Choroidal Neovascularization: A Clinical Account

Most readers will be aware that I suffer from choroidal neovascularization — wet macular degeneration — in my left eye. Like the current U.S. government, the disease is progressive. Which mean that it gets worse over time — also like the U.S. government.

I was first diagnosed with the condition a little more than eight years ago. Last year it flared up again just after the “pandemic” began. The retinal specialist’s office closed down for a couple of weeks. Since we were asked not to visit healthcare facilities unless absolutely necessary, I put off going in for treatment until a month after the new symptoms appeared. That was a mistake, of course: it allowed the new growth of blood vessels to do more damage than it might have if I had had the injection promptly. If I had it to do over again, I’d say, “Screw the CDC — I’m going in.”

I’ve written the following account for my own benefit. When I describe something as distressing as this in a detailed, detached, clinical fashion, I find it helps me cope with the awfulness of it. Putting it into words seems to allow my psyche to contain it better.

This essay has nothing to do with the mission of this blog, and may be safely skipped. However, anyone who is curious about macular degeneration, or who suffers from it himself, may be interested in my descriptions.

The image at the top of this post is a simulation of what I might see in the visual field of my left eye as I begin to ascend the stairs to the Eyrie here at Schloss Bodissey. I’ve exaggerated the effect a little so that you can see it clearly, but this is basically what it looks like at night after my eye has had a bad day. The blob in the center is the scar left by the growth of a “frond” of new blood vessels in the choroid behind the retina. When that happens, fluid leaks from the blood vessels into the macula, damaging it. It can also push the dark pigment from the choroid into the retina, which darkens the field of vision at that location. That happened to me in March of 2013, and it took more than five years for the pigment to migrate to the periphery of my vision and be consumed by macrophages.

The smaller, lighter spot in the center of the oblong blob is the location where the original eruption of blood vessels first appeared, causing a bump that severely distorted my vision just to the right and below the fovea (from my perspective — since the brain inverts the retinal image, the bump was actually above and to the left). Fortunately, the Avastin injections that dried up those new vessels also made the bump shrink, so that I no longer see any topological distortion to speak of.

Because the damage to the macula did not quite overlap the fovea, I didn’t experience severe problems with focusing in that eye. However, last year’s flare-up expanded the trouble zone upwards and to the left. The top left edge of the blob in my simulation is right on the fovea, which means that my left eye now has a great deal of trouble resolving the focus in the central area of the macula.

The past year has also brought new symptoms, ones that I hadn’t seen before. The pattern of larger blood vessels in the eye gradually became visible under certain circumstances. To get a snapshot like the one at the top of this post, I would have to close my eyes for a half-second or so and then open them again. The layout of the vascular network in my left eye then appears briefly before fading out again. The central blob is initially quite bright, then fades after a moment, but never disappears entirely.

That’s on a bad day. On a good day I hardly notice any of that at all.

I also tend to see a wavy, irregular reticulated pattern throughout the visual field in that eye. It may be the interweaving of the smallest blood vessels in the retina, but it’s hard to tell.

The upshot of all this is that the visual acuity in my left eye has been significantly reduced. On a bad day, I can’t really resolve a clear, focused image at the fovea, and the area surrounding it is now also compromised.

Eight years ago, when the bump was causing such agonizing distortion, I contrived a patch for my left eye that could be fitted over the outside of my glasses. I made it from thick brown paper cut from the bottom of a Whole Foods grocery bag. Wearing it while at the screen allowed me to continue working. Late that summer, when the bump had mostly subsided, I was able to take it off.

A few months ago, when my new symptoms were at their worst, I got out that old patch and reattached it to my glasses. It was already in fairly bad shape from having been used for several months in 2013, and it didn’t hold up very well. Last week I used the same pattern to make a new patch from thicker, more rigid dark grey paper cut from a document folder:

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Old Man Winter

 

 

The weather forecast for this part of Central Virginia looks pretty dire. For the next 24 hours we’re expected to get a little bit of snow and a LOT of rain, with temperatures remaining in the mid to high twenties (i.e. about -3°C) most of the day tomorrow (strictly speaking, later today). Which means a thick layer of ice covering everything, and an almost certain power outage.

I’m posting this just before I go to bed, because I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to post again. If nothing seems to be happening here on Thursday or Friday, and your comments aren’t being moderated, you’ll know why.

UPDATE 10:30am Thursday: There was a little bit of snow and sleet overnight, with a thin layer of ice on top. So far, so good. But rain is still coming down. It’s going to be a long day.

Oh, the Humanity!

This morning I was rummaging through a kitchen cabinet and came across the following product, left over from the days when Dymphna was mistress of the kitchen:

It took me aback. Could it be possible that this item is actually on sale in America? Wouldn’t it cause incidents of mass triggering in supermarket aisles?

“Just Whites” is marketed as being wholesome and healthy — all natural, cholesterol free, fat free, sugar free, etc. But I am not so easily fooled. Everyone knows that Whiteness = Toxicity.

It don’t know how old the can is. Some of Dymphna’s foodstuffs are decades old, especially those on the spice shelves. This one is new enough to have a barcode, but old enough not to have a QR code.

It made me curious, so I did a quick search online. It’s listed on Amazon, but is “currently unavailable”. A poster on a food-related forum back in 2015 complained that Just Whites, one of her favorite products, was no longer being sold. So maybe the management at Deb El went through diversity training, wised up, and got Woke.

By the way: “Deb El” sounds suspiciously Hebraic, but it turns out to be a composite of the names of the founders, Elliot Gibber and his wife Debbie. Nevertheless, Gibber is probably a Jewish name, so I reckon this supposedly innocuous product is in fact a Jewish conspiracy to trigger people of color.

Don’t be taken in. It’s time to stand tall and resist the Whiteness!

Eyeless in Gaza

Actually, I still have both my eyes, and I’m not in Gaza. I just needed an eye-related title for this post.

I paid a visit to the retinal specialist this afternoon for a periodic injection to my left eye to treat my condition (wet macular degeneration). As a consequence, I’m dragging my feet a little bit this evening. However, there will be a news feed, and possibly another post or two.

I don’t have to go back for the next injection until two months from now, thank the Lord.

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Also: Starting tomorrow, a gaggle of family members will be descending on Schloss Bodissey. Posting may be light on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and possibly Boxing Day as well. I’ll keep up with comment moderation to the best of my ability.

Joyeux Noël!

Old Man Winter is Here

A winter storm is sliding up the East Coast right now, causing all the usual panic and chaos that we always see when the lower Mid-Atlantic states experience snow and ice.

Schloss Bodissey is outside the snow zone, but well within the ice zone. It’s still raining here, sometimes heavily, and the trees are coated. We all know what happens next…

The lights have already flickered once, so it’s probably only a matter of time. Thus, if your comments stop being approved, and no further posts appear, you’ll know why.

It’s either that, or the Deep State got me.

One for Good Luck

Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the founding of Gates of Vienna.

I’m not doing anything special for the occasion. We had planned a big hoopla for the fifteenth anniversary last year, but when Dymphna died it kind of took the stuffing out of me, so I didn’t do much last year, either.

This year I simply note that another twelve leaves have dropped from the calendar. Time flies when you’re having fun!

The graphic at the top of this post features a photo of the cake that Dymphna and I created for the first anniversary on October 9, 2005. It was a real cake — I vaguely remember eating a little piece of it.

Looking at it reminds me of the day I put the tableau together and took the photo. It was pleasantly warm, like today. If you look closely, you’ll see a reflection of the candle flame just below the red star portion of the cake. The entire assemblage was mounted on a glass pane from the storm door of the front porch, under which I placed the printout with the Arabic script.

That was a vintage storm door, and the pane was actual glass, not Plexiglas. During the disassembling of the photo shoot — which took place on the front porch — I managed to break the glass. The replacement that is now in the door is a standard-issue Plexiglas pane from Lowes.

Tempus fugit.

“I am needing to speak with Mr. Edward”

I get a lot of spam phone calls, and the first line spoken by the caller after I say “Hello” is often something like the above. I probably don’t need to tell you that the esteemed gentleman on the other end of the line invariably sounds a lot like Apu, even though he identifies himself as “Dave” or “Mike”.

It’s remarkable how non-multicultural these phone spammers are. Their cultural region lies roughly within a triangle whose vertices may be found at Lahore, Dhaka, and Bangalore.

Such calls are always about Medicare. Either my insurance company or Medicare itself has sold my phone number to the telemarketers. The dodgy entity doing the calling is usually identified as “Medicare Services” or something similar, in an attempt to fool a geezer in his dotage into thinking that he’s talking to an official Medicare representative — who just happens to have immigrated recently from Mumbai — but without being legally liable for fraud.

If I’m in the middle of something, I just hang up on the guy. But if I’m in no hurry, I might play with him a little bit. Sometimes I say, “There’s nobody on Medicare in this house,” making sure that my voice holds a tone of earnest puzzlement. To which the caller sometimes responds with: “I am so sorry; I will take your number off the list.” Which I really like to hear.

Other times I say: “Mr. May died last week. This is his stepson Herbert. Is there anything I can help you with?” After which I receive the deep condolences of the caller before he hangs up.

Today’s call came just after lunch. I responded to his opening line with: “I’m sorry; my hearing is not good. I’m having trouble understanding you. Could you please put on someone who speaks English as his native language?”

Apu:   “But sir, is this not English which I am speaking to you?”
Baron:   “Yes, but it’s not your native language. Your native language is Urdu, or Hindi, or possibly Tamil. I need someone whose native language is ENGLISH.”
Apu:   “So, you are an American, then?”
Baron:   (Patient) “I need someone whose native language is English.”
Apu:   (Sarcastic) “Ah, then, so you are from England?”
Baron:   (Still patient) “Please put on someone who speaks English as their native language.”
Apu:   (Now angry) “You, sir, are a RACIST! Goodbye!”
 

And he hung up.

It was a very satisfying phone call.

Planned Outrage

I posted the news feed early tonight because the electric company has notified me that there will be a “planned outage” lasting from midnight until 4:00am EDT.

If you submitted a tip late tonight, and you don’t see it in tonight’s news feed, don’t worry: I’ll keep it and use it tomorrow night.

As a matter of interest, when I first glanced at the postcard the electric company sent, I misread it as “planned outrage”. Which seems appropriate, given the ascendancy of Cancel Culture today.

I include the graphic below for no particular reason. But since we’re doing planned outrage, you know that somebody, somewhere is bound to be offended by it.

One Year Later

Today is the first anniversary of my wife Dymphna’s death. The future Baron is here, and he and I are going to venture out into the rain and pick some flowers from her flowerbeds (I see coreopsis, coneflower, butterfly weed, and various other blooms I don’t know the names of). We’re planning to meet some friends at the churchyard and put the flowers on her grave.

So posting may be light today.

I posted a photo of Dymphna during last month’s fundraiser, and said I thought it would be the last one. However, I decided to add one more, and you can see it at the top of this post.

The occasion was the baptism of the future Baron in the late 1980s, when he was still a rug rat. He held up pretty well until his mother lowered him over the font to get sprinkled. He got a little upset, but never started to cry. At the left is the late Bishop Charles Vaché.

The original is blurry, since it was taken indoors without a flash. I couldn’t make it any sharper than that.

Dymphna probably told the you following story at some point, but I’ll tell it again. It happened in the parish hall after the baptism. The bishop was filling out the entry in the baptism book. He wanted to enter the date, and said, “What day is it?”

Dymphna was nearby, and, being a good Catholic girl, responded promptly: “St. Joseph’s Feast Day.”

The bishop waited politely, holding his pen poised. And waited. And waited. Dymphna had moved on into the kitchen, not realizing that she had baffled the bishop.

Finally, someone else told him it was March 19.

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And that was my wife. There was no one else quite like her.

Have a blessed day, everyone.

All That Vanished Glory


(Click to enlarge)

The central preoccupation of Americans — those who are literate enough to be preoccupied with history — is the Civil War, a.k.a. the War Between the States, a.k.a. the Recent Unpleasantness. The degree of preoccupation varies according to the distance between where one lives and the areas where most of the fighting took place. Since Virginia is the state where most of the battles were fought, any Virginia family — black or white — of sufficiently long lineage can tell you stories that have been passed down from generation to generation for a century and a half.

Mind you, I’m not talking about the hysterical preoccupation with “racism”, “slavery”, and “oppression” that is raging in the land as I write these words. I’m talking about a deep and abiding interest in the tragic years 1861-1865 generated by the impact they had on one’s family and environment.

I wrote about such matters in my poem “Sayler’s Creek” (the full text is here), which opens with these stanzas:

There is too much history here in Virginia;
we are drowning in its muddy flood.
Every April sweeps its pontoons from their moorings
on the North Fork of the Shenandoah
with Federal soldiers watching helplessly from the bank.
Every pitcher toeing the mound
scuffs up a lode of Minié balls.
A metal detector swept over any ravine
uncovers the belt buckles and canteens
urgently shed by fleeing infantry.
A faded daguerreotype of General Lee
stares down from every wall,
a stern reminder of all that vanished glory.

The top drawer of every dusty dresser
in every second-hand shop
opens to reveal a brittle bundle of worthless banknotes.
Everyone’s great-great-uncle Theophrastus
led the charge at the Crater.

That poem was written in 1996, when one could still see photographs of General Lee here and there in public places. Those days are gone, alas. A rearguard action is even now being fought against the removal of his statue from Monument Avenue in Richmond, but the cause is just as lost as it was the spring of 1865. The Wokerati will prevail. The last depictions of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson will eventually be erased from public view in the Commonwealth, no matter what the average Virginia citizen might think of the matter. All objective accounts of Confederate history will be removed from high school and university curricula. The stories will be passed down by word of mouth only. The artifacts and written accounts of the events of those years will be confined to private collections and family attics.

And one such attic will obviously be mine.

There are little pieces of family lore in the stanzas of my poem. My mother’s great-great uncle was famous for leading the charge at the Crater in Petersburg, but his name wasn’t Theophrastus. He was Brigadier General David Weisiger (pronounced “Wizziger”, for readers who live outside the Richmond area), and was renowned, at least in Virginia, for his heroism on that day.

I am also in possession of a brittle bundle of worthless banknotes from the period. For many years they were kept in the top drawer of Dymphna’s and my dresser.

My grandmother’s first cousin (i.e. my first cousin twice removed) was the only daughter of the eldest daughter (there were five daughters, no sons) of David Weisiger’s brother, so she inherited most of the family heirlooms from the plantation. She never married, and when she died the various items were divided among her cousins.

The largest pieces of furniture went to my uncle and my mother. The item that I coveted most was a plantation medical kit, which was a wooden cabinet with little drawers and cubbies for medicinal substances, surgical implements, etc. I remember one drawer was labeled “Opium”, and there was a dried black tarry residue at the bottom of it. I really wanted that cabinet, but it went to one of my cousins.

One of the few things I received (which I had also wanted) was an envelope full of Confederate money. I’ve scanned some of the notes to display here.

In my bundle of worthless banknotes are two hundred-dollar bills, one twenty (not shown here), eighteen Confederate tens, one Virginia ten, and three pieces of fractional scrip from the City of Richmond — 25¢ (not shown here), 30¢, and 75¢. That makes a total of $411.30, which was a lot of money in 1862, especially since it was presumably received in exchange for gold and/or silver coins. I’m certain those were sorely missed in April of 1865.

This is the back of the hundred-dollar note shown at the top of this post:


(Click to enlarge)

The interest rate paid on the note was 2¢ daily, which is an APR of 7.3%.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)

There’s no indication that any interest was paid on the tens and twenties.

The fractional notes issued by the City of Richmond are worn and wrinkled, indicating that they saw wide circulation. The other bills were in better shape, and may not have circulated much before coming to rest in the family strongbox.

For the higher-denomination notes, the Confederate government promised to pay the bearer the face amount on demand six months or two years (depending on the note) after a peace treaty was signed with the United States. It was hoped that the delay would allow the nascent state to accumulate enough gold and silver through taxes and tariffs to be able to pay off its promissory notes.

Alas, no peace treaty ever came. The surrender was signed by General Lee on April 9, 1865 (which day I refer to in my more sardonic moments as “the Confederate naqba”), and all those Confederate, Virginia, and Richmond banknotes suddenly became worthless pieces of paper.

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Getting an Eyeful

Long-time readers may recall that I am afflicted with wet macular degeneration (central serous choroidopathy) in my left eye. The condition first appeared more than seven years ago, and has been kept in check by an intermittent series of injections in that eye. For which I am grateful, because until a dozen or so years ago, there was no known treatment for wet macular degeneration.

After the most recent stabilization of the eye, I had been able to go for months without any injections. Unfortunately, about a month ago I started noticing the unmistakable symptoms of a recurrence of the condition. It causes visual disruptions near the fovea of the eye, meaning that the two eyes no longer work together properly, and are always tired and irritated. Back in 2013 I fashioned a patch that could be attached to one lens of my glasses, and worked one-eyed for awhile. If this flare-up had continued much longer, I probably would have had to do the same thing again.

Under normal circumstances, I would have called the retinal specialist’s office and made a special appointment to go in. However, the Coronamadness precludes such appointments — Emergencies Only; otherwise do without. So I decided to tough it out, and waited until my regularly scheduled two-month checkup, which was this afternoon.

When he saw the results of my scan (those scanning machines are amazing), the doctor agreed that I needed to start the injections again. So I’ve had a rough few hours, and now the dancing air bubble is here, flitting around in front of the screen like one of those bouncing balls over the song lyrics in an old movie.

A needle in the eye is horrible, but I can tell you that after you have lived for a few weeks with the symptoms of macular degeneration, you actually kind of look forward to it. Based on my experiences on the two previous occasions (2013 and 2018), the worst of the visual distortions will recede within a few weeks. The downside, of course, is that I have to get an injection every month for an indefinite period.

After I came out of the doctor’s office this afternoon, when I was crossing the parking lot to my car with two sets of temporary sunglasses over my eyes, I realized that I was missing Dymphna more than I had at any point since last summer. During the previous two series of injections, after each treatment I would return home in misery, and she would be there waiting for me, ready to offer sympathy, fix me food, and generally take care of me until I recuperated.

Today I came home to an empty house with a dancing bubble in front of me. I fixed myself a drink, and then lay down with a pillow over my eyes until I was able to focus on the screen again.

So posting is somewhat light this evening. There will be a news feed, and possibly also another post, but possibly not.

Fundraising in the Time of Corona

This was the “sticky” post for the spring fundraiser. It was first published on May 25, and was on top throughout fundraising week. Scroll down for items posted on and after that date.

Spring Fundraiser 2020, Day Seven

Sunday’s Update: A Diversity Flashback

We’re moving into the final day of what has been a very unusual fundraising week.

Tip jarThere was no way to tell in advance how this quarter’s fundraiser might turn out, given the economic devastation that is enshrouding most of the Western world. Would anybody have spare cash to donate to a minor website?

Would anyone even be paying attention?

Well… Up until now there have been a greater than average number of donations — which is astonishing. Yet the total amount that has come in is somewhat less than average, which isn’t surprising at all, since most people have been hit hard financially for the past two months or so. It’s gratifying that so many have been willing to chip in, under the circumstances.

If you haven’t got around to it yet, the tip jar is on the sidebar, or you can use this link.

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Instead of another COVID-related update, I’ll close this fundraiser with a blast from the past. The excerpt below was written by Dymphna almost exactly eight years ago, on June 4, 2012, for the final fundraising post of that year’s spring fundraiser.

The theme for that week’s bleg was “Diversity”, and she wrapped everything up with the following remarks:

The subject of Diversity is fraught. So for this Fundraiser, I’ve deliberately kept the lid on certain subjects. They can accumulate like barnacles or smart bombs on the wall of diversity, or rather on the battlements of modern, top-down “Diversity”. As is true of any other project, some stuff has to be routinely scraped off so you can see what’s underneath, yet other junk — whilst appearing to be identical — will blow up in your face. Frankly, the explosions aren’t interesting anymore.

It is the former which draws my curiosity. .The latter, full of traps like the origins or even the existence of “global” “warming” — oops, climate change…oops, methane in the atmosphere. Whatever. Any point in “discussing” those issues is long past. Those in Charge will tell you ahead of time: “It’s settled…” “Consensus Has Been Reached”… “Everyone Knows”… “Only an Idiot Would Think Such a Thing”….and so on, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

Have you noticed that the more fervently views on such issues are clung to (bitterly), the less room there is for Reason or even the possibility of entertaining alternate ideas? Entertaining ideas? Enter that realm at your own risk.

Here’s a partial list of Don’t-Go-There-Unless-You-Want-a-Fight hot buttons. No particular order here, simply a reflection of what I’ve been reading and thinking about. These are only contentions; I have no solutions. The mysteries of life usually don’t come with quick remedies:

  • Abortion. Or not. When does life begin to have value? No, it’s not “settled”. Look up the numbers of those who believe religiously in #1 vs. those who think the prize is behind Door #2. Just don’t put these folks in the same room.
  • Gender. What could be simpler: This is a girl; see that little cleft where her penis should be? This is a boy, see his penis hanging there? Gender-bending is occurring at younger and younger ages, much to the horrified sorrow of parents caught in a five year-old’s intense identity crisis. It may well be that the crisis is real enough, but it could turn out to be just one manifestation of a larger, more complex reality than the one we can see. Human beings are quite malleable, but they are also fragile. The times in which we live, where sexual identity is up for grabs — literally — are reflected in many issues, and one of them is seen in these canary children. In different times most of them would’ve been spared this assault from the zeitgeist, an assault which begins during the dark floaty existence in utero. Were there no assaults from the residues of psychotropic drugs left in the drinking water (just to name one possible influence), or the constant low-level cultural exposure to increasingly depraved pornography, these children could have lived within the boundaries of their respective anatomy without a blip. When times simplify again — and they surely will — outlier cases will recede again. That’s not much comfort now to these kids or their parents as they stumble through the nightmare.
  • Religion is a crutch vs. Spirituality is a part of human experience. The former has become the more intellectually acceptable attitude of late, though one wonders what insecurity keeps the more aggressively devout unbelievers at their megaphones, proselytizing like hard-shell Mississippi Baptists. You begin to ask if there is some fervent need on their part to save the unwashed from arrant foolishness. Perhaps a good dose of American history about the cycles of the Great Awakenings in the 18th and 19th centuries would at least help the ardent atheists this side of the Atlantic to gain some perspective.

    My guess regarding the foundation of this popular orthodoxy among the media gatekeepers? It’s high school redux: they want to be with the cool kids and they don’t want to have to actually study anything. Aping your betters is so much easier, especially if your “educated” betters are being all edgy and you know it will irritate those boring duds in Flyover Country… As is the case for other media belief blankets, if you want to hear another side (and there is more than one) you’ll have to hunt for it on your own. What surprises me is the number of people who do — want to hear another point of view, I mean.

  • Sex among adults. Interestingly, as the results from the Boomer generation become apparent, and the laws of unintended consequences begin to take their toll, their children are turning away from their parents’ youthful decisions to let it all hang out. They see the results and politely decline. Or at least the ones who catch on early enough do so. They know the health risks for both sexes of too many sexual partners. They understand the complexities of bonding better than their naïve parents did. Except for the one percent — those befuddled “Occupy” useful tools — for the most part middle-class kids have turned back the clock. Of course many of them face rigors their parents did not: huge education debt, a poor job market, and increasing balkanization by class. Their lives will be tougher in many ways, but then so will they. At least the ones who aren’t forced to move back home, much the same way their great grandparents had to do to get by.
  • Sex with children as the new norm. Nope, that’s not worth our time. The downward deviancy of our culture was seen two generations ago and I’m sure it’s not hit bottom yet. But it will. In the meantime, let’s not contribute to the pollution.
  • Death. Like the beginnings of life, its endings are becoming more fungible. The Right to Die vs. the Responsibility to Die. Our old are becoming the Ice Floe Generation. And who gets to decide whose life has meaning or value? Recently, a couple sued for Wrongful Birth when their child was born with congenital anomalies the parents believed they should have been told about ahead of time. Among the nettles were questions like financial responsibility for this life no one wants. This question lies floundering side-by-side with the reality of aborted, breathing fetuses who are killed on the operating table without a qualm. Are we confused or what?
  • Trash. There are lots more thorns and contention here, but let’s end with garbage, with refuse, with detritus. Like global warming, there are folks on both sides of the Religion of Recycling, which is a smaller denomination of the colossal Environmental Cathedral — and that place makes Vatican City look like a high-rise tenement. Again, this subject has sectarian overtones in the higher reaches (or screeches) of the True Believers. For the dissidents there is often no choice: just because you can ‘prove’ your locality saves nothing by recycling doesn’t mean you can opt out. There are handy garbage technologies in your wheelie bin that will see you fined or put in jail if you don’t conform.

    One of the dystopian uncharms of living in an urban landscape is unending trash. But city-slicker trash has become another source of revenue for cash-poor rural areas. While the downside is that the nearby urban poor often find it cheaper to skulk out here to the country and leave their bags of unidentifiable refuse because they can’t afford the trash stickers the city makes them buy, there’s an upside to this. Big cities up North will pay good money to poor rural areas if they’ll take the garbage out. Thus many county boards of supervisors do just that, and this venture keeps the real estate tax rate down for the bumpkins.

    Don’t you wonder where this will lead as consumers are unable to continue consuming? Will trash reduce itself to an endangered species? In order to continue the justification of its existence, will the EPA have to step in with emergency rulings?

Diverse contentions. They’re endless and they get more polarized all the time. As resources get thin on the ground, look for the rigidities to worsen. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of living in interesting times. I’m ready for a good long spell of boredom — kind of like those endless amber waves of grain we don’t have anymore because they hybridized all the wheat. Modern varieties are now too short to wave at anyone.

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The photo below was taken in the late 1990s. It shows Dymphna on her 58th birthday:

It’s probably the last image of her that I’ll scan and post, unless I happen upon another trove of lost photos. She gave her permission for me to post just one, the photo of her holding a puppy that I included with my eulogy for her last June.

However, I figure that her attitude about such things is probably more relaxed now that she is incorporeal. The photos of her that I’ve posted here over the past twelve months are excellent ones, in my opinion. She is exactly herself in them, and I cherish them more than words can say. I think she’s OK with my including them here.

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Saturday’s gifts came in from:

Stateside: California, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Texas

Far Abroad: Australia and the UK

Canada: Ontario

I’ll be back in a few days to post a wrap-up with the final tally of locations.

The next fundraiser will begin sometime in the hot, hot summer. Who knows what the coronacrisis will have morphed into by then?

Many thanks to everyone for their generosity.

Saturday’s Update: Who is That Masked Man?

We’re moving into the penultimate day of Gates of Vienna’s quarterly fundraiser.

Readers who are sheltering in place at home and have nothing better to do are invited to send a modest donation by way of the tip cup on the sidebar (or by using this link).

Those small individual gifts are the way I keep this blog going. If a significant number of readers give a little bit each, it adds up to enough to pay for the site and keep me in cheese and crackers for another quarter.

Full disclosure: This website is not corona-compliant. Its proprietor is a coronadissident who refuses to wear a mask.

Since yesterday morning’s update I became aware of an article published by the The New England Journal of Medicinethat bolsters my dissident stance. It concerns the ineffectiveness of wearing a mask as a means of preventing the spread of COVID-19. One of our commenters mentioned it, but I also ran across it on Twitter.

This was actually published in April, but for some reason is only now drawing attention:

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A Host of Kind Faces

This post was a “sticky” feature for a week, and was first published last Monday. Scroll down for items posted since that time.

Winter Fundraiser 2020, Day Seven

Sunday’s Update: Snaps From the Family Album

This morning’s update will be brief, and will include just two final photos of kind faces from my memory. The first one is the above snapshot of Dymphna from 1987. I’ll tell you more about that in a minute, after I get the formalities out of the way.

Tip jarWe’re down to the wire here in the Winter Fundraiser of 2020: this is the final day. If you haven’t put a jingle into the tip cup (or this link), now is the time to do it.

Just think: this is a way to avoid all those noisome and obnoxious ads that you see on most sites. This blog relies entirely on modest donations by individual readers. I have no commercial sponsors. I’m not supported by any foundations or think tanks. The only sponsors are the people who read this site.

So if you appreciate what you find here, please drop a groat in the cup. A reminder: I send 10% of what I fundraise here to Vlad Tepes, whose video work is absolutely crucial to what I do. If you think he deserves more, please visit his site and click his own donate button.

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The photo of Dymphna at the top of this update is one of my all-time favorites. It captures her essence: that is exactly Dymphna, my beloved wife, with whom I spent forty fortunate years.

The picture was taken at my annual art show in the fall of 1987. The venue was a restaurant on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville. I’ve racked my brains trying to figure out who Dymphna was talking to when I took the snap, but I can’t do it. However, I can identify all three paintings on the wall in the background, despite the blurriness. Funny about that.

The final set of kind faces for this fundraiser is a detail from a larger group photo that was taken in the mid-1980s when the future Baron was just a few months old. As far as I know, the fB and I are the only two people in the photo who are still alive, but just in case I’ve cropped the rest of them out:

That’s Dymphna at the top, and her mother seated in front of her. Boy, I sure had more hair in those days. And none of it was white yet.

These last two snaps from the Bodissey family album wrap up the 2020 Winter Fundraiser. I realize that I’ve been wallowing in nostalgia this past week, but then, wallowing is an emotional necessity for me in these our wintry days.

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Saturday’s donors hailed from:

Stateside: Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Washington

Far Abroad: Lithuania and the UK

Canada: Ontario

Australia: Western Australia

This concludes the 2020 Winter Fundraiser for Gates of Vienna. I’ll post a wrap-up with all the locations sometime in the next few days.

A hearty Bodisseyan “thank you” to all those people on four continents who chipped in. It looks like I’ll be set for another quarter.

Saturday’s Update: Miscellaneous Faces From History, Not All of Them Kind

I’ll switch gears this morning and post a series of faces from history, chosen by whim from my image library. The one above shows Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili (a.k.a. Joseph Stalin), Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Sir Winston Churchill at the Tehran Conference in late 1943. Sir Winston’s face might be characterized as “kind”, but FDR’s and Uncle Joe’s not so much.

I have more faces to post, but first a word about what I’ve been doing during this week that is rapidly drawing to a close.

For one week every quarter I beg for money from readers to help keep Gates of Vienna going. The tradition began while Dymphna was alive, and continues in her absence. We depended, and I still depend, on the kindness of strangers. Actually, not all of you are strangers, come to think of it…

So if you haven’t done so already, please click that funky tip cup on the sidebar (or use this link) and drop in a ha’penny or two to help keep this enterprise afloat.

What’s amazing to me is the large number of modest donations that have come in. They’re generally quite small, but there are so MANY of them — they really add up. I’m humbled by your generosity, and pleased to see so many first-time donors.

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Fly Away Home

I don’t know about the rest of the country — or even the rest of Virginia — but the part of the Piedmont I live in has been suffering from a plague of ladybugs for at least the past 25 years.

The first time they came to my attention was in the fall of 1994, which was also the worst year of infestation. The little bastards would get in through the tiniest gaps around windows and doors, and then buzz around the house, forming large clumps in the corners where two walls meet the ceiling. I remember at one point seeing a mass of ladybugs as big as a ping-pong ball in one corner. They all eventually found their way up here to the Eyrie, the highest point in the house. They also seem to prefer to enter through the south window here, which is bright and warm during the day. They make their way through tiny cracks around (or in) the frame, then buzz all around the window, and spread to the rest of the room. When there are a lot of them, I have to cover my coffee cup when I’m not sipping from it, because they have a habit of dropping into it and drowning. If I then sip from the cup without looking first, I get an unpleasant surprise — they taste NASTY.

Back in 1994 I resorted to keeping the vacuum cleaner up here in order to deal with the ladybugs. I scrounged around and found all the lengths of pipe extensions we had for it, as well as a four-foot flexible hose. The straight, rigid section I put together was about eight feet long, allowing me to reach almost the entire room while standing in the middle of the floor. Some days I would vacuum up several hundred of them in several passes through the room. I learned to appreciate the satisfying thwip each bug made when it was sucked into the narrow aperture in the outermost attachment at the end of the pipe.

When I was done with a vacuuming session, I put a piece of duct tape over the end of the pipe to keep the prisoners from escaping. I found out early in the game that if I didn’t do that, eventually some of the little demons would make their way out of the pipe and back into the house.

1995 was also bad, but not as bad as 1994. Since then there have been some really bad years, and some where there were almost no ladybugs. But there have been no years in which the annoying creatures were entirely absent.

The period of their annual infestation seems to have gradually moved to later in the season. They used to be here from September until about December, with almost none after New Year’s. Now the peak is generally from January to March. They’re pretty bad this year, which is why I’m writing about them. I sucked up a lot of them yesterday, but many more have come in today.

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These aren’t the normal ladybugs that we were used to before 1994. They’re not bright red, like the ladybugs of my childhood — in fact, they may have displaced the original population, for all I know. They’re kind of dull brown, and not at all attractive.

They’re also aggressive, and will occasionally bite if they land on your skin. They seem to prefer fair Nordic types, and tend to bite them more often. But I’ve been bitten by them a few times — a sudden sharp stinging feeling, followed by itching.

I’ve been told that these new updated ladybugs were introduced into the local ecology by the state department of agriculture, to control the bark beetles. Timber companies have invested in large tracts of pine forests in this area, and the bark beetles are a serious problem for them. I assume they lobbied in Richmond for the ladybug solution.

After I heard about the ladybug project, I realized that I had seen one of the first drops of the bugs back in 1989. The future Baron and I were out for a ride in Nelson County, and we stopped when we saw a helicopter operation in a field next to the road. We watched the helicopter take off, and then a cloud of something was released from its cargo bay into the air above us. Five years later, when the bugs hit and someone told me about their origins, I put two and two together and deduced that the fB and I had seen the first wave of the buggers being released into the local environment.

Now they are permanent residents here, and a permanent nuisance. I don’t suppose that our being plagued with the damned things carries much weight when balanced against the need to harvest enough pine trees to print the Congressional Record and The Washington Post. So we have no choice but to endure them.

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A final note: Typing the word “ladybug” reminded me that what we colonials call “ladybugs” are known as “ladybirds” in England. Or at least they were in the 1960s, when I lived there.