Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Norman Rockwell Ending to 2009?

Norman Rockwell painting it was not, but not as bad as 2008. This year I felt that I had more positive experiences while other situations got bad or worse.

I'll get the worse out of the way first. It was tough trying to be Mr. Polite while my step father was allowed to be present for my sister's wedding. Although I was very happy for my sister and new addition to our family, it was hard not to cause a scene and step out of the illusion called "best behavior." Things are settling down in that area as long as my mom follows my sister's guidelines on getting her new start in life, living independently free from manipulation.

Another bad aspect of 2009 was the announcement that my good friend from work was diagnosed with stage IV A metastatic bone cancer. Everybody I've ever seen or heard does not escape this stage of cancer. He's still working (for his own reasons) and so I get to see him decline in every stage of the disease. He has confided in me regarding his treatment, thoughts, concerns, all the while keeping a unemotional expression on my face. He appreciates this since he needs someone he can talk to who doesn't cry or get teary eyed when he talks about his condition. He's lost 35 lbs, and can no longer walk upright without the assistance of a cane. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about him and wonder about his well being. I've gotten to know his wife too. This is something that makes it worse because now I have a face to his wife and child (6). He and I also talk about almost everything, really enjoy each others company, yet I know that there will come a day when he will be gone, and I will have forgotten something cool to share with him.

Now he's just received news that's the worst imaginable. I'm not at liberty to discuss but if you use your imagination, I'm sure you'll be able to figure it out. What bugs me the most is that he's a firm non believer. He's grown up all his life around Christian and Catholic private schools all his life. Although he's very knowledgeable about scripture, he still chooses to not believe. There's no changing his mind, especially with the news of his illness. I hope with every one's prayers and knowledge of prayers being given, he'll give his life over before he passes.

Another friend lost his hearing due to a work related accident. After being plagued with bad luck between loosing his brother to brain cancer, and having his wife battle issues with allergic airborne reactions, he has irreversable severe tinnitus (hyperacusis)which would keep him up at night due to the insane ringing in his ears. Another long time musician, he is no longer able to play guitar let alone listen to any kind of music at all. He's having to try (or about to try) various forms of white noise and pink noise treatments in order to help retrain his brain to get used to the ringing so that he can get used to the ringing. Again, feeling like I have nothing to offer as far as comforting words since I can't even imagine what he's going through. And like with my other friend, I feel that a lack of words is even worse than empty words.

And now onto the positives. After a long time waiting for new x-ray equipment, I finally went digital this year. This means no more chemical processing of images, it's all done on the computer, my friend. It's made my life so much easier now. We are still doing the same amount of workload at half the time, thanks to the direct capture machine. You place your hand on a sensor and within 2 seconds, the image appears on my computer monitor. The image is then sent to a database where all physicians and radiologists can view in almost the same amount of time it takes to make the image.

Times when I've dreaded summer, turned out that this one was really nice. After loosing about 25 lbs, it was fun to get out and do things with my family. We got to stay a few weeks at the beach and share that time with friends who came down and spent a day or two with us. I was sort of sad that summer left. Usually I can't wait until summer is over, just to escape the heat.

My hand pain disappeared for some odd reason this fall. With the new fingers I decided to join another band and only keep it at one. I'll probably start up with Worship band in 2010.

This winter, I got to experience snow again. I have not been around a snow storm since I was a kid. We took a week and traveled up north, met up with some friends and stayed a week at their second home in Lake Tahoe. The girls got to see snow fall which they can't remember the last time since they were very young then. I really miss the snow, although I don't think I'd be able to deal with it when I had to be at work a certain time. The highest temperatures it's been has been around 65, usually it's been about mid 70's to low 80's but then drops to about 40 degrees at night. This week it's been about 36 degrees for the low.

So I've just finished Christmas and ended the year with my band playing at an outdoor festival, full of Christmas lights, ice skating, and hot chocolate. It was a fun show. I'm now left with a good feeling and so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to reflect on my dwindling 2009 year.

While chores and 50% off after Christmas sales await me, I'm left with the question, was this my Norman Rockwell year? I guess if I count my blessing of what I have, whether that be known or unknown, I could be close. Hopefully closer in 2010. I won't be free and clear of certain obstacles but at least closer.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Back On Stage Again: Grovestock 2009

After a little more than a year of total guitar abstinence, I've joined up with some of the best musicians from my church to form the band, The Relics. Originally, I sat in with the band a few months ago just to fill in some wholes in the 3 piece instrument 70's "Guitar Hero" band. It worked out well. I've since played twice with this band and it really fits.

We play all those songs from the early 70's from Led Zepplin, Deep Purple, Bad Company, Cream/Derek And The Dominoes/Clapton, to Fleetwood Mac, ZZ Top, in addition to one hit wonder bands like Mountain (Mississippi Queen), Free (All Right Now) and Golden Earring (Radar Love). It's so much fun playing these old songs. I mentioned Guitar Hero because if it weren't for that video game (which uses many of these old songs in the game) then we'd have a very narrow fan base. Even teens end up in our audience. Anyway, we played at a fundraiser last week. Here's some pics and a video clip from that show. Unfortunately, I only have stills of the guitar dual on "Highway Star". Mike Barnes and I do a dueling harmony "car out of control" guitar solo that was a blast to play.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thinking About Hanging Up Stew's Clues.

Really nothing to say anymore. This blog is starting to be viewed by people who really have no business being here. Although, that's the risk I took when I started this blog. World Wide Web is all eyes on, no passwords for this blog, despite my blog name.

I'm not that comfortable anymore knowing certain people are aware of my every thought, opinion, ideas.

I apologize to my European following (weird, huh?) and the small group of x-ray techs who found my frustrations humorous. Premier Guitar magazine who picked up on my guitar designs and listed me as an up and coming guitar builder. That was nice.

As of December 31st, 2009, this blog will be done, dissolved, eliminated. All pictures will be removed and all that will be left is a "Page No Longer Exists" prompt. I may post an exit comment before then but I just wanted to give all of you a heads up. I mean, all I did was gripe anyway.

I did enjoy updating my title image every month. Shag is an awesome artist.

-SC

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Magical X-rays Make For A Huge Swine Flu Season.

Despite the lack of another knee-jerk reaction towards an pandemic of the Swine flu, this flu season will most likely be huge due to the lack of education or most likely, the lack of applying education. Patients in our facility refuse to wear blue masks.

I work in a hospital where daily I'm seeing Mexicans carrying masks. Not wearing, carrying them. All day long these miracle masks help prevent the spread of the H1N1 (Swine Flu) virus. I see them tucked in back jean pockets, top shirt pockets and small children chasing their masks around waiting rooms. Kids like to pretend they are mini parachutes. The parents nearby totally oblivious to the problem.

As offended as many may be by this comment, it is just a fact that I only see dark skinned immigrant appearing people walking around with masks. Sure I'll occasionally see a white person (who knows, could be German or Australian) wearing a mask (yes, actually wearing). But those individuals are clearly patients currently under chemotherapy.

Two recent incidents in my department. I took their Chest X-ray and after excusing them from the exam room, the patient proceeded to remove their mask as they walked out the door and to return back to their doctor's office. Another removed her mask in order for her to cough outside of her mask. Nice.

We've had numerous deaths in our hospital due to the Swine flu. Even pregnant women have been delivering babies who have confirmed Swine flu already. As much as I hate to say it, they are mostly Mexican or Hispanic.

In addition to not wearing their masks, they also do not cover their mouths when they cough. But that's not just a Mexican issue, it's apparent with all races. I've never seen so many people walking around, adults mind you, coughing straight into the air, no head turned to the ground, no cough into the shoulder, not even a hesitated raise of the hands as if to not catch the cough in time. I find myself holding my breath after "drafting" behind some patient in the halls only to have them cough full force straight ahead of them.

Try this experiment sometime; around 2 hours until sundown, sit across from somebody who's back is turned towards sunlight. In just normal conversation, you can see fine mist droplets flying from the person's mouth 4 feet across from you. A cough or sneeze carries those droplets at least 2-3 times further than the normal speaking distance.

None of these people are going to change, nobody is going to stop them and we will end up having the biggest flu season anyone has seen in awhile. Nothing will be done until numerous people will begin to die in the thousands. Nothing preventative outside of this year's flu shot is currently being done to prevent this from becoming a bigger problem.

I'm not sure what the problem is. Is it staff that do not speak Spanish in order to inform the patient not to remove the mask while in the facility and just merely hand them the mask without instruction? Or is this just pure ignorance as to how the mask provides a barrier for the spread of germs and spores.

Who knew covering your cough, limiting yourself around crowds, and washing your hands frequently could be so difficult to follow.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Doctors Quick To Blame X-ray Techs, Again.

Okay, you knew it was coming. I've been sitting idle on this blog for quite some time. Now I'm finally moved to voice my opinion, a rant if you will. In the past few months I think I've let my Radiology followers down with guitar postings and more personal life reflections. So here it is.

I work in a facility that has an Urgent Care. For some reason, these doctors have complete confidence in their nursing staff to triage patients for x-rays. Double overlapping orders like "Right Finger" and "Right Hand", "Left Wrist" and "Left Hand". Basically really have no clue as to what will show the area of interest. We get orders all the time requesting "Shoulder, Elbow, Wrist, Hand". That translates to 3 images for the shoulder, 4 images for the elbow, 4 images to the wrist, and 3 images to the hand. That's a grand total of 14 shots of radiation to the body. Little do they know, they've just missed anything that might be broken in the humerus (between shoulder and elbow) and the forearm (between elbow and wrist). But don't ever bring that up because that might get thrown in there too if the ordering nurse is second guessing herself. We hardly ever get just a humerus and forearm ordered. This would show the entire humeral shaft, show a portion of the shoulder and two views of the elbow. Then the forearm order will overlap studies by providing views of the elbow while still visualizing the wrist and entire forearm. If anything, the ordering nurse should resort to this if he or she is doubtful as to what's visualized.

When x-raying a body part, there is a certain amount, criteria if you will, regarding the total area to be visualized. Outside of that perimeter may be considered as irresponsible use of radiation. The larger the beam, the more amount of radiation being used. Because of billing reasons, we are required to stay within the boundaries of which to image a body part. Outside of those boundaries are considered fraud, seeing more on an image than what's considered standard (translation if more than half of another body part is shown on an image then you took two exams for the price of one.)

Anyway, the point of all this information leads me to my next point. Doctors like to use words like "they" when describing something when things go wrong. When "they" is used when describing a wrong order, the patient interprets "they" as "x-ray", the people who took the pictures, never the idiot nurse who's not aware of anatomy. I performed a wrist exam on this elderly man a few days ago. I did the 4 required views and sent the patient back to the Urgent Care. About a half hour later, this patient returns with their wife for a forearm exam. I kindly mentioned, "oh, so you're back for more x-rays"? She replies, "the doctor said that you should have included more of the arm" and points to the middle of the forearm. Rather than go into a whole blame game with the patient, who really doesn't want to hear excuses but to just find out what's wrong and go home, I calmly mentioned that we are required to only x-ray so much and that it's not up to the x-ray tech to determine how much of an area, mentioned also about the exam is like a prescription, I can only do what's ordered. I'm fast so they were in and out quickly, all that really mattered to them anyhow.

But I can see how people can get things twisted around with a word like "they". I'm sure the provider said, "oh, they were supposed to get more above the wrist" could have implied that the nurse ordering the initial exam forgot to order a forearm with the wrist. Now you can see where the problem is.

The problem is that our Urgent Care nurses have been given the thumbs up to check patients in, ask them where it hurts, and then send them off to x-ray, BEFORE THEY HAVE BEEN SEEN BY THE DOCTOR! So we get lumbar spine orders when it's clearly a case of constipation. Orders for shoulder/elbow/hand x-rays for numbness and an hour later the patient returns with a Cervical spine order (don't get me started on the oblique orders for MVA patients). Or even better, an elbow and wrist order with comments stating, "show entire radius and ulna" only to call the doctor and be told, "I can't find the proper order, can't you just open the beam up and show me the whole forearm?" Yet time after time after time, WE the tech are portrayed as the idiot, the staff to point the blame to when something goes wrong. In some ways it's very similar to high school clicks, one group views they are the most important to the hospital. But let's face it providers would be BLIND without x-ray.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Fergussons

I've been spending my time searching for old photo albums. One of my finds was this picture taken in Canada in 1973. This image produced an explosion of memories about my grandparents.

My grandfather passed away in 1998 from complications due to lung cancer. He once told me that he had smoked since he was 16 and didn't stop until he was in his 70's. My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in the late 90's. She may have had it before 1999 but my grandfather kept it pretty well hidden from the rest of the family. Mind you, that generation learned to keep immediate family issues hush. When my grandfather died, we found out pretty fast about grandma's condition and placed her in an assisted care facility. It was when their house was being sold that my mom obtained personal belongings from my grandmother. This is the first time I've ever seen these albums. It's brought laughter and a lot of sadness to realize they are not here with us anymore.

One album in particular caught my attention. A simple trip to Canada in 1973. My grandfather was born in Albany Canada and later moved to the US. They meant everything to each other. Married in 1970 (my grandfather divorced from a previous marriage, and my grandmother a widow) they appeared to be inseparable. He was the only grandfather I knew. My own grandfather died a year before I was born, taken by leukemia in his late 40's.

My grandfather always spoke his mind with the usual catch phrase at the end, "are ya with me?" He may have seemed like he was annoyed by my lack of planning, but you knew he was telling you because he cared.

My grandmother was very simple, almost unaware of what's going on in the world. She definitely was from the "man takes care of everything" generation. With her big silver wig, sharp features and those cool Ray-Ban "cat eye" sunglasses (back in the 60's and early 70's), she was always dressed to the 9's for every occasion.

I have cousins, grandchildren from my grandfather's previous marriage. They all lived in Seattle, Washington at the time. When I was 12 or 13, my grandparents invited me to fly up and visit. I never grew up with any brothers or sisters so visiting my cousins was like the best thing ever. I loved being with my cousins, they were never thought of as step family. Some of my best vacation memories are with my cousins.

During the flight, I remember grandpa putting on the disposable earphones (you'd plug into your armrest and there was a dial to select preset stations), turning the station to his favorite Lawrence Welk music. Grandpa stuck his nose in the air, swaying back and forth in his seat while snapping his fingers to the beat. Of course I couldn't hear the music, but I could tell what he was listening to. I used to get stuck watching The Lawrence Welk Show whenever I'd spend the night at their house. I'd usually just lay on the floor and pet their golden labrador, Candy.

They had a place down in Corona Del Mar, a beach getaway. I'd spend the weekend with them every so often. Around 5:00 PM, we'd leave to go to a place called The Quiet Woman. Grandpa would joke around and say, "Okay Dave, let's go to the Headless Woman. Grandma would quickly correct grandpa and say, "The QUIET Woman Alec,...the QUIET Woman". I've shared that story with my own daughters and every once in awhile I'll take Pacific Coast Highway through Corona Del Mar on my way to Laguna Beach, and point out The Quiet Woman to everybody. Of course everybody in the car responds, "The Quiet Woman Alec, The Quiet Woman".

A favorite dish that was served on weekend visits at the beach house would be barbecued swordfish. It was sooooo good. In fact, after finding these pictures of my grandparents, I decided to extend grandpa's summer tradition of occasionally serving swordfish to my family and friends. I know I'll think of my grandparents every time I grill it up. I miss them very much. I miss grandpa's wisdom. There have been so many times I wanted to call him up and ask his opinion or advice regarding something. I miss watching him build things in his garage at the beach; clocks, airplanes, and other around the house repairs. At the time, you never picture life without them...are ya with me?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2009 StewMade "70's Appliance Guitar" Avocado Burst.

I was trying to capture all the 70's "ugly" in this guitar. But it turned out to be a little more tasteful than I expected.






Friday, June 12, 2009

The Old Toshiba is Finally Digital: Siemens DR.

It's finally here and fully functional. A big long awaited change. I thought I'd really miss the old Toshiba room, but this new DR room is amazing.

For those who don't was "DR" is, it's basically a direct capture x-ray room. Instead of using x-ray cassettes (special designed film holders to rest the part being x-rayed) you place the part in a large sensor area and the image shows on a flat screen monitor within seconds. No need to run back and forth into the room to change out these cassettes. I review, highlight and send immediately to whoever needs the exam. Doctors can see these images within seconds.

So no more lost films, no more film jams, no more processor chemical smell and doctors don't have to wait for their films to be delivered by doddling patients who decide to stop by the coffee cart on their way back to the doctors office.

Very cool.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Finally Found A Decent "Point and Shoot."

P5230130
After agonizing research and reading every camera review under the sun, I finally found a great P&S digital camera; the Olympus Stylus 1020 10.1 megapixel camera.

It's a step up from what I had before (Olympus Stylus 720 7.1 megapixel) and read many raved reviews regarding this camera. The zoom is INSANE! I'm not sure what new technology they put in this camera (I thought it had the clarifying "motion blur correction" that my 720 had) but now I can zoom 7X and not get a blurry picture (something my other camera could not do). Plus all the familiar menus and a few new ones to add, that keeps this camera in the quick to use category.

I like how you can switch from normal to fine and also alter your shadows prior to exposure. Edit features feel like you're at the will of the camera, not much control. Think of it more like a auto improve function; you're not sure what it's correcting but it does seem to really improve images if they are a shy too dark or too contrasty.

I'll probably still get a SLR digital camera for more serious camera shots. But for a grab and go to Disneyland or family BBQ, this camera is perfect. Oh, and I saved about $80 by purchasing on ebay. I paid about $174 when major stores were selling for $279 or a little less.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Not The Best Week for My Daughter.

My daughter's birthday was yesterday. I got a phone during the middle of the day from the school nurse saying that she didn't feel good. She had a headache and stomach didn't feel very good. Since the Swine Flu virus is going around, the nurse showed me that they all received a memo regarding the outbreak and recommended that I take her home.

She was asleep when I went to pick her up and had a low grade fever. I gave her some OTC medication and of course she perked up after about an hour.

We had planned to go to Disneyland after school but her illness canceled that. Around 4:00 she asked when we were going to Disneyland. Once I told her we weren't going, she freaked out crying and begged me to still go. Then she screamed "this is the worst birthday ever" and ran off to her bedroom. Of course the Tylenol wore off and she was feeling sick again.

Tuesday, she comes home from school complaining of flea bites all over her body. We just washed her bed sheets the night before so It thought this was odd. She complained that she itched all over, pulled up the back of her shirt and thousands of red dots were all over her back. I said, "chicken pox". We went online and looked up images of flea bites and they looked just like her back. So it's flea bites, right?

Wednesday, the school sends her home because she and 4 other students in her class were sent home also....with the chicken pox! So my daughter will be staying home this week with no soccer because of her chicken pox and sore ankle from an injury 2 weeks ago. So now on top of this Swine Flu pandemic scare in the news and all that has happened, my poor daughter has just about had it with illness.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sorry Folks!

Man I'm really sorry I'm having a dry run here. Almost debating starting a totally different blog since I have a few x-ray techs around the states who follow this blog for it's radiology rant humor. I guess I just don't have much to say that's already been said before.

Let's see, I'm looking for a new camera...boring. Work has been extremely stressful since we're under construction.

Health: Hand is still hurting, not getting better. Now both hands hurt everyday and have to take a small handful of meds just to get through the day. I don't even have to pick up the guitar to trigger pain, just daily living (like opening bottles, tying shoes, holding the steering wheel, etc) which is everything.

I developed plantar fasciitis which is very fun. I'm wearing arch supports from morning wake up to going to bed. All the meds I'm already taking for my hand don't even help the inflammation from that pain. I'll probably get Iontophoresis done on the area next week. I'm stretching constantly, icing whenever I can. But I've been told that it does take some time to go away. I'm to blame for this one since I wore some really old shoes the whole week I was off on vacation and there's hardly any cushioning left. I was just too cheap to replace.

So are you sorry you checked my blog yet? I'll have something better soon. Hey at least check back when my header has changed (those are fun).

Thursday, April 2, 2009

More Images from Santa Barbara, Bronze Statues in La Arcada.













Images from Santa Barbara, 3-14, The Courthouse

















Sent An Email To My 4th Grade Teacher.

A few events occured this week that sparked the initiation of looking up my 4th grade teacher, Mr. Horton.

Mr. Horton was probably my most influencial grade school teacher ever. This was back in 1973-74 when teachers had the green light to teach in a way that is very broad, involving art, music, frequent field trips, and story telling. Mr. Horton was an amazing storyteller. Like a Garrison Keilor of elementary school. He once read out loud to the class, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull". I remember taking this book home and thinking it was the story itself that was entertaining. My mom started reading and I was already upset because she was not reading the book right. The story was right, but Mr. Horton would have the whole class just completely focused on the story.

He lives up north now and is a Superindentent of their school district. Upon learning of his status within the School Board, I'm very curious how a teacher like Mr. Horton survives in structured classtime, teaching the test, and "No Child Left Behind" rules enforced by our Federal Government. We'll see if he responds to my email.

My email contents? I just basically thanked him for his time, patience, and that his love for teaching us kids back in that school year of '73-'74 was and will never be forgotten. Mr. Horton lives in me to this day. I've used the same principles while rasing my kids. Here's to Mr. Horton!

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Toshiba Is Gone!

Our hospital is finally switching over to digital x-ray. This transition is bitter-sweet to me. The machine in the image above is a Toshiba DST-100A, one of the last machines that I trained on when I was an x-ray student. The Toshiba was the first x-ray machine installed when the hospital was first built back in the 80's.

It's a real workhorse. I rarely ever had to call this machine in for maintenance. But now replacement parts no longer exist for the Toshiba. I knew all the ins and outs of this x-ray machine. So many quirks came along with it. Over time parts started breaking (or were no longer available). You had to compensate for certain luxuries that were no more. That meant you had to think and be aware of everything you were doing on that unit. I liked that. I felt like I had total control over this machine. In return, it produced some of the most amazing images that will never be again in the analog world. The detail I was able to get was phenomenal. All the techs would comment. You could see the striations of bone formation in the bone, the term we techs use as trabecular patterns. It just popped off the film.

It looked old, console looked very complicated next to more modern LED lit touch screen units but we got along very well. I'll really miss the Toshiba. Farewell my friend.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Deja Vu from Dreams: What Do They Mean?

Have you ever seen something in real life that you dreamt about prior to seeing. Sure we've all dreamed about places we've been before, but what about places we've never been before?

I guess it was sometime last year, I had a dream about something that of course now escapes me. But there was this section of landscape with benches and and I was waiting for someone, I think my children. I remember they were little in the dream (ages 3 and 6).

Anyway, I've totally forgotten the dream....until this last weekend. The family packed up and spent the weekend in Santa Barbara for my sister's wedding. We made reservations at the Sandman Inn on State Street. After checking in, we drove around the property to get up to our room location. And there it was, the exact same image that I had seen in my dreams a whole year or so ago. I stopped dead in my tracks racking my brain if this was someplace I'd been before. Nope, never been here or even stayed in this motel before. The image above is exactly what I remember from my dream, detail for detail. I didn't take a picture of the larger two story building behind me but that too was in my dream.

So what the heck is that all about? Other than my sister's wedding there was no other significant reason for this landscape recognition. But really weird, huh?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Stew's Clues Blog Followers...

Be sure to add yourself to my "followers" column in the right upper box of my blog page. Makes me look lame to just have Calvin the only follower (btw, thanks Calvin).

Also if your an international follower of my blog, send me a comment regarding topics you'd like to hear about more. I know I have a few following my x-ray adventures as well as "all things guitar" followers.

It's like when my daughter asks me to tell her a story about something that's happened in my life. I don't know where to start so she'll give me an idea and then I can just run with it.

If you're not a Yahoo or Google member, you can always click the bubble for "Anonymous".

Hey, The Hand Is Doing Better!

After about 6 weeks, my left hand is doing a little better. My right hand is a little stiff for some reason, but that doesn't affect my guitar playing. The lighter strings have been helping as far as guitar issues. Still kind of strange using super light strings.

Hopefully I can return to playing at my church by May. Still taking anti-inflammatories though. Whatever works.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is It Possible That MySpace Is Ruining My Blogging?

I'm afraid so folks. This site satisfies my instant gratification whenever I post a comment or mail somebody. It's much more reliable than people reading blogs and not even make a comment. So you sort of feel like nobody is reading your blog at all.

Sure, you'll run into somebody at work who mentions something. But I guess I'm some comment mongrel who needs that recognition I guess.

I do try to leave some kind of comment on most people's blogs that I read. But luckily my blogs get sent to MySpace anyway and thus get the responses I crave. Isn't that weird to want that sort of reciprocation from my readers? But judging my Feedback, I seem to be very popular in Europe and Brazil. Go figure.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Smell Connection.


I am amazed how certain smells can take you back to a moment in time. I am constantly stopped dead in my tracks to try and identify a certain smell that reminds me of some moment in my memory bank.

Right now, our orange tree is just starting to bud blossoms. I'm instantly transported every March to the apartment my Mom and I were living in when I was about 5 years old. Faint cigar smoke reminds me of the small barber my dad used to take me to when I was probably about 3 or 4; but that was more of a blend between cigar smoke and a particular brand of butch wax but with a faint hint of Groom & Clean (mostly used for keeping flat tops neat).

The weirdest was when I had a full 60 second "movie clip" like flashback back at age 14. My dad had a collection of colognes on his bathroom sink. Since I was getting into hygiene at that age, I remember one weekend when I had a weekend visit, I decided to see what each one smelled like. There was typical musk, and other non specific brands like Old Spice, Hi Karate, etc. But when I got to this one bottle, after taking a whiff, I was 3 years old, being picked up at my Christian Preschool (still exists), driving out of the parking lot, pulling into Sierra Avenue, traveling only a few feet then pulling into the left hand turn lane to pull into the 1st National Bank, then driving up to a human operated drive-thru teller window....and that's it. All of that from one smell of cologne.

Certain solvents remind me of my Grandfather's helicopter hanger, Dove soap reminds me of my Great-Grandmother's bathroom, and Jessica McClintock perfume reminds me of my wife. And I'm sure I'm creating the same memories for my family as well. I'm hooked on an aromatherapy lotion that's sold at Bath & Body Works called "Stress Relief Eucalyptus Spearmint". It smells nothing like it's name and I don't really think it really relaxes me. But the smell is kind of a woody yet refreshing smell and doesn't resemble anything minty at all. It's very nice.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why Would You Ask Your X-ray Tech Something You Should Have Asked Your Doctor?

Have you ever seen the Christmas cult classic movie "A Christmas Story"? There's a scene where the main character 10 year old Ralphie is visiting a mall Santa at their local department store. When he finally gets to Santa, his mind goes blank and he's almost in a hypnotic state, frozen and unable to speak. Santa makes some suggestions to Ralphie about receiving some generic boy specific toy. Ralphie feebly responds in agreement and is prompty sent down the slide away from Santa. But it's at that point at the pennicle of the slide that Ralphie comes to his senses and blurts out what he really wants, the reason why he waited forever in line to request from Santa in the first place.

That scene is played over and over in my mind almost every day at my Radiology Department. I get questions everyday from patients that should have been asked while in the presence of their doctor, the whole reason for their visit in the first place. I imagine patients, like Ralphie, becoming entranced with what the doctor's opinion is in regards to their problem, illness, injury, etc.

But something happens between the doctor's exam room and my x-ray room. I get questions like,
"How long do you think it will be until I feel better?"
"Will I need surgery?"
"Do you think it's broken?"

Patients seem to think that we're on their side and are willing to give the "true story" while doctors are vague and tell them things they don't want to hear.

Truth is, most techs do know what's going on in an x-ray film, CT, MRI, Nuc Med scan, Ultrasound, Mammogram, Dexa scan, Angio, and Stereotactic Biopsy. But legally we our bound by law not to give out any interpretive results regarding a pathology finding. We have to use our best "poker face" and pretend nothing was seen. Evaluating, interpreting, or consulting is outside of our licensed scope of practice. If I give you the upward nod regarding your fractured wrist, even though you're going to hear it from your doctor in about 20 minutes, I loose my job and license to ever work again in my profession. At the pay rate and benefits I'm currently receiving, there's no way I'm sharing my secret with you, no matter how irrate and bugged you get. Tough, I want to keep my job. I'm not going to risk it just to make you happy or to help you win that bet with your wife.

I mean, how is this fracture information going to help you in the small moments before your doctor tells you? Do you not trust the doctor you're seeing in the first place? If that's the case then that's your issue to pursue, don't involve me in your doctor/patient situation. I'm providing a service to your doctor who then is providing a service to you. I'm the chef, your the customer and your doctor is the waiter. You don't bypass the waiter and ask the chef for more water, right?

Because I have some patients traveling to my clinic from long distances, I usually ask if they are supposed to bring the x-rays back to their doctor today. That opens up a whole bag of worms;
"Uh, do you think I should?"
"Why, did you see something? If you think I should then I will".

And then there's the classic, "Do you see anything on the x-ray?" This is the point where the whole patient and tech relationship has a tendency to get ugly. I once had a patient ask me directly;
Patient: "Did you see anything?"
Tech: "No, I can't read the x-rays".
Then the patient picked up a magazine, shoved it in my face and asked, "Well can you read THIS?"

I've even had patients tell me that they have a RIGHT to know what I saw. That's a good one. You want a scientific observation? Here's one; the louder the patient raises their voice to me is inversely proportional to their intellegence. It's all I can do to keep from laughing in their faces. People who don't really know their rights sure seem to KNOW their rights...in their minds anyway.

I have a more calm approach when it comes to these type of questions. Usually when I tell the patient I don't read the films, I get in response, "Ah, come on. You look at these films everyday." My response, "Hey, just because I look up and see clouds everyday doesn't make me a meteorologist". That comment usually puts a stop to the whole "let's see if I can get the tech to tell me" Q&A session.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Really Glad We Got More Rain!

I'm glad we're finally getting some more rain. I was starting to think that maybe we would start having an early Spring. Good thig because we need it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Father's Perspective.


I've dreaded this moment for as long as I can remember. From the day she was born, all I could think about was how I would approach the situation when my daughter would start meeting boys.

When talking to other fathers, we all puff up and compare how we'd make this unfortunate male as uncomfortable as possible just to prove who's the real #1 in my daughter's life. You know the typical cleaning out rifles, animal head trophies, camouflage outfit. Heck I've even thought about working out more.

But it's happened and it's caught me off guard. Truth is this guy that she's met is very nice. Met my daughter at church during VBS last summer. They were friends then and now seem to be a little more interested in each other. They still to this day meet each other at church and sit in service together.

The problem is that I can't see anything wrong with this guy. No reason to puff up, no reason to lecture. He looks out for her, treats her with the highest respect, opens doors for her (a big thing to me), wants to meet me...which sort of freaks me out. Pop culture tells me to act as a threat, an incentive to keep this guy in line. But there's no need. I actually can be myself. He's met my wife and he's very normal, not in an Eddie Haskell way, but normal friendly. He's not afraid to act goofy (another big deal, he has to make her laugh) from what my daughter tells me. Plus the fact that he goes to another school keeps my daughter focused on her studies without the between class distractions.

This guy asked my daughter out to the winter dance and we let her go. She had a really good time. All of his friends were nice to my daughter, no drama.

So I guess I won't purchase that gun, put away the body armor, and just be happy for my daughter for now. But I won't completely relax, not until she's well into her 20's (LOL).

I've always loved this movie and thoroughly enjoyed this clip from Arthur, starring the late Dudley Moore....

Everything Is Moving Along.

So far at the Stewmade shop, we've got the ball rolling on about 3 projects; Orange Crate, 70's Appliance, and yet another "Stelly" sparkle finish guitar.

The Orange Crate has been somewhat of a challenge and has really required a lot of brain storming just figuring out how the wooden oranges are to be permanently fixed inside the guitar body. Plus figuring out wiring without any tell tale signs from any angle has been tough. But I'm going out today for a photo shoot to promote the guitar when it's done. I fear there won't be enough time before local oranges start falling off their branches. So I sort of completed the guitar enough that it would photograph well just in case. If I finish (est February 29th) and oranges are still hanging from the trees, then I'll take more pics.

Now for the others, I'm just waiting for wood and cases.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Effects Lineup for 2009: It's All About Change.

(Click on image).

Ok, so I'm armed with a variety of great overdrives and distortions and a new delay with tap tempo. Still debating using my digital reverb somewhere but I'll have to toy around with this for awhile.

Also new is the Planet Waves connector cables. Supposedly the gold plated plugs help with better fidelity. Or at least to justify the higher price. We'll see.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

24 hours Later...

Don't worry, this is from Rheumatoid Arthritis. I don't have that, but this image I want to avoid as much as possible (or at least never have the feeling my fingers look like this).

After some time to process all of this news, I decided to not go down without a fight. I've done a bunch of soul searching but mostly a lot of alone time just to think. I've come to the decision that I'm going to do all I can to still enjoy playing music and not wear out my hand.

My friend Ricky called me up last night and sort of gave me a pep talk. He was concerned about hearing what the doctor told me as well. Ricky suggested that I don't give up. He basically suggested; Fortify, Modify, and Simplify.

1. Glucosamine Chondroitin (fortify the joint). Specialist says that it will take about 2 months before I feel the benefits of this supplement. Actually, I've heard my patients say that they were facing knee replacement surgery before taking this supplement and it delayed the decision for surgery by 5 years. My wife had severe back pain about 12 years ago. Nothing helped until she started taking G.C. as a "can't hurt" measure. Her back has not hurt ever since. I remember she was in pretty bad shape. I know ever person is different and might have other issues that G.C. will not help. But it's worth a try.

2. Lighter Strings (Modify). As much as it kills me to do so because it goes against what I believe gets the best guitar tone, I'll be switching to full extra light gauge strings. I've used .010-.046 strings since the early 90's. I thought it would make my hands stronger with the increased resistance. Recently, having switched to light gauge, they now feel like .010 gauge in resistance. So I don't know if my hands are getting weaker or not. But a lot of old timer guitar players use the extra light gauge; B.B, Billy Gibbons, and Yngwie Malmsteen for example.

3. Starting Over (Simplify). After the glucosamine has taken affect, I will be studying a different approach to my playing technique. More exercises, hand strengthening, hand posture, and possibly thicker guitar necks. I've been reading that with more wood in the neck that it fills your hand more and eliminating the tendency to claw grip the neck. I hate fat necks because I feel they slow my speed down. But like B.B King, he may not be able to play as fast as other guitarists, but he goes for the sweet notes.

I might need to stay away from soloing for awhile. That's where I run into trouble. I'm going back to basics, warm up exercises, grip master hand springs, relax my hand and pay attention when I start choking the neck. And I'll stop myself when I notice I'm starting to mash my strings into the fingerboard when I thoughtlessly start the aggressive finger vibrato.

Monday, January 19, 2009

It's All Over! 30 Years of Guitar Playing Stops Today!

Well I just got back from my hand specialist tonight. I have been battling a painful left index finger for about a year now. The surgeon ordered x-rays of my left hand and then gave me the news.

Now, what I was expecting was something along the lines of "wear this splint for 5 weeks followed by a series of anti inflammatory medication. Nope, it was arthritis. Significant arthritis to the point that the doctor recommend that I stop playing guitar. Unfortunately playing guitar is the only activity that aggravates my finger pain.

The doctor then said that by continuing to play guitar that I would further degrade the joint causing increasing pain and decreasing range of motion. Then the arthritis pain would eventually start to interfere with other every day activities. The doc said, "be lucky that you have an isolated activity that you can eliminate vs something that affects your daily activities, simple activities, like buttoning your shirt or typing."

Cortisone shots will only mask the problem. I'll be pain free for a bit but then when the shot wears off, I'll be right back in the surgeon's office for another shot. I'm only allowed so many shots per year. Surgery would only be a cleaning of arthritic debris and would not really help my pain or range of motion.

Ok, I'll be honest. This news was devastating. I have worked so hard for years to get "my tone". Playing music is the connection between my being and life. I've used my talent to play for the Lord for almost 5 years. Now I have to stop?

So bands are out for good. Worship service out for good. I'm able to still build guitars but then I'm faced with the dilemma of testing out the guitars when I'm done. The guitars I own. The guitars I've recently acquired, all for nothing. I really don't want my hand to ache like this on any given day because I didn't know when to call it quits.

My plan: To take Glucosamine Chondroitin for two months (a recommendation from my surgeon), continue taking my anti inflammatory, and plan to play one last time this year. I'll reserve 3 last opportunities; one last performance with the band De-Tension, reserve a date to sit in with QBS if the opportunity arises (not a hint), and perform one last time with the worship band at church. And then I guess that will be it. I'll take the place of audience from here on out. In the meantime I'll be praying heavily and asking God what he wants me to do regarding this news.

Tendonitis is curable, arthritis is not. If I don't stop playing guitar now, it will start me on a road to constant arthritis medications for life due to the increased deformity from the arthritis.

Anyone need some guitar gear?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Holy Grail of X-rays.

Oh yeah, I did it! The ultimate lateral knee x-ray ever. I've yet to see this in Merrill's. Yeah, I was pretty proud. I can usually get this 7 times out of 10. It's an eyeball sort of thing as far as the patient's positioning but the key is a 7 degree cephallic angle from the x-ray tube. This is my average. Skinny people straight 0 degree beam, larger patients, anywhere from 10 to 15 degrees. There, my first X-ray Tech Geek blog ever!