Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jack Bruce, of Cream, dies at 71

There is also a version posted to You Tube from the 2005 Cream Reunion.

In the late '60s I was going to art school in Detroit. The Art School of the Society of Arts and Crafts was a cool place back then, filled with music: blues, Motown, jazz and more filled the rooms. The album Disraeli Gears by Cream would have been placed in the 'more' category along with other groups like Savoy Brown. Cream's unique sound has been described as psychedelic blues.

Cream, composed of Eric Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker on drums, was possibly the first of the so-called supergroups. Their debut album was Fresh Cream, followed by Disraeli Gears and then Wheels of Fire. Their last album before the break up was appropriately titled Goodbye. Bruce wrote and sang many of the songs in the Cream playbook.

With the passing of the oh-so-talented Jack Bruce, I find myself remembering all the fine music released by Cream and wondering why these songs are given so little airtime today. The Ultimate Classic Rock (UCR) site has posted what they claim to be the top ten Cream recordings. If you have the time, follow the link and give a listen.

  • Sunshine of Your Love
  • White Room
  • Crossroads
  • Strange Brew
  • Spoonful
  • Tales of Brave Ulysses
  • Badge
  • Born Under a Bad Sign
  • I Feel Free
  • I'm So Glad

If you haven't heard Badge, it only climbed to about number 60 on the top ten list of the time, check out Badge. The UCR site rates it number 7 in their top ten Cream list and I feature it at the top of this post. I drank a lot of beer while listening to Badge spinning at 33 and a third rpm's on my Dual turntable.

The BBC reports: Jack Bruce died at his home in Suffolk surrounded by his family. A statement was released saying: "It is with great sadness that we, Jack's family, announce the passing of our beloved Jack: husband, father and granddad and all-round legend.

"The world of music will be a poorer place without him, but he lives on in his music and forever in our hearts."

When I think of Cream and the late Jack Bruce, I think of folks from my past such as Andy Whipple and Rebekah Wilcher. Both Andy and Becky have also passed on. My world gets smaller and smaller with each passing day.

Andy Whipple used to throw the best parties at his parent's home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. And Becky used to take me to the best parties in Berkeley, California, back in the late '60s. Fine wine, good beer, great food and the best music was always to be found at these parties. Cream easily passed the muster.

Not being a musician, I wasn't aware of the rich mix of historic blues to be found on Cream albums. The other folk at these parties were far more sophisticated than I and they would sit on the floor, drinking wine and discussing the distant roots of some of the Cream music: I'm So Glad was an old Skip James song from the '30s, Spoonful was a cover of an earlier take by Howlin' Wolf and Crossroads recalls a 1936 recording by blues great Robert James. Sadly, I'd forgotten most of this and only today began remembering all as I read the many obits praising the late Cream bassist.

Jack Bruce had quite the musical pedigree. He was truly among the cream that rises to the top. He won a scholarship to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, played in a group that featured drummer Charlie Watts, later of The Rolling Stones, and played with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers and Manfred Mann. Composer, singer, and one of rock's best bass players, Jack Bruce was talented. No argument.

Tonight I will pop the cap on a bottle of Steam Whistle and carefully play my Cream albums. Vinyl is has almost disappeared and sadly the artists that made vinyl worth having are slowing fading away too.


If you have ever wondered what inspired the album name Disraeli Gears, here is an answer I found posted on the Disraeli Gears website. A site dedicated to the derailleur gears used by bike manufacturers.

"You know how the title came about - Disraeli Gears - yeah? We had this Austin Westminster, and Mick Turner was one of the roadies who’d been with me a long time, and he was driving along and Eric (Clapton) was talking about getting a racing bicycle. Mick, driving, went ‘Oh yeah - Disraeli gears!’ meaning derailleur gears . . . We all just fell over . . . We said that’s got to be the album title."

Ginger Baker remembering 1967

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ebola: technically not airborne but . . .

Ebola is NOT technically an airborne disease. Airborne diseases float in the air, suspended, carried by air currents. There is no evidence that Ebola is transmitted in this manner. According to Doctors Without Borders:
As long as a patient hasn’t developed symptoms, the risk of contagion is close to zero. Ebola is not an airborne virus like the flu.

For more on this read: Ebola virus may be spread by droplets, but not by an airborne route: what that means.

As long as an infected person is not symptomatic, they are essentially not contagious. Those riding in an airplane or a subway car with an infected, but not symptomatic person, are said to be at essentially no risk. Without the exchange of bodily fluids, there is absolutely no risk of infection.

Unfortunately, the word airborne has other meanings independent from the technical one. Airborne when used by the average person in day-to-day conversation may simply mean propelled through the air, as in: the car went airborne and hit an embankment. An airborne car can travel surprisingly far -- a hundred feet or more.

Most of us would consider big, Ebola-contaminated, droplets propelled through the air by a violently ill patient as being briefly airborne. One can become infected by the Ebola virus by coming in contact with these large, violently expelled droplets. For this reason, medical personnel need to be completely protected. No exposed skin, eyes protected by goggles. Face masks must meet strict standards. And no quibbling over the use of the word airborne.
The following Public Health Agency of Canada bulletin may have been removed from the Web and the posting changed because of the non-technical use of the word "airborne." Personally, I don't think health care workers and others working in close proximity to an Ebola patient want a lecture on the technical meaning of "airborne". They want protection.

If the word airborne adds confusion to a life and death situation, let's use caution when using it. Let's aim for clarity as well as accuracy. Lives depend up it.

"Airborne spread [of the Ebola virus] among humans is strongly suspected . . . "

The above quote is from a pathogen safety data sheet once available from the Public Health Agency of Canada. I understand the sheet has now been modified. I found the sheet containing the warning in the Wayback Machine Internet archives.

Ebola is deadly. Depending upon the strain and other factors it kills anywhere from 25 percent up to 90 percent of those infected. Front-line healthcare workers are at great risk. With two nurses in Texas having now having tested positive for Ebola, it appears the protocols in place in Texas were not up to the standard set by groups with experience fighting Ebola, such as Doctors Without Borders.

A Canadian expert is warning that healthcare personal, nurses for instance, are not being given adequate life-saving protection. Read the story in The London Free Press, the daily paper in London, Ontario, Canada. The experience in Texas seems to give credence to this expert's warning.


Today (Oct. 20th) the Associated Press is carrying a story reporting "revised guidance for health care workers treating Ebola patients. As of now, health care workers will be using protective gear "with no skin showing."

The article also makes clear hospital officials admit masks covering the nose and mouth were originally optional for nurses and others caring for Ebola patients. This may have been partially a result of a misunderstanding caused by the use of the word "airborne" in the warnings about the transmission routes taken by the disease.

Ebola is spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids. The virus begins its attack by entering the body through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola.
Think about it: If the person sitting beside you began leaking bodily fluids, or even just sweating profusely, you'd move. If you worked in a hospital, you'd ask for gloves, a mask and other protective gear -- if it was available. Sadly, in West Africa, many hospitals don't have clean, disposable gloves in stock. Nor do they have adequate amounts of other oh-so-necessary medical supplies: Think one-use disposable needles.

Taking the subway in New York? Relax. You're not going to catch Ebola. It is healthcare workers and not subway riders who need to be on guard.

Test your Ebola knowledge. Follow the link.

The following was posted by the CDC but has been taken down for modification. The story was carried by Huffington Post.

This is the html version of the file http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/infections-spread-by-air-or-droplets.pdf.
Google automatically generates html versions of documents as we crawl the web.
Page 1
What’s the difference between infections
spread through the air or by droplets?
Airborne spread happens when a germ floats through the air after a
person talks, coughs, or sneezes. Germs may land in the eyes, mouth, or
nose of another person.
>If a germ is airborne, direct contact with the infected person is NOT
needed for someone else to get sick. Airborne spread diseases include:
chickenpox, tuberculosis.
Droplet spread happens when germs traveling inside droplets that are
coughed or sneezed from a sick person enter the eyes, nose, or mouth of
another person. Droplets travel short distances, less than 3 feet (1 meter)
from one person to another.
A person might also get infected by touching a surface or object that has
germs on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
Droplet spread diseases include: plague, Ebola.
How do I protect myself from getting sick?
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are
not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Cover your cough! Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when
you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Germs spread this way.
Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces like doorknobs,
faucet handles, and toys, since the Ebola virus may live on surfaces for
up to several hours.
Is Ebola airborne?
No. Ebola is not spread through the airborne route nor through water or food.
Is Ebola spread through droplets?
Yes. To get Ebola, you have to directly get body fluids (like pee, poop, spit, sweat, vomit, semen, breast milk) from
someone who has Ebola in your mouth, nose, eyes or through a break in your skin or through sexual contact.
Healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola>
patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or
body fluids of sick patients.
Air, food, and water do not carry the Ebola germs.
CS252291-A 10.27.2014 07:54AM
Droplets can contaminate objects
>like doorknobs.
Ebola is spread through droplets.
>Germs like chickpox and TB are
spread through the air.





CS252291-A 10.27.2014 07:54AM
Droplets can contaminate objects
like doorknobs.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Most appear to support Justin Trudeau not Ezra Levant

Ezra Levant made a very nasty personal attack on Justin Trudeau. My local paper, The London Free Press, carried a Sun Media piece on the attack in which it admitted Levant may have hit below the belt. May have?

To the paper's credit, it published my Letter to the Editor under the headline "Levant the one who's out of line." The paper also published a letter with an opposing view, as if this added balance to the discussion.

I contend that with a story like this real balance is only achieved by running one comment supporting Levant and an almost limitless number of comments taking Levant to task. For instance, the following is a condensed listing of the comments in the Huffington Post.

Pro Levant:
  • It would be appropriate to ignore that particular reporter, and if any actual rules were broken that avenue should be pursued, but to punish hundreds of reporters who had no control over what was said does not bode well for someone with aspirations for the PMship.

Critical of Levant:

  • It's one of the few things that Trudeau's done that I respect; you don't go after someone's family. You don't call their parents "sluts" and expect them not to react. Frankly, I'm surprised Trudeau didn't hunt down Ezra Levant and beat the living hell out of him. God knows that's what I'd have done if some journalistic hack did that to me.
  • Levant needs to be censured or fired.
  • Trudeau is deserving of an apology . . . 
  • Sun Media is getting to be an embarrassment.
  • I applaud Trudeau for taking this action.
  • I would not give them the time of day either . . . call(ed) parents "sluts" . . .
  • It's about time . . . the media has gone so far off the rails . . .
  • The groom's father and the bride were totally offended by this little weasel..
  • I would be interested to see a poll on what Canadian's think about Justin's personal ban of Quebecor. My guess would be that the majority of Canadians side with Justin on this one. One reason -- because what Levant did was so distasteful and gross it is completely acceptable to expect an apology from the parent company for allowing it to be released to the public. Second reason - very few people really listen to what the Sun has to say about anything nor do they use it as a primary news source so we aren't missing anything with or without them. The media has a right to care about this issue however - there are lots of Sun "journalists" being punished for one mans actions. They want access to Justin and they want to be able to ask the hard hitting questions on the right side of the debate and I think that is great - however, they should think about how important that right is before they allow their "journalists" to abuse it. 
  • I absolutely agree with Trudeau. By boycotting Sun News, all he risks is not being exposed to the twenty or thirty people who watch Levant on a regular basis. I understand he - Levant - has a big family Neither Levant nor Sun News is a credible information source. They're junk. Refusing to talk with Levant or Sun News is akin to turning down an interview with the National Enquirer,
  • "Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's decision to boycott Sun Media over an "offensive" rant by one of its TV personalities is short-sighted, experts say, and may have Canadians questioning his open government stance." Oh shut up already. Anyone who can't empathize with Trudeau stance on this clearly hasn't had a national news organization call their dead or elderly parents "sluts". Honestly, if I were JT, Levant would get a slap in the face!

And my two personal favourites:

  • I think it would be nice if Trudeau's boycott stirred up a little rebellion among the editors and journalists in the dozens of smaller dailies that Sun owns.
  • If Fox News North doesn't fire Levant over this then everyone should boycott them.

The Globe and Mail carried an article looking at Levant's comments. The headline says it all: Justin Trudeau was right to block Sun for Ezra Levant’s attack.

The comments following the Globe article were as one sided in support of Trudeau as the comments following the Huffington Post article.

  • 207 Globe readers agreed with the person who commented, "Levant's remarks are a disgrace to journalism."
  • 143 readers agreed, "No fan of Trudeau... but insulting his mother and father is the stuff of teenagers and lunatics."
  • Another wrote, "Ezra Levant is a raging lunatic who is not a journalist . . . ." 

Lunatic seems to be a popular word when folk are describing the Sun Media personality.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A great game to play with your baby

Isla showed this piece to everyone she could find.

It's not art but it is fun. I have now played this game with two toddlers. Both were about 14 or 15 months old when introduced to this scribble-based fun. Anything involving scribbling is appealing to babies.

Isla, cap in hand, does her part and draws another scribble.
Put a newspaper or large magazine on the floor to protect it from the markers. Don't open the paper out to its full size. Folded is fine. If it is too large, it becomes something to slide on and to cause baby to fall.

Place a white sheet of computer paper on the newspaper and get out some coloured markers and brightly coloured crayons. Crayola washable markers are great. They wash out of clothing and wipe off wood floors without leaving a  mark or even a hint of a stain.

The game: Encourage your baby to take a coloured, washable marker and scribble on the computer paper. This will take very little encouragement. When baby is done, you fill one closed loop in the scribble using a brightly coloured crayon. Colour quickly. You do not want baby to lose interest but this may not be a problem. Isla can stick at this game for up to half an hour.

One of Isla's simpler scribble art pieces.
Now, encourage baby to scribble on the paper again. You and baby are going to take turns: baby scribbles and then you colour. Repeat until you have created what you or baby feels is a work of art or until baby loses interest.

This morning Isla, the baby in my life, came into my room, took a newspaper from a pile and grabbed a couple of sheets of white computer paper from below my printer. She dropped the newspaper to the floor, set the white paper on top and headed off for the bag of crayons and markers I keep on an antique wash stand. The stand is low and the stuff on top easily reached even by a baby.

With everything laid out, Isla headed off to get me. She took me by the hand and led me to where we were going to make art together. She pointed at the paper, stretched out on the floor and set to work.

Isla and Fiona, her sister, 5, worked on this together.
She scribbled, I coloured and we both laughed. It really was great fun. At a certain point, Isla felt the picture was done. She stood up, work of art in hand and ran off at the fastest gait a little toddler can muster. She found her grandmother and proudly showed grandma Judy what she and Gugga had created together.

As I said at the beginning, I've played this game with two babies: sisters Fiona and Isla. Both loved it. It doesn't overtax the toddler's motor skills but it does challenge them -- for instance, Isla loves to take the tops off the markers and then listen for the clicks when she slides the tops back on.

And babies enjoy the opportunity to make choices which this game offers. For instance, Isla likes to vary the colour of the Crayola felt tip marker she uses for the scribbles. She will rummage through the bag of markers and crayons in search of the perfect colour for her scribble. She can be very particular. Her sister, Fiona, when she was a toddler, liked to pick out the crayons I used to colour the loops and she could be very demanding.

Isla ran about the house showing this art to everyone.
Sometimes she likes to fill the page, activating all the space an artist might say, while at other times she prefers a more minimalist approach. Between choosing markers, scribbling and putting the tops back on the markers, this is a game for the baby flirting with independence.

I also believe children enjoy the sharing aspect of this activity. They are sharing an activity with an adult but in an unique manner. Here they are an equal partner. They know this and clearly appreciate it.

A piece by Fiona, Isla's sister. Fiona picked the crayon colours I used.

Since writing this I've been made aware of a number of Internet sites dedicated to children's art. Here are a couple of links:
Scribble Blog: Inspiring Creativity in Parents, Teachers and Kids! (Scribble Town! is interactive.)
Relative Marmalade: A design blog featuring the art of children
Scribble Art: check out the picture gallery

For me life is composed of two elements: art and craft. Art represents the creative side and craft is the skill used to translate creative ideas into concrete objects. Kids have lots of creativity but minimal skill. They are big on art but severely challenged when it comes to craft.

What happens when one combines art (creativity) with craft (skill) in adult amounts? Think Wassily Kandinsky and Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Obesity Paradox

Fat's bad and thinner is better, right? Maybe not. For instance, overweight men with certain diseases of the heart live longer than men of normal weight with the same diseases. For many of us, the idea that fat can be good and thin may be bad is counter-intuitive. Hence the term: obesity paradox.

I have never looked terribly overweight. I'm six feet and at my heaviest I weighed about 215 pounds straight from the shower. These numbers gave me a BMI of 29.2. A BMI from 25 to 30 is said to be overweight, while anything above 30 is, let's be blunt, fat. A BMI greater than 35 is obese. Hit 40 or more and one is morbidly obese. Link: Calculate Your Body Mass Index (BMI)

Recently, at the urging of my doctors, I've been trying to lose weight. I had my weight down to about 185 pounds before a bowel obstruction forced me to undergo emergency surgery. After being discharged from the hospital, I discovered I had lost ten full pounds. Luckily, I didn't lose any bowel, the surgeon simply removed a tight band of connective tissue. Today, I'm in amazingly good heath. My BMI is 23.7.

I feel good. I'm happy with my new weight and my tummy is almost flat. My friends are not so keen on my new look. "You're too thin," they tell me. "You've got to put some fat on those bones. It's important to have some fat in reserve if and when another health issue surfaces," they say. I used to shake my head "no" when I heard this advice. I have since discovered there is some support for their ideas. In certain cases being somewhat overweight decreases mortality.

In my personal experience, the strongest advocates for keeping some fat on the bones are themselves high on the BMI scale. No paradox here. These people like their weight and want to keep their rotund figures.

But fat people are not the promoters of the obesity paradox. Medical researchers, some of whom were truly puzzled by their findings, are behind this story. T. Jared Bunch, MD, wrote:

I observed the obesity paradox in a published study I conducted while studying at the Mayo Clinic. We looked at 226 people who experienced a heart arrest in the community and were resuscitated. What we found was that people that were slightly overweight (BMI from 25-30) had the highest 5-year survival at 78 percent. People who were underweight had a significantly lower survival at 67 percent, similar to people considered morbidly obese.

In other words, extremes are not good. Being too thin may be bad for you and being way too fat is definitely bad. According to this theory, at six feet I don't want my weight to drop below 140 pounds or climb above 257 pounds. Calculate your BMI and if your number is 40 or more, the obesity paradox is of no concern to you. You are morbidly obese. Lose some weight.

If you are curious as to what weight puts a man of six feet in the BMI sweet-spot, the answer is a weight in pounds from 184 to 221. So, should I put some of the fat back on my bones as recommended by my friends? I think not.

I believe what we are seeing is a failure of the BMI numbers to accurately define healthy weights. Some experts go so far as to claim that the obesity paradox doesn't exist. It is an illusion, a misunderstanding resulting from an overly simplistic way of calculating healthy body weight.

Doctors Vojtech Hainer and Irena Aldhoon-Hainerov wrote in their essay Obesity Paradox Does Exist:

The obesity paradox may be partly explained by the lack of the discriminatory power of BMI to differentiate between lean body mass and fat mass. Higher mortality in the low BMI categories may be due to . . . low muscle mass . . . Many obese patients demonstrate not only increased fat mass but also increased muscle mass. Elderly patients with heart failure who exhibited high BMIs and had improved survival rates also had a better nutrition than many of those patients with lower BMIs.
BMI and triceps skinfold thickness did not predict mortality, while a larger mid-arm muscle area, as a protective factor, did. A composite measure of mid-arm muscle mass and waist circumference was proposed as the most effective predictor of mortality in older men. Men aged 60 to 79 years with low waist circumference and above-median muscle mass demonstrated the lowest mortality rate.

Google "obesity paradox" and you'll find yourself in the middle of controversy. Here's a link to get you started: There's No 'Obesity Paradox' for Stroke, Study Finds. 

If you are still into books. I still am. Visit your local library and borrow The Obesity Paradox by Dr. Carl Lavie. Lavie writes that fat is like real estate: it's location, location, location. Not all fat cells are the same. Abdominal fat is bad, while bottom, hips, upper arms, and thighs is not so bad. For really bad fat, think visceral fat -- the fat surrounding abdominal organs. That stuff can increase fatty acids, the production of inflammatory compounds and create hormones resulting in higher rates of bad cholesterol, blood fat (triglyerides), blood sugar (glucose) and higher blood pressure.

Thin folk with belly fat are often at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease that those considered fat based on their BMI number alone. The truth is, that unlike abdominal fat, saddlebags and thunder thighs may actually be good for you. If you are thinking of liposuction to shrink those difficult to lighten body areas, don't!

Dr. Lavie would like to move the focus from fat to health -- to fitness. As he reports, and I think we all can agree, a person can be exceedingly healthy at many different BMI values. Before putting too much emphasis on a little fat by the BMI standard, improving fitness may deliver far more health benefits for the effort.

Clearly, it's not just total weight that matters; it's where one carries that weight. It's better to be a pear than an apple. Carrying excess weight around the abdomen is bad. Carrying the excess around the hips while keeping the waist narrow is far better. And always try to be fit with good muscle mass. An extremely thin person, with poor muscle mass and no reason to claim they are fit, has more health issues than a mildly overweight person whose fat hides a fit, muscular body.

It may be that as long as you are a small, fit pear, you may well call out triumphantly, "BMI be damned."

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vinyl: The record of who we were (or weren't)

Larry Cornies is a former editor with The London Free Press who now writes a weekly opinion piece for the paper. The weekend column, it runs every Saturday, is a window into media groupthink. A column that ran a few weeks ago, Vinyl the record of who we were, ties a number of common media myths into one tidy package.

Cornies tells us "The children of the ’60s are easing their way toward retirement now, like an old hippie easing himself into a warm bath. . . . for many of us, the dusty, slightly warped and invariably scratched LPs and 45s, still wrapped in their fading and musty jackets . . . are the most revealing parts of the archives of our early lives."

Larry's core premise in this piece is dead on: The record collections of those of us who grew up in the '60s do contain clues as to who we once were. In reading Larry's piece one thing is clear: I don't remember the world like Larry Cornies does. My world is not and never has been the world of Larry Cornies.

My friends and I never had a "stack of vinyl" as Cornies apparently did. Records were kept in their jackets and stored on their edges. They stood upright on a shelf in an area of the room that did not get direct sunlight and was removed from hot air vents. Heat could warp vinyl LPs.

We played our records on either a Dual or Garrard turntable. No one used a record player as most were too wearing on the record's grooves. Record player tone arms were heavy and the automatic ones, which dropped 45s and LPs into the play position, were not trusted. I recall having an Empire cartridge on a low mass tonearm with the pressure set to less than two grams. Minimal wear was the goal.

It's funny but I am not surprised that Larry Cornies found the presets on the AM car radio so important. Most teens I knew found a way to upgrade their car radio, even if it was in the family car, to an AM/FM model. Not that AM wasn't important. It was but it was under attack from FM stations like WABX out of Detroit. AM DJs in the style of Juicy Brucey Bradley and Dick Summers of Boston's WBZ were going out of favour. (The skip enjoyed at night by powerful AM band stations gave DJs like Bradley and Summers tens of thousands of fans over an immense listening area.)

As for Cornies claim that the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band broke the mould when it came to cover art -- maybe. I'd argue the Velvet Undergound album cover designed by Andy Warhol and featuring a peel-able banana deserves the mould breaker honours. Peel the banana and discover a flesh-coloured fruit. Shocking! The difficult to produce album cover was a big reason for the album's late release.

Cornies may have dumped his record collection but I haven't. My albums are not warped and scratched. I still like to listen occasionally to Cat Mother and the All Night News Boys, Savoy Brown, Spirit, Kennsington Market . . . When Don Van Vliet died in 2010, I played my old Safe As Milk album by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band. Ah, the memories.

I hate to burst Cornies' balloon but I doubt the oh-so-conservative, oh-so-religious journalist knows anything about hippies. True hippies, not the hangers-on so loved by the media, were dedicated. Some of the hippie types I knew are still fighting for the big issues. Maude, of Harold and Maude fame, would understand.
Two of my music heroes from my youth have died since I started this blog. One, Jack Bruce, the bassist-composer-singer of Cream died at 71 in his home in Sussex. Read about Bruce here.

Bruce was, for me, a cross-over artist. Cream was a top-40 hit-maker as well as a popular underground band. Badge may have been 60 notches down from number one on the AM station charts, but Badge was a monster hit on the alternative FM network.

Steve Miller was another great cross-over artist. Think Song of Our Ancestors. AM radio often chopped off the foghorn beginning, if they played it at all. The whole piece, taken as a whole, is a great entry point to the psychedelic music of the time. I have been told dropping acid to Song of Our Ancestors makes for a very good trip.

The other artist from my youth that I have blogged about is Don Van Vliet, known to many as Captain Beefheart. He died at 69, succumbing to complications from multiple sclerosis.

16 hours in the ER; 16 hours well spent

Long wait times in hospital emergency departments are a persistent global problem with a history going back many years. The American College of Emergency Physicians in a paper on ER overcrowding reported:

"The news media have given great attention to the crowding “crisis” in emergency departments as if this were a recent development. However, as far back as 1987, after sustained and unsolvable problems with crowding, the first statewide conference on crowding was held in New York City. . ."

Recently, The London Free Press ran a story reporting that ER wait times at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) University Hospital (UH) have been as long as 19 hours. The newspaper went on to bemoan the fact that patients with serious conditions were "spending hours in the ER." Although this is all true, this is the whole story.

Less than two weeks ago I spent 16 hours in emergency at UH. Those 16 hours may well have been the most import block of time in my entire life. Those 16 hours led directly to my undergoing emergency surgery for a life-threatening bowel obstruction.

The day before I awoke with a severe pain in my gut. By mid-afternoon I was at the St. Joseph Urgent Care Centre. The service was fast but that is all I can say for it. The centre closed at six o'clock. When nothing could be found to explain my pain before the centre closed, an unnamed virus was blamed; I was given a shot of morphine for pain and sent home. I asked to stay overnight for observation but was St. Joe's does not have any rooms for that purpose.

An interesting aside: This lack of rooms is a main reason St. Joe's fared so well in the CBC Rate Your Hospital report. Patients appearing on St. Joe's doorstep appearing exceedingly ill, possibly dying, are shipped off to University Hospital. UH takes the patients, the responsibility and the risks and St. Joe's accepts the accolades for its lower than usual mortality rates.

Now, back to my story. As soon as the morphine wore off, the pain returned. I suffered all night. My difficulty with keeping stuff down, a problem dismissed by the doctor at St. Joe's, was now a constant. As I take meds for my heart and other meds to prevent stroke, I feared I was losing these all-important pills when I got violently ill. By late afternoon I called the doctor at UH who monitors my meds. I was instructed to get to the UH emergency department immediately. This was serious.

I arrived by ambulance at the ER shortly before five in the afternoon. I was parked in a hallway but I was not parked and forgotten. An EKG was done and I believe blood was taken for testing. I'm not sure how long I was in the hallway. I really didn't care. The pain had been so severe that I was just grateful to be in the hospital where I was receiving something for the pain.

At some point in the early evening an ER cubicle became free and I was moved to a small bed in ER. I met with an ER doctor who immediately ordered x-rays. He was concerned I might have a bowel obstruction. I did.

It seems a tight band had formed around part of my small intestine. Why it formed was not clear but what was clear was that it had to be removed and soon. The tight band was shutting off blood flow and if not removed soon would irreparably damage the trapped intestine and surgical removal of the damaged section of intestine would be necessary.

But the doctors in ER faced another complication. I take Pradaxa. This is an anti-coagulant or a blood-thinner in common parlance. Unlike coumadin, there is no easy way to reverse the effect Pradaxa has on blood's ability to clot. Major surgery can result in life-threatening bleeding in patients taking Pradaxa. Discontinuing Pradaxa a day or two before surgery is the usual answer but my doctors did not have that luxury.

A CT scan was ordered. A couple of hours before the procedure I was given a litre of a contrast-enhancing fluid to drink. The surgeons needed to know exactly what it was that they were up against. A CT scan was the answer. An MRI might have been another option but not in my case. I have an ICD/pacemaker in my chest. For me, MRIs are no longer possible.

When cold, the contrast fluid was not all that difficult to drink. The nurse divided my dose into two 500ml portions. I slowly consumed the first 500ml during the first hour. The nurse put the second dose on ice -- very thoughtful of her.

Normally, I was told, I would have been given close to two litres of the contrast-enhancing fluid but as I was slated for surgery first thing in the morning the volume of the dose was kept to a minimum. One never has anything by mouth before surgery and here I was drinking a full litre of liquid. As soon as the CT scan was complete, a young doctor threaded a tube through my nose and down my throat and into my stomach. He was going to pump what remained of the contrast-enhancing fluid out of my stomach.

At 9 a.m. I was in the operating room. Thanks to the CT scan, the surgical team had determined the exact location of the offending intestinal band. The lead surgeon, an expert in laparoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive surgical approach that does not require splitting the abdomen open, would lead the team down a surgical path that would skirt the Pradaxa bleeding risk. Brilliant.

About three and a half hours later I was wheeled into the recovery room. When I was asked if I needed another shot of painkiller, I said, "No. The pain is gone."

I had spent 16 hours in emergency. A reporter searching ER records would learn a patient at LHSC University Hospital spent 16 hours in the ER but would not learn that those 16 hours were possibly the most important block of hours in the patient's entire life.

I send my heartfelt thanks to the young doctors, the team-leading surgeon and to the nurses in the ER, the recovery room and on the eighth floor where I eventually found a room. What a fine team! They saved my life.

Thank you!

Understanding ER Wait Times Information

What does “ER Wait Times” mean?

ER Wait Times means the total time that someone who visits an ER looking for immediate, unscheduled care spends in the ER. The measurement of wait time :
  • Starts when a patient registers or is triaged (“triage” is the process for deciding which ER patients need or are likely to benefit from immediate treatment).
  • Ends when the patient is discharged from the ER or is admitted to a hospital bed.
During the time that a patient is in the ER, doctors and nurses may be treating the patient's condition or ordering tests and waiting for test results so they can decide on  the best course of treatment.