October 28, 2009


It's been a bad couple of days, emotionally.

Here's Yotsuba! and some penguins.

Even she hasn't been able to cheer me up.
I'll be back on Friday with coverage of P2.


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October 25, 2009

My Fourth Birthday

October 25th, 2005 dawned cool and clear.  My alarm clock went off at 730am, as I was scheduled to open at the Duck U. Bookstore, but I just couldn't manage to wake up.  Even a good shower couldn't manage to clear my head.  Well, I'd been up late the night before, I just needed more sleep, right?  I got dressed and drove to work.

I assume.  Even at the time, I couldn't remember doing so.  One of the store's part-timers, who worked with me that morning, said that I seemed really out of it that morning, and I'm sure that's right.  But I was at work, and I had some stuff to do: a stack of invoices and credit memos that needed to be sorted and matched to their respective store-generated paperwork.

In the middle of doing that, however, something happened.  Something bad.

My heart gave a huge grinding thump.  Then it felt like it was tumbling down a flight of stairs for a moment, and then... it began to race.  I felt a cold sweat forming on my forehead and was, suddenly, very very warm.  I got up from my desk in the back room and walked unsteadily to the bathroom, wondering just what was happening.

When my heart kept racing, and seemed to be going faster and faster, I began to get scared... which, of course, made my heart go even faster.  I staggered back to the store and asked my co-worker to call 911.

A lifetime (or maybe 10 minutes) later, two EMTs showed up.  One of them starting asking me questions ("How do you feel?" "Tired." "Do you know where you are?" "Duck U." "Do you know who you are?" "I'm Batman."), while the other began pumping up a blood pressure cuff on my arm and holding my wrist.  After a second, he said "I can't get a pulse."

My heart was going so fast that the EMT could not distinguish one individual beat from another.  My blood pressure was too high for the cuff to read.  They got me on a stretcher and began to roll me out of the Bookstore, just as my boss walked in.  "Are you okay, Wonderduck?" "I'm going to the Hospital, Andi."

In the ambulance, the EMTs hooked me up to high-tech sensors and discovered my pulse was around 250bpm, my bp was a number I can't remember now, but was something like 300/200.  Ook.  Fortunately, they knew just what to do.  "We're going to give you a drug that'll stop your heart for a real short time.  It might be a little uncomfortable."

Yeah.  Uncomfortable.  Go ahead.  Zap.  Yup, he was right... a brick rested on my chest, but the heart didn't slow down.  Zap again.  Bigger brick... and my heart slowed down.  Ahh.

In the ER, they discovered my magnesium and potassium levels had cratered.  Since these control the heart AND brain function, which explained my fuzzyheadedness and my heart going faster than a dance club on speed. 

They kept me overnight, and the only thing on the TV was a World Series game that had gone into extra innings... which the hated White Sox won, dammit.  A bad day all around.

I had suffered something called Superventricular Tachycardia.  It isn't usually life-threatening, but that hardly matters when it's happening to you... and the longer it lasts, the more dangerous it gets.  In my case, it had gone on for nearly 45 minutes before they dropped the bricks on my chest, which is plenty long enough.  I now take a medication to hopefully prevent it from ever happening again, and potassium and magnesium supplements, just in case.  I've also stopped drinking caffeine (coffee or colas) and alcohol completely since the former is a stimulant and the second fights with the preventative medication. 

So today is the 4th anniversary of my first brush with mortality... and what could have been my last, too, if I hadn't done one simple thing.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if you feel something odd going on with your heart, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY.  You might think "eh, it's nothing", but you'd feel really dumb if it stopped altogether, wouldn't you?

So, please, if you get nothing else from The Pond, ever: call 911. 

I can't afford to lose more readers.

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"Band Geek" My @$$.

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October 23, 2009

Hotblack Desiato Called

...he wants his car back:

The limited edition Lotus Exige Scura.

"It’s the weird colour scheme that freaks me. Every time you try to operate one of these weird black controls, which are labeled in black on a black background, a small black light lights up black to let you know you’ve done it..."
- Zaphod Beeblebrox, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

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October 22, 2009

Stark, Raving Sane

As long-time readers of The Pond know, in my prior life I was involved in the theatre... or should that be The Theatre?  In amongst all the myriad shows I worked on or performed in (somewhere close to 200), there had to be a favorite, right?

Well, yes, but nobody's ever heard of The Mating Rituals of the Male, which was a one-man show/senior project that a friend of mine wrote and starred in.  After that, however, I find that I have to go with a pair of plays that will be forever joined at the hip.

The first, everybody knows... or, at least, they should: William Shakespeare's Hamlet.  The second is not so well known, Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, R&GAD is about two minor characters in Hamlet, characters who are confused about why they're in the play Hamlet, and confused about what's going on in Hamlet, since all they see of it is what occurs in the precious little time they're in the script. 

It doesn't so much "break the fourth wall" as not believe the fourth wall exists in the first place; the play is, the audience is integral to the existence of said play, and that's that.  While the titular characters don't ever actually dialogue directly with the audience, they quickly realize the situation they're in, and therefore there must BE an audience, Q.E.D. ("We're actors-- we're the opposite of people!" is a line that will never fail to make a theatre person laugh)

The movie of R&GAD is a minor masterpiece in and of itself, starring Tim Roth and Gary Oldman as the two leads.  As indicated in the play, however, neither is entirely sure which is Rosencrantz and which Guildenstern (though the credits reveal Oldman is Rosencrantz, Roth Guildenstern).  Richard Dreyfuss, as the scenery-masticating Player King, is also present to good effect.

I bring this up because this evening, I stumbled upon a short story that is brilliant in concept: what would happen if Shakespeare managed somehow to see R&GAD?  Fortunately, the author of this work is up to the challenge, but then Harry Turtledove does have a thing for alternative history, doesn't he?

SF publisher Tor has made the entire short story, "We Haven't Got There Yet", available on their website, for which fact I am eternally grateful. 

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October 14, 2009

Tone #4

Over at Chizumatic, Steven brings up my favorite non-F1, non-anime subject, namely the Battle of Midway.  In his post, he tells the story of the Japanese scout planes at the battle, and how the Tone's #4 scout plane left an hour late because of a defective catapult.  He then repeats the conventional thinking about the subject:

If Scout 4 had launched when the other scouts had, it would have radioed back much earlier. The second strike could have been launched -- towards Yorktown -- before the first strike returned from Midway...  ...The failure of the Tone's catapult is one of the most fortuitous breaks in the history of war, with consequences far out of proportion to its apparent importance.

As it turns out, recent scholarship has turned this conventional wisdom on its ear.  No less a source than the 102-volume official Japanese history of the War in the Pacific, the Senshi Sosho, calls this bit of history into serious question.  Written in the '60s and '70s from official Army and Navy documents and personal diaries and records, it hasn't yet been translated into English (except for one volume, ;">Japanese Army Operations in the South Pacific Area: New Britain and Papua Campaigns, 1942–43, downloadable here), and may never be.  It turns out that Military Japanese isn't the same as the regular language, and the number people who can read it are rather thin on the ground.

However, that doesn't mean that parts of it haven't been translated.  Much of the volume on the Battle of Midway, for example, has become available to researchers.  The authors of the great book Shattered Sword, Jon Parshall and Anthony Tully, drew heavily upon the information contained therein, and came to a rather surprising conclusion:

Tone #4 was actually one of the few pieces of GOOD luck the Japanese Navy had at the Battle of Midway.

It turns out that the pilot of Tone #4, Petty Officer Amari, for reasons lost to us now (neither he nor his crew survived the war) may very well have not flown the correct flightpath after he was launched an hour late.

Map adapted from Shattered Sword.
The pink line is the flight path taken by Scout plane #1 from the cruiser Chikuma, which left at 0430 and flew the planned search pattern.
The blue line is the planned flight path for Tone #4.  The red line, however, is the path that the Senshi Sosho believes it actually flew. 

The reason for this possible flight path is quite simple: it would have been impossible for Tone #4 to have discovered the Yorktown and TF16 where it did and when it did (at 0740, the asterisk on the map) had it flown the correct route.  Remember, it was launched at 0530, approximately, over an hour late.  This would have put it at the end of it's outbound leg at 0800, instead of the scheduled 0700, and it would have turned for home at about 0830.

Make no mistake, Tone #4 would have discovered the Yorktown and TF16 had it flown the correct route... at about 0915, on the inbound leg of the search.  Instead, because it appears that it flew a truncated course, it found the Americans over 90 minutes before it should have. 

Had it flown the expected path, Tone #4's sighting would have come after the Hornet's torpedo squadron had made their fatal charge at Kido Butai (0920), and as the Enterprise's torpedo planes began their attack runs (0940), and just only 20 minutes before the hammer of the Dauntlesses came down.

However, nothing would have gotten the second strike at Midway Island off the Japanese carriers: the timeline of American attacks didn't give the second wave a chance to be lifted to the flight decks, spotted and launched (See my post "What If #3: Midway... Timing Is Everything" for a conversation about that point).

At least Tone #4 gave Admiral Nagumo 90 minutes to get his planes armed correctly if he got the time to get them in the air.  That never happened.

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October 12, 2009

Forgotten Classic

One of the bad things about having a CD and cassette collection as large as mine is not having enough space to actually display them all, and having to pack maybe 75% in boxes in the storage closet.

One of the good things about having a CD and cassette collection as large as mine and not having enough space to actually display them all is when you open up one box or another and stumble across a gem of an album that you'd long forgotten about.

Like this one:

I remember hearing Road To Hell at the late, lamented Appletree Records here in Duckford, and buying the cassette before the first song ended.  I had no idea that Chris Rea had a sizable following in the UK, nor anything else about him for that matter; just that the song was good, the guitar playing was great, and that voice!  Like a slightly less whiskey-tortured Tom Waits it was, with a dollop of the Blues put on top.

I didn't know that the track entitled Daytona was about the Ferrari 365 GTB/4, or that he was a fan of Scuderia Ferrari until just tonight.  Back when the album came out (1989), I wasn't a petrolhead nor a F1 fan... I didn't know there WAS a Ferrari Daytona.  Now, of course, it's obvious ("Twelve wild horses"?), but still.

What an album...

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