Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine flu

While it is possible that this will turn into a pandemic catastrophe, I am definitely in wait and see column. There have been 149 deaths in Mexico attributed to swine flu but it is hard to know if that is accurate considering the state of medical infrastructure in Mexico. I wonder how the people in Mexico contracted it--do they work directly in pig meat production or processing? Why does it become less lethal as it has moved into the U.S. and Canada or is the difference that the U.S. and Canada have systems that are capable of locating and treating patients earlier in the course of the disease? It is surprising that with global air travel and global trade that there have been so few actual pandemics and those that have occured, such as SARS, have been contained with no where near the mortality rates of the 1918 influenza pandemic. The next two weeks will tell the tale: major pandemic with high mortality, major pandemic with lots of miserably sick people who eventually get well, or pandemic contained/averted.

Thought for the day:

It has been said that our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength. Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Friday, April 24, 2009

Enough already!!

There comes a time when one simply has to realize that they are doing the best they can in their particular circumstance. And actually, sometimes one is beating one's self up when in reality, they are doing quite well. By the time one adds all the "ought to's" of life, it's amazing that we don't all go slit our wrists. Frequent ought to's: Lose weight, Exercise, Professional Development, Community Service, Grow your own Organic Garden. Ack! When do you do the laundry, shop, cook, clean the bathroom?? It all comes down to priorities of time and money and it is very easy to get distracted from what is a real and necessary priority to something that is a really good thing in itself but takes away from the real & necessary things. Then one gets stressed and irritable because there is one is being pulled in so many different directions that one ends up with no direction.

Thought for the day:

The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook. William James

Monday, April 20, 2009

Over 50 and unemployed

Not JMM or me but a friend, JH. JH lost his job 2 years ago and it took almost a year for him to find another. The job was in Kentucky and they have been unable to sell the house here in Texas. I guess it is just as well that the house hasn't sold because JH has been laid off again. He got a pretty good severance package from the first lay off but that is not the case this time because of the short tenure of service. It is anybody's guess what will happen now. His wife, SH, has not worked in many years but maybe she can find something because the chances of his finding another job now are really slim. God help us.

Goal 2009 Update #10

I did a preliminary check to see if we will be able to make the extra principal payment with the May 1 house payment and the answer is Yes! As of May 1, we will be down to $50,530. The second financial goal for this year is to increase the emergency fund from $6000 to $7000 by adding $50 per paycheck and I am happy to say that is going well also. So far so good!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

It's hard to be a mockingbird,

This time of year there is just no rest for the weary if you are a mockingbird. There is a mate to find and attract, a nest to build, and above all, territory to defend. Morning, noon, and night there are songs to be sung to mark one's territory and intruders that must be driven away. As with humans, there is just no reasoning with the wife once she has determined where home is going to be. Our resident mockingbird has decided that home is going to be behind the geraniums on the plant stand by the back door. Maybe not the wisest choice in the world considering the 3 cats that regularly go in and out that back door but evidently that is where home is going to be. It has been carefully constructed of small twigs and decorated with string. To keep the cats out JMM is putting chicken wire on the back of the stand. I've put out some drier lint in case she wants something soft. So all is ready for the precious eggs. No rest once the eggs hatch either--babies to feed. We are looking forward to watching the mockingbird family expand.

Thought for the day:

Guard well you spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I'll be danged if I'll let it get me down.

I have been feeling very down the past couple of days with all the turmoil at work. Unhappy with what is happening, the direction of management, and the firing of a 23 year employee. But I just came to the conclusion today that I am not going to let them make me unhappy. I like taking care of patients and providing help to the nursing and medical staff. I am just going to keep right on taking care of one patient at a time and taking satisfaction from it. If management doesn't like it, well, what's the worst that could happen--I'd get fired and wouldn't have to deal with them ever again. Fine with me.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Oh what a relief it is..

I am home today and it is such a relief to be away from work. The tension is just palpable. Management just keeps piling on more work, now with fewer people. Then there is my unease about working with B. I keep thinking that all I have to do is hang in there until January when the house is paid off but then there is my concern about JMM's job -- what if his employer decides that they don't need to pay a RPh salary to someone doing IT work?? OK, enough worry for today. We are well and together and everything else is secondary. It is a warm spring day, the wildflowers are spectacular, and we have swallows nesting in both the front and back porches.

Thought for the day:

" Preach the Gospel always. If necessary use words." St. Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Ax Man Cometh

Yesterday they fired 3 pharmacists, all from the OR, all long time employees. They had done nothing wrong; management just decided that we could do without 3 OR pharmacists. One had been with the company for 23 years and poof, no warning, no option to transfer to a different shift, just escorted out the door. What goes around, comes around though and Pharmacy Directors seem to be fired about every 5 years; I've never been happy to see a director or manager fired but I must admit that I'll have a hidden smile on my face when this bunch's time comes up...if I'm still around.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The New Schedule at Work

I've had a pretty sweet schedule at work for the past few years--I work evening shift (by my choice) and have my weekends free. That's all coming to an end beginning today. The original schedule was to work 2 weeks of days and 2 weeks of evenings and every other weekend. I was able to pair up with someone so that I get to keep my straight evenings but there is no avoiding the weekends. In all honesty though, I don't mind the weekends because it is nice to have some days off during the week. What really does have me worried is that we are now having to rotate through night shift when they have someone out on vacation. I know I can make it through the first night and probably through the second but after that I will be a zombie and maybe not safe to drive home. I amy have to get JMM to drive me home.
I know we have a hiring freeze and the managers are trying to stretch personnel but my, oh my, covering night shift is a major ordeal for me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I have just finished The Gamble by Thomas Ricks. It is a thoughtful book about the disastrous first years of the Iraq war and the process that led up to The Surge. I learned a lot--mostly that the war was even more disasterously conceived and managed than I had previously thought. However, toward the last third of the book when he was discussing how well the counter-insurgency strategy and tactics work, I began to wonder: Did he really think that the surge was going to solve the problem?? Yes, it provided some time that the Iraqi government was supposed to use to form a functional, inclusive government. But surely, he didn't think that an 18 month surge of U.S. forces would change the basic culture of tribalism and Sunni vs. Shia enmity?? No, he didn't. In the end, the points out that the Malaki government is incapable of governing the entrenched regional and sectarian divisions and we are more or less coming back the the pre-surge level of violence as the U.S. forces pull out. (Pull out of Iraq and into Afghanistan...but that is another post.)

Here is a column from Thomas Ricks blog:

I thought some of the surge-era deals in Iraq would unravel but I didn't think that would begin happening this quickly. It's only March 2009, and already Awakening fighters are fighting U.S. soldiers in the streets of Baghdad.
Anyone who tells you that the Iraq war is over should be forced to memorize this paragraph from the Sunday edition of the Washington Post:
As Apache helicopter gunships cruised above Baghdad's Fadhil neighborhood, former Sunni insurgents fought from rooftops and street corners against American and Iraqi forces, according to witnesses, the Iraqi military and police. At least 15 people were wounded in the gunfights, which lasted several hours. By nightfall, the street fighters had taken five Iraqi soldiers hostage.
That is Iraq 2009. Does it sound peaceful to you? Does it seem like the political questions vexing Iraq have been solved?
Here is a quote of the day:
If they don't release Adil Mashadani, all the Awakening in Iraq will rise up like our uprising today," he [a local Awakening Council spokesman] added."
Along with the bombings in west Baghdad lately, the street fighting over the weekend doesn't quite form a trend. But it points toward one possible series of events. That is, the Maliki government is putting the screws to the Awakening movement (for those who just arrived, that's a mainly Sunni group of about 100,000 people, many of them former insurgents, who in late 2006 and 2007 arrived at ceasefires with the U.S. military presence in Iraq). The American plan was to integrate about 20,000 members of Awakening groups into Iraqi security forces, and help the rest find other work. Meantime, the Baghdad government was supposed to take over the payments to the groups, which when I last checked totaled about $30 million a month.
But the Shiite-dominated Baghdad government never really liked the idea. Indeed, the first deals were cut by U.S. officials behind the back of the Iraqi government. So Maliki's guys are:
Arresting some leaders of the "Sons of Iraq" (the American term for Awakening forces)
Attacking others
Bringing only 5,000 of the ex-insurgents into the Iraqi security forces
And stiffing others on pay, with some complaining they haven't been paid in weeks or even months
I think Maliki's gambit is to crack down on the Sunnis while American forces are still available in sufficient numbers to back him up. This is a turning into a test of strength, Sunni vs. Shiite.
There's more. If the Awakening fighting spreads, I wouldn't be surprised to see Moqtada al-Sadr's Shiite militia re-emerge. I've always thought the Sunni Awakening forced him to go to ground, because he didn't want to be the only guy taking on American forces. But if the Sunnis are on the attack again, it might be game on for him as well. I am reminded of Ambassador Ryan Crocker's worry, expressed in my new book and elsewhere, that the future of Iraq was something like Lebanon. That is, it has a government, but it is shaky, and there is violence in the streets, with some political parties having armed wings that are outside the control of the government.
The Washington Post's Anthony Shadid calls this all "potentially worrisome." When Shadid begins to worry, we all should. He's the guy who back in early 2004 used to encourage me to take taxis around Baghdad.
Proven provider John McCreary of NightWatch fame is even more emphatic:
This is a pre-cursor of the second round of the Sunni-Shia civil war to follow."
Question of the day: What should I say the next time someone tells me the surge "worked"?