THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 9, Issue 22 – January 5, 2015
Happy New Year
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday break and a good time celebrating the new year. May 2015 bring you everything you and your family need, and be a time of progress, peace, and tranquility for us all.
It’s Different in the North Country
I’ve had a couple of experiences lately that show me that life is a little different, in a very good way, up here in the North Country.
In our new house, there are two kinds of radiators—the floorboard radiators which are in all the rooms upstairs and some of the rooms downstairs, and the flat wall radiators which are in the living room, dining room, music room, and kitchen. Up until now, the floorboard radiators have worked fine, but we never got any heat from the flat ones. I had always figured that the flat ones were part of the original set-up in the house, and had been replaced with the floorboard ones. Lately, though, with the cold weather, the living room had gotten a bit chilly, so I concluded that something was wrong. On December 31, at about 1 PM, I called Grant’s Plumbing and Heating to see if I could get someone to come by and take a look at our system, which to a layperson like me looks impossibly complicated. Reasonably enough, they said that they’d be glad to send someone, but that this would likely have to wait until after the new year. I said that was fine, but mentioned that I live right in town and the answer might be as simple as throwing some switch that I was unaware of, and if someone could just pop in for a minute to look at the system, I would appreciate it. They said they’d try. At 3:00, I got a phone call from Grant’s saying people would be coming by from a job they had just finished to take a look at 3:30. Sure enough, at 3:30, they came by. When I told them how complicated the system looked, they just smiled and said: “No problem. We’re the ones who installed it.” Within a few minutes, they diagnosed the problem—zone 3’s light indicated that the zone was working, but the pump wasn’t actually circulating anything and would immediately short out its fuse. They replaced the circulator and sure enough—heat started coming out of the flat radiators. Problem solved, by very pleasant and fast-working experts. So, within 3 hours of my initial phone call on the day before new years, I had my furnace diagnosed and repaired. I’ve never experienced service like that anywhere I’ve ever lived before.
Then, last Wednesday, I somehow managed to tear my right shoulder’s rotator cuff. I have absolutely no idea how this happened, but it started to hurt badly on Wednesday night. I figured I had just strained something, so I tried to give it some rest and got a heating pad on Thursday, but it only felt worse. By Friday, things were even worse, and the rest and heat didn’t seem to be helping. So, on Saturday, I figured I needed to go to the hospital. I drove over to Potsdam (one-handed, which was a bit challenging to put the key in the ignition and to shift gears) and walked into Canton-Potsdam hospital. After about five minutes of giving them my name and information, I was turned over to a nurse (a SUNY Canton grad!) who whisked me to a diagnosis room, took my blood pressure and some information, and told me that a physician’s assistant would be by in a minute. He was, checked a few things about how I could and couldn’t move my right arm, and said the radiologist would be by in a minute to take an x-ray. She was, the x-rays were promptly taken, and I was back in the diagnosis room. The doctor came by two minutes later, checked a few things, gave me a prescription and gave me a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. Only then did they ask what kind of insurance I had and took my card number. The whole process took about an hour.
I drove back to Canton, got the prescription filled, and took the first pill, which was a steroid called Prednisone. It seems to be doing the trick—the pain is gone if I don’t lift my arm very much, and I’ve got a bit more mobility each day, so I think things are improving. I’ll be seeing the orthopedic surgeon on Tuesday for follow up. The truly unusual part, though, was that on Sunday morning at 9:30, I got a phone call from the hospital making sure that I was feeling better, and that the steroid was working. I’ve never EVER gotten a follow up call from a hospital before, let alone a call on a Sunday.
I’m sure that everything in the North Country (or in the new year) won’t go quite this well, but this has been quite a beginning.
And Speaking of Good Things…
I wanted to pass along a thanks form Pat Alden, who works with the Holiday Giving Tree program that was sent to Betty Connolly and to my office:
We had a very successful year with the 2014 Holiday Giving Tree Program, and SUNY Canton helped significantly, taking care of gifts for at least 30 children. Betty, it was so nice to work with you and I’m just sorry we didn’t connect again before your retirement. Thanks so much for delivering all the gifts to Church and Community. Overall, 142 families were served and 357 children, which is a significant increase over last year. Things went pretty smoothly, but I want to say once again that the role that SUNY Canton plays in this program is important, and you made it possible.
So, I’d like to add my thanks to Betty for her fine work, and to thank everyone in the SUNY Canton family who participated in this important program that does so much good for the neediest in our community.
Brightening Our Winter
There was a nice article in Mother Nature Network (you can read it in its entirety here) called “Seven Cultural Concepts We Don’t Have in the U.S.” some of which I thought addressed dealing with the winter blahs in an interesting way and others of which are just plain good ideas. The title is a bit misleading, since I know plenty of people in the US who embrace one or more of these ideas, but it’s certainly true that some of them aren’t all that widespread and aren’t really part of our American “culture”. Here’s a synopsis.
In Denmark (rated as one of the happiest countries in the world), they have a cultural concept called hygge (“coziness”)—a coziness that can come from lots of different sources. An example given on NPR was “…a cloudy winter Sunday morning…fire in the stove and 20 candles lit to dispel the gloom. My husband, puppy and I curled up on our sheepskins wearing felt slippers, warm snuggly clothes and hands clasped around hot mugs of tea. A full day ahead with long walks on the cold beach, back for pancake lunch, reading, more snuggling, etc. This is a very hyggligt day.” The German concept gemütlichkeit is similar—its peak usage is in the winter, and it means surrounding yourself with pleasant circumstances. In Germany, this usually includes drinking good beer!
In Norway, a concept called friluftsliv (“free air life”) says that being outside is good for people’s mind and spirit. Time spent exploring and appreciating nature falls into this concept—hiking, taking photographs, meditating, playing or dancing outdoors. While I don’t know that winter in the North Country would be my favorite time for friluftsliv, I’ll certainly try to do this most of the year. A similar concept, from Japan, is shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”), says that spending time in forests or other natural areas is good preventative medicine, since it lowers stress. Chemically speaking, the science behind this is that phytoncides (pheromones for plants) are known to lower stress when humans are exposed to them.
Another Japanese concept is wabi-sabi (“embracing the imperfect”). It celebrates objects that are worn, cracked, or patinaed, accepting the idea that life takes its toll on all of us and that we should appreciate that. It’s a concept that lends itself to recycling and reducing consumption.
Also from Japan, is kaizen (“continuous improvement”)—a business concept that encourages every employee, from top to bottom, to come up with small improvement suggestions on a regular basis. At Toyota, 60-70 suggestions from each employee are shared and implemented per year. These are small improvements, not big changes. Setting small goals for yourself or your area, and meeting them.
Finally, from India, we have jugaad (“innovative fix”)—being able to fix something in an innovative way, or figuring out a solution that lets you get more from less. An example is what an engineering college did in Peru (where the humidity is high but there is very little rain)—they designed advertising billboards that also convert humid air into drinkable water. As a college of technology, our students should be carrying out project work in many of their courses that call on them to imagine and create innovative (and often low-tech) fixes for everyday problems. These days in higher education, with higher expectations and declining state support, practicing jugaad is not only a good idea, it’s a necessity.
Last Week’s Trivia Contest
There wasn’t one!
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
In honor of the new year, each of the questions in today’s challenge involves the word “year”. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO firstname.lastname@example.org since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!
- Expression you say on January 1.
- Many schools and colleges issue them annually. SUNY Canton’s is called the Paysonian.
- Your spouse might have this if they start talking about the person they dated before you were married.
- Excellent 2013 movie based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, who was abducted and sold into slavery.
- Rolling Stones song from their “Satanic Majesties” album, it has also been done by The Tragically Hip, Sky Cries Mary, and Colonel Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade (I love all those band names!). The first few lines are: Sun turnin’ ‘round with graceful motion/We’re setting off with soft explosion/Bound for a star with fiery oceans.