warriorsavant: (Springtime in Canada)
It is, in rough numbers, cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey,* colder than a witch's tit,** below zero on the Archaic scale. In short, despite dressing for the weather, my face almost froze off just going to the car. I live here why?

How's everyone else holding up with the massive pan-continental storm/cold snap.


*That isn't actually an obscene reference to the gonads of a metallic simian. In the days of wooden ships and iron men, when the traditions of naval service included rum, sodomy, and the lash***, iron cannon balls for ready use were stored on a triangular brass frame, known as a brass monkey. In cold enough weather, the brass contracted more than the iron, and the balls "froze" off. That that this phrase sounded obscene, was entirely not coincidental.
**No clever hidden meaning there. Straight out crude. And probably anti-wiccan. I'll continue blogging after my being turned into a newt gets better****.
***Winston Churchill.
****Monty Python.

Grab bag

Jan. 5th, 2019 07:14 pm
warriorsavant: (Meh)
Herein a grab bag of posts that I'd half-written, but didn't get around to posting. Have a number of half-formed ideas and half-written posts that I'm going to finish and post. I hate back-logs.

"Papa knows…" This soon?
Read more... )

Christmas? Bah humbug (belated, but so be it).
Christmas? Bah humbug (belated, but so be it). )

Back to the future (coin names).
Back to the future (coin names). )

Software updates at gunpoint.
Software updates at gunpoint. )
warriorsavant: (Dr. Injecto)
Saw a patient recently who has rosacea, a common, an annoying, but not life-threatening, condition. I have him on Noritate (brand name for flagyl 1% cream) with good results. Price 35-45$CAN here. He ran out of it while he was vacationing in Florida. He checked US prices on line: around US$2000 for a single tube!

Dec 31

Dec. 31st, 2017 11:02 am
warriorsavant: (Time)
Wallstreet is upset because we won't let him draw on the walls. Hedgefund is upset because she can't just have chocolate for breakfast. We wanted to have kids, right?

Meanwhile, the expertly designed heating system for our new(ly renovated) house heats very, very unevenly. Some rooms are so cold need a sweater, some are so hot can scarcely breathe. It's a forced hot air system, and it either isn't zoned properly, or there aren't enough dampers to properly regulate the flow of air, or both. Either way, right after the holidays I'm going to have a little sit down with all the parties involved and "suggest" they fix it. I have the bad feeling that means more holes in the walls, and more plaster dust, which will very much not make us happy. Along the same note, there seems to be a frozen pipe in one part of the house (out to the extension). Only the hot water pipe is frozen. The plumber has been unsuccesfully working on it for 2 hours. Add this to our little post-holiday sit down.

We're still in the midst of the cold snap you might have read about. I've always had cold hands and feet ("but a warm heart"), but I can't take my gloves off outside for more than 10 seconds without my fingers aching with the cold. We wanted to live in this country, right?

Nom & ba ngaoi took the kids out for a couple of hours (a bit of grocery shopping and a bit of running around the mall driving other people crazy, but at least they get out of the house for a bit). I can post this, have a peaceful cup of coffee… then dig into the piles of home fixing-up, and paperwork that I promised to do over the holidays.

Tonight is New Years Eve. The start of the new year is defined by when the ball drops in Times Square in NYC (no matter where in the world you happen to be). Or in our case, when we get up the next day and watch the recording of it.

Happy New Year to all my Gentle Readers. May it be full of happiness, health, and good things.
warriorsavant: (Books (Trinity College Library))
I love bookstores and libraries. To me, the central reading room of a great library is like the nave of a cathedral (icon is Long Room at the library of Trinity College, Dublin). The problem for me is that I get brain-lock. I want to buy everything, but since I can't, I'm almost afraid to buy anything. What if it isn't the best choice? Actually, these days I find myself going more mid-brow, both at bookstores and libraries. I confess I hadn't even been visiting libraries much past 2-3 years, partly because so busy (dang kids, they interfere with my reading and my drinking!), and partly because the library nearest us isn't very good. We recently inscribed ourselves in the library where we'll be moving, which is much better, but still rather disappointed in 2 of the last 3 books I borrowed from there.

What triggered going to a bookstore was finding my stash of "lucky money." Vietnamese New Year tradition, the elders give everyone else a coin or small bill in a red envelope to bring luck and prosperity in the new year. I always felt that I should use it for something special, and put it away in a drawer - several years' worth when I came across it recently. Still not a huge sum, but enough to actually buy something. I metaphorically scratched my head, and decided a book was the ideal item.

I had a dental appointment, and I knew there was a bookstore nearby, so planned to stop there on the way home. Going into the store, I hit the brain-lock, and realized part of that was insufficient caffeine. Fortunately they had a coffee shop attached. Unfortunately it was a certain Seattle-based major chain, but drug addicts in withdrawal beggars can't be choosers. I ordered a cappuccino, and the counter clerk (I refuse to call them "barristas" - get real people) asked me something incomprehensible. After the 3rd repeat, I realized he was asking, "Name for your cup?" which still didn't make any sense to me. I've named my children (some silly legal requirement here). I used to name my computers, but got over that. Hedgehogs have names, of course, and they chomp your nose if you don't remember them. But I didn't see why I needed to name a coffee cup, especially a disposable one. Eventually he managed to communicate that he was asking my name, which he would then write on the cup, so they could call me out the huge crowd of… well, actually, I was the only person ordering coffee just then, but I suppose SOP.

Caffeine finally perking thru my system, I spent some lovely time browsing, and eventually settled on 2 books (more than my lucky money covered, but I had some standard money on me also). One was about Canadian Soldiers in Afghanistan, written by a reporter who had been embedded with a unit, and one was a popular science book on astrophysics. (Only downside is that it was written by Neil DeGrass Tyson, who although is an eminent scientist, and very good at popular explanations of science, also lead the evil movement that down-graded Pluto from a Disney character planet.) Looking forward to reading them, as soon as finish the last book I'd borrowed from the library, which is about expeditions to find the remains of the Franklin Expedition (for the non-Canadians/non-Artic history buffs in the crowd: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin%27s_lost_expedition ) I'm a firm believer that if you have books and coffee, the world can't be too bad.
warriorsavant: (Springtime in Canada)
Some years back, to get a passport in Canada, you had to have it signed by a "guarantor " someone who knew you for at least 2 years, held a Canadian passport and was considered a respectable member of civil society, such as post master, school principal, or physician. I was happy to do it, was kinda cool. Later, for a while, I didn't have a Canadian passport (the US Army felt it was incompatible with my having a US security clearance), so couldn't anymore. By the time I got out of the Army and again got a Canadian passport, they had changed the rules to make it more egalitarian (or something), and any Canadian citizen and passport holder could do it.

Something similar about marriages. (Touched on this around time I married Nom, but bears repeating because analogous.) Years ago marriages could only be officiated by clergy. In New France, that meant Roman Catholic, later any clergy. Later, any clergy or civil official (eg a judge). In Quebec, following a form of French Civil Code, you could also be married by a Notary. (Note: In Roman-derived systems, a Notary is not just someone who witnesses signatures, a Notary is a type of Lawyer. Notaries do non-contested legal matters, such as wills and deeds, somewhat like an English Solicitor.) More recently, the option for "presiding official" was broadened to "any citizen in good standing." (I think "good standing" means "not currently in jail.") If you went that route, you submitted the name to city hall, they checked the standing of said citizen, then sent him the "how to" guide. We were originally going to have Nom's brother do it, but then had second thoughts. First of all, no telling how long it would have taken city hall to get the documents to BIL. Second, although he's a bright man, he's never done this, and we didn't want to risk he'd make some minor but crucial error in the bureaucratic paperwork. In the end, we had my Notary come to our place and do the legal parts ceremony (not to mention all the paperwork). I actually rather liked that we were taking part in a "traditional" way of doing things. In addition to the bits of Buddhist ceremony, Jewish ceremony, and jumping over the broom. (Yup, married x 4, and all to the same woman.)
warriorsavant: (Springtime in Canada)
There are any number of standing jokes about the seasons in Canada and probably all of them are true. Each year, we do complain that Spring is too short/barely exists, but that's just whining. Spring exists, it's lovely, and it's a reasonable length. Except this year. Literally went from lighting the fireplace last weekend to turning on the AC yesterday.
warriorsavant: (Quebec sait faire)
I alluded to this issue Jan 13. Here's the story. The current provincial health minister is named Gaetan Barrette. On the positive side, he is trying to clean up some issues with the Quebec Medicare system. On the negative side, he is not consulting with anyone before he issues his ill-thought-out fiats. Lately he has taken a page out of Donald Trump's book and is sending out late-night and weekend tweets of questionable veracity when he is annoyed by someone. Before getting into the current problems he's caused, some background is needed on how things are done here in the True North Brave and Free.

Medicare-how she works )

A consideration about any law or regulatory framework is that there are always gray areas (or grey areas as it is spelt in Canada and the UK). No matter how carefully you write the law, there are always ambivalences. Putting in more regulation doesn't eliminate those loopholes, it just creates more. Up until now, we've dealt with these gray areas by ignoring them, and everyone gives a little on their side: doctors accept that not everything is paid for, patients pay a little out of pocket for things questionably required, and the government ignores the situation.

Medicare-how the Minister is screwing things up )

I'm not sure why all this is happening. Is it purely Minister Barrette's incompetence? Is it a back-handed way for the province to dis-insure some services? (Instead of dis-insuring them, they make them impossible to get, and put the burden on the doctors to be the heavies to explain it to the patients.) Is it the companies that provide drug and supplemental insurance got tired of paying for these supplemental (but legal) charges and pressured the government to outlaw them? Always hard to know if something is driven by avarice or stupidity (my bet is usually on stupidity which is harder to outsmart than avarice). In the end, me and every other doctor will find a way to protect ourselves without hurting our patients. Like most smart people, Minister Barrette fails to account for the fact that other people are smart also, and there are more of us than there are of him, and that we're motivated because it's our livelihood.

Stay tuned to this blog for further updates.

The footnotes )
warriorsavant: (Quebec sait faire)
Arizona sucks ditch water.1 Specifically, the Arizona Coyotes, who were crushed by Nos Glorieux2 last night 5:2.

For those who are confused as to what I'm talking about, I'm referring to Canada's national religion,3 hockey.4 I've never been much of a sports fan,5 but every coupla years someone comps me some tix,6 and I go. I generally go with somoene who is a big fan, and I pick up on their excitement and have fun. Last night I went with my biggest fan, Nom, and even if she is less than a sports nut than I am, we had fun.



1. Except for a certain household in Tempe.
2. Nos Glorieux = Les Habs = the Montreal Canadiens.
3. No, not Theanism, that would be, well, see footnote 1.
4. Hockey. "Ice Hockey" is redundant in these parts.
5. "Never been much of" is a gross understatement.
6. Drug company reps used to be good for that, but they've tightened the rules to limit their largesse to "educational activities." I found last night's game quite educational, but apparently that is not what is meant.
warriorsavant: (Books (Trinity College Library))
In is Canadian Thanksgiving (Monday observance).

I have so much to be thankful for.

- My family. I could not believe I could be this happy, nor love having children so much. I get weepy just thinking about it.
- My family of birth. We don't seem close, but when I look at other families, I realize how good we have it.
- My extended family. They are loving and supportive.
- My job. I love what I do: 90% of the time, I basically like it; 5% of the time, I think they aren't, and couldn't pay me enough to put up with the cruddy parts; but 5% of the time, I can't believe I get to do this cool stuff, and they even pay me.
- I'm healthy. Not perfectly healthy, but way better than the average 60-year old.
- I live in a free and wealthy country. Even at the worst, it's a great place to live, and I have it far from "the worst."
- I was born, and still a citizen of, another great, free, and wealthy country. Ditto the above. (And both of these, despite the idiots we have as leaders.)
- I served in the military for a long time. Deployed 4 times to war zones. It was truly an honour. (And I'm physically unscathed.)
- I have a lovely, comfortable condo in a good part of a great city, and will soon by moving into a lovely, comfortable, large house in another good part of this city.
- I have enough to eat, and can eat with great variety and delicious taste whenever I want.
- I have traveled the world. I'm (mostly) bilingual. Having a second language gives one a second soul.
- I can read, and have books as my companions whenever I want.

I am so lucky.
warriorsavant: (Quebec sait faire)
In Canada, health care, a.k.a. Medicare, is mostly government run. Each province has its own system, so there are minor differences. The federal government kicks in some money to each province, and sets basic rules. In addition, the feds directly cover certain people, such as military. Canada as a whole is a balance of individualism and collectivism, and our health care system reflects that. The system is collectively paid (e.g. government run), but most individual practitioners are private. In essence, the government is the universal insurance company.

All citizens and permanent residents are covered via public money. I often remind patients that in fact it isn't "free," it's paid for by tax money, which is not free. (I usually get a blank stare in return, but that's another lecture.) Doctors can be in- or out-, but not half-half (eg can't say I'll take Medicare for you, but not you). Visits to a participating doctor (eg almost everybody) are 100% covered for anything that is not purely cosmetic. Again, the doctor is supposed to be on- or off- the system, it is not legal to charge a supplement, however cleverly you try to diguise it. Hospitalizations are covered (private rooms, and renting a TV are extra). Labs and X-Rays and such are covered if done at a public institution; at a private facility, they may or may not be covered depending on what the test is, and what province you are in. Medications are not covered outside a hospital, including medications administered in a doctor's office. That can lead to friction (eg "why am I paying for this") and also abuses (eg "Did you want local anesthesia before I remove that mole? That will be 200$"). The latter is a bit of a kerfuffle right now in Quebec, with some doctors abusing the system, and some patients/administrators claiming anything over 35¢ is abusive. Paying for prescriptions (or reimbursing medications administered in a doctor's office) is done by a mixed system. In Quebec, everyone is required to have medication insurance, either privately, or be on the government plan (which is free to the elderly and indigent). Dental is not covered, nor eyeglass prescriptions except for children. I'm not sure about ambulances. Some private plans cover these things, some don't.

The great advantage of the system is that everyone is covered, and I personally like that there is no (financial) barrier between the patient and me. Since my early practice was in the US military, that is what I am used to, and I am comfortable with this both personally and morally. The disadvantage is that since it costs nothing out of pocket to get health care, it gets somewhat over-used, and waiting time to see a doctor, or get an operation, or some tests, can be excessive. In addition, as in every country, as the population ages, and as medical technology advances, the system is going deeper and deeper into the hole financially, and might break down at some point.
warriorsavant: (Time)
Canada is a wonderful country, full of wonderful people, as is the US. Wonderful, but who have grown up sheltered, comfortable, and therefore a bit naïve, with sometimes sophomoric views on world problems. Is there an evil warlord somewhere? Sign an on-line petition against him. Other Problems somewhere? Demand that Someone Do Something. They take such pleasure in their righteousness and indignation and certitude of the good and evil in the world. They kinda forget that warlords don't exactly quake in their boots (well, sandals) because someone clicks 'dislike' on their Wastebook page, and that the Someone who is sent to Do Something often comes back in a body bag.

I was discussing this with a friend and colleague who had grown up in a developing country. His views are different from middle Canada/US because of that; as are Nom's, who was a war refugee; as are mine, having spent 3 decades in the military. We don't get to be naïve. I've been the Someone who was sent to Do Something more than once.

My friend mentioned his son's rapid maturing in the past year of being in University in another developing country. It is a good education at the University he is getting, and perhaps a better education in life. He said the first inklings of reality crossed his son's mind when he asked him how he was going to get around there.
"Oh, I'll just get a STM card" (Societé des transports de Montréal - our mass transit system).
 "Son, they don't have mass transit there."
 "???"

I wonder about my children. Gentle Reader, did you ever see or read Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by the late, great Mordecai Richler? Duddy Kravitz is a young man, growing up on the meaner side of Montreal, trying to make it in life. One of his plans goes horribly wrong, his friend is badly injured. Duddy is driving a taxi, guilt-ridden and depressed, and runs into an older, successful man he knew from when he was a waiter in a resort. The man takes him out for coffee and listens to what happens, and then says, "Listen, Duddy. Years ago there was an accident in my business. A man died. They said it was my fault. I could have gone to jail. But I had a partner who wasn't as bright as I was, so he went to jail and here I am. My son (a young teen) is a good boy. He'll go far. He'll never cheat a partner into jail. But he never came to this country with 5-cents in his pocket and 2 words of English."

I certainly don't mean I want to raise my children to be cheats and con artists. Like all parents, I want them to be happy. Although I claim I've already put in their applications for Medical School, in fact, if they grow up to be happy, productive, and honest citizens, I'll have done my job. But I don't want them to be naïve, even if there is sometimes pain in seeing reality. I don't look forward to the pain in their eyes when they are teens and young adults, when they won’t fit in with the happy, naïve, self-righteous people around them. But later they will have the cold, clear joy of knowing. "Know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."
warriorsavant: (Quebec sait faire)
Our Gracious Sovereign Lady, Elizabeth II, Queen, by the Grace of God (and arcane and archaic legalisms) of the United Kingdom and a Buttload of Other Places Including Canada (I believe that's her official title, but I might be a little off) is now the longest ruling monarch in history of the United Kingdom, not the mention that Buttload of Other Places Including Canada. Nor sure if she's the longest reigning monarch anytime, anyplace on planet earth, but if not, she's certainly up there in the top ten. We, her loyal Canadian subjects (ignoring her disloyal ones including separatist swine) wish her all the best and many more years. Frankly, although there are a fair number of diehard Monarchists in Canada, most of us don't really give it a second thought. There's a fair number who vaguely like the idea, and a fair number who would be just as happy to ditch her as Head of State, if only we could agree on a replacement, which we can't (a situation we share with other Commonwealth nations). Meanwhile, it is kind of cool to have all that pageantry and be part of long running gig. *Raises a glass* To many more years.
warriorsavant: (Computer-steampunk)
Driving to work this morning, I noticed the odometer on my car read 22222. Ah, the obsessional joys of symmetry. Since this was my Dad's old car, the odometer reads in miles. The dashboard display also gives outside temperature, which was also a symmetrical number this morning: 0. Yeah, ZERO. (Well, was symmetrical until it dropped below that.)

For the metric aficionados among my Gentle Readers, 0ºF = -18ºC-ish.

Canada is officially metric. (Whereas the US, being the technologically most advanced, and most democratic, country on earth is still using Imperial measurement, based on measuring the King's body parts in 12th century England.) As a day-to-day matter, Canadians use a mix of the two systems. My drivers license lists my height (none of your business) and weight (really none of your business) in metric, but no one actually knows their height & weight in metric, they give it in feet, inches and pounds. (We do not however, use the non-existent English "stones.") For temperature, people do use metric day-to-day. After all these years, I'm finally getting a gut-level feel for Celsius. Before, I would hear Celsius, then work thru a rough mental conversion to Fahrenheit to actually understand what that meant. Now I sorta, sometimes, understand it. On one level it makes sense to say 0ºC = freezing of water = cold. On another level, in Fahrenheit, 32ºF is cold, whereas 0ºF is COLD. The Fahrenheit scale made sense within the technical limitations of measuring things when Professor Fahrenheit lived (17th-18th century), but then so did measuring things by the length of the King's foot make sense in the 12th century. Still, having grown up with US measurements, it's hard for me to have a gut feel for metric. It's like learning another language. First you don't understand at all, then you have to mentally translate, then eventually you "think" in the other language - at least of the time, it tends to waiver in-and-out.
warriorsavant: (Autumn-upstate NY)
Canada's best know, nay most iconic, items all begin with the letter M:
Mounties
Moose
Maple syrup (or at least Maple Leaf)
Montgomery*




*Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables which we are now reading to Hedgefund.
warriorsavant: (Signpost Ft. Benning)

When I was young, there were still a fair number of WWI Veterans around. When I saw an old Vet, I assumed WWI, and somewhere in my subconscious, I still do. There are almost none left anywhere in the world, and the “old men” I thought of were probably younger than most WWII Vets are now (such as my Dad), who themselves are dying off. Probably today, there are Vietnam Vets of the same age as those WWI vets from my childhood.

Speaking now as an American, VN definitely seared itself into the nation’s consciousness at the time, but for a child today, VN was longer ago than WWI was for me, and I doubt young’uns today would feel the sense of history that I felt about WWI Vets. I doubt Iraq & Afghanistan Vets will have the same impact on the nation’s consciousness, in that we represent too small a fraction of the populace. Besides “the Army’s at war, America is at the mall.”

Now putting on my Canadian hat, I do wear a Remembrance Day poppy, and have been doing so all week. Even though it is not an American custom, when I was in the Guard/Reserves in US, when I’d come down to drill, I’d wear one on my uniform. It is such a striking custom, plus John McCrae, who wrote “Flanders Fields,” was a McGill doctor. (Interesting character, look him up. Also referenced in the intro to this blog.)

Normally I observe a minute of silence at my office at 11:11. However today, there was a ceremony at the main campus of McGill, so I jumped in a cab and went. Was in the back and couldn’t see or hear much, but it was very meaningful for me to be there.



They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
warriorsavant: (Quebec sait faire)
Three of the great religions had a major holiday falling this past weekend at the same time:
  Easter for Christians
  Passover for Jews
  Playoffs for Hockey*
20140420 Habs QrtrFinal-1
20140420 Habs QrtrFinal-2

Got invited to a game yesterday. I’m not a sports fan. At most, I can tell the difference between certain games by their speed, action, and accouterments:
  Hockey is the fast-moving one with skates and sticks
  Soccer is the one with all the running but no scoring ever happens
  Cricket is the slow-paced one where nothing ever happens

Anyhow, every year or so, someone invites me. Usually a pharmaceutical company or other entity with whom I do business. I enjoy it. Have only a minimal idea of the rules and often not much more idea what is happening, but it’s fun. Yesterday was courtesy of my accountant; his firm has a couple of season tickets, and I was invited to game three of the quarterfinals. We were in the first row, right behind the glass. It’s some sort of shatterproof clear plastic. I know it’s shatterproof, what with its not having shattered when a puck hit right in front of us. Or a stick. Or someone’s face. The Habs** scored a goal in the first 30 seconds, and went on to win 3:2. Both teams played hard and well, throwing themselves into the game (and in one case into the net). Might have to go more often, or at least buy a Canadians hat or shirt for when I do go.

*This is Canada. It’s our national religion, especially in Montreal. Many people think it’s just our national sport, but that’s not true. We have 2 official national sports: lacrosse (really) and fighting about languages.
** The Montreal Canadians, a.k.a Les Habitants or Les Habs, a.k.a. Nos Glorieux.
warriorsavant: (Me-composite)
Just over 2 years after getting out of the Army, I'm filling in paperwork for a security check. Nothing big time (neither the paperwork, nor the security check). My research team (of which I'm a very minor member) needs to access data from Statistics Canada for medical research. Since will be having access to a government databank, need to have some sort of security check, sign a contract, sign a code of ethics, etc, to state make I'm not using this data for nefarious purposes.

(If you care, the project is to look for geographic clustering of cutaneous lymphoma.)
warriorsavant: (Springtime in Canada)
It's #€^%!& snowing. Not real snow, just a few flakes, but even so. Bleh! This is the time of year when certain desert dwellers get to laugh at me, as do those in the antipodes, plus those who live in even worse climates who are probably already shoveling.

Nom keeps asking why her uncle picked Montreal when they left VN. Answer: they speak French here and he forgot to check a weather map. I don't even have that excuse. Bleh!

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