Thursday, October 31, 2013

I Must Be Living Right...

The Past Few Days

Since the Blog Began

It overflows...

I'm not real clear on what started this trend, maybe I'm just lucky. But one thing I do know, I have all of YOU to thank for this.

You keep readin'...

I'll keep blogging...

(No, Robin, that was not a threat!)

Ah, what the heck here's an aircraft photo. You've earned it.

Seriously, thank you...


Sox Win!
What a year!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Meet the New Kid

She's In the Water, Finally
I've had an awful lot of folks stopping by here in the last couple of days looking for Zumwalt stuff. This I base on the search terms people use to get here which would give at least this. Which is a post I wrote back in January. About a project I was on before going into exile.

Without going into details, let's just say that "that which was old, is new again". Because this could turn out to be a temporary affair.

Now, that being said, here's a link to a rather nice article about the Zumwalt of much more recent vintage than the piece I did so long ago. It has pictures too. Like the one above (which is where I got it).

So head on over there, enjoy and perhaps stop back here when you're done. I'd be very interested to hear your take on this 21st Century "marvel".

I ignited a bit of a firestorm on Facebook when I posted a couple of Zumwalt photos yesterday. There are many strong feelings on this topic, as there should be. Remember, it's our tax dollars paying for it and our kids who will be serving on it. So yes, we have a stake in it's ultimate success or failure.

I have my opinions, but I'll keep those on "close hold" for now.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Des Affaires Médicales

No, not what modern Doctors use. Really.
So there comes a time in a young man's life when certain medical procedures are in order. In fact, the medical community highly recommends them. This is the story of one such procedure.

So, how do I put this delicately, hhmm. I know, let's use a medical term! Today, gentle readers, Yours Truly had a colonoscopy. And it was no way as nasty as I had envisioned it. Sure, there were a couple of moments where I would rather have been in Philadelphia, but all in all. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Now for those of you who aren't familiar with this, it involves a camera, a long cable, a TV monitor and your butt. Guess where the camera and the long cable go? Yup, that's right. And while this is going on, the medical staff watches on the TV monitor. As they delve into your colon.

What's a colon you ask. Well, it's not this ":". Nor is it this ";". That there is only a semi-colon, i.e., not a "real" colon. Of course, the thing before that is not a "real" colon either. It's simply a punctuation mark. Besides which, how would they get a camera and a long cable inside that anyway.

No, the colon is inside of you. What medical types refer to as the yucky stuff inside the human body which is essential to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Well, yes. But no. The colon is essential to one's health as it is used to process stuff and then, well let's be blunt, pass it to the outside world. Yes, boys and girls, at the end of your colon is one of these:

Okay, not exactly that, but you get my drift.

(If you have to know, here's what a colon looks like, all cleaned up, sort of.)

(Just trying to educate you folks. Move along, nothing to see here...)

Here's what the inside of your colon looks like after 60 years on the planet:

Kinda dingy looking, isn't it? Now here's what a healthy colon looks like:

Nice and shiny, well-lit and the travel lanes are clearly marked. Very healthy looking isn't it?

(Okay, those aren't really pictures of the inside of your colon. Those are kinda gross looking, so I went with the Ted Williams Tunnel photos. Back in the day and now. Hey, I got to see the inside of my colon this morning, eeeewwww!)

So Sarge, what do you have to do before a colonoscopy?

I'm glad you asked.

Well, first of all, you need to clean things out in there. So there's this stuff you have to drink. Here it is being prepared and then the final product which you have to have 8 ounces of every 15 minutes until it's gone.

Bowel Purging Drink Prep

Ready to Consume

It actually doesn't taste that bad. But have you ever had to consume 64 ounces of anything over a 2-hour period? No, no, not beer. That's different. With beer you get inebriated and consuming mass quantities of beer (or other alcohol-based beverage) doesn't seem so ridiculous. After all, one's judgement gets more and more impaired. Just sayin'...

So after I sucked down 64 ounces of this stuff, (oh, forgot to mention, you take 4 laxative pills BEFORE you drink the laxative drink, yes, it's a laxative drink) I was left feeling a bit bloated...

Now I was starting to wonder when this stuff was going to take effect. After all, it felt like I was sloshing when I walked. Then things began to happen. If you're squeamish you might want to skip down a ways before continuing to read. There was this -

And this was coming out of "you know where"...

After a few hours (yes, I said hours, this event takes a LONG time to resolve itself) it starts to feel like this:

Again, this is down below, I don't think it's really designed for this kind of intense, prolonged activity...

Have I mentioned that it is nearly pointless to attempt to sleep while one is awaiting this event to take its course. Because for every 15 minute interval of drinking down an 8 ounce glass of "the beverage" there are at least three, yes three, intervals of, let's just say, "visiting the little boys' room".

But eventually it's over. Your bowels are settled and cleaned out (at least you hope they are, otherwise the Doctor gets a nasty surprise!) and it's time to head to the hospital.

There I was met by the medical staff -

Who then took me into the "prep" room -

And yes, I looked and felt a "bit green" this morning. But the nurses were all kind and attentive. It didn't hurt that they were all quite lovely as well. (Hard to flirt though when everyone knows what you're there for. Ah, I'm happily married anyway!)

Funny anecdote in which I made the younger, really pretty nurse blush. Seems that while she was prepping me for an IV, the older (still pretty) nurse (I'll call her OSPN) was regaling me with the story of how the married nurses were trying to set up the young, single nurse (we'll call her the YSN, though her name is Kristen) with damn near any reasonably good-looking medical-type guy who came to the hospital.

Well, YSN was a little flustered and kinda missed the vein on my right hand. At this point it felt like I had just been bayoneted in said hand and OSPN was asking me the standard medical pre-op questions, such as "Any allergies, any pain..." When she said "any pain", I, of course, said "Yes, it just came on all of a sudden but I have this sharp burning pain in my right hand at the moment,"

At that YSN blushed, OSPN kind of laughed. Then YSN said "I'm sorry if I hurt you."

So I said, "Ah Kristen, I can't tell you just how many beautiful women have said that to me."

With that OSPN really laughed and I did get a huge (very nice) smile from YSN.

I am such a flirt. (It's deemed cute in us old farts, you younger fellows advance with caution. And for my fellow old farts bear in mind, there's a fine line between cute and "creepy".)

So the decks are cleared for action, I'm all wired up and away we go to the procedure room. Where this chap is waiting with the camera -

And there's all this other equipment in evidence -

Everything is a "GO" for the procedure to begin. The nurse said something about giving me "the good stuff" now to make me loopy. I said "I'm always loopy, will this feel different?" And again, chuckles all around. I am wowing the crowd at the hospital. I should have taped it. Then my Doc walks in, wearing one of these -

So I say, "Heh. Nice hat Doc!" Whereby he promptly gives me this look, then whips said cap off his head and into the nearest trash bin. I think "Oh great, this guy is going to shove a camera up my bum and I've just angered him."

But the Doc just looks at me and smiles, the hat was from an earlier procedure and he'd just forgotten to take it off.

(Hint: when medical people are going to be roaming around your insides, take care to be very nice to them!)

Odd thing though, I never lost consciousness nor was I unaware of my surroundings, so I thought. When I made the remark, "That was pretty quick", the nurse gave me rather a funny look. Seems it was a bit longer than I thought. So I guess I did visit la-la land for a while. But I did get to watch (and feel) some of the proceedings. Wasn't bad, interesting as an intellectual exercise. Probably would have been more interesting if it was someone else's butt being probed. But I digress.

My colon being examined by the professionals...
(Hey, isn't that Raquel Welch? Nah, couldn't be...)

Best thing about a colonoscopy? After it's over, everyone is telling you that you can't go home until you "pass gas". You know, FART. Hahahahaha. To this mental 12-year old it was pretty funny. And one of the cute nurses told me, "No one minds. Everyone does it, you have to. It's healthy!" (Because apparently they pump your colon full of air during the procedure, and make balloon animals. No, they don't. The former is true, the latter is false. But the farting, that's true.)

And after you fart (and I mean really loud, and no one stares at you) you get rewarded with muffins and juice. What a concept! I asked one nurse if we could go crop dusting. You know she would push me around on the stretcher while I farted. While she found the concept amusing, she demurred. "Maybe next time" she said with a smile.

So in two years I get to do it again. (When they said two years, I asked "So is that the OFCF?" They said, "huh?" I explained "OFCF" - Old Fart Colonoscopy Frequency. Again, they all laughed. I tell ya, I was killing today. The humor was non-stop. One of the nurses said they'd sell tickets next time.

I can hardly wait.

In all seriousness, if you're 50 or older or your family has a history of colon cancer, get a colonoscopy. TODAY! If not sooner. And if you're in Rhode Island, there's no better place to do it than The Miriam Hospital. Wonderful staff, great facility. Not many guys can say they enjoyed their colonoscopy. I did. (But then again, I am a little weird!)

Miriam Hospital, Providence, RI

Monday, October 28, 2013

History and the Study Thereof

The Battle of Bunker Hill
by Howard Pyle
Whilst searching high and low, hither and yon for a topic with which to regale thee, my beloved readers, I thought that perhaps a taste of 18th Century warfare might be to your liking. So I went forth to find some suitable graphical image to lead the post.

'Twas then that I stumbled upon a favorite painting which I first saw as a callow youth, back in the last century as it were. That painting is shown above and purports to show the British Army marching up Bunker Hill, stolid and stoic, while the unseen patriots wait to see "the whites of their eyes" before opening fire.

Now before I go further, there's a few things which are, to me at any rate, worthy of note. Those things are:

  1. There is a lot of smoke billowing up in the background. That smoke would necessarily be coming from Charlestown. Which the British had managed to set afire earlier that day.
  2. There are quite a few British troops down on the ground, dead and wounded, both in the foreground and in the background, leading me to believe that this is not the first trip up the hill. I do recall the lobsterbacks (as we would term them in New England, back then and even now amongst the more well-read crowd) made three trips up the hill. And they got the you-know-what shot out of them the first two times. On the third trip, the "rebels" were nearly out of powder and shot. One ragged volley perhaps and then it was off to the races.
  3. The British in the foreground are all grenadiers (based on their headgear) and from the looks of it, they are all clones of each other. That is, they all look too much alike. Uniformity from a military standpoint can be a good thing. But this? (Note the soldier whose face is turned towards us in the rear rank. It's almost as if he's just noticed that he doesn't really look like all the other guys!)
Now many of us, of a certain age, know that the Battle was not fought on Bunker Hill, rather it took place on Breed's Hill. Perhaps a map is in order (no, don't panic, I'm not going to write about the entire battle, I haven't done the requisite research to do that. If you want the quickie version, Wikipedia will do. That's here.)

Charlestown Neck
From Wikipedia:
On the night of June 16, colonial Colonel William Prescott led about 1,200 men onto the peninsula in order to set up positions from which artillery fire could be directed into Boston. This force was made up of men from the regiments of Prescott, Putnam (the unit was commanded by Thomas Knowlton), James Frye, and Ebenezer Bridge. At first, Putnam, Prescott, and their engineer, Captain Richard Gridley, disagreed as to where they should locate their defense. Some work was performed on Bunker Hill, but Breed's Hill was closer to Boston and viewed as being more defensible.

Now (after that overlong but hopefully educational tangent) where were we?

Ah yes, the painting by Mr Pyle. As I was saying, I first saw this painting when I was a kid. It remained stuck in my mind for many years whenever the Battle of Bunker Hill was mentioned. Only today did I really look at the painting again.

As you might guess, there are inaccuracies. Those lines are far too straight. It's hard keeping a line of troops that straight on a parade ground, let alone marching up a hill. (I know, I have done both, both in the ranks and bellowing out the commands. It's not easy!)

But while digging around in order to go into the painting in depth, I found this wondrous website, The Journal of the American Revolution (That link is their article regarding this very painting!)

So instead of posting about 18th Century warfare, I spent a lot of time reading their stuff. Poor you, lucky me, though as always, YMMV. At some point in time I do plan to write more about this topic. How the British marched in straight lines, wore red coats and we hid behind rocks and trees, etc. etc. Poppycock!

Most of us (of a certain age) learned in school about Baron von Steuben, the Prussian guy who taught the colonials about discipline and drill. Yup, he taught the Americans how to march in straight lines just like the British!

My point is that there is much that we Americans "mislearned" in school about the American Revolution. I aim to talk about that at some point in time. Just not today. You can read about it at those links above. As for me, I have the distinct displeasure of having to get ready for a colonoscopy tomorrow.

Lucky me!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Viaggi a Roma! (Part Duo)

When we last saw our our fearless, yet overly punctual travelers, they had boarded a train in Rome.  They had just over 4 hours to make their ship, but they weren't on the train to the Cruise port, having mistakenly jumped an earlier train on the same track- one headed directly to the Rome Airport; a 37 minute express train.

"37 minutes?! Son of a (redacted)...!"  With my adventuresome spirit momentarily quashed, and my navigational travel skills having failed me miserably, I quickly tried to regroup.  My frazzled brain quickly calculated the time we had left- 37 minutes to the airport, maybe 5 minutes in the station, 37 minutes back, that'll put us back in Rome shortly after 3PM.  I knew it was an 84 minute train ride to Civitavecchia so the only variable I had to worry about was what time the next correct train departed.

To make a long story (with far too much math), short- we made it to our ship with about 40 minutes to spare. Traveler Tip:  Bring a small towel or handkerchief if you're traveling there outside of winter- it's warm, humid, and you will probably sweat a lot.  Another Traveler Tip: Avoid the locals in the train station trying to help you with your bags or with directions to your train- they're either looking to snatch a bag (probably not), or an expensive handout (most likely).  Yes, it would have been worth the investment the first time we were there that day, but who asked you?

Norwegian Epic
We had a fantastic time.  Port calls in Livorno (Pisa), Marseilles France, Palma de Mallorca Spain, Barcelona Spain, Naples, and back to Rome.  We did everything onboard- the water slides, the casino (lost a bit), the bowling alley (nearly broke 200), the shows (music, comedy, and the Blue Man Group), trivia contests (won 2 of 5), shopping (a little), dining (too much), and drinking (just a bit - outside the room that is).  Traveler Tip: (worked great).  I did hit the gym 5 of 7 mornings to keep up with my intake though.  I won't go into the countless things to see and do on the ship, at least not in this post, but if you're interested in the Norwegian Epic, one of the world's largest cruise-liner, take a look here.

Pisa was nice to see, but like many people had said, it was somewhat overrated.  We did get the requisite pictures of the wife holding up the tower, and me pushing it over (holding it up is so overdone). But after that we walked back to town to catch the local city bus back to the port in Livorno.  Of course we got on the wrong bus- the one coming from Livorno, vice back to it.  That did earn us a nice tour of the back country- some place called Tuscany.  A nice sympathetic Italian woman took pity on us after figuring out we were trying to get back to our ship.  She had the bus driver stop, she got out and took us by the hand to the bus stop across the street, and said "Bus, Livorno," pointing back the way we came.  She could have said something disparaging about my nav-skills, but she fortunately didn't know about my past history.

 Some contractor got sued for this
Cathedral Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseilles France
Beautiful Architecture inside and out
Marseilles from the Cathedral
Marseilles is a huge port for France.  The Cathedral was a memorial for the hundreds of ships that had been lost off the coast, with models of the ships, nautical themed religious icons and lamps, and plaques dedicated to the crews and the maritime industry in general.  Getting up there was interesting.  After waiting at the bus stop for the ride up the hill, we noticed that we'd see a couple of the local buses, but most of the routes either weren't running or were way behind schedule, including ours.  The wife asked a local and was told that in France, they are always striking and the bus we needed may show late or not at all.  Once at the top via more expensive transport, we found the bus- sans driver.  All in all, a great port- lots to see and do.  The wife and I had a nice time walking around the Vieux Port (Old Port) area which is in the center of the picture above.

Le Seu- a Gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral in Palma
 Palma de Mallorca is a Spanish city on the island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean.  It was probably my favorite port due to the beautiful architecture- a mix of Gothic, Roman, and Arabic, the warm weather, a great lunch of Tapas and Sangria, and the ease of getting around, partially due to my limited, but sufficient Spanish.
Park Güell- a unique creation by Antoni Gaudi'
The Park's iconic dragon
Vast and varied architecture throughout the park

Sagrada Familia- I thought it looked like the cathedral was melting

Gaudí's Casa Batlló

Barcelona was a bit hectic- a lot to see and do, and everything was spread out across the city.  In order to cram in as much as possible, we chose to take a city tour with a open-topped bus which we could get on and off almost anywhere.  We skipped trying to enter Sagrada Familia- another Gaudi creation, due to it being a Sunday and entrance was free, therefore the line to get in wrapped around the block.  Parc Guell was a trek up a hill, where we found a place that would make Dr. Seuss think he was hallucinating.  The park entrance is a chokepoint which is apparently a haven for pickpockets, but we kept our heads on a swivel and our hands on our wallets.  Once at the top of the park, we were rewarded with a wonderful view of the city.  

After a day at sea, the next stop was Naples Italy.  Grittier than the more touristy cities in Italy, it was our plan to visit the ruins of Pompeii.  The excavations there are amazing and somber- with the ruins showing the excellent urban planning that took place, yet the tragedy that killed everyone there in such a sudden way- the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius. 
Bodies were covered and preserved in ash
The city's infrastructure included an amphitheater,
 public baths, a coliseum, and even fast food shops.

Two-thousand years old, yet still in better condition than
San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium
The streets would be flooded daily to keep it clean, so stepping stones were built into each street.

After the tour of Pompeii, we visited the birthplace of Pizza in Naples.  It was very crowded and had an hour wait, so we can say we ate next door to the birthplace of Pizza.
Lunch at D'Angeli had delicious melt-in-your-mouth pizza and a very friendly staff.
Leaving Naples for Rome- last night on the ship.

Rome was to follow, and the more exciting part of the trip in my opinion.  We had five days ahead of us and a well-planned itinerary if I do say so myself-more churches with amazing art and Roman architecture that confirms the old adage- "They don't build 'em like they used to." I was also looking forward to the great food, wine, and little chance of getting on the wrong trains or buses, mainly because we'd be walking everywhere.  Stay tuned for another exciting adventure in "Viaggi a Roma!"