Walking The Halls Of A VA Hospital

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I have been wanting to write this entry for a few weeks now, but today I’m sitting down to actually do it. Its going to be allot food for thought, my personal observations, and about something that was said to me that I really did not appreciate one damn bit. It may seem as though I am ranting, which it is a little, but more venting than anything else. Before this year my dealings with the Veterans Administration (VA) has been very limited because other than receiving a check every month and my initial VA home loan I haven’t had a real need. Regulars here over the years know I am a retired disabled Air Force veteran who participated in Desert Storm and The Liberation of Kuwait back in the 90s. I am disabled with a 100% rating yet I have worked full time ever since the day I left the Air Force. Hell, the first time I visited the VA Medical Center here in Houston for my own personal needs was in February of this year (2014). There is but only one way to get into the VA medical system and that is to visit a medical center and take a fucking number.

Since that little adventure I have returned a handful of times and also to the VA clinic in Conroe where my PCP is located. My reasons were simple for beginning this journey so many years after my departure from the Air Force. First because my service related injury to continue care and because of needing diabetes medication. Both became an instant need once I was laid off in February this year. Never underestimate the need of private insurance and the amount of the financial burden it actually covers. I still had the needs I had beforehand, just now without insurance. So, I made a choice, and that choice was to start using my VA privileges for the first time. The inside of a VA hospital is a disheartening sight because inside a VA hospital is where one can see the cost of freedom just by witnessing the people visiting the hospital that day for their needs and services. I wondered the first time, just looking around, why in the fuck I am here. But, now I am a part of the “system”, I wait in line, I take a number, and I try to be patient while waiting for my turn. My point is simple really, the men and women, active or veteran, who are seen within the walls of a VA hospital are there because they have paid in one way, form, or fashion, that many of us have no way of understanding, whether it is mental or physical or a combination of both, because unless we are in that person’s shoes we can never know.

Everyday I grow a little more impatient with people who, in my opinion, are very self centered. Why? Let’s use a very recent example which happened to me back in April. My wife and I had pulled into a very crowded parking lot of a local supermarket on a Sunday around the time the local churches have been letting out. We maneuver around the parking lot in my Hummer H1 looking for a spot. My wife sees a handicap space has opened up and has told me where to go. As I signal that I am turning in to the vehicles around me a woman in a brand new Cadillac Escalade comes down the row against traffic, meaning she was coming down the one way lane the wrong way, and attempts to cut me off and take the spot. So, I approached her Escalade rather aggressively to see if she would back off. To my surprise, a 20ish woman jumps out of the driver’s door yelling and screaming at me to get the fuck out of her parking space. Pause a moment. Upon review of her vehicle I see she still has dealer paper plates a a red handicap tag (in Texas a red tag is very temporary) hanging from her mirror. For ten minutes she yelled at me, cursed at me, and scolded me. Then, then she showed her ass by asking why in the fuck I was even trying to park there since I don’t even have handicap plates or a placard. It is true, everything she said, except the fact that I have DV (disabled veteran handicap logoed) license plates. She had no idea what they are and proceeds to lecture me (the person with visible scarring on both knees, one being from a knee replacement) on the purpose and design of a handicap parking space. Since I was in the space, since I was done talking, I locked up the H1, and proceeded to go inside to go shopping. Meanwhile, she calls the police so they can have my vehicle towed (which never happened). When we came out about 25 minutes later she had moved her vehicle out of the drive so others could pass. Except now she was in the backseat of the police cruiser screaming at the officer. The verdict? She was in possession of an expired tag (new date was written over the old), her drivers license was already suspended, and the temporary dealer tags were also expired by two months. She was arrested and her Escalade was towed. That’s the end of what I know or want to know about her.

Is there a moral to this story? Who really knows. I do know that before she tried to be a fraud, a cheat, and a liar, that should actually know what in the fuck she is yelling about. I have no time for people like her. If she would have just asked me to let her have the spot politely it would have been all hers, no explanation needed because I wasn’t in such a great hurry and my doctor says a little walking on occasion won’t kill me. I’m easy like that. Blow up in my face and I make it hard because I will just walk away from the bullshit. I love people, especially the clueless ones because they make the world go round. I wondered, after the fact, why she had so many things going wrong for her and all I came up with is, to me and in my own opinion, that she had a poor and negative attitude. Personally, I doubt she will ever get her shit together and be a functional adult in society, but that is just my opinion based on one brief encounter with her. How can I really now anyways.

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What is Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD)?

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What is Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD)?

  • What “Internet addiction disorder” (IAD) is still difficult to define at this time.  Much of the original research was based upon the weakest type of research methodology,  namely exploratory surveys with no clear hypothesis or rationale backing them. Coming  from an a theoretical approach has some benefits, but also is not typically recognized  as being a strong way to approach a new disorder. More recent research has expanded  upon the original surveys and anecdotal case study reports. However, as I will illustrate  below later, even these studies don’t support the conclusions the authors claim.
  • The original research into this disorder began with   exploratory surveys, which cannot establish causal relationships between specific behaviors and their cause. While surveys can help establish descriptions of how people feel about themselves and their behaviors, they cannot draw conclusions about whether a specific technology, such as the Internet, has actually caused those behaviors. Those conclusions that are drawn are purely speculative and subjective  made by the researchers themselves. Researchers have a name for this logical fallacy,  ignoring a common cause. It’s one of the oldest fallacies in science, and one still regularly perpetrated in  psychological research today.
  • Do some people have problems with spending too much time online? Sure they do. Some people also spend too much time reading, watching television, and working, and ignore family, friendships, and social activities. But do we have TV addiction disorder, book addiction, and work addiction being suggested as legitimate mental disorders in the same category as schizophrenia and depression? I think not. It’s the tendency of some mental health professionals and researchers to want to label everything they see as potentially harmful with a new diagnostic category. Unfortunately, this causes more harm than it helps people. (The road to “discovering” IAD is filled with many logical fallacies, not the least of which is the confusion between cause and effect.)
  • What most people online who think they are addicted are probably suffering from is the desire to not want to deal with other problems in their lives. Those problems may be a mental disorder (depression, anxiety, etc.), a serious health problem or disability, or a relationship problem. It is no different than turning on the TV so you won’t have to talk to your spouse, or going “out with the boys” for a few drinks so you don’t have to spend time at home. Nothing is different except the modality.
  • What some very few people who spend time online  without any other problems present may suffer from is compulsive over-use. Compulsive behaviors, however, are already covered by existing diagnostic categories and treatment would be similar. It’s not the technology (whether it be the Internet, a book, the telephone, or the television) that is important or addicting — it’s the behavior. And behaviors are easily treatable by traditional cognitive-behavior techniques in psychotherapy.
  • Case studies, the alternative to surveys used for many conclusions drawn about online overuse, are just as problematic. How can we really draw any reasonable conclusions about millions of people online based upon one or two case studies? Yet media stories, and some researchers, covering this issue usually use a case study to help “illustrate” the problem. All a case study does is influence our emotional reactions to the issue; it does nothing to help us further understand the actual problem and the many potential explanations for it. Case studies on an issue like this are usually a red flag that help frame the issue in an emotional light, leaving hard, scientific data out of the picture. It is a common diversionary tactic.

Why Does the Research Leave Something to Be Desired?

  • Well, the obvious answer is that many of the original researchers into the phenomenon known as IAD were actually clinicians who decided to conduct a survey. Usually doctoral training is sufficient to create and test a survey, yet the psychometric properties of these surveys are never released. (Perhaps because they were never conducted in the first place? We simply do not know.)
  • The obvious confounds are never controlled for in most of these surveys. Questions about pre-existing or a history of mental disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety), health problems or disabilities, or relationship problems are absent from these surveys. Since this is one of the most obvious alternative explanations for some of the data being obtained (for example, see Storm King’s article, Is the Internet  Addictive, or Are Addicts Using the Internet? below), it is very surprising these questions are left off. It taints all the data and make the data virtually useless.
  • Other factors are simply not controlled for. The current Internet population is nearly 50/50 in terms of proportion of men to women. Yet people are still drawing conclusions about this same group of people based upon survey samples that have 70-80% men, comprised mostly of  white Americans. Researchers barely mention these discrepancies, all of which will again skew the results.
  • Research done in a particular area should also agree about certain very basic things after a time. Years have gone by and there are more than a few studies out there looking at Internet addiction. Yet none of them agree on a single definition for this problem, and all of them vary widely in their reported results of how much time an “addict” spends online. If they can’t even get these basics down, it is not surprising the research quality still suffers.
  • More research has been done since the original surveys were released in 1996. This newer research has been conducted by more independent researchers with clearer hypotheses and stronger, less biased population sets.  More about these studies will be discussed in updates to this article.

Where Did It Come From?

  • Good question. It came from, believe it or not, the criteria for pathological gambling, a single, anti-social behavior that has very little social redeeming value. Researchers in this area believe they can simply copy this criteria and apply it to the hundreds of behaviors carried out everyday on the Internet, a largely pro-social, interactive, and information-driven medium. Do these two dissimilar areas have much in common beyond their face value? I don’t see it.
  • I don’t know of any other disorder currently being researched where the researchers, showing all the originality of a trash romance novel writer, simply “borrowed” the diagnostic symptom criteria for an unrelated disorder, made a few changes, and declared the existence of a new disorder. If this sounds absurd, it’s because it is.
  • And this speaks to the larger problem these researchers grapple with… Most have no theory driving their assumptions (see Walther, 1999 for a further discussion of this issue). They see a client in pain (and in fact, I’ve sat in many presentations by these clinicians where they start it off with just such an example), and figure, “Hey, the Internet caused this pain. I’m going to go out and study what makes this possible on the Internet.” There’s no theory (well, sometimes there’s theory after-the-fact), and while some quasi-theoretical explanations are slowly emerging, it is putting the chicken far before the egg.

Do You Spend Too Much Time Online?

  • In relation to what or whom? Time alone cannot be an indicator of being addicted or engaging in compulsive behavior. Time must be taken in context with other factors, such as whether you’re a college student (who, as a whole, proportionally spend a greater amount of time online), whether it’s a part of your job, whether you have any pre-existing conditions (such as another mental disorder; a person with depression is more likely to spend more time online than someone who doesn’t, for instance, often in a virtual support group environment), whether you have problems or issues in your life which may be causing you to spend more time online (e.g., using it to “get away” from life’s problems, a bad marriage, difficult social relations), etc.  So talking about whether you spend too much time online without this important context is useless.

What Makes the Internet So Addictive?

  • Well, as I have shown above, the research is exploratory at this time, so suppositions such as what makes the Internet so “addictive” are no better than guesses.  Since other researchers online have made their guesses known, here are mine.
  • Since the aspects of the Internet where people are spending the greatest amount of time online have to do with social interactions, it would appear that socialization is what makes the Internet so “addicting.” That’s right — plain old hanging out with other people and talking with them. Whether it’s via e-mail, a discussion forum, chat, or a game online (such as a MUD), people are spending this time exchanging information, support, and chit-chat with other people like themselves.
  • Would we ever characterize any time spent in the real world with friends as “addicting?” Of course not. Teenagers talk on the phone for hours on end, with people they see everyday! Do we say they are addicted to the telephone? Of course not. People lose hours at a time, immersed in a book, ignoring friends and family, and often not even picking up the phone when it rings. Do we say they are addicted to the book? Of course not. If some clinicians and researchers are now going to start defining addiction as social interactions, then every real-world social relationship I have is an addictive one.
  • Socializing — talking — is a very “addictive” behavior, if one applies the same criteria to it as researchers looking at Internet addiction do. Does the fact that we’re now socializing with the help of some technology (can you say, “telephone”?) change the basic process of socialization? Perhaps, a bit. But not so significantly as to warrant a disorder. Checking e-mail, as Greenfield claims, is not the same as pulling a slot-machine’s handle. One is social seeking behavior, the other is reward seeking behavior. They are two very different things, as any behaviorist will tell you. It’s too bad the researchers can’t make this differentiation, because it shows a significant lack of understanding of basic behavioral theory.

What Do I Do If I Think I Have It?

  • First, don’t panic. Second, just because there is a debate about the validity of this diagnostic category amongst professionals doesn’t mean there isn’t help for it. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, help is readily available for this problem without needing to create all this hoopla about a new diagnosis.
  • If you have a life problem, or are grappling with a disorder such as depression, seek professional treatment for it. Once you admit and address the problem, other pieces of your life will fall back into place.
  • Psychologists have studied compulsive behaviors and their treatments for years now, and nearly any well-trained mental health professional will be able to help you learn to slowly curve the time spent online, and address the problems or concerns in your life that may have contributed to your online overuse, or were caused by it. No need for a specialist or an online support group.

In Conclusion…………………………….

This information was forwarded to me by my daughter who is a double Bachelors in Engineering candidate attending college as we speak. One of her elective classes offered a free writing essay for their final exam grade. A grade with is 65% of their overall grade. My daughter chose to write about the theory of Internet Addiction and chose this article by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. as her launching point for her research. Why did she send me this article to read? Probably because I tell her that she spends too damn much time on the internet and the fact the we talk about disabilities every once in a while because there is so much bullshit out there called a disability. I believe this is my daughter’s attempt to humor me, she didn’t say exactly. Funny enough is the fact that she sent it to me but I had sent her the picture below just a few days ago because eventhough she has unlimited data usage on her cell phone plan, she is always taking “Free Wi-Fi ” into consideration when heading out.

What do you, the reader on the internet right now, think about studying internet addiction?

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The Possibility Of Designer Babies

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Being adopted I have often questioned my roots. I have always had the questions about my traits, which ones are genetic and which ones are unique. Since becoming a legal adult I have been on a couple national and international adoption listings. I get really weird mail and e-mail on occasion with different ways to look into my genetic paths of the past. I have always had two concerns with being adopted which are my own health questions with an unknown family history as we all those same questions for my children and grandchildren. Over the years I have spent countless (1000s and 1000s) hours doing records research, phone calls, letter writing, and door knocking, all with few or poor results. It was a challenge for me personally because I didn’t actually want to know who my biological family was, I just wanted to know family medical history for my own peace of mind. Due to the conditions of my adoption back in 1968, my adoption records were sealed only to be opened by my biological mother. It took much time and a fair amount of court costs to have that over-ruled and have my adoption records un-sealed. In the end it was actually a fruitless effort since 99% of the included information was indeed false. However, there was one vital piece of information that was included, and that was her social security number. I was able to use her social security number to track her down. I will leave it there as this is getting into another story for another day. So, the other day I get a letter from a company called 23andMe announcing an opportunity for myself to be genetically tested for multiple reasons. I called the provided phone number and had a chat with a very nice receptionist who explained that my name was drawn from a national seeking adoption information listing. I was told that the genetic information would provide me a genetic history which could be used to further map my existence. Want to talk about a “WOW” and “WTF” moment all rolled up tightly together, this was it.

After I hung up the phone I was still a little stunned and really didn’t know what to think. I began a conversation with my wife to review what we already knew about “me” and what more we could want to know. Starting with the simple things I knew we remembered that the date on my birth certificate had been altered to read the 7th of November when it was actually found to be the 6th of November. Why this was done has been a controversial question I have had for many years, but after receiving my original “original” from the hospital I was born in I let it rest. As far as genetic history I had found out that my heritage is “Viking” and can be traced back a good 900 years with some really cool family heirloom documents, crests, flags, and so forth. It has been interesting to find things related to these documents and symbols over the years. I was also able to produce some nice results from Ancestry.com which confirmed allot of what I was told as family “folklore” and so forth. It has always been an interesting ride when researching. It has been so interesting that all three of my children have done anything from family tree projects to full on heritage research essays over the years. Now, what does all of this has to do with anything at all? It’s simple, from my point of view, because the resources, as scarce as they may be, are out there if you know what you are looking for and sometimes even if you don’t know what you are looking for. My wife and I decided to explore what we could find out about 23andMe and what that company was all about. There have been many, and I mean many, articles, papers, reports, and stories written about this company. Most of what we read all ended up with them talking about the morality of what this company does for a living. Why? Recently the company received a patent on a product that could allow parents to calculate “traits” of their future offspring. It’s been called a Personalized Genomics Revolution by some since what it allows a person to do is unlike anything in the past. Now, I’m not going to do a run down on everything ever said or what others think about the company. What I want to do is explore what this patent, which the company says it will never use, has to say and/or do with our future as human beings.

The first question I would have is why patent a process that you promise will never ever be used? What’s the point? Is it solely a proprietary issue? Is it because the research and technology industry is so competitive? These are questions which I could not find the answers to. Had I not had contact with this company would I be asking these questions or would I have the questions at all? Good question. We here it in the news, read it in the papers, see the articles in magazines, here it from other people, and read it on the internet about the advancements in genetics and what is theorized to be able to be done. There are many claims being made by the scientists of the world and they have their critics as well as their fans. One thing I find interesting is that critics claim the scientists are “playing God” and screwing with mother nature in their research. I find that amusing on so many levels its unbelievable. First, what does “playing God” really mean? Aren’t we talking about science here? We are not talking theologies, theories, or myths so how can God even come into the equation. I’m not knocking people and their beliefs but I personally believe that God and science are two completely different topics altogether. Past my own opinions I think that genetic research has led to many great discoveries in the scientific and medical world. The human race has moved forward because of scientific discovery and will continue to improve ourselves as time goes by. But what is the cost? What do we lose in the process? Will we skip steps in human evolution that should take thousands to millions of years? One thing I do disagree with, and I’m pretty firm on this, is using science and medicine to alter how a baby is created. The mixing, splicing, and choosing the genes of a baby in a pre-pregnancy soup really bothers me. We do not want a generation of science experiment children which will spend their whole lives being examined and observed to verify if the scientists were right or not. But, wait. it’s already being done in the plant and animal kingdom isn’t it? We already ingest in one way, form, or fashion, the science behind our food and drinks already. Now, the line into human testing can be crossed. Is it ethical? Is it moral? Is it righteous? Is it needed?

So, what would happen if I purchased a “DIY Kit” and sent a sample of my DNA into to be tested, categorized, localized, and a genetic trail to be created? How would this benefit me? Would the information learned, if any, be beneficial to me? I think I will be passing on the opportunity. I think there are things about “ME” that might be better left unknown. I think I will pass so the off chance my DNA isn’t misused somehow by “accident”. I will leave it right there. Some other information I found interesting is that the past price for the kit was $299.00 and has been reduced to $99.00 in hopes to get more of the general public to participate. Something very interesting about Anne Wojcicki is she is the wife of the co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin, who recently gave an investment of $50M ($50,000,000.00). Coincidence? I wonder if it was a personal check or a Google company check because the press release doesn’t actually say. If it is a Google investment does that mean that Google will somehow play a role in the future of genetic tracking? Or is Sergey Brin just protecting his wife’s investment. Interesting sometimes to look where the money comes from and why. Except the “Why” rarely surfaces it’s ugly little head. Hey, I’m not knocking it, if one has the means the by all means do with your money what you please. But high profile people should expect that Joe Public just might a basic question or three.

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