Archive for December, 2010

Curse Before Blessing

December 30th, 2010

“It is a bad restaurant!,” proclaimed the gold eye-lidded lady. “There are mice in the back! They are mean people!”

Perhaps the five of us are too conventional. Her veritable mask of gold face paint with glitter, centered on and obscuring her eyes seemed to match her crazed pronouncements. She appeared to be as the Monty Python crew so often said “a loony.”

Just to me, she brought back flashes of the East Village back when I had a monkey, Sam, the cinnamon ringtail. One day on my East Third Street, as Sam rode on my shoulder as she was wont (she loved being the highest critter around), a Gypsy by her appearance walked directly in front of us. As Sam made threatened noises and rose on her back legs and placed her spindly hands on the crown of my head, the woman ran her right hand up my jaw, looked me deep in the eyes and said I was very powerful. She creeped out both my monkey and me. She had the same wild stare as the woman on Mass Ave last evening.

The restaurant in recent question was Rendezvous in Central Square. The many reviews in papers as well as online, alas, did not warn us of rodents nor nasties. We in our group rather suspected the sidewalk Cassandra had one or more run-ins with the staff there.

I had chosen the spot, where none of us had eaten, by its reviews and location. We were coming from the nearby MIT Museum and meeting two others for a birthday dinner for my wife. A long-term friend was visiting from the South, so we wanted a decent place in memory of the many good meals we had shared in Manhattan years before we moved North and she down there.

RICSeatingFor foodies, the seven agreed it was fine. As an indicator, here’s #2 son, my uxorial unit, and our friend the artist Savannah lost in their Thai scallop soup and duck dishes.

I started with their charcuterie plate, with small portions of pates and sausages made in house. The sundry flavors were at once subtle and rich — gentle but highly varied tastes and textures. I strongly recommend it.

#3 son went with the burger. It was remarkable for its appearance alone, starting with the bun. It gave the appearance of some grand forest mushroom cap. RICSbun He can be a hard sell and pronounced it neither mean nor murine, rather excellent.

We all enjoyed our choices.

For foodies again, it’s not the place of $5 plates more typical of Central Square. Rather entrees are in the $25 to $30 range. The bar and wine list are more South End than melting pot as well. There are a few bottles on the list under $30, but most cost $20 to $40 higher than that. You’d have to choose carefully and knowledgeably not to double your tab on a so-so wine here.

The warnings from the woman, colorful of face and language, aside, a good meal and good time was had by each of us.

I live in a hollow tree

December 28th, 2010

Many, far too many, parents can riff on the heading — some of 100 or so words in I Am a Bunny. I had not thought of that Golden Book in a decade or so until rabbit prints in the snow brought back the sing-song text.

The author, Ole Risom, died at 80 in 2000 and the illustrator, Richard Scarry, in 1994 at 75. My wife and I knew their work well, individually and in the small-animal collaborations. In particular, I Am a Bunny, was a seemingly endless request from our three sons. We surely read it well over a thousand times…each.

Our eldest was the first read-to-me freak. Before he spoke sentences, he could “K?” us. That is when he lugged a picture book or early reader to one of us, he’d hold it toward us and say that with fairly bursting hope. It was a request neither of us could refuse our wee book lover. His anticipation was delightful. Invariably, we could say, “OK,” hence his question.

nicholasScarry’s books were always vaguely annoying visually though. Lord know, our son loved the books regardless of the lack of perspective and proportion of the illustrations. Garishly colored, heavily clothed animals were fine and right to a pre-reader.

The bunny in question, Nicholas, appears left in a partial capture of the cover. I claim fair use to give a visual hint.

Scarry was highly successful as an illustrator, as was Risom, with his many variations on small mammals with sparse, age-appropriate language. Moreover, this particular book is still in print and regularly reprinted. It first appeared in 1963. It was too late for my childhood, but someone gave it to us for our first. It was such a huge hit for our guys from about 1 to 3 that we knew that no matter how sick we were of “I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree.” we would much rather read it again than try to explain it’s disappearance.

By the bye, all 116 words of this insidious book appear here.

With time and distance from the relentless readings of this, we can smile and chuckle about Nicholas and his hyper-abbreviated trip through the four season. In fact, when I see bunny tracks in the snow of our yard, I flash on him curled up in his tree dreaming of spring.

Tags: harrumphharrumpherGolden BooksbunnyScarryRisom, reading

Alas, poor Credo, I knew them

December 23rd, 2010

cellshiftOh, pinko angst. I cancelled my Credo phone accounts today. Political and economic wisdom has it that we have competition in telecommunications — choice, price and other consumer options. We have liked Credo’s politics though for many years. I grieve.

In case you are not as pink as I, know that Credo puts a lefty twist to cellphones. It is part of Working Assets, and some of its profits go to liberal causes, which you can specify. We have done that for many years, and with the Sprint network that Credo uses, before…a total of, I think 15 May Days and 15 Christmases.

Surely I make too big a deal of this. I have tried and tried. We suffered. We went to their support folk and more. Like the spring runoff with a narrowing river and maybe a whirlpool equivalents finally tipped me today.

My box of causes and catalysts contains:

  • No reception in our house.
  • Credo’s rates have crept up from about 16% cheaper to penny-for-penny matches of the biggies.
  • One son lost his.
  • One son washed his.
  • We did not insure against loss or clumsiness.
  • Visitors with other networks can make and receive calls in our house.

Since August 2009, in our new house, we can’t get or receive calls on our Credo cellphones. Yet visitors on other networks can. So, basically we have not been getting what we paid for on the family plan, maybe 33% of value since the move. We can use the phone when we are outside. It has reduced us to acting like working smokers in taking our cells out in the cold and wet and dark to use them or waiting like a college student of old for the dorm wall phone to be free.

I tried Credo once more and waded through their asinine voice support system (about five minutes to get to a human when even pressing 0 does nothing). After getting cut off during a hold the first time, I got an impatient sort the second. I complained and he said it was obvious that I should cancel the lines. He put me through in a few more minutes of hold to someone he said would do that. Instead, she tried to troubleshoot by switching a roaming setting from Home Only to Automatic, to have the phone use any network’s towers. It barely boosted the bars (from zero to 1 inside) and would not allow calls.

On the money side, Credo also matches the other networks in oppressive contracts, where really the sensible choice has become a two-year contract. If you have a single phone, the no-contract deals are fine, but with a family, they aren’t. So, I’m faced with buying out two contracts at about $150 each. Otherwise, replacing two pretty new phones would run at least that much, and more like $175 or $200 each with Credo.

Verizon was typical of the competing offers. I looked online and figured I’d trot to the closest (BJs in Dedham). That way, if I wanted, I could come home with phones the same day.

Sure enough, while Verizon doesn’t have a current deal here to buy out a competitor’s contract (amusingly enough, Credo does), I got:

  • Three free phones.
  • No activation fee.
  • On-the-spot cancellation of Credo.
  • Retention of the existing numbers.

I got ‘em. They work. To the point, they work inside the house.

When the boys came home, we huddled. Each decided the $5 a month for the total insurance coverage was a good bet. I think I hid my surprise, as I’ve had the same feature phone for five years and it is still perking. I don’t lose them, nor wash them, nor drop them, nor, well, act like a normal human. I confess I’m finicky or cautious or both.

After my research, online, by phone, in circulars and ads, I’m OK with the result. Yet, again, I do like Credo’s politics. I did enjoy the monthly whiff of self-righteousness and do-gooder behavior. I went over a year huddled outside to use my phone and finally passed the point of diminishing…diminished…returns.

I wish Sprint’s network was better around here. I wish Working Assets or someone like them would do the same thing on Verizon.

I’ll have to atone by increasing my personal social action instead of my small contributions through Credo.

Tags: harrumphharrumpherCredocellphonesVerizonsocial action

‘Possum Rampant in Harvard Square

December 22nd, 2010

ersFor many years, I’ve loved hearing the reggae dude coming on WERS‘ promo saying, “When I’m in Boston, I listen to WERS — Rockers!” I do too and adore the show, the best reggae in New England (Saturday and Sunday 2-5 p.m.)

Then as the cliché runs, you must accept the bad with the good.

Lately, it’s been chuckles over the student DJs’ rendering of the likes of Club Passim. We alter kakers have known it for half a century, from when it was first the Club 47. It’s been in Cambridge all that time, moving a bit, but the folk-music venue for generations.

The word passim goes back many centuries and derives from Latin, passus. It means here and there, throughout, as citing an author’s work in footnotes. That seems apt enough for the motley sets in a typical folk-music evening.

In these parts, the original pass’-im pronunciation has long been pa-seem’. Neither suits many of the ERS mic massagers. It’s pertinent when they regularly read their concert calendar.

The DJs change by the semester. Emerson has a huge presence in communications, including a couple of BA programs in radio as well as its own station. That means a wide variety of skill sets, accents, vocabularies and regional dialects. A few things are sure though. For some reason, the DJs who host fun, kid-oriented songs on The Playground (Saturday and Sunday, 5-8 p.m.) are young women students with squeaky voices. Cute brings cute?

notpassim

Occasionally, student DJs have strong Midwestern and Plains accents that are stunning in this area. Listen to the news and think you are Wisconsin.

Back to Club Passim, the recent managers have produced Club Pass’-um repeatedly. That’s not a Tom Brady fan group. This afternoon, I got an even bigger jolt with Club ‘Possum. I visualized Pogo with a guitar.

As snooty as New Englanders and Boston-area sorts in particular are about pronouncing their local stuff, I’m surprised the station managers and local students haven’t ragged on these DJs. I have to assume I listen to ERS more than they do.

Here I am, turning into eeka over at 1 Smoot Short of a Bridge. She has regular mini-rants about WBUR’s Delores Handy’s mouth tics, like this recent one. For me, while I can’t take the little girl voices on The Playground, I find the small manglings on ERS tolerable.

AARP and the Shark

December 19th, 2010

aarpshark

In transition from the gray-hair’s snarling hound to the watchdog of the Peter Pan boomers, AARP has to get a grip. The latest evidence is a new article it features — telling 50 or 60-something boomer women how to seduce younger men or by it’s headline How to be a Cougar, Women Dating Younger Men.

You can pick your own interpretation. Was this a little titillating holiday gift like one “girl” giving another a pair of sexy panties? Was it the AARP staff trying to break out of the eat-your-fiber mold? Was it just a boomer’s idea of just good fun? Was it a not-too-subtle proclamation that this generation isn’t giving up on raw sex as retirement looms?

Regardless, it’s silly.

The author is Pamela Redmond Satran. She bills herself as a novelist and journalist. Typical of her novels is The Home for Wayward Supermodels and her journalism includes her “most famous piece,” What Every Woman Should Have and Know By the Time She’s 30 for Glamour (as in “A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill and a black lace bra”) and the passable little travel recap of famous writers’ houses in the NYT.

For AARP, the seven cougar guidelines are pretty much how to behave like what boomers used to call a slut, or behave like the stereotype of a man. It’s sexy underwear and talking dirty enough to interest someone young enough to be your son.

Of course what’s amusing here is not the strained low-brow pop article. First, most AARP pieces are not there to exercise anyone’s intellect. Moreover, supermarket checkout maggies are full of these fun throwaways. No, it’s that AARP figures this is just right for their readers.

This is certainly a departure from New England B&Bs and this same mailing’s piece on how good posture can have health benefits. Next I suppose we can expect a bookend to this telling geezer guys how to seduce women their daughter’s age, and maybe something on where to find and how to get the most of recreational drugs.

Tags: harrumphharrumpherAARPcougarsjump the shark

Of Hammers and Teeth

December 17th, 2010

toothCarpentry, auto mechanics and dentistry are startlingly similar. That was literally pounded into my head again yesterday.

Hammers, chisels, screwdrivers and such tools are in carpenters’ truck-bed boxes and plumbers’ panel trucks. Dentists hide them in cabinets. Yet for all the computerization and other modernization, dentistry is still a mechanic’s profession.

This was all too plain yesterday as my dentist was pounding an implant into my jawbone. He used a little hammer and a wedge to drive the plug with the screw hole into its permanent spot. Jolting pressure and even flaring light flashes were on and off in my head. Maybe eight solid strikes shook my skull before he checked alignment and went at it again. Five pounding sessions and the little pile driver had sunk the implant plug into my bone.

Over at Wikipedia, references put this type of implant work back nearly a millennium and a half to the Mayans. At its essence, it really hasn’t changed all that much.

Likewise, tooth extraction is still done as it has been for centuries — with a pair of pliers.

The trappings can seem modern though, as do computers to help auto shops. My dentist uses very low radiation x-rays that feed directly into his computer network. He can project those immediately to an LCD screen in front of us. I had to laugh though recently when some bozo in his office accidentally erased a bunch, including mine. It was a lot harder to lose or destroy the old-style x-ray films. One of his assistants shot a new batch at the office’s expense.

The old-fashioned and mechanical nature of most dental procedures are bad and good. On the former side, the smells, sounds and pain are stereotypical and fodder for comedians. (I do know one dentist who confessed that he always liked the scent of a tooth being drilled.) I tend not to take Novacain or other numbing agents, preferring the short duration of pain to longer slurring, dribbling and maybe even cheek biting. I’ve never come to terms with the noises and smells.

On the plus side, you can likely trust people who work with their hands. Trust the judgment and skill of a surgeon before those of a GP or internist. The surgeon is a mechanic, who can see and touch the problem. The disadvantaged primary care physician has to listen, educe and filter often invisible, impalpable symptoms, before making a best guess and most likely treatment. Good luck with that and hope that the patient’s body does its usual healing tricks.

Dentists are in that class that includes orthopedic surgeons and plumbers. They see the problems and most time can repair or replace as needed. They use some pretty crude tools and often serious brute force in the process. Hey, they’re fixers.

Tags: harrumphharrumpherdentiststoolsmechanicsimplants

Twits Who Tweet

December 13th, 2010

…no, not the twits who brag or play hipster at 140 characters…twits who spam.

I’ve been getting sex spams on Twitter. Several other regular users told me they do as well. They also treat it the same as I do, that is, ignore them.

Twittertwit

Here’s a typical one, but rated PG. Some are more explicit.

The tweet to me reads that it’s from some woman, usually a first name. Clicking on the name to see who the devil it is brings up a profile along the lines of this one.

I assume the link to a video blog would do one or more of the following to a clicker:

  • Pitch porn for purchase
  • Upload a Trojan program
  • Advertise some service like phone sex

Alas for the purveyor of videos and the like, I don’t do emailed or tweeted links. I don’t even follow “this is hilarious” video links from relatives and friends. I’d much rather miss out on the joke then risk goofing up my computers.

Twitter’s on the case though. I went through older tweets to get one for an example for this post. Those more than a few days into the ether die an ignominious death by censorship. suspendThe spammers lose that profile, which they must churn about by the dozens, along with disposable email addresses to match. Leastwise more of these alleged hyper-friendly young women keep appearing.

I admit I was not surprised to start getting spam on Twitter too. My cellphone gets calls for auto-repair insurance and such. My blogs get multiple daily attempts to insert veiled ads in comments; that virtually always fails as a result of my filters and keen utilities like Akismet.

The patterns puzzle me though. Different servers get different spammer hits. Russian spammers seem determined to hit Left Ahead! for one. Here, it’s almost all domestic spam, and so forth.

As social as social media users should be, I’d like to think that tweeters would never risk clicking on a link to an unknown video, even next to a thumbnail of an attractive, barely clothed woman.

For me, all spammers on the net as well as my phones should curl up and die. I don’t want to hear that they are just capitalists trying to make a dollar…or Euro…or ruble.

FAST LANE = SLOW TECH

December 9th, 2010

flatlineSing, Goddesss. Sing the wonders of the computer age…at least the 20th Century version.

Confounded by surprising warnings and inconsistencies of the MA Pike system, I peeked under the lid of their internet/accounting system. It was scary.

Starting the morning of 12/7, I did as I do monthly, verify the online only report of our FAST LANE account. That is tied into our two transponders. I check because I had read of common errors, including misreads through muddy windshields and billing at truck rates for cars.

Issue 1: Uxorial unit and middle son had driven to far Western New York State nearly a week before the billing notice. While the MA tolls appeared, no NY ones did.

Issue 2: Yesterday, three of us drove a little West to find an evergreen to kill for our Christmas revels (unsuccessfully as it turns out; the so-called farms were not perking during the week). At five FAST-LANE booths in or out, we got yellow lights with LOW BAL. messages. Yet, we are on automatic replenishment to a credit card, a card which is working for all other purposes.

Issue 3: At the sixth booth, leaving the Pike at 128, none of the three lights flashed. Rolling through the booth, we did not hear the buzzer which goes off if someone skips paying or does not have a functioning transponder.

For the last, we pulled over and went to the little office at the plaza. There a pleasant fellow, whose early dinner I had interrupted judging from his jaw action, explained nothing but tried. He said the data gathering and billing were totally separate from the toll takers and other plaza functions. He surmised that if we didn’t hear any warning sounds that either we recorded accurately or the equipment was failing to record or react. He figured the lack of lights was a simple malfunction of the plaza equipment. He said to go home and call in the morning.

It turns out that after that call this morning, I conclude that I had inadvertently been exposed to the slacker culture of the FAST LANE system. Do they ever not get databases, computers and networked communication.

The short of it is that I had no problems…so long as I was willing to wait for the Pike people to catch up, and I did not travel so far as to overrun their ability to realize they had taken money from my credit card.

The cold, but seemingly knowledgeable support woman had heard these questions before. The deal is:

  • Yield the password and account number to get help. You must give the operator your allegedly secure info to get any help. Then, I suppose, you trust the Pike not to goof on your account. I’ll be changing mine.
  • Three days and sometimes longer are necessary for any out-of-state systems to bill FAST LANE and maybe longer for this to appear in the online reports.
  • 24 hours and sometimes longer will pass before instate transactions appear online.
  • 24 hours and sometimes longer are necessary for account replenishment to appear online or to get to the computers linked to the plaza controls.
  • Yellow lights are what the Pike people refer to as a courtesy. That is, they have billed your account so that it is below $10, there’s nothing you can do about it, and you never know if you’ll get the red light and buzzer before one computer in their system tells the others that they have sucked money from your credit card.

This is 1990s technology at its most mediocre. There is absolutely no reason they can’t conduct instate transactions in real time, either recording transponder charges or knowing when they have billed your credit card. You should be able to log into your FAST LANE account seconds after passing a booth and see the charge.

I find it a little hard to believe they can’t clear other states’ compatible systems in under 24 hours — 72 is likewise very primitive in internet terms. Whichever state(s) systems are clogging the works need upgrading immediately.

If MA has any fear that your credit card won’t pay them, they can check that immediately online and automatically, as every online vendor as well as any restaurant or store in the world can. Get with the program!

My eyes roll repeatedly thinking that they demand your login to access your account. That is a failure of both concept and execution. Why feign security if your system requires support minions to break it with every call?

Perhaps equipment, as the set of lights at the Southernmost booth at 90 onto 128 did, can fail. Yet, even my car has automatic electronic notification when lights fail. Plus, humans at the plaza see and pass by the array regularly. They should be permitted to notice equipment failures.

I’m pretty sure this junior-high level IT implementation could get quick fixes. I’m positive that any decent network administrator could diagnose the issues and specify their solutions.

Looking at this morning’s online statement, I see that the account replenished five days before the warning light began to appear. I won’t call to ask what happens when a driver gets caught in the limbo of LOW BAL. when there is none in reality. I’d bet that they would happily sent a trooper down the road behind you for allegedly running the toll, leaving you to sort it out later, maybe with the help of a lawyer.

The FAQ at the site is not reassuring, to wit:

If you chose the manual replenishment method for paying your FAST LANE tolls, you are being notified that you have a low balance and that you should replenish your account before it falls to an insufficient amount. Otherwise you will be issued a violation, which will result in a $50.00 fine per occurrence. If you chose an automatic replenishment method (e.g., credit card, bank account) to pay your tolls, your account should be automatically replenished that evening. If you continue to get the “LOW BAL” light call the FAST LANE Service Center at 1-877-627-7745.

In other words, they take no responsibility for their failure to join the 21st Century in processing transactions they control in a timely manner. Recording transactions? Communicating charges and replenishment? Sharing data on its own network? Well, if you have to, when the Pike gets around to it. Yawn.

FAST LANE = sloooooooow, low tech.

Tags: harrumphharrumpherMassPikeFAST LANEdatabaseinefficiency

The Scoop on Scoops

December 7th, 2010

Every sizable city has kitchen supply stores. If you’re serious about cooking, shop a couple.

Good news to those who have been intimidated or never considered going to them is that you don’t have to buy an 8-burner range or 600 pieces of flatware. While they are for restaurants and professional chefs, they invariably welcome just plain cooks.

When I moved back to Boston several decades ago, one part of town had many such stores within sight of each other. The North Washington and Canal Streets area near what was then the Boston Garden was where cookies went for tools and toys.

Most of these stores have moved to cheaper digs with more square footage and, very rare in our jammed downtown, parking lots. I visited the principal remaining one, Eastern Bakers Supply yesterday.

brokencupIn the latest of what I melodramatically call a personal kitchen tragedy, my frequently used one-third of a cup measure snapped in my hands. It was a tough OXO version of thick plastic, but no match for even loosened brown sugar. While we had owned that one for years, I did not want to replace it with the same thing — that would really mean getting sissy in my food preparation.

An alternative was to buy standard, straight sided cups. I have always found those difficult to clean and tricky to pour from into a mixer, traits of the OXO one as well.

There are also old fashioned styles of scoops. To my taste, they don’t have a flat top level for precision, important in some baking.

On my last visit to Eastern Bakers, I had noticed a different version. Those look like a giant’s teaspoons with a hanging hole in the handle. Always looking for a manufactured reason to shop cooking gear, I headed north.

Regardless of what a car or camera dealer will say to close the sale, few items are really lifetime purchases. These are.

giantspoon

I got a set of Vollrath measuring scoops. They are very heavy and made of 18/8 stainless steel, which I suspect I’d have to leave in a fired up coal furnace to destroy. I am sure my wrist would give before their handles if I dug into brown sugar.

This might be overkilil for a plain old cook. Yet, the elegance and practicality are daily joys to see and use. Those are inexpensive thrills cooks should allow themselves.

I paid an average of $6 for the set,is  up to one cup. That’s cheap for a permanent tool. Each is narrow enough to insert in the openings of my storage jars, has a level surface, is easy to pour or dribble from into a pot, mixer or blender, and very easy to clean. How many times have I mentioned that they are attractive?

I write to inspire cooks to hit the kitchen-supply stores without fear. However, at times I have lived way out there and not had access. If that’s your case, you do have options.

I thought it would be an easy find. Starting with the usual lineup, I tried, Williams-Sonoma, Chefs Catalog and Amazon, among many others. Very few had these or comparable giant’s spoons. Those that did either wanted you to purchase a dozen of each size or charged up to $20 per scoop. Boo.

Unfortunately, Eastern Bakers is, like most professional cooking suppliers, not set up for online shopping. They are cash/check/card and carry outlets.

However, with much clicking, I located a store that not only has these (and a tempting variety of other gear) but sells them at the low price. If you are in the sticks or you still hesitate to enter a chef’s store, try Wasserstrom. It has stores in about half a dozen Midwestern and Southern cities as well.

In person or over the net, go for the cooking cheap thrills. I’m sure we’ll each cook better with the right scoop at hand…or think we do.

Tags: harrumphharrumpherkitchen supplyEastern Bakersmeasuring cupVollrathWasserstrom

Shingle Shield Hoisted

December 3rd, 2010

fowlChicken pox? Shingles? WTF?

Fairly under orders from my uxorial unit, I pressed the shingles vaccine to its fulfillment today. In real speak, I got the long-overdue shot.

I’ve only known one person who had shingles. Surely there have been others, but only one fessed up. It was many years ago in Greek class, six semesters with only six students and Prof. Ott. We were relatively intimate or at least casual by our three-times-a-week meetings on the quaint and townhouse scaled horseshoe on the old campus of the University of South Carolina. Our studies lent themselves to object lessons and our professor had many applicable tales to impress the lessons of classics into our memories.

Among other texts of mythology and history, we translated the Iliad and Odyssey. Many of these led Prof. Ott to discourses on life in general and her experiences in particular. As well as her recounting visits to Athens and other classic-related sites, she mentioned shingles several times. She had it and was plain that the itching and burning and other recurrent, prolonged symptoms were dreadful. In the end, shingles attacks as so many of her experiences led her to focus her attention on matters Greek and philosophic. Nonetheless, she hoped that none of us ever got the incurable curse.

While still incurable, shingles are now preventable…so doctors would have us believe. My wife is also a believer, having read of the wonders of the vaccine.

It is pertinent in our times, as the viral disease can appear in anyone who has had chicken pox and even those who have never had the disease but been inoculated against it. That’s most of us. Moreover, between one and four percent of healthy folk get it, a rate that basically triples as we age, peaking about retirement age. As a result, docs now recommend that anyone over 60 get the vaccine, apparently so we don’t suffer to the end.

That seemed simple enough, until the swine-flu syndrome kicked in. My wife’s regular doc gave her the shot last year and suggested she tell other boomers to do the same. Well eventually, I asked my internist and fell into the whirlpool of medical fads.

As with swine flu, yes, the medical literature was virtually unanimous. This was a necessary shot. In turn that meant that every FP, GP and internal medical sort fell into line. It naturally followed as with swine flu that there were a lot more willing patients than drug.

I have been on a waiting list for half a year. The docs and nurses would check. Yup, I was on the list. Nope, they had no idea when they’d get vaccine.

Well, today I was by for a routine check and asked afterward. This was not the first the crew at Harvard Vanguard had heard of this. They weren’t too jaded to kick in though. They confirmed on the database that I was in queue. Then after 10 minutes of calling around, one nurse found that they happened to have received 80 doses that very afternoon. I chilled for half an hour before a vial could be set aside and another half for it to travel from ground floor up one level and end up in my arm.

Of course, I had to sign the usual vaccine waiver that any side-effects were just too damned bad. Plus, I got the dreadful Center for Disease Control flyer on how awful shingles are and what God-awful reactions might occur from the vaccine.

My reward was from the injecting nurse. She explained that it was one of the few vaccines that they gave subcutaneously — into body fat in the arm.

I dutifully pushed up my right shirt sleeve and she went to work. She seemed to be spending a long time pinching and pushing with her fingers. Finally she said, “You have some muscle mass. I’ve having a hard time finding any fat to use.”

Well, I have fat elsewhere, but that was a pleasant artifact from a medical visit.

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