Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Last Night Lady Liberty Went - Dark...

Twitterland went nuts, of course.  Had she been deliberately switched off as a "message of solidarity" in support of today's nation-wide "A Day Without a Woman?"  Was it just an electrical glitch, as the National Park Service later said it was?  Was it symbolic of the Fascist darkness that has taken control of our White House and our Congress -- Lady Liberty protesting this horror now being inflicted upon her free people of the United States?  I know what I think.

From The Washington Post, March 8, 2017.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Board Games Studies: UPDATES

Hola darlings!

March is roaring in like a lion here in Milwaukee - literally!  Since yesterday the winds have been non-stop with gusts up to 45 mph.  My poor humble abode has been battered by endless branches and all those leaves from last autumn I thought my neighbors had disposed of properly have magically reappeared in my backyard, sideyard on the north and driveway on the south.  Yikes!

Tiny Maison Newton is creaking and groaning like the old lady I've become, alas!  Well, I still color my hair and I still have the complexion of a 15 year old (without the acne) and will be eternally beautiful in my own mind (don't look at me unless you don't have your glasses on or can't see straight, that helps, too), but the rest of me - OY - what a mess!

Be that as it may, I am still on numerous mailing lists and although my paper writing days and deep research into board games and what not are now gone, mostly expired with the death of beloved Mr. Don, a few days ago I received a notification from the Board Games Studies folks -- a new Colloquium!!!

FIRST OF ALL, I have some listed links to Board Games Studies websites, but have been lazy and have not checked to see if they are current and working.  Probably won't either, I'll be honest.  I'm frying other fish these days.

So, I'm taking the lazy woman's way out and simply present you with what may be a new (I think) Board Games Studies website.  Is is THE Board Games Studies? - don't know, but it does appear to have the right stuff on/in it.  So, make a note, if you like.

I also don't remember - and again, am too lazy to check, if I ever put up a link to these -- some back issues of the Board Games Studies Journal.

SECOND OF ALL, let's get to that announcement of Board Games Studies Colloquium XX, shall we, whoop whoop!

It is a veritable "Who's Who" of board games researchers and historians. Lots and lots of female presenters -- GLAD TO SEE THAT!  A great mix of scholars from all around the world.

A long-time friend of Goddesschess, whom we affectionately call Stooping Wolf (okay, Isis named him, not me, I would have called him something like Sexy-Eyed Fox), Dr. Ulrich Schadler, is giving a presentation on May 18th on Goddesschess' old enemy, H.J.R. Murray!  Ugh, Stooping Wolf, how could you:  Murray's Classification of Board Games.

Equally impressive, but not so handsome as Sexy-Eyed Fox, er, Dr. Schadler, is the opening presentation on May 17th by Dr. Irving Finkel, an Assistant Curator at the British Museum: Princes on the Floor of the Playroom.  Did something get lost in translation -- I have NO idea what that could possibly be about, maybe something to do with children playing war games on a nursery floor with toy soldiers???  Who knows - only those in attendance and those who will be able to (hopefully) eventually buy (if ever produced) the bound volume of programs presented (if they can afford it).

Isis suggested we both bankrupt ourselves and go to the Colloquium first, and then take a leisurely on-and-off train trip through Europe before heading to our Cathars Country tour in France in mid-June.  But one must be practical.  By the time this windstorm here is over (sometime on Thursday, so the current forecast says), I may very well need to replace my roof.  Sigh.

And knowing Isis, she might very well end up spending the entire Colloquium at the hotel suite, ensconced in splendor on the feather bed, watching romantic movies and eating chocolates all day, and out dancing and partying with the PhDs all night, while I trudged dutifully from presentation to presentation only to collapse in brain exhaustion at the end of the day on the sofa in the suite, shooting Zzzzz's at the ceiling.  And, maybe, would recover from my jet-lag on day five!  Nah...ain't gonna happen, Isis.

One interesting side note:

The first meeting place - a sort of "meet and greet and let's get friendly, heh heh heh" time for presenters and attendees will be held at the - get ready for it ---

I'm not joking, darlings:

Tue 16 May

17.00: Pre-Colloquium Boardgame Café Meet-Up

Bastard Café
Huset, Rådhusstræde 13, Ground Floor, 1466 Copenhagen K


OMGODDESS, laughing my butt off -- great exercise, by the way.  Helps keep one young :)  Ha ha ha ha ha HA!  Ouch!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Explorers Emerge from the Honduran Jungle Triumphant in Finding "The White City" - and Infected with a "Flesh-Eating" Disease

There are adventures a-plenty still to be had, folks, if you want to take some hikes through Mother Nature.  Note to self:  HELL NO!

From The Washington Post
Lia Kvatum
March 5, 2017

This adventurer found the trip worth it - despite the flesh-eating disease

As great adventure stories go, this one ticks all the boxes: a legendary “lost” city, in an impenetrable jungle, and even a curse.

Douglas Preston’s latest book, “The Lost City of the Monkey God,” chronicles the feats of a team of explorers as they harness cutting-edge technology and old-fashioned daring to find a city rumored to have been built more than 1,000 years ago in a remote region of Honduras by an unknown culture.

The book also describes the parting gift the jungle bestowed on Preston and several of his colleagues: mucosal leishmaniasis, a parasitic “flesh-eating” disease common to the tropics.

Preston, a prolific author and journalist, was part of the 2015 expedition that located the ruins of an ancient city. Rumors of La Ciudad Blanca (the White City), also known as the City of the Monkey God, had swirled for decades; many people went in search of it, but all, save one party, returned disappointed.

In 1940, a debonair gent by the name of Theodore Morde was sent out in search of the fabled city by George Gustav Heye, an obsessive artifact collector. Traveling with Morde was geologist Laurence Brown, a university classmate of his. Four months later, they emerged from the jungle seemingly triumphant and replete with artifacts.

As it turns out, they were lying. They never discovered a city; the artifacts had been found elsewhere or purchased. Nevertheless, the story spurred on other explorers. One was Steve Elkins, a documentary filmmaker. Preston learned of his obsession with finding the city in 1996. Elkins had explored the area previously and had come up empty-handed. Preston was intrigued, and asked to write about Elkins’s quest.

In 2010, Elkins began putting together an expedition to sweep the area from the air using LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), a remote sensing method that uses lasers. This technology allowed Elkins to view the ground beneath its dense canopy of rain forest. The project came together in 2012, and much to everyone’s surprise, the images revealed evidence of a widespread but largely unknown culture.

"We knew, based on the LiDAR images, that we’d found a lost city,” Preston said during a recent telephone interview. “What I didn’t realize was just how difficult it would be on the ground."

With the support of the Honduran government, an on-the-ground expedition was launched in February of 2015. The exact destination remains a secret, but it’s located within La Mosquitia, a vast region of rain forests in the midst of jagged mountains. There are no roads. The team was flown in by helicopter and had to hack a path through the jungle using machetes.

Preston said it was unlike anything he had experienced. “It was like being underwater, the foliage was so dense."

The jungle was home to large, venomous snakes and a bevy of insect species small in size but mighty in power. “It’s a real hot zone of diseases,” Preston said.

seasoned traveler, Preston thought he had prepared himself. “I got a bunch of shots,” he said, “and a whole laundry list of precautions to take and things to avoid.” Team members wore head-to-toe protective clothing and doused themselves in DEET. “Even with all of the precautions, it can be hard to protect yourself,” said Michael Manyak, a urologist who specializes in expedition medicine. “With insects especially, you have to be very strict about repellent and clothing and netting."

Honduran Special Forces soldiers accompanying the expedition roast a deer over their campfire. (Douglas Preston).  Note:  Commonly called "macho men," this sub-species of human male
is also known as Homo Mentula Stultus.  Or, as we say in Milwaukee, dumb-ass dildoheads.

But “given the prevalence of disease-carrying insects, you’re still likely to get bit,” said Manyak, who prepares travelers for treks around the world. “We were massacred by insects,” Preston said. “I’d get into my tent at night, and I was just crawling with them. By the time we left, I was covered in bites."

Preston spent eight days in the jungle. An incredible adventure, to be sure, especially because the team found what they were looking for: a long-abandoned city as well as dozens of artifacts. But — enter the curse! — something found them: mucosal leishmaniasis. Left unchecked, this parasitic disease can spread, migrating to the soft tissues of the face.

Leishmaniasis is caused by about 20 species of protozoan parasites known collectively as leishmania. There are three main types: cutaneous, visceral and mucosal. What kind of leishmaniasis one gets depends on the species of parasite that infects you as well as the response of the body. The infection is spread mainly through the bite of a sand fly.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 90 species of sand fly transmit leishmaniasis. If a female sucks blood from an animal infected with the disease and then bites another, the disease can spread. There is no vaccine nor preventive medicine. And with the sand fly’s small size, large numbers and penchant for biting at night, camping out in the rain forest greatly increases one’s chances of an encounter.

About six weeks after leaving Honduras, Preston noticed a lesion that would not heal. Several of his fellow explorers reported the same. The National Institutes of Health confirmed what the travelers suspected: leish.

Worldwide, leishmaniasis affects millions of people. Most infections result only in skin lesions or ulcers, which go away on their own and are relatively harmless. These sores can last months or even years, and can cause scarring, but it won’t kill you. Another common form, visceral leishmaniasis, is almost always fatal if left untreated. It attacks and destroys the internal organs.

There are treatments, but the process is complicated. Depending on the strain of leishmania you contract, the most effective treatment will differ. Determining which strain is a puzzle, too. Doctors can narrow down which variety is most likely based on where you have recently traveled. They may be able to take a culture from the lesion or use a procedure known as polymerase chain reaction, which allows detection and identification of leishmania DNA.

With mucosal leishmaniasis, the type that Preston had, the parasites can migrate to the mucosal tissues of the mouth and nose. Although they are often referred to as flesh-eating, the parasites don’t consume tissue. Rather, the body has a profound immune response, eventually deforming and destroying the nose and mouth.

Preston’s doctors determined that the best option for him was amphotericin B, used originally to treat systemic fungal infections. It’s also effective against mucosal leishmaniasis, but the treatment is not pleasant. [Note:  Oh for pete's sake, is there ANY treatment for an illness that can actually be called "pleasant?"]

"Oh, it’s bad,” Preston said. “You know that old saying ‘the cure is worse than the disease’? Well, this isn’t even a cure, it’s just a beat-back.” This means that Preston and his fellow sufferers won’t be cured of the disease, but the medicine will kill enough of the infection that the ulcer heals and the body’s defenses can keep the disease at bay. Preston said he received the medicine intravenously in daily treatments that lasted from four to five hours.

"Doctors sometimes call it ‘amphoterrible,’ ” Preston said, “because of what it does to the body. It can really screw up your kidneys, so they’ll only give it to you as long as your kidney function stays above 40 percent."

Preston said he endured it for six days.

"Well, the first thing,” he said drily when asked about the treatment, “is that you feel like your body is on fire.” He continued, “then you feel like you’re suffocating, and for some people, you get this psychological reaction where you’re sure you’re going to die.” He paused. “I didn’t get any of those, though. I was lucky."

Nevertheless, he will always have the infection.

"The very general answer,” says David Sacks, an expert on leishmaniasis, “is that these are chronic infections. We are good at finding vaccines that work better than the body does on acute infections, like measles or polio. But with these long-lived infections, like leishmaniasis, we have yet to find a vaccination that works any better than the body’s own natural responses."

It also costs a lot to develop and manufacture treatments. Because most people who need them are poor, there is very little financial incentive for drug companies to devise them.

Preston considers himself extremely lucky — both for the trip he took and for the treatment he received for leishmaniasis. “I’ve been to many jungle areas in my life,” he said, “but I’ve never seen anything so stunningly untouched.” Besides, he says, “I feel great. And I would have much rather have gotten leish than be bitten by one of those big snakes."

In addition, the trip resulted in a successful book: “The Lost City of the Monkey God” made it to the top five on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list after it was published in January.

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