Saturday, January 19, 2013

From Russia (or Someone) With Love



Russia has offered us some mighty powerful music by way of Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky and Rachmaninoff and so many others that I could be here all day looking up how to spell their names. Russia is home to the heavy hitters of symphony. 

So what would you do if you received a letter from the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra proclaiming that they are going to be touring in your area and would like to perform in your town? I figure you would trip all over yourself to get to the Mayor and City Council and the Rotary Club and whoever else you could think of waving that letter in their face.


I suspect that is how Ms. Linus Fung of Hong Kong felt when she received such news back in 2000.  She was the Senior Manager of Music for the city. She excitedly scurried around and got commitments from the fine folks at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and the Tuen Wan and Tsuen Wan Town Halls for performances from August 7th through the 13th of that year.

Tuen Wan
Hong Kong Cultural Centre



Tsuen Wan

The upcoming performances were well publicized and the audience was packed for all performances by the prestigious orchestra. By all reports, the orchestra performed magnificently. The Hong Kongian music critics were out in full force busily writing glowing reviews. One newspaper enthusiastically proclaimed that the music was full of “…exciting acclerandos and heart-stopping rubatos.” Attendees to the concert paid the equivalent of $31US to witness all those rubatos.

What a satisfying musical summer in Hong Kong, and how satisfied Ms. Fung must have felt in pulling it all together.

But…uh, there was one minor problem.


Yelena Tikomirova
The publicity of the Hong Kong performances kind of confused Ms. Yelena Tikhomirova, who was the agent for the Moscow Philharmonic and Dmitri Yablonsky, the principal guest conductor of the orchestra. It seems that the way they remembered it, the group was performing at the Menton Festival in France from August 6th to the 8th, and then in Lisbon on the 9th to the 12th, and finally at the Llivia Festival in Spain on the 13rh.

 I’m pretty sure that none of these places are near Hong Kong.

Well uh…who exactly performed in Hong Kong?



Linus Fung
A defensive Linus Fung said, “If you receive proposals from a very renown orchestra, you would not doubt that it was actually that group.” She continued, “We are very concerned about the issue.”

This became a major scandal in Hong Kong with editorials flying back and forth. Some demanded refunds. But then other editorials asked, ‘Why? You saw a magnificent performance.’

Dmitri Yablonsky
If you think the Hong Kongites were flustered, think of how they felt in Russia. Mr. Yablonsky lamented, “It is a huge scandal in Moscow, very upsetting. It takes years to set up an orchestra, then some pick-up orchestra comes along and says they are Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra.  The Orchestra  musicians still don’t seem to know what happened – and they couldn’t because they were on tour at the time.”

To this day, no one knows for sure who performed in Hong Kong in August of 2000. It is speculated that an ad hoc group of Russian musicians got together and pulled off this magnificent hoax.

And performed brilliantly.

You think I made this up, don’t you? Well, if I did, so did

The Deseret News  and  The South China Morning Post and The BBC.

P.S. I am still unable to post comments even after fiddling around every way I know to fiddle. Now I guess I gotta' fire off something to someone to get this straightened out.

P.S.S.  'Dark UFO - Top Blogger Contributor' came to my rescue. It seems I needed to enable 3rd Party Cookies in Firefox to get the commenting thing to work. Sigh.... 

    

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Option 5 -- Help Needed to Prevent Severe Buffdlement

I am befuddled, and I should put that in my profile and on my resume because that pretty much describes who I am. But now my befuddlement has reached its peak.

I like it when things are straightforward and not a lot of thinking is required. But this here Blogger thing is going to make me start drinking.

Issue:

All I want to do is leave a comment on another person's blog. That is all I ask. When I get into this blog site I sign in with my Google account name and password, and that is pretty simple for me. Then I begin reading someone's blog and I get all animated and excited about leaving a comment. I hurriedly write with enthusiastic brilliance and click on PUBLISH. But then it asks me to provide an account and even provides a drop down list for me. I don't know why it asks this because stupid Google should know who I am. But I play the game and click on GOOGLE ACCOUNT, hit PUBLISH, and my comment disappears!

Okay, I try again...but I am less enthusiastic. I re-write the comment, only this time I choose NAME AND URL from the drop down list. It asks me what my name and URL is.....and I cautiously provide this information. Then I click PUBLISH.....and the damn thing disappears again.

Okay -- maybe that particular blogger's comment thing is screwed up, even though they have nine comments from other people. I go to someone else...and run into the same problem.

Solution:

1. Start drinking.

2. Reboot my computer. I don't know why. Every time I call IT at work for a computer problem, they tell me to reboot my computer. It didn't work.

3. Maybe the blogger doesn't like me and has set up barricades and won't let me in. So consider Option 1.

4. I am targeted by Google, the NSA, the FBI, and QVC and they are coming after me. Perhaps I should just go outside and raise my hands above my head and shout "I give up". But if I did that Marilyn would holler, "While you're out there go ahead and take down the Christmas lights".

5. Ask for help. This can cause extraordinary befuddlement because someone is going to say, "Boy are you stupid. You are supposed to....." and I will feel really dumb. Or even worse, someone will say, "What you need to do is go into your registry and delete all references to NSA and then type in '\\**neo-repair//' and then pull your motherboard and reset your xfd memory stack -- but be sure to ground yourself or your toes will tingle. Then I will feel even dumber.

I am hesitantly asking for option 5 and hoping for the best.

All you blogger people think I don't like you because I am not commenting. 'Tis not true...well, pretty much not true.

I thank you in advance for your solution presented as if you were talking to a fifth grader.



Sunday, December 30, 2012

Don't Lie to your Dog

I’ve heard it said that dogs are nothing more than selfish, furry eating machines…that their only mission in life is to get you to feed them. They will do whatever it takes: steal, do flips, climb on the counter, cuddle up next to you, pretend to obey you…all with the single motivation of getting food from you. There is a hint of truth to this, but it is not the whole truth. It is a little scary to think that you, as a dog owner, are the sole source of good to a pet. They are denied the luxury of hunting, and instead have to hope you won't forget to feed them or fill their water bowls. Instinctively their primary need is indeed food, and it is humbling for them to not be in control of their own fates. You, the owner, are in control.

But I’ve learned that dogs have another need too…and that is to communicate. They do their part conversationally, but the owner needs to step up to the plate. Communication requires two parties.
Buddy and Hutch

We have two dogs: Hutch, a big black lab; and Buddy a mutt, of indeterminate heritage.  They both are adept at communicating. Some of things they say to us are:

‘Uh hello, it is precisely 5:30 and time for dinner.’

‘Hey, it is ten minutes till 6:00, and I think you have forgotten something.’

‘Did you know that the water bowl is empty? Do you really want us to drink out of the toilet?’

 'Thank you for returning home to me.’

‘Are we going to the park this morning?’

‘Isn’t it time for you to go to bed now?’

'My paw hurts. Could you fix it, make it better'

‘Why are you screwing up our environment and moving furniture around?’

‘I want to go with you. I don’t care where you are going – I’ll stay in the car!’

‘Yeah, I love you. Let’s cuddle.’

‘I know it’s late, but can I have a snack?’

‘Let’s get it straight. I do not like getting in the bathtub. Why don’t you bathe me with the water hose outside?’


Hutch: ‘I’m not in to toenail cutting – not at all!’

Buddy: ‘Cut my toenails? Sure…what the hell.’

'Ohhh. You brought Chick-fil-A home for supper. I love Chick-fil-A!'

‘I’ll play with you.’

‘Someone is outside!’

‘If he is your friend, he will be my friend too.’

‘You don’t like him. I don’t like him either.’

‘Yeah, yeah. Thunder scares me.’

There are more things they tell us, but we only know they are telling us something if we listen.

The other side of the coin is your communication with them. The most important point in talking with your dog is honesty. Sincerity. Whatever you do, don’t lie to your dog. If you want the respect of your dog, he has to know that you will not lie to him.

I arise early in the morning. On work days I get up around 4:30. Buddy knows it is a work day because I dress early. But just to be sure – and he is pretty sure he knows what my answer will be – he will walk up to me and stare into my eyes and will give me a half-hearted cock of the head to ask me, ‘Is there any chance we will go somewhere this morning?’ I give him the answer he expects. “No baby, I have to go to work.’ He immediately wanders off.

But on weekends it is a different story. I usually arise around 5:30 and do not dress for work. Weekend. He understands this. His approach is different. He will walk into the room and sit tall, again staring into my eyes, and will give an enthusiastic right cock to his head. If I don’t answer his question, he will walk five steps closer and repeat his gesture. If I don’t answer, he will step closer and repeat. In fact, he will plop himself right in front of me boring into my eyes with his head firmly cocked to the right…and will stay that way until I give him a definitive answer.

If I say, “We’ll see”, he will not move. ‘That’s a cop out. Tell me yes, or no!’

If I say, “Yes. A little bit later”, he will dance around and jump up with his paws on my leg telling me, ‘Oh thank you. I’m ready now. This is going to be so much fun. You will enjoy it too.’ Once I made this commitment, every move I make will get a positive reaction from him. He will follow me everywhere asking, ‘Is it time yet?’ If I don’t take him after an hour or so, he will shun me. ‘You lied to me!’ is broadcast from his every move.

If I say “No – we can’t today”, he will slump down in disappointment. But he will get perky after a few minutes explaining that he understands and accepts my decision. If, for some reason, I change my mind, he will react in a confused and distrustful manner. ‘But you said we were not going. Yeah, I want to go but why did you lie to me?’

Don’t lie to your dog.

So the first decision I have to make when I arise on weekends, is what I am going to tell Buddy! Hutch is party to this, because he watches the conversation with intensity. If I tell Buddy "Yes", both dogs will spring up and start prancing all over the house proclaiming, ‘Guess what? We are going to the park!’ They will run up to Marilyn and ask, ‘Are you going too? Huh? Huh?’ If I tell Buddy “No”, Hutch will slink down and close his eyes.

While I was writing this in my office, I heard a sharp yelp from Buddy from the other room. I immediately got the message.

‘I know it was cold and windy last night and you had to seal the doggy door, but don’t you think it is time to open it up? I have to pee, after all.’


I unsealed the doggy door.

So your dog strives to communicate with you. Do your part and listen, and talk back. But above all, don’t lie to your dog.


Oh, I did tell Buddy that we are indeed going to the park this morning. Buddy and Hutch are ecstatic. And I know the first item on the agenda for today.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Pioneer Woman

Dear Pioneer Woman woman,
Ree Drummond - The Pioneer Woman

I just need you to know that you are beginning to pose a bit of a problem for me. I discovered your Food Network Program three or four months ago. I don’t know how long your show has been broadcasting since I had pretty much stopped watching Food Network. It seems that competitions had taken over and that just doesn’t sit well with me. I used to watch the network a lot because I would learn from cooks comfortably preparing recipes that I could use and experiment with. I liked the fact that they seemed to be explaining stuff just for me. But when they made cooking a competitive sport, I lost interest. I liked it so much better when the food was the subject and not personalities jousting with each other.

I have Direct TV which I am sort of stuck with. One thing that I am able to do is scan through the titles of programs on different channels and select the shows I want to record on my fancy DVR. I think I saw The Pioneer Woman buried in there a few times. Finally I surmised that the title didn’t seem so much like a competition so, ya’ know -- just to see, so I pushed the button on my remote to record one of them. Finally one early weekend morning I settled down with my coffee to see what you were all about.

I have to say that the opening sequence caught my attention. You know – cowboys, the entrance to your ranch, your dog, and the open Oklahoma prairie. But what caught my attention was your voice. You spoke slowly and calmly simple explained that, “My food is simple, yet scrumptious and all my recipes have to be approved by cowboys and the kids…and me.” Then you follow up with, “Here’s what’s happening on the ranch.”

Now that is an introduction that caught my attention. Laid back, calm, picturesque, and inviting me to stay tuned. I paused, refilled my cup, and settled in to watch the show. I watched your husband and kids dropping off feed for the cattle, and then your basset hound settling down to watch you in the kitchen as you began to prepare a meal for the family when they return from their chores. Yeah, it looked simple and scrumptious and you calmly showed me how I could do it.

Marilyn, my wife, walked in yawning walking zombie-like toward the coffee pot. With coffee in hand, she stopped and sat down with me to watch. You have to understand, Marilyn does not watch cooking shows. She considers them boring. But you captured her attention.

I just have to say that after watching one show, I pushed the magic buttons to record every one of your future shows, even those repeats. I have now watched quite a few of your programs. Yeah, your ranch life and your family seem perfect and yeah, some of it seems a little staged. But that is okay because it makes me feel good. And I will even forgive some of the competition presented….that roping contest, and that time that you beat your husband at skeet shooting. I even smiled when you went to the church social complaining about all those Baptists that hog the restaurants in the area right after church.

You tell me that you are ‘Lee Drummond, a writer, blogger, photographer, mother, and I’m an accidental country girl’.  You are also becoming a problem in our house.

I guess I am interested in trying about half of the recipes you present. I did braise a roast using unsalted beef stock like you suggested. I normally use left-over coffee from the coffee pot with some of that powdered gravy mix for braising. I figure the result was a toss-up between the two of us. I did prepare our turkey for Thanksgiving like you said – you know, soaking it in brine. I guess it was juicier. I’m not sure because it seems the rest of the extended family grabbed most of it before me. But what I like most are the side dishes and appetizers and desserts.

My problem, Ms. Drummond, is that on every show there is one recipe that I really want to try. Even that one where you took club crackers and piled up Parmesan Cheese on them and wrapped each cracker with thin bacon and plopped them in the oven at a couple of hundred degrees and let them cook for a couple of hours. It all melded together and you then threw them in a big baggie and stored them in the freezer. ‘Just pull out and heat when company comes over. They will love ‘em’. (Yes, I am also fascinated with substituting brown sugar for the cheese for a sweet variation.)

You see. Every show has a recipe that I have to try. So I save the show. Now I have seven of your programs saved on my DVR. They are beginning to compete with ‘The Good Wife’ and that Tom Selleck program ‘Blue Bloods', ‘The Middle’, and all those other weird shows that Marilyn records. I know. You have a a fancy blog filled with recipes (and a bunch of other stuff that I need to wade through)…but you have a gazillion recipes there. I can’t remember which ones I had recorded, so I have to go back to the recording….so now you have made my life too complicated. Besides, it just works better when I see you doing it on my TV screen.

I have made a pact with myself to prepare ahead of time, watch one of your recorded shows, and prepare the recipe on the spot. That way I can delete the recording. I figure if I cooked it once, I will remember it. This will take a bit of time and aforethought on my part – and I have been lousy at aforethinking.

But you have more shows to come. Aaaarrgh!

So you are disrupting my life and probably a lot of people like me. I hope you are satisfied.

Sincerely,

Jerry

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ms. Biddy and Salman Khan

As a youngster I had problems with Algebra. I think I was in the seventh grade and my Algebra teacher was a mean old Biddy, which, in addition to my ineptitude, was strike two against the subject.
 
It was the concept of “x”. In class it was explained that “x” was unknown – and I certainly agreed with that. In fact “solving for x” was the unknownest of unknowns as far as I was concerned. The whole thing made no sense; I just couldn’t get my head around the “x” thing. I soon dreaded going to class. When the Biddy would hand out graded test or homework papers she would stop at my desk and scrunch up her already scrunched up lips while she plopped my F-graded paper in front of me. Being called up to the front of the class to work a problem on the board became a terror.  I would flounder and scratch something on the blackboard and that is when the Biddy would start firing questions at me and of course the horror and humiliation of the situation was compounded. The rest of the class, including Karen – the one girl I wanted to impress – would snicker.

I guess it was three or four weeks into the school year when the old Biddy told me to come by after school. Icy fear clutched my heart. If Ms. Vaughn, my young and very beautiful Geography teacher had called me in, my heart would have soared. But the old Biddy? I knew what was coming. ‘I wasn’t applying myself.’ ‘ I needed to work harder.’ ‘Concentrate!’

I wasn’t a bad student. I wasn’t particularly interested in achieving the Honor Role, and I fulfilled my goal. I usually made B’s, maybe a C or two, except for Biology where I could sneak through with a D+ or C-. I got consistent A’s in Band though. But that damn Algebra class was ruining my sleep and puncturing severe holes in my self esteem.


I nervously approached Ms. Biddy (I really don’t remember her name. I should. I wish I did.) She told me to take a seat in front of her desk.  She just started talking, saying things like, “Jerry, you are making this harder than it is.” She then gently asked me what it was that I didn’t understand. Tears started welling up and I blurted out “Nothing makes sense. I’m too stupid.”

I expected her to slam her hand down on the desk and start spitting out a lecture. Instead she started talking about Einstein and how he failed Algebra. Of course I immediately surmised that if he couldn’t pass it how could I? She smiled, as best that a Biddy could smile, and said, “Dr. Einstein lacked the one thing that you do have, and that is someone to explain it to him.”

She had me go to the dreaded blackboard and told me to write down ten plus ten and then write down the equals sign, but don’t say the answer. I did this stupid little thing. Then she told me to write down a “X” after the equal sign.

10 + 10 = X

She then said “X” is the answer. “But the answer is 20!” I exclaimed.

“Very good Jerry, you just solved an equation. And you did it all in your head.”

“Huh?”

“X is the answer. Always remember that. Now turn it around and write “X” equals ten plus ten.”

X = 10 + 10

“What is “X”?”

I wasn’t exactly sure what she was getting at but I couldn’t think of anything else, so with a trembling voice I said “20”?

“Perfect”, she explained. “Now below that write what you just told me.”

X = 10 + 10

20 = 10 + 10

“Is that true?”

This must be a trick question. I stared at the equation and kept repeating to myself, ‘Well ten and ten is twenty and there is nothing else it could be so where’s the trick?’

“Twenty?”

She stood up and stared at me and proclaimed, “Jerry, you have just solved for “X”. Remember that “X” is a question. “X” stand for ‘The answer is!’”

Then we went through the same thing again, except she gave me equations like 250 plus 16 plus 100 plus 10 equals X. I had to write the equation out but then I had to go to a separate part of the board and line up those numbers in a column to figure out the answer. I solved for X.

It was sorta’ making a little sense.
  
The next day in class we all had a test, but mine was different. All of my questions were addition equations and two subtraction equations. It took me a little longer than everyone else, but I got them all correct and she awarded me a “D”. She gave me special homework full of addition and subtraction equations. If I got them all right, I got a D. If I got one of them wrong, I got a D-.

The next week I had to meet with the Biddy again. This time she started hammering me with multiplication and division equations – and it was followed up with special tests and homework for which I was awarded D’s and D-‘s and one F because I got more than one wrong.

But then somewhere in there something clicked. Solving for “X” started making sense. “X” wasn’t a feared, mysterious, and dreaded nemesis anymore. It was kind of cool actually. Within three weeks I started working on the same stuff as everyone else. For those six weeks I received a D. Then I moved up to getting C’s. And my last six weeks of the school year I received the coveted B. Take that, Einstein!

How did it work? Someone sat down and talked to me and patiently explained it to me.

Which brings me to Salman Khan.

Mr. Khan graduated from MIT with a BS in mathematics, a BS in electrical engineering and computer science, and a MS in electrical engineering and computer science, and then pursued a MBA from Harvard Business School. He is pretty smart.

His young cousin Nadia was having trouble in Algebra. He of course helped her by providing little tutorials. When other relatives asked for help with school he figured it would be convenient to offer this tutoring via YouTube so it would be easily accessible. So he would provide little fifteen minute lessons where he would scribble stuff on a notepad and explain it as he went along. All of the scribbling and talking appeared in the YouTube videos.

Salman Khan preparing a lesson

Suddenly he found that his little lectures were beginning to get tons of hits, and he started receiving emails from students all over the world thanking him for explaining stuff in a way that made sense. If you watch his videos it is as if he is sitting next to you scribbling on a paper explaining things as he goes along. Conversational.  He will tell the student things like, “You have to be careful to move the decimal point over two places like this. Remember this, it is easy to forget, and I do it all the time.” Soon he had millions of students clicking in.

Then Bill Gates, in a speech, said something like, “Thanks to Mr. Khan my daughter finally was able to successfully get through high school.” His viewers jumped to millions from all over the world.

Then Bill Gates called him and asked if he could find time in his schedule to come out to visit him. Salman Khan reflected, ‘Actually the only thing on my schedule was to brush my teeth twice a day.’ Mr. Gates offered him fifteen million dollars to expand his effort and to establish a model for school systems to use his videos. They are trying it in California and it is reported to be a glowing success.
Bill Gates and Salman Khan

Mr. Khan has established the Khan Academy with the mission, “To provide a world-class education to anyone, anywhere. With this in mind, we want to share our content with whoever may find it useful.”
Screen Shot of YouTube Lesson

Khan Academy videos has exceeded 175 million views. Google jumped in and donated $2 million in support. To date there are more than 3,400 YouTube videos covering simple subjects like Math and Algebra and History to Calculus, Valuation and Investing, Organic Chemistry, Linear Algebra, Trigonometry, Programming, and on and on. If you want to learn about something, tune in….FOR FREE!

I mentioned this whole thing to a coworker, and she said, “Oh yeah. Khan is responsible for my son passing  Biology!”

Here is a ten minute course on the Beauty of Algebra. Take a look. 


The Beauty of Algebra

Here is a link to Khan Academy.



Khan Academy

Mr. Khan is Ms. Biddy in disguise.

Monday, September 3, 2012

No More Holidays Till Thanksgiving

This would be a work day for me if it wasn’t Labor Day and if there were such a day in Canada it would be Labour Day. How do I know that? I try to be aware what our neighboring countries do just as I know that in Mexico it would be Dia del Trabajo except that I don’t think they celebrate it. If I were energetic I would do two minutes of research and find out exactly what we are celebrating. But I am content with vaguely understanding that it has something to do with the labor movement and unions and things. It takes no research for me to figure out that this is the last holiday before Thanksgiving which is a pretty long way off.


I’m kind of surprised that no Presidential candidate has included more holidays in their platform. I take that back. I am surprised that President Obama has not done this. This is not something that Mr. Romney could consider since he would be keenly aware of the fact that when we have a holiday it is business owners that foot the cost. For holidays and vacations businesses pay their employees for not working, and sometimes have to pay those employees that must work extra money. Businesses pay employees for not showing up to work.

Canadian companies offer more holidays for their Canadian employees and much more vacation time. I know this because I work for a Canadian company even though my office is in Houston. In fact I used to work for a Houston based company until the Canadian company bought us out. This is further evidence that those darn foreigners are taking over. So my fellow employees and I left our U.S. company on a Friday and reported to work for a Canadian company the following Monday. It didn’t take long for us to figure out that our counterparts in Canada sure took an awful lot of time off. So at our first employee meeting, you can bet the first question was, “How come you guys get so many holidays and so much vacation and we don’t?”

The short answer was,” …because you are in the U.S. and we are in Canada.” In the U.S. our company must meet the norms of like U.S. companies. In Canada they must meet the norms of like Canadian companies in order to attract employees. The response was, “Yeah, but…” and “That doesn’t seem right.”

So we are in a self governing cycle. In the U.S. we meet the standards of other companies. No company has an incentive to offer more so other companies can follow suit, so everything stays the same.

But how is it that Canadian businesses can absorb the cost of doing business this way, and the U.S. can’t? Now it is easy to think of business as huge companies making billions of dollars. I like to think of a business as the independent Dry Cleaner that I take my clothing to.  I figure they have ten employees and they are closed today – Labor Day. So those ten employees are being paid for no production. That must be quite a hit on their profit.
Me Being Productive in Canada

I have traveled to Canada quite a few times and businesses seem to be doing well. Their economy seems to be pretty robust and they didn’t suffer the turmoil that seems to have affected everyone else. They maintain a pretty tight regulatory rein on their banking and financial systems. By our standards Canada is pretty liberal. They seem to handle a lot of holidays and a whole lot of vacation time without batting an eyelid. It is perplexing.

I can only conclude that it is attitude.

For over a century it has been drilled into us the glory of hard work, earn your way, and no slacking. This, I think, is a Christian ethic. What ye sow so shall ye reap. Hard work has its just reward. In fact, a job well done is its own reward. It is probably not too bold to suggest that this attitude is what propelled us to what was once the greatest manufacturing and highest productive Mecca of the world. This is truly commendable.

But we have reached a point of pointless productivity, I think. With my computer I can now do in three hours what it would have taken me a week to do thirty years ago. Within two days I can accomplish a month of 1970 work. So I have progressed way beyond fruitful productivity and I now attack ‘what if’ scenarios and ‘it would be nice if’ tasks and then buttress that with meetings to address reorganizing everything. The stuff that must be done to keep the business profitable is taken care of in short order. Then I wonder about what can be done better or faster or different which too many times is self defeating. Maybe I exaggerate a little, but really not too much.

Automation, whether it is the dry cleaners that puts bar codes and scans everything to auto manufacturing with robotic welding to a house builder that cannot conceive of working without a nail gun, has created a productivity overflow. We long ago reached a productivity saturation point, and now we have overflow. And we won’t acknowledge it.

This is why I figure that Canadian businesses can afford to take a hit on productivity by offering more holidays and more vacation. They acknowledge the productivity overflow. This is why I figure the U.S. could too, but we won’t acknowledge it. Am I missing the boat somewhere?

So enjoy your Labor Day. It is a long way to Thanksgiving.

Friday, August 24, 2012

You Should Know

Most of the time I try to steer my blogging conversation toward subjects that I think might be interesting to others, i.e. subjects other than me. But if the occasion arises to share a lesson learned, even if it involves me, I’ll do it.

It was last Saturday morning. About five in the morning. I stumbled out of bed and lurched straight toward the toilet. I raised the toilet lid and proceeded to urinate. At least I tried to urinate. The feeble stream of urine barely made a splash. I knew I really had to go so I impatiently tightened or loosened or whatever one does to whatever muscles to get down to some manly peeing. That was a mistake.

I want to say that it felt like hot razor blades prevented me from peeing. Maybe it was more like hot razor blades coated in acid sitting on a bed of fiery red coals. And a few drops of urine dribbled.

I leaned forward with my hand on the wall behind the toilet and gasped for breath. I tried to think it through. What? Why? What was I to do?

It was early Saturday morning. The time of no doctors.

So I plopped at my compute clinching my gut because I still had to pee but couldn’t and figured ‘this is a hell of a fix’. Impatiently my fingers fumbled across the keyboard until I found Google. We all know the source of all knowledge is the internet – so I needed to tap into that knowledge. Before I could conjure up the right phrase to search for, I needed to make another lurching dash to the toilet. I really had to pee. I gritted my teeth and pushed forward, and too my horror (and my pain), my few dribbles had blood in it.  I did the best I could in front of the toilet and rushed back to the computer.

‘Painful Urination with Blood’, I typed into Google.

After surveying three articles I concluded that I a kidney stone had lodged in my urinary track and the roughness of the stone had scratched the wall of my urinary track thus causing the blood. With this new found knowledge I marched back to the toilet. With determination I planned on peeing hard enough to pass the stone and solve my problem.

Wrong strategy.

I cried out in agony as I got a crimson stream of blood for my effort.

I woke my wife up and explained my distress. What to do. Who to call. We finally concluded that I needed to go to the emergency room. But I demurred. I did not want to go to a crowded emergency room and have to wait to be triaged. I needed to see someone right then.

Then we remembered a standalone 24-hour emergency building that wasn’t part of a hospital and that always seemed empty.

I jumped in the car and rushed to it. They admitted me right away.

The doctor came in and asked what the problem was. I told him that I had a kidney stone lodged in my urinary track that had scraped the walls of the urinary track which made me pee blood and it hurt like hell. The doctor nodded knowingly and asked it I had any back or abdomen pain. I told him no. He then asked for my symptoms, rather than my diagnosis. I told him about the acid hot razor blades (except I also threw in something about a fire breathing Beelzebub) and my crimson red urine. The doctor nodded knowingly again and said, “I think you have an infection. I need to get a urine sample”.

I think I was abrupt what I barked, “Urine sample. Did you hear me. I can’t pee. I gotta’ pee and can’t do it!”

He calmly replied, “We only need a couple of tablespoons of urine.”

I took the little cup to the bathroom and gave him his two tablespoons worth. I was tempted to yell out in agony just to emphasis my point – but I figured that I shouldn’t overdo it.

So I waited in the little room sitting on the edge of that hospital bed for thirty minutes. Then a nurse came in with a needle and two bottles. I asked what it was she was going to shoot me with. She said that it was a powerful antibiotic and some Lidocane (I guess that’s how you spell it) to make the shot not hurt so much. After she jabbed me in the butt with it the doctor came in and said that I had a high white blood cell count which points to an infection. He gave me a prescription to take 100mg of something twice a day. He also gave me the name of an Urologist to see.

Before I left, I went to the restroom again. To my relief, I could urinate a little better.

I took my prescription, and I got better and better. The blood stopped Saturday afternoon. By Sunday, I was almost back to normal as long as I didn’t try to push my urine through too hard. By Monday morning all the pain was gone.

I saw the Urologist on Wednesday and told him my tale of woe. He asked me a lot about any medicines I had been taking, both prescription and over-the-counter. I gave me an exam and checked my prostrate and then sent me to the restroom to urinate, then had a nurse give me a sonogram to see if any urine remained in my bladder. There was.

The doctor then started talking about inserting a camera into me so he could see if there was any problems in my urinary track or bladder. I asked him exactly how this camera was to be inserted. He said through my penis. I jerked back and told him in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t going to stick an alien probe into my dick! I needed to know Plan B. He laughed and then scheduled me for a CAT Scan. He wanted to find out if something else was going on. It seems that bleeding while urinating is not a normal thing for a guy.

This morning at eight o’clock I was sitting in the imaging place drinking two big containers of…I think it was barium. The taste reminds me of Milk of Magnesia. The first container wasn’t so bad. The second was a killer….I counted down the sips remaining and had to keep telling myself I could do it. I did. Without throwing up or anything.

Then after I sat around for twenty minutes and they called me back to where the donut machine was. Then he connected a IV to me to feed in some kind of iodine stuff into my bloodstream. Then he zipped me back and forth through the donut a few times, and that was it.

So now, here I sit. I can urinate with ease and have been zapped by the big machine. I now have an appointment back with the Urologist to on September 6th to review the results. Presumably if there is something bad they will call me in early.

The lesson I want to share with you. Oh yeah.

The internet is not the source of all knowledge.