Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Math Is Hard

My next study subject for the VTNE is medical calculations. Math has never been my strong point, so I'm looking forward to this subject with trepidation. I brought my textbook and question book to work last night , thinking I would be able to work on problems here & there. First, I circled problems I knew I needed more help with. Then I took the first one and tried to figure it out. Marsha saw me working on it and asked if I needed help. Does the sun come up in the morning? Of course it does.
The question was:

How many milliliters of a 50% dextrose solution are needed to make 1000 mL of a 5% dextrose solution?

Marsha looked at the question and came up with the answer in about 1 second. "It's 100 mL", she said.
Ok, but how did you arrive at that conclusion?
She started by telling me that percent is the total grams in 100 mL. Apparently once I knew that, it all fell into place.
The next step was to make an equation.
10g                X
------       =    -----
100 mL       1000 mL

She showed me how to cross multiply and then divide. I still didn't get it, because she was talking about decliliters and converting grams to milligrams and then she threw in a .10 to really throw me off.

She had to go into the exam room to talk to a client, so I took my book and wandered away in search of more help. I ended up in the CCU, where three techs just told me to "memorize this chart, in real life you will never have to know any other amounts other that a 5% or 2.5% solution".
That was fine too, but I have to learn the calculation for the test...because you have to answer questions on a TEST, and they are sure to give you strange numbers not used in real life.

So I went back into central treatment, where 3 other techs were working on a patient. One tech in particular tried her best. I then realized it was like a foreign language to can repeat the sentence all you want, but if I don't understand the individual words it will never make sense.
At one point I had about 5 techs all shooting numbers and percents and decimals at me, and it was all I could do to hold back the tears of frustration. I felt so stupid. It was all so easy for them and I just couldn't get it.
As I tuned out their helpful chatter, I made a decision to go back and review the basics...converting decimals to fractions, the metric system, and basic tenets of ratio and proportion.  I hugged my book to my chest, said a general "thank you for your help" and started to walk away. As I got through the door, one tech rushed out after me. She said she was getting off work in 15 minutes and would be glad to sit with me and help me learn. I was very touched by her offer, but at the same time I was still fighting back tears that were threatening to break through in seconds, and I did NOT want to cry in front of her. (The whole showing weakness thing, you know.)
I told her exactly what my plan was:  learn the basics, then I would know the "language" that they were all speaking. I told her if I needed any more help I would definitely ask her. I smiled at her through glassy tear filled eyes (could she see my imminent breakdown? I had to get out of there NOW, I was gonna lose it!) and beat a hasty retreat. Once I was alone in the hallway I allowed the tears to come.
Unfortunately, as I got back to my work area there was another tech in the hallway. She asked me what was wrong, and I just covered my face and said "Nothing" in a voice that wouldn't have fooled anyone.

She told me not to stress over the math. She told me that I was a good writer and she had trouble with getting her tenses correct in a sentence (I did laugh at that a little, which was her intent). She also told me that I wasn't stupid, I just needed to take my time and learn as much as I could, and that the test had 8 other areas of concentration that I would excel on.

As I tried to dry my tears, my vet came out of the room. I told her I was stupid and would never learn this math at all. True to form, she sat down, got a fresh piece of paper, and went over the steps again slowly. After 10 minutes, I actually solved the problem! She showed me a way to think the problem through and understand what I was doing, which is just as important as memorizing a formula. This math is actually used in hospitals on patients, so I had to understand the big picture as well as calculate numbers.
We did 2 problems together and I felt a tiny bit of elation. Maybe I wasn't so stupid after all. Well, maybe I am, but if I can do a FEW math problems on my exam that is better than not doing ANY.

I took home the little scraps of paper with her calculations on them and resolved to show her on Thursday that I learned something.
Now as I finish this post, I'm going to open up my two math books and start over. I will try not to let these lousy numbers get the best of me.

It's an uphill battle. And I'm not looking forward to it.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Things That Bug Me

Not that I woke up cranky this morning, but I've been thinking about some things that seem ridiculous to me.....and lately there have been a lot. In no general order, here is a list (I love lists. Maybe I should change the format of this blog).

The dumbing down of America..such as the misspelled words on the news channel, the egregious grammar  on TV, and the instructions on food that tells you to be careful, it's HOT.

Cameras on traffic lights. Too Big Brother for me. (I did a previous post on this a while ago.)

The rush to get kids into school, learning 3 languages by 2 years old, doing calculations by kindergarten, and the playing of classical music while still in the womb. Just stop. Let them be kids, they will have to learn stuff in school soon enough.

Playdates. Whatever happened to leaving the house on your bike and riding to your friend's house, then taking a walk to someone else's house? Now playtime has to be penciled in and organized.

The flap over Katy Perry's dress on the Sesame Street video. No one cares about her boobs. The whole American prudishness bugs me too. Not that we should be naked every minute, but the fact that it's deemed "wrong" just heightens the salaciousness of a little exposed skin. It's natural, people...get over it.

Why are so many Americans out of work, yet when I go to ShopRite or Dunkin Donuts, I can't find anyone who speaks English?

Stink bugs. Where did they come from, and why are they always hanging around my house?

This is a partial list. I'm sure I will be adding to it in the future....but I'm getting annoyed just typing this post so I will end it here. I'm in a decent mood and don't feel like spoiling it.

Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Simple Things

I have figured out that it is the simple things that make me the happiest.
Sitting on the deck with the sunshine and a good book. Snuggling up to the schnauzers before dropping off to sleep. Going out to eat with friends. Getting personal satisfaction from my job. The moment when I realize that some of my vet tech knowledge is helping me in my job. Relaxing on the couch with a magazine.
I could go on and on, but the big picture here is that I am comfortable with myself and my life. I am rejecting the commotion and embracing who I am.

Life is good.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Today is a day that will resonate for many of us, as we reflect on where we were when we heard the news. It is our generation's "Lunar Landing" or "JFK shooting", as we can pinpoint exactly what we were doing when our world changed. I look back at the nine years that have passed since that fateful day, and feel lucky that I did not lose a loved one that day. I feel amazed as I recall the things that have happened to me, my hurt back, my depression, my choice to start a new career, the loss of my Dad and my Greyhounds, financial problems, getting older....but also feeling better about myself and my life, a marriage that is still going, a peaceful home to live in and a deck where I can spend time writing, the new goals that I have set for myself, and of course my new Schnauzers.
Life has certainly changed both for the good and the bad since then. The Twin Towers will always have a place in my memory, for the World Trade Center was a place I visited, was the site of a first date, made deliveries to, and photographed many times during countless trips into the city during high school and college. I even flew past them during one of my flying lessons out of Teterboro Airport! Try doing THAT today....not happening.
So today I reflect on life....the way it once was, the way it is now, and the loss of innocence, both within myself and throughout the world.
It is an uneasy feeling....but it is what shapes us today.

Never Forget.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The 15% Dilemma

The other day a discussion came up somehow about eating in restaurants and leaving a tip. I'm a notoriously bad tipper, as my usual M.O. is to leave 4 dollars and be done with it. My dining companion will always make up the difference.
My question today is: why does there have to be a difference? If I order a burger and fries, my meal might be around 10 dollars. If I order lobster or filet mignon, the price of the meal goes up to about 30 or more. However, and here is where my argument lies: the waitress only comes over the same amount of times. One, to greet and take drink orders. Two, to bring back said beverage and take food order. Three, to bring meal. Four, (if you are lucky) to ask if things are "all right". and finally, Five, to check on dessert and then bring the check. Why should I pay more just because I'm having an expensive meal?
Don't get me wrong. If I'm eating at a five star restaurant or if I'm dressed specially for dinner, that means I'm at a swanky place. I'm talking about a regular place like a diner, or Friday's, or a casual place like that. Why should my tip be more because I'm having salmon instead of grilled cheese?
I was told that "If you order more expensive food you tend to stay at the table longer to eat and they cannot turn around the table as fast to gain more tips, so you are paying for time."
That sounds good, except I can recall eating on the cheap and hanging about to chat and relax just as long as when there was a steak in front of me.
Look, I didn't invent the pay scale for waiters. I understand that they are there to make a living just like all of us. I do think, however, that most people are decent tippers and that those of us who cannot tip to the extreme need to make ends meet. That thought may lead us to the statement that if you cannot afford to leave a good tip, you cannot afford to eat out.
To which I say: and there are plenty other jobs out there that pay by the hour, if you have to find a job that has tipping as part of your pay, perhaps you need to check your skill level and work towards another career.
I can feel the hate right now.
Listen, I used to drive a cab and work for tips a long time ago. My dispatcher was resentful of the fact that I was a girl, and thus sent me on jobs where I would come to no harm, like picking up all the senior citizens and taking them to doctor's offices. Sometimes I would get a dime as a tip. I didn't make a lot of cash driving that cab, so I took a second job. Eventually I embarked on another career, one that paid by the hour.
I didn't resent the elderly, I knew they were on a fixed income and needed every penny.
I may not be on that same fixed income, but I need every penny as well. I can go to Five Guys and get a great burger and not have to tip, or I can go to the good old diner and get the same meal and have to budget for money left on the table.
I just don't agree with the system.