Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who is that masked man?

I work for a healthcare company. More specifically, I work in the corporate office of a healthcare company. An edict from on high recently went out to the employees of our hospitals. Each employee must either get a seasonal flu shot or wear a mask their full shift during the duration of flu season.

The intent of the policy is understandable. Our company is taking those extra steps to minimize the risk of passing along the flu to our patients and to our co-workers - a very noble goal in my opinion.

What wasn't made clear at the time was how folks at HQ were affected by this directive. Even though we aren't in a patient care setting full-time, many of us do visit hospitals for multiple-day stays as part of our jobs.

Today, any ambiguity was made clear. If a corporate employee is expected to visit a hospital between now and next spring, he/she too is expected to either get the shot or plan to wear a mask while on premises.

Right or wrong, I've chosen not to get the shot in the past. Honestly, I hadn't really planned to do so this year either. I'm not sure if I've been lucky or good, but I've never had the flu - not regular, bird, swine, chimney, cuckoo's nest, or any other variety.

I do, however, expect I'll be in several hospitals over the next 4 or 5 months. Also, I respect corporate directives and highly support the wonderful jobs our caregivers provide in our multiple facilities. So I'll wear the mask.

But my goodness, the choices - they're almost too numerous to mention! Fortunately, my next visit to one isn't likely to happen until the first week of December. So I have plenty of time to choose. Here's kind of a short list from which I hope to make my final decision.

Option #1 - The Darth
Pro: The most protective
Con: Results in most head sweat

Option #2 - The Lone Ranger
Pro: Hero of yesteryear
Con: Covers wrong part of face and just a bitttttt too gay for present year

Option #3 - The Phantom
Pro: Classiest
Con: May be mistakenly used as a bed pan

Option #4 - The Elephant Man
Pro: Readily available via use of eco-friendly shopping bags or hotel room pillow cases
Con: Would likely land me on Homeland Security watch list

Option #5 - Da Tut
Pro: Get my bling on
Con: One of a kind masks worn by a dead teenage king have a high reserve price on ebay

Option #6 - The Obamassiah
Pro: I'm a victim and pretty sure I'm entitled to this one
Con: Are you kidding me? Too numerous to mention thank you very much.
Option #7 - The Dark Knight
Pro #1: Also includes Robin mask for subordinate co-worker
Pro #2: I can climb outside walls of hospital buildings with a bat grappling hook if anyone confronts me about my mask
Con: Frequent guano breaks

Option #8 - The RoboCop
Pro: Stainless steel can be easily cleaned of germs
Con: Buff pec plate accessory costs a lot extra

Option #9 - The Lechter
Pro: My yapping mouth stays shut much to delight of co-workers
Con: Likely out of season by December and makes it difficult to dine in hospital cafeteria

Any recommendations or alternate suggestions?


Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Last e-Sensory Frontier

The rapid advances in technology - particularly the last 25 years - has had a remarkable impact on our lives. Good or bad - advances for end users has incorporated more and more of our basic senses.
  • Seeing- With wide-screen color monitors, YouTube, JPGs, Amazon's Kindle, laser and ink jet printers, etc. most of the technololgy advances have incorporated first and foremost our visual senses.
  • Hearing - Arguably, one of the most controversial aspects of new technologies is the advancements in digital audio. MP3s, Digital Rights Management, Napster, podcasts, etc. all have had and continue to have an impact on the legal availability and portability of digital sounds.
  • Touch - Many applications now incorporate touch technologies. Airline check-in kiosks and restaurant server seating and order stations are just two solutions made easier by touch-screen monitors.
  • Vocal - As vocal recognition and recording software has improved, the adoption of vocal-related technologies has expanded. Many emerging songwriters and bands now record demos and sometime full album releases by recording songs on a laptop or iMac. Bluetooth devices for cell phones have transformed the stereotyped label for folks who talk to themselves from insane to just downright annoying.
But what sense is missing? Smell! No smell technologies on the web? What sense does that make? (OK, bad pun - it won't happen least in this entry.) Imagine how useful it would be with digitized smells...or troubling.
  • Restaurants, bakeries, and florists could incorporate digital smell files into their on-line menus and product offerings.

  • Perfume companies could expand the role of those annoying mall spritzers by having a whole catalog of on-line sample scents to click and sniff. Or maybe Yankee Candle - I'm sure they would charge at least 99 cents per clicked sniff though as nothing in their stores are free.
  • Google Maps could incorporate smells emanating from nearby landfills or hog farms when you start exploring choices for out-of-town hotels, a new apartment, or a parcel of land for a business.
  • A whole new realm of world-traveling, time-wasting e-mail could be sent to offices around the globe. The subject line of "you have to read this" could have a renaissance as "FW: FW: FW: you have to smell this. Its hilarious".
  • Alongside your Outlook inbox, calendar, tasks, and personal folders, you could have a folder titled Scent Items.
What do you think? Drop me an e-smell to let me know your thoughts - or a comment here will be fine as well.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chicago is Our Kind of Town

With apologies to da Chairman, Frank Sinatra...

My daughter & I arrived in Chicago this past Saturday morning and were greeted by a rainbow signifying a promise of good times. Rain was still in the area, but it wasn't enough to deter us from our walk to the hotel and then off in search of Giordano's pizza near Jackson and LaSalle.

Fortunately, the rain faded away & we were back in business as we wiped our mouths from traces of deep-dish style pepperoni and mozzarella. After being puzzled about where to catch the #29 bus, we opted for the Red Line subway and headed to Navy Pier. We rode the giant ferris wheel and Wave Swinger. (Note to self: don't let yourself be talked into riding the swings ever again when the temps are below 50 degrees lest you want to leave more skin on the aluminum seats.)

The view from the ground...

... and the view from above.

After a bus ride back to the hotel, we cleaned up a bit and headed right back out to the Blue Man Group. This show has been around for many years. It took me until a couple of years ago to finally see it in Las Vegas. We saw basically the same show in Chicago I saw in Vegas, but I'd go see it again tomorrow if I could. Its that funny.

Sunday, we opted for an hour of worship at First United Methodist Church - better known around town as The Chicago Temple. Why "temple"? I don't really know. I guess only the Methodists and the Jewish community there know why. The church was founded in 1831, and the current building of the church has quite the inspiring sanctuary view.

After church, we headed to the Sears Tower...err... Willis Tower. Specifically, we were headed to the famous Skydeck on the 103rd Floor and the newly-opened and soon-to-be-famous The Ledge.

I really thought I'd have a bad case of vertigo as I stepped out on the ledge and looked almost 1,400 feet below, but it really wasn't that bad. Maybe it was the cardiac arrest I was experiencing while watching my daughter fearlessly step out and then smile at the camera.

It was then time for the main attraction - at least from my daughter's viewpoint. The American Girl Store. Michigan Avenue. The Magnificent Mile. Unfortunately, this was also one of those "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" moments. I guess that means Roman dads were also committed to scurrying around with their little Roman girls looking at overpriced doll clothing and accessories such as the American Girl Painted Horse and Chariot combo.

The store, however, does have a sense of humor I suppose. For instance, the majority of the American Girl inventory is made in China. Also, the picture below revealed a bit of comedic duality for me. Perhaps the inference is all you'll have left in your pocket when you leave the store is petty cash. Or perhaps the intent is to say with laughter that you must be joking if you think all you'll spend in the store is petty cash.

Following shopping, dining, and dessert, we caught a bus to Millennium Park to see it lit at night. Specifically, we wanted to see Cloud Gate - or as its known by the locals "The Bean". The skyline of Chicago was wonderfully reflected in the bean, but it made it difficult for me to capture a clear picture. So I'll use this one to illustrate.

Monday, we spent the majority of our final day at the Shedd Aquarium. The aquarium was on our itinerary for a couple of reasons. One, they had dolphins, beluga whales, and sharks - 3 things my daughter wanted to see. Two, admission was free as part of the aquarium's community week...or at least that's what was published on their website and tweeted many times in the days leading up to our trip. When we arrived, we were told the free admission only covered some of the basic tanks. To see dolphins, beluga whales, and sharks, I had to pay after all. For a non-profit, eco-conscious, kid-friendly organization, this policy is called creative marketing. In a for-profit venture, it would be called the ol' bait-and-switch.

I forked over the fee, and we had a wonderful time touring the facility. The tank with the dolphins and beluga whales has a spectacular panoramic window view of Lake Michigan. And once we took a break for lunch, we took advantage of the spectacular skyline view for another photo op.

After we had enough of fish, mammals, and reptiles, we headed for the hotel to claim our bags and head for the airport. We then realized we had just enough time to run back to Millennium Park for another look at The Bean in the daytime & were very glad we did.

For all the coolness of the changing colors on 3 sides of the twin towers at the park, the inner side of each tower introduces a bit of a creepy side. The faces of about 1,000 Chicagoans have their faces shown on the towers periodically. To be honest, as creepy as it was I was quite surprised the faces had not been replaced by images of President Obama, his cabinet members, and Jeremiah Wright. But I'm just sayin...

In the end, I made the right decision in taking my girl to the big city. For all the big stuff we did, she was equally puffed up about having the opportunity to ride a plane, train, subway, and city bus - all in the same weekend; try Chicago style deep-dish pizza; stay on the 18th floor of a Hampton Inn; tip a bellman; etc. And for me, watching her enjoy it and then fall asleep quickly at night while smiling makes me think I should try to make this an annual event.


Remind me again the role of teachers?

My son's high school English teacher returned the students' composition books today. They were turned in for homework grading last Friday before the recent 4-day fall break. My son didn't get his returned, and he asked about it. The teacher's response? I must have misplaced it. Just buy another one. FAIL!

My daughter's middle school math teacher gave the class a quiz last week. She realized after grading a few of them over the weekend that the graded students fared poorly. So she didn't bother to grade the remaining ones (including my daughter's). She returned the few graded quizzes today, and she told the students they had an opportunity for a "make up" grade by re-working the missed problems. A student asked how she was affected because she was one of the students who did not get a graded quiz returned. She was told those students had to rework all the quiz problems (which includes my daughter). FAIL!

Part of her math homework tonight was the following problem.
A kid is 4 feet tall. He has grown 1-1/8 inches in the past year, and he grew 3/4" in the year before. How tall was the kid one year ago?
Admittedly, working with fractions is often a challenge for students of all ages. As my daughter wrestled with how to solve the problem, I finally asked her to step back and think about it by the seat-of-her-pants. The kid is 4' tall today and only grew a bit over an inch since last year. So you should know the general range of the answer - just work out the fractional part.

She was concerned about working with TWO fractions - the 1-1/8" growth and the 3/4" growth. I smiled and asked her if she read the problem carefully - maybe she was reading too much into it. The problem asked how old the kid was one year ago - not two. Her response? "That's what I thought, but my teacher said it didn't make any sense and I should subtract the other fraction too." FAIL!

Rather than focus on the idiocy of No Child Left Behind, perhaps we should invest in No Teacher Left Behind.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Résumé Review

One of my least favorite parts of my job - other than finding the coffee pot empty...again - is reviewing résumés. Each fall, representatives from our department hit the college campus circuit looking for soon-to-graduate students with good grades, some baseline experience, a hunger for learning and working, a professional appearance and demeanor, and a back-stop recommendation by one of their professors.

To get to a short list of candidates from which to choose, I have to one-by-one review many bad résumés. Over 80% of the résumés I get include obvious errors or don't meet our baseline qualification requirements. In some cases, the person doesn't appear to even be qualified for employment as a Wal-Mart greeter much less what we do.

This year's crop of sterling candidates is no different. Rather than dwell on the problems, however, I wanted to spin what I've noticed as a coaching opportunity for folks seeking a job - either as a gradate looking for that first career position or as an experienced individual looking for a change.

  • If you live on Tater Peeler Rd., do yourself a favor and rent a P.O. Box. Home is a wonderful thing and all, but you really don't want to receive a decline letter in an envelope with 6900 Hairy Palms Avenue as the return address.

  • Consider meeting with a faculty advisor, spending some time on Career Builder or Monster, and/or having a frank discussion with friends or family to help define a realistic career objective. If your career objective is "to seek position where I can develop exceptional spreadsheets", you may want to true up your gun sights.

  • If you major in Applied Sciences, I recommend you make at least a "C" average in your English courses. Doing so may prevent you from misspelling Applied as Applies on your résumé.

  • To avoid snickers on my end and a volley of instant messenger LOLs, a career objective stated as "obtain a position where I can utilize my outstanding mathematics background” should be accompanied by a GPA greater than 3.1 in your mathematics major. And I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the bachelor part of your math degree will likely stick with you in other areas of your life.

  • Microsoft no longer supports Windows 3.1, 95, 98, or ME. So I suggest you refrain from bragging about your sweet game with these operating systems. And unless you can explain to the interviewer why the "shut down" feature is on the start button, I'd leave off Windows XP and Vista as well. This just in - Windows runs on about 90% of the world's desktop computers. There's a pretty good chance a kid in Somalia knows as much about using Windows as you do.

  • Using Internet Explorer and Gmail does not qualify as technological skills. Don't insult the interviewer's intelligence. Substituting Firefox, Thunderbird, or Twitter doesn't add any edginess to your résumé either.

  • If you will soon be a college graduate and are seeking a professional position, your high school graduation year is pretty much irrelevant – especially when you graduated in 1991. What are you - Al Bundy or Uncle Rico trying to re-live their glorious football past?
Consider yourself mentored.

Have a good weekend.

Thanks BirminghamSteve for the vid availability.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Separated at Birth - Art Curator edition

Barbara Buhler Lynes, Ph.D., curator at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and the Emily Fisher Landau Director at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Research Center...

...and Dustin Hoffman as "Tootsie".

I'm just sayin'...


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Why Chicago lost the Olympics

10. The translator mispronounced Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher's last name as "her locker". The IOC thought Chicago planned to discriminate against male athletes who planned to participate in the games.

9. Brazil has a tradition of international winning soccer teams. Chicago has the Cubs.

8. Rio prepares its meats churassco style. Chicago serves sausage.

7. Chicago has huge, impressive, well-built structures.

6. But so does Rio...

5. Oprah's production company is an anagram of her name, Harpo. But Jacques Rogge, the president of the IOC, is partial to Groucho. Whoops.

4. Rio has the inspiring Jesus statue overlooking the city.

3. Chicago could only offer Touchdown Jesus at Notre Dame 2 hours away. Chicago could only offer Barack Obama campaign posters as a symbol of the deity it worships.

2. The IOC recognized a city doesn't deserve the Olympics when it and NASCAR collaborate to make folks believe Joliet is "Chicagoland" when its 40 miles away.

and the top reason why Chicago lost the Olympics...

1. The members of the committee heard TMC was planning a visit to Chicago. They figured any city that lowers its standards enough to allow me to visit in 2009 isn't deserving of the world's attention in 2016.

But Chicago - keep your chin up and wear the rejection proudly. I appreciate your letting me visit. And I promise I'll leave town having put more net profits into the city and state coffers than the overwhelming costs you would have incurred hosting the games.