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03 Oct 16:08

Flu Shot Time

by Swistle

This information this post is based on is several years old, more than several, but I was thinking about it today. When Edward was newly diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and was about to start on immune-system-suppressing medication, he had some bloodwork done, and also a TB test. I don’t remember why things happened in the order that they happened, but the upshot is that one of the things the bloodwork showed us was that Edward’s chicken pox vaccines had NOT been effective—but we found that out AFTER he was on the immunosuppressing medication, so it was too late to get the vaccinations redone. So he’s just not immune to chicken pox, despite being vaccinated on the recommended schedule.

I was AWARE, statistically-speaking, that a certain percentage of vaccinations don’t take. But somehow I didn’t expect MY PERSONAL CHILD to be affected. He had BOTH doses of the chicken pox vaccine, and right on schedule! How can they just…NOT HAVE WORKED? And why couldn’t it have been, say, Elizabeth, or Henry, or Rob, or William, who got the vaccinations and they didn’t work? Why EDWARD, who is now on immunosuppressants and CAN’T get any live vaccines and also now ABSOLUTELY CAN’T be exposed to chicken pox, on top of everything else he has to deal with? If Elizabeth (or Henry, or Rob, or William) got chicken pox, it would likely be similar to when I got it as a child: irritating and itchy and fully survivable. If EDWARD gets it, he has to go immediately for medical treatment, and he’s likely to end up hospitalized while it plays out, and that’s the HAPPY outcome.

Luckily for us, and for Edward, MOST kids in our area get the chicken pox vaccine, despite chicken pox not being a big deal for most people. So even though it would be very dangerous if he were exposed to a case of chicken pox, that’s not likely to happen. I don’t know the last time I even HEARD of anyone around here having chicken pox. I still worry about it, of course I worry about it—but what a treat, what a relief, that it’s not something I need to worry about MUCH. People who would probably not be in danger from chicken pox are nevertheless getting the chicken pox vaccine, so the population at large is less likely overall to have chicken pox, and so the population at large is less likely to expose Edward in particular to chicken pox.

It is not a good feeling, to go through life having something dearly treasured and so completely irreplaceable be so vulnerable to common dangers. My other kids will probably go to therapy later and complain that I loved Edward best because I was so fretful and protective, and I DON’T love Edward more than I love them, but I do worry about Edward more. He is no more treasured, and no more irreplaceable—but he is so additionally vulnerable to common danger.

I got the flu once when the twins were toddlers. The nurse who gave me the flu shot that year bragged about how quickly and painlessly she gave shots—and, as she pulled the needle out of my arm (so fast! so painless!), I saw the little arc of fluid, presumably my flu shot, vaccinating the air. I remember how sick and how exhausted I was. I would put the twins into their high chairs and then collapse into the recliner to close my eyes for 30 seconds. I would put some dry cereal onto their trays, and then weep a little while lying with my cheek on the cool kitchen floor. It went on for weeks. I was so tired. It lasted so long.

But I was in my thirties, and healthy and well-nourished, and not compromised in any way other than being the already-exhausted mother of toddler twins. I could be ill for awhile, and weep a little and collapse a little and lose a few pounds, and then recover.

Edward is not in that situation. He can’t just be ill and then rest and then recover. When he got a sinus infection, he ended up in the hospital twice, surgery twice, antibiotics for seven weeks. Things that are no big deal for other people are a big deal for him. This is true too of preemies, and of babies in general, and of elderly people, and of people already ill with something else, and of people whose flu shots didn’t work, and of lots of other people in lots of other circumstances.

I think of this every year when I get my flu shot. I have Edward to think of, but also my nephew, who is particularly susceptible to respiratory things, and my mother, who is also particularly susceptible to respiratory things. Of course I don’t want to get the flu again: I HATED having the flu! But it’s not about ME, because I can get the flu normally, and recover normally; it’s about Edward, and about my nephew, and my mother, and about making sure I don’t get the flu so I don’t pass it on to them. And in a broader sense, it’s so I don’t pass it on to any of the many, many other people I might not personally/individually care about in the same way, and yet of course I don’t want to hand an elderly woman a library book and have her die of my flu germs or whatever.

The trouble is that all of us are so IRREPLACEABLE. We can’t SPARE us. And so I would go so far as to say that all of us who are ABLE to do things to protect the more vulnerable among us have an actual ETHICAL DUTY to do so: a small thing for each of us to do, but something that collectively makes a HUGE difference in the protective barriers around others—like how I don’t have to worry so much about Edward getting exposed to chicken pox, the way I would have had to a generation ago. Even Paul, who hates needles and is the babiest of all babies about shots (“That STUNG so much more than LAST year!,” he complained TWICE when we got our flu shots today), gets his flu shot, to protect Edward and to protect our nephew and to protect everyone else’s Edwards/nephews/grandmothers/babies/irreplaceables.

21 May 17:35

Conversational Dynamics

"You should make it so people can search for and jump into hundreds of conversations at once if they want." "Ooh, good idea! I imagine only the most well-informed people with the most critical information to share will use that feature."
13 Dec 18:17

The 2017 National Book Awards finalists

by Jason Kottke

National Book Awards 2017

The National Book Foundation has announced the finalists (and the longlist) for The 2017 National Book Awards. Among the nominees in the categories of fiction, non-fiction, young people’s literature, and poetry are The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen, The Book of Endings by Leslie Harrison, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez, and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

I’m excited to see David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon on the list. I read it earlier this year and it was excellent.

Tags: best of   best of 2017   books   lists
18 Oct 17:59

4 updates from letter-writers (the clock watcher, the over-sized chair, and more)

by Ask a Manager

Here are four updates from people who had their letters answered here recently.

1. My employee constantly talks about waiting for 5:00 and the weekend

This employee’s overall performance did not improve. I did not speak to her about her “5 o’clock” habit, but I did address other performance concerns as they arose.

She called in sick two days in a row, and because of deadlines, I had to get into her email to check the status of some things. While doing this, I came across an email with an odd attachment. It was a word document that our company normally sends to candidates as a PDF. I opened the word document with a sinking feeling because I knew what I would find.

Yep, she had taken a perfectly good PDF that was approved by the company for distribution, converted it to Word, and sent it out without looking at it. She had never asked me or a coworker any questions about whether or not we had a Word version/if she could produce one herself/etc. The PDF had been highly formatted, and some pages had scanned inserts — the word version was an absolute mess. There were literally pages with just random symbols on them and not a single intelligible English word. (But don’t worry — our company name was still prominently displayed on the top!)

She was fired the next day. During her termination she revealed that she had not looked at the Word document prior to sending it out. I honestly don’t know whether that is better or worse than her having looked at it before sending it out.

2. My company is insisting my employee use a chair that’s way too big for her (#2 at the link)

The employee in question ended up leaving for a new job. She was open and upfront with me that the chair and being uncomfortable was one of the main factors for doing it. She was a great worker and I was sad to see go leave but I understood why she was going and gave her a good reference and made sure she knew she can count on one in the future. Her issue with the chair was the width (side to side) and not the depth (as some of the comments suspected). She was tall enough that the chair was fine from the front to the back, as I said it was the side to side causing the problems. There was room enough for a second person of her size to sit next to her and even then they both still would have had some room. It was wide enough to cause issues with her comfort and she could not use the armrests at all.

If it was up to me, I would have given her a different chair but our company clearly stated they would not approve an order for any other chair for her and would not pay for it. We don’t have any petty cash and she (rightfully) refused to pay money for a chair the company would have disallowed her from using anyways. We sent HR and the health and safety department a photo of her sitting in it and the response was that most people like their chairs to be roomy. I’m job hunting because I’m upset at how this was handled. My other team members were upset at how she was treated also.

3. I want my department’s monthly public praise (#5 at the link)

Reading the comments from readers was especially helpful getting through this problem. I was feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated at work, and seeing everyone but myself getting acknowledged was eating at me. The overarching theme from comments was spot on: it might feel good in the moment but doesn’t do anything in the long run.

How do I know it was spot on? Because last month, I was given the award. (Five people nominated me at the same time because they all thought it was unfair I had not received it. I had also completed a difficult project.) It felt good for about five minutes, and then everything went back to normal. I was still overwhelmed and under-appreciated — the only difference was this brightly colored ornament temporarily living in my office. However, getting the award did give me a boost of confidence and some confirmation that I’m good at my job, which was a message I needed. Thank you everyone!

4. Reaching out to the person I’m replacing, who might be unhappy about losing the job (#2 at the link; first update here)

I have just been offered a position at another university (had a great application thanks to your general CV, cover letter and interviewing advice, hence my thanking you yet again for running your blog). This halves my commute and is a $15k payrise to put me into six figures, which I never dreamed I would achieve as a female academic with two young children, before I was 45-50 (I am 38).

I am so excited about my career progression now – sorry about the gushy email I am just extremely high on life right now :D.

4 updates from letter-writers (the clock watcher, the over-sized chair, and more) was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

20 Sep 15:54

One tree, one year

by Jason Kottke

In a film shot by Bruno D’Amicis & Umberto Esposito, a normal tree in a forest is kept under observation for an entire year. A surprising number of animals were seen in that time, including boars, wolves, foxes, badgers, deer, and bears.

Four seasons unfolding around a crossroad of smells, signals and messages left behind by the extraordinary wildlife of the Apennines. What you see here is just a small part of this incredible experience.

In the past two years, we have understood that in the vastness of the forest each tree is unique. There are trees where to lay your eggs or where to find a safe cover; trees on which to look for food or, simply, to scratch your back and thus leave behind a trace of your passage. Who knows how many of such trees are around…

A quiet reminder that the world goes on without us.

Tags: Bruno D’Amicis   Umberto Esposito   video
14 Aug 16:59

Jim Henson documentary

by Jason Kottke

PBS is airing a documentary in September about Muppets creator Jim Henson called In Their Own Words: Jim Henson.

I had never really noticed before that Henson's natural speaking voice obviously sounds a lot like Kermit. (via @khoi)

Tags: Jim Henson   The Muppets   TV   video
08 Jul 18:11

800-track playlist of 90s alt/indie hits in chronological order

by Jason Kottke

Behold, 55 hours of music from the 90s, focused on alt-indie music, organized in chronological order. For logistical reasons, it's split up into three playlists:

Here are some notes on the list's construction as well as links for the Spotify versions. I was 16 in 1990 and this was exactly the kind of music I listened to for most of the decade. I'm actually afraid to listen...I don't know what secrets these tracks will unlock in the dark reaches of my soul.

Tags: music