August 19th, 2014


Not Quite Dead Yet...

... as they say in Monty Python.

Heard from my Wound Clinic doctor on Monday who had talked with my foot surgeon. The MRI seems to be showing a slight expansion of the diseased heel bone area. From my vantage point, I don't think we know what this means.

The first MRI this year was done in the hospital -- we had only just started the IV antibiotics. I don't know how long it takes for that to get into the bone and make a difference. After all, the IV antibiotics were run for 6 weeks. And we won't see a reduction in an MRI, if we have one, for 6-12 months after the IV antibiotics.

So... while unfortunately amputation is still on the table, it may be that we won't really know until another MRI maybe in December.*** I have appointments with Infectious Diseases and my foot surgeon next week. It's cutting it close, but I still plan on teaching in the Fall.

And frankly, if I do need surgery and rehab, I'd rather skip Winter over Spring semester, especially since since the El Nino may be petering out in the Pacific and the Arctic air mass is still over Canada, which could mean another polar vortex winter for Michigan this year.

Not upset yet about this. It has always been a slow motion crap game about whether I get to keep this foot. Plus you have to have humor. Someone Mrs. Dr. Phil knows asked if it was my left or right foot that's bad. Left. Oh that's too bad -- I have two spare right feet. Or words to that affect. (grin)

We'll update Real Soon Now.

Dr. Phil

*** To be perfectly realistic, we were going to have to do a repeat MRI at 4-6 months anyway, even if the initial report of no new growth had held up. So maybe the better statement is that the odds of amputation in the next six months are a bit higher than they were.


Ah... August. We had tomato sandwiches for lunch. And Red Haven peaches. Mmm.

Red Havens, the perfect peach. Sweet, juicy, flavorful, not fibrous, but gentle delicate fruits that don't travel well. The first ones showed up on Saturday, but needed a few days.

And it was "we" for lunch. At 6:50am when we got up, the sky and air outside was this thick oily yellow color. A look usually reserved for movies to portray impending doom or hot or Old West. In our case, approaching thunderstorms, which arrived a few minutes later. Mrs. Dr. Phil chose to work from her laptop this morning, the hour-by-hour forecast suggesting the torrential rains would let up around 11:30. So we had lunch together.

Of course the rains are supposed to return this evening, just as the GVSU staff Fall welcome picnic begins -- the President's office assuring everyone that the big tents are in place. Hopefully I can find reasonable handicapped parking at 5pm. (grin) And make it out alive after. (double-grin)

Dr. Phil

An Enjoyable Survey

I am not the telemarketers best friend. Or surveyors. I recall answering a cold telephone survey ONCE. It was one of the summers I was in college, I was home alone in Greensboro, and I answered the phone in the back bedroom. It was a survey about hamburgers. I liked hamburgers, and as a college student, I had eaten many from multiple chains. Oh yes, I had an opinion. It was a polite and enjoyable conversation. I vaguely recalled that the caller was in Jacksonville. Why would I remember that? Because Amtrak had a Jacksonville reservations call center then, too.

Anyway, after completing the "less than five minute" survey, the nice young man asked if I wanted to continue with another fifteen minutes of questions. I had time, sure. I was able to figure out that this was a survey for Burger King, but it wasn't a push poll. The questionnaire covered a wide range of brands and products, details about them, too.

That was it -- the only time I ever answered a cold call telephone survey in fifty-five years.

Paper and web surveys get an answer solely on a combination of whim and my desire to help. Pretty much ends up being professional and academic surveys. And after the last long year plus, I've tried to answer Spectrum's hospital and departmental surveys.

Remember that one in forever ratio of answering cold surveys? I got an email from Northwestern saying that I would be getting an invite to participate in a survey. Advance warning, where you can check the Internet origins of the sender, is a key to success.
Dear Dr. Kaldon:

The office of Global Marketing at Northwestern University has commissioned a comprehensive research study to gain insights on your views and opinions about the overall image and identity of Northwestern University. As part of this study, an online survey is being conducted with alumni such as yourself. This email is a follow-up from Mary Baglivo’s email on August 14 announcing the project and serves as the official invitation for you to participate.

SimpsonScarborough, a higher education market research firm, was hired by the University to conduct this research. To show our appreciation for your participation, completing the survey will qualify you for a chance to win a $500 gift card.
A chance at a prize is a good investment for anyone running a contest, er, survey. If you want any chance of returns. Me? I'd help Northwestern anyway, but wouldn't hurt to score a $500 Amazon gift card. (evil-grin)

I have to say, that this SimpsonScarborough was a good investment by Northwestern -- I hope they get good information they can use. The web survey was clean and offered multiple types of questions. Scales of 1-10 or Strongly agree to Strongly disagree, radio buttons, checklists, select texts in a statement, plus free text. By not having it all the same, the questions were more interesting, more targeted and required more interaction by the user. Although not truly terrible, most surveys are dull, poorly formatted or little more than what I could cobble up with Survey Monkey. Fine for light stuff. Not what I want to see on a professional survey.

Eventually there was a free text question about what I thought the university could do to improve itself and alumni involvement. Or some such thing. I gave this one some thought and remembered to copy my answer:
That's the money question, isn't it? From my POV as an alum -- I give every year, I read and am enthralled with the NU and WCAS magazines, and am constantly stunned by those students at NU who excel both as students but in athletes in so many sports that I hear about! (And not just football or men's basketball.) I would like to see NU target fund drives for specific departments, only a couple a year, for stretch goals they currently can't meet and publicize them across the whole alumni net. It might be Math, Women's Studies, the Africana collection one year, and Chemical Engineering, Foreign Languages and Performance Arts the next. Something on too [top] of the usual fund drives that can touch graduates in those majors, but inspire wider support. Something that the alumni magazines can show results in, saying You Made This Happen. Too often we get pleas for general funds, which are important, but I'd like to see the departments proposing "shovel ready" stretch projects on a rotating basis.
We'll see what Northwestern does with this survey. I figure I can't be the only NU alum who might give a thoughtful answer.

Of course the last few minutes of this survey became an adventure. Despite the most forecast for Allendale which had cloudy skies and a less than 20% chance of rain from 1-6pm, it's been rumbling for the past hour. And with one such rumble, the power glitched -- right after the shutdown of the generator's weekly self test. The survey wouldn't update, so I toggled the Kindle's WiFi, figuring the DSL was resetting. And the coding was clean. Refreshing the page got it right where I'd been, with a Welcome Back message at the top. Of course the end was made exciting because the power glitches had caused our old APC uninterruptible power supply strip to cry foul. It's battery needs replacing -- has been for maybe eight, ten years? (sad-grin) -- and it has an alarm which lets us know about once a day. Usually the beeping stops after a minute. But in a quick power glitch it can get confused and shriek its power out warning continuously, until you hit the reset. That didn't happen for some minutes, but I was able to reach that far back and touch the reset with far less trouble than I was expecting. (high-five-grin)

Worth the time to do and worth the time to talk about here. August is a good time to do this, too. Which is not lost on this academic.

Dr. Phil