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July 25, 2008

Photos From Maine

I have put up the photos from our weekend in Maine. I was hoping that they would turn out well, because it was such a beautiful place. I even took extra large photos, with the idea of printing some later. I think some of these photos really turned out nicely. Check them out.

Maine Photos
Maine Photo Galleries

There are actually two galleries, identical except one is color and one is B&W. The color photos are the best. Many of the B&W shots lost something in translation, but some of them turned out pretty good as well.

Also, since there 99 photos in this series, I figured people might prefer to see it as a slideshow. So, there are two slideshows, the color slideshow and the B&W slideshow.

Until next time, be safe.

July 21, 2008

Maine-ly About Maine

We just got back from a five-day trip to Maine, which was excellent. I'd never been up that way, and Jess hadn't been since she was a wee little girl, so it was an exciting prospect for both of us. We weren't disappointed in the least.

I will have to say, the drive up was very, very long. We left Thursday afternoon, after working Wednesday night, which put us just north of Boston right around rush hour. That perhaps wasn't the best time to be in the area, which set us back a half hour or so, but we were able to continue without any real issues. The problem was that it took us more than seven hours to get to Bangor, where we had booked a hotel; we were wiped out by that time, and plenty grumpy with each other. Turns out that the Sea Dog Brewery was there in town, which was great. We sampled several of their beers, taking off the edge of our gritty moods, before turning in for the night.

We were up early enough the next morning, but it was chaotic since we had to go around buying groceries and supplies, and in the end, we didn't make it to the Acadia Nat'l Park or even Mount Desert Island until after 1 pm. No matter, it was totally worth it. We drove around the area for awhile, to get a feeling for it, then found our campsite, a great little place called Bass Harbor Campground. It is way at the bottom of the island, far away from the touristy parts of Bar Harbor on the north end, and in the quiet and charming little fishing village of Bass Harbor (hence the name). We managed to get a really large tent site, and set up all of our stuff. There at the campsite, a guy named Scott was cooking and selling lobster, which was very handy for us. We ended up eating lobster every night there, two of the nights from him (we cooked lobsters ourselves one night, figuring we could save a little money, but it turned out to be more expensive, less tasty, and unnecessarily difficult). I didn't know that I loved lobster so much, but it was truly delicious.

At any rate, we did manage to get a short hike in, although we came across some rusty old ladders that were the only access to the summit, and hence didn't quite make the summit. Later in the evening, it began raining and continued into the night, and I spent most of the night cold and wet, as my tent is old and desperately needs to be sealed/waterproofed. Around 3:30 am, I got up, walked down the road about a quarter of a mile to the nearby Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, and took pictures of it in the growing light. There never was a true sunrise that morning, with the clouds being fairly dense, but it was still a beautiful morning. We had coffee and cereal next to our morning campfire (we had a campfire each night as well, and even made s'mores), then headed out to explore Acadia. The clouds had burned off and it had turned into a beautiful, sunny day, so we drove through most of the park, starting with the large Park Loop Road, which runs partly along the gorgeous eastern seashore. We walked through the rugged peach-colored rocks for a couple of hours, then kept going along to Jordan Pond, a very nice body of water with a 3-mile, flat trail enciricling it. Mid-way, we found a trail leading off, going up to the summit of Sargent Mountain. We'd heard about the moutain from some locals, who described it as less popular (a good thing) than the famous Cadillac Mountain, but with the same view. So, we decided to head for the summit.

Now, there is something that everyone needs to understand about hiking in Acadia, and possibly Maine as a general rule. Most of the trails that we saw were short, in the 1-3 mile range, which anywhere else would be a wonderful thing, being so short. Alas, they forgot the most critical aspect of their descriptions, which would have been the atltitude gain. For example, our chosen route on Sargent Moutain was only 1.1 miles, but this is a 1300-ft mountain, and we were starting from almost sealevel. Needless to say, it was a little steep in places. I think they should put, "Summit Trail, 1.1 miles long, 1000 foot in altitude gain," or more succintly, "Summit, 1.1 miles of HELL." That would have been fair. It was worth it, anyhow, once my vision cleared and my heart rate dropped below 200. The view truly was spectacular, the mountains simply drop off into the ocean. You can see for miles from these places, and it was beautiful.

After returning to our campsite, we set about cooking our own lobsters. There is an art to it, you wouldn't think it was terribly hard, it just involves dropping the lobster in boiling water. My lobsters had nothing on the ones Scott was casually handing out for just a few dollars more than what I'd paid for these in the suppermarket (plus he provided all-you-can-eat corn and stone crabs). They were a little on the tough side, as apparently a few minutes makes all the difference when cooking lobster (Scott had a timer--cheater). It was the finest evening weatherwise that we had, it's too bad we were completely wiped out by the unexpected rigors of climbing up Sargent Mountain. We pretty much passed out in our little lawn chairs by the fire. We were even too tired to get up and watch the sunrise in the morning, which apparently was pretty spectacular.

We got a slow start, as the day quickly became cloudy and damp. We drove along the seashore of the "quiet" side of the island, which was quite nice. Despite planning on having a chill day, we eventually ended up at the start of another hike. This one was supposed to be less brutal, but again, they don't have gradual climbs in this part of Maine, it is all straight up. It started to sprinkle and eventually became a drizzle during our hike, but the walk was a great one. We ended up going three different summits, all averaging 1000 feet, which is a decent climb straight from sealevel. They didn't have the view of Sargent, but they were much more pleasant. Plus, the drizzle was made tolerable by being under trees; it wouldn't have been good to be out in the exposed landscape above the treeline, such as on Sargent Mountain. It was a very nice hike, around four miles, and was made all the better by the cool, moist air. We had a great fire that night, since I wasn't being stingy with the firewood. It lasted probably six hours, until the rains really came and doused the camp. Scott gave us two lobsters for the price of one, since we'd taught him the meaning of panus, which became the word of the day. I stayed up late, keeping the fire roaring, eating s'mores, and relaxing. Of course, last night really was wet and nasty starting around midnight. We slept well, but we woke up to find all of our stuff inside the tent wet. We didn't waste any time as a result packing up and heading out, and we were on the road before 7am. Again, it was a very long seven hours of driving. So, I should have pictures up soon of Maine. I'll be working on that shortly.

All in all, it was quite a successful trip to Maine. We got in well over 700 miles (we've allready put on 5000 miles on our new car since mid-May). We also go in eight new beer, all but one local (from Maine), and the last one was a Long Trail brew from Vermont. I haven't seen the pictures, but I am hoping they will do our trip justice, because it was really great.

I can't believe that we only have three weeks, or nine shifts left. We are quite nearly finished with this assignment. We hardly have a day left that won't be spent either working or hurrying off to see one last place in New England. However, I already feel like we are in the process of moving, and it's exciting.

Anyhow, until next time, be safe.

July 17, 2008

Four New England Galleries, Including Manhattan!

I finally got up the galleries from my travels last week. There are four of them, one from the coast of Rhode Island, one from New Haven, CT, and two from NYC (Manhattan and Chinatown). Click on the photos below to access the galleries, or go to the main New England gallery section.



New Haven

Rhode Island

I haven't gotten the slideshows up yet, there is something wrong with the Google program. I'll have those up soon, as well as Maine photos.

Until next time, be safe.

Three Weeks And Counting..

So, three weeks from now, we will officially be finished, on Thursday, August 7. Our tour of duty at the Y will have come to an end, and we will moving on to the next assignment.

It's a little strange really. I think that I'll miss this hospital, and this unit, but then again, once a decision has been made about going somewhere different, it just seems like a waiting game, getting ready to go. I feel very comfortable here, and it actually seems like I've been here longer than 10 weeks, a lot longer. I guess I caught on to the flow of the place early on, and have found my place here. In fact, there are several people leaving for various reasons in August, and I found myself considering going to their goodbye parties. I don't even know these people, and somehow I feel entitled to go eat their cake and drink their beer. Not that that is something different for me.

It's been a long five days of addiction for me. Every shift, I've had drunks and druggies. Hardcore folks, too, not just college students on a binge. I've had the serious drunks, and the crazy crackheads. I was thinking they were punishing me, but then I realized the whole unit is full of these folks. I guess they come out of the woodworks this time of year. It is, after all, a good time of year to smoke crack.

I did have an interesting patient this week, my one-day reprise from the junkies. He was a gentleman who had worked in coal mines in Jamaica. He has steadily declined since arriving on our unit. From my perspective, his case was poorly managed by the team here; he would have been put on an oscillating ventilator long ago at the Big D, and at one point, an attending purposely gave him a cuff leak on his vent to "blow off a little extra CO2" (sorry for the medical jargon for non-medies). Anyhow, it was all pretty ridiculous, I think the attending was planning on writing a paper about it, and wanted some data. When they finally did oscillate him (a huge rarity here), he died immediately. Guess it was a little too late. Still, the shift that I was pretty interesting. It was very intellectual, and very busy. He wasn't an alcoholic, either, which spoke volumes for him.

Tonight is my last night for almost a week, fortunately. Tomorrow, Jess and I head up to Acadia National Park in Maine. We're camping for the weekend. It's going to be a great trip. As rustic as the campground it, there apparently is wireless internet, so maybe I'll post something from the bush.

Until next time, be safe.

July 12, 2008

Making The Most Of My Time...

I'm back at work after a stretch off. Sadly, it's for five days out of six, but I almost need to be at work, as it's almost downtime compared to my days off. Now that I've figured out that my time is very short here in Connecticut, I'm scrambling to see and do everything that I'd planned on while in New England. This week wasn't an exception, since I had four days off.

I was determined to make a trip out of each of my four days off, as I mentioned in a earlier entry. That didn't really happen as I expected; for example, Monday I was planning on camping with Jess in the Catskills. After working all weekend, though, getting up at noon was a chore. The trip to the Catskills takes nearly three hours, which neither of us were too terribly excited about doing, especially as one in the afternoon approached. We ended up heading towards Hartford to go to a local state park to do a little hiking with Zuri. The park was decent, nothing to write home about, but the trip there was certainly memorable.

To get there, we passed through Hartford. Downtown Hartford is again decent, not an amazing city by any stretch, but interesting at least. Immediately out of the center, though, we ran into the ghetto. I'd always known there was a ghetto, not from any report necessarily, just from the haunted look, the shine of disbelief and deep-rooted fear that'd pass across the eyes of ex-locals. I just understood that Hartford probably wasn't the best city in the US. This ghetto took me by surprise, though. It made the ghetto in Durham, NC, seem quaint, like a all-American neighborhood with a few hookers and occasional shootings. It was pretty amazing, I'd have taken pictures to show, but I was too afraid of getting shot. Seriously. I think that I can say that I've been to Hartford now, and never have to go back.

Tuesday I was actually up early and out the door, ready to embark on my week of constant exploration. I headed out east toward Rhode Island, where I dropped down along the coastline as soon as I crossed the state border. The idea that I had was that all of the coast of RI is like the craggy, beautiful shores of Newport, just one big photogenic opportunity. This isn't necessarily true, as it turns out, not even remotely. Actually, the entire southern shoreline from Watch Hill in the west to Point Judith and Narragansett across the water from Newport is pretty much hidden from view from anyone on the roads. This is accomplished by thick vegetation and woods along the way, and where there aren't woods, there is development, big houses and private areas, which completely obscure the ocean from anyone wanting to take pictures. For example, in the touristy, exclusive Watch Hill, I had to hike a half mile along an inlet just to get around the private clubs and cabanas (as if they are in S. America) that block access to the beach and what turned out to be a very mediocre lighthouse. Not to complain, but it wasn't very exciting, and certainly not worth the hours of driving I put into it.

It wasn't until I reached Galilee that I started to enjoy it. There are little shops where they sell fresh seafood and live lobsters. I had a cup of clear Rhode Island style clam chowder and steamed mussels there. It is a great little place to enjoy a seaside vacation, it's too bad I was towards the end of my day and needing to head back at that point.

The next day was too muggy and too likely to be stormy to go on my planned trip to NYC. Instead, I walked around New Haven; after all, I've been here two months and never really walked around the downtown. Famous footsteps have preceded my travels in the center, including the old GW. I walked the whole center (at least the part that is safe enough to) twice, as it only takes a couple of hours to make a round. I ate at a fairly famous little restaurant, known for being the first place to sell hamburgers (they still cook them in the same old upright griddles, and I don't think they have ever washed their hands there since opening shop in the 1800s. Seriously.). The burgers were good, if a little raw in the middle. Ahh, but it was for the experience, I was eating the experience! Anyhow, it was a nice day.

I had the most fun yesterday, when I headed to NYC and walked all over lower Manhattan. I arrived by train around noon, then took the subway to Brooklyn Bridge. I walked across the bridge to say I'd done so, as well as to take lots of pictures. I then headed down and took the free Staten Island ferry out and back, again to say I'd done so. It was pretty interesting, the ferry passes right by the Statue of Liberty. I walked up to the World Trade Center site, which isn't much to see other than a hole in city, a missing part of the immensity of the buildings around it. I walked up through the Tribeca neighborhood into Chinatown, which was definitely my favorite part of the trip. The place is fantastic, bustling with big crowds, all sorts of things for sale, a place that very much seemed taken out of a foreign country, and certainly what I might expect in Asia. Just visiting made me simultaneously want to move into an apartment in Chinatown and take a long trip through Asia. I walked around marveling for hours, eventually eating Chinese (what else?), then catching the subway back to Grand Central Station and tiredly heading back to Connecticut.

So, I'd have to say it was a full four days, not a moment or spare ounce of energy wasted. I packed all of the cracks in time with visits from friends, dinner with other travelers, and time with Jess, who I saw little during those days as she worked all of them except Monday (she's free this weekend, while I'm on). As I said, it's nice to be at work, just to rest and relax a little. Even doing chest compressions tonight seemed like a little vacation...

So, I have four galleries that will soon be up: Rhode Island, New Haven, Manhattan, and Chinatown. Keep an eye out for them, they're coming.

Until next time, be safe.

July 05, 2008

Central Park In NYC Pictures

I'm having a bit of a slow night, so I managed to get the Central Park (NYC) pictures gallery up. There are 63 pictures in the gallery. Click here to check out the photos.

Central Park Photo Gallery

I also put up a slideshow of Central Park, using the Google format. I might put up the other type if I have some time later. Let me know what you all think of this gallery as well as the slideshows.

Next week will be a photographic bonanza. I've got my schedule now through the end of the contract, so I'm suddenly finding that there is not that much time left. So, Monday we are going camping in the Catskills. Tuesday I plan on spending the afternoon in Hartford. Wednesday I'm thinking of going along the coast of Rhode Island to take a day trip in Providence, RI. Finally, I'm planning on taking a day trip to NYC on Thursday. So, lots of photos coming up, for those who care.

Until later, be safe.

July 03, 2008

Off To The Land Of Lakes And Cheese

A few good developments have been happening on our end. A few days ago, I actually had an interview with the manager of the surgical unit of the hospital in Wisconsin that we were considering. It went quite well, mostly a half hour of buttering each other up. The manager spoke with a strong Wisconsin accent, doncha know? I found that tremendously humorous, although I didn't share my thoughts with her. The unit itself sounded very good, very well run and managed, with a lot of new experiences and types of patients waiting for me. They need travelers, as I think I mentioned, because they are changing over to a computerized charting system and need to take off their staff to train them.

I was pretty optimistic about getting the assignment after the interview. Sure enough, our recruiter called the next day and said an offer had been made. There were just details on the contract to iron out. Then today, we spoke with our recruiter at length about the contract and hammered out our details. I did get an assignment in the surgical/trauma/medical ICU at the hospital I'll call the Cheese, and Jess landed herself in the PICU there. I've always heard so much about how negotiating is so important for travelers. Perhaps we just have a very good recruiter who helps max out our incentives, but negotiating never really seemed to play that much of a part in this contract.

For example, there wasn't really any room for negotiation on our wage, which will be $38/hr. I asked for shift differentials, but it wasn't even an option. Our recruiter offered the max on the travel benefit, which will score us $500 each to travel to this assignment (which is 1095 miles away from our currennt location). Our housing stipend may have been an area where I could have negotiated a little, but they offered one of us $1050, which taken with the $3 increase in hourly wage from what we make now, will actually be hundreds of dollars more monthly than what we make at the Y (where we get a $1600 housing stipend). I just didn't know how much to push for or when to push for it, especially after doing the math. So, we'll be making a fair amount more money, living in a state where gas prices average 40 cents less than here in Connecticut, which means that all cost of living expenses will drop as well.

At any rate, we got a pretty good deal. We don't know our living situation yet, which will be interesting, but it has turned out well so far. Jess and I both work until the 6th of August, and we will have until the 18th before we start. Personally, I would like to drive up to Madison, WI, then fly down and spend six days or so in Colorado before starting. That will have to be intricately planned, of course. Time will be tight.

In the meantime, I'm trying to think of what I'd like to see before we head out of New England for this year. We are planning a trip to Acadia Nat'l Park in Maine in a couple of weeks. There are also two weeks in this contract where Jess and I will literally have opposite schedules, so I am thinking that for one of the stretches that I have off by myself, I want to drive along the coast of Rhode Island up to Cape Cod, for the million photographical moments that would offer. I also wouldn't mind spending a day each in Hartford, Providence, and New York. Those can be quick day trips for when Jess is working. I am going to try to max out our last month in Connecticut without spending too much money.

At any rate, I had quite the interesting patient last night. He's a young guy, but a severe alcoholic, drinking several 40s (big bottles of beer) and a pint of Jack every day. Apparently he became fed up with his boozy lifestyle and decided to stop cold-turkey, not the best idea when your daily alcohol requirement is enough to knock down a mule. So, his girlfriend comes home and finds him seizing on the floor. Once he recovered enough to hold a can, he downed a six-pack of beer, just to stave off another seizure attack (actually pretty smart of him), got himself on a bus, and rode it to the ER. Suffice to say, he didn't fit in well with the staff on a floor unit, kicking and punching and swearing, so he ended up in my care, in four-point restraints and a restraint vest, on 15 mg of Ativan per hour, with liberal PRN doses of Ativan and Fentanyl (which was developed as a horse tranquilizer). For non-medical folks, our usual dose to sedate people is 2 mg, once. If you gave someone 15 mg, usually they would stop breathing. Not this guy, though. He still managed to talk a lot of smack through the night. Funny thing, though, I heard from another traveler about this crazy guy she'd transferred to my unit the night before, and I thought to myself, "I bet I get that guy." I hate when I'm right.

Until next time, be safe.

July 02, 2008

Where The Hell Is Matt?

Forgive the French, but that's the title of this video I found. It's really great, very inspirational. That is what I'd like to strive for.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding.

How amazing would that be? I want to find out..

July 01, 2008

A Boston Slideshow

I've made a big change to my Photography site. I'm trying out a couple of new slideshow concepts. I've added a few slideshow options to the Boston gallery, which makes viewing it much quicker. The only difference is that there isn't any background information or captions with these slideshows. However, it's easy to return to the normal view of the galleries.

Check out this version of the slideshow Boston slideshow, which has little pop-up windows and thumbnails. It doesn't go from one photo to the next, but it is easy to navigate. It does make viewing the pictures much, much quicker, even if they are a little smaller. I'm still working on it, and might change it up a little.

Also, I added a gallery through Google, over which I have little control, especially in its overall design, something I don't like. You can look at the Google Version here. Here is the full-sized Google version. Compare them and let me know which is better. Please, I'm very interested in what people think of them.

Until next time, be safe.

Pictures From Boston

After a lot of work, I have finally finished putting up two galleries from our weekend in Boston. It took a long time, but hey, I was busy at work last week, what can I say?

Anyhow, I took over 500 pictures over the weekend. I weaned this first gallery to about 85. It is the main Boston gallery, and I really like it.

Boston Pictures
Weekend In Boston

This is a very short gallery from the Red Sox game that we went to. It's only about 14 pictures.

Fenway Park
Red Sox Game At Fenway

Also, while Jess's mom was visiting us last weekend, we took a day-trip to New York, and I took a bunch of pictures of Central Park, so I'll be working on getting that up soon. Central Park was a fun photographic outing for sure; I hope the pictures will reflect that.

Until next time, be safe.

July Already?

Alas, this assignment is flying by. It is already the first of July. Crazy.

We had our CrossCountry interview for the job in Wisconsin today. That means that CrossCountry is the exclusive agency that brings in travelers to this particular hospital; travelers from other agencies might come in, but only when their companies subcontract through CrossCountry. We didn't have an interview with the managers of the units that we would be going to, but instead with the location manager at CrossCountry. That went well enough; it sounds like the hospital is very, very nice, and has a strong emphasis on good staffing methods. The reason that they are hiring travelers is because they are changing to a computerized charting system, and will be pulling off nurses to train them. That's where we step in to fill the gaps.

Problem is, there was talk again about neuro and trauma experience in this hospital. Again, this is a 400-bed hospital, and its ICUs are not as segregated as a 1000-bed hospital like the Y or the Big D. Having just been buzzed badly on the Dartmouth job, I'm a little skittish about these demands, that I have neuro experience. I'm not holding my breath; if it happens, it happens, I am not going to get all excited about it yet. Jess is getting pretty excited about the prospect, though. She wants to get on the road again. Actually, she did get a phone call from the manager of the PICU at this hospital, which turned out to be a pseudo-interview. That really got her excited about heading towards the Midwest.

I've started to come around a little about possibly living in Wisconsin. Apparently it isn't just flat and windy like I've imagined. There apparently are an abundance of lakes and hills, and lots of trees. Perhaps the fall wouldn't be as spectacular as in New England, but from what I've heard, there is a distinct changing of seasons. It also gets really cold there, probably by the start of November, so we quite possibly could be seeing snow in our three-month stint. Still, it sounds like a reasonable gig, and the hospital itself is appealing. Plus, it's very close to both Chicago and Milwaukee, and we can knock out four, even five states that I've never visited before (Ohio, W. Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and maybe even N. Dakota if we get really bored). Perhaps it will work out. Perhaps I even want it to work out.

In the meantime, another stint at the Y is still a possibility, they made a point of changing my schedule so that I have a long weekend off with Jess, sending me an email so that I'd know that they made the change. Surprising? Maybe, or maybe they want us to stay. Strangely, if we don't end up doing another contract, I might even miss this place a little, it's been good to us. New England's not going anywhere, though, we can always come back.

Until next time, be safe.

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