Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Collection Services

The wife and I have been seeing a specialist about the lack of children running around our house.  We’ve been looking for a tax deduction and it hasn’t come it yet.  So, we thought a specialist could help.

As expected, we were referred out of Navy Medicine to a place friends of ours have found success with.  The first appointment went well, I thought.  We were told about the basic tests that need to be done before we could set out a plan for fertility.  The wife has plenty of follow up appointments.  And I will be there for as many of those as I’m allowed.  I have leave for something and this is a good reason to use them if needed. 

Naturally, for the male part of the equation, I only have one requirement.  A deposit.  An appointment for a collection. 

I’ve been calling it a donation.  And, for some odd reason, I’ve been looking forward to making my contribution to the fertile baseline analysis.

Well, success.  Deposit made.  And I’ve been crushed.  My illusion (heavily influenced by Jeff Foxworthy’s comedy sketch) included more than there was.  I built up an image in my mind that out did the reality.

To begin with, we—I keep saying “we” but it really should be “I” because the wife doesn’t supply this part of the test—I was given a six ounce sample cup in a small white bag with directions for “semen collection at home.”  Yes, at home

My imagination went wild . . . got to rated R before this question popped into my head, “how do we get the ‘sample’ to the urological doctor for analysis?”  The Doctor’s response was we need to keep it at body temperature.  “Keep it in your armpit,” she said.  Uh . . . I can think of a few other places that may keep it warm too and be a little more comfortable.  I was just imagining driving like a bat out of hell (maybe 10 miles over, almost like a Rhodes Island native—they usually drive 20 over the speed limit) with the wife sitting shotgun with a 6 ounce cup of little swimmers held tight between her legs.  What do I tell the cop who pulls me over?  “Sorry, officer, I’ve got a time limit before the little guys begin fading away.  This is a pre-pregnancy emergency!  My sperm is going to die if you don’t let me get them to the doctor to be analyzed!”  Not looking good for the home collection.  On the more practical side, a 45 minute drive, not including finding the correct office, which would put us into the Danger Zone (before the sample is no good for analysis).  Home collection is out.

With the idea of home collection out, I moved onto the second, more realistic option—collection at the urology office.  I called, made an appointment, and asked the studious question, “What is the process?”  I was trying to allude to what restrictions there were and materials available.  This is probably the one part that lived up to Jeff Foxworthy’s sketch—there would be some videos and magazines.

Finally, the day arrives.  We abstained for a few days (not an easy feat), and I arrived (only a little late—I had a 2 hour window I could come in) ready to perform.  (Is that a pun?  Oops.)

The attendant, a 20-something blonde about average height, called me back and led me to the collection room, explained the process, pointed to the materials, and told me to mark the time the “sample” was collected, and finally she left.  First off, the “collection” room was just like any other examination room; it was falsely sterile, totally uncomfortable, and not conducive to . . . collection.

She was nervous and uncomfortable, and that was making me both amused and nervous.  I kept thinking to myself: No need to be nervous, you’re not going to be tested here.  You’re not going to stay and watch—why are you so nervous?  Oh, jeez, I hope you’re not staying.  Are you judging me for coming in for a deposit?  Does porn and masturbation make you uncomfortable?  Am I being a jerk or is she?  Does that make her a medical jerk? 

Finally she left.  And I immediately flipped through the magazines, which they covered with some sheet of paper with a description of what not to do.  I never realized Hustler had actual articles and ads in them.  Less visuals than I expected.  There were a couple of dvds, but the thought of popping those in just make me feel more like a pervert.  In hindsight I realized I was in a rare instance where society accepts the reality, and demands completion, of masturbation, which is generally hidden, joked about, and ridiculed.  The fact that society generally frowns upon this kind of self-attention results in most people rushing through it and not taking the time to actually understand their bodies. 

Afterwards (you didn’t think I’d give details here) I kept wondering to myself, did I provide enough?  Is my sample good?  Was there a minimum that they needed?  Who do I tell that I’m done?  Does anyone really provide a 6 ounce sample?  Do I get a lollipop or something for getting the job done?

I left the room.  Wondered around for a minute or two until the lady who checked me told me to have a nice day.

That was it?  Have a nice day?  No call you for a second date or exchange of phone numbers.  I felt so . . . odd.  This was kind of surreal.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Thought Game on Syria

News media, supported by some intelligence agencies, says that Assad's government has used a chemical weapon against the Syrian people--probably targeting rebels.  President Obama stated that use of chemical weapons is a Red Line and that the US will take action to respond.

As a thought experiment I want to think about what "action" in Syria requires.

A) What is necessary for President Obama to send Forces to Syria?  What steps must the President go through to get boots on the ground? 

First, the President must have minimal support from the American public to get the military machine moving.  The popularity of the cause is important because it leads to political support in Congress, which releases funding for military action.  It is difficult for a military to sustain operations in an unpopular campaign where money, manpower, and priorities fluctuate based on political winds.  In an ongoing operation the military needs those items to keep going.  

Second, the President will need to work on the international opinion to build a coalition with a variety of international weight.  Coalitions and alliances can fight a war in a way that unilateral action cannot -- with international support comes legitimacy, at least in appearance.  Justifiable reason isn't enough to bring in the weight of the international community, the justification must be for a Just War.

The President will have to work through domestic and international politics to build support.  The President has latitude on military action without Congressional sanction, but they can still shut off funding to any operations by simply not funding operations for Syria or expressly rejecting the President's actions.  At this point, the primary blockage would be in the House of Representatives.  The House is not inclined to allow the President to seek any action that could possibly go well for him in public opinion.

In the international sphere, the President has to actually build a Coalition for some action.  There may be countries lining up to go in (Great Britain, France, Turkey, some others), but there are countries that continue to support the Assad regime.  Primarily, we're looking at Iran and Russia, and, I suspect, China.  

An United Nations Security Counsel Resolution (UNSCR), while not an absolute requirement, will add international legitimacy to the intervention and the ability to take "all necessary action" to protect Syria non-combatants.  However, with Russia and China supporting Assad, an UNSCR is very unlikely.  Russia and China both would benefit from the US and other Western nations loosing face over an UNSCR, but they could also benefit from sucking the US and the West into another Middle East conflict.

Assuming that Pres Obama is able to mobilize the nation and a coalition ...

B) What are the Strategic and Operational Objectives?  What are the National and International Objectives?  What is the conflict termination criteria (when do active combat operations cease)?  What is the combat termination criteria (when is there peace)?  What should Syria look like at the end of active combat operations and what should it look like after stability operations?

These questions, along with many others, are the ones that planners for Iraq (2003-2011) failed to address, analyze, and put any conscious effort into solving until after the Iraq fell.  It is one of the leading reasons that Iraq went from a corrupt stable country with a functioning police force and military to one that was unwillingly occupied and lacked any government, police, or stability.  US and British forces fought three basic enemies: first the Iraqi military, second the insurgents, and third the terrorists.  The second two are largely the result of a failure to plan for the post-Saddam regime.

As a Nation and as an International Community, before we step into a war we should have a clear idea of what we want by the time we get out of the war.  Post-war planning during the initial planning phase helps ensure that our operations are guided towards a strategic and operational end-state.  You need to see the destination if you want to know what road map to use and route to plan.  It also helps us understand the short-term goals and how those work into the long-term goals.

Once we've covered (B), our leaders and military planners can really focus the How.

C) What kind of Forces are necessary to accomplish the mission?  Do we need more that military forces, such as civilian chemical and radiation specialists, FBI?  Do we need to organize with the UN, NATO?  How are we suppose to handle Syrian allies?  Do we incorporate rebel forces in whole or in part or not at all?  Do we overlook connections to terrorists?

The answers to (B) will help here.  If the answer is simply to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons, then we may be able to rely on extensive air operations targeting stockpiles, factories, and specific units.  If the answer includes regime change, then we should have the top cover from the UN to put ground forces into Syria.  Without UN authorization, international intervention is suspect and limited.  Just because it is right, doesn't mean we can do it.