Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mr. McP

My eight year old is still so funny about language. Today I told him to check the table of contents of my cookbooks for cookie chapters so he could find a recipe to try.

Mr. McP: Table of contents? I thought that was when you went to a judge.

Me: ??

Mr. McP: you know, when you sue someone, I thought you went to the Table of Contents.

Friday, September 28, 2007


I'm shaken up over the story that two local farmers were handcuffed and arrested because of a discrepancy over the type of price tag labels they use. (Link courtesy of Cvillenews)

According to the Hook news blog and Cvillenews not only were the owners of Double H farm arrested, Virginia authorities visited a local restaurant that had pork products from Double H farm and "denatured" the products on the spot--rendering them inedible by pouring bleach on them.

Does this not strike you as unnecessarily violent? Shouldn't handcuffs be reserved for people who are dangerous? Did the VDACS really need ten agents plus two additional people to arrest the couple--who are in their 60s? Was it necessary to force them to ride in separate cars after arrest? Can you imagine the scene in the restaurant kitchens where state officials showed up and started pouring bleach on the food?

Would owners of a large business ever be treated in this manner? I remember when Wal-mart was exposed for labeling products made in China as "Made in America." Were Wal-mart executives arrested? Merchandise destroyed?

We can't have state sanctioned thugs using excessive force and violence.

I understand that regulations are put in place to protect consumer health and keep us from getting ripped off. Why are confusing unit pricing labels in grocery stores never under close scrutiny by the VDACS? (Like when different brands of the same type of product have a different unit pricing standard--Brand A will be labeled $X/pound and brand B will be labeled $X per ounce making it difficult to compare prices without a calculator.) I'd love to see stores get disciplined for that. And haven't the latest major outbreaks of foodborne illness had their source from foods produced by large corporations, such as the salmonella contaminated Peter Pan peanut butter or the bagged salads that gave people e-coli.

Forgive this disorganized and possibly badly spelled post. My kids are bugging me for use of the computer.

I'm thinking of writing some letters to the appropriate authorities because no way should a state agricultural department have the authority to act in this way. (And it's not the first time--I remember a relatively recent Hook article about a Virginia farm whose hogs were systematically destroyed with no advance warning to their owners, in what must have been a violent and traumatic scene. )

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Jazz Age

I've just finished reading Zelda: a Biography by Nancy Milford. Zelda & Scott Fitzgerald were the Sid & Nancy of the Jazz Age. Zelda, as most people know, spent nearly the last twenty years of her life in and out of different posh mental institutions. It's a sad story, and it seems that she and Scott were never happy together. Milford doesn't spend much time trying to guess why Zelda went insane. It seems to me that her life paralleled that of a firecracker--a big explosion all at once and then nothing. She spent the years leading up to her descent into madness frantically trying to make something of herself as a ballet dancer, in what I see as a desperate attempt to regain her youth.

You can't have a biography of Zelda, without much mention of her famous husband. I've never really liked the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I read Tender is the Night last year and had a hard time getting through it. I do like his short stories, particularly "The Ice Palace." This biography has led me to reconsider Fitzgerald as an important American writer. I think I may re-read The Great Gatsby, and read some of his other novels as well.

I feel an affinity with the Jazz Age generation. Isn't it true that children tend to reject the ideals of their parents' generation and identify better with their grandparents? My parents were early wave baby boomers--my mom and Mick Jagger were born the same year. My grandfather, born in 1903 (and my grandmother, born in 1905) were just a few years younger than F. Scott Fitzgerald and his contemporaries. My grandfather told stories of drinking in speakeasies during prohibition and liked to tease my grandmother and call her a flapper, although she always insisted she wasn't any such thing. Flapper grandmother or not, they knew how to live well and did so without any bourgeois hand-wringing about it.

My own generation (unfortunately named "generation X") grew up in the shadow of the baby boomers. They were our baby sitters, our friends' mean older brothers, and in my case, our parents. I felt oppressed on almost a daily basis by the baby boomer nostalgia that became popular as I entered my teens. The Jazz Age generation grew up not under the shadow of another generation, but under that of a powerful cultural influence--Victorianism. Born just as Queen Victoria was dying, they successfully shook off the inhibitions of the Victorian Age. Their frenzied post-war partying was short-lived, since the Depression and World War II soon put an end to it. My own generation, rather than feeling carefree after the end of a major war, felt oppressed by the cold war and all its implications. Why care about anything when someone in power need only "push a button" and destroy the entire world? This led to our reputation for being "slackers"--cynical and selfish-appearing in the eyes of the idealistic baby boomers. And yet I can see a link between our cynicism and the Jazz Age's hedonism.

Or maybe I'm just being ridiculous. Don't forget, I call my site Fatuous Observations for a reason.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fun with the personals

I used to amuse myself by reading the personal ads. Of particular interest was the "I saw you" section, which, I suppose many people read, half hoping, half fearing to see themselves depicted in it. Eventually I lost interest and yesterday read through the Hook cafe column for the first time in a few years.

One notable change: people write their ads themselves. Back in the day, you dictated your message or wrote it on an index card and mailed it to the paper or whatever. One year I thought it would be hilarious to post a fake "I saw you" ad directed at my husband as an April Fool's joke, and I definitely recall you couldn't just write your message yourself into a an internet text box as apparently, you do now. The difference? The messages are now untouched by the kindly hand of an editor.

If you want to capture Lady Fair, this may not be the right way to go about it: (ditto for Prince Charming.)


Note: all caps are probably not a wise choice.


When using humor, proceed with caution.

Atrophied, scab-encrusted dirtball ISO short/chubby/loudmouthed/trashy tart, adept at car-repair/rope tricks. Hey, that's not right!!! Intelligent/educated/romantic/well-built single-white-male in-search-of smart/sexy/athletic single-white/Asian-female...

Actually, I thought that was funny until, "Hey, that's not right!!!" I'd like to have seen him stick to asking for a loudmouthed tart and see what came along.

Beware of the image you present

Laid back love having fun I enjoy being outdoors walking and talking to someone who will pay attention, and is not afraid to share their dreams. I believe in staying in good physical condition and want someone who feels the same way. I can also enjoy a good movie. I just finished watching "notebook" loved it.

I don't think so. If this guy really loved The Notebook, then he is a total weenie. The other alternative is, he picked the movie he thought most appeals to women and claimed he loved it in order to attract them. If this is the case, he's a shameless panderer, and also has a low opinion of women. The Notebook? It must be the worst movie ever made. I've C&P'd a review I once wrote of it at my xanga site:

The Notebook: It's boy meets girl in the South amid the backdrop of inauthentic 1940's fashions. Poor boy. Rich girl. Her snobby parents break them up. “He's trash! Trash!” screams Joan Allen, playing the role of Mother. Joan Allen is Wrong. We know he isn't trash because he reads Poetry and Sam Shepherd is his daddy. The girl, “Allie” is forced to study Latin, but what she really wants to do is Paint. (Naturally.) And so it goes in predictable fashion. Hackneyed story aside, this movie is just careless. In one scene, Allie and Noah are rowing on a river in the midst of a massive flock of white birds. He tells her they usually migrate to some other place and will be gone soon. But here's the thing: some of the birds are geese, and some are swans. Do birds of different species migrate together? I don't know anything about birds, but I can tell a goose from a swan, and if I were a Hollywood screenwriter, I wouldn't feature a great damn flock of migrating birds unless I'd gotten one of my minions to research the habits of such birds. But that's just me.

Also comic: the nursing home scene at the end. The old lady is freaking out and the doctor says, “Give me two c.c.s.” Just like that. (I had the subtitles on.) Two c.c.s, without specifying two c.c.s of what, as if a c.c. is a tangible thing in its own right like two aspirins or two smacks in the head.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Old GRE scores?

I took my GREs long ago and have lost my scores. Does anyone know how I can get them? I went to the GRE website, which had no information on that topic.

Learning to be a nurse is like being a newborn baby. The most basic tasks become hideously complicated when you are doing them with a patient who has mobility or cognitive issues (or both).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The eye the ear and the nose

My macula densa hurts.

Today was ear nose and throat day in my health assessment class. Using the opthamaloscope takes some getting used to, and the only people to practice on are other students. We were warned to approach the eye from an angle and not hit the macula directly with the light, but I think this is what my partner did--and she examined my eyes many, many times. Ever since class I've had a tiny headache. Imagine a pinpoint of pain with a diameter of about 2mm somewhere behind your eye. My own view through the opthamaloscope was pretty cool. I saw my partner's optic disk and was able to identify some blood vessels. You focus in on the pupil, trying to achieve the "red reflex" which is when your patient suddenly turns into an alien with a bright red light where her pupil usually is.

My partner insisted she saw a cobwebby substance on both my retinas, which freaked me out a bit. When I took microbiology, we were taught that white bits on the retina were signs of the sorts of super scary diseases that always get featured on the TV show House. (That show, in fact, seems to take many diseases straight out of my micro textbook.) I requested a second opinion from a different student who assured me the backside of my eyeballs look normal. There's a load off my mind.

Then we looked at a model with slides depicting abnormalities of the ocular fundus behind his eyes. My partner and I decided to take the model into a large dark supply closet, where we thought we'd get a better view. Unfortunately, the slides slipped out of place in the transfer. Looking through an opthamaloscope in a pitch-dark room at a tiny circle which will only reflect the scope's light straight back at you? Like looking at the freaking sun. I stumbled across the darkened closet, clutching my head and moaning about my burned-out retina.

As for the ears and nose portion of the class--frankly, I think I prefer to keep my eardrums private. You really don't want someone who doesn't know what the f** she's doing sticking a probe into your ear. As a woman, the word "speculum" makes me uncomfortable. "Nasal speculum" is just weird and disturbing. Our instructor warned us not to probe too deeply into the nose, but my partner dug around as if she thought she'd left her car keys in there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Survived clinical and more

I survived my first clinical day. I was somewhat disconcerted to come across an empty curio cabinet, instead of "Curio cabinet with Mexican display." But since I am here, writing about it, you can all deduce that I am not still lost in the vast and very very posh nursing home.

I think some of the CNAs resented us. I picked up a vibe. Indeed, the CNA who gave me a patient to take in to lunch seemed to enjoy scaring me as she warned me about my patient's proclivity for hitting people. He didn't hit me, he was, in fact, charming, with a courtly way of speaking that reminded me of my grandfather. And, it turned out "feeding" did in fact mean literally feeding a patient who is unable to feed him or herself.

But All Nursing School and No Play makes Patience a Dull Girl. Here's a conversation I had with my 8 year old, who asks a lot of impossible questions.

Mr. McP: Mom, what do you think Cousin John thought the first time he saw Harry Potter?

Me: How could I possibly know that! Why do you always ask me questions that I can't answer?

Mr. McP: Because you're funny when you're frustrated. And you make a funny face.

And here I thought he was just very curious.

Here's what I've been reading lately: Banvard's Folly: Thirteen Tales of Renowned Obscurity, Famous Anonymity and Rotten Luck by Paul Collins. It's about thirteen people with Big Ideas that didn't pan out, such as John Banvard who was hailed by Queen Victoria as the greatest artist of the age. And yet why haven't we all heard of him? There are also a few interesting tidbits about other more famous historic characters who were influenced by these people. Who knew that Edgar Allan Poe was a great believer in John Symme's theory that the Earth is hollow and also populated with sentient, human-like beings? (And who knew that Poe died of rabies? I always thought he died of drinking too much and sleeping in ditches.) There's also a minor character who has the best name I've ever heard: Cyrus Reed Teed. I like to imagine writing a novel about someone with that name.

I also read Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler about the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, and the history of museums in general. That sounds really boring, but it isn't.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Tomorrow is my first clinical day. I'm doing long term care for three weeks and then moving to a gen med floor at UVA. I'm not nervous--I know we spend much of the first day in an orientation and then, according to my clinical calendar, we meet and feed our patient. I don't know if this means literally feed the patient or deliver a lunch tray and get acquainted.

Our uniforms are strictly dictated, right down to the color of our socks (white). I still need to iron my school patch onto the sleeve (it must be the left sleeve) of my scrub top, but other than that, I am ready to report at 7:00am.

Today I did a dry run to make sure I could find the facility. It is the size of a small country--an entire separate community for the elderly, who, depending on their level of independence, live in detached cottages, apartment complexes, or a skilled nursing facility. The whole place is very posh with lush landscaping, immaculate and attractive buildings and a uniformed guard at the entrance.

My clinical instructor left us detailed instructions of breathtaking complexity on how to find the unit where we'll be working. A long paragraph details our route from our cars to the unit and involves numerous landmarks such as a grandfather clock, a "curio cabinet with a Mexican display," a "Rotunda room," (whatever that is) a restaurant, a bank, a hair salon, a pool, a foyer that is "boarded up because it's under construction," (how will we know it's a foyer if it's boarded up?) a grand staircase, and an elevator, which we are not to use.

The letter concludes telling us that the most important thing to remember is that the Starbucks across the street opens at 6:00am. An important fact indeed. I am torn about stopping for a coffee on the way. If I do, I'm at risk of needing to use the bathroom eight times over the course of the morning. OTOH, stopping at Starbucks means I will certainly run into some of my classmates--who will be obvious because of our screaming royal blue scrubs--and then we can all go over to the facility together, thus meaning less of a chance that I will spend an eternity lost in the facility, constantly coming up on the "curio cabinet with a Mexican display" as evidence that I'm going in circles.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Mauve bus

I'm curious is there are any other Charlottesville City Schools parents out there who are having issues with the "Mauve" bus. Because we sure are. Here it is, the third week of school, and my husband and I have already made two calls to the bus garage to complain. That's two more calls than we have made in the past ten years of having children in CCS.

Today, for the third time in three weeks, my two children who go to Charlottesville High School were left behind at school and I had to pick them up. Why? Because the children are supposed to associate their bus route with a color, but on some days the mauve bus doesn't arrive and the kids who ride it are supposed to take a bus of a different color. Which would be fine if more than the minimal effort were made to notify the children.

When I picked my children up at school today--which was a huge inconvenience, Belmont isn't exactly next-door to CHS's neighborhood--I went into the office to complain. All the administrators were in a meeting, but clerical staff I spoke to were sympathetic and also were not at all surprised that it was mauve bus I had issues with. One staff member interrupted the meeting and an assistant administrator came out to talk to me. He blamed the problem partly on the fact that the buses are always late this year and partly on the fact that the kids aren't paying attention when he walks among the crowd notifying them of the bus change. When I said that more effort could be used to notify the kids and suggested the use of a megaphone, his facial expression closed and he seemed defensive.

So let me get this straight: Charlottesville High School has about 1,000 students. Half pick up their buses at the Performing Arts Center, the other half (including mine) at the main school entrance. In other words, you have 500 noisy teenagers milling around outside the front entrance and one man walking around announcing the bus change without any voice enhancer such as a megaphone and it's the children's fault that they miss the bus?

Before speaking to the administrator, I called the bus garage, but unfortunately the person who answered the phone did not seem to have the intellectual capacity to form or understand complex sentences. When I asked to be put in touch with the correct person to whom I could complain, I was put on indefinite hold.

Also, we've had issues with how the mauve bus driver relates to the students. On the first day of school, she drove right past my children--who stood with a group of other CHS students. She deliberately did not pick them up--even though she admitted seeing the kids--because they weren't standing exactly where she wanted them to. She drove all the way to the school, then returned to pick up my kids who were left stranded for an hour. I had no idea this happened until that afternoon when my kids told me about it. I feel my children's safety was compromised, and I also feel the the Charlottesville City Schools are responsible for the safe transport of its students to and from school. Leaving kids stranded on a street corner for an hour endangered my children and the others waiting with them.

In another incident with this same driver, she refused to let my children on her bus because, she said, their names weren't on her list.

And it's only the third week of school.

I am furious.