a description of sunset at the winter garden.

Between me and the sun there’s a lamp and a tree.  The lamp is classic. Tall, dark, handsome, and capped, but its light is a stiff green-white glare. Probably energy-efficient LED, so I can’t complain too much. The tree is great; it looks like a naked bush on stilts. Naked because it’s leafless — it’s January — and the ends of the upmost branches all meet at the same point and flare out like an overgrown menorah.

What I really want to tell you about, though, is the sky. It caught me off guard, and probably also the four or five other people around me who just pulled out their cameras and cell phones. I’ve never seen anything like it, but I guess it’s been a couple of months since I’ve looked up.

It’s the color. Not the fluffy neon part. I know you’ve seen a lot of hazy pink and blue sunsets with the cotton balls that ripple out from the horizon. I don’t mean that.

Tonight’s sky, somehow, is shadowing the foreground.

First, the pink clouds break just behind the lamplight behind them this neutral greenish hue. It’s the ugly kind of color that doesn’t belong in this sky. Second, I swear the cloud bank behind the tree exactly follows the slight S-curve of the tree branch just in front of it.

It’s wonderful and all too rare that a view like that can make four people pause in their day. The casual European tourist who pulled out a cell phone. The Asian girl next to me waiting for someone who just can’t stop pulling her camera back out every two minutes.  She must have taken 20 or 30 already. The lady to the front waiting for a meeting, who slipped her cell back in her pocket just as her colleague came. And me, looking up again.

It was the classic instance of urban aloneness, in which four strangers paused in parallel at the very same thing and then exited the scene without any outward acknowledgment that the others had shared in their moment of truth.

You don’t often get such an expansive view in New York City.  To I don’t even know what’s on the opposite shore — a handful of skyscrapers huddled across the southwestern tip of Manhattan, or Newark accepting the late overflow of the greater city.  There’s this Jersey trashy neon clock, red and yellow at the foot of the tallest building.  It’s probably bigger than my house.  After sunset the skyscraper lights turn on and the clock blends in, like a reminder to gamble away your Wall Street losses in Atlantic City (just a coupla hours away, and you might come back a winna!)  A huge diagonal beam cuts through my view, all part of the Winter Garden Spectacular, along with the fifty-foot palm trees behind me. Just past the building is a stone-dead stone plaza, one of those flawless expanses built exclusively to pass through…

Anyway, this is what I thought while I wondered what they were thinking.


What is multiple myeloma

December 9, 2008

Welcome to the Myeloma Beacon, a news resource for multiple myeloma.

I’ve been writing for them for about a month.  Although I read through a few general introductions to the disease, it’s taken me a few weeks to develop a comfortable familiarity with the subject.  Here are some informal notes on MM, summarized from the description at the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.


Introduction. Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer; specifically, it affects the plasma cells that normally produce antibodies for the immune system.  Plasma cells are the counterpart to white blood cells in the immune system, and both originate from stem cells in blood marrow.

Symptoms. The disease results in osteoporosis of the pelvis, spine, ribs and skull, as well as a number of other symptoms, including hyperalcemia, anemia, renal damage, increased susceptibility to bacterial infection, and impaired production of disease-fighting antibodies.


Stem cell in bone marrow >> lymphocytes (T cell & B cell);
B cell >> plasma cell >> antibodies (aka immunoglobulins)

Damaged B cell >> malignant plasma cell (aka myeloma cell) >> travel through bloodstream to accumulate in bone marrow >> more myeloma cells >> messed-up antibodies & bone damage

Mechanism. Myeloma cells send out cytokines, which inhibit natural cell death (apoptosis), and growth factors that create new blood vessels to feed tumors.  They also may fail to activate the immune system, so the tumors don’t have anything to stop them from growing.

Effects. Collections of plasma cells cause lesions in the hard outer part of the bone and masses or tumors in soft part of bone or soft tissues (plasmacytoma).  The affected bone marrow produces nonfunctional immunoglobulin, called M protein, that gets in the way of normal antibodies and may also shorten their lifespan.  Instead of M protein, patients with some forms of myeloma produce incomplete antibodies (Bence Jones myeloma) or none at all (nonsecretory myeloma).

Incidence. The second most prevalent blood cancer after non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma accounts for 1% of all cancers in white US residents and 2% of cancers in black residents.  There are 5 to 7 new cases out of 100,000 per year.  In the US, about 20,000 new cases are expected in 2008; about 56,000 people currently live with the disease.

Risk factors. Male, African American, over 70 years of age, and some occupations (agriculture, petroleum, leather, cosmetology industries).

_Postscript.  I am seriously digging wordpress’s new dashboard.

they overdrugged me

July 16, 2008

Who knew that a simple ear infection could turn into a month-long affair?  Here I detail my regrets for taking a short swim in the Gulf of Mexico, or for never getting my ears lavaged at McCosh [F. Wu].

First, it was the deafness.  Two weeks of,

“What? I can’t hear you,” and
“What? We can’t hear you!”

Yes, contrary to depictions of horn-bearing old men, my brand of deafness (plugged) actually made me speak too softly.  If I could hear myself, surely they could hear me!  Not so.

Secondly, the ringing.  I cannot express in words how thrilled I was to rock to a lullaby of the tinnitus of my own pulse every night.

Once it became clear that my little ear trouble would not fix itself, we sought out Dr. F, who promptly diagnosed it swimmer’s ear and sent me home with a bottle of neomycin.  Two drops in each ear, four times a day, until it’s over. At my annual checkup three days later, I now asked Dr. B whether she saw any improvement.  Right ear, all clear!  Keep going with the left. Ok.

The following week found me still deaf, ringing, and across a second ocean.  Aunt M took me to Dr. O who referred me to Dr. HNO who was on vacation (puh).  Mrs. K cut through some red tape and got Mr. K to take me to Dr. HNO2 who finally deigned to clean’er out and dose’er with an assortment of eardrops, nosedrops, anti-inflammatory pills, and The Antibiotic.

And in Week 3, I could hear again!

Now, the present trouble: I have not eaten an entire meal since Sunday morning. From Sunday evening until Wednesday afternoon I’ve had: 2.5 yogurts, 1.5 apples, 2 sips of congee, and 2 inches of baguette.  Plus fluids.  The beautiful navel orange I tried to have for lunch didn’t stay down so well.  All I do instead is sleep.

Some say, “it must be the stress of jet lag.” Pumpkin knuckles!! Taiwan never did me in like this!  Others say, “Oh you haven’t been sleeping enough.”  Sleep schmeep, my education dragged wakitude tolerance up to uncharted levels.  I did watch the sunrise on my walk home last Saturday, but it was relaxing, even, to stroll home after a long night out.

“Food poisoning,” says dad. “Or a virus.  Don’t eat off the streets, and don’t kiss anyone, even on the cheek!”

Dads will be dads.  Which leaves, it seems, The Antibiotic.  What had Dr. HNO2 subscribed for me?  Well, ok, I am a child of Now, I trust google and medicinenet.com as much as I do Dr. Mom.  So, much to my dismay, I find that Clavamox is most popularly prescribed for cats and dogs!!

Not. Poss.

The Culprit?

The Culprit?

Well, I dig a little further, into the microscopically inscribed mess included in every drug package, and find that it contains 875mg amoxicillin and 125mg clavulanic acid.  It’s a common mix that may cause my human nasties.  But for how long?  And when, oh when, can I eat again?!!

1. I hope I sound prissy, because I feel prissy.
2. I ate tonight! so instead of collapsed in bed by 6 or 8 I am here writing at 10.  Victory!!