December 28, 2008

Atlanta International Gets It Right.

So after indignity upon indignity heaped upon me at BWI, it was with some trepidation that I faced my four hour layover in Atlanta. I haven't had to change planes here in at least ten years, and the last time was a mad dash across the concourse.

Atlanta's changed since then.

Now I'm sipping on great coffee,listening to some live jazz piano, tapped into FREE WiFi at a station set up so I can plug in while doing just that. This is what a modern airport should be like.

My only mistake was grabbing dinner in Concourse A, because I wasn't sure what I'd find all the way over on Concourse E. But Concourse E is much newer, and there's more seating, and it's easier to get in and out of. And did I mention the laptop stations?

My flight down was smooth enough: there was a four year old boy about two rows ahead of me; as the plane reached take-off speed, he voiced the same thought I always have right then:

WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

Now the piano is plinking out "Dancin' Queen" so some 6-year-old kids can dance to it.

No, it ain't home, but it beats Baltimore all to hell.

5 reasons BWI sucks.

So my flight was delayed until 2:00. In the four hours I have been stuck here, I've come to loath Baltimore Washington International Airport. They are one big huge consumer rip-off machine.

And what's with that logo? Is that the Capital Dome with a crack in it? What statement are they making with that - "we broke democracy?"

So here are the five reasons why BWI sucks:

  1. No free WiFi. Cincinnati had free WiFi. Cedar Rapids had free WiFi.
  2. The first place I tried to log in offered two choices: T-Mobile, and Boingo. T-mobile was cheaper, so I bought a day pass. Then I moved to the other side of the airport, where my flight is. No T-Mobile, only Boingo.
  3. So I bought an hour on Boingo. I wasted 10% of my battery signing up for it, and they made me install software. Fucking Boingo. They suck. T-Mobile was only a buck more for the entire day, and I didn't need extra software.
  4. No place to plug in my laptop at the gate my flight was leaving from - I had to go halfway back on the concourse to power up.
  5. No cashback at vendors with a debit card purchase. That means if I want to get cash for a cab, I will have to pay through the nose for airport ATM fees.

Fuck you, BWI!! Next time, I'll drive.

Homeward Bound

I'm returning from my Christmas holiday with my mother.  The weather in Delaware has actually been pretty warm, and overall I had a nice stay.

They dropped me at BWI this morning, and I discovered that my flight is delayed an hour.  Oh boy!  An extra hour to sit in an airport.  We could have gotten up at a decent hour and had a liesurely breakfast. On the plus side, it means that I will only be spending 30 minutes in Atlanta.

The rat-bastards running the airport don't have free WiFi.  But with THREE hours to kill instead of TWO, I'll shell out the money.  I'll bitch about it, though.

At least I'll be travelling faster than this guy:
aDSC_9662
This is an un-married Amish man; if you look closely, you'll see that his bicycle does not have pedals.  It's really a big scooter.  Pedals aren't allowed; wheels are OK, but not "wheel upon wheel."

How do I know he's unmarried?  The lack of facial hair.

My mother is surrounded by the Amish, and has a very friendly relationship with her neighbors; they traded baked goods and books, they quilt together, and my mother even occasionally helps them run errands. One of her neighbors dropped off a pie and a Christmas card while I was there; she had her youngest child in the same kind of baby carraige my sister used for my niece, all blue nylon and plastic wheels.

My mother's kitchen cabinets are all Amish-built, as is her kitchen table.

It's a far cry from Fort Lauderdale, let's leave it at that.

I'll be home tonight, and I'll stumble into the life that was interrupted by a cat bite a week ago; I had intended to do laundry and a few other things in the time between my discovery of the red streaks and departing for the airport two days later.  No complaints - I'm around to do them.

December 27, 2008

My Mommy Loves Me.

She made me gluten-free banana muffins.  This was AFTER the batch of gluten-free tollhouse cookies that I'm still working on.

gluten free muffins


I fly home on Sunday; I might escape punching a new hole in my belt.

December 26, 2008

Ho, Ho-de-lee ho!

The best way to get grounded in the holiday spirit is from the feet up. These are my maniacal Christmas socks, blazing cheerily through cold mornings since 1982.


DSC_9577

December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from 1966 - and Happy Chanuka

This is my great-uncle Bob Kerr, making the wreath for the door of my grandparent's house in Haddon Heights.  It was his particular skill, and he made everyone a wreath every year.

This time of year, he always smelled of oil, cigar smoke, and pine.

Christmas - well, the holiday season in general - is a time to remember your family, and gather with them if you can.  We've had a lot of great Christmases in my family, and my neices and nephew have added chanuka to our celebrations.

In my adjusted holiday schedule, a lot of files I meant to have with me were left behind; but here's a chanuka image of sorts, of a more recent vintage.

DSC_8101

Whatever your faith, have a happy holiday season.

And stay away from strange cats.

December 24, 2008

Cat Scratch Fever

This is how I spent my forty-fifth birthday.


The "incident" actually started the day before my birthday; I was petting the neighbor's cat, something I've done a dozen times or so. He would purr like a garbage disposal, basking in the attention for awhile. Then he'd either leap up and run away, or he'd nip at me, without actually touching me.

You can see this coming, can't you?

This time, he bit me. A good solid, penetrating, chomp. I yelled and flung him off me, and he turned and looked at me like

"What?"

I went in; not too bad: one little puncture that was bleeding pretty well, and some bruising. I washed it off real good, and irrigated it with hydrogen peroxide. And then I more or less didn't pay any more attention to it. Last time I would pet that ingrateful cat, I muttered, and went on with my day.

The next morning - it's my birthday! I made coffee, and then my mother called to wish me a happy, we chatted. Plans? Breakfast, then Christmas shopping! Maybe I'd hook up with some friends for dinner, later.

After breakfast, I stepped into the shower, and then I saw my wrist: an angry red welt under the bite, and red streaks running up my arm.

SHIT!

I'd taken advanced First Aid; I knew that red streaks up the arm are very, very, bad!

I checked my insurance; the urgent care center around the corner is on the plan. They are also closed. I look at the red streaks. Emergency room. I got dressed, grabbed a book, and headed to the ER. (Why the book? Have you never been to the ER?)

Broward General isn't far, maybe a half-mile. I was getting just the beginning of a chill. Or was that psychomatic? I found a parking spot, walked in, filled out a form, and sat down. My name was called. I hadn't been there ten minutes.

The triage nurse clucked when she saw my arm. She called over a doctor.

"What do you think," she asked, "can I fast-track him?"

"I would. Is there a lot of pain yet? Any chills? No? Flex the fingers....good. Fast track him!"

The nurse smiled at me. "You're in. He's the chief. Have a seat, and we'll call you shortly!"

They take me in about fifteen minutes later, and I'm shivering in the early stages of septicemia.

A young doctor came into to look at the wound. He asked for my history, I gave it. He looked at me and said "You do realize that we will have to admit you to treat this, right?" I confessed that by this time, I was not surprised. "OK, then."

They gave me a robe, they drew some blood. I gave a history again. Dr. Lam came in to look. I gave the history again, she looked very stern. She felt the swollen area. "Can you feel that?" I nodded. "But I can feel the swelling when I move my hand," I replied.

"Hmmm," she pondered me. "We might need a surgical consult."

It was at this point I began to think either I was in much worse shape than I thought, or Dr. Lam liked to scare people. Well, tough. I was too sick to become scared. Chatter chatter chatter went my teeth, as I stared back at her, "OK."

"If the bacteria has colonized the tendons, surgical reconstruction is called for," she informed me.

"Yeah, that would suck," I replied through my chattering teeth. She shot me a disapproving look, and left the room. I guess I wasn't following the script.

Awhile later, an x-ray technician came in, and took me away to xray my infected arm.

As he put me back in the exam room bed, shivering, he said "Let me go get you a blanket!"

Ahhh.

About an hour later (might have been less, but it was all shivers and chattering teeth by then), she came back.

"WHEN were you bitten? This morning?"

"No," I explained patiently, "YESTERDAY morning. I didn't notice how bad it was until THIS morning."

"Sit up, I need to listen to your lungs!"

I sat up, took a shivering breath. Then another. And one more. And again.

"OK, lie back down. We're preparing a room for you now. Someone will come for you in a bit."

I nodded my thanks.

About 20 minutes later, two technicians rolled an xray machine. "We need to shoot a film of your chest."

"You do?" I asked. They confirmed my name. They did. And then they did.

I was wheeled upstairs by 5pm, and hooked up to the first of many, many IV drips.

Dr L's assistant, Dr. Ruiz came up for an assessment. She told me the course of treatment, and said she was sending up an

infectitious diseases specialist, and the aforementioned hand surgeon.

Dr. S came up about a half hour later. He examined the wound, asked some pointed questions about the cat, and told me that

this was all pretty normal for a cat bite. They were giving me a broad spectrum anti-biotic until my blood results came back. If things went well, they might be able to release me the next day.


Things didn't go well. Feverish all night, and a splitting headache.

Dr. R checked in, I was still feverish. She asked about the hand specialist, and I replied that I hadn't seen them yet. Dr. S came in; the progress on the arm seemed to please him. "Good thing you came in when you did: it could have been very bad!"

He wanted to run some more tests, and by the way, they were keeping me until tomorrow at least.

"I have a 10:30 am flight!" I said. "Any chance I can be out in time?"

"10:30? That might be a little tight. You should get a later flight." He looked very doubtful.

I spent the rest of the day feverish, and struggling with a splitting headache. They gave me Tylenol. They gave me darvocet.

My fever broke. My headache stayed. After dinner, I had chills again, and my head was throbbing. Slight fever again. Argh. I managed to change the times on my flight. I can't sleep: I'm worried about getting out. I pulled the IV out, so it had to be replaced. More darcvocet. Head pounds, thud thud thud.

Now I'm beginning to doubt they'll let me out; I keep demanding pain killers, I'm feverish and sweaty. And I'm beginning to consider that even if they let me out, maybe I shouldn't get on a plane. I felt like hell.

And somewhere about then, it occurred to me that I've had this headache before. When I went most of a weekend without coffee.

But I'd HAD coffee. It wasn't very good coffee. On the other hand, what evidence did I have that it was regular coffee?

My cat-scratch fever-ridden throbbing brain finally forged a coherent theory:
People who are trying to avoid stimulants will suffer more harm from getting caffeine in their coffee than withholding caffeine from people who are on no such restriction, therefore, it's safer to simply serve decaf to everyone than to send out both kinds of coffee to patients.

So the headache had nothing to do with my raging infection.

When the morning shift nurse came in, I asked about getting REAL coffee, and explained my theory.

"Oh! Well, we just made a fresh pot of the real thing out at the nurses' station, I'll bring you a cup!" And she did.

And just like that, the headache was gone. I could think clearly again. Fever gone.

They released me at noon. By 2:00 pm, I was on my way to the airport.

Fucking cat.

December 17, 2008

The View on Wall Street

Received in email, I had to share:

Back in 1929, a lot of stock brokers jumped out of their office windows when they realized the extent of the losses of their firms and their clients. A lot of people pitied those poor stock brokers.



That was then, this is now:

December 14, 2008

Reflections in Ice

Every time I read the news about the ice storm in New England, I suffer a thrill of deja vu.

You see, 35 years ago, I lived in Connecticut when a devastating ice storm hit. Of course, at the time, I was ten years old and it didn't seem "devastating" at all to the kid who had just moved to the wilds of Connecticut from the South Jersey suburbs. First of all, it meant no school. Second of all, it was beautiful.


The world had turned to crystal overnight. The picture above doesn't quite capture it: Weston, Connecticut was maybe a little more rural, or maybe Godfrey Road East was simply too well shaded for the road surface to melt: for several days, at least, the combination of sand and snow made it appear we lived on a dirt road.

Ah. This one does it: this could be the top of the hill above our driveway. Right down to the fallen branches and trees.

We had already had about six inches of snow on the ground, and the ice made a crust on top of that. It was just almost strong enough to bear my weight; I remember trying to slide across the glazed surface. I'd put my booted foot out, and gently try to slide and then CRUNCH! I'd break through.

I remember the toboggan went down the hill like a rocket. The old Radio Flyer sleds would punch through the ice and stop dead. But once my mother realized that we wouldn't have power to run the water pump for at least a week, she curtailed our out-door playtime. She didn't want us to get too ripe. Although what she actually said at the time was "I don't want you getting your snow suit all wet when there's no way to dry it!!"

I grumbled about the two fire places we were keeping going. "What if we run out of wood?" she replied. Now, of course, I'd know to reply "then we're gonna die so I might as well spend my last day sledding!" But I was younger, then.

The house had two fire places, one at either end of the house, in keeping with the Colonial design that was all the rave back then. But the house only LOOKED colonial; it had been built just before we moved in. And true to the America of the pre-OPEC oil crisis, it lacked adequate insulation.

Only the living room was really comfortable; the family room at the other end of the house was built over the garage, and there was no insulation in the floor. And with the cathedral ceiling it was always a tough room to heat up in the winter. It did allow the christmas trees to get taller every year; I think the last one was about 12' tall. But that was later.

It was our first winter in Connecticut. We'd moved just before Thanksgiving, and a lot of our stuff was still in boxes in the basements. We had firewood for the fireplaces, and Dad went out and got some more somewhere; the little cluster of stores that comprised the center of town were open without power, selling emergency supplies to folks like us. We had a lot of canned goods, and obviously, refrigeration wasn't a problem.

But we wouldn't be cooking on the electric range. On one of his first forays out of the house, Dad picked up a case of Sterno. We might have had a few cans already in for chafing dishes: my folks liked entertaining back in the day. Mom would keep a kettle close to the fire in the family room fireplace (which was next to the kitchen), and put it over the Sterno can for a final heating up. Breakfast was cold cereal and hot chocolate, lunch was sandwiches and soup, and so was dinner.

A lot of our neighbors went to stay "in town," which meant they went to Westport or even Norwalk, to stay in a hotel. Or with family who had power.

As I said, we'd just moved in, and we didn't know a lot of people in town yet. Add to that the fact that we'd just paid for a major move and a new house, and Christmas just weeks away, heading into town and paying for a hotel simply wasn't an option. This turned out to be a Very Good Thing.

You see, the people who fled their dark homes for hotels in town just packed up and drove away. Very few of them thought to drain all the water out of their houses, first. That might've been OK for a weekend, even a long weekend. But over the course of a week, their houses reached the ambient temperature of 25 degrees Fahrenheit - several critical degrees below zero. The water in the pipes froze, and water expands when it freezes, and the result was the complete destruction of 80% of the plumbing in town, including the radiant hot water heating used in most of the homes then. A town of 8,000 had damages around $20 million all told: pipes, fixtures, floors and walls all had to be replaced.

On day five, the phones were back up and a family from church who lived in town offered to let us stay at their home. Hot baths for all! Television! On day six, our power was back on and we went home.

There was never any sense of urgency in my parents; they simply took stock of the situation, came up with a plan, and acted. I suppose that's why I did so well in the aftermath of Katrina and Wilma; I'd been through that. You figure out what you have, discover what you need, figure out where to get it, and move on.

But my thoughts are with those people hunkering down for another cold night in a land turned treacherously beautiful by the hand of nature. I've been there.

Toys for Boys: The Cadillac of Golf Carts

Or literally, a golf cart that looks like a Caddy. Taken at the WinterFest boat parade.

'

No, I don't know what the bungee cord is for. Probably just to keep people from sitting in it.

December 13, 2008

Homeless Santa

He didn't have a bell, he didn't even have a proper bucket, but he was out there collecting from the folks attending the WinterFest boat parade.  More accurately, he was sitting there, with a coffee can in front of him.  That's a beer bottle sticking out  of it: I'm not sure if it was donated, or acquired with donations.

Homeless Santa 2

I don't think he's actually homeless; those are awfully nice sneakers for someone living on the street; on the other hand, maybe he really is Santa, and I failed a test.

Fucking homeless Santa; it's entrapment, I say.

December 12, 2008

December 7, 2008

Sunday Jazzz Brunch

The monthly Jazz Brunch is in full swing here in Fort Lauderdale. It's a gorgeous day to be out along the river. This is the view from the Broward Center steps:

December 5, 2008