Oct 31, 2005
A Bird Not Out of Hand is Worth Two in a Fight
"Not that I'd want to lose either of these, but I wish I had been smart like you and just had one."
-- One mommy to another at a most excellent pumpkin carving party. Note, of course, that the two fighting sibs were standing right there while the mommies were speaking ;-)
Oct 27, 2005
"I Tried to Sleep, But I Was Too Wired"
I spent Tuesday night and Wednesday day at the Duke Hospital Sleep Lab.
On Tuesday night they attached about forty wires to my head, torso, and legs then told me to lie flat on my back and go to sleep. You tell me who can go to sleep like that. But I did, for about ten minutes. Then I woke up and couldn't sleep again for at least two hours until they told me, "If you don't fall asleep by 2:30 a.m., we have to cancel tomorrow's daytime tests, which means you'll have to reschedule and repeat the nighttime test."
You tell me who can go to sleep with that kind of pressure. Usually, not me but this time I did. And apparently I didn't show anything that looked like snoring-induced sleep apnea, which meant I got to sleep straight through the night for a whole 'nother 4 hours until 6:30 a.m.
Next stop, the daytime lab where they laid me out in a dark room for twenty minutes every two hours to see (a) if I would fall asleep and (b) what would happen in my head if I fell asleep. Sure, I fell asleep within four minutes every time at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. In this, I am not surprised. It appears that I do not have narcolepsy (or my Own Private Idaho) -- which they determined by noting that I didn't experience REM sleep in any two naps in a row.
Between tests, I left the hospital and ran errands around town. You'd be surprised how few people stare at a dark-skinned dude walking into a store with wires attached to his head and body. ("Here! Take as many used books as you'd like! Just don't blow us up!") But you might also be surprised at how many people do just stare at the oddity walking down the street.
Stats: four people asked if I was dressed for Halloween. One young MD asked if the wires made me itch (they didn't). Said she, "I'm always ordering those for my patients but I have no idea what it feels like." She later told me that she plans to do pediatric neurology but at the moment is working with old people, "Old stinky people who have had strokes and can't bathe themselves." Here's to the kind and gentle in healthcare.
Also of note: at breakfast in the cafeteria I saw someone from the cardiology department order two eggs and six pieces of bacon. His colleague had the hash browns with biscuits and sausage gravy.
Oct 26, 2005
Anxiety -- How About You?
Informally speaking, what's your opinion on when anxiety is "normal" vs. "clinical"?
I am (apparently) a lifelong sufferer of abnormal anxiety. Today marks something like the fifth day in a row that I've been struggling to make progress on a past-due project. Add to that -- my fortune cookie today said "It is a good time to finish up old tasks." Aiee!
Lexapro is my new friend. It helps much but does not take care of everything. This week I'm going to do a sleep test at Duke Hospital where they'll see what my brain does and why it seems to want to shut down (or go into hyperdrive) so frequently. Next week I'm off to other shrinks to test for possible ADHD remedies (diagnosis was taken care of years agao) and for other possible clinical conditions.
We shall see. My excellent GP tells me that part of my work will be to "use your mind to train your mind," but that other parts may be appropriately managed with the "alchemy of medicine."
What's on your mind these days? Or in it?
*image from Google Images which points to some site that points to another site that is no longer there.
Oct 25, 2005
Conservation, by Any Other Name
"From roots to canopy, the native forest of Blaire Creek [preserve in New Jersey] is withering under a plague of white-tailed deer. So this fall, the Conservancy will enlist emergency help. The rescue crew will report for work early, dressed in blaze-orange vests and carrying rifles.
If that image seems incongruous with the idea of preserving nature, it should be noted that the Blair Creek hunt is nothing unusual. At refuges around the world, ecowrecking animals--from hyperabundant deer to rainforest-rototilling pigs to seabird-slaughtering rats--are being lethally controlled.
In many places where humans have upended the ecological balance, they confront an uncomfortable necessity in righting their wrongs: Taking individual lives to defend the diversity of life itself.
...Conservationists who face feral pigs in traps remember that elsewhere in the Hawaiian forest live the rarest of birds suffering slow deaths from a pox the pigs have helped spread... In New Jersey they are forced to look beyond Bambi's face in the rifle sight, to the surrounding overpruned forest.
What conservationists remind themselves not to see is the pig and deer as villains, but as creatures whose unlucky lot was to end up in a place where their own death must be weighted against the ultimate suffering of another species' extinction.
...After years of vigilant protection from the pigs, scoured jungles of the Hawaiian highlands are once again lushly carpeted in ferns and singing with Hawaiian birds. Those now defending the New Jersey woods with rifles have parallel visions in mind. As much as they may love deer--albeit in smaller numbers--they love orchids and forests, too.
---William Stolzenberg, from "So Others Might Live", the August 2004 Science Matters column in Nature Conservancy (published by The Nature Conservancy)
*Photo PGC/Hal Korber
Oct 19, 2005
"I remember you!"
You know you're buying and selling too many cars when the NC License Bureau people recognize you from a mile away.
The "I remember you" woman had teased me on a previous visit -- telling me I needed a wife to keep me straight. Added, though, the other woman at the counter, "You wait for the right one, hear?"
Speaking of which: Today I got stood up again! It must be the new black. But this time it was a client who didn't show for a 9:30 a.m. meeting. If he hadn't been so apologetic on the phone later on, I would have been tempted to charge him triple -- one extra for the standup on top of the double charge for a meeting before noon. Or... nah.
Speaking of which, Part II: today I saw a license plate TCHKDS. I instantly parsed it as "chickadees", but my pal Marci pointed out that it was "Teach Kids" (the fingerpaint handprints should have tipped me off). Anyway: all hail ADHD and associative thinking.
Speaking of which, Part III: back in '88 or so, my Brown fencing mates and I were having dinner in Cambridge MA after a meet. Over pizza, epee man Ari Day expressed confusion about a banner he had seen outside, "It's not anti-apartheid to be pro union." After dinner, we took a second look: "It's not anti-HARVARD to be pro union." We see what we think about, it does appear.
Oct 18, 2005
Nabokov on Where we Are
The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.
- opening sentence to Vladmir Nabokov's Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited. <-click for "look inside the book"
*photo from the interesting ProbertEncyclopedia.com.
Oct 17, 2005
Wiesel on Silence
photo from Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.*
Lately I have been thinking of the distinctions between activism and setting a quiet example. Elie Wiesel has a quote that speaks to one part of this.
No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night.
We know that every moment is a moment of grace, every hour an offering; not to share them would mean to betray them. Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.
...And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endurse suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
- Elie Wiesel, quoted in The Spirituality of Imperfection by Kurtz and Ketcham.
The secondary title to the book is "storytelling and the journey to wholeness." Kurtz and Ketcham follow the Wiesel quote with seven words to end a chapter. "And this is why we tell stories."
*A photo of Wiesel smiling? At first I thought this quote deserved a more serious expression. But then I thought of how joy is an opposite of suffering and humiliation. And that joy is something that has to be experienced if it's worth working for. Some years ago an aquaintance apologized for not laughing at one of my jokes. "I'm sorry," he said, "but I'm not one for appreciating humor. For as long as there's suffering in the world, I have trouble smiling." I hope that has changed for him. I really do.
Frank Zappa Compares
Informationis not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is best.
I first saw this quote on a t-shirt someone was wearing at a Phish concert. It was a strange concert experience: nearly all of the audience were teens and twenty-somethings, soaking wet from the rainstorm that had drowned them on the hill at Alltel Pavilion. My friend Amy and I (average age ~36 at the time) showed up late (after the storm) and in business clothing. We sat in the Gold Circle seats where waitstaff took care of our beer and food. Tickets were courtesy of my friend Tarus, who continued his kindness over the years, most recently by selling me the you-know-what.
Oct 12, 2005
K the Defender
That b*tch!!! Ugh.
-- K, upon hearing that I had just been stood up on a first date.
Oct 09, 2005
Dickie on Living Clean
"Now, I am happy with my life."
Oct 04, 2005
Back in my stressed out corporate days, I used to take an annual week off by myself in the mountains -- sometimes in summer, sometimes in fall. The routine was predictable: first two days of complete befrazzlement as my tensed-up internal springs wound down, then a couple of days trying to do too many "vacation" things at once (go hiking, smoke cigars, take a nap, buy art supplies, teach myself to paint with watercolors, write twenty letters, compose some music), followed by a couple of relaxed days and finally a day of real peace before it was time to head home.
I haven't had such a vacation in a long time, but I'm going to do one this November. I'm a little scared about what my mind will do once it has all that quiet to expand into -- seeing how I've been out of practice at long rests. But if it doesn't kill me, I know it's going to be great.
Do you go on solo vacations? How do you find your mental rest, in general?