Pat Drummond :: life & technology

October 21, 2011

Hospitals are strange places

I've spent way too much time visiting hospitals lately. Hospitals are good places to stay out of -- you knew that right? After visiting the skipper every day during two hospitalizations, I came home exhausted every night. A few reasons may sound silly - or not.

Why are there so many beeps and other electronic noise in hospital wards? I look around and no one else even notices. The staff must have filters in their ears (one hopes) to hear the important ones. When the skipper's IV pump kept stopping, I finally hit the start button myself. Then I restarted the pump of the other patient in the room. Are they all defective? Or just the people installing the shunt? Constant beeping rubs my nerves totally raw. I guess other people just get cranky and don't know why.

Press the red call button and someone may come in 5-10 minutes. So I learned how to help the skipper with the simple needs (you know). As soon as he was mobile, I had learned how to unplug the monitors and taught him how to push the IV in front of him. Simple stuff but it meant he could use the john instead of a pee bottle and bed pan. Small things mean a lot.

Why does the staff talk so loudly to patients - they are ill, not deaf! How about "DID YOU HAVE A BOWEL MOVEMENT TODAY?" for the entire ward to hear. If you sit around, you can listen to the most personal information being talked about in lower but still pretty loud tones.

Patients have to forego all personal dignity. Nurses are usually very patient and pleasant to sick people, but really, who really likes to have their ass on view, to see other people's asses, have a stranger help them pee, and as for bed pans...

The really scary problem is there are not enough staff especially at night to deal with patients in recovery who are not "lucid". The nurse called me at home at 10:30 pm as I was going to sleep because the skipper had torn out his IV when he woke up agitated. Hey guys, he didn't know he was in a hospital and just wanted OUT - I would react the same way. I was given 3 choices to keep him from hurting himself - come in myself, authorize restraints, or hire an outside agency. So I hired an agency ($200 for 8 hours) to sit with him and make sure he didn't get out of bed. In the end they used drugs, so I may as well have chosen restraints. During the day, they also used sedatives and a chair/tray restraint even if I was there. If he was in bed they turned on a bed alarm that made an awful noise if he leaned on the bed side rail. I set it off several times before I learned what it was. Thank god he started to recover and ended the worry and cost. I hadn't slept much one night so went home in the afternoon, a 90 minutes round trip, for an hour nap. As I arrived home, and friends down the street were just finishing cutting our grass. I was so tired, grateful and surprised, I nearly burst into tears.

The skipper thought at one point he was in prison. Even prisoners have something to do, so interesting comparison. The regular wards have TVs to rent with 32 channels - can you get hockey using that? A brochure listed their absurd rates, but not how to pay! Hospital staff didn't know. Just as I was leaving, a person came in to disconnect the TV and asked if we wanted TV service. So I paid for 4 days. A day later, they moved him to the 'obs' ward - with no TV at all. The waiting room had a broken TV. So no hockey for the skipper. Airlines recognize you can keep people happy by providing movies, music, and food. Wouldn't hospital staff would have an easier time if they provided some distractions for restless patients? As soon as he was mobile, he wandered all over the hospital just to see if he could - no problem.

I found out by accident that you can arrange Wi-Fi for a patient at this particular campus of the hospital. So brought in the laptop and it took 20 entire minutes to connect - and I'm a computer geek. Sheesh. A little complicated for someone who just had brain surgery for g*d sake. I haven't seen such a crappy Wi-Fi setup in years. Plus too slow to watch a movie. Next day I brought the skipper a radio - he was not happy. I finally sprung him back home a day early so he got to watch our team get wiped in glorious high def. The good news is he's back in his own bed, where he doesn't have a team waking him at 6 am and nurses checking him every hour. I get to do that now. Dear God, please let the next scan be good.

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Friends are Vitamin F

Our new friends have proven how simple it is to make someone's life easier. The skipper has been in hospital twice and had surgery, so the last month or so has been a stressful time. After driving to the city every day to be with him, I was a little sleep-deprived and feeling sick so I returned home for a nap one afternoon (90 minute round trip). I found my neighbours Nancy and Steve just finishing mowing our grass! Nancy said, you know how people always ask what they can do to help. Well, she knew I was worried about how much time the lawn takes - so they just came over and did it with 2 mowers. I nearly burst out crying right in the driveway. They did it again a few weeks later and this week they mulched the leaves. A matched pair of angels.

Next time I know someone who is going through something like this, I'm going to invite them for meals, walk or feed the dog -- or even cut their grass. I will try to remember NOT to ask 'what can I do'? Like many people, I just couldn't seem to ask for help. It's more effective to offer to do specific chores that you know they need to do, but may not have time or energy for.

Dr. Oz calls them Vitamins F (for Friends) and friends are essential to our well being. How true.

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June 29, 2011

SpiderOak not ready for Public use

SpiderOak ( as a backup and sync tool using cloud storage which gives you 2GB free cloud storage. But it should come with a warning (or get fixed). The software on my Win7 system caused havoc on my hard drive. (The following is from memory.)

First I disabled Dropbox so there wouldn't be any conflicts. Dropbox does the same job but requires all your files to be under the "My Dropbox" folder. I was told in an internet newsletter that SpiderOak offered better security - passwords and encryption are all done before files are uploaded.

I installed the SpiderOak software on the Windows 7 computer. I set it up to backup 6 website folders. The folders all had the same name, and all appeared in the SpiderOak cloud storage called "website". Well, I had expected SpiderOak to mirror my folder tree (d:\AAA\website). So I edited the backup settings to the parent folders to give a unique and descriptive name in the cloud storage. There was very little feedback to indicate if the backup was working or if it was finished, which seems an important indicator to leave out.

Then I noticed many files were missing in the cloud storage. After much searching, I found an option that had been checked to NOT backup older files. I cleared the setting and again had trouble determining if/when the files had been backed up.

I was going to setup the "Sync" function next, to mirror the cloud folders to another computer. But for some reason I tried the download function instead. By the time I realized it was taking a long time and cancelled it, SpiderOak had copied hundreds of files from the cloud right back into computer #1, but many of them went into the WRONG sub-folder with the SAME name. In other words, files backed up from d:\AAA\website were downloaded into d:\BBB\website, resulting in extra files but also over-writing existing files! I had a huge mess to clean up since I use a lot of sub-folders with the same name. The only good news is that I "mirror" websites daily on an external drive. But folders where I simply copy updated files was more tedious - I had to inspect every file as well as remove the added ones. Even with recent backups, it took me 2 hours to clean up the mess.

When I went to the website to report this, all I found was a forum. Hope it is monitored by people who can figure out how on earth this happened.

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June 19, 2011

Rideau River safety and erosion

Recently, Parks Canada held a meeting (invited people of their choosing) about "Risk Assessment of the Rideau Canal System" from Kemptville to Hogs Back. They invited me because I am the webmaster of "Pat's Boating in Canada", and also a boater and shore resident.

The list of attendees were 3 politicians, 2 police, 2 Canadian Power And Sail (CPS), Friends of The Rideau, 2 Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, 5 Wakeboard and Ski Schools, 3 Shoreline Residents, 1 Marina (!), 8 Parks Canada, Muskoka Lakes Association (?), and last but by no means least - the author of the risk assessment report.

The comments in the report about 'noise' were insulting and irrelevant to any type of risk. Shoreline destruction was mostly ignored. After reading the report recommendations and list of attendees, I decided not to go. I figured we were just there to rubber stamp the report. (A boater/landowners who attended said he was sent to a discussion of a section of the Rideau not even close to where he lived or boated.)

The report was obviously written by someone who obviously had never boated on the Rideau, witnessed a collision, nearly hit by a boat while swimming, witnessed close-calls of water-skiers too close to other boats, witnessed boats being damaged by wakes, watched drunken skippers after dark, witnessed boats almost sink from wakes, or watched so many having to rebuild their shoreline due to erosion.

I also had the shore-side experiences of having my well-tied runabout almost sink when wakes from large boats hit the boat, then the break wall and back on the boat. Even with an extra line holding it away from the dock, it had dock scars and took on water. We moved the boat to a marina when we went on a holiday just so we wouldn't have to worry about it breaking the dock, itself or sinking from water over the stern. I finally got tired of worrying about it, and sold it. We still have a canoe and kayak but it just isn't fun to paddle in the wakes and the river isn't wide enough to avoid them. I gave up trying to swim here several years ago, since you have to swim in the weeds close to shore or risk being run over.

In addition, it cost us a huge amount of money to repair the erosion of our property. Even with a steel break wall, we finally had to spend 5 figures to get the wall removed and the entire shore rebuilt to Conservation standards.

When we started boating over 30 years ago, a 28-foot boat was considered a big boat. People who threw wakes passing a marina or slower boats were yelled at. Times have changed dramatically, but the regulations have not changed at all. We now live on the river near one of the largest Sea-ray dealers anywhere. (It's actually the mechanics testing the boats that throw the largest wakes, not the boat owners.) In addition to the many water-skiers that have always used the river, there are now several "wake-boarding" schools. Although small, they must throw a large wake for the person to ride. On a Sunday, you will always see at least 3-4 speed boats in the 40-50 ft. range. In summer, add in the steady traffic of cruising boats travelling the waterway. I guess until someone actually has a collision or chops up a tows full of kids, or has a break wall collapse into the river, no one will do anything about so many boats of all sizes, some travelling very slow, others at high speed, using a river that was more designed for fishing.

April 05, 2011

Cost of Living vs Actual Costs

Just when you think you are getting ahead of the game, they blindside you. Starting immediately, the skipper will pay 28% more as a pensioner for the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP) family level 2 ($46.36 to $59.32). The basic level coverage goes up an astonishing 43%. No notice, unless you count a news item 5 years ago about cost sharing that no one understood.

In the last year, fuel oil has gone up 31% and gas for the car has gone up 23%. (fuel prices) Hydro rates have shot up. The base cost per kWh increased 14% (5.7¢ to 6.5¢) in the year before September 2010, when TOI pricing began. This was offset somewhat by Ontario deducting 10% from the bill -- it's an election year. (sigh) Comparing groceries is harder, since it varies so much as we cook from scratch. We rarely eat out any more.

The City of Ottawa was busy congratulating themselves on keeping our tax increases to 2.5% this year. Huh? It would be nice if our income was going up that much! Meanwhile, our biggest expenses for fuel, food, utilities, and taxes are increasing above the "Consumer Price Index" (CPI), currently 2.2%.

This year's indexed pension checks went up 1.7%. The Public Service pension, Canada Pension Plan (CPP and Old Age Security (OAS) are supposed to be increased every January based on the CPI but it doesn't seem to match our cost increases at all. Fuel, food, utilities, and taxes have all gone up more than 1.7%. They are our largest costs and all difficult to reduce without starving, freezing, not using hot water, or selling our house and car!

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February 21, 2011

Return from Veradero, Cuba endurance test

Just got back from Cuba at 3 am this morning and still trying to catch up on sleep, email, messages and such. Exit from Cuba was an endurance test - worst in 7 trips to Verradero. The bus was 40 minutes late picking us up. Then a long line just to enter the airport terminal - a first. Inside was sheer madness with long winding lines with no one to help direct anyone - and the airport couldn't begin to accommodate the criwds. They just keep building new hotels with the same old airport. It's just one huge hall with agents at the front of lines that cannot possibly hold the number that are bussed in. (Reminded me of Ottawa airport after an ice storm when all flights had been cancelled the day before and thousands of people were lined up for regular and extra flights.) Most people trying to get on the Ottawa flight were sure we'd never make the plane -- the usual line jumpers put everyone on edge. Extra agents from Sunwing flights already checked started checking our flight, which finally got things moving ever so slowly. Then to another line to buy the "exit tax", another line for customs, then a line for security (I had to take off my belt, still set off the alarm, but still had my water bottle in my bag). Then we had to get in another line to get on the plane - which involved walking downstairs, across the tarmack (with large holes to fall into). Wait again to get on the plane. I counted 7 lines before we got in the air. A few tired people said they would never do it again. Two weeks of relaxation completely undone in 9 hours (hotel to home). Last year we had to be at airport at 6 am and then 5 am to start back but the airport was quiet at daybreak - apparently all the European planes fly overnight which makes for the huge crowds in the evening. All those new hotels but same old airport facilities just makes no sense. Fleeing the revolution couldn't have been worse! The only good part is we were fairly sure we would not be shot or thrown into prison!

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February 05, 2011

What do you do when your Internet or Power Disappears?

I was thinking what I could do if my internet service died - then it did! Everyone thinks that when the power goes out, Internet service is not usable because the high-speed modems require power. But if you still have phone service and a battery-powered laptop with a modem, you can connect to a "dialup" internet service. We just forget! I have kept a dialup account just for emergencies, but forgot to test it when I bought a laptop. You need to know how to dialup and get connected (and pay) if you need service in an emergency.

And maybe you have a mobile phone with text messaging - it seems I can tweet via text message. Logon to and select the account "drop-down" arrow (top/right) and select Preferences. But only one account can use a mobile phone number, so I have to choose (I manage 3 twitter accounts). You probably don't.

I can also post to my blog by email but I can't afford a "data package" on my cell phone so I just have a pay-as-you-go account. With that, if I want to use Internet on my phone, I can choose to pay about $2/day (as long as it's 'low' usage). Then I can email, tweet, surf for the entire day. Haven't tried it yet though so no idea if it works.

To help people in Egypt, Google and Twitter cludged together a system to allow people to phone a number and leave a voicemail which was transmitted into twitter somehow. I don't know of anything similar I can use here in Canada.

If you know any other methods to keep connected when everything fails, let me know.

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