Danish Health Care Adventures.

So, I think my family and colleagues already know about events this weekend, so I’ll post a bit of a summary.  If you didn’t know, then you can find out below, although the purpose of this blog is really to give a summary of my interaction with the Danish Health Care System so far, for those who may be considering moving here.  Thus, I’m writing it to cover our interactions over the past two months – not just this weekend.  But you can skip on below, if you’re just interested in that part of the tale.

First, for those who don’t know, my wife and I are expecting a child in May – and so we’ve already had a few opportunities to learn how health care works here.  It’s not better or worse than what we’ve left behind in Canada – it’s just different.  Americans will probably freak out when they hear about it, but for Canadians, there are a lot of similarities and a lot of very subtle differences.

My wife has had the pleasure of meeting health care professionals already in several capacities, and her appointment with the ultrasound clinic stands out vividly for me.  The first ultrasound at about 8 weeks was done in Vancouver, done in a private health clinic.  The Canadian health care system paid for the visit, but the clinic was still private – and was plastered with adds for having a 3D ultrasound done in order to get a better picture of your child.  The appointments were fast, the technician highly competent and the results were given quickly.  If you ignored the brochures, you wouldn’t have known you were in a private clinic.

In contrast, the 20th week ultrasound was done in Denmark, at a hospital near our house.  Oddly enough, we were given two separate appointments – one on a Friday, and one the following Monday.  Unable to determine why we we had two appointments, but repeatedly told both were necessary, we simply went to the hospital when we were told to be there.

We walked over (as we walk just about everywhere), and got lost in the sprawling but nearly empty hospital.  Once we found our way to the ultra sound clinic, we swiped a card to notify them that we were there and then sat in the waiting room till the appointed time, when the technician showed up in the doorway and called my wife’s name.  They asked if we spoke Danish (we didn’t) and then were relieved to discover that we spoke English.  (The alternatives would have been difficult, I’m sure.  My French is highly rusty, and I doubt they know any Mandarin.)

Once in the room, we were told that a pre-natal heart specialist would join us, if he could – and, slightly more than halfway into the hour, he joined us and worked with the technologist to do a very throughout investigation to rule out any possible heart defects.  Apparently, having taken my wife’s history, they had flagged the need for a specialist and made the second appointment for the following week – but then had discovered that the heart specialist would be available at the time of the first appointment and amalgamated the two appointments.

In Canada, it’s unlikely that the specialist would have been involved, or that all of the components of the health care system would have been synchronized appropriately to blend, reschedule and coordinate specialists and technicians for our convenience.

To say the very least, we were very impressed with the efficiency of the Danish health care system in this respect.  (And, also to have been reassured that the baby is looking healthy from all angles!) Appointments continue to be scheduled for my wife with great efficiency via letters that frequently appear in the post.  Alas, they’re all in Danish, but we’re becoming more adept at reading them with the help of google translate. (Google translate employees, if you’re reading, we owe you big time, not the least of which for helping us learn Danish quickly!)

With that in mind, the events this weekend were a challenge to the health care system from a completely different direction.

Last Tuesday, I started to get sick – my voice dropped down into the range of David Attenborough’s, and the tissues/kleenex began to sprout in big piles.  Unfortunately, I started a business trip on Wednesday last week to Holland.  I won’t cover that in any detail except to say that by Friday, I was coughing quite a bit.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to say much during the meetings, but I’m sure I seemed unusually quiet and reserved.  (or sniffly, depending on the meeting.)

By Friday evening, I was at home and my cough worsened – probably due to the flying and cold air on the way home.  By Saturday, my cold had gotten a lot worse, and with the rainy weather, my wife and I canceled our plans for walking around downtown.  Saturday evening, the pain set it.

I’m no stranger to chest pain – I’m a tall and thin male, prone to spontaneous pneumothoraxes.  That’s when little weak spots develop on the lung, which can spontaneously burst, letting air fill the space between the lung and the chest wall.  Normally, that space is empty, which causes the lung to inflate as the chest wall swells, and to deflate as it contracts again. Hence, inhaling and exhaling as your chest moves.  With air in that space, the lungs are constricted, and it can be hard to breath in and out.  Normal causes in people who aren’t tall, thin males include gunshot wounds, being stabbed with a knife and broken ribs puncturing the chest wall.

Fortunately, I haven’t had any of the latter, but with a history of collapsed lungs, I have had a staple installed to hold up  my right lung so that it doesn’t collapse on me.  I don’t notice it anymore, and if my lung does anything stupid, it usually fixes itself quickly.  When a sharp pain started in my chest – in response to a LOT of coughing – I just assumed that’s what it was.  Another collapsed lung that would just pass in a bit.  Unfortunately, it didn’t.

It hurt to lie down, but like a collapsed lung, hurt when breathing in and out and changing positions was like having a knife shoved into my back.  It hurt a lot – but nothing I couldn’t handle, I though.

Sunday morning was a disaster, though.

I sat up slowly from bed and the pain was immense.  My wife asked if we should go to the hospital, and I said no, I’d be fine if she give me a minute.

Then I started to feel faint – and I changed my mind.  We should go to the hospital, I said… and then I blacked out.

Coming out of the blackout was strange.  I couldn’t feel anything – I couldn’t tell if I was breathing (I thought I wasn’t)… and it took a while before I could open my eyes… and even longer before I could hear again, and then another few seconds before I could control my limbs.  Apparently, I was thrashing around for a while, while trying to regain feeling.  I must have looked like I was a goner.

The scary part was that she didn’t yet know the emergency phone number (112 in Denmark) and couldn’t reach any of our friends.  She had to wait helplessly for me to regain consciousness before I could remember the emergency number from the welcome to Denmark package we were given. (Thank goodness for that package!) and was able to contact a nurse.  Here, you’ll see the differences between the Canadian and Danish systems.

First they asked if I was still awake and to see if I was likely to fall unconscious again, and when they determined I wasn’t about to die, we were asked if we could get to the hospital ourselves (No, we don’t have a car), then told that a doctor would be sent within the next 2 hours.  In about 10 minutes, the doctor arrived.  She quickly checked to see what the problem was and to ensure I’d live.  Once my life was clearly determined not to be in danger, she placed a call for an ambulance to pick me up.  Again, we were told the ambulance would be there in the next two hours. The only question I was asked that wasn’t directly medical was when they asked for my CPR number (Danish identification number) on the phone – equally likely to find my medical history as for billing, however.

15 minutes later, an ambulance crew arrived at the door with a gurney.

I was able to walk to the ambulance and felt comfortable sitting in one of the jump seats in the back.  The guy in the back with me kept me talking (in English) all the way, clearly making sure I didn’t fall unconscious again, and even gave me oxygen.  Unfortunately, the guy in the front of the Ambulance, where my wife was riding, didn’t speak English, so the front was a lot quieter than the back.  I have to say, though, that the driver was fantastic – I could feel every bump with a sharp chest pain – and it was one of the smoothest car rides I’ve ever taken.

Within a few minutes, we arrived at the hospital downtown from which we were redirected to another hospital downtown.  (All this, despite the fact we live a 3 minute ride from yet another hospital.) In any case, after a second ambulance ride, we arrived at the correct destination, where we said thanks to the ambulance crew and were ushered into a room with two beds.  For most of the day, the second bed stayed empty, giving us an almost private room. (When it was occupied, it was by a smoker, who kept going outside for nicotine fixes… which didn’t really help, but nothing I could do about that.)

With a few minutes, I was taken for a chest X-ray, and shortly after that, the nurse came to see us and let us know (in rather halting, but understandable English) that the doctor would check out the x-ray and blood would be taken shortly.  At this point, I was feeling better, but in a lot of pain – that is, I was clearly in stable condition and in good hands.

The biggest visual difference between the Danish heath care system and the Canadian health care system is the uniforms.  At the risk of offending people, lets just say that the doctors uniforms are vaguely reminiscent of an outfit that would fit well in a Village People’s video.  Tight fitting shirts and pants in white, with a fitted lab coat.  It is the anti-thesis of scrubs.  In contrast, the hospital itself was quite spacious, plenty of room and well maintained.  It didn’t have the same underfunded/understaffed feel of typical urban Canadian hospitals.

In any case, we had a great doctor who spoke quite decent English. He explained that the condition was not my lung at all (a giant shock to me.) and that it was probably an inflammation of the membrane around the heart.  The symptoms all fit, and the chest x-ray showed absolutely nothing going on in the lungs at all, as confirmed by a radiologist.  At this point, I must have dropped way down the priority list, as long waiting periods crept in.

We were offered some food (meats and sauces on open faced sandwiches – a typical Danish meal), and then a colleague from work came by to check on us.  She cheered us up, helped ask some questions for us and made the day go by much more quickly.  Later on, she even helped by walking our dog!  Apparently, she also told everyone we knew as well – which wasn’t a problem, but a surprise.  It led to a lot of offers of help from a lot of people, some of whom I barely know.  A fantastic show of support from my Danish (and non-Danish) colleagues for which I’m very thankful!  (I won’t drag any of them into the blog, though, without their permission.)

Although the time between contacts then slowed down, throughout the afternoon, I was given an EKG, which found some slight disturbances in the force…  (electromagenitic force, that is.)  My heart then became the key suspect.

Further blood tests would be done on the blood taken earlier in the day and an ultrasound of my heart was scheduled, which brought in a second doctor, who’s name was Tor.  (He said it like Thor, tho…  and who hasn’t wanted to be treated by a doctor named Thor?  Seriously, I doubt there’s a single doctor in the entire Canadian system named after a Norse god.)

The ultrasound was unfortunately inconclusive and we were told we’d have to wait about an hour for the blood test.  One hour turned into two, and the blood work itself was inconclusive as well.  However, the doctor was relatively certain of the diagnosis of paracaditis, for which the treatment is anti-inflamatory medication and painkillers:  aka, ibuprofin. I was let go with a day’s worth of medication, orders to fill a prescription at the pharmacy and with a strong suggestion that I get some rest.

So, here I am, two days later, feeling a lot better, but still on some mandatory down time.  The cough is going away, helped by some over the counter throat lozenges, and the pain is masked and relieved by ibuprofin.

The only interesting addenda to this adventure is that I was told that anything a doctor prescribes in this country is free – anything you chose to do on your own is self-paid. That’s not quite true – I don’t know the full cost of the pills I was prescribed, but I did pay about $6 (31 dkk) for them.  If that was a dispensing fee, it wasn’t explained to me.

Finally, the drug stores here are also interesting: the doctor won’t give you a prescription to take there – instead it’s entered into the computer system, which the pharmacist can then verify when you provide your CPR number.

Slightly stranger, the pharmacy to which I went wasn’t actually a pharmacy – it’s an outpost of a pharmacy.  When you go in, they place the order at the other store, and have someone bring it over a couple of times a day.  So, the first trip over is just to tell them you’ll be using them to get the drugs and the second visit is to pick up the drugs and pay for them.

As it happens, the woman at the pharmacy was very interested in learning English and Spanish and made me practice my danish pronunciation when picking up the pills – as well as advice that I should learn spanish and go on vacation there… (-:

That said, it’s been a couple of hectic days.  I’ve come to respect the Danish health care system and it’s staff – and I’m glad I took the time to ask a lot of questions over the past week.  Without some of the basic information, the whole process would have been a lot more scary than it was.  And, word to the wise, learn the emergency code in every country you travel! You never know when you might need it.

Finally, in case anyone is worried, I really am doing better, and I don’t think anything in this whole misadventure was life threatening.  The treatment was swift and efficient and I’m sure I’ll be back at work shortly.  I have lots to do, and I’m very eager to get back to it.


Where does money come from?

In one of those rare moments of clarity, I realized that there exists a giant hole in my knowledge about the world.  I’m sure anyone with a reasonable economics degree can answer this for me… but this question completely flummoxes me. (I’ve always wanted to find a use for the word flummox, btw. Sorry about that.)

Where does new money come from?

I mean, I see economies expanding and all, but as I look through the whole cycle, I just don’t see where new money comes from – and I don’t mean new bills.

I can look at the water cycle, and see that new water is not created or lost, it just changes forms… and, as far as I can tell, money is the same way.

When you mine something from the ground, you sell it, but the money people pay you to buy it already exists in their account – it just transfers money from one owner to the next. When the banks charge you interest, they just expect you to get it from your account, which came from selling a product or a service…  it just goes on and on…

If a government prints more money, the general theory is that it just devalues the rest of the money through inflation.

Even money that is lost in the stock market isn’t really lost – you’ve just given it to someone else for a share of a company or commodity, which may have more or less value when someone else tries to buy it from you.   Again, no money is created or destroyed – although it tends to accumulate into the hands of those who know how to exploit the system, but that’s a different story.

So, where in the money cycle does money come from?

I apparently have some reading to do.

Edit: thanks to Ryan’s comment, the solution is below in the comments.

Canadians debating the World Series

My wife and I are both Canadian and baseball to us is about the same as mayan handball is to the rest of the world – a complete non-issue. So this morning, when my wife announced that the Cardinals had won the World Series, we had an interesting conversation:

Me: “Cardinals… that’s St. Louis isn’t it?

Her: “I don’t know.  The TV said Texas and St. Louis yesterday.”

Me: “So it is St. Louis, then.”

Her: “How do you know?”

Me: “The other team had ‘Texas’ written on their shirts.”

Her: “Oh, then I guess St. Louis won!”

And now we know – St. Louis won the world series.

Craigslist Scam?

As my wife and I prepare to wind things down before moving, we’ve been selling a lot of stuff on craigslist.  So far, it’s been pretty good – not a lot of problems, although there have been a few annoying no-shows. (People who claim they’re going to show up to buy something, then just change their mind and forget to tell you they’re not going to drop by when they said they would.)

Anyhow, for the first time, I think I’ve been found by a scammer – and no surprise, this is on the biggest ticket item – A bass guitar and amp.

First, I received an email with only the following:


Which doesn’t exactly instill confidence in the buyer.  When I replied it was, I received the following email back.  I’ve highlighted a few interesting passages:

Good day,
I am happy to hear that its still available. As for the price i am okay with it but if there is any other information  regarding the
condition.please let me know by email…
I would take care of the shipping myself by sending  my shipper to come for the pickup.
Let me have some pictures send to me by attachment and also the pickup address of the item.
Payment would be made via cashier check only and am gonna add $50 to yr money so I would have your full name and mailing address and phone number to mail it out to as follows:
Full Names:
Zip Code:
Phone number:
The cashier check will come in excess funds and when the check is being cashed,you will send the remaining balance to the shipping company that will come for the pickup.
I would like you to take the posting off craigslist today.
Expecting to hear from you soon.
N.B Let me know If you have Agreed to help handle the shippers fee

First, the weird spacing of the email is a clue. No one writes that way.  Second, who would reply back and not even mention WHAT the item is or what price was mentioned in the add?  Did they want the amp or the bass or both?  Isn’t that important? Finally, they want the seller to handle the shippper’s fee.  That’s just not right.

Also, they’re asking for my information without giving me theirs.  I’m not exactly going to ship off $250 dollars worth of my stuff based on a casheir’s cheque and an email address.  (And really, can you even ship a bass and an amp for $50?)

The offer to send what is probably supposed to look like more money than necessary using an insecure method of payment just throws red flags all over the place.

Sometimes I really wonder about humanity.

>Way off topic: Disproving God with the double slit experiment?

>Ok, I’ve been watching a lot of Hitchens and Dawkins recently on youtube, so maybe it’s not a surprise that I would eventually start thinking about the age-old question”is there a god”?

After thinking about it for a while, I’m eventually left with a simple logical problem.

If you know the classical quantum physics problem, (youtube video here), you’ll know that an electron can act as a wave or a particle, depending on whether or not there is anyone watching it. When no one watches it, the electron is capable of transforming itself into a wave and interfering with itself…. Yes, that sounds odd, but that is in fact the nature of the universe we inhabit. However, when someone observes it, the electron is forced to pick a single path through the two slits, and you get a different pattern emerging beyond the two slits. (The video explains it fairly well, albeit with cheesy narration by a disembodied head…)

The only thing that decides whether it passes through one or both slits is whether it is observed to do so or not. A second piece of information about the universe we live in is that observation requires that we interact in some small way with the universe. You can’t observe an event or it’s indirect effects if there is no information escaping the event you’re observing. (think black holes…) So, if you are observing something, you are, in a small way, interacting with the event – either monitoring the change in an electric field (interacting with the event), or an escaping photon or other form of wave. No matter how you slice it, an observation is an interaction.

So one thing that puzzles me with the double slit experiment and the existence of a god (and I don’t care which one), is that the electron is able to transform itself into a complex wave of all possible paths when we don’t interact with it. As long us humans (or any device we can conceive of) isn’t watching it, the electron will travel through all possible paths. Once we directly observe it, the electron has no choice but to follow a single path.

If observation prevents the electron from being a wave, and non-observation allows the wave, doesn’t that mean that when we see the results of the electron acting as a wave, no one else is watching it either?

If you assume there is a god watching everything, how can you explain that the electron is ever able to become a wave and travel through all of the slits when there is a constant observer? The only escape is that you propose your god can observe without interacting with the universe…. and that opens the can of worms that the god must not be part of the universe. (Yes, all things in the universe interact, so not being a part of the universe necessitates non-existence… just like the Ether. If you can’t ever interact with it, it doesn’t exist.)

Food for thought. Clearly this argument won’t convince anyone with faith, but somehow it seems to destroy the concept of an all-seeing god for me. And now, back to genetics…


>I haven’t opened twitter in a week and a half – I’ve just been too busy, but I will get back to it, starting tomorrow. So yes, I will continue the link roundups, but I just couldn’t do it when I had my committee meeting, it’s aftermath and a talk (which I just gave an hour ago).

Anyhow, in the meantime, I have a short video for you – and don’t worry, it’s short.


>Anyone who knows me knows that I juggle – not incessantly, but just as a way to pass the time or as a device for concentrating. If you sit near me at work, there’s a good chance I’ve even got you started on juggling as well.

Although not even close to being on-topic for my blog, I figured I had to share this video. It’s one of the better 3-ball juggling videos I’ve seen. He more or less goes through everything I can do… and then still has another 3 and a half minutes of stuff I can’t do. If you’ve ever been curious about what you can do with three or four balls (without the usual behind the back or hacky-sac tricks), this is more or less a catalog. It’s here to remind me next time I run into a problem at work and need to learn something new to get past it.

>Funny Conversations, part 2

>I was amused:

-fejes- effort is relative.
-person2- No, it's absolute. That's why I gave a reference point.
-person2- Sarcasm is also absolute.
-fejes- if it were absolute, you wouldn't need a reference point.
-fejes- sarcasm also lacks a good scale.
-person2- You're somehow less funny than I am.
-fejes- that's relative.

>Speaking English?

>I have days where I wonder what language comes out of my mouth, or if I’m actually having conversations with people that make sense to anyone.

Due to unusual circumstances (Translation to English: my lunch was forcibly ejected from the fridge at work, which was incompatible with the survival of the glass-based container it was residing in at the time of the incident), I had to go out to get lunch. In the name of getting back to work quickly, as Thursdays are short days for me, I went to Wendy’s. This is a reasonable approximation of the conversation I had with one of the employees.

Employee: “What kind of dressing for your salad?”

Me: “Honey-dijon, please.”

Employee: “What kind of dressing do you want?”

Me: “Honey-dijon.”

Employee: “dressing.”

Me: “Honey-dee-john”

Employee: What kind of dressing for your salad?”

Me: “Honey-dijahn. It says honey-dijon on the board, it’s a dressing, right?”

Employee: “You have the salad with your meal?”

Me: “yes..”

Employee: “You want the Honey Mustard?”

Me: “Yes.”

Sometimes I just don’t get fast food joints – they make me wonder if I have aspergers syndrome. After that conversation, I wasn’t even going to touch the issue that my “sprite, no ice” had more ice than sprite.

>Best Software Licence Ever!

>I was looking for some example code of a Mahalanobis distance calculator and came across what I happen to believe is the most entertaining license I have ever seen. I had to share:

The program is free to use for non-commercial academic purposes, but for course works, you must understand what is going inside to use. The program can be used, modified, or re-distributed for any purposes if you or one of your group understand codes (the one must come to court if court cases occur.) Please contact the authors if you are interested in using the program without meeting the above conditions.

The Source.