Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Mile High Year in Review

Workwise, I spent a lot of time bored in meetings.

We went to Bishop's Castle in south central Colorado for a Memorial Day Weekend trip.

We spent time in the southwestern corner of Colorado over Memorial Day weekend as well.

I grew a fantastic garden on my balcony...

...where Maddy lolled and also spent time healing from her diagnosis of abdominal lymphosarcoma.

Otherwise, it's been pretty quiet. I should be traveling from Atlanta to Denver today, and upon my arrival Guy and I will head to the mountains to join a coworker of Guy's for some time in the mountains, doing a little skiing and goofing off.

Hope everyone has a great and blessed 2009. Hopefully the new year will bring us all good/better/great things, like more projects and more chances for snarkitecture.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The strongest sense

It's been a great few days here in Small Town, GA with Kitty and Mom. Guy and I flew into town on Xmas Eve, and Guy left on Boxing Day evening while I stayed here and will be leaving on New Year's Eve. Everyone has asked me what I got Guy for Christmas, and I said his gift was that he only had to spend three days with my family. It's the gift that keeps on giving. [head tilt, crossed eyes]

We've been going and going and doing and doing for the past few days, so today we decided to take it easy. Kitty and I went over to her hairdresser's house; she got a cut and her color touched up, and I just got a trim. Then it was back to Kitty's house for lunch, and then Kitty took a nap while Mom and I cleaned the kitchen. I mean seriously cleaned the kitchen.

Kitty will confess readily that she's not the greatest housekeeper, and the stress of final grades makes that even worse. Through her burnout this fall, the HKC suffered mightily, and no room so much as the kitchen. So, Mom and I tackled cleaning out from under some counters and chucking expired canned goods and plastic containers with no tops and tops with no containers.

As expected, I eventually had to make a Wally World run, only for contact paper for the shelves. I hopped in my old truck Boo-Boo, which Kitty now drives and treats with great care and proper maintenance, and zipped on over the the Home of Low Prices and Lower Expectations. (Is it just me, or does walking into Wal-Mart make everyone depressed?) I got the contact paper, sped through the self-checkout, and jumped back the Boo-Boo to get back to the HKC. Cleaning had not been going as fast as I'd hoped, and I really wanted to make a dent in the mess when Kitty awoke from her nap.

Just out of the access road to the main street from the parking lot, I smelled a scent I hadn't smelled in a long, long time. Dad. Every now and then, my dad would borrow my truck to go pick up some firewood or move something around on the his farm, and when I got the truck back, it would have sort of a dirt-and-sweat smell. Bear in mind that the truck has been well cleaned inside more than once since Dad died in January of 1997, so there shouldn't be any remnants of any chemical ever on his person...should there be?

But there it was. The truck smelled like Dad had taken the truck for a spin while I'd gone in the store, as if he had been cutting doughnuts in the parking lot while I perused long shelves of plastic mesh shelf liners. It was an odd and comforting scent indeed. I've heard that while vision is our strongest sense, smell is the most closely linked to memory. Christmas is also a time when memories flood back to us of times past. Usually, those memories are of pumpkin pie, pine trees, and fireplaces. My holiday smell memories are more along the lines of Dr. Pepper, red clay, and a hard day's work well done.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Walking to Cherry Creek

Saturday mornings are my time.  I like to go for a long walk to somewhere I can have some coffee and read the comics section of the Rocky Mountain News, and then just aimlessly browse.  Either I walk over to a bookstore and peruse the shelves, or I head to Cherry Creek, the posh shopping area a couple of miles from downtown Denver.  One day just before the Christmas shopping season, I took my camera along.

Partly, I wanted to take pictures of some of the clothes they sell in Cherry Creek for exorbitant prices.  I want to show them to my mom and say, "Seriously, look what they're asking for this.  If you made this, you could ask for half their price, get it, and make a mint." 
I know!  I can't decide if I like the big bow in front or the asymmetrical hemline of the skirt?  And the shiny fabric of the jacket gives me swoonage.

This was supposed to be an image of a very chic grey jersey dress/jacket with feathery-foofy sleeves, but it ended up being of the shops behind me.  I still really like the photo, though.  There's something very 1950s-here's-a-moment-in-time about it.  Just another day on a street in a shopping district.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Right now my sister is finishing up grades for her chirrens in all her classes, and I finally had a full day at home today for the first time in 14 days.  The overall feeling I have is that of doneness, as in, stick a fork in me.  I actually took half a sick day on Friday and did all the crap I was supposed to do over the past two weekends but was at the office working on the office party instead.  I hit the grocery store and the vet (Hazel actually gave the vet a urine sample and Maddy is doing better than any of us could have hoped) and came home to do some laundry (sheets and things that Hazel has peed on in an attempt to reasert dominance over Maddy as her health improved).  While I did get some housecleaning done today, I've been spending time this week and weekend reading all the magazines I've gotten behind on (two months' worth), snuggling Maddy and Hazel, and relaxing in the steam room in my condo building.

Guy and I are leaving for Georgia early on Christmas Eve morning.  Guy will only be forced to hang out with my people for three days--he flies back to Denver on Boxing Day, and I'm flying back on New Year's Eve.  Hence, the next eight to fourteen days will be pretty quiet on WAD, mostly because I'm worn out and need some serious rest.  I'll try to post some  interesting photos or observations or som'n.  I hope everyone has a peaceful and restful holiday season.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And now, a question from a reader

For those of you who missed it in the comments, new (and much appreciated) WAD reader 2H had the following to share and ask:


I had the opportunity of working on the Museum of Art in Puerto Rico which incorporated an old hospital to house the permanent collection. The hospital building was built in the 1890's and had gracious gallerias that connected a series of sunny patient wings with soaring ceilings and generous windows. Classical proportions of the rooms and symmetry made the old hospital almost an ideal museum and very little adaptive work was required. It seemed that the building had been designed as a work of architecture first and the hospital function was someone else's problem as far as the original architects had been concerned. Certainly if you ever wanted to adapt a modern hospital for another use - it would be impossible, just because health care buildings are so specialized now.
Are you ever concerned by this aspect of the architecture that you do? Does the specific nature of the design date the buildings we do today and ensure their obsolescence? Do you think that sustainability should mean that buildings are easily adaptable after they have served their initial function? Would you ever want to see art exhibited in one of your designs?


Good question, 2H.  Let’s see if I can address this briefly and/or coherently.


First, let’s consider the past of medical care and medicine in general. Medicine has taken a long time to develop properly (after all, we only figured out antiseptics and sterile surgical fields 140 years ago) and most of what you see in a modern surgery suite or exam room have been developed in the past 50 to 60 years.  Most imaging technology, such as MRI and CT scanners, has been developed in the 20th century, the exception being your typical x-ray machine, developed in the last half of the 19th century.  To complicate things a little more, the concept of a hospital has only been developed in the past 150 or so years.  Most people were treated at home, or, if you were poor, you just died at home.  With the advent of sterilized treatment areas and tools, anesthesia, and doctors in general having science-based training (as opposed to simply being part shaman part herbalist), it started to make sense to locate medical care in a building in which these conditions could be controlled.  When we began developing lot of the life-saving technology and techniques and treatments, it also made sense to locate them in the same place.  What this means is that, unlike homes, churches, and government buildings, hospitals as a building type don’t have a long history in human civilization.


Without an idea of “what should this ‘hospital’ thing look like?”, architects simply applied their classical training to the buildings, and each subsequent generation followed suit—make it pretty before it’s all that functional. The passing of Truman’s Hill-Burton Act in 1946 provided standards for and improve the physical structure and environment of hospitals, and many hospitals were constructed in the U.S. with these standards in mind—antistatic floors in the operating rooms (ORs) to keep from setting fire to the flammable anesthesia, surfaces that could be cleaned easily, spaces for the staff to clean supplies and to store dirty linens and used needles, and spaces to do all the paperwork now required by the fairly-new entities of Medicare and Medicaid.


But as the population grew, people got sick (or sicker), and technology created new requirements, hospitals realized they needed to expand.  It made the most sense of hospitals, especially the larger ones, to expand in place because patients knew where it was, and also because they had already invested so much money in the building and grounds.  Besides, who wants to buy a huge old hospital?  What would you use it for, really?  But hospitals realized that the original buildings had not been designed with expansion in mind.  No architect in the 1940s had likely imagined what was to come and had not provided for a hospital to expand in any way that made sense.  Hence, many hospitals today are a mess in terms of wayfinding—it’s easy to get lost when walking around an older hospital because it’s been added onto in a hodgepodge kind of way.  And who, really, in the healthcare architecture field could have seen the technology coming?  When I was in undergrad (1994-1998), only a few hospitals had an MRI, and it was usually in a mobile trailer behind their facility.  Nowadays, having an in-place MRI in your imaging suite is de rigueur.  I remember getting email—email!—in 1997 while going to Georgia Tech and thinking I was da shizznit, and now most hospitals need extra space above the ceilings to run network cables and wireless routers.  Technology has changed hospitals that much in ten years, y’all.  And I’m not that old.


So, what this means now is that an healthcare architect worth her salt (and I most certainly am, yo) knows to design a facility with as much “future-proofing” as possible so that a client can get the most out of the building for as absolutely long as possible.  We provide higher floor-to-floor heights so that a client has more room for putting new technology above the ceiling and can actually access that technology to maintain or replace it.  We locate departments and provide even schematic master plans to show a facility where they can add on in the future, and we even design some space into a department so that it could be remodeled in the next ten years to be something else—today’s storage room is tomorrow’s procedure room or 256-slice CT room.  Engineers will oversize the RTUs (roof top units, which handle heating and air conditioning) now so that in the future when the facility adds on, the capacity to heat and cool the addition is there.  (Replacing an RTU is extremely costly and painful, so if you don’t have to do it, you try not to do so.)


As for reusing an old hospital building, it does happen.  Even though the Hill-Burton Act made some facilities a little more practical in terms of room size and materials, a hospital built in 1950 actually can make a pretty decent office building or even facility for a technical school.  I heard from a friend of mine in da biz that when a small hospital here in Colorado built a new facility, they got a free piece of land to build on from their city and county in exchange for their 60+-year-old hospital building. The city and county’s offices were spread out over town, and they wanted to use the old facility as their new office building and headquarters.  Good trade, says I.


I could go on and on about this, but perhaps this is a somewhat clear and somewhat concise explanation.  Any questions?  Class adjourned.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Okay, where were we?

The Design Associates Holiday Office Party Extravaganza 2008 was a smashing success.  And while I tried really hard to be polite and share credit, I know I did indeed have a major hand in guiding the vision and managing the activity and actually building some of the props (as well as cutting about 90%-95% of the paper and wallcovering used to screen the back parts of the office with).  If I were to post pix of the office party, it might out me, so I'll refrain for now.  But y'all, the place looked GREAT.  I mean, stunning.  Folks who had left the office Friday afternoon returned 24 hours later to see a completely differnt place.  Suddenly it was 1961, and everyone was in a hip, early Modern office, their grandparents' living rooms, a back-room poker den, a late-1950s recording studio, and a cheezy-awesome tiki lounge.  

Yours truly was a receptionist at a fake front desk, in our office foyer, and I made a fake wall that screened the complete fantasticness behind it.  As people came in, I copped a Brooklyn accent made weary by too many fast-talking men, cheap booze, and Lucky Strikes and just gushed over everyone as period as I could: "Oh, dawling, look at you!  Like a regular Jack Kennedy! Honey if you run again in '64 I'm voting for you, you can count on it!"  "Oh, someone gave me grief over my fur stole, and I said, 'look honey, I didn't kill it, it died naturally and left me everything it had'."  "Go on in, dawlings; there's poker and a tiki lounge and the partners are mixing drinks, it's just crazy in there!"  "My husband's in the poker den, and he's had a few so you might be able to take his money, but if he's sober he's a regular Danny Ocean, y'know?"

People just ate it up.  Hence, yours truly also won best female costume, which said a lot since there were some gals in attendance doing a perfect Jackie O with the pillbox hat and the whole nine yards.  I wore the dress Mom made me, plus a vintage fur stole that Dame Judith loaned me.  She knows I really don' t like to wear fur, but to stay vintage I made an exception here.  The room/set concept worked really well, since it gave people a reason/excuse/way to mingle and move about the office--what's in this room?  I haven't been in here yet.  Oooh!  Cool!

 Zahara (a contractor with whom I worked at MHRC) was envious when I sent her photos of the event.  Some of Guy's coworkers are even jealous.  That I really love: Acme Architects, Guy's office, had six months and more than three times our budget, and we only had four weeks, one of which was Thanksgiving week.  Ha! We rule!  Okay, that's a little bit like bragging there, but...we really turned lemons into lemonade.  The party committee approached the challenges of a short timespan and superlean budget like a design project in studio back in college, and we called on our college-like resources to make it happen.  We scoured eBay, Craigslist, estate sales, and the homes and basements of everyone we knew that was alive in 1960 in order to find affordable items.  We had a set of criteria for each prop (piece of furniture, bowl, dish, picture, rug, whatever): is it inexpensive? could I use it in my own home?  Could I reasonably expect to sell this on eBay or Craigslist again once the party is over?  Is it period-accurate?  Is it okay if someone stains or chips it?  Once the item passed our litmus test, it was purchased and brought into the office, and it found a home in one of the sets.

Each decorating idea was given a similar litmus test: how can we make a fake wood-panel wall?  Could we print out a dark wood grain on the color plotter?  Too expensive.  What if we paint cardboard with a wood graining tool? Too time-consuming.  What if we apply wood-grain contact paper to the cardboard?  Just right. Time and again, we checked the decorations against our criteria, made a decision, and moved on it.  Oddly enough, the two top people were often bypassed just so we could get things done.  I bought furniture at a vintage gallery, and several interns bought furniture and decorations online and in party stores before we knew the budget (which we knew would be small but we didn't know how small) because we knew we had to act.  We just stayed frugal and responsible and decided to ask forgiveness rather than permission.  And it worked marvelously.

Having said all this, I will also never do this again.  I was a nervous wreck for three weeks, and while I spent some time in the steam room at our condo last night, I stil have a couple of knots in my back that I can't loosen.  (If I lay right however, Maddy might stand on me.  Too bad she's no longer heavy--I could really use some feline acupressure.)  I think managing an office party is like the chicken pox--you only have to have it once, and you're done for good.  I think it overall made me look good, it made the office look good, it brightened everyone's spirits, and a good time was had by all.

Now it's time for me to do my Christmas cards, which I've been shirking in order to do this party.  I've also gotten some good questions and comments emailed to me and posted on here lately, and they deserve their own posts.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


The party was an unmitigated success last night.  HOwever, I'm really really tired and we still have to clean the office today.  The good news is that the owners of the firm loved some of the props so much that they want us to leave them up for the rest of the month.  More details later--thanks to everyone who's been reading lately.  I know I have some new readers in St. Louis and San Fran who are architects; welcome!  

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Saved by Craigslist and the grace of Saints Charles and Ray Eames

I mentioned that I spent almost $600 of my own money on furniture for our midcentury gala-on-the-cheap.  Here's why I did this: Our committee had been talking and pondering and strategizing for almost two weeks, but no one had gotten anything, ordered anything, nothing.  We had less than two weeks to go before the party, and nothing had been done.  I don't know if this comes through on this pop-culture-reference-and-fart-joke screed of a blog of mine, but I don't do well with procrastination.  I rarely procrasinate, and few things leave me anxious and even furious like procrastination.  So, last Tuesday, I called a phone number on a Craigslist ad and made a visit in Guy's Ford Explorer Sport to a small art anf furniture gallery on the edge of downtown.

The fellow was a collector of midcentury vintage furniture, most of which he acquired through estate and yard sales, and he was moving into a smaller studio/gallery and needed to get rid of some things.  He had a marvelous collection, even a set of four Eames chairs for a cool $1K which I coveted but could not afford.  I had brought along $200 in cash, knowing the rules of Craigslist (buyer picks up the item, always pay in cash), but I could tell that I was about to spend more.  Way more.  I mean, this guy's stuff was gorgeous--Alvar Aalto knockoff table (but period-produced and accurate), two Goodform chairs (one upholstered in actual cowhide, sorry PETA), dark mahogany-wenge colored credenza....oh Jesus Mary and George Nelson, it was a beyond beautiful sight.  So, I went home $570 lighter and with a truck full of furniture.  I still had to go back the next day for a desk and the credenza.  I felt like the world's biggest asshole, like I'd just been taken.  I'd never spent so much in my whole life for used furniture, even though I was trying to convince myself I'd done a good thing.

I drove to the office and called one of the admin assistants to help me unload the truck.  I drove home feeling like the world's biggest asshole.  I got to work the next morning still feeling like the world's biggest asshole, even moreso after I told Guy what I'd done the night before and he exclaimed "Jesus Christ!"

One of the first people I saw when I got to the office was Dash and Tripp.  Dash is a landscape architect at DA, and I worked with him on Wheatlands.  His partner Tripp is a signage and graphic design artist who work for DA on contract.  Dash went across teh office to his desk, and I confided in Tripp as to what I'd done. 

"Well honey," he said in his Southern-Liberace lilt, "let's go see what you bought."

I took him into a file room in the basement to see my collection of chairs and tables.  As we turned the corner, Tripp was in the middle of empathizing with me about a furniture shopping trip gone wrong when he saw the two Danish Modern chairs with twill upholstery and interrupted himself to effuse, "OhmyGodohmyGodohmyGodoh-my-GOD!"

"What?"  I asked.  "Did I get good stuff?  How badly was I robbed?"

"Oh, honey, these chairs!  They match our dining set we just bought from ________ Vintage Emporium!  What did you pay for them?"

"Like $50 for the two."

"For the TWO?!  $50?!" Tripp exclaimed.  "Did you walk into this man's store with a handgun?!"

Later in the office kitchen, Nick came by and said he wanted one of the Goodform chairs, and he and Tripp nearly came to blows over it.  I might have to auction it.  Nick told me to come get him when I'd retrieved the credenza, explaining that he had a credenza fetish and it may have to be indulged again.  We'll see.

At the very least, every midcentury furniture fan I've shown the furniture to is confident I can get my money back--if not more--on Craigslist.  I bought good pieces, and good pieces are easy to unload on a vintage-loving public.  If my coworkers don't pick me dry first.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Always reasons to give thanks

It's hard to be depressed when you know someone somewhere has outfits for their cast stone yard goose statue and bothers to dress it each and every month.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

We had a surprise office meeting today.  Not so surprising was the news that, while we would still be having performance evaluations this month, as we do every year, no one was getting raises.  Design Associates just isn't able to make it work this year.  We had a good first 6-8 months this year, but the last few months have been holy hell, what with all the financial markets and real estate investing markets taking a major hit.  This news, oddly enough, wasn't too much of a surprise.  What did end up being a little bit of a surprise was the announcement that starting in 2009, we're all going to 36 hours a week.  We can work with our project managers to figure out how to schedule that (leave an hour early most days a week? leave at noon on Friday? come in late on Tuesday?), but that's how it's going to be in order to avoid laying people off for a while longer.

The news left me stunned for about five minutes, and then I felt alternatingly anxious and exhilarated.  Anxious over money, of course--what sacrifices do I need to make in order to live without four hours' of pay a week?  I wanted to send my cousins on my mom's side some money for Christmas, but it appears that I'll have to save that cash for myself as a cushion--dammit.  I'll need to cut back on some of my usual splurges, but...I don't feel like I live that splurgey anyhow.  Am I just another callous upper-class American, desensitized to the cost of living?  Should we still go to Vegas for our anniversary this year?

Then I felt a little exhilarated.  What would I do with four extra hours a week when I'm not having to pretend to be busy, not having to stretch my hours?  (I suppose I coulda done that before now, it just somehow never crossed my feeble 40-hour-a-week-by-God mind.)  I could do my grocery shopping on Friday afternoon instead of first thing Saturday morning.  I'd have more time to write on a couple of books and projects I've been brainstorming on.  I'd have time to sit with Maddy and snuggle her as she creeps into the gentle, waning months of her life (though she still seems to be doing pretty well on the chemo and prednisone).

Guy and I talked a little about it this evening.  While it leaves me feeling unsettled, it also leaves me feeling a little hopeful.  Funny enough, several other bright and motivated interns and architects around me felt the same way.  We were all concerned about DA's future and the cash we'd be missing out on, but think of what we could do if we knew we only had 36 hours to get everything done and could also get a few hours back to live our lives.  (Kellye, if you're reading this, the first thing I thought when they announced this was "hot damn, it's almost like ROWE.")  Regardless, we'll be making small temporary changes, like cutting back (but not deleting) our contributions to our retirement accounts, keeping Christmas really simple (especially since we have to fly to GA), and finding other ways to be thrifty.  Fortunately for us, we have always been pretty frugal to start with, so it's not like we're starting this savings cushion from scratch, and we also know how to live with less.  Not tons less, but less enough to make a difference.

Monday, November 24, 2008

(Book) tag, I'm it!

Okay, Miss Kitty over at Educated and Poor has tagged me for the Seven Weird Book Facts meme.  This is a good thing--I've been worn out lately, as I've been roped into being on the office party committee at DA, and I cannot brain this evening.  So, this meme gives me just what I need to make a post without hurting my noggin.  First, some rules:
--Share seven random or weird Book Facts about yourself.
--Then tag seven other people.
--Notify the seven others that they have been tagged.

I don't think I have seven other people I can tag, but I do know a few.  So here goes:
  1. I cannot read just one book at a time.  I have to read at least two or three at once, plus a couple of magazines.  I read each book or magazine depending on where I'm sitting in the house.  Like right now, I'm reading Brain Rules if I sit on the infamous red chaise, the latest issue of "Bust" magazine if I'm at the dining room table, one of several catalogs if I'm on the futon in the TV rooms with Guy, and the latest Yoga Journal in bed.  I have some other books and 'zines I'll be taking along when we drive to St. Louis on Wednesday for Thanksgiving.
  2. I've finished every book I've ever read, no matter how awful, insipid, or wretched I found it, with three exceptions: Moby Dick, Robinson Crusoe, and The Bell Curve.  Melville's 19th-century prose knocked me unconscious with its florid verbosity (granted, I was in 6th grade), Defoe's glacial pace made me wonder when the hell they were even gonna get out of the dock and on the water, and Herrnstein and Murray's tome was heavy on the scientific data, as it should have been.  The Bell Curve caused such a stir when it was published, and because I lived in a particularly racist part of the country, I thought I should know what it said.  Alas, I wasn't ready to read it when I bought it and only made it a few chapters in.
  3. I very, very rarely read fiction.  It's been my experience that truth is stranger than fiction, and it tends to make a better story.
  4. The rare exception to #3 was when I took a modern western lit class at Georgia Tech, which the professor (Terry Harpold, gawd love him) subtitled "Grotesqueries".  We read some fantastic novels and stories--many of them banned in their countries of origin--with some wonderful storylines and characters: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, and of course, Kafka's Metamorphosis.  "One morning, as Gregor Samsa wa swaking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug...."
  5. The worst book I ever read--worse than Dostoyevsky or Flaubert, nay far worse--was Loving What Is by Byron Katie.  It is the biggest bunch of psuedospiritual tripe and the most psychologically irresponsible waste of paper and paste I have ever laid my eyes on.  I can't even describe the book for raising my voice and using sailor-like profanity; it makes me so furious that someone cut that lunatic a check for that crap she called "self help."  [spitting on ground]  I try really hard to be respectful for all authors and for free expression of ideas, but it is the only book that I have ever truly thrown across a room.
  6. Favoritest book ever?  Watership Down by Richard Adams.  A book about pretty smart wild bunnies in England?  Sign me up.  And even though I know the ending, it still makes me weep with quiet, humane joy.
  7. I'm a voracious and compulsive reader.  Where some people feel like they need to text or talk on their cell phones all the time, I have to read all the time.  I'll study the backs of cereal boxes, I'll pore over pamphlets on melanomas, I even read the entire "TV Week" insert in the Sunday paper, just to see what all movies are playing this week and on what channels.  They tried to make me go to bookhab, but I said no, no, no.
Okay, that's all I got.  I tap everyone Kitty called out as well as Eric over at The Reason of Voice and Miz Scarlett at her new blog.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Not all reality checks are a hand to the forehead

I mentioned that last week we finally did the presentation to get some work at a hospital on the south edge of town.  The hospital in question is having architecture firms audition for what they call architectural services, meaning that we'd be the firm they call whenever they want to do a facelift on a patient floor, replace a piece of radiology equipment and redo the room(s) involved, hey we wanna turn these three rooms into one and make it the new audiology get the picture.  This is the kind of work that DA does at MHRC and used to do at a lot of facilities until about ten or twleve years ago, when it became cheaper to build anew.  With the credit crunch and financing and the economy being what it is these days, I think we're going to see a lot more remodel and small addition projects.

So anyway, the presentation started with Bosley introducing the team, which consisted of Winston, a youngish interior designer named Cora, and me.  I was up first after the introductions; I explained our design philosophy and our approach to working with hospitals and facility management to make projects work.  Then, Winston took the floor and discussed how we manage projects in general, and finally Cora stood up and explained how we use interior design to benefit the environment, the patients, and the staff.  Then we opened the floor up to questions (the hospital group asked us some standard questions and some followup stuff from the presentation, and we all joined in answering those questions) and then Bosley wrapped up the presentation.  

The presentation was more involved than I'm describing, and it was more interesting for sure.  I'm being a little evasive here, as it turns out that we were the first to present, which means that Guy's firm, Acme Architects, still hasn't presented yet and I'd rather not put Guy in the position of knowing just exactly how much our presentation rokked.

As we drove back to Denver, we did a debriefing/postmortem on the presentation, and I will fill y'all in on that at the risk of sounding vain.  I kicked it, my people.  I wrote out what I was going to say to the word, practiced it til it was 90% memorized, did it in front of Bosley and Veronica, incoporated their copious comments into it, rememorized it to about 90%-95%, and then ROKKED it for da peeplez.  I had their attention, I had them nodding, I had them responding to my own questions for them.  My breath felt like it was in my throat--I think my heart was in my spleen or something; I quit feeling it after about 30 seconds into the presentation.  Winston has a quiet, somewhat tentative speaking style, peppered with some "ums" and "uhs", and a bit more reading right from the PowerPoint slides, which had a few of them flipping through their handouts and one of them even started texting for about a minute.  Cora's nerves got her a bit; she read almost straight from her notecards, and her speech was more speech than conversation, almost designed for CEOs and senior admin folks or people with some design school knowledge.  However, the crowd seemed to be with her, as is often the case with younger people presenting--everyone's been nervous presenting to a crowd before, so everyone's rooting for the younger nervous person at the front of the room.

After the presentation, Winston and Ceila told me more than once how blown away they had been by how well I did, that it was almost intimidating to have to follow me.  (Bosley was pleasant, saying that everyone did a good job.)  But I knew, since I was the first "guest" to speak, that I had to set the tone of the presentation--I had to be strong and yet conversational.  Someone you can relate to but who also seems competent.  In other words, just the kind of person you want to work with.  I had been a bit stunned that Cora, despite having taken a public speaking class in college, didn't seem that prepared for her part of the presentation--perhaps just a victim of her nerves?  Winston, I thought, should know better.  Though he used to have his own firm with another guy and has by his own account done many of these presentations before, he just seemed (to me) to 'um' and 'uh' too much for someone who should know what they're doing.  If you have a quiet and unassuming verbal delivery style and lower energy level, it seems to me that you've got to be sharp in your demeanor and precise with your vocabulary to keep the crowd with you, especially if you're discussing stereotypically boring stuff like budgets and schedules.  However, I may be being too harsh.  This was only my second presentation with DA, and the first one in which I participated actively, so I'm no expert. Though I didn't overhear Bosley tell Veronica anything critical about me when we returned to the office, it's entirely possible that the reality of my performance was less stellar than my perception.

Hopefully, it went well, and also hopefully no one can match our awesomeness in the following days.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Yet another MasterCard ad you'll never see

Patterned silk, 4.5 yards: $126.

Brown silk shantung, 2.5 yards: $52.50.

Rhinestone slides with 2/5" heels: $40.

Kate Spade leather clutch on 40% off sale at Nordstrom's: $104.
Fee to seamstress who also happened to give me the gift of life: $50.

Having a mom who can sew you the most amazing and original evening gown ever made on the planet, fit it exactly to your measurements, finish it in two weeks, and ship it from Georgia to Denver in time to wear it to your husband's office party and stun everyone who sees it:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Remiss, but for a good cause

I haven't posted lately because I've been busy, and by busy I mean doing actual stuff, as opposed to just procrastinating or not feeling like posting.  I spent most of last week working on the presentation with Bosley, which we did on Friday, and when I wasn't working on the presentation, I was cleaning the house.  Guy's office party was Saturday, and then this morning we had a couple of his coworkers over for a post-office party brunch.  So we had to scrub the place and prep for brunch in precious little time, what with me being busy and Guy being out of town at a site visit/user group meeting for three days.  More to come about these event, and more, in the coming days.  Meanwhile, I'm going to go lay down and read with Maddy, who has been in hiding due to all the commotion.    

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You like me, you really really like me...or at least listen

For the past few days, I've been working on the presentation we're doing Friday for a potential long-term job with arguably DA's crankiest partner, Bosley.  Ethel used to call Bosley "Mr. Personality," and it's not a totally wrong nickname, even if it is unrepeatable.  If you pass Bosley in the office--hell, if you sit next to him, as Ethel used to do--he doesn't say 'hi' or 'how are ya' or 'good morning' or any of the polite acknowledgements that human beings make at each other in those situations.  He has a reputation for being on the cranky side and for being downright untenable at times.

So far, so good for me.

I met with him on Friday to begin figuring out how we wanted to do the presentation.  Our team would also include Winston, who historically has annoyed me but I'm willing to work with if it means I'm actually busy, and an interior designer.  Winston was out of the office on Friday and Monday, and Prudence hadn't picked the interior designer yet, so it was just Bosley and me figuring out how the presentation should go.  Turns out that Bosley really liked the majority of my ideas--editing bullet points and verbage, using abstract images to describe concepts, etc.  He liked my turns of phrases and, when the rest of the team reconvened today, he was very supportive of my ideas and even encouraged the interior designer to work with me to trim down how many words and bullet points she was using, because (as he put it), "Pixie is really good with language and being descriptive without being long-winded."


So far, Bosley's been civil and accommodating.  I spoke with Veronica, our head of marketing, early this week, and it turns out she's the one who dropped my name to Bosley.  He wanted to try a new approach to presentations, and she felt like I'd be a great addition to his presentation and project team.  Our approach will include bringing the team that will actually do the work (rare) and letting those people speak (even rarer).  This is the second time I've been invited to be at the interview presentation, and it's the first time I've been allowed to speak.  It feels good to be useful and to feel valued.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner

I came home Friday with the good news that Design Associates was one of five firms shortlisted to interview for a job on the edge of town.  Even more exciting is that I had been specifically asked by one of the partners to help with and be part of the presentation to get the job.  As someone who has long been interested in how we get jobs and has been dying to be part of one of these gigs, this was quite the thrill.  

"You mean the __________ project?" Guy asked.
"Yeah," I replied.
"We're going after that one too," he said as he refilled his glass from a pitcher in the fridge.  "We did some work down there last year, and we're hoping to do more."
"We did some work there recently," I said, dropping ice cubes into my own glass, "and we're hoping to do more."
"Do you have a fork?" asked Guy.  "I think the enchiladas are ready."
I opened the silverware drawer.  "I do now.  What movie did we get from Netflix?"
"Sweeney Todd," Guy replied.  "Did you want to watch it tonight or tomorrow?"

And that's how it goes in our house.  I sometimes talk to spouses of architects and crack jokes a little with them, and the spouse almost inevitably says, "Oh, he/she doesn't really talk about work at home."  And this, my people, is Complete and Utter Bullshit.  No one in Da Biz doesn't talk about architecture or construction at home.  I'm convinced that in order to be a decent architect or contractor, you have to enjoy what you do enough that you will bore people you don't even know with stories of bubbling sheet vinyl flooring, allowable height and deflection tables for steel studs, and trying to locate the dressing rooms in the right place to the department's entrance.  It's in our blood.  So, when a non-Biz spouse says that their architect or contractor spouse "doesn't talk about work at home," then one of three things is happening:
  1. The non-Biz spouse doesn't want to talk about what their partner does for a living or potentially divulge some specific information;
  2. The Biz spouse is a crappy partner and doesn't engage their non-Biz spouse in any discussion about "what I did today" (or vice-versa, the non-Biz spouse never asks or doesn't care); or
  3. The Biz spouse is pretty crappy at what they do and isn't enthusiastic enough to talk about it anywhere else (corollary: the Biz spouse's job is so unbelievably frustrating and soul-killing that talking about it has to happen within the safe confines of a therapy session, but even then I think they'd occasionally have to wake up screaming and sweating, which would prompt some kind of discussion with the non-Biz spouse).
I suppose I can let #1 slide, but still, I think there's better ways to be avoid the discussion without outright lying.  Everyone talks about their day with their spouse, roommate, dog, cellmate, whatever.

Which brings me back to my original point.  I've been really unbusy for about a month now, and working on this presentation has given me something to do.  Naturally, suddenly becoming useful in such an exciting and challenging way made me go home and blurt it out first thing to my naturally-interested spouse.  And then alas, my spouse's company, Acme Architects, is going after the work as well.  This means that, while we both know we're going after the work, I can't tell him all the cool ideas I'm coming up with and how well the partner involved is receiving these ideas because then I'm telling the competition what DA's strategy is for winning this work.

But this also brings me to another uncharted desert isle: I have a 20% chance of getting this job (since our office is one of the five going after it), but I have a 40% chance of benefitting from it.  If DA gets it, I have work to do and it puts cash back in our coffers and I keep my job (if not help keep others' jobs).  If Acme gets it, then that keeps cash in my husband's company.  Either way, one of us keeps our job and we're not homeless.  This is good, because I find that I don't do my best work when I'm Hail Marying it.  You gotta be hungry, not starving.

Henry Kissinger once said, "There will never be a winner in the battle of the sexes--too much fraternizing with the enemy."  I suppose the same could be said for architecture.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Happy birthday, Miss Kitty!

Yayz!  Happy birthday to my one and only sister, Miss Kitty.  Mwah!  She means more to me than just about anything, and if I had two dead mice, I'd give her one.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Breathing room

So with the elections over with, the hope/prayer/wish/general thinking in the architecture and construction industry is that things should start moving again for us, but probably not until January or February of 2009.  In some jurisdictions, bond initiatives that hospitals and civic projects needed to pass in order to remodel or build anew were on this November’s ballot.  With today’s results, those institutions will now either need time to figure out how the voted-for cash will more specifically be used (or await its accrual), or what to do in place of the cash for which they hoped if the initiative was voted down.  What this means for my industry: some work may be coming back, but it'll take at least a few months for anything to even happen.

My healthcare team had a meeting with Alex a couple of days ago.  Alex said that we hoped not to have to lay off anyone else, but we might have to.  Alternately, if things don't pick up soon enough, we may be asked to cut our hours--to work 32 or 35 hours a week instead of the usual 40.  This is the downside of having a master's degree and being a licensed professional but not being on salary.  That's a good thing when you're working 10 and 20 hours of overtime a week, and sucky when times like this come along.  Oddly enough, we're still getting the day after Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas as paid holidays off.  I guess they're trying to keep the few left behind sorta happy.

Regardless of who won the election, it tells Wall Street and lots of different industries some idea of what to expect.  I talked to my financial advisor today, and he said that also regardless of who had won that we're going to see a lot more government oversight in the coming months of various financial industries, especially the mortgage broker industry.  At any rate, I'm worn out with the passing of Election Day. I watched the results at a bar with a couple of friends and didn't get to bed until midnight.  I'm quietly hopeful, relieved, and cautiously exuberant about the months to come.  We all have a lot of work to do, regardless of our party or line of work, and I know we can do it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

By the time you need it, it's too late

I've read the above comment, or the gist of it anyway, in more than one place.  I think I might have read it in books by Stephen Covey and Lois Frankel.  It's a great concept to keep in mind--regardless of what field you're in--and regardless of what the task is.

A few things have reminded me of this lately. I thought back this weekend over the layoffs at DA, and I realized they'd been going on for pretty much the whole year.  In January, we fired a cranky office manager (and hired Ethel's husband to be our 32-hour-a-week office manager), and we laid off a spec writer (who had no specs to write because we had no projects) and a not-very-efficient admin person.  A few months later, we got rid of a few other under-performing people, and a little after than we got rid of a few more underperformers.  Here and there in the months in between, we've let this or that person go, and some folks have left of their own accord, and we just didn't replace them.  Finally about a month ago, we had a big layoff that included 11 people in all (I had thought it was 10 originally).  What I realized is that all the layoffs up until September involved people who had, for the most part, performance and attitude issues.  Even with the round in September, many of the people in that group were quite productive but had some issues: Some managers and even a consultant or two had complained about Ethel; and Sarge, for even as talented, brilliant, and helpful as he was, had some definite attitude issues with some of the harder-to-get-along-with folks in the office.  It was the last round in which many of the folks who went were considered really, really good people with no complaints about them. 

Which brings me ever so slowly to my point.  The time to save your job is not when things get bad; it's all the time.  It's when things are good, things are fair, things are easy, things are tough.  If you're consistently a hard worker, a good worker, and an easy-to-work-with worker, you make it harder to lay you off or fire you.  I'm not lucky; I'm smart.  And maybe I'm gloating, and maybe it's easy for me to gloat while I'm still employed.  Fine.  The point is, I've consistently shown my employers that I'm a good value.  I'm a steal at twice the price (though yes, I know I'm underpaid and that DA underpays because it includes really cheap medical care and a good bonus structure), and I do excellent work consistently.  I've only had one owner call about my performance (that I know of), and he was concerned that I cared too much and worked too hard because I looked stressed out in a meeting.  

The point is (how many points do I have here?  this isn't the clearest post I've ever done, but I wanted to get it down), excellence is a habit, not a quick-painted-on-veneer skill.  I can have dessert on a regular basis because my workout habit and my eating-well-most-of-the-time habit keeps me fit.  I can splurge now and then on a massage or a nice skin serum because my financial habits leave me in a good place money-wise.  And I can be cautious without being super-anxious at work though I don't have a lot to do because I've done so much good work for so long.  By the time you need to save your job, it's too late.  By the time you need to save your cholesterol level, it's too late.  By the time you need to save your relationship, it's too late.  By the time you need to save you money, it's too late.

There are exceptions to every rule, including this one.  But having been mulling this over and over for a bit, I think that for the most part it stands true.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

After the layoffs, the layoffs

In the past week, Design Associates laid off another 22 people.  A couple of major projects, and the developers who were funding those projects, went on hold.  Our office has gone from around 150 people to around 95 in the past year, 33 of those gone in the past 30 days.  Kellye was a victim of this most recent round, as well as few other licensed architects and some interns and even landscape architects and interior designers.

It's bad, y'all.  I dont know how it is where you are, but it's bad here.

Kellye and I went to lunch right after he put a few things in his car.  "Y'know," he mused, "maybe it's denial, but I'm really not hurt or upset right now.  I've been really bored and underemployed for the past three or so weeks, and I've been thinking I need to do something.  So now, I guess I have to do something."  He smiled faintly.  "I've gotten calls from a couple of contractors I used to work with, looking for an architect to do some minor residential work.  Maybe I'm their guy, now that I have some time free.  Or I'll start my novel.  Or work on my blog.  My wife just got an excellent job as an RN at ______Hospital, and we're used to being at one income for the past 18-plus months, so we can do it again for a little while, y'know?  I feel bad for her, but not for me."

We clinked our cups of hot tea in agreement.  I know Kellye will be fine, though I'll miss hanging out with him at work while I'm extremely underemployed, but I know it's all good.  I feel worse for the interns that weren't making that much to begin with and now they're making nothing.  Some of them may have to move home again, and some of them may end up getting small retail jobs, like working at Target or something.  I wish them all the best and offered any help I could to the ones I knew well.  I went home and tried not to cry.

The next day, the office was a ghost town.  Derek had been gone to a punchlist all day and missed the action.  The color nearly drained from his face when we filled him in.  Norman, Ingrid, and I went to lunch at a local (inexpensive) sandwich place and spent at least half of it just sitting together and being quiet.  We just had to get out of the office and get away from the sounds of quiet desperation bouncing like bats squeaking against the cavernous, well-designed walls and soffits in our big, open, half-empty office.  After lunch, I went to Alex, my big-big boss.  

"Alex, seriously, should I be worried?  Should I just...go now?"

Alex shook his head.  "No, no...we're laying off from the bottom up; there are other people who will go before you.  We're trying, really trying, and I know you're not busy.  The best thing you can do right now is get good at Revit, because when the work comes back, there may not be anyone to help you do the drawing."

Fair enough.  That's how I did Wheatlands.  I didn't have anyone to help me do the drawing for most of it, so I did it.  No sweat.  But it still left me creeped out.  I later heard from Norman, who heard it from a local major contractor, that the Denver office of a nationwide architecture firm at which Guy worked in between DA and Acme, where he is now, is closing this year.  There's just not a whole hell of a lot of work.

We had already told Ethel that we'd go to her house last night for dinenr with her and her hubby, but I really didn't want to.  I've been feeling like I've been coming down with a cold or the flu or something on and off, and I really didn't feel like hanging around her since she's been pretty bitter and cranky after getting laid off from DA in September.  After spending the night with her and her husband, who were both in bad moods regarding the economy and jobs, and who also nearly had a fight in front of us about her spending habits, Guy was in a really depressed mood on the way home.  He was at the point where he was talking about "what if we both lose our jobs and can't sell the condo" and "should we sell the condo now" and so on.  I didn't have time or energy for this--I had to help Dame Judith with a class on Saturday morning and needed to be in a good mood for that.  I was already not going to get a lot of sleep, so can we please not pile more onto this bad mood?

So, I learned a few things this week.  One, my employers really really do value me; two, if they lay me off, I don't want to be there anyway; three, I don't need to hang out with Ethel a whole lot; four, Guy needs a nap.  No matter what happens, Guy and I are going to be fine.  We've taken good care of ourselves, financially and otherwise, and we have plenty of time (at our ages) to survive whatever life throws our way.

I'm going to go read and snuggle with Maddy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

There's a reason for the title of this blog

To be fair, a lot of things make architects drink.  Like, Wednesday.  Not this or that Wednesday, but  the fact is, an architect can look at the calendar and go, "Holy shit, it's only Wednesday" and it's enough to make them drink.  We're a little hair-trigger that way.

This economy will make an architect drink, and how.  The AIA's Architectural Billings Index notes that there's been a slowdown in institutional construction spending for the first time in over four years.  A lot of it has to do with financing on the clients' side, and we've seen that at Design Associates lately for sure.  Projects that should have been a go were either cut back or put on hold, and some owners can't even borrow as much as they need and have good financial standing for because lenders are becoming more wary.  So, our office is slow.  And I've been filing and archiving projects for the better part of three weeks.  And I completely understand why some people develop a drinking problem.

I was finally able to start helping Jann with some typical room layout and equipment information stuff today, but I thought that the project number for that work had been put on hold.  But now it's not?  Or what?  A little help here?  Plus, it makes for really crappy blogging.  How can I really tell you what architects do when I'm not even doing it myself?  It would stand to reason that this would be a good time to indulge in my other hobbies and develop them more--things like reading as well as writing a couple of books (I have a couple of irons in the fire regarding books I need to write).  This is as good a time as any, except that not being busy most of the day makes me something of a sloth when I get home.

Oh well.  Bootstraps and all that.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Good mews

Maddy had blood drawn on Saturday to see how she was responding to the chemo, and it appears that she's doing very well with it.  Her white blood cell count was only slightly elevated, kinda like what you'd expect from a cat that was stressed out about going to the vet.  Everything else was pretty normal, and she gained 14 oz (just shy of a pound), so the vet oncologist reupped her Leukeran for three more months (whereupon we'll check her again).  Maddy's not overjoyed about taking meds, but she does pretty well on them, and she's surprisingly easy to pill.  So, yayz.  I'm feeling hopeful that we get a little more time with Maddy, and the time we (and she) will get will be good, happy, healthy time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I have nothing to talk about today

I spent the week filing and trying to stay busy.  I'm tired of watching the stupid political ads on TV.  So, while I try to get back into reading actual books right after I fill out my mail-in ballot, I give you these pictures that Miss Kitty took over the weekend she spent with me recently.

Maddy, looking over my shoulder.  She's gained a pound in the past 4-6 weeks, and for the most part she's herself again: always hungry.

Hazel, looking annoyed on the dining room chair.  She hid most of the weekend while Guy's friends were here, but she came out to pee on my yoga mat on Sunday afternoon after everyone left.  There is nothing passive about that cat's aggression.

A light fixture at Z Gallerie.  I thought it was interesting, and it might end up over my dining room table.  Might.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Standing in line, marking time, waiting for the project dime

Yesterday and part of Tuesday, I was able to help one of the partners do a very rough program and square footage allotment for a possible new MOB for a client.  He had the meeting today to present the program to the owner, which left me working on transcribing my notes from the past couple of intern seminars until Winston the Befuddled met with me to pass on some redlines.  Perfect--I'd be helping his team today through Friday afternoon, making me billable for most of the week.  Winston and I were supposed to meet at 11am, but his morning meeting ran long, and I didn't find him until right after lunch.  With that continually slightly-mixed-up look on his face, he said he needed to print some things first and that the redlines would only really take me this afternoon.  Damn.  45 minutes later, Winston comes to my desk to tell me that a member of his project team was freed up sooner than they expected and they wouldn't be needing me at all, but thanks.  Double damn.

So, it's back to typing up my notes.  I racked my brain: should I check with Howie first? Jann?  I finally decided to give Howie first dibs on my help.  I mentioned to him what happened with Winston, then told him what I'd been doing with my intern seminar notes and that I'd been helping Jann sort and file her stuff and could do that unless he had something else.  Howie said to continue helping Jann clean off her desk (and y'all, we've barely made a dent in her disaster of a desk), and then he turned fully around from his computer (which is something he rarely does) and spoke in slightly hushed tones.

"And, y'know, Alex, and Gregg, and Jann, and Skylar and I all," [gestured with a circular motion] "talk on a regular basis about what everyone's doing, and it sucks, because you're a star and we don't have anything for you right now, y'know?  And I--we really appreciate you trying to keep yourself busy, even though really, that's our job, to keep you busy . Just...hang in there.  The project we just did the master plan for may not do anything for at least six months, that's just how those little projects are."

"No sweat," I replied.  "I hate bothering you, but I just want you to know I'm not trying to rest on my laurels over there, I wanna be helpful."

"I know, I know," Howie said with a smile.  "Just hang in there.  Did that master plan with Sven ever go anywhere?"

"He called me right before lunch actually," I replied, just remembering a phone call from the partner I'd helped yesterday.  "He said that the master plan might be a go any where from tomorrow to a few weeks from now, so we've both got our fingers crossed."

"Oh, good!" Howie said.  "That's good news.  Just keep doin' what you're doin' and hang in there.  We're all trying hard going after a lot of work."

Howie's discussion with me today felt like he was trying to reassure me that I wasn't next on the chopping block and that I was still valued.  So, I spent the rest of the afternoon transcribing my notes and feeling slightly less twitchy about the economy and the near future.  But man, I wish somebody would hire DA to build a hospital or clinic or som'n.  Shorty needs to get her architecture on.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Yes, another post about needing universal health insurance

I know I've been posting on this topic a lot lately, but in my feeble head universal health care = more patients in the system = more buildings and spaces needed to serve them = more work for me.  I find this article interesting and question-provoking, not the least of which is: WHY?  After reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, I have to wonder if something very, very subtle is a work here.  Does minority = not worth givng the very best of care?  Or does non-insured = not worth saving?

Minority, uninsured trauma patients more likely to die in ED, study suggests

Black, Hispanic, and uninsured trauma patients are more likely to die in U.S. EDs compared with white patients, but insurance status has the stronger association with mortality after trauma, according to a study published in the October issue of the Archives of Surgery. To determine the effect of race and insurance status on trauma mortality, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and colleagues analyzed outcomes for 376,897 patients in the National Trauma Data Bank. Treated between 2001 and 2005, the study sample included 72,249 black patients, 41,770 Hispanic patients, and 262,878 white patients; patients ranged in age from 18 to 64 and had moderate to severe injuries. Overall, 47% of patients had insurance, but blacks and Hispanics had higher uninsured rates than whites. The researchers found an adjusted mortality risk after trauma that was 17% higher for black patients and 47% higher for Hispanic patients than for white patients. Meanwhile, the researchers found that insured patients had a lower crude mortality rate compared with uninsured patients, at 4.4% and 8.6% respectively. The absence of health insurance increased a patient’s adjusted mortality risk by nearly 50%. According to the lead author, the dramatic differences in mortality risk between insured and uninsured patients were unexpected, given that access to trauma care in the United States does not hinge on insurance status. However, among insured patients, both Hispanics and blacks had “significantly” higher mortality risks compared with white patients, suggesting that “racial disparities in trauma mortality cannot be completely explained by insurance status alone.” As such, the researchers recommend further research into the “underlying reasons for these differences, which will enable to development of interventions to close the gap between patients of different races and payer statuses” (Haider et al., Archives of Surgery, October 2008 [subscription required]; Phend, MedPage Today, 10/20; Reinberg, HealthDay, 10/20).

Either way, this study at least suggests that having insurance might save your ass in the ED.  Let's also remember from some earlier posts here (and studies elsewhere) that the ED is the main place where uninsured people go for all healthcare because they can't be turned away.  It may be more likely, I dare posit, that the uninsured have a higher mortality rate in the ED because they wait too long for treatment and come to the ED when it's too late.  Which is a condition that universal health care would very likely alleviate.

I know my posts have been shoddy lately, and I intend to rectify that as soon as possible.  It's hard to talk about architecture when I've actually spent 3.5 days this month cleaning my desk and not working on a whole lot of real architecture.