Monday, March 30, 2015

toot toot toot!

no, still no Spring photos.
Got home yesterday and drank nearly half a bottle of champagne. I think M was disappointed I wouldn't accompany her to the end of the bottle, but I had reached my limit & I really don't like having a headache for a whole day afterward, and she's the kind who will not refill her glass unless you do too so there is a bit left in the fridge. 
By the time this little celebration was over, it was way too dark to go out and do any gardening. Even with the time change.
Maybe tonight.
Er, unless I stick around here to run the MSI samples, and then stop to get catfood and catlitter. It depends on how busy the sequencer is. If I have to interrupt something to load the MSI, I should really stop back later and reload whatever was put on pause. All that running around sucks up a lot of daylight.
Oh, keeping you in suspense, am I?
What's the point? You didn't even know I was playing the Mixed Promo x4 this weekend.
Yes, that's bridge.
Our theoretical rank was 11th (out of 16), and they pair you up to play against the team closest to you in rank that you have not already played. So we started off with relatively easy opponents. We beat them soundly, and the next team, and then the third team we came off just a hair better than a draw. The next day we had another nice victory before playing the favorites, whom we trounced, and then finished off whoever was left with a good drubbing.
The next round is in 3 weeks, then the final is in Paris in June.
Next year I won't be allowed to do this sort of thing. Just 600-odd points to go this season, and I'll be kicked up to the Honors level.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Maybe tomorrow

yes, I know, spring is in the air, and all I'm posting is boring, work-related gunk.
I'd love to get out there in it. The sun is up now when I have breakfast. I'm wondering what happened to all my pairs of sunglasses. My jacket is too cold for the morning, but my coat is too warm for the evening. And the lawn.
When will I ever get to the lawn?
I mowed about a third of it last Wednesday evening, and since then it's been waiting. And growing. Growing really fast. My mower will be useless against it if the grass gets too long - the stalks just fold down and go under the blades. Perhaps I'll get out there tomorrow, if I can get out of here early.
I'll get out there, and mow the lawn, and turn over bits of the veg patch, get some seeds in there, maybe the potatos & garlic that have been hanging out in the basement so long. And the camellia. Get it out of the kitchen and into the dirt. It is not happy in the kitchen; it is losing its leaves.
What of the weekend, you say?
The weekend is taken up with the mixed pairs x4, in Issoire. I'll have just time Saturday morning to go down to the store for catfood and milk and something to grill for lunch, before it's time to grill something up for lunch and head off to play cards. Then Sunday it's an all-day thing. We'll be home by late afternoon, but knackered.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I must have posted some time ago about the circus of getting the little electronic passes set up to control who comes through the lab doors.
What I haven't been letting you in on is all the fun of moving half the lab into some recently vacated space in the main building. It's been quite a hassle, and certainly contributed to the ambient stress. My part of the lab was pretty much at a standstill for the month of February because of the move, but it's over now. Or nearly.
One thing required of us is to restrict access to our spaces to authorized persons only. So we added electronic locks to the main lab last year, and little chips to our ID tags to let us in. The new space was already equipped with the kind of lock you punch a code to open. Well, once you give the code to someone, you can't take it back. And we have a fair number of temporary personnel, plus even if we didn't, a code can just get spread around totally out of your control with just one leak. Then you have to change the code, which is a huge pain in the ass because there are a lot of people who -do- get to know the code, and they don't all come around every day, and so some bright thing will just stick it on a post-it next to the door...
No, we will have our little chip system, please.
Only, there's only one person in the hospital who can program the little controller thing, and the controller wouldn't hold a charge, and there's no electrical outlet anywhere near the door, and it was vacation time, and...
Four weeks, we just blocked the door open with a bit of plastic.
And now it has come to light that all the difficulty with the controller was just a lack of information on how to use the thing properly.
So now it works.
That's one of the doors.
There's another door, not equipped with anything more than a handle and a key-operated lock that nobody has the key to. We're supposed to not use that door at all, and in fact they're supposed to come and make it unusable. In the meantime, instead of being permanently locked, it's permanently open.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

More stress

So apparently the medical leave for stress is just time off work. Well, I hope that's efficient at de-stressing my technician so she can come back to work and not instantly be stressed again. 
It's not as if any of the deadlines the lab is facing have gone away. They have meerly gotten closer (and with one less person to get the work done to meet them - that's good for everyone's stress!). The internal audits are scheduled and will be done. Our accrediting body wants our dossier to extend our field of accreditation on a certain day, and they will have to have it. We promise results to our patients in a certain time-frame and if they are not ready by that time, the patients will be calling us up. 
What's best about this system is that the person on medical stress leave gets re-evaluated on the last day before coming back to work. This means that I will not know if I can count on her presence until the morning of the day she should be here.
That's just great for planning.
Don't I get some free time off here too? It's really stressful not being able to run the lab efficiently when you never know if this or that person will be out for another two weeks or not. And one of the other techs - I don't know when her kid will get over his cold so she can come back, either. Then the spring vacation season is coming up - do I start cancelling people's vacations?
For long absences, there is a way for us to hire temporary personnel to replace the missing people. Someone off for 6 weeks may qualify, but two weeks does not count. And I only know two weeks at a time, so I can never get a replacement technician. Even if I could for two weeks, by the time the paperwork got through and candidates interviewed and more paperwork, that person would be at work just a day or two before the sick person comes back. Well, if they come back.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stressful biz

One of my techs is out on medical leave, for stress.
I do what I can to keep the stress down, but I think the change I can make is minimal, and how much stress a person feels depends mostly on how they respond to stress. I am obliged to set goals for everyone, and that is a good thing, much better than just having a mass of work ahead - get to it. And the goals have to be similar for people doing similar jobs, or even the very same job, though they are personalized.
So there are goals and they have to be worked at; they're not so low you'll pass them without even noticing just halfway through the year. They're not excessive, either.
We're also flexible. Things come up in the course of the year that can't have been planned for. Goals don't need to be fully attained, either, but have to be tried for. 
In our annual evaluations, though, things are very black and white. A goal is partially or fully attained, but partial is a big bag and explain as I might that we're at 90% here, for some people that's not better than 10%. Then in conclusion, a person can get a B (inadequate in some area), an A+ (super duper gold star clearly beyond what was expected), or an A, which covers everything normal. So if you fulfill your goals without going beyond them, you don't get an A+ (this has been explained and reexplained to me by my own superiors who firmly believe I give out way too many good notes). 
A good tech, with good notes, and she's stressed. A firm A, no problem. But she's stressed, and it's affecting her.
So she goes to her doctor and says she's stressed, and the doc gives her two weeks medical leave to get better. Then at the end of that she saw the doc again and got another 2 weeks.
Now, having some time off can be all you need to regain some balance. You might just need some sleep and relaxation. But I'd like to know what really goes on with this sort of leave. Do you get some sort of treatment? Or just four weeks vacation? Is there some kind of therapy going on, to help my technician learn to deal with stress more effectively? Is she following a program to learn to not internalize everything, but to let things go that should be let go? If all this is is 4 weeks at home, I don't see why it shouldn't be 6, or 8, or the rest of the year. Won't coming back to work be even more stressful, since you should be 'fixed', but really it's all the same?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Vive le soleil!

oof, March 18 already. Our lame little winter is nearly officially over, and I haven't been out much to enjoy it. Way too busy during daylight hours.
I know a lot of daylight savings time haters, and I hope they will not comment here, however politely leaving all their good and well-reasoned reasons. Just want to say that I personally am really looking forward to the late-light season. Soon when I get home at 7:30 I can actually go out and enjoy the yard before nightfall. Get some dirt turned over and some seeds planted. Some weeds pulled. The lawn mowed. Yes, I will spend weekend time doing that, for hours at a stretch, but a glance at my calender shows five of the next six weekend all booked up with events, many of them away from home. And the sixth one it'll rain, I'm sure!
So bring on the daylight!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

the Princess takes an encore

What’s this ? Who’s that in the lab ?
Unauthorized Personnel, that’s who.

You remember that stagiaire we had at the end of 2014. Who didn’t even bother to read the papers we gave her, let alone look up anything on her own.
Because time was short, and she didn’t have the clinical data necessary for the analysis of her cases with her, we (the big boss, really) decided she should be allowed to come back in, say, February or March, to complete the analysis phase of her project.
So my colleague Yannick tried to find out just when she would be back. We are serious people now, and we have paperwork to do in advance of anybody arriving. We are obliged to have a signed contract with the RH department, and we really do not want to keep pissing them off. No more false emergencies or last minute begging because we couldn't get our act together.
But he couldn’t get a date out of her, so the dates seemed to be still undecided.
And then Monday, she just showed up.
Oh, really? If you knew even Friday you'd be taking a plane over the weekend, you might have given us a heads-up.
No, you cannot have a badge for access to the employee cafeteria.
No, you cannot have computer access.
No, you cannot have a pass to open the door of the lab.
No, we do not have time to look at your project today, we have scheduled things to do, meetings, classes to teach, deadlines...

Perhaps, sitting there twiddling her thumbs for a couple of days while her contract wends its way through the administration, she will learn that we are not kidding. Maybe in her research lab in Tunis anybody can come and go as they please, but she saw last time she was here that we do not – cannot and will not – work that way.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The adventure getting back.

Storm coming!
Freezing rain! Ice all over the roads!
Five hours from Mountain Home to Saint Louis in good conditions - how much should we leave ourselves for bad weather? Eight was the best we could do without spending the night there. Two hours minimal check-in time not included of course.
And then the storm got delayed. Five easy hours on the road with coffee stop, Walmart for a last-minute purchase, lunch, another Walmart, check in the folks at their hotel. Easy peasy.
Airport. It takes me an hour to get through a ticketing problem (all my fault. I will have all the right documents in the future), and we have time for a glass before I say farewell and go through security.
Flight on time.
Flight, mmm, can still be on time if we check most of those roller-carryons: No room for all of them on a full flight, and we know how people fight for overhead bin space. C'mon, give them up.
And we might make it out before the storm, which is coming eventually, if we passengers are all organized and disciplined. Board by row and all that. Sure.
Only, the people aren't off our arriving aircraft yet. They're not in any hurry: they have arrived.
Finally they are off, but now the crew wants a slight technical problem checked out.
So they call the maintenance guys, who come out from their shed.
Just a couple of screws missing. Nothing serious, we'll just wait for the maintenance guys to go fetch some from their shed.
They do let us start boarding while they're still working on it, but it's still too late to beat the freezing rain, which has finally started. Great. That means a round of de-icing.
At last all settled and the last roller-case in the overhead bin, we stroll over to the de-icing pad. 45 minutes late. After some time with the lights and ventilation off, a man stumbles to the back of the plane, moaning of stomach pains. Doctors are called for. The man is Nigerian, in pain, half fainting, half vomiting. We cut short the de-icing and head back to the gate for the paramedics to take him off. By the time we get there, he's a bit better, walking up the aisle on his own, but they will not let him stay.
Connections in Atlanta are being missed, and the freezing rain is here, and the sick man was from Nigeria. We are notified that if anyone wants to get off the plane, they're welcome to. You can't have your checked luggage or a refund, but you can give up on Atlanta, and a dozen people do, delaying us further.
I thought it was a rule if you weren't on the plane your luggage couldn't be either. Maybe that's only international flights.
At any rate, they have to let people off. Some of the people seated near the sick man have got it into their heads that he might have Ebola, and they want nothing to do with that. They either get off the plane, or find seats far from the 'contaminated' one. Nonsense. The man had not been out of the US in years (the pilot later came to tell us in person), and did not have symptoms corresponding to ebola. He was no more likely to be infected than any random person off the street.
Happily, the rain has stopped, and we are allowed to complete our de-icing without repeating the whole procedure, just the parts not yet done.
Departure, 1 hour 45 minutes late.
Once airborne at last, those of us with hope still for our connections are allowed to move up the cabin to now-unoccupied seats. Good thing, since I am in the very last row and fighting my way through the crowd would be a lost cause. Hey, a seat is open in the very first economy row. Such luck! Perhaps it is the sick man's seat.
Landing at 10:25, boarding has already started for my flight to Paris.
At some terminal far, far away.
Why is the Planetrain so slow?
There it is, terminal F...
And my gate, with a rapidly diminishing line of people in front of it.

Hop! I am on my way to Paris.