Springfield 1969 – Public choices

Spring 1969 I had one major project to complete my BA in Sociology at American International College in Springfield Massachusetts. My initial proposal to do a photo-essay based on C.Wright Mills book, White Collar: The American Middle Classes was shot down not by the Professor but by Mass Mutual where I proposed to wander the work areas (under supervision if necessary) to capture images that illustrated Mills ideas regarding hierarchy, bureaucracy and alienation! Still delight at their polite reaction.

That idea and the one accepted was heavily influenced by Montreals Expo 67. One could capture ideas in still and moving images with sound and commentary. I would document the hierarchy of public priorities and analyze the choices illustrated by urban renewal in Springfields North End, public housing, and other publicly supported initiatives and spaces.

The presentation of the movie and photos took place in my student apartment. The Professor was unimpressed. He said I’d have to write a paper to complete the course.

The original 8 mm part of the presentation surfaced during a move in 2015. The digitized 6.5 mins, without audio, are now on Youtube.

The opening, shot from top of the Holiday Inn, give a panorama of the Springfield North End renewal area. It includes the Rt. 291 right of way and construction which obliterated homes and communities; the then new Seniors public housing towers which have the Springfield Housing Authority head office.

At 1:24 the scene shifts to Court Square and its traditional institutions of court, church, and the symphony/music hall all watched over by the statue of Miles Morgan, town founder.

At 2:35 we see people enjoying a variety of public spaces. Some streets and parks are well used and maintained; others not.

At 3:27 we see the Riverview Housing Project high rises and town houses across the Connecticut River. The largely abandoned first floor units contrast with new Student dorms aided by Federal Funds. Low income residents live in deteriorated housing in the North End while others enjoy low rise public housing built for returning WWII veterans

At 5:02 we see the neighbourhood being changed by urban renewal. Seniors continue to have attention and priority over the needs of families.

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Christmas newsletter 2018

Each year you grow more important to us. A Twitter summary (280 chars) of this year would be: Kyle & Christine wed; summer with family / friends; Sue tick bite yr 2; Simon retired > work; son Simon race trophies; Lisa ‘young, female superstars’; grandkids Owen, run champ; Cole, hockey star; Charlie, e-wiz; Rowan, drummer; Olivia, independent 6; SFHS alums & co-op success.

The family highlight for many was the June wedding of Kyle Matthews to Christine Gargano. Three years earlier I’d officiated at his sister Kailee’s marriage to David Angle. This summer they were in the wedding party while their son Dylan watched under the care of Auntie Sue and I, again, officiated. For the first time in our almost 50 years together, Sue and I could spend quality and quantity time with friends and family. Cheri was particularly generous with hosting. Chris and I ate in the path of Bourdain. We celebrated with Donnie on his birthday and had several wonderful poolside get togethers with Ralph and Judy. Sue and I also spent a wonderful week in Cape Cod. We visited with friends Linda (Foo) and Sr. Paulette.

Sue had a particularly difficult time with the second year of her tick bite. After dermatology grand rounds, the recommended steroid treatment put her into anaphylactic shock and the emergency room. Subsequent testing confirmed a very rare allergy condition. A consult with a leading US Lyme Disease expert identified that she does not have Lyme Disease. He said her reaction to the bite was an outlier but seen previously. Time will heal; and the skin reaction is slowly diminishing.

While still pursuing data analytics, work is no longer my main focus. We are fortunate to spend time and assist with the care of our Ottawa grand-kids. And we cherish the never enough visits from son Simon and family.

Sue, I and his sister Lisa are particularly proud of Simon. His sailing crew has more trophy wins than home can handle. Lisa was publicly quoted as being, “…proud of my brother for always following his passion”. That same publication identified her as, “…one of the Departments young, female superstars”.

The grandkids pursue their passions. Charlie is our e-wizard and source of info on all things digital. He’s also preparing a piano solo for the Christmas family gathering. For Rowan its drums. Progress is evident from lesson to lesson. Consistently placing higher and running faster, Owen competes in all-city running events on the St. Johns Team. Brother Cole has progressed from purely recreational to competitive hockey. For a Montreal Dziadziu seeing MIELNICZUK across his jersey is almost too much. Olivia, the only girl, grows both more independent and more helpful. Unicorns are real.

Sue and I also enjoyed visits with John and Mary Macmillan in Toronto. John and I attended the St. Francis High School Alumni Memorial Mass this past March, as we have for the past dozen years. This year I also enjoyed time with classmates Bob Dassel, John Przbylowicz, and Jim Reynolds. Hopefully, we can organize a 55th reunion next year.

Conservation Co-operative grows with us. We enjoy visits and movie nights with our neighbour, Diane. This summer, I was re-elected to the Board. With the help of Louis Pierre Gregoire and the team at Gowling WLG, we secured a very acceptable settlement to a long standing lawsuit. It eliminates our co-op deficit and provides needed capital.

Neither tweets nor newsletters sufficiently provide the words which describe what is important. Together with you we look forward to 2019. You enrich our lives with your love and friendship. Thank you. A Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for a Happy New Year.

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St. Francis Alumni Mass – 2018

‘This looks like the first Memorial Mass in three years without a classmates name on the list.’ It has become an annual ritual to attend this Alumni event with my Toronto friend, John Macmillan. Thursday several of us linked through social media receive a message that Ron Dabelle has died in Providence. After sharing the news, I receive messages from Ron Michnik, Sam Santarosa, Ed Curran, Larry Cieslica, and Ray Garnsey. They recalled spending time with him and his passion for painting. Ron was a rarity – a professional artist who lived by his art.

His work appears in public and private murals and painting throughout Rhode Island and the New England area. His work also hangs in the home of several classmates, myself included. When notifying SFHS about his death, Paul Bartell tells me he is looking at a painting of Assisi that Ron donated to the school. An artist colleague has created a public Facebook page of Ron’s works at https://www.facebook.com/ron.dabelle.5

Looking through the list of those remembered, I comment to Fr. Michael that during the past two years there seems to be several very recent graduates appearing among the list of those remembered. He responds that, ‘What happens in the world, happens in here too.’

The too young join the list of the expected, graduates from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. The choir is particularly good. Their sound fills the chapel and joins the receding sound waves of choirs from the past 90 years, including years of broadcasts by the Fr. Justin Rosary Hour.

After Mass we join Tony Rudnicki, spouse Lynn, together with Al and Dick with spouse Marilyn. Two graduates from the class of ’54. They refer to me as ‘the youngster’. Al taught Physiology at UB Medical and Dick ran his own plumbing business. Tony is a retired educator and author of “Bipolar Buffalo”. White tablecloths and a wide choice of breakfast offerings have set a new standard for the cafeteria we all remember. Classrooms, labs, gyms, study halls – all have moved around and changed over the years. Chapel and cafeteria keep bringing us together for laughs, memories, stories and updates.

This may be the 12th time that John has come with me for this event. To round out his SFHS experience, I take him on a tour of the tunnel and the gym. We recall the Cold War and the Fall Out Shelter status of this tunnel.

Throughout the day the theme of challenges to values and their expression in today’s context emerges in our discussions. Most of us grew up in a time of organization, explicit and understood rules and expectations. I still recall during our 50th reunion how classmates who entered the military mentioned they could not understand the anxieties of other new recruits because of the SFHS boarding school background. As Fr. Mike’s comment acknowledges, that world has changed. Values remain. Now each one of us has to choose, accept and follow the ones we believe in or accept with God’s grace.

Later John and I join Fr. Romulus Rosolowski for lunch at the Pho Kim Chi, a new Vietnamese restaurant in the former Daisies Cafe location – https://www.yelp.com/biz/pho-kim-chi-lackawanna. Less than a month old, it is receiving well deserved praised. This year’s breakfast is at Peg’s Place where we enjoy a counter conversation with a local whose daughter attends Guelph U.

Fr. Romulus and I were in St. Hyacinth’s College and Seminary together. He stayed to serve in Rome, Ghana, and many parishes. Now he’s the Vicar at Our Lady of Victory. Another fellow former Franciscan, John Neysmith was prevented from joining us because of flu. Romulus and John were both in ‘The Singing Friars’, a folk group. There is talk of a reunion. We cover a wide range of memories, opinions and ideas over our 3 hr lunch.

After a bit of shopping and car touring, John and I have supper at Buzzy’s in Niagara Falls. We return with pizza and wings leftovers and enjoy more conversation with Mary. My Monday morning subway ride to the train station reminds me of the Walking Dead. Many looking very tired. Many hunched over sleeping. Snow cover returns as the train gets closer to Ottawa.

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Ottawa Rooming House Report Card

Plenty of rooming houses in the neighbourhood of Somerset West CHC, where I’m currently assisting with analytics and the health records system.

They exist in every community. Some are run by responsible people looking to help both themselves and the tenant in need. Others are a way to get as much out of the situation while providing almost nothing in return.

Recent findings for Ottawa are here – https://swchc.on.ca/news-events/news/rooming-houses-west-central-ottawa-receive-failing-grade-again-2017

Project staff should be very proud of making it possible for everyone to digest it through one poster. Follow the link to see it all.


Posted in Organizer's Notebook, Ottawa | Leave a comment

Thanks for a very good 2 years

Will miss wringing the most out of the systems and your data collection efforts. This was my last day at Sandy Hill CHC. Two years ago I’d accepted a contract to help make NOD work for you. It was / is a necessarily complex and unnecessarily ugly system that gets in the way of good practice more than many other electronic health record (EHR) systems. I’d been impressed during a peek at NOD V10. Getting the bugs worked out and contributing to a far better user experience was going to be a nice assignment. All that changed when Telus bought it out. Nothing but the absolute minimum was going to be done for a system with a marked life span. Having worked in commercial software development and system replacement projects, I know the vendor strategy is to listen, talk nice and do as little as possible. Some may have wished I’d done the same.

I prefer honesty and transparency. I believe that more eyes make for better results. The wiki and the intranet are crucial to sharing information across departmental and other silos.

The records SHCHC creates about the people, groups and communities it works with capture the details which are the evidence of professionals exercising their best judgement and the organization living up to the reasons which gave it life. Within them lies a treasure trove of observations which could lead to better results, new approaches and stimulating perspectives. The lives of the people they represent also deserve digital accuracy and validity. There is no current profession or job that will not be touched by machine learning and artificial intelligence. Those records will feed these trends. Miscues will not wait for sampled file reviews.

I would have liked to meet with each Super User to get a more personal perspective on what you and I could have done differently to make both NOD and the transition period easier. If you have thoughts to share, please contact me. Also I live in the neighbourhood; happy to meet and chat.

Two years ago I came to Sandy Hill to find a doctor. Instead, I found a job. It’s been largely very enjoyable. Particularly missed are Darren and John who manage one of the most stable systems I’ve encountered in 37 yrs. Lynne and Tyler could always be counted on to pick up tickets, to answer the many things I did not know, and to commiserate on the impossible. Working with Kyle to improve on/off boarding processes using the intranet and on privacy also made for enjoyable solutions to organizational needs. Last but not least are the many NOD users who took the time to record and report the details when it did not work. Resolution of many was beyond Sandy Hill or AOHC. Keep submitting what does not work and what you would like in the new system. The ticket system is the repository of your efforts. Some of it will make a difference.

Hopefully, I was able to do the same. Anybody need a hand with data wrangling or system taming?

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Difficult to change commercial systems

Getting changes and corrections to commercial systems can be frustrating. When the system itself is a sunset product, it is impossible.  During the course of this issue we received conflicting response of the data source and its mutability. The following summarizes efforts to address immunization concerns in an EHR.


First reported to NOD March 17, 2015 “When our providers Add Immunization in the Patient module, they see a lot of extra non-useful items in the Immunization drop-down list. Can we have this list edited to remove the non-useful entries? ”

A parallel internal ticket is created June 2, 2017. “…the problem with the Immunization list (drop down list) in NOD – there are many selections available that are close, but do not actually represent (in most cases) what was given…the user is not always aware of the choices available and selects the first “close enough” vaccine, then manually types in the brand that was given.”

Since that time the issue was brought up repeatedly to the Vendor, to the AOHC Operations Committee and back to the vendor. We received different explanations about the editability of this list.

The most recent activity took place May 23, 2017 when the issue was discussed and demonstrated via a screen sharing conference between SHCHC and NOD/Telus. We were advised that the list can be altered with the provision of a valid reason and authoritative source.

Immunization List in NOD

The list of Immunizations visible to each provider comes from a built-in NOD Immunization list. Each provider can setup a default list of immunizations by selecting from this built-in list. In practice this is done by the DMC at account setup.

According to the vendor, the choices in this list come from the provincial MOHLTC and the Multum Lexicon.

Report to Ops Committee

The attached document Sandy Hill Immunizations List Case was presented to the AOHC Ops Committee without success beyond further discussion with the vendor.

Continuing Advocacy for Accuracy in Patient Data

Our shared objective is to have a list which is both accurate for Ontario and accurate for the person.

At our screen sharing conference we identified the following general issues with the Immunization list.

– It contains redundant entries which confuse the user and lead to poor choices
– It must have the historical immunizations which our diverse and global client base received elsewhere
– Built in lists require a clear process for sourcing and maintaining accuracy which is accessible to application clients.

Next Steps

– SHCHC to review work to date and present detailed recommendations to the Operations Committee and NOD/Telus for review and implementation.

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Never can say goodbye

No one wanted to leave. Not at the dinner the night before the wake. Not at the wake. Not at the graveside. Not at the Waterfront gathering nor at home afterwards. Repeated hugs; goodbyes. Forgot to tell you stories. Jokes that ‘this time it’s for real.’

I am an intimate outsider, in-law, uncle, spouse and dad in this gathering. Some of us have known each other for almost 50 years. Re-introductions of long forgotten cousins, friends, old neighbours, VFW colleagues, retired co-workers – even several staff from Dolores’ favourite lunch spot, Reds on Route 1. Personally, I was deeply touched by the arrival of a lifetime friend from Springfield and a classmate from the St. Francis class of 1964.

Dolores meant something to each of the two hundred people who passed through each others lives over the past few days. For many, myself included, it was the first 360 view of her best. Dolores’ grandchildren made exceptional efforts to be here. The last time so many cousins came together was at her 80th birthday a few years ago.

Dolores would have loved her send off. Thanks to her younger son and generous help from family and friends it fulfilled and exceeded her last wishes. The procession to St. Mary’s in Lynn went down Franklin St., a path she must have taken for many years on her way to school from her earliest home nearby. Full circle.

Her life was not easy. Her determination, smile, humour, and interest in others carried her through it and made the many grateful connections we shared the past few days. Many of these we will not see again. Others will re-open at future gatherings, weddings – and funerals.

Seize not the day. Seize the moments of contact and connection. Be they friends or family, near or far, these grow and they also die. Whether deliberate, accidental or inevitable our families and friends are the reflection of our own lives and what truly matters within it.

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