Archive for December, 2009

Taking Heart

Since I haven’t been to Pennsylvania to see my father since I started working at Info Tech in September and since plane tickets were cheap and snow wasn’t in the forecast, we flew up to Williamsport yesterday.  Dad looks good, all things considered (growing old in not a task for the weak or cowardly).  We had a good visit and two more days here.

But that’s not the point of this post.

We flew out of Gainesville despite all the problems we had there when we came back from Greece.  Please don’t take this as any sort of endorsement of Gainesville Regional Airport because it really is a po-dunk one-horse place.  But maybe because it is a po-dunk one-horse place, the flight crews that come into it are, shall we say, more relaxed at times.  Every time I fly, I remember the flight announcements from an Eastern flight a million years ago, just as Eastern was failing.  The crew knew they were all losing their jobs soon and decided to go out with a smile:  “Okay, if you’ve been living in a cave for the last 20 years, I’m going to show you how to use your seat belt.”

Delta’s Connection isn’t going under quite as soon (probably) so the crew was a bit more circumspect.  Still, the flight attendant included prayer as one of the things to do as you were putting on your oxygen mask and even included it as she acted out how to don the mask.  But more interestingly was the announcement from the pilot that we would be given priority into Hartsfield because we were carrying a heart.

Okay, so there were 53 other hearts on board, but those were in bodies, not in coolers.  And, since I wasn’t sure quite what I’d see in Williamsport, I welcomed the opportunity to think about what having a heart on board meant (beside landing with no circling and getting a gate with no waiting).

Two families were dealing with significant emotions…one at the loss, probably sudden, of a loved and the other at the chance for new life (and you just  know the phrase “Christmas miracle” was bandied around that hospital waiting room more than once yesterday).  Hey, it helped to know there were people who were bigger emotional basket cases than I was.

But then I started to wonder, is it really the case that the loss was sudden?  Who are these heart donors anyway?

The Internet is an amazing place and http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/latestData/rptData.asp has all the answers, some of them a bit surprising.

There were 6,011 heart donors last year.  The largest number of them died of stroke (2,471), but a lot (2,340) died of blunt injury (only 942 of these were motor vehicle accidents though).  There were 539 gun shot wound caused deaths.

What I find peculiar is there were 736 who died of cardiovascular causes.  So, the heart didn’t work in one person, let’s try it in someone else?  And there were 243 deaths caused by drug intoxication.  I guess the  drugs caused fatal damage to something other than the heart.

One thing that did come out is that almost all donors died of something sudden.  And getting into Atlanta so quickly was no fluke.  The shelf life of a heart is only about 5 hours.  You have to figure it was still in the guy’s chest when we left for the airport at 4:30 AM, since we didn’t get to Atlanta until a little after 7:00 AM.  What with rush hour traffic, surgical prep, etc. they didn’t have much time.  (That may explain why gate checked baggage took a while to come off the plane.)

And so ends today’s distracting thought.

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Christmas Music, Greek-style

Okay, so the elevators at our hotel in Athens have been playing Christmas music since we arrived Saturday.  This has been peculiar for a number of reasons.

  1. How do they know when to start playing Christmas music?  They don’t have Thanksgiving, so why was it already playing November 28?  Advent hadn’t started, nor had December.
  2. Why is it all in English?  Are there no Greek Christmas songs?
  3. Why is so much of it religious?  This is a fairly international hotel (at least half the entrees are vegetarian, for example and far fewer than half the guests are American), so you’d figure they’d be less likely to play religious music.  But no, lots of it is straight from the hymnal.
  4. And why is so much of it, well, peculiar?  It’s gotten so Charlie’s afraid to get in the elevator.  Of course, I love it.  A new personal favorite is “Never Do a Tango with an Eskimo.”

Yes, “Never do a Tango with an Eskimo.”  A fine piece of music, if you ask me.  (An abomination if you ask anyone else.)  If you haven’t heard it recently, or ever, take a listen at http://www.turnbacktogod.com/never-do-a-tango-with-an-eskimo-song/ .

Besides the joy of the song with a title like that, be sure to notice:

  • Don’t you wish Rankin/Bass (of the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer tv special) had found this instead?  I’ve been meaning to try out animation software though.  Maybe I’ve found my muse.  Appropriate, given my location…
  • The end sure sounds more like a cha cha than a tango to me.  But I like this song, so that tells you about my musical knowledge/taste.
  • The site is for born-again Christians.  Umm, and what do Eskimos have to do with that?  Or maybe it’s the tango?
  • But check the lyrics…there’s nothing about Christmas at all in them.  This should get the creative among you writing new verses.  How about:
When Jesus does a tango, he'd prefer to have a mango
In the fruit bowl that he eats from at the break.
But mangoes in the snow just don't have a chance to grow,
So Eskimos have none for goodness sake.

I guess this means I shouldn’t complain about Christmas music when I get home.  But I still will.

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Lights, Cameras, Athens

One of the unexpected benefits of sabbatical is being able to travel at times other than summer and Christmas vacation. So we really took advantage of this by taking a cruise from Rome to Athens, via Turkey, Cyrus, and Egypt.

We’re in Athens now and have seen all the obligatory sites and taken the obligatory photos. But even though it’s been done before, standing in the shadow of the Parthenon is still pretty durn amazing.The Parthenon

Of course, we also get to see the unusual sites, traveling on our own.  At our local Metro station, there’s an archeological display, since apparently you can’t dig anywhere around here without hitting ruins.

Athens Metro Station

Still, it wouldn’t be travel without some fun and games.  The lights in our room in the Athens Hilton have been a source of amusement for me and annoyance for Charlie.  The closet has a light that comes on automatically when you open the closet and, well, stays on.  I can sleep through just about anything when I’m tired enough (and hiking up the Acropolis makes you tired enough), but Charlie was bound and determined to figure out how to turn out the light.

Athens Hilton

We finally discovered if you take the bulb out of the socket, the light goes off.  Then the next night, we got to learn how the night light in the bathroom was controlled.  (By the switch by the bed of course, you silly Americans!)

One of the strange things about traveling in November is going away when people stay and work. In the academic world, when one professor gets a vacation, they all do, so there’s no going back to an office three weeks ahead of you. Things will be interesting Thursday.

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