Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Trees—Merry Christmas! (belated)

I don’t post photos that often, mostly because I don’t carry a camera around with me.

Wait a second… yes I do! My camera phone. I just don’t use it that often. But my last day of work I happened to look out the window, and saw these picturesque trees.




A New Filter For serna

I’m not a huge fan of Starbucks. In fact, I hate their coffee. (I do like the ambiance, though.) However, there is one exception: I like their egg nog latté. So I went in last week for such a drink, and came away with a warm place in my heart for the whole franchise. (It won’t last.)

Here’s why:

  • A New Filter For serna
  • by sernaferna
  • creative input from Starbucks
  • INT: A Starbucks.
  • serna is standing in line. He notices a display of reusable coffee filters, priced somewhere around $4.99, and picks one up.
  • serna
  • (to himself)
  • Hmm.
  • Realizing that he has needed a reusable coffee filter for some time, he keeps the filter in his hand, as he heads up to the counter.
  • Starbucks Lady (SL)
  • Can I help you?
  • serna
  • I’ll take an egg nog latté and this filter.
  • SL
  • Sure!
  • Attempts to ring in the filter.
  • SL
  • It’s not ringing in. I’m going to need to consult my manager.
  • serna
  • (full of Christmas cheer, and even more patient than usual)
  • No problem.
  • Starbucks Lady goes into the back, and discusses the issue with her manager.
  • She comes back momentarily.
  • SL
  • Well, it looks like the filter is on us today! We can’t figure out how to ring it in.
  • serna
  • Sweet! Thanks very much.
  • serna takes his latté to a table, to drink it. He notices the Starbucks Lady taking down the display of coffee filters, so that she won’t have to go through this again.
So I currently have a warm feeling about Starbucks because they gave me a free coffee filter. And I’m even happier about it because when Andrea looked at the box, it said $14.99, not $4.99—and which is a more reasonable price for a coffee filter, you have to admit—which means they saved me even more money than I’d thought.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite fit my coffee maker. The lid won’t close.
Coffee Filter—in action!

Coffee Filer—in action!

Coffee Filter—in action!
But what the heck. It was a free filter, and the only tradeoff is that some of the steam escapes when I make my coffee. (And it’s a bit louder.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fun video

I thought this was kind of fun. Hopefully you do too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

And it's still only 1:30.

The first question Andrea asked me this morning was, “Do you need to be at work on time today?” Which usually signifies that she doesn’t, and she’s hoping we can sleep in a little—and that’s usually fine with me. As long as I don’t have any early meetings, I love sleeping in. And I didn’t, so we did.

Unfortunately, the first thing I did when we got in the car was turn on 680 News, only to find out that there was an accident on the 401, they’d shut down the express lanes at Jane St., and the whole highway was a parking lot all the way from Dixie out to Allen. And, since I drop Andrea off at the subway, this meant we’d have to get onto Wilson, and take that all the way over to the subway station.

This meant almost two hours in the car, an hour and a half of which we spent behind some idiot in a Camry, who didn’t know how to drive. (When you come to a red light, here is the procedure you should follow: advance up to the back of the car in front of you, leaving a couple of feet of room, and then stop the car. Period. Done. Wait until the light turns green, and the car in front of you moves, and then follow. Don’t leave two car-lengths in front of you, and edge up inch by inch, wasting your gas and frustrating the people behind you.)

Luckily, we had to pull off to get gas, which meant that we could get out from behind the person in the Camry.

After I dropped Andrea off at the subway, I was able to get back on the highway, and then, since I was past the accident, the highway was empty. No cars anywhere. Smooth sailing, right?

Wrong. I got on the DVP, only to find that there had been an accident there, too. So again, traffic was slow. And the best part: At one point, I drove by a flock of birds, and something spooked them, so they all took off at once. And as they did, they all decided to drop a little present on my car. I don’t know if they also hit the cars in front and behind me, but they got me all over the place. There are now dozens of big, green, gross patches on my car, from their poop. I wish I was exaggerating, but my car is covered. It was a large flock of birds.

I finally got to the office around 10:45. I was supposed to join some colleagues for lunch, but I needed to catch up on my work, so I decided to eat at my desk. I went down to the caf to grab a BLT, which turned out to be terrible. The toast was burnt, they used the spines of the lettuce instead of the leafy part, and the bacon… well, the bacon was fine. They just didn’t put it onto the sandwich with love.

So that’s my day as of 1:30. I’m not going to ask what else could go wrong, because on TV, any time someone asks that question, bad things happen.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Heart, the Hospital, and the Family


It was becoming all too common, this type of trip to the hospital. Congestive heart failure, a call to the ambulance, and a quick trip to emerg, followed by a move to ICU, and then PCU. Maybe he would spend a couple of days there, and maybe he’d spend a week; it depended on how serious the failure had been. Occasionally, it wouldn’t just be congestive heart failure, it would be an actual heart attack. He usually couldn’t tell the difference, unless it was a major heart attack. They’d run their tests at the hospital, and let him know.

This time it was different. It was a heart attack, a major one, and the doctors told his wife that she should prepare for the worst. There wasn’t anything else they could do for him, medically speaking, except make him comfortable. It was news she had been dreading for too long; for the past year he’d been into the hospital about once a month, and she knew that it had to be a matter of time before his last trip to the hospital. She steeled herself, and then called the kids, being honest with them but careful to hide any of her own feelings about the matter. (Which were confused anyway.)

The kids—one in Toronto, three hours away, and one in Ottawa, eight hours away—immediately cleared their affairs, and began the trip home. And meanwhile she sat with him, as she’d done many times before, feeding him water and ice chips, and being there for him. He may or may not have realized that she was there, in his drugged state, but that didn’t matter. She was there.

The son was the first to arrive, in the early afternoon. He and his wife made their way to the ICU, and went in to sit with them. There wasn’t anything they could do but sit; the job of feeding him ice chips and water was already taken, and he wasn’t able to do much talking. Not that he was communicative at the best of times. They just sat with him, and tried not to think of it as watching him die. His son wondered about the state of his soul; was he ready? If not, it might be too late.

Early in the evening the three of them left for a quick supper, and then returned to continue their vigil. News was a scarce commodity; doctors were loathe to give it and were never present anyway; the nurse practitioners were more willing to give news, but they were hardly ever present either. When news did filter down to the family, it was difficult to know which news was important, which was accurate, and which was simply opinion.

Later in the evening the daughter arrived with her boyfriend (who went to the house, to give the family their privacy). The son and his wife left the room, so as not to crowd it, and the daughter took her turn sitting with him. The family was spread between his room, a waiting room, and the house, but they were all thinking the same thing: “I wish there was something I could do.”

Nobody knew what would happen, but everyone feared that it would happen soon. Most prepared to stay throughout the night, but his wife knew better. They couldn’t do anything for him at the hospital, so it would be better to go home and get some sleep. Around midnight she passed this advice on to them, they took it, and they left. She stayed behind, however, to be with him through the night, and continue to feed him ice chips and water.


The kids woke up the next morning to see a note from their mother on the kitchen counter. She’d come home for a few hours of sleep, but would they please wake her at 10? They didn’t have to, however, as she woke up herself, shortly before they were supposed to do so. Once everyone had showered and had some breakfast—and once they’d made a quick run to Tim Horton’s—they set off for the hospital.

Thursday was much the same as Wednesday afternoon had been. News rarely came from the medical staff, and when it did, it was bleak. They spent the day at the hospital, except for a brief trip to a restaurant for an early supper.

As the day progressed, he seemed to do better, to get stronger, to become more coherent. But nobody let their hopes get too high; the phrase that kept sticking in the mind was “there’s nothing else we can do for him, except make him comfortable.”


Friday started much like Thursday had. The family woke up, got ready, and went to the hospital. But things changed a little on Friday afternoon: his doctor called, and said that he wasn’t going to give up hope. Although the hospitals in Canada weren’t able to do anything, maybe the hospital in Detroit could? They have medical technology there that we don’t yet have in Canada—such as an artificial heart, that can be used during a long operation—and maybe that technology could be used to give him hope?

He would start the paperwork, and start talking to the people in Detroit about a bypass. The family accepted this news with cautious optimism, reluctant to give up on their pessimism, after it had become such a part of their lives. And anyway, there was time to think about it, before a decision would have to be made. Nothing would happen before Monday, at the earliest, since there was all the paperwork that had to be filled out.

His doctor had already sent x-rays and other materials to the doctors in Detroit, and the doctors in Detroit were beginning the paperwork. He’d go to Detroit, they’d examine him, and they’d talk about next steps. It was beginning to look like he might be in an ambulance as early as Saturday, but they had changed their minds now, and maybe it would be an angioplasty instead of a bypass.

Again, the family left the hospital for a quick, early supper. In the middle of supper, his wife got a call on her cell phone, from his doctor: The American doctors were still working on it; at this point, they were calling all of the Canadian hospitals, to confirm that there was nothing they could do. (OHIP would pay for an operation in the States, if it’s something that no Canadian hospital could do. But if a Canadian hospital could do something, then of course he’d be sent there, instead.) Since the family had already been through this with the hospital in London, they knew that there was nothing they could do, so this was just a formality.

Then they returned back to the hospital, they were surprised to find that he had had visitors. (Visitors who had brought some very nice chocolates.) But they were absolutely floored to hear that the plan had changed again; he was no longer going to be sent to Detroit, he was going to be sent to London, and he was going to be sent tonight. And in fact the ambulance would be there any minute, and they needed to get him packed. London didn’t have an artificial heart, but London had specialists, and London had a CCU, so he’d be in good hands in London.

The kids cleared out, his wife made sure he was packed, and then his wife and daughter got in the car, to head for London, to meet the ambulance there. Unfortunately, it turned out that “any minute now” was wishful thinking. It was hours before the ambulance picked him up in Chatham, so his wife and daughter waited in the waiting room in London for a long time.


The family all met up near London, at a relative’s house. His wife reported that things were promising. The doctors in London were very annoyed that they hadn’t been consulted, when he made previous trips to the hospital. Of course they could do something for him! The options currently on the table were now an angioplasty, a triple bypass, or maybe even a transplant.

And so he stayed in London. There was nothing else the kids could do, so they left to go back home, and await further news.

Who knows how long the saga will continue—but it probably won’t be posted about here. At least not in this level of detail.