Archive for the 'do not try this at home' Category

Things I read today (“a safer reflection of what we cannot bear”)

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Orpheus and Eurydice .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Persus and Medusa

The problem is, we only get one chance at this, with no do-overs. Life is, in effect, a non-repeatable experiment with no control. In his novel about marriage, “Light Years,” James Salter writes: “For whatever we do, even whatever we do not do prevents us from doing its opposite. Acts demolish their alternatives, that is the paradox.” Watching our peers’ lives is the closest we can come to a glimpse of the parallel universes in which we didn’t ruin that relationship years ago, or got that job we applied for, or got on that plane after all. It’s tempting to read other people’s lives as cautionary fables or repudiations of our own.

A colleague of mine once hosted a visiting cartoonist from Scandinavia who was on a promotional tour. My colleague, who has a university job, a wife and children, was clearly a little wistful about the tour, imagining Brussels, Paris, and London, meeting new fans and colleagues and being taken out for beers every night. The cartoonist, meanwhile, looked forlornly around at his host’s pleasant row house and sighed, almost to himself: “I would like to have such a house.”

One of the hardest things to look at in this life is the lives we didn’t lead, the path not taken, potential left unfulfilled. In stories, those who look back — Lot’s wife, Orpheus and Eurydice — are lost. Looking to the side instead, to gauge how our companions are faring, is a way of glancing at a safer reflection of what we cannot directly bear, like Perseus seeing the Gorgon safely mirrored in his shield.

The Referendum by Tim Kreider

serious, earnest and informative (Iran, humor and pumpkin pie)

Saturday, June 27th, 2009


(started on IRC):
I did it again – just totally couldn’t take the joke. I should be aware by now that the inclusion of the word “Iran” (or “Iraq”) in any conversation immediately shuts off any humor receptors in my brain.* My eyes go glassy, I sit up very straight, start spouting statistics and referencing web sites. I am serious, earnest and _painfully_ informative. I’ve got a disproportionate amount of data, passion and desire to talk about this (not just about videos of a young woman dying on the street or politics, but technology, humanity, connection, history, etc. etc) compared to just about anyone I speak to in my every day world (and I admit, it feels very lonely).

It occured to me after I launched into another unechoed allocution on the topic that I might need to come up with an equivalent code phrase to the one used by Summer Glau’s brother in Serenity when she hears a trigger word, goes nuts in the bar and starts wailing on everyone – which he says to make her fall asleep. Something like “pumpkin pie” maybe?

* ok, that’s not totally true. trevlix on twitter has been consistently awesome and pointed and funny.

* and I love that this gesture looks both “V for Victory” with small bits of the Brit “get stuffed” gesture

Things I saw today (Dancing panda – web time warp)

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

I stumbled onto this page (caveat: mind your eyes) when trying to find the lyrics to the hokey-pokey for a friend who was not born in the US and it was like a time warp to the early web – similar in a way I’d imagine to how I’d feel if I time warped back and saw myself in school: amused, nostalgic but glad to not be there anymore too.


Monday, October 13th, 2008

I’ve been feeling by turns edgy, angry and down lately. I went through a very low time a few weeks ago and I hate feeling out of sorts again so soon.

One of the almost existential problems of depression for me, at least, is the gradual distrust I’ve come to have of my own impressions of what is real. I ask myself how I can be sure what is real or not when the world seems so different during the depression than during the times I’m not depressed. I also start to question which is the real me, the me who is sad, upset and down or the one who is buoyed temporarily by the right, if fleeting, combination of brain chemicals? I know in some ways that my bouts of depression can be thought to be from a bad mix of chemicals and I described it to someone once as my brain dripping poison. Maybe a better metaphor is an extended emotional eclipse. I suppose both are the real me, the happy and the sad and that the poison is mine as much as the lack of it, the light and the darkness.

I wish I could look forward to things more; wish I could picture the good more than what might be difficult or tiring or uncomfortable; wish I wasn’t so swamped with anxiety or sadness or just the desire to hide out. I know I’ll likely bounce back, feel better, see things more clearly and smile in a few days or weeks, but I know I’ll likely feel like this again too.

on depression

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

depressed brain and non depressed brain

Yesterday someone I like and admire very much asked me about depression. I had just admitted to him directly, I think for the first time, that I’m a depressive. He’s seen me sad before and he asked me how bad it gets and I said: “very bad”. We talked a bit but I don’t know that I described things well. I’ve recently read people talking very movingly about their own experiences. Since it’s such a big part of my life I’ve thought for a while about how I might speak about it, and if I did, what I might say. Below is a start.

I probably tend not to speak about it much at all if I’m depressed. It’s like a secret about which I’m rather ashamed (though I doubt it’s actually much of a secret to those around me), a recurring reminder to myself that there is something very wrong with me and the way my brain chemistry or synapses work or whatever destructive, insidious little poison periodically gets released in my head. I think it’s part of who I am and looking back I can see clearly that I was depressed at times throughout my life and even as a kid.

I can be ok for weeks or months but always I know that at any time there’s a possibility that depression will come again, surround me like a black cloud, suffocate me, bring me low. Counted cumulatively, I’ve lost years of my life to depression. Part of what makes things difficult when I am depressed is the feeling that no one would really want to deal with me when I’m down, that I don’t want to bother others, that I don’t want to speak about it to others, that I don’t want to speak at all. So I shut myself off, hide away, stop returning phone calls, don’t reply to mail. I batten down the hatches and just try to weather the storm. If you’re a friend of mine and I have done that to you before or am doing it now – I’m sorry, I’m doing the best I can. I remember a close, caring friend who does understand depression once saying that anyone who gets close to me knows that I’m sad (as part of a conversation she and I were having about letting people see who I really am, good and bad, happy and sad and hoping that I’m accepted for it, which unfortunately isn’t always the case).

Often when in a conversation about what depression is with people who haven’t gone through it, I seem to end up speaking about what it’s not. It’s not being down based necessarily on something that has happened, something situational (though sometimes situational things can spark it). It’s not feeling sad (nor is it melancholy). It is different than grief. It’s life stripped of all color and, for me at least, all sensation except for a sort of nausea and a nagging, aching pain. It’s a kind of inability to connect, to relate, to find joy in things one might normally like. At its worst, it’s a complete, crushing lack of hope. I’ve thought that depression feels like being at the bottom of the ocean, crushed by the water, barely able to move, surrounded by silence and darkness, looking up to the surface and feeling very far away. I think most people who aren’t depressive just don’t understand it and well, good for you! if so. What I don’t like hearing from people who haven’t gone through it is that I should try to be stronger (like them, I guess), that I should just “cheer up” or “get over it”, that I think too much, that I should just focus on the positive, that I should try harder, etc.

Fortunately, I guess, I’ve been through depressions enough times to see that one can get through them, that there are things I can do to lessen the impact, that they do end – the trick is to hold on (sometimes just barely, but to hold on) and to just do the best one can. The right medication can help, exercise can help, cognitive therapy can help. Other people can be supportive, (the man I mentioned in the first sentence above can always seem to make me smile even in a bad depression, other friends can make me laugh with a little gallows humor), but I don’t think anyone else can really help you when you’re very far down. It’s occurred to me in the past that if the me now could go back and talk to the younger me going through whatever problems, griefs, mistakes, depressions, etc were happening, the one bit of advice I’d give is just: “It will be ok. It will all be ok.”

What I’m saying to myself now is: it will be ok.

Add on:
I felt kind of stupid and did delete the entry for a bit. Ashamed, I guess, as I mentioned above. Not ok, maybe. Then later, I figured, who is going to read it really? It’s pretty much just me talking to myself here and what does it matter? Maybe it’s good sometimes to fess up, to admit being a complete mess. Plus, I like the picture – it helps me understand in a different way. As to what I wrote, well, it’s crap, yes, but maybe later it would be good for me to come back and read at another time, to see if I see things any differently when a bit more above the surface of the water. Anyway, it’s back.

Things I read today (Pharyngula on torture/description of waterboarding)

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

From the science blog Pharyngula

When the US government announces it’s support for torture, they aren’t talking about intelligence gathering: they are simply saying “Fear us.” They are taking the first step on the road to tyranny.

The real problem is that fear isn’t a good tool to use in a democratic society. We are supposed to be shareholders in our government; when a process of oppression is endorsed by our legislators and president, we should recognize that they are trying to set themselves apart from the ordinary citizenry, and it’s time to rebel…before the goon squads come to your neighborhood. Anyone who supports torture is a traitor to the democratic form of government, and should be voted out of office, if not impeached.

Despite it’s tag line, Pharyngula is not just a science blog, it is one of the most consistently interesting of all the blogs I read; taking on, sometimes with humor sometimes with righteous anger, anyone who tries to dress up woolly-headededness, deliberate ignorance, lies or fabrications of any kind as truth.

Myers earlier cited a description of how water-boarding feels from Straight Dope’s message boards which is shocking and a telling refutation to any person or government who would try to twist words and phrases to suggest the practice is anything but deliberate and horrible torture.

I have never been more panicked in my whole life. Once your lungs are empty and collapsed and they start to draw fluid it is simply all over. You know you are dead and it’s too late. Involuntary and total panic…

So, is it torture?

I’ll put it this way. If I had the choice of being waterboarded by a third party or having my fingers smashed one at a time by a sledgehammer, I’d take the fingers, no question.

It’s horrible, terrible, inhuman torture. I can hardly imagine worse. I’d prefer permanent damage and disability to experiencing it again. I’d give up anything, say anything, do anything.


Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

Vlad’s brother introduced us to Yatta! by Happa-tai (Green leaves). Wow, it’s a 2001 song. It’s bound to stay in your head for a while.

“Try keeping dogs, they’re cute!”

a good curse

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Recent events involving the cat’s genitalia made me think of a good curse for Harry Potter and fellow wizards and witches: