Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Junk Internets Ads as Witchcraft?

As I surf the web here and there I run into all kinds of pop up and banner ads.  Most are harmless enough,  a few are distasteful and quickly passed by.  But I have run across one species of the critters that had me a bit puzzled.

Quite a number of them seem to be offering to reveal some sort of secret described as "one weird old trick".

This trick seems to be both versatile and malleable, able to solve the woes of obesity, stretch marks and bankrupcy. 

It is the recurring phrase "weird old" that got my attention.  It is almost as if some internet mogul had purchased the copyright on it or something.

The word weird derives from the Old English word wyrd, meaning fate or destiny.  It wanders about a bit linguistically, becoming the verb werden in German, meaning to become; also perhaps mutating into the word versus.

But it is the Old Norse version that concerns us here.  In that Germanic variant we find "uror" who was one of the Three Norns.  These were the Fates, three ugly old crones who forsaw, or perhaps steered, the destiny of men.

They turn up in Macbeth, Shakespeare's "Scottish Play" as the Weird Sisters.  Although in the "first folio" they are named the Weyward Sisters-either a witty play on related words by old Will, or more likely his post facto compilers working from corrupted texts.  In any case it certainly reinforces the sense of the Sisters being out of our usual existance.

Shakespeare was a great borrower, had to be with short deadlines.  He likely lifted the Weird Sisters directly from Holinsheds 1587 history of Britain in which Banquo encounters  "three women in strange and wild apparell, resembling creatures of elder world".  Holinshed equated them with the Weird Sisters.

The notion of three women determining the fate of man goes back farther of course, all the way to the Greek legend of the Moirae who spun, wove, then cut off the fabric which represented a man's life.

In general the pervasive legends of a trio of prophetesses or witches allow them some latitude as to appearance.  Llloyd Alexander's delightful modern retelling in the Chronicles of Prydain has always pleased me.  But in their customary form the Weird Sisters do look like something you would find in an ad for wrinkle and obesity nostrums.

Just as the "before" picture.
The Weird Sisters by Henry Fuseli
Oh, well I guess this is the real explanation, and it sounds as if the Feds are already pressuring the scamsters to move on to some other flim-flam.

I'm Sorry Mr. Bunny

I have been feeling a little bad about my last posting.  The little bunny, despite his looking well nourished, was not actually caught in the act of eating my landscaping.  And he was so cute.  How cute?

All shall kneel and feed me lettuce.

Just too darn cute to go insulting with video clips suggesting he has a dark sinister side.

So just forget the Galaxy Quest Aliens scenario.  Here is a more tasteful and accurate video demonstrating the important role rabbits play in a healthy ecosystem.

I feel better now.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Oh, for cute*

 A recent morning on my regrettably shabby front lawn:

I kept creeping closer and closer, taking pictures at a range that surely must have suggested to baby bunny the possiblilty of a sudden swoop on my part.  It just sat there until I finally gave it a few words of sage advice and an emphatic "Shoo!".

I figured this is the kind of critter that must just maximize its cuteness and hope for the best.

Or is it?

"Sure, they're cute now..."

*the prefix "oh for..." seems to be specific to rural areas of Minnesota.  My grandmother used to say this a lot.

Friday, July 22, 2011


I recall reading a quotation, now long misplaced, that said that when a man regretted the passing of some vanished brand of ale or lager, he was actually mourning his own lost youth.  There is some truth in that.

But I regret the passing, not of a particular type of beer, but of the tavern at which I once imbibed it.

Culla’s was one of those rare places that did not fit any conventional description.  It was not a Biker Bar, or a Jock Bar, or a Gay Bar.  Certainly all of those types wandered in on occasion and were made welcome.  But if you had to call it something,  Culla's was a Yahtzee Bar.

“Ma Culla”, the proprietor, was a beak-nosed elf with a sharp tongue and hair dyed bright red.  She had an inner circle of friends who all sat at one end of the bar and played Yahtzee for hours on end.  The impact of the hard faux ivory dice over the decades had actually worn a crater in the hardwood counter.  Sometimes a regular would be absent and Ma would peer over her kitty spectacles and ask, “Wanna play some Yatz?”   Sadly I never volunteered, suspecting that even a game this deceptively simple could be played at some ferociously competitive level.

I started going to Culla's in 1974.  At that time the clientele was a mixture of fresh scrubbed Lutheran College students, ancient Scandinavian immigrants, and hippies who just never got around to moving out of the neighborhood.  But you could see anyone there.

One fellow regularly came with a tubby old dog, which would sit by his barstool and accept the occasional potato chip or lap of beer from a proffered glass. 

An occasional visitor was a cheerful, deranged man who had legally changed his name to Freedom, and wandered the city enthusiastically espousing incoherent philosophies.  He is the only person I have ever actually seen wearing a pyramid hat covered with aluminum foil.  But I think it was not to keep Government Spy Beams out so much as to spare us the full magificent force of his incandescent lunacy.

When you stepped into Culla's it always felt as if you had dropped out of current time.  The furnishings were older than many of the patrons, and that is saying something.  The pinball machines were ancient mechanical types where the bells and turning dials sent tactile messages to your fingertips.  The newer digital versions don’t do that.  If you wanted to listen to the ball game there was an old Hamm’s Beer advertising radio with the word “Harmon” scrawled on it, remembering the departed slugger.  Even the beer was obsolete in a sense, two brands on tap, both from famous breweries that had fallen on hard times and closed, their brands still being brewed at some “undisclosed location”.

The tunes on the jukebox also seemed to be from some alternative time or place.  Janis Joplin, Hoyt Axton, and Jerry Jeff Walker, this last of whom had apparently put on an  astonishing performance at the local college that set up some interesting collective resonance long after all charges had been dropped.

Even the architecture was odd.  Built near the end of a triangular shaped city block it was an irregular trapezoid shape, and I doubt any two corners had the same angle.  It was disconcerting until you got used to it, like one of those “mystery rooms” you used to see at cheap tourist attractions, where you could make a pencil roll uphill.

Most businesses exist for a reason.  At any major intersection in suburbia there will spring up like colorful neon fungus, a convenience store, an Applebees, a strip mall.  Culla’s existed for no particular logic.  I can’t see how it turned much profit.  It did serve to provide a home away from home for a collection of semi-rootless people, but mostly it seemed to exist, well, just because it did.

I was honored the year I was finally considered enough of a regular to be invited to the buffet on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.  The menu if I recall rightly was hot dogs and free beer.

Culla’s appeared to defy change, but it would be more accurate to say that it could only resist it tooth and nail. Slowly, slowly there were alterations.  Johnny, Ma’s boyfriend, was found dead in the Men’s Room one day.  A new owner bought the place and grumbled about money.  But the essence of the place was unaltered.  The Yahtzee cabal still held court, and Ma did not mourn long.  Truth be told Johnny was a sourpuss.  I recall him with a frown and a Navy watch cap, his skinny arms swinging on either side of a belly that from long association with barrels of beer had begun to resemble one.

But for me things did change.  After eight years my patronage of the place dropped off when I started residency in another state.  But I was still comforted by the belief that Culla’s continued on more or less the same, and on my trips home I checked in now and again to make sure.

In the end progress did win. It always does.  The owners of the land on which Culla’s stood sold it to build some high-end housing.

I wasn’t there the day the place came down.  But I have heard that the bulldozer put its bucket to the side of Culla’s and pushed and strained to no avail.  It seemed as if something more than the honest labor of 19th century bricklayers was holding it together. 

But in the end, you can only resist change, not defy it, and with a shudder and a plume of brick dust a part of my younger self crumbled away.

At an undisclosed location in Wisconsin. Spring 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Squirrels of Mirkwood

Having previously written about the Rodent Peril I think it only fair to give reassurance in such small areas as I can manage.  For instance like so many insurgent groups the Rodent jihadis have split up into factions and are fighting among themselves.  This may buy us some time to regroup.

In our neighborhood we have two competing gangs:

These are the Greys, who have been the dominant faction for many years.  Not notable for their brilliance, they are a formidable force only by virtue of their fecundity and their dogged persistence.  Ah, but in the last couple of decades their turf has been invaded by:

The Black Squirrel Gang.  Allegedly these are simply a melanistic variety of the Eastern Grey, kind of the spectral opposite of an albino.  But if top squirrel scientists can be believed the story is a little more complicated.

Supposedly before European settlement of North America the black variant was more common.  It had better cover in the deep virgin forests you see.  J.R.R. Tolkien was thus zoologically spot on to put black squirrels into Mirkwood forest, where they added not the note of mirth that squirrels can manage on a good day, but another bit of somber darkness.
"There were black squirrels in the wood. As Bilbo's sharp inquisitive eyes got used to seeing things he could catch glimpses of them whisking off the path and scuttling behind tree-trunks."
-The Hobbit

Grey squirrels did well when the wilderness was cleared, but now that we are in many areas actively re-foresting the Elder Race of Squirreldom is reasserting its power.  For unclear reasons the black squirrels seem to have a slight competitive edge, and at least locally are slowly pushing their rivals out of town.

By the way in England we have a three way imbroglio.  The native red squirrels are being hard pressed by the invasive North American greys, who in turn are being leaned on by their sinister black counterparts.

My British friends give me a hard time about this, to which I reply; "Yes, and thank you so much for the starlings".

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Ghost Carnival

Road construction took me down a slightly different route the other day.  Having a bit of extra time anyway I decided to just go cross country in more or less the right direction to rejoin the main road.  I ended up passing through a tiny little community.  On the edge of it, along a dirt road, was a little used rail spur.

Peering through a line of parked lumber transport cars I could see unusual things:

Nothing for it then, but to climb over the train cars and walk onto the grounds of some sort of strange, abandoned carnival grounds. There was an entire row of little buildings like this, all weathered past the point of any residual paint.

This was one of those gizmos you were supposed to hit with a hammer to test your manliness.  Ideally ringing the bell.  Note the tipped over trash container....looks rather full as if somebody was here not so long ago.  The archaeologist in me rejoices.

Really the only thing I saw that did not look handmade was this tiny ferris wheel.

All the protecting fences have fallen down where they once stood.  Although if you think about it, having small children wandering around next to railroad tracks seems a bigger potential issue.

I hunted high and low for clues to this enigma.  All I came up with was this:

I had more or less written it off as the eccentric project of some retired fellow with lots of grandchildren and too much time on his hands.  Perhaps the abandonment was due to some health setback, although I did notice that the grass had still been mowed. 

Then as I got in my car to leave I heard a train whistle.  No, not some eerie far away sound, right up close and sounding like it meant business.  I just got my camera aimed in time as a little refurbished passenger train full of happy tourists went zooming by on the main track. 

There has to be a connection, but I saw no clues of what it might be.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why Detritus?

I waited a long time before starting up a blog.  For a while it seemed such a trendy, hipster thing to do that I had an aversion to it.  But with the advent of newer "social media" blogging has become retro.  Imagine, sitting down and actually writing....with paragraphs.  And full words.  And even story arcs that carry on over long stretches of time.  Weird.

My long suffering spouse had started blogging a year previous, and one day when we were snowed in by a most unwelcome late season blizzard she encouraged me to give it a try.

Detritus of Empire refers to my related interests in archeology, politics and popular culture. I think the things we throw away, the things we discard as being of little value say much about us. Of course things get discarded for all sorts of reasons.  Probably it happens more often because something is just incredibly commonplace and typical than because it is in any fashion defective.

But the result is a skewed version of history, in which the atypical survives to tell the tale.  We get monuments not muppets, Ozymandius not Frank Oz.

I am also intrigued by how nations rise and fall.  Or more commonly bob up and down for long stretches of time.  Why did Rome succeed instead of Carthage?  Could wiser leadership have prevented the Decline and Fall, or the sun setting on the British Empire, and perhaps on America? 

I am certainly no pessimist in this regard.  Our times, akin to so many others, are filled with frivolity and bountiful examples of other human frailties and venalities.  But there are as well many notable examples of human nature at its best.  I see both.

For the record my politics trend towards the conservative side, but my opinions are less dogmatically rooted than my belief that courteous discussion among those with varying beliefs provides the best path forward.  You may of course revile me as a running dog, neoconservative ninny if it pleases you to do so.  I will not retaliate, and actually enjoy some of the wittier political invective. 

Bloggers come and go.  It seems that the one year mark weeds out many.  I intend to soldier on long term, so my three posts a week will rarely be exceeded.

The current platform is less than ideal, so if you have tried without success to post comments my apologies.  If I have been deprived of both kudos and invective, rest assured I appreciate the intent in either case!

I borrowed my blogging name not from this minor Roman emperor named Tacitus, but from the earlier historian he claimed as an ancestor.  But the image was too good to not use.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Lutheran Church of Mahomet

Central Illinois is flat and covered with outrageously healthy corn.  Every few miles you pass a small town, and I make it a point to read the names off the water towers.  Just outside of the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area lies the little community of Mahomet, Illinois.

Wait a minute....Mahomet.  Isn't that a variant of the name of the Prophet Mohammed?   Well, yes.  And in times when we seem hypersensitive to political correctness it struck me as a bit unusual.  I mean, heck, we have mostly expunged all references to Native Americans from our sports teams, and the dust up over Danish newspaper cartoons would seem to make the name Mahomet entirely off limits.

Of course there is a story behind it.

The town was originally called, unimaginatively, Middleton Illinois.  But in 1871 it was noted that there was another community in the state with the same name.  Somehow it was determined-was there a drawing of straws or was it by seniority?-that a new name was called for.

The local Masonic lodge was called Mahomet, in keeping with their sort of mystical theme.  They were really big on middle eastern names, I actually have a vintage fez with the name Mecca on it in rhinestones. 

So the town acquires the name of the local lodge.

This makes for a few intitially jarring juxtapositions:

Or maybe not so jarring, there are certainly many Muslims serving with distinction in our Military.

Or how about this?

Well, OK.  I can say as at least a nominal Lutheran that if the Prophet Mahomet turned up at the 11:00 service He would be made to feel welcome. 

I would hate to be the cause of any difficulty for anyone, so I should mention that I saw no use of the Mahomet name that should be cause for any distress.  There is for instance no Mahomet Bar and Grill.

My gracious, it was a dry town until 2007.

More about Mahomet, Illinois

Friday, July 15, 2011

Three Guys versus the Asian Carp

This rather unassuming fellow is an Asian Carp.  Specifically, a silver carp.  Not much to look at really, is it?  Back in 1993 a handful of these escaped from a catfish farm in Arkansas, where they had been introduced to keep the water clean.  They got into the Mississippi River and started moving steadily northward.

Asian Carp do very well here, and when they hit the Illinois River they had reached their Promised Land.  Being an extremely fertile and efficient species they have reproduced to the point that some estimates have their numbers at ten billion fish just in the Illinois River.  No, not a typo that, Ten Billion Asian Carp.

Normally we Americans applaud success, and to go from a couple dozen to numbers beyond comprehension in less than twenty years is an impressive feat.  But the whole concept of Asians of any stripe horrifically out competing us is abrasive in these economic times.  And the Asian Carp are a major nuisance.  In addition to driving out native species, the darned things do this:

And this:

The vibrations from outboard motors bother them, so they jump out of the water.  Boaters get clobbered.  Injuries are common. 

Nobody really knows how to get rid of the critters, but it is clear where the current front line is.  The Illinois River connects to Lake Michigan through a shipping canal, which is tenuously protected by electric shock barriers.  What would happen when billions of Asian Carp break through into the Great Lakes is terrible to consider.

There was actually an Asian Carp Summit held at the White House last year where officials from the several Great Lakes states got together to voice concerns.  Stern memos were drafted.

Surprisingly these had little impact.

So on a blazing hot day in July three guys decided to take matters into their own hands.  With roughly 3.3 billion for each of us we knew we had some work to do as we cast off into the Illinois River aboard the good ship Sulaco II.

Number One son running the motor.  He had one carp brush against his cap as it jumped clear over the boat!

Number Three son, better prepared for carp impact.  And looking very Apocalypse Now.

 We motored about at high speeds trying to annoy the carp into jumping so we could smite them with assorted hand weapons.  Some hit the boat with enough force to make it seem like we had been torpedoed.  A couple of us took glancing hits from ten pound fish as they went airborne.  And I can speak from experience now, they smart a bit.

Here you can see a silver carp lying down in the hold amongst our weaponry.  The machete lacked enough reach to be effective, although I think I winged a couple with the T ball bat.  But the best Anti-Carp weapon proved to be a pitchfork we had purchased at a flea market the day before.  It was lots of fun to wield, but it must be admitted that it is difficult to nail a carp on the fly.  They just come at you from nowhere.

Difficult.  Not impossible!
I can't say we really reduced the numbers of the Asian Carp hordes by much.  We found that the carp only jumped in twos and threes, not the huge swarms that we had been expecting.  Apparently two strains of Asian Carp, silvers and bigheads have been interbreeding.  About 85% of them are now hybrids, making them bigger, maybe smarter, but less predisposed to the dramatic jumping behavior. 

As we headed back to the boat landing we went past an Illinois Department of Natural Resources fish shocking boat.  In the same areas where we had encountered quiet waters they had the surface churning with dozens of carp leaping simultaneously like some demented Busby Berkeley water ballet.

It makes one a bit pessimistic.  Evolution is usually a slow process, but when you have billions of fish each producing thousands of offspring it will probably not be long before a mutant turns up that finds the electroshock barriers to be a pleasant experience, sort of like the Magic Fingers Beds you once saw in motels.  15 minutes later they will be through to Lake Michigan.

Perhaps stern memos will not be enough.  Stern actions may also be called for.  Lets hope we do not have to resort to the "Ellen Ripley Option".

     "I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit.....It's the only way to be sure."

Addendum 11 March 2012.  For those interested in a Carp safari you might try contacting these fellows.  They seem like guys who are really enjoying the fight against the Carp Peril.  They have some great videos of their antics.  Have a look at this:

Although they employ many of the same weapons we wielded they had a lot more success.  Even though they were laughing the entire time!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Orwell, Down on the Farm

On a country walk in Northumbria.  This overlooks a branch of the Tyne river, supposedly the best salmon fishing stream in England.  So far as the eye can see, no sign of development other than a few isolated farm buildings.

And speaking of the eye seeing, a very Orwellian sign attached to the public footpath pole.

The organization referenced, Farmwatch has some good advice I suppose.  But in such a peaceful, low tech setting it seems a little discordant to be talking about CCTV setups to watch lambing, and "freeze branding" your livestock with your postal code just sounds mean.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Afoul of the Law

As you walk about a foreign land you can learn a few things by just carefully reading the signs.  Here for instance:

It's a little hard to make out in this view but the top line reads:

Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996

Wait a minute.....there is a national law on cleaning up dog poop?

Why yes, yes there is.  And we mean business, buster

I especially like the part where it indicates that the law was only "by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons..."

I had never really contemplated the Spiritual aspects of dog hygeine, just goes to show how shallow and superficial our thinking is on many topics.

Naturally, this law applies only to England and Wales.  The Scots are so stiff necked about their quasi independence that they would not be governed by any accursed English Dog Fouling Law, and had to pass their own in 2003.  Aye, that'll show 'em

I am not sure just what it is about this that I find so....quaint.  Perhaps it is the notion of the monarch and her advisors deliberating upon and then enacting a national law on a matter that here in the States would be the subject of local ordinance and/or common sense.

As I wandered the byways and public walking paths of Britain I can report that this legislation is either amazingly effective or was never needed in the first place.  I saw absolutely no evidence of canine misdeeds.

Now the sheep, that's another story.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Heart of Guyness

My wife is off traveling for a couple of weeks.  This leaves "the guys" in charge of the household.  What could possible go wrong?

annual seminar on Y chromosome linked collapse theory

Welcome to our distinguished attendees and presenters.  Our keynote presentation today is a case study of a Midwestern household we will designate Site W.  As is usual with Collapse Theory archeology we will be reversing the usual stratigraphic analysis, looking first at the deeper, pre-collapse layers.

Analysis of pre-collapse artifacts was indicative of a reasonably prosperous household.  Male to Female ratio was estimated at approximately 3:1.  Methods used in this analysis included survey of the DVD collection that indicated a high Schwartzenegger Index, as well as general accumulation of dirt and detritus in a section of Site W that we have identified as a possible workshop.  Traditional Male to Female ratio calculation by flourometric urinoanalyis on bathroom surfaces was partially obscured by frantic, yet half hearted cleaning efforts at a significantly later stage of devolution.

Attendees will no doubt realize that a domestic unit with a Male to Female ratio of 2:1 or greater is inherently unstable and in danger of collapse, certain anecdotal reports from the "Snow White Site" (Disney et. al.) notwithstanding.

Sometimes referred to as the Bud Lite stage, this strata was characterized by the pizza wrappers and discarded beverage containers that are pathognomonic of Y chromosome households in the early stages after withdrawal of female supervision.  A high proportion of Mountain Dew containers indicates adolescent male presence.  One slightly atypical feature here was a higher quality of beer containers, with Sam Adams, Goose Island Wheat and Heineken all heavily represented.  The absence of large quantities of low quality beer is felt to indicate pre-departure shopping and stockpiling by the female household member.

Sub analysis suggests female departure on a trip rather than the more dramatic findings associated with death or divorce.  The complete absence of helpfully provided casserole dishes excludes the former possibility, and the general level of deterioration would appear to preclude the presence of any prospective replacement female supervisors.

Typically the artifacts at this level are scant.  Basic provisions have been exhausted, and if we may be allowed a bit of latitude in our interpretation, the euphoria of the initial, illusionary liberation has faded.  Many containers from Chinese take out were identified, as well as a TV remote with heavy use-wear on all buttons.

We now enter the final, or Conradian phase of domestic collapse.

"In some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him--all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is detestable. And it has a fascination, too, which goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination--you know. Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate."
- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Part 1

In some respects the remains of this stage are more impressive than the earlier strata.  Towering ziggurats of dirty dishes are stacked in anticipation of possible washing.  Poignantly there as a calender left open on a fairly unencumbered desk top, a flight number and arrival time suggesting an effort to marshal societal resources for a final desperate clean up.   Alas, the effort was not a success, as one can scarcely rate pushing dirt into corners as a real effort to better the environment. 

Scrawled in ketchup on the back wall of an otherwise empty refrigerator was the following:

"The horror! The horror!"
- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Part 3

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Creeping Terror

Ah, summertime.  The pace of work in the ER accelerates with many out of town visitors.  The medical "bill of fare" changes too, more minor injuries and such.  My personal record for a single shift was 8 fish hooks removed, although in fairness a couple of them were treble hooks with more than one hook embedded.  (I count per hook).

And another somewhat perplexing warm weather fave is much in evidence.  The tick bite.

People have an unreasoning fear of crawly things.  I wonder if it dates back to classic 1950s black and white sci-fi movies.

Well, alright, that one might create a legitimate reason to come to my ER, but I am here to say that the huge majority of human-crawly encounters are not emergencies.

Ticks are nasty little critters.  And on occasion do transmit things like Lyme disease.  But with one or two minor exceptions there is no cause to go to the Emergency Room with tick bites.  I have been giving my 3.5 minute chat on tick issues so often that I can more or less do it while still asleep.  I suspect in fact that I have a few times.

Deer tick on left and wood tick on right.  Just to make life interesting the deer ticks come in smaller versions that resemble walking grains of pepper.

Point 1.  Wood ticks cause only local irritation.
Point 2. Same is generally true of deer ticks, but if you are going to get Lyme disease etc from one it will be from the one you did not find. Especially the immature, or nymph, version.
Point 3. Deer ticks removed promptly do not give you problems beyond said local irritation.  There is some debate about whether the magic number is 24, 36 or 48 hours.
Point 4.  This is the rash of Lyme disease:

It is usually not subtle.  And it generally shows up a week or so after the tick-human interaction.  If you wait two hours in the lobby to show me a tiny red dot you are going to be disappointed.  Sometimes you see people with up to a dozen such bullseyes.

Most people with Lyme disease are mildly ill.  We treat them with an antibiotic called doxycycline.  I guess we would just dump it into the watertower every year in April were it not associated with some side effects like stomach upset and a very impressive light sensitive rash.  (mental arithmatic on treating borderline cases is when does the potential for side effects exceed the potential for avoiding consequences of not treating).

The really icky thing you can get from deer ticks is Ehrlichiosis.  No rash.  You ache from head to toe, sort of how you would feel if loan sharks had sent goons to beat you up with baseball bats.  High fever, chills, headache.  Before we figured this one out we struggled mightily with the concept that Lyme disease might not always have a rash*, and that it was sometimes mild, sometimes nasty.  We have blood tests that will generally give us the answer here (imperfect, but tests plus clinical judgement ain't bad). 

Point 5 and final.  If you feel like you have been beaten up by loan shark goons it is indeed legitimate to come to the Emergency Room.  But keep an open mind as to the diagnosis.  I have seen purported tick borne diseases actually turn out to be other things.  Like pneumonia, sepsis, kidney infection, acute myocardial infarction, side effects of cholesterol lowering medications.

Oh, and a few of my clientele do get beaten up on a recurring basis, so I always ask about that too.

(necessary disclaimer.  Like all clinical judgements this has some complexities.  There are odd presentations of tick borne diseases just as with all other conditions.  And there are shortcomings to both our technology and our wisdom.  Do not use the internet to diagnose and treat potential illness.  I append a couple of links regarding Lyme and Ehrlichiosis, which has recently been renamed.  I don't care for the new name, Anaplasmosis, so I am remaining old school.)

Lyme disease
ehrlichosis. oh, ok, anaplasmosis

*yes, this probably does happen, but without infallibility of both blood tests and patients it is difficult to say how often.  My gestalt is perhaps 10% of the time.

Monday, July 4, 2011


For my American visitors:  I hope you are enjoying the holiday with prudent indulgence in pyrotechnics or fermented beverages.  Not in both, lest we meet in my professional capacity.

For my British friends:  I hope all that unpleasantness back in the day has been forgiven.  Things really have worked out well between us in later years.

And for the folks from Serbia who come to the site looking for Dogs in Star Wars costumes.  Ahh, it would take too long to explain.

Happy Fourth of July to All