Heart-stopping excitement

Just over five weeks ago I happened to wander home early from work one day. While drooling in front of the internet, as I do, I got a call from my dad: Can you take me to immediate care? I think I have an irregular heartbeat.

Dad is a retired doctor, and doesn’t tend to bother worrying about health issues that aren’t worth worrying about. (If you were to ask my sister or me, he doesn’t worry about some things that he should worry about.)

Immediate Care didn’t seem to take Dad’s concern seriously, and—blaming that their imaging department was going to be closing in the next hour—brushed him off to the Emergency Room. The ER was similarly laid-back, and took their time collecting all of his information. The nurses and ER doctor seemed amused, almost, as Dad described a heaviness hanging around his head during these periods where he couldn’t find his pulse. He also described how he was lying down to take a nap, and then woke up because he felt like he was about to pass out. (Passing out, of course, is your body’s way of making you lie down.)

Amused or not, at least they did listen, and hooked him up to an EKG. Within a minute of being hooked up, the machine blared an alarm: Dad’s heart had stopped. And then, a handful of missed beats later, it started back up again.

I’ve never seen an ER staff switch so quickly from let’s listen to this guy and his theory which is obviously wrong to holy shit this guy is going to drop on us at any moment.

Protip: doctors think that, if your heart stops beating for any length of time, you will pass out. Period. If you haven’t passed out, then your heart hasn’t stopped beating.

Dad got shock paddle stickers stuck on him in a hurry. I’ve never seen him protest anything (in the “oh nonononono” sense) as much as those stickers—later I learned that those things are supposed to hurt like a mother. (I had no idea! Though that does kinda make sense…)

Once the ER was sure that they were as prepared to keep Dad alive as they could be, the gears of the hospitalization process were engaged: we waited a whole lot. (My sister, mom, and aunt got called at this point, too, and arrived before much had happened.)

There’s a whole lot of waiting in a hospital. So damn much waiting. Dad’s heart stopped more times that I could count while we sat in the ER, though he never did lose consciousness.

After meeting with a cardiologist, Dad got a temporary pacemaker placed that evening. (Keep in mind that they put leads down a vein in your neck, into your heart, to do this; Dad had no complaints about that, unlike the shock paddles.) White lines on the EKG monitor denoted when the temporary pacemaker triggered, and you could see his heart stopping ever-more-frequently as the evening progressed.

The permanent pacemaker came the next morning. Dad went home a few days later, and has been (knock on wood) fine ever since.

Only in retrospect did Dad or I ever consider the possibility that he might die. (Marin and Mom weren’t quite as dense.) Part of that is a credit to the ER staff; though it was painfully obvious when they got serious, they never did anything to incite any amount of panic.

Still, this is way too soon for any health emergencies. Watching your parents fall apart is the worst.

Project: Throw the Lance of Longinus at the Moon: great plan, or greatest plan?

I have the soundtrack for tomorrow’s “probable new boss” meeting on my iPod… now all I need to do is somehow get up in the morning.

A coincidence

8:20 am: I leave my house to get my hair cut. A neighbor has an RV-esque trailer attached to their large truck parked nearby, but otherwise all is right in the world.

9:00 am: I return from my haircut. The truck and trailer are gone. The stop sign (including pole) closest to my house now lies on the sidewalk, the street signs attached at the top twisted and bent.

Where do you go (my lovely)

It’s late enough and I’m tired enough that I think a not-timely song reference makes for a good title, so hold on to your butts.

Where do I go, when I neglect this blog for weeks months at a time? I can’t account for my time as well as I ought to be able to, so expect some gaping holes.

I’ve been taking two dance classes—ballroom and west coast swing technique—for the last four terms or so, which takes a good chunk out of my Tuesday and Thursday evenings. After eight or nine years of trying to not forget absolutely everything I know about ballroom dance, it’s been wonderful to actually have some instruction again—to feel like I’m actually making progress, rather than trying to minimize how much progress I lose.

Wednesday night is the traditional night of ballroom dance practice. I get grumpy if I don’t attend.

Starting with the new year (though it wasn’t a resolution or anything</tsun>) I began trying to exercise in earnest again. That’s an hour on most nights when I’m not dancing, and pretty much the only time I watch anime these days. (Sidenote: Though I’ve only seen five-ish episodes, Aldnoah.Zero is seriously good. The last show I enjoyed as much was Chihayafuru.)

I’ve been listening to a mess of podcasts, to the detriment of actually doing things. (I now make a conscious effort to listen only when doing menial tasks…) My favorites of the moment are the Bombcast, Accidental Tech Podcast, 8-4 Play, and IRL Talk. I’m shedding a silent tear that IRL Talk is ending, as Jason and Faith’s banter always brought a smile to my face… I’ll especially miss Jason’s terrible ideas on how to troll people and create awkward situations, even though (fear not, Faith!) I’d never actually enact any of them.

My job has been a constant source of above-average stress for the last couple years, which has extended far beyond the hours I actually put in. Previously that stress was due to performance issues (of the office as a whole, not of me personally); currently it’s from the company being acquired (!). I meet my probably-new boss, who lives in a different state, on Monday. They claim they intend to keep my office open, but I’m deeply suspicious and/or untrusting.

I’ve also had two larger—or, at least, productive—coding projects that I’ve worked on, but I’ll save those for another post at a more reasonable hour. Fear not: I still have more to say about grand jury duty, too.

Paloma Faith’s “Just Be”: My new (waltz) jam.

Grand Jury Duty: The Scene

The grand jury room I served in featured a vaulted ceiling and a large rectangular conference room table in the center. The chairs were rather nice—well-padded leather—but the arms had suffered from rubbing on the underside of the table. The foreperson sat at one end, the testifying witness sat at the other, and the rest of the jurors sat three to a side. The DA would either sit on one side next to the witness and unbalance the entire table, or would wander around the room while asking questions.

The alternate foreperson and recorder both had fixed seats, as well, to the immediate right and left of the foreperson (respectively). I suspect the rest of us could have moved around from day to day, but once we had a spot we stuck with it for the entire term. I sat in the center of the side that the DA would sit on, with my back to the window. Good for focusing on cases; bad for enjoying the day.

In one corner was a TV, used for displaying photos and for teleconferencing with witnesses that live goodly distances away. In another corner was a coffeepot that had obviously been neglected for years, as well as a water cooler that actually saw some action. There was also a locked cabinet where the official recorder’s notes for each case (as well as documentation of the jurors’ final overall vote) were stored. I’m not sure how long notes are held, but the one time I got a glimpse inside it looked like there were a lot of them.

In the center of the table were binders with basic instructions to the jurors, a pile of notepads and pens, and bound copies of the Oregon Revised Statutes criminal code. The binders were written in plain English, save for the amazingly-cryptic Oregon Sentencing Guidelines Grid included as the very last page.

This paragraph contains the sum total knowledge I have of that sentencing grid. The letters across the top classify how much of a bad-ass you have been in the past; the numbers along the side classify how much bad-assery you are accused of presently. The resulting grid, along with some tea leaves and chicken bones, give you an idea of how long a sentence you’ll face if convicted.

The ORS criminal code is surprisingly readable, much moreso than most legal text (or the sentencing guidelines grid). Take, say, Assault IV. The required elements are clearly spelled out, as are the ways that it might turn from a misdemeanor into a felony. Any definitional questions you have are addressed in the general definitions and definitions with respect to culpability.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t any nuance to the law. In the general definitions, a “dangerous weapon” is “any weapon, device, instrument, material or substance which under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury” (emphasis mine). As one DA explained it, a pool of water could be considered a “dangerous weapon” if one person is holding another person’s face down in that water; a wall could be one if one person is bashing another person’s head into it.

The DA did clarify, however, that one’s fists—regardless of whatever kung-fu training you’ve received—cannot be classified as dangerous weapons.

This Harper Lee thing sure looks like elder abuse playing out on the national stage. If so, Lee’s lawyer ought to be disbarred (if not charged) and Harper Collins ought to be backing away from that book deal with a fierce quickness.

Naze Nani Grand Jury Duty

The purpose of the grand jury is to act as a check on prosecutorial overreach. An assistant district attorney (ADA, though I’m going to be lazy and type “DA” from here on out) will present their case, and the grand jury is supposed to decide if, in the absence of any defense, they would find the defendant guilty. The entire argument is biased and one-sided—and it’s meant to be. If the DA cannot make their case in even the most favorable light, then they have no business taking it to a courtroom.

I know that a certain recent national story has suggested that grand juries weigh “all” the evidence, or other nonsense. That’s completely against everything I was told.

Note that the DA doesn’t necessarily present their entire case. They can (as you might expect) omit details that aren’t favorable to them, but what I didn’t expect is that they can also omit details that further condemn an individual, if they think the facts they’ve presented are sufficient.

Only felonies have to be presented to the grand jury, though the DA has the option of presenting misdemeanors if they want to do a test-run of their case. I’ve heard that this is because, historically, felonies were offenses where the defendant could potentially face death as a punishment. (Not all felonies are presented to the grand jury, either, though I’m not entirely certain about which ones are not—plea deals, maybe more? In those situations, the DA files an information.)

Historically, grand juries were independent investigative bodies that could open their own inquiries into potential crimes. The modern grand jury I sat on now just has an annual duty to visit the Children’s Farm Home and verify that all seems to be well there. My term did not coincide with that annual visit, thankfully.

Portland federal grand juror charged with breaking code of silence: this is exactly why there will not be any saucy details about my time on the grand jury. Sheesh.

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