Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Guilt Over Complications of the Heart

Guilt Over Complications of the Heart

This morning I'm feeling a bit guilty about something from last night...

In the evening, Leena came to me in a panic thinking she might be having a heart attack.  She said her Apple Watch was telling her something about "heart rate complications," and she knows she's at some risk as both of her parents have had heart attacks...

I guess while I know the Apple Watch has heart beat monitoring stuff, I don't know how much to trust it.  I asked her if maybe she'd had the Watch on too loose.  She didn't really answer, and I asked if maybe it was too tight?  Or maybe not aligned on her wrist properly or what.

Leena's not one for answering questions, as she doesn't like feeling like she's being interrogated and rebels at the idea of just simply answering.  She prefers talking and still kept saying stuff about "heart rate (or beat) complications".

Eventually I got out of her that she hadn't even been wearing the Watch.  She was holding it, and it was in some mode for configuring what gets displayed on the screen.  And it was giving her "heart rate complications".

Ah, that clarified things...  "Complications" in watchmaking means features on a watch beyond merely time keeping.  I only learned that a few years ago, through work, with our associating to a grey market luxury watch dealer.  I asked Leena if she was familiar with the term, since her family all has luxury watches, but she hadn't heard of "complications" in the horological sense.


Leena's older Rolex with a date "complication".

Here are some random Heart Rate Complications screen shots I just grabbed via Google:






I thought it was all resolved last night when I went to bed.  But this morning, thinking about it, I feel guilty that when Leena first told me she might be having a heart attack, I didn't even think of it as a medical emergency, I didn't think to call 911, that she might really be having a heart attack.


We're lucky this was just a misunderstanding of an obscure watchmaking term.  What'll happen if we have a genuine medical emergency in the future?

Thursday, May 6, 2021

COVID-19 Follow Up

 COVID-19 Follow Up

To follow up after my March 3rd post about Leena getting sick with COVID-19 and testing positive....

I probably had it the first time in March of 2020, after I was exposed to it at the office, before New York City closed offices down.  One of my coworkers came to work sick, with a fever and coughing up a storm.  That time I had about three weeks of an on again off again sore throat and fever.  Both were so mild my wife didn’t realize it, and at times I had to remind her I wasn’t feeling well.  At that time tests were only available to the terribly sick, the wealthy, and the powerful, so I never got tested and can only speculate what I had.

Then I had it in March this year, 2021, and while it wasn’t the worst, most painful illness I’ve had, it was far from pleasant.  Both me and my wife had it, but we were fortunate enough not to have it so severely we needed hospitalization.

In hindsight, the first effects of it in me turned up before I knew I was sick.  I knew I was exposed to it, because my wife was sick with it, and had tested positive.  About a week or so after her test I read a news article about the governor of Mississippi, which had his photo.  And for a few days every time I was by a mirror I kept silently remarking how Tate Reeves was my doppelgänger, how we looked so uncannily alike, as though we were twins.

Me and Tate Reeves, side-by-side


Around the same time I also noticed a lot more red spots on my skin.  I’ve had acne problems since puberty, but that week I had more reddish, prominent bumps around.  Not large numbers, not like a rash, but red bumps on my face, my arms, my belly…. It’s rare I don’t have any, but this was more than I’d normally have at one time.

After a few days of that, one evening I had a sore throat.  I felt it, but I held out hope that I was merely dehydrated, although drinking water didn’t help.  The next day my throat was still more sore and I was unquestionably sick and my whole body felt sick.

Then I had a weekend and I developed a mild cough.  Monday I actually felt slightly less sick, overall, but the cough was worse, more coughing more often, while still not being terribly forceful.  I went for a COVID-19 test that afternoon at a nearby clinic, and two days later it came back positive.

Tuesday, though, Tuesday it all got worse.  Tuesday morning I woke up to eat breakfast and begin work, but all I could do after I ate was lie down on the floor and take a nap for an hour and a half.  Then I got up and worked, not feeling well, having trouble focusing.  I had a headache and I felt like I had a fever, even though our thermometer never measured a temperature above 98.6 degrees F.  Whenever I tried to speak I coughed.

The following day was worse.  After breakfast I felt everything from the day before, sick, sore throat, cough, with an even worse headache, and adding in nausea.  I took my 90 minute on the floor by the computer, and when I woke up realized I couldn’t work, so I sent some emails that I was sick.

I slept on the living room floor till my wife woke up in the bedroom (she’s on a wildly different schedule than me) and then I slept in the bedroom, waking up now and again to use the bathroom and sip some water.

That evening I took a shower, a long, hot shower.  It felt nice.  I just sat in the tub, reclining against the back of it, feeling the hot water hit my belly to ease the nausea, slam into my throat to ease the cough, and pound my face and forehead to massage away the headache.  

I was in there for an hour and a half or so, then I got up and I was dizzy.  I could barely stand, wobbling on my legs all over.  I bashed my nose against the tiles of the tub, and while trying to gauge how much blood was pouring out I lost my balance and crashed out of the shower, banging my head against the tiled floor.  I found myself looking up at the toilet, my feet still in the tub.  

I called for my wife, who came in and helped me sit up.  She got me a few glasses of water and held an ice pack to my bleeding nose for a while until I’d calmed down.  

Following the bathroom incident I felt like the peak of the COVID-19 infection had passed.  The next few days I still had a headache, still felt sick in my body, still had a sore throat and cough, but it wasn’t as bad as leading up to the shower.

I took the next couple of days off from work, spending most of the time sleeping.  By the end of the following weekend I no longer felt sick all over.  The headache was gone and I felt normal, except for being fatigued and having a cough when I tried to speak aloud much.  Cough drops didn’t work on it, cough syrup did little, if anything.  Cherry flavored candy helped as long as I sucked on them, not ones that purported to be cough drops, just plain old candy.  Other flavors, not so much.

Now it’s close to two months since the first symptoms and I still feel tired more easily.  If I’m active I get to the end of my energy a lot faster than I would’ve before COVID-19.  I’ve had Raynaud’s Syndrome as long as I can remember, but now my fingers and toes, and my arms, are much colder for the current weather than they would’ve been in previous spring seasons.  When my wife wants to test out the new air conditioner in preparation for summer, I’m fighting it because I feel cold.

For other health reasons I’ve been checking my blood pressure almost daily, and during the couple of weeks I was sick with COVID-19 my blood pressure was noticeably higher.  

So that was COVID-19 for me…. I’m lucky I didn’t have it as bad as millions of other people have.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

CD-ROM Express from PC-Kwik

CD-ROM Express from PC-Kwik

The final product released by my old employer, PC-Kwik in 1996.


So, I was browsing around a few weeks ago for the PC-Kwik logo for some reason, I don't quite recall now and saw someone on eBay selling an old copy of CD-ROM Express for just a couple of bucks, and a bit more shipping.  I thought it was worth it for the nostalgia...

I worked at PC-Kwik from September 1993 till we shut our doors on December 31, 1996 (though I'll admit that last day I jetted around 3pm rather than stick it out all the way till the end of the business day at 5pm).

While I wasn't one of the main developers of the CD-ROM Express utility, I did write the MS-DOS based install program for the DOS/Windows 3.1 version of it (but not the Windows 95 version).  And I was the main QA tester for both versions, and I was the editor of the user manual.  

I also helped with the design of the box.  Initially the designers made it so there was a complete image of a CD within the Mercury helmet, but I thought it looked bad, like someone took a car cigarette lighter to a plastic helmet, and suggested resizing it, cutting off the bottom so that the curve aligned with the curve of the helmet, the way it is above.  I think it looks much better this way.



Unfortunately CD-ROM Express failed as a product.  There were several reasons, including bad timing, we released it just as consumer level CD-ROM drives themselves got fast enough to obviate the usefulness of CD-ROM Express.  

While skillful, and maybe lucky, marketing could've gotten around that, this just wasn't the product our customers wanted to buy from us.  Doing technical support I talked to PC-Kwik customers every day, and they made it clear what they wanted us to make was Super PC-Kwik, our fast hard drive caching utility, and our PowerPak programs, for Windows 95.  If we could've converted those from DOS to Windows 95, they would've bought them.

But alas, we didn't listen to them...

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

And it's here... The Coronavirus...

And it's here...  The Coronavirus...

So, Friday afternoon Leena was just out and about, running errands.  She saw there was no line outside the nearby urgent care clinic by our apartment and just went in to ask how quick it is to get a COVID-19 test and if it's free.  It was, with our insurance, so she scheduled one for Monday afternoon.

Monday afternoon she went out for her 3pm test.  She described it as a terrible experience.  She checked in and was put into a stuffy exam room.  And nothing happened.  Nobody came, she just waited.  Finally when she opened the door to ask someone if she could wait with the door open, someone realized she was in there.  

The test itself was quick and easy, if mildly uncomfortable.

Then Monday night, after I went to bed, she developed a stomach ache, a sore throat and a fever.

Tuesday morning I got up as usual to begin my workday and she felt horrible.  She had some Tylenol and went back to sleep.  The rest of Tuesday she was clearly sick.

Around 3pm on Tuesday she got an email from the urgent care clinic that she had a 5pm telehealth call with the clinic's doctor, which made no sense as she hadn't requested one and she was afraid they'd charge us hundreds of dollars for it.

Then she saw she also had an email with the test results...  In big bold red letters it said the coronavirus was "DETECTED".  Then I guessed that the 5pm telehealth call was probably required by the doctor to discuss the positive test with her.

We put together a list of questions to ask the doctor about Leena's condition, about what we should do to take care of her, about what I should do regarding my own upcoming doctor visits, and so forth...

Only at 5pm we got into the telehealth website the email linked to, and waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  By 5:20pm the doctor never signed in and Leena gave up.  She's less patient than I am, and she was sick.

After that she called the clinic and gave a rough overview of the situation to the receptionist who said she'd get a doctor on the phone.  And Leena waited and waited and waited, for nearly an hour on hold without ever getting the doctor.  So she gave up.

Today she's feeling much improved, talking with a lot more energy.  I think her sore throat is mostly gone, and the fever is more mild than it was yesterday.

I've scheduled a test for myself for tomorrow morning to see if I might have it, since I've definitely now been exposed to it as we live in a tiny apartment.

-- --

Follow up Friday afternoon...  I got my test results: Negative.




And I keep thinking of the band W.A.S.P. with their Live... In the Raw album.  It's got a short sequence in the song I Wanna Be Somebody where Blackie Lawless leads the crowd in a bit of "audience participation".  They do a bad job so he admonishes them, "What, are you guys sick or something?  I'm supposed to be the sick motherfucker around here."  Well, after all my heart related exams and appointments recently, it's not Leena, it's me, "I'm supposed to be the sick motherfucker around here," not her...


Tuesday, March 2, 2021

An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

 An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Over the years I've found this cliche actually works out to be true.

For years I've eaten an apple a day as part of breakfast.  Not because the cliche, because they're healthy and I like sweet apples.  In India I ate ones that tasted like sweetened apple juice, which may have been imported from China.  Here in the U.S. I eat Fuji apples, which are pretty similar.

After I had my high blood pressure crash & burn that landed me in the emergency room in 2014 I set myself up with a primary care physician, Dr. M who we really liked.  The day of my first appointment with her was her first day at that practice, so she had a lot of time to spend with us answering questions and what-not.

And a few years later she moved out of New York City, leaving the large practice where we went.

They assigned me a new primary care physician, Dr. Z and I went to her a couple of times.  While Leena never joined me and didn't meet her, I liked her, she seemed like a pretty good doctor.  But then she moved out of New York City.

Following Dr. Z's departure I continued to eat an apple a day as part of breakfast and didn't go see a doctor at all, not wanting to start over all my history again with a new one.  Better to just skip the whole thing.

But last autumn Leena had an urgent need to see a doctor.  So, thinking back to when I first went to Dr. M, I remembered another doctor at that clinic who Dr. M used on billing and referrals until she was completely set up in their computer system, Dr. A, I set us up with Dr. A as our primary care physician.  Leena went to Dr. A and really loved her, recommending I go to see her about my long running high blood pressure.

Great.  I prepared some notes and how to introduce myself to Dr. A for my own appointment with her.  I told her I picked her at that clinic because she was the one Dr. M used for billing and referrals when she was still too new at the clinic to be set up in their computer system.  Dr. A acknowledged that and we continued on.

And now we recently got an email from the clinic that Dr. A is leaving in a couple of weeks.

I have to wonder, back at my first in-person appointment with her, when I told her why I chose her as my new doctor, did she already know she was on her way out?  Or did she get a new opportunity at some point after that...  

Thinking back farther, back in India, sometimes when we'd make a plan to go see Dr. S for whatever reason, Leena would usually tell me to eat something before we go.  Sometimes, I'd eat an apple, and then Leena would call the doctor's cell phone to confirm (Leena was an old school friend of the doctor's wife, also a doctor) and he'd say something like, "sorry, I'm stuck in Mumbai on some work," and we'd have to postpone, cancel or maybe go see Dr. P instead...

My only conclusion is that eating apples regularly somehow repels doctors.

Maybe it's time I switch to a pear a day...

A picture of Fuji apples I snagged off the internet...  (not my apples, not my photo...)


Monday, March 1, 2021

The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter

So, in November last year I finally went to a new primary care physician to discuss my long-running high blood pressure issues.  I'd been putting it off for a few years because I didn't want to get into things with yet another new doctor after my previous two both left New York City...  

But Leena had gone to her for a skin issue and really liked her, so she talked me into going.  I actually picked this doctor because I knew her name at the clinic since she was well established there when I first started going for another doctor in 2014.

So, Dr. A. talked to me, took some blood and later when we followed up via video call (coronavirus pandemic, you know...) she changed my high blood pressure medication and put me on a statin for cholesterol, which she described with "sky rocket".  The new medications were giving me headaches, but as they were lowering my blood pressure she didn't want to change them without my seeing a cardiologist first.

When I saw the cardiologist, Dr. T. he didn't believe me that the medications were causing the headaches, which started the day after I started those medications, but was willing to change the prescription to ease my mind at a minimum. 

Dr. T. was concerned about my state of health, my long running high blood pressure, that I got out of breathe when I was active, and my family history, since my father had a heart attack and quadruple bypass at 64 years old and one of my grandfathers died of a heart attack at 62 (granted, he'd been a lifelong smoker, which wasn't my case).  Dr. T. said things like my father's heart attack usually started showing signs about fifteen years in advance, and that puts me easily into the beginning of that 15 year range compared to my father's heart attack...

Dr. T. also scheduled me for a CAT scan, a "CTA Coronary Artery" at the hospital for a week and a half ago.  I went for that, which involved spending an enormous amount of time waiting my turn, and then feeling like I peed my pants when they injected me with the radiocontrast dye (I didn't, it just felt that way when the warmth spread through my body, getting to my crotch region...)

And Monday last week I met with Dr. T. at his office where he reviewed all the images from the CAT scan and some other ultrasound images done that morning.

He then told me that the scans of blockage scored me in the 89th percentile for men aged 51.  Um, ok.  I had to ask if that meant 89th percentile good, or 89th percentile bad.  He then clarified that it was bad.  So, these are like golf scores, a lower number is far better...  It turns out I have more blockage in my heart's arteries than 88% of men aged 51.

Well, I figure that's trivial to beat.  Later this year I'll turn 52, invalidating the whole statistic.  

Dr. T. recently uploading the results to the MyChart system so I could read it and here's an excerpt of the key parts.

1. The calcium score is 119 in the 89th percentile for age, gender and ethnicity.

2. There is no calcified aortic plaque.

3. Normal LM. 

4. 25-50% stenosis of the proximal LAD due to mixed plaque with a high risk feature of spotty calcification. Normal remaining LAD.

5. 50-69% stenosis of the ostial to proximal large high D1 due to mixed plaque with a high risk feature of low attenuation plaque.  50-69% stenosis of the mid D1 due to non-calcified plaque. Norma distal D1. Normal branch of D1. 

6. <25% stenosis of the proximal LCx due to non-calcified plaque.  Normal remaining non-dominant LCx. Normal OM1.

7. Normal proximal RCA. Mid RCA is ectatic with 50-69% stenosis in the mid segment due to mixed plaque with a high risk feature of low attenuation plaque and spotty calcification. <25% stenosis of the distal RCA due to mixed plaque. Normal RPLA and RPDA.

I sent this to my wife with this description, including links to Wikipedia:

Here's a Wikipedia article that explains the arteries in question.  

And here's a grabshot of the vector drawing in the Wikipedia article:

Wikipedia drawing of coronary arteries.

Note that the picture is reversed, showing the patient's left side on the right and right side on the left.  This is because the picture is drawn the way a doctor would see it looking at the patient.

In the picture you can see the LAD mentioned in the doctor's #4 item.  It's on the right side of the picture.  This is 25-50% blocked (I'm not sure why there's a range that size, whether it's because different parts of the artery are blocked different amounts, or because that's as accurate as the scan can get).

His #5 item refers to D1, which is on the lower right side of the picture.  This is blocked 50-69%.

His #6 item is LCx which is in the middle of the right hand side of the picture.  This is blocked less than 25%.

His #7 item is RCA which is on the left middle side of the picture.  This is blocked 50-69%

For now Dr. T. has increased my blood pressure and cholesterol medications as well as including a new one, a beta blocker.  He suggested (was it a suggestion or an order?) a no cholesterol diet.  And I'm to follow up with him later this month to see where to go from there.

He talked about maybe scheduling another procedure to look closely at the blockages with a camera inserted up in there, and possibly inserting stents.  I assume it wasn't an immediate life threatening emergency or he would've done more than sending me home with some medication prescriptions for now.

Dr. T. also emphasized my need to get a sleep study from a sleep specialist.  I was lazy about scheduling that, with the idea that it would be a lot less stressful to deal with one specialist's area of my body at a time.  

At home we're trying to deal with my diet.  I need to be more careful about not cheating as much, since now the damage that's doing is more concrete and less abstract.  But convincing Leena to change how she's cooking for me is harder because she doesn't want to believe she's been cooking food that's unhealthy for my heart as it is.  She wants to think she's been doing everything perfectly.

I also made an appointment with the sleep specialist for next week...

Saturday, February 27, 2021

How Do You Explain a Mosquito if Their is No God?

How Do You Explain a Mosquito if Their is No God?

(note: I borrowed the wrong homonym in my title to keep with the meme...)

For some reason the not-particularly-new meme from some dumb-ass theists asking questions to "prove" that god exists came to mind.  One in particular, with a woman holding a hand written note "how do you explain a sunset if their is no God?" (sic).


In my sleep I thought of three different ways to interpret the question itself (ignoring the incorrect homonym).  There may be more interpretations, I just thought of these three, and I already know I'm not particularly bright in general.

  1. How do you explain why the sun sets at all, as opposed to remaining the sky?
  2. How do you explain why the setting sun looks the way it does?
  3. How do you explain why we almost universally feel sunsets are beautiful?

The first two are easily explained by physics, of course, and most of the memes that "answer" this question revolve around those two, the sun sets because the Earth rotates on its axis, and the Rayleigh scattering explains why it looks like it does in Earth's atmosphere.

The third interpretation, though, is a lot more philosophical.  If sunsets weren't almost universally considered beautiful the woman in the meme, and many others, likely wouldn't associated them with god.  And for people who believe in crap like a supreme being want to associate good or beautiful things with their supreme being.

And because the third interpretation appeals to people, they likely won't find arguments against the meme to be at all convincing.  Sunsets are still relatively beautiful, even if you understand why they happen and why they look the way they do.  

Otherwise, the question could be "how do you explain a mosquito if there is no god?"

Then again, many religious people see the explanation of negative, bad, or ugly things as still proof there is a god, punishing the wrong-doers, or punishing the righteous for not fighting the wrong-doers enough or something.

I guess there's no getting anywhere with this shit.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Nature and Growth (and Shrinkage) of Modern Mathematics

The Nature and Growth (and Shrinkage) of Modern Mathematics

I've struggled with math since elementary school.  In the 1990's, in my 20's, a late mentor of mine, Dave Mitchell, suggested the book The Nature and Growth of Modern Mathematics by Edna E. Kramer might help me overcome some of that.



It was slow reading for me, and over the course of a few years I made my way through a few chapters.  Until early 2001, when I moved to Pune, India for a year.  Since I was only going for a year, it wasn't among the few books that I packed up to take there with me.

Then I ended up spending a decade in India before I moved back to the United States.  When I did move back to the U.S. I moved to New York City, and didn't have easy access to my large library in storage out in Waldport, Oregon.

With the coronavirus pandemic this year, I figured I'd buy another copy and pick up reading it again.  I found a used one easily enough but there's a problem with it.  In the 20 years since I last read it, the print has shrunk to minuscule, Holy Cow! unreadable size.   (yeah, yeah, I know, it's my aging eyes...)

As for math, I actually did excel at math twice as a boy, in elementary school.  But each time the teachers punished me for it and I learned my lesson, never again excel at math.

The first time was in 2nd grade at the Fellowship Farm School in Piscataway, NJ.  My best friend, Brian, and I worked ahead in our math workbook, enjoying, having fun.  But when our teacher. Mrs. Cooper, found out she punished us.  Back then standard punishment was having to stand against the wall in the hallway during class, and then stand against the wall of the lunchroom during lunch, only eating quickly after everyone not being punished had finished.  We faced this for a week.

I never again worked ahead of the class in math again.

Then the second time was in 4th grade, in a new school, Waldport Grade School, where I was a new student, having moved there in October 1978. Mrs. Elsie Apt gave us the assignment to write all the numbers from 1 to 10,000.  Not all at once, over a few weeks, with some days a set of 100, or 500, or at most 1,000.

Quite an onerous assignment.  However, at some point in it I noticed a weird repetition in the digits of sequences of numbers.  It didn't take me long to figure out how to exploit that to make the writing of all the numbers go quicker.  Especially where the digit 1 (one) repeats in the same position of 10 or more numbers (bearing in mind the maximum repeats is 1,000 but the lined pages only had so many rows...)

Even with other numbers, I could just go down the lines, write 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 over and over till the page was full, then move to the next digit of all the numbers and repeatedly write something like 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, then got to the 3's and so forth and so on...  

Of course, my skill at handwriting and related isn't so great that this wasn't obvious from the way I turned in the page. 

Sample of 210 - 219


Mrs. Apt considered this to be cheating.  And I had to rewrite a number of pages.  

So, despite learning something more valuable about numbers than the teacher probably intended, I got punished for it.  Lesson learned, don't excel in math!

On the plus side, that school year my mother was a volunteer whale counter for the Oregon State University Marine Science Center, so I wrote a lot of those number pages, plus other homework, from the top of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.  So that's a hell of a good memory.

My Photo of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse from 2016.



Saturday, March 14, 2020

Close-Up U.S.A.

Close-Up U.S.A.

When I was a kid in the 1970s and my parents were preparing to drive across the country and find a new place to live, they bought a boxed set of maps from National Geographic named Close-Up U.S.A.  Now, as a kid, I misread the title, thinking it meant the heteronym, like a business at the end of the day would "close up the shop," I thought the USA, my home country, was closing!

It was a relief some time later to realize that the title meant something more like "I'm ready for my close-up now," and the U.S.A. wan't actually closing.  And it was kind of funny for years to think of my childhood misunderstanding.

However, now in March 2020, the U.S.A. is sort of closing up, like "close up shop" kind of closing.  With the novel coronavirus pandemic spreading and people getting sick with the COVID-19 from it.  The president is belated closing our borders, starting first with travelers from China, but now from Europe (minus the one European country where this president owns commercial properties).

States are closing schools all over.  New York State just shot down all Broadway plays in order to reduce the number of people in close proximity.  Several states have put a limit on the number of people gathered together.

It'll probably get more restricted before it gets back to normal, whenever it does...

The U.S.A., bit by bit, is closing!

Here are some photos of Close-Up U.S.A. thought I found on the internet.  None of these photos are mine.





Jury Duty in Manhattan, Again

So, last week I had jury duty, again.

This time it was at a different courthouse than my previous jury duty in 2013.  I had to go to 111 Centre Street, room 1121.  I think this was a New York County court rather than a state one, I don't know.

I got there around 8am, an hour early for the 9am time.  I walked around outside for a little bit, then decided to go through the security stuff early, before any lines formed up.  Security was easy, the guards barely paid attention to me, and once I'd walked through the metal detector and my stuff passed through the x-ray machine, they no longer even looked my direction.

Upstairs on the 11th floor I had a while to wait.  I snapped a few photos of the view just after sunrise. Then I saw the sign that said no photographs may be taken under any circumstances.  Although judging by the security cameras on the ceiling, there are circumstances...

The head clerk was the same fellow as last time, seven years ago, William T. Stevenson.  He was pretty cool, with a very positive attitude about, well, everything.  Actually, it was reassuring, considering how stressful I find jury duty.

The clerks began the orientation for jurors at just after 9am, showing us a video and giving us instructions on filling out a small demographic form, then turning in our juror ballots so they know who all is there.

Then we waited.  And waited.  One of the clerks, Mr. Stevenson, occasionally let us know that they were "waiting for work" to come from the judges.

About 10% of the jurors in the room were clearly sick, coughing, sneezing and sniffling pretty steadily.  There wasn't a "sick section," they were scattered around so there wasn't anywhere to escape the risk of infection.

Around 11am the clerks announced that a civil trial was sending up some lawyers to us to find some jurors, which was unusual instead of us going to them in a courtroom.

When the lawyers entered it was obvious who they were, their suits were definitely high quality, way above what the only male clerk, or the two male jurors who came in suits were wearing.

They gave us in the jury pool a quick introduction to their case, asbestos poisoning.  They said it would last about 6 weeks, and listed the dates, which in my head I totaled up to just under 8 weeks.  Then they handed out a questionnaire to everyone, which also listed the dates of the trial, just under 8 weeks.

We stood up, raised our right hands and swore an oath, then sat down to fill in the questionnaires.  The first question was if we would face any hardships sitting on a jury for that length of time.  Of course, I would, so I wrote an essay there about being the sole breadwinner of my household and that missing my regular paychecks for that duration would be a hardship, but if absolutely required I could sell some assets, pawn some items, or pay my rent on a credit card.

Another question was "have you ever been in jury selection for another asbestos case?" For that, I checked "yes" because, in fact, I have.

The lawyers then gathered up the questionnaires from everyone and went into a small side room to go through them.  It wasn't very long before they went to the clerks and asked for a small number of people to come forward.  I wasn't one of them, but the discussion was loud enough to hear, that they picked those jurors who would then go home and on some specific evening call the courthouse for instructions where to appear the following day.

The clerk then asked us if we wanted our questionnaires back or we would be ok with him shredding them in the room in front of us.  He made it clear that whatever we chose, he would release us for lunch after he finished whichever choice, and if we wanted them back it would take a lot longer to call people one-by-one to come up and get their own than for him to stuff the papers in the shredder...    We chose shredder...

Then it was out for an hour and a half lunch break.  The whole jury selection process is monstrously stressful for me, so I didn't think I could eat without tossing it back up.  I just walked around the neighborhood for a while, getting fresh air.  It's nice walking around that area on a workday, when I'm usually in my office elsewhere.

After returning from my walk I bought a couple of bags of chips from the vending machine in the jurors' assembly room, one of plantains and one of corn chips.

The afternoon session was pretty similar.  We sat around, the clerk came around everyone now and then to let us know that we were "waiting for work" from the judges, but that there simply weren't any trials starting that needed jurors.

This went on till about 3:30pm when the clerk, Mr. Stevenson, said he'd called the judge and there wasn't anything going on, so he got permission to release us, not just for the day, but from this summons.  He had us stick around while they distributed the letters to keep that said we served and the courts under the state system cannot call us back for another four years (used to be six, but the laws changed).

And that was that for me, I walked up to Canal Street and took an N train back home, getting there slightly earlier than I would on a normal workday.

Honestly, I feel a little guilty that twice now I've gotten out of my civic duty based on money.  It's supposed to be something of a sacrifice for the greater good of society, etc.  I get that, I'm willing to make some sacrifice.  But both times, eight weeks out of work was just too much.  I'd have had to either sell off assets or go into debt, paying rent and buying food on a credit card, in order to serve.  I know if I ended up on one of those juries, I'd spend eight weeks sitting in the courtroom seething, angry that the judge is getting paid to be there, the lawyers big bucks, probably, to be there, the clerks, the bailiffs, the reporter, the expert witnesses, the news reporters, almost everyone else getting paid to be there, while I'd be there myself paying to be part of it.

I mean, I'd've been willing to serve on a jury for a trial a few days, one, two, five, six, 10 even, you know, in length, I could swing that.  It'd only be a minor dent in my finances.  But eight weeks would just be crushing.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Review - "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffeneggar

The Time Traveler’s Wife — by Audrey Niffenegger

I knew this was a movie quite a long time ago, but assumed it was a chick flick and I wouldn’t be interested.  Then recently I read it in a list of science fiction books that mentioned that the story really did involve time travel, which got me interested in it.

I’m glad I saw that list as I really enjoyed this book.

The woman in the title is Clare, and the story revolves around her future husband, Henry.  Henry has a genetic disorder that causes him to occasionally, and without any control over it, travel through time and space to somewhere else, with only his body, no clothes or shoes, or even fillings in his teeth.  Wherever he was, his clothes just fall empty to the ground.  How long he stays is unpredictable.  He’s frequently beaten up, but has learned to fight, to steal, to pick locks, etc. in order to get clothes, food and water on his travels.  Most of his travels, at least the ones detailed in the book, are too familiar places, including hanging out with himself at other ages.

He repeatedly goes to a meadow near Clare’s house, beginning when Clare is six years old and Henry is 28.  They become friends quickly, but by then Henry knows they’ve already met and married in “real time”.   One one of his trips, when he’s older, he recites for Clare to write down a list of dates that he memorized for when he travels to her, so she can always have a set of clothes prepared for him.

Time moves on, Clare gets older…. She hasn’t told many people about Henry because as the few she has don’t believe her, other than her having a childhood “imaginary friends.”  Henry’s already told her they get married in her future, and as she becomes a teenager she keeps trying to seduce him, but he remains a gentleman.  Clare’s friends, who don’t know about Henry puzzle over why she won’t date boys through high school.

Once they meet in “real time” Clare recognizes Henry, who is younger than he was the first time he traveled to Clare’s meadow, so he has no idea who she is.  But they hit it off, and he quickly dumps his current girlfriend so they can date and marry, etc.

It takes a little effort to keep track of the dates and Clare and Henry’s ages.  But it’s worth it.

As the book moves on previous chapters’ foreshadowing starts to clarify, for the characters and for the readers.  It gets a bit sad once it’s clear that according to Ms. Niffenegger’s time travel rules once he’s experienced something, there’s nothing anyone can do to change it, it’s happened, or it will happen exactly as he saw it.  What’s going to happen becomes utterly inevitable, even if we don’t want it too.

Ms. Niffenegger doesn’t go into the mechanics of Henry’s travel, and that’s just as well.  It’s just something that happens and the story goes with it.

Overall I very much enjoyed this book, and I’m looking forward to the eventual sequel the author is working on (following one of Henry’s relatives with a similar genetic condition).


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Was I an Asshole at Work?

Question:  Was I an asshole at work today?

It’s finally getting warm in the office, enough that the previous two workdays I turned on the air conditioner to 74 degrees (Farenheit, or 23.3 Centigrade, for those who use that).  Two of my coworkers, who got in later than me expressed relief that it was on finally, that it was so much better than the prior week or so.

For me, though, 74 degrees meant the blasted thing was blowing air most of the day and as I have Raynaud Syndrome, I was terribly uncomfortable, teeth chattering, shivering and struggling to type on the computer with my numb fingers.  That happens with Raynaud’s, when it’s even just chilly and I’m sitting still or standing still, I get very cold, and dressing warmer helps without fixing it.

Today, though, today I got in first and I set the air conditioner on 75 degrees instead of 74 degrees.  Throughout the day it only cycled on a handful of times, and only for short periods, not enough to freeze all the heat out of my body.  And I enjoyed the occasional breeze that blew in through the wide open window next to me.

Heck, I felt a touch warm, myself (and for me that’s far superior to feeling teeth chattering cold).

I know my coworkers were probably uncomfortably hot and sweating in our cabin, but nobody actually said anything aloud to me.

I also know that out of the four of us who share that cabin, I’m the only one who knows how to turn the air conditioner on.  It’s a weird system, a standard remote control, but a very loose integration with a thermostat on the wall.  Only two of us in the company actually know how to use the thermostat.  We’re not keeping it a secret, we’ve explained over and over and over again to everyone else, but no one gets it.  Everyone else just uses the remote control, which ends up causing problems outside business hours…

Since last summer, the remote in our cabin walked off.  It had been on the desk underneath the air conditioner for the past eight years.  But the guy who sat there moved desks, leaving the remote there, and then left the company.  Now the remote is nowhere to be found.

Sure, the three people who were looking a bit uncomfortable in the heat were the ones who cleaned the spare desk and threw away all the accumulated junk, so in my mind, they bear a bit more responsibility for the lack of an air conditioner remote than I do.

But still, was I an asshole for prioritizing my comfort in the heat over my coworkers’ obvious, but silent, suffering, knowing that I, and only I, could fix it for them?

Follow-up Question:  Will I be an asshole at work again tomorrow?

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Bodily Functions on Review

So, this week I hit the “trifecta” of witnessing bodily elimination functions during my commutes…

On Tuesday morning, riding the 4 train in Brooklyn, a sleeping guy got up from laying down on the bench and walked to the middle door, closed while the train was running, whipped it out and pissed, in full view of half a dozen passengers, men and women.

On Wednesday evening I was nearly home and saw a guy stretch out both arms on a sidewalk shed, scaffolding.  I thought he was just tired and stretching, but no…. He leaned over a large stream of orange liquid, like he’d been guzzling Irn-Bru, with a few scattered chunks came spewing out his mouth into the gutter alongside the street.  The low evening sun was shining bright from the opposite side, lighting up the stream of vomit to a glowing nuclear orange.

On Thursday evening I was on the N train, just pulling into 49th Street, where I get off.  I was standing at the very front door, almost with my nose on it.  As the train stopped I could see out one side of the window a rolling cart with some stuff in it, but the metal between the windows was blocking my view next to that.  Then the doors opened and there was a dirty bum, crouching, pants down, taking a shit.

On the lucky side, for the two evening ones I was wearing headphones so I didn’t hear any of the associated noises.  Oddly, and quite fortunately, I didn’t smell any of them…

Monday, February 4, 2019

Slipping on Ice

After a few weeks of being lazy on the weekends, I got out on Saturday with my camera.  Actually, I was feeling lazy, but Leena pushed me to go out and walk a bit.  I really wanted to stay home and futz around with my now-broken iMac and see what data I could recover from it.

So, I got out, and it was pleasant out.  I walked over by Grand Central Terminal, and across 42nd Street I slipped on some melting ice.  There's a slight slope there in Pershing Square, and with the ice melting it was covered in liquid water, and I didn't realize there was ice under the water until I suddenly, and painfully found myself sitting in it.

I was in sort of a daze, but a few people asked if I was alright, and I said I would be.  Then I got up and hobbled to a decorative rock, large enough to function as a bollard, and sat for a little bit.  Then remembered there's an indoor public plaza (one of New York's Privately Owned Public Spaces) so I limped over there to sit a few minutes in a chair, and write in my diary.

Fortunately that was very close to a subway entrance with an escalator that got me very close to the crosstown shuttle to Times Square, which wasn't a far walk from the elevator down to the N platform, that I took one stop up to 49th Street where there's another elevator up to the street.

Then I had to limp home a few avenues over.  After crossing 8th Avenue I called Leena to meet me at the corner nearest our apartment as I was thinking I should go to the urgent care clinic there.  She was almost at the subway on her way down to Macy's, and I realized we'd crossed paths, on the opposite side of 49th Street, though she doesn't normally pay close attention to what's around her, while this time I was distracted and focusing only on the steps ahead of me.

She said to skip the urgent care and she would fix the sprain at home.  So, we did that.  She rubbed some Indian liniment, called Volini, which is mostly linseed oil and menthol, on it, then went down to the pharmacy to buy an ice pack.  By then my ankle was swollen, and had a monstrous bulge on the side.  The pharmacist recommended she give me Advil and keep my ankle elevated.

We did that.  Icing it every couple of hours for 20-30 minutes, rubbing that Volini on it, and I kept it up on a chair...

By bedtime Saturday night the swelling was reduced.  My ankle just looked enlarged, without that round bulging ball on the side.  So that was good.

Yesterday was more of the same...  Although it didn't change much throughout yesterday.  The big change was Friday evening...

Today I've hobbled my way to work.  I had a plan that I'd walk to Times Square and get the 3 train that goes right to my office, without needing any stairs between the start and finish. But by the time I walked half a block I changed my mind.  Instead I took a local train at the nearest subway station and changed trains downtown to a 4 train.  That involved a few short flights of stairs, but was a lot less than the further walk to Times Square.  And despite walking a lot slower than usual, got me to work a little earlier than usual.  Go figure.

Going home is going to be a different story.  I don't think I can take the 4 train to the same station because I probably won't be able to force my way off the crowded rush hour train.  I'll need to take a different route.

I've certainly slipped on ice before.  It's part of winter, and hell, I went to college.  This is the first time I can think of that I've bruised more than just my dignity.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Review - Hawkwind's "Road to Utopia"

Hawkwind - Road to Utopia


The weather has cooled off enough to use my big stereo just in time to listen to a brand new Hawkwind album on it first.

While I read Hawkwind’s initial posting about it a couple of months ago, and new it was going to be a mostly acoustic album, the sound of it still caught me by surprise once I put it on.

It’s a rehashing, mostly acoustic of a number of their songs spanning almost five decades.  What I didn’t expect were the horn and string arrangements, like a full-blown, light pop music album.  I don’t mean horns like Nik Turner’s “asthmatic water fowl” style of saxophone, but total pop music horns.

The two instrumental songs, Hymn to the Sun and Intro The Night are both pretty boring, and thankfully short.

The song, The Flying Doctor sounds like a far more rollicking tale in this version, with the vocals a lot clearer in more muddy, electric ones.  It’s a lot easier to hear the story of the drug addicted doctor.

My favorite on this album, the one that sounds the most like you’d expect from Hawkwind, is The Watcher with Eric Clapton playing electric guitar.

Overall, I like it.  But I have to wonder, would I enjoy this music if it was some other group and not Hawkwind.  I’m not so sure.  Maybe only because I thought they were playing Hawkwind songs.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Quora Question: What kind of guitar do you own, and which one do you want to own?

What kind of guitar do you own, and which one do you want to own?

This is my answer from a Quora question...

What Kind of Guitar Do You Own?

Late last year, 2017, I bought a brand new surf green made-in-Mexico Fender Stratocaster.



It’s the first time in my life I’ve touched a guitar. I’m 48 now. In 3rd grade I played the cello for a year, when my mother had a future planned out for me as a concert cellist (I think she was mostly attracted to the idea I’d have a job where I had to wear a tuxedo to work). Then we moved, wound up in a small town and there weren’t any cellos to borrow or rent for me to continue my lessons.

In 6th grade I played the saxophone for half a year when our whole class had half a year of band. I stunk at both instruments. Twinkle Twinkle Little Starwas always out of reach for me, and I minced the Little Lamb Mary Hadbeyond any reasonable form.

But I love music. It’s one of those things I spend an inordinate amount of my income on. And the last few summers I’ve been watching punk rock bands play concerts in Tompkins Square Park here in New York City. So I felt inspired to try and learn a little how to play, and I figured the first step was to actually get a guitar.

I’ve long liked the look of Stratocasters. They simply scream out “rock n roll!” (there’s others that do, too) and I figured since I never held a guitar before the contoured shape might be a little more comfortable to learn with. Since I’m obsessed with the color green, that was the obvious color. I debated whether I should spend more for a genuine branded Fender, or go for a cheaper Squier, but I read the Squier ones have less quality control, and I figured that with my complete inexperience paying a little more would ensure the godawful sound coming from it was my playing, rather than a defective instrument.

I bought a bunch of beginner books, and I signed up for Fender Playwhich has some good beginners’ lessons, that I’m struggling with.

I bought Rocksmith 2014 as well, so I could plug the guitar into the computer as a controller. I got started with that, but my desk chair isn't comfortable to sit on with the guitar and play. My wife is going to give me her old laptop, so I’ll install it on there when she goes overseas for a few months. Then I can put it on the coffee table and play sitting on the floor.

So, I’ve been practicing off and on for over half a year now. I still can’t play any songs. I can’t even play any chords that use more than two fingers on the frets. I can’t play many of them that use just two fingers.

With riffs that use just one string I can’t get my left hand’s fingers up and down the fretboard accurately to actually play note after note after note correctly.

One issue I’m having is I’ve gotten terribly fat the last few years, so the guitar hangs at a funny angle over my belly. That means I have to twist my wrist further around the neck to reach the strings further up on the neck.

Maybe what I need is a live tutor, someone who can start off by seeing how I’m holding the bloody thing to help me correct myself, and then start off with solutions to my obvious problems. I don’t know.

I haven’t been practicing as much since my wife returned from her previous four month trip home to India. I feel a bit foolish picking it up and fumbling around while she’s in hearing range. She’s not very patient with other people trying to learn things around her, either. And when she sees me with it, she assumes I’m free to do chores and run errands.

Maybe I shouldn’t have waiting so long in life to try and learn. Not when my fingers are stiff and achy, about the same age when arthritis started to get debilitating for my father.

And Which Guitar Do You Want to Own?

Well, there’s a few… From punk rock concerts I’ve been to lately, I’ve noticed the majority of the guitar players, especially the ones I liked, were playing various guitars with humbucker pickups rather than single-coil.

I want a Stratocaster with one (or more) humbucker pickups, as they produce more of the sound I’d like to get, if I could actually play it. They have a few green options, plus I could pay more for one from their Mod Shop that would be nicely customized for me. Now that they introduced the Player line, I’ll probably buy one of those.

I was thinking I’d like a green Gibson SG as well. There aren’t many green options out there, unless I look around on eBay. Most of those in any sort of affordable range have only one pickup, but I’m not such an advanced player that that should affect me. The few others are whoppingly expensive professional models.

And while not green, some of the 2018 SG models, the Standard HP 2018, are absolutely gorgeous… I could see myself getting the blood orange or even the hot pink fade. They’re a bit more than I’d like to spend, though, given that I can’t actually play the thing…

On the other hand, I’d long admired, but dismissed for myself, Gibson Les Pauls, despite a number of musicians whose work I like playing them. I remember a friend long ago who said they were extremely heavy, so as a raw beginner I didn’t want to find myself fighting the extra weight of one when I already can’t play. But I went to a couple of punk rock shows in June and some guitarists were playing Les Pauls, including several groups with two guitarists, a Les Paul player next to an SG player and I found myself drawn towards watching the Les Paul player quite a lot more. I mean a lot more.

Looking around online, I sure like the green Slash Anaconda Les Paulis beautiful (and green!). But its price is more than I should actually spend on a guitar I can’t play, no matter how good I think I’d feel holding it and failing to play (I suppose a less expensive Epiphone version is an option). Maybe I could hold it, pretend to play and put on a Guns & Roses CD or something…

Of course, no purchases until my wife goes on her three month trip home to India in a couple of months. I’ll buy whatever I buy on a credit card she doesn’t know about (I’m not talking about screwing around with credit cards, I’ll still pay it off once I get the bill) and my story is basically that I found it/them on Craigslist being sold by “Mrs. Jepsen”. Her husband had passed away and their adult kids weren’t interested in his guitars, so she was selling them… A little more practice and I’ll get the finer points of the story down convincingly…

And bearing in mind our teeny, tiny New York City apartment doesn’t have much space for “stuff” to accumulate… Although, I think if I get more I can buy wall mounts to get them up off the floor so my wife won’t get too mad.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Guns!

Guns!

I am not a gun owner or gun enthusiast, and I’ve never shot a firearm (BB gun, yes, and my father seriously emphasized not pointing it anyone). I grew up in rural Oregon where guns abound, and at my high school lots of students kept guns in their vehicles for convenience shooting animals in the woods after school.

With all the controversy about guns, and especially the right wing folks wanting more and more guns, more guns in schools, everyone armed, etc. and how I'm appalled at how they treat teenagers who are speaking out after being shot at at their school in February.

I was thinking about how most of the right wing commentators have little right to speak, as they probably haven't been shot at.

And I realized I've been shot at twice, myself.  Maybe that does give me some qualification to open my mouth about the issue.

I went to a college that was a gun free zone, though as a new policy at that college, it wasn’t yet enforced very well, and I was shot at, twice (not hit either time). Both shooters were, in theory, responsible gun owners, military reservists, one a sergeant in the Air Force and the other a Marine. Yet both treated their guns like toys.

The first incident was the first day back our sophomore year. My buddy, the Air Force sergeant, brought a gun for the school year, intending to shoot small rodents around campus (not an uncommon sport there…)

We were hanging around, meeting up after our folks all dropped us off, and he took the gun out, waving it around to show it off. He pointed it at me. I told him not to, but he laughed and said it wasn’t loaded. I asked him again to point it away, then I got lucky.

Lucky that he lowered it just far enough between my thighs (and I was skinny then, had thigh gap) that his “see, it’s not loaded,” didn’t end up being the last words I ever heard. The look on his face, the shock, when he pulled the trigger on his “not loaded” gun, from the shot that came out of his own hand… All that came out of his mouth for the next few minutes, till our hearts stopped racing, was a combination of “oh fuck” and “I’m sorry.”

Much later that same year, me and him, tripping on LSD, were getting out of the concrete dormitory for a walk in the high desert scrub behind the campus, a popular spot for shooting and motor sports. But we didn’t go all that far out there. We heard laughing and then gunshots from a hill in the not too far distance. Bullets were hitting the ground around us.

We discussed it and decided that someone was shooting at us, and that it would behoove us to depart, back to campus.

Later, after the drugs had mostly worn off I was back in my room, and my roommate, a Marine reservist, returned. He said it was him and another gun enthusiast friend who’d been shooting at us. He explained they were bored, since Klamath Falls, Oregon has little youth entertainment, so they grabbed some of their guns to go out into the high desert scrub and disintegrate some lizards or other small animals.

Bored. Bored and armed. They happened to spot me and the other fellow and got it in mind to scare us, just for entertainment. Of course, they didn’t know about the LSD, so they kept shooting around us, unsure why we weren’t reacting with panic. They were afraid we might have been armed and angry so they didn’t want to let us know at the time who they were, hiding behind a low hill.

So, while I was shot at twice, neither time by anyone actually intending to hit me, both involved highly trained gun owners with a military background. But away from their military units with their discipline, structure, responsibility and accountability, both guys treated their deadly weapons as toys.

I don’t feel making schools a gun toting zone would increase safety. Sure, someone might, and there’s no guarantee of success, stop a malicious shooter, but just having guns around increases the odds of accidents and unintended shootings (“see, it’s not loaded…”).

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Bum

What an act!

For a few years I've regularly seen a beggar in a subway station in Brooklyn, sitting on the floor of a busy corridor asking passers-by for cash.  He's a large guy, looks pretty filthy, scruffy beard, hair and what not.  He always has what look like old, ragged jeans cut up and pinned to his pants, like chaps, that I assumed were for extra insulation.  And he has a large, dirty, black plastic garbage bag.

I've given him a dollar or two (which is something I rarely do). 

The past year or so he's often walked around, dragging his plastic garbage bag, talking seemingly nonsense aloud, on the 3 or 4 platforms to get a train going the same direction as me, at the early side of the morning rush hour. 

This morning it was on the 3 platform, there was another ragged guy sleeping on the ground, his backpack as a pillow.  The regular beggar walked by, asking "you alright man?" and the sleeper said he was.  As the regular beggar was right in front of me the other guy said "I'm hungry, I ain't got money, I'm hungry" and they had a conversation about whether he meant it or if it was just bullshit.  Then the regular beggar slid some packaged food along the floor to the sleeper, who sat up but didn't reach for the food.  I heard the regular beggar's voice different than when he's been on the floor begging.

The 3 train came, he got into the last car, I got into the second-to-last car and the train took off...

A couple of stops later, a guy whose face looked remarkably like his walked from the last car to the second-to-last car, continuing to a few seats away from me.  This guy had on nice jeans, carried a fashionable backpack, neat hair and beard.  He dug a large smartphone out of his backpack, and an iPad, and then took out a wad of cash that he counted.  And he was talking the same seemingly nonsense, with the same voice he used to talk to the sleeper on the platform...  I looked through the window to the car behind, and it was empty.

As we prepared to get off the train at Crown Heights - Utica Avenue, the cash counting guy was stuffing everything back into his backpack, and partially pulled out a black plastic garbage bag as he was arranging his stuff, then shoved it back in.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Review: Sleep's "Dopesmoker"

Sleep - Dopesmoker


I read a “letter of recommendation” in the New York Times a few months ago for this album and it reminded me that there was a second Sleep album I wanted, but wasn’t easy to get for a number of years, and I’d forgotten about it.

But now it’s easy to order, which I did a couple of months ago.  Amazon had it available as an “auto rip” to download when buying the CD, which was a good start, but after ripping it myself from the CD, the sound quality is so much better, with a lot more clarity throughout.

And it’s the only music I’ve been playing for well over a month now.  I can’t get enough of it.  It’s one song, just slightly over an hour long, with quite a few “movements” throughout it, so it’s not boringly repetitive.

Most of the song is fairly slow, plodding and heavy.  The guitar is tuned down a few notches, making the whole feel of the song very heavy, very deep.  Much of it sounds a bit like early Black Sabbath, especially live when they take off on tangents and improvisation, but this is a little slower and a little heavier.

The singing is mostly deep, heavy growls, with only some words here and there decipherable (I’ve read the lyrics online, but I can’t pick them all out when it’s actually playing).  But that’s ok.  Even where they’re incomprehensible the sound of the singer’s voice goes very well with the music.

So much of this song sticks in my head that even when I’m not listening to it, I’m still listening to it.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Eerie Subway Ride

Well, that was kind of eerie...  I was on the 4 express train, that as usual had stopped in the tunnel between the last two stops, probably while they wake up the sleeping or belligerent passengers from the previous train at the final stop. The wait time is usually 3 to 4 minutes, twenty at worst...

Only this time it was neither hot nor cold, so the noisy HVAC system cycled off, making it very quiet on the train.  Other than the faint buzz of the fluorescent lights, the silence was broken now and then by other passengers with music in their headphones, teachers grading papers on their laps, shifting in their coats, opening a briefcase, a quiet cough, and what-not.  There were about a dozen of us, mostly sleepy in the early morning, no one talking or interacting.

Then a rumbling sound from the distance behind us, quiet, faint, but soon building up like thunder rolling in as a bunch of people looked up towards the back of the train.  It became a steady boom Boom BOOM *BOOM* as the local 3 train flew by on the track beside us, then faded away in the opposite direction.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Slayer - "Repentless"

After not listening to much Slayer in the last couple of decades, except for their first album a few times a year, Show No Mercy I was seeing this one all over some online shopping sites as new and as i was buying new CDs from other bands I’ve liked for a long time, I was thinking about the Slayer songs I know.  Last month I first got into Reign in Blood for a while, then I ordered this one, Repentless.

And I like this one.

It’s their first new album after the untimely death of founder and guitarist Jeff Hanneman.  His replacement had covered for the ill Hanneman for a few years on tour, so by the time they were recording this he was well integrated into the band.  And they got another former drummer of theirs, Paul Bostaph back in.

For the first half of the album they play at lightning speed, without sounding too noisy and without Arraya’s singing getting too much into merely screaming.

The second half gets a bit noisier, with their playing sounding more random, frantic and less like songs they planned out.

Throughout it, in between furiously fast guitar solos there’s a second here, a second there of music that I’d actually really like to hear more of.  They come and go, like “hey! what was that?  I want to hear more of that!” but they’re too fleeting, gone as fast as a Kerry King guitar solo.

I’d have to say the title track, “Repentless” is my favorite song on it, the one I keep singing in my head the most when I’m not listening to any music.

Overall, it’s really good if you like this sort of thing.  And if you don’t, you’d probably hate it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Chanukah Chase in the Subway

I got literally chased in the subway station this evening.  By two young, ultra-Orthodox Jewish men from the Chabad sect, the same one all of my current coworkers and our biggest clients belong to.

I was minding my own business, listening to some Rob Zombie remixes in my headphones, walking fast across the mezzanine to the 4th Avenue line, when I saw them on top of the steps, with a large cardboard box on a luggage cart.  They looked lost and indicated they wanted my attention, so I lifted on earpiece away from my head, thinking they were going to ask directions.

“Are you Jewish?  Do you have a menorah at home?” one asked.  “I don’t want one, thank you,” I replied and with the earpiece off heard a train arriving on the platform below.  Halfway on my quick dash down the clear steps I saw it was the N train, the one I wanted, so I sped up even more.

Since I always ride this one at the very front of the train, standing right behind the driver’s cab, I practically ran along the platform to get to the front of the first car, waited for people to exit and got on, comfortably leaning against the bulkhead, facing backward.

Then I looked out the open door next to me to see those two guys looking straight at me, following the same path I took on the platform.

They got to the end of the platform, right outside the open train door a few inches away from me and one asked, “are you Jewish?”

I said, “I choose not to participate!” and the conductor played the announcement “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors Please!” 

One reached into the box and the other said “we have a gift for you.”  


But they weren’t quick enough, the train doors closed, me inside, them outside.  I grinned to them through the window and the train rolled out of the station.  I settled back to listen to my music in peace.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Slayer - "Reign in Blood" after decades...

I bought Reign in Blood on tape when it first came out in 1986, when I was 17, and while I tried to enjoy it, was definitely disappointed in it.  I’d really hoped it would be more like Show No Mercy which was and remains my favorite Slayer album.  I’ve bought a few of their albums in the intervening years, but not many of them, and none of them have excited me the way Show No Mercy does and I rarely listened to any of them.

But for some reason a couple of weeks ago I felt like listening to some Slayer again and just reading some of the song titles somewhere I heard the songs running through my head.  I don’t think i’d listened to Reign in Blood  in 20-25 years so I ordered the CD.  

Well, while it’s no Show No Mercy it’s not as bad as I remembered.  In fact, now I quite like it.

This album marks their departure from swords & sorcery, Satanic inspired lyrics into more of the morbid and evil stuff from the real world and history, serial killers, Nazis, war and so forth.

It’s fast.  The original ten songs (minus the two extras on this CD edition) clock in at slightly under half an hour, without feeling like it’s a short album.

Some of the songs feel like a bit of random playing, not like written songs, but most of it manages to work pretty well, and Tom Arraya’s singing is very much singing for most of it instead of screaming.

The mix could have used a bit more bass in it, though…  It sounds a bit tinny to my ears.

Overall, though, coming back to it somewhat fresh after close to a quarter century, I like it.




Monday, October 12, 2015

Crappy Week at Work

So, last week was literally a crappy week here at the office...  The morning of the first day of the week someone used the bathroom next to our work area and left a couple small piles of crap on the floor when they finished, I guess they couldn't get it all in the toilet.  And that person isn't one of the very small number who will take responsibility for cleaning their own messes in the common, shared parts of the office, and frequently leaves urine all over the floor near the toilet.

The other bathroom, on the other side of that one was out of order, and the only one that has a sink in the same room as the toilet, having gotten clogged a couple of weeks earlier and simply locked to keep people out of it (I don't have a key).  As the week progressed, people stepped in and smeared those little piles of crap around the floor of the working bathroom.  Wonderful.

With the window next to me open, as long as the fan was left on, the smell didn't really reach as far as my desk, but not everyone leaves the fan on when they exit the bathroom.

It was pretty gross.

I thought about cleaning it up myself, but I felt nauseous at the thought of bending down to clean up someone else's shit off the floor (I mean, someone who isn't my wife who I chose to share a life with) who should be a mature enough adult, who's raising half a dozen children, to clean up their own fucking mess like that.  Certainly, if I had an accident like that, I would have cleaned it up.

At least the cleaning woman came in some time Friday or Sunday and the office is now clean again.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Iron Maiden - "The Book of Souls"

I got the new Iron Maiden album late last week, "The Book of Souls" and I've been listening to it off and on since then.

It's got some true gems on it, but they're still a bit in the rough. The music is all good, much like you'd expect from Iron Maiden in their prime, but the main problem is there's too much and it's simply not arranged well.

With eleven songs, it's over 90 minutes long, coming on two CDs.  Bruce Dickinson has been quoted as saying, "we all agreed that each track was such an integral part of the whole body of work that if it needed to be a double album, then double it's going to be!"

Unfortunately while each song may be an integral part of it, most of the songs are simply too long.  One is over 13 minutes and the final one is 18 minutes. Sheer length isn't the issue, it's that many songs have minutes of passages that don't feel like they fit into the theme of the song, they feel like they should be separate songs.

On a few of them if I'm not paying attention I think a song is over and moved onto then next one, only to find a couple of minutes later it's back to the one I thought was done. It's a little jarring.  They could've trimmed passages out of many of them to create more cohesive songs.

The other problem is many of the songs have the vocals mixed kind of low, so it's difficult to actually hear what Dickinson is actually singing. He's got a powerful voice and musically it sounds ok, but I can't tell what the lyrics are from listening.

The first single from it, "Speed of Light" is the fastest paced one, reminiscent of earlier Iron Maiden and probably wouldn't have been out of place on "Piece of Mind" and doesn't sound like anything else on this album.

I quite like the first half of the 13 minute "The Red and the Black", especially the bits with a guitar going along with e vocals, but then the second half is like a different song.  And it's not a cover of the Blue Ă–yster Cult song of the same name.

"Death or Glory" is a bit of a rehash of "Aces High" but supposedly about WWI dogfighting triplanes. And it's not a cover of the Social Distortion song of the same name.

The album rounds out with the 18 minute "Empire of the Skies" about a 1920's British airship that crashed and burned on one of its earliest flights. The song starts with some piano music, not at all what I expected from Iron Maiden, but then after a few minute sounds more typical. The piano at the end of song nicely finished it. In between its got some good music, and some passages that feel misplaced.

Overall it's a decent album. The biggest improvement they could've made is to trim more from many of the sings. It sounds like they wanted to integrate all the musical ideas they all hadn't hour being able to cut any of it out. They should've saved some for this next album.

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Since I wrote this I read online about the airship R101 that's the theme of "Empire of the Skies" and that helped a lot. With the vocals low in the mix the song itself doesn't tell the story as well as it could. But reading the story, then listening, the various musical passages that jarred me initially work better by imagining it as the soundtrack to a movie, visualizing the crew of the airship running around frantically when the ship loses altitude and crashes.