Thursday, January 29, 2009

Getting My Move On

I consider myself an expert on getting myself and my animals from one place to another. After all, when I moved to Louisiana, I had three days between graduation and starting my internship. For the trip back to California I had a little more time, but I was still on the road within 48 hours. Here are some things I learned about moving a household, seven cats, three birds, and a big dog a few thousand miles by myself in the middle of summer…

Don’t expect the moving company to make it easier:
For the first trip I paid a company to move my stuff. It was a disaster. First they told me they didn’t pick up on Sunday and that they would call me 24 hours in advance. Then they called me on Sunday morning to tell me they were twenty minutes away and I wasn't done packing. The stuff finally ended up in a van, only to disappear for almost two months. They wouldn’t return my calls.
Finally they called me back to schedule a delivery time, and after I’d been waiting three hours I called them again at which point I found out the truck had broken down in Texas two days before. A week later my stuff finally showed up at 9pm along with the driver and two local crack addicts to help unload. Everything looked like it had been thrown around and stomped on. Repeatedly. When I unpacked I found that everything that could be broken was broken.
Because of that I had a whole lot less stuff to move back to California, which made it easier. I hired a container and packed it myself. It arrived on the day it was supposed to and everything was in perfect condition.

Minivans hold quite a lot of stuff:
I fit two large dog crates (holding the cats), luggage, the dog, and two small bird cages into a Kia something or other, and still was able to use the rear view mirror. The SUV that the first rental company gave me wouldn’t have held any more than my Honda Civic.

Give the cats someplace to hide:
On the way to Louisiana the only place to hide in the dog crate (which had all the cats) was the covered litterbox. Scooter camped out in the litterbox for three days and refused to budge. By day two I was driving with the windows down. On the way back I zip-tied the small carriers inside the dog crates and it was a much more pleasant experience. Everyone had someplace to hide, and someplace else to go when nature called.

Nice hotels are nice, but…:
All Motel 6 locations allow dogs. Yeah, they’re kind of gross, but it’s only for a couple of nights.

Figure out the rental van early on:
I had to unpack the front seat (where the bird cages were wedged) in 105 degree heat because I couldn’t figure out how to turn on cruise control and the manual was in the glove compartment.

Don’t feed the birds French fries:
It was a simple mistake. Early on I gave the conures (aka, the loudest birds in the universe) a small piece of French fry each when I stopped for lunch. By the second day they were screaming in anticipation every time I exited the freeway. Conures screaming two feet from your ear is not a good thing. This way lies madness.

And finally:
Drive like the wind.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Holy Cow

Well, it’s been raining on Oakdale for the past week, and as a result the grooming area is more than a little muddy. My mud boots (aka Wellingtons) are about two sizes too big (men’s 8 being the smallest size the hardware store sold), which adds a whole new level to the klutz factor.

One of the first times I wore those boots was also one of the first times I handled cows. It was the first year of vet school, and the administration realized that not everyone had grown up on a dairy farm. I’m not even sure I had ever touched a cow. Anyhow, the school scheduled practical handling classes for everyone, with about five people per class, so you could avoid looking like a complete idiot in front of owners. We had regular classes during the day, so the handling sessions were at night from 7-10pm.

The cow handling session was held in the food animal barn at the hospital, which was well lighted, although a little cold in winter. They kept about ten Holsteins there for teaching purposes. The cows were supposed to be in the small paddock right next to the barn that evening, but someone forgot to communicate that to the barn guys, so in fact, they were in a large, unlit pasture nearby.

The guy in charge of the session gave each of us something that looked like a plastic canoe paddle with a rattle inside and told us to go round up the cows. Yeah, these were dairy cows, some of the most placid animals on the earth, but they’re really big, and I’d never been close to one.

Anyhow, that’s how I found myself staggering around in the dark, in an uneven pasture filled with cow patties and mud, shaking that rattle for all I was worth, hoping the cows would stay away from me. If one did charge me, my plan was to hurl the paddle at it and run for the fence, which would have involved leaping out of the boots. Luckily, the cows associated the opening of the gate with food, and all came in of their own accord, so I wasn’t out wandering around long enough to hurt myself.

Later that evening we explored the source of all the cow pies in the field, but that’s a story for another day.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Okay, so as a contractor I don’t have to play the evaluation game.

However, some people have to go through the annual (or worse, quarterly) evaluation process. It’s painful, but you might learn something, even if that something is that your boss is a jerk and you hate your job.

Then there are those people who work for places that require evaluations to be done, but don’t hire people willing to do them. Yet evaluations still need to be done since HR requires them. In that situation, it’s not unheard-of for employees to be asked to write their own evaluations. And if you write your own evaluation, do you really think anyone is going to read it?

If this applies to you, feel free to adapt from the template below.


For the third year in a row, [Employee] was a model employee. Full of wit and wisdom, she inspired everyone around her to be a team player in the track field of life. [Employee] willingly took on extra tasks beyond the scope of her job requirement when necessary, including performance self-evaluations and informal managerial evaluations.

Possibly the most important cog in the organizational wheel, [Employee] thrives despite occasional intentional sabotage from her direct supervisor. [Employee] required no direct supervision, and indeed was offered none this year. In fact, [Employee] was able to function perfectly well without the manager who is responsible for this evaluation.

In short, [Employee] deserves the highest level of praise and a raise.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Al Dente

A pictorial history of my first car...


This one hurt the most. I'd had my shiny new car for five days when I tried to back out of a really tight spot without hitting the car next to me and scraped the other side on a fence.

Lesson learned: never, ever park in a spot like that.


See that side mirror? It's pretty, isn't it? That's because I had to get the old one replaced after

I ran into...
Who puts a telephone pole that close to the edge of the sidewalk? I didn't even hit the curb when I bashed my mirror late one night.

Lesson learned: Don't drive too close to my own sidewalk.


This is by far the biggest one. How it happened, I don't know. The first time I noticed it, my car was parked in front of my house, but it's hard to imagine how that kind of damage could be caused from the sidewalk. Someone else pointed out that it probably happened in a parking lot and I just didn't notice when I got in on the other side of the car.
No note, no apology, nothing.

Lesson learned: People suck.


While my car was busy resting in Concord while I was doing my internship in Louisiana, I got a phone call from my brother, Eric, that went approximately like this:

Eric: (Long, fairly boring story about helping Jeff put up a new fence on a windy day.) "At one point the whole fence section fell over on the driveway." (Continuation of long, boring story...)
Me: "-- Hey, isn't my car parked in Jeff's driveway?"
Eric: "Yeah, that's why I brought it up."

It's just a little dinged. Really. Don't even mention it.
Lesson learned: Louisiana sucks.


K-poo's rule: It's time to get a new car when there is no angle to view your car where you can't see a dent.

K-poo's on her second car... I still have one side left on my first.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Transferred to...

I recently read that a friend of mine, one of the residents during my internship, had passed the American internal medicine specialty boards. It wasn’t a big surprise since Julien is quite smart and a great guy, even if he is from Switzerland.

Poor Julien was in a special level of hell in that technically-still-within-the-borders-of-the-US state, as nobody born in Louisiana could ever pronounce his last name. One would think that Dandrieux (Don-dree-oo, more or less, and extra points if you use your best Inspector Clouseau accent) wouldn’t be that difficult in a land where every other person is named Boudreaux. But no, early on someone decided that his last name was “Dan-dri-no” (extra points for a nasal twang), and no amount of effort was going to change that. The students and techs paged him as Dr. Dan-dri-no over the loud speaker, the receptionists told the clients that Dr. Dan-dri-no was with another patient, and the owners were so busy exclaiming over his French accent that they never bothered to ask. It probably didn’t help that the rest of the house officers called him Dan-dri-no just to annoy him…

Anyhow, all of the residents and interns had to turn in case logs in order to get paid for emergency shifts. A modern hospital would be able to look in the computer to figure out which cases a doctor had seen on emergency, but this was Louisiana, so at the end of each shift you sat down and filled out a spreadsheet of the cases you had seen. We were supposed to be paid $10 for every emergency case, and you might see fifteen cases in a shift, so it was theoretically worth filling out the paperwork. Especially since the base intern salary qualified you for food stamps.

Once a week you would turn in all of your case logs, and then a few months later a small random amount of money (eg, $73.12) would show up in your bank account. We all spent some time with the person in charge trying to figure out how the money related to the case logs, but there was absolutely no accountability. I sometimes think that it’s absolutely impossible for anyone to be that incompetent, so she must have just been embezzling that money. But then I think about some of the other staff that were still employed there and realize that it’s possible that she just was that incompetent.

Aside from the patient id, owner’s name, presenting complaint, and date, the case logs also had a column labeled “Transferred to”. I always wrote one of the following: surgery, medicine, home, died, or euthanized. When I looked at Julien’s case logs, he had slightly different options: surgery, medicine, home, or what I initially thought was an elongated plus sign.

I merely killed my patients, Julien was transferring them to God.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Is it really that hard?

Someday I'm probably going to get in a wreck because I find it distracting when signs are misspelled.

Exhibit A (on the way to the Bay Area)

At least all of the correct letters are present...

Exhibit B (on the way to Yosemite)

Poor spelling compounded by bad punctuation.

And finally, someone gets it right!

(Interestingly, this is what you see when you head the opposite direction. New management?)

Of course, it's not really strawberry growing season right now anyhow...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

An open letter to the people who stole my tools

Hi there, it’s me, the person who used to own all of the tools you took from my garage some time in the past few weeks.

I realize that you may have thought I wouldn’t care that you took the majority of my tools. Maybe you noticed that there were a few things on the outside of the house that still needed fixed. Maybe you figured I was inviting theft by not locking the garage door. After all, you did prove that the locked back gate near the detached garage wasn’t really a deterrent, so I might as well have thrown all the tools into the alley for you to take.

I’m not sure why you needed to take the cordless drill, the corded drill, and the drill press, but perhaps you have a big project coming up. Good luck with that, and don’t forget to put the battery in the charger (which you also took) every fifteen minutes or so. I hope the cd player works well for you. Enjoy listening to “Dream Harder” by the Waterboys, which was in the tray when you took it. It’s one of my favorite albums.

I noticed that you left the sawzall behind. Do you not realize how useful a good sawzall is? Maybe you already have a couple of them. I don’t know.

You also left the router, which I find curious, because you obviously had planned to take it (snug in its hard plastic carrying case) since I found it on the driveway. It’s not all that heavy, and I imagine it would be easier to carry than the drill press, so I’m not sure why you left it behind. Have you never learned the beauty of a well-rounded edge? You really ought to consider those finishing touches that make such a huge difference to the final product.

Anyhow, thanks for leaving the pipe wrenches. The plumbing was installed in the fifties, and it’s liable to break at any moment. And thanks for not coming inside the house. There wasn’t really anything to steal there, but you might have let the cats outside, and the dog would have been traumatized.

Good luck with your big project! Don’t worry about the sawzall and the router. I’ve moved them to a more secure location.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Movie Review: Ironman

I finally watched Ironman this evening, and I guess it was okay. It’s an adaptation of a comic book, so it’s a bit simplistic in terms of plot, but it was watchable.

JoJo, you could handle this movie since there are really only four characters and they are easily distinguished from each other: one is bald, one is black, one’s a woman, and the other (Robert Downey, Jr.) has the stupidest mustache/goatee combination I’ve ever seen.

The basic premise is this: Tony Stark is a bazillionaire weapons manufacturer who is kidnapped by some bad guys. The bad guys also have his latest weapon in a bunch of boxes, but instead of following the directions and assembling it, they let their captive pretend to assemble it with welding equipment and a forge, and he makes a super duper flying suit and escapes. Then he goes back home and builds a better version while the other bad guy builds a bigger version. They fight it out in the end and destroy a bunch of stuff. The good guy wins. Oh, and there’s some obligatory sexual tension / sexual harassment with the woman who is his employee.

So, as you can see, there’s a whole lot of time during the movie to think about other things, and I spent most of it trying to decide whether I wanted Tony Stark’s Malibu mansion.


- Great view
- Nice indoor water feature
- Cool gadgets


- I didn’t see anywhere to take the dog outside to go potty. And she would probably fall off the edge of the cliffs into the ocean since there weren’t any guard rails.
- There would be water everywhere inside since the cats insist on playing in running water. And I’d probably have to pee every five minutes if I had the sound of water running constantly.
- The gadgets would probably stop working on a regular basis and you’d have to keep an emergency camp stove and flashlight nearby.

Anyhow, that’s my movie review. I think they're making a sequel, so maybe I'll get to see some other parts of the house in the future and that will help make my decision.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

This Droid Has a Bad Motivator...

Wednesday morning I had planned to drive out to Oakdale to ride, but woke up with no desire to get out of bed. I tried to quietly bail out without actually talking to anyone, figuring that if I sent a text message, by the time I got a reply it would be too late anyhow. (You can tell it’s a text message because only the first letter of any message I send is capitalized. It’s hard enough to just get the right letters…)

(Me, 7:46 am) It’s super foggy and i’m feeling lazy. i’m staying home today. enjoy work and happy new year!

(Heeder, 7:49 am) Fog will clear by 9am. It will be nice in oakdale. Shawna was hoping you would go out. Go out later! Get more time in the saddle!

(Me, 7:51 am) You’re like freaking jiminy cricket!

(Heeder, 9:05 am) * tipping his hat* Cricket’s the name. Jiminy Cricket!
Go ride! :) the ponies miss you.

(Me, 9:11 am) I’ve eaten approx 50 lbs of cookies in the last 24 hrs. trust me, the ponies aren’t missing me. but i guess i could get dressed while i think about it…

(Heeder, 9:14 am) Fog to clear by 12 pm today for oakdale (9am was for concord).

I did finally go and ride. Naturally I picked the smallest horse and forced her to cart me around for a couple of hours. She really hadn't been missing me.

At twenty cents a message, that exchange cost me $1.20, but isn’t motivation priceless?