March rambling: quotation marks

Support the Albany High School robotics team!


In a world-historic first, microplastics were detected in human blood

The Our World in Data COVID vaccination data

 How American conservatives turned against the vaccine

The Lancet: Paul Farmer

Cameroonians fleeing conflict are in dire need of Temporary Protected Status – cf.  Inside “the most diverse square mile in America”

What Caused the War? Ukraine and Russia in Historical Context

The Race to Archive the Ukrainian Internet

Ukrainian Actress Oksana Shvets Killed in Russian Rocket Attack

Non-war conflict

Hate and extremism

How did Christianity become so toxic?

The Interactive Theater of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Confirmation Hearing

Addressing racial inequality in paid leave policy

Sara Jacobs, one of the youngest members of Congress, talks about sexism and ageism in politics. 

Writing Women into History

Women in medicine are running up the wrong side of the escalator

Where Does the Religious Right Go After Roe?

Sojourner Truth’s Battle to Free Her Son from Slavery

Actor Tim Reid on addressing racial issues on WKRP in Cincinnati

Texas’ New Voting Law Disenfranchised Thousands Of Otherwise Eligible Voters

The Tangled, Messy Roots of Fake News, long before it became djt’s favorite term

Ginni Thomas demanded Congressional Republicans take the fight to overturn the 2020 election to the streets

John Bolton admits that ‘it’s hard to describe how little [djt] knows’

I Know There’s An Answer

Climate Change Brings Uncontrollable Wildfires

 The Illinois town that got up and left

The 1950 Census is Coming: What You Need to Know

Timbuctoo Institute would build opportunities in the Adirondacks 

About Those Gas Prices

Concert  Tickets: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

2021 County and Economic Development Regions Population Estimates for NYS

Luka’s mural

Jobfished: the con that tricked dozens into working for a fake design agency

“They’re called ‘quotation marks’.”

Phobias. Aibohphobia is the (unofficial) fear of palindromes. Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is used to describe the fear of very long words.

The official Girl Scout cookie power rankings

The Result of a Rabbit Hole

Audience participation

GoFundMe page for the Albany High School Robotics Team to compete at the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Houston, TX on April 20-23. They placed 2nd in the New York Tech Valley Regional Competition.

Four Open Seats on Albany Public Library Board in May 17 Election. Nominations are due to the Clerk of the City School District of Albany by Wednesday, April 27, at 5 pm.

New York Bike Census

Now I Know

The Biggest Bread Soup in the World and Why Are My Baby Carrots Always Wet? and The First Computer Bug and The Phone Booth in the Middle of Nowhere and Beware the Ire of Caesar and Which Came First, The Algorithm or the Pi? and World War II’s Pre-Email E-Mail


Livinliv – Aleksandr Shymko

Irish tunes

K-Chuck Radio: The musical tree of Ida Red  and green songs

Holiday at Ferghana -Reinhold Gliere

Lullabye of Broadway from 42nd Street

Coverville: 1393 – John Cale and Velvet Underground Cover Story and 1394 – The Blink-182 Cover Story II and 1395 – The Smashing Pumpkins Cover Story II

Give blood – time #174, or so


bloodI decided to give blood again on January 27 at the high school. I’m not certain how many times I have donated altogether. It may have been 172 times by November 2018. Did I donate in 2019? I KNOW I gave at least once before during the pandemic, also at the high school. So this past event was at least time #174.

As NPR noted, “Some hospitals say they’re rationing blood products.” Nora O’Donnell, the anchor of the CBS Evening News, said she’d donate for the second time as a result of the blood crisis. OK, time to return to the ranks of donors.

The school is in the midst of construction, so I needed a guide from the entrance to the gym annex. I “passed” the medical check-in, with my iron at 15.6, my temp at 98.3, and my BP at 123/73. My pulse was 86, probably based on walking there when the air temperature was about 5F/-15C; the pulse was 57 when I was home. To give blood, it has to be between 50 and 100. I saw two of my daughter’s friends, each donating for the first time.

When I got to the table where I would recline, I told the phlebotomist about how I have had some difficulty donating in the recent past because of the scar tissue that has developed near the veins in both arms. They said, “Do you want a supervisor?” I said, “No, I just wanted you to know.” Nevertheless, I ended up waiting for another person.

This went well because she poked me beneath the vein rather than above. Or something like that. It took the usual five or six minutes – I still have it! I got up from the table…

Plot twist

…when the fire alarm went off. Apparently, this had happened before because Alicia, the LIBRARIAN who was in charge of the school side of things indicated that they were prepared for this scenario. The protocol was that we should stay in place, even as I could see students pouring out of the building into the cold.

In fact, my daughter was incredulous when I replied to her text that we were still inside. Finally, after a fire truck arrived and ascertained the building wasn’t on fire, the students returned to the building even as I was trying to exit it.

I’m planning to donate again in a few months, certainly not waiting as long as I did this last time.

Here’s a real sidebar. When I donated in 2018, I wrote inelegantly on Facebook as though I’d donated 172 times in ONE DAY. I was playfully teased, but one of my Binghamton/Dickinson buddies vigorously came to my defense. Not that it was needed, but it was quite kind.

Damn mad cow

My wife still can’t donate blood because she spent a semester in England in the early 1980s. “In some parts of the world, cattle can get an infectious, fatal brain disease called Mad Cow Disease. In these same locations, humans have started to get a new disease called variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (vCJD) which is also a fatal brain disease. Scientists believe that vCJD is Mad Cow Disease that has somehow transferred to humans, possibly through the food chain.

“There is now evidence from a small number of case reports involving patients and laboratory animal studies that vCJD can be transmitted through transfusion. There is no test for vCJD in humans that could be used to screen blood donors and to protect the blood supply. This means that blood programs must take special precautions to keep vCJD out of the blood supply by not collecting blood from those who have been where this disease is found.

“You are not eligible to donate if, from January 1, 1980, through December 31, 1996, you spent (visited or lived) a cumulative time of 3 months or more, in any country in the United Kingdom (UK)…” Alas.

Gay male donors

But the rules aren’t quite as stubbornly awful towards potential LGBTQ+ donors.

“The FDA guidance Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Products’ states, ‘Defer for 3 months from the most recent sexual contact, a man who has had sex with another man during the past 3 months.’ All U.S. blood collection organizations must follow this federal requirement.” At least, this isn’t the rejection of all men who had sex with a man even once since 1977.

“The Red Cross recognizes the hurt this policy has caused to many in the LGBTQ+ community and believes blood donation eligibility should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation. We are committed to working with partners toward achieving this goal.

“We continue to assist in evaluating alternative donor eligibility criteria and the expanded use of new technologies to work toward the elimination of donor eligibility questions based on sexual orientation that would no longer be necessary. However, as a regulated organization, we cannot unilaterally enact changes concerning the MSM deferral policy.”

A song

Pete Townshend 

Bicuspid, nothing to do with teeth

Bi means two

bicuspid aortic valveWhen I had to have a physical for the military draft in October 1972, I told the doctor that my pediatrician said I had a minor heart murmur. The doc double-checked me and pronounced that he wouldn’t have even noticed had I not mentioned it. (No, I never was in the military. Long story.)

My primary care physician (PCP) has noted for years that I’ve had a regularly irregular heartbeat. But this year, something in some tests she ordered concerned her enough to request some more. Then I met with a cardiac surgeon who started talking about surgery. What? Still, he ordered a CT scan and echocardiogram.

Let me say here that at that moment, I’m convinced I’m about to die. My blood pressure is abnormally high at both the cardiologist’s office and at the tests. The only time my BP before was over 150 systolic was before my hernia operation in 2015. But as it turns out while there is a slight thickening of the aortic wall, it was something that needed to be monitored but not yet treated, surgically, for about five years.

Bicuspid aortic valve

But it wasn’t until I got to my PCP a couple weeks later that she told me that I have a congenital bicuspid aortic valve. What does THAT mean? “The aortic valve — located between the lower left heart chamber (left ventricle) and the main artery that leads to the body (aorta) — has only two (bicuspid) cusps instead of three.”

OK. “A bicuspid aortic valve may cause the heart’s aortic valve to narrow (aortic valve stenosis). This narrowing prevents the valve from opening fully, which reduces or blocks blood flow from the heart to the body.” Hmm, that must be plain English for what those tests showed.

“In some cases, the aortic valve doesn’t close tightly, causing blood to leak backward into the left ventricle (aortic valve regurgitation). Most people with a bicuspid aortic valve aren’t affected by valve problems until they’re adults… Some may not be affected until they’re older adults.” Lessee, I guess that includes me.

“Some people with a bicuspid aortic valve may have an enlarged aorta — the main blood vessel leading from the heart. There is also an increased risk of aortic dissection.” I heard mention of that! Meaning?

Waiting to exhale

“An aortic dissection is a serious condition in which the inner layer of the aorta, the large blood vessel branching off the heart, tears. Blood surges through the tear, causing the inner and middle layers of the aorta to separate (dissect). If the blood-filled channel ruptures through the outside aortic wall, aortic dissection is often fatal.” Oh, joy.

“Aortic dissection is relatively uncommon.” That’s good. “The condition most frequently occurs in men in their 60s and 70s.” Ah, my demographic! “Symptoms of aortic dissection may mimic those of other diseases, often leading to delays in diagnosis. However, when an aortic dissection is detected early and treated promptly, the chance of survival greatly improves.”

I suppose this means I ought to get one of those tags noting my bicuspid aortic valve. Otherwise, I may get treated for the heart attack I’m possibly not having at the time.

Let’s not get ahead of myself

People “with a bicuspid aortic valve will require regular monitoring for any changes in their condition, such as valve problems or an enlarged aorta, by doctors trained in congenital heart disease (congenital cardiologists). You may eventually need treatment for valve problems such as aortic valve stenosis, aortic valve regurgitation, or an enlarged aorta.

“Depending on your condition, treatment may include aortic valve replacement” or other surgeries. The point is that I will need “lifelong care from a congenital cardiologist… including regular follow-up appointments to monitor for any changes in your condition.”

Oh, and “a bicuspid aortic valve can be inherited in families. Because of this, doctors often recommend that all first-degree relatives — parents, children, and siblings — of people with a bicuspid aortic valve be screened with an echocardiogram.” In this case, my sisters and my daughter.

Yes, I’m still a bit weirded about this. Worrying is unhelpful, I suppose. But YOU tell my subconscious that.

Rhythm, or inertia, or whatever works

If I can’t write something at least every couple days, it feels quite likely that I won’t ever do so ever again.

I always remember this conversation, over 15 years ago, with my friend Dorothy. She was suggesting blowing off going to church choir rehearsal so so I could hang out with her and my future wife. As tempting as that might have been, I declined. It is better for me musically to get as much rehearsal as possible. Moreover, it would easily become the case that if I blow off one rehearsal, to blow off another, and another.

That’s because I’m basically lazy, and would rather read all day, or visit with y’all.

For me, the rhythm thing has long been true of exercise. When the local Y closed a few years ago, my opportunity to play racquetball regularly, which I had done for over 25 years, went with it. There was some recent minor holiday when I COULD have played racquetball at Siena College nearby, but it simply never entered my mind.

It’s accurately descriptive of work. I check my e-mail and whatnot in the morning. That first reference question is usually the hardest to finish. Once I’ve gotten my “reference rhythm”, I can generate more reference, unless stopped by a meeting or some other force.

I was thinking on this because, prior to this year, I had a very regimented pattern of going to donate blood every eight or nine weeks, barring illness or other legitimate circumstances. I’ve donated over 18 gallons over the years. But I did the apheresis thing early this year, and somehow that’s thrown off my standard clock so that I didn’t donate again until June.

This blog is much the same way. If I can’t write something at least every couple of days, it feels quite likely that I won’t ever do so ever again. Whereas writing begets writing. When I get stuck scribing one thing – “why won’t it write itself?!”, as I am wont to say – and as of this writing, I’m really stuck on one particular piece, I’ll put together something, ANYTHING -even if it’s a puff piece like this one.

Blood, football, and a funeral

he Red Cross had been bugging me to donate plasma for some time, but I hadn’t been able to carve out the time.


This keeps happening, so I shouldn’t be surprised, yet I often am anyway: I meet some older persons, generally at church, and get along with them well. Yet, when they die, and I read the obituaries and/or go to the funerals, I realize how little I really knew them.

Such was the case with Carolyn Garvin, a member of my church, whose funeral my wife attended this weekend. She was the nice old lady who always commented on how well the choir, of which I was a member, performed. She always was a very good conversational listener as well.

The things I DIDN’T know about her, though, were staggering. For one thing, she graduated from Binghamton Central High School, my alma mater, in 1947, though she was valedictorian. She was an elementary school teacher, which didn’t shock me, but was later the co-director of a migrant labor camp, which did. She was very active in the Civil Rights movement and was executive director of Planned Parenthood of Albany. She went back to school and eventually spent several years as the director of the Kairos Center for Care and Counseling in Albany, and had other responsible positions.

I was familiar with her gardening, love of pets, enjoyment of nature, and dedication to her church. I didn’t know that she had three adopted kids, one of whom died in a car accident.

I also wonder if some people also might have perhaps not take her seriously, or been impatient with her, in the latter days because she was suffering from what I’ve since discovered were signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

In any case, a learning, or relearning experience.
Something else I did Saturday: I gave a blood donation by apheresis. I had donated blood via the more traditional method over 145 times. The Red Cross had been bugging me to donate plasma for some time, but I hadn’t been able to carve out the time. The process takes a couple of hours, including 74 minutes hooked to the machine. Got to sit around and watch part of some JEOPARDY! video someone gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago.

The strange thing about it is that it makes one rather chilled. It wasn’t that bad at the time, but I continued to feel cold even a day later.

I ended up watching all four NFL football games over the weekend, none of them in real-time. Well, one was a blowout and I gave up on that match. I discovered that one can watch a 60-minute game, that usually takes three hours or more in real-time, in 75 minutes or so. One key for me is to stay away from social media so I don’t learn the scores; once I learn the outcome, then the enjoyment of watching is greatly diminished.

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