Monday, August 24, 2015

Through Their Eyes

These are two of my granddaughters, Tori (short for Victoria) and Addison (not short for anything). They are originals in every way and as different from each other as they can be while still being very much alike in that they are young and enthusiastic.

I learn so much of the world from their perspective and thus find a new way to relate to the world through their eyes.

For instance, I didn't know that school lockers (one of Tori's favorite things about going back to school this year) had accessories. My old lockers were pretty much of a type: gray, attached to a school full of others, and a place to keep my books, papers, coat, and galoshes for those rainy days, right next to my umbrella, which I seldom used. One semester my locker was where I kept my crutches. I used them for a couple of days after I severely sprained my ankle during gym class but after that I left them in my locker and only used them to arrive and leave school. I didn't need them for sympathy or perks, although they were useful for getting out of class a little early to avoid the crush in the hallways and keep me from being crushed and damaged even worse. I felt the crutches would be better in my locker.

Going up and down the stairs was an experience and I learned a valuable lesson: using the handrails and hopping got me up and down the stairs faster. I had awesome glutes that semester from hopping up and down the stairs, especially the up part.  Back to the subject at hand: locker accessories.

Tori wanted (didn't need and didn't have, but wanted) wallpaper for her locker. I talked to Megan, her mother, afterward and she told me that Tori had asked for a pencil holder and I think a mirror for her locker. I'd already gone shopping online to find the right wallpaper for Tori. I should've asked Megan what color she settled on for the pencil holder and mirror. At any rate, I sent a package of wallpaper with a pattern of sunglasses in various colors on a black background because everything goes with black. I also go Tori a set of mustache magnets for her locker because the locker is metal after all, which is what makes the wallpaper so fascinating. It is plasticized and attaches to the inside of the locker with magnets. What a concept. I wish I'd thought of it because then I could give up wage slavery and still be able to write and read lots of books.  Oh, and bake. Baking is an expensive habit when you get into quality ingredients and tools.

Anyway, back to the locker. What a concept. There are rugs for the bottom of the locker and shelves that attach to the bottom of the top little niche to provide extra shelf space as well as little shelves with legs that add space and keep wet galoshes and such from contaminating the rest of the locker. Great idea. There are mirrors and boards with dry erasers and heaven help me chandeliers and lights that turn on and off with a motion sensor and are battery operated. (Just a note, do not buy Procell batteries. They do not last, unless you're into throwing your money away in the landfill or other ecologically responsible place. Procell batteries just plain suck! You heard it here first. I have experience.)

A chandelier in a locker. Things sure have changed since my day when the height of decorating panache was composed of pictures taped to the inside of the locker door. Live and learn.

There are a lot of color and pattern choices, some cheap and some more expensive. There are kits with pencil holders, trash cans, magnets, flower decorations, lights, rugs, wallpaper, and anything a kid's heart desires to accessorize and trick out the school locker. The mind boggles. My mind boggled and delighted in the choices. We truly have become all about the accessories, and I would not have known had I not asked Tori what she would like to have that she didn't need but wanted all the same. I'm a grandmother after all, and Tori is one of my favorite granddaughters.

The other favorite thing about going back to school for Tori is a longer lunch hour. She's in junior high school now and is moving into a very different world from elementary school where Addison remains for now. Tori is in the 7th grade and Addison is in the 4th grade.

When I asked Addison the same question about what she wanted, but didn't need I found out she is still my little pink princess. A pink lunchbox that is all glittery with -- you guessed it -- pink glitter. What else? I didn't have much to go on beyond pink and glittery and plastic, but I found a lunch box that should make her eyes light up with pink glee. A glittery pink plastic lunch box. I almost got the one with fairy wings that was glittery with pink and purple, but decided on the strictly pink because she is all about the pink. Nothing new to learn there. A lunchbox is a lunchbox is a lunchbox and carries food from home to school. It is a far cry from the red tartan plaid lunch box I got for school before I decided to move to the paper bag because it was less generic and wasn't red plaid tartan. No more sour milk in my not so cold keeping thermos bottle with the red plain tartan design and no more carrying the clunky lunchbox that wasn't the one I wanted, which I think was Wonder Woman or Superman or something like that. One of those lunchboxes cost more than my mother was willing to shell out for me, so red plaid tartan lunchbox it was -- until I convinced her that a paper sack was better and I could pay the nickel for milk out of my meager allowance (25 cents a week). It was the 1960s and everything was cheaper then, but the 5 cents was for milk and chocolate milk didn't cost more. I prefer water these days, but you live and you learn -- and hopefully evolve.

I had a good time filling my granddaughters' requests and I like the view from their eyes. Tori is all about the sports and her favorite subject is PE. Addison likes mathematics and art class. I can relate to both . . . almost. I loved PE when I was working the parallel bars or the pommel horse but was less fond of PE when it came to showering in a big gang shower with the other girls. I was not into group nudity, not even with soap and water. I'd rather keep my sweat and finish my classes than get into the shower naked with all those other girls and I could only manage 1 red flood a month. The teacher got suspicious when I had a period every single week and wanted to have the school nurse take a look at me if I was bleeding every single week.

The only way to use the private shower was if Aunt Flo was in town.

Shyness in communal showers is to be expected when one is shy about being naked with others and feels that she is the ugliest girl in school. And the fattest. Well, I wasn't the fattest because that was Shelley who had massive old lady boobs at 13 and rolls of fat from where they disappeared underneath her gargantuan mammaries all the way down to just above her pubic hair. I heard how the girls made fun of her and I didn't want to be the new butt - or breast - of the joke. I didn't know that I had a lovely figure or that I was not fat until I got older and saw pictures of me from that period of time. I had a daily reminder that I had a pretty face and what a shame it was attached to such a fat and misshapen body from my mother who was reed slim and had perfect breasts. Dad may not have seen her naked, but I did -- many times.

Anyway, talking to the girls about school and what they looked forward to the next day was as much an eye-opener as a stroll down memory lane. I always learn something new talking to the girls and I learn what about them is like me. Tori loves baseball. So did I when I was her age -- and younger, although she plays on an all-girl traveling team and I played as the only girl on a boys baseball team. Then again, I lived in Panama on an Army base and the rules were a little more fluid for a girl who could win first base every year for 3 years against every boy on the team.

Addison loves art and math and science, just as I do. I love English (Language Arts for her), but I can give a little since she does love to read. I even enjoyed explaining what was special about Language Arts and we chatted about learning a language, which is what I thought Language Arts is all about. Live and learn.

She wants to learn Italian, but I think she means Spanish because she does know some Spanish and absolutely nothing about Italian. They are similar languages, but not the same. She would also like to learn French and Spanish and maybe German, but she has time. At least she wants to learn. Now she knows a few more words in Italian and some in Spanish and she knows the difference. She will remember because she is a very bright little girl. She's in the accelerated classes -- just like I was. She is my granddaughter for sure.

The girls are short, but they may still grow, and they are definitely fascinating to get to know and a joy to chat with -- even when Addison would rather go to a pool party instead of talking to her grandmother. I understand. I was young once too and I would have preferred going to the pool party than talking to my grandmother. She went to the party and we talked later after, Megan assured me, she had had a nap and eaten so that she would be less moody and grumpy.

The girls are very different and yet still the same. They love to sing. They love to perform. And they give me the greatest gift of all -- their time. For me, next to seeing the world through their very young eyes, getting to know them and chatting for a little while is priceless. It's what being a grandmother is all about.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Freed Mind

"Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. . . ."

It is not only when I sleep that my mind unravels the knitted sleeve of care or solves the problems that plague me during my waking hours, but when my mind is set free from the constant struggle of understanding the why and wherefore of everyday life. When I do mechanical or repetitious tasks and my fingers/hands are busy, my mind is set free to knit up the raveled sleeve of care or just simply go and solve puzzles and problems, answer questions that have baffled the world -- and me -- for centuries.

Or years.

Or decades.

Or just because. Things that make you go, Hmmmm.

It is at these freed mind times that answers come unbidden, like that 3 a.m. moment in the midst of deep sleep when you sit up in bed and cry out, "Excelsior!" or "Tom Hanks" or whatever the mind has been cranking away on when the answer was on the tip of the tongue and couldn't be grasped. Sherlock Holmes is still a virgin! Jon Snow is released from his vows. The skid mark is a result of men's favorite past time - farts! All the answers are clear at last.

I like to watch series that I've watched before and enjoyed. The second or third time through I pick up little details that have been lost in the overwhelming amount of input that happens on the first watching. Like Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch.

In series 3 when he has at last taken a girlfriend in order to get close to the world class international blackmailer it wasn't until Sherlock was in the hospital after being shot by Mary Watson that Janine mentions that they should have had it off at least once, which is Brit speak for, "We should have had sex at least once." Sherlock, or Sherl, is still a virgin and he has been a gentleman, although I'd rather say that Sherlock has avoided the messy romance stuff that goes on between the sheets. After all, he has been off cultivating a drug habit to convince the blackmailer that his pressure point is drugs when all the time it is and has always been John Hamish Watson, his best and onliest friend. I missed that still a virgin bit the first time through, but caught it on the second. The words and the Eureka! moment floated up to the forefront of my mind while cross stitching, or maybe it was when I was mindlessly playing solitaire online. Either way, the brakes were not engaged and my mind churched up that little titbit.

Then there were the skid marks, those unsightly fecal stains on men's underwear, the brown stain that freaked out Miranda on Sex and the City and have baffled women forever. It's a simple formula. Men fart. Men create games around farts. Men are unbridled and unleashed when they fart. It is during the fart that the skid mark begins. The sphincter loosens, the gas is released, and any fecal material locked within the sphincter's folds is also released to stain the pristine white of the Fruit of the Looms. Skid mark!

The only other possible reasons for skid marks have origins in less than fastidious wiping after BMs and rumps that have been ranged too vigorously and too often. Take your pick.

And that, fellow readers, brings us to Jon Snow's death at the end of the last season of Game of Thrones when his brothers in the Night's Watch unceremoniously, and I would say viciously, cut him down in the prime of his life.

When a ranger dies, his brothers eulogize him with "And now his watch is ended." I seriously doubt that Jon Snow will ever be eulogized since he had so blatantly and openly rescued the free folk from the King of Winter and let them through the gate to settle in the Gift on Night's Watch lands. That was a very unpopular move and his brothers expressed their opinions by stabbing Jon Snow almost as many times as the senators stabbed the tyrant Julius Caesar in the last days of Rome's greatness. Romans could not abide a tyrant, although dictator was an accepted position. Jon Snow was the Watch Commander and deserved to be Commander. He had been tapped by Mormont as Commander to be when he was alive, before the black brothers killed him. Mutiny they would have called it on the high seas, but it was unthinkable on land or sea, and even in the air if the Westerosi had the power of flight. Allowing the Wildlings through the gate when the Watch has been keeping them out for centuries was more than the black brothers could take, hence turning on the one man who can protect them from the White Walkers.

Jon's watch has ended. He is dead. Melisandre, the Red Witch, will bring him back to life because that is in her Lord's power.  R'hllor the Red God will grant Jon Snow a return to life to finish his job, but it won't be the job of the Commander of the Night's Watch -- or maybe it will - but Jon Snow is no longer bound by his oath. His watch is ended. He died. He was murdered by his black brothers and is now free to take a wife, bear children (maybe?), and sow his wild oats.

He is also free to return next season with short hair and wow audiences while he joins with Danaerys Targaryen and the dragons to fulfill his destiny of defeating the King of Winter. This may or may not be what George R. R. Martin has in mind for the final chapter, but this does make sense, even though Martin tends to kill off his stars in the bloodiest manner.

Jon Snow may or may not be Azor Ahai, the prince of prophecy, come to defeat the White Walkers forever, but at least he will be in a position to fulfill his part of the legacy he was given since he is the son of Leanna Stark and Rheagar Targaryen. He is the union of Ice and Fire. Azor Ahai may be Danaerys, but she will need to unite with the Prince of Ice, Jon Snow, in order to beat back the Winds of Winter.

There are two times when my mind is most fertile and active. One is when performing tasks that leave my mind free of constraints to shuffle the data and latch onto answers such as those above. The other is that time between true sleep and waking when I doze and slip easily into REM sleep and my dreams are at their most vivid. I don't get much in the way of refreshing rest, but at least I finally have a path to the answers.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, August 10, 2015

An Excess of Almonds

I had 2 egg whites in the fridge. I know they will keep practically forever in the freezer, but I needed to do something with them and there was a recipe that stayed on the edge of my mind, maybe because the recipe was always on my computer on a tab that kept popping up. Almond cloud cookies.

The recipe was fairly simple and it would give my 2 egg whites a place to end up.

I'm a fairly good cook and baker and I pride myself on the finished products that come out of my kitchen. I fearlessly go where no cook has ever gone before in many cases, like the time I decided to make corned beef in my refrigerator. That went really well. I love corned beef hash, corned beef sandwiches, hot corned beef, corned beef in every permutation, especially when it ends up with me eating it. I love almonds the same way and I'd never tried working with a 10-ounce lump of what is essentially marzipan (almonds processed with sugar into a paste).

The almond cloud cookie recipe I used requires two kinds of almond extract: regular pure almond extract and bitter almond extract (smells like cyanide or rather cyanide smells like bitter almonds). I took my brand new bottle of bitter almond extract from the drawer and set it on the counter while I collected the egg whites and a few other things from the fridge. I turned around juggling the egg white container (BPA-free plastic) and knocked the bottle of extract to the floor, flooding the floor and my senses with the overpowering aroma of almonds. Well, that bottle was ruined. The fall onto the ceramic tiles resulted in a broken bottle cap and most of the contents spreading quickly across the kitchen floor. I mopped up the oil, but the scent lingered on.

It still lingers on because it is an oil without alcohol and oils do not evaporate quickly. The kitchen smells of almonds now 2 days later, and it's not just the cookies, which also smell wonderful. I'll have to buy another bottle to replace the damaged one. Probably best to get 2.

Anyway, if this is what cyanide smells like, it's no wonder that criminals -- and the Feds -- use cyanide. It smells pleasant even though you die when you drink it in a cocktail or bite down on that faux tooth or cyanide capsule. What a way to go. It's rather like coming and going at the same time, at least from a gustatory standpoint.

The cookies still got their shot of bitter almond oil and pure almond extract and I have 2 more cans of almond paste (marzipan) to use again before the cap-less bottle gets spilled again. I think it might be a wonderful oil to rub on the wooden cabinets to keep them from getting dried out and just because it smells so good. It smelled good when I put the almond paste into the mixer, added about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar and turned it on. The almond extracts and the egg whites and a dash of salt went in after the lump of almondy goodness was more like pebbly sand until the egg whites turned the mass into a lovely slurry that I scooped out and onto the greased cookie sheet before I dusted them with powdered sugar and put them in the oven where the aroma was intensified by the heat.

Yes, I did try the cookies before they were completely cooled. I did wait a decent amount of time so I didn't burn my tongue, but they were good. I still have some in the cookie jar on the kitchen counter if you'd like a taste of what crisp around the edges and soft and luscious in the middle. It pays to learn to cook -- and to stretch your skills to a new recipe.

Overlaid with the almond scent today is the scent of pepperoni, garlic, mushrooms, butter, and cheese since I decided to make calzone for supper. That's another aroma I like and it was my first time making calzone dough from scratch. Delicious, although I did have to clean the over afterwards. Some of the olive oil in the pesto I used as a base for the ingredients smoked up the inside of the oven. Since the oven was still hot, it seemed a good idea to clean it. I would not need the oven for the next 3 hours. I'd be busy eating my calzone and working on a new editing project happy as a clam.

I wonder, are clams happy?  How does one tell?

There will always be mishaps in the kitchen if you spend enough time in it cooking and baking, but at least the mishaps don't end up on anyone's plate -- or in the garbage. I don't have any animals to feed those kinds of mistakes and my mistakes are more of the spilling variety than the cooking disaster variety.

I bought more peaches today. I bought peaches earlier this week, but those are all gone. I could not resist the sweet, melt in my mouth, juicy peaches, so I ate them. I bought more so that I can make peaches and cream ice cream, peach clafouti (French cakey cobbler, and my grandmother's peach cobbler recipe. I have the iron skillet and I know how to use it. I also have some baker's sugar to go on top.

No, I will not use the homemade peaches and cream ice cream. Growing up, whenever Gram made peach cobbler, we put our pieces in a bowl, poured on some cold milk, and stirred in a bit of vanilla extract. It sounds weird, but try it. You'll like it.

Yes, I still do occasionally put a piece of cornbread in a bowl or glass of milk and eat it that way too. My dad was a country boy and he did it that way. He also stirred maple syrup into peanut butter to spread on bread or toast. I sometimes do the same thing with honey. Yummy.

Food is good for you, but don't forget to play with it from time to time. There's nothing wrong with playing with your food as long as you don't decorate the walls (or the kitchen floor) with it -- either on purpose or by a clumsy accident.

Well, that's all for this week's food diary. I have editing to do.

That is all. Disperse. 

Friday, August 07, 2015

Hot Time in the Old Office Tonight

Oh, the webs we weave when we practice to deceive.

It's also not a good idea to let employees check all the databases, especially after being told that a certain function is used to generate statistics.

Statistics are data and thus are immutable -- unless one is an employer bent on making sure that upper administrative levels get all the money and wage slaves get as little as possible.

Today, I decided to run the statistics through all the databases available to me through the company. I had just seen my weekly statistics for the week ending July 31st and do not remember seeing any of those numbers. I have been told how the numbers are derived, so I decided to find out for myself. Always go to the source -- unless the source is bogus.

I ran the numbers through every available permutation for the week ending July 31st and, following their stated logic, three weeks back, and then four, and then five. I could not find validation for ANY OF THE STATISTICS I HAD JUST BEEN SENT. Not on the date of transcription, the date of dictation, or the date of review. None of the numbers matched no matter what I did, not even when I pulled out my calculator, pencil, and paper to do the numbers by hand. The numbers did not exist in any available database.

Someone is obviously cooking the books and they're roasting them into carbon ash.

Is this the way to run a company, especially an international company with thousands (and probably tens of thousands when India and Pakistan are included) of employees?

Evidently, the answer is yes.

I wonder if the IRS or the Dept of Labor know about THIS particular weenie roast? I wonder if the lawyer for the class action lawsuit against this company knows about this little development in the way the company generates the numbers in order to pay (or rather NOT pay) their employees? We could be looking at a much bigger lawsuit with a much larger pool of employees and several felony violations that would bring the company down. Am I willing to deny the company elite a job and a vacation to a federal facility? Nope!

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Not an Isolated Incident or Situation

One of my favorite lines from a book comes from The Hogfather. by Terry Pratchett.  That would be Sir Terry Pratchett. Death tells his granddaughter that if you grind the universe up to a powder and put it through the finest sieve you would not find a single molecule (or atom) of justice. Justice, like fair play and honest bosses/businesses, is a lie, the kind of lie one tells oneself to be able to make it through the day to the next day and the day after that. It is like the lies we tell our children couched in fairy tales so that hope is born and the ember of that hope tended so we can keep going from day to day. Justice. Honesty. Fair. Freedom. Equality.  These words have meanings we think we understand, but seldom do those meanings have any weight in the outside world -- unless we fight to make them real.

The real truth is that of the jungle. The strong prey on the weak and the strong in business keep the weak down to continue preying on them, much like a warehouse full of bodies hooked up to nutrients and bled to feed the vampires. To those bosses, the employees are little more than slaves, cows to be milked and slaughtered to feed them, while the employees get the scraps. The guts and debris left over when they are done carving out their choice cuts. Socialism, equality, mercy, charity, decency, honesty, fairness do not figure onto the bottom line. In this particular class struggle, no one moves up unless they are ruthless enough to climb over the bodies of their peers so they too can dine at the table from the choice cuts.

If you thought my complaints about the company where I work are only mine, think again. It seems there is a class action lawsuit afoot to address some of the issues I have mentioned on this blog. It can be found here.  At last, something is being done. The MTs/MLSs are angry and they aren't going to take it any more.

Reminds me of Network, the movie where the news broadcaster said the same thing. The only thing is that he was paid more than the slave wages MTs/MLSs currently earn.

Go team!

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Whip Me, Beat Me, Make Me Write Bad Checks

No, this is not a French tickler. It's a male cat penis. Those barbs are actually barbs and very sharp.

Have you ever seen cats mate? The male mounts the female and sinks his fangs into her neck while savaging her vagina while he humps and pumps. It's a sadomasochist's dream -- a painful and ugly dream, but a dream in the face of reality all the same.

By the way, those barbs are sharp and I think they're made of the same material that makes up nails, sharp, filed, pointed, dagger-like nails. Ooh, hurt me good.

I believe that is what was used on me earlier this week when I found out the latest way in which my bosses are raping me financially. It goes like this: statistics are based on lines typed/edited, but the statistics are also not available for review by the employee because the statistics that show up in the neat little doohickey we are supposed to use is not set up to detect when a job was typed, only when it went through QC (quality control) and was flagged or corrected and points deducted. Let's forget for a moment that often the way in which the employee is corrected is often wrong since their understanding of the grammar, punctuation, and spelling rules are different from old dinosaurs like me, and I have actually read the AAMT Style Guide (which is the bible of the medical transcription industry). We may request a reversal of errors counted against the employee, which is how they keep slapping us with outdated data (2 weeks are allowed for reversals to take effect). Now I find that the statistics that I have been told to rely on are not reliable.

Does it hurt enough yet?

Do it harder!

Statistics -- the ones the company rely on -- are based on the date that the mistakes were actually made and not the date when they show up on the erroneous database. Ooh, deeper, harder!

By the time I had finished navigating the erroneous database it was obvious that there is no way an employee can win against their crooked system. The statistics that I have relied on are about as useful as tits on a boar. Oh, goody.

Just when I thought I couldn't be reamed any more, they found a way. Well, actually, they already had a way, but that didn't become apparent until I questioned the statistics they send me every week. I showed a very different set of statistics and emailed my boss to show her (cut & paste) why. That's when the news came out that I had been relying on an unreliable database only there for employee peace of mind, the kind of peace of mind one has when one is fed lies and reamed without the benefit of Vaseline or K-Y.

Consider me reamed again.

Oh, well, what does it matter?

I spoke with one of the employee herders last night when she asked me to fill in at one of the other hospitals to clear their backlog. As we bantered back and forth, I found out that she used to make $25/hr doing what I have been doing for over 30 years. I used to make $3600/mo, but that is not possible any more, not with the new statistics and unreliable databases and supervisors and managers and corporate bean counters. I'm lucky if I make $15/hr and that's working flat out and picking my way through the mine field set up to explode in my face -- or my backside -- at the merest brush of air.

I have decided at last to supplement my income -- by going back to writing. At least I control more of the product and my results and the only people I have to deal with about the quality of my work are editors who remind me of my grammar, sentence structure, story architecture, and punctuation. That I can handle.

And I'm getting back into editing -- for select clients in case you wanted to jump on the bandwagon and load me down with so much editing I won't be able to do my own writing since I am engaged in wage slavery day job and still have to make my bills and necessary expenses. Sorry, but that is the way it goes. Wage slavery Day jobs require actually working and being there a set number of hours per day -- or every day if one works for my employers (calls when I'm asleep, calls when it's my day off, calls during work to cover their collective asses and bail them out, calls, calls, calls . . . ad infinitum ad nauseam). They keep telling me what an asset I am to their company while stripping me of every possible penny I have already earned because I cannot and have not met their statistical models with any effectiveness.

Hurt me some more.

Oh, well, it was ever thus. And probably always will be -- until I learn to game their system as well as they do.

And so the feline penile barbs raking my insides to force my body to dance to its evil raking tune. Just in case throughout this rambling you have forgotten what this is about, please let me refresh your memory. 

They are designed to rough up the walls of the female cat's vagina, supposedly to stimulate ovulation. That's akin to 1000 maniacs making sure the virgin is impregnated with their evil spawn.

It looks small and somewhat harmless, but the pain is in the barbs. Pity the female who is faced with a double-headed barbed penis. Those barbs hurt so good.

The only lubricant is the one you add yourself. The problem is there is no time for lubricant when the perpetrator comes at you from behind in the dark while you're bent over looking for the flashlight.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Blogtalk Radio: The Women Show

I just finished listening to The Women Show with Bennett Pomerantz. His guests yesterday were Valerie Douglas and Mary Ann Peden-Coviello. A third author was supposed to be on, but canceled at the last minute because of a family emergency.

The topic was Amazon reviews and it is worth listening to even though the authors involved did not stay on topic the whole time, veering off into cover art (professional or amateur) and editing, choosing genres, etc. I had imagined that the co-hosts would get into the topic of Amazon's policy book reviews, algorithms, and why certain authors cannot review the books of authors they know, but that was not touched on at all. Maybe a topic for another time.

Since I was unable to post a comment on the show, I've decided to do so here regarding some of their discussions. As I said, the show is worth listening to. I applaud Bennett Pomerantz for being willing to disagree with his co-hosts. Bravo!

Now on to my comment:

As a reviewer, "honest reviews" are not always honest. One of the reasons I quit reviewing professionally is because I was told I had to make all my reviews positive. My reviews were always polite, but always honest. If I didn't like a book I said so, and vice versa. Polite is one thing, but telling me I had to leave a positive review wasn't honest and was not going to happen.

Having said the above, not all reviews are honest reviews. It's easy to tell. I have read reviews where it was obvious the reviewer had not read the book at all and the ignorance showed in what they wrote about the book. I have a few of those on some of my books. There is no guarantee the review will come down even though it is not honest or accurate and obvious the reviewer either had an axe to sharpen on the author and had not read the book. Like Joe Konrath said, ebooks are forever. So are reviews: good, bad, and indifferent.

I do not believe that asking family members or friends to read and review one's book is dishonest or a bad practice. One of my cousins, who up to this point is "...not a book reader," read one of my books and loved it. I urged her to write a review. I didn't specify what kind of review, just that she should write a review. The same goes for anyone, friend, family, or stranger, who reads one of my books. Write about what you read and how it affected you. One's first critics are often family and friends. It's not asking them for a review that is dishonest, but asking for a certain kind of review that's dishonest.

As writers, we must use our words carefully and, as Anne Rice demonstrated amply when she went off on an Amazon reviewer after a negative review a few years ago, responding to reviewers personally is always a mistake. So is not differentiating between the kinds of reviews a writer asks for.

Yes, it is wrong to stack the deck. No, it is not wrong to request that the people who have read a book review the book, whether they be family, friend, or stranger. I am all for readers taking the time to review a book they've read -- and review it honestly, but, as has been mentioned, they should READ the book first. The whole book and not just a blurb or regurgitating what someone else said about a book before reading it. And reviews are not the place to settle a personal score. If one cannot separate the person from the author/book, then one should not review the book. /end of comment
Many people read books, but few ever write reviews. The reviewers often are writers. I review books of people I know personally, and often people with whom I have had differences, but my personal feelings do not enter into the review process. If I find my anger or dislike of someone is too strong to remain neutral in a review, I don't post the review. I have had that happen with only one or two authors over the years. I recused myself on those occasions. Luckily, it does not and did not happen often. 

Amazon has become a bit draconian in their review process, especially with regard to authors not reviewing the books of authors they know personally. There is no accurate algorithm for sifting out the axe-grinders and the boot lickers and banning all authors reviewing personal friends who also happen to be authors is not necessarily the best policy. If Amazon cannot write an algorithm to get rid of negative reviews from people who have not taken the time to read what they're reviewing, they should step back and let nature -- and the Internet -- finds a level. 

Good and bad reviews come and go. Yes, they are forever on the Internet -- as long as there is technology available to access the reviews -- but ultimately reviewing a book is subjective, a personal like or dislike (not necessarily of the author) of the reviewer. There will be ugly reviews. Count on it. Get used to it, writer. Take it like a duck in the rain. Let it roll off your back and then go write another book or story -- or even review. Keep it clean. Keep it honest. Be real.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Death and Immortality Before 30

I've been reading about the Persian empire, Sparta, Greece, and all things ancient. I even took a little while to watch some of Troy, which I have already seen, in 2004 when it debuted and several times since then. I like the scene where Achilles (Brad Pitt) kills Boagrius with a single sword thrust into his shoulder. Pure poetry, and not just because the 41-year-old Pitt was very buff and cut. That brings me to the point of this post -- the age of the actors and modern perceptions of what constitutes maturity and responsibility.

In ancient times, about the 4th or 5th century BCE, people didn't live as long as they do now. They were promised 3 score and 10 (70 years) because Christ has not been born and his words reported until several decades after his death in the early 1st century. Christ was 32 when he began his ministry, a mature man of his time, and at an age when most men had married, had children, and were probably expecting grandchildren. Thirty-two was well advanced in years even then. Even before he was crucified.

The world was a violent place. Wars were fought not from drones and but remote control in armored vehicles, but on the ground, face to face, and sword to spear. Men died early and they went to war early. Hollywood would have us believe that men were still children in their teens when in fact many men had been blodded at 16 or even earlier. Brad Pitt, no matter his physique, would have been an old man.

Think about it. If Ulysses had gone to war at 40, he would not have returned to his wife and 20-year-old son until he was 60. Not possible. He would have been in his late teens early twenties when he went to war and his wife barely 16. Even in the Middle Ages, women were given in marriage at 14 to 16 and were often betrothed before they could walk in many cases, but usually around the age of 3 in royal families. The poor married early as well and were often dead by 35. Forty was ancient in times when work was hard and food scarce during lean times. Even among royalty, women were worn out by childbirth, often having a child every year or two. All that birthing and nursing and breeding took its toll and childbirth was dangerous for child and mother, both often dying of fever, unsanitary conditions, or simply the luck of the draw -- or the favor or disfavor of the gods.

People in today's world equate maturity and responsibility with age, usually above 30, and often not at all in the 60s and 70s if current social conditions continue. Children are coddled until well into their 20s and often not released from mama's apron strings even in their twenties. Life happened much earlier -- and lasted all too little.

Men didn't need to go to the gym to get buff; they worked out with sword, spear, shield, and fighting from the earliest ages, going to war as soon as they were men, usually between 14 and 16. That is not something considered or even countenanced in our modern world. Children fighting other children or men in their 20s that have survived a war or three. Kings were younger as well, though some did live to the ripe old age of 40 and even fifty if they didn't actually fight on the battlefield but stayed behind the lines. Men -- and women -- learned early about life and began living it as soon as they could stand up and prove they could hold a sword. It is likely the real Achilles was in his late teens or early twenties when he sailed for Troy and fought during the 10 yars of the siege. He probably looked a lot more like the Brad Pitt who starred as Chris on Another World and would have been dead at the age he starred with Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in Thelma & Louise at 28. Young as he looked in those days, he would have been a dead man come the end of the seige at Troy, or very nearly the end.

The world is so different from the one that Hollywood portrays with old men like Sean Bean and Brian Cox playing the kings of Ithaca and Mycenae. It was a very different world. Helen would have been barely 16, or maybe even 17 or 18 when she wed Menelaus, Agamemnon's brother, and he not more than 2 or 3 years older. Those facts put a very different face on things as they were instead of how we see them.

And think of the cost of provisioning an army of 50,000 men for 10 years. They would have drunk rivers dry and descended like a plague of locusts on the fields around Troy. Foraging parties would have had to invade the surrounding countryside and relieve the peasants of their livestock and harvests, and may even have had to settle in and sow the fields around Troy and tend the crops while fishing the sea and surrounding rivers. The countryside would have suffered as the army foraged farther and farther afield to supply the men with sufficient food to keep fighting for 10 years. And there would ahve been children born to the women captured as slaves or brought in as camp followers. An army 50,000 strong would have had great needs and been none to polite about filling them.
It doesn't bear to think on the cost of war in those times, the great distances traveled, the hardships, the loss, the disease, and the devastation to the countryside where they fought. On foot or in chariots in the mud, the blood, and the sand beneath the ever present brazen stare of the sun. Troy is part of modern day Turkey and a long way to row from Greece to their shores, which is why it took 10 years for Odysseus to get back to Ithaca.

War is not the magnificent spectacle we thrill to watch on the big screen and war in ancient times was a far more brutal undertaking. It is obvious we cannot put things into ancient perspectives and all those old actors must either get jobs in the private sector or work behind the scenes while children fight their pretend wars and romance their pubescent lovers on the screen. The world has grown up, but our view of the ancient world has been twisted into something beyond our understanding.

I like movies as much as anyone, sometimes even more than most, but at least I understand it is make believe and only the stuff of modern day dreams. The truth would be far more difficult for many to take, especially as people seem to be intent on keeping the children irresponsible and childish well past the age of consent -- at least in terms of ancient social mores and practices. Still, it bears keeping in mind. The world then is far different than we imagine in the insulated and protected bubble in which man -- and woman -- lives.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Pat a Cake, Pat a Cake, Baker's Mom?

Well, I am not a man, but I am a baker. I've been using the gift I gave myself a couple of weeks ago: a KitchenAid stand mixer, the stationary kind. It was half off and I had waited long enough (about 30 years). I was due. New house. First stand mixer.

Although I would have been happy to have Mom's older mixer. It wasn't fancy, didn't have a lot of attachments (whisk, dough hook, wide blade beater, etc.), but was a good solid mixer that I could have used. Getting my masks here was difficult enough. Getting my siblings to send the mixer just was not going to happen, so KitchenAid. I've been using it a lot since it arrived a week or so ago.

The first thing I made was focaccia, the no need kind. Dump all the ingredients in the KitchenAid and mix on high for about 60 seconds. Scoop out into 9 x 13 baking pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom, cover, let rise for 60 minutes, bake for 35 minutes, and take it out of the oven. The real hard part is waiting for it to cool sufficiently to eat.

No, I didn't burn my tongue.

The first time, I left it in for 25 minutes, which is not enough time in my oven, so 35 minutes the next time, and it probably could have used another 5 minutes or so. I'm still learning how to deal with the oven when it comes to baking. Still, the focaccia was even better the second time, especially since I cut it into bigger pieces for sandwiches, and I added olives and rosemary to the batter. Next time I think I'll try roasted peppers and sun-dried tomatoes with dill and basil. I'm feeling adventurous.

The bread is great for grilling, toasting, frying in olive oil or butter (not margarine), and slathering with butter and garlic for garlic bread. I used it for sandwiches, after it's fried, grilled, or toasted. Makes a great sandwich bread and since it is so easy to make, quick too.

From quick focaccia to cherry clafouti. It's an eggy, custardy, pancakey kind of dessert rather like the sweet version of Yorkshire pudding, but French. I used very little sugar -- about 1/2 cup -- and it turned out smelling of almonds and vanilla and subtly sweet and eggy. I used the 1-1/2 pounds of bing cherries I got the other day and it was delicious, especially with a drift of confectioners sugar dusting the top. The picture above is from my first attempt at clafouti.

Clafouti can be used as a base for any kind of fruit, especially berries, but it works with bite-size apples, peaches, nectarines, or whatever fruit you have on hand. It's another quick recipe. Dump all the ingredients into a bowl, whisk like mad, pour over fresh fruit arranged in the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan (preferably with 2-inch sides) or (as I did) a 9- or 10-inch springform pan and bake for 45 minutes.

Now comes the hard part. After taking it out of the oven, let rest for 10 minutes, and serve. Goes great with ice cream (except I hadn't made any yet), dusted with confectioners sugar or fine dusting sugar (go wild with colored sugars), or simply serve as is. It is pretty enough without all the embellishments. Increase the sugar if you want a sweeter dessert. I was fine with the 1/4 cup of sugar. I like the eggy, pancakey taste scented with almond and vanilla. If you prefer another flavor, try vanilla and any kind of flavor that appeals to you and complements the fruit. I imagine you could even adapt the recipe by adding cocoa powder to the batter. You might have to increase the liquid a tad, but play with it. Be adventurous. After all, you can eat the mistakes.

Both recipes can be found at in the recipe section. Look for Blitz bread/No-Fuss Focaccia and clafouti. There's even a receipt for strawberry and rhubarb clafouti. It's a very versatile recipe.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Doctor Has the Power

Doctors protect our health. Doctors can be meticulous and thoughtful. Doctors attend to the details.

And doctors can make mistakes, especially when it comes to dictating reports.

I get it. Doctors have to see patients and attend conferences and do consultations and have to deal with insurance and therapists and have a lot on their plates. They hire staff do streamline their offices and deal with the minutiae that comes with their jobs. Dictating reports is far down their list of things to do, and often doctors want to get through the reports as quickly as possible so they rush, speaking faster than the speed of sound, speaking while they're eating or chatting with colleagues and staff and friends, speaking with colds and out in the wind and rain or while sitting at a light in traffic, speaking while the television is on or their child is practicing scales on the piano, trombone, or other musical instrument. Doctors speak when they can, often between patients, without thinking of what that will cost them in time and effort down the road.

The fact is that doctors forget the most important person: the medical transcriptionists who decipher what doctors dictate and get it right every single time because ultimately it is the patients who will suffer if a lab value, procedure, dosage, or part of the body is wrong.

Doctors do not realize--or maybe they have forgotten or never knew--what level of skills transcriptionists possess and use every day.

A medical transcriptionist must be skilled at typing/data processing first and foremost, but that is the least of her skills. A medical transcriptionist (MT or MLS for medical language specialist) must also be up to date on grammar, punctuation, spelling, and the use of computers since most dictation is done over the Internet; however, these are basic skills. We are not talking about high school grammar, but the grammar, punctuation, spelling, and style guides for medical transcription, which is a very different ball game from what is learned in high school or even college. Just as journalism and business use different style guides, medical transcription requires its own style guide.  But there are more skills involved in the MT's arsenal.

An MT must also be proficient in normal lab values for every test run by a doctor and hospitals so that when a normal lab value for a complete blood count (CBC) or liver function test (LFT) is wrong, the MT catches it, flags it, and returns it to the doctor or hospital for verification.

Medical terminology is another useful tool in the MTs arsenal and central to the job she does. It's not enough to know how to spell tibia and olecranon bursa and every other Latin-based word used in the medical profession, but the MT must also know where the tibia and olecranon bursa are and why on a radiology report that a CT of the pelvis would not include either the tibia or the olecranon bursa because one is a bone of the leg and the other is the membrane in the elbow. In addition to medical terminology obviously anatomy is another tool necessary for an MT to do the job correctly.  How many people on the street can tell the difference between the capitellum and the cerebellum and where both are located?

An MT must also be proficient in the tools used for operations and why a Bookwalter retractor would not be used in setting an humerus fracture. The tools used in major and minor surgeries are specific to each surgery. An Allis or Kocher can be used during the same operation, but each serves a different function just as the lancet and a scalpel. The equipment and tools used changes frequently and the MT must be proficient in knowing the latest techniques and tools, from robot-controlled surgery to an appendectomy, neither of which is simple.

Knowing which medications are used and in what quantities is crucial to patient safety and avoiding lawsuits as is whether or not a patient is allergic to a medication or group of medications, like sulfas and penicillins. Although it seems as though an MT would not be aware of a patient's history, even when it is often part of the report a doctor dictates, little things like a cephalosporin or statin allergy where a doctor dictates in the same report that the patient is prescribed Fortaz and Lipitor, both of which will kill or cause serious problems because one is a cephalosporin and the other a statin. The MT must also be familiar with the dosages of medications prescribed so that errors will not end up causing a mistake that can lead to a malpractice lawsuit if it is not caught, often by the MT, and reported to the doctor.

From brain surgeries as delicate as an aneurysm coiling to setting a break from a fall off the monkey bars at school, the MT types it all -- and knows a lot more than they are given credit for. Oncology drugs and treatments, the waveforms and epileptiform discharges on an EEG, the variable rates and states of the heart on EKG, skin grafting, the delicate bones in the hand, the difference between a floater and a posterior vitreal detachment, sizes of drains, and every single discipline and specialty in the medical service, as well as the the diagnoses and treatments for everything from a flu bug to schizophrenia are part of the knowledge and abilities of every MT.  With all that knowledge and expertise, every MT relies on the doctor to do his job and dictate clear and easily understood reports so that time is not lost and patient care compromised in the meantime.

The biggest hurdle that the MT must manage is the doctor who is too busy or tries to fit in dictating reports whenever he can. Is it because the doctor doesn't care about the patient or is it because he does not consider dictating the report as important as treating the patient or attending a morbidity and mortality conference? Whatever the reason, doctors are most often the part of the medical machinery that causes the most problems when it comes to accurately documenting patient care. I think it is because the doctor is not aware of how much time and effort costs when the report ends up back in the doctor's hands with blanks and questions about dosages, allergies, and discrepancies in the report he dashed off hours or days ago. The doctor has forgotten that there is a bottom line and a price to pay for hurrying through dictations and ultimately it is the patient who will pay.

When a doctor speaks too fast, mumbles and fumbles through a dictation, doesn't speak clearly, speaks when there is too much noise in the background, or doesn't read the chart before dictating, the doctor creates problems, not just with the timely processing of the dictation, but also the documentation of the patient's treatment. When English is the doctor's second language, that doctor has the added responsibility of speaking as clearly as possible, spelling out words difficult to pronounce correctly.

The MT listens to the report, typing everything the doctor says because each report is a legal document, correcting minor errors like grammar, punctuation, and style, but the report must be accurate as well as correctly typed and processed. Misdiagnoses, wrong dosages and medications, incorrect materials and equipment, and wrong lab values must be flagged and sent back to the doctor to correct before each error is finally documented as proof of the doctor's treatment and care of the patient. All of this information is admissible in a court of law if the doctor is ever sued for malpractice. It is more important to the patient who can be harmed by incorrect dosages and types of medication, treatment, and errors in lab values, or sites of surgery. Most, if not all, of these errors are preventable by the doctor speaking clearly and at a natural conversational rate of speed so that the report does not have to go through the MT, 2 or more quality control specialists, the hospital, and finally back to the doctor who rushed off the dictation in a spare moment and now must read the report and correct the errors, matching it against the patient's chart for a second, and often third time.

Not only has he wasted the time dictating the report, but the report has wasted the time of everyone that had to handle the information to try to tease out what the doctor said or meant to say, sending it back up the line to the doctor to correct before the report becomes a part of the patient's chart and cast in legal stone. Had the doctor taken the time to dictate the report clearly and accurately the first time, the report would not end up back on the doctor's desk to be corrected.

Every time an MT complains about a doctor who chronically wastes her or his time, it is not the MT whining or complaining for the sake of complaining, but a message to the doctor that patient care is at stake and valuable time has been lost by everyone that had to listen to the original dictation numerous times to puzzle out what the doctor meant, doing everything possible so that the report does not end up back on the doctor's desk to be corrected and the blanks filled in. Each time that happens, money and time are lost, but more importantly patient care and safety are lost or left in a holding pattern in limbo, which may also hold up care and proper treatment when the consulting doctor or therapist or surgeon has to wait for those blanks to be filled in and the errors corrected.

The bottom line is that patient care and safety are at stake every time the doctor rushes through a dictation because dictating that report is low on his list of priorities as he rushes to get it done. Rushing leads to errors and that leads to compromising the patient's care and safety -- and that often leads to malpractice lawsuits for the hospital and the doctor.

I ask you, doctor, is it worth it?

My grandmother taught me that doing a thing right the first time means I didn't make mistakes I would have to correct -- and answer for -- later. I learned that lesson early. It is a lesson we all must learn.

Most mistakes on hospital reports are not a result of mistakes made by Medical Transcriptionists, but are made by doctors who do not take the time to dictate slowly and clearly enough. Mispronounced words make it difficult for the MTs to do their jobs with the precision and skill of which they are able. An MT can only do so much. In the end, it always comes back to the doctor. The doctor ultimately has the power to make the MT's job easier or make more work for him/herself and avoid compromising the patient's care and safety.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Please, Sir, May I Have Another?

You would think that an employer would compensate the employee if there is insufficient work to cover the full shift, but we're talking about incentive-based work and showing up is no guarantee of compensation -- or work.

The problem is that the employee (that would be me) has to continue to sit in the chair (or at least mill about the machine) and check the status of work while on the clock, but not for more than 15 minutes at a time, during which the employee (that would be me again) clocks out to keep from screwing up the line count per hour rate which determines the actual pay rate for that week (ain't consistent pay a bitch?) and still keep milling or sitting and checking for work. What a system.

In the meantime -- the 15 minutes while notifying supervisor, lead, and whoever else is on the list that you're out of work while the clock is ticking -- the employee (that would be me) still must keep checking for work, but not on the company clock so as not to screw up the line counts per hour.

On the plus side, the employee can either make up the lost time on her own time (Goddess forbid she has a family or a life outside of being chained to the computer) or lose the time completely. Either way, the pay will suffer -- and so will your compensation for vacation time, which is miniscule at the start -- and pretty miniscule no matter how many years of indentured servitude you decide to keep going. What a system.

I am beginning to feel like the indentured servants working in the early days of the Colonies here in the New World who demanded that they not be served lobster more than twice a week in their contracts. After all, who really wants lobster every single day -- even if the lobsters were as big as a picnic table? Too much of anything gets old really fast -- however it tastes.

I have worked incentive most of my life, from data processing to medical transcription, and it has never been this difficult to earn a buck. At least the other companies paid a flat base rate and the employee (still me) wasn't out of pocket for lost time due to lack of work . . . until more recent years. Employers put lost time back into the employee's lap (still me) and it was up to the employee (me again) to make up the time in order to end up with a decent paycheck. Along with this little nugget of wonderful magnificence also came the death of holiday pay, affordable benefits, and any other perks (read: paid benefits). Well, they did still count holidays as holidays, and some even paid bonus rates (1-1/2 times the base rate) for working on the holidays (Goddess forbid you should ask for it off without life-threatening illness or 6 months advance notice *begging and supplication*), but paying holiday pay, unless it comes out of the employee's vacation time (that would be mine) was not going to happen. When did employers get so greedy and Simon Legree-ish?

As I have said before, any way an employer can screw you, they will -- and they don't mind paying bonuses to other employees (even though it would be more than they would pay the poor wage slaves -- over and over and ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

It doesn't pay to work for incentive -- no matter what they tell you when they dangle the big numbers like a fat, juicy carrot on a really long stick ahead of you while beating you with a metal rod behind.

What happened to employee rights?

Oh, right. That takes a union -- and there are no guarantees there either, as Beanie will tell you when her job was abolished 2 years before retirement and she was forced into another job for which she was not trained. She was, however, informed that if she did not take the job she would not be able to collect her retirement until she was 65 (or is it 67 now?). She's 50 years old. That's a long time without a paycheck, especially after 28 years of service to the state.

Unions take your money and sit there like a spider at the center of the web doing nothing until someone tugs on one of their lines. The spider races to the point where you're trapped in the sticky web and wrap you up in more sticky threads just to hold you in the larder while they suck you dry.

Unions had a purpose and high ideals once upon a time, but the leaders have gone down the same path as the employers using you to spin stronger webs and slowly suck you dry while not having much in the way of influence on the bigger spiders the used to fight with Sting before they devolved. I have very little respect for any union that kowtows to employers and foists a job on an employee (in this case my sister) they neither want nor are trained for.

At least for once my sister took my advice and ran with it. She Looked through the postings, found something she was interested in that was in her pay grade and step level, checked it out, and started today on a new path, with a bit of trepidation, but a whole lot happier and looking forward to her remaining 2 years before she retires. She was so enthusiastic about the new job that she said she might stay longer than 2 years. She has options now and the union nodded and keeps taking her money.

Yes, the unions may have outlived their usefulness. After all, they are part of the reason employers have gotten away with slashing benefits and gave the employers a reason to move offshore where Indians and Pakistanis were grateful for the pittance they call wages and where they can use and abuse a whole continent of people who are now better off than they were before the offshore movement.

What has happened to employers? Are they really so thoughtless that they would cut off the hands (that would be mine) that keep them in business? Seriously, do they really not understand that without the people who have the skills and experience to do the jobs they require, there would be nothing for them to be greedy over? No workers means no work which means no revenue for anyone -- including the bosses (that would be you).

I do believe that employers have forgotten to whom they owe their new cars, boats, houses, mistresses, etc. It's not a good idea to keep pissing on the people who do all the work and make you rich.

As more and more companies and corporations take away more benefits and simple basic services, they stir an already seething pot about to boil over and destroy everything the employees (that would be me) worked so hard to make possible. It's time to stop pissing on the help and realize that well paid help with adequate benefits makes life a lot easier than getting into the trenches and doing it yourself. I guarantee that you have neither the skills nor the experience to sit in their chairs and do the work, and that will mean goodbye to new cars, boats, vacation houses, vacations, and life as you know it. Keep that in mind when you unzip your fly or drop those designer panties before you do your business.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Crazy High

I came across this recipe for a cake-pan cake which became popular during the Depression because it needed no eggs and no milk, both of which were rationed at that time, and now would be called a vegan cake. My mother, and all my old aunts, great aunts, and cousins, called it a Crazy Cake. Crazy because there was no dairy or eggs included.

Mom's cake had a thick fudgy icing and was dark as a chocolate cake could be. She made it all the time in a big old-fashioned 9 x 13 metal pan with curved handles that stuck out both ends. Mom couldn't cook for beans, but she could bake like the devil -- mostly because she preferred dessert to everything else. Her baked beans were a toss-up between watery/soupy and the bacon half done on top or burnt to a crisp. Her scalloped corn dish was the same, half done or very well done (at least the crunchy buttered cracker topping was crisp). You can't go far wrong with creamed corn since it's cooked ahead of time anyway. I will have to say that she did do potato and macaroni salads well with lots of chopped sweet pickles and a hefty dose of celery seed in addition to the celery already in the bowl, but there wasn't much cooking to do since my sisters and I cooked the macaroni and potatoes for her. It was our job, a job that I ended up doing most of the time.

This cake, however, was right every time.

When I saw the recipe on King Arthur Flour yesterday I knew at once it was Mom's (and the whole May family's) Crazy Cake. I didn't have the recipe for the fudgy icing, but I have other chocolate icings I know how to make.

Late last night, I decided I was going to make the recipe, opting for mixing the ingredients in a bowl instead of in the pan which the recipe calls for. I sprayed the pan with my favorite preparation, poured in the mixed ingredients, and 35 minutes later had a much lighter colored chocolate cake. It smelled delicious. I used natural cocoa instead of the Dutch Process cocoa called for, but it was still delicious even without the icing. Moist, tender, and reminded me of my childhood. The good parts, which usually involved food.

Next time I will use my dark black cocoa, or Dutch process, since I have them both and I may try the boiled cider vinegar since plain white vinegar is what I used last night. I don't know if it will make a difference, but I will find out. I don't think I'll add frosting and just eat the rest of the cake naked. It is still dense, fudgy, and good. I may even make another tonight -- or even this evening. Anything is possible.

Sometimes I need a trip down memory lane on my stomach, evincing the good times full of laughter and family and food like at our family reunions -- the ones we went to every year and spent with my mother's vast clan. I got to see my cousins the last Sunday before school started and there was always watermelon and crisp fried chicken and desserts that filled a table. There were also dishes of things I'd never tasted before and running around with the cousins as a child and meandering as a teenager since we were too mature to run around slipping frogs and bugs down each others' backs and whooping like Indians on the warpath, even if we went to Logan Elm where Chief Logan gave his famous speech and stopped a war between the local tribes and the settlers.

The tree was filled with concrete, a shell of history around a core of stable concrete to keep the illusion of Logan's Elm alive, but it was familiar and the gathering place of the family tribes. It's still a favorite memory.

One of the old aunts dressed in her Depression Era finery (old women shoes, thick stockings, and flower print dresses that hung nearly to their ankles) smelling of lavender water and talcum powder gave the recipe to Mom who was in transports of joy when she tasted the fudgy cake and thick frosting. Chocolate was always her favorite drug, and chocolate cake with thick fudge icing was beyond heavenly. Whatever the occasion, whether a homecoming at church or a pot luck dinner with family, Mom always made her Crazy Cake and we feasted on chocolate until even the crumbs and streaks of icing were gone from the pan, all of us in a transports of joy akin to love from chocolate-fueled pacifying brain chemicals. Nothing ever seemed so horrible that the Crazy Cake would not cure -- at least until the chocolate high wore off and it was time to refuel -- as long as there was cake and icing left to scrape from the pan.

The rest of my chocolate high is in the kitchen and I think it's time to refuel.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Beware Death Country

It was suggested by the lead from yesterday's verbal and written warning that I might need help with my communication skills, especially with my professional communication skills, and that I might benefit from a class in communicating more professionally.

I'm still laughing over that one. They might as well have told me that I needed a class in the empty, but wordy, use of PC language.

In case you haven't noticed, I don't do PC. Politically correct language is using a lot of high sounding words to say exactly nothing. No wonder people have problems understanding each other since when in PC mode they are not so much communicating as throwing words at each other that have so little heft and meaning. It's rather like throwing an empty pie plate at someone with a picture of a big lemon meringue pie without the actually lemon, crust, or 6-inch thick meringue on top. And it has about the same effect as PC communication.

I don't know if you've figured it out yet, but I have been communicating on the Internet for a while now, have written books, and communicated her (rather ineffectually it seems) since 2002, which is 13 years come September.

I keep wondering how I managed to communicate in all the articles I wrote for newspapers and magazines, especially the ones that were picked up by syndicates, like AlterNet, and sold to newspapers and magazines all across the country. It couldn't have been words. Never that.

Jeff called me this afternoon just as I was waking up and wanted to talk about the screwing he has been getting at his job and it turned into the screwing that made him leave his last very lucrative position. His assistant, a really go-getter, who did everything she could to undermine him and take over his position, told him that the world was full of people like him (successful businessmen/women) who were the targets of people like her (morally bankrupt, go behind your back, and undermine you at every turn even if they had to manufacture proof) ready to take over and be the new broom that sweeps them out like so much old trash.

I've known people like that. I've known them my whole working life. I'm sure they felt that I was out to get them when I started a job and went from entry level to top of the statistical heap in a leap worthy of Superman -- or Supergirl -- and didn't even stop to consider their positions or their feelings or the level of their anger at me for displacing them while I ignored them and continued to do my job. I am so thoughtless that way.

But then they didn't work for a company like the one I'm working for now which does everything ti can to cut costs (employee pay) to enrich their coffers. Jeff reminded me that the people who cut costs are rewarded with a huge bonus every time the company must pay me what I've earned and what I'm worth. After all, it's not important that they get a bonus but that they deny me compensation for the job that I do at a rate that is commensurate with my experience and accuracy. Gotta keep the slaves in the dark digging coal and not getting above themselves with thoughts that anything they do actually matters -- except when it comes to quantity of coal dug and processed for the lowest price. Oh, they will jack up the prices to the customer, but the slaves will still be slaves working in death country as Sun Tzu once said in his Art of War.

How does Sun Tzu apply? Did you really think that a manual on how to wage war doesn't apply when it comes to office politics and the professional wars we all fight every day?

Death country is not where you want to put your enemy. You should always leave the enemy a way out of a conflict or he will get desperate and turn on you much like a wolverine caught in a trap from which there is no way out will turn and rend you and the horse you rode in on.  Death country. Sun Tzu said that you should never trap your enemy/opponent in Death Country. Now you know why.

I'm in Death Country. I cannot quit my job because I just started it in January. I have benefits I can afford and I'm buying a house, neither of which I can afford -- or intend -- to lose. I could accept the offers of other jobs, but I would have to start at square one and I don't think that would make me a good candidate for the loan I need to purchase my cabin in the mountains. I would be faced with no benefits, no insurance, or have to pay a month's house payment just to buy the benefits, and that would also not make me an attractive candidate for a loan to buy my cabin in the mountains. No way out. Not at this time.

What I have been left with is the way of the wolverine caught in death country.

No, I will not take a class on effective communication. I will, however, use what I have learned over 3 decades of written communication and use the very large digital footprint I was warned about leaving yesterday. My boss doesn't know about my digital footprint outside of the "very unprofessional note" I left on a doctor's report. She thinks that I will be less likely to leave a clear and cogent digital footprint again -- at least not where it will affect the company. I guess she didn't figure I'd have any way to retaliate since I do need my income (such as it is when they are done gutting it) and not be able to rock the corporate boat. After all, I need to take a class to learn to communicate effectively.  Poor me.

I'm sure they will think differently once my digital footprint is all over them and the horse they rode in on. Such is the way of being caught in death country.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Even Micromanagers Get Managed

This afternoon I woke up, went to the bathroom, and opened the curtains before settling down to open my computer and check email, surf a bit, etc. The phone rang in the other room because I have the ringer turned off in my bedroom so I can sleep without too many interruptions. I saw immediately it was my boss -- you know, the micromanaging boss who is trying to make good for her bosses -- and I answered thinking it was a call to ask me to work.

It wasn't.

And it wasn't my boss.

It was one of the leads (another supervisor) who was calling from my boss's line and the boss was on the call, too. They were ganging up on me.

Except they weren't ganging up on me. It was the lead ganging up on me for my lack of professionalism in communicating with one of the hospitals about one of their doctors. I was being warned for the first (and LAST) time about my unprofessional behavior. *insert eye roll*  Yes, my eyes were rolling on the floor, spikesleman.

The dressing down was specifically because I appended a note to the hospital about the quality (lack of quality) of the dictation from one of the problem doctors, a radiologist, who cannot seem to understand that rushing through his dictations with barely a nod to the use of consonants and vowels in proper order does not make the work go faster or serve the patient, and that he will have to insert the proper words when he is approached with the stack of reports that he has garbled.

I asked which doctor I had been unprofessional in my note, although I had a pretty good idea which one. As the lead rifled through the reports she told me that my boss had not been offended by my "very large digital footprint" in commenting about this doctor, but she had.

Did I mention that my boss is her boss?

She finally resurfaced with the note, haranguing me every moment of the search and reminding me several times in fast, pressured words that this was the first and LAST time I would be warned about this particular unprofessional behavior, while commiserating that the doctor is a jerk and no one has been able to dent his thick skin or get him to change the way he does things (a radiology report in under 10 -- and usually 5 -- seconds), which includes technical terminology and sensitive information, like whether or not the patient has a tumor or pneumonia or some life threatening finding on their x-ray, CAT scan, etc.

"...the doctor rushes through the dictation mumbling and garbling the words." 

There you have it. I remember writing it after 3 hours of radiology reports from this particular doctor and decided it was time to just speak the truth.

But that was unprofessional of me. The proper protocol is to bitch to my boss, or the lead, and put in the note that the sound quality is the issue -- and NOT THE DOCTOR.  My comments will be taken on board and passed up the chain of command until someone will contact the hospital and explain that the doctor in question should consider working on his dictation technique so that fewer of his reports are returned to him to fill in the blanks. He does not need to know that he's rushing through his dictations to get them done and no one can understand what he says, even after 3 quality control professionals have listened numerous times to his garbled words, and he will have to fill in the blanks on his own. Never mind that his behavior is unprofessional and he is wasting the time of the professionals he is working with or that no one will tell him what is wrong to his face because . . . HE IS GOD and mere mortals should not address or offend the god with his unprofessional behavior.

Like that's not unprofessional.

I really liked the part that the lead mentioned that I needed to work on my communication skills.

Like they are actually communicating any clearer than the doctor when he is rushing through his reports and possibly compromising the quality of care or the patients' lives and peace of mind. He's a radiologist and they seldom have to worry about bedside manner since they seldom have to deal with the patients face to face. That's the attending doctor's or specialist's problems. They merely have to tell the patients to hold an uncomfortable position, not to breathe, and not to move.

I've complained about this for years, and I've done my share of complaining to the doctors, but it is my belief that not confronting the doctors with their behavior in clear and concise terms is part of the problem. A person who is not told what he is doing wrong or incorrectly has very little chance of fixing what is wrong or correcting his/her behavior -- unless s/he is doing it on purpose and delights and relishes in the bad feelings, ill will, and frustration of the mere mortals and looking for everyone to fear and kowtow to her/him.

Okay, so I am unprofessional. I broke the code of by stating the problem in clear and unmistakable words. I could be fired if it happens again, but now I know that the lead will not tolerate my disregard for the garbled communication between medical language specialist (MLS) and the hospital and eventually the doctor in question because my digital footprint is so large that it will be out there for years on reports for everyone to see that I disregarded the protocol of being vague and pandering to the ego of a god. Oh, well, it must be Thursday.

Oh, and my boss? Well, she said not a word while the lead raked me over the coals while simultaneously letting me know that she understood my frustration over the situation because she felt the same frustration.

I guess the micromanager can be managed with a copy of the handbook ("...clearly stated on page 11...") and a head of steam full of righteous indignation at my crude and unprofessional behavior.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Work With Wings and Jet Propulsion

It never rains, but it deluges.  Well, that's how it feels. Work, for all its perks, has a lot of black holes and pissing contests.

I am not difficult to get along with, especially when left to my own devices. Too bad the new supervisor cannot understand or appreciate that concept.

The company is driven by statistics, but none of the numbers are straight forward. For instance, lines edited/typed per hour are based on how much work is done, except things like difficult doctors and faulty equipment are not figured into the equation. Especially by my supervisor. Quality is measured weekly, but the number that shows up on the paycheck is from 2 weeks before the current weeks being paid. If those 2 weeks were full of badly dictated reports and faults in the technology so that a report that should have been 50 to 80 lines long and ended up being 10-12 lines long and the rest full of blanks, then you're pretty much screwed. Nothing about technological breakdown is figured into the numbers and bad statistics will mean a bad paycheck. This is the case because the company gives you time to challenge errors marked (usually stupid or nit picky errors that do not have anything to do with quality or grammar rules) and the 2 weeks before have already gone through the reversal process. What a lovely way to run a business and screw an individual.

Now we come to this week. My new supervisor is hounding me about time on the system and time spent actually typing/editing reports. It seems that taking the time to research and make sure everything is correct in reports dictated by doctors who choose not to waste the time dictating -- or learn the way to speak English so it is understandable -- is counted as time not actually typing -- or working -- and therefore is questionable.  After all, quality is derived not so much from accuracy, but from getting reports done as quickly as possible with as few as possible sent through quality control (QC) without the fingers leaving the keyboard or stopping for breaks (bathroom, food, breathing) or research. One must keep typing/editing at all costs and leave the brain work to the supervisor who is busy micromanaging every moment of the worker's day/night/whenever.

It seems I also signed off as out of work (OOW) when there were still dictations to be edited/typed, except they didn't show up on my screen after several reboots. Now I am to email the point of contact (POC), who is usually not working at 3 a.m., and get an answer as to whether or not there is work before signing out as OOW -- while continuing to type nothing and rack up those all important actually typing/editing moments while accomplishing nothing, but waiting. That will put yet another crimp in my statistics and put me back on the supervisor's radar as not performing my job.

She actually questioned why I had so much downtime (time not typing/editing) and told me that I must close the gap between working and out of work while waiting for an answer as to whether or not there is work and still working with nothing to do. Goddess, how I do love bureaucracies.

Of course, signing in and out to minimize the time not actually spent typing/editing would make my time card look like a patchwork of indecision and insanity and sitting there checking every 10-15 minutes to find out if there is work while waiting for the POC to tell me there is work to be done (even when it doesn't show up on my screen where I can actually do something about it) is verboten. It messes up the time actually spent working versus the time I'm just sitting on my backside flitting around on the Internet while not getting paid because I don't get paid if there is no actual work done. Researching is also a waste of time even though it improves my knowledge and helps to decrypt the racing, stumbling language that does make it through on the faulty technology should be done on my own time -- when I am off the clock --- and when I can't actually use the report as a guide. I guess that means I must have an eidetic memory whether I do or not.

Things were not this difficult when I worked for the old supervisor, who was kicked up the ladder. The new supervisor is in a supervisory position for the first time in her working life and believes that micromanaging is the way to go to make herself look good. And that is always helpful.

At any rate, it's Friday night and I have only 2 more nights to work, and I have my cross stitching to help me regain some sanity in the interim when I'm not sleeping or working with my plants now that the snows have stopped and the frost has been absent for the past 3 mornings. I can finally put out my planters and plant some seeds and seedlings that might actually grow before the snow flies again, which should be in about mid-August.

I'm working my way through the boring, but necessary back stitching on my tree skirt. It's so mindless that I need a break and have started a snow leopard in the breaks between mindlessness and waking.

I found that the room I had originally designated my office is actually sunnier than my bedroom, or indeed the living room, and have set up shop on the love seat in the sun streaming through the window. I also have a great view of the driveway so I can see when delivery trucks or visitors arrive. I don't spend much time looking out the window as I am busy stitching and listening to a biography of Napoleon or music to stitch/study/read by. I much prefer it that way. It is relaxing as my mind slips to that zen place while my fingers stitch and the insanity recedes. It's a good place, and I am once again rethinking the office idea again. After all, I do need a place to go to work and be frustrated and it's not in the bedroom where I need to be able to sleep, although stitching and listening to music and/or books would not divorce me entirely from the hell my working life has become now that the micromanaging vulture that is my supervisor is watching me -- even as she sleeps.

Oh, for a bit of peace and surcease in this technologically imperfect world.

That is all. Disperse.