Sunday, January 25, 2015

Winter Thoughts

Update on my Mom:  She went to see an orthopaedic surgeon regarding her leg lump.  He said it looks like a schwannoma (the benign option), but he's seen one just like that that turned out to be a sarcoma (malignant) so he wanted to do a biopsy just in case.  My Mom was not keen on a biopsy, because, as the growth is part of the nerve sheath, there is a risk of nerve damage during the procedure.  They compromised.  She's going to have a second MRI done in 3 months.  If the lump has grown, they'll worry.  If it hasn't, I guess they'll just continue to keep an eye on it.  I'm happy enough with that outcome.

I would tell you of my latest adventures, if I'd had any.  I'm doing a great job of hibernating this winter.  Good for me!  I love spending time in our cozy condo.

My floor is getting old.  I have laminate flooring, with an expected lifespan of 10-25 years, installed in around 2004 (before I moved in).  Little bits of the top layer have started chipping off here and there.  When it gets bad enough to need replacing, Ken and I will essentially need to move out of our home during the repairs, because this flooring runs everywhere except the kitchen and bathrooms.  Every time another little chunk breaks off, I worry about it.  How long can we hold off?  Can we squeeze another 15 years out of this cheap laminate?  We'll see.

In fact, many things in our home are aging.  Our stacked washer and dryer are almost 20 years old.  Of course, the washer is a top-loader.  Should I wait until one of the machines breaks down before we replace them, or is it time to get a new set?  What's your advice?

We have a dishwasher, but we have literally never turned it on.  It's not installed to code.  The drain is jimmied with a length of rubber garden hose.  Because there are just the two of us, we don't make enough dishes to load a full dishwasher every day.  Maybe we could use one of those little half-sized ones, but we don't care enough to replace the one we have.  It just sits there, taking up valuable space.  Every once in a while I open the door to see if any rats or snakes have crawled up the drain.  So far, nothing.  I suppose if we ever sell this place we'll have to replace it.

What's the state of your home?

Sunday, January 18, 2015


My workplace has a "no digital devices" policy for visitors in a couple of sensitive areas.  This was implemented after we caught a guy taking photos of other people without their permission.  Because of the nature of our business, this is considered a privacy issue.  Therefore, we police our more open areas for cell phone use, and crack down on any dissidents.

Last week we caught a guy using his cell phone to make a call.  However, when a staff member asked him to turn it off and put it away, he claimed that he hadn't actually been using it.  His story?  It was powered off, and he just happened to be pressing it against his ear.

Just let that one sink in for a minute or two.

Next story:  A woman that I work with entered my office looking serious.  She held a small pile of papers.  "I wanted to bring this to your attention," she told me.  The problem?  She had printed a report on a shared printer.  Before she had a chance to pick up her print job, someone else getting their papers moved it aside.  "I found it," she told me gravely, "like this."  Indignantly, she showed me that the first two pages of the report had been reversed.  Page 2 was on top, then page 1, then the rest of the report.

The report was not stapled or otherwise bound.  It was not wrinkled or coffee-stained.  There were no pages missing.  The solution to this woman's concern was as simple as switching the two pages back into order.

She named the person who she claimed was the guilty party.  I told her "Well, let me know if it happens again.  If it starts to seem like a pattern, I'll have a word with her."  Sometimes the easiest way to end a conversation is to humour someone.  After she left my office, I literally had to put my head on my desk and take a moment before I could carry on.

One more:  A couple of years ago, my workplace implemented a software for keeping paperless records.  Since the professionals we serve are independent practitioners, not employees, I can't compel any of them to use the system.  So far, a handful have converted.

There is one older woman, probably around 70, who chose to convert.  I frankly didn't believe that she would see the process through.  I was her tutor, and the first stages of her training included me encouraging her to double-click more rapidly.  She also regularly got her left- and right-clicks mixed up.  So, not exactly a computer genius.  However, she proved to be remarkably persistent, and I was amazed to find that she progressed quickly.  My admiration for her increased accordingly.

Still, the stubbornness that allowed her to carry on is not always beneficial.  We are now in the final stages of her training, and all that's essentially left for her to do is get comfortable with the document retrieval system.

She took issue with our naming conventions.  These are labels we came up with to distinguish one document type from another, approved by a planning committee several years ago, and now in use by everyone on the system.  "That is not the right name for it," she told me about more than one document.  "Well, those are the names that the committee came up with, so unfortunately you're going to have to get used to them."

"No, it is wrong."

"I can't change it."

"No, that is not the name."

"I don't know what to tell you.  Either you use those names or you just don't use the system at all."


We were at an impasse.  She was obviously angry, and I was getting there too.  I mean, really?  We've come this far and you're going to get hung up on semantics?  I tried quoting Shakespeare at her (A rose by any other name etc.) but that didn't fly.  Finally I remembered that a governing body had been in to audit the records of two of our other professionals on the system, and they had not had any problems with our naming conventions.  I shared this fact with Ms. Stubborn, and she piped down.  I think she was just having a bad day.  But dang, I was too.

Now you guys are reminded to demonstrate to me that there is still some levity and common sense left in the world of humans.  :-)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Stop it, Spark, it's not punny.

One of the ways I deal with worrisome subjects is by being silly, and by making inappropriate puns.  You're just going to have to deal with it.

My Mom went for her MRI on Monday.  We won't have the official results for a few business days, but my Step-dad managed to corner a doctor and get an unofficial diagnosis from him.  So, I'm not fully accepting this until the report is published, but for now it looks like my Mom has a schwannoma in her leg.

Not a shawarma, although they are delicious.

A schwannoma is a benign tumor of the nerve sheath.  Benign!  That means NOT CANCER.  Hooray.  (For now.  There will [hopefully] be Hooray! with an exclamation mark, or two or three, when the results are official.)

I'm not the only one who is punning my way through this.  When I told Ken, he immediately starting singing "M-m-m-my schwannoma", to the tune of My Sharona

(You may have noticed that I am capitalizing my relatives' titles.  I am sure that this is grammatically incorrect, but it feels right.)

Speaking of getting old, sick, and dying, I have definitely, and without ambiguity, started perimenopause.  All you need to know about this is that my hormones are going whackadoodle.  Ladies of a certain age will understand.  The rest of you who are young and/or male, count your blessings while they last.

I should put some unambiguous good news in here.  Some verifiable, honest-to-goodness happiness.  Um... let's see... I bought pants online and they fit like they were custom-tailored for me!  That's awesome, right?  These, in Deepest Green.  They're a nice change from skinny-cut pants, which sometimes don't stand up when I do.* 

*(i.e. Skinny pants don't slide down to cover my ankles when I straighten my legs.)

That's about it.  It's very cold in Toronto this week, but that doesn't trouble me much.  Ken offered me a ride to work yesterday, when it was -17 C ( 1 F) with a wind chill of -29 C (-20 F), but I honestly preferred to walk and take the bus.  Nothing against Ken, either.  He's an excellent driver, and our car is comfortable.  It's just that I need my fresh air and exercise or I feel cold and sleepy all morning.  I secretly relish the challenge of surviving "extreme" winter weather.  I'm such a Canadian.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Specific Mall

Naturally, the saga of my Mom's leg lump isn't over yet.  After the He-Said/She-Said ultrasound results ("It's a tumour!"  "Is not!"  "Is too!"), the doctor who originally raised the alarm advised my Mom to go ahead with an urgent MRI.  His concern is that the second-opinion doctor at the hospital ER didn't check high up enough above my Mom's knee.  Yes, there is a cyst.  However, there is also something else in there that could be a tumour.

"Investigate sarcoma" is what the doctor wrote on her test requisition.  So, of course, she's alarmed,  and I'm trying not to worry, with moderate success.  It's a case of Schrödinger's cancer, which both exists and does not exist simultaneously until we have more information.  I submit that this should be the official disease name that everyone can lay claim to while waiting for their actual diagnosis.  I mean, the waiting stage isn't neutral, not by a long shot.

The MRI is scheduled for Monday, the results will take around 1 week, so we just have to sit tight for a while.

What to do when distraction is required?  Go to the mall!  Not just any mall.  A specific mall, i.e. Pacific Mall.  (See what I did there?)  Ken and I hadn't gone in a year or so.  Because it's a marketplace mainly composed of tiny, kiosk-sized businesses, there's always a lot of turnover, which means that there's always something new to see, and this time was no exception.

My favourite new business name is: It's Skin!

There are so many ways in which this name could go wrong.  Are they selling skin?  Things made of skin?  I mean, sure, it could be a leather store, but that would be a pretty weird name for it.  Are they answering a question that their salespeople get asked all the time?  "What the heck is that in the display case?"  "It's skin."  Ew.

The most unexpected new addition to the mall: several vape shops.  If you don't know what that's about, read this: "vape" is the Oxford English Dictionary's word of the year for 2014.  

The current most popular type of shop in the mall: cell phones and accessories.  I swear we saw at least 20 different retailers of this type.  If you want anything to do with cell phones, Pacific Mall is your go-to destination.  Especially if you feel that you need the maximum possible choice of phone cases.  There were literally thousands of options.  A couple of my favourites are, blue guy playing a saxophone:

And butter lion.

Butter lion?  Apparently yes.  I did a little looking into the origin of "butter lion", and found that he's actually a bear who was hit in the back of the head by a couple of butter pies.  There is no end to the weird imagination of Asian character creators.