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.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

To Review or Not to Review

I'm reading a book that is really not all that great, at least not so far. The sentences have too many commas and are almost all the same length -- long. The actions of the characters are weirdly worded and repetitive without being at all interesting or anything but slam up against them and wonder what the author is trying to do. Many of the features of this particular world are thrown in there without any idea of what they are or how to pronounce them, where the break should be, and there is no indication of what they are or how they fit into the story. I guess I'm supposed to figure it out for myself.

What's worse is I know the author and I cannot in good conscience give the book a positive review because it reads like a first draft. I know the author has been working on this book for years and has announced it's publication a dozen times over the past 12 years. The thing is, this book is not ready for publication and needs good conceptual and copy editors to go through it again. Most of the problems could have been solved if that had been done before this -- long before this.

It is difficult to enjoy a story that is rife with flaws and faults and grammar errors without a clue as to what is really going on. I can appreciate starting in the middle of the story, but it helps to know through conversations or back story where it all fits together. So far, not happening.

I really hate that I can't be more positive, but there it is.

No, I won't be reviewing this one and I won't contact the author and say it is a good job. It's not. I am not going to lie and I won't fudge it either. I hate when this happens.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Coming Back

As I sat pondering the other cross stitch projects in my fabric bucket (the kind that makes neat all the junk one has collected) I decided to go back to something I started last year before I moved up here from Colorado Springs. It wasn't hard to find. I dug through the bin and pulled out the bag that holds my winter white tree skirt. I had intended to use it last year, but the move and pawing through bins and boxes wasn't high on my list, and there were so many other projects to start -- and finish.

There is a rhythm to cross stitching and I had been out of the rhythm for almost a year. It took some doing -- and some untangling of floss -- and now I'm getting back into the rhythm. I will finish my tree skirt this year.

As it looked last year.  I had done more work on it since this was taken last March. It is a very big project, bigger than the swan.

At any rate, I should have been done by now since there is about a half section to stitch yet. Aside from a leaf on the lower edge, not much has changed. I just got started.

It looks a bit fuzzy to me, but then everything looks fuzzy to me these days. As you can see there have been changes. Quite a few changes. But it is moving along. The leaf I stitched last night, or at least began to stitch, is below the needle. Hopefully, I will finish this in the next month, maybe within the next couple of weeks, and then the real chore begins - cutting, binding, stuffing, sewing, and getting it ready to put under the tree this year. I am determined that this will happen THIS YEAR. Cross your fingers. I can't stitch with my fingers crossed.

Of course my life does not revolve around cross stitching. I have to work in order to be able to afford the materials to cross stitch. That's just the way life works when you're not born into wealth and haven't made a few millions. It's too bad I couldn't have saved all the money I've made over the last 40 years. I'll bet it has been more than a million I've squandered on food, rent, clothing, cars, gasoline, and all the other things that go to make up a life. Having kids made a huge dent in my income, but that's just the price of having kids. And they continue to make a dent since I have grandchildren and birthdays and Xmas to make a little brighter by my small contributions.

And then there is work. I just discovered that payroll has been cheating me of quite a bit of money since they aren't paying me correctly for PTO (paid time off). They are treating the PTO I have used for things like my Internet being off during my shift as 1 hour instead of 1 day. There is a huge difference between pay for 1 hour and being paid for the 8 hours I am entitled to. Well, at least I can be sure of a bonus check soon when I straighten them out. That will be helpful and will feel good when I have to straighten out Payroll. There's a small satisfaction in correcting a serious wrong -- like messing with my money. I don't know too many people who wouldn't take out the idiots people in Payroll who should know better. Somehow the fact that the 6 weeks of pay to which I am entitled every year doesn't compare to the 3.99 days that they will pay me for if they get away with this now.

Well, it's back to the salt mines since I have given you a glimpse of my world. A glimpse is all I have time for today. Beanie told me the Idiot posted her redneck wedding on YouTube. She didn't realize there were so many redneck weddings out there. Hundreds. Maybe thousands. Redneck weddings seem to be all the rage -- and not just in the South. They're everywhere.

That is all. Disperse.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Stop Bugging Me!

I don't ask for much, and I know I've groused about this before, but I am so tired of business entities and sellers demanding I review their products/work/etc. immediately. Everyone is SO VERY REVIEW DRIVEN and it's really getting on my last nerve. If I had to review every single, solitary product I've bought I'd have no time for anything else because I can't just give them a few stars. NO! They want words from me too. Seriously?

Here's the quick skinny. If I keep buying the product then you can safely assume that I like the product. If you screwed up and sent me an item in the mail, by UPS, etc. and the packaging was far too big for a single item, especially when it is 1 of 3 items, each sent separately with lots of air filled plastic bladders, and what was sealed inside the original item has fallen out of the original packaging, then, yes, I will give you a bad review. Refunding my money might result in me deleting the original negative review, but on no account does that mean I will upgrade the negative service to a positive service. The item was damaged because of poor packaging to send and it was a waste of resources and my time since the item was DAMAGED! Have you finally gotten that message now? Keep bugging me and I will put back up the negative review and mention how you have hounded me several times a day since I contacted you begging me for a review. STOP IT! NOW!

Okay, now that I have that off my mind and I feel a little bit better, I can move on to other things, like almost all my seeds have sprouted and now I need to get busy and plant the other seeds in their little peat buttons, ready the planters, put together the 2 deck chairs I bought, and finish getting rid of the rest of the boxes and packing materials that have accumulated over the past weeks, most of which are for my seeds and plans for container gardening.

And then there are the constant demands and rounds of begging from work insisting that I give up my free time to work even more hours to bail them out because the numerous hospitals they service are running out of turn-around-time and they will be in breach of contract and have to pay for their breach. I get that you need to keep good relations with your customers, but I do my time and should not be expected to pick up the slack on other accounts when you have had me running around learning a whole bunch of different accounts, 7 in the past 3 months, and keeping me in QC hell because I don't have the time to get up to speed on any one account because I am confused learning so many different account protocols in a short space of time without finding my groove in any one account before you bump me into yet another account. Please! Give me some time to get up to speed before you load any more on my tired brain, especially since you want me to also pick up the slack at yet another long list of hospitals and health network without so much as hazard pay or financial remuneration. I like you, but not that much. Be glad that is the case.

Okay, so it's not all bad. They have offerered a 2 for 2 bonus for my extra time and no days off that will result in me getting 2 hours of PTO (paid time off) in return for 2 hours of my free time given to your customer relations, but I would prefer something more useful, like a year's worth of paid health benefits, dental, and vision with no cost to me. That would be better in my opinion. in the meantime, get behind sellers demanding reviews good reviews. I'll get to you eventually -- maybe.

I found yet another Kdrama. This one is called Good Doctor and is about an autistic young man who is brilliant where medicine is concerned. He has the classic autistic behaviors when confronted with violence, chaos, and new situations, but he is still pretty high functioning. I liked the young man, Park Si On (pronounced Park Shi On), and found him sweet, sad, and brilliant, as well as a bit immature. What else could one expect from such a situation? After all, there should be room for growth and advancement, and there was plenty.

Good Doctor reminded me a bit of The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, which is about an autistic young man who is high functioning, but who should be cured, fixed, whatever because he's not like other people. I found Moon's protagonist quite fascinating as he was, even with his rituals and autistic behaviors, but then I enjoy the oddities and special people in life. They make everything more interesting, even when they're being frustrating. Park Si ON was very much like that. Yes, he could be frustrating, but he had a good heart and genuinely cared for the children he was determined to heal, just as Lou Arrendale of Moon's vision of autism is special and as unique as a snowflake even though he was too early to benefit from genetic manipulation that would fix him, as if he were a broken toy. Park Si On isn't a broken toy either and the knowledge he has gained in his studies is not just information contained in a robotic data bank. It's so much more -- even though it is difficult for him to articulate in the normal way. These two young men are extraordinary and I would like to see American television embrace such a concept and give it substance and reality. Now that would be worth watching.

As we strive to make robots more human, maybe we should also spend some time embracing the unusual, odd, and special in humans. That is a subject for another post and will likely encompass Alan Turing and Eva, a 10-year-old free robot who is as unique and beautiful as she is dangerous. After all, every odd duck is complex in so many ways. We shouldn't seek to make them conform or mentally, physically, or chemically castrate them, but celebrate their differences and the unique vision they embody.

One thing I see is that even when a Kdrama is set in modern times the basic themes remain: abuse of power, politics, self-effacement, and romance. Whether set in centuries past or in a modern hospital (the best in the country), the back stabbing and politicking remain, no doubt an offshoot of earlier times when rank and how you get and maintain it is of paramount importance, even to an young boy with autism violently abused by his alcoholic father and neglected to the point where he ends up being brought up in an orphanage because his father hates him and wishes him dead -- at least until it's time for said abusive alcoholic father to face his own mortality and the fact that there will be no filial devotion from the child he battered unless he makes peace just in time to guilt his son into making propitious offerings and setting out ancestral meals for him to enjoy in the aferlife. Reminds me of Livia begging Claudius, who she has repudiated and wished dead numerous times, except that he is a stumbling, bumbling idiot, to make her a goddess when he becomes emperor, as he undoubtedly will because he has outlasted all his relatives, so she won't spend eternity in the fiery furnace of hell for her murders in her quest to make her family important and powerful and wealthy . . . for the good of the Republic. Funny how that works out.

If you'd like to watch a Kdrama, like The Moon Embracing the Sun or Good Doctor, go to Netflix and sign up for streaming or videos by mail. That is where I found them.

There are so many things for me to write about -- Yggdrasil, the heaven-purgatory-hell, 7 levels of existence of Mayan belief, etc. -- not to mention seeds sprouting into plants, getting back to writing, continuing my cross stitch projects, and any number of personal and not so personal subjects, but I'll stop here -- while I'm at least a little ahead. in the meantime . . .

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Kdrama With Me...

...heavy on the drama.

Kdrama, or Korean Drama, is my new obsession. Rather, it is The Moon Embracing the Sun that is the obsession. What's not to like about 19th century costume drama with intrigue, betrayal, love, loss, and happily ever after mixed with a bit of magic and a love triangle or 3? The actors are handsome and pretty and the costumes are gorgeous enough to send me googling to find out the background of each, like the hair pin that gives the name to this particular Korean costume drama. Just beautiful.

This is my second time through this particular Kdrama, but only because I figured out watching it on my laptop provided a lot more detail than watching it on my Kindle Fire. There is something to be said for size.

Synopsis: Court official's daughter bumps into crown prince climbing over the wall of the palace grounds to get away from the protocol and hassle of being crown prince and he nearly falls on top of her. She thinks he is a thief. He tells her he is a eunuch. She is at the palace compound to watch her older brother get the award for best scholar and he's running away. It is love at first sight, even if he is a thief, as only love can hit us when the girl, Heo Yeon Woo, is 13 and the prince, Lee Hwan, is 15. She is a learned girl who can read and write Chinese and knows philosophy. He's a spoiled prince with a penchant for disguising himself and running away from protocol to see what's really going on in the country outside the high walls of the palace compound.

Yeon Woo eventually discovers he is the Crown Prince and she becomes one of his little sister's companions. Min Hwa's other companion is another court official related to the Queen Dowager, who is a nasty piece of work and not at all bothered having people killed, as long as the king doesn't know about it or get his hands bloody. That's what the Minister of the Home Office is for. Besides, he's a member of her clan, the Yoon clan, and greed runs in the clan. His daughter is the princess's other companion and she is a nasty piece of work who hates Yeon Woo because she is everything that Yoon Bo Kyung is not -- queenly and not at all vicious, mean-spirited, or duplicitous.

Yeon Woo is chosen as the Crown Prince's bride-to-be until the Queen Dowager has the chief shaman call down a curse that will kill her so that Bo Kyung will be the Crown Prince's bride and eventually Queen. Too bad the Crown Prince sees through Bo Kyung's polite words and smiles and refuses to consummate the marriage during the 8 years of their married life. Yeon Woo is presumed dead by her family, and the Crown Prince, and his half-brother, Yang Myung, who is also in love with Yeon Woo. But she was only sleeping and the chief shaman had her dug up after her burial and registers her as a shaman with the local temple.

For 8 years, the shaman travels around the country with Yeon Woo, who has lost her memory and has been told she was possessed by a powerful spirit and found wandering in the streets before becoming a shaman, her maid, Seol, and a street urchin with the gift of sight, Jan Shil, while Yang Myung wanders just a few steps ahead of the rebels that want him to over throw his brother and become King, and Bo Kyung and Lee Hwan live  separate lives while their ministers steal the country blind and gather power to supplant the king once he sires and heir on the Minister of Home Office's daughter.

Okay, enough of the synopsis. Even reading the subtitles cannot dampen the enthusiasm of seeing such a wonderful spectacle or falling a little bit in love with the actors, or even laughing at the head eunuch's exasperation and shock at his master's antics. He suffers in silence -- most of the time -- and the comedy is a breath of fresh air after the passion and tension of the main story. Lee Hwan's chief eunuch is kind of cute and funny which is a nice counterpoint to the very handsome young men playing the lead parts. One can even forgive Princess Min Hwa's spoiled brattiness and utter devotion to Yeon Woo's older brother even if she did ruin his life and his future. After all, she is so cute in a kitten with a whip fashion.

But life goes on, and so must I.

You will have to admit the actors are all quite handsome.

At any rate, there are other things to fill my world, like sees, plants, and supplies to create my container garden. I even plan to put a couple of trees in the house, specifically a dwarf Meyer lemon and dwarf fig tree. I do so love lemons and I've never actually had a fresh fig. I've eaten plenty dried figs and I love Fig Newtons.

Then there is bread to bake and food to cook, although I must admit I'm not much in a food eating mood, unless you count the occasional biscuit or the omelets, peanut butter, and fruit that I eat once a day. I also like to have hot chai, but have given it up this week for fruit juices, most of which I water down with real water. For some reason, the juices seem a bit heavy at times, though they are delicious.

And then there is work. I ended up with my 7th account since starting 2-1/2 months ago and seem to always be in QC hell (i.e., making very little to no money because I have to learn the protocols for another whole hospital or health care system). It is hard to keep the differences in mind when switching between so many different accounts. I think I've finally convinced my supervisor to settle me into 3 accounts, one of which is all typing. I've learned that in order to make money stability is key, and so are lines, especially when those lines are typed and not edited. When it takes me more time to edit the lines than it would to type the entire report, especially when I'm getting paid half as much for the edited lines, over time and typing full reports is key. I might actually make enough money to live on once I get settled in.

The best part about switching jobs, once I get out of QC hell and make the money I'm capable of making when I have the same accounts all the time, is that I bargained for 14 vacation days and ended up with 43.46 vacation days. All those years of working for a company this company bought out is the vacation time, nearly 6 weeks. I have never had that much time to use in my whole working life. I plan on taking at least a couple of vacations for 2 weeks at a time and use the other nearly 2 weeks to carve out a 3-day weekends. All paid in full. That is definitely worth changing jobs for, as are the benefits, chance to make more money, and a health care plan that does not cost me more than a month's rent every month. Made me feel like I did when I was newly divorced and working 2 jobs to pay for the babysitter for my 3 young sons. Rather defeats the purpose of working if all your money goes for someone else's benefit and there is little to nothing left for the necessities of life: food, clothing, a roof over your head, and utilities to power the furnace when it gets cold. Into every life a little rain . . . and all that stuff.

As long as the rain does come through the ceiling in the kitchen and getting someone to repair said hole and the roof are proving difficult at best. Like I said, into every life a little rain. I am optimistic that I will be able to get everything handled. I'll do whatever it takes to keep my cabin in the mountains even if it means working more hours and finding someone to do the repairs, even if I have to drag him into the house and make him watch Kdrama

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Anybody There?

Another friend told me the other day they were deleting their blog. "Nobody reads it any more. I get more comments and feedback on Facebook no matter what I post."

"So," I said, "you're tired of being ignored and want that instant gratification."

"No. That's not it."

Methinks they did protest too much.

Who doesn't like comments? Who doesn't like to know they're being read -- and heard? Who doesn't tap the mic when no stops what they're doing or turns to face them when they speak?

We all do. I'm no different from you. I like to know that someone is paying attention, someone other than the faithful readers who always comment -- or mostly comment when they have time from their own posting and waiting and hoping someone acknowledges them.

Thank you, faithful readers. I appreciate every one of you. Even when you never comment.

I decided a long time ago that I would write what moves me, what I want to share, and even what tickles me and not care when people respond. Someone will see the leaves I write on and give to the winds and if they don't . . . . Well, it shouldn't matter. That leaves me free to be me, free to say what I choose without worrying about  offending someone (usually everyone). I don't worry about pleasing everyone either, although I do take some pains to take the best pictures I possibly can and choosing a picture that illustrates what I write and pleases my asthetic senses. Okay, I do that for you and not so much for me because I can enjoy reading without the pictures. I also do it a bit for me because I like to exercise the artistic part of myself. So, yes, it is a selfish thing, just like writing what is on my mind.

I learned during my time on Facebook that the instant gratification of quick responses and lots of likes that it feels good to have proof that people are paying attention, that the mic is on and transmitting. I also found out that I draw the loons more often than not and that most immediate responses are from people who don't really care what I write. They care that they are paying just enough attention to acknowledge that I'm writing so I will pay attention to them. They really don't read, digest, or often even understand what I write. Moreover, they don't really care because they are doing their best to make sure that people notice them. A pat on the back even when there is nothing more than the fleeting thought someone is there under their hand is sufficient, especially if that person actually likes their comments and posts and acknowledges that they are being read. Or heard. They want to be noticed whether you get noticed or not.

That is not the case with a good friend of mine who stopped reading my posts because I would engage in unthinkable -- and often unconscionable -- behavior. I actually debated and discussed issues with people who flamed, yelled, and sought to change my mind. Had we been in the same room, the opposition would have begun yelling and gesticulating while calling me an idiot and a mindless sheep only aware enough to follow the wooly hind quarters in front of me. Through all the ranting and name-calling, I remained calm and logical and respectful, even when my opponents did not. When things got too far out of hand I would chide them, remind them to respect my rules, and then, when they inevitably continued on their tirade while frothing at the mouth and wishing they could hit me in the face or over the head with a hard and heavy object, I would shut them down. I blocked them. He was upset because I was being savaged and did not seem to realize it. I still smile at his chivalrous care of me. I made him angry by giving the nut jobs on both sides of the discussion space and time and my attention and not being there to defend me. I think he would have waded into the debate and beat them to a bloody pulp had we been standing in the same room. He's a gentleman like that.

He finally had to stop paying attention so it wouldn't make him angry enough to hit someone. I understood. He's a good man and that is not something I say about a lot of men -- or women for that matter. He pays attention. He listens. He reads. Even when he seldom comments, and most especially when he does comment, he cares. We often get into spirited debates that stir the blood and flush my cheeks. No doubt they flush his cheeks too, but you don't say such things about a GUY.

It's funny in a way. We were aware of each other all through high school, but didn't run with the same crowd. I sailed through the halls with a smile and he sailed through the halls usually high and sometimes drunk. He was an excellent student, but he was one of the hippie types with long hair and jeans with tattered ends He is still a bit of a hippie, wearing ankle bracelets, though his hair is mostly gone. He's still a handsome man. I thought he was cute in high school, but I was more intent on studying than dating.

Oh, don't think I didn't date, that I was one of THOSE nerds. Not at all. I dated a number of guys and met my first husband in high school playing Euchre during lunch. I was the only girl in the history of the school that was allowed to play Euchre with the guys at lunch, and one of the few girls who took the game seriously enough that I was invited to play in their homes. They eagerly included me whenever they played, even if it was in my house. My friend wasn't one of those guys. He was busy frying other fish, but we were aware of each other. That was enough then. Now we call each other frequently and sometimes talk for hours, changing subjects quickly, sliding from music to politics to finances to every topic under the sun -- and a few under the stars and moon. We are friends. He listens. He reads. He pays attention. Between us, the mic is always on.

Do  I care if anyone reads my posts? Yes, but not THAT much. I don't care if they comment, and they rarely do. What I care about is that I am writing my words on leaves and tossing them to the winds to land wherever they will. If someone picks up the leaf and reads what I have written, it is enough. If the leaf dries and crumbles to duff and dust, that's all right too. I sent my words on the wind and the wind spreads them.

I am reminded of something one of my teachers told me. "It's enough that over all the decades of teaching, a couple people pay attention, and at least one gets something useful out of it." Now that I have turned 60, I understand that so much better. Not just the words, but the sentiment and the emotion. If a couple people read my words and just one gets something useful from my mental meanderings, it is enough. It is like an author whose work I have edited telling me that they thank me as they rewrite their book, thank me for giving them something useful they can use.

That is all. Disperse.

No More Blonde Answers

Just a quick couple of thoughts on Hillary Clinton.

no blondes

Supporters of Hillary are claiming that anyone who attacks Hillary or questions her is sexist. How often have we heard the people under fire firing against the people firing against them? This is just business as usual in the White House and in the government and pretty much anywhere there is politicking. The point is it's a magician sleight-of-hand act. Oh, just ignore the fact that my hands are bloody and I'm still holding the knife while kneeling on the body of the person I just killed. To those people over there questioning me, asking me? They're the ones you need to go after. They're the ones that are wrong. They're sexist. They're racist. They are the enemy. And all while she's putting away the knife and washing her hands with bleach, cleaning up the evidence. It has always been that's with people who are the criminals. If they abuse you, if they use you, if they kill someone you love, they're not at fault. They are the ones who are being discriminated against. They are the ones who are the victims.

No ! They are the ones who are trying to divert your attention from what's really going on to get you focused on fighting each other and giving them time to hide the evidence. Are you surprised Hillary Clinton had a server in her own home for her own convenience? Are you surprised that 55,000, or whatever the number is, emails were deleted? Why are you surprised? This is a Clinton were talking about.

The Clintons are past masters, and mistresses, of focusing your attention elsewhere. Bill Clinton tried to hide his sexual peccadillos by starting a war with Iraq. He even went so far as to bomb Iraq during their holy festival of Ramadan. There's nothing wrong with that. After all, there was question of another scandal in the White House, scandal about a man whose character has been nothing but black. Do you remember when Ronald Reagan stated that character was an issue in the election? Were you there when Bush Senior said that it was a matter of character? Have you forgotten, we're talking about the Clintons and there is no character in them. Well, there is character, but it's bad character.

When I find really interesting is Pres. Obama's claims that he didn't realize that Hillary was using her own server or the output emails were not marked .gov in the address; he just found out about it when he read it in the newspapers.

Aren't you tired of the same old excuse? I certainly am. Then again, I knew that Obama was not the man for the White House just as I knew that slick Willie and Hillary were not the couple to represent this country. They all have the same agenda. Getting rich at the cost of honor, truth, character, and decency.

Yes, character does matter. Too bad we didn't figure that out – you didn't figure that out – before you voted these varmints and criminals into office. There is no excuse for what they have done to this country here and abroad and no excuse for you backing them. Well, there is an excuse, it's called stupidity. Or if you'd rather be politically correct, you can call it lack of information and being led by your nose. The result is the same. This country is and has been screwed. It's not your fault. Your victims. You were told lies and fed garbage by the media, by the Clintons, and by everyone else who wants to keep you from the truth/ After all, there's no profit in truth . . . or honor or justice. And there is certainly no truth in the American way; the American way died years ago. You wouldn't have noticed. It was a private funeral. No one was invited.

That is all. Disperse.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

It Arrived!

I did something different with one of my cross stitch projects. I ordered a frame and mats cut to exact size online. I knew I'd have to put the frame together, but how hard could it be if my Middle Eastern beauty had the right look on the wall?

The disassembled frame arrived yesterday evening and I set about reading directions, getting my handy dandy screwdrivers, and put it together. It was a puzzle with all the parts and pieces, and there was still the finished cross stitch to get ready for framing. It was quite the ordeal, but once I figured out how the frame went together, the rest was a matter of carefully stretching the fabric across the acid-free foam core and lashing it into place so that the face at the center of the fabric would center perfectly beneath the mats, mats that were cut to my specifications.

It worked.

I chose a brushed metal silver frame and 2 mats: Caribbean blue and silver foil. I can't stop looking at it as it hangs on the wall beside my bed. It's beautiful and the mats set off the cross stitch so well.

Arab beauty

This is what I began with, minus my signature, which is the year in which it was finished. I did that just before framing with the dark blue-green and a twist of silver metallic thread in the corner.

This is what I ended up with. Isn't she beautiful?

I remember when Beanie would finish the stitching on one of her cross stitch projects and she'd come to me to do the backstitching. She hated the fussy, and often tedious, backstitching. As I stitched I explained that the backstitching, as onerous as it can be, brings the work to life.  Since I've moved away she has had to do her own backstitching, but she does see what I meant all those years ago.

Hoity-Toity never frames her cross stitch, but she does cross stitch. She has a thing for women in hats, something she may have gotten from me since I used to have a collection of paintings, prints, and posters of women in hats, often with their faces hidden by the hats. I even found a silhouette of a turn of the century woman in a hat I found at a barn sale and Mom bought me a ceramic mask of a Victorian woman in a hat looking over her gaudily clad shoulder out into the room. It hangs in my living room now next to the bookcase by the doors onto the back deck. It just seemed right to hang there. I also have ceramic masks of all kinds hanging in my room and the hallway, and soon in the laundry room. There is one mask Mom sent me that is kind of creepy. That's why it's going in the laundry room where it can scare spiders and intruders coming through the laundry room door.

I have to finish the backstitching on the 5 x 7 Japanese geisha I finished in January (yes, I sometimes put off the backstitching too), buy the perfect frame and maybe even mat it, and it will hang in the Jack bedroom. For some reason I see that room as my Japanese/Oreintal/Asian room with fabric floor and table lamps and black lacquered furniture. It's still in my head right now because the room is still filled with boxes of cross stitch supplies, stationery, and books, as well as framed pictures. It is emptier by about 5 framed pictures, awards, and my Extra Class amateur radio operator license. I brought them into my bedroom to hang on the walls here.
Now all I need to do is find the right pieces to stitch and hang on the wall over my bed. I see a huge painted paper fan flanked by women with fans, Asian and Spanish and Moorish and whatever. Still haven't figured our where to hang the Indian beauties since the Jill bedroom will have princesses and fairy tale characters in cross stitch on the walls. That is where my grandchildren (mostly the granddaughters) will sleep when they visit. There is still a very long -- and bare -- hallway to populate with pictures of family and friends and maybe the odd cross stitch pieces framed by me. I can handle assembling the frames and choosing the mats. After all, the $50 that went for my Middle Eastern lady was money well spent, and a whole lot cheaper than the often $200 or more I spent for framing other, and often larger, cross stitch pieces. Live and learn -- and, in my case, spend a little less to get wonderful results.

That is all. Disperse. Go stitch your own masterpiece -- and don't forget the backstitching.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Game of Fire and Ice


Fire and ice. That is what George R. R. Martin has been trying to reconcile for a few years now. I agree with spikesleman that Martin has been procrastinating not because he's  been gallivanting around the world, going to cons, and spending time filling his theater in Santa Fe with famous guests and great movies, not to mention bits of commentary on all things football and censorship, but because he doesn't know how to get to the end. He's stuck on a path between so many possibilities, many of which he created himself, and can't figure out how to tie it all together in a final book that solves all the problems, ties up all the loose ends, and ends the war he began. 
Maybe he intends to live another 150 years or more and wants to spin this out into a hundred years war like the one in Europe that claimed so many lives. He would have the benefit of a whole new generation or three of readers beginning the journey at Game of Thrones and follows it through to the end -- whatever that will be. Many, many fans would die in the interim years, not gifted with long life and endless patience, but there it is. What else is one to do with more than 200 years of life but live it to the fullest, if not only in books. This is why I am more and more reluctant to begin a series. The writer may never end it or I will get bored with the increasingly hackneyed writing and quit before I get to the end. That has happened with some really great series in film and books.

That is not why I'm here today. Martin does figure in this post, but only because he wrote the story (has almost written the story) and because I have been ruminating on spikesleman's contention that Lyanna Stark's reputation was sullied in A Dance With Dragons.

I spent a great deal of time today searching ADWD to find out what she meant about Lyanna's reputation being maligned, and also to ruminate a bit on what others have speculated regarding Jon Snow's birth. On that point, I have never had a single doubt that Jon's parents were Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Not a single doubt from book 1 on. Ned tells Jon that he is a Stark, and not Ned's bastard by way of a romance on the wrong side of the blanket during the war against the Targaryens, and there are the many comments and memories from Ned that he promised Lyanna to lie beside her brother and father in the family crypt. There is a hint in that promise that Ned not only bury her body in the crypt, but also her secret, that Jon is Rhaegar Targaryen's son. Robert Baratheon would not have let Jon Snow live, so Ned protected Jon by letting people thing he had blacked his honor and betrayed his marriage to Cat.

I've no doubt that Lyanna loved Robert Baratheon, but she was a wise woman. She knew Robert would never be true only to her, no matter his love for he. Robert was a lusty man who couldn't pass up a comely wench or a well turned ankle, full breasts, lovely arse, and feminine parts. His love for Lyanna has made him forget that any other woman existed, but Lyanna was no fool, except where Rhaegar was concerned. She may have loved Robert like a brother, and even as a woman loves a man, but she fell hard for Rheagar when he laid the winter roses in her lap at the tourney, making her the queen of love and beauty. He was already married to a Dornish princess, Elia, which Ser Barristan thought was not a patch on Ashara Dayne, her handmaiden.

Rhaegar's marriage was a political one and he did his duty as all royalty must and do. When he saw the wild northern girl, Lyanna Stark, his heart was lost -- and so was hers. Robert may have believed Rheagar kidnapped Lyanna, but the truth is that she went willingly with him, forsaking family honor to be with the man she loved. Her decision set the war horns sounding and ended with the death of the Targaryens and their rule over Westeros, thus opening the door between Westeros and the far north, setting the White Walkers free from their imprisonment by the Targaryeans and their fire dragons. That set the stage for what Rheagar had been desperate to achieve, the coming of Azor Ahai.

The Red Woman, Melisandre,  believes that Azor Ahai is Stannis Baratheon, but it is more likely that Daenerys Targaryen is Azor Ahai, the Lightbringer, reborn. Dany brought dragons back into the world and with it came magic. Dany is also impervious to fire where her brother, Viserys, was not, as evidenced by his death by molten gold, the crown that he bargined for when he sold Dany to Khal Drogo to enlist his hordes to cross the bitter water and take back the throne of Westeros. Dany is the only Targaryen able to withstand the fire and command dragons again.

There has been speculation that Jon Snow is Azor Ahai. He does after all have Targaryen blood, but if he was impervious to fire he would nto have burned his hand when he saved Commander Mormont from the wight when he set it on fire. No, Jon is the blue winter rose Dany saw growing out of the wall of ice in her vision. He is her kin, her equal and opposite. He is the embodiment of his Stark blood through Lyanna and thus the mating of fire and ice in the flesh. He is the bridge between the worlds of the White Walkers and the Dragons, but how he will be that bridge is yet to be revealed. He is important and there is no doubt about that.

While Stannis has some Targaryen blood, he is not Azor Ahai, but at least he came to the aid of the Watchers on the Wall, the brothers of Castle Black and the defenders of the wall. He is not the king nor will he be the king in the end, though I do believe the leeches he fed to the fires took out his main opponents: Joffrey Baratheon (Cersei and Jaime's bastard), Rob Stark, and Balon Greyjoy. He'd already killed his brother, Renly, so he wasn't a problem. Stannis is just one more left over king, but not THE king of Westeros however Melisandre may deceive him, and has obviously misread the prophecies and deceived herself.

There it is in a nutshell. Daenerys is Azor Ahai (no one said the Lightbringer had to be a man) and Jon Snow is the winter king that his half-brother Rob was not. Being a man of the Night's Watch will not affect that since I do believe there will be  no more need for them after the final battle and the marraige of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen when the fire and ice dragons come together. There is also the possibility that Dany will give up the throne and go be with her unborn son and Khal Drogo, but inevitably it will be Lyanna and Rhaegar's son, Jon, who will end up ruling, and maybe not from the iron throne. One never knows with these things.

So, to recap, Lyanna was not really kidnapped and Robert started a war over being cuckolded before he was wed, but, as with most situations, his actions set the necessary gears in motion to bring about the end of the war between fire and ice and the dawn of a new age when the north and south (winter and summer) at last come together and end the war that has raged for 1000 years. As with all else in life, everything ends and from those endings new beginning spring.

By the by, Lyanna was not a wanton woman, but she was a woman in love. Love is not always wise, but it is always, as the Chinese say, the motive force that brings interesting times.
Btw, spikesleman, this information comes not from ADWD but from the boards. There was no mention in any of the books, or even a hint, that Lyanna was not as dutiful as was believed by Roberth Baratheon. I will, however, concede the point that she knew Robert could not be faithful to her or to any woman. She loved Robert like a brother and she would not have married him family or no, Rhaegar just happened to complicate matters. No, Lyanna was not kidnapped nor was she raped, but you know how rumors get started and how one's point of view changes what one sees when one sees and does not merely look.

That is all. Disperse.