Sunday, July 20, 2008

FlowerPower Foundation Experience

At 3:30 I turned off the Mets at the Reds (tied), picked up the map I’d Googled last night, and walked out to the car. Man it was hot! The AC kicked in soon and I rolled down the Merritt towards New York City. At 4:50 I was parking outside Butler Hall on West 119th. The guard told me that any elevator would go to the top floor, just push “R” for restaurant. I stepped out into a smallish alcove and met M., the event planner. She was expecting me. I asked her if there might be a food service cart of some kind. She said that the back was already closed and everyone had gone home, so, no, there wasn’t anything available.

She pointed to a beautiful floral place setting with purple iris, hydrangea, and some white and blue flowers I didn’t recognize. “There’s that centerpiece, and there are 15 table arrangements over there.” These were described as 6x6 – they were 6” tall glass cylinders, 6” across, stuffed with the same types of flowers as the main piece, but without the hydrangea. They were nearly full of water which meant they each weighed a bit more than I’d expected, but pouring out the water would have risked the flowers all wilting on their journey and that would make the trip less worthwhile. So I took them down to the car two at a time. My biceps got a fair workout! M. had a helpful suggestion: She would hold the elevator at the restaurant while I loaded it up with arrangements, and the guard on the lobby would hold the elevator while I unloaded them. I thanked her for the idea and followed that plan. Much better! The flowers all fit nicely in the back of the car.

I drove down Amsterdam Ave. and took a left at 114th St. There was no place to park, though; so I tooled around the block until I saw a space open up on the northbound side of Amsterdam Ave. I carried the first two arrangements into the lobby at St Luke’s hospital, signed in, and asked the guard how to get to 9 West - the geriatric ward. Up the elevator to 9, then turn left when you get to the corridor. 9 West is at the end. I thanked him then asked if he might have some kind of cart or even a spare wheelchair. (My forearms were feeling the burn.) He looked around but nothing was available. With his permission I left the first two arrangements behind his desk then walked back to the car to get another pair.

After the fourth trip, he found a cart – a nice one, with two decks. I rolled it out to the car, thanking the inventor of the wheel, put the large centerpiece on the top, and filled the base with the remaining seven arrangements. The ride had seemed smooth but most of the arrangements had splashed a bit, their sides were slippery. I did not want to drop one and have the glass shards scatter all over the floor! That would be a déclassé introduction. But every piece made it up to the ward safely. When I came down the corridor with my cart, every nurse stopped to say how beautiful the flowers were! I said, thanks – it gets better. I asked them if I could put the large arrangement on their station, and they were very happy about that. Then I picked up one of the arrangements and walked into a patient’s room.

“Hi, I brought this for you. Where would you like it?”

The elderly woman in the bed had a visitor, a man leaning back in a chair. He offered to take the vase but I told him that it was a bit slippery and heavy, so I would just put it on the window if that was okay. She asked, “How much does it cost?” Nothing, there was a wedding a few blocks from here and they asked if I could bring the flowers to you. They are already paid for.

Her room-mate was alone and seemed introspective. I told her that I’d brought her some flowers and where would she like them? She was shocked and exclaimed that she was beginning to feel a bit depressed but this certainly snapped her out of that! Then she recited a lengthy prayer in rhyme. We said Amen, and I thanked her for the blessing, and wished her a happy Sunday. As I was leaving, she reminded me to thank the people who donated the flowers.

Down the hall, the elderly man in the breathing mask didn’t want any flowers, so I turned to his room-mate, who said that he did not want the whole arrangement, but that he would like a single purple flower. Purple was his favorite color. He asked how long it might last, and I said that if we put it in a bit of water it should be good for a few days. I went to the nurse’s station and asked them if they might have an empty water bottle or something to use as a vase. Patient C. didn’t want the whole arrangement, he just wanted one iris. A nurse produced a glass vase and C. got his one purple flower for his bed-table.

I took the cart back downstairs and filled it with the remaining arrangements. One of the assistants took some grief from a nurse who asked him why he never brought her some flowers. I said in a stage whisper that I’d put his name on a gift card in the next batch –

By the time I got back, the nurses had picked out where the rest of the arrangements would go. Many, many smiles and thanks. I brought the cart back to the lobby, thanked the guard (after telling him about the dialog between the nurse and the assistant) and drove home, feeling very good.

I snapped this picture of the guard's desk with the last batch of arrangements at St Luke's:

The FlowerPower Foundation takes donations of flowers from weddings, funerals, and corporate events. Volunteers re-purpose these flowers into vases and deliver them to people in hospices, long term care facilities, and, as today, geriatric wards. There are chapters in New York and Los Angeles. If you would like to donate your time, flowers, or funds to FlowerPower, please visit their web site at

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Regular PC Maintenance

Here's a list of things to do to keep your PC running at its best. PCs require regular attention. Over time they get cluttered up with obsolete system files, the hard disk gets fragmented, and your system runs much more slowly.

How does this happen? When you edit a file, the operating system finds the next available space on the hard disk to hold the changed part of the file. When you finish, the operating system marks the space on the hard disk where the old copy of the file resided as deleted. Over time, those old pieces accumulate. The folder that contains the file also contains lots of pieces of unused space. The file is fragmented, with pieces scattered all over the hard disk. The system runs more slowly because it spends extra time to find and put together the fragments of the file. Defragmenting the file means moving the in-use pieces of the file together and freeing the big block of space at the end. This process is also called "degassing" the file.

First: Update Windows for any Microsoft updates and security fixes. Start -> Programs -> Microsoft Update and say “Yes” if it asks if you want to update the download agent. Select all critical updates – some might have to be installed by themselves but most can go together as a bunch. You will probably have to restart your computer after the update completes.

Second: Update your anti-virus software. Each program has a “Live Update” feature to get the latest list of bad code that needs to be prevented from running on your computer. You might have to restart after this, as well.

Third: Run a virus scan. Start your anti-virus software program and run it. Depending on your computer this can take from five to 30 minutes.

Fourth: Scan for spyware. Get a copy of “Spybot – Search and Destroy” from and download it. After you have updated that program pick “Immunize” to block spyware from attaching itself and then run Scan to identify and delete spyware.
There are other spyware programs out there. Microsoft Antispyware is available for free off the Microsoft home page. Webroot sells for $30 from Circuit City and is pretty good; LavaSoft is free to individuals, Spywareblaster is also free (and will accept donations like Spybot does). Norton and McAfee both have additions for spyware and AOL has some code that works, too. I use all of them, because each has its strengths and they don’t interfere or consume excessive resources. Trend Micro is pretty good, too.

Fifth: Remove temporary files. Start -> Search -> For files and folders and pick “All files or folders.” Select TEMP, and once you’ve found the folders, open them each and delete all their contents. Some contents may not be deletable – they are in use and that’s okay. Skip those and get rid of the rest. Close the search window, go to the recycle bin, and empty it. Then find all files and folders that have “*.tmp” in their names. Select them all and delete them. Again, some of them may not be able to be deleted because they are in use, skip them and get rid of the rest.
After this, go to the recycle bin again and empty it. That actually marks the space the files occupied as available.

Finally: Go to Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Disk Defragmenter and run that utility. The first time you do this it may take a long time – an hour or more.

Do this every month or two, depending on the amount you use the computer. Also, after you install a new program, a major upgrade or a big security update, you might go through this again too. These directions apply to Windows XP but the same process works for Vista.