Friday, January 31, 2014

Kaputt and Caput !

It was a bitterly cold day, and my birthday to boot when I had a stray thought about the word "Kaputt". It is of course a bit of German slang, one that has crossed over into English.  I must have been feeling a little run down and defunct.

It does not exactly have the feel of a proper German word, and I got to wondering if it was one of those words that drop in from another language.  It seemed just a little familiar to me, being teasingly similar to an occasionally used Latin word.

Caput is the Latin word for head.  We still encounter it in medicine from time to time.  A fungal infection of the scalp is Tinea Capitus.  The sinister tangle of dilated veins around the umbilicus that is seen in end stage liver cirrhosis is colorfully called Caput Medusum.  The word is less recognizable but more widely used in its form Capitol in the sense of a nation's "headquarters".

Caput is a most archaic word, so it is not clear exactly how it relates to the Capitoline Hill where we recently heard the faint echo of Monetas and her honking geese.

Like so many forerunner words Caput has a lot of modern descendants including Chief, Chef and Chapter.

And the hop over into French?

Evidently there is an ancient French card game called Piquet.  Rarely played in modern times it was once very popular.  To wander even further off topic a Piquet hand with no face cards was called Carte Blanche.  Games always are a fertile source for slang and the phrase faire capot (literally, "making a bonnet") was used to indicate that one had won all the tricks in a game of Piquet. And where one side wins all, the other loses all.

In the early months of World War I, when German troops surged to within sight of the Eifel Tower they joked, apparently getting it backwards, that the French were faire capot, with the sauerkraut tinged linquistic abilities of the common soldier corrupting and shortening the phrase to kaputt!
(As with most etymological expeditions I am simplifying a bit.  faire capot also was used as nautical term for tipping over a boat, and capot could serve as either a word for bonnet or as a general term for over garments of a nautical or military nature.  All these shades of meaning probably went into the generation of a new and rather specific term for military defeat)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Script Doctor

I don't have a future as a Hollywood script writer.  Mostly because I do not write dialog well.  I also would probably have difficulty with explosions and glittery vampires.  So I am not about to "quit the day job".  But I think I would do very well indeed as a script doctor.

No, not the anonymous drudge who takes a half baked bit of writing from an entirely baked established Hollywood writer and then beats it into comprehensible shape.  No, I think my niche would be adding little bits of medical detail.

I can't begin to tell you just how "fake" illness generally is portrayed on TV and in movies. With a few notable exceptions such as "ER" and "House" it is considered just fine to have the buxom starlet linger at death's door, delivering her final lines with nothing more than a tiny bit of oxygen whispering past her perky plastic surgerized nose.  No endotracheal tube.  No pallor.  One lousy bag of sugar water hanging on the IV pole.

And of course she has been stricken by some ailment, undiscovered by medical science to date, that progresses from radiant goddess-like beauty, through a few seconds of feeling dizzy, and on to a theatrical demise before the last commercial break.

I think I could write better stuff.  I know I could write more realistic stuff.

There is a lot of great material to work with.  I'm keeping a few to myself, just in case Spielberg calls for a meeting.  But here's one that has been around the block once or twice:

Alien Hand Syndrome.

This happens when a very specific part of the brain gets damaged, usually through a stroke.  The patients so afflicted have a hand that moves and has normal sensation.  But they can't entirely control it.  And more to the point, their brain does not recognize it as "theirs".

The Alien Hand appears to have a will of its own, and tends to reach out to grab things in the immediate environment.  Obviously Hollywood has been using this one for quite a while now!

And of course......

In fact an alternate name for Alien Hand Syndrome is Dr. Strangelove Syndrome!

Ok, so the existing pool of TV/Movie writers get one right on rare occasion.  But lets not give them too much credit.  They were just cribbing from the New Testament:

And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Matthew 5:30

Monday, January 27, 2014

Motivating the Healthcare Peasants, January 2014

For those joining the story late I should explain that I was once a Family Practice doctor.  Oh, philosophically I still am of course, but my work the last six years has been primarily in a rural Emergency Room.

My paperwork burden is much less these days as I do not have to get involved with decisions regarding staffing, "Strategic Planning", or more to the point, billing.

But once in a while something official turns up in my work mail slot.  Here, have a look:

Yesiree Bob, it is a check written out to me by a gigantic health insurance company.  And for the princely sum of Zero Dollars And 17 Cents.

I thought this was pretty funny so I took it down to administration.  I figured that since I was working for them that any money that came in for my care was rightfully theirs.  My thought was that I could sign it over and tell them to buy, well not a cup of coffee but maybe a little container of non-dairy cream to put into the cup of coffee.

But as it turns out this actually is money for me.  Caught up as I was in a moment of Scrooge McDuck enthusiasm it took a little explaining for me to understand how this windfall was possible.

I was told that part of reforming health care involves making the primary care drudges at the base of the food chain happier.  Maybe they will work harder, refer less routine stuff to the Apex Specialists. Heck, perhaps better pay will even cause them to be fruitful and multiply.

This is good, worthy and to be encouraged.  But if the Powers that Be had asked my opinion I would have just said cut the humble (FP/Peds/Internists) a check.  "Here's a couple grand, thanks for all you do."

But no.  Via some complex system a few pennies of positive reinforcement are calculated from the charges you submit.  I suppose in a large group practice or over the course of a year this could add up to something more than the rather insulting manifestation of approval that I got in the mail.  I guess this program has been around for a year now and so far this is the first check I have seen.

But perhaps I am being unfair.  What I am not showing for reasons of privacy is my name and address on the check.  They got the name right, but the address was a puzzler.  It was in another state.  But it did seem vaguely familiar and after a while it occurred to me....

Folks, the highly efficient, well oiled machinery that is health care financing in the Year of Our Lord 2013/4 has decided that my mailing address is at the hospital where my father practiced up until his retirement........a quarter century ago.

Obviously no human brain was involved in this.  Some deep archive of computer data made the link between my father and I based on our shared last name.  (For the record we do not have the same first name, nor have I practiced in his state after a brief moonlighting stint in 1985!).

It is very much like being a passenger on a trans Atlantic flight and seeing the pilot's cabin door swing open....and there being no living, thinking people up there at all.

It makes me wonder how many other tiny checks are being mailed out at 38 cents a pop.  And how much staff time and expense goes into doing so?  How many end up in the wrong state?  This one found its way to me somehow, but how many other little bits of financial detritus are swirling about in the drafty, ramshackle edifice that is our health care system?

Well, maybe I am over reacting a bit.  Perhaps I should close with a hearty "Rest Assured Citizens!". Clearly the wise and sapient beings that are reforming America's Health Care System have not only your best interests at heart but mine also.  As a hard working Family Doctor (albeit presently working hard in the ER) I bask in the esteem of the Exalted Ones.  I know how much they appreciate what I do.

Addendum:  A few days later I got another check from a different insurance company.  It went to the proper address.  And while I do not feel substantially motivated it will cover my pub tabs on the spring trip to England.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

American Health Care 2014...a shortage of WHAT?!

Continuing for a few days my musings on the current state of the US health care system...

I arrived in the ER for my Friday shift only to be met with a note announcing that there was a nationwide shortage of "normal saline".


Normal saline for those not in the trade, is a commonly used IV fluid. Very handy stuff if you need to quickly re-hydrate somebody or as initial fluid resuscitation in trauma.  It is made of:



That's it.  Not exactly a complex, hard to manufacture, 21st Century Wonder Drug.

It seems that we are not short of water.  And we have plenty of plain old NaCl.  Apparently the problem is that a large number of bags of the stuff were found to have dubious plastic connectors, making it difficult to be sure that the stuff is actually sterile.

Primitive technology.  But still lifesaving stuff.  And unavailable because somebody (I figure in some third world manufacturing system) did not pay attention to some stupid but critical step in manufacturing a bazillion little plastic do dads to be shipped off to the United States.

We can still administer IV fluids of course, but have been reduced to using an alternative IV juice called Lactated Ringers.  Nobody likes it except surgeons.  They love the stuff, which is sufficient reason in my book to be suspicious of it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Medical Record Software gone Wild

Coming to computerization later in my medical career I think I have a better perspective on it than most.  Doctors older than I just ignored it until retirement.  Young cubs had to grow up with this stuff and seem to accept all manner of indignities without the ability to complain.

Anyway, I recently had to learn something new.  Not a complete medical record system, just the little slice of it that allows patients to be transitioned from the ER to the inpatient area.  My trainer was appalled that I had never bothered to learn this system and in fact had forgotten my passwords.  In my defense, I have been happily hand writing transition orders that up until now seem to do just fine.

But now we have a Federal Regulation that all transitions from ER to inpatient need to use a certain software.  I guess it applies everywhere in our galaxy, or so I have been advised.

Here are a few gems from the “Physician Training Checklist”

“Searching – wildcard dash”

“Shopping Cart”

“…if using half words always add a dash”

“Transaction lines = Select (bank of answers) Enter (free-text) Choose (buttons).

All pretty mundane.  But this bit of bureaucratic nonsense made it into my personal Hall of Infamy with a special gem:

“Duplicate balls – already ordered but can continue”

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Mystery Coin - Ancient Low End Bling

Today's Mystery Coin is about as ugly as they get.  The top view is the reverse.  The bottom view is the "heads" or obverse.  It looks so flat and clean that it almost appears to have had the Emperor/King/Shah scraped off in a purposeful defacement.  But what I found initially fascinating about this coin was the hole near the top.

Ancient coins often turn up with holes in them.  In fact I have another one in better shape:

This is a common low value coin from one of Constantine's squabbling descendants.  A rather inexpertly drilled hole near the top looks like where you would place a loop, so that this could be worn as a pendant.

When researching the question of ancient coins with holes in them I ran across this very thoughtful discussion that also has some photo galleries that put my examples to shame  holed ancient coins.

But getting back to the coin of the day, note that it is not a nicely drilled/punched hole as in my second example.  Zooming in closer...

This has been crudely punched through with a knife blade or something akin to it.  There is corrosion on the edges so this is not recent damage from being excavated clumsily. The hole was made in such a fashion that the side with lettering was preserved, so we have to assume that it was of greater importance to whoever was altering this coin for display purposes.

This is one of those coins that is really too far gone to identify.  My best guess is that it is something like this:

This image is also from the  Moonmoth coins site.  It shows a bronze "follis" coin from a Byzantine Emperor.  These are just about the only ancients that have this odd reverse showing multiple lines of text.  This example is from Leo VI circa 900AD.

My example is similar in style but clearly a different Emperor.  By playing with magnification and squinting I "think" I can make out just a few letters...


At this point a responsible historian would just say, "who knows?".  But a frivolous sort such as I can imagine that the coin actually says:


So there you have it, all you need is a plausible mint transposition of the I and R to give us a nonsensical identification of a coin from King Arthur!

Oh, and if anyone has an actual sane identification I would love to hear from you.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Mystery Coin - Allegory or "Selfie"?

Our coin of the day:

A few things were clear from the onset.  This coin is bronze, but too small to be of standard Roman denomination.  This would suggest either a Greek coin or more probably based on style, a local coin minted in the formerly Greek lands under Roman rule. This was quite common during most of the time that the Romans ruled the Eastern Mediterranean.  Perhaps they did not find micro managing the local economies worth while.  Perhaps it was a tip of the hat to former Greek greatness and autonomy. The Romans always admired their Greek mentors.  But for one reason or another it was common practice for several centuries to allow cities in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire to make their own low value coins.  They were encouraged to put the current Emperor on the "heads" side.

I think my coin is a very beaten up version of this:

It is described as being a coin from the reign of the Emperor Trajan, from 98 to 117 AD.  It is said to be from Phoenicia/Tyrus and to depict "veiled and turreted head of Tyche" on one side and a date palm on the other.

This appears on first glace to make sense.  Most of the coins from this era showing a palm tree are quite logically from places where they grew and were an important food source.  North Africa, modern day Israel and Syria, less often Sicily.  And Tyche was a very common figure on coinage of this sort.

Tyche was the equivalent to the Roman goddess "Fortuna".  In fact Tyche derives from the Greek word for luck.  She was felt to govern over the fortune and prosperity of a city.  And, because your fortune and prosperity would be much more secure behind fortifications, she is often shown with a headdress that depicts city walls and turrets!

So far so good.  But sometimes the interplay between traditions can be interesting.  And it got me wondering if the female figure on today's mystery coin was intended to be a straight up depiction of Tyche, or perhaps a portrait that intentionally resembled a close relative of Emperor Trajan.

Check out the similar looking hair styles and face on these candidates:

Plotina, wife of Trajan.

Marciana, sister of Trajan.

Matilda, niece of Trajan and mother in law to the Emperor Hadrian.

From coins and sculptures we think we have a decent understanding of Roman hairstyles, and this over the top "turret head" coiffure only seems to turn up in these female relatives of Trajan.  

Of course this begs the question.  Was my mystery coin trying to resemble an Imperial lady?  Or were said ladies trying to affect the looks of "Fortune"?  If the latter it is hard to imagine an Emperor for whom this is less logical, Trajan did not hail from the Eastern Provinces.  He came from modern day Spain, clear at the far end of the Empire.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Mighty Mouse

Certain members of my immediate family have expressed a weary tolerance for my wondering about words.  This being the case I will likely continue to ponder such deep issues as:  Why is the Latin name for the common house mouse a rather macho sounding Mus musculus?

This one goes back a ways.  Evidently the ancient Greeks, trendsetters that they were in medical matters, noted that the muscles of the upper arm kind of looked like mice.

As a result the Greek word mys means both mouse and muscle.  The latter sense comes down to us today as the prefix myo meaning muscle.  Inflammatory conditions of muscle tissue are therefor myositis.

The Romans did a lot more borrowing than innovating, so in similar fashion mus is mouse and musculus, although it literally is "little mouse" in Latin, has come down to us as muscle.

Somebody in the depths of Middle English must have been having a little fun when they coined the term lacertous as a synonym for muscular.  It means "lizardy" but it seems to me that Medieval England had a lot more mice than lizards.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Many Faces of Bill the Squirrel

My best present for Christmas 2012 was a nice squirrel that my sons thoughtfully had stuffed after one of their brotherly hunting expeditions.

This year I got some "outfits" for Bill the Squirrel.  I understand that considerable effort went into them, and that a combination of hand crafting and borrowing items intended for Chihuahuas was involved.

Now we are all ready for Halloween:

And for Cinco de Mayo:

Boy, I am not quite sure what occasion would call for this last outfit, nor what possible small dog costume might have served as its inspiration:

But my very first Rodent Peril post dealt with the costumed adventures of a certain Sugar Bush the Squirrel and I am darkly suspicious that this is the sort of stuff he cruises the Internet for!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Leadership from The Class the Stars Fell On.

Inevitably with the new year upon us we are hearing more about politics.  The 2014 mid term elections are heating up and there is a steady increase in chatter about the 2016 Presidential race.

Of course people are musing on just what makes an effective leader, a subject I have touched on once previously  Help Wanted, President.

My general feeling was that prior practical experience would be an excellent predictor of later success, and that is probably true overall.  But history always teases us with exceptions, and regarding Presidents we have to make room for Abraham Lincoln, the Great Exception.  I mean, who would predict that a relatively unknown fellow from Illinois, who served two years in Congress and frankly was a bit homely, would become one of the great leaders in our history?  (my conservative friends may now indulge in whatever "went to the well once too often" thoughts that they wish).

But The Railsplitter is not the only exception to the usual logic.  When considering successful Presidents I did a little side thinking on a related topic:  How high can a person rise in the military without ever commanding troops in combat?

I think you can go about as far back as matters in the sense of a modern military and find very few men who rose to supreme command without spending some time early in their career slogging along with Grenadiers or Doughboys; without sleeping in drafty tents; without on occasion having some hot lead sent in their general direction.

But a quick survey...

Napoleonic Wars.  Nah, France and England had been squabbling for so long that Wellington, Napolean and pretty much everyone else had seen combat first hand.

American Civil War.  There were a few "political generals" in subsidiary commands.  Most of them were incompetents, a few like Ben Butler were not.  But virtually the entire upper command echelons of both armies had fought in The War with Mexico.  Even the chief generals in that brush fire conflict had served valiantly in the War of 1812.

In World War I  it is virtually impossible to find a single general of any importance who had not seen combat either in sundry colonial wars or in the Franco Prussian War of 1870.  And in World War II pretty much everyone wearing stars had seen combat in The Great War*. With one enormous exception:

Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Despite his eventually becoming a Five Star General and Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Ike never served in combat.

You might think this implausible.  He was after all a member of the West Point Class of 1915.  This is referred to as "The Class the Stars Fell On" because no fewer than 59 of the 164 graduates of said class went on to attain at least the rank of Brigadier General**.

It is not as if Eisenhower was a dullard.  His class rank of 61st was quite respectable.  And it is not as if he were trying to avoid combat. (My progressive friends may now indulge in G.W. Bush witticisms if necessary).  He begged to be sent to France in World War One.

No, Eisenhower had a bad knee from a sports injury.  It initially relegated him to various staff jobs. At which he proved so remarkably competent that the military decided he could not be spared.  There were already plenty of brash young officers willing to charge into the barbed wire. (Three members of the 1915 class died "over there" all as Majors, but one seems to have succumbed to influenza).

I suppose my general theme regarding Presidents is that prior executive success predicts later competence.  And in this respect Eisenhower is a prime exhibit.  Our history is the better for him not stepping in front of a bit of shrapnel in 1918.  He continued to demonstrate the ability to both organize the things under his direct purview and to interact well with those whose independent interests could either help or hinder his tasks.  D-Day in 1944, one of history's biggest organizational challenges was his Supreme accomplishment.

Some people are just better executives than others.  And it is not just a matter of pure intellect.  If you want an example of just how far academic achievement "won't" take you, consider the man who graduated 1st in "The Class the Stars Fell On".  It was a certain William E. R. Covell.  He does not even get his own Wikipedia page.  His military accomplishments?

He did get two stars while serving, no doubt capably if unheroically,  as "Director of Fuels and Lubricants, Office of Quartermaster General" and later as commander of "Supply Services" in the China-India-Burma Theater.

*In the case of Russian Generals I give credit for service in the Revolution.

**Wikipedia claims that this is the highest percentage (36%) of any class that attained at least one star.     Not true. The class of 1843 had 16 future generals among its 39 members (41%). One of them was   U.S. Grant, excellent General and lousy President.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Mystery Coin - false packaging?

Patients in my old clinic practice used to bring me things.  Now that I work ER it happens less often.  I guess when you unexpectedly put your thumb into a table saw it is hard to arrange a thoughtful gift to bring along.  Bringing the thumb is sufficient.  But folks who knew of my interests in travel and history did give me some interesting things in years past.

One item came in a small box with this notation:


And here it is:

Heads and tails are irrelevant in a coin from a culture that does not approve of showing human forms.  But a bit of research did turn up a little information.

First of all it is not a "Krush".  It is a type of coin called a Para.  100 Para make 2 1/2 Kurush, to use the proper spelling. It has essentially no intrinsic value being a base metal coin.  Clues as to its date can be found on the bottom edge of the coin shown in the upper picture.  The I (two squiggles) V indicate a Hijri date of 1327.  Now, I did not know much about the Islamic calender beyond the obvious, that it dates from AD 622 when the Prophet (PBUH for my Muslim readers) went from Mecca to Medina. Hijri years are just a little different than Gregorian ones, they last either 354 or 355 days.  The conversion of this date to our more familiar system would make it 1909.  But.....that is actually just the first year that this sultan, Mehmed V reigned*.  On the opposite side we find a tiny arabic number 5, indicating that this coin was from five years later.  

The top picture has as central features two things that resemble a wrench and a small square.  This is Arabic for 20.

So, what we have is actually a 20 Para coin from 1914.  Now that was an eventful year for the Ottomans.  A renegade German admiral sailed his squadron into Constantinople and gave his ships to the Sultan.  This and the general cascade of bad decisions being made across Europe that fateful year landed the Turks disastrously in the thick of World War I.
*If you want to call it that.  Mehmed seems to have been a figurehead.  He spent his first 30 years of life confined in the harems, nine of it in solitary confinement, thereby eliminating the only good thing about being locked up in a harem.  And having to make that unpleasant sounding trip at age nine to the ceremonial Circumcision Room of Topkapi palace....

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Mystery Coin - What happened to Fausta?

For today a coin with no ambiguity as to its subject matter:

This rather severe looking dame was Flavia Maxima Fausta.  Her family tree will give anyone not a serious history junkie a splitting headache.  She was the daughter of one Emperor, brother of a second one, and mother of three more.  But the subject of today's "mystery" has to do with her also being the wife of an Emperor, in fact of a personage no less than Constantine the Great.

It was probably a political marriage, Roman politics in the fourth century was always on the verge of collapse into bloody civil strife. As a peacemaking gesture Constantine divorced his first wife (she might instead have passed away) and married the daughter of one of his political rivals.  This seems like a sensible thing to do, but there was a bit of a problem, as shown on the reverse of the above coin:

Here Fausta is depicted under the legend SPES REIPUBLICAE, meaning hope for the State.  And the "hope" would be the two children she holds.  Actually she had a total of five kids with Constantine, setting up an inevitable rivalry with the Emperor's son from his first marriage.

No reliable source can say exactly what happened, but gossip has come down to us from antiquity says that Fausta schemed against the Emperor's oldest son (by his first wife) Crispus, making accusations so severe that Constantine had him executed in 326 AD.  Very soon afterwards Constantine decided that his wife also must die, and had her executed in grisly fashion by boiling her in a tub of hot water. Some claim that Crispus and his step-mother had an illicit relationship, but really nobody knows for sure and the later writers who pass along this dirt had their own political axes to grind in the matter.

Since Fausta was at other times said to have betrayed her own father to his death in earlier Imperial scheming, and to have seen her brother's head on a pike after he lost the Battle of Milvian bridge to her hubby Constantine, I am prepared to believe her as a conniver. She looks like one mean old bird.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Die, Woolly Bear, Die

Last fall I consulted that inerrant prognosticator of the invertebrate world, the Woolly Bear Caterpillar. He promised a short and tolerable winter.

I am pretty sure that the little quisling has paid the ultimate price for his treachery as the last few days have been colder than any in my longish memory.

The official temperature got down to -35 F.  For my UK and Continental friends that is -37 C.

Of course individual locations could vary.  When heading home after a shift on Sunday night I drove past one of those bank signs that gives a temp reading.

It said:         E

Hunker down, folks.  And be safe, we have had some tragic stuff in the ER of late and I don't mean that treacherous bug who clearly has it coming to him.

Mystery coin week resumes tomorrow.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Mystery Coin - Not all that Glitters.....

I don't do this any more, but a decade or so back you could actually buy unwashed ancient coin lots over the internet. You then clean them up and see what you have.  It later became increasingly clear that these were coming out of parts of the world where treasure hunters can pillage archaeological sites, and also that these coin lots had been thoroughly sorted through prior to my getting them. But early on you would get some interesting things.  Later, just endless numbers of low grade small change from the various squabbling late Roman Emperors.

But one time I actually found gold in a batch.  Sort of.

This is a tremissis, a small gold coin of the Byzantine Emperor Justin I.  Not very well done artistically, and the back is a total mess. The Wikipedia link btw probably shows a much nicer version of this very coin.

See the rust peeking out around the upper left edge and at central wear points?  This is a counterfeit, nothing more than a base metal coin with a very, very thin gold wash.  I wonder if anybody in ancient times fell for it?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Mind Control Rays, French Version

When traveling light it is always good to find a laundromat.

A sign from a little place in France.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Path not yet Taken

Another Year's end and so like Janus I look forward and back.  Forward is always fun, and plans for 2014 travels are shaping up.  Yes, once again to Vindolanda to excavate.  It is an addiction.  I simply must know what lies another level down!  And the chance to see my digging pals from around the world, to tip a pint of ale at end of day, to get trounced in the corrupt Twice Brewed Inn pub quiz....

We are also planning an expedition to Alaska with various of the younger generation.  Sight seeing and salmon.

So alas, I am postponing yet again a trip to Italy.  This will be the third time I have started planning a pilgrimage and ended up not going.  Yes, all roads do lead to Rome.  But most of them apparently have to go lots of other places first.

I had the outline of a rather fun expedition roughed out.  In case any like minded folks could benefit from my research let me give you a few leads.  Ancient Rome above and below street level.

Rome Underground, literally.  There is an organization by that name which teaches classes and organizes visits to the extensive underground archaeology of Rome.  Roma Sotteranea.  The page comes up in Italian but at least my Google Chrome translates it automatically.  This seems like a lot of fun.  But I do have to admit, they have yet to answer any of my emails and so far as I can tell the language of instruction is Italian.  I plan on learning some.

You know me and obelisks.  A person could take this list and visit all the ancient obelisks of Rome.

If you need things in English there are a variety of walking tour companies out there.  Context seems to have a particularly eclectic set of offerings.

Getting back to my subterranean interests - I am something of a troglodyte it seems - a day trip up to the hill town of  Orvieto would be a must.  They at least answer their email.  The extent of the underground city there is astonishing.

And speaking of day trips, how about a bike tour of The Appian Way?

Ah, Rome.  The Eternal City.  It will last forever.  I suppose I shall not, so here is hoping I get to make this trip while my less ancient, but still aged, body can manage an active time of it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Holidays are over.  Hope yours were suitably swell.

Might one, perhaps, have a few extra pounds to remember them by?  I see in my medical journals that there is a new prescription weight loss medication being launched, just in time.  It makes me recall the last time such a "miracle" diet pill was tried.  And how it turned out.

Not well in the end, the stuff seems to have caused some rare but serious heart issues and was yanked from the market by the FDA.  But even at the beginning of its brief career a bad decision was made.

The name.

I can imagine the high level meeting where the marketing folks reported to the top brass.
"We're gonna call it Redux.  Get it?  It will make you thin as a reed!"  And everything will be Ducksy!"

The big issue with most weight loss pills is of course that the initial weight loss is not sustained.  After a promising start the pants mysteriously resume their previous snugness, the needle on the scale drifts back to familiar territory.

So, in an industry where tradition is valued, where the old way of things is still remembered, did nobody, NOBODY have any school Latin to draw upon?  Was there no dissenting voice to point out that the translation to English of the word Redux is actually:

"It has returned"!!!!!!!