Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Insurance Update and ARGGGHHHH

So, a week and a half of trying to fix this insurance issue.

GRRRRRR.

I made real progress today though. I once again called Harvard Pilgrim. They once again denied responsibility and the ability to fix things. They sent me to the NH Exchange (which is part of the Healthcare Marketplace). Again. According to them that's the only thing they can do.

I call the NH Exchange. I talk to a nice young man who tells me that 1. They can't fix the problem but 2. Unlike before the policy is now cancelled on their end so they can "escalate", take a complaint (which he took down for me), and try to resolve the issue. That's honestly the most help I'd gotten so far.

Only problem? That will take at least 30 days.

I've got a husband with CANCER who has TESTS OUTSTANDING and THOUSANDS IN LIFE SAVING MEDICATIONS EVERY MONTH.

But that process is started, and that's something.

So I called the NH Insurance Department and got a hold of an actual human.

I told her the story (not notified about change in policy, online interface still shows old policy as "Active" with a balance of $0.00, they cancelled the policy for nonpayment on a policy I didn't know existed and told me it was my responsibility to call them and tell them to add a policy I didn't know existed to my online account, which they require me to pay through).

I didn't even get to the practical consequences of this screw up before she said "this isn't right. Make a formal complaint and we will do our best to fix this."

So that's where we are.

In the meantime Chris can't work, I can't work, we have expensive medications to pick up, and we still have to resolve our lack of vehicle.

So that's where we are, with Harvard Pilgrim blaming the Exchange and the ACA for their inability to fix the situation, and the Exchange blaming Harvard Pilgrim. While we try desperately to get coverage back and keep afloat while things get delayed. Again.

So unfortunately we need to ask for help. Anything would help.

I've changed from GoFundMe to Facebook Fundraising (which charges a third of GoFundMe's fee), PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne.com always works, and there's always pinging me on Facebook.

Thanks all,

Mel

Thursday, August 10, 2017

I thought I knew what difficult meant, now I know better

Warning: massive, slightly tipsy health and life update coming, combined with a rant, combined with a lot of other stuff.

Lessee, as I start this it's August 10th. That means the newest phase of our personal hell started 32 days ago, when my Blazer blew a head gasket.

That was a pretty good indicator of what was to come.

Chris cancelled his classes for that week, knowing he would need to go to the ER later that week. Which he did. I drove him there in an Avalanche borrowed from a friend. He almost didn't make it through the door. Frankly he didn't make it through the door under his own power, I found a nurse to get a wheelchair and wheel him into the ER, while I shepherded 4 year old Christopher and his safety harness.

See, back in June it was determined that Christopher is autistic and has a speech delay. The delay isn't just in his speech, but also in received speech (understanding others). So we're not talking a kid who will play quietly, or stay in one place, or be able to even tell new people his name. And he's an escape artist who is constantly plotting ways to go on his own adventures without adult intervention. Yeah, it's hard. Very hard.

So if you can imagine the three of us, Chris, Christopher, and me, sitting in the ER of the local hospital, with Chris looking like he was on death's door.

That's how this started.

We found out later Chris was a few days to a few hours from dying.

He ended up admitted for 5 days with a diabetic hypersmolar crisis. From undiagnosed diabetes. Stemming from his rhabdomyolysis caused by surgical complications from last September's surgery.

So our world got turned upside down. Again. You'd think we'd be used to this, but this is another level of complication.

On top of diagnosis of the hypersmolar crisis, a second previously unknown cancer tumor was found.

Yep, that's still a thing.

Fortunately the new endocrinologist (the last was fired, for not handling zebras well) who is the main reason I chose to take Chris to the local ER (this endo is known for actually listening to zebras) is treating the cancer seriously.

So Chris isn't working in order to be ready for any cancellations that pop up (his classes are scheduled in week increments ahead of time, and his students have to take time off of work to attend, so he can't just drop them at a moment's notice) and we've reworked a lot of life to deal with the diabetes. More medical equipment, an oxygen concentrator, a second air conditioning unit to deal with the humidity and climate control in the house, then meeting our out of pocket max, plus the normal bills and everything I had to do (take out, totally different food, fixing our lack of hot water) in order to survive handling everything myself and get things ready for him to get home...

We went through $28k last month doing all of the above. $28k.

We still haven't managed to get everyone back on a normal schedule.

But it gets better.

We had just met our out of pocket max when Harvard Pilgrim cancelled our health insurance and backdated it to June 30th.

Why? Lack of payment, supposedly. Except my account balance showed $0.00 and there was no option in the online payment interface (which we're forced to use because we went through the exchange) to make a payment. I thought it was weird, but we'd lost our subsidy earlier in the year (isn't that the point, working until you don't need the subsidy?) they'd overcharged us, and I knew they were applying the overcharge to our premiums. I thought it was weird that I didn't have a payment to make, but when Chris almost died it fled my mind.

... Until I found myself paying $450 for half a month's worth of Levemir because our insurance was cancelled.

According to them they'd issued us a new policy because the exchange told them to (the exchange says they did no such thing) and not notified us. When I asked them why the old policy was showing as active and paid then, they said their systems hadn't caught up, and I should have known about the new policy WE DIDN'T KNOW EXISTED and told them their system wasn't showing me the right policy.

Uh huh. I got blamed for their technical issue.

What's worse is shortly after I received an invoice for our active ongoing insurance policy with the same numbers and a due date of August 25th. Sent after they cancelled our insurance.

That might take a state senator, the insurance commission, and the governor's office to sort out because all attempts to fix it with Harvard Pilgrim failed.

And that's where we are. No income, no vehicle that is ours (and I need to give the borrowed one back soon), no health insurance, horribly expensive meds to pay for, and cancer treatment to continue while I fight with the insurance company while caregiving for a bedridden husband and an autistic mostly-non verbal hyperactive hyperintelligent escape artist 4 year old. And two dogs and two cats. And so this whole house of cards doesn't come falling down, myself as well.

I'm barely holding it together. Actually that's being rather generous.

So here's a lovely list of the things insurance won't pay for, if we had insurance:

A working vehicle
Another ac unit
An oxygen concentrator immediately, versus proving he needs it by jumping through hoops
Diabetic testing equipment that actually works
Food
Dog food
Cat food
Preschool supplies for when Christopher starts preschool in another couple of weeks
Landscaping because I can't do it
Gas
A roof over our head
All other bills
Whatever it takes to maintain my sanity and not kill myself with exhaustion

Anything would help. Anything.

I've still got the GoFundMe up and running, PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne.com always works and doesn't have a fee. Messenger Payments to me also works and doesn't have a fee. Or just ping me on Facebook, I'm easy to find.

Thanks all,

Mel

Thursday, July 20, 2017

I just spent more on meds than rent

I just spent $1,900 on meds and $500 in durable medical equipment in 42 hours. It would have been $2,500 on meds but I only filled half a month's worth of one med in the desperate hope that the insurance company will update our max out of pocket as met within the next 2 weeks.

Yes, one of his medications is $1,200 a month and is required to keep him alive. Another medication is $1,000 a month, also to keep him alive. Those are both new as of the hospital stay.

I've paid less for working cars in good condition. I've made less a month while working full time than either of those meds.

On top of that Chris can't go back to work because his cancer doc/ endocrinologist is accelerating his surgery and radiation timeline to as fast as humanly possible and "you're taking the next cancellation". When you're teaching in one week increments and your students sign up for classes and take time off of work (often weeks and months in advance) you can't be on a cancellation list. While his work teaching made it possible for us to nearly pull ourselves out of the financial hole we were in (and now is being dug deeper and faster) he can't do that right now.

So we have increasing medical bills AND no income, and I can't work AND pay for child care for an autistic child AND a nurse for Chris.

And of course, we need to replace a vehicle sometime in the next 3 weeks so I can give the vehicle I borrowed back to the actual owner.

Oh, and pay for things like meds and appointments until insurance recognizes we met the out of pocket max...

So trying to keep Chris alive and get him treatment as fast as possible is financially destroying us. We'll still do it, but we need HELP. Lots of help. "$2,500 in new medical costs AND we need to buy a vehicle so we can get him to treatment AND we need to pay the normal bills so we have a place to live and electricity" help.

Please, anything would help.

I've still got a GoFundMe up and running, and PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne.com always work, and I can always be reached on Facebook.

Thanks all,

Mel

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Chris has been hospitalized due to nearly dying

Chris was taken to the ER Thursday night due to life threatening complications of his spreading and multiplying stage 4b endocrine cancer. It had previously spread to his lymph nodes, there are now strong indicators that it has spread further. He nearly entered a coma, and while he is currently stable it's a tenuous stability.

Ultrasound showed that what before was one tumor is now one tumor doubled in size (and growing fast) plus a second tumor.

CAT scan showed worrying shadows on his lungs.

He needs oxygen to sleep properly.

He needs aggressive cancer treatment, and now.

He can't work during this. He's still bedridden from the last surgery, AND he almost went into a coma.

On top of this, our son was recently diagnosed with a speech delay and being on the autism spectrum.

Between caring for both of them I can't work.

Our vehicle just blew a head gasket and needs replaced.

We have thousand of dollars left to reach the out of pocket max on our exchange plan (thanks ACA) which we will need pretty much immediately.

Yes, everything is going wrong at once and we are financially wrecked. 2 adults that can't work, special needs child, out of pocket max for medical care, logistics of aggressively treating cancer, replacing a vehicle, and those tiny bills that are rent, insurance premium, utilities, food...

Financially wrecked.

What's sad is we had almost, almost pulled ourselves out of the financial hole. Now we're facing several months without income and with many more bills to pay.

Anything would help. ANYTHING.

I've still got the GoFundMe up and going, and PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne.com always works, or messaging me on Facebook.

Thanks all. Wish I had better news.

Mel

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Today I lift my glass, to celebrate our Independence Day

Today is not veterans day, or memorial day, or remembrance day... 

It is not a day of mourning, or of thanks, but a day of recognition, celebration, and exultation...

Today  is the day we recognize, and celebrate our independence, as the only nation in all of history founded on the notion, that the only form of legitimate government, is that which is based on recognizing, securing, protecting, and defending; the fundamental, inherent, and pre-existing, unalienable individual rights of man... 

... and deriving it's just powers from the same... 

... a government of the people, by the people, for the people...

A government of the people, by the people, and for the people, AS INDIVIDUALS...

...all created equal, and with equal and unalienable rights...

...Not to secure, protect, and defend, society, or collective, or even nation... 

...but the individual rights of man...

To my knowledge we remain the only nation so dedicated. 

Our revolution began April 19th 1775, at Concord and Lexington... 
...a day we in New England celebrate as Patriots Day...
Our independence was officially declared July 4th 1776... 
...the day we celebrate today, as independence day...
Our revolution was won, with the surrender at Yorktown, October 19th 1781...
...six years and six months, of mud, blood, and toil, from the day it commenced...
Our new nation was made whole, and strode forth under our Constitution, March 4th, 1789...

In the last 242 years,  millions of service men and women have fought, and over a million of them have died; fighting to secure, protect, and defend, those fundamental, inherent, and pre-existing individual rights of man.

...Every single day in this country...and around the world... 
...millions still fight for those rights...
...in whatever way they can, according to their own gifts and abilities, and their own circumstances, whatever they may be...
...whether by bullet and blade, by badge or by ballot... 
...whether by words on a page, or spoken on stage... 

For all of my brothers and sisters who have fought, and all who have died... 

For all who are still fighting today, at home and abroad...

Whether you're here today celebrating with family and friends...

Whether you're lost and alone out there...

... and if you are, rest assured we are coming for you brothers and sisters, to bring you home...

Whether we'll meet again the other side of the veil, and share this toast with those who live forever, on fiddlers green... 

Today, I lift my glass, in honor of those who fought...

Today I lift my glass in honor of those still fighting, at home and abroad...

Today I lift my glass in  honor of absent companions, and fallen comrades... 

Today, I lift my glass, to celebrate  our independence day.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Logical and Epistemological Derivation and Progression of Rights

Here's a post I started writing about... two years ago I think? Maybe three? In response to a question about what rights were, and how we know they are rights etc... but I never finished it. The same question came up today, so I figured I'd finish the post. 
... It's still not QUITE finished... I need to do a bit more of an edit... but it's MOSTLY finished. 
By the by... if you think something is circular, or a tautology, you're reading it wrong. There are no tautologies here, there are only derivations from first principle, with reference to falsifiability, and non-contradiction; presented as logical and consequential proofs.
Meaning that all derivations FROM first principles in the progression can be derived back TO first principles, without contradiction or falsification... and that many but not all of them have, in order to illustrate this. 
As sentient beings, of sound mind, able to make our own choices and direct our own efforts; and to accept the requirements, obligations and consequences thereof; we have fundamental and inherent rights, which pre-exist and presuppose any society, state, collective, or other entity.

Rights exist because of self ownership, not because of society, or the state, or collective agreement or consent.We own ourselves, in the entire... rights, benefits, obligations and consequences.

We are not the property of others, or of society; and society (or the state, or any other collective or individual) is not the grantor of rights... though if legitimate, society, or the state, should be a guarantor of rights.

This is generally colloquially referred to as the propertarian principle of individual rights, or the principal of self ownership.

To my knowledge, it is the only logical derivation and progression of individual rights, as and from fundamental first principle, which does not require outside appeal to authority (i.e. faith, God, society, the state, the monarch etc... though conveniently, it also does not contradict most concepts of faith in God either)... though there may be others I am not familiar with.

This is a nearly universally recognized (if not necessarily universally accepted) principle, by those who actually study such principles (philosophy and philosophers), and the nature of principles, knowledge, and truth (epistemology... a field of philosophy which asks "how does one know anything at all, and within such knowledge, how does one know what is true and what is not).

It is generally accepted as the foundational first principle of the enlightenment... and critically it IS, clearly and explicity, the fundamental principle of the constitution of the United States... and of the nation defined by it.

Rights are not granted or provided by the constitution, or the state, or society... our rights are fundamental, inherent, and pre-existing... they are recognized, and protected by the constitution, by the state organized and formed by it, and... hopefully... by the society living with that state.

First, to get it out of the way right up front... lets talk about God for a minute:


  1. Some believe there is no such thing as property, nor can there be... only stewardship
  2. Some believe that we are Gods property

There can be conceptions of rights without property, including without self ownership, or even without individuals, as we think of them... but they are entirely different from conceptions of rights where there can be and is property... Generally granted by "tradition", or "honor" or "god" or "gods" etc... They are not derivable from any logical first principle, but instead require appeal to authority (even if that authority is "honor" or "tradition").

In most Christian and Jewish theological concepts which include people being God's property, this is morally and ethically indistinguishable from self ownership in the context of the propertarian principle; except internally, to your own moral judgement and conscience, of your stewardship of Gods property (as delegated to you, the individual...though certain Christians theorize and promulgate more explicitly collective stewardship as well).

In Islam, you are owned by God, and are in total submission to God... That is the literal meaning of Islam. You are owned by, and submit to the will of, God, in all things, at all times. Anything you or anyone else has, is Gods property, you only have temporary posession, use, and stewardship of it... including yourself. You have no rights, nor does anyone else... only privileges granted by God, as God wills it.

This piece is not about the epistemology of faith however, it is about the epistemology of rights.

So next, lets get the other common concepts of "rights"... which by the individual conception of rights are not truly rights at all... out of the way.

Some believe that there are superior beings, who have rights inherently (or granted by God, or society, or position etc..); and inferior beings, who do not, or whose rights are inferior to others (unless granted superior rights by those who posess them), and who can be the property of another, or can be subject to another. This is the fundamental principle of nobility or monarchy, and of certain types of oligarchy, and other explicitly hierarchical societies.

Some believe that people... or at least our bodies, and the fruits and products of them, and their efforts (wealth, profit, property etc...) are the property of "society" or some other collective entity or construct. If you believe that individuals are societies property... then you don't believe in rights at all... though you may call them rights, they are not: They are grants of privilege, immunity, entitlement, license, or franchise. They can be given, taken, and modified, as society decides. This is the fundamental principal of most collectivist societies.

It is also the fundamental presumption most people seem to have, in most societies around the world today... including, sadly, most people in America. They THINK they believe in rights, and in individuals... but they believe that rights are grants of society, or the state, or the constitution; and can be granted, modified, or revoked, as the needs or preferences of society require them to be.

They THINK they believe they are individuals, and own themselves... but they believe that society decides on rights... and if society decides, then you don't actually own yourself, society owns you.

What about right and wrong?

In either of these alternate conceptions; as the superior individuals, or society as a whole, are the arbiter of rights, then there can be no standard of right or wrong, except as determined by those superior individuals, or by common consent; and when society changes its mind, then what right, and what is wrong, also change.

There are no right and wrong... only allowed or not... Which, sadly, is what all too many believe.

If there ARE individual rights, beginning with property rights, then at least some things are inherently and objectively wrong... with or without society, even if society says they otherwise... Specifically those things which violate the rights of others, by force or fraud.

Oh and, if one knowingly does this wrong, by choice, then one willingly consents to their rights being abrogated as a consequence... We respect each others rights, so that others respect ours, and if they violate ours, we don't have to respect theirs... though we still should, and we shouldn't disregard their rights to any degree greater than required to compensate us for the violation of our rights, or to prevent further violation or abrogation of others rights.

THAT is the ACTUAL social contract by the way...

...Not some BS about society and altruism etc... etc... etc...

A contract, is valid consideration, offered for valid consideration in return; voluntarily accepted, with valid exchange and acceptance of said consideration, according to specified terms.

This equal offer of consideration of rights, fulfills all requirements of a contract; both as individuals, and collectively... as all so called "collective rights" are not... they either do not exist, or they are rights delegated to the collective by others.

... Remember... I said this was a full logical derivation and progression... 
Might makes right?

Three other important things to get out of the way...

1. Just because someone, or some society, or some state doesn't know about or recognize or accept such rights, doesn't mean they don't exist

2. Just because someone, or some society, or some state, is violating or abrogating such rights, does not mean they do not exist.

3. Just because someone, or some society, or some state, has the power, or has granted themselves the authority, to violate or abrogate such rights, does not mean they do not exist.

To "think" otherwise, is to make the same logical error, as thinking that because people violate the law, there is no law; the same logical error as thinking that because people do wrong, that there is no right or wrong.

This is the difference between licit, and legitimate authority and force. Licit, is that which is allowed by "authority"... be it society, the state, the monarch etc... Legitimate is that which respects both law, and rights... and the law itself must be licit and legitimate to be right.

Rights cannot be disposessed of, only respected, violated, or abrogated; whether by force, fraud, or willing consent.

... Willing limitation of rights, competition of rights, and intersection of rights in such contexts are MUCH more complicated questions...

Proof?

As I said above... The propertarian principal of individual rights, provides for a logical derivation and progression of rights, from first principle, without external appeal to authority.

So... here is the logical and epistemological progression and proof of individual rights; from, in reference to, and in the context of; the propertarian principle of individual rights, or the principle of self ownership.

First, our assumptions, and statement of principle...

Sentient individuals exist.

Property exists.

Rights exist.

Property may be held privately, by sentient individuals.

Sentient individuals may not legitimately be property of other individuals or entitites.

If we are sentient individuals, not owned by society, or any other superior individual or entity, then we must own ourselves.

Now, we derive our progression of rights...

If we own ourselves, then there must be rights, inherent to our nature as sentient individuals... These rights begin with, and proceed from, the right of self ownership; because without rights, there is no ownership... only possession.

If there is an inherent right of self ownership, and we are sentient beings, then we must have the right to freedom of conscience.

If we own ourselves, and have freedom of conscience, then we cannot be dispossessed of our rights even by willing consent; as self ownership and freedom of conscience cannot be dispossessed of without negating sentience and individuality.

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience and cannot be disposessed of our rights, then our rights can only be abrogated or violated by force, fraud, or willing consent.

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience, cannot be disposessed of our rights, and our rights can only be abrogated or violated by force, fraud, or willing consent; then all sentient individuals have the same rights, and no individual can have any rights that are superior or inferior to the rights of any other individual.

If all sentient individuals have the same rights, which cannot be superior or inferior to any other, then no sentient individual can be superior or inferior to another.

If no sentient individual can be superior or inferior to any other, then no individual can own any other or be owned by any other.

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience, and cannot be dispossessed of our rights, then we must have the right of private property, which consists of the rights of posession, determination, use, exclusion, disposal, and benefit of such property (including our selves in the entire).

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience, and have the right of private property, then we must have the right of defense of self.

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience, and have the right of private property, then we must have the right of self determination.

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience, have the right to private property, and the right to self determination, then we must have the right of association.

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience, have the right to private property, the right to self determination, and the right to free association, then we must have the right to form contract.

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience, have the right to private property, and the right to self determination, the right of association, and the right to form contract; we must also have the right to form voluntary collectives of individuals and to delegate certain rights and powers to them.

If we can form a voluntary collective of individuals, all individuals have the same rights which cannot be disposessed, no individuals can be superior or inferior to any other, and no individual can own or be owned by any other...

 ....then no collective of individuals can be a separate entity unto itself with rights separate from the rights of the individuals making up the collective, nor can any collective of individuals be superior or inferior to any individual, nor possess or exercise rights not posessed by all individuals, or which are superior to those of any individual.

... Thus, we are able to have societies, and states, which respect and protect individual rights, and which do not violate or abrogate them; without requiring collective rights, or collective ownership.

That's the epistemological progression from the propertarian principle, through to the existence of societies and states, with the exclusion of collective rights, and collective ownership... It is a complete chain of reasoning, derivable from and to first principles... progression and regression.

All things which are ACTUALLY rights, as opposed to grants, franchises, etc... can and must be logically and epistemologically justified within this progression, or from this progression. All things which cannot be logically and epistemologically justified within or from this progression... as dervied from and in the context of the propertarian principle... are not, and can not be, rights. They are something else, that are not rights.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Fail Fast, Fail Frequently, Fail Forward

Being "detail oriented" is generally considered a good thing. It can be a great asset... even a critical requirement... for people like engineers, writers and editors, reporters, accountants, MBAs and analysts, and academics.

As such, being "detail oriented" is often mistaken by those groups of people (and those who rely on them, or think of them a benchmarks to judge themselves, and others) as a hallmark of ...or even a requirement for.... intelligence, competence, and success.

Conversely, not being "detail oriented", can appear as, or be taken (improperly) as; a sign of disorganization, a short attention span, even stupidity and incompetence.

...but...

Being "detail oriented", is not always the right thing, or the necessary thing. Sometimes, it even gets in the way or is actively harmful.

Jimmy Carter was incredibly detail oriented, as were both Bill Clinton, and Woodrow Wilson...

... didn't work out so well for those three as president...

Mostly, It just made them micromanaging, and indecisive... Delaying decisions or actions until they had "enough data"; "delegating" to subordinates,  without giving them actual authority for decision making; and making decisions, only to modify or even reverse them, when "new information" arrived... whether that information merited such action or not, and disregarding the negative consequences of doing so.

...You know.... the usual result, when a "detail oriented" person has far too much information; far too little ability to judge the relevance, importance, or quality of information they have, and properly filter and route it; far too little expertise or experience in a particular subject or issue (or sometimes far too much, in which case they may start to second guess and over think things,nor to prematurely optimize); and not enough time or resources to sufficiently remedy any of these problems.

When a "detail oriented" person finds themselves caught in such a situation (unless they are one of those who can naturally step back, and see systemic complexities, and interactions, in the "big picture", and then properly generalize, and relate them to other data, other systems, other problems etc... ) they will naturally tend to fixate on the details they DO understand... regardless of the acttual importance of those items, or the quality of the data..... and establish confirmation bias based simplifications and logic chains, that affirm their own illusions of control over the issue... but actually, most likely  just make things worse.

It's hubris... and it is a near universal problem... even for those of us who have been specifically trained to recognize and avoid it... because the real world is far too complex, with far too many dependent variables, and far too few independent variables, with far too few ways to properly simplify arend sennd ND abstract data arend senndndbnd problem sets; even just to ACTUALLY understand, never mind successfully control very much, very well.

... Unfortunately our brains are VERY good at creating a convincing illusion of control...

...Until we crash, hard, into reality... And hopefully don't break anything.... or anyone... too badly.

...And of course, when it's a president who is having this problem, the consequences can be a lot more serious than when it's just some guy...

When you don't have the time to actually become an expert or authority on the 300 plus absolutely critical subjects you have to make decisions about every single day... you don't need to be more detail oriented... What you need, is to be able to very quickly understand the important principles, the overall context, what the most important and relevant details are, and what the variables, options, and consequences of various specifics of your decision may be.

Under those circumstances, being "detail oriented" actually serves to distract you, and gives you the illusion of greater understanding, expertise and control, than you actually have.

... which leads to even greater tendency towards not only initial error... but then a worsening death spiral of error and hubris.

You don't need to get all the details right... because you can't... it's not actually possible.

You need to be able to decide and act fast... but in the right way...

You have to observe, orient, and simplify to decision points; make decisions and set direction; effectively drive action and execution; then analyze the results of actions taken, and iteratively improve.

...and that's not a common ability, nor is it easy...

A very large portion of my profession, involves taking a huge amount of very detailed, very hard to understand, very technical information; documenting all of it thoroughly, along with context and history,  best practices, requirements, regulations, limitations and constraints... plus references etc...

Distilling all of those hundreds, or sometimes thousands of pages, down into both a detailed report with EVERYTHING... and far more importantly, a short summary; including the background and context, the important principles and issues, the most critical details, the risks and consequences, the costs and benefits etc...writing out specific requirements and recommendations, and prioritizing them, with an outline of actions that may be taken on such recommmendations.

It may have taken me and my team anywhere from a week, to as much as six months, to gather all the background and requirements, run all the testing, gather all the data, perform all the analysis etc...; with another five to ten days, full time, of writing it all up, into both the full report and the summary... maybe even twenty or more additional days, including outlines, drafts, revisions and the like... A full working month...

Then, I have to present that to the people who are financially and legally responsible for the operations of the organization... and they need to immediately, or at least very quickly, decide what to do about particular requirements, particular problems, particular options etc... Often in the room, right then. And they need to give a legal signoff, often with multiple literal signatures and copies, sent to auditors, regulators, courts etc...

Frequently, I have as little as 15 minutes TOTAL to make my presentation and explanations, answer any questions, and get approvals etc...

...Meaning the execs only have a few minutes to understand, and make their decisions as well...

If they get it wrong, or execute on it badly, they can personally be fined thousands  or even millions of dollars, or possibly even go to jail; in addition to the consequences to the organization, which may include huge losses of information, of direct revenue, and most importantly loss of confidence and reputation.

Good leaders, may go back and re-read the whole report later... certainly they will have at least two subordinates they trust, and who will come at it from at least two different directions and perspectives, dissect it in detail and review it with them...  but they don't have time right now.... Right now, they need to orient, decide, and act

To do THAT,  they will rely on the input from their trusted subordinates... and from me, the expert...

...They don't read the full report right now...they read the summary, and the charts, and the important notes etc... and they also read ME, as I'm presenting... and they read their own people, and their reactions or how something sits with them.

Theynobswrve the data, and they observe and analyze my word choice, tone, posture, and demeanor... and those of their peoples... and how they convey meaning. How certain I am of what I'm saying, and how competent and how knowledgeable am I, based on how comfortable and relaxed I am with my own work, and with the subject matter as a whole... even if the report may be unpleasant or distressing. How I weight the variables and options. My level of comfort and certainty... or discomfort and uncertainty... with my data, my analysis, my recommendations... everything...

...then based on this observation and analysis, they orient themselves to the problem properly,  make a decision right then, so they can make all the necessary supporting decisions, and take whatever immediate actions may be required....

...So that we can start moving and acting, as quickly as possible...and so that we can FAIL as quickly as possibly, as small as possible, and therefore we can iterate again... improving and correcting, as we go.

Because they don't expect to get every decision exactly right, the first time, every time... Or EVER for that matter... because it's almost impossible to do so...

... Becausenthey understand.. it's a lot easier to get it right by orienting on what you think are the right problems, and what you think is the right direction; acting on your analysis, until you get stuck into it, and find things you need to change; then iterating, and iterating, until you get it right.

Plan, do, check, act... repeated..... until you get it done, and get it right.

Fail fast, fail frequently, fail forward.

You might have noted, there is another president right now... who is essentially the polar opposite of Jimmy Carter... and  who is being portrayed as being stupid, incompetent, having a short attention span, and being rash... too quick to judge, moving too fast, without waiting for better data or understanding all the details...

Yeah... pretty obvious ain't it?

Now... I don't think Trump is some kind of genius... In fact, I detest the man on a personal level, and at best I'm unimpressed with him as a businesssman... a don't think he has any business being president, and I very much doubt that he will have a good and successful presidency... though I hope I am wrong, and he's very successful, and does very well for the country...

...But... I can say, that I recognize very clearly, the pattern of someone who is used to doing just what I described here... Orienting, deciding, and acting quickly, then failing quickly, deciding and acting again, and iteratively improving... or at least trying to.

He doesn't deliberate, or delegate, once he's already involved directly, or has to make a decision.... He delegates everything possible right up until he HAS to make that decision, and then gets involved directly; makes the decision, without second guessing, and acts on it, until it fails or requires revision. Then he makes another decision, acts on it, and If it fails, it fails... and they fix it again, and again, until you fix all the problems you can find... and hopefully, you're  successful.

Because every success, large or small, is made up of many small failures.

You decide and act as fast as possible, so you can fail as fast as possible... and  you want to know as quickly as possibly so you can fix or replace as quickly as possible.

Trump is TRYING to do this in office... and it's sometimes working, but mostly not... for various reasons, none of them good...

But... if you're paying any real attention at all, it should be clear at this point.... the narratives being drawn around the Trump administration?

Well... the media doesn't seem to actually get anything else right... why would they get this one right?

Especially since it would be against their own goals, and their own interests, to do so....

Monday, January 30, 2017

A long overdue review... Dennis Badurinas Dragon Leatherworks Custom Holsters... Damn fine holsters, damn fine man.

Back in 2011, I was still a reasonably popular blogger... and still a gunblogger in particular, with a couple thousand unique readers every day. I was still posting almost every day... still doing megaposts... and at the time, I thought the cancer hadn't slowed me down too much yet.

I was very much wrong about that last part... but it took me a while to figure that out.
Also back in 2011, Dennis Badurina was just getting Dragon Leatherworks going, and starting to make a... very well deserved... name for himself... and as it happens, he was sending out review samples to a few gunbloggers.

One day, I emailed Dennis, jokingly saying "Hey, where's my review holster?"... and being the good guy he is, Dennis wrote back and said "I didn't know you wanted one... Just tell me what you want, and I'll send it to you right away"... which kinda blew me away.

I wrote back saying I was just kidding... but he wasn't... he insisted on sending me a holster to review, so long as I wanted to review it. At that point, he was busy enough that his delivery times were out about three months, but he said he would have me the holster in less than six weeks, so I would have plenty of time to review it before bad weather in North Idaho made it difficult.

Well... I couldn't turn that down... I had seen the pictures and videos the other gunbloggers had posted, and read their reviews, and I was thrilled to get a piece of Dennis's work.

I took a good look at this website, told him what I liked, what I specifically didn't like, and the pistols I had on hand at the time... and I asked him to send me what HE thought would be a great holster based on those parameters.

Five weeks later... I'm sorry to admit, I skipped ahead in the line more than a little bit... Dennis emailed me to let me know the holster had shipped... A couple days after that, I had this beautiful piece in hand; a custom Dragon Leatherworks Talon.







Unfortunately, I was also in the middle of travelling for contract work at the time, commuting from Sagle Idaho, to San Francisco California and back, every week...

I would leave home every Sunday night to catch either the 2250, or the 0510 Monday flights from Spokane to SFO (sometimes direct, usually through salt lake, but sometimes other cities), work all week in the city, then head back Friday afternoon on the 1550 or the 1715 flights back up to Spokane.

...Because I was a stubborn and prideful idiot, who "wouldn't let cancer slow me down", and I just had to abuse and exhaust myself to prove it. That abuse and exhaustion would catch up with me a few months later... but that's another story...

I had the holster in hand for almost six weeks before I could actually test it, and take pictures and video. I took about 50 pictures both indoor and out, and made a five minute video... but I wasn't very happy with any of them... The lighting wasn't right, the focus was off in several important shots... in general, I just didn't think they showed the holster off properly, or made it looks nearly as good as it was.

I intended to just scrap the pics I took, and take an entirely new set of interior pics with a new lightbox setup I snagged off of Amazon, and a new set of exterior pics in better lighting and weather.

... and then things kinda exploded...

...Both for my family and I, mostly in a not so great way, but some things very good (like the birth of our son)...

...and for Dragon Leatherworks, in a very good way...

In the five and a bit years since Dennis made me this custom holster, his business has grown massively, and he has been recognized as one of the best makers of custom leather gear out there. He's even made holster rigs, and other props and items for several very popular movies and television shows, like NCIS and Jurassic World.

But, as far as why this review is so delayed... What it comes down to, is that the holster, and the original photos and video I took for the review, were both lost for most of that time.

I just found the original files a few weeks ago while going through old external USB drive... and Dennis just happened to message me a few hours ago, which got me to get my butt in gear, and post the review and pictures.

So... at this point, I'm just going to post the video review, and some of the pictures of the holster... because this is about the review, not about my tale of woe. If you want the rest of the story, you can read the rest below... or you can just enjoy the review and the pretty holster...

My disclaimer here... I don't think that the video or pics are good enough for a review of the product. My focus and lighting weren't great, my commentary is somewhere between wooden and dead... but Dennis said he just wanted me to post my honest review... that he wasn't worried about the rest...

So, without further delay, my already more than five years delayed video review, and photos, of Dragon Leatherworks custom Talon holster, for my commander length 19lls.


Honestly, my pictures and video really don't do justice to the piece. The lighting, color, focus, and background leave a lot to be desired... but they're better than nothing.






Unfortunately, the exterior shots I took were all unusable, as they were almost all out of focus, and had poor sharpness and contrast... these interior shots were at least OK, but really, the holster is a lot better looking than these photos.








To my mind, as far as active custom and semi-custom holster makers go... I think you can't go wrong with Dragon Leatherworks... Veteran owned, 100% hand crafted in Oak Ridge Tennesse... you should check them out.

They have several standard models, of everything from deep concealment holsters, to pocket holsters, to duty holsters, in every kind of leather and finish you can think of... and of course they do full custom original designs as well.

If you like the Galco combat master, or the Safariland agent series holsters... you'll love the Dragon Leatherworks Talon.

If you're one of the many folks out there who loved the original pre takeover safariland 568 and other 500 series paddle holsters (and their companion models, with j-hooks or belt tunnels replacing the detachable paddles)...

...and I am, in fact I think they're just about the best paddle holster ever designed, but I miss the now long past days when they were actually made of leather...

...then you should check out the Dragon Leatherworks Valkyrie. It's everything good about the classic Safariland paddles, only better.

... In fact, I think the next time I order a holster, it's probably going to be a Valkyrie, to replace one of my lost Safariland paddles.

... and that concludes the review portion of the piece... 

...So... if you are actually interested,  the rest of the story is under the break...

Friday, January 13, 2017

Update and a plea for help

So last I wrote, we were dealing with a major issue. Due to some administrative screwups Chris lost his insurance for October through December, aka The Bad Times. This left us with $300k in debt to MGH and assorted docs and froze the treatment plan.
Problem is, he's still got cancer and at least one lump.
The good news is I've managed to salvage the relationship with his PCP and endocrinologist. New insurance started on the 1st of January so we can go forward as soon as we get a new cancer treatment team and get the cash for the deductible and most likely out of pocket max.
We're going to (hopefully) get his case transferred to the cancer treatment center in the same city we live in so we can continue life-saving treatment. Since he's going to do several targeted radiation treatments this will save us much in time and hassle.
So that's the good part. PCP and endocrinologist are managed, so he still has his medications (including the very important pain meds) and we've got insurance so we can continue treatment, even though it will be at a new place.
Also good news, we've picked up a second vehicle (paid for in cash), a 3/4 ton truck to act as our work horse. Ever since the spinal injury Chris has been unable to drive the Blazer and finds the passenger seat excruciating. A big truck allows his big frame enough room to not compress and restores some of his independence, since it's something he can drive.
The bad: the truck needs a few replacement parts, an inspection (it will pass), an oil change, some good tires (vs the questionable ones on it at the moment), and to be registered.
That wouldn't be such a pressing concern if it weren't for the other bad news, in that we've had to take the Blazer off the road for a laundry list of reasons, including brakes literally falling off of it. For all that getting the truck current will cost around $900, getting the Blazer road worthy would be much more intensive. The parts would be less, but between taking care of the two Chrises and taking care of the house, I'd have to pay someone else to do the work and... it's cheaper to get the truck road worthy, plus more useful.
On top of that we need to pay the deductible for the new insurance since we'll probably blow through that walking into the new cancer center, AND the out of pocket max for the same reason. We're also paying out of pocket for his meds until we meet the deductible (around $1200 a month for the meds alone).The out of pocket max is $10k.
After paying the month's bills and making sure we have transportation for both of us in the form of the truck, AND buying meds, AND buying equipment for Chris to work more (he's been requested to do something that requires infrastructure, and though he's working more paying days doing it, as a contractor we paid for the materials out of pocket)... we're pretty much broke. I couldn't even pay for meds a few days ago.
Obviously we need to get Chris back on a treatment plan ASAP so we can keep fighting the cancer as soon as possible, and there's those tiny things called food and gas.
So I must beg financial assistance, so we can get over this rather massive hump. After we clear the out of pocket max our medical costs will nosedive, but first we need to actually get to that point. And we're kind of attached to having food in the house and keeping Christopher in pull-ups.
So please, anything you could spare would help.
I've still got the GoFundMe up and running, PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne.com always works (and is immediately available unlike GoFundMe), and I can always be reached on Facebook.
Thanks all,
Mel