May 24, 2008

Firearms, Film and Fever
Miami Beach, United States

Yesterday was certainly a refreshing change of routine around here, albeit a rather exhausting one. It was Tatiana's turn for a birthday, and I made sure the festivities were in full swing: Aroused with breakfast (and me) in bed; a yummy lunch; an evening trip to a gun range; and catching the midnight showing of Indiana Jones.

The big surprise of the day was the MP3 player that I presented to her—an iRiver T60 (2GB)—that I'd already loaded up with some of her favorite music. For as long as I've known her she's been traveling around with a bulky CD player and even bulkier CD carrying case. These things really needed to go now that we'd be packing around Aidric and all his supporting gear.

I'm a big fan of MP3 players that use a AA or AAA battery, as opposed to those requiring a charge via a USB connection (such as Apple's iPOD). With these devices one doesn't have to worry about the diminishing lifespan of a proprietary battery locked inside the player, needing only to pop in an readily available replacement when depleted (making an investment in rechargeable batteries a good choice). This has proven to be an exceptionally valuable feature when traveling on a 40-hour bus trip.

I've been a long-time iRiver user, and though the user interface isn't particularly friendly, the size, features, and durability are certainly above par. I've come to embrace their odd-looking lineup of triangular players as one of the better MP3 solutions out there for long-duration travel.

One of my favorite features has been the FM radio turner. Long after you've grown weary of your music collection, the radio steps in to offer up a sampling of the local preferences. The ability to record the radio station you're listening to is likewise fantastic.

Something That's Sure To Please

I could really care less what someone's stance is on gun control in the United States—I have mine, and it's certainly pro-constitutional. When I was bored in Latin America, I could usually slip the subject into conversation with most any European and open up a debate that could entertain for hours.

But I'll tell you this much, shooting a firearm is flat out fun—regardless your position on assault rifles purchased under the guise of recreational hunting. I was raised to understand and respect firearms by my father, and it's my position that ignorance of guns leads to a fear of them.

As a kid I'd shoot targets on a range or in a forest with my dad using his father's .22 caliber Marlin—the same light-caliber rifle that my son will one day fire. I will teach Aidric firearm safety, maintenance, and respect, as it was taught to me. I will hand him the Marlin and state proudly, "This was your great-grandfather's."

For Tatiana's birthday I really wanted to treat her to something out of the ordinary, fun, and uniquely American—and at the same time share with her a hobby that I enjoy. She's certainly the gun-loving type of girl, and giving her the opportunity to fire off a couple dozen rounds sounded like a mighty fine idea.

Thankfully, the good state of Florida provided us with a pistol/rifle range within striking distance of Miami Beach. Ace's Indoor Shooting Range & Pro Gun Shop is way out past the Miami International Airport, tucked away in the middle of a cluster of warehouse office spaces occupied by obscure small businesses.

It took us just about two hours to reach the range by city bus (a trip made easier for Tatiana with her new MP3 player). We'd gotten a later start out of the hotel than I would've liked, and it was nearly 8:00 in the evening by the time we arrived.

Range receipt — not a cheap hour

Aside from two quick pulls of a former friend's revolver—no, not aimed at him when fired—Tatiana had never shot a firearm before. I knew I wanted her shooting a pistol (even though this business offers some really neat fully automatic rentals), and ended up settling on a Glock 17 (the 19, my first choice, was already checked out), four targets, and 100 rounds of 9mm ammunition. I really hate buying things like ear protection and ammo from places like these (often double the retail price from an average sporting goods store), but the cost is reflective of the convenience.

I'd already called ahead and ensured that all you need to rent a weapon and get some range time was a driver's license (which doesn't even have to be from this country). International guests and Florida non-residents were all welcome. Interestingly, the range doesn't even require you take a little safety competence test before shooting. I had the guys behind the counter explain the basic weapon operation to Tatiana, and then went over it again with her in private (as well as what to expect when shooting, and general firearm safety).

The range was pretty noisy, even on the spectator side of the bulletproofed glass. I bought an extra pair of foam earplugs for Aidric, who was casually idling/sleeping in his stroller. The claps of sound didn't seem to bother him at all—just the lack a changing scenery and attention directed towards him.

What really turned out to be the letdown of the entire experience was the store policy that I couldn't photograph or video Tatiana inside the building (especially with a firearm), and that we weren't allowed to both be on the range together. This wasn't a problem with other couples and groups, but specific to us because of Aidric. (…sigh)

Tatiana's first shots, from a range of four to seven yards

One staffer unknowingly offered to keep an eye on Aidric for us while we both went to the lanes, only to be corrected by his coworkers. Apparently, one of his guardians must remain with him at all times (even though I could see him through the glass, all of six feet away from the lane). So much for standing by Tatiana and teaching her how to shoot, reload a magazine, or correcting her grip and posture.

Nevertheless, Tatiana was a natural and totally had a blast—well, except for the hot shell casings ejecting from the pistol that seemed to repeatedly fall down the V-cut in her shirt! She actually got a couple little burns and a blister on her chest as a memento. Note to self: Sexy and firearms only works on outdoor ranges.

And in spite of the non-posted no photography rule, I was able to get a quick clip of Tatiana shooting her very first two rounds before a staffer came over and scolded me:

(video link)

My first rounds at ~8 yards, after not shooting for over a year. Single-pull heads and double-tap body shots

I really enjoyed shooting the Glock 17. I've owned a .40 caliber H&K USP Compact for the better part of a decade, and though I love it dearly, came away quite please with the Glock. I'm not sure if it was the lighter grade of ammunition, or the interesting mechanics of operation that contrasted so much with my H&K, but shooting it was certainly satisfying.

A Real, Live Person

As Tatiana and I exited our bus a little over an hour earlier, I'd asked the driver when the last bus on the route would be passing by that evening. His reply wasn't unexpected, though unfortunate: Around 8:00 tonight. …and it was 7:48.

I turned to Tatiana and said, "What do you want to do? We can chance finding another way home after we're done, or just head back now and catch the next showing of Indiana Jones."

As expected, shooting was just too tempting, and given that we were already there, decided to spin the wheel of density on getting out of the boonies.

The sun had long since set by the time we got out of the range, and we really were in the middle of nowhere. The avenues looked more like highways, and the lack of lighted pedestrian crossing indicators at the crosswalks spoke volumes to the number of people that actually moved about in this area outside of a vehicle.

Aidric and stroller in tow, we walked to the closest major intersection and spoke with the clueless clerk inside a gas station's connivance store. Even he didn't take the bus in these parts. His suggestion was to walk to the nearest mall—which wasn't all that near.

We started walking, and somewhere along the way to nowhere Tatiana got the idea to call a transit office number that's printed on the bottom of all the bus stop placards. I was skeptical.

She pulled out her cell phone and dialed away. Moments later, she started talking to someone. I gave her an inquisitive stare.

"Where are we at?" she said, covering the microphone on the cell with her free hand.

"Wait a second. I can barely speak to a live person when I call my bank up, and you're telling me that you've got someone on the phone at 9:30 on a Friday night, over a holiday weekend?! Really? Can I talk to him?"

I was flabbergasted. Apparently anyone can call this number up, tell them where they currently are along with their requested destination, and the person sitting in front of the computer will tell you exactly where you need to go, what bus line(s) to take, and at what time the arrivals/connections will be—amazing.

I was impressed.

Indiana Jones IV

Yeah, it's pretty much impossible not to watch the fourth installment to a beloved trilogy—which I'm sure is pretty much what the production studio's counting on. I was rather surprised that after nearly 20 years of lying dormant, the best plot dreamed up was a cross between the X-Files and National Treasure. And we all know that battling Nazis is much more entertaining than battling the Russians on any day of the week.

Two spot-on sentences from a review I read:

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is as joyless as its predecessors were blissful. Its sole intention seems to be the launching of a new franchise with LaBeouf's Mutt as heir to his father's fedora.

Wait for this one to hit HBO before giving it a watch. 5/10

Oh, and We Mustn't Forget the Fever

So, on top of all the activity, we were keeping a mindful eye on Aidric, who'd come down with his first fever. Tatiana thinks that he's had it since the evening of the 22nd (the day prior to her birthday), but only gave him a temped bath and put him to bed thinking he was just hot from an afternoon of shopping (it's in the 90s here with 100% humidity). I needed to take a day off from the baby, and didn't see him much that day.

I started treating him with Paracetamol (known as acetaminophen, Tylenol in the U.S.) as soon as I realized what was going on with him yesterday morning. Tatiana picked up a digital thermometer from a drugstore while I was cooking lunch, and after discussing it, ultimately decided to proceed with the day's planned activities. I believe the first (oral) reading I took was 100.4 degrees.

It's noon on Saturday now, and he's still with a fever (of varying intensity) after 48 hours. I'm switching him over to children's Ibruprophin to see if that does a better job at bringing his temperature down. Judging by the stuffy nose yet peppy attitude (and lack of vomiting and diarrhea), I think Aidric's got himself a little virus that just needs to run its course.

There are different schools of thought regarding how to react to infant and toddler fevers, and I've read up on them both. I'm certainly not ready to hit the big red ER button yet, and with Memorial Day weekend upon us, most every clinical alternative to a hospital is closed. Tatiana is likewise concerned, but agrees.

We really dislike the healthcare system in place in this country. It's an expensive and laborious task to get simple evaluations and answers. I dread getting hurt in the United States, as it would likely bankrupt me to get mended. I could get five different medical opinions for $35 with little wait in most of the countries I spend my time in these days.

The truth is that if Aidric had gotten a fever in Peru, he would've been seen by a pediatrician the same day it was noticed. Here in the U.S. we'd probably be looking at a multi-hundred dollar bill for an evaluation and lab work, and over a half a dozen hours of waiting for someone to tell us to go home and keep giving him Ibruprophin.

Of course we're not about to put money and time above the wellbeing of our child, but as the son of a nurse, I'm accustomed to not overreacting to medical ailments (…though wouldn't ever dream of claiming to know much about infant illnesses).

Update: Monday, May 26

We chatted with my father's sister (an experienced nurse) on Sunday afternoon, around the same time that Aidric's fever finally dissipated (peaking as high as 101.7 on Saturday, taken orally). She consulted with one of her friends who works as a full-time triage nurse over the phone (dealing with jittery parents facing the same issues presented to us). Although there were chances of an ear infection (common at his age), it was both their recommendations to continue keeping him hydrated and comfortable with Tylenol/ Ibruprophin, and out of the emergency room (so long as he didn't exhibit some warning signs they listed off to me).

This contrasted with the nurse's recommendation with when I called to consult the hospital nearest to us the night prior (it's always good to be prepared for Plan B). All I wanted from her were the triggers that would indicate when I should take an infant with fever in, but received an "it's best to err on the side of caution" statement from her, mixed in with the canned "we're not allowed to give out medical advice over the phone."

Today Aidric still has congestion in his nose that's making it hard for him to eat, but no reemergence of a fever since Sunday morning. We have our pre-scheduled pediatric checkup for Aidric on Wednesday afternoon, where we'll address any remaining behavioral and comfort concerns with the doc.

(video link)

It was certainly a memorable Memorial Day weekend.


The United States

Bob L

May 29th, 2008

This reminds me of a series of days of one of my favorite cartoons. Click through about a week or two of these

The United States

Bob L

June 2nd, 2008

Of course, there is nothing like a young girl with a Tommy Gun;Itemid=53

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