Saturday, April 18, 2009

Now That's A Pretty Song

Bad, performed by Luka Bloom.

Having audio taped the entire Live Aid concert as transmitted in New York (two tape recorders meant no break in continuity) I was instantly impressed by U2's performance of this song, and generated much bad feeling between my good self and the girls I shared the apartment with1 by belting it out on volume number 112 . It is a song I've loved for a long time despite my not having a single U2 album in my collection.

Not even The Joshua Tree, and everyone has a copy of that. I've often thought about buying a yard of U2 CDs but have never actually done so.

Not sure why that is.

Anyway, I was in Sid's hardware Store on Jay Street last week and heard an absolutely beatuiful acoustic version of Bad playing on their P.A. system, so good I hung out in the store just to hear the whole thing. I was so impressed with it I initiated a search for cover versions as soon as I got home. I suppose I could have asked someone in the store who it was, but in all the times I've done that I've never gotten the right answer (and I've got the CDs to prove it too).

Amazon, Wikipedia and Google were not helpful when presented with my knowledge as search criteria, which boiled down to "Bad Acoustic". Much of interest did pop up, but nothing useful 3. Luckily The Stevieling had a problem with her iTunes account 4 and after I had fixed the issue (which essentially boiled down to Apple's design crew not having enough imagination to figure out how their stuff might be used in the real world 5) I scanned the available versions of Bad and located a couple of likely candidates. I thought I could use the free sample to positively identify the right song, but was all-but foiled by the clip editorial staff having selected a segment in which 99% of the sound is of unaccompanied guitar. This isn't the first time I've discovered that an iTunes sample clip, the one they presumably feel will hook an opportunistic buyer, is about as representative of the actual song it was taken from as a fried Mars Bar. Fortunately, I was able to positively identify the voice from the few words included and am now able to pass on the recommendation to you.

The piece is performed solo, accompanied by acoustic guitar. The guitar work is melodic and crisp in execution, and the vocals have just the right tremulous edge to convey the subject matter at hand in the proper manner (albeit a very different manner than U2 used).

I don't own a CD of Luka Bloom's music yet, but this song ensures that I will, soon.

  1. Long story, love involved, none directly involving me
  2. I've also got the bit where the concert organisers pulled the plug on U2, which was curiously not part of the DVD released purporting to cover the same concert in it's entirety
  3. So often the case when doing internet searches
  4. Again. Oh yeah, Apple's stuff "just works" all right
  5. Again. Apple's designs are so much "better" I can't understand why they aren't the industry leader in everything. Oh wait, yes I can

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mrs Stevie: Breaks, Recent, Catching (NOT)

Well, the good news is that Mrs Stevie's emergency gall-bladder excision went well.

Sometime around 2 am on Wednesday morning she began having stomach pains (I'm not absolutely clear on this because Mrs Stevie often sleeps in a recliner since the cancer treatment started, on account of her falling fast asleep during the late evening while waiting for "The Daily Show" to come on and my cowardice common sense in not awakening her from a deep sleep being as how I don't want my face clawed off) . By the time the Stevieling kicked me out of bed to drive her to school the woman was doubled over in agony. I suggested a trip to the Emergency Room, which she vetoed. The night before I had brought home a burrito for her from a local Mexican fast food place (no spices or hot sauces involved, just soft meat which I thought she might a) enjoy since they are a favourite of hers and 2) the meat is almost liquid to start with) and I immediately put the blame on food poisoning.

A little later I gave her some Malox through her stomach tube (she was not keeping anything taken orally down) and that seemed to help. So she decided to take a can of the liquid food we still use to suppliment her inadequate intake of solids (she still cannot swallow reliably owing to the damage the cancer treatment wreaked in her throat). This turned out to be the worst idea in the history of ideas, and brought on another attack of pain that wouldn't subside even after a dose of Pepcid (which works by shutting down the digestion altogether and was a great help during my attacks of Pancreatitis).

Around noon, she asked me to call her G.P., who in turn suggested a visit to the G.I. specialist who had put in the stomach tube (technically a "peg" in docspeek) as she felt it might be an infection at that site, although there was no outward sign of that. This was a possibility that had occurred to me too, and the implications of that had me quite worried.

The G.I. specialist made a hole in his schedule and I hustled her there, where she began to become seriously ill. She looked worse than she had right after chemotherapy, which was truly scary. He took one quick poke at her stomach, paused to medicate his now-ruptured eardrums and told me to get her to the E.R. for an immediate cat scan.

The E.R. for once wasn't a complete zoo, and her condition was by now so visibly poor that they fast tracked her into a bed for observation and tests. It was by then around 3 pm.

We sat and waited, or rather, I sat and waited while Mrs Stevie entertained us with some impromptu screaming for about half an hour, at which point someone ponied up some Morphine. Which did no good, so it was on to something polysylabic beginning with "P" that did. That wore off after an hour, so we did our double act until they returned with more.

I was desperate for a pee but had told Mrs Stevie I wouldn't leave her. The hospital wanted to do an ultrasound test but needed her sedated because of all the screaming every time a waft of air hit the spot on her stomach they needed to ram the sonic probe into. Eventually I had to go. I was gone a matter of approximately five minutes, two and one half for bladder drainage, the rest for cell-phone calls to tell the family and the Stevieling what was going on. I've got the clock times of the calls and can confirm that bit to the second.

I returned to find her bay empty.

They did bring her back though, and around 6 pm a very nice young doctor hove into view saying that the tests indicated a problem with her gall bladder and that it would have to be removed that evening. We discussed the implications of the aftermath of the cancer treatment and the stomach tube being there while the pain meds wore off and Mrs Stevie once again burst into song. This time it took me quite some time to get medication since the doctor, now absent, had given strict instructions about the dose which were at odds with Mrs Stevie's views on the matter. We eventually prevailed and Mrs Stevie was drugged back into quiessence so we could wait some more.

And some more.

And some more.

Some time during this period the "this evening" part of the plan was aborted, but no-one bothered to tell us. Not only that; although we had filled in exhaustive paperwork concerning Mrs Stevie being admitted to the hospital sometime shortly after 6 pm, it was now around 9 pm and no-one could tell us when she would actually be wheeled into a room for the night.

I had to call the Stevieling again, which meant leaving Mrs Stevie's side (they allowed no cell phone usage in the E.R. for some reason). I told the pain-demented, drug-addled woman not to let them take her anywhere before I returned.

When I did return some four minutes and thrity-five seconds later (I timed it) They were trying to remove her again. I dashed in and confirmed they were taking her to a room, and allowed them to get on with it.

They took her to a lobby on the opposite side of the hospital, where an irritated staff nurse told them she had no record of Mrs Stevie having been allocated a room. Fortunately, it turned out that the architect had been as lackwitted as the patient-admission process and had given two sets of rooms the same numbers, so eventually (around 10 pm) Mrs Stevie was in a bed in a room and demanding more drugs with menaces. Once she had them I checked that the operation was not going to happen that night and went home to my own bed, arriving there around 11 pm. Mrs Stevie had given me a task list of stuff that needed doing at once, so it was well after midnight that I hit the sack.

I was woken from a sound sleep by the Stevieling rushing into my room and screaming DAD! WAKE UP! which, thanks to my having thrown off all the covers during the night, produced a very satisfying demonstration of human levitation for the child's education.

I took her to school, then gathered up some pyjamas, a robe and sundry other clothing, stuffed it all in a bag and went back to the hospital, where I spent a disagreeable four hours persuading Mrs Stevie that it wouldn't be long now. Finally they decided to take her up for the operation, having timed it to coincide with the wearing-off of the medication. Nothing enhances a session with the surgeon, anaethsetologist and sundry other medical types all demanding the same information and signatures than the onset of truly mind-altering pain. Sometime around 2 pm they wheeled her away from me.

I drove home, grabbed a bite to eat and just got the call (3:00 pm) from the surgeon that everything went well and that I could come back and see her in an hour or so.

So that's what I'm going to do now.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Life Goes On

Well it's been an annoying month here in Deer Park

For one thing, it keeps bloody raining. Understand that as an Englishman I'm used to a bit of rain, even a lot of rain. I've spent time in Wales, after all. It's just that the rain ought to go somewhere after it's dropped from on high, and on Long Island it doesn't.

The reasons for this are many and complex, but basically boil down to stupid bloody Americans not getting their fingers out and doing the job properly. I mean, this country once put a man on the Moon for Azathoth's sake! How in the name of creation is is therefore impossible to get the water to go from the land to the sea, only about 20 miles away at the thickest bit of the island? I'd suggest sequestering it in reservoirs, but that would take monumental planning and a bit of acumen.

Aren't I being just a tad jingoistic and maybe a smidgeon hard on the civic engineers of my adopted country, state, county and town I hear you ask?

Well, traditional hydraulic engineering typically gives a nod of the head to the notion that water generally flows downhill, gravity being what it is, and that therefore one should ensure that drains are placed at the bottom of hills or other inclined areas of ground. The design in general use on Long Island could, in light of this principle, be held to be either startlingly innovative, an attempt to push back the outmoded preconceptions of a field sterile of new thinking, or the work of a bunch of idiots. Irrespective of which viewpoint you cleave to, the net result is the same: the junction outside Wyandanch station is still underwater three days after a rainstorm despite having a brand new drain network installed only two years ago and despite having the roads resurfaced and regraded at the same time.

About that.

Over the 100 or so years roadbuilders have been accommodating themselves to the need for everyone and his dog to own and drive their own automobile on a resilient surface, a number of basic principles have evolved. One of these is that the camber of a newly laid road surface should carry the water to the edges of the roadway, and thence to drains set slightly below the road's datum. It should therefore come as no surprise that on Long Island this thinking is held to be archaic, needless nitpicking by those ignorant of the broader aesthetic ideals of the roadbuilder.

And on the off-chance that someone, somewhere actually got a fbleeping clue and did the job right, all it takes is a couple of passes with Mr Snowplow to tear five gallon chunks of the road up and either throw them at the cars parked in the LIRR carpark or leave them lying on unlit streets as a collision hazard. The holes get repaired around the end of October, which is to say someone shovels low-grade asphalt into them and, if we're lucky, attempts to roll them so the result is a bump only a few inches high, ensuring that next winter the snowplow will tear it right back up again. There's a side road in Wyandanch which resembles the site Messrs Armstrong & Aldrin puttered around in. It happens to be the one that has the only available parking after 7:30 am these days. I can only assume that the suspension parts business a few yards down the main street from the site in question also runs the snowplow concession. I digress.

Surely, you ask, not every drain on Long Island can be so badly placed? Statistics alone mean that some of them should be in the right place to funnel gallons of wet inconvenience to part or parts unknown just by chance. You're right, but you are forgetting the idiot factor again.

For drains to continue working they have to be kept clean. Ours seem to be constantly clogged by leaves in the autumn, sand (from the road grit) in the spring and discarded crap all year round. Considering the buckets of tax money New York collects from us Long Islanders, there seems to be precious little of it spent to clean out the bleeding drains. An occasional roadsweeper would be a nifty idea too, but we only seem to see one or two a year and they mostly serve to collect all the gutter-born crap and dump it over the properly installed drain outside my house1.

Reader of this blog2 will be aware of the natural beauty of Lake Mineola at this time of year. By some miracle they managed to get the new roadway that goes under the tracks to stay dry in the rainy season, but the rest of the place floods just like it always does. This is a feat that would challenge even the Disney Imagineers (who've managed all sorts of neat tricks with water over the years) and I have to wonder how they managed it. Logic would call for the underpass to become a thirty-foot 3 deep sump. I imaging that some fancy footwork involving pumps and massive amounts of electricity are involved, but I don't know for sure. It should be interesting in the rainy part of the summer, around the end of July, when LIPA typically begins not rising to the challenge of getting everyone their electricity in a timely manner 4.

And don't get me started on those pig-useless, waste-of-space idiots in the weather prediction trade. They can't even get the weather right over the next three days. Never mind the satellites and doppler radar, I reckon they could do with a new bit of seaweed, or maybe an office with a window in it.

Oh well.

  1. The original drain had crap jammed in the grill. I spent hours every year cleaning it out with a sidewalk-scraper only to have it jammed up again a month later. I begged the town council to replace it but they ignored me. Then a truck backed over it and broke the grill. Once again I petitioned the town to do its duty, to no avail. Then one day I came home to find a police officer outside my house. She was not happy. A cyclist had ridden over the cracked, buckled drain - another victory for the IQ brigade there - and had been injured. She lectured me for some time about the state of the drain. Once she had wound down it was my turn. I pointed out that the drain was not my responsibility, buut the town's, and that if she felt the drain was dangerous she should tell the town to fix it. I wished her good luck and explained that I had already aprehended the danger to cyclists some years before and had periodically asked the town to behave in a sensible and responsible manner and spend some taxpayer dollars to avoid paying many times more in an inevitable lawsuit. The officer backed away from me as I was delivering my peroration, possibly because of the foam coming out of my mouth. A week later there was a nice new drain installed. Three weeks after that a roadsweeper filled it with crap
  2. I think we're down to one now, including me
  3. five fathoms
  4. People still seem to be fighting the intolerable humidity by running air conditioners despite the fact that LIPA, a body invented to make up excuses why they can't deliver the electricity they are in charge of, tells them not to