Monday, June 30, 2008

Sucker, Part II

So, to review:

The Five Stages of Grief are:


Looking at them now, I'm chagrined to admit that it's not an appropriate descriptor in this case. Denial was momentary, went straight to Anger. Not much in the way of bargaining to be done, no one to trade with. Anger (direct, not the residual) lasted a good couple of weeks. Fortunately, when one has been even angrier, for longer, one learns to channel this energy. We'll come back to this. Depression was good for another 3-4 weeks. Acceptance came with some success. This concludes our overview.

When we last left our hero, Food Service had virtually no suction. Central Service, provider of all things sterile and clinical, was not much better. Receiving had given up on using their tube station, some months ago. The EAU and 8th floors were complaining of intermittent service and lost tubes. The two major zones weren't sinking, but they were listing hard to port, as it were.

Now, the technical description. This system is a one-tube system - the same tube is used for sending and receiving. There are 42 stations, segmented into 4 zones - 4 main routes that branch off to each station by means of diverters - think railway switch. They converge in the basement at the "Dazzler" - a conflagration of bent, rotating tubes that makes the exchange from station C12(Lab) to B11(11th fl.) possible.
Nurse Nancy puts her lab sample into bubble wrap, then puts it in the tube. She puts the tube into an arm-like holder, and enters the destination's address on a keypad. The station accepts this (usually), and moves the arm over to the gate - the closed-off opening. In the BOC (Pit of Despair, see earlier posts), A PC takes the request and lines up that zone to the station. One of the 4 large blowers in the basement fires up, vacuum is created, and the tube is pulled into the basement, into the "Dazzler". The PC then directs the "Dazzler" to line up a path to the destination station. The blower shifts from suction to pressure, and the sample winds it's way to the lab. That's it. Usually takes less than 2 minutes. There are communication links, optical sensors that track the trajectory, and log the results. We hardly ever lose a tube - it has to go somewhere, and it does. When it goes, of course. These weren't leaving the station.

As you may have experienced, pneumatic tube systems can move small items very quickly and efficiently. This beneficial service is multiplied in an institution such as ours. It is one of those things that is easily taken for granted, which, like fresh tomato on a "California Burger", can lead to outright rage when it's taken away. Food Service had had to find a different way to get patient menu selections from the floors, and the affected floors were really missing the quick and efficient transfer of minutia, like medicines from the pharmacy. My boss had set me firmly in the midst of a large steaming pasture, whether he knew it or not.

Next: Anger is an ener-gee, or Troubleshooting Things You Don't Understand.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute, Part I

Alright, I mentioned it, and some of you have been needling me about it, so here's my essay on the tube system. Pneumatic. Ecstatic. Acrobatic, tube system.

In the world according to Dilbert, I have done my best to transform myself from Dilbert into Wally. Wally - the little bald-headed guy whose raison-de-etre' is to do as little as possible, while maintaining the illusion of work. For me, this has been by focusing my efforts on those systems that are least likely to result in a telephone call in the middle of the night from our latest hire, naturally working the graveyard shift with no experience and a million square feet to take care of. The actual fact is that I am so good at maintaining the things that I'm responsible for (as my friend says, "It ain't rocket surgery"), that I end up looking for things to do. So, into my semi-secure world drops the tube system, as I guess someone noticed that I'd actually been happy at work for 3-4 weeks or so.

I was very angry at the manner in which it came to me. My current supervisor/Manager/Team Leader/I-really-don't-care-what-his-title-is, is a nice-enough guy who was working his way up the ranks while I had crested and fallen. He's actually asked me for some occasional advice, and I've seen him make some real progress, management-wise. His job (which is actually the job I had, reconstituted into something I'd never want to do, again) keeps him up at night at least 2-3 times a week, and his hair is going greyer even faster than mine did. Every morning, we carry on a fine naval tradition called the POD, or Plan of the Day. Sharing info, doling out assignments, finding out where the floods were the night before (It's a 540 bed hospital that's 43 years old, you do the plumbing math). This particular morning, the meeting breaks up, he motions me over, and tells me - in the presence of my co-worker that's being relieved of this burden - that it's now my responsibility. No warm-up, no warning, no smoke signals of any kind. I then get about 90 minutes of "this is where everything is"- "here's the main parts of the tube station" - and I'm left alone, seething with a handful of work orders and a third of the system not working.

Flash back to 1990. I am a "Management Specialist", working for the Director of Engineering. We've just replaced our 25 year-old pneumatic tube system, and the new system's performance is not quite what the brochures and sales pitches told us that it would be, primarily in the form of the amount of daily attention it requires from our service techs. The boss calls about 5 of us into his office, where he places a conference call to the president of the company. He informs him that we're not satisfied at all, and we're going to inform all of the trade publications and medical device newsletters of how incompetent this system is. He wants the president and anyone else he wants to bring to be in our offices tomorrow, for a meeting about how they're going to fix it - or else. It is the age of Total Quality Management. I actually "Facilitated" that meeting - my first one, handed to me, incidentally, three minutes before it started, without warning or preparation (yes, history repeating itself). We came up with an action plan, and basically made them sweat until the warranty was up, or they went out of business - I don't remember which happened first.

Yes, this all went through my mind before that day was over. You bet your sweet bippy, I was mad.

Next: The Five Stages.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

One for the money, 2fer the show.

As residents of Southern California, we have the unique opportunity to participate in Disney's "2Fer" offer - During the first few months of the year, one can visit Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure for the price of one admission. The only real rules are that you can't visit one park twice, and you have to visit the second one within 30 days of your first visit. Yesterday was the 29th day after our recent day at the Magic Kingdom, so DCA (that's what you call it when you live in "the OC" - the surrounding Orange County) was in order.

Hot. Hot and muggy. Stinkin' hot and muggy - probably an average day on the Eastern Seaboard, but oh so icky for those of us used to a desert climate. Arriving late, our first omen was our parking placement without tram service - meaning that we had the pleasure of traversing "Downtown Disney" on foot before we'd even started.

The purpose of the 2Fer is to pump up attendance in the off season. Our procrastination, this year, means that we hit the resort (when I was a kid, it was Disneyland, now it's The Disney Resort. Big whoop) in full Summer swing. Stinkin' hot, muggy, and crowded. Sweating bullets at the front gate, already. Quick, head for the Muppetts' 3-D theater. When I was a kid in Arizona, there were signs on restaurant windows that boasted "refrigeration", regarding their air conditioning. This theater was refrigerated, baby. Emma had great fun with the 3-D effect. Rides. Lines. Lunch. Pushing the stroller back and forth. Melting. Everybody kinda caved in at about 6 o'clock - even though there were 3 more hours of magic awaiting us. Our hip OC friends with annual passes who met us barely had time to see the parade, and we were leaving. I think that they were hot enough, themselves, by then.

We're spoiled, like meat left in the hot sun. When I was a kid, and there was no internet, no 183 channels on the TV, only a record player and some books in the house. Disneyland took planning, stamina, and an intense feeling that, if one didn't work at it, certain fun would be missed. It's not that way, today. Spoilage aside, it does seem to be a bit more relaxing.
So, for your comparative note-taking, here's footage from DCA's carousel, along with some scenic interpretations from Samuel L. Goble, BSC (class of 2015).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Graduation Day, 2008

Sam&Mr Myrick336

So, today was Graduation Day. OK, from the Fifth Grade. Here, it's the transition from elementary to middle school. For some of them, it's leaving the school they started at. For Sam, it's only been a year, but it's been a really good year. Marvin Elementary is a great school - the folks there do a great job. Sam's teacher, Mr. Myrick,helped turn a bad situation into a great positive. Of all the things to build upon, they share a fondness for Monty Python's Flying Circus - naturally, I think Mr. Myrick is brilliant.



There was a little Pomp, under the circumstances, but all in all it was a warm (no, not just the humidity), brief, and heartfelt ceremony.





I caught Sam smiling, again!




It was the last day of school for Emma, too, unfortunately all I got was one blurry picture, melting popsicle and all.




It was a great family day. We had some Mexican food, came home, and promptly crashed. Tomorrow is the last day for our Disneyland/California Adventure 2fer ticket thing, so we're off to the place right next to the "happiest place on earth."

Summer's Here!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Shorn, Fleeced, Bamboozled.

One of my best online friends, Kelly, has posted The sheep that we are. I recommend that you read it, as she has so clearly and coherently put her mind and heart to this work.
Our children are the 'canaries in the coal mine' of Eugenics. The prevention of their lives should serve as a warning to us all.
Thank you, Kelly.