Nun danket alle Gott

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I’m about to depart to visit some of my relatives, who very kindly invited me to eat dinner with them, even though I’m not vaxed.

I’ll be home sometime this evening, so there will be a news feed, but possibly not much else.

I hope y’all have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t forget to social distance at the table, and keep your masks on between bites.

Murphy Rears His Ugly Head

My phone and Internet service just came back on after being out for more than 24 hours.

Yesterday afternoon there was a moderate thunderstorm in the area. A little bit of thunder, a modest amount of rain. When the rumbling started, I thought about putting up a bad weather post, but then said to myself, “Nah — this is hardly anything. Why bother?”

Well. What better way to invoke Murphy’s Law?

After the storm was over, and the rumbling had mostly stopped, the phone and Internet abruptly went out. The phone line was completely dead. Most of the time when that happens, service spontaneously comes back in a few hours. So I decided to wait it out. No luck — bedtime came, and the line was still dead.

When I got up this morning it was still out. Very annoying! I waited for it to come on; if it didn’t, after work hours I was going to drive to see one or more friends and ask to use their phone to call the phone company. There’s no cell coverage here at Schloss Bodissey, but there is some a few miles down the road, so I’d be able to get help even if the landline outage was widespread (but if it was widespread, of course, I wouldn’t need to call the company — I could be certain they were already working it).

Ten minutes before I planned to put my shoes on and go, the phone company, in its infinite wisdom, decided that it was time to restore my service.

I’ll be a while catching up. I have a lot of material backed up, but I spent yesterday evening formatting it for posting, so I should be able to put it up tonight. And I have a gazillion emails to go through, so be patient.

Sturm und Drang

The sky has darkened, and a loud and ominous rumbling may be heard coming from the northwest of Schloss Bodissey. The forecast is predicting severe thunderstorms in this part of the Commonwealth this afternoon.

The electric grid in my area has an annoying habit of going down for extended periods under such circumstances. So, if you don’t hear from me for a while, and your comments don’t get approved, you’ll know why. All I can do is wait it out.

In the meantime, I suggest that you look for news on two import topics: (1) the ongoing unrest in South Africa, and (2) the immigration crisis in Lithuania. They are far more interesting and important than whatever fatuity Joe Biden may have uttered today, or the way Jen Psaki has pstriven to pspin it.

I recommend staying away from the American news — for the moment anyway. It is full of sound and fury, but signifies nothing.

A Midsummer Daydream

Dymphna died just four days before the thirty-ninth anniversary of the celebration of our marriage. The photo at the top of this post was taken forty-one years ago today, on June 21, 1980 (our actual marriage had taken place the previous fall at the county courthouse). After the service we held a reception for relatives and friends back at our house, which is now known as Schloss Bodissey.

I’ve blurred out the face of my good friend in the background who officiated at our little service, and cropped off the maid of honor on my left and the best man on Dymphna’s right.

My mother had given Dymphna her own mother’s wedding ring, and I’m wearing my late father’s wedding ring.

1980 — just the other day!

The Biologic Urge to Readjust the Map of Europe

In the two years since Dymphna died I have dedicated myself to putting my affairs in order, so that the future Baron won’t have too hard a time when I shuffle off this mortal coil and go to claim my 72 virgins. One of the most difficult and time-consuming tasks has been to clean out, cull, and reorganize the material in the filing cabinets here at Schloss Bodissey. I have to pull out all the papers and scrutinize them before deciding whether to keep them or not. In the process I have come across a number of delightful surprises, plus a few mysteries.

An example of the latter is a hand-written chart (to be discussed in detail below). It’s in pencil, in my handwriting (and very small — you can tell my eyes were still working), written on the back of a computer printout that dates it to 1990. It’s basically a compendium of territorial changes in Europe between 1916 and 1945.


(Click to enlarge)

The big mystery is: why the heck did I put the thing together? It was written fourteen years before we started blogging. The future Baron was too small at that point for the document to have been one my lesson plans for him. The material in it closely tracks what I had to absorb to take my A-levels (and special papers) in European history. But it was written twenty years after I took my exams, so I couldn’t possibly have been regurgitating it from memory. I can tell I consulted the Harvard Encyclopedia of World History (a 1948 edition inherited from my father that is now held together by duct tape. It is one of the most treasured resources in my reference library, second only to the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology). Alas, I can no longer read it without a magnifying glass, so I won’t be checking any of the dates and facts on my chart to make sure they’re right.

For weeks I puzzled over the document, trying to figure out why I compiled it. My best guess is that Dymphna had been reading something — possibly The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman — and wanted to know about the territorial adjustments made in the map of Europe by the Treaty of Versailles and others that followed in the wake of the Great War. She knew I was well-versed in modern European history, so she must have asked me if I would put something together that would summarize it for her. I would have been delighted by her request, because I love to do that sort of thing — or used to, when my eyes still functioned normally.

The chart is a useful resource, so I took the trouble to transcribe it as well as I could. Doing so brought back memories of all that old A-level material. Vojvodina! I hadn’t thought about that name in a while. And some of the other names — Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Moldavia, etc. — are well-known now, because they’re sovereign states, but they weren’t in 1990; they were still socialist republics within one or the other of the communist superstates.

I can still remember a few more names that didn’t make it to the chart — the Sanjak of Novi Bazar, for example, or Eastern Rumelia.

The map of Europe was drastically reorganized after 1917 (after the Bolshevik Revolution, that is) and then even more so after 1918 in a series of treaties that divvied up the territory of the collapsed empires. Adolf Hitler did his part to rearrange the map even further, and then major revisions took place after the end of World War Two until 1946 or so. After that everything was frozen in place by the Cold War for the next 45 years. Then suddenly in the 1990s you started to see names in the newspaper that hadn’t been there since the 1930s — Montenegro, for instance, and Estonia. And things are still in flux now — who knows what the map of Europe will look like after the EU finally collapses?

Here’s my transcription of the document. I tried to put it in date order as far as possible. I expanded abbreviations when I was sure what they meant; otherwise I left them as-is:

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Two Years

Today is the second anniversary of the death of my wife Dymphna.

I still grieve deeply over her departure. I miss her sorely every day, but the level of suffering is considerably less than it was on the first anniversary. Grief becomes an accustomed condition, a familiar if unwelcome companion. From the horror of those early months I’ve moved into a state of contemplative melancholy, one that does not preclude interludes of enjoyment and even happiness.

The future Baron is here for the day, and in a little while we’ll be going down to lay fresh flowers on the grave. Posting may be light today, but there will at least be a news feed this evening.

Requiescat in pace, Dymphna.

UPDATE: After replying to two comments, I realized that I couldn’t possibly individually thank everyone who offered his or her condolences. So here’s my general thank-you to everyone: I appreciate your kind and thoughtful responses. And I know Dymphna left a lot of fans behind who miss her.

Movin’ Along

I’m about to depart Schloss Bodissey to visit relatives in another part of the Commonwealth. I’ll be gone for a couple of days.

There will be no news feed until after I get back. And, unfortunately, moderation of comments will be on hold as well. Time was, when Dymphna was still with us, there was somebody to approve comments (and reprove the reprobates) while I was travelling. Alas, those days are gone…

See you later, folks.

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.