by Dave Gordon
I have made the mistakes so you won't have to.
Real world advice for the reality-challenged. |
Always looking forward to what's around the next bend.
|I have often written about the various excesses I am capable of. It is simply my nature to take things to their limits in order to confirm what the limits are. Unfortunately, one cannot locate a limit until it is exceeded. Such was the case two days ago.
I find the medical profession annoying and inconvenient. The advice and directives I receive from members of the profession are often contrary to my personal needs. Their opinions often end up in the hands of my wife, which is even worse. Most vexing of all is that they are usually right.
I wrote about the advice I was given by an overly conservative nurse in my last post. Her advice was a sensible approach on getting back in condition for hiking. The advice would have been practicable had it not been for my world not even sharing a border with hers. That was an eternity ago, three weeks or more. So, I decided to take a 3-hour hike as a “stress test”.
I successfully located my limits half way through the hike. Luckily, there were only a few hills to climb after that. Now, two days later, my legs are as sore as they have ever been. This includes the two-day hikes down and up the Grand Canyon in two locations, seven excessive years as a fire fighter, and the epically ill advised 12-mile hike of three years ago.
I am forced to admit that the world of the overly conservative nurse and my own world do share a border, something that would have been handy to know before the hike. One would think that after all these years I would have wised up. But, as I am apparently completely lacking in Good Sense, this doesn’t seem possible. I am pretty sure I don’t share a border with that.
If you are (God forbid) anything like me, you find yourself in the position of searching for borders quite often. The trick is to locate them without crossing them, or in my case, vaulting across them. Here are a few meager bits of advice which are really more like observations since they have never worked for me:
-Medical professionals are conservative. This is because they would much prefer that you didn’t die. If you die after disregarding a physician’s advice, things will not go well for you at your memorial service.
-It is a given that your spouse has a very different opinion about any given limit than you do. Just remember that it is hard to disguise significant injuries and physical discomfitures. Do not prepare a defense, it won’t help.
-Limits are easy to locate. One exceeds them, and then turns around. It is all damage control after that. In my case, sitting down to rest resulted in severe legs cramps. I had evidently vaulted across the line without realizing it, which seems to be intrinsic to the nature of limits. Exceeding the limits of your physician’s expectations may have even worse repercussions. It would be a discourtesy to die by exceeding the limits they impose. Don’t do this.
|Did you ever read A Bridge too Far? It is the story of a major allied campaign in Europe during WWII which failed badly. The objective was to take and hold several bridges in the Netherlands. In the recounting, one of the planners is said to have remarked that he thought they were going “a bridge too far”.
Yesterday I continued with the instructions given to me by a well meaning but overly cautious nurse regarding my exercise routine. Her instructions were to start with twenty minutes of moderate exercise and increase that by ten minutes each week. I am not remotely capable of that.
The first trip I walked twenty minutes, then forty five minutes, and ninety minutes following that. I felt the accelerated schedule was justified because the weather had been miserable and I missed a few weeks entirely. Based on elapsed time, I was only moderately exceeding the nurse’s recommendation.
Yesterday I decided to conduct a stress test. I decided that if I could get to the top of a hill which I had only got half way up two days before, I would continue on because most of the six-mile route is not too steep. I attained the top of the first hill with effort, but based on my ability to remain upright, I decided to continue on.
Here are the pertinent facts:
It was very foggy and thirty five degrees.
My continuing mental decline has evidently affected my reasoning and judgment.
My complete lack of Good Sense hasn’t improved one bit.
Exertion will cause one to perspire, which is not usually an issue unless it is thirty five degrees and foggy.
It isn’t apparent one has gone a bridge too far until they are half way across it.
At the point that it was a toss up as to whether it would be shorter to turn back or continue, I realized I had gone a bridge too far. I calculated that I had several bridges to go and was disheartened. The route was, of course, much more difficult than I had remembered because I was fit and healthy when I last walked it.
I think it was the effort and the escalating misery that caused the light hallucinations. There were dark shapes darting thought the brush, and things flitting about that weren’t birds. The dark gravel of the road was shifting under my feet. These didn’t concern me, it was old-hat, but it didn’t bode well for the rest of the trip. Getting back to the truck was a real effort. The last mile was tortuous, I’m not sure I would have made it without falling if the road had not been flat. I have walked twelve miles and felt better. This morning I am a wreck.
I am prepared to concede this point to the overly conservative nurse. It was clearly several bridges too far. But, having demonstrated I can do it all justifies doing again to see if I have improved. Maybe when my legs quit buckling. I am definitely going to avoid those bridges, those will kick your butt.
|Things have finally gotten back to normal here at Don’t Do this after a brief by terrifying foray into sanity. It took some time to readjust to the uneven ground and strangely colored skies of my home planet, but they look like home sweet home now.
The way I knew I was home was in that familiar testing ground for instability, the grocery store. I had been feeling strange anyway and the drive to town didn’t bode well. The blinding lights of the cavernous store seem to illuminate every little weird thing. The meat counter was most disturbing, some items appearing to be lass dead than others. I didn’t buy anything there. I was almost sure the little bugs infesting the vegetables were not real, and besides, they could be washed.
I managed to buy a few things and went to face the checkout line. I avoided looking at anyone because I didn’t want to have to explain the weirdness I was exuding. When I reached the counter, the clerk said “il fait du soleil?” My French isn’t very good, but I knew soleil was “sun”. Since it was sunny for the first time in weeks, I reasoned he must be commenting on that. I believe if someone speaks to you in a foreign language, you should reply in that language if possible. I said, “C’est bon, oui.”
I have seen the look that he gave me often enough to know that he hadn’t actually said anything in French. I said, “I must have misheard you”. He said, “How are you today?” I almost said, “Bien, merci,” but caught myself. When we were done, I said, “adieu.”
It is a very strange thing to have a mind that can’t be controlled. I wouldn’t have known I could carry on a brief conversation in French, one sided as it was, had not my inner French lunatic asserted himself. I just wish I didn’t hear things in French that weren’t said in French.
It has happened before with German and Latin, which I know even less about than French. The best I could do was, “Da, sehr gut”, and “bene”, which I don’t even think are right. My doctor says it isn’t unusual, but I haven’t spoken with anyone else who has this difficulty. It will almost certainly will happen to one of us at some time. Here are a few mistakes I have made so you won’t have to:
-This seems to happen when you aren’t paying attention. When at a register in a store, focus your attention on the checker and hope that the person bagging the groceries won’t speak. Or, if they do, that it is hopefully in Spanish or English.
-Almost no one will speak to you in anything but Spanish or English. If you are absolutely certain you heard someone speak to you in a foreign language, answer in Spanish. The odds are with you.
-You might learn enough American Sign Language to navigate the checkout stand. “Sorry, I’m hard of hearing”, “I am crazy and can’t speak”, “Are you speaking English”, these are all easy to learn. The risk is that someone who actually knows sign language will want to chat.
The best thing is to have your buddy shop with you to interpret because you know for a fact that they don’t how to say anything except, “Uno mas cervesa”. Besides, if you can’t even tell what language is being spoken, you shouldn’t be driving. It is distracting as hell when the radio starts speaking Dansk. That is an impossible language.
|I am a sucker for a good distraction. I will launch headlong into anything that takes my mind off of my mind. My mind is a crowded place and it takes a lot to get everybody to shut up. Mania is known for “racing thoughts”. In my case it is not a single competitor event. It is more like a field of ten all running in different directions, which is probably a good thing. When they all go in the same direction I produce a research paper (which got published, BTW). It is exhausting. Having what is called persistent mania makes it hard to make everybody stop and take a break. But, it can be done.
Being able to think is a great thing. It has been touted as being a uniquely human. I wouldn’t go so far as to say thinking is uniquely human. I would say that humans are the only ones who have abused the ability to the degree we have. And, it often goes wrong. The ability to think isn’t much of an advantage when done the way some people do it. I am one of those people.
There are ways in which one can bring the race to a crashing stop. Unfortunately, some of those result in bringing the entire system to a crashing stop. That should be approached with caution. I have recently had my entire system coming to a crashing stop and it is not something I recommend. That aside, here are some recommendations for when you absolutely, positively, and desperately must stop thinking.
-Life threatening situations. Nothing will focus one’s attention like the danger of imminent death. This is in the “crashing stop” category. My preferred method is hanging on to a spindly blackberry vine on the side of a mountain after going somewhere I knew I shouldn’t go. Did I say that persistent mania causes poor to nonexistent judgment? It does. There must be better ways than that. Extreme sports, maybe. Anyway, this is a last ditch desperation strategy that should only be used after a catastrophic medication failure.
-Exhaustion. The reason I end up hoping the spindly blackberry bush is stronger than it looks is because I have hiked to middle of nowhere and I am trying to get back closer to the edge. When the participants in the thought racing event start complaining, I take them out for a 5-hour hike on the steepest ground I can find. The only thing on their crazy little minds then is 1) where the hell are we, 2) how far is it to the truck (and, where is the truck), and 3) for God’s sake, take a break before we get into the immanent death category. That’s much better than the usual prattle.
- Balms, herbs, salves, tinctures, ointments, and medicinals. I heartily discourage resorting to this method. At least, not without consulting Don’t Do This for detailed information. I have done extensive research and can report that hanging on to a spindly blackberry vine on the side of a mountain is better. At least then one may sure they are in the “Immanent Death” category instead of having it creep up unannounced. Besides, crashing the entire system just to get a few inane lunatics to shut up is an over reaction. Try making cookies. Regular cookies, not the ones described in Don’t Do This. At lease not without consulting Don’t Do This first.
|There was a time when I was very technically oriented. I administered a four-state network. I decided on server configuration, high speed data circuit features, bandwidth requirements, I was Mr. High Tech. I had a seven-digit budget, all the employees I wanted (because no one knew what I did), big contracts, I was a high roller.
Then I started to deteriorate mentally and retired. That was not a job that could be done while impaired. I had an allergic reaction to technology after I retired. I developed a deep loathing for anything with a keyboard. I devoted a great deal of effort to forgetting that I had ever configured a router. It worked. I forgot everything I knew about communication technology and the evil little glitches that only showed up after everything was done.
If there is one thing I am good at, it is forgetting things. I sometimes forget whole days at a time. I am challenged by programming the satellite TV receiver. The purpose of the buttons on the microwave are a mystery. It takes me half an hour to remember how set the clock in my truck when the time changes. I have excelled at forgetting technology.
I was going to get my wife a new cell phone for Christmas but got sick. We went into town last weekend and I got her what is described by a reviewer as being “massively powerful”, and “capable of doing anything”. This is modern-speak for “complicated”. It is a thing of beauty. Huge screen, intensely sharp images, and, sadly, capable of doing anything.
As far as my wife is concerned, I am tech support. We had no sooner got home than she turned it on and asked me what to do next. The next two hours were devoted to searching for answers to her questions concerning a phone I had not yet even held. Soon after she no longer needed me because she is far more capable of operating a phone than I am.
Remembering back to when I was competent, and comparing that with the region of pseudo space I now inhabit, I have been able to formulate a few pieces of advice for those who are asked impossibly complicated technical questions.
-Jargon. If you know any, use it. You can always claim to have been confused if you are called on it. No one will call you on that.
-Declaring, “I don’t know”. Don’t do this. Nothing makes a spouse as frustrated as when their tech support admits they are clueless. Say something. Use jargon if you know any.
-You may not want to tell your spouse that their massively powerful phone will do anything.
This morning she is very happy with the phone. She still has a lot of questions, but they are mostly things such as how to synch her work calendar and configuring Wi-Fi. As you can see, I know how to spell these things. That is the limit of my knowledge. The next phone she gets will probably not even exist in this dimension except for a virtual thought-driven interface. I may not be in this dimension either, but it will definitely not be the same one as the phone.
|I am going back to the doctor today to report my success in overcoming the temporary sanity that plagued me in December and culminated in a near-death experience at Christmas. I have studiously avoided lucidity for a long time and now I know why. It is something that should be approached with caution.
Manic anxiety has its drawbacks to be sure, but sanity is no piece of cake. Being able to relax resulted in relaxing. This is not a very productive condition. I had a guitar that was about two hours from completion and I didn’t work on it at all. All my other little unsanctioned projects which are scattered about lay scattered about for the whole month. Some of the materials were not suitable for laying about. But, what should I care? I was relaxed. Following that, I was even more relaxed thanks to an IV.
I lost eleven pounds in five days while in the hospital. It was not an easy diet, but it was sure an effective one. I found that I had no appetite at all when I got home. I still don’t. I have lost another fifteen pounds. Losing twenty five pounds in three weeks is evidently not considered healthy. This is interesting information but not very useful. How to cook something that isn't repulsive would be useful.
So, I will have a lot to report. What with my success in attaining that state we so accurately predicted, my epic diet (which I call the “don’t eat” diet), my renewed interest in unsanctioned hobbies, and the return of some truly unpleasant symptoms, it is a veritable garden of psychiatric delight.
If you find yourself in a position of not being sure which side of the line you have fallen on, get up and refer to this useful free advice (the best kind!) that you will find nowhere else. Here are a few of the key differences between sane and somewhat less so:
Sane – Stubs toe, hops on one foot swearing, looks for the offending item to see if it is small enough to throw out into the yard.
Less Sane – Stubs toe, begins hitting furniture with yard stick to see if it moves, chases the offending item out of the house with swordsman-like skill failing to take breakables into account. (See Don’t Do This - Glues, Adhesives, Bonding Agents, and Touch Up Paints).
Sane – Opens mail, sees savings account balance, puts statement in file.
Less Sane – Opens mail, mistakes the statement for a bill and the balance for the balance due, experiences a transcendent rush of hysteria, calls bank for mortgage refinancing options, takes inventory of balms, herbs, salves, tinctures, ointments, and medicinals. Takes one of some, two of most, and drinks everything even remotely alcoholic. See Three Plausible Excuses for Insensateness and Twelve Less So.
Sane – Gets up in the middle of the night, goes back to bed, goes to sleep.
Less Sane – Gets up in the middle of the night, looks for source of annoying whispers, accidentally wakes up spouse while threatening source of whispers, mistakes spouse as source of annoying whispers, makes a rash and very ill advised accusation, listens attentively while faults are recounted in detail, gets yardstick, returns to looking for source of whispers.
It is easy to determine your mental status by applying these factors. If you have become imbalanced, all the dangerous furniture will have been removed to the lawn, you will know your mortgage refinancing options, and you will have a complete inventory of your faults. If you don’t have any of those things, don’t worry. Those annoying whispers are obviously for someone else.
|I am feeling a bit disjointed this morning. It didn’t take long for my symptoms to return once they got started. It wasn’t long after I started the not-always-fatal medication last November that I began to feel better. By the beginning of December I felt better than I had in years. Ever, maybe. That was right up until it almost killed me a few days before Christmas. It was a “Flowers for Algernon” story with an IV and a spinal tap at the end.
The only plan that made sense was to go back in history to last November and start over. When I stabilize, if you can call it that, we will try another hopefully less fatal medication. I have achieved stability by attaining a persistent manic anxiety and a desire to build something dangerous. I am going back to the doctor in a couple of days to report my success.
It is good to excel at something. I might prefer to excel at needle point or sand painting, but one has to work with what God gave them. I would like to return or re-gift it, but that doesn’t seem possible. Although, I have been able to drive my wife to the brink a few times. It never sticks and I remain a talented and gifted lunatic at the end.
In trying to readjust to my new (old) situation, I have been trying to recall all the good advice I have meted out regarding it. I have rediscovered the unauthorized remedy for crawling skin. I would rather not go into it here, but consult Don’t Do This for essential balms, herbs, salves, tinctures, ointments, and medicinals. Take one of everything. If that doesn’t work, take two.
There is no cure for anxiety (except not-always-fatal medication), but it can be made more fun. Hobbies are an accepted part of a healthy lifestyle. What better time to engage in one than while manic? With one’s creative energies at peak, the possibilities are endless. However, the possibilities that do not result in the need for advanced first aid are not. Safety is important, so be sure to have adequate advanced first aid supplies on hand when exercising peak creativity.
As I said, I am feeling a little scattered this morning so I hope you will excuse the lack of a theme, the uneven tone, and the dearth of any sort of organization or direction. Although, that captures how I feel perfectly. It is early, but I have been up since three, so I am going to go see what balms, herbs, salves, tinctures, ointments, and medicinals I can round up. Hopefully I can stave off peak creativity until after dawn. Exercising a healthy lifestyle by engaging in hobbies while it is dark alarms the neighbors, and even worse, my wife. Don’t do this.
|Telling someone that I am bipolar is not something I usually bring up. In fact, I avoid it altogether. It is not a good conversation topic. It throws people off track. What do you say to that? How are you doing with that? (I am hallucinating right now). Has it been hard for you? (Not when I am unconscious). You seem pretty well. (I am on six medications and wish I had the rest with me). It is much better to stick with kids, hobbies, vacations, and books.
I have five friends. My wife, my buddy down the road, a friend in Crescent City, California, one in Placerville, California, and a person I have worked with and known for fifteen years. She and I are close. She was naturally concerned to hear I was in the hospital over Christmas. I don’t know where she got her intel, but she somehow knew the whole story, which she relayed to the entire office.
She retired just recently. They had a retirement party last night. I avoid those with a passion. I have never gone to one in six years. But, I could not let this one pass. Unaware of the devotion my friend had shown in informing the office of my condition, I walked in and was immediately given a chair. There were probably fifty people there and at least forty came up to express their relief that I had not died.
Confined to the chair with a throng of people crowded around, I was subjected to an interrogation concerning the circumstances. I knew where it was headed, and it got there very quickly. The conversation can be reduced to:
I hear you were very sick. (I got a visit from the End of Life Counselor)
How are you feeling? (Pretty well (except when confined and interrogated))
What happened? (I had a reaction to a medication)
What was the medication? (Carbamazepine)
What was it for?
These are all people I know and worked with for years. I never told anyone except my friend that one of the reasons I retired was because of my worsening condition. I decided that I was tired of the grilling I was getting, even as well-intentioned as it was. I knew how to scatter the group.
About half the group expressed their hopes that I continue to improve and fled. Some stayed to get the whole story (I saw a skunk the size of a Labrador Retriever, I may not remember this event two days from now, and when I am manic I want to build a bomb).
One good friend burst out into laughter, which was the appropriate response. I told her that I bet she had never guessed that, to which she replied that she had a long time ago. A person I had supervised asked, “Can you tell if I am real?” I replied, “Are you?” He said, “No,” to which I said, “I always suspected”. I excused myself early citing my enfeebled condition as the reason.
I consider this to be my coming out party. I was not thrilled it had happened, but it will keep conversation with former coworkers brief. That is a good thing because the only thing I have say to them is to ask how their kids are, how their vacations were, and ask about what books they have read lately.
Now I have to begin plotting how to get revenge on my friend. I snatched up her grand daughter and fed her cookies and candy until they took her away from me, but that only scratches the surface. It is going to be difficult. Her husband died a few months ago, so it can’t be too mean. I might enlist the aid of her daughter, who has a real nasty mean streak, and have her grab the spare set of car keys. Then I will move her car across the parking lot. Not a cardiac arrest prank, more of a cardiac fibrillation event. If her daughter can get the keys back where they belong before they are discovered missing, it will be baffling. That will be sufficient revenge. That, and I will never be without pixie sticks for her grand daughter.
|I like metal. If one screws up a piece of wood, it gets tossed aside and another piece is pulled out. My pile of screwed up wood is bigger than my pile of stock. It is embarrassing to look at, but it is all very nice wood and I don’t want to get rid of it. Figured maple, mahogany, small pieces of ebony and purple heart, all waiting for that special circumstance where it can be used. It doesn’t happen often.
Metal is a different matter. If one screws up a metal project, they pull out the welder, cutting torch, and disk grinder (which is a line from my personal “My Favorite Things”) and put the piece of metal back together. Added to that is that metal is valuable. I can buy enough mahogany to make two guitar necks for what a little piece of angle iron costs. I obsessively gather whatever metal I find.
Whenever there is a new logging area, I go into it to look for logging artifacts. There are always some lengths of cable, pieces of metal, random equipment parts, and unidentifiable stuff that gets turned up. Day before yesterday I went into an area and found an excellent length of 2” bar stock. It was heavy, twenty pounds maybe. I tied my walking stick cord around it, slung it over my shoulder, and carried it the ¾ mile to the truck. It wasn’t easy, but it was by no means the heaviest thing I have ever carried to my truck.
When I got out of the shower that night there was a sizable lump on the side of my abdomen. I knew immediately that I had done it carrying the bar of iron. I am incapable of having a mild case of anything. I immediately assumed I had given myself a hernia (not the first time) and it was just a matter of a short time before I had yet another operation.
I went to the doctor yesterday. The doctor examined it and then called in the supervising doctor. They gave me a thorough examination and at the end declared that they didn’t know what it was. It might be a hernia, but then it could be a strained muscle caused by lugging the better part of a tractor to the truck. I have eight medications related to my unfortunate bipolar situation. I think that may have been the reason they didn’t ask me why I dragged half as log loader to my truck, although I could see they wanted to.
They sent me home with instructions to not worry unless it gets worrisome, and then to come back. That’s fine. I was worried they might send me to the ER for emergency surgery. It has happened before. Besides I have other more worrisome concerns related to the predictable and expected failure of my current medication plan. The return of predictable and expected weirdness is much more of a concern. But, I will have to say I am disappointed that I can no longer carry twenty feet of choker cable to my truck. I guess I am going to have to bring some rope and drag it. That might be inadvisable, unwise, devoid of Good Sense, and foolish, but I take eight types of psychoactive medications for Christ’s sake. What do you expect?
|I am experiencing some troubling signs of instability. They aren’t unexpected, my current medication plan can be summed up as “go to rack and ruin and then punt”. It is the first time I have been on a plan that is designed to fail. But, failing is not difficult, so I am hoping to excel at it. The sooner that I am reduced to a quivering puddle of goo, the sooner my doctor will try something else.
I have had quite a bit of experience with this, so I have naturally become good at it. Amateur lunatics are a bit annoying. Being crazy requires some finesse. Beginners make mistakes that should be avoided, or at least put off until one has read the section “How to Pass as Mental Evaluation” in Don’t Do This. Garnering the attention of the medical community early on will cause officers to draw their tasers when one is having an animated discussion with one’s self. There is no one more aggravating than one’s self.
There was a time when schizophrenics caught all the flak on TV crime dramas. Whenever anybody did something insane, they were schizophrenic. But, they were always, “OK when they took their meds”. These days, insane acts are committed by bipolar sufferers. No one says anything about them being OK when on their meds, which is appropriate. That is why amateurs are annoying, they make the rest of us look bad (or worse).
Perhaps you have just begun to notice some disturbing signs. Maybe your wife has pointed out that the basement or attic could be converted into an apartment. Your doctor has inexplicably asked a lot of question that were not related to why you went to see them. “Have you purchased a car and driven to Las Vegas recently?” “Do you spend much time laying face down on the bathroom floor?” “Do you have periods of not sleeping?”
Well, who hasn’t? These are all things anyone might do if they needed a car to go to Vegas or find walking from room to room to use the toilet inconvenient. Knowing how to navigate these interviews is crucial to maintaining one’s access to alcohol and other medicinals.
As part of my goal of providing valuable free advice (the best kind!) that you will find no where else, I offer the following:
-Any question that isn’t something such as do you have a fever or are you congested should be answered, ”I don’t know. I will have to ask my spouse.” Unless your spouse is present. Taking your spouse to an appointment is almost certain disaster. Don’t do this.
-If the doctor says they are giving you a referral to a psychiatrist, you have made a critical mistake somewhere. It may have been taking your spouse to the appointment. It won’t do any good trying to figure out where things went wrong. Psychiatrists are very hard to fool. In fact, trying could get you labeled as paranoid which is the worst possible thing. The doctor will prescribe medications that will turn your head inside out and make you return the car.
-Now that you are firmly lodged within the mental health system, you have a certain amount of latitude to be creative with your choice of debate opponents and making sense in general. Before you were officially crazy, speaking languages you didn’t know or trying to levitate pencils was alarming. Now it is normal for how crazy you are. Note: don’t attempt to levitate people you don’t know.
By the time you have gone through your third or fourth medication plan, you will be a seasoned veteran. You will have located Don’t Do This and avoided ill-timed inpatient stays, and they are all ill-timed. You will know the answers to the questions, “Are you taking your meds?” (yes), and “Are you manic?” (no). Just remember that many officers watch cops shows and know that bipolar sufferers are the most dangerous creatures in the universe. Contesting that notion will not improve the situation. Don’t do this.
|I am thinking this morning of myths and legends. Things that are taken as being true with no substantial proof or evidence. Things that we learned early on and never questioned afterwards. My recent experiences have spawned a deep reflection upon these things. Here are the things that are occupying my mind this morning.
-Oil buildup on coffee pots ruins the flavor of coffee. I am assured that if I don’t clean the coffee maker after every brewing, the delicate flavors will be destroyed and be replaced by an acidic tar that tastes like, well, acidic tar.
I haven’t washed the coffee pot since my wife quit drinking coffee several months ago. As far as I can tell, acidic tar is the part of coffee that I like. Besides that, the cheap coffee I buy is incapable of producing anything else. I won’t go so far as to say that this is myth, only that in my addled state, I am incapable of discerning the difference.
-Laundry must be separated lest the delicate weft and warp of the fabric be rent and destroyed. Colors will bleed, wool will shrink, all manner of rack and ruin will reign over the wash cycle leaving only tattered shreds at the end.
I was generally disinterested in school my entire life. But, there were a few things that caught my interest. One of the concepts I found interesting was that of the lowest common denominator. This is a concept I still rely on regularly. What this has to do with separating wash is this: wash everything on delicate cycle and don’t wash sweaters at all. The complex algorithm of separating wash is thereby reduced to a binary system. You’re welcome.
-Temperance, restraint, exercise, moderation, and not eating salami will make you healthy in mind and body.
I have tried all these things in all combinations and it did not produce a healthy mind or a healthy body. I am not very good at any of them, but one would think that mostly temperate, relatively good restraint, exercise in less than complete excess, moderation in all things including moderation, and maybe only a little salami would have at least some effect. Not that I can tell.
Questioning those things we take for granted is an important part of improving ourselves. Some of those things, such as gravity, should be taken at face value. Finding those that produce laundry solutions and not concussions is a life long intellectual quest. My quest is over for today. An hour of improving myself is all I can take. Thinking is exhausting. Now I am going to make a cup of acidic tar and have a couple of doughnuts.
|I read this morning that young people with concussions benefit from having fewer demands made on their cognitive functions. Once again I have saved myself through the benefit of superior logic. After about the third or fourth concussion, I realized I should quit thinking all together. I must have gained a tremendous benefit.
It has been a while since I took a good knock to the head, I could probably start thinking again. The problem is that I have either forgotten how, or I am unable to. The best I can do fake it by looking like I am thinking.
I feel I have a large store of cognitive capacity locked up somewhere inside of me just waiting to be unleashed. Unleashing it may or may not go well. It depends on my mental state at the time. I have upon times unleashed a mad scientist, a self-destructive maniac, and an alchemist with too many good supplies. Then again, I might write a novel. It has happened before.
Unleashing whatever is backlogged awaiting a cognitive breakthrough might not be my call. I am in the position of waiting for the other deranged shoe to drop. My current medication non-plan is bound to fail, just as it did before when a series of disastrous events led to two spinal taps (one failed), a 104.7-degree fever, and a visit from an end-of-life counselor. Don’t do this.
All I know for sure at this point is that at some point I will become psychotic, have blackouts, hallucinate, and be continually out of beer because of not remembering I drank it. At least it is familiar territory. This would not be a good time to remember how to think.
I am going to confess to my doctor how interesting I have become at the first sight of an overly large bug. But, I may not confess the return of my latent cognitive powers. For one thing, if I were to tell him that I had good news and can once again think, he wouldn’t believe me. Or worse, he would and might take draconian steps to prevent it.
Perhaps you have been accused of over thinking things. If you are among the lucky few who can do that and not end up with a rocket that explodes on launch, I don’t see any problem. Unless you have a concussion. But, for those of us who have had mixed results with over thinking, I have a few tips on how to disguise it:
-Long, complicated explanations will put your spouse on guard. If you are using a long and complicated explanation to explain why the condiments should be kept on the top shelf of the refrigerator, this will cause substantially worse than just concern. Keep it brief. “I want to keep the peanut butter on the top shelf next to the other legumes,” is about as deep as you should go.
-Questions such as “Do you want to watch “****” tonight” do not require a matrix and decision tree (although they would certainly help). Answer yes or no. In fact, answer everything yes or no and see if they pass.
-Do not consider chemical bonds, energetic molecules, staged reactions, or how to harness chemical energy for the benefit of mankind. Just let them do without, they will be happier.
You won’t be hiding anything from anybody, of course. But, at least you won’t get hauled up on charges of over thinking and be condemned for releasing a few hundred measly kilojoules of energy for the benefit of mankind. But if you get caught, limit your answers to yes or no and see if they pass. Long, complicated explanations will just make everyone nervous. Don’t do this.
|My health insurance provider has a service whereby one can talk to a registered nurse anytime 24-hours a day. I call them all the time. A typical question might be, “I think I accidentally produced a small amount of sulfur dioxide gas in an enclosed space and now I am having…” You get the idea.
I ask them a lot of questions regarding how severe a laceration or contusion must be before being seen by a doctor. I have asked them in the past if hallucinations are anything to be concerned about or how to reduce tremors so that I can hold a beer. Their advice has ranged from go immediately to the emergency room (pneumonia) to take your meds and lay down (hallucinations).
I believe I am a great source of amusement for them. I can see the nurse calling the other nurses over to listen to my recounting of how I feel dizzy after getting hit in the head, but I was dizzy before, so what do you think? They are a great source of advice when I don’t want to admit my latest act of tremendous stupidity to my wife.
Yesterday was the first fog free day in a month. I decided it was time to return to the land of the living and take a walk. When I was released from the hospital a week and a half ago, I was told it would take “some time” to recover from the experience, and that I could resume my normal activities slowly and build up gradually. I am not good with relative terms such as “slowly” and “gradually”. I decided to call my friends at the 24-hour nurse line for an interpretation.
I had decided on a gentle walk with only a modest elevation gain. It was about three miles and would require a little over an hour to complete. This was my idea of slowly and gradually. The 24-hour nurse differed with me on that. It turns out that slowly starts at a much different place than I wanted to start from. She told me that twenty minutes was a good starting point, and I could increase to thirty after a week.
I wanted to tell her that she was even crazier than me except I was sure she had my history in front of her. I have learned that there isn’t any point in arguing with them, they are every bit as unreasonable as everyone else in the profession. Twenty minutes. Sheesh.
But, just like every year, I decided to turn over a new leaf and follow the advice of people who know what they are talking about. It turns out that it takes about forty five minutes to complete a twenty minute walk. This was accomplished gradually by calculating the ten minute halfway mark without actually checking the time.
It appears I did the right thing by waiting two weeks to start. I skipped the ridiculously conservation twenty and thirty minute marks and skipped ahead to the forty minute mark. I am going out today to try the original hike I had planned. Twenty minutes. What did she think I was, sane of something? Since she had my history in front of her, it was probably “something”.
|I have been trying to whip up some enthusiasm and optimism for the upcoming year but falling short so far. I may have to fall back on some tried and true activities to cheer up. These will require the wholesale abandonment of various strictures and requirements I have accumulated over the years, but it wouldn’t be the first time. These are things I haven’t tried for years so it’s about time.
The first, and my favorite for its simplicity, is making nitrous oxide. This is a very simple process and requires no more then a few rudimentary lab supplies. All it requires is ammonium nitrate. Don’t go buy it at the farm supply store, it must be contaminant-free. The downside is that ammonium nitrate is touchy. Heat it to any more than 240-degrees and it could detonate. Don’t do this. If you think your spouse was upset when you spilled Benedict’s reagent on the counter, wait until they come home and find out there has been a rather energetic explosion in the kitchen. Research is the key to marital harmony, so read up first. Also, a dry powder fire extinguisher will make one hell of a mess. Use foam.
The next on my list are “things that go boom” (but not in the kitchen). There are relatively safe ways to accomplish this without the use of dangerous materials. It can be done with hazardous materials, which are different. I have never constructed an acetylene noise canon, but the pages of devotees on the web do not have any memorials for members whose canons exploded, so I think it is within my reach. I could build a potato gun, but past experience with projectiles reveals them to be less fun than they sound.
Lastly, I could cast about for something potentially useful such as adapting a shop dust collector to a built-in vacuum system for the first floor, or maybe devising a lighting system by which one might actually be able to see on the second floor. These fall somewhat below sniff and boom, as options one and two might be termed.
This has been a good exercise. I feel energized and invigorated. I swore off black powder decades ago, but I am starting to feel confident enough to take it up again. Talk about flash and boom, it just doesn’t get any better. I had better get started though. These ideas represent a deteriorating mental condition and if goes too far, I will blow up the kitchen. Don’t do this.
|I seem to be at a loss for words this morning. That doesn’t happen often. They may not be in a coherent order or be well organized, but at least there are plenty of them. And, there are no expectations that what I write will be very well written, or even understandable, given my continually fluctuating mental state. One would think that to be liberating, at least as far as writing goes, but this morning my thoughts are so distant that I am unable to locate them at all. My ideas have taken flight and left me behind, the traitorous wretches.
I had a thought that I might organize an escape, perhaps to locate my thoughts, and take my truck out test run. Then I fell down. I don’t know what happened, I walked up the stairs and collapsed. The guard was doubled. Now an escape will be impossible. I have been leafing through Don’t Do This for a possible strategy, but the best I can come up with is “Make a break”. Not advisable in this case.
We have two grandchildren with us for three days. That is usually finger nails on the blackboard, but in my current condition it is nails in the brain. Clearly, something must be done.
Here are my resources:
-My buddy down the road. He can bust me out on some pretense and we can go eat and drink until I fall over again. Doing that in public is inadvisable in the extreme, but the worst that could happen is another stint in the hospital. As things are right now, I would accept incarceration in order to avoid one more ‘tweens’ program, IV and all.
-My wife has strategically parked her car behind my truck making escape by truck impossible. It hasn’t, however, made escape by her car impossible. The ramifications would be dire and extreme, but really, have you seen any of those puerile shows? I am relegated to my chair as one after another plays like an adolescent version of Clockwork Orange. I swear to God, if I had any LSD, I would take it.
-Unconsciousness. This has been my defense up to now. Unfortunately, there is a limit to how much medication one can take before they fall down and the guard gets doubled.
Here are my roadblocks:
-My recovery from my recent unpleasantness is taking far longer than it should. I am told it will take some time before I fully recover. A cursory glance at the calendar reveals that ‘some time’ has elapsed. I feel I should now be allowed to resume my normal activities. I probably need to avoid falling down in order to press that point.
-Everyone from my buddy to my family to my friend in town have unrealistically restrictive views as to what I am capable of. Falling down results in a bump and a scratch or two. Young person’s television programming will cause long-term and irreputable harm to what meager mental resources I have left. If I go, I had better damn well locate my missing thoughts because I am going to need them when I am apprehended.
It is a conundrum, to be sure. Devoid of ideas, choices ranging from bad to worse, my wife’s impossible go-cart of a car as my only means of escape, there will be no dodging the bullets that will fly when I am returned home to further my nails-in-brain torture. One thing is for certain. The year 2014 can only improve over time. Hopefully with some semblance of a brain still remaining. Or, hopefully not. It depends on how many of those shows I am required to watch.
At the time I became ill a week and a half ago, this guitar had about twenty minutes of work required before I could put strings on it. Stringing up a guitar for the first time is a suspenseful moment. There are any number of defects that can become apparent once the stress of the strings is added, many of which are fatal.
This guitar was a real (insert obscenity) to build. Glue wouldn’t stick to the redwood because the fibers would simply tear off. Plus, I was trying to build it “right”, which I never do. This was the first standard flat top I have built, because frankly, they are boring. But, since it was standard, I followed my construction guide as closely as possible. I am not capable of following the directions for assembling a file cabinet, you can imagine how the work proceeded.
My time in the hospital was annoying for a number of reasons. When the “end of life” counselor came in to find out how far I wanted them to go with the resuscitation efforts, I became concerned. I told her that, hell yes I wanted heroic measures! I wanted the Batman of heroic measures! I wanted the 440 volt paddles with a supercharger. I have been nearly brain dead for years and I didn’t want that used an a excuse to knock off work early.
I had many of the emotions one would expect. One of them was disappointment that I had come twenty minutes shy of putting strings on that (insert obscenity) guitar. Yesterday I accomplished the feat. I had an urge to do a Garth Brooks on the (insert obscenity) thing and wrap it around a tree, but decided someone would like it as a present so I resisted.
That is by far the most annoying guitar I have ever built, including the one that the body split in half mid-way into the project. But it wasn’t entirely without benefit. These are things I already knew, but for some insane reason decided were not going to be a factor this time. I credit this partly to the reaction to the offending medication which had been ramping up for the past month.
-Do not attempt to do anything the “right” way. I have no aptitude for it. The five guitars I built with no forethought came out much better.
-The reason people don’t build guitars the way I do with the materials I use is that they are not insane. Quit fighting it.
-Detailed instructions are not applicable in my dimension. The proper sequence for building a guitar in my dimension is “Do it all t once, have a beer”.
The guitar is hanging safely on the wall, out of sight and mind. Eventually my annoyance will fade. Then I fully expect a brace with pop off and the neck will twist. Then a reenactment of Jimi Hendricks’ performance at the Monterey Pop Festival will ensue. I can guarantee my guitar will burn better that his. Napthalene, Benzene, Acetone, oh yes Jimi, this is how you burn a (insert obscenity) guitar!
|I like writing on New Year’s day. It is a great opportunity to be as silly as one wants in their writing. There is no downside for making ridiculous predictions, unless you have made a bet on one, in which case I ask, “What the hell is wrong with you?” There is a good deal of consensus that the future does not exist. And you are betting on it? Reassess your medication plan.
With the understanding that the future does not exists, here are my predications about it:
-Material science will continue developing Graphene, a one-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms. Then they will lose it. A researcher will shout, “I told you we should have made it a billion billion atoms thick! Then we could have rolled it up and put a rubber band around it.” On the plus side, it is the strongest material ever made, so there is the possibility one might trip over it and find it that way.
-Every single dire warning about climate change will turn out to have been ridiculously optimistic. That’s good. People need to remain optimistic, even as their optimist glass half full of water is evaporating as they watch.
-I will make great strides in personal health and safety by no longer conducting field tests in agility and balance. Those have turned out to have been ridiculously optimistic as well. I am only going to hike where sane people hike. It is hard to simulate what sane people think, but I never see anyone hiking where I hike, so I have to assume that is not it. I will search every inch of the black berry and poison oak-infested clear cuts until I find one. In 2014, I am going to locate a sane person on the west slope of Price Peak clinging desperately to a poison oak vine praying it doesn’t break before a toe hold can be dug. I will have some good pointers for them.
-In 2014 I will become invisible at least once and hopefully not forget where I am.
-In 2014, I will not do anything bizarre, inadvisable, illegal, or truly weird during a blackout. That is going to be a tough one. If you think forgetting the past is bad, try forgetting the present.
-I will confess my complete lunacy and near-complete idiocy to my wife as soon as it becomes apparent. I suppose it will have to be a matter of degree, so I need to develop some metrics such as blood loss, failure to remain conscious, consecutive blackout days, etc. There is no use getting her needlessly upset, so until I have those protocols I will follow the guidelines in Don’t Do This.
The well known adage that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it is a dandy saying, but if you can’t remember the past, how will you know if you are repeating it? The safest route and best bet is to assume that I am repeating every single thing I do because I can’t remember anything past last week. Conversely, everything I do now will be forgotten and repeated in the future. That is more than enough justification to do fun things now so that they will be done again (although not remembered).
There are my 2014 predictions in a nutshell. Remember, keep Don’t Do This close at hand because you never know which part of the past you are repeating. Drink a lot of beer. That is worth repeating.
|This time of year one sees a lot of retrospectives about the people and events of the last year. I like those. They are almost entirely news to me. I will have either forgotten they happened this year, or more likely, forgotten they happened at all.
My wife has largely stopped being impatient with me over it. This year, I will shout, ”Ray Dolby died!?” (yes) “When?” (last year). “Fredrick Sanger died!?” and so on. There is something to be said for remembering the year as it happens because getting it all at once is a shock.
Sometimes I try to put together a retrospective of my own life. My wife hates that because she is the one who has to actually do it. This year, she won’t get ten seconds into it before I am shouting, “I got pneumonia AGAIN!?”, and “Kenney died?” My wife only makes it to about June and then I am on my own.
The things I remember may or may not have happened. I am quite sure that some of the most memorable moments were psychotic events. I remember I saw a skunk the size of a Labrador retriever. That was memorable. Thank God it was a hallucination. I remember going to my doctor’s office and having all four doctors called in to have a look. They asked me how I had gotten there and I replied that I had driven, at which they shot each other a look. ‘Wrong answer’, I thought, ‘Note in Don’t Do This.’ Aside from a few things like that, everything I remember might have happened last year, five years ago, or even not at all. My wife has very little patience with verifying the reality of things that happened only in my own head.
Left to my own devices, I will construct a pretty rosy history. It will include things such as, “I almost died twice, but didn’t, so things could be worse.” I remember hiking on sunny days, getting lost on a blistering hot day (don’t do this), camping, and a lot of good times with the family (except perhaps the funeral). Every bit of it could have happened five years ago.
My wife and I always have the same New Year’s resolution. We vow to not be hung over on New Year’s Day. This following a near-death experience hangover some thirty years ago. We have kept to it faithfully. Not going out on New Year’s eve has helped.
Making resolutions is futile. Last year, I resolved to have no surgeries or ER visits. By the end of January, I had both. I ended the year with one surgery, three ER visits, and an ambulance ride, possibly a new record.
For this year’s retrospective, I am going to ask my wife to skip over those parts and try to cover the parts that were sunshine and fun watching the kids look for Easter eggs. Maybe I can talk her into making up a few because I won’t know anyway. Since it is a tradition, futile or not, here are my resolutions for 2014:
-I resolve to be less crazy, more healthy, and to not scare the living hell out of my friends and family.
-I resolve to not argue with invisible people. There is no worse waste of time.
-I resolve to hike where only sane people hike, boring as that is.
-And finally, I resolve to stay positive even when doctors shake their heads (I hate that). I will be a source of joy and light, albeit possibly not in this galaxy. At the end of the year, I will ask my wife to either exclude or include these items in the retrospective. Depending on how annoyed she is, it will have been a good year or a not so good year. I hope we will have had an Easter egg hunt.
|It has been five days since I was released from the hospital after a no-joke reaction to a medication I had been taking. The 5-day stay may have been cut short if they had stopped the medication earlier. But, looking at it from their point of view, the only thing worse than a delirious patient running a very high fever is an unmedicated one. Though in truth, I feel I was performing at psychotic peak efficiency and stopping all the medications would have had little effect. I don’t blame them for not wanting to find out.
I discovered that after I began to recover, food became unappetizing. Aside from having no desire to eat, I perceived most food as being repugnant. I ate nothing but grapes for three days. I believed it was a result of my system going into a panic during the no-joke episodes and that it would straighten itself out after a while.
So far, I have expanded my diet to include yogurt. I would not eat at all except I am assured another system panic could result. As a precaution, I ate a bowl of tomato soup last night. It was awful. My wife assured me that the soup did not smell like bleach and watched as I ate. Given a moment, I would have poured it out and declared “All done!”, holding the empty bowl up as evidence.
What elevates this above a simple and temporary artifact of a jokeless hospital occurrence is the wild card of being on a medication plan which may be summated as “Wait for psychosis, then do something. Anything. Try sedation.”
All that aside, I feel I may have some usefulness as a rescue person detecting the faintest hints of tastes and odors for those who do not possess my new-found superpower. Not speaking here of insanity, which is an old superpower. Should there be a need, I can:
-Detect the faintest hint of bleach even if the bedding is washed three times to remove it. My wife washed one blanket with bleach. Now everything in the house smells of bleach. Things in the refrigerator, the remote control, every other piece of bedding we have, all carry a terrible stench (a description my wife objects to for some reason). If you can smell bleach but don’t know where it is coming from, I can find it for you even if it is in the ketchup.
-Serve as your personal food taster in order to assure your food is wholesome. We can save time if you would throw everything away except for strawberry yogurt and grapes.
-Determine air quality by identifying indoor pollutants such as bleach, broccoli, boiled eggs (don’t do this!), and any number of hand creams, shampoos, or (God forbid) nail polish.
I go to see my General Practitioner on Tuesday because all my doctors want to hear the story. Reactions such as I had are very rare with most people in that situation having the Good Sense to die. I will describe my taste, appetite, untapped superpower, medication plan deficiencies, why hospital beds should be secured to the floor, and espouse the virtues of strawberry yogurt and grapes. After listening attentively along with every other doctor that can fit into the examination room, because it is a very good story, my chart will be updated to read, “Patient progressing as expected.” And the problem is, they will be correct.
|I have wanted a remote control helicopter for the longest time. I have been dropping overt hints for at least five years. I thought about buying one myself, but that is an extravagance I could not justify. This Christmas my wife bought me one. It is an excellent little device and I love it. It is a little hard to control but I am sure that will come with practice.
Our cat doesn’t know quite what to make of it. She may not know what it is, but she knows she wants to kill it. A few furtive attempts have not gone well. As a prey item, it has several odd qualities. First, it won’t die. Second, it is unpredictable in the extreme. And third, it is a “tough bird”, so to speak. It has the wings of a monstrous armored hummingbird and has no compunction against making direct attacks. These factors have elevated the weird bird to both hated and despised. Ahab the cat says the white whale must die.
Meanwhile, the novice operator is still mastering standing upright. My cognitive abilities have been sadly reduced and I have a reaction lag time that stretches back to over an hour ago. The operating principles are simple enough, but as of right now they significantly exceed my abilities. Fortunately, the thing is quite tough and has survived some rather spectacular control failures. There is an abort method whereby one simply turns off the controller and the helicopter drops like a rock. This has saved it from the roof twice.
One of my first goals is to simply bring the thing to hover five to ten feet off the ground. I was making another attempt from my test ground in the driveway while the cat kept a close eye from the deck. The helicopter rose and then quite unexpectedly hovered nicely. But, some whim of air current or cat hatred caused it to drift sideways. Then, it turned directly towards the deck and flew straight and level two feet above surface. It shot towards the cat in a feat of aerobatic control that I had yet to produce.
The cat sat up, clearly alarmed at the fierce armored creature’s attack. I found the wherewithal to turn off the controller and the device crashed no more than three feet from the cat. The cat executed a vertical leap of a magnitude only rarely matched on YouTube. She began running before she landed as if in a cartoon, and shot off in fear for her life.
The white whale must not simply die, it must be shredded and it’s remains spread across the yard. There is something chilling about watching a cat plotting. She observes from hidden places, and when the beast hits the ground, she charges in hopes of beating me to it. Oh, it is going to rain white whale before long. Or cat fur. My money is on fur.
I knew I really wanted a remote control helicopter, but I had been mistaken as to why. I can’t even fly it and it is the funniest thing I own. I am hoping to learn to control it well enough to avoid hurting the cat, but the cat obviously has something devious planned. It is only a matter of time before the whale gets pissed and attacks the Pequod, which it will assume is me. I hope I have the wherewithal to turn off the controller before it hits, because the cat is right, it is a monstrous armored hummingbird when on the attack.