Shoveling Slides

| December 31, 2010

Legal disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with digital pathology. It is just a personal battle between a man, new technology, a steep driveway, and a lot of snow. It has nothing to do with digital pathology.

I live on a steep driveway in Flagstaff, Arizona. We get snow, about the same amount as Denver or New Jersey or Tibet on a normal year, but there are no more normal years. We bought the house for the beautiful view of the mountains. The realtor assured us the steep driveway was, “Not a problem at all, the current owners barely notice it.” He then added, "I couldn’t talk to the current owners because they only have the stamina to make the walk up to the house once a day." I should have done more homework before the purchase of a home worth the equivalent of a whole slide scanner (no, not the little one, the big one that can hold 3,814 slides and scan for two weeks without reloading).

Then the big snow of January 2010 hit Flagstaff. The same storm that has just now hit the East Coast in time to ruin Christmas for New York. I was faced with shoveling three feet of snow on a driveway slope that would have made a double-diamond image analysis problem look easy. The storms usually start with a freezing rain, to make sure the driveway turns to an inverted ice rink before the cornices are built up, Fortunately with this much snow, you don’t slip down the driveway, just leave an impression like a standing snow angel in the drift below that you haven’t yet shoveled. But there two additional difficulties:

A) We can't park in the street – the city snow plow must deposit 10 foot drifts across my driveway without my car being in their way and B) Sometimes we like to leave the house in a car.

I carefully evaluated three technology options to conquer this problem:

1) Install a heated driveway, and keep it on the blowtorch setting until the storm stops. Even in Arizona, we have heard of global warming, I couldn’t bring myself to add this much heat to the environment – have you seen how hot it is down south in Tucson in the summer?

2) Throw salt on the driveway at regular intervals. This would have been easier if I could have done this from the front door, but I couldn’t get the front door open because of the drifts so I had to throw the salt on the driveway from my second bedroom window (actually my four-year old son’s second bedroom window). This isn’t just good old table salt, the package says you should use gloves when handling it. “Adults should handle it only, and with gloves.” The package had no advice for children or carpet spills.

3) Use a snowblower. My neighbor across the street has a beautiful flat driveway (but no beautiful view like mine), and offered to let me use his snowblower as he watched me toiling with drifts over my head like some Warren Miller movie sans skis and avec snowshovel. I think actually he was afraid I would try just driving the car down the driveway without shoveling. He had just gotten his living room repaired from last year when the previous owners of my house tried this (another fact the realtor forgot to mention).

 It took two hours to drag the blower up to the top of the driveway, and two seconds for it to go flying down, crushing or blowing snow in its way. I would need a snowblower with an engine bigger than an autostainer to actually power it up the driveway. When I had shopped previously for snowblowers, the salesman had assured me I would “barely notice a difference” between the performance on his linoleum department store floor and my steep driveway.

None of these three options were going to work. I have now abandoned all technology, and am left with a battle between a man, snow and his steep driveway, just how God intended.

Without technology, my workflow choices are much simpler. I can either:

A) Let it all come down, stay in the house, hope we have enough Ramen noodles and eggnog to survive the winter, and then shovel for a few hours or days in the Spring.

B) Run out every 10 minutes, and quickly shovel an inch at a time, keeping up with the layers of slides snow that keep accumulating on my desk driveway.

C) Ignore the snow, and back down the driveway, but never plan to return to the house.  And pray the car turns at the bottom of the driveway so I don’t end up visiting my neighbor’s living room.

I chose the middle option, keep up with the constant new layers of snow that keeps arriving, shoveling steadily and methodically with no interruptions.

But then I get interrupted by the heated driveway salesman, who has a new improved model with a blowtorch setting 2.0 that is three times better than blowtorch setting 1.0. The snowblower dealer also calls, with the good news that he can throw in a free mechanized wrench for pulling the snowblower up the driveway if I agree to place an order now on their new radiology/pathology snowblower/lawnmower integrated unit coming out next summer.

Meanwhile the work keeps piling up. I guess there is a difference between flat and hilly driveways, maybe good histology matters.

Leave me alone, I’m shoveling slides.

Legal disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with digital pathology. If it did, it would include a discussion on whether federal standards for lawnmowers are applicable to snowblowers, the cost savings associated with using integrated lawnmower/snowblower equipment, and a debate over PMA or 510k clearance approaches for proving that a snowblower is equivalent to a snowshovel on not just flat but hilly driveways. 

Submitted by Steve Potts, Digital Pathology Services


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Category: Digital Pathology News, Histology, Pathology News

Comments (1)

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  1. Devremülk says:

    i like to read your posts. thanks for this one.