Previous month:
October 2004
Next month:
December 2004

27 entries from November 2004

Monday Madness: Sun 11/28/04, Potpourri

A day late (or is it two?) this week after I missed last week’s entirely. Source.

  1. How did you choose a name for your blog?
    I first called it spiel, which was a name I hadn’t seen applied to a blog yet, and it fit the general rambly style. Now it’s my domain name.

  2. How many times have you changed the name of your blog?
    Probably a couple dozen. I went through a period where I’d change it every few days to some random word or the like.

  3. How many blogs to you update regularly?
    Two, one public and another private.

  4. How many times have you moved in your life?
    I’ve moved an average of once per year since 1992, total of 14 times.

  5. On a scale of 1-10, how stressful is moving (in your opinion)?
    8, all the silly details involved. This year it’s been 9 or 10; I moved twice between April and June, a total of 2300 miles.

  6. When moving, do you/would you rent a moving van/truck?
    All the moves I’ve made have been by rented truck. This next time, when I go back to Seattle, I’m getting bids on moving companies to avoid the hassle of hauling my life across four states in the middle of winter.

  7. Do you wear glasses? If so, how old were you when you needed them?
    I do wear glasses, got them in sixth grade.

  8. What one question would you hope someone running a meme would ask?
    Nothing particular leaps to mind. I participate in several memes on a random basis whenever the question(s) interest me.

Comet L200. Or, Don Drives to Work After the Snows

I love the first day or two after a several-inches snowfall. I brush my car off carefully, but I usually don't get the entire surface of the hood nor the roof. I figure those will do just fine by themselves, since they don't block my view as I drove.

So this morning as I blew down 700 E at 45 to 50 mph, I streamed a tail of snow-crystal dust that sparkled brilliantly in the morning sun.

There were several northbound comets too, which pleased me. That's how I know I was sparkling.

Too bad I didn't have my cameraphone at the ready, but I've found that high-speed photography is dangerous and blurry.

Ah, so happy to be back in town after the week off.... :-x

Salt Lake Tribune: Photo gallery: Utah Utes defeat BYU Cougars to maintain perfect record, 11-0 on the season

Flickr photo sharing: Utah Utes Coach Urban Meyer raises his hands to victory
Utah Utes Coach Urban Meyer raises his hands to victory
Flickr: Don Nunn

One of my favorite shots from the gallery.

(Photo credit: Danny Chan La/The Salt Lake Tribune)
I didn't see any of the game coverage while I was in Seattle and hadn't spotted the Trib's gallery link until this morning.

55 photos in total; the gallery has both manual and slideshow modes for your viewing pleasure.

One thing to keep in mind (and my chief complaint about the way the Trib presents most multimedia or slideshow features): The photos don't seem to be in any particular order. There are a few game-action shots, then an abrupt change to photos of the crowd celebrating the victory, and then more shots of additional plays from what seem to be different parts of the game. It'd be nice if they'd show the photos in roughly chronological order to maintain a sense of continuity, but the Trib doesn't get that.

Ah well. Looks like the fans had a great time and it brought back the general thrill I felt when I got the score report on my cell phone that same night.

I've collected a few other of my favorite photos below the cut, with the Trib's caption and photo credit included (with some typo fixes) from the gallery pages.

Go Utes!

Original gallery link; it’s since been deactivated, unfortunately.

Back from Seattle, news on the relocation front

Amazing to me that we live in a time when I can have breakfast in Woodinville, WA, and be home for lunch in Salt Lake City.

We wondered if we’d make it, however, because of some odd events right after we boarded our 09:30 flight at SEA.

First, the auxiliary power unit they use to blow air over the jet engines wasn’t working, so they were trying to find the equipment they’d need to start the engines externally once we’d pushed back from the gate. But after a quick round of maintenance, they managed to get things working again, so we pushed back only about 10 minutes later than expected.

Then as we rolled slowly backward, there was this terrific CLANGcrashcrunch sound and the entire plane jolted first up, then sideways, and then jostled for about 5 more seconds before coming to a quick halt. We all looked out the windows to see what truck or other plane or whatever we’d hit, but we couldn't see a thing.

Pilot was on the PA system in no time informing us the noise and jostling were caused by a sudden break of the tow-bar attaching our plane’s nose gear to the tug truck that was pushing us back from the gate. The ground crew was scrambling to find another tow-bar after determining the break hadn’t damaged our plane (thank God!), so we were delayed another five minutes or so.

Finally we pushed back, they fired up the engines (I love MD-90s with their rear-mounted engines; in first class, we heard almost no engine noise at all), and we taxied to the runway for take-off. We were second in line by the time we arrived and we clawed our way into the air after only a few more minutes for what we all hoped would be an uneventful flight.

And it was, until we began the descent to SLC, when we hit rough air and jostled and rattled our way down from about 10,000 feet. One of the few times I’ve heard a pilot instruct the flight attendants to take their seats too, which didn’t faze me much but I was worried about my mom’s coffee spilling everywhere, so my reaction was to grip the cup and keep it pinned to the console between us while I fired up my iPod for a few more tunes before I had to stow my backpack again for landing.

We beat the snow in Salt Lake City by an hour or so. From the weather forecasts I’d seen in Seattle, I’d expected snow on the valley floor, but there was none yet. Cloudy, of course, and the storm was obviously blowing in from over the Great Salt Lake. I got home about 13:15 and the snow began 14:15ish.

We’ll be spending the Christmas holiday here in Salt Lake and I’ll be relocating to Mill Creek, WA, in the first week or so of the new year.

Time to call some moving companies for estimates.

Seattle Times: Hospital details what went wrong: Woman dies from toxic injection

Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center takes the unusual steps of publicly apologizing for and explaining the horrific mistake that killed a woman who was undergoing a brain-aneurysm diagnostic procedure.

Entire story below the cut.

Continue reading "Seattle Times: Hospital details what went wrong: Woman dies from toxic injection" »

Thanksgiving craziness

Happy Thanksgiving!

We got an early start to the day's Enormous Meal prep by cleaning our fresh (Never Frozen!) Butterball turkey and dunking it into a Home Depot blinding-orange 5-gallon bucket with the brine I prepared last night.

We did this while fighting off the aggressive advances of Buto, a young female Siamese cat experiencing her first Thanksgiving. This cat has a taste for nearly any food; your hands are in danger anytime you unwrap anything in plastic, whether it be food or not, because in true Pavlovian style the sound alone is enough to set off Buto's hunting instincts.

She talks a lot too. MEOW MROW ROWR and so on as she stalks the countertops seeking sustenance, because she's so underfed.

Anyway. The bird's brining, we're about to have breakfast while we relax and enjoy the day and read the newspaper and marvel over the absurdly early hours many stores have advertised for tomorrow, the looniest shopping day of the year.

We're staying miles away from any and all malls and shopping centers for the remainder of the weekend.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season. :-)

Curses, foiled again!

I was going to use my gift certificate for Kenmore Air today, maybe take a scenic-tour flight around Seattle so I could snap some photos with my cameraphone or perhaps make a quick jaunt up to Friday Harbor for a beer and a burger, but of course I didn't consider the pre-holiday travel orgy and didn't book in advance.

So I'm coffee/Wi-Fi whoring instead at a Starbucks down the road from Kenmore Air's harbor location in Kenmore at the north end of Lake Washington.

I've never been to this Starbucks, but it's a nice one. Pretty crowded at the moment, both inside where I am and in the drive-through line (the cars are snaking around this side of the building, and the drive-through's on the other side), but it has a coziness to it. I'm near the fireplace, which is surrounded by several overstuffed chairs, and there's a slew of tables scattered about here and there.

But anyway. Back to the Kenmore Air thing.

The gift certificate expires Dec 15, and I won't be back in the Seattle area permanently until mid-January. I was talking to the reservations folks at the Kenmore Air office and they're going to extend the life of my certificate by a month so I can use it right after I get back to town in the new year, woo hoo. Probably use it then for the Friday Harbor jaunt, and I'll only have to pay any difference in fare if the certificate amount doesn't cover it all.

So in the end, today's Preparation Day for the big food holiday tomorrow. Mainly that means doing nothing this morning, prepping the turkey brine tonight, and borrowing a stockpot from Sonya for the brine and later for the potatoes. We're all mashed-potatoes whores, so we'll likely do the entire five-pound bag for leftovers.

Mmm, I loves me leftovers.

Not where I saw this entry going when I started it, hrmm....

Apartment search = drag

So dull.

We looked at I would estimate 23,000 apartments today. (By 23,000 I mean "six different properties, one or two model apartments per property." I'm big on exaggeration.) Mostly we dealt with "leasing consultants" who were all smiles and small-talk, how did I find out about their properties, oh really I've lived here before? and how did I like it? and what did I think of the rain today? giggle giggle.

Found a couple of places I'm considering, but of course they don't yet know availability for January since they only require 20 to 30 days' notice for lease termination. So I'll probably end up calling back early in December and trying to set something up by fax and/or FedEx, oh joy.

We lunched at McMenamins in Mill Creek, which would be about a five-minute walk from one of the properties I liked a lot. That is, naturally, part of why I liked that property. Also it's further away from Thrashers Corner so less likely to see traffic slowdowns as SR 527 approaches I-405.

Speaking of the weather, this is the first time I've visited the Seattle area and it's rained. Every other time, my visits have heralded a period of sunny and mild weather, but this week they're forecasting rain on four of the five days remaining on our visit.

My sister and friends are vexed by this. They always counted on our visits to brighten their days, but this time we're just wetting things down.

Utah Utes achieve perfect season with victory over BYU Cougars

I was most pleased to receive a news alert as I walked out of the theater from a showing of The Incredibles that the University of Utah Utes football team had achieved a perfect season, 11-0, with their win over the BYU Cougars at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City tonight.

What a game that would have been to see in person. 52-21, another huge margin. I only saw a few highlights on the TVs over the bar at the restaurant where we had a light dinner after the movie, but it looked pretty good in those few 5- or 10-second clips.

The Utes' first undefeated season since 1930. And the BCS is officially busted, as far as I'm concerned.

Yahoo! Sports' story about the game.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

UPDATE 02/01/05: Welcome CougarBoard members!

Now then. Why keep your smarm to your own message board? Spread the wealth—don't hesitate to use the comments section below!

Happiness in Seattle

We got in yesterday at 16:30. Flying first class is the way to go, I hereby declare. Even better when (1) it's on someone else's dime and (2) that dime is actually redeemed frequent-flyer miles, so the flight was effectively free of charge.

And of course we had the perks of the free booze and whatnot, which on a short flight didn't matter all that much (I had a glass of wine and then one beer, don't like the dehydration I sometimes experience on airplanes), but made for a pleasant 90-minute air experience.

We picked up our rental car at Hertz in the SEA parking structure. We're both #1 Club Gold members, so we saw our name in lights and headed directly to the car. This trip's vehicle is a 2005 Buick Century with headlights that turn on and off automatically (determined by a sensor the location of which I've yet to figure out). I'm not a big fan of Buick automobiles, wouldn't ever buy one, but they're okay for rentals.

We drove up I-405 in the middle of the afternoon rush hour but had no trouble with traffic. God bless the HOV lanes. Our hotel, a Marriott Residence Inn located in the business park near the lab where I'll likely end up working in a month or two. We're in a first-floor two-bedroom/two-bath suite that's obviously meant to be handicap-accessible, if the safety bars and counter heights are any indication. In fact, I noticed that the toilet in the front bathroom is higher than any other I've ever used; feels like a high chair, a strange experience.

The room has a full kitchen so of course we had to go to the grocery store for a few essentials. Mostly this consisted of wine and beer, and I was pleased to find a new Berry Wheaten beer by Pyramid. It's a nice mix of black currant and ale flavors, smooth for sippin'. Pyramid's hefeweizen is among my favorite brews anyway, so their special release of a fruit beer was a pleasant surprise.

Today we've been shopping and doing other visitors-who've-lived-here-previously things. I'll be apartment-hunting first part of the week and getting everything we'll need for the holiday dinner, and we'll do various touristy and other things as well.

It's so nice to be away from the gift-shop craziness for a while. So far no calls requesting help, which makes me incredibly happy. If we get through the whole week without a call, I think I'll probably die right away.

Hospital observations

So I've been at this hospital every day for the last three weeks, and before that I was here at least two or three days a week for a couple of months. Here are some things I've noticed in that time.

No particular order:

  • This hospital is big on HIPAA rules'n'regs to guard patient information and privacy. Or at least they say they are. In the last few weeks, I've observed a few strange methods of maintaining that privacy, among them:

    1. Stacks of metal charts, with patients' full information (name, condition, treatments, etc.) attached, placed outside the pre-admission nurses' offices on weekends (these nurses don't work weekends, so they process the charts the following business day)

    2. Pre-admission nurses' offices are so small, the doors can't be closed easily when the nurses are speaking to new patients, so anyone loitering outside those offices can hear clearly anything and everything being discussed inside

    3. The hospital's main patient-registry area is in the main lobby, right across from the gift shop and next to the information desk, and often patients speak loudly enough to be heard clearly across that large space when they're first informing the registration agents of their reason for being in the hospital that day

  • The hospital's cafeteria closes at 14:00 on weekends, and they have this charming habit of just turning off all the lights to let any remaining customers know it's time to go.

    There's some fine customer service, my friends.

  • There are two banks of elevators in the main hospital building. One's in a side hallway that isn't readily visible to visitors, so it gets used by employees more often, but the impatient employees hit the call buttons for both banks almost every time, and then bitch about how slow the elevators are.

    Hello dickheads: If you didn't call all the elevators every time you needed just one, the elevators would respond to EVERYONE'S CALLS FASTER!

  • You see a wide variety of fascinating people in hospitals. Several times when I've been standing by the information desk, I've heard visitors wander in and ask the volunteers to direct them to their appointments. But they don't know what the appointments are for, they don't know the doctor's name, and often they're not even sure what time the appointment is actually scheduled. Somehow, however, they expect the volunteers to divine all of this information and point them in the proper direction.

  • Speaking of which, several times in the Women's Pavilion I've seen new (usually teenage) fathers come in and ask where the mothers of their newborn babies are, but they don't know the mothers' surnames. (!)

  • It amazes me how people only read signs when it's to their advantage, like the woman yesterday who wanted to argue about 1/3 off a bag of potpourri that was on a cart with a sign reading THANKSGIVING & FALL ITEMS 1/3 OFF. She instantly pointed out that the sign didn't SAY the potpourri wasn't included.

    "You're absolutely right," I said. "The sign doesn't say that."

    And out she huffed.

    And I thought, "If the sign had specifically excluded potpourri, you'd have claimed you hadn't seen the sign."

    People really piss me off.

    (And the potpourri is included, by the way. I made a mistake.)

  • The volunteers are all doing well with the registers, for the most part, but the one thing they don't do properly is LOOK AT THE DAMNED SCREEN to see what they're doing. Many of them work at the information desk as well, and they have no trouble looking at the info desk computer's screen to see if they've misspelled a patient's name or the like, but for whatever reason they just do NOT do so with the gift-shop register PCs.

    If anyone can explain this to me, I'd certainly appreciate the insight. I'm utterly mystified.

I think that's all for now. I'm in the midst of verifying our inventory list to remove any duplications and this has taken the better part of an hour to write as I've jumped back'n'forth between the two.

::continue to count seconds to Fri 11/19 15:06::

Music Mambo: Week 34

First time for me on this one.

Counting Them Down

Five albums you'd recommend to friends
arclight by the fat lady sings; eastmountainsouth's self-titled album; anything by Vienna Teng; 10,000 Maniacs' Our Time in Eden; the American Beauty soundtrack

Four songs that show how you feel right now
Sarah McLachlan's Time; The Tower and Between by Vienna Teng; Summertime by The Sundays

Three artists/bands you'd like to see in concert
the fat lady sings (won't happen, they're long since disbanded); Vienna Teng; Sarah McLachlan

Two videos that you love
Prince's Musicology and One Thing by Finger Eleven

One song that you just can't get out of your head
Happily, I don't have a song rattling about my brain right now

Monday Madness: Sun 11/14/04, One or the other

Yet another I've ignored for a few weeks, but must make mood better....

  1. bar soap or shower gel: bar soap
  2. cd's or cassettes: CDs
  3. television movies or documentaries: TV movies usually, depends on mood
  4. wall calendar or desk calendar: Wall
  5. dsl, cable, or dial-up: Cable
  6. summer or winter: Winter, I like the clothes better
  7. city or country: City
  8. camping or stay in a hotel: Hotel
  9. gold or silver: Silver
  10. fiction or non-fiction books: Fiction
  11. mashed potatoes or baked potatoes: Mashed
  12. ranch, italian, or catalina dressing: Ranch
  13. solid or spray deodorant: Solid


One of the gift shop's three new point-of-sale cash registers.
But let me tell you why.

Today I spent hours dealing with all of the following phenomena, separately and/or together, and listed in no particular order despite their numbering:

  1. Volunteers who flatly refuse to look at the damned register screen to see what they've done and determine their best course of action.

    Honestly. If I hear another singsong cry of, "Don, help, I'm in trouble," and then go into the shop and see the volunteer's simply not yet answered "Yes" to the simple question on the screen, I'm going to hurt someone.

  2. UPC and description/price information from one particular vendor that has absolutely nothing to do with what we actually sell from that vendor, despite their assurances that the info they sent was specific to our orders over the last year.

    If your name is Barb and you work for Enesco in the Chicago area, expect a call from me in the morning.

    Expect a few dozen calls, in fact, because I'm likely to get disconnected for ranting incoherently.

  3. A volunteer who called in a panic when a flower arrangement rang up twice.

    Remember, the "Delete" key (also F7) is your friend.

    And I'm having my cell number changed presently.

  4. An idiotic vendor whose quality control is so poor, the UPC labels have fallen off (or were never properly attached to) 90% of the merchandise we received for this holiday season.

    It takes for-fucking-EVER to label products with UPCs. I DO NOT WANT TO WASTE MY TIME ON IT. Train your QC folks or fire them and hire better ones.

  5. I know the UPC and price info are on the damned invoices. I don't want to type the info myself, that's why I'm asking for the files to be emailed!

    If one more vendor rep tells me this, I will likely end up hospitalized in a room with rubber walls.

Sunday Brunch: 11/13/04: Chocolate Candy

Missed a couple weeks on this one.

  1. What is your favorite flavor of M&Ms?
    The plain milk chocolate ones are the best because I'm most used to them. Close second is the peanut-butter flavor.

  2. Is there a special edition of candy that you wish they would make a permanent item on the shelves?
    I was going to say Nestle's Crunch with caramel, but I think it is permanent now.

  3. What is your favorite flavor of Hershey’s Kisses?
    Plain again, mainly because I haven't tried the caramel ones.

  4. What is your favorite candy bar?
    Kit Kat.

  5. Do you prefer milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate?
    Milk chocolate among the mass-produced brands. Some specialty chocolates' dark varieties are simply heavenly, though.

Week 93: Unconscious Mutterings

Hmm, I remember when I had (and wrote about) occasionally original thoughts.

::shrug:: Ah well, perhaps next week when I'm on vacation. Until then....

Said... :: Thunk...
  1. Childhood :: Memories
  2. Ransom :: Kidnapping
  3. Melissa :: Name
  4. Trust me :: Faith
  5. Report :: Answer
  6. Give up :: Surrender
  7. Nightgown :: Bedtime
  8. Smokes :: Cigs
  9. Cookies & cream :: Blizzard
  10. Game show :: Come on down!

More, randomly

We're halfway through Week 2 of The Great Hospital Gift Shop Point-Of-Sale Rollout, and it's going pretty well overall. We've had a few glitches, of course, mainly a few items we missed here and there as we did our inventories to collect UPCs and prices. And one of the big data loads I did, to put in about 500 UPC/price/description records for items in the storage area, didn't work at first, but the second time around it went just fine. Our biggest ongoing concern is making sure the volunteers who work in the two gift shops are comfortable with the machines, and secondarily making sure the single register in the satellite gift shop stops having trouble staying connected to the network.

So I haven't been around here much lately, and then last night I came down with a cold. Seems minor so far but it laid me pretty low so I wasn't at the hospital much today, only long enough to get the morning-shift folks started on their days. I gave them my cell number and all day only received three calls, which was the number I expected to receive per shift.

They're doing well.

On, then, to the randomness that's stuck in my brain the last several days.

Continue reading "More, randomly" »

POS Hell, Week 2

Tonight's gift-shop volunteer is picking up on the register operation pretty quickly. She was absent last week, and the woman who was here is on a leave of absence through Thanksgiving at least, so instead of being here to help with any questions I'm here training a new person once more.

The ladies on the morning and midday shifts did all right but they thought too much. If they'd just relax and use the little cheater cards we prepared, and not think so hard about the possibility that they might make a mistake at some point ever in the rest of their lives, they'd be fine.

And I arrived at 11:15 today, instead of at 7:30 or 8:00 like last week. So it's been a shorter day. All in all, not so hellish, even if I am less patient this week.

Only two more weeks and then off to Seattle for the holiday, woo hoo....

::count seconds::

Two more days' POS Hell

Monday night's Scared Volunteer was a woman who personified the Voice of Doom, the ultimate "I can't learn anything new, I barely know how to use electricity" type of person. She spent the first two hours of her shift describing to me in horrifying detail the leukemia, rapid descent toward death, actual death, funeral arrangements, funeral service (including the viewing, the vast hordes of mourners who attended, etc.), and post-funeral family gatherings of "the love of [her] life."

I naturally assumed she meant her husband, but then she said her husband had died 14 years before. This was just her octogenarian love buddy, apparently.

I cringed much of Monday night.

Tuesday's batch of Scared Volunteers consisted of a 91-year-old charmer who was afraid of the machines at first but after about 20 minutes thought they were THE GREATEST THING IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD!!!, because the scanners just make things SO EASY and she doesn't have to type prices in anymore and how wonderful is that???

The other two women did all right. One of them kept saying, about every 27 seconds, how stupid she was, how the machines were smarter than she is, how she'd never learn, how she might just have to stop volunteering, blah blah blah. The other woman understood the machines in almost no time at all and was pretty laid back, mainly rolling her eyes at the "I'm stupid!" woman's endless jabbering.

It's been an utterly
fascinating week.
Tuesday night brought the Teased Hair and Plucked Eyebrows woman whose manicured nails were unbelievably hard. I know this because when she pressed any keys on the cash register, the clacking sound could be heard clearly by whales near Antarctica. She spent most of her shift telling me about her recent trip to Mexico with a female friend who needed $30,000 of dental work but could get it done just over the border from San Diego for only $2,700, and how it turned out to be 8 root canals and 27 caps, and how the woman has some heart trouble that prevented use of Novocaine and/or nitrous oxide, and so she just clenched her fists and moaned and kicked a lot.

I cringed a lot more Tuesday night.

Today was pretty easy. The morning shift brought one of the women from Tuesday's midday shift, and she did just fine; the other volunteer was a man who spent 27 years teaching in high schools all over the valley. He didn't have much computer experience but picked up the basics in no time, and soon I was just standing there while the two of them ran the shop and I answered a question now and then.

The midday shift was a trio of attentive and excited ladies who were mildly intimidated at first but thought the scanning was just wonderful, and the credit-card acceptance was just wonderful, and isn't it wonderful how big the numbers are on the screen and how easy it is to read and how simple to get the prices in there?

And tonight's shift was an easy one, three volunteers who were happy to learn a new way of doing things. Two of them, a husband and wife who live right by the hospital, left early to get home in time for the Jeopardy! game show with the guy who's been winning for 18 years or whatever, and the third, an absolutely adorable little lady named Gail, just chattered amiably about her family and about the gift shop's regular customers and how she cooked dinner for 45 people (all family no further away than grandchildren) on Saturday night, and how she loves to cook, especially since her husband died seven years ago.

Oh also, how pleased she was to find out her home is exactly 11.3 miles away from the hospital.

It's been an utterly fascinating week.

Point-Of-Sale Hell

Got to the hospital at 07:30, rapidly approaching the 12-hour mark of teaching mainly over-70 women how to use a Windows-PC-based point-of-sale register system that makes their lives easier if they can JUST GET PAST THE DAMNED APPREHENSION OF THE MOUSE!!!!

Honestly, women, shut the hell up and just watch as I do the transactions and then let you practice them! You'll get the hang of it in no time!

On the plus side, I can make web-site entries from the POS computers, which rules. Especially since I'll probably be here for 12 to 15 hours per day for the next two weeks, Oh Joy.

That is all.