Thursday, July 31, 2003

The Leg Wound

Here's something you never want to do.

I was stepping off the train at Bay Shore, same as I've done every day for seven years, and I somehow caught my foot between the train and the platform. I spun around, and slammed my leg on the concrete. My laptop bag went flying, contents everywhere. I gathered everything up and looked down at my leg to see the scrape I'd gotten.

But it wasn't a scrape. It was gushing blood down my leg. And I'm not using "gushing" in a dramatic sense, either. I've never seen so much blood coming out of my body so fast. It was already starting to soak my sandal. I hobbled down the small set of stairs, rifling through my bag for a napkin or something that I could use to wipe up the cut a bit. All the people who usually stand there on the train silently next to me were asking if I was okay. I found a napkin, and started wiping my leg down a bit.

That's when I discovered that I didn't have a cut. An area about the size of a dime was chunked right out of my shin. For the first time in my life, it hit me that I'm actually made out of meat. At the same time, I realized that I was probably going to have to do something about this beyond a bandage. A guy offered to take my bag from me, but I politely waved him off and stumbled across the way to my car. Pressing tightly on my leg, in considerable, throbbing pain, I drove home. It didn't help to think that from now on, all the silent commuters I know by sight would think of me as Bleeding Idiot. I might have to take another train from now on.

I limped in, changed from my nice shirt into a crappy T, washed off the leg a bit, tossed on a pair of sandals that weren't making squishy noises from the blood on them, and drove off to Good Sam hospital. I walked in, holding a bloody paper towel to my leg. They'd stationed a semi-cop inside the door of the ER, sort of a Wal-Mart style greeter with a badge and a gun. As I hobbled in, his first words to me were "You not feeling well?" Well no, that and the fact that I can see daylight through my leg, thanks for asking! Fortunately, there weren't too many people in triage, so I was the second person they saw.

I was able to walk without additional pain, and the bleeding had abated somewhat, although I was still getting regular throbbing pain accompanied by more blood. The attendant who signed me in said that his dad did the same thing once when he gouged out his leg on a metal highway divider in the dark, then waved me over to the waiting room to sit down. The Good Sam ER waiting room is bright and cheerful, with several overhead TVs competing for your attention, a variety of delicious snack and soda machines, and a frail, young woman in a wheelchair with her head in a bucket, retching constantly. She seemed to be permanently stationed right near the door so that you had to walk past her to get in or out.

They called my name after about five minutes, and I went over to register. I had to answer most of the same questions a second time, but that gave me a chance to flip my bloody rag to the non-saturated side. I didn't feel like waiting with Lady Retchson again, so I asked if I could stand outside and use my cell phone. They said it was no problem, and that they'd call me in for the FastTrack in a few minutes. Lo and behold, a nurse actually came out to look for me in about 10 minutes, saying that they'd been calling me for a long time.

I dragged my leg back inside, and they asked me the same questions a third time. No allergies, no tetanus shot in the past ten years, yes, it happened on the train, yes, I'm an idiot, no, it hit on the concrete. The nurse swabbed out the wound, had me flex my leg a couple of times to see which way produced the coolest blood spurts, then shot my leg up to numb it. Mmmmmm. That stuff worked great. She started stitching it up, and I warned her that she'd better not make the scar spell out her initials. I was so numb that I didn't feel the stitches at all, but I got three on the inside just to tighten up the leg meat, and another six on the outside to close up the hole. Then she asked about the tetanus shot again. I told her that it probably wasn't necessary, because the platform's soaked with urine, which is sterile, but she insisted that I get one. A quick jab later, I was ready to go.

So now I have to stay off my feet for two days so that I don't pull out the stitches. I have to go back on Saturday for some sort of Wound Reunion club. And I have to pop antibiotics 28 times. The numbing stuff wore off, and every time I stand up my leg is in throbbing pain. I can't sleep. I can't get my leg wet. The only salvation is the bottle of Canadian over-the-counter Tylenol with codeine hidden away for situations like this.

But I took a cool picture of my leg. Notice how I've unnecessarily peeled off the bloody gauze and placed it just above the wound to make it look worse.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Losing 212

As if our office move isn't going to be heckish enough, we've been hit with the worst news yet. The news that every New Yorker dreads, the news that causes a horrible, hollow feeling in the pit of our stomachs. We're losing 212.

Everyone knows what 212 is. When it's in your number, it means that you're part of the most important city in the United States. It rolls off the tongue. It's the easiest number to dial on a rotary phone, which is especially handy if you're living in 1962, unencumbered by modern conveniences like push-buttons. But mostly, it's the 212 cachet that means you're "Old New York."

And what are they replacing it with in our offices? 646. What the hell is that? That could be Topeka. Or worse, Oregon. No one knows what 646 is. Our identity is threatened. And for what? Verizon has a strike looming. In order to avoid the inevitable outages that we're going to have no matter what, we're going with some other telco - Hanky Express or something. And they don't get any fancy 212 numbers, just the 646 dregs. It's just an outrage any way you slice it.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

The chlorine, it burns

After several weeks of waiting, the pool is ready again - just in time to go out to Montauk for a week. Last month, the water level started dropping precipitously in our pool. Past the skimmers, past the lights, down towards the bottom. At the same time, the filter stopped working, so in effect we had a stagnant breeding ground for West Nile-loving mosquitoes. Finally, we figured out that the only place the water could be escaping was in the drain pipe. So Gibbons came and drained the rest of the pool, patched it up, and put the hose in it. It takes only about three days to coax 24,000 gallons out of a garden hose, in case you're ever wondering.

On Saturday morning, though, the filter still didn't work. Gibbons came back to prime it this time, and we were off to the races. I thought it would be a good idea to chlorinate the water a bit, seeing as how our municipal water supply is actually 10% less chlorinated than bleach. Just my luck, the pool guys had left a container of "super-chlorinator tabs" at child-level in the cabana. I opened up the can, and the immediate chlorine gas rush from these tablets actually burned the back of my nose and throat a bit. So I stagger out of there, choking and wheezing, throat tightening up, and spend much of the rest of the day seeking proper ventilation. Let that be a lesson to you, kids. Don't inhale concentrated chlorine gas.

To top off a great day, I even got my server working again, which is how you can see this now.

For some reason the mood struck me and I did 250 situps in five groups of 50 today. It's the little things that keep me going.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Rocky Mountain High

I struggled my way into my normal seat on the 7:12 this morning. Most people were asleep or reading quietly. The guy in front of me was watching something on a portable DVD player. Normally when someone’s doing this, it’s a movie like The Matrix or Lord of the Rings or even A Clockwork Orange. Out of misplaced curiosity, I leaned forward to see what he was watching.

I mean, really. Who knew that there was a John Denver concert DVD? I’m guessing it must be some bootleg from Japan or some country where he’s popular. In any case, I just closed my eyes and took a nap. Unfortunately, that didn’t work too well either, for right about the time the train went through Hicksville, I heard a mumble in front of me. Yes, the guy was singing along to his John Denver DVD. Here I am, trying to get a nap for the long day ahead, and all I can hear is a faint rendition of “you fiiiiiill up my seeeeeenses.....” And unlike my normal trip in, where I can snag a two seater, Elbows McPoke was in the inside seat. All I can say is thank god I’m a country boy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Stealing my name on Amazon

I finally got acknowledgement from Amazon about a bizarre identity theft that someone seems to have pulled on me. A couple of months ago, I checked to see whether my 1989 book, HoopStats: The Basketball Abstract, was still out of print. Sadly, it was. But when I clicked my name, I got quite a surprise. It seems that I’ve actually written two books! The second one, “Betting to Win on Sports: Wayne Root on Risk,” had absolutely nothing to do with me, but I was listed as an author. The hell was this??

[picture temporarily removed]

This could’ve happened in more than one way. The simplest solution is that the books were printed by the same publisher within a month of each other, have similar ISBNs (0553347691 vs. 0553347896), and my name somehow got mixed up on the list. The second reason, which I prefer to believe because it’s more nefarious, is that I was the victim of reverse identity theft.

Here’s how I imagine it works. The author of the book, Wayne Root, runs a sports gambling site. My book was about sports statistics (no gambling involved). At some point, Mr. Root decided to improve the flow of visitors to his book, and maybe to his gambling site, by rigging the search on Amazon. The thousands of daily visitors looking for HoopStats would see a second book, click on it, and eventually search for his Web site and end up on it. Even if it weren’t thousands of people, two or three would be enough to pay for the free listing. He also listed his name with two spellings, just to make sure that people could find it.

So I complained to Amazon a couple of months ago. They did nothing. I checked back the other day, and my name was still up there promoting a sports gambling book. I realized that the only mail Amazon reads is the reviews that people post, because they’re making sure no one mentions a competitive Web site or problems with Amazon. So I posted a review:

SUMMARY:Why am I listed as coauthor?
REVIEW:I ran across this on Amazon, and for some reason I'm listed as a coauthor.
I most certainly did not have anything to do with this book. (If I did, I want my royalties!) The nearest I can figure, the author wanted to drive people to his seminar series by catching the few people who looked at my sports stats book and followed my author listing. My name has been domain hijacked!

I've contacted Amazon about taking my name off this, but of course they haven't done anything about it. Thanks, guys.

That worked. Within a couple of days, I received a response from Amazon.

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Tuesday, July 08, 2003 2:59 PM
To: Joshua Trupin
Subject: Your Inquiry

Thanks for writing to us at Your message was referred to the Book Catalog for attention.

We have entered in the changes and are pleased to report that the author correction will appear online within the next 3-4 business days.

Thanks again for taking the time to send us this information. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance -- we appreciate hearing from you!

Best regards,
Sara Jarolimek
Book Catalog Department, Inc.

The moral of the story? If you want to communicate with Amazon, leave it as a comment on a book.

Sunday, July 6, 2003

Cool new GIS code

It’s the last day before I go back to face the tail end of deadline days at the magazine. I’ve done what I can to catch us up – 5 articles reviewed and edited over the weekend, and a few thousand ednote ideas come and gone. Who am I kidding? I’m never going to think of anything.

I did a session at ASP.NET Connections last October, where I demoed a GPS program that I’d ported to the .NET Compact Framework. Since it was presented as GPRS, not GPS, we managed to get about 12 people in the room. It was a great talk, too. I actually rehearsed it in advance, and worked on my delivery a bit. I’m up to a C+ in delivery style now.

After the conference, I put the source code up on my DirecTVInternet account so that people could download it. Of course, DirecTV then pulled the plug on their ISP, and I fled to Speakeasy. Nice folks over there, but I haven’t figured out how to use my shell account properly. So the download is still unavailable to the near-dozen people clamoring for it.

So what I might do is crank out an Editor’s Note on the code sample, which would mean that I could then pop it onto the magazine server at Microsoft and let people at it there. We do have occasional requests for it (no, really), so that’ll get it off my hands for good.

For this year’s Connections show, I’m writing another program that does mapping from the Tiger/LINE database – now available for free from the Census Department. More on this code later, it’s really cool.

Saturday, July 5, 2003

Where's the plumber?

That’s fine, everyone go to the beach. I’ll just sit here waiting for the plumber for hours.

The best part about this is that I go out to rake up the yard, no plumber. I take the phone upstairs and sit on the deck, no plumber. I go back downstairs, and somehow the plumber has left a message. “Hi, I’m at the restaurant next to your house but I can’t find your house.” Gee, if only there were some way to go next door to OUR HOUSE, that would be so freaking cool! So I called the guy back on his cell, and it flipped over to voice mail. I waited for another half hour, and headed to the beach.

Meanwhile, our toilet still blubs every time someone takes a shower, and we have no sink upstairs.

Friday, July 4, 2003


It seems that the Montauk fireworks are going to be on the ocean side every year, which suits us fine – we get a good view from off our deck. I took the kids down to the beach to watch them, but some aholes from the Briney Breezes next door started shooting squibs over our heads and into the dunes. Then some other aholes started setting off Roman candles, enveloping us with smoke. Then a third set of aholes came tearing through on ATVs – hey, let your seven-year-old drive his own at night! Finally, the fourth gaggle of aholes went past us on the beach, jointing it up.

We headed back to the deck, Cordelia in tears and Julian grumpy. I stood guard above our lawn, making sure no one parked within ten feet of it or there’d be big trouble. The fireworks finally went off at about 9:20, and were pretty good for a third-rate show. There was a bunch of lingering fog and haze, which made the flashes look kind of cool – the sky would light up green for a second.

Thursday, July 3, 2003

Run-up to independence

To humans, it’s just a couple of kids shooting off fireworks on the beach. For beagles, it’s the Rapture. Hide under the bed and shake uncontrollably! Maybe urinate on a towel for good measure!

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

NOT a Cobb salad

Okay, here’s the deal, Pret. A mixed green salad with walnuts, blue cheese, dried cranberries, diced chicken, and balsamic vinaigrette is a really tasty salad. I have no problem with it at all. However – and let me make this abundantly clear – it is not a fucking Cobb Salad. Would you stop calling it one? We won’t like you any less, and we know that you’ve got lots of bacon back there. You put it on all the other stuff you make.

The subways were basically shut down all day today because of a few anthrax/terror suspicions. It turns out that the unattended bag full of soggy white powder wasn’t anthrax or some chemical weapon. So it was obviously perfectly at home on the rush-hour 9 train! I’m out of the city until Monday. Maybe they’ll restore service by then.

It’s pretty sad that Buddy Hackett died two days ago, and the Flyers still signed him to play goal. Even sadder that I insist upon making that joke when it’s so lame.

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Bay Shore: The Tunnel

Since I got to the train station late today, I had to park in the no-man’s land on the north side of the tracks. When you get off the train in the afternoon, you have to either wait for the train to finish unloading and go through the level crossing or take your chances in The Tunnel.

The Tunnel is feature unique to the Bay Shore station. Think of a pedestrian tunnel, except that its tile floor and concrete walls have been splashed with several gallons of eye-watering black bear urine. It’s not always like that – sometimes the LIRR cleaning crew comes by and pours a few ounces of sour apple-scented disinfectant on top of it. There have been mornings where I’ve seen people emerging from that tunnel in tears, screaming in disbelief, or rubbing their rosary beads.

So the point of this is that I needed to take my chance in The Tunnel. The only way to do this is to work your way to the front of the door that’s going to open up nearest the steps, so that you can be the first person to get out and in. Otherwise, you’re stuck walking behind someone who read about The Tunnel in their Fodor’s, convincing them to take a leisure walk through it as you fight back the retching. Today I was first out. I made a break for the damp, tiled stairs, and got all the way to the second from last one. The Tunnel was flooded. There was about 6” of fetid, brackish water on the floor, with a Corona bottle in a paper bag bobbing silently as a buoy, warning all passers-by away from the imminent danger contained on its shoals.

I turned and ran up the stairs, warning the other passengers, who for the most part didn’t believe me until they saw the lake themselves. The train passed through and the gates went up, so I was able to get to the other side. Everyone followed my lead, except for one rather large gentleman who was wearing boots for some reason, and who managed to sidestep the ocean floor below on his way through. Or maybe he was actually down there doing some clamming – I didn’t bother to ask what this obviously disturbed guy was thinking.