Thursday, November 30, 2006

Yeah, you can find cool stuff on old ships. Even sunken ones.

My sister once gave me a "Day-Night-Moon-Phase-Date-Watch" as a Christmas/Birthday gift. It was manufactured by a well-known watchmaker and it was bee-yootiful and --of course-- nautical. That watch was the pinnacle of wrist technology. Until a couple of years ago when I heard about this Antikythera Mechanism, which the NY Times informs us is "technically complex," as reported in today's Nature Journal. Its amazing motion is documented in this presentation by the American Mathematical Society.

I would've used it as a navigation device, since the bronze cogs and wheels gave accurate information about planetary placement, lunar orbits, and other celestial timing. That is, before it became a twisted rusted chunk of unfortunacy on the ocean floor off the coast of Greece.
Oh, did I happen to mention that it had been lying there since the Second Century B.C.?
Yeah, I know. They haven't found the Second Century B.C. iPod or Internet yet. But I'm guessing the ancients were probably better off without getting to put Apollo and Demeter on "shuffle." Has your urn got any "up-toga" shots of Helen of Troy?

Monday, November 27, 2006

My Hospitalization FAQs

Why did you go to the hospital?
First, there were the headaches, muscle aches, jaw stiffness. I had trouble lifting my arms without pain (8 on a 1-10 scale) and found I couldn’t sit upright without wretching. After about a week of various levels of this, my Beloved got me to the ER at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford.
Was it as bad as everyone says, the St Luke’s ER?
Listen: Those people don’t understand the concept of triage. Your cough (except if you're coughing up a liver) is not going ahead of that heart attack, no matter how “fair” you think the world should be. Of course, this depends on the time of day, too. Bullet and stab wounds take precedence at night, I would imagine. Patience is important, and all the phony dramatic TV stuff is just that.

So you were lucky it was daytime? The ER was less crowded.
Yes. That and I passed out in the waiting room. ThirdMate's Tip: For faster ER service, throw up on yourself. There's a winning strategy.
You’re funny.
Well, if you’re gonna weep about it, go join an encounter group. Or get insurance and a decent primary care physician.
Did they admit you right then and there?
I think so. 62 over 30 is not a blood pressure, it’s odds at a race track. After some questions, poking, and intravenous wrangling of several types, a member of the fantastic staff had me figured for Lyme. (It was like watching a House episode, except everyone was concerned, not just Cameron and Wilson.) If it was renal failure caused by Lyme, or by diabetes, they weren’t going to send me home. According to my Beloved, I was admitted to the hospital so I “wouldn’t die.” Even though I think the hospital administrative term is “until stabilized.”
So they put you in a room?
Better than a hallway, what with all the foot traffic, buffing and waxing. Yes, they put me in a room. With plasma screen TV. Which actually does look great, even from twenty feet away, flat on your back with tubes coming out your arm waiting for your "condition to stabilize."
Sounds posh.
It was actually a brand-new room in the brand-new wing in the pretty new St Luke’s, with a great view of NB harbor and I was surrounded by the artwork of friends. Check out this swell video about how a hospital not only cares about its patients’ and visitors' health and happiness, but they also care about the community and the people who work in it.

You were there for nearly a week, what about the staff?
The SouthCoast Hospitals have really grown as a professional force. They're one of the largest employers, and...

What is this 'SouthCoast' stuff? This is Southeastern Massachusetts.
But I have more questions.
Of course you do. Feel free to use the "Comments" section. And stay affixed for "My Dialysis FAQs" coming soon.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


This video is 20 years old.
Back in the Reagan80's, we started whittling away our culture, systematically snuffing out voices from the past. We insisted the past was gone, useless. No one liked William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, those old "Beat" guys and their self-sure and often obscene chronicling, smartly raging against the hypocrisy of the society which surrounded them.
In this post-PoetrySlam era we celebrate that very hypocrisy. We eschew stark and effective language for cutesy rhymes. We trade the integrity of shocking imagery for ooh-naughty words. Words are cheap. Cheap and poorly-defined and ill-used.
As life itself.
I miss that kind of poetry.
Are we too cool to Howl ? Have we grown past the old man, or grown too self-possessed to bother listening?
Are we too jaded, too frightened, or too stupid for irony ?
And, barely facing it, do we tighten our choking grasp on the things we profess to love -- family and friends and stuff -- and choke the life out of them in our "gratitude."
Which smells a lot like "avarice."
Do we even know what gratitude means?
We stopped holding doors open because doors are mechanical, automatic.
We stopped being courteous at intersections because the signal allows us to.
You blithely Bluetooth with unseen others, scorning those near you.
Your colleague.
Your lover.
Your sister.
A stranger with an idea that might save your life.
In a pest-free world, you could thrive.
It's much easier not having to say "Thank You."
Because gratitude is a word which demands action. Gratitude is an on-going, active, impelling word.
I have learned that when I actively remind myself to be grateful,
It strengthens me.
So every day I'll studiously, seriously, persistently, and earnestly

Thank You.

(for Karie, on her birthday)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Jim Haskins

I promised myself I wouldn't get back into the eulogy business, but an old shipmate has cut the painter and I really need to say something about it. Jim was one of the few volunteers on a certain Big Blue Boat who really got it. He loved the ships, the music, the art of the time. While his wife Denise demonstrated facile scrimshandlery, Jim was real Navy, reef and steer, as well as chanteyman. (That's the only picture I could find. But I always think of him that way. Not so much the tricorn, but that constant smile.) He was also probably the only member of the Fall River Chamber of Horrors who knew what that Big Blue Boat really was. He saw potential in all and wasn't afraid to dream a little, and that's probably why he succeeded as Chamber Membership Director in a place like Fall River. A certain fishwrap claims he "captained" the ship, and I guess maybe he did. We had lots of captains. But Jim was never "The Old Man" type. He was a regular hand. I send my well wishes to Denise and the rest of his family and friends.
A heart attack took his life and I can't imagine the damage. His heart was so damned big.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Your Lyme FAQs. (Or, mine actually. Yours may differ...)

How did you get Lyme Disease?
How does anyone get Lyme? I was bitten by a tick. Which bothers me a lot because I’m a big fan of the Mighty Blue Justice Guy.
(AND: The Tick vs Season One is out. Buy me mine here.) But I suppose it makes up for the hours of joy as a boy pulling the little bastards off my golden retriever. If you want more info on Lyme, click on this. Yes, that's what the CDC says. But there are billlllllions of other sources. Whom I know and respect. And thank.
When did you get Lyme Disease?
I dunno. Some theories: …(1) Sometime in the spring of 2004, when I first experienced the non-specific symptoms that did not warrant further investigation by medical authorities… or (2) Sometime when I was working on remodeling that old farmhouse … (3) or on that new place surrounded by woods and gardens… or (4) at any time in the past 3 years walking to my car, or barbecue or laundry, or ANYWHERE on the 274 acres, or ... (5) during an outdoor event, summer of 2006. I lean toward the latter because within two days I began to suffer flu-like symptoms (chills, fever, and aches) which did not respond to home remedies.
Did you have any of the classic symptoms? The “target” rash? Anything cool like that?
No. Although, when I described my symptoms to anyone who had had Lyme, they insisted I had Lyme. Doctors, not so much.
Did you see a doctor?
A routine physical showed "nothing to be alarmed about." Fatigue could be explained by medications for high blood pressure. Aches and pains by my active lifestyle. Which wasn’t that active anymore. But tests (not for Lyme) showed elevated urine protein and blood creatinine levels, indicators of kidney issues.
Did you have kidney problems?
I’d been diabetic for 36 years. (Type 1, not the fashionable BabyBoomer one. World Diabetes Day was November 14, with the optimistic slogan "Diabetes Care for Everyone," and the hope to advocate for diabetics worldwide. Locally, this was celebrated by "Whine About Having to Stick Yourself and Not Eat Malassadas Day." ) It’s often been mentioned that my kidneys might be at risk. Although I'm tested regularly, diabetes and hypertension are factors that harm kidneys.

What's a malassada?
Sometimes incorrectly described as a Portuguese doughnut, it's fried dough covered in sugar. Like elephant ears without the cinnamon. Or flatter, more informal funnel cakes with granulated, not powdered sugar. Or sugar fritters. Or drop cakes. Or shankar palla. Very popular in parts of Portugal, the Azores, Hawaii, SouthCoast, and other places where Portuguese influence is obvious. The malassadas, not the other ones. Take that, Alton Brown. *
Do you have high blood pressure?
Yes, although it is controlled through medication, diet, and exercise.

A special diet?
No, just watching what I eat. No salt on those margaritas. Or Margarita mix. Or...
I thought this was about Lyme Disease.
My feeling is that the Lyme further insulted my already-compromised renal function. Lyme’s impact on my kidneys, although believed by some to be significant, is pooh-poohed by some medical professionals. (Including the guy who invented it, Dr. Lyme.) But I’ll be nice to them anyway, because I’ve gotten to know them and they seem nice enough. And I mean, poor them! All that expensive schooling they went through. Plus, when the Lyme tests came back positive, I was already in the hospital, so I had to be nice or they told me I wouldn’t get my shoes back.

No. Not the shoes part...
There are more questions.
Put them in the comments. Or wait 'til next time. Now, some Alton promotion:

Friday, November 10, 2006


If this is indeed "the journal I leave open on the galley table," I apologize to the Coasties, authoritahs, and others involved in its actual purpose (providing a reference of our journey and source of news for those who can’t visit or pick up the gorram phone). For you, shipmates, perhaps I have been a little busy at our uncertain helm in capricious seas these past few leagues, having now set the rig for new winds. Maybe you could say I’ve been fashioning some hull repairs, after careening. I’ve certainly been focusing the longeye on a point further along the horizon than is usual for this intrepid little barque (to we extend the cute-sea metaphor even further. Plus, the rig has changed.). In the words of the Dude: "...And then, you know, little of this, little of that. My career's, uh, slowed down a bit lately." Sometime next week, I’ll explain further…·

  • The Constitution does not exist so that anything that you think should be "the law of the land" will be. But our Constitution does exist in order to allow for your existence, even if you don’t get it. So stop trying to change it.
  • We’ve had to endure the past 6 years of sore winners. Let’s hope we’ve learned our lesson.
  • “We got a nice quiet beach community here, and I aim to keep it nice and quiet.”
  • Lebowski quotes. Just the thing for Fall.

UPDATE: An admiral who doesn't command anything is known colloquially as a yellow admiral, a "rear admiral without distinction of squadron." The yellow admiral had been "promoted" to land, impotent, unequipped, disenfranchised, and, as one maritime law dictionary holds, "unsuccessful or incompetent." I've never heard of one actually flying a yellow ensign (as opposed to the White, Blue, or Red ensigns flown at sea) but I suppose one might wear a yellow tie.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Pirates Never Win and Winners Never Pirate

For those of you wondering if
won in that elections thing the other night:


Wednesday, November 8, 2006

The battle's done, and we kind of won, so we sound our victory cheer:

...or do we just agree that the dog that has been chasing cars has finally caught one?
Congratulations to those politicians with integrity
who ran honest, clean, issue-based campaigns
concerned with the needs of the people.
Both of you.
* "Once More With Feeling" BtVS
(you may click for a clip)