Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Photos someday

So you’re possibly wondering, what about those new cats.
Still in hiding.

Tyson is Out. He likes it out there. He is Out a lot, and I hardly see him.

Mia is In. She is in the library. Occassionally she is in the kitchen, in fact I found her there this morning, having a snack just as I got up to make coffee. She hissed at me as usual and made her way back to the library. She did not run as fast as she used to, nor did she cower in fear. So that’s progress.

Whenever Sienne passes in front of the library doorway, she takes a peek, just to check. Sienne is really Top Cat now, and she loves lording it over the others. Not the meek, cowardly Sienne I used to have, who needed companionship. I got her companions, and she treats them like enemies. She is indeed no longer bored and nervous, but it’s not the turn of mood I was hoping for. It has been more than a month now, and they should start getting along.

Next month there will be yet another cat, though just for a couple of weeks. Bella is coming back while her folks are on vacation, and it's just a bit long to be tossed outside with a big bowl of kibble in the garage.

Monday, July 27, 2015

yes, it does work

Here he is, the chef and chief bbq builder. He thought we'd never get back from our morning hike, Mariette & I. Started to get worried for his stomach. Well, it was 1:30 by the time I got home, and by then the coals were ready and the potatos were in their skillet.
Why yes, let's have a glass of rosé and some sausage while we're waiting for the main deal.
Nice little side of pork ribs, but it took its time.
And then we took ours.

Friday, July 24, 2015

ready for grilling

And there you have it!
We will probably take the rope off before lighting up a fire, now the glue has dried and the roof piece on the right will not slide off onto the ground.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

We will have to go back

The next day we went up to Mont Dore for a morning hike around the heights. Quite different in the summertime.

There are blueberries up there, not too far from these trees. There are not too many, and they are just becoming ripe. We did not bring containers aside from our stomachs to hold them, so we will have to come back for picking some other weekend. Take the whole day just for enough to make jam - you can see why they're 25€ a kg at the market. 
Cross our fingers the cows don't get them all first, but they seem to like the grass up a little higher so maybe they will leave them for us.

A happy sunflower field! Sunflower fields are all over the place, but most of them are quite sad and droopy from this killing heat. They must spend a lot of water on this one.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Went for a morning walk near Boudes about a week ago. Mariette wanted to show me a bit of the more interesting geology in the region. There's this tiny area with some very pretty formations. The sun was so bright, though, that they're a little washed out.

Monday, July 20, 2015

an affliction I didn't know I had

It's official. 
I have girl arms.
We were making good progress on getting my new brick bbq together on Sunday morning. JP got everything straight and plum. I helped out by taking my end of the various bits to move them from their pallet to the building site, and handing him the level or the pencil or the straightedge or the hammer or a glass of Schwepps with lemon or whatever. I also had the executive job of deciding which direction for it to face, and whether I wanted the fire on the left or the right. Not an installation we're going to move around every couple of weeks.
I say straight and plum, well, that's within what's possible in my yard. Good thing I decided to put it over here where the garage-thingy used to be, and not on the concrete slab that's falling to bits. Here, in contrast, everything is level and flat.
Er, sort of level and sort of flat, at least in the middle. Around the edges forget it. Thank goodness the thing is not bigger or we would have had to pause to buy cement first.
Around 11:30 we had it all together except for the roof, and it was discovered that we could not do that part because I can't lift my half of that slab any higher than my shoulders, and it has to be lifted higher than that, even. Dang thing is heavy as hell.
So we grilled our steak on the mini-Weber as usual, and will wait until some extra manpower happens by to finish the job.
Next weekend we will be prepared for grilling in sleet and rain and wind, and there is space for plenty of steaks & sausages & filets, so come on over.
Bring wine.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Still stuck

so... if you were going to spend months getting a new lab information system together, with all sorts of parameters to define and functions to develop, at every level of activity from the secretaries entering in a new patient to the writing up of a rather complicated medical report, passing through every stage in between, you would set aside a few days at the end of that and before the actual changeover to the system to test everything and be sure it worked.

Of course.

And, yeah, we did that. And for a new case we had never seen before, it all works just fine.

But we deal with families, and we still have new members of our very first breast cancer family from 1996 coming in to be tested for their family's mutation. A family is never finished. If you find a mutation, there are new relatives. If you don't find a mutation, there are new genes to look at. Welcome to Genetics, where no file is ever retired.

So duh, we need to import the entire family database. Every person, every person's relationship to the other people in the database, every mutation, every sample.

Just to give you an idea, we have 6800 families. 180,000 people belong to those families. There are more than 21,000 tubes of DNA in the freezers. 500 genetic tests are currently pending, prescribed under the old system, and to be reported in the new.

The database to import so that we can work on these people is big. And it matters that it's done right. So you might think you'd set aside a couple of days and do a test import, to be sure it all works. Nah! It already takes 48 hours to do the transfer - let's not waste any more time.

It was Lori Stoltzfus who told me once that "the fast way is the slow way, and the slow way is the fast way". Excellent advice. 

Two weeks we've been battling with a system that can't handle anything that was started before d-day. Our bad, but did they really expect perfection on the first try? 
A fix should be worked by early next week.
I just hope it -is- a fix.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Coup de Lune

There is something to a lot of folk remedies. Sometimes there’s a good reason you feel better after drinking some herbal tea – if made with willow or wintergreen, the salicylic acid in there will help clear up your headache. That’s how aspirin was discovered : isolated from plants then modified in the lab. We did that in chemistry class once, though if you ate some of the resulting product it was more likely to cause a headache than cure one (perhaps we weren’t very good chemists yet).

So while I am sceptical of a lot of folk remedies and old sayings, some stuff does work, certainly. Just show me the evidence. What makes me laugh is the idea that the more you dilute the active agent, the more powerful it is, and so if you dilute it down to nothing at all, that should be the best way to go, right? Not that you want to go the other way, and concentrate something to toxic levels.

Serendipitously, a test of a particular old wives' tale came along.

I was doing some late laundry yesterday, getting cat barf out of some pillowcases. Not all 6 were barfed on (that would be prodigious !), but I tossed them all in the wash anyway. Out on the clothesline they weren’t dry yet when I went out to water the garden around 10 pm, so I left them out all night.
We had a full moon last night, and a clear dry sky. They say that laundry left out under a full moon will get a ‘coup de lune’, or moonburn (like a lunar equivalent of sunburn) and turn yellow. I have been seriously warned about this.

Six white pillowcases left to suffer moonburn the entire night. How many were yellow in the morning ? None. Not one the least bit yellow. As control fabric, there are the matching sheets that were not put out in the moonlight.

0 for 6, but it was just one test. Will have to replicate the trial some other time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

complication by simplification

So, you might ask, what am I up to these days when I'm not on vacation?
Which is most of the days, really.
It's such a mess it's hard to explain. New computer system for the management of all samples, persons, families, analyses, results, and etc. That's a lot, and it's been ages we've been asking for such a thing. Up to now I've had up to six different Excel tables to update when reporting a test result, and that's just the result.
Anyway, after 6 months of training and of setting parameters and developing stuff the developer hadn't gotten around to before their latest client (us) decided to actually use all the functions promised, we have finally got the thing installed.
More or less.

I'm getting to my particular gripe now. Not going to tell you about all the other issues.
We had decided that all tests started in the old system would be finished using the old system. Then while I was away that decision was overturned, and now all test results have to be rendered with the new system. The old system has been shut down.

The other lab manager, MP, thinks this is not a problem.

But think about it for a moment. To generate an official, final report, one that concerns either one or two different samples (from the same person), and between one and five different genetic analyses using as many as three different techniques, I can't simply call up the model report form and have the system fill it out correctly.
For cases started under the old system, all the new system knows about that is the identity of the patient, any samples we received from her, and that genetic testing has been prescribed. It doesn't know what genetic test(s), or which sample was used for which test, what technique(s) was(were) used, or what the result was.
All of which it will know for a sample that arrives tomorrow, of course.

In all of our training and development, a results report is generated when all the tests pertaining to the prescription have been marked as done. MP thinks you can just short-circuit that if you have your prescription and your result.
Well, I'd like to know how, if getting the information about the pertinent sample on the report depends on an "analysis" (or more often several analyses) being linked to the sample, and then that analysis being completed. And if getting the information about what gene was analysed, and how, on the report also depends on there existing an "analysis" for each gene and each technique.

So knowing there's a prescription doesn't get you very far, even if you have the final results in hand. You have to type in all the tests to do. And since the sample received is usually blood, and we have set up the system to trace the transformation of blood into DNA, and it's DNA the tests are done on, it will not let you just cut to the chase without at least generating and then terminating all the intermediate steps.
This does not take very long for one test.
I would not mind for one test. Or even a handful
The thing is, 120 results reports are waiting to be written up, all of which concern 3 or 4 separate tests.
So don't tell me it's not a problem.