack Obama.

How about the rest of you?