Sunday, November 14, 2010

But I Really Love Technology

Napoleon Dynamite is a hysterically funny movie.  Those of us who had the brains to stay in the movie theater through the closing credits got to see Napoleon's older brother singing, "But I really Love Technology" at his wedding.

Well, I don't really love technology, this week.  This has been the week where reliance on technology has been the (near-) death of me.

Photo credit jomilo 75
Wow, it's a gull that looks like a pigeon, and it eats dead seals!

Sunday I made a successful suicide run for the Ivory Gull at Pismo Beach (After getting home from the hospital Saturday night, listening to Maggie cough all night, and not getting any sleep, I left Claremont at 03:00 a.m., drove 225 miles to Pismo Beach, watched the Ivory Gull for 20 minutes, drove the 225 miles back to Claremont, arrived home at 11:57 a.m., took a one hour nap, took a shower, and went to work at the hospital from 3:00 to 11:30 p.m.  Part way through the shift, at 8:00 p.m. I drove to the local Starbucks, and sat there drinking a grande mocha, muttering "I'm not gonna last four more hours! I'm not gonna last four more hours!").

My wife was pissed at me for chasing the Ivory Gull (she wanted me to babysit the kids so that she could study at the library), but man, it was worth it!  I never thought I'd see an Ivory Gull.  The only other time an Ivory Gull has ever been seen in California was in Orange County 15 years ago, and that bird was around for one afternoon.  Some claim that the bird was sick i.e. dying, so it flew off to sea to die.  I remember what really happened:  some knuckleheads went out onto the beach at midnight with a searchlight, determined to get Ivory Gull for a state bird.  In the process of doing so, they also made sure that the rest of us who were going to go in the morning wouldn't see the bird.  Now people deny that ever happened.  Ah, baloney.

Any way, I stayed home from work, Monday, because Maggie was sick, and couldn't go to school.  I casually checked my emails before lunch, but really, why check my emails?  There couldn't possibly be anything as good as an Ivory Gull around, and I already saw it, yesterday.

That's how I missed the Black-tailed Gull.

Ed Stonick told me about it at 8:00 Monday night, after a herd of birders ran out to Long Beach, and saw it.    There's no honor among thieves, and apparently there is also no reciprocity among birders. I've called lots of birders lots of times when a good bird showed up, but this time nobody called me up.  Nobody.  Well, I've seen Black-tailed Gulls in China, but would have been really to see one in California--and L.A. County, to boot.

I promised a researcher at USC that I would mail the paperwork--registering his new x-ray machine with the State--by Friday.  If you buy any kind of x-ray machine in California, you have 30 days to register it with the State Radiologic Health Branch, by filling out a form called an RHB 2261.  The idiots at the State put the form on-line as a PDF that you can't save.  You have to sit at a computer with a reliable connection to (a) the internet and (b) a printer.  After you have filled out the form, you have to print it; but you can't save a copy of the PDF on your computer.  Why they decided to lock the form, I have no idea.  It makes no sense, whatsoever.  So I spent some time Friday morning filling the form out, with the intention of going straight to the post office, and mailing it, myself.  My computer couldn't get it to print.  Instead, it kept insisting on first saving the document as a ".xps".   What the hell is a .xps???  Well, whatever a .xps is, since the idiots at the RHB set up their PDF so that you can't save their RHB 2261 form, and my computer refused to cooperate, unless I first saved the RHB 2261 as a .xps, I was dead in the water.

That's when the typhoid hit.  Or cholera.  I'm not sure. 

Feeling better, this weekend, so I pulled another suicide run, and chased the Taiga Bean Goose that showed up at the Salton Sea.  Wow.  That's one of those birds that has flown over from Siberia to the Aleutians a few times.  None of us ever expected one to show up in California.  In 1985 one showed up in Nebraska.  Wow.  Can you imagine flying from Siberia to Nebraska?

Middendorf's i.e.  "Taiga" Bean Goose
Photo Credit: Ed Stonick

I got greedy, and tried driving down the road to find Neotropic Cormorant at Fig Lagoon.  Of course, I failed for the third year in a row.

That was two life birds in less than a week.  That's hard for a world traveler like me to pull off.  Add the Purple Gallinule, and that adds up to three life birds this fall, along with the two Hudsonian Godwits this spring that were California birds.  I don't know the exact number, but I've seen well over 500 species of birds in California, and the occasional appearance of completely unexpected birds like Ivory Gull and Bean Goose leaves me wondering what else could possibly show up?


So I figured, let me drive in to USC, this weekend, and try using somebody else's computer to fill out that RHB 2261 (remember, you have to write everything all over again, every time). I got to the medical school campus, and let myself into the office, there (my office is at the main campus in downtown), where I booted up the shared computer in the conference room.  After two & a half hours of collecting the right data, and carefully figuring out how to phrase everything so that the good people at the RHB won't get confused, it was time to print.

I couldn't print.

The geniuses in my department have the shared computer set up with drivers for a bunch of printers that no longer exist, and no drivers for any of the printers that currently exist in the office.


Hours of work down the drain.

Out of desperation, I typed furiously, copying all of the information onto my laptop, and told it to tell the printers in the room to print the form.  Nothing happened.

Well, I needed to leave, to get to work, on time at the hospital, at my other job.  The USC IT guy called me up while I was on the 10 Freeway, half-way home, and informed me that since I was using my laptop's wireless modem without the VPN turned on, my data wouldn't be authenticated, so the local prnters were refusing to accept and print my work.


So I got to the hospital, and was promptly informed that the entire network was down.  This is why I have grave fears about our over-reliance on digital technology.  Work at the hospital slowed to a trickle.  In the modern American hospital, you can't fart without logging in to a computer system, and using multiple systems, each with a separate log-in and password.  All it takes is a power outage or server crash and everything grounds to a loud, screeching, painful halt.

I don't know who I hate more: Bill Gates, or Neotropic Cormorants.

The coup de grâce was the last patient of the day.  I had my suspicions about him.  He claimed to have a screw loose.  He was right.  The screw that he was referring to was a surgical screw holding a broken bone together.  X-rays didn't show anything, but he declared that he was ready for his turkey sandwhich that we have to give him. 

Then he says to me, while I'm taking him back to the ER, "Hey, since I'm getting admitted, make sure I don't have to share a room with no black dudes."

Oh. My. God.

Allow me to state the obvious.  Here's the problem:  I'm a medical professional, and he's a patient, so I can't tell him to shove it up his ass.

Gears started spinning in my brain.  Think, Miko, think!  I need to come up with a clever, strong, articulate response with which to shame this moron who is stuck in the 1950s.

I couldn't.  The best I could come up with (remember, I'm in scrubs, and on the clock) was, "That's illegal!'s not very nice."

I wanted to tell him to fuck off, but in the interest of remaining employed at Little Sisters of the Eternal Biker Tattoo (all of the patients, and some of the employees have tattoos) I kept on rolling.

Then he stated the obvious, "I was in prison with a lot of them."


The real surprise was in store for him:  the ER doc is an African immigrant who speaks fluent French.  I would have given my left testicle to see the look on his eyes when the doc walked up to him and said, "Hello, I am Dr Obuto!  What's going on with your shoulder?"

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