Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Slow Motion : The Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack Free to Read

Since not many people are buying Slow Motion : The Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack, my log books kept in verse form of several extended trips aboard a skipjack (sail-powered oyster dredge), I have decided to make it available for free on

"Slow Motion: The Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack" by M. Kei is a break-through collection of waterman poetry from the Chesapeake Bay who actually knows what he is talking about. M. Kei crews on the title boat, the Skipjack Martha Lewis. Kirsty Karkow, prize-winning author of 'water poems' and 'shorelines' says: "A Skipjack is a historica vessel where form follows function with a rough beauty. These characteristics are apparent in the sensitive, poetic voyages of an aging boat and the men who work her sails. This history and trip log is sure to delight any sailor or lover of the Chesapeake Bay . . . and of poetry."

The trade paperback is for sale at:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

XMRV Revisited

Recently Simon Wessly et al, authors of the PLOS article I criticized in a previous post, have fired back at criticisms they are receiving from around the world regarding their patient cohort. Since I believe in giving the Devil his due, I will briefly summarize their reply. They specifically addressed the criticism that their patients are not typical of CFS patients, and that their patients are purely psychiatric cases. They identify several biologically anomalies in their patients, so it appears that not all their patients are 'pure' psychiatric patients. Based on the information presented in their article, it appeared that they had screened out all patients with documented physical anomalies. I don't know enough about the medical details to assess whether the biological anomalies they note are the same as those found by other researchers or whether they are significant in CFS. However, they explicitly state that they do NOT use the Canadian Clinical Consensus because they don't how to use it. (???!) Given that the Whittemore Peterson Institute DOES use the Canadian Clinical Consensus, it is clear that the patient cohorts necessarily differ in significant ways. Different patient cohorts = different study outcomes. No surprise there. The PLOS paper says nothing about the science done by the Whittemore Peterson Clinic. As long as they don't claim their study is a replication study (it isn't), there's nothing to get excited about.
I salute the authors of the PLOS article for defending their patients and asserting them to be as worthy of medical care and research as other patients. Unlike some critics, I don't think they're a cynical bunch of bastards making money for insurance companies off the bodies of their patients. I believe they actually do care about their patients. I think they're wrong-headed in how they go about it. I've met their kind of doctor before: absolutely unshakeable in their certainty that their medical degree means they're right and their patient is wrong.

I also salute them for detecting celiac disease in about 2% of their patients; this is a pernicious disorder that is hard to identify and can make a person absolutely miserable if not treated. On the other hand, such patients are then excluded from a diagnosis of CFS, and some studies have shown an association of gluten intolerance with CFS. They also exclude cancer patients from a diagnosis of CFS, and other research has shown that patients with CFS are at an elevated risk of developing cancer. Thus they have excluded two populations of patients that are reasonably included in CFS research. 

However, the WPI makes no statement regarding celiac disease, so we don't know if it played a role in their patients, either. The WPI statements about cancer patients have been confusing; I have tried to track it down, and I believe they have said that the rate of lymphoma in CFS patients is one of the things that tipped them to look for XMRV, but that they did not include cancer patients in the cohort of 101 patients in their original study. Thus it appears that the WPI and UK patients are similar in this regard. Nonetheless, the utilization of the Canadian Consensus by the WPI and the utilization of the older Fukuda criteria by the UK study are dramatic differences in CFS definition and patient selection which render their study outcomes irrelevant to one another.
Above and beyond the medical implications for the public health that XMRV and CFS pose, the drama being played out in the usually sedate world of medical research is fascinating in and of itself. Somebody is going to take an Oedipal fall before this is all over, and like Oedipus, nobody is going to cry for them when it happens. It's like watching a very close football match, except in this case the outcome actually matters. My health--and yours-depends on it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Catzilla! Cat Tanka Call for Submissions

Call for Submissions


Cat Tanka & Kyoka

Catzilla! Cat Tanka & Kyoka is an anthology on the theme of cats edited by M. Kei. It will be published in the fall of 2010. The anthology will feature tanka, waka, kyoka, tanka sequences, tanka prose, tanka acrostics, shaped tanka, extended tanka, and any other creative use of tanka, waka, and kyoka in homage and affection to the felines we have known.

READING PERIOD: April 1, 2010 - June 30, 2010.

SUBMISSION ADDRESS: Keibooks (at) gmail (dot) com

Please do not subscribe this email address to any list, forwards, invitations, or any other item.

TOPIC: They say a genre of poetry has arrived when it produces its first anthology of cat poems. While most cat poems have been long on cute and short on depth, Catzilla! (in spite of its humorous title) seeks works that have significant literary value as well as feline appeal. Cats have been objects of worship or fearful demons, lifelong companions or feral strays skirting the edge of human life for thousands of years. They endlessly fascinate, amuse, and frustrate their human friends (and enemies!), so it is only right that they should have a tanka anthology to call their own.

POETS: Poets are invited to submit up to thirty tanka, kyoka, or waka for consideration for Catzilla! Both new and previously published works are acceptable. Previously published works must show credits including title of the book or journal or other source, city and name of publisher, and the date. Appearing in Catzilla! must not violate any other previously existing rights and the poet’s submission will be taken as certification that they are the holder of the copyright or the lawful representative of the copyright holder.

No simultaneous submissions.

FORM: We are seeking tanka and tanka-variations, loosely defined. Tanka, kyoka and waka are short poems composed of five poetic phrases. Classic Japanese tanka were written in a pattern of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables, but English-language tanka are less regular. We will accept any variation of tanka, waka, and kyoka. Each five line poem MUST stand on its own merits. When submitting longer works such as sequences or shaped tanka, each tanka must be autonomous; it must make a coherent statement on its own. We prefer untitled poems. Brief footnotes are acceptable when necessary to translate an unfamiliar term or concept.

INTERNATIONAL: We welcome international submissions that include English translations. Correspondence for the anthology will be in English, although we can read Spanish and French and some other languages for queries.

PAYMENT: We regret that the only payment for inclusion in this anthology is publication.

RIGHTS: We require digital and print world anthology rights. This gives us the right to publish a book and an electronic version of the book. It also grants us the right to use the accepted poems as part of promotional materials for the anthology. All other rights remain with the author.

EXCLUSIONARY CLAUSE: In the event of previously unpublished works, we acquire the right of first publication and the author agrees to not submit the works for consideration elsewhere or to publish the works until 90 days after Catzilla appears. After 90 days the author is free to submit or publish wherever they wish, provided subsequent publications credit Catzilla!

MANUSCRIPTS: We prefer to receive email submissions. Please use a large, plain font. NO ATTACHMENTS. All email submissions must be sent as plain text in the body of the email. Please set your spam filters/permission levels to allow our response. If we cannot contact you, your poems will automatically be rejected!

ANNOUNCEMENTS: We strongly recommend joining Keibooks-Announce (at) googlegroups (dot) com to receive updates about the project. This is an announcement-only list that generates no more than 0-4 emails per month.

CONTACT INFO: All submissions must include legal name, pen name (if any), postal address, telephone number and email address. Translators and agents must include a statement indicating that they are authorized to act on behalf of the author(s). In the event of multi-author submissions, the contacting author must include a statement that they are authorized to act on behalf of the other participating author(s). It will be the responsibility of the contacting party to keep the author(s) s/he represents up to date on relevant details of the submission and anthology.

AGE: All contributors must be sixteen years of age or older to comply with privacy laws in the United States.

BIOGRAPHY: No author biographies will be included. Authors should include their country of origin when submitting; this material may be included or omitted at the publishers' sole discretion.

RESPONSE TIME: Rejections will generally be within four weeks. Acceptances may take longer.

PURCHASE: Catzilla! will be available through and major online booksellers. It will be printed in the United States of America. Due to circumstances beyond our control, international buyers may receive better service through or other major online bookstores. Catzilla! will be available as an e-book as well as trade paperback.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pirates of the Narrow Seas Now in Print


P O Box 1118 * Elkton, Maryland, USA * 21922-1118

Date: 25 January 2010

PRESS RELEASE - For Immediate Release

Pirates of the Narrow Seas award-winning novel by M. Kei published by Keibooks

In Pirates of the Narrow Seas, Lt. Peter Thorton of the 18th century British navy must struggle to come out gay while surviving storms at sea, ship to ship battles, kidnapping and more in his quest for true love and honor. Pirates of the Narrow Seas is an expertly crafted swashbuckler brimming with authentic detail and fully realized portraits of life at sea, written by a tall ship sailor and internationally acclaimed tanka poet, M. Kei. 

"Pirates of the Narrow Seas was a dashing good tale full of adventure and mayhem"~Sage Whistler, author of 'Broken'

Perryville, Maryland — 1 February 2010 — Pirates of the Narrow Seas  by M. Kei has been published as a trade paperback by Keibooks of Perryville, Maryland. Winner of a Sweet Revolution Award in the category of 'best full cast' and a special 'Judge's Pick,' it features the nautical adventures of Lt. Peter Thorton, a gay man struggling to serve with honor during the Age of Sail. Facing numerous perils, including his fellow officers, the enemy at sea, corsairs, storms, ship battles, duels, and kidnapping, Thorton is torn between being true to himself or true to his duty to country, god, and king. 

A fan of nautical fiction by Frederick Marryat, C. S. Forester, and Patrick O'Brien, Kei was frustrated by gay characters receiving short shrift in all their novels. "Every reader wants to find a character that he can identify with and dream of a world different and better than his own. Unfortunately, they simply didn't exist. So I decided to write one for my own amusement." 

Although the inventors of Horatio Hornblower, Jack Aubrey and Richard Bolitho are more famous than Kei, he has one unique advantage: he actually crews aboard 'wooden sail.' He knows first hand the perils of having his hand accidentally pinned to the samson post with the vessel swinging out of control in a raging current and pressing wind. His personal experience of the privations, dangers, and beauty of life aboard a wooden sailing vessel creates a rich resonance as he depicts the lives and duties of 'iron men and wooden ships.' 

With a keen sense of what heroism really is, his characters overcome great challenges—not with a magic compass or animal sidekick—but with a derring-do based on real courage, skill, and intelligence. Pirates of the Narrow Seas is a spell-binding adventure in the best tradition of the sea yarn, with a main character who also happens to be gay.

Winner: Sweet Revolution Award for 'best full cast' and a special 'Judge's Pick.'

"Pirates of the Narrow Seas was a dashing good tale full of adventure and mayhem, slaves and saviors, and the rigors and perils of life at sea. Pirates of the Narrow Seas follows the life of Peter Thorton and his journey as a poor lieutenant with little social influence and dangerous secrets. I found Thorton to be a well-rounded, likable character; at times courageous and admirable and in turns despondent and pitiful. Watching him develop throughout the story; finding his true self and place in the world, made for an engaging story."~Sage Whistler, author of 'Broken'

"I've read this book several times and each time has kept me spellbound. I am not gay and I found the romance handled with such class and sensuality that I was completely enthralled and became emotionally vested in seeing the men in the book form and live through their relationships. This is all set against a compelling and highly-detailed background of history, nautical derring-do and quick-paced action. I am desperate for additional novels in this series to be released!"~Chele Kraus

Available online at <> or your favorite bookseller. Price: $18.00 USD. ISBN 978-0-557-26719-4. Trade paperback, 280 pages, 6.14" x 9.21", perfect binding, 60# cream interior paper, black and white interior ink, 100# exterior paper, full-color exterior ink. Cover art attributed to Thomas Buttersworth, modified by L. S. Alexander. International buyers may wish to utilize or other major bookseller. 

About the Author

M. Kei served his apprenticeship aboard a skipjack, a traditional wooden sailboat used to dredge for oysters on the Chesapeake Bay. Most recently, he has become a crewman for a square-rigged tall ship which is a reproduction of a 17th century vessel, complete with lateen mizzensail, whipstaff, watersail, and a pair of ship's cats. An accomplished poet, he is internationally known for specializing in the short lyric form known as 'tanka.' He is the editor-in-chief of Take Five : Best Contemporary Tanka and the author of Slow Motion : The Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack, a log he kept in verse form while making several extended trips aboard a skipjack. Over 1500 of his short poems have been published in ten countries and six languages. He has published eight full-length books of poetry and fiction.

For media inquiries or to arrange and interview with the author, contact M. Kei through Keibooks. Email:

About Keibooks

Keibooks is the small press founded by M. Kei to publish distinctive works of literature while allowing him full creative control. Keibooks' first project was the highly acclaimed anthology of tanka love poems, Fire Pearls : Short Masterpieces of the Human Heart, which became an instant classic and established M. Kei as an editor as well as poet of considerable ability. It was followed by his first collection of short poetry, Heron Sea, Short Poems of the Chesapeake Bay, sealing the poet's identity as a poet of the Chesapeake. Keibooks also publishes Atlas Poetica : A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka, an international journal that focuses on poetry of place as rendered in tanka and related forms. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

XMRV, Chronic Fatigue, and Controversy

I've been following the XMRV research in detail. Researchers at the Whittemore-Peterson Institute affiliated with the University of Nevada have identified a strong link between CFS and XMRV. Some scientists have speculated (and have clearly identified it as a speculation) that it is the cause of CFS. All scientists who have made such speculations have stressed that we are in the early stages of research and that further research is needed.

Recently they were challenged by a paper from the UK by Simon Wessly et al published in PLOSOne. PLOSOne is a CROCK. PLOSOne is a pay-to-publish site with minimal peer review. With $1365 you too can publish your science there. I went and looked up their submission guidelines and policies myself. If the authors really did good science, why didn't they publish it in a normal medical or scientific journal with rigorous standards and a robust peer review process?

That paper, which purports to find no XMRV in 186 'CFS' patients has numerous screaming flaws; the biggest one of which is that the do NOT use the same definition of 'CFS' as the WPI research. Further, there's no healthy controls in the research and they didn't search for the same DNA sequence as the WPI. In other words, it looks like science, but it isn't. If I report apples, and you search for oranges and don't find them, it's meaningless. All it really proves is that apples aren't oranges.

WPI explicitly uses the Canadian Clinical Consensus, which is the gold standard in medical description of CFS. Here's a page with links to the Canadian Consensus: -- If you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, think you might, or know somebody that does, the Canadian Clinical Consensus will be very helpful.

The UK paper does not use the Canadian consensus; they use the Oxford/CDC definition, which explicitly excludes anyone with a physical contribution to their fatigue. In other words, the WPI patients, which meet the Canadian consensus, all have demonstrable physical aspects to their illness, and therefore would not and could not be diagnosed with CFS in the UK.

The UK cohort consists of fatigued psychiatric patients, although it does excludes some psychiatric conditions as per the Fukuda definition. Note that their paper does not claim to follow the Fukuda definition, it merely claims to exclude the same exclusions that Fukuda does. Some people have said that both WPI and UK use Fukuda standards --no, the UK study does not.

Further more, the UK patients are all in routine treatment through the chronic fatigue center at Kings College. In other words, these are people who are willing to go along with a psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. People who don't benefit from psychiatric treatment or who believe their condition is physical, not mental, are not going to be members of this clinic!

Above and beyond that, the UK research did not follow the exact same procedures as the WPI research, which is essential in an replication study. The UK study also did NOT include healthy controls. Ergo, they have foregone one of the essential elements of sound scientific testing. They assert that their patients are typical of the UK -- they're not.

There's a lot of people in the UK, including scientists, who believe in a physical explanation and have produced research and documentation in support of their view. We cannot generalize from one clinic that specializes in somatoform CFS to the rest of the UK.

Not yet published is information about UK patients participating in testing who have gone through their medical doctors rather than psychiatric services. These Individuals participated in a group that sent their blood samples to the WPI to be tested. Some individuals have received their lab reports and posted their results online; they are XRMV+. This is a small number of people, so we don't know how many UK patients participated or what the over all result it, but clearly, XMRV does occur in some patients in the UK. Thus, the Wessly et al conclusion that XMRV is not in the UK is wishful thinking at best.

XMRV is known to cause disease in animals: nasty ones, such as immune and endocrine disorders, and cancer, such as lymphoma. While it is not known exactly what it does to humans, we can expect that it will do similar things to us as to other mammals. CFS patients have already been shown to have a higher risk of cancer, especially lymphoma. The symptoms of CFS (Canadian Consensus) are definitely like the symptoms of XMRV in animals. Ergo, it is plausible to suspect that it causes CFS. It remains to be be proven, but it's a promising line of research and more scientists around the world are after it.

'CFS' has been applied to a sloppy variety of conditions by many writers who choose to ignore and cherry pick the scientific evidence; but that doesn't mean that it isn't real or that XMRV is irrelevant.

The WPI researchers have proposed the name XAND for X-associated neuroimmune disorder for the Canadian consensus disease if the XRMV connection holds out. If Wessly and the other advocates of 'erroneous illness beliefs' want to hang onto CFS, let them. I'll get tested for XMRV and treated by medical doctors for XAND.

The UK paper does do one great good thing. It makes clear that two very different patient cohorts are being lumped together under the label 'CFS'. The authors appear to be unaware of that result; but once you've studied all the evidence in this and many other pieces of research, it is very clear that there are at least two different syndromes lumped together.

Of course, we already knew that. A study done in the UK by Dr. Kerr compared patients with Q fever, CFS, depression, and healthy controls. They fell into two clusters: Q fever and CFS shared many genetic anomalies (84-88), while depression and normals had very few to none (0-5).

However, nobody paid very much attention to any of the research about CFS until now. The only reason, I'm sorry to say, why this matters, is that the WPI study found that 3.7% of healthy controls were XMRV+. This finding has profound implications for the blood supply and public health. That's what made the medical establishment and government agencies sit up and take note at last. Oddly enough, they had previously ignored Japanese research that found XMRV in 2.7% of healthy controls. (This little tidbit is actually in the Wessly et al paper mentioned above!)

They're not terribly concerned about the CFS people, but they do care very much about the idea that the people who vote them into office might, say, be getting infectious cancers from the blood supply and passing them onto to others through saliva or blood... That's a nightmare scenario that must make you break out in a cold sweat if you were supposed to be a public health agency and you haven't done squat about CFS for the last 25 years...

Of course, we don't really know if that's possible, but it's not far-fetched. XMRV has been detected in saliva and blood, and is capable of transmitting infection via blood in the laboratory. Dr. Peterson in his comments at the CFSAC meeting told about a patient of his that got XMRV via blood transfusion--he has before and after blood samples.

XMRV causes cancer in animals and was discovered in connection with prostate cancer. Intimates of people with CFS are somewhat more likely than the general public to have CFS. One study of Gulf War Syndrome found that in a subset of parents with CFS, their children were much more likely to have autism.

On the other hand, German and Irish researchers have not found XMRV in prostate cancer. They have used much larger samples than the US research. Why? Some speculate that their methods are not capable of detecting it, which they vigorously deny. They prefer to speculate that XMRV is regional, and thus is found in the US but not Europe. That doesn't make much sense, either, given that viruses travel very well. Although viruses are more common in some areas than others, they still exist everywhere. On the other hand, that XMRV has been detected in Japanese and American populations does suggest another possibility: genetic susceptibility.

Japanese and Native Americans are descended from a common ancestor somewhere between 10,000 - 25,000 years ago. If XMRV or a genetic susceptibility entered the Asian genome before the population of America, people with Asian and Native American ancestry would be more likely to have XMRV than Europeans. This is not unusual; Africans are much more likely to get sickle cell anemia, for example. Still, no information has been provided about the ethnic makeup of the people who are XRMV+, so this is pure speculation. It also points out that race and ethnicity should not be ignored when conducting scientific research.

More research is under way, and more papers will be appearing over the course of the next year. It's an interesting topic with significant implications for the health of all of us.