Democritus quotes

  • Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul

  • A life without parties would be like an endless road without an inn

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Tuesday comes to a close

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Nice day for mountain biking!

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Iris Murdoch

We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.

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Enchanting! – Lindisfarne Castle, photo by Thorsten Jung

Lindisfarne Castle

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Ice Bucket Challenge

If you had told me a week ago that a very good part of my social network was going to pour ice water over their heads and pay $100 I wouldn’t have believed it.  

It just goes to show that the future is full of twists and turns and although we can take good guesses about what will come we will never really know and continually be surprised. 

As for my thoughts on this strange social networking anomaly?  Well, I hadn’t even heard of ALS a few days ago and doubt most others had has well.  Yet, everyone now not only gives a donation to this charity but pours cold water over their heads to boot!  

I comment ALS for this stroke of genius and giving to charity is always a noble act.  

I would say however that ALS is not the only charity out there and there are thousands of well deserving charities that also need money.  As for the friends pouring water over their heads?  This is the first time in the history of Facebook where people are actually posting videos of themselves.  I believe it was the first video posted ever for about 90% of my friends.  I guess it is kind of fun challenging your friends to do something silly and then actually having them do it especially when you don’t see them often or, ever.  Helps keep the social ties intact what have you.  

Unfortunately, I cannot pour a bucket of water over my head.  I cannot do it because I’ve become a natural contrarian, a person who doesn’t like following the crowd.  This event has already become too popular for my tastes.  As for the charitable aspect it would seem ALS is doing just fine in terms of donations at the moment and I’ve already written a few checks to other charities this year and didn’t even have to pour water over my head.  Or perhaps, I’m just feeling grumpy at the moment.  

Grumpity grumps……..  

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Why I hate hospitals

It has been five days since my son was born.  As one could imagine I’ve been quite busy since then and haven’t had a spare five minutes for a blog post.  The time is now 9:42 pm on Wednesday and I thought it might be a good idea to get my thoughts down in a post before I forgot the details.  I would imagine these bad experiences are par for the course but quickly forgotten once the little bundle of joy arrives.  

Well before the birth one must seek out an appropriate doctor who will deliver the baby.  From my experience these doctors belong to a practice and they want you to meet all the doctors in the practice just in case the one you select isn’t available when your wife goes into labor.  Therefore, it is pretty much a crap shoot and if there is a doctor in the group you absolutely hate then it is akin to playing Russian Roulette.  

I’ve found that using a restaurant for a comparison is quite accurate when comparing the practices of hospitals and doctors since what would seem absolutely absurd for a restaurant is the norm for a hospital.  

Say I go into a restaurant and order a steak.  The waiter will come out and ask that I try the spaghetti and fish.  They ask me to do this because depending on the exact moment I finish my appetizer will determine what entree I’ll receive.  I protest and say I really want the steak and they say they will see what they can do but chances are pretty good that I’m not going to get steak.   Unfortunately, it is very difficult to just pack up and go to a different restaurant because not only will it be very annoying to my date but also because we’ve already drinking and have ordered the appetizer!  

Furthermore, every time we went for a checkup the nurses asked us the same questions and would type the response into the computer.  Now the strange part is that the answers to these questions wouldn’t have changed from the first time they asked.  The questions were about her height, if she had ever smoked, if she had any allergies etc.  We must have gone for checkups about 10 times and every single time they asked these questions and typed them into the computer.  Finally, I had to ask, if they were just pretending to type the answers into the computer or if they had the type of computer that doesn’t have any memory which would be odd as that type of computer doesn’t exist.  They gave me an answer but I don’t remember it defied normal logic and would require an abnormal thought process to understand.  

When my wife went into labor we did as the doctor instructed us which was to call the nurse at a certain number and that nurse would tell us what to do.  So we follow directions and call the nurse at the designated number.  What did the nurse ask us?  The nurse asked us what the doctor told us to do!  We told her the doctor told us to call the nurse at the number of which she has just answered!  So, she just takes the safe road and tells us to come in with no further instructions. 

We arrive at the CPMC and park in the parking structure next to the hospital.  It is rather full and we finally find a space on the 9th floor.  To my amazement there is no elevator.  One would think that people going to or coming from a hospital might make good use of an elevator.  But nope, they climb the stairs like everyone else.  This is made even more incredible by the strict laws that require ramps for the disabled to be everywhere in San Francisco.  One would think people in wheelchairs might make frequent use of hospital services no?  They require a ramp at local restaurants and even a table reserved for the disabled but when it comes to hospital parking, good luck!!!  

We go to the front desk and explain the situation.  The woman at the reception tells us to read and fill out a variety of legal forms.  Now given that my wife is most likely in labor there simply isn’t time to get a hold of my legal counsel to ensure I’m not in fact signing over the family fortune in some obscure clause veiled in incomprehensible legalese.  And if I were to refuse to sign the forms what then?  Will my wife be obliged to give birth alone in the hallway?  Why didn’t they give us these forms 9 months in advance when we were deciding which hospital to use?   

Seeing as I really have no choice I sign all the forms and cross my fingers that I haven’t just made my family completely destitute.  To add insult to injury the receptionist calls me by the wrong name.  To her I’m known as “Curtis” and subsequent correcting has absolutely no effect.   “OK Curtis, this way!”  

The doctor on call from the medical group we had chosen turned out to not be a doctor but a midwife and a guy to boot.  However, he turned out to be completely awesome and actually had social skills which made the experience wonderful.  Had it been a doctor I would have expected the experience to be rather sterile and any conversation limited to their pre-programming memorized from the patient interaction handbook normally taught in “Bedside Manner – PreReq 203.4″    

The midwife gives his OK to admit as he confirms the labor has started.  At this point we were introduced to our nurse named Heather.  Well, Heather suddenly had to leave for what I suspect were personal reasons and so we then had no less than 5 different nurses as ours had suddenly gone MIA and nobody was specifically assigned to us.  They keep a whiteboard in the room to write down things as the nurses and doctors names but were not making use of it.  Out of spite I finally went over and wrote down all the names, five or six in all.  

We were told to rest while the labor developed but that is completely impossible against the dull constant murmur of the heartbeat machine that makes an intermittent sound that I compare to a digital moo followed by clicking  and ending with a robotic noise as though my video game character had just died.  The minute you drift off the machine is going to MOOOOOO, then CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK.  These sounds must have been the auto loading of paper which was also interesting to me.  They still use a graph physically printed on track paper to measure the frequency contractions.  Track Paper!!!!  I haven’t seen track paper in eons!  One would think they would have software to keep track of the contractions and not need to physically print things out! 

All of these things took place before the actual birth.  After the birth we were transferred to another room on the infant floor.  The thing I disliked the most about that experience was that the nurses keep coming in your room haphazardly and even if they do make a schedule of visits they don’t keep them.  This is highly annoying because everyone is tired and the nurses seem to know when the most inconvenient time would be to visit (when everyone is sleeping).  I tried to set up some sort of schedule with our nurse and on the first occasion she said she would be back at 9:00 pm.  At approximately 9:45 pm I began to wonder if she just didn’t feel like coming back, if it just wasn’t a good time for her or if her visit would be something she would prefer to wake us up at midnight for?  When one thinks about it, the nurse keeping her estimated visit is on par with estimated visit times of the cable guy coming to do a new installation!  And as we all know the cable company arriving at their estimated visit time is akin to winning the lottery but even the cable guy won’t repeatedly wake you up in the middle of the night and takes care of everything at once.    

I do have to say one thing that the hospital was good at is the room service.  I gave a call and never had to wait too long to speak to my “Dietary Specialist” and even if I did have to wait was pacified by a gentle reminder that my call was “very important” to them that repeated every minute.  

I’ve just received the “Estimated Charges” for the stay which has begun another adventure in Hospital Experiences!  I was highly confused because it doesn’t appear to be an actual bill but they do ask for payment.  I gave a call to the person who signed the letter but got a recording and after successfully navigating the push button options was connected to the billing department.  Unfortunately the billing department told me that it was still with the insurance and I couldn’t pay at this time.  

So, I called the number of the person who had signed the letter (my very own “Patient Advocate”) and was told that it is indeed an estimate and not an actual bill.  Usually they would have visited us in the hospital to discuss the estimated charges but there wasn’t enough time.  

Now for the best part.  The charges were for a C-section that we did not have.  I was there, I saw the whole thing!  No C-section took place, just a normal, natural birth that was uneventful except for the main purpose and reason we’ve jumped into this pool of chaos and confusion which is my son being born of course!  

I explained this to my Patient Advocate and she was rather surprised.  I’m very happy she didn’t say “Are you sure?”  If she had said that I might have just broken down and started crying while questioning my own sanity.   Perhaps I have gone crazy and this disorder is really order!  Perhaps it is my own mind that is in disorder and my thought patters have become abnormal!  

After all this isn’t the first time there has been an issue.  There was an outstanding bill that was referred to a collections agency only a few months ago.  At first I thought it was a scam because I’ve never had to deal with a collections agency.  I called the hospital and they told me they had sent me a bill.  I confirmed that they had the correct address.  I then called the Collections Agency and confirmed with them that they had our correct address.  Both times it was correct but I never received any bill or letter in the mail and it was by phone that the collections agency finally made contact.  Now, I’m extremely meticulous about my bills and payments and have a record of every single payment I’ve ever made going back 10 years in a database that I’ve custom built.  There is absolutely zero chance I would have missed the bill but here I was speaking to a collections agency and they are telling me they sent me a few communications to my address.  

There could have only been a few reasons. 

1.) The hospital was implementing new software so I would imagine that even though they had my address they didn’t actually send me the bill, or sent it to the wrong house.  They did think we had a C-section this past month after all when we did not. 

2.) The mailman is not the most accurate.  We get mail for the neighbors all the time. 

3.)  I have gone crazy.  

Well, I’ve now tired of this post and have begun to annoy myself with the complaining.  I do not enjoy complaining as it poisons the atmosphere but I was and continue to be so completely befuddled by the experience in the medical world that I had to write it down.  

So in closing, let me return to the bad metaphor for this whole situation. 

I asked for a steak, was served the spaghetti and every time I went to take a bite a different waiter came over and asked me if I wanted Parmesan cheese.  And to top it all off I was billed for the champagne buffet.

This time it was not me that needed the medical attention so I had no choice.  But in the future, if it is just me who is hungry, I think I will prefer to starve rather than go through the aggravation.    

 

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Ominous ocean today

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Things Unseen

In all my travels, studies and experiences I’ve come to understand that we really have no idea what is going on in terms of our existence and this reality.  Humanity makes up religions to try and explain that which we cannot explain or understand. 

I also understand that my five senses are limited and there are things which I cannot perceive.  Just the other day I was reading about the fourth dimension and that we would be unable to perceive it as we spend our entire lives in three dimensions and therefore would be completely unaware other dimensions exist unless we were mathematicians.  

Now having said that, this post is about being aware of that which I cannot see but I’m pretty sure exists.  The real story starts now. 

When my first son was just an infant he would often fixate on light fixture in the living room.  I would be holding him and his eyes would open wide and he would just look up at that fixture.  I walked here and there watching his eyes but they would stay fixed on the lighting (which wasn’t on by the way).  A thought came into my head that perhaps it is true newborns can see the ‘spirit world’ since they haven’t been here very long.  Now this wasn’t just one or two occurrences but I would say they happened with great frequency over a six month period.  

Now things get even more interesting.

My second son was just born and guess where his eyes are fixating.  Yep, on the light fixture on the living room.  I’m well aware that the newborn’s vision is very limited but one would think that if they do see the spirit world that physical vision wouldn’t matter.  My son is now six days old and he became fixated on that lighting fixture for the first time yesterday.  I was reminded that my first son did the same and the thoughts about what I could not perceive returned.  

It is amusing and ‘spiritual’ for lack of a better word to entertain such thoughts and after I’ve had my fun contemplating spirits, other dimensions etc, I naturally forget about it and live and think about things in this world.  But read and pay particular attention to the next sentence. 

At 5 am this morning the toy phone said ‘hello’ to me and rang once.  

I was surprised but not scared and after two minutes of thinking about my move I said ‘hello’ in return.  I didn’t answer the phone though because should it be a ‘spirit’ I highly doubt it would hold a conversation with me.  Furthermore, should it simply be an electrical malfunction I certainly don’t want to cause the phone to make any more noise and wake up my son.  But isn’t it the case that should there be such things as spirits they use electricity to try and communicate?  The toy phone or any other toy for that matter hasn’t made any sounds that I’m aware of during the night as I would surely hear it since I’m not a heavy sleeper.  

Well, I’ll leave it at that.  

I might as well record my dream as the remnants have yet to fade from my head.  

I joined a karate class here in San Francisco and the teacher turned out to be the same one I had for Tae Kwon Do when I was ten back in my hometown.  He didn’t recognize me at first and gave me a white belt although I earned a yellow when I was 10.  For the first session he just made me observe.  The second session I was told to meditate for the entire class.  It was after that I told him I was in his class 27 years ago and he then slowly whispered my name.  

I then awoke and the toy phone said ‘hello.’  

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Corel Painter X3 – Tryout

I’ve always wanted to be a Renaissance man.  While assessing my skills towards this goal I realized that I still suck at art and being able to paint should be a requirement of any homme sophistiqué!  I’ve always been a terrible artist and even had my teacher flunk me in handwriting in the 2nd grade.  But the other day a bolt of inspiration struck me and I realized I could use my passion for computers to help with my artistic ambitions.  Why not just download a painting program!!!  I was sure with a computer program I could be painting like Bob Ross and Thomas Kinkade in no time!  So I quickly ordered a Wacom and downloaded the trial of Corel Painter X3.  I then found a lesson on how to paint mountains with this particular program on YouTube and did my best to copy.  This is how it turned out.

First Mountains

I’m going to say this is not bad for my first attempt.
Ever.
With Art.

I really really really want to be able to paint not only like Bob Ross and Thomas Kinkade but also magical fantasy scenes that are trapped in my mind with no hope of release until I can master this program.

I thought I had mountains down well enough and was impatient to get along to oceans.  So again, I found another video on YouTube (also by Aaron Rutton) on how to paint oceans with Corel.  I worked very hard at at but seeing as it wasn’t coming out perfectly and becoming a master digital artist is going to take some serious study I became frustrated and am not interested in finishing this particular painting.  However, I’ll post it here so I can always remember what my second attempt at becoming a digital artist looked like.

second painting

My mountains turned out looking like those rocks in the Pacific that the seagulls poop on.  I’ve got wind blowing the ocean waves but not affecting the bushes and my lighting is obscene.  Furthermore, it is a little embarrassing when your digital painting looks like it was done by a 5th grader.

Alas, I’m not one to give up so easily and the urge to become a Bob Ross disciple is too strong.  I’ll keep at it because damn it, my trees will be happy trees and I want to bring a little more joy to the world even if it is only laughter!

 

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