Archive for the ‘My life’ Category

A sick day

September 20, 2023

Meant to post about Probal Dasgupta on autoimmune diseases and about my raft of them, but I lost the day to a mystery sickness, no doubt made worse by the smoky air outside, which leaks into my house and makes breathing uncomfortable; and certainly made worse by extravagant joint pain (in my hips and knees, subverting my new-found ability to walk with a cane or on my own two feet; and spectacularly in my hand joints — the right hand fingers swollen and painful for some days, on top of their existing damaged-nerve disability and pain; the left middle finger and two knuckle joints red, swollen, inflamed, made useless with pain).

I got my meals (using my poor right hand to substitute for the useless angry left one, usually my “good hand”) and otherwise slept through the day, feeling utterly exhausted and headachey.

A rapid Covid test showed nothing. My blood pressure and pulse rate remained excellent throughout the day. Early in the day my temperature was 96.5 F, significantly lower than my normal temp, which hovers around 97.6 (a degree lower than most people’s). But just now, after a salad for dinner, I felt a bit feverish, and indeed my temp was a bit elevated (for me), 98.5.

Testing my O2 uptake turned out to be tricky. My right-hand fingers are undependable, period, and it turns out that an inflamed finger gives an alarmingly low (false) reading. But I had one finger on that hand that wasn’t inflamed, the ring finger, and the oximeter read 97% for that finger this morning, still does.

Otherwise, I just feel really really crappy.

Oh, yes, that joint pain is what I’ve come to call osteoarthritism, a nasty autoimmune affliction that mimics osteoarthritis (a named disease that involves actual degeneration of cartilage), but travels around the body in unpredictable attacks that consume anywhere from minutes to days.

Now I’m going to try to figure out how to wash my dinner dishes and go back to bed.

When this passes, I’ll post about Probal and about my osteoarthritism, my DoE (dyspnea on exertion), my spontaneous aphonia, and more.

I really really want to get back to walking. That was truly delightful.


A funny dirty book

September 18, 2023

A book of  XXX-rated comic collages. On offer for free (offer details later in this posting). Here’s the cover page for the book:

A book of 48 collages (8.5 x 12 inch copies on good stock, titled and signed by the artist), in pockets in the book; note all three descriptors — XXX-rated, homoerotic, comic (they’re all significant)


How an Australian film-maker evokes tennis

September 14, 2023

Or: the marvels of associative memory.

Previously on this blog, in my 9/12 posting “Two tennis-playing Zwickys”:

My old friend Ellen Sulkis James, musing on my name, e-mailed today:

I just read about someone else whose last name is Zwicky —  think it was someone involved with tennis.

Memories are often fugitive and hazy. Perhaps that’s what’s going on here. My searches for people named Zwicky with a tennis connection pulled up only two, both of them most unlikely to have come to ESJ’s attention

Ah, it turns out that the Zwicky in question is not tennis-related but — whoa! — film-related. This isn’t as bizarre an error as would first appear; we can in fact chalk it down to the nature of memory (in which personal associations between things play a big role).

I will explain.


Aura Lee in the morning

September 13, 2023

Today’s morning music, playing (on the Apple Music that’s beamed into my bedroom during the night) when I arose at 3:40 am: from Anonymous 4’s 1865Songs of Hope and Home from the American Civil War, “Aura Lee” (sung by Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, with harmony and instrumental accompaniment by Bruce Molsky). An achingly lovely song — you can listen to the performance here — with a chorus that’s three lines of sentimental love song, topped by the transcendent line “And swallows in the air”, with its breath-taking image of the birds swooping in flight.

(#1) Photo by Keith Gough, as cover art for the demo video for “Swallows in Air”, from John Newell’s A Timbered Choir, settings (for voices and piano) of poems by Wendell Berry

The program: about the Civil War song song “Aura Lea / Lee”; about the 2015 Anonymous 4 album; and (briefly) about the Newell / Berry “Swallows in Air”.


Two pleasantries for 9/10

September 10, 2023

My Mary, Queen of Scots Not Dead Yet posting for 9/10, lying uneasily between the silliness of Negation Day on 9/9 (nein nein) and the wrenching anniversary of the horrors of 9/11/2001, and serving as something to show you after the postings I’d been laboring on expanded unmanageably in their scope and after my two-fingered typing hand, already seriously disabled, became barely functional because the middle finger is swollen, inflamed, and effing painful. (Today’s good news is that I got in two hours of Sacred Harp singing via Zoom with the Palo Alto singers — an activity that asks very little of that middle finger.) So, two pleasantries that have came to me on-line:

— in a Pinterest mailing today, an unidentified painting I pegged as surely an attractive Yannis Tsarouchis work (see my 8/12/23 posting “Yannis Tsarouchis”) — indeed, it turned out to be the artist’s Sailor at a table from 1950

— in a Facebook posting by Chris Ambidge on 9/7, from the Green Midget cafe in Bromley, a board offering the items from the Monty Python “Spam” sketch (set in that fictional eatery), which I noted was one of the great pieces of cumulative humor


Annals of cultural exchange: Turkish Austrian Turkish music

September 9, 2023

A Facebook comment by Michael Covarrubias (in Turkey) on yesterday’s posting “Turkish marches” (about the Mozart Rondo alla turca and the Beethoven “Turkish March” from The Ruins of Athens):

Your second Turkish theme in only a few days! [the other was “Turkish Neutrogena” of 9/7]

When I moved to Ankara 9 years ago, a new friend would invite me regularly to classical music concerts. The most memorable was the pianist Ingholf Wunder. His encore began, and as soon as it was recognized as Mozart’s rondo, the audience made an audible delighted gasp.

Wunder ended the opening refrain with what was obviously not Mozart’s chord, and from there the fantasy swirled thru the piece, increasing in its novel energy, almost urging me for the first time in my life to stand mid-performance and applaud out of pure excitement at what I was hearing. I’ve never been so moved by an encore.

At first I thought the audience’s excitement at the opening notes was just because it’s such a well known piece, then I remembered that not everyone calls it just “rondo”. Here they really identify with the “alla turca”.

I hear the piece being played in schoolyards as the classtime bell, I hear it in elevators, I hear it all over as a welcome fanfare… They’re proud to be mentioned.

Here is a video of Wunder performing the arrangement.

And it is indeed stunning (in fact, Wundervoll — I’ll just unburden myself of that before going on). But there is something culturally notable in a Turkish fashion for the Mozart Rondo alla turca, which is one of the prime examples of a European — mostly Austrian — fashion for “Turkish music”. In other words, Turkish Austrian Turkish music. (Well, cultural exchanges do tend to bounce back and forth.)


Turkish marches

September 8, 2023

It’s the time of the year when I re-connect with Ellen Sulkis James, an old friend, going back to the early 1960s, when we were both on the staff of the Reading Eagle newspaper in Reading PA, an old friend whose birthday (on 8/30) is just a week before mine, a fact we play with annually. (As it happens, this year I’m also in almost daily contact with Ellen M. Kaisse, another old friend — and linguistics colleague, now retired from the University of Washington in Seattle — going back to the early 1970s, who is now plotting a possible visit to me here in Palo Alto; for the record, my other old friends named Ellen, Ellen Evans and Ellen Seebacher, who came to me through the newsgroup soc.motss in the late 1980s, are also a regular presence in my life. Yes, this is all very confusing.)

Back then, ESJ and I were college students who did not go into the newspaper business — she went on to become a professor of art history, I went on to become a professor of linguistics — but it turned out that we shared an enthusiasm for classical music (we still exchange discoveries of new performers and performances), and we were both pianists. So in my visits to her house, we ended up playing together, including what she remembers as a 1 piano 4 hand version of Mozart’s Rondo alla turca, originally written for solo piano. For complex reasons I’ll eventually explain to you, I wasn’t so sure it was the Mozart, but might have been a 1 piano 4 hand version of what is known as the “Turkish March” (by Beethoven, from his incidental music for the play The Ruins of Athens), originally written for symphony orchestra.

Now, EMK is also a musician (an accomplished singer) with an enthusiasm for classical music (we exchange discoveries of new performers and performances). You can see that at the moment I tend to suffer from Ellen Blending. At least neither of the Turkish pieces seems to have been supplied with a vocal line.

In any case, I’m now convinced that ESJ is right about our having played the Mozart, not the Beethoven, those 60 years ago. I just wasn’t used to the Rondo alla turca being called a “Turkish March”. But Wikipedia reports this alternative name, and ESJ unearthed this performance of the (solo) Rondo alla turca (by Ronald Brautigam) recorded under the title “Turkish March”. So there.


Rowing on the river

September 6, 2023

From my old friends Bonnie and Ed — Benita Bendon Campbell and her husband Edward Campbell — a Jacquie Lawson birthday e-card for me in which the Biglin Brothers (two muscular young men in a Thomas Eakins painting) row (on the Schuylkill River, the river of my childhood) for the prize of a birthday cupcake (with a purple banner) — to a noisy band rendition of “Happy Birthday”. Deeply satisfying.

(#1) The Lawson version of the Biglins

And now: the Biglins in real life, and (with a dose of homoeroticism) the painter Eakins.


Safeway’s AI soup nazis

August 31, 2023

🐅 🐅 🐅 tiger tiger tiger for ultimate August, anticipating the welcoming bunny trio of September

I get my groceries from a local Safeway, with shoppers and deliverers supplied by Instacart. Safeway has an excellent line of deli soups, which I described for you in my 7/21 posting “Real food”, focusing on Safeway’s Signature Cafe (their brand name) chicken tortilla soup (in a plastic container), which was a major step on my route back to real food after my gall bladder surgery; I noted at the time:

Safeway has a whole line of these soups, including a clear lobster bisque suitable for liquid diets and several very nice chunkier soups, including a minestrone, chicken noodle soup, jambalaya and broccoli cheddar soup.

Yesterday, continuing my incursions into red meat and animal fats — cheese was the first wedge into this territory, but I’ve since moved all the way to (pork) carnitas and carne asada — and needing to order in some milk from Safeway, I thought to reconsider the store’s other soups, so I searched on “deli soups” on the Safeway site.

And got a notice — new in my experience — that this search was powered by AI. Instead of the expected inventory of Safeway’s dozen or so or deli soups, I got only three such soups, and these three were scattered among a huge number of listings for canned soups (from various companies). Not deli soups at all, but just soups; in fact, towards the end of the list, it branched into canned meats. So a massive AI screw-up.


Snacks for the team

August 30, 2023

Recently appeared in my comics feed, this One Big Happy strip from 2013, in which Ruthie and Joe consult with their dad about what snacks he should bring after their next Little League game:

We get the astounding 1st inning score — tied at 48! — just tossed off for free in the second panel

The kids present their father with a minefield of food allergies and aversions — meat, peanuts, caffeine, sugar — for him to negotiate through.