Saturday, December 17, 2005

Dear Joan,

I can't believe that it's ten years ago today that you're gone. It feels more like it happened just a little while ago.

I miss you. I guess you already knew that. But I wouldn't wish you back into that suffering body that was so sick for so many years, a body that was wholly unworthy of the task of housing such a good person's spirit for so long. I'm not sorry to know you're free of dialysis, itching, angina, carpal tunnel syndrome, and the 1,001 million dietary restrictions that accompanied being both a kidney patient and a heart patient. It used to kill me to see you suffering with so many symptoms, and to see the couple of dozen or so different prescription bottles carefully arranged on the counter top, and to think, "Shouldn't a person who's taking all these meds, and following doctors' orders religously, feel better than this?"

And the depression. I bear that cross, too, you know. I have fought that demon for years, which you DID know, but even you never saw me in the kind of pain I've had at times since the downsizing. And every time I want to just give up, I hear your voice telling Joe and Joey D and me, "Even though I felt sick, I FORCED myself" to do whatever task it was. And I keep going. I remember how you never gave up, and I force myself. And GOOD GOD, I confess that I never grasped the meaning of those words to the extent that I understand them now. I thought I knew, but I had no idea. Still, you stood tall for years. If you could, I can.

Joe and Joey D and you and I... we were a bunch, weren't we? Other friends were in the mix, too: Karla and Betty and John R. and Bob, to name a few, but we four were a close-knit bunch. I miss all those Saturday nights we used to go visit you. I miss the lunches at Strawbridge and Clothier's, the *real* one before the store changed hands and changed business models, back when it was still the last family-owned department store in America. I wouldn't trade those times for anything.

By the way, I'm SO happy that I met Mark while you were still with us. I'm so glad you got to meet him, too. Especially since you left us only a few months after that. We missed you at my wedding. Well, I'm sure you were there, but you know what I mean.

Ten years. I still am having trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that so much time has passed. Ten years since the people from choir and the prayer group attended your wake and, not having a clue who your blood relatives were, lined up and paid their respects to Joey, Joey D, and me. Ten years since Karla overheard someone from prayer meeting observe, during the wake, "THOSE were her children", meaning the Joes and me. Ten years since the Mass when I saw your choir robe on display in the loft, and burst into tears on the spot. Ten years since the blood relatives showed that they understood enough to let us friends be the ones who rode in the funeral-home-provided limo.

But also ten years of knowing that you've got no more dialysis, no more angina, no more bone pain, no more itching, no more nitroglycerine-induced headaches, and no more need to utter the phrase, "I forced myself" ever again. And you deserve that peace. I wouldn't dream of denying it to you for a moment.

So please say hello for us to the choir members and prayer group members who've since gone up there to join you. Give skritches to Misty, Melody, Harmony, Fazzolette, and Bogey for us, too. All of them can see you now as we never saw you on earth -- healthy and strong. Say some prayers for us, too, please -- I'm sure you remember well what a challenge it can be to get by, down here. But we're doing our best.

Till we meet again,

Donna

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Well, I'm home! To explain the somewhat cryptic posts that got sent earlier today from my cell phone: the Phantoms just had an 11:05AM matinee game vs. the Manitoba Moose (the farm team for the Vancouver Canucks).

Maxime Ouellet, who was a centerpiece of a blog post I made two years ago, was recently traded to the Vancouver Canucks and assigned to the Manitoba Moose. Today's game was the first opportunity I've had to see him play in person since the night I wrote the above-mentioned post.

To make a long story VERY short, Max has had a rough go of it so far this season. He was originally supposed to be promoted to the Washington Capitals as their backup goalie. But instead, he wound up sent to Washington's farm team, which is currently the Hershey Bears. The Bears already had two goaltenders, and they gave him a grand total of ONE start between October and now. They weren't even bringing him with them on road trips to Philly, which really got my goat because Max still has fans here, including me, who would really have liked to see him.

Anyway, Max got traded last weekend to the Vancouver organization. They promptly sent him to the Moose, who immediately gave him the start in their next game -- and he not only won, but earned the #1 star. :o) *That's* the Max we know and love!

I was praying that Max would get the start today, too, when the Moose came to Philly. And bless their coach's heart, he DID give Max the nod! I just hope that the others who still follow Max were able to get the day off work and attend this game.

It was another nervous-breakdown game for me, as no matter WHICH team scored, it gave me a pang of regret for the goaltender. (In the Phantoms' case, that would be our baby goalie, Martin Houle.) I wasn't quite as bad of a mess today as I was the last time I watched the Phantoms play against Max... THAT night, I thought I was gonna need CPR at any moment. ;o) The long and short of it is that the Moose won 3-1, and Max was the #3 star. For a guy who'd only started one game all season prior to this week, and that was back in October, he's sure off to a heck of a start with his new team!

I feel like I have a split personality after games like this. I hate to see the Phantoms lose. But I can't root against Max, so even though the Phantoms-fan part of me was disappointed for our boys, the Max fan part of me was happy for HIM. It's disorienting to have perfectly good reasons to feel both happy AND sad over the same game results.

But I'll tell you what. I have an extra reason to tack on to the "Why I feel happy" list. I went around back after the game to the visiting team's bus ramp. I had with me a greeting card that I picked up while Max was still in Hershey. It's an encouraging card, which I suspected he'd benefit from receiving while he was waiting for some ice time. But once I had it, something told me to hold off on sending it. That "something" was right, because today I got to hand it to him in person. :o) He's resumed playing and has had a couple great games, but I hope he bears the card's message in mind no matter what, because who knows what kinds of ups and downs this season will have in store? (I hope it's lots of ups, and few or no downs, but life doesn't always cooperate with me regarding wishes like that.)

OK, actually, I have TWO additions to the "Why I feel happy" list. The other one is that Max recognized me on sight, which impressed me plenty because the last time we saw one another face-to-face was November 2003. And smiled and offered a hug. :o) Anybody wonder why I dote on this kid? Not only has he got genuine talent, he's a genuinely nice human being.

Long story short less long: I saw a particular favorite player have a great game, got greeted BY him after the game (God bless his good memory), gave him a card, and got a promise out of him that he'd keep believing in himself no matter what. :o) Now that's what I call a productive day! I'd love nothing better than to have a bunch more days just like it! (Preferably with teams other than the Phantoms being on the wrong end of the score, that is.)

Maxime Ouellet, finally playing in Philly again.

Max is starting!

Max is starting!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Purrs, all! Captain and Stanley here.

We're 20 months old, but at this time last year we didn't have our Meowmy and Paw yet. That didn't happen until a month after Christmas. So even though we were born over a year ago, this is really our furrst Christmas in our OneTrueHome and we have questions.

First Meowmy tells us that if we're good, Sandy Claws will bring us toys on Christmas Eve. That's great news, because we love toys!

But then Meowmy and Paw spent this afternoon putting up a great big green toy rack full of branches, and hanging all kinds of pretty little toys from the branches. We never saw stuff like this before. We figured that we were SO good, Sandy Claws must sent our gifts a few weeks early.

So of course, we keep trying to check out the new toy rack and play with all the little toys. But Meowmy and Paw keep saying, "No" and chasing us from the toy rack every time.

What is this? Some kind of TEST? Is Sandy Claws trying to make us PROVE how good we are before we can actually HAVE our toys on Christmas Eve? Boy, no wonder hoomin kittens can't wait for Christmas Eve to arrive! And they don't even HAVE their new toys sitting there in front of them, that they're not allowed to play with!

So, what's up with this? Any ideas? We're all ears.

Purrs,

Captain and Stanley

Now all we need are stockings that say "Mark" and "Donna".

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I've been on the wrong end of spitework, and I've witnessed spitework in other people's situations, where the person doing the backstabbing had something to gain from their target's misfortune. It's wrong, but at least I can trace the warped logic pattern that led up to one person undermining another person.

What I can't understand is someone who has NOTHING to gain, personally, monetarily, professionally, politically, etc, from hurting another person, who goes ahead and does it anyway.

There's one particular doctor in the practice where I work who is going out of her way to make problems for me. I can't imagine why. There's nothing she stands to gain from abusing the office staff.

She's a $*&%ing DOCTOR. People trust her with their HEALTH. That's not enough of a power trip for her? She has to kick people who are on lower rungs of the workplace ladder for what reason exactly?

Her patients swear by her. Right now, I want to swear AT her. I won't see her for several days, by which time I'll have calmed down, I'm sure. But today was the day that I found out, categorically, that her behavior toward me is more than just her regular dour demeanor that she treats everyone to when she's got her bloomers in a bunch. It's not my imagination. I feel sick.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

BWAHAHA!!! My new favorite ad! :)

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Some months ago, I wrote about how Captain demonstrated that he wanted
me to follow him so clearly, that he couldn't have made it more obvious
if he'd watched a marathon of Lassie reruns.

This morning, it was Stanley's turn to impersonate Lassie.

As I ate my breakfast, Stanley meowed at me, which is a rarity for him,
and stood tall enough to brace his front paws on my lap. He has an
unusual meow, probably because it's so rare that he uses it. He sounds
more like he's squeaking, "Aow!"

Just the fact that he'd used his voice to produce more than his usual
faint peep got my attention, for sure. If that hadn't been enough to
attract my notice, however, his next behavior did. Normally, he follows
things like putting his front paws in Mark's or my lap by hopping INTO
said lap so he can receive the attention that is his due. This is
generally followed by his purring his little stripedy head off. Stanley
LOOOOVES attention.

But instead of jumping into my lap, when I reached out to give him a
pat, Stanley moved *away* from my hand. He edged just out of reach, sat
down, and looked up at me.

I was perplexed. "What's gotten into the cat? That's REALLY out of
character for him!", I thought. But since all he did was sit nearby and
look at me, I finished my breakfast without getting up. I figured that
if he was ducking being petted, that he'd only move out of reach if I
got up to approach him.

Then it was time for me to go upstairs and get ready for work. And when
I did so, Stanley followed me enthusiastically. This is normal... he
can't get attention if he's all by his fuzzy self on the first floor,
and his Meowmy's upstairs.

When I reached the second floor, I noticed that the door to the
computer room was closed. Stanley sat down in front of the door and
pointedly focused intently on it. I thought, "I didn't close that door
when I was in the room last. And Mark rarely, if ever, closes that door
either. Hmmm... how'd that happen?"

That's when it dawned on me that Captain and Stanley like to use that
door to play "Swat My Brother". They can fit their paws under the door,
so they sit on opposite sides of the door and bat vigorously at one
another. Occasionally, they get a little bit too enthused while playing
the game, and the cat behind the door will wind up pushing at the door
so hard that it closes. But until now, they've only shut the door on
themselves when Mark or I were actually IN the computer room, so we
could reopen the door right away.

I had a feeling that Stanley's interest was not so much in the closed
door, but in the fact that Captain was shut in the computer room. I
opened the door. Captain's orange-and-white face peered up at me from
inside the room. "Meep?"

"Get outta there, you insane furball!", I exclaimed, as Captain
strolled nonchalantly out of the computer room. Sheesh. Cats. As if
getting ready for work and getting out the door on time wasn't
challenging enough without feline help. ;o) It's a good thing that
Stanley called my attention to the door, though, or I'd have wound up
looking all over the house to find Captain. Gosh only knows what time
I'd have gotten out the door if I'd had to play "Search for the Cat" first.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

LOL!!!

I just had to call a patient's home number. Nothing's unusual about
that. I got their answering machine. That's also within the bounds of
"normal" (such as it is around here).

What's NOT usual was the language that the answering machine greeting
was in.

Canine.

The *entire* answering machine greeting consisted of the patient's dog
barking.

I called the number again, to make sure that I'd dialled correctly.
Same machine. Same dog barking.

I called the patient's work number. I hate to do that when I'm not
assured that I'll be contacting the patient directly... if I get a
receptionist, I'm limited in what I can say in order to protect the
patient's privacy, but some places won't transfer the call unless you
ID yourself and provide the reason for the call. I confirmed the date
and time of the patient's upcoming appointment, then asked, "Is that
your dog on your answering machine?"

Yes, it is. "Just checking. That's a cute idea!"

After I hung up, I burst out laughing. :o) Too funny!

Hmm. I wonder if I can get Captain and Stanley to purr a greeting for
OUR voice mail? ;o)



__________________________________
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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hey, all. I'm still breathing. Sorry for the lonnnng delay in
updating... this email I sent to Mark yesterday should give you an idea
of why. All identifying names have been removed to protect the insane.
Um, I mean the innocent. ;o)
----
Subj: AAAAAAAAAAAA!

What a day. An appt we were never asked to make never got made (what a
surprise) and somehow that's the other PSR's (Patient Services Rep's)
and my fault. Same dr had an illegible consult request that neither the
other PSR, our manager, one of our other doctors, nor I could read. So
we called the dr who wrote it and she got mad that we couldn't
understand it.

A patient came in and we had to request some blood test results from
[independent lab facility], who said they'd fax them to us.

Did they fax them to YOU? That's how they faxed them to US. We're still
waiting. Yet another dr is steamed over *that*. It's not our fault if
those doo-doo-heads haven't sent the doggone results yet.

Oh, and the freaking [pager company]'s system is taking many, many
minutes to send pages. Guess whose fault it is that the doctors didn't
receive their pages promptly? The other PSR's and mine. Even though
*WE* sent the pages right away, and it took eons to actually arrive and
activate the doctor's pager, we're at fault.

Good thing I've gone decaffeinated except for the first cup of coffee
in the AM. If I were caffeinated on top of all this stress, I'd be
going through the ceiling right now.


__________________________________
Yahoo! FareChase: Search multiple travel sites in one click.
http://farechase.yahoo.com

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

OH. MY. GOSH. One of our doctors brought back candy from Turkey
yesterday. They're called "Turkish Delight" and they're like
cube-shaped, soft gumdrops covered in powdered sugar.

This particular box was "mixed" flavors. One flavor was orange (the
color and the fruit). A second one, which was yellow, might have been
date-flavored, judging from the pic on the box itself but I never got
around to eating one.

The other one was pink. I couldn't ID the flavor of it, but it was very
interesting. Then someone else ate one and made the connection: "Rose!"

Rose? Rose-flavored candy?

I looked at the box. Son of a gun, the pic on the box showed a dish of
rose petals...! Even though I've had rosewater in restaurants, and had
tea made with rose petals, it never crossed my mind that there'd be
CANDY out there made with it. And I really, REALLY like it.

I looked up "Turkish Delight" online. Sure enough, it's possible to
order it online, in various flavors. I found one box that appears to be
half lemon and half rose flavored candies. I think I'll be treating
myself one of these days. SOON. :o)


__________________________________
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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The NHLis back! At long last!

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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Hockey is baaaack! The Phantoms warm up before their preseason game. :o)

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Meet my new favorite toy, the LIVE WEBCAM at LänsiAuto Areena (yes, that's spelled right). That's the home of the Espoo Blues, where Neil Little is playing this season, and thanks to this webcam, I can actually see glimpses of home games. So far, the Blues are 3-0 during games when I've had the chance to take a peek at the action via the webcam. They lost their first home game via a shootout, but that was before I discovered the webcam.

My study of Finnish is coming along, though way more slowly than I'd like. Actually, what I'd *really* like is to be instantly fluent, and that's not realistic. But even so, it's turning out to be a LOT more time-consuming than I'd expected to have to look up nearly every freaking word in news articles, and that slows down comprehension. Using the textbook gives a more structured approach to learning the language, but since there are no hockey-related words in there, it's not helping me learn the vocabulary that I'm placing the highest priority on. It IS helping with the grammar and numbers, though -- both are hugely important, obviously. But the challenge in tracking down the vocabulary words I REALLY want is driving me crazy.

I found one huge time-saver this week, thanks to the Finland forum on hfboards.com (a hockey discussion site). They posted an online dictionary that I can use to copy and paste the words from online articles. Bingo -- instead of paging through a dictionary, I get an instant answer regarding what the word is, or what it most likely is (since dictionaries show root words, minus suffixes and prefixes). That's a huge help in maintaining my train of thought between the beginning and the end of a sentence. Now, reading the online articles goes more smoothly, though it's still slow and tedious compared to being able to just READ it.

He's gotten off to an OUTSTANDING start over there... his goals-against average is 1.27 (extremely low = very good) and his save percentage is 95.38 (extremely high = very good). He's played in all 7 games that the team has had so far. Other starting goaltenders on other teams have played a comparable amount of time, so his position close to the top of the goalie standings is well-earned. (The only guy ahead of Neil has played in only two games. That's not entirely comparable, IMO, to the stats of someone who's played more than three times as many minutes and earned similar stats.)

I've tried to send some game pics, taken by me via the webcam, to blogger via email, but I got error messages. I'll have to set up some other method of getting those game pics on here. I'll figure something out. :o)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

We went to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. Here's a shot via the camera phone, taken prior to the joust.

Blogger.com has an interesting feature, where you can set up your blog to accept text or picture messages from your cell phone. That's how I sent the shots taken from the Prayer on the Parkway a few days ago, and this shot of the joust area.

I love the RenFaire. This is the second year in a row that we've gone. Last year, it was just Joe M., Betty, Mark, and I. This year, Betty couldn't come, but we added Karla, Al, John R. and Ann Marie. Great food, interesting performances, BEAUTIFUL setting (Mount Hope, PA). I think we're going to end up attending this at least every other year, which is fine by me.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Captain's mad at me.

It seems that the back of our computer desk really doesn't HAVE a back, at least not behind the part where the drawers are.

I might have gone forever without knowing this, had it not been for Captain going into Inspector Gadget mode, and having to get his little pinkie nosie into everything.

Here I sat, at the computer, surfing away. And typing. And suddenly, hearing the crumple, crumple, crumple noise of paper being squashed.

Now, it wasn't ME crumpling paper. It wasn't Mark crumpling paper. So my immediate thought was that one of the Resident Felines was crumpling paper. "HEY. Stop that!", I called out, and went back to surfing.

Moments later... crumple, crumple, crumple. "I said KNOCK IT OFF", I called out, looking around and wondering just where the sound was coming from. There was no sign of anything amiss. I resumed surfing.

Crumple, crumple, crumple. This time, I was pretty sure that I'd IDed the direction from which the noise was emanating. It seemed to be coming from our bottom desk drawer, which is pretty large and also happens to be where we keep our store of computer paper.

I pulled open the drawer. Up popped Captain like an orange-and-white fuzzy Jack in the Box. He had that classic feline, "What just happened here?" bemused expression on his face, looking around to determine how his hidey-hole had suddenly opened wide into broad daylight. The crumpling noise had been caused by a certain stripey critter, who'd gotten into the desk drawer by way of the open BACK of the desk, stomping around on the computer paper and its paper wrapping, to fashion it into a cozy nest.

I couldn't help it. I burst out laughing. Captain sulked his way out of the computer room and curled up in the hallway, just outside the computer room door.

So now Captain's mad at me.

Or, at least, he WAS mad. During the time that it took for me to write this anecdote, he decided to come BACK into the computer room and curl up on my Box of Stuff that's next to the computer desk. Nothing like being within arm's length of Meowmy, who doles out pettins while she's surfing, right?

Short attention spans can be a Good Thing, sometimes. :o)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

When it comes to convincing a kitty that something's good to do, it's all in how you phrase it.

Take, for example, Stanley. He is turning into the biggest attention sponge I've ever seen in my life. When he wants doting, he will stand in front of you, arch his back, and do the "pet me!" dance, where he kind of crab-walks around until you notice him and give him a skritch.

Mark would look down in amusement and, while skritching Stanley, tell him, "You just want AT-TENNN-TIONNNN". So then I started telling Stanley that, too, in the same tone of voice. "I see a kitty looking for AT-TENNN-TIONNNN, yes I do...", etc, and all the while I'd actually be paying him at-tennn-tionnnn. Um, I mean "attention". ;o)

Last night, Stanley really, *really* needed his claws trimmed. So I waited until he was napping. Then I took the claw trimmer, scooped him into my lap, and told him, "Look at the good boy getting lots of AT-TENNN-TIONNNN, everybody wants to pay him some AT-TENNN-TIONNNN, yes they do..." as I stealthily went snip, snip, snip and trimmed his claws.

It took less than two minutes to get it all done, and he never griped once. Why should he? He was getting AT-TENNN-TIONNNN, his favorite thing in the whole wide world. :o)

Stanley doesn't like getting his claws trimmed, but he loves doting more than anything. So all I had to do was tell him he was getting attention, and he was fine. Like I said, it's all in how you phrase it. :o)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

There might be a new kind of cat toy around here, although I sincerely hope not.

This morning, our next-door neighbor asked if we'd seen any mice recently. The answer, fortunately, is "No", and I hope it remains that way.

However, it appears that there is a mouse problem in the entire neighborhood. I'm willing to bet that it's because there is a LOT of building of new houses taking place where there was a large empty lot. All the digging and laying down of water mains, gas pipes, etc is probably driving out whatever critters lived in said empty lot. Since my street is less than a block away from all this activity, I'm not surprised that our block (and the next block, as well) are starting to experience a problem.

Fortunately, Captain and Stanley's presence seems to be enough to deter any uninvited critters from trying to move into this house. So far, there's been absolutely no evidence of any rodent encroachment. No sane mouse would take up residence in a house with two cats, not when there are plenty of catless houses nearby to choose from. That goes double for the fact that THIS particular pair of cats is still young and playful enough to be in "Pounce on anything that moves!" mode during every waking moment of their day.

I don't think that any rodent would last long if either of these cats got hold of it. If they didn't actually figure out how to kill it, the poor thing would probably die of fright or exhaustion after being tag-teamed by both of them.

I did promise our neighbor that I'd keep a close eye on just what the cats were playing with. I hope that the only mouse-shaped things that the cats have to play with are actual TOYS, not real mice or ex-mice. ;o)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

We just got the attached bulletin in our email. I'll pass it along to
remind people that it's best to give to known charities and avoid the
vultures who are trying to make a buck from someone else's tragedy.
----


SECURITY ALERT

FBI Advisory 9/7/05
Hurricane Katrina Scams Alert

Similar to the Tsunami scams which surfaced last winter, there has been
a rapid increase in websites and associated SPAM being deployed;
purporting to be legitimate fund-raising efforts for the victims of the
recent Hurricane and subsequent massive flooding in the Gulf coast
region. Over the past week there have been more than 500 sites
advertising Hurricane Katrina relief services. On Friday, September
2nd, there were approximately 300 established on that day alone.

The challenge is to quickly analyze and assess those sites which appear
to be illegitimate and to develop a strategy to ascertain the
responsible parties and ensure the safety of the public, who research
these sites. In order to do this, the FBI relies heavily on key
partnerships established with both law enforcement (domestically and
abroad) and in many cases with the well known charitable organizations,
whose good names are being used to give credibility to the scammers.

As with the Tsunami fraud scams, the FBI continues to enlist
substantial cooperation from its law enforcement partners, particularly
the U. S. Postal Inspection Service,
U. S. Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, and a vast array
of state and local agencies. As many of these scams involve
international aspects, our growing partnership with international law
enforcement will be vital in efficiently following and capturing the
evidence trail.

Several matters have been developed and referred out for investigation
throughout the FBI. We expect the number of investigative referrals to
increase over the next several weeks.

Those who desire to contribute to the Hurricane Katrina funds should
carefully research the organizations soliciting funds to ensure the
monies donated will be used as guaranteed. The Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) recommends investigating any charity soliciting a
donation with consumer organizations such as the American Institute of
Philanthropy at www.charitywatch.org or the Better Business Bureau's
Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org.

Information on suspicious solicitations or websites can be reported to
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) IC3, via www.IC3.gov. Anyone
with information concerning a scam related to Hurricane Katrina victims
is encouraged to contact the FBI at (215) 418-4000.


BUSY BUSY BUSY BUSY

When it's 9:35 AM and you've already taken FIVE messages, you know it's
going to be an Insane Telephone Day. It's normal to get 5 to 8 messages
between 9:00 AM and *noon*, rather than in the first 35 minutes of the
day.

__________________________________________________
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Friday, September 02, 2005

In the aftermath of this horrendous disaster that is Hurricane Katrina,
I was glad to see the attached (slightly redacted by me to remove
directly identifying information) letter sent out to all employees of
the organization where I work.



DATE: September 1, 2005
TO: Physicians and Staff

SUBJECT: [Health System] Initiatives to Support Hurricane
Katrina Relief Efforts

We have learned from federal disaster-relief officials that the most
needed contribution we can make at this time to support the victims of
Hurricane Katrina is financial - so that the dollars contributed can be
used by relief experts to make purchases vital to their provision of
necessary food, shelter, and medical services.

To that end, [Health System] has made a donation to the American Red
Cross in support of the relief effort ... and we encourage all
physicians and staff to make their own financial contributions to their
preferred charitable organization. To join the Health System's
initiative to get much-needed funds as rapidly as possible to
appropriate agencies, please visit the Federal Emergency Management
website at www.FEMA.gov <http://www.FEMA.gov> or call 1-800-HELPNOW
(435-7669).

To further support the federal response efforts, we have created a
Health Care Professionals Relief Program to register [Health System]
volunteers for staffing assignments in one of the dozens of Field
Medical Shelters that are now being established by federal officials in
the areas hardest hit by the hurricane. These shelters will be used
to evaluate and treat patients emergently; and they will also serve as
medical staging sites for the transfer of critically ill patients to
hospitals throughout the nation that have not been directly affected by
the hurricane and its aftermath of floods.

If you are a health care professional who would be able to devote a
minimum of two consecutive weeks to such a staffing effort, please
register your interest by clicking on [health system intranet link] .
To ensure that operational efficiencies are maintained at all Health
System facilities, volunteer activities by [Health System] personnel
will be coordinated by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer and will
be scheduled and approved by relevant supervisors, managers,
administrators, and Chairs. Volunteers will need to use either
Vacation or Unpaid Hours to support their efforts.

While there are still many unanswered questions, interested individuals
should keep in mind that you would be required to serve for a minimum
of two weeks, that you will need to receive all necessary
vaccinations, and that details surrounding travel and lodging
arrangements remain undetermined. In addition, the "field" conditions
under which you would be serving will be very different from what you
experience here at home.

We will communicate with you as we receive additional information about
how our efforts may efficiently support the implementation of the
National Disaster Plan. Meanwhile, we will begin to develop our
volunteer corps of health-care professionals ... and continue to
encourage you to make a financial contribution.

Thank you for your continued interest in helping to support the victims
of Hurricane Katrina. Together, we can make a significant
contribution to our neighbors in need.


I'm so glad that my employer is gearing up to do something concrete for the disaster-stricken area. I'm sure that many more companies will be planning to support relief efforts in some way. But not every company can send actual medical personnel to the areas devastated by Katrina. Medical supply companies of every stripe had better pitch in, too, and donate however many sterile items are needed due to this catastrophe. Ditto for pharmaceutical companies.

The news has been reporting mostly about the conditions in New Orleans, although other cities and states have been devastated, as well. I can understand why -- it's likely that more people have visited New Orleans than just about anywhere else that was struck by Katrina.

I was there in July 1987 for a convention. I loved every minute of it, both the workshops and speakers at the convention itself, and the tours we went on in our free time. We did a tour of a plantation, a ride on the Natchez, Preservation Hall, midnight jazz Mass, breakfast at Brennan's, the Moonwalk, Cafe du Monde, the French Quarter, and other things that I'll probably be able to recall if I think back on those five days... I can't say enough good things about that trip, the people, the city, the food, everything.

Several of the workshops and all of the keynote addresses took place in the SuperDome. To this day, I can't see a picture of that building without thinking of the convention and the wonderful time we all had.

To see the SuperDome with extensive hurricane damage, to read the horror stories of the heat, filth, and mayhem that the evacuees were subjected to in there, to see the wreckage that so much of the rest of the city has become... it horrifies me. I dread the day that the death toll finally begins to be tallied; I fear it's going to be hideous beyond anyone's worst nightmare by the time the counting is done. :o(

I've been looking all over the internet to see what, if any, landmarks are still recognizable from our trip there. I'm reasonably sure, after looking at some online maps, that the hotel where we stayed is in the 80% of the city that's flooded. Sigh.

Just about all we can do now is donate to relief agencies and pray wholeheartedly that as many people come out of this disaster safely as humanly possible. That goes for the entire Gulf region, not just New Orleans.

I feel like I did when the tsunami struck SE Asia last December... the news is heartbreaking to watch, to the point where I almost can't bear to look. But I feel like I HAVE to know what's going on, because so many lives are at stake.

Aid has FINALLY started to reach the region. (Jolly freakin' well about time, considering the hurricane hit four days ago and it was well-known several days in advance that Katrina would make landfall in the Gulf region.) I hope that we start hearing good news of what's going RIGHT for evacuees. After the past few days of disaster and mayhem, that'll be a welcome turnaround.

Friday, August 26, 2005

At work today, something happened that made me extremely sad.

A woman called to set up an appointment for herself. She hasn't been seen by our practice before, so we would have to set up a new patient appointment for her. Those are alloted a longer time span than returning patients' appointments are given, as the doctor will need more time to discuss the patient's medical history, symptoms, etc.

I happened to be the one to take the call. I started the process of setting up the appointment. I got as far as the step that determines when the next available opening would be, and announced to the lady, "Our first opening is [date]".

The woman completely lost her composure and began to cry. "No, not that date! That's the day my mother died, pick another date!" So I scrolled forward to see when the next opening was after that date, but the woman was too upset to continue. "I'm sorry, I'll have to call you back", she said, still crying, and hung up.

That poor lady. She must be really suffering with grief if the mere MENTION of that date is enough to trigger a crying spell. I felt terribly sorry for her.

Since one thing we're doing is making a list of how many people request a new-patient appointment, I wrote the lady's name onto the list. Then I told my fellow Patient Services Rep, "See this name?" I showed her the list and related what happened during the phone conversation. "If this lady calls back and you get the call, please make sure that you don't offer an appointment on [date], no matter what. Offer any other day BUT that."

As for the person who wanted an appointment with us, I'm thinking that the specialist she might benefit most from is not a rheumatologist, but a grief counsellor of some sort. My heart goes out to that poor patient. If she hasn't sought that kind of help yet, I hope she does. Nobody should have to bear that amount of sadness.
One of my favorite places online is the rec.pets.cats.anecdotes newsgroup. When I'm not reviewing hockey boards or news sites, that's the most likely place I'll be surfing.

Cat people worldwide post there, and it really is an active community where the regular posters care about one another. I've seen a bunch of online groups and mailing lists, and this one is in a class by itself for how members watch out for each other and help one another out.

So I was quite intrigued by the site that one of our posters has set up. She created the RPCA Guest Map, for people to actually be able to post a marker showing where they're from on a world map. So now there are a lot of posters who've listed themselves and their kitties on the map. I love it.

You can really, REEEEALLY zoom in close and be as exact as you like. Use the "Satellite" or "Hybrid" option and you can go right down to the exact BUILDING you wish to place the marker on, if you want.

I certainly wanted to place a marker on the map, but I'm leery of indicating my exact address on the Internet for goodness-knows-whom to see. So I did the next best thing, and marked another place where I've spent lots and lots of time over the past ten years. Zoom alllll the way in to Philadelphia and you'll see an approximation of where my season ticket seats are at the Spectrum. :o)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

One thing I like to do when I've gone online is listen to the BBC World Service. It's available on the internet, fortunately, because they no longer broadcast to North America via shortwave radio. (I'm STILL steamed over that, and they dropped the broadcasts four years ago. Don't get me started.)

I caught the latest episode of their radio soap opera, West Way. A character in the program who is terminally ill was talked to by a palliative care team in the medical center that is the focal point for the program. This, unfortunately, brought my thoughts back to a situation I haven't wanted to think a lot about.

There is, on my dad's side of the family, a senior citizen cousin who was recently diagnosed with kidney failure. She has refused dialysis.

I do believe that she has every right to accept or reject treatment as she sees fit. But I also know what the result of refusing dialysis will be. It means we will lose her sooner, rather than later.

The family has discussed things like hospice care, but as of a couple weeks ago, a final decision had not been reached.

It saddens me. We just lost my uncle a few months ago. And now I know that unless my cousin decides otherwise, we will lose her to kidney failure. I don't know what the prognosis is, or how long she'll be able to get by without treatment like dialysis. But the writing is on the wall. I wish I could erase it. :o(

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I mentioned yesterday that my goal was to learn to read enough Finnish to make my way through the online news coverage, so I could have an idea of what was going on with Neil and the Blues Espoo sooner, rather than later.

To that end, I tried to order an out-of-print used book from biblio.com. I forget the exact title, but it was something along the lines of Finnish for English Speakers. I thought that'd be just what the doctor ordered.

Well, we'll never know how well it might've fit the bill. The bookseller couldn't find his copy of the book, and sent me a refund the next day. Oh, well.

Round 2: a trip to Barnes and Noble online was a tad more effective. I found a Teach Yourself Finnish textbook/CD combo and a Berlitz pocket dictionary.

SOLD. They arrived yesterday. :o)

Since then, I've made extensive use of the pocket dictionary in translating two articles. One appeared online the day before Neil got the shutout; it mentioned his name and I was going nuts wondering what the rest of the paragraph said. In a nutshell (since I'm really only able to find ROOT words in the dictionary, then surmise from those definitions what the sentence is getting at), it appears to have said that he arrived in Finland last week, problems have been minimal, he's adjusting well, and his attitude is completely positive. :o)

Today's article declared that the Blues defeated their latest opponent in the Tampere Cup 4-1. Neil got the win, and the article praised to his solid play. I'm enjoying looking up all these words and puzzling together sentences that turn into a string of compliments for my favorite player. :o)

I hasten to admit that I'd probably never have been able to do even this limited amount of understanding without two things: the fact that I studied Italian in HS and college, which gave me a clue as to the ways in which other languages' grammar rules can work, and the clozure skills I developed due to interpreter training, which is just a fancy term for being able to "fill in the blanks" when faced with a sentence in which one doesn't understand all the words. Both of those things take time and practice to grasp, and if I hadn't already TAKEN that time before now, I'd be completely lost while trying to do this particular independent-study project now.

Today, the Blues are in the Tampere Cup finals, having won all three of the games they've played so far. (The Blues' other goaltender played in Game 2, and he earned a 3-2 win.) The game is probably finished by now, so it's time for me to sit and wonder what happened until the postgame article appears. If they're alternating between goalies, it's likely that their other netminder will get the start today. Either way, I want the Blues to win. I hope my next translation effort results in my seeing some good news. :o)

Friday, August 19, 2005

OK, so... here's the deal. Anyone who's read any of my Phantoms-related posts won't find it difficult to determine who my favorite player is. For anyone who's a more recent arrival here: that would be Neil Little. He's great fun to watch, and he'd be my favorite even if I'd NEVER had the chance to say so much as a word to him.

But beyond what he contributed to the Phantoms on the ice, he's also impressed me by his conduct OFF the ice. This is a person who makes a point of recognizing fans who've been supportive, and being friendly in return. (And helpful, too: see this post from my archives.) The fact that he isn't only a good goaltender, he's a downright good PERSON into the bargain, makes it even easier to rank him as a personal favorite of mine.

And that's why the fact that he'll be spending this season in FINLAND is going to be a tough thing to cope with for this fan. It's not only that I'll miss him, which is certainly the case. It's also well-nigh impossible to find information in English about the Blues Espoo, and there's no online translation program (like the one on altavista.com) that can properly handle Finnish-to-English translation. THANK GOD there's a fan from Espoo who has joined the Phantoms mailing list, and who has been kind enough to translate a couple of articles from the Blues site, or I'd have gone bananas by now (and the season hasn't even officially begun yet).

So... what's an avid fan who likes up-to-the-minute information to do? Well, when you're an avid fan who's already been through interpreter training, the answer is obvious. You research the unknown language yourself, to figure out how you can learn at least enough to fumble along and get by.

To that end, my first stop was google.com. My search for information about English speakers learning Finnish brought me to an interesting site in English called Virtual Finland. They have a section of their site devoted to explaining some features of the Finnish language to persons who are interested in learning it. That's where I found this particular gem of information (emphasis added by me):

To compensate for the lack of opposition such as voiced/unvoiced consonants Finnish uses length as a distinctive feature. This means that all eight vowels and most of the consonants can appear long: i.e. marked in writing with two letters or short marked with one letter ( tuuli 'wind' / tuli 'fire'; kukka 'flower' / kuka 'who'). For a learner of Finnish differences of this kind can cause problems both in pronunciation and memorising. Hän tulee means 'He is coming' but Hän tullee is 'He might be coming'. Minä tapaan sinut huomenna means 'I'll see you tomorrow' whereas Minä tapan sinut huomenna 'I'll kill you tomorrow'.



I read that and I had to laugh. "My gosh! What's Neil gotten himself into?" I know enough about the linguistic faux pas that happened to my fellow ASL students and me to be keenly aware of the pitfalls of learning a brand-new language from scratch. Mis-articulating one word, and producing something that actually IS another word, is pretty much guaranteed to happen. All one can do is hope that the unintended word that was uttered is something that will be repeatable in polite company. But if the quote above is an example of what it's like to learn Finnish, Neil might be in for an interesting next-few-months. Oh, dear. ;o)

In any event, the Blues have been taking part in exhibition games. (Their regular season begins in September.) I'm happy to report that Neil's first game with the team resulted in a 3-0 shutout victory. WTG! With performances like that, pretty soon the fans in Espoo will think as highly of him as the Philly fans do. And that'll be a Good Thing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Have you ever wanted to see your name in lights?

Well, how about seeing your name looking like a Google logo?

I can't help you with the first one of those wishes, but if the second idea floats your boat, go here. :o)

Friday, August 05, 2005

FWIW, here's the Channel 3 copter.

There I was, checking out one of the AHL boards where I post. I'd just gotten home from work; since I only occasionally can look at the internet during the day, I usually check on a few things soon after I come home.

The topic of the new discussion thread was something to the effect of, "Philadelphia Flyers sign...", but no name. There are several Phantoms UFAs that I really want to see us bring back on board, so I clicked on the thread to see if any of them were the player we signed.

In the post, I saw the cut-and-pasted online news article, along with the original link. My first glance at the headline convince me that my eyes were playing tricks on me. I imagined myself going back to the ophthalmologist and saying, "I *just* got these glasses in January, and already they need to be updated! Can you imagine, I thought I read 'Flyers land Forsberg' on my computer screen!"

I blinked. The headline didn't go away, nor did it resolve into a different set of words.

My next thought was, "This is some kind of practical joke. It's GOT to be." I read the text that was pasted from the news article. Hmmm... there's nothing here to give this away as a prank. No obvious factual errors, no grammatical mistakes, no misspellings.

But... this particular poster is NOT given to messing with people's minds like that. I haven't seen her post April-Fool's-Day-like content and try to pass it off as news, ever. Could it be...?

I clicked on the news article link that was also in the post.

BEHOLD... the link led, not to some spoof site, but to a real, live TSN.CA report on the Flyers' latest free-agent signing: Peter Forsberg.

HOLY COW. It was TRUE. The Flyers just signed the guy who is, arguably, the best hockey player out there. And if he's not *THE* best, he's in the top two or three at the very least.

Oh! My! GOD! Imagine me bouncing off the walls and ceiling with glee. :o) Provided we stay healthy, this team is poised to make the Finals. Period. End of sentence. We just became THE team to beat in the East, Tampa Bay (the current Stanley Cup champs) notwithstanding.

Excellent, excellent move. I can't rejoice about it enough.

Unfortunately, since the signing put us over the salary cap limit, we had to trade someone ASAP. And the bummer is that the someone turned out to be a real fave of mine, Jeremy Roenick. He hated to go, but he understood. I hate to see him go, but I understand, too. This salary cap is going to cause a lot of trades like this, all around the league. And IMO, he's going to be a good fit in LA, both on and off the ice. I'll miss the heck out of him, though. He's one of the most fun-to-watch players I've ever seen.

So... on to a more serious note. I can't remember if I've mentioned this in past posts, but the building I work in is across the street from one of the area's major teaching hospitals. It's also got a helicopter pad on the roof, where trauma patients are flown in on a daily basis.

Thanks to this, it's not unusual at all to hear a low-flying helicopter taking off or arriving. I've kind of learned to tell the difference between the two, without looking up. The departing helicopters have a noise that just begins abruptly ("Thup-thup-thup-thup..."). It increases in intensity until you can hear them really gun the engine ("Thup-thup-thup-THUP-THUP-THUP-THUP-THUPTHUPTHUPTHUP..."); it lifts off from the roof shortly after that.

The arriving helicopters, on the other hand, fade rapidly into earshot rather than having a sound that abruptly begins. There's no "gunning" the engine sound. However, depending on where you're standing and what direction the sound is travelling, the noise level can be stupendously loud. If you're caught where the buildings echo the sound RIGHT back at you, there can be some ear-splitting THUPTHUPTHUP noise for a few moments while you're getting both the original engine sound plus the echo at full volume. Fortunately, that only lasts briefly; the angle-of-approach for the sound waves changes as the helicopter continues moving until it lands on the roof.

Either way, my instinct is to bless myself at the sight of these helicopters, the same way I would at the sight of an ambulance. Since their presence means that SOMEbody's having a medical emergency somewhere, I think sending a prayer in their general direction is a good idea. Any one of us could be the one needing the prayers one of these days, so we might as well send a few out when we're not the ones having the immediate crisis.

Anyhow. Today I ate lunch a bit later than usual, so I happened to be in the conference room/lunch room at just the right time to hear a helicopter engine fade into earshot. I thought of M*A*S*H: "Incoming!" and made the sign of the cross. I figured the helicopter would land, and the sound would go away, within a couple of minutes. It always does.

Except that's not what happened this time. The helicopter noise just kept going and going, way past the one-or-two-minutes I expected I'd hear it. And it was LOUD. Finally I thought, "OK, so what in heck's going on out there, anyway?" I wondered if a helicopter had arrived to find the roof area filled to capacity or something, and got up to look out the window.

That's when I noticed three helicopters, not making any attempt to land, but HOVERING in the general vicinity. The closest one was across the street from the hospital (and from us)... and it bore the logo of Channel 3.

What the...?! Why's a NEWS helicopter out there? I looked down to the street. There were at least 15 police and fire vehicles down there, and the streets were closed to traffic. Lots of people were outside the building; the crowd appeared to be a mix of visitors, hospital employees, emergency personnel, and the regular foot traffic that would normally be on the street at that hour of the day. (They most definitely DID NOT look like they'd evacuated any particular part of the hospital -- if they had, the throng would've looked rather like the flight out of Egypt in The Ten Commandments, rather than just a small-to-moderate-sized crowd.)

"All right", I thought, "what in the HECK is going on?" I watched for a while, but nothing in particular appeared to be going on. After a few more minutes, the Channel 3 helicopter turned and flew away. (The other two stuck around.) It was about time I got back to my desk, so I did.

That's when I found out that the reason for the problem is that in the hospital, a small battery pack had exploded at one of the nurse's stations. We got the press release in our email, explaining the goings-on, shortly after I got back to work. Two hospital employees were slightly hurt. But until the reason for the mishap was determined, security responded with a full alert and cops, fire personnel, and the bomb squad (! It never crossed my mind that a hospital would need a visit from them) were on hand.

Thank goodness it turned out to be a great big "err on the side of caution" operation. And I'm glad to know that if, God forbid, there ever was a disaster of some sort at a local hospital, that's the kind of response that the city's prepared to provide.

But I could do without another surprise sighting of a hovering news helicopter outside my building any time soon.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I made it. :o)

Today is the 92nd day of employment for me. I've officially passed the
90-day probation period.

Permanent employment. FINALLY.

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Friday, July 29, 2005

I spent the week doing two different types of training. Even though I've been on board for two and a half months, I got signed up for the full-fledged IDX training class (the computer system we use to schedule appointments for patients, among other things), and I also attended a training class on our phone system.

The IDX class was helpful in some ways, even though by now I've already done the majority of the things that the class talked about. But I also got some shortcuts, thanks to the class, that I hadn't realized were possible.

For example, I had no idea that when we're looking through a doctor's open appointment slots, we can specify which days of the week we want to see. This is good to know, as we have some patients who work, take classes, receive dialysis or other treatments, etc on particular days of the week. Naturally, they want to visit doctors on their free day(s) instead of disrupting work schedules, missing class, and so on. And having seen how my late friend Joan was exhausted after her dialysis treatments, I wouldn't ever recommend a patient coming in for an appointment with us after they were dialysed, not unless they had a significant medical reason for doing so.

Anyway, instead of just searching through ALL of the doctor's open slots and visually picking out the ones on the desired day(s) of the week, now I can request those specific days of the week from the word "go" and avoid having to weed through unwanted results. The big stuff that the class covered, I already knew how to do by this point, but it's little tweaks like that which will make my workday that much easier.

Which brings me to the OTHER training I had this week: the phone class. During my four years as a temp, most of the assignments I had involved receptionist work and believe me, I saw a LOT of different kinds of phone systems. Only one or two times did I encounter a type of phone system that was used by more than one company.

Now, I freely admit that I'm a geek and that figuring out how to use various devices is one of my strong suits. I can't walk and chew gum at the same time, but leave me alone with a techie toy and no manual and I'll generally get the gist of what the thing does, if you give me enough time. So when I tell you that some of the things our phone system does are, to me, counter-intuitive, believe it.

For example, if I had my way it'd be a lot more forgiving to a person who pauses partway through dialing a number. If I'm trying to transfer a call to another department, or even to another extension within our own office, I have to dial at least the 7-digit number. Suppose I want to send someone to 555-1212. If I dial "555", then pause to double-check the final four digits, I only have about two seconds before the phone "gives up" on waiting for the next four digits and gives me a busy signal. So now I've got to start the transfer over again, and do so without serenading my caller with the fast-busy-signal. Nor do I want to hit the wrong sequence of buttons trying to get my original caller back, because as I discovered to my chagrin during my first few weeks on the job, you can easily disconnect someone by accident if you hit the wrong set of buttons in just the wrong order.

So anyway, I had been hoping that this class would be a primer on how to use THIS PHONE SYSTEM. No dice (though the training material we got does include a couple of mini-manuals for the most commonly used phones). It was more along the lines of what our health system's policies are for answering phones and so on. It's not exactly something I needed, but hey. It reinforced a lot of things that I learned over the years while temping.

The final exercise in the class was revealing, though not in the way that anyone intended. We used speakerphones to actually call back to our own departments and see how whoever was there was answering phones. And, of course, we evaluated if said phone greeting was up to snuff with health system standards ("Good morning/afternoon, [department name], this is [person's name], how may I help you?")

Five of our class's students were from the Central Registration department. That would be the department that patients would call in order to provide all pertinent information, instead of the limited amount of info that people like me can enter when we're adding a person to the system for the first time. For example, I can put in a person's name, SSN, phone number, and address. But I can't put in information about their primary care doctor, medical insurance, and a small truckload of other stuff that only Central Registration is allowed to do. Plus, once the information is in the system, I can't UPDATE it to, say, change the address/phone number of a patient who has moved. Only Central Registration can do that.

So we called Central Registration. On the speakerphone.

The first person who answered a call said "Registration"... and then hung up. HUNG UP. The ladies from that department were mortified. One explained that it was nearing the end of a shift, and each person has to make a certain "quota" of calls for the day. So perhaps the person was trying to artifically inflate their call tally by cutting off a caller. I'm guessing that person doesn't realize that there is software in place to measure not only how many calls a person receives, but how long they last. So if someone has a string of two-second calls, it WILL be trackable. Jobs can be, and have been, lost for such behavior.

We called back, again on the speakerphone. We got someone else. She also said "Registration" and hung up. OK, now we're 0-for-2. I felt genuinely sorry for my classmates from that department, who all felt about two inches tall after the way their colleagues back at the office had treated the phone calls.

One more call... the third time was the charm. This time it was a guy who gave the full phone greeting as described above, and actually STAYED on the line to do his job. He was as ideal of an example as the other two were terrible examples. And I suspect that there'll be a little chat between our class's trainers and the management of Central Registration about those two hangup calls. All it will take is for the Powers That Be to use the phone-tracking software to determine if anyone's got an inexplicably high number of far-too-brief-to-be-useful calls, and then have a word with them.

My own department call yielded a so-so result. "Rheumatology, how can I help you?", but no "Good afternoon" and no "This is [person's name]". Hey, it could've been worse -- at least she TOOK the call even though it was within minutes of the end of her workday.

Anyhow, those are the highlights of the week so far. Now I get to go back to the office today and use all these techniques. :o)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I probably shouldn't hit the SEND key on anything when I'm in this sour of a mood, but I feel the urge to document this anyway.

I guess it's so that if the dark cloud passes, I'll look back on it and be reminded that I came through stuff like this.

I have one more month to go before I pass the probation period. And now the politicking has apparently been going on in earnest. There is at least one person, who shall remain unreferred to by any specific identifying info in this post, who (word has gotten back to me) badmouths me to other coworkers every time there's an error.

Including HER OWN errors. She actually tried to push off three of her own mistakes onto me, and said that I did them. (Behind my back, that is. Not to my face.) Fortunately, our manager saw through THAT and told the chief of staff otherwise.

But it ticks me off. Why am I still dealing with this kind of crap? Four years of aggravation, looking for work and fighting off a few major depressive episodes into the bargain, weren't enough? Now I have to be THIS-CLOSE to having something dependable (if there is such a thing in the working world anymore) and someone's trying to pull it out from under me?

For no earthly good reason?

This same person has religious screen savers and inspirational quotations about Jesus and God's blessings posted all over the cubicle that includes the front desk. (Yeah, I know -- process of elimination should make it really easy to pick out who I'm referring to, if you know the general setup of the place where I work. But I have no desire to phrase myself in such a way that, say, a search engine would ever pick it up.) So what am I to make of someone who's got "Jesus" this and "God" that all over their workspace, but is two-faced to a co-worker?

Sometimes, like today, I wonder what is wrong with me that I can still be surprised at the spite people are capable of. One would THINK, after some of the stuff I've been through and/or witnessed in my life, that I'd have learned by now that there IS no lower limit on the depth to which people will sink.

And you'd think I'd have realized long ago that people don't NEED a reason to mistreat someone else. They don't need some logical explanation for what they're doing. If they feel like doing it, they will. PERIOD.

So how long will it take for the feeling of betrayal to wear off? What does it matter? Two can play at the "friendly to your face" game. The main difference is, I have no need to tear someone else down. All I need to do is withstand this next month of probation without screwing up or strangling a certain detractor, and I'll be fine.

I'm so sick of having to fight for every inch of progress I make. I don't even remember what it felt like to have job security anymore. It's like I dreamt it a long time ago and woke up to find it wasn't real after all. And after today's little kick in the head, I don't expect to feel like job security can actually exist any time soon, either.

This is the same kind of stress that caused my freakin' blood pressure to go out of control last year. Karla lent me a little home BP monitor when I first went on blood pressure meds. I'd better start using it on a regular basis again.

The dark cloud needs to pass soon, though, because I'm TIRED of feeling like this. Four years is way more than enough.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Wow!

Near stage



----
I didn't feel like dragging myself out into the heat in order to stand around and look at a crowd of people.

Mark actually DID want to see the crowd. So he took SEPTA to the Parkway.

He got a lot closer to the stage than I expected would be possible. Here's the shot he sent me from his camera phone.
I've noticed that people tend to choose their cheeriest outfit to wear to a doctor's visit.

It's been my M.O. for a long time now that even if someone's a complete stranger, if they're wearing a pretty color I make a point of telling them so. "That's a nice shade of blue", or "I like that purple", etc. This goes back to 1988, when a friend nearly died and it was impressed on ALL of us that our time here isn't guaranteed. So you might as well just pay the compliment instead of keeping it to yourself, total stranger or not.

Anyway, more often than not, the patient will not only thank me, they'll also mention that they'd intentionally picked that particular garment to brighten up their day.

I believe it. I mean, really -- who in the heck WANTS to be going to a doctor's appointment? Nobody *I* know. Moreover, the patients visiting a rheumatologist are making appointments because they've got a long-term condition, be it arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, or other ailments that fall under the "Rheumatology Division" umbrella. Nobody in their right mind wants to have a condition that can only be managed, not cured. So I can see why they'd want to brighten their day up. It's a way of balancing the unhappy reminder that these medical issues aren't going away with the happy experience of seeing a cheerful color all through the visit to the doctor.

Patients really seem to be pleased when someone notices the outfit that they've gone out of their way to wear for the appointment. So you can bet I'm going to keep on mentioning when someone's wearing an especially nice color. :o)

That's not just our patients, either. Every morning, I bring our outgoing mail to the mailroom, which is located in the basement of the hospital, and retrieve our incoming mail. One day, as I was waiting for the elevator, three people came through the corridor in search of a way to get to a particular lab. (They appeared to be two family members or friends accompanying one patient, rather than three people who all needed to visit the same lab.) This was a few days after the Trenton Titans won the Kelly Cup, which is the ECHL championship; all three of the people were wearing T-shirts bearing the inscription TRENTON TITANS KELLY CUP CHAMPIONS 2004-05 and a Titans logo. :o)

You'd better BELIEVE I made a point of stopping THEM to congratulate them for the Titans' recent win. And I'm 100% certain that they were wearing those shirts as a collective pick-me-up. "Hey, having lab appointments and going to hospitals isn't any fun. But the championship was, so let's remind ourselves of THAT instead"... they might not have said it in so many words, but I'm sure that was the logic they were following.

Heck, if I was a patient right now, do you think I'd wear Phantoms "Purple Reign" regalia to the appointment, in honor of OUR championship? You bet your life I would!

In other work news... remember that individual I mentioned a few weeks ago, the one who was calling up and using profanity and making threats when we weren't able to instantly refill a prescription for pain meds? Apparently I started the job just in time to witness the proverbial "last straw". This turned out to be a person who had made similar calls and thrown similar tantrums in the past, on multiple occasions. Moreover, it's a person who was claiming to be out of medication who, as our doctors saw upon reviewing their chart, should have had plenty of meds remaining due to the prescriptions that their doctor wrote for them. Communication with the patient's pharmacy confirmed that something's definitely not right here, and the math just doesn't add up for this person's claim that they've run out of meds.

The practice has initiated the process of discharging this patient, which means that beyond a required level of followup care, we will not be treating this person anymore. My manager forewarned me that we might be subjected to similar angry phone calls when the patient receives the written notice of the discharge.

I feel sorry for this person, though. I understand why the practice is unwilling to continue subjecting itself to verbal abuse and threats, especially since I'm one of the two front-desk people. After all, we'd be first in line to defuse the situation if this patient actually DID show up in our office to cause some sort of confrontation. But I have a feeling that the patient's rheumatological condition is the LEAST of their problems (and that's saying something). I'm hoping that if the person is having a problem with dependence on pain meds, that they go and have THAT problem treated first. If they don't, they're at risk of having far more dangerous health issues than whatever they were having treated by our practice. Sad.

On a completely different topic... today is the big "Live 8" concert on the Parkway. It ages me to know that 20 years ago, I'd probably have been heading up there to see the concert. But now, I've got no desire to fight my way through the crowds, in hazy/hot/humid (and possibly rainy) weather. Am I getting old? Nah. Just practical. (That, and my digestive tract has more need to be in proximity of a REAL rest room instead of the port-a-johns that are sure to be installed along the length of the Parkway.) I have an air conditioned house and (unlike the original Live Aid) cable TV. I'll enjoy the concert from home today, thank you very much.

Whew, what a long post. See what insomnia'll do to you?

Monday, June 20, 2005

I'm back. :o) It's no longer hot enough to fry eggs in the computer room, so it's time to reminisce some more on the events of the past week.

On Monday night, there was a rally at the Wachovia Center to celebrate the Phantoms' win. It was nice to see them all clean-shaven again, rather than looking like a bunch of lumberjacks.

I'm still working on posting the pictures from the Cup-winning game and from the rally to clubphoto.com. Albums can only have a maximum of 100 photos apiece, and I took over 300 shots on those two nights combined. It's going to require me to split the photos into several separate albums, to say the least.

That's OK -- that means I get to look at the pics again. There's no such thing as too much of that! ;o)

I was able to get DVDs from a fellow poster at flyersphans.com of games 3 and 4 (the two games in Philly. Comcast in CHICAGO broadcast all the games, which is good because freakin' PHILLY'S Comcast didn't bother to show either of those games. Nor did they air Game 1 (which took place in Chicago). I'm still working on getting copies of that one.

Yes, I did write "copies", with good reason. During the previous playoff round, when we were facing the Providence Bruins, people on flyersphans.com who were going to be attending a particular home game posted where they'd be sitting. I not only posted the location of Mark's and my seats, but I mentioned that I'd be wearing the green Neil Little jersey.

During the first intermission of that game, I was approached by a lady who asked me if I was Gabey8. When I said "yes", she introduced herself to me and thanked me for posting about the Phantoms, since it's hard to come by information about the team in Canada. I thanked her for the compliment, but I must have looked a little puzzled because she explained further: "I'm [player]'s mother".

Aha! THEN I understood. (And also made the connection between her last name and the player in question.) We talked about how the team was doing, and which discussion boards she visits for information. I knew the ones that she listed, plus a couple of others whose URLs I didn't have memorized. So I wrote my email address on the first bit of paper I could get my hands on, and told her that if she sent me an email, I could send her links to all the AHL-related news or discussion sites I visit.

She did, and I did. :o) We exchanged some emails during the Finals, which was when I told her I had made an extra tape of Game 2 (which Philly's Comcast *did* air). She thanked me but said she'd seen Game 2 since it was replayed on a Canadian channel... but did I happen to have a copy of Game 1?

Well, I didn't have Game 1, and still don't, but I'm working on it. Hence, my wish to have COPIES of Game 1... one for me, and one to send along.

I already sent along copies of Games 3 and 4. Or at least, they'd BETTER either be sent along, or on their way even as I type. See, after the rally, Karla and Al and Mark and I waited around the back of the building where the players drive out (which I believe I mentioned in my previous post). One of the players who pulled over to sign autographs for fans was Our Hero, so I waited my turn. Then I handed him the DVDs and told him, "I've been exchanging emails with your mom". (At which point, he grinned. :o) ) "These are copies of Games 3 and 4 of the finals. Give them to your mom". He promised to.

When I got home, I sent out another email to let her know that he had those DVDs for her. "So if he doesn't get them to you, hound him. Um, I mean remind him". :o) Like I said... those DVDs'd better be in Canada right now, or on their way in the forseeable future.

In other news, work has been STUPENDOUSLY BUSY. It sure makes the day disappear quickly, but BOY do I come home tired. I don't mind, though -- busy = job security, plus it's just plain mentally stimulating. I'll take it.

I had a bit of a laugh this afternoon. It came about because we had a doctor calling in to get his wife an appointment with one of our Higher Ranking Doctors. When someone wants to become a new patient of any of our Higher Ranking Doctors, we can't just add them to said docs' schedules. We have to fax a form to the would-be patient's refering physician; and once it's filled out and faxed back, we give it to the requested Higher Ranking Doc so he or she can decide whether they'll see the patient themselves, or assign it to the Fellows Clinic.

Normally, once this procedure is explained, would-be new patients are willing to just get the first appointment with the first doctor that's available. Personally, that makes everyone's lives easier... the patient's, the doctor's, and the office staff's.

But some people are insistent that they want that Higher Ranking Doctor and no one else. That's what today's call boiled down to... this caller wanted THAT PARTICULAR rheumatologist for his wife, and no other. Fine. I got the form ready so I could fax it to his wife's referring physician.

The caller gave me the physician's phone and fax numbers, and mentioned that said referring doc was located at [nationally famous clinic]. I'm not sure if this was intended to make me feel impressed or intimidated... possibly both. But since I have to follow our office's procedure no matter WHO the referring doctor is, I have to admit that it made little impression on me.

Now... most fax machines will display the name of the fax machine that they're connected to, when you're sending a fax. I presume that's how you know that you've called the right number. Imagine my surprise to see that the fax machine in Nationally Famous Clinic's Rheumatology Department is named... RHEMATOLOGY.

I spent a few moments trying to identify the source of my "What's wrong with THIS picture?" sensation. Then I realized that Nationally Famous Clinic had spelled their own department's name wrong on their fax machine, and I had to stifle a burst of giggles. LOL... someone, somewhere needs a reminder that proofreading is their friend!

I still wish that the caller in question would've just gone with the first available appointment, though. If he had, his wife would already HAVE an appointment. As it stands now, she's unlikely to get an appointment with the doctor they're trying to request until OCTOBER at the earliest. And that hinges on our getting the form faxed back to us promptly, as well as requiring our rheumatologist to take prompt action to schedule this new patient. Personally, I don't think the delay is going to do anybody any favors, but hey. It's their appointment. I can't tell other people what to do.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Well! It's certainly been an EXCELLENT past-few-weeks in these parts.

Let's start with the BIGGEST news of all, and say: Congratulations to the 2004-05 Calder Cup Champions, the Philadelphia Phantoms!

The header on the main ahlboards.com page

Our Captains present the Cup to the fans

One of the smaller Wachovia Center scoreboards, along the side of the arena



OMG. The experience of being at the game when we won was just too wonderful for words. I'm SO PROUD of our boys! They worked so hard all season long, and they earned this championship as a TEAM.

The game was won on Friday, June 10, 2005: exactly 7 years since our previous Calder Cup win. Over the weekend, I figured that as the Phantoms Phan Club's secretary, I should make sure that we send the team a congratulatory note. So I bought a congratulations card, signed it with a brief note from the Phan Club's board and membership, and included this letter:



Date: 6/11/05

To: Coach John Stevens
Assistant Coach Kjell Samuelsson
Assistant Coach Craig Berube
The Philadelphia Phantoms Players

The Board and Membership of the Philadelphia Phantoms Phan Club are delighted to congratulate you for capping an outstanding 2004-05 season by winning the Eastern Conference Championship and the Calder Cup Championship! Furthermore, we would also like to acknowledge Antero Niittymaki for earning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.

It’s a pleasure for us to see how all of your hard work and unfailing dedication has been rewarded by such success. We can now proudly declare ourselves to be fans, not only of the best hockey team in the AHL, but of the best hockey team in all of North America.

You truly have proven yourselves to be the best of the best, and you’ve earned it with heart, courage, and unselfish teamwork. From seeing you set the AHL record with 17 consecutive wins, through cheering as you won the Calder Cup in a sweep, this has been a magical, memorable season. Words can’t adequately express what a joy it’s been to watch you and support you through it all.

We rejoice with you all for your achievements, and send our absolute best wishes for you all to have a safe, happy, and healthy summer. Long may Purple Reign!

Sincerely and with great pride,

The Board and Membership of the Philadelphia Phantoms Phan Club

[list of officers' names edited]


There was a celebration rally at the Center on Monday night, and afterward, Mark and I headed around to the area where the players drive out of their parking lot. (Karla and Al stayed too, for a while.) My intent was to hand the card/letter to whichever one of the coaches or one of the captains came out first.

That role fell to John Slaney, one of our assistant captains. He pulled over to sign autographs for waiting fans. I waited my turn in the line of fans, presented him the card, told him what it was and whom it was from, and asked him to present it to the coaches and team. (The team's exit meetings with coaches were to start on Tuesday, and continue for I'm-not-sure-how-many-days.)

I am going to have to post more stories and pics later. It's about 10,000 degrees in this computer room.

But rest assured, there'll be plenty of photos from the Calder Cup Finals games that were played here (Games 3 and 4), plus the postgame on-ice celebrations and the rally on Monday night!

GO, PHANTOMS! PURPLE REIGN!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Holy cow. I didn't realize it's been a month since I last posted! So here are some highlights from the past few weeks, appearing in whatever order they happen to cross my mind.

Good news: I really like the job. It's VERY busy all day long, to put it mildly. This is a Good Thing, as it makes the day fly by. More on that in a few paragraphs.

Some more good news: the Phantoms defeated the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins in 5 games, and have moved on to the Eastern Conference Finals. We currently hold a 3 games to 1 lead over the Providence Bruins.

Of course, the non-good news is that right now, even as I type, I'm listening to Game 5 on the cybercast, and we're not winning, to put it mildly. The Phantoms are behind 4-1 in tonight's game with about half the game left. GRRRRR... well, we ousted the Pens by coming back from a 4-1 defecit and scoring 6 goals. I'll take something similar tonight, Thank You Very Much. ;)

I've accepted the nomination to run for Secretary again for the Phantoms Phan Club. I like the position, so I was more than glad to run again. Elections are next month... such as they are, as everyone appears to be running unopposed at the moment. Now that nominations are closed for May, no one else can be nominated between now and June. In that case, the Secretary will cast one vote for each officer who is on the ballot. Currently, that includes President and Secretary. The position of Second VP is going to become vacant, also; however, no one was nominated nor offered to run. The President can appoint someone to fill a vacant Board office if no one runs to fill it. It's looking like that's how it's going to turn out, for the 2nd VP post.

I've celebrated my new job by picking up a few little toys, such as an AM/FM Pen Radio (thank you, eBay, lol) and a few trinkets from the Camilla Hall flea market. Chief among the finds there are a DayTimer... a real one, though it's hardly got any pages in it... a document holder, a paper cutter (yay! for trimming photos and for scrapbooking), and a(nother) data bank/PIM device. I got it so I could "jot" little files down anywhere/any time, including times when I am unwilling to carry my PDA around. I have a couple of work anecdotes that I made a note of that way... I'll transcribe them onto here in a bit.

One thing I'll have to do, though, is be VERY careful about what I post regarding work. The HIPAA laws are, justifiably, strict. So the only way I'm going to be able to recount ANYthing at all is if I can remove all possible identifying information first. Then, if the story still makes sense once those details are excised, I'll post it.

For example. Our doctors dictate notes about every patient after each appointment. Patients can opt to have copies sent, not only to their primary-care doctor, but to any other specialists that they're seeing. The dictations are spoken onto a microcasette tape, which is picked up by the transcribing service and typed up. This creates regular letters that can be mailed out. ("Dear [primary care doctor], I had the pleasure of seeing [patient] in our clinic on [date]. [Patient] is an [age]-year-old [ethnic/race] [gender] with a medical history of [etc etc etc]...", followed by the details of this particular appointment.)

One of my job tasks is to take those dictations and see that they're mailed out to all the parties they're addressed to. That's how I discovered that one particular patient is seeing no fewer than FOURTEEN specialists. Not only were they seeing the rheumatologist who dictated the letter, but it was addressed to a truckload of other specialists including endocrinologists, dermatoligists, nephrologists (kidneys), ophthalmologists, and a freaking ton of other ___-ogists that I can't even remember at this point. And, I was pleased to see, one of the copies of the dictation was being mailed to the patient, as well. If I was seeing a zillion ____-ologists, you'd better BELIEVE I'd want a copy of the dictation for my own files, so I'd have a clue of what was being discussed regarding my treatment and so I could be proactive about having a say in it. Apparently, this patient abides by the same philosophy. Good.

We had an, errr, colorful situation a few days ago when one of our patients ran out of pain meds. Unfortunately, said patient's doctor is currently on vacation, so we couldn't just have him refill the Rx and tell the Pharmacy to fill it. Even more unfortunately, the patient became irate and didn't believe us when we explained that we'd have to take some extra steps to get the prescription refilled, because of the original doctor being on vacation. Said patient proceeded to call the clinic 6 or 7 times in the space of about two hours, hollering, swearing, and threatening to come to the clinic and wreck the place. It reached a point where our practice manager had us document just what the patient was saying, because if the comments were dire enough, the patient could be discharged from the practice.

I happened to be the one who answered the phone for one of those tirades. Whee, did I get my ear bent! But I couldn't help but feel sorry for the patient, in a way, because their anger was inspired by the fact that they were in pain, without relief in sight. So I kept my mouth mostly shut and stayed diplomatic when I did have something to say, and what do you know... the patient went from hollering and swearing to just plain hollering. I can't say the situation was diffused, exactly, but it did manage to get toned down a few notches. Hey, I'll take it! ;o)

Anyway, off I go. Time to post this. I'll have other stuff to post later, I'm sure, but for now it's time to send this note.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

This afternoon, I went out to get some white socks for work.

It's not that I don't own white socks. It's just that compared to the brand-new white sneakers that I ALSO just got for work, none of the socks I already have quite match up in the "new-looking" category. Even the newest of the pairs I already have don't compare favorably to the bright-white new footwear.

So I figured, heck. Brand-new scrubs. Brand-new sneakers. Might as well have brand-new EVERYTHING and make a nice, fresh start, right?

With that in mind, off I went to BJ's. I found a nice parking place not far from the store entrance.

Well, I THOUGHT it was nice. Except for the silver giant-sized SUV parked with its tires ON THE DIVIDING LINE of the adjacent parking spot.

Belatedly, I realized that I didn't have the entire parking space to work with, because the mega-car was taking up part of what should have been a completely empty space. "Good thing my vehicle is so small", I thought, as I sqeezed my little car into the remaining open area as best I could. But when I opened my car door, it tapped the door of the giant SUV.

A woman in the passenger seat of said SUV went ballistic. "THIS IS A BRAND NEW CAR!!!", as she came out and made a great show of inspecting the NON-damage. I barely touched her freakin' monster-sized door (a door which is bigger than my whole car, I hasten to add). The only sign of anything on her door was the splashes of mud that came from her own driving through, well, mud. My Hot-Wheels-sized car left no mark on her mammoth one.

I bit my tongue. I actually did have to think to myself, "What would Jesus do? What would Jesus do?" to keep from responding in kind. Particularly as I forced myself to squeeeeze out of a HALF-opened car door, just to make perfectly sure that my ordinary car didn't sully the personal space of her monster truck again. You can imagine how much my back spasms, which have been acting up mightily during the past couple of weeks, really appreciated that maneuver. :oP

Anyhow, I'm thinking that Jesus would NOT have answered her back with, "You geometrically-challenged, ignorant, drama-queen harridan. If your ultra-large, gas-guzzling, Bin-Laden-enriching conspicuous-consumption behemoth hadn't been parked with its tires ON the dividing line, maybe I could have opened my door without it coming anywhere near your environmentally unfriendly, fossil-fuel-wasting ego machine. And by the way, your lawyer will be hearing from my chiropractor. I hurt my back while getting out of my car in the 6" of space you thoughtfully forgot to deprive me of".

Yeah, I'm reasonably sure that Jesus wouldn't have offered up that particular set of observations as His response. So I just kept my mouth shut and let her rant and complain her way back into her passenger seat. Then I went in the store and bought my socks.

Thank goodness, by the time I finished my purchase, Ms. Bucketmouth and her giant car were gone. I wasn't looking forward to getting back INTO my car using the same miniscule amount of space as I'd had available to me when I got out.

Anyhow, I just needed to vent about that. Nasty people are annoying.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Phantoms' first playoff game of the season is in the books. We defeated the Norfolk Admirals, 3-1. This was the first game of a best-of-seven series. We have home ice advantage, but the games will be played in a 2-3-2 pattern. Tomorrow night is our second game, so we had BETTER focus on winning it. The last thing this team needs is to head to Norfolk for the next three games with the series tied 1-1.

I'm very proud of how the team came back to win after falling behind 1-0. They really, really buckled down. Not that they gave a less than full effort during the regular season, mind you, but tonight their full effort seemed several notches more intense.

I give the Phantoms the edge in this series, but in order to win, we're going to have to bring our A game every night. We had a more successful season and we're healthier overall [KNOCK WOOD] than Norfolk, and IMO those factors skew the odds in our favor a bit.
But I guarantee you that Norfolk is not going to go away quietly. So we're going to have to EARN wins in this series -- Norfolk's certainly not going to give any ground without a battle.

The winner of this series will have to face either Binghamton or Wilkes-Barre. Ugh. Those two teams BOTH gave us fits all freakin' year. I hope they have a 7-game series with multiple OTs every freakin' night. ;o) Or shall I say that I wish them the same sort of physical first round that we had last year (vs. Norfolk, incidentally), that left us all kinds of worn down when we faced our next opponent. And may we be the team that's fresher and healthier going into the second round, this year, instead of the exhausted, black-and-blue, walking-wounded team. That's not asking too much, is it? ;o)

Somehow, I have a feeling that even if Bingo and W-B wallop the living daylights out of one another, our own path to the next round will involve compiling an impressive collection of bruises of our own. Norfolk is a physical team, and so are we. Beating them will mean withstanding whatever they can throw at us. That will be no mean feat.

Go, Phantoms -- win on Saturday, too! :o)