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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