Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Week In Pictures

Hullo, ducklings! As per our wont in the Casa del Piffle around Labor Day weekend, we have been very, very energetic, here among the birds and the bees (get your mind out of the gutter). Thankfully, we have NOT been among the cicadas, though. I can't fathom being out among billions of large, screaming, flying insects. I think if I lived in Chicago or any other place where the 17 year hatching is going on, I'd have to hop the first plane to Baffin Island.

We do not do bugs on that magnitude. No, we most definitely do not. I don't care how good a fertilizer their little rotting corpses are. I'll take well-rotted steer poop any day.

Anyway, the following is one of those posts I periodically warn you about. As this blog is partly for me and my gardening whims, this is all about the yard and only about the yard. Feel free to pass it by. You won't hurt my feelings in the least and will be doing yourself a favor.

This year, we (and by 'we' I mean 'I') built an addition to the famous Raised Beds From Hell, constructed 2 years ago. We now have a strawberry pen/corral. We needed the extra room for the additional 3 breeds of strawberries we added to the herd this year:

Pictures for you

Nothing prettier than a well mulched, weeded garden. Pity it won't last the week. Here's hoping they go forth and multiply. Also, schlepping just shy of 1000 lbs of cement blocks is harder going uphill from the stable than down hill to the stable. In addition, I'm not sure if there's anything more tenacious than prairie grass as far as digging it out of the soil.

Pictures for you

I am happy to report that the 4 disease-resistant apple trees and 2 sweet cherry trees planted this year are not dead, yet. They have been sprayed by a 'biologic deer and rabbit deterrent' that Charles picked up at the garden store. The nice man on the label swore by it, and as he has an honest face, we are sure he can't be wrong. I figured it was likely either coyote piss or hot pepper oil. After spraying it on all the new plantings, I can attest that it is, indeed, coyote piss. I spent most of the time walking from tree to shrub to tree looking over my shoulder to make sure no coyote came dashing out of the underbrush to hump my leg. So far, my honor is still intact, but I've still a few more sprayings to do. Molly-dog thought I smelled very intriguing and alluring. Good thing she's too much of a lady to act on it.

After last year's demise of the hardy blackberries, we are trying once again to introduce these berries to the upper Midwest, and are pleased to note that this year's blackberry-lings arrived much healthier and are actually thriving. Well, except for that odd incident last week, where I found one of the plants completely uprooted, roots cleaned off and left to die of exposure. I have NO idea. I replanted it and it's limping along. I fear it's a mob hit, left as an example as to what may happen to my jostaberries next, (done by either the thug deer or their stooges, the killer rabbits) but have yet to be told where to leave the 'protection money'. Theirs is not a very efficient organization.

Pictures for you

I also spent large time planting large amounts of perennials in the perpetual perennial black hole that is the front beds. After another 4 dozen plants, it is slowly looking better, especially after the hollows left by the mysterious alien abduction (ahem) of Wanda and Muriel were filled in.

Pictures for you

But wait! What's that? Why is our heroine giggling so heartily? Can you see it? The recent find that she just couldn't resist?

Pictures for you

A closer look:
Pictures for you

Why, yes! That would be a rhododendron. A rhododendron that's supposed to be hardy to -30 F. Why, yes! I've clearly taken leave of my senses! Why, yes! I actually spent more than a little money for this. Why, yes! I know full well that this EVERGREEN plant won't survive the winter in the freeze-dryer that is Wisconsin 5 months of the year. I know full well that plants of the genus Rhododendron love acid soil and that the pH of mine is practically 14.0. Charles is a more optimistic soul. He thinks it will live. I guess he figures that it will learn to develop a taste for -OH, like we did for brie my sophomore year of college.

Oh, how I've missed rhododendrons. It's my only plea. I really couldn't resist. Temporary insanity. And now I will watch it languish and die, a victim of my misplaced adoration. Some one should lock me up.

Finally, speaking of acidophilli flora, I bring you something that has left my gast completely flabbered:

Pictures for you

Here is a blueberry. Blooming. It was one of 2. See, I know full well that blueberries only thrive in acid soil, but such is the level of my adoration of blueberries and the depths of my denial that over the past couple of years I bought and planted no less than 20 blueberries. Most didn't make it past the first summer where I planted them, in a cluster, near the vegetable bed. The ones I placed around the slab of concrete that sits bizarrely in the middle of the back yard, near the swing set (was the floor of a dog kennel for the previous owners) that the kids use as a chalk art surface and a place to crack rocks, are, um, not dead. Well, at this writing, 3 are not dead. Day before yesterday, 8 were not dead, then my husband, Gorbag, the half-orc, took the weed eater to the area and whacked everything he thought looked suspicious.

So, maybe the rhododendron will not succumb in the next year. Perhaps it will grip on to life, becoming a spindly thing with 2 flowers a year that I can not bear to euthanize.

I will deserve such an outcome to torment me for the rest of my days; at least until Gorbag and his Weed Whacker of Death come through.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bloom Picayune

About a week ago or more or less or so, our darling Voyager did sort of an interview meme where you, the blogger, agree to answer 5 questions posed, interview style, by another blogger. It involves trust, as you agree to answer these questions (and who's to say that one of those questions might not be "What album of your youth are you most ashamed of buying/begging your parents to buy you for your birthday?" or "What was the most embarrassing event in your past that involved someone you had a crush on and the general public?"

Most of us in the blogging community like to spill our souls to the Internet, but really don't want to relive the repressed horrors of our mis-spent youths.

But Voyager is Canadian, and therefore not only genetically ingrained to be nice, but polite and considerate as well. Never would a Canadian with malice aforethought cause mental pain, woe or anguish, unlike we dreadful Yanks. Therefore, I decided that I would take her up on her offer, which also netted me her e-mail. Bonus, that.

(Actually, I may have had her e-mail before this, but let's just go with it, shall we?)

So, here are the questions she posed, sitting eagerly on the edge of her seat, fedora on her head, shorthand pad and pencil in hand, a press-pass around her neck:

(Feel free to imagine me 3" taller, 30 lbs lighter, and 50 shades darker, wearing the latest in faux tiger lounge wear, sipping a mai tai on the chaise lounge by the pool.)

1. What made you decide to become a physician? When did you decide? (That's not really 2 questions. O.K. it is. So I'm bending the rules.)

Good one! Actually, I started off life as most of us do, wanting to be a librarian, which sustained me in my girlish dreams until about the age of 11. Then I drifted for 3 long years, without goals or stars to point my way until my freshman year of high school, when, after class, I was walking down the hall to the locker room to change for track practice. My path coincided with my beloved coach (who also coached me in cross-country) and chemistry teacher, who we knew as The Green Booger due to his penchant for wearing the same kelly green sweats, day in and day out, when in coach mode. He was late 50s or early 60s, about the same height of the girls he coached and looking somewhat like a beardless elf. (One of Santa's minions, not the pretty Tolkien creatures.) He said that he knew I was interested science and wondered if I had considered teaching as a profession. As I was and am still a confirmed flee-er of any form of public speaking, I declined and then he asked, "How about being a doctor?" The planets aligned, the universe smiled, the sun broke from behind the ever-present cloud cover that is the Pacific Northwest from November through the first weekend of July, and my course was set. Sadly, that marked the end of my running success as I developed asthma and, while I continued to compete throughout the rest of my tenure as a pimply high schooler, his interest in me waned as my times flagged, but I still think on him with a smile on my face: The Green Booger.

(Incidentally, a few years after that, he married my 5th grade baton teacher, a vivacious, tiny creature meant to wear sequins and tiaras. I've never been able to reconcile the image of this union and have been rather thankful that I didn't ever run into them together as I might have required long therapy sessions undergoing extreme memory repression.)

2. If you had to spend a year on a deserted Island, (assume food and shelter is taken care of) and you were given a choice to bring only one of the following, which would it be?

(a) A person, but one you have never met and know nothing about, even gender.
(b) A collection of books.
(c) A solar powered i-pod.

Ah, a nice, easy question. As I am quite content with the pleasure of my own company and while I am fond of music, I can go for days without listening to it, it would have to be that collection of books. I am incapable of not reading. I would rather read than talk. I would rather read than watch things. I have had, since birth, some sort of reading memory quirk, where I can read something I've read for pleasure over and over and over and find it not only delightful, but truly fresh and new. Seriously. I've a collection of mysteries that I cycle through every few years because I don't recall who dunnit at all. Sadly, I also have difficulty retaining written information and therefore couldn't skive off classes in college or med school AT ALL. So, instead of reading the chapter under a tree, like my classmates, I had to read the chapter and then go to class and hear the damned chapter in order to get the knowledge-y goodness in my squash.

3. What is it about gardening that gives you such pleasure?

You know, I'm not sure if I can adequately express this (although you know I'll yammer on and on despite this). It's a totally visceral joy. Sort of like singing along loudly and vigorously with your favorite song when no one can hear you. Sort of like eating a really amazing meal, followed by chocolate. Sort of like having a patient come to you (YOU!) with a mess of symptoms and having you hit the diagnosis in one. It's part watching life flourish under your hand. (Sort of a demigod-hood.) It's part that you are a nut for flowers and food and growing your own, that you chose and adore is deeply, deeply satisfying. It's part really enjoying working with your hands and, at the end of your efforts, even if it's just 10 minutes, you can see the results of your labor. It's part creating intent out of chaos (note that I didn't say 'order out of chaos' as my gardens are more free form, at least in the flower areas). Nothing leaves me more satisfied at the end of the day than a day spent in great part in the garden.

4. What one quality in yourself are you most proud of?

Hm. Toughie. I'm going to say it's my ability to usually reach people, especially people who are really in pain or pissed off or scared or all of the above. I don't connect with everyone but I can connect with most. It's one of the few things I can say that I feel I am good at.

5. Is there one quality you would like to change?

Just one? If I were joking, I'd say that I'd like to sweat like a normal person and not a 500 lb hirsute man named Bubba. In reality? Really-really? I'd like to be more outgoing. I'd like to want to go to parties and get-togethers and all sorts of social things that most people like to do. In reality, such things are often torture. I don't enjoy crowds. I suck at small talk. I dislike community get-togethers. I am horribly awkward. In the words of Mary Bennett, sister of Elizabeth Bennett, while being forced to sit as a wallflower at a country dance, (from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice): I would much prefer a book. I like people and enjoy having people over, but in small numbers.

So, thus endeth the interview. Thank you, Voyager, for the opportunity for letting me yammer on about myself.

Now, who's up for some home-grown questions of their own? In honor of the occasion, I've finally set up an e-mail for this blog:


If you want to reach me, feel free to do so. It's not the Super Secret e-mail that many of you know and love and use, but it will serve for blogging use. An e-mail bridge, if you will.


I've always dreamed of wearing a fedora and press pass and will endeavor to make at least one of the questions a nice low-ball one. After all, I am married to a 1/2 Canuck and that has to rub off on me a bit.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Of Beignets and Butt-Aches

Pictures for you

{Ed. note: You might want to block some time and get a big cuppa to sustain you. This is a-gonna be a looooong one. She's a wordy thing, is Diana.}

And so I am back from my adventures. Back over a week and all settled in my comfortable grooves. I find I like the idea of travelling alone more than the actual travelling alone. It's just so...alone. I am, as we have established, shy. Also introverted. So very shy and introverted and thrust into the milling mass of migrators. Without accompaniment of friend or spouse, I felt like I was missing a limb or a sense. Actually, given that I'd done all my luggage as 'carry-on', I was, in effect, missing 2 arms much of the time, as they were fully occupied with the compact yet surprisingly heavy bags.

Thursday-before-last found me, e-boarding passes clutched in my hand (and duplicates stashed in my carry-on), 2" syllabus on how to be all the Medical Review Officer you can be in my satchel, the accompanying text next to it, clean underwear, jammies, many clean shirts (I sweat very well) and toiletries in the rolling suitcase along for the ride, nervously getting on the planelet that would take me to the place that horrified my imagination beyond all things: O'Hare International Airport.

{Ed. note: How's that for the world's longest run-on sentence? I glow with misdirected pride.}

The place where more flights get fucked up and more luggage violated than any place on the planet. (Actually, I think its reputation is also worse than several large space ports in the Horsehead Nebula.) This is why I checked no bags.

And, it wasn't that bad.

I got myself some lunch (an egg bagel at a Dunkin' Donuts kiosk) and settled in to wait my connecting flight, which came on time.

I got myself out of the Louis Armstrong airport in muggy New Orleans, staggering into a cab (hailed by a very nice skycap) and trudged, smelling like stressed, sweaty grime into the airy marble lobby of the Mariott. My home away from home for the next 3 days.

My room reservation was all in order. (Possibly this was because the poor desk attendant, seeing my disheveled person, wanted nothing more than to get me up and out of view of the rest of the groomed and odor-free patrons. She helpfully pointed out that there were complimentary bath toiletries awaiting me. OK. Maybe she didn't say it out loud, but when the thing is thought forcefully enough, it comes through loud and clear.)

So, on the first night, following the first day of stomping through and sitting in planes and airports, me and my blistery feet and blistery ass ordered room service and sprawled on the downy-soft bed and passed out on the 35th floor, only waking once to see some of the crashing big storm that beat up the sky.

Pictures for you

The next morning, hungry and smelling of ginger and orange blossoms (rather nice complimentary toiletries, I must say), I trotted down to the 3rd floor to Meeting Room D and filled my tiny, tiny plate with complimentary continental breakfast (some OK pastries but good coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice) and sat, lurking in the back of the room, my accustomed place in such things. It's close to the coffee and bathrooms.

There were about 100 of us partaking of the joys of the course and I ended up sitting between 2 silent guys in their late 50s on one side and 3 military types in, say, their mid 30s on the other. Everyone ignored me, which was all fine and dandy. I don't do small talk with any sort of ease. The military guy next to me seemed to be feeling a bit 'off', to my learned and practiced eye: He spent the whole morning sitting hunched over with his forearms on the table and his eyes on his lap and didn't partake of any of the pastries nor even any coffee or OJ. I wondered if he had the flu, but after the break heard the snapping of plastic wrapper and the pop of child-proofed cap and noticed that a large number of Advil were poured into his palm and that he'd procured a 2 liter bottle of water to chase them down with. He handed the bottle of pills to his buddy, who seemed only a bit less undone than he did, and diagnosed them with having had quite a lot of fun the first night, perhaps partaking of the glitter of Bourbon Street a bit too enthusiastically. I would by lying if I said I didn't allow a small smile to raise one corner of my mouth. The third military guy sat at attention the whole time and seemed ready to invade a small country, should the order be given. He was wearing his uniform, too, just in case.

I then spent 8 hours the first day sitting on my ass learning all about the vagaries of urine drug testing and the duties of the physician who navigates the yellow waters of such. And it wasn't even dull. (This bit of golden goodness still has me shocked. So good were the speakers that, with the exception of one lecturer for only one hour on the 2nd day, I rarely had my attention wander and only started looking at the clock in earnest after about 4:30 pm.)

Planning on taking a bit of a stroll around the French Quarter after lunch, I hied myself down to the cafe in the lobby and had a quick omelet (the 100% carb breakfast had me craving protein). Walking by the window, I found that this was more good luck. Had I gone out in search of lunch, I'd have been caught in what was a deluge that dumped about 7" of rain on us over about 7 hours. Those who'd not had my luck came in absolutely drenched for the afternoon lectures. A nice Mariott employee came in 5 minutes later, laden with large towels that she draped over the dripping and shivering.

A large pot was also placed at the front of the room to catch the water coming through the ceiling on us, the learners on the 3rd floor. We were told that we should feel fortunate as there was flooding on the 4th floor. I found this rather perplexing as the hotel was over 40 stories tall and hoped my room was not completely submerged. I wondered if this was some sort of engineering response to the flooding from Hurricane Katrina that would spare the bottom floors at the expense of the upper ones.

So, I had room service for dinner, again, and watched the water come down and study-study-studied.

Pictures for you

The next day, Saturday, the last day in New Orleans, dawned cheery and sunny. The 2 hung-over military guys from the day before seemed in better shape, each managing a small bit of food, and their cohort, now in civvies rather than uniform, spent the morning snoring loudly, head propped on his laptop carrier. Apparently he had decided that it was not fair that they should have fun and he should not. Every now and then, a buddy would elbow him in the ribs and hiss at him. This is why it is good to sit in the back. That's where all the naughty kids sit.

After the day's marathon session of classes, I finally stepped out of the hotel for the first time in 48 hours and headed for the French Quarter. My last night, my last chance to acquire t-shirts and beads and other booty for my loved ones languishing at home. My last chance to make it to my personal mecca of Cafe Du Monde and it's legendary chicory coffee and beignets. I had only 2 hours, as I'd promised Charles faithfully that I'd not be out past 7 pm so the brigands that roam the city wouldn't get me. So, off I trotted and had myself a grand 2 hours being the complete tourist. I found a rather cool t-shirt and souvenir shop and bought many things (including a turtle's shell and an alligator tooth for Colin). I found Cafe Du Monde, just where it was supposed to be. I waited in line for the exceptionally cranky young miss to sell me a little paper bag of beignets and an iced coffee (and a t-shirt, how could I resist?). And then I took my bounty, dreamed of for the last 4-5 years, to the banks of the Mississippi and said hello to the water that flows past my neck of the woods, 1000 miles up stream.

Pictures for you

The river smiled back and not only didn't it smell bad, it smelled good; fresh and flowery and softly breezy. That was the high point, that. Sitting, eating beignets (spoiling my dinner, hah!), drinking iced coffee (spoiling my sleep) with nothing left but the trip home, the cramming all the information in my noggin, and the taking of the test on Monday. Child's play and a well earned moment. My own little Everest conquered. True bliss.

Pictures for you

And so I went back to the hotel, reassured Charles that he was not yet a widower and couldn't touch the life insurance for a new projector for the home theater, and packed up as I planned to depart at about 7am. (Everyone else who took the course stayed for the following exam, which I fucked up the scheduling of.) I then proceeded to not sleep for about 6 hours (awakeawakeawake), sleep for about 4 hours (damn coffee) and then wake at about 5am. Bah. So, I breakfasted in bed on the rest of the beignets (the powdered sugar blending with the snowy white bedding) and did some more reading. I want it stated for the record that my employers got their learning money out of me over those 4 days. Yes they did.

The return trip was just fine, although the hour delay in the plane that was to take me from the St Louis airport to Madison was a bit of a disappointment as I'd already been sitting there for 4 hours. Still and all, a small thing.

Damn! it was good to be home with the small ones, who loved the beads and dead animal parts, and Charles, who loved me for being home.

Pictures for you

And that night I slept.

Pictures for you

The next morning I zipped into one of the Chicago suburbs to take the exam, at the desk of the assistant of the coordinator of the MROCC. I sat in a soft, comfy chair with a glass of ice-water at my hand and an extra day's study time. I swore to myself, (but didn't tell the very nice coordinator, with whom I'm now on a first name basis), that this is how I planned to take all future certifying exams, come hell or high water or leaking roofs. The others who took it on Sunday would probably have thrown their #2 pencils at me, had they known.

And so, what about all the destruction of this beautiful and completely unique city? What I saw was mostly repaired, but bear in mind I went from the airport on the west side of the city via freeway to the French Quarter, which, as I recall, wasn't damaged as badly as pretty much every place else.

From my room, I could see this across Canal Street, the only obviously damaged area that I could see from my window (there is a large version at flickr):

Pictures for you

Across the other way, was this view:

Pictures for you

Canal Street, itself, below my room:

Pictures for you

And looking off toward Lake Pontchartrain:

Pictures for you

I'd never been to New Orleans, so I'd nothing to compare it to, but the spiffed up bits I saw looked fine. There were some places being roofed or otherwise attended to, but you'd expect that in any city in the spring. There was one billboard on the way to the airport that caught my eye. It said, "Wanted: Fortune 500 Company To Invest In New Orleans"

Amen to that.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fabulous! (At Least In The Eyes Of My Son)

Mother's Day, I think, has become my very favorite day of the year.

See, it's the day that I get to see what glorious offerings my son bestows upon me to show his love on this day. He has divine, imaginative teachers and has presented me 2 years ago with the infamous Mom Poem (scroll to the bottom of the post for the brilliance). Last year was the fabulous still life card and "Mom ABCs" handmade hardcover book (again, to the bottom of the post). This year! Oh, this year, we have the splendid portrait of ME! done in construction paper, wrapping paper, yarn and crayon, (life sized)!

Pictures for you

Take in the glorious accuracy: The lank, brown hair (never could do a damn thing with it). The tilt of the head demonstrating my infinite patience with the use of "butt" and "poop" 5 times in a single sentence. Look in the eyes to see the expression of love and devotion to my offspring. The lips, it must be said, are artistic license, as I do not have 'pillow lips' either naturally or collagenally.

Pictures for you

I also had no idea I looked that good in plaid and will go in search of some forthwith.

The portrait also accompanied a soft-cover book entitled "I Love You More! retold by Colin", in which, across 7 illustrated pages, he tells me how he loves me 'more than the biggest garden you seen' and 'the greatest trip you ever bin (sic)' and 'the neatest room you ever seen'.

Can you see why this puts Christmas and my birthday to shame?

'Hallmark Holiday', indeed.


(P.S.: I am truly working on the travels of me, Down Cajun way, but it is planting season here and the clock is a ticking and there's not all that much to tell, not that I won't take far too long in the telling of it. Gimme a couple of days.)


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Don't You All Wish You Were Me?

In the never-ending glamorous swirl of back pain, sinus infections and pus-filled boils that fills my work day, an edict has come:

"Thou shalt go and fulfill thy requirements to become an MRO!!!" came the voice from on high.

"You want me to become a Medical Review Officer?" I queried.

"Yea, verily. Yesterday would not be too soon." the Powers That Be thundered.

"Okie dokie."

In this new career plot to make-over this mild mannered internist into an occupational medicine doc, this is the latest step.

Ah. And what the hell is a MRO?

Very good question, mon ami.

The MRO is the physician (although in Iowa, I believe, it can be a nurse practitioner or a physician's assistant and in Maine and Kentucky they've taken to using moderately trained monkeys) who reviews the results of work-related drug screens, investigates any mitigating circumstances that might make a positive screen due to something other than what you scored from that guy down on the corner, and then notifies the boss/potential boss/never-to-be-future-boss of the results.

Sort of makes me a toady for The Man.

I've given it some mulling over the past few months between being given the edict and now, a few days away from hopping a plane to go take the hopefully enlightening class (because the 2 inch thick syllabus was beyond confusing). I am torn in my feelings about drug testing. Is it a necessary safety measure? Is it a horrific violation of our civil liberties?

I've come to a few personal conclusions.

First, that drug testing will not remove drug use from the work place, but may decrease it. Second, that there are, for me, some jobs that should never be undertaken with so much as a pediatric cold pill in the system, let alone other judgement altering substances. Jobs like driving a 100 ton truck down the freeway. Jobs like operating a train or a plane. Jobs like practicing medicine.

Do I have a problem with someone in a non-life-or-death occupation using something recreationally on the weekend?

As this is a public blog, I don't think I should answer that.

Does the employer of someone who does not have a life-or-death job have the right to test their employees for drug use?

I have a bit more trouble with this. I guess, as drug testing is so very ubiquitous now days, I'd wonder if someone who used recreationally might be in need of some help if they couldn't abstain while job hunting, in the almost certain event that a pre-employment drug test was required. (Either that or they had such poor judgement that, as an employer, I'd question their ability to staple papers or use a copy machine without doing damage to themselves or others.) Random drug testing of employees without suspect behavior in non-life-or-death jobs? I think that's a different issue as well.

Finally, I've become comfortable with my role in this, as there ARE extenuating circumstances for positive tests and, if it were me, I'd want someone with compassion and an open mind talking to me to see if there were any other valid explanation for my positive test, rather than dismissing me as a druggie out of hand.

There. Rationalization complete. So much better for that.

And where am I off to? Whither the wild blue in my yonder? Well, that would be South. I'm heading South to New Orleans. I'm a bit nervous as I've arranged the whole damn thing on my own and have this feeling that I've forgotten something, or gotten the dates wrong or what-have-you and I'll end up arriving on the last day of class, in my underwear with (inexplicably) spiky green hair and everyone will stare and laugh as they hand me a 100 page test that I have to finish in 30 minutes.

Oh! and look! I have no #2 pencil.

I have that kind of 'something's wrong' feeling.

I've also not flown since all the new restrictions on luggage (What? I can't bring anything with paper on a plane? But the 2" thick syllabus! I need it! Oh. What if someone lights my syllabus on fire as an attack? Ok.) and the new check-in systems. I am someone who is comfortable with what I know and can control (gosh, what a shocker). I am trying to treat this as some great adventure, but really, it's a pain in the ass, as it's 2 days of travel to sit for 2 days in a hotel conference room and study for 3 nights in a hotel room.

Did I mention the 400 page textbook that must be ingested, digested and regurgitated, along with the 2" syllabus on Monday, when I take the test?

Did I mention the primal fear that I not pass this employer decreed hoop and have to tell them that, gosh, you just spent $2000 on me for squat.

No, no. Not good. So, despite having always wanted to see New Orleans, ever since reading Interview With a Vampire, and seeing The Big Easy, if you want to know, I will not be partaking in this fascinating city outside of a walk after class and before dinner each evening.

So that you can sing along with me, when I head off in 2 days, I leave you with the following excerpt from the reading:

"As a BAT or STT, or employer, you must cancel and alcohol test if any of the following problems occur, unless they are corrected. These are "correctable flaws." These problems are:

(a) The BAT or STT does not sigh the ATF (see 40.247 (a) (1) and 40 255 (a) (1).

(b) The BAT or STT fails to note on the "Remarks" line of the ATF that the employee has not signed the ATF after the result is obtained (see 40.255 (a) (2)).

(c) The BAT or STT uses a non-DOT form for the test (see 40.225 (a)).

--from the Dept of Transportation CFR part 40

And so on, and so on, and so mind-stunningly, horrifyingly, brain-curdling, sobbingly on.

Suddenly I question if my overwhelming desire to avoid all on-call responsibilities is really worth this.