Busy Day for Elderly Pathologist

For a mostly retired pathologist I had a busy day.

First thing was a post-mortem examination on a 40 year old male who didn’t wake up yesterday morning. Now that I think about it, with the amount of skin slippage that he had, it was probably at least 3 or 4 days ago that he didn’t wake up. He had a heart large enough to do him in.

Then I hurried to St Pius for a funeral mass for the wife of a retired surgeon. Apparently she just up and died one evening a few days ago. Another reminder that we need to treasure all our gatherings as they may be cut short at any time, so always say what needs to be said, just in case one or the other of us doesn’t wake up.

A quick lunch at home, then off to First Presbyterian where we celebrated the life of Bob W., president of the Billings Mustangs for quite a few years, and a good guy. He was known to have some kind of heart disease and fairly severe Parkinson’s disease, but as bad luck would have it, he slipped and fell while shoveling snow on 1 January, broke his hip, and then took about a month to die.

Then back to the morgue to examine a month old male whose mother was in jail and was being looked after by his step-father: not a very auspicious start in life, and not surprisingly, he didn’t get very far either. He was filled with pus in all his airways and even in his urine. The “old man’s friend” can affect the very young too.

Standing out in my mind at the end of the day was the reading from Proverbs about the good wife at the morning funeral and the eulogy from an articulate 11 year old grandson at the afternoon funeral.

What has been offered for learning today? 1) Choose your ancestors wisely; and 2) Get somebody else to shovel your driveway.

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Wall Street Journal Strikes Again

This paper, the Wall Street Journal, must be rapidly overtaking the far left blather of the New York Times as America’s newspaper of record. This morning I read a medium-size news story on Kenyan goings-on. Compared to the truncated (I assume) Associated Press version seen in our local newspaper, the Billings Gazette, it was almost scholarly. Comparing the two versions was particularly instructive when I noted what the AP left out, but now that I think about it, isn’t that what our friends on the left continually give us, a highly selective compilation of the tons of flotsam and jetsam rolling down the information superhighway?

My eyes jumped to paragraphs with place names like Naivasha and Nakuru, (see the entry back in September 2005) places where we spent long weekends in the fall of 2005 while working in the laboratory at Kijabe Hospital. We were mainly interested in the small and large animals in the nearby parks and lakes, but we drove through the towns in order to get to the animals. I wouldn’t have the courage to do that these days. I remember seeing signs for Eldoret just up the road apparently, and that is where the present killing rampage started.

More pictures of the new ballpark: Sorry I’m Starting to Repeat Myself

I just can’t resist driving around the city block the new ballpark is being built upon, especially around the outfield.

See what is being called the outfield wall just below. It looks like it is being built with the same bricks being used for the grandstand and the players clubhouses. If I were an outfielder I would probably be a little leery approaching this wall with any speed at all.


The picture above right shows that the show goes on even when it is cold and snowy.

Checking out the pictures from the excellent website of the Parks, Recreation and Public Lands, aka the PRPL, is also very helpful. That is where all these pictures come from.

These are miscellaneous pictures from late December to late January. The one at the top right is from 24 January and shows the work going on despite the snowy and cold weather. Below left is of the outfield wall. The last one is behind and to the right of home plate looking toward the Mustangs dugout on the 3rd base line. It may give you an idea of how the playing field is going to be sunken as the main entrance is to the left of the picture and street level is at the top of the stands.

Tuesday of the 2nd Week in Ordinary Time

Spent much of the day gathering information and writing emails and talking on the phone to older and younger relatives about this summer get-together, tentatively being called the Mueller Family Melee.

Finished Jacqueline Winspear’s Messenger of Truth, the fourth in a series about some of the close and distant and usually unforeseen consequences of the Great War on the survivors in Britain. It was a good story about good and evil, as were the earlier ones in the series. One really cares about many of the characters, especially her main heroine, Maisie Dobbs. I suppose the critics would call the series a kind of a soap-opera in book form.

Two quotes stood out for me. One in the front matter was a poem that didn’t rhyme by Paul Nash, who served with the Artists’ Rifles and the Royal Hampshire Regiment during the Great War.

I am no longer an artist interested and anxious,
I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men
who are fighting to those who want the war to go on forever.
Feeble, inarticulate, will be my message, but it will have a
bitter truth, and may it burn in their lousy souls.

and then on p. 166, a few lines of prose, some of which rhymed, where the narrator describes a diphtheria fever hospital in the early 30s: “Austere, iron-framed cots were lined up, each with just a sheet and rough blanket to cover the feverish body of a child. The vapor of disinfectant barely masked another lingering smell, the foul breath of death waiting for another victim to weaken.”

I can actually remember an infectious disease ward, having had the privelege of serving in one in Cincinnati in the middle 60s. We knew it was a leftover from an earlier time, and probably not going to be around much longer, but tradition dies slowly in some places, and there was a peculiar smell I can still recall. I didn’t know then much about the “foul breath of death.”

Learning Something Somedays

Have you seen the word “viral” used in situations that, when you think about it, doesn’t seem to make sense? Maybe because of my medical background the word seems to be popping up more often recently than back in the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

Of course I turned to Wikipedia and I haven’t been disappointed yet. As you might guess it is derived from scientific jargon having to do with how some microbes spread within a susceptible population. It is used in politics and advertising or am I being redundant?

As a bonus, when you look up “viral” and read the short and pithy entry you come across the verb “astroturf” which means to generate interest in something artificially as opposed to the real or “grassroots” phenomena. As in almost all of our politics these days. Who would have thought in 1960 about the unintended consequences of putting important parts of that presidential race on TV.

George MacDonald Fraser RIP


After reading of the recent and timely death of George MacDonald Fraser, creator of the famous Harry Flashman memoirs, in today’s Wall Street Journal, I turned to his entry in Wikipedia. I was amazed to see references to his obituaries in the Times and Telegraph of 3 January and even the article in the WSJ of 17 January. The last time I looked that was today! How do they do that?

I first became acquainted with Fraser’s approach to Victorian history in 1971 with his publishing of the third “packet” of Flashman’s papers, Flash for Freedom. All told there were 12 in the series, all of them presenting Flashman as the “most impossibly toadying, lying, cheating and cowardly hero in fiction,” according to the WSJ.

In addition, he also wrote screenplays, the most notable being the 1973 and 1974 versions of the Three and Four Musketeers, directed by Richard Lester; and an autobiography Quartered Safe Out Here. I will have to look around for these.