Friday, January 27, 2012

On Health Care

It was said to me once, during an online debate on a social networking site, that Obama's health care system is a great idea and we could have a working system just like Canada!  I said that the Canadian system was not that great, and they countered that I didn't know the first thing about Canadian health care, so how did I know that it was so bad, and free coverage for everyone is a good thing!

Well, first of all, it's NOT free.  Working people are taxed heavily for it.

And secondly, as it turns out, I know a fair number of Canadians in my circle of Medievalists, so I sent out a questionnaire to them, asking, among other things:
What do you like about your health care system?
What do you NOT like?
Have you ever required treatment in an ER?  How long did you have to wait?
Have you gone to a Walk In-type clinic, and how long did you have to wait there?
Have you needed to have surgery, and how long was it before you were able to get it?
Have you ever needed to see a specialist, and how long was it before you were able to see one?

Overall, the answers were fairly consistent:  they liked that there was no worry over having to pay a bill, but *didn't* like that it didn't cover dental, required long waits to see a doctor, longer waits to see a specialist, and sometimes months or years to get surgeries that were needed but not life-threatening.  One lady said she moved to a new city four years before and was still on a waiting list to get a General Practitioner assigned to her--none in her area were taking new patients.

This boils down to money.  The way it works is, they collect taxes on working Canadians to pay for the health coverage.  If you are NOT working, you not only get health coverage, but it's free.  There are lots of welfare programs, so if you're the kind of person who doesn't want to work, it seems easy to skate by--free food, free housing, free health care.  I know several people who are "disabled" (in both the US and Canada--so don't think I'm just bashing the Canadians), who are "unable to work" but can play on Facebook or WOW for 10 hours a day, or sit in a chair watching TV doing embroidery all day.  If you can sit in a chair for that long, you can do data entry or answer phones instead of killing orcs.  It's not that they *can't* work, it's that they haven't found the job that can accommodate their physical limitations.

So, anyway, there's a limited amount of money collected from taxpayers and it has to be spread around to everyone who needs to see doctors.  When they run out of money, there's no more paying doctors, paying for medical equipment, paying for medications, etc.  They have to cancel non-urgent surgeries, which is why you have to wait 18 months for that hernia operation.  With fewer doctors on the payroll, fewer appointments are available, so you might have cancer, but the next oncology appointment is in six months.  Sorry.  Hope you survive.

This week that we got to see, first-hand, the chaos of the Canadian medical experience.  As you may know, a close family member was admitted to the hospital after a stress test led to further testing, resulting in disturbing results from an angiogram.  They wanted to admit him that very moment, but he didn't have anything with him for an overnight stay (PJs, toothbrush, insulin), so he came back the next morning and was checked in.  They put him in a small private room that was built in 1959 (and seemingly not updated since).  It looked very much like a concrete version of Lower Highland hall--small closet, built in drawers, very plain-jane.  Not a big deal, but there was nothing state-of-the-art in this room.  With the exception of the small flat-screen TV that they brought in (which had to be rented, along with the phone in the room), it still looked like 1959.  They wired him up with a heart monitor that had a hand-held size receiver on it that fits easily into the pocket of a pair of sweat pants, and told him to rest and they'll schedule him for surgery.

In a week or two.

Not satisfied to wait for surgery and hope that the ticker held out, my sister and I began helping him source other options.  In order to do so, we needed to get a copy of his records, so we called and eventually visited the Records Department.

This records room looked like a scene from Harry Potter--the Hogwart's School of Recordkeeping.  First of all, it was not in the 1959 was in the original hospital across the alley, that was built around 1906.  Once in the front doors, we descended down what I believe may be the oldest elevator in operation into the basement...what was the morgue.  We followed the long hallways and all the asbestos-wrapped pipes to the very end where the only room still in use was filled with disgruntled workers.  These people looked like wizards trying to dress as muggles.  There were no computers that I could see.  The files were in stacks and piles and assorted clusters in yellow expand-o-files the likes of which have not been seen since the advent of the Rubic's Cube.  They were clearly the Keepers of Knowledge and were not prepared, nor willing, to give any of it up.  And certainly not in a timely manner.

The logic and reasoning that these people were operating under is nothing short of asinine.  Circular.  Impossible.

We can't get the records until he's released.  He can't be released to a new hospital or doctor without the records.
We can't give you any records of anything that was done before or during his stay.
Change that--we can't give you any records of anything during the stay, but can from before he was admitted.
We can't release the records to another doctor unless he has an appointment with them, but can't get an appointment with them without sending them the test results.
He needs to sign the paperwork to release his records.
I mean, he needs to have his signature witnessed.
And by that, I mean that he needs to have the people at the records department witness his signature, so he'll have to descend 10 flights of stairs, go out of the building, across the parking lot, down the ancient elevator, follow the long hallway full of asbestos to our office so we can witness the signature.  Even though he's a patient in the cardiac unit and he's not allowed to leave the floor.
Oh, and he needs to write a letter indicating what he wants the records department to do with the records once we've located them.

Oh, and it'll take 4-6 weeks.

Long story short, we were not allowed to have the records.

Luckily, we figured that the nurses on the floor where he was housed would more than likely have his current labs and test results on hand, so we were able to obtain them to send to any other doctors we wished.

In the end, the point was moot.  He got the surgery two days later and is resting in the hospital bed, recovering, and thanks to the system, he isn't going to be forced out too soon like our Drive-Thru-Medical style in the US.  I am, however, a little concerned about the state of cleanliness in the facility--there are signs everywhere telling you to use the alcohol-based hand rub, but the floors don't look clean enough, the furniture is filthy (in the lounge, especially), and there are computers in the hallways that are covered in grime.  I'd love to see what a health department worker would find.

Do I think the US has problems with health care?  Definitely.  Do I think Canada's system in the answer?  NO.  Take the broken bits of the US system and fix *those*.  Don't replace a broken system with another broken system.

If I were Queen of the World, here's what I'd do:

  • Get the insurance companies out of the decision-making process--the doctors need to tell the patient what to get done, and the insurance companies should pay for what they say they will cover without pressuring the doctors to avoid certain procedures or push certain drugs.
  • Insurance companies should cut their premiums in half.  At least.  They're spending big bucks on buying stadiums and sports teams.  They clearly have too much income.
  • Make a basic health insurance plan cheap and easy to get.  No one should go broke due to an unforeseen disaster, and if you're generally healthy, that's really all you need.  The more people that pay into it, the cheaper it is.  This is Econ 101 material.
  • Seeing a doctor for 10 minutes shouldn't cost more than going to a movie.  If all you need is for someone to look at your finger and say, "No, you don't need stitches.  Keep it clean and stop juggling knives," you don't need to pay $150 at a walk in clinic.  
  • Everyone who has a job should have some kind of medical coverage.  Part time employees should get at least disaster insurance.  3/4 to full time should have full medical benefit options.  These benefits should be written into the employment contracts so that businesses cannot hire you as "full time" and then reduce your hours down to less than full time to avoid giving you benefits...when you are hired as a full-time employee (whether it's for a large corporate bank or a burger joint), you keep your full-time benefits until such time as your contract is satisfied or a new one is signed.  
  • Disabled and unemployed (but actively looking) should also be covered as part of their unemployment benefits.  All veterans should be able to go to any vet hospital & get treatment.  I think that's already the rule.  People who are just lazy and sponging off society I have far less sympathy for.  Sorry.
  • The ER is not a walk-in clinic.  If it's not an emergency, they should be referred to (triaged to) the walk-in clinic next door, which should be open 24 hours.  People cannot be turned away for inability to pay, but should be turned away for inappropriate use of the facility.  Just like calling 911 for non-emergencies...if someone with the flu feels icky and uses the ER instead of a walk-in clinic, it means that the guy who broke his foot falling off the ladder has to wait longer in agonizing pain.
  • Stop advertising prescription medications on TV, on radio, in print.  Tell the doctors what you've got to offer them and let them decide what medications to give their patients.  THEY have the knowledge to make an informed decision about whether a medication is right for you.  Save the money for research.
  • There is a difference between *necessary* or *recommended* surgeries and *elective* surgeries.
  • Simplify the billing system.  Anyone who has had hospital stays will know that you end up with three or more bills, many times without details printed on the invoice.  I got one that was 18 months after service.  Any longer than 6 months should be treated like a stale-dated check...not honored.  
If I were Queen of the World, that's what I'd do.  These are just a few off the top of my head.  I'm sure you could think of some, too.  

Friday, January 20, 2012

Melting, but still trapped

The roads continue to be treacherous and icy, causing chaos and slippery conditions, ice falling from buildings and bridges, cars and trucks flipping over, and schools are still closed.  Our 3 day weekend turned into a 9 day weekend.  A few neighbors, however, decided to take lemons and make lemonade.  I thought they could have done well by offering rides to the grocery store for supplies.

So in the meantime, I'm working on Ithra, Girl Scouts, and generally just goofing around.  I need to get some quilting done.  I'm not inspired to work on the project that I have on the frame, but I need to write to the owner to get a replacement backing--I just can't use the 100% polyester made in China bedsheet on the back of an antique quilt.  I can't let that happen.  I wrote to the owner and begged her to give me something different or let me use something from my stash.

I was also looking through my old emails and found that pictures were posted for Grace's Hogwarts birthday party that Cammie went to a couple months ago.  There are lots of great pictures and great party ideas for future parties!  I was going to post a bunch of her pictures, but figured that all the descriptions of what's going on is so much better and my attempts would not only use up a lot of valuable photo space, but it would pale in comparison.  Read and enjoy...and now I want to make cauldron cakes!

Now for some less cheerful news.  Dad had a stress test yesterday and had some rather disturbing results, so is going in for an angiogram today to let him know what the next step is--could be bypass surgery.  Pray, if you're the praying sort.

Enjoy your weekend, stay warm, and have a hot cuppa...

Thursday, January 19, 2012


The weather has grown steadily worse and we were threatened with up to 12" of snow, which is what we heard at about midnight last night, but then the morning reports of where the heavy snow was going to fall drifted further and further south until the worst of it was going to fall almost 100 miles away.  We still have more than six inches of snow on the ground and the roads are caked in ice (untreated in this neighborhood means that I don't drive when the roads are bad), and schools all over the western half of the state have been closed all week.  

We're starting to get cabin fever, which is a concept that Ben is having trouble understanding.  He and Cammie watched Muppet Treasure Island yesterday and asked a couple dozen you catch it?  is there a cure?  can you die from it?  I explained a couple times that it's just a figure of speech.  Later, at dinner, he said that he didn't understand a joke in a book about how it's impolite to go to a party in your birthday suit.  I know the wheels are turning, but I think they're oval.

I finished up a project in a day.  This was an experiment to see how this pattern would work and is a shorter 2 yard piece that I am going to donate to the Shire for a prize.  I'll have to tweak the pattern a bit to see if I can do it with fangs and a tongue, but I'm not sure it's possible.  After showing this to friends online, a high school friend asked if I could do one in anchors.  I can, but I don't know how to make it as wide as he needs without distorting the shape.  I'll work on it a bit more...

Then I found another pattern in Robin & Russ's book and warped it up.  Unfortunately, I warped it upside down *again*.  It looks cool on this side, but it's much smoother on the other side.  This is a color combination that was requested by a fellow artist in the SCA who wanted something in green, purple and white.  I used the fourth color, like the pattern called for, but I don't really care for how it looks.  The fun thing about this side is that in the center diamonds the way the warp & weft come together, it says, "HI".  (It's upside down in the pic.)  It's a very friendly piece.

Here's the front side.  Much prettier, but I don't care for the black.  It looks out of place, doesn't it?  Maybe I'll do it again and replace all the interior black bits with white and the borders with purple.  Her Lord wants a piece as well, but in his colors, which I think is red, yellow and blue.  I also have a piece I wanted to do for myself in Ithra colors.  Maybe I'll do this pattern for in various colors.  I know I'm going to go through the heraldic colors fast, so I placed another order today.  

I've been working on the Retro Girl Scouts book today and have gotten quite a ways into it.  Still have about 70 pages to go (finished 229 already, plus a section that I skipped ahead to).  I did about 55 pages today, so I could have it done before the next scout meeting...possibly.  I'm having trouble with editing as I go, having to omit outdated technology, adding new terminology (email addresses and web sites) and looking up information to see if stuff still exists.  Like the GSUSA address is now on 5th Ave, not 3rd; Rockwood center is no longer owned by GSUSA (sold to Maryland's parks dept. in 1979), and I thought I'd add in all the local campgrounds.  

School is cancelled again tomorrow, so I think I'll do some quilting and get some projects finished.  Stay safe & warm!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Resolving to Have Resolutions

This year I decided to make a couple of resolutions.  I have struggled with my weight for years and decided that I would make a couple of simple changes that I hope will have lasting results.  Of course, those are the very simple changes of diet and exercise.  Easier said than done.  However, breaking the resolution does not mean an end to the effort--I have cut out virtually all bread, rice, potatoes, and noodles.  I have also made an effort to go out for a couple of 30 minute walks a week--so far the weather has been cooperative.  I also purchased a new pair of headphones to go with the iPod for those walks.  In the first week, I gained a 1/2 pound.  Sigh.  Hopefully the coming weeks will have more desirable results.

Last night I finished the Khabeelah weave for Molly.  I will be taking it to Ursulmas to hand over to her for my first weaving sale!  I'm going to write to a merchant and see if he would like to sell some pieces for me on commission.  So many of these woven pieces I've seen online, like on Etsy, are asking between $35 and $125 for 2 yard to 4 yard pieces.  I can't imagine charging that much for weaving.  What is that--$15 to $30 a yard?  Crazy.  While I'm sure that someone will be crazy enough to purchase trim at that price, I cannot imagine charging it.  So the question is, what is a fair price?  $50?  Calculating yardage of string, it's about 520 yards for the warp, and maybe another 50 yards for the weft.  The price for the materials isn't high, but I figure it takes 10 hours or more to weave the thing, and no one wants to pay $9 an hour for a piece.  I guess I have to pick a price that's competitive with the market, but what I still feel comfortable charging.  

I started a new piece for Emma--black & white & red using a pattern from Robin & Russ Handweavers' book.  On the first day, I'd started weaving on it twice using their directions, making changes, and starting again, turning the cards backwards and forwards, flipping the cards to and fro, and it didn't look like the picture.  I knew I'd have to mess with it a bit more to see what the heck's going on.  I suspected that I had it upside down again.

After some investigation, I realized that once again, I threaded it onto the frame wrong.  I need to remember to start with the end of the pattern (card #25) and work my way back.  It was on the frame upside down.  Once I took all the threads off, and put them back on in the correct order, the pattern came out perfectly.  It's weaving up very quickly--in a day, I'd woven almost half of the piece.  I will have it finished by the week end, even if I take time to quilt up a few pieces for Tina.

We have some new members of our family.  Apparently the rest of the humans missed having tweetings and chirpings, so we now have Midori  (which means "Green") and Tsrelkjmrsgmr.  OK, I can't remember it, but it rhymes with "Chewbacca."  Tsubaka or something.  It's Japanese.  I know.  Shocker.  I guess we need to explain to the girls again that the birds are native from Australia...  They're settling in nicely, getting used to human hands and starting to feed out of our hands.  The kids (and Kelly) love them!  I admit, I like them, too.

It's a busy week this week.  Monday was guild meeting where I met up with 80 or so friends (and a relative) for a surprisingly short meeting.  We did a fun ice breaker called "Quilting Speed Dating" where we formed an inner circle and an outer circle, and filled out a chart, similar to a Bingo grid, that includes statements like "Quilted for 15 or more years", "Has more than 75 UFOs", and "Has a long arm business".  You ask questions of members and see how many of these squares you can fill in. With the first 10 people, we swapped 5" charm squares.  Since I'm trimming my scrap bin into squares ranging from 2" to 6" (in half-inch increments), this will be a welcome addition to my collection of squares.  After that, it was a free-for-all and you kept going until the time ran out.  At the end, myself and five others had finished all the squares.  I think there is going to be a special drawing for us, but it wasn't disclosed what that would mean.

I brought Tara the second Packers quilt that I finished for her.  While this isn't an amazing picture, it's the only one I have.  I meant to lay it out and photograph it, but here it is.  

Tuesday was a Girl Scout day.  I gathered my materials and arrived at the school...only to realize that I had forgotten the copies of the Retro Girl Scouts section I had just completed on First Aid.  We did a long first aid discussion, which was made longer by all the stories and comments that the girls wanted to share.  It was "This one time when we went to..." and the 30 minute discussion turned into more than an hour.  We also got our cookie-selling stuff...cookie selling starts TODAY!!  If you have need of a few boxes, please let me know!  $4 a box, just like before, and the Lemon Chalet cookies have been replaced by a powdered lemon chip cookie called Savannah Smiles.

Wednesday I volunteered at school to help serve hot lunch.  It's a couple hours of work and it's fun to hang out with a couple other moms.  I got to play with one mom's baby, a little 10 month old boy.  He was very cute and we entertained each other between packing bins for the classrooms.

Thursday was going to be a day of rest, but instead I drove over to Avelyn's (about 40 minutes away) and met her quilting mother-in-law, as well as her FIL and sister-in-law.  They were there only an hour or so before leaving to go tour the flight museum.  Avelyn and I walked with the boys over to Burger King and met up with her hubby on his lunch hour.  They have a surprisingly good grilled chicken salad.  We had a great discussion about SCA stuff--heraldry, shire and barony politics, rubbing elbows with Powerful People, etc.  After a short walk back to the house, I drove back homeward to get the kidlings from school.

Today was the marathon doctor visit at Children's.  No surprises all the way around...both kids need to increase the frequency they do their breathing treatments, Ben needs a round of antibiotics to help clear the goo in his lungs that is rattling around, and he needs to increase the calorie and fat intake.  We need to try to add supplements like Boost and high-cal "energy" bars, as well as ice cream and any kind of high-fat foods we can find.  The trick is to get him to EAT it.

I got a few fun things from Amazon the other day which arrived today!  Harry Potter's Unofficial Cookbook, which includes some delights like Treacle Tarts and Steak & Kidney Pie.  I also got this candy mold to make Chocolate Frogs.  I'm going to have to make some of these very soon!  Yumm!  I also got a DVD copy of "Lost in Austen" which I have taped on two different occasions on TiVo and watched dozens of times, but I hate having to forward over the commercials.  It was in the $7 range when I ordered it, although now on Amazon, it's closer to $9.

This weekend has some lumpia in store for us!  Avelyn has been promising to make us this Asian delight for some weeks as a thank you to Kelly for his assistance in building the yurts.  Other than that, Girl Scout cookies are selling now!  Want some?  We know you do...everyone is doing it.  Just one (box) won't hurt you.  :)

I still have a lot of work to do...six or seven quilts to finish up...some weaving...some classes for the Ithra catalog...  The deadline stress is getting to me.  I'm starting to get a kink in my neck.  Hope to have a relaxing weekend.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas to New Years

Our Christmas holidays have been harried and included putting about a thousand miles on my car.  We started with a Christmas eve at home.  My family traditionally had meat and cheese fondue for Christmas Eve, but not having a fondue pot, I decided to just do a tenderloin dinner.  The local grocery store sells 4 lb. tenderloin for about $5/lb., so I picked up one of those and cooked it up.  Awesome!!  I also made a winter salad with feta cheese and cranberries.  We finally got to use the Christmas dishes (which had to be washed first--they were really dusty).  Unfortunately, one of the salad plates got broken after dinner.  Now I have to replace the Second Day of Christmas plate.

After dinner, we opened up most of the presents--another family tradition, probably handed down from the German side.  It looks like a ton of presents, but the younger two just stacked them up to make it into "Christmas Town", and some of them were for other families.  Cammie gleefully tore open the gifts with great enthusiasm.  They all got PJs, coats, games, and will share a couple movies.  I got a pair of earrings from Mom & Dad and an IOU (home made gift certificate) for a new box loom for weaving that Kelly will make.  

Christmas dinner was also at home--we made a traditional turkey dinner with roast potatoes, peas, cranberry sauce.  I was going to make rolls, too, but I just ran out of time to do that.  The turkey was a little undercooked in the dark meat areas, so we set that aside (in the freezer) and made a casserole a couple days later.

Early in the morning of the 26th, I got a text from my sister that her best friend, Linda, had passed away.  They met in first grade and have been inseparable since--despite moving to another state.  Tara had flown out to be with her in her final weeks and although it was very sad, she was glad to have been there at the end.  She was the weirdest person I ever met, but as you know, I love weird.  We'll miss you, Linda.

On the 26th, we began our traveling, which was more extensive than usual.  We started with a day and night at Kelly's folks' place, visiting with in-laws and their kids, so the cousins got to play together a bunch.  

On the 27th, Kelly and I took the girls for a southern drive, leaving Ben with his Grandma & little cousin, Princess Aurora (named so for her love of all things Princess-y).  We arrived at Heide's for a day and night of visiting with her family.  It was a lovely visit and the girls got to play and talk anime and draw.  We enjoyed a little curry and a little drink, and a whole lotta laughs.  Thanks so much to Heide & co. for their hospitality.  

The next morning, we drove a little further south to Portland to visit with Jeff and Sharon in their newly-renovated house.  The main floor is mostly finished, and the upstairs is still under construction.  They are undertaking the monumental task of removing all the white paint that was on the woodwork throughout the house.  This includes heat guns, chemical strippers and dental tools.  We got to meet their parrot, Mia, who apparently likes cheesecake.  Sharon took me for a tour of the house, including her "work" room where all her lovely fabrics are neatly folded and on shelves.  What an inspiring sight!  

After visiting with Sharon & Jeff for a couple hours, which included a quick trip to one of the most wonderful places on earth....Fabric Depot....we headed just a bit further south to Mike & Laura's.  Mike has the most eclectic decorating taste...his house, also, is undergoing a transformation, although it's taking years to complete it.  They're doing a much more time-consuming DIY restoration.  Given the current economic climate, it's slow going.  We went out to an authentic Cantonese restaurant (which wasn't as good as the last time we went, unfortunately), although Laura opted to stay behind.  Her food sensitivities limit the things she can eat, and the holidays always make for challenging diets...after having over-indulged for several weeks, she had to get back on track.  We exchanged gifts and got to spend a few minutes together.

We were going to stay in the area for the night, but didn't have anywhere to stay, so we headed back north to the in-laws for the night.  We arrived right around midnight and curled up for the night.  In the morning, we packed up the troops and headed back home.  We were only there for one night before hitting the road again...

A quick break for art stuff...

Before I left, I finished the Birka tablet woven trim.  It came out quite nicely, although if I were to do it again, I'd get some kind of spinners to untwist the work without having to re-tie the warp three or four times during the weaving process.  What you can't really see is that the weaving is half as wide as what you'd expect with so many cards, and twice as thick as other weavings due to the way it's woven.  

While we were at the in-laws, I warped up a new piece in red, orange, black and white.  I was able to work on it a little bit while on the road, and finished it up at home over the next couple of days.

On the 30th, we had a plan for going north for a funeral and visit with folks.  I had the address for the wake and some vague directions, but forgot to check what the cross streets were, so we drove around a little aimlessly.  We finally arrived at about 1:30 for the wake for Amanda--she was cremated more than a week ago and her ashes will be scattered later this summer, so this was an Irish-style wake with stories, singing, and laughter.  We ended up leaving before the party really got underway, but we were able to speak with her daughter and extend our regrets and love, say hello to a few friends, and then head back down to Mom & Dad's.  We went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant and then spent the night.  The next morning, Mom, Cammie and I made a trip to Saree shop to look for Girl Scout gear for world thinking day.  Based on what I was looking at on the internet, the guy gave us a good deal on the sarees, and I assume that we'll sell three or four of them after the event, but Cammie wants to keep this one.

The kids and I worked together to finish this set of place mats for Mom.  Each place mat is unique, different scarves, some have buttons and some don't, and some are facing left instead of right.  It was a fun project to do and I finished it at the 11th hour (or 12th hour, really) before we headed to Mom & Dad's.  I hope that it stays together during washing...I might recommend heavy ironing first, then washing by hand.  Just sayin.
I finished up the "Hugs and Kisses" weaving after we got back, and I started warping up the loom for a piece for a friend, Molly.  She wanted something in her household colors; orange, green and purple.  I had accidentally swapped a couple of the cards on the right side, so the green and purple were swapped in a couple places, but I fixed it by turning the cards so the threads were in the right position and kept on weaving.  These weavings are getting wider and wider, though.  This one is 4 cm wide using 32 cards...I think I'm just about maxxed out on the number of cards I can effectively weave with on this loom.  The loom is really starting to show some wear, too--the new box loom is going to arrive just in time, I think.  

After arriving home and settling in for New Years, Blue died.  We discovered him late at night on the 1st laying on the bottom of the cage.  We didn't know he was sick, although he had been cuddled up to the fuzzy yellow thing a lot more lately.  I don't think we'll get a new bird for a while.  Maybe we need to read up on parakeet care a lot more and be able to recognize when there's a problem.  We are pet-free for now.

Here's to a new year!