Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas storm

The Stahl Family stayed right here in New Albin for the holiday, venturing as far as 5 blocks from home (to go to church) but mostly hunkering down slurping up gallons of eggnog and mulled cider. BUT two families in the extended clan managed to get themselves stuck in the middle of the huge storm that has engulfed most of the central and eastern states.

Aaron and Vania were in Dayton, Ohio, when the Interstate was shut down and, unable to find anywhere to stop for the night, continued on along detours all night and most of Christmas Eve, arriving finally, exhausted but safe, in Minnesota yesterday evening.

We haven't heard if Dan and Susan made it from Texas up to Pennsylvania safely and are hoping no news is good news. They were a little ahead of the worst of it, we believe, so hopefully they did.

"Global warming," my foot!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Ed Wood on DVD

Ed Wood is now available on DVD through Netflix. Rent it if you are in a mood for serious weirdness.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Cat Haiku #1

Nativity scene
in the window with a light
Cat thinks it's his bed.

Lambs roll to the sill
Shepherd gets knocked to the floor.
His crook snaps in two.

Cat stretched out inside
the stable. Now his chin rest
is Baby Jesus.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Thanks for all the welcomes

Thank you all who visited and posted welcomes. I assume everybody found me after my Blogfaddah posted. Smash is probably the patriarch of a horde of blogging offspring so it was nice of him to mention me.

I had never visited a weblog in my life until I heard about Smash's Live from the Sandbox on conservative talk radio. (Can't remember who it was but he was filling in for Rush Limbaugh.) I checked the site as soon as I got out of my car and have been hooked ever since. Probably 40 of every 100 hits to Smash's site are me, checking for updates. :o)

Another favorite blog of mine is the ever-frightening BlameBush! Heaven forbid I should ever meet Liberal Larry in person. T'ain't likely, since I am safely surrounded by Red States, so I shall merely visit his site for enlightenment, like, forty or fifty times a day.

NJ asked how I became a medical transcriptionist. The short answer is, I did it all wrong, and it's a wonder I have made any success of things at all. I was working in the publishing field in Southern California as a typesetter, got caught up in the recession (it hit SoCal late but hard nonetheless) and was laid off just at the time our first child was born. MTs like to joke about maternal hormones kicking in and making people want to be medical transcriptionists, and I'm afraid that's exactly what happened with me. It only took one look at that warm, screaming little bundle of baby girl to make me sure I didn't want to leave her and go back to commuting an hour each way to work full time in an office. Every last ounce of yuppieness drained away.

I took advantage of unemployment and job retraining time to take some very limited training at the local junior college, then leaped head first into the job market, inadequately trained and having really no clue how little I knew. I still sometimes pray that my mistakes didn't cause anybody real harm, like by transcribing the wrong medication and not even realizing it. It took years on the job to realize just how vast the knowledge base has to be. Indeed, one of the things I like best about this job is the fact that one can never know it all. There is always something new to be learned.

I have now been an MT for nearly 12 years and work for a large nationwide service, the largest in the country and possibly the world. Our work is changing. Even while medical documentation is becoming more and more important to patient care, there is growing and intense fee pressure on providers. Many MTs are seeing our work change from keyboard transcription to editing of speech recognition files as a cost-cutting measure. Many of us have seen our work go offshore to the Indian subcontinent and to the Philippines. US wages have not risen in years and are actually dropping in some areas.

I used to recommend that people who were interested pursue this field; now I am not so sure. In the short term I think it's still a good prospect, but not in the long term, say, 10 years or more.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Criminal lifestyle


My sister and her family in the North Atlanta area have wanted a dog for a long time now. Around 6 months ago they adopted a sweet Lab cross puppy from a rescue shelter, brought her home, fell in love and within 24 hours had to watch her get seriously ill. Turns out she had a parvovirus infection, which is quite preventable with a simple puppy vaccine. Not only did they lose the puppy, but their yard was declared infectious because of her brief presence there, and they were quarantined from getting another puppy for 6 months.

This last Saturday they went back to the rescue shelter, their 6 months being over, to look at a litter of 12-week-old Lab cross puppies. Of course nobody just "looks" at puppies; if you look, you know you're going home with one. In this case they went home with two, a brother and a sister whom they named Sullivan and Abby. Abby had already had parvovirus and survived; Sullivan had been immunized.

Abby and Sullivan settled in nicely and yesterday went to the vet to be spayed and neutered respectively. Little Abby never awoke from the anesthesia. Her heart had been weakened by her battle with parvo and was not strong enough to survive the stress of a general anesthetic and surgery.

So parvo has now claimed the lives of two puppies from my sister's family's house in less than a year. It breaks my little nephew's heart to attach to a puppy and then lose it so abruptly - not once, but twice.

As my sister put it, she sees neglected dogs all over the place, tied out in yards unattended, living in filth without shelter, ignored, flea-infested, stricken with heartworm. She, her husband and her son are trying so hard to take good care of a dog or two, yet their puppies still suffer from previous neglect. It just isn't fair.

Please, folks, if you allow your bitch to have pups, have the puppies cared for by a vet. Yes it is expensive. Yes it is easier not to bother. But if you allow your dog to reproduce, this is a responsibility that goes along with it. Imagine a little child down the road somewhere who will love one of those puppies. Please don't break his or her heart.

Monday, December 06, 2004


Dinner tonight was a stew made of grilled sirloin steak, potatoes, and carrots. I added cherry juice concentrate and a little bit of flat beer. And then I remembered the morel mushrooms I had dried and quick-frozen last spring and added about 6 of those to the broth. Oh yeah!

We don't claim to be "wine people," but we know what we like, and we found a very nice Merlot at Woodman's, a Wisconsin grocery store chain. It's an Australian wine, Jacob's Creek, vintage 2002. Since five bucks a bottle is about my husband's price limit, I know it didn't cost much. It had a nice smoky feel and was on the sweeter end of the spectrum for a Merlot, though not syrupy in the least. It was great with the stew.

O.k., now, nobody expect too much of me, y'hear?

Thanks to Blogspot, I have this little corner of the Web to post... well, whatever. Let's start with an intro. I'm Maria, I am a medical transcriptionist by profession and an eBay seller because it's a lot more fun (though not as lucrative). I am in my 40s, married to a wonderful man named Barry; we are the parents of three. We have too many pets.

We are working on restoring our 1914 sort-of-bungalow-style house in New Albin, a tiny town at the very northeast corner of Iowa. (Two blocks north is Minnesota; about 6 blocks east is the Mississippi River, and beyond it, Wisconsin.) I work out of my home office and don't get out much. My children commute 12 miles each way to school in the next town to the south, Lansing. People around here drive a lot, and they drive FAST, and nobody even thinks twice about it, because things are pretty spread out.

This is the Mississippi Bluff Country and absolutely gorgeous! Hunters, birdwatchers, fisherpeople and snowmobilers are all very happy here. The state is putting in a bike trail along the river someday (it was supposed to open July 2004, but, well, it didn't). Everyone should come here for a visit. (And then go home again.)

More later. I'm not sure where I want to go with this, but if nobody reads it then I can say whatever I like and it won't matter, right? :o)