Archive for the ‘Public Health’ Category

I was calmly reading a review of what seemed like an interesting book, The Fear Factor, about the abnormal lack of empathy that characterizes some humans, so that they have no compunction causing pain and terror to their fellow beings. The author, Abigail Marsh, a psychologist and neuroscientist, goes into the subject and has an interesting thesis to offer. However, she then opens up into a more general discussion of human behavior, and I was charmed by the following quote:

“Describing the extraordinary evolutionary change that enabled mammalian mothers to feed their young with milk, she writes: “Imagine if you one day discovered that you could shoot hamburgers out of your armpits at will. That’s basically how incredible lactation is.”

HAHAhaha! That certainly livened up my morning commute! I kept my arms firmly DOWN at my sides, in case any errant hamburgers might be squirting out.

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Ignite the Passion

The other day I edited a report in which I came across a figure so stupendously fatuous that I instantly set out to share it with you, dear friends.
But then, I thought of Scrooge’s chilly remark to Bob Cratchit–about how he might find himself celebrating the season by losing his situation.
And, I stayed my hand.
So, I will not give you a link to the report in which this amazingly instance of imbecilitude is to be found.
However, using the Magics of Language, I will attempt to describe it for you.
Imagine a figure which shows three columns of text boxes, all forcefully arrowing towards the one box on the left column (in this very special world, we read right to left, like Arabic) which is titled ‘Building Relationships at the Community Level to Achieve the Triple Aim’.
The other two columns are titled “Secondary Drivers” and “Primary Drivers“. So, perhaps two Drivers = 3 Aims? That is, each Driver =1.5 Aims?
Anyway, let us not be bothered with vulgar arithmetic.
The boxes in the Drivers columns are crammed with text written in the imperative voice, ‘Create Innovation’, ‘Liberate’, etc. In one of the boxes in the Secondary Drivers column I was completely delighted to discover “Ignite the Passion“.
Not the sort of thing one expects in what purports to be a scientific document.
Naturally, I sent it out to all my colleagues at the office–well, those who would not be reporting me to Mr. Scrooge, that is.
And then, watching a silly show the other night (the Defenders, on Netflix, if you must know) I suddenly realized a thing. These shows, they all start with a really really well made opening credits scene. These little scenes are works of art, and they completely identify the shows they precede–music, images, mood. Brilliant, really brilliant–Game of Thrones, American Gods, and this one, Defenders.
And you know what they do?

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NOT that one wants to complain, but this week seems more than usually HORRID, what with TWO back to back meetings, both fraught with soul killing vexation. The first one–on Wednesday–is cursed with a distant overlord, whose response time is measured and stately, whereby one deadline after another has been missed. But what of that! The underlings (=me) can deal! Today the major excitement was planning the strategy to enable the importation of the Personal Chair upon which–and ONLY upon which–the exalted underparts of the Most Puissant Overlord could be trusted to repose. This chair must be brought to our meeting place in time for the Event, after which, it must be removed. Some 8 or 9 anxious emails–each marked as Super Important, Return Receipt Insisted Upon–were sent to me in an attempt to settle this difficult problem.
Hope: “bring it to the front door, I’ll wheel it to the meeting”.
Minion: “This Chair [while worthy in every other way] HAS NO WHEELS.”
Hope: “Bring it to the loading dock with a minion to carry it to the meeting.”
Minion: “What if there were TWO minions, one in the van, one with the Chair–could it then be brought to the front door?’
Hope: “Bring it to the front door.”
Also, I forgot to mention that I had to schedule 2 sessions in the Breast Feeding Room for one of the panelists. From which we learn that we HAVE breast feeding rooms.
The other meeting is set for Thursday and Friday, and is all about…marijuana. See, all these states that have so blithely legalized it are suddenly thinking, WHOA, what if there are medical consequences–THAT WE WILL HAVE TO PAY FOR? There will be a meeting a month until Christmas.
Conclusion: this week=TOTAL BUST.
In other news, the hydrangea are blossoming, and looking very well indeed.
So there’s that.

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Today was Day 1 of my dreaded twice yearly board meeting–but, now that I have ways of keeping myself from annihilating despair during these stultifying events– getting work done while the blather booms on, webcruising on cunning electronic devices when I can’t work–I am able to stagger on without undue loss of life force, towards that golden moment when the chair announces that… the meeting is adjourned.
The meetings are readily summarized, thus:
“I am a GOOD person, who helps other less fortunate than myself”.
“Why, I am also such a person!”
“As am I!”
[repeat] x [number of persons present]
All: “Let us rejoice in our goodness!”
Chorus: “Blessed be the poor, whose pathetic weaknesses we study and whose sad state provides us and our prosperous non-profit organizations with sustenance!”
An easily ignored background noise.
However, there is one thing that tries even the most saintly of souls (=mine): the Solemn Worthy Video. Because why, because the LIGHTS ARE ALL TURNED OFF and the booming soundtrack cannot be ignored. This time it was the Noble Savage whose plight we were mourning–and it began with a paean to the splendid simple yet worthy life lived by the Native Americans in the good old days of yore–killing the buffalo (but only as many as needed of course), taking from Mother Earth and giving BACK to Mother Earth. Cute children! Simple yet moving ceremonies!
But OH WOE! Now such bad! The people despair!
Which is quite true, the totally catastrophic situation of the Indian nation is a black shame–and why are there not protests and pickets at the doors of Bureau of Indian Affairs? Their methods have been complete failures, and have had fatal outcomes.
But we are not concerned with such things, we are in pie-in-the-sky country as is our wont. Silos! Outside the envelope! And what I find offensive despite my best efforts to remain unmoved is that everyone else is just EATING THIS UP. I look around and see nothing but reverent approval.
Sometimes I think I am an alien in my own dear country.
However, tomorrow is only a half day meeting, and the rain seems to have stopped.
So, there’s that.

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Staying Awake

Just staggered out of staff meeting, having managed somehow to stop myself from keeling over in stupor. Not only the amazing tedium, but a powerful exposition of sleep coming over me.

Today we learned of our president’s (Note: this would be the institute’s, not the country’s, president) vision for the institute!

  • Phase 1: Identify Priorities, producing 10-12 aspirational goals/priorities under 4-5 themes.
  • Phase 2: Effect Change by developing strategies to sharpen focus and increase synergy of work on these priorities.

Query: This synergy, can it be aspirated/prioritized?

Anyway, the usual vague intimations of grand purposes and good deeds to be done.

After that, various staff talked about their projects and I felt that accustomed horrid sense of being totally and completely alien. They boasted of their hash tags and web casts and exciting steps forward and I thought, what a bunch of self important dweebs we are. It continues to mildly astonish me that ANYONE would follow a health policy twitter feed–but then, I understand many people follow various pop stars, whose tweets are no doubt just as boring as ours, so there it is.

Sometimes I think the guys that replenish the shelves in the grocery store do work that is much more important than anything we do here.

Ah well. Just the usual post meeting omne animal triste est .

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This morning, I left my house at a time when sensible people are still slumbering in their beds–the cats were agog with wild surmise–but, stern duty (AKA Public Health) whispering low, I devoured my Wheat Chex in haste, rushing off to catch the bus, the train. Another vibrant and exciting meeting to administer! Or at least, so it was described by the lady who started the proceedings. Our meeting is being held in one of the rather grand public rooms of this rather grand building, and there is a rather grand space with (huge sky lights and marble walls) which serves as the lobby to the rather grand public room.
And once our guests were all comfortably seated and ready to drink deep at the fountains of wisdom (one of our speakers, I note parenthetically, is actually NAMED Wisdom) I had only to lounge at my ease in the lobby–ready to receive any latecomers–with the muffled drone of the meeting coming through the doors. All this marble and vasty space has the pleasing effect of rendering passionate zealotry into background noise, joining it to the soporific whispering of enormous air ducts–lulling, rather. I find that not having to actually LISTEN to what is going forward has made the normally odious meeting experience almost, well–restful! Yes, there are always the vexing upsets–for instance, I have to move tomorrow’s meeting to our other building, due to the massive Veterans Day celebrations on the Mall–but the simple elimination of tedious speeches and endless presentations reduces the stress amazingly. I hesitate to share this interesting discovery with my colleagues however.

Sent from my iPad

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When I came in this morning, I beheld a group in solemn conclave around the table in our conference room. What could have brought them out so early? EBOLA, that’s what. Which is to say, WHAT’S IN IT FOR US? There are those holier-than-thou fuddy-duddies who might say that the LAST thing CDC should do with its money is pay us to write them another report, but you are to consider that such expenditures are mere trifles to a mighty government agency–and, my salary is paid out of such trifles.
As for the Africans, qu’ils mangent de la brioche!

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One of my colleagues just went to a conference on abused children, and found the name a teensy bit, well, tactless: One Child Many Hands. These public health gurus are amazingly clueless, it appears. I suggested a humorous renaming with an acronym like SPANC, and she instantly came up with Special Professionals and Neglected Children’.

As you can see, their logo is rather suggestive. Though at least the hands appear to be spanking on only the golden parts of the bottom. Modern spanking theory, I suppose. None of these ‘random clumps on the side of the head’ that Seth referred to earlier–this is Scientifically Prepared Anti Naughtiness Care.

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HA HA! One in the eye for the public health weenies!
See. I am slogging through yet ANOTHER tedious presentation, rendering it into elegant and readable prose. This time I own that the job is less onerous than the last time, as the young man uses interesting words, and is himself pleasant to look upon.


Cute, no?
He is a local chef, who wants to save the world. Well, that briny part of it that the delicious fish swim in.
I just transcribed the last part of his presentation where he mentions one successful way of saving the briny part of the world–namely, the one followed by that responsible and well known proponent of sustainable fishing–the MACDONALD’S CORPORATION. Apparently they got tired of fisheries going bust (the Filet-o-Fish sandwich is a VERY POPULAR menu item) and decided to move into fishery management–with resounding success. They now win prizes for “marine stewardship” and have actually moved the global fisheries towards better practices. HaHAAhaha! This was NOT a popular idea with his audience who are more in the way of loathing, hating, and cursing MacDonald’s.
The public health community is ever a source of innocent merriment.

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Due to Staff Shrinkage (as we call it, and it has nothing to do with a lady losing a few pounds but rather with staff walking out the door never to return) I have been constrained to take on jobs that were normally reserved for others. One of these is rendering into text the transcriptions of presentations given at past meetings. Comrades, I have been plunged into such desperate tedium as to reduce even a saint to rebellion. Sainthood, not on my resume. HOWEVER, I persevere, and have not—as yet—faltered.

Two ghastly presentations have been battled and subdued into readable text: “Current and Emerging Opportunities and Challenges for Pharmaceuticals from the Sea” and “The Integration of Environmental Health and Marine Ecosystem Services”—admit it: you almost faint from boredom, just reading these titles!

But they pale next to the veritable QUEEN of Tedium, Dr. Jones and her exegesis on “Fish, Fisheries, and Food Security”. The Dottoressa favors a musical tone, with sudden melodramatic pauses and unexpected changes in pitch. She speaks slowly and ponderously—I wondered at first if she had overdone the Bloody Marys at breakfast, but decided it was just her natural pomposity.

You might think that the slowness would make for better transcription, but, not so.

It happens that the team that were filming this meeting (baffled in their Hollywood ambitions perhaps, but at least, employed) told us that we need not hire our usual transcriptionists—thanks to the MAGIC of the Interwebs, this meeting would be Close Captioned—which is to say, the same brilliant computer technology that transcribes your voicemail would be used to transcribe these long and jargon filled speeches. WHY, WHY, did we allow them to persuade us? Not surprisingly, the result was a total catastrophe, if perhaps giving a moment of humor here and there:

“there are some important fish here for you to look at this is pensive catching around kisses in around this is an harvested so it’s what are the pat we call them expects all so it’s it’s when they take them off the vessel what have they in fact landed doesn’t necessarily what the cost because they catch some and if they’re not of high value than the discard the nazis some of whom some of which will die case that this is just what comes into the port ”

Right. I shall don the headphones and attempt the translation into human speech.


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