Wednesday, April 12, 2017

So: how many of the blue results for heavy cat were not salty?

No, I am not bald yet.

There are some thin patches, though.

About a year and a half ago, the lab installed a fancy new program to deal with all the different requests for testing, their progress, the results, pretty much everything.  It was a difficult switch, but we got through it alright. One of the last things we gave up doing manually was counting how many tests of what kind we reported, and how long it took for each one, and what the result was. Adding a line to an Excel file, diligently, every single time one of the three senior people wrote a results report, was just a stupid and annoying redundancy. We paid a fortune for a program that can do that for us, at the click (or ten) of a mouse.

Personally, I was kind of attached to my Excel file. Used to be I was the only person who did the reports, and in my view it wasn’t much time out of my day and I could trust the sums at the end of the month and the annual bottom line.

Then when my colleagues came along and were also writing up reports I was glad for the help, but the certainty that my accounts table was complete became less sure but still close enough.

And still later, they both objected to my wasting their time once the new tool was in place. So with having the new system in place for the entire year of 2016, the sorting of the beans for that year should be entirely automated, and therefore we stopped adding lines to a table one at a time. My colleagues were pretty much on strike anyway and the manual system was getting farther from accurate every day.

And now it is the hour to render our accounts to the government.

Only, now I want the details of how many relatives of patients we tested for a certain defect in a certain gene, and how many of them had the defect or not, and how many other tests were done in a certain context and not another. Now those details just aren’t coming out in any coherent fashion.

So maybe me questions aren’t properly phrased – it’s a computer program, after all, you have to ask it things in a particular way; get all of your conditions right so that the search in the database brings back all the good stuff, and only the good stuff.

Eh, half the good stuff is missing, and an unknown but significant portion of the stuff here is nonsense.

Even my computer guy who’s the expert on the system can’t get it to tell us something reasonable. He even called the developers, who may not really understand my questions, fundamental as they are, and it isn’t any better.

Now the boss is calling for his numbers, and he said last month it didn’t matter if they were estimates, so I estimated. Only, my estimates of how many results of what kind we reported don’t match with the estimates of how many patients we saw in each particular context. Those numbers are someone else’s task, and I have not seen them. Never mind that there’s a gap of a month or more between me reporting a result and the patient having their appointment, so the numbers never match exactly anyway. But they’re farther apart than the boss thinks is presentable.

So here I am with my computer, wishing I had taken (and that I could have convinced my colleagues to take) 1 minute longer for each report, just to add a line to a table. Just 1 damned minute.

For the boss, it is just inconceivable that a computer program costing hundreds of thousands of euros cannot simply and accurately extract this same information from its database. Therefore, it can do so.

Only, no, it can’t.

The information I need gathered is stored at different levels, in different boxes and categories and technical whatnots, and Ariane simply cannot understand that –yes- I tested a person for the family’s mutation, but –no-, she doesn’t carry it. If such people exist they will be ignored.

What am I doing about it? What’s my work-around?

My first approach would be to make the computer people help me ask the right questions and prove the boss right. But this is France, and it’s Easter soon, and all the computer people are on vacation.*

So my second approach is to realize that I can bring up a screen (though, alas, not an exportable list) showing all the reports sent out in 2016. And then I can go to each dossier and open each report, one at a time, and note on some handy table the 3 (just 3!) bits of information I need. Then, some hours later, I will be done.

Really, people. Sometimes the slow way is the fast way.


*just while we’re on about computer programs being so clever & all, in Word here I’m getting a little squiggly green line telling me I should correct the “it’s” in that sentence to “its”. Perhaps Word thinks France owns Easter?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

San Juan and Masca

Thursday morning M and one of the other frenchies staying at the residence went shopping in Los Christianos, looking for a particular fake haute couture handbag and other gifts & souvenirs.
The Los Christianos tourist shopping area is like not a place I take any pleasure shopping at, so I left them to it, and hopped a bus the other way, back to San Juan.
San Juan is somewhat touristy, but only slightly and not for the screaming-rich. It's mostly a place where local people live and shop.
First off, I go back to the trail along the coast that we glimpsed our first day here, but didn't explore. Good idea!

I rejoin my friends for lunch, and then we drive up to Santiago del Tiede, which is near Masca, the famous local jewel of a village, one of the must-sees of the island.

After a quick look around, we take the widing road toward Masca. At first it seems like a nice drive, but we were meerly in a lull in the traffic. It would indeed be a great drive if it weren't for all the people driving it!
It's a narrow, 2-lane road that makes a steep descent with frequent switchbacks. There are lots of pullouts, which is good, and they are all overflowing with cars and vans and tourbusses, which is just what you get when everybody is here at once. After making three stops ourselves, we turn around and go home. Sylvie, our kind driver and one of the Tenerife timeshare regulars, has been here more than once before so she's not really interested in battling the traffic all the way down to the town.
OK. We're happy to see what we see.

The really neat way to see Masca anyway is to take the boat from Los Gigantes, then hike up the fabulous trail that follows the gorge. Will have to do that next time!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Wednesday we thought we'd go for a Big Hike, so we got going marginally earlier than usual. We'd found a bus going to Vilafor, a town with one of the most attractive hikes in the guide book, with only one connection to make with the busses that pass in front of the Marazul residence. We could change at one of two stops in Los Christianos, and decided to try the second one.
Well.... of the two busses going past Marazul, apparently one is the express bus and the other one stops every six or seven meters. But we didn't know which was which, and they both come by just every 40 minutes so you really just get on the first one to show up.
When we finally arrived at the big bus station in Los Christianos, it was nearly 11. After several minutes of running around, we finally figured out that our ongoing bus had just left. And that in fact we had seen it leave a previous stop right as we were pulling in. The really bad thing was, that bus only runs once a day. Once. And we had seen it go.
So, plan B?
So many bus maps, so few real options. They make it look like busses are running all over the island, all day long, taking hardworking Spaniards and curious travellers to interesting destinations in a dynamic churn of people and vehicles. Yeah, some of them run only once a week.
And then I saw a sign with taxi fare estimates to various destinations, including Vilafor. What the heck, we're on vacation.

Half an hour later, here we are in Vilafor. Let's go hiking!
Um, let's go hiking after lunch. There's a nice little café here on the town square, and they seem to cater to locals as well as tourists so it's our best bet yet for real local fare.
mmmm, good idea! The rabbit in garlic sauce is incredible.

Another idea, how do we get back to the residence later? If the bus comes up here once a day, it might go back down just once a day, too. Indeed it does: at 4pm.
That's kind of early if we're going to do this hike.
There are no taxis hanging around the village, but I do spy a hotel. Quite a nice looking place, run by a wonderfully nice and helpful young woman from Sheffield. She rings right away to reserve me a taxi for 6pm. After that it'll be getting dark, and it should be plenty of time for the 4 1/2 hour circuit described in the guide book.

I'm really looking forward to a beautiful hike at a nice pace, some real exercise in this fresh air.
My travelling companion, however, is rather interested in finding viable seeds for the local pines, so she stops every few meters to pick up a pine cone and check for seeds. And it's a steep hill and quite stony and we're slowed down by that too, and her knee is not in good shape.
After a good hour, M decides she'd better turn back. The trail is too difficult to make the whole circuit before sundown, and even at a stroll on these rocks she might do some major damage. She'll wait for me in town.
Checking the map, it seems we've done about 20% of the distance. I naturally set a fast pace when hiking alone, but it might now be a close thing to be back by 6. Depends on how much time I spend photographing the "moon landscape" that's the special feature of this hike.

There they are! the cool rock formations we came for!
Ah, but they're tiny. And you can't get close up at all - too many tourists trampling all over would quickly ruin the site.
Lucky I have a good zoom.

It would be neat to go down there and spend the day, watch the lighting change. But it's time to head back.
I get back to town with time for a nice look around before our taxi comes. Vilaflor is a charming village, and if we ever come back to Tenerife, we'll make sure to stay here as our base for exploring the mountain trails.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mardi Gras

Then Tuesday it was Mardi Gras. I'm that far behind with posting all this.
Our friends François & Claudine are also staying at the residence, and they invite us to drive with them to see the Mardi Gras festivities in Santa Cruz, the capital. The weather isn't great when we start out, but I have faith it will get better, as it has every afternoon so far.
On the way, I see why the guide book shows no hiking trails for the whole southeastern quarter of the island: there's nothing much there to go look at.
Arriving at lunchtime, we see a teeny bit of the city before settling down to eat at an outdoor place set up for the festival. Grilled sausages! Should have had them, because the paella was just rice with two lonely mussels. But the fried little fish and octopus were great, and the beer refreshing.

 And now! for the parade! Some highlights only. Once the sun got low it was too chilly for us. A fun parade, though. Everybody was out there. Every school, church, club, and organisation of any kind, they were all out there in outlandish costumes, sashaying down the waterfront, strutting their stuff no matter how young or old. Good thing there were plenty of tourists, because without us there'd be nobody to watch it all.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Los Gigantes

uh, so that was Sunday.
Monday we took the bus to Las Gigantes.

These impressive cliffs have become so popular that the tourist town next to them ruins the effect. All those beautiful photos are very carefully cropped to delete the buildings rising higher and higher on the hillside, and even cutting into the cliffs themselves. The highest complex is an abandoned mess.

Yeah, I should talk. I myself am staying in a monstrous building that blights the view of the landscape for miles around.
What we're most interested in here is finding the head of a hiking trail that goes along the cliff face for a couple kilometers before heading inland to a town where we can surely catch a different bus home. We've borrowed a hikers' guidebook from M's friends, and it says that the trail is officially closed, and that parts of it are dangerous and it's really not for those with vertigo. Oh, and there are a couple of long tunnels, so you'll need a light for the 5-hour hike.
I don't intend to do the whole thing, I just want to get out of town, appreciate the landscape, and turn around.
But we don't even seriously look for the trailhead, which is somewhere along the road our bus just took. M doesn't want to. I don't get that, but there's no forcing the issue.
Fine. We look around the town, and for lunch somewhere along the spectacular coastline.

Lunch in the tourist trap is pretty lame. Boring, big-hotel food; not a cozy local joint in sight. But you can get a shot of the Giants without their creeping urbanisation, and a good look at one of the blowholes.

After lunch, M is so sick of the town that when we go to the bus stop for a trip out of here, she decides on a bus back to our lodgings. So I decide, well, why not stay and find the trailhead after all? And there was a beach promised, that we haven't seen. See ya later, alligator.
The map in the book is pretty lame, but it's not a big town, how hard can it be to find? You can see the scar the trail makes from here. The thing is, I'm trying to follow the directions backwards, and it's written "50 meters after the big rock, turn right" and suchlike, so you have to anticipate.
YEA I found the trail!
And it's a perfectly good trail.
Any time now, it'll take a left and get back to the cliffs.
A really hard left.
Er, no, I've gone the wrong way, this is the loop heading to the town.
But it's pretty, and it's quiet. Just like I like it.
An hour later, here we are. The trailhead to the part across the cliffs.

It really is closed, and hasn't been maintained for years. I try a bit, but I'm not a goat. Even the parts that look ok are covered with pebbles just waiting for you to slip on them, and then there is not much between you and the sea. So never mind. But I'm glad to have found it, and tried.
Oh, look, from up here you can see the beach! There really is one, tucked away between the port and the foot of the cliff. We passed just 50 yards from it earlier.

It's after school now, and most of the beachgoers are local teenagers and families. It's nice. Not noisy with radios or shouting or anything. When I get there, there's a jellyfish warning posted, so people are just playing or sunning on the sand. Once they take that down, people immediately get out there on bodyboards (for what surf?), or just get their feet wet.
Sun's going down - time to go catch a bus.