Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Liver is Warm and Moist

Several of my correspondents complained bitterly that my last blog wasn’t very funny. “We read this drivel because it is generally humorous. We want more humor. Don’t blather on about numerology, or aviation, or anything like that. We want to know about your suffering, how excruciating it is, and whether or not we can join in at some point with sticks or clubs of some kind. Come on! More humor!” Humor it is, then.

Before the 18th century, illnesses and plagues were far more humorous than they are now. The Greeks and the Romans felt that every malaise was caused by an imbalance between four different kinds of humors: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood, closely related to four elements of earth, water, fire, and air respectively. If a person had too much of one humor, his whole personality changed. Too much blood, a person was sanguine. Too much phlegm, one was phlegmatic. If you had too much yellow bile, you were choleric. Too much black bile, and you were melancholic. If you had too much of all of these you looked like a post-apocalyptic tick with a goiter problem.

Every part of human existence was governed by these humors:

Humour: Blood, Yellow bile, Black bile, Phlegm
Season: spring, summer, autumn, winter
Element: air, fire, earth, water
Organ: liver, gall bladder, spleen, brain/lungs
Qualities: warm & moist,warm & dry, cold & dry, cold & moist
Ancient name: sanguine, choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic
Modern: artisan, idealist, guardian, rational
Ancient characteristics: courageous, hopeful, amorous; easily angered, bad tempered; Despondent, sleepless, irritable; calm, unemotional

If you have some blood to squander (if not, you can use some of mine), set a cup full in the shade for a while, about an hour. After a bit you will find that the stuff will separate out into the four humors. At the bottom, there will be a great blop of gunk that is, in this system, called “black bile”. Right above that is a mess of red blood cells that is called “blood” (who knew?). Above that layer will be a layer of white blood cells called “phlegm” by the ancients; a “buffy coat” by those in the know. At the top of the liquid will be a clear yellow serum layer, “yellow bile” for those who have been around for more than three hundred years.

If this blog is nothing else, it is educational, even if it is high-handed and wrong-headed. Since this is a blog that is essentially humorous as well, I think that it would be important to the readers to know how they fit into the scheme of things. What follows is an outline of each of the four personalities.

Sanguine (top left)
The Sanguine temperament personality is fairly extroverted. People of a sanguine temperament tend to enjoy social gatherings and making new friends. They tend to be creative and often day dream. However, some alone time is crucial for those of this temperament. Sanguine can also mean very sensitive, compassionate and thoughtful. Sanguine personalities generally struggle with following tasks all the way through, are chronically late, and tend to be forgetful and sometimes a little sarcastic. Often, when pursuing a new hobby, interest is lost quickly--when it ceases to be engaging or fun.

Choleric (top right)
A person who is choleric is a doer. They have a lot of ambition, energy, and passion, and try to instill it in others. They can dominate people of other temperaments, especially phlegmatic types. Many great charismatic military and political figures were cholerics.

Melancholic (bottom right)
A person who is a thoughtful ponderer has a melancholic disposition. Often very kind and considerate, melancholics can be highly creative – as in poetry and art - and can become occupied with the tragedy and cruelty in the world. A melancholic is also often a perfectionist. They are often self-reliant and independent.

Phlegmatic (bottom left)
Phlegmatics tend to be self-content and kind. They can be very accepting and affectionate. They may be very receptive and shy and often prefer stability to uncertainty and change. They are very consistent, relaxed, rational, curious, and observant, making them good administrators and diplomats. Unlike the Sanguine personality, they may be more dependable.

Now if you want to change your personality, all you would have to do is remove some of the excess humor. For a bilious personality, for example, you would need to remove excess bile. In order to do that, the standard practice was to put inverted hot steel cups on your bare skin. If that doesn’t get rid of bad humor, nothing will. In order to reduce sanguinity, removing blood is a good thing. I went in for a therapeutic phlebotomy this last week and will have another in a month. I am going to get to a 47 ferritin count even if it kills me and everyone around me. Note the following personality changes that are sure to accompany this bloodletting:

The Sanguine temperament personality is fairly extroverted: (Don’t expect to see me anytime soon.)

People of a sanguine temperament tend to enjoy social gatherings and making new friends: (I have become a social pygmy and am determined to continue in that vein.)

They tend to be creative and often day dream: (I am sleeping in longer with less guilt.)

However, some alone time is crucial for those of this temperament: (I’ll be thinking of you, probably in desultory terms, however.)

Sanguine can also mean very sensitive, compassionate and thoughtful: (Don’t count on Mr. Nice Guy any time soon.)

Sanguine personalities generally struggle with following tasks all the way through, are chronically late, and tend to be forgetful and sometimes a little sarcastic: (Well, let’s not get carried away here; Chester didn’t take out that much blood!)

Often, when pursuing a new hobby, interest is lost quickly--when it ceases to be engaging or fun: (There better be some nice comments or I’m outta here!)

So, there you have it. More humor about humor than any of you could have possibly desired. As I said above, I will have another pint taken in March and then I am off to my annual visit with “Doc Holliday” where I will be poked, prodded, and punctured. No doubt I will come away with “hot cup” circles everywhere.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Five Cards Short of a Full Deck

Of late I have become intrigued by the number “47”. In some respects it reflects much of the wide expanse of my life.

When I was a little boy, I had a friend who lived up the hill from me. His father was an oilman who had spent a long time in the Philippine Islands. Some of my best stamps from those islands I originally obtained my friend’s father. I rode on the handlebars of Dick’s bike long before I had my own bicycle and we spent a lot of time in his back yard playing army with his plastic soldiers and plastic airplanes. I had none of these of my own; Dick seemed to have an endless supply. One of our favorite activities was to figure out ways to blow up the soldiers and planes in spectacular ways. Dick had several hard plastic bombers and fighters that were meant to take anything that a nine year old could inflict upon them. We tried putting firecrackers inside of the bombers; there was a lot of noise and smoke, but no destruction. They were tough toys for the most part, but they did not respond well to fire; or should I say that they responded well to fire. Only when we actually used a cigarette lighter on one of the wings of a model P-47 did we have any results. Once the wing was in flames, the plastic began to melt and drip away. Richard and I would take turns flying the plane about the yard, leaving drops of burning debris behind until the whole thing was consumed. That was my introduction to World War II.

There were other planes, the names of which were graced by the number 47. The B-47 was the Air Force’s answer to the Soviet nuclear threat against the United States during the 1950’s. It was the precursor to the B-52. What I remember of the B-47’s was etched across the sky of my Southern California home in the ubiquitous vapor trails that appeared everywhere. This was long before commercial travel was based upon jet engines, so every one of us boys knew that those planes were part of the military establishment defending us from the “commies”, as we affectionately referred to the Russians.

My up-front and personal contact with a “47” plane of any kind was the C-47, a transport plane dating from World War II. It was a useful and dependable plane, but was as ugly as a mud fence. While I was stationed in Duluth, Minnesota, during the early 1960’s I had many occasions to fly from one station to another to support our squadron of F-106 interceptors. Most of those flights were on board a C-47, or a Gooney Bird, as we liked to call them. The pilots of those planes were fighter pilot “wannabes’ and did their best to convince their passengers that they could fly their transports just as wild and wooly as our squadron officers. Thus, the takeoffs and landings were always just bearable. It usually took me the better part of an hour to recover from one of the C-47 landings.

When I left the military in 1964, the Vietnam War was just beginning to heat up. The CH-47, a version of the Chinook helicopter, was the mainstay of the US and Vietnamese artillery units trying to establish heavy fire from elevated positions. I think of the countless hours of video reports that I watched during that war, many of them at the same time my brother-in-law was serving there. The CH-47s were in most of the videos that I saw during that time. At one point there were more than 750 CH-47s in operation in combat zones in Vietnam. More than 200 of them were shot down.

These plane numbers began to capture my imagination. Believe it or not, I actually Googled the rest of the entire alphabet followed by the number 47 in order to find some more. There were other combat aircraft from other nations of varying types and serviceability. There were different sorts of submarines and guns, engines of all kinds, and other equally entertaining items. None of them commended themselves to me. At that point, I decided that I would try numbers in combination with "47".

The first attempt was “047”. This was the result at Google:

The ferritin count that Zaphod Beeblebrox is attempting to achieve by having a pint of blood sucked out of him every two months. It will never work because he is absorbing iron from his car every time he drives it.

The second attempt was “147”. This was the result at Google:

The actual ferritin count that Zaphod Beeblebrox had on the 1st of February 2010 as indicated by the letter that he received on the 6th of February 2010 from the University of Utah Medical Center. If he ever hopes to drop the third digit in his results he will either have to spend some time flying one of his favorite “47”s in a war zone or have more phlebotomies than he has currently scheduled.

I think it’s time to visit the Lady in Red again. The surprise will do her good.