Angioplasty

It’ll all be fine.

That’s what they always say. Medical professionals. They’re always keen to reassure their patients that all will be well. They don’t want the patient to freak out and do anything crazy like killing themselves or canceling the procedure out of fear of the procedure. That is so not me; and I am way, way beyond the ability for comforting words to assuage any fears or disquiet.

Nope, I’m already certain that the end has come. I’m gonna die on the table. That’s the worst possible outcome. The next most likely outcome is that I’m going to wake up with a zipper chest like so many of my relatives have. Of course, I don’t tell anyone else that, not even the Wife. At least I don’t say that in those specific words. The Wife knows my mental acrobatics. She helpfully exclaims to the cardiologists nursing staff,

See what I have to put up with?

I know my own genetic history. I know what is in store for me because it is what happened to my direct genetic ancestors. My maternal grandfather had a heart attack when he was about my age. They cracked his chest open and sewed six bypass arteries into his heart in order to keep him alive. The procedure was successful. He lived for another thirty years before his gut killed him. When I started getting that weird sensation in my chest, I knew what that feeling meant, I just couldn’t jump to conclusions about what it was. No, I had to go through the experts and ge their opinions. I could have been wrong, but I wasn’t wrong. This time.

The feeling? It was like two solid objects rubbing against each other in the area around my heart. I’d never felt anything quite like it before in my life. After the sensation repeated itself several times during exercise, I decided I probably should take it seriously. So I did. I cancelled the physical therapy appointment I had the next day and booked an appointment with my cardiologist for as soon as he could see me.

He’s the one who offered the platitude it’ll be fine after saying the word angiogram and then watching me pale. What he didn’t know was that I have had nightmares about things crawling through my veins for most of my life. it’s part of my fear of needles and why I nearly faint every time someone sticks me with something. An angiogram is exactly that fear come to life.

I cringed every time an older relative would go in for one of the procedures. The Wife’s foster father had one done back in the dark ages, back in the 1980’s when an angiogram was still experimental. His was the first one I had ever heard of being done. They went in through his groin. They went in through that artery in the thigh that if cut you can bleed out in a matter of seconds. Not minutes, seconds. That artery. The femoral artery.

The catheter that they introduce into the blood system through the artery allows them to run a camera up through your arteries to study blockage from inside your body, and they can use it to introduce dye into your blood system, near the heart, so that they can use x ray imaging to study blockages. Which is what they wanted me to agree to. We’re going to slice open an artery and run tubes through your bloodstream. But don’t worry, we do this all the time.

They don’t know that worry is what I do eighteen hours a day, every day. If I’m not worrying about something, then I’m probably not actively thinking at the moment. I even worry when I dream. This is why driving a car every day of a working life is a special kind of torture for me. Anything more than a half-hour of driving, and I’m already worrying a hole in my stomach. I gave myself an ulcer inside of six months when I briefly flirted with driving for a living, bringing to an early end any kind of career driving trucks or test cars.

Over the course of the next week, while waiting for the procedure to happen, I say my goodbyes to everyone and make sure my karmic debt is paid off. I don’t want to be surprised in a potential next life by being reborn as a cockroach or anything. Just covering my bets. When the day finally arrives I’m under so much stress that if you scared me I would probably have a heart attack on the spot. That’s me trying not to worry.

Luckily I wasn’t going to be awake for the procedure. I made sure of that before agreeing to it. No, I do not want to be awake. I want the good drugs. The kind of drugs that keep you from remembering anything. I definitely do not want to be reliving the memory of crap crawling through my veins when I go to sleep for the rest of my life, if there is a rest of my life. Knock me out, or as close to out as I can get and still be responsive to commands or questions.

The doctor showed up early. He checked my wrist to see if it was large enough to get into easily. He was planning on accessing the radial artery rather than the femoral artery. I was initially thrilled at the notion that I wouldn’t have blood shooting out of the artery next to my junk the first time I went to the bathroom after the procedure. Then he left the room to allow the prep nurse to get to work. They prepared both the femoral artery area in the groin (so much hair!) and the right wrist as possible surgery locations. Had I known they would need to shave my groin anyway, I could have used the trimmers on it beforehand. Manscaping is a foreign concept to me. If hair grows somewhere on my body (on your body, even) it probably grows there for a reason. I see little need to trim hair that no one sees but me and the Wife. If she doesn’t like the hair, it usually gets snatched out by the roots anyway.

Talking to the surgery nurses is the last thing I remember before the procedure. I remember that both arms were strapped down (we don’t want you moving. Yes, I understand) The surgical shields were put in place. They were cold, but in place. The nurse said they do these kinds of procedures eight times a day on a normal day. They wouldn’t be doing eight of them on that day because the cardiologist I had been referred to had already dealt with two emergency procedures before he got to me in the mid-afternoon, and I had been scheduled as the first cardiogram of the morning when I walked in that day. He’s a busy guy. He earns his pay, without a doubt. He definitely earned it working on me that day.

The good drugs started when the doctor entered the surgery and verified everything I’d agreed to for about the fourth or fifth time (the thoroughness of modern medical procedure is reassuring if slightly tedious) and I don’t remember much after that. I remember the imaging system suspended over my chest like the upper hammer in a forging hammer press. I remember voices, but not words. I do vaguely remember something rounding the corner in my shoulder at one point, but I definitely do not remember the amount of work they had to do once they had done the initial scan.

…because it was as bad as I imagined it was. I didn’t die, so the worst outcome was averted. They didn’t have to crack my chest, something that would have been required had I been undergoing the procedure even ten years ago. Second worst outcome avoided by simply being born in the place and time that I was. No open heart surgery. Just three stents. Three stents, in three different arteries, and then the second set of tests to make sure that blood flow was restored to the blood starved areas of my heart.

What would have been weeks of bed rest and a lengthy hospital stay reduced to overnight observation and three months of cardiac rehabilitation. I’m a big fan of science-based modern medicine. It has once again kept me alive to see another day. From that perspective, what is there not to like about it?

I start remembering things after I’ve been in the recovery room for a bit. I remember the Wife’s usual amusement at my slowly dwindling confusion. I remember the cardiologist (now my favorite person in the world) visiting to let me know what they found while crawling through my arteries. He also let me know that I needed to stay for observation for at least a day to make sure that there were no complications. I also remember sitting in the recovery room until they had a hospital room ready for me, sitting there waiting until the cleaning staff was impatiently waiting for me to leave so they could clean up and shut down the surgery wing for the day. At least I had Looney Tunes to keep me company.

The pressure bandage was removed from my wrist at some point during the wait, and then there was a brief panic while I bled through quite a bit of gauze before the nurses got the bleeding to stop. Nurses pressing on the fresh surgery site to stop the bleeding, that was the most intense pain I endured that day. A mercifully brief pain considering the amount of pain that open heart surgery entails. Pain for months on end.

NPR – Invisibilia – The Fifth Vital Sign

I could bitch about the inability to get my betahistine cleared through the hospital administration while I was laid up at the hospital for the night, but that seems pretty trivial in the scheme of things. We’ll just pretend I didn’t take the betahistine anyway because that would be against the rules. Did you know you aren’t allowed to bring your own drugs into the hospital? It was news to me. If you have drugs that aren’t available in the US unless they are compounded, you probably should get your drugs approved by the hospital you might be staying in before you find yourself stuck there with no treatment for your weird diseases. It will save you the frustration. In my case, it would have kept me from requesting a Xanax from the staff in order to keep the vertigo at bay. They didn’t want to give it to me, but I convinced them they didn’t want to see a full blown drop attack in the middle of the night. Really, I’m not complaining, I’m just a problem patient. Ask the Wife.

The only real surprise I experienced post-recovery was that I didn’t expect to be one-handed for such an extended period of time. Had I realized that the bruising would hang around for as long as it did, I would have told them to go in through the groin. I would have missed a wedding anyway, as it turned out (thunderstorms will do that) But I could have done everything else I normally do while laid up in bed for forty-eight hours. Not having two hands meant I missed raiding in World of Warcraft for two weeks. But the worst part was not writing. Not writing much of anything for nearly three weeks. Slow torture for anyone who loves to write. As I said previously, I watched a lot of television.

This brings us to today in this little story. Today, where I’m stuck in the near-endless repetition of cardiac rehab three times a week. Exercising while wearing a heart monitor with nurses always hovering nearby. Me and a whole lot of people twenty years my senior sweating as a group and wishing we could be somewhere else. I’m beginning to understand what it means to be handed the short end of the genetic stick now. I hope to survive my genetic handicaps long enough to see a crispr application that will fix what is ailing me, whatever that is.

A Deadly Belief

This is part three of a Meniere’s page I’m slowly editing together. Part one is here. Part two is here. This is tangential, but still part of the story.


Then there was the effect of Christian Science on my family. I’ve struggled with where and when to mention this little gem of understanding, because mentioning it is fraught with tons of angst and potential explosive feedback. But understanding how I got to 40 without a diagnosis of Meniere’s, how I’ve never been diagnosed with dysgraphia even though I have had all the symptoms of it for the entirety of my life is a direct result of my mother’s early childhood indoctrination into Christian Science. Because of this fact, Christian Science has to be discussed here as part of this story.

Christian Scientists aren’t scientists; they pray to Jesus to cure what ails them. Jesus is their science, and they exercise their science in prayer rooms across the US. They still do this all across America to this day. When a child dies from lack of medical care, and the state where that child dies cannot prosecute the child’s parents, the law that allows this was lobbied for by the followers of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. My mom and her immediate family were members of this belief.

Her distrust of doctors and medicine lead directly to her demise February 9, 2018. One of the mantras she took to her grave was doctors don’t know anything. It was her most repeated comment over the last months of her life, as doctor after doctor told her she had cancer and needed chemotherapy. You couldn’t dissuade her of this or pretty much anything else she believed at any point in her life.

This is a hallmark of most of humanity, I have come to find out. If you think you can change the average person’s mind you simply don’t know what you are thinking. People survive as long as they do by believing things, and sticking to those beliefs. My mother survived to the age of 77 and raised four children to adulthood based on her doing exactly what she deemed best at the time, and you won’t convince someone who has lived successfully by their own judgement for 70 years and more that what they believe is wrong. So give that idea up now and save yourself the life-shortening frustration.

Christian Science. If you are a Christian Scientist you don’t take drugs. You don’t see doctors, and if that religious upbringing was all there was to my mother’s belief, I think she would probably have gotten over it eventually. However, over the course of her life she has been nearly killed by well-meaning doctors more than once. All her life she’d been told gibberish by people who didn’t have the sense to pour piss out of a boot with directions written on the bottom (not that she would ever utter such a low phrase. In her estimation) so she knew that people believed insane things and discounted what other people told her almost by rote. She knew what she knew, but that left her vulnerable to the things she thought she knows but was wrong about.

Mom knew the value of modern medicine and never hesitated to get me antibiotics to treat the frequent illnesses that I had as a child, but she never stopped believing that doctors were pulling a scam on the sick. It all had to be a scam, somehow. She was never clear on how or why, but it was a scam, she was sure of it.

She never stopped believing that people would get better on their own if they just lived a better life, ate better food, got the right kind of nutrition. It was the failure of this belief, that healthy living was all you needed to keep from getting cancer that killed her a decade early. Had she not had encounters with believing doctors who proposed treatments that proved near-fatal, treatments that were fatal to her mother. Treatments that decreased the quality of life for the patients she tended. Patients that died anyway. Had she not watched time and again as things were labeled bad be relabeled good with more study and more time. Had she had different experiences with the medical community, she might have said yes to the promising new treatment the doctors wanted to try. The same treatment that saved president Carter’s life. But she didn’t have those experiences, and so she didn’t get to live that extra decade.

Who should be blamed for that?

About That Lack of Posts. Meniere’s? “The Best Laid Plans” As the Saying Goes.

I woke up dizzy Monday. Dizzy, not vertiginous. With vertigo, the world spins. Or rather, with rotational vertigo, the world spins, generally in a horizontal direction (don’t ask me which way, because my brain will lock up) I took a bunch of drugs trying to make it better. Nothing made it better. Dizziness is (as I’ve said elsewhere) the most common complaint that doctors hear. It means completely different things to different people. This dizziness is a feeling of being on the verge of falling/fainting, pretty much with every step.

Tuesday I woke up, dizzy again. This time dizzy and with chest congestion. I had taken the CPAP mask off to answer the phone, and simply neglected to put it back on at about 8 am (trying to schedule appointments with mundanes means being clear and attempting to be coherent at 8 am when they return calls) so when I finally got out of bed at noon, I had a nice wheeze going and a tickle in the middle of my chest. Needless to say, I took a round of allergy drugs and my regular daily medications, put the mask back on and went back to sleep.

When I woke back up again, the tickle was gone, the dizziness was lessened and I wondered about the cause of the dizziness since the mask filters all my breathing air. I tried wearing a particulate mask around the house for awhile and that seemed to help, but then I had to talk on Discord for the guild raid that night, and the tickle and congestion returned.

Funny thing is, I can stick my finger in my left ear and trigger the inside out vision for a brief second or two. It makes the dizziness much worse, to the point of almost blacking out. The right ear, even though I have bilateral (both ears) Meniere’s, does nothing to my equilibrium. That is a puzzle.

Allergies? Barometric pressure? Meniere’s flaring up? I don’t think it’s the latter because the dizziness is wrong. I’ve already gone to the ENT once this month, so I’m visiting the GP today to see if it’s something he can figure out. If not it’s back to the ENT for another needle in the ear and the nasty taste of drugs in the back of my throat for two weeks. Fun. Fun. Fun.

…I mention all of this because I decided that this week was the week to try communicating with people, and I can tell that my writing is less than coherent. I’m hoping the above was coherent. Who knows? I won’t for at least a week. Also, I’m in the middle of reorganizing my website and my blog, as well as revisiting the wisdom of my presence on several social platforms and I will be leaving more than one of them, permanently. So I’m largely incommunicado and unwilling to compose text in my normal fashion because that has lead to a lot of time wasted trying to recover lost work when things go sideways. (see my last post) and what little conversation I am required to engage in is probably incoherent to at least one side of the conversation. Maybe even both. I’d really like to get away from the problems that started back in mid-August. This is getting old. Really old.


11/8/18 – The spell finally seems to be passing, but the complete lack of change in the body politic of Texas has me in such a funk that I doubt I’ll be writing much of anything positive for awhile still. I have a few cutting polemics in mind, but the better angels of my nature may keep me from ever publishing them here. On the other hand, I’m about to go off on relatives on Facebook again, so the inner troll may also get access to the keyboard here. Stay tuned. 
First things first. Get an editor that won’t eat my drafts while I’m composing. When I get that all worked out, I will certainly write about that process. Writing about it is part of the process.

#IBelieveHer and That Still Isn’t Enough People

You tell me the world has changed much since 1994.

And yet here you are, telling me that we should put that same old mindset, boys will be boys, all boys do it, on the Supreme Court and you know, it’s hard for me to see that much of anything has changed at all.

Stonekettle Station (feature Image)

I want to tell you a story. No. Scratch that, I need to tell you a story, a story that’s needed to be told for quite some time. It’s a true story, so I will take a little literary license with the details to masque the identities of those involved; but the story remains true enough that those involved will know the truth of this story. Both the guilty and the innocent will know the truth of this.

It was 40 years ago. A young woman stumbled into a frat party near a  lake. She was naked. Her hair was matted with twigs and dirt. She was half-drowned, very drunk and confused. She said she had escaped from someone trying to kill her. She was raving. She sounded crazy. Someone had snuck up behind her while she was answering the call of nature. A few too many beers, she said. He had raped her, tried to strangle her, and then dumped what he thought was her dead body in the lake. “I’m a good swimmer” she declared, triumphantly.

No one that found her knew who she was. She had been brought to the party by friends from another frat. Just looking at her, you could tell, she had been through some serious trauma. So these benefactors, these people who had no idea who she was, took her to the hospital where it was confirmed that she had been raped by someone. The police were called. Yes, she said. I want to press charges. Yes, she said, I know who it was that raped me and tried to kill me. She gave his name to the police.

…and that was when the trouble started. This young man was well known, a hometown kid. She was a nobody. She had been shipped off to this far-away place because she had gotten pregnant.

Her high school sweetheart had been insisting they should have sex for most of their senior year. They had just graduated. It was time to celebrate, so she finally gave in to his desires and her own. And why not? She wasn’t going to be going to the college she wanted. Her parents refused to send her to Europe, to the conservatory that she had a free ride to attend. To Europe, where her musical talents could be properly honed. They refused to buy her a plane ticket, even though they could pay for it. “You can’t make a living playing music” they told her. So here she was, in the arms of the man she thought she would marry. There was little else to look forward to, from her perspective.

She wasn’t stupid. She knew that she could get pregnant, but she loved him. She thought he loved her, until she found out she was pregnant and told him. Then he disavowed her. He said he’d never had sex with her, so it couldn’t be his child. He was going to the college he wanted, after all. He couldn’t stay there, get married and raise kids. That just wasn’t his plans for his future. Alone and pregnant, she was sent away to live with foster parents. Sent away to a place where none of the friends and family would know of her dirty little secret. The dirty secret that she had been foolish enough to believe a man when he told her he loved her.

She did the right thing. She carried the child to term, because that’s what you are supposed to do. She carried the child to term and gave it up for adoption. That was the christian thing to do. Accept your punishment for having sex, and give birth to children you can’t afford. Children that you give away to strangers who can afford to raise them for you. She went through all of that, because that was what she was supposed to do.

With the embarrassment of nine months of a belly she didn’t want, a child she couldn’t keep, couped up with people she barely knew but strangely adopted as parents anyway; with all of that behind her, she set her sights on doing the best with what she had left of her life plans.

She still had her musical talent, even if she wouldn’t be touring Europe as part of an orchestra, the role she really was suited for. Her college friends envied her her gift, a natural ear for music and the ability to pick up nearly any instrument and play it well enough to shine in state competitions. But teaching music was the best she could hope for now. She didn’t relish the thought of teaching others to play, but if that was the best she could do, that is what she would shoot for.

A few months into her delayed college education, she was invited to that fateful party. Had a little too much to drink. Had the misfortune of needing to relieve herself. Left herself vulnerable to the jealous and the talentless albeit well-liked hometown boy. A hometown boy with a grudge.

Once again, she did the right thing. The thing you are supposed to do. She knew her attacker, even though she was drunk at the time. She knew what he had tried to do to her, had actually thought he had achieved. Thought she was dead when he left her floating in the water. Just another body found washed up on a beach somewhere. A tragic accident. Except it was rape and attempted murder, and you don’t let that go unpunished.

She pressed charges against the hometown boy. Faced him in court. Accused him of the crimes that there was far more than sufficient evidence for. He was found not guilty. Why? Because she had done the right thing, over and over. She had yielded to the man she wanted to marry. She had carried the resultant child to birth and given it away. She had shrugged it all off and made the best of what she had left. She had the temerity to stand tall and not be embarrassed by the things society told her were embarrassing. Why should it be embarrassing? Doing the right thing should be praiseworthy. Shouldn’t it? Shouldn’t it!

“But,” they said, “she was a loose woman.” This was evident because she had given birth recently. Given birth instead of having an abortion and hiding the evidence of her improprieties, her loose ways. Loose women just want to have sex, and clearly she wanted to have sex with this hometown boy. When he rejected her, she staged the entire scene. Choked herself, tried to drown herself, rolled around in the dirt, naked, and threw herself on unsuspecting strangers in order to malign the hometown boy. Who was the court to believe? This loose woman, spirited away from her family and friends in order to save their reputations? Or should the court believe this fine, upstanding hometown boy who, while musically talentless, was still a handsome young man with a promising future? Who indeed?

Who indeed? Not guilty. Case dismissed. Free as a bird, he flew. Still flies. As I said, a true story. True enough, anyway.

So when I read stories about why didn’t they come forward? In the news these days, news about high profile judges and corporate leaders and politicians galore, men of high stature accused of the wrongs that they’ve hidden in plain sight until finally some woman has had enough that she just won’t take it anymore and risks everything to shine the light of justice on these loathsome individuals, I don’t even have to ask

Why don’t they come forward?

I know why.

They didn’t come forward before, and most of them will not come forward now because they won’t be believed. As the latest accusations about Brett Kavanaugh circulate, while the Pussy Grabber-in-Chief defends him, and the same old song and dance plays out. Just like it always has. These women are not believed by far, far too many people. It’s too convenient not to believe if believing means you have to change who and what you think is right in the world. You wouldn’t come forward if you were them, and you are deluded if you think otherwise.

Equilibrium on the Equinox

What happens on September 22nd? I think to myself as I start looking through today’s history on Facebook. It’s bugging me. This day is important. There is an event that occurs today, what is it?

Obviously, it is the equinox. It took a bit of googling to turn the lights on, but finally, I had my answer. That is the significance of September 22nd. Equinox. Equal amounts of day and night across the globe.

Most years, this happens on either Sept. 22 or 23. However, every once in a while, the autumn equinox can occur on Sept. 21 or 24. This happens because the length of a calendar year (365 days) is not equal to the time it takes for Earth to travel around the sun (365.25 days). To make up for this inconsistency, people have observed “leap years” for the last two millennia. By adding a “leap day” (Feb. 29) to the calendar every four years, we have managed to keep our seasons more or less consistent from year to year.

The last time the autumnal equinox fell on Sept. 21 was over a thousand years ago, and the last Sept. 24 equinox was in 1931, according to timeanddate.com. While it’s been a long time since the equinox occurred on Sept. 21, we can expect to see it happen twice in the next century, first in 2092 and then in 2096. The next Sept. 24 equinox will be in the year 2303. (Keep in mind that these dates are based on Universal Time, so some time zones may not experience these equinoxes on the dates listed here.)

Space.com Autumnal Equinox Not the Same Day Every Year

Equinox. Equilibrium. Balance. I’ve been feeling pretty unequal for about a month now. Unbalanced. The Meniere’s has been particularly burdensome since sometime in mid-august when the left ear started to flare up again. There has been a near-constant feeling of pressure in the ear for the last month. The pressure started a bit early this year for me, and it has lasted longer and been more annoying. But then this is the beginning of fall and it’s accompanying seasonal allergies. I just got my annual symptoms a little early this year, I guess.

Along with the pressure have been long bouts of hyperacusis and/or painful tinnitus. I can’t hear, I’m uncomfortable, I feel ill as if I have an infection. I went to the ENT yesterday just to reassure myself that I wasn’t actually ill. Nope. Not ill, just Meniere’s. This feeling of malaise has lasted for a solid month, almost without respite.

Which is why there is a dog hugging a goat at the top of this post. Denied physical balance I will seek mental balance. Calmness where I can find it. Lacking medical treatment to alleviate the symptoms of Meniere’s, I will simply endure it for as long as it takes. I see a lot of World of Warcraft in my future.


So I woke up this afternoon with vertigo again. This is the third day in a row (10/22/2018) I have woken up with rotational vertigo. The third day in a row where I wake up and quickly drug myself. Take meclizine. Add Xanax if necessary. Stare at the screen in front of me for hours at a time. Try not to shift the focus of my vision because that always causes a little bit of spin until the new focus point is established. Lovely. Just lovely. This bout of vertigo is just the latest part of the symptomatic spell that started mid-August for me. This makes it a pretty solid two months of being severely symptomatic.

The vertigo spell finally ended on Wednesday the 25th. I celebrated by getting out of the house for the first time in a week and treating myself to an All Star Special at the Waffle House. Since Austin has established a Boil-Water Mandate in response to the record breaking rainfall on the Llano Estacado, and the subsequent flooding of the highland lakes including Lake Travis, the lake that provides Austin’s water, the choice of places to go was rather limited. When a restaurant can’t use the water that comes out of the taps to make the food they sell, most restaurants will simply close when there is no visible demand for their services.

But the Waffle House is always open if they can turn the lights on and fire up the griddle. That is why there is a Waffle House index for disasters. It was a yellow day, plastic tableware and a limited menu, but I would have gone to the Waffle House anyway. Love the coffee, even if it has to be decaf these days. I have to have hashbrowns and eggs over easy, too. My goto breakfast for those days when just waking up is a good thing.

Being symptomatic, when you have a chronic illness like Meniere’s, is not a contest to be won. You don’t get brownie points for suffering more than the next guy, because the next guy’s goal is the same as yours. That goal is getting through the bad days so that you can enjoy the good ones. If your good days don’t happen often enough, maybe you should change the things you are doing, or the treatments you are using, and see if you can’t get yourself more good days. Since there is no cure, and you won’t die from it (ergo chronic illness) the only metric available to you is the number of days in a row where you wake up glad to still be here. Today was one of those days. I had waffles, and I got out of the house. Looking forward to the next good day, now. If only the pressure in the left ear would ease off. That would be great. 

Jumpscare

David Gerrold on Facebook

All of my friends thought scaring me was funny. This has been true for as long as I can remember. Because they told me scaring people was funny, I started scaring people to see if it was funny. Weirdly enough, it was funny. It was funny when someone else other than me danced around like a stroke/heart attack victim.

I hate horror movies. The Wife has worked on close to ten horror movies now, so I have learned to deal with light horror in order to watch what she has been working on. At least appear to watch it, enough to be able to appreciate the art that goes into making a horror film. I still have nightmares from watching The Ring a decade ago, so I don’t do extreme horror anymore. The Wife and Son go watch horror movies together now, I stay home and play World of Warcraft with The Daughter.

But when I was a teen, all my friends loved horror movies. When they would watch horror films, I’d try to humor them and watch with them. It never worked out well because they knew I was jumpscare prone and so would do things like grab my leg when say, Jason came up out of the water in Friday the 13th. They still laugh about that one.

The first time I found out there was a thing like jumpscare videos was back in the early days of the internet. Some forgotten website challenged you to study some photograph of a typical dining room and try to figure out what didn’t belong there. At some set frame in the video two or three frames of the screaming face showed up and screamed at you, from an image that you had been told was single frame NOT a video. Everyone knows MM GIF now, but back then it was a new thing.

When that face popped up I think I blacked out. The next thing I remember, I was across the room climbing up on the desk to get away from whatever it was. The sad part was, I still thought it was funny and showed it to my kids. The thing that broke me of enacting jumpscares was discovering I was related to someone with anxiety issues, and having to condition myself not to scare them. This revealed anxiety issues in myself that I never realized were there before.

There is a vicious child somewhere in the lizard brain that wants to scare people. I don’t know why it wants to scare people, but it might be missing that dopamine fix of being terrified itself. There was some part of me that was terrified by Star Trek as a child. The salt monster really gave me a fright. I was terrified of the crawling hand for years after watching that film one Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I can still picture the hands crawling toward me if I try. I had nightmares about talking possessed dolls long before Chucky was a thing because some grade school friend insisted that some show he saw with a possessed doll in it was real. As if anything filmed is real, and not merely the POV of the cameraman. Most Science Fiction still terrifies me on some level, but I keep coming back to it for the thrill. For the unknown, the unthought of, the beyond comprehension.

Jumpscares are cheap entertainment by comparison. The people who make those things should take up bungee jumping or skydiving. Platform diving. Stand a hundred feet above the water and jump in, like I have. Before I knew how dangerous that was. Those are real thrills. If you are into jumpscares, scaring other people, turn off the computer and don’t come back till you’ve got your adrenaline fix in. The rest of us will thank you for it.

Facebook comment backdated to the blog.

Enjoy Your Vices More

Overheard in a cigar shop:
Customer – “I’ve smoked cigars for years and have always inhaled. You get the full flavor that way.”
Shop – “The taste buds aren’t in your lungs ya know.”

Smoking is not about taste. It’s not about the taste of burning tobacco leaves in your mouth; a taste which, to the uninitiated, is so disgusting that it makes you want to retch. Contrary to most romantic visions of why we engage in the vices we engage in, we don’t do it for the taste. We don’t drink wine for the fruity high notes. Or rather, most people engaging in a vice do not break down their vices in this way. Tobacco is a nicotine creator, and nicotine is a drug. A cigar is a nicotine delivery system. Nicotine is best absorbed by the lungs, not the sinuses and not the linings of the mouth.

To misquote Freud “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” All of the romanticism aside, nicotine is what you get from smoking, chewing, ingesting tobacco. And, yes I know, this approach to vices means that wine is there just for the buzz. Wine is an alcohol delivery system, this is why I prefer my wine distilled. If I’m just wanting to catch a buzz, why not shortcut the process? What I am trying to point out here is that, if the man overheard in a cigar shop just wants more nicotine while smoking his cigars, let him get it. It doesn’t matter in the end how he gets it.

Flavor isn’t in the mouth. Flavor comes more from the nose. You have to let the vapor of what you are consuming rise up into the sinuses to get the full flavor. Cigar smokers call this retrohaling. My father blew smoke out through his nose quite frequently while smoking cigarettes. I never could get the hang of that, but deep lung breathing that first cigarette in the morning definitely got a head buzz going, every time I did it. These are the kinds of things you can do when your mucus membranes are deadened by thirty years of smoking.

But you do have to get the smoke/aerosolized alcohol/chocolate, etcetera into the back of the mouth and top of the throat to get the full flavor of whatever it is you are consuming. Knowing this is one of the perks of insisting on cold, hard facts. Research has instructed me on how I should consume things for the best effect. Listening to others. Learning from their failures. Learning from their successes. Reading as widely as possible.

This is also why I know why I can’t taste anything most of the time. Clogged sinuses. I really need to find a place without allergens to live.

I hear you asking what about cancer? out there in the darkness somewhere. Yes, you. I hear you. Let me put your concerns about cancer to rest; you will get cancer eventually. The only way to avoid getting cancer is to die before it shows up.  But what about lung cancer? Yes, smoking leads to lung cancer in people who are susceptible to that mutation in the cells of the lungs. Mouth cancer is even worse and you can get that from ingesting any tobacco product or drinking alcohol. You can quibble over percentages of risk, but not inhaling smoke into the lungs doesn’t protect you from cancer, even of the lungs. In the end, just living will give you cancer. The longer you live, the more certain it is to happen. It is in the nature of cell division itself for that process of division to go astray. Go astray and lead to cancer, eventually. It is all just a matter of time.

We don’t do recreational drugs based on the health risks, dear reader. If we did we’d all be smoking weed all the time and certainly not drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco. We would be smoking marijuana/MJ/reefer/weed because smoking that plant is an essentially harmless recreational pastime with little to no negative side effects in adults. No negative side effects aside from making smoking cigarettes look more harmless than it is by comparison.

I was a smoker for many years. I smoked weed and I smoked cigarettes and I would smoke a cigar if you handed one to me. I wasn’t picky and I didn’t worry about illness because like all young people I was immortal. I was ten foot tall and bulletproof until the day I wasn’t. Until the day I realized that I got winded more easily. Couldn’t hold my breath underwater like I used to. Couldn’t do a lot of things the way I used to. So I quit smoking. I quit smoking anything, altogether.

I quit smoking weed easily, simply because I wanted to. I found no further use for the pastime, so I quit. However, quitting tobacco smoking took six or seven years. Quitting my physical nicotine addiction took patience and planning and the deaths of multiple loved ones before I could finally give it up. It required the births of my children. Quitting smoking required that I learn REBT therapy and apply it to the activity of smoking. Quitting smoking is harder than quitting heroin to pull off.

How did I apply REBT? I would think of the smell that an empty bar has in the morning when you show up to clean it. I performed this mental exercise every time I craved a cigarette, especially when I ended up smoking one. I would wilfully summon the acrid, acidic smell of alcohol, vomit and old smoke that hits you in the face when you open the doors to a bar after a heavy party night, and I would do that while I was actively smoking a new cigarette. I kept doing it until I felt ill when I thought about smoking. Then the cravings stopped. After a three pack a day habit infused into my blood as a child, a habit extended by me as a adult finally came to an end, I felt much better. Like I was breathing, really breathing, for the first time.

My second experiment with linking smells to behaviors I wanted to change has not gone nearly as well as the smoking cessation practice did. Linking the taste of french fries to the smell of a grease trap has not gotten me to quit eating fried potatoes yet. That is still a work in progress. A work in progress that might be more successful if fried potatoes didn’t taste so damn good and I wasn’t so hungry all the freaking time. Nicotine can help with that desire to be eating all the time, and being overweight carries its own risks. More risks than ingesting nicotine? Depends on your genetics.

Insist on cold, hard facts. Relish in them. Nicotine is the drug being delivered. Alcohol is the drug being delivered. That is why we engage in those pastimes, to ingest the drugs in question. When you are doing that, make sure that you properly inhale the smoke. Aerate the distilled spirits when sipped. Allow the chocolate to melt and linger on the tongue before swallowing. You’ll enjoy your vices more, which is kinda the point in having vices.

A tip o’ the hat (h/t) is due for The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe on Facebook. It is because of them that I drug this reedited series of comments, insights and further thoughts out of my drafts bin and published it. Without their social media editor’s willingness to republish spurious data on a subject near and dear to my heart (nicotine therapy in the form of vaping) I wouldn’t have bothered to kraft this bit of business into a shape that could be published. Thanks, I guess? 

Hospice Oversight

I’ve been using Countable for awhile now. Every now and then the notifications and articles go completely wrong on some subliminal level. Like this one, apparently asking me if the Feds found fraud in Hospice care,

Countable

[T]he report shows that sometimes, patient needs have been ignored.

For instance, it found that hospices provide significantly fewer services on the weekends than during the week. Patients’ pain levels don’t diminish over the weekend, raising concerns of inadequate pain management.

This can put patients at serious risk, because when they elect hospice care, they are waiving their right for Medicare payment for curative treatment. In some of the cases the report documents, patients were not even aware that they were being enrolled in hospice. – Countable, Feds Find Fraud and Flaws in Hospice Care

Not providing as much care on the weekends is a red flag for regulators in health industries. This is exactly the kinds of things that regulators (if they existed) would be empowered to investigate. It’s a good thing for these fraudulent operations that Republicans are against hospice existing in the first place. Their religious base doesn’t believe they’ll ever die or that bad things happen to good people. So they won’t be anxious to do anything more than shut all hospice down the way they want to shut Planned Parenthood down. But hospice is as essential as Planned Parenthood is, and we need there to be oversight of these facilities.

We also need people to recognize that end of life does occur, but let’s stick to problems we can solve. Starting with getting oversight in place so that the fraud is stopped. 

Vilified but Charitable?


Freakonomics, The Most Vilified Industry in America Is Also the Most Charitable

This episode of Freakonomics comes with a pre-made rebuttal that I was disturbed to discover that Dubner didn’t cop to at some point during the lengthy interview segments. That perfectly reasonable rebuttal takes this form; Since the pharmaceutical industry sets the value of their products independently, and since the vast majority of their generosity is quantified in the value of in-kind charitable donations of their drugs, their charity is really of their own creation. Large or small, high price or low, they dictate what that value is and they expect us to thank them for their generosity.

As if they couldn’t just alter the price of all the drugs they make to make them affordable in the eyes of every person who needs them, while at the same time not bankrupting the people who have to pay for their drugs out of their own pockets.  Heaven forbid they not milk every available dollar out of every unsuspecting customer while at the same time giving away a product at something closer to its actual value. This was a point that Dubner did make during one of the connective segments, but he never actually goes on to fully explain, that the value of in-kind charity is completely within the control of the manufacturer, rendering the reported numbers essentially meaningless.

Don’t get me wrong, here. I don’t want any of the Big Pharma conspiracy fantasists or the naturopathy profiteers they go to to think that I’m somehow on their side in this argument. The fact of the existence of the identifiable label Big Pharma Conspiracy proves that the pharmaceutical industry is unjustly vilified in the general public. It’s just that their insistence that they aren’t profiting to a maximal amount at the expense of the general public rings a little hollow when their prices are so demonstrably fluid in value.