Friday, February 25, 2011

Power Outage, Long Walk, Electronic Medical Records, and UPS

          Well, so much for being away from home during the scheduled blackout. On Thursday, the  electric company was in our neighborhood to upgrade their facilities so there was an 8 ½ hour window from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. when the power was supposed to be off. On the same day I was supposed to be attending an electronic medical records class at work from 8 a.m. till 4:30 p.m. So that should taken care of  the problem, right? You know, the problem of having nothing to do for 8 or so hours. Did I mention that I was also expecting a delivery from UPS that same day? Of course I would have missed that if I was at the EMR class and UPS would have had to redeliver the next day. Not a problem because I could have waited another day for this computer I’m writing on. More on that some other time.

          The previous day, I received a call from my supervisor telling me that the EMR class was cancelled because ironically, the electronic program crashed. That spared me from having to wake up at 5 a.m. so I could workout before leaving for work. I try not to get out of bed before 7 o’clock on my days off. So now I had to readjust my schedule to try to fill the time while without electricity and while waiting for UPS to arrive. I started walking on my treadmill until the power went out, which took me halfway to my goal time, then continued walking outdoors around the block (so I don’t miss UPS) until I finished 2 ½ hours. Incidentally while circling the block I encountered a barking dog inside the fence of one of the houses. The first time, he was barking ferociously at me. The second time, by the time I passed him, he stopped barking. On my third go-around, the dog just boringly laid on the ground not even acknowledging my presence. That made me chuckle.
The power outage started about 10 o’clock and when I got home from my walk at about 12, still no electricity. That meant no TV, no internet, not even good old radio. Oh my! I would actually have to read something on paper if I can find a book or magazine. I considered digging up a book I haven’t read since the early 80’s : Dr. George Sheehan’s “Running and Being”, because one of my Facebook friends quoted him the previous day. Well, it didn’t have to come to that because at 2 p.m. the power went back on. I did have to rediscover my oven to cook my lunch though (baked tilapia) and the stove to heat water for coffee. I even heated precooked rice in the oven by sticking the metal container inside while the fish was cooking. That made me realize how much we have taken something like electricity for granted because it’s usually there on demand. I even had to hurry and take a quick shower before all the hot water from the heater ran out. Thankfully, even though the power was out for 4 hours, I only had to endure 2 hours of it.
After the power came back on, the rest of the day was spent watching videos and waiting for UPS to deliver. The package didn’t arrive until about 6 p.m. Rereading Dr. George Sheehan will have to come another day.
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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Odds and Ends – February 2011 Edition

I’m scheduled for electronic medical records computer class on Thursday, February 24th which would take about 8 hours (actually as I post this, I may be getting ready to leave for class). Last Tuesday, I received mail from the electric company that they will be having a scheduled blackout for the same day as the computer class to upgrade their equipment in the area where I live. Good timing, huh? On the other hand, I’m expecting a delivery from UPS so I won’t be home. Darn! I have to wait another day.
Ok, I need to update the first paragraph above. The EMR computer class was cancelled because the program we were supposed to learn crashed yesterday. The blackout happened as expected and lasted about 4 hours: from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. so I was almost bored to death without TV or internet for at least a couple of hour,s since I couldn't leave in case UPS showed up. As I update this at 3 p.m., I'm still waiting for UPS.
Yippee! I finished doing my federal and state taxes last Thursday, February 17th I’m and getting a little bit of money back. It seems like I’ve achieved balance in my taxes, meaning I’m not paying anymore at the end of the year and not getting too much of a refund because deductions from my bi-weekly paycheck are just the right amount. The refund is just enough to pay for the annual car insurance, maintenance, and registration payments so it’s practically a wash.
Here is one entry I found amusing on the California Tax Form:
Check the box below if all of the following are true for you (and your spouse/RDP) - - Are not deceased. That means I don’t have to check the box if I’m deceased, right?
While assembling forms to make charts at work last week, we ran out of paper clips so we had to check all the drawers in the nurse’s station. By the time we picked the drawers clean of all the paper clips we found, they would have been enough to fill about 4 or 5 boxes which meant we found 400 to 500 of them lying around. And we still had to untangle them  afterwards.
Ever noticed on the TV show House, how the doctors leave prescribed medications on the patient’s bedside? They take too much cinematic license when they do that because that will never happen in a hospital in real life.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Recent Workouts in the Month of February 2011

          This one is a few days late being posted since I blogged for five days in a row last week, which was more than I’ve ever done before. After that flurry, I needed a break.
          Here are some thoughts about recent workouts on the stationary bike and the treadmill. How about running out of newspaper before finishing a stationary bike workout? Well that happened to me one time and I had to go back to the front page and reread some articles until I completed the workout.
          I did my longest workout on the spinning bike last week: 10 minutes warm up + 5 sets of 3/2/2 stand up intervals with 1 minute recoveries + 10 minutes cool down for a total of 1 hour and 10 minutes. It helps to break down the workout in segments to keep from being bored.
          Another recent workout consisted of 15 minutes each on the spinning bike, recumbent bike, elliptical machine, back to the spinning bike and the recumbent bike for a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes. It would have been too hard mentally to do it that long using just one machine.
I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been running more often on the treadmill and a couple of days back, I exceeded my usual hour with an extra 10 minutes thus making it the longest I’ve run on my treadmill. Let me tell you this: Even jogging slowly on the treadmill feels better afterwards compared to cycling. Damn running is like cocaine!
          When I do weight training, I usually take my good old time to recover between sets. However when I’m pressed for time I do a blitz workout wherein I considerably decrease my recovery time. Even though I can do lesser reps on subsequent sets, it still gives me a better pump. I usually lift twice a week. My workouts are very basic: chest, upper back, biceps, shoulders, triceps, and abs. On days I really get lazy, I just do several sets of the clean and jerk which hits several muscle groups at once.

So I did this 4 minute run/1 minute walk workout last Saturday morning (2/19/11) before it started raining and was able to go for an hour and 15 minutes. A couple of hours post run, while tiptoeing over a puddle of water, I tweaked my bad right ankle tendon. It doesn’t take much to aggravate that darn tendon nowadays specially when at a weakened state after only an hour and 15 minutes of running. An that’s the reason why I did a 2 hour walk on the treadmill on Monday morning (2/21/11) instead of running. I haven’t done a walk since, well, I don’t remember, maybe last October or November and that was probably for an hour while carrying 15 pounds of weights in a backpack. If I can get it up to about 3 hours and my if ankles hold up, I just might attempt to finish a half marathon in the next few months.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Blog Ideas That Come And Go

After being lazy about posting anything in this blog in the past month, I have now unleashed a flurry of posts which has so far run for five days in a row as of Thursday, the 17th of February. I usually stick a single post it sheet in my wallet in case any ideas come up. Unfortunately, I don’t bring a pen all the time so there have been a lot of instances when I forget about the idea. I suppose I could use my cell phone’s note pad but I hadn’t thought about that till now. Some of these thoughts are random in which there is really no way to write extensively about. Here are some of them:
I watched a World War II Australian movie last week titled Broken Sun in which the soldiers were wearing gas masks. It reminded me of the post 9/11 run on gas masks due to fear that terrorists might spread poison gas around the country. It never happened but military surplus stores and online stores ran out of masks and there was a waiting list until the stores were restocked. Did any of you buy or shop for one?
Another movie I watched was Burlesque. The plot was nothing to talk about, just a combination of old and recycled ones. Even the dancing was average, although the music was good. Cher’s song sounded like one of those power songs composed for the American Idol finale. What I didn’t expect was seeing Kristen Bell in it. What? Veronica Mars in a burlesque movie??
After being functional in the main hospital for months, they have finally enabled Wi-Fi in the building I work in. That’s even though no one is supposed to be surfing the internet while on duty. Well I found out that this was in preparation for our use of electronic medical records where certain personnel may be using computer tablets for documentation in a patient’s electronic chart. I hope this reduces our use of paper which in turn reduces the time I have to assemble charts for new admissions.
                Here’s an ongoing thing with a lot of people who work in the hospital wards: every time some of them come to work, they have to get a new pen from the hospital supply. I mean, what happened to the one they used yesterday or the other day? The unit secretary has to keep on ordering new pens each week. And the administration talks about how to save money? Me, I keep my pens until the ink runs dry.
                Speaking of work, there are some workers on the night shift who just overdo their break times. They have the official break time consisting of the 30 minute lunch break and two 15 minute coffee breaks. Then they do their unofficial breaks consisting of going out to buy food, eating the food, surfing the internet, hiding in the nooks and crannies of the building to cat nap, then taking an even prolonged nap break. That’s what I consider break abuse! In a lot of hospitals, taking a prolonged nap break is an open secret and for the most part unofficially tolerated by the powers that be. It’s just the abusers that rub me the wrong way but of which nothing I can do about.
                A few days ago, I espied a gas station that was selling regular unleaded gas 4 cents per gallon lesser than I usual place I go to. The next day while on my way home from work, I stopped by the station to fill up. Being unfamiliar with the setup, I pushed the wrong button so instead of pumping regular, I pumped premium instead, which was 10 cents per gallon more. Usually the buttons arranged from left to right would be: regular, premium, and super. In the unfamiliar station I went to, it was premium, regular, and super instead. It must have been my sleepiness from the previous night’s work that made me initially not notice the setup (maybe I should take extended breaks too). So, instead of saving a few cents, I spent more due to my mistake. Oh well, that’s life… I wonder how many people make that same mistake?

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Well Orchestrated Vital Signs

At my job, we check patient’s vital signs every morning: temperature, pulse, respirations, blood pressure and blood oxygen level. Most of the time our machines don’t work as well as expected but there was one instance a couple of weeks ago when it felt like every individual piece of equipment worked very well in concert with each other.
On a night when the planets did not exactly align due to extreme busyness – from early and frequent admissions and patient transfers from another unit, to the regular charge nurse being on vacation, one thing at least worked out very well towards the end of the night shift. Our blood pressure machine is usually buggy. By that I mean sometimes the battery doesn’t charge fully so in the middle of checking the patients, it just dies, or doesn’t detect a patient’s blood pressure on the first try.  But when all the equipment works in unison, it feels like a well oiled machine or even a well orchestrated musical piece. Here is what happened: I enter the patient’s room and ask him or her if I could check their vital signs. When they assent, I attach the blood pressure cuff on their arm, push a button to inflate it, then I stick the thermometer in the patient’s mouth. I leave it there and attach the pulse oximeter on the patient’s finger. About the time that I do that, the thermometer beeps to indicate the temperature so I withdraw it from the patient’s mouth while the pulse oximeter also finishes it’s reading along with the blood pressure machine which shows blood pressure and pulse. In the meantime I’m recording all of this information on a sheet of paper with the patient’s names on them. With no bugs in the equipment, all these take only about a minute before I see the next patient. So for the 12 patients I’m assigned to, all the vital signs were done in about 15 minutes because the machines worked so well together, and that includes the time I go from room to room. Wow! I wish that would happen all the time. I mean, who exactly would blog about a mundane task like checking blood pressures? But I just had to share the experience because it was something that doesn’t happen very often to me. I felt like a conductor leading an orchestra playing beautiful music where all the instruments blended well with each other.
Speaking further of vital signs, I recently observed one of my coworkers do orthostatic vital signs and was appalled to see that he didn’t know how to do it properly. He took the patient’s blood pressure in the standing position first, then sitting the second time. Well, orthostatic vital signs are supposed to be taken from a lower position first to a higher position (lying to sitting to standing) to see if there is a sudden and huge drop in blood pressure. After seeing my reaction, I hope he knows now the proper way of doing it.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wired On Starbucks

And then there’s this coffee issue. I’m not a fancy coffee drinker and by that I mean, I don’t go to Starbucks, Peet’s, It’s a Grind, or Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf stores. Not even Dunking Doughnuts coffee which I hear is very good too. I don’t have a coffee machine, percolator, or French press. I am an instant coffee drinker and I like my coffee black.
 A few days ago, an opportunity arose to finally taste Starbucks coffee because a pharmaceutical company left a couple of jugs at work. One jug said Gold Coast blend and the other, Pike Place. Not knowing the difference, I thought I’d try both and see if I can detect any subtleties in flavor, not only between those two blends but as opposed to the instant coffee I drink at home. Of course I drank the Starbucks coffee black so as not to mask the taste with creamer or sweetener. Well I’ll be darned but there is a huge difference. It’s like night and day. When a company says that their coffee has robust or bold taste, I would think that what I tasted is what they must be talking about. Without any sweetener, I could taste the bitterness blending with some kind of sweetness. I could detect a slight difference between the two but not being a coffee connoisseur, I really could not describe it. As far as comparing it to instant coffee, the Starbuck’s seemed to have a thicker texture to the tongue. To get that texture, I might have to put about 4 teaspoons of instant coffee for each mug. I have a 16 oz. mug at work and filled it with the Gold Coast blend first. After finishing that, I proceeded to refill the mug with the Pike Place blend. I could only finish about ¾ of the refill because after 28 ounces of drinking stronger than usual coffee, my brain and body were wired and jittery. You should have seen me admitting a patient after that. It felt like I wanted to go fast forward.
So, did I like the Starbucks coffee? I did so and very much but I’m not about to start an expensive habit which goes counter to my frugal ways, just for a beverage. Whoever that pharmaceutical company was that left the coffee, thank you so much for enabling me to taste the nectar of Starbucks.
Update (3/29/12): I finally brewed my own coffee. This was my experience with it:
 Intoxicated On Caffeine - My First Brew

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Making Do With The Treadmill

So I’ve been lazy about posting lately and of course that has something to do with not being to talk about my running experiences due to my ankle tendon problems. I never thought I would ever say this: I’m making do with treadmill runs and even getting pleasure from finishing an hour on it. This lower impact alternative is better than not being able to run at all. I’ve had more treadmill runs in the past two weeks than I’ve run on the road. My pace is slow enough to read the newspaper except I have to reread some lines and paragraphs to comprehend the words that just passed in front of my eyes. Even if I wasn’t reading, I don’t think I could go much faster anyway because I’m keeping the pace only to the point where my ankles don’t get overstretched. One thing good about trying to read while running on a treadmill: you have to try to run smoothly and not bounce up and down too much thus lessening the impact of your stride. In the condition my ankle tendons are in though, I don’t see myself ever running long distances again. One hour on the road or treadmill two to three times a week is all my joints can tolerate.
I don’t know if this is real or just my perception of things, but the anesthetic effects of endorphins seem to last much longer than NSAIDS as far as my ankle tendons are concerned. When I don’t overstretch the tendons, the usual pain is numbed between 8 to 12 hours. The only NSAIDS I take is a daily aspirin for heart health and that doesn’t even come close to numbing the pain compared to an endorphin high. Of course when the ankle tendons are overstretched, no amount of endorphins or NSAIDS help. By trying to run easily and slowly, I’m trying to keep the pain to a minimum. That reminds me of part of the lyrics to the song “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera – “slowly gently…”

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Recent Reconnections

I recently reconnected with a former psych hospital co-worker from 1981. At that time there were a lot of psych majors working as behavior specialists as a step towards better professions. For me, just having arrived in the U.S., it was a step up financially because the pay was much higher to what I was earning in the Philippines. Have I remained stagnant since because I am still in the same kind of job until now? Although that could possibly be, I have made a living out of it and if I am able to keep it up until I’m 62 or 66, I may even be able to retire comfortably. Meanwhile my former co-worker had become a child care specialist in the San Diego area. I think she married her boyfriend from way back when we were working together. If not, well, maybe they were both named Bob. Nice to be in touch with you again, S.V.!
Another person I reconnected with was a very close female friend during our high school days. My former classmates and I have been wondering where she had disappeared to. Google, Friendster, and suspected places of work searches yielded nothing. She remained out of sight but not out of mind until a few weeks ago when her daughter found one of our classmates in Saudi Arabia (where else but through Facebook). Our friend has remained in our town all these years and has become a dean in a university there. This was the girl who code named me Renault in high school, which I mentioned in another post maybe a couple of years back. So great to hear about her success in professional and family life (married with 4 kids). Welcome to Facebook F.A.!
Even though I don’t have many friends on Facebook, the ones I have extend globally over several continents covering countries from the Middle East, Africa, Switzerland, Australia, a few other Southeast Asian countries, and of course mostly from the country of my birth – the Philippines.
Speaking of Facebook, I remember when I first signed up and reconnected with friends, I couldn’t wait for status updates and comment threads. I would even get up in the middle of the night when I heard my email announcement. That lasted maybe a month or two before it got old. It was exciting at first but losing sleep and rest just to see new comments wasn’t worth it, I finally decided. I now turn off the sound of the computer before I go to bed. Now, don’t deny it. You were probably doing the same thing when you first signed up for Facebook or Twitter ;)

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Jellybeans and Skittles

          File this under useless posts because it’s in the same vein as the movie I just watched: Jack Black’s Gulliver’s Travels. I think it’s one of the worst movies ever. Not even good enough to buy or rent for your kids. Gulliver’s Travels, jellybeans, & Skittles = empty and useless calories. Good thing this post as well as the movie was a very short one (like me and Jack Black).
          Overdosing on jellybeans made me lose control of my weight slightly over one weekend. For some reason, eating a few made me feel like eating more and after the sugar rush, I was hungry again. As soon as I stopped and ate more fruits, I shed the pound or two that I gained. Those darn empty sugar calories from the jellybeans were not good for weight maintenance, although by experimenting between chewing a mouthful and chewing one each made a difference. Eating a mouthful = weight gain vs. eating one at a time of a handful worth = no effect on weight.
          Speaking of jellybeans and perhaps Skittles, how do you eat yours? Do you grab a few and dump them in your mouth to get a variety of flavors, or do you eat them one at a time, or several of the same color at a time? Or perhaps it’s just too weird for me to even ask that question. Think about it and give me some feedback if you please.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

So You Recycle. Do You Reduce and Reuse As Well?

Do you recycle soda cans and plastic containers? Are you one of those people who collect cans at work and take them home at the end of the day? At my job, there are a few people who collect these cans so they can sell them. I noticed that at the end of their shifts, they get one of those plastic patient belongings bags which have handles, and place the cans in them to take home. They do this each day that they work, so I wondered what happened to those plastic bags when they got home. I conducted an informal poll among coworkers whom I had seen taking cans home and I found out that two out of three of them threw away the bags. How preposterous can that be?! Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of recycling in the first place? Couldn't they take the empty bags back to work so they can refill them with more cans that they find? So much for reduce, reuse, and recycle! Their intent was not to be green but only to collect the redemption value of the containers. How about you? What do you do with those bags?
On a different recycling note, I went to the grocery store last Friday and even though I told the cashier I brought a reusable bag which I put in front of her, she proceeded to put my order in plastic bags anyway. Ai, Mama Mia! Not wanting to be confrontive, I just let it go and took the plastic bags home to use for bagging trash. I guess it was force of habit on her part.

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