Saturday, August 4, 2007

A visit to Renoir in Ottawa

I don’t usually post on the weekend but I’m winding down from a lovely day at the museum. A friend called me because she wanted to go to Ottawa to see the Renoir exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada . Ottawa is a two-hour drive from Montreal and it had been a while since I’ve done something like that so, off I went. I’m not an art expert, not even vaguely close to one, but I do love Renoir’s paintings. The exhibit was of this earlier works, from 1865-1883 .

I surprised myself when we came across a painting and I commented to my friend that the particular painting had a Monet-type quality (not that I know much about Monet, but I have seen photos of several of his paintings). The surprise came when we read the description and that he had painted this painting side by side with Monet, and Monet’s piece was hanging next to it, a few feet over.

I bought a poster-size print of this one; it was the lilacs on the side that attracted me. Very fetching, I thought:

And I bought a smaller print, page size for my office of this one:

I really liked these two:

It was a very enjoyable way to spend the day. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. Not scorching hot like it has been and I love watching tourists, speaking so many different languages, as they tour our capital city. The parliament buildings are beautiful, I get goosebumps when I see the beautiful and touching War Memorial, and I am very proud when I’m in Ottawa. It’s such a beautiful city and I’m glad that others see fit to come visit us.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Yup, it was a hot day yesterday

It was hot in Montreal yesterday. Very hot, with a high of 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) and with the humidity factor, a temperature that felt like in the 40s (over 104 F).

Environment Canada has this Humidex chart that gives you an idea of how the temperatures feel according to the humidity in the air.

We don’t have air conditioning in our house. It’s a 45-year-old home that has hot water heating, so to put in central air would be expensive. We’d have to go with the ductless type. Window units drive me crazy with their noise, but we do have one in our bedroom we use on the really hot nights. I’m lucky in that I don’t often feel the heat, but I do feel the humidity. Oddly enough, it shows when it’s humid because I can’t laugh. My asthma is affected by the humidity and if I laugh, I have to take a deep breath and I can’t. So, I end up coughing away for hours all because I laughed. I know, I said it was odd. :-)

We’re young though, we’re healthy, so the heat is really more annoying than anything else. But I worry for those who aren’t young and aren’t healthy. The elderly who live in top floor apartments or flats so not only does the heat rise, but they have the sun beating down on them. Those with limited resources can’t afford to air condition their homes. Our city does declare an emergency when we hit a certain temperature for three days in a row, so that is some consolation. When that happens, they open shelters and air conditioned areas for those who need the help.

We know the drill of how to stay safe in excessively hot weather: drink plenty of fluids, stay inside as much as possible, don’t do anything strenuous if you can avoid it, and so on. But there are still a lot of people who don’t take it seriously enough and do develop heatstroke, or hyperthermia.

How serious is heat stroke? According to the Centers for Disease Control in the United States, during the period between and including 1999 to 2003, there were 3442 deaths related to heat. Of these 3442, 65% (2239) were directly caused by the heat. Heat was considered a contributing factor to the remaining number of deaths. Some of these deaths make the news, like when it’s a student athlete: Heat-related deaths in middle, high school football players spikes in 2006.

The Red Cross has this very informative page about heat-related illnesses. They discuss the prevention, the different stages, and emergency interventions for people who are affected.

Oh, and one more thing – watch out for Fido. Dogs feel the heat too. Don’t let them overexert themselves in the heat. Walks should be kept to a minimum and don’t forget that the pavement is burning hot on those paw pads. And please, please, please, don’t leave your pooch in the car, even with the windows cracked. It’s like leaving him in an oven.

News for Today:

Screening improves detection of major stroke risk factor
Ontario to provide teenage girls with HPV vaccine

Alberta gets first human case of West Nile
Breastfeeding moms quitting too soon, officials say
Many heart attack patients still not getting emergency clot-busting treatment
Heat-related deaths in middle, high school football players spikes in 2006

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Living from one Not-A-No email to another

As most freelancers will attest to, the next best thing to getting a “yes, go ahead and write that amazing article/story/book” email or phone call is getting an email that asks for further clarification of a query or proposal, says that they’re considering it, or that they are still discussing the upcoming calendar. That means… it’s not a “no” yet!

I received one of those emails yesterday. A couple of months ago, I sent a query to a magazine that I would love to write for. I hadn’t heard back so I sent the editor a follow-up note two weeks ago. She responded, telling me that they were going to be meeting soon to discuss calendars. Great, I thought. That’s a not-a-no. :-) Yesterday, I received another email from her asking for some more information about my query, which I promptly sent off. That’s another not-a-no. :-) So, even now if she eventually comes back with a no thanks, although I’ll be disappointed, I am happy to know that at least my query had enough merit to catch her attention and maybe I’ll come up with a more fitting idea to try again. Notice that I didn’t say a better idea – I think my idea is good and obviously she thinks it has merit too. If it is refused, it’s because it doesn’t quite fit and that’s ok.

I don’t mind the rejection notes, that’s part of the freelance life. In fact, I prefer a rejection note to sheer silence. That’s frustrating because you never know if your idea was ever considered. I know that my writing isn’t a good fit for all magazines or journals and that not all topics are what they want at that time. Not to mention, I’m not exactly a household name and my publications in non-health related stuff is pretty slim. So, rejections are all part of the game. But I’m just so tickled when I know that my ideas are being considered at least.

So, some people live paycheck to paycheck – I live from not-a-no email to not-a-no-email. Works for me.

News for today:
HPV vaccination plan should be halted, reviewed: researcher
New breast cancer type has poor prognosis
Research suggests 1 joint equals up to 5 cigarettes
Rotating shift workers have lower levels of serotonin
Hostile Men Could Have Greater Risk for Heart Disease, Study Finds

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Gambling and addictions

Addictions are everywhere, from alcohol to drugs to gambling. We know that addictions are serious but there are many people who are quick to label any type of obsessive behaviour over which they feel they have no control, as addictions. I used to feel that way about gambling. In my mind, it was “get over it, just stop.” Until I learned that gambling truly can be an addiction.

I thought of this last night as my husband and I went for our annual casino adventure. Montreal has a casino run by Loto-Quebec that was supposed to be mainly for visitors, but a good look at the parking lot and listening to conversation in the casino, it’s patently obvious that the majority of the patrons are from Quebec and the Montreal area. You can see that many of them are very regular visitors.

I see going to the casino as having a bit of fun with a bit of “who knows? Maybe we’ll come out ahead.” Alas, we didn’t – our allotted spending amount was depleted in short order. But, in all seriousness, gambling has become a big problem. According to Statistics Canada , “Whether buying lottery tickets, visiting casinos or participating in hockey pools, Canadians are gambling more than ever before. In 2004, Canadians bet a total of $12.4 billion—more than a fourfold increase from the $2.7 billion wagered in 1992.”

More recent statistics from Stats Canada, from 2006, show that up to 1.2 million Canadian adults are either addicted to gambling or are at risk of developing the addiction. That’s 5% of the total adult population, and 6% of all Canadian gamblers. The statistics go on to show that of the 1.2 million, 10% of them, 120,000 people, are having financial problems, are depressed, anxious, or are alcoholics.

The Canada Safety Council has even more sobering statistics when looking at gambling and suicide. A report from 2004 from Nova Scotia states that problem gambling was a factor in 6.3% of suicides in that province. This type of statistic is only available in Nova Scotia and not other provinces because it is required that suicide investigation includes asking about gambling while no other province does.

Ready for another scary statistic? In a study from Quebec of college students, 26.8% of pathological gamblers had attempted suicide. Compare this with the average rate of attempted suicide of 7.2% among college students who don’t gamble.

One more: In the US, a survey of Gamblers Anonymous members found that 48% had considered suicide, 13% attempted it.

Then, there are the other fall outs of gambling, such as isolation from family, domestic abuse, theft, and job loss, among others. And gambling doesn’t have to be the legalized casino-type gambling. What of the people who spend a substantial part of their pay or social income on provincial and state run lotteries? What of bingos and other sorts of legalized gambling. Of course, there is the behind-the-scenes type of gambling as well, the poker games, the sports betting, there’s no end to it.

Makes me feel a bit guilty about spending my evening at the casino last night.

News for today (hey, it's August!)
Laser printers can affect air quality, researchers say
Skipping doses is 'crisis' in U.S., report says
Anorexia nervosa -- more common and transient than previously thought
Study shows radiofrequency ablation highly effective in treating kidney tumors
Screening MRI allows detection of more breast cancers in high-risk women
Study Offers New Look at “Self-Neglect” Among Older Persons

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Laptop not cooperative today - update below - it's alive!

Well, my not-even-1-year-old laptop has decided to either go on strike or it's sick. We haven't figured it out yet.

The CPU is running at 100% even with as many background programs shut down as is possible. I defragged, cleaned, scanned for both viruses and spyware, and did everything short of standing on my head - something I have never been able to do (nor could I ever do a cartwheel, but I digress).

However, not all is lost - I have my files backed up through Carbonite and have switched to my desktop. Unfortunately, this desktop has issues of its own! I will have to see if I can bring the laptop to some magic computer guru, or the Geek Squad if we have one here in Montreal. I think we do.

Anyway, later today or tomorrow, I'll resume my regular blog stuff. Because I spent most of the day yesterday trying to coax my laptop into behaving, I got very little real work done. So, here's to hoping to a very productive work day.


ok, it's 8:12 a.m. and I have been at it for a while now. I'm very pleased to announce that my stubborn streak has won and my computer is now all better. :-)
For those of you who may ever encounter the same problem, and I have read it isn't uncommon, this is what happened and what I did.

As I said, yesterday the laptop started running at 100% even though I'd shut down all possible programs. Without any obvious one running and as many background ones running, I still couldn't find out the problem. I did alt+ctr+delete again and checked the background programs and finally found one called spoolsv.exe that was running at *99*. There was the problem.
I did a search on the Web and found that others who had the same problem had a microsoft printer on their computer and that there were stuck spooled printing jobs on them. Sure enough, I checked my printers and found two huge printing jobs stuck there. This was odd because I've never used that printer and I didn't send anything knowingly to that printer. Anyway, I deleted it and now my computer is acting fine.

Whew. Now, to make up for all that lost time.

Monday, July 30, 2007

What do nurses really do?

When I went to college to study nursing in 1978, my brother’s friend, a bright engineering student, asked me in all seriousness, “What do nurses do?” Not long ago, someone I was chatting with told me that she had never realized what nurses did until her mother was dying in the hospital. This person was in her early 50s. From 1978 to 2007 is a generation and yet there are still people who don’t know what nurses are do.

I guess it can be expected. People don't usually encounter nurses unless they're in a stressful situation and they only see the obvious, not anything that happens behind the scenes. On TV, nurses receive very little true attention. Either we’re portrayed as bimbo sex objects, doctor hand-maidens, or non-existent (as in the show House).

It’s funny because I do enjoy House very much – it’s a show I don’t like to miss – but in that show, it’s not only nurses who are non-existent, it’s the orderlies, the radiation technologists, and all the other healthcare professionals who help a patient recover while in hospital.

When was the last time, in real life, that doctors in a hospital knew exactly where the medications were and gave them to patients, did all the tests that they do in the show (for example, without any assistance in the cath lab or while the patient is having an MRI), transport patients from place to place, and all the other stuff they’re portrayed as doing on that show? I do recall one scene when one of the doctors told a nurse to do something and she countered with a question; she was told to just do as she was told. Oh boy.

On other shows, nurses are portrayed as women (almost always women) who do only what they’re told, without question. The only exception I recall is the series ER, where nurses, men and women, show that they have a brain.

So, what *do* nurses do? Unfortunately, because of the severe nursing shortage, whatever they are supposed to do, they often don’t have the time to do it all, or to do it as thoroughly as they would like.

The big difference between doctors and nurses is that doctors treat the illness and nurses treat the person. If a person has broken leg, the doctor is concerned, and rightly so, about getting that leg healed. It could be through surgery, casting and traction, casting only, or whatever the orthopedist feels is the correct way. The nurses have other priorities.

Nurses are concerned with the patient’s pain level, the correct placement of the traction as ordered by the doctor, the cast being fit properly and not causing problems with the foot and toes, the immobility causing problems with skin integrity (bedsores), lack of appetite, difficulty going to the bathroom, psychological well-being, and numerous other things. They report back to the doctor the patient's progress and if they notice any problems that they can’t handle or they need medical interventions.

It’s the nurses who observe the patient 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They keep the records and are able to tell the doctors if there is increased pain, decreased pain, if the patient seems to be getting depressed, if he or she isn’t eating properly, if a foot seems to be getting a bit more swollen every day, and anything that is observed for more than just a few moments.

Nurses don't only care for people, but prevent complications from happening. That is probably the best way I can describe it. When they can, nurses also provide emotional support by being there and listening. They teach and try to help people who have just learned they have diabetes or cancer, or they help someone learn how to cope with a newly dependant parent. Oh yeah, and nurses save lives. Literally. From performing CPR until the crash team arrives to noticing subtle changes in a patient’s status, nurses save lives. Many of them.

A nurse is a person of all trades. When the dietician isn’t around, it’s the nurses who have to convert meals for the patients with diabetes, when the physios aren’t around, it’s the nurses who help the patients with their exercises, when the respiratory techs aren’t around, it’s the nurses who help the post-operative patients do deep breathing and coughing to clear the lungs. There is so much that a nurse does that isn’t seen by the public and probably never will be.

I do admit that there are men and women who shouldn’t be in nursing and give the profession a black eye – just as there are in every profession. The problem is that we’re so visible and out there that if a nurse or nurses give bad care, it gets broadcast quickly. If a nurse does a good job, it often goes unnoticed because everything has gone as smoothly as possible.

So, I guess this is a plea for a bit of understanding. Nurses are not miracle workers but they have been known to perform what could be seen as miracles sometimes.