Saturday, December 19, 2020

A Solution (A Haiku)


As a companion piece to the haiku "Knife Fight in Shanghai", which I wrote for my friend and teaching colleague Doc G, I wrote one for his wife, Doni, about a true experience from her time in Shanghai:

A Solution

Cold night in Shanghai
What can be done about it?
Hot water bottle.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

I Was Named After Queen Victoria

I often tell people I was named after Queen Victoria.
"How can that be?" they ask, mystified, "Your name is Dave."
"Quite simple, really. Queen Victoria was named in 1819, and I was named in 1956, so, not only was I named after Queen Victoria, but it was quite a long time after."

This is one of my favorite jokes, and I have a list of people who are willing to tell it at my funeral, or at the luncheon afterward. You could use many people in place of her in the joke, but I think Queen Victoria makes everything funnier.

This joke is kind of a paraprosdokian, based, in part, on two different meanings of “after” (preposition, “in honor of” vs. conjunction, “later in time than”), as well as on the fact that, in English, nouns (like Queen Victoria) don’t normally have case markers to distinguish between nominative (subject) and objective cases. Personal pronouns, like “she” and “her”, do distinguish cases, so that the joke must always begin with “I was named after Queen Victoria.” Especially if you begin the joke after someone has already mentioned Queen Victoria, you must never say, “I was named after her,” because then the grammar would be wrong, and if you say, “I was named after she (was named),” the joke is ruined.

This joke was inspired by (of all people!) Benny Hill, who talked about an elderly woman by saying “She was named after Queen Victoria.    … [PAUSE] … and not so very long after.”

My second-favorite Queen Victoria joke (NOT TO BE TOLD AT MY FUNERAL) is:

"Queen Victoria is proof of life after death."
"How so?"
"Well, she's dead, and I'm still alive."

The best thing about these jokes is that, for people who know me, my name is now inextricably tied in their minds to any mention of Queen Victoria. Since she is far more famous than I, and far more likely to be mentioned, even by random strangers, I will be called to memory long after I’m gone.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Professor Batman

Back in the early 1950s, there was a story in Detective Comics called "The Man Behind the Red Hood", in which Batman, teaching a class in criminology, examines a decade-old case he had been unable to solve. This is a classic story which forms the basis of some later Batman lore. A friend of mine loves this story and often laments that he never got to be in "Professor Batman's class", so I decided to write a course description for the class. I present it here for your amusement.

     Course: Criminology 101 (CRM0101) 3 credits
     Spring Semester, MWF 8 - 9 PM, Wayne Memorial Hall, Room 539
     Instructor: Professor Batman, Visiting Lecturer
     Text: Criminals: A Cowardly and Superstitious Lot, (1939 edition), by William Finger and Robert Kane
     This course will trace the causes of criminality, as well as its effects, and the detection, apprehension and incarceration of criminals, with discussion of the purposes of incarceration (e.g., punishment vs. rehabilitation). There will also be discussion of the differing types of criminals (hood, petty thug, gang member, henchman, mob boss, super-criminal, etc.) and their trademarks (birds, umbrellas, arcane riddles, cats, and unadulterated madness). Special attention will be paid to the high recidivism rate, particularly among super-criminals, in Gotham City. If time permits, there will be discussion of the utility of working with sidekicks and/or super-powered aliens in combatting crime.
     Lab Fee: $15 Covers the use of microscopes, fingerprint powder, chemicals and other forensic tools.
     Field Trips: Gotham State Penitentiary and Arkham Asylum. Dates to be announced
     It is expected that this course will fill up quickly, so early registration is strongly suggested.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Knife Fight in Shanghai (A Haiku)

For National Poetry Month (April), here's another haiku I wrote, but first, the backstory. When I was teaching, one of my best buddies was an English teacher, Dr. Don Gallinger, known to his students (and some colleagues) as "Doc G". Once, one of his students noted a prominent "worry line" across Don's forehead, mistakenly thinking it was a scar, and asked how he got it. Don jokingly replied that, several years back, when he'd been on sabbatical in Shanghai, China, he'd gotten into a knife fight. His students, not realizing he was joking, were greatly impressed that he'd been in a knife fight, and had survived against an opponent who, likely Chinese, must have been an expert fighter, as seen in many cheesy "Kung Fu" movies. When Don told me this story, I was quite taken with the phrase "knife fight in Shanghai", and decided it was worthy of a haiku. (I know: Haiku is a Japanese, not Chinese, poetic form, but it still seemed apt.)

Knife Fight in Shanghai
Knife fight in Shanghai.
Dat's how Doc G got dat scar.
He ain't no punk, man.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Leopard

April is National Poetry Month in the U. S., and I post poetry each day of April on my Facebook page. I sometimes try to write and post my own work. One of my more recent pieces is the limerick below. The challenge was to write a limerick whose first line ended with the word "leopard".

The Leopard
A curious cat is this leopard
Whose coat is so wonderfully peppered.
He doesn't eat sheep.
Their fleece is too deep,
And he's sure that THE LORD is their shepherd.
Any comment or criticism is welcome.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Telling "Fibs"

Since April is National Poetry Month, I've been reading a lot of poems and posting a number of my favorites on my Facebook page. Some have been boyhood favorites, some have been ones I studied in school, especially in my sophomore year of high school in the English class of Brother David Rogers, the very best teacher I have ever known. I even posted a link to some of my own haiku posted earlier on this very blog.
I recently came across a blog post describing a poetic form I'd never heard of before. It's called a "Fib", for the Fibonacci sequence. Well, I was intrigued by this blending of mathematics and poetry, so I had to try my hand at this. Here are my first two attempts:

based, not
on haiku,
but on sequences
Fibonacci. How cool is that?


"My name is Legion,
for we are many," said the Ones.

I like the second better than the first, and I'll be attempting more of these, I think. Feel free to make your own and share.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Half-Year of Medical Excitement

Over the past half-year, I've had my fill of medical excitement. I lay these adventures before my readers for whatever educational or humor value they may have.
In September, I went for a check-up at my doctor's and, when he did the manual prostate exam (ever so much fun, as you may know), he felt what he thought was a nodule on my prostate. He referred me to a urologist who would have more experience and therefore a better perspective. I went to the urologist about three weeks later. He did both a manual and an ultrasound exam. He said that one lobe of the prostate seemed "harder" than the other and scheduled me for a biopsy on a Wednesday a few weeks later. My PSA level was 3.3, which he said was okay, but he wanted to be on the safe side. In preparation, on the evening before the procedure, I took two Cipro tablets to guard against infection from the procedure. I took two more the evening after the procedure. On Wednesday afternoon, a couple of hours before the procedure, I had to give myself an enema (a first for me, and not awful, but by no means a fun experience). By the way, I think it is hilarious that the bottle is "disposable", as if someone would want to save and re-use it.
The procedure itself was uncomfortable, but not painful, involving first, an antibiotic solution inserted into the rectum, then a topical application of a local anesthetic, then an anesthetic injected into the prostate. After getting an ultrasound overview, the doctor took several samples for the biopsy with a probe. I felt that process almost like being "flicked" with a finger. The doctor provided a running commentary during it, which was interesting. I found it, even under the circumstances, somewhat educational.
After it was over, there was so much blood coming out of my anus that you'd have thought I was the most popular dance partner in Cell Block D at San Quentin. The doctor said I should expect blood in my stool for a couple of days, and possibly in my urine and semen, but that's normal. It may be normal, but it's somewhat unnerving to have my bunghole become the Red River Valley. I know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and pink proliferates, but pink urine, I thought, is a bit much. A word of advice: If you ever have to have a trans-rectal prostate biopsy, do not wear white underpants. Seriously, I have to find some humor in an otherwise extremely undignified undertaking. I can find the humor because the urologist called a couple of days later to say, "No cancer. No problem."
Around the same time I was having my adventures in prostate medicine, I also consulted Dr. Denne, the surgeon who removed my gall bladder a couple of years ago, about repairing a hernia. I've had the hernia for years, and it never really bothered me, but, after ordering a CAT scan, my doctor suggested consulting a surgeon about having it repaired. Dr. Denne strongly suggested having the repair, and she explained that having it done laparoscopically would likely have a shorter, less painful, recovery period. I decided to have it done, but scheduling things around the holidays was difficult, so we scheduled it for January 19, a Thursday.
Preparation on my part wasn't too bad. I had to stop taking my daily low-dose aspirin for 10 days prior to surgery, and I had to have blood work and an EKG done within the month before surgery. I did that on my birthday for several reasons. One: It was an easy day to remember. Two: It gave me the chance to have strangers wish me a happy birthday (As you know, medical records always require the patient's date of birth, so whenever the person registering me, or the tech doing the tests, asked for DOB, they would notice it was that very month and day.) Third: It allowed me to say, "I'm getting a hernia surgery for my birthday." The night before surgery and the morning of surgery, I had to wash with an antiseptic wash (Hibiclens) from the neck down, and I couldn't eat or drink anything, even water, from midnight the night before the surgery. Fortunately, they scheduled me to report to the hospital at 7:30 in the morning.
Beth, of course, took me in to the hospital (Bryn Mawr, which is about 10 minutes from our house), and registration, history and pre-op took about an hour. Since Dr. Denne did my previous surgery, some of the members of her team had been there for my gall bladder episode and remembered me. Happily, no one said, "Dude! You almost died!" this time. I suspect that, because I don't take many drugs and I rarely drink alcohol anymore, I am very susceptible to anaesthesia. I remember being brought into the operating room and transferred to the table. I was introduced to the surgical team (who were all wearing caps, masks and gowns, so I don't think I could recognize any of them if I saw them on the street), and the next thing I remember is slowly waking up in the recovery room.
In the recovery room, they checked my vital signs and asked about my pain level (The ever-popular "on a scale of one to ten" question), then brought me up to a room, where Beth came to sit by my bedside until I'd be discharged. I was incredibly dry-mouthed and thirsty, so I drank several diet ginger ales (which I don't much like, so that tells you how thirsty I was). While I was in that room, they took my vitals several times, and eventually I asked when I would be discharged. The nurse said, "That's up to you. You can be discharged when you urinate." A bit later, I called for a nurse to escort me to the washroom (Hospital policy requires an escort, and, besides, I was hooked to an IV line, and to the pneumatic leggings that squeeze the calves to keep blood clots from forming). She handed me a urinal "pitcher", which I took to mean I had to produce a certain amount of urine. I asked, "Is there a magic number?" She said, "Yes, but I'm not going to tell you what it is." I assume that was to make sure I didn't "cheat" by watering down the sample. I found out later that the magic number was 250 mL (about a cup), and I had certainly produced more than that.
With that duty done, they gave me my discharge instructions. Basically, these were: I should not drive for at least three days, until I was comfortable behind the wheel. I should drink lots of fluids and eat whole grains and fiber to keep me "flushed out". I was not to lift anything heavier than 15 pounds for two weeks. I should walk every day, building up to my normal routine. I had a prescription for Percocet, but I didn't fill that because I didn't have that much pain. I didn't even take Tylenol. I scheduled a follow-up with Dr. Denne two weeks from the surgery. For the first couple of days, I walked slowly and I couldn't bend over very gracefully, but otherwise I think I did well. I slept through the night in our bed. The biggest downside at that point was that coughing was more painful than I'd have thought (I guess that's why the standard hernia check requires you to cough.), and I discovered that, while I was "out" in the operating room, the surgical team did a bit of "manscaping" on me, and I was not looking forward to the itching that I anticipated when that started growing back. Despite the possible discomfort, I do not intend to scratch my crotch. I will channel my inner Spock and find a Vulcan level of tranquility and forbearance. (Vulcans, even those in Remedial Math class, do not scratch their crotches.)
We were home by about 2:30 in the afternoon, so it was a fairly quick adventure. On Friday, Beth and I took a couple of walks around the block. On Saturday, because of the snow, I stayed indoors and paced around the house like a caged tiger. That Sunday morning, Beth drove me to church and came back later to pick me up. I think I would have been fine walking, but Beth was a bit nervous because there was still snow on the ground.
Within the first week post-surgery, I was in pretty good shape, I think. I was back to walking my normal two-and-a-half-hour (total) time outdoors, with a half hour indoors. No pain. No discomfort. I was just waiting to see Dr. Denne, the surgeon, the following week to have the "no lifting more than 15 pounds" restriction lifted. There was a fly in the ointment, however.
On the Monday after the surgery, in the span of two hours, I saw two doctors and picked up two prescriptions. I'd had a red left eye for about a week at that point (starting days before the surgery), so Beth sent me to my doctor. He didn't like the look of it, so he sent me to Dr. Negrey, an ophthalmologist (but not before writing me a prescription for blood pressure medicine). The ophthalmologist diagnosed iritis, an inflammation of the eye, for which he prescribed steroidal eye drops. He told me that iritis is "idiopathic", meaning "arising spontaneously, from obscure or unknown causes". I thought, but did not say aloud to a guy messing with my eyeball, "On House, Dr. House once said, 'idiopathic: from the Latin, meaning 'we're idiots because we can't figure out what causes it'." Being who I am, I thought, but again, did not say aloud, "I wonder if I could've been exposed to Red Kryptonite."
I returned to the ophthalmologist that Friday, and he noted that I'd made remarkable progress, but I still had some "inflammatory cells", so I continued the eyedrops, but with less frequency over the next week, and returned the following Friday. He also sent a note to my primary physician to send me for a chest X-ray and some blood work, to rule out "associated medical conditions", which I assumed meant things like lupus. On top of that, I was scheduled to see Dr. Denne on that following Friday and I had to return to my regular doctor the week after that, so he could check how the blood pressure medicine is working. I told Beth I've gone from being "Iron Man" to the old guy who lives between doctors' appointments. Beth will have none of that attitude and told me I am not allowed to get down in the dumps about any of this, so there!
When I returned to Dr. Negrey, he noted further improvement and had me step down the frequency of the eyedrops over the next week and a half, with my next visit scheduled for Wednesday of next week. Later that afternoon, Dr. Denne, the surgeon, was very pleased with my recovery and gave me the okay for resuming all normal physical activity. The Monday after that, my regular doctor, Dr. Hobson, checked my blood pressure and it was good, so that medicine seems to be doing its job. He also took blood for the tests Dr. Negrey wanted, gave me a PPD (purified protein derivative) test for tuberculosis and sent me for a chest X-ray to look for sarcoidosis. Having been checked for sarcoidosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, tuberculosis, and God know what, my fear, although a small one, was that, in testing for so many things, they might find something seriously wrong with me. Dr. Negrey, the ophthalmologist, did say that the associated medical conditions are rare, "but we would be remiss not to check". I'll tell you: Between the prostate biopsy, hernia surgery, iritis, blood pressure and cholesterol medicines, and testing for all manner of dire illnesses, I've been getting a more focused view of my mortality. I don't believe my demise is imminent, but I do realize that I'm closer to the end of this path than I am to the beginning. It's odd, but, when I was young, I knew, not believed but absolutely knew, that I would not come to any serious physical harm, but, once I turned 30, I completely lost that absolute certainty. Since then, I still haven't come to any serious physical harm, but I now know that it is at least possible. I guess that's more realistic, but it's less fun. Don't worry, though. I'm not depressed, clinically or otherwise. I'm still enjoying my life, and working hard at keeping healthy and fit. I just wish I could be healthy and fit without working quite so hard.
At this point, I've been cleared of pretty much everything I was tested for, with the exception of HLA-B27, which, as I understand it, is an antigen associated with a predisposition for some inflammatory autoimmune diseases, such as iritis and rheumatoid arthritis. As my doctor explained it, and as best I understand it right now, it's not something to panic about, and it may not have any actual effect, but it's something to note in my file and watch to see if I develop any noteworthy symptoms. My guess is that it may mean that I'll be more prone to recurrence of the iritis in the future, but that seems treatable with a minimum of inconvenience, and if I develop arthritis, well, I'll deal with it. Way in the back of my mind, though, is the nagging hope that this still just might develop into a super-power.
In summary, then, I seem not to have anything dreadful, I just have something to add to the minor list of age-related complaints, and, despite years of carefully crafted image, I really don't complain too much, I think. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Halk Kar and Halk-Kar

I realized recently that I've never explained the drawing of me here on my blog, or, for that matter, the name "Halk-Kar".

As I mention in the "About Me" section, I am a fan of Silver Age comics, especially in the DC line. One of my all-time favorite characters was Mon-El, a teen with basically the same powers as Superboy, who Superboy, mistakenly, initially assumed was his (Superboy's) older brother.

Many years after my first encounter with Mon-El, I discovered that, years before his entry into Superboy's life, there had been a character named Halk Kar (no hyphen), who'd appeared in Superman's life, and whose story was uncannily similar to Mon-El's.

Halk Kar struck me as a goofier, late-Golden Age version of Mon-El, so he was never really a great favorite of mine, but I did harbor some affection for the character. When I decided to start a blog, I knew that a good number of posts would probably involve comic books, so I decided I should use a comic book name, but one that was somewhat more obscure than, say, "Superman Fan" or "Green Lantern's Light", and I recalled Halk Kar of Thoron. (That's a bit of a pun, there, from the original story of Halk Kar. He came from Thoron, a planet in the same solar system as Krypton. Thoron is an isotope of Radon, and Radon and Krypton are both noble gases in the periodic table of elements.) I decided to hyphenate the name, to make it stylistically more similar to the traditional hyphenated form of Kryptonian names.

Now that you know a little about Halk Kar, I should explain the picture below:

My good friend Don and I became fast friends when we discovered a mutual love of Silver Age DC comics, and, over the years, we've spent many an hour discussing favorite stories, covers, plot points and trivia. One of the amusing discussions always centered on the fact that each person on Krypton seemed to have only a single outfit --- either that, or they each had a wardrobe of several identical outfits --- because, for example, Superman's father, Jor-El, always wore the same outfit, no matter at what point in his life we saw him, and Superman's mother Lara always wore exactly the same dress any time she appeared in a comic book. Don asked me, at one point, "What would your Kryptonian outfit look like?" I had to think carefully about that, because, according to the tradition, it would be my one and only outfit for life, and, if I should one day become a superhero, it would become my costume.

I described the outfit in such precise detail that Don's wife, Doni (Yes, really.), who is a talented artist, decided that she'd like to try to draw me in it, in classic Silver Age style. The wonderful result, a full-size poster, now hangs in my Fortress of Davidtude, and a copy of it now graces this blog.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Personal Knowledge vs. Google

Recently, a friend of mine opined that, with the proliferation of smartphones with internet access, there was no longer any value to being (as we both are) masters of trivia. While that may be true for, say, Quizzo contests at the corner tavern, there is still value in having sometimes obscure information stored internally.

I was reminded recently of the personal advantage of trivia. In listening to one of my superhero podcasts (Batman: the Ace of Detectives --- Pendant Productions), I heard Robin, who was receiving a transfusion after having been attacked by a vampire, say, "Hey, Daddy-o! Make that type O!" Now, I'd bet not one person in a thousand would get the reference to the Nervous Norvus song, "Transfusion" , from the mid-50s. In fact, most listeners wouldn't even know it was a reference to anything.

Similarly, many years ago, my students, knowing I was a comic book fan, asked if I'd seen the episode of The Flash on TV the night before. I started expounding on the fact that, in that episode, the character of the blind news vendor was played by Robert Shayne, who was, at that time, legally blind. I pointed out that Shayne had played Inspector Henderson on The Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves as the Man o' Steel, and that Shayne's character in the Flash episode had his newsstand on Bessolo Boulevard, and that George Reeves' real name had been George Bessolo. One of my students said, "Man, you enjoy that show on a whole different level than most people!" I pointed out that, the more you know, the more such references you can "get". Again, I doubt a lot of people even realized there were such references.

When the TV show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was on the air, there was an episode in which Buck was in a spaceport, and there were loudspeaker announcements in the background. One announcement was, "Paging Dr. Adam Strange of Alpha Centauri." Again, most people might not even realize that was an allusion, as it were, but I enjoyed it.

It does no good to be able to Google the references, if you aren't aware that they are, in fact, references. It's certainly a good thing to be able to find information, but it's even better to know the information.

Saturday, January 16, 2010