Archive | November, 2010

Scripting my life

29 Nov

I’ve gone through this conversation so often recently; I should just hand out a script; so here it is.

Setting: I appear with a removable cast/splint on my right forearm, wrist and elbow.

Person: “What happened to your arm?”

I look at my left arm and then I reply: “Noting, why do you ask?”

(Slight moan at weak humor.)

Then I state: “I had surgery on my elbow.”

Person: “Did you break it?”

Me:” No, it is a chronic repetitive stress injury – tennis elbow.”

Person: “Do you play tennis.”

Me: “No”


What are your rules-of-thumb

24 Nov

Do you have any “rules-of-thumb” to judge things in life? By this, I mean something not directly related to the item you are judging. For example factors that make a good wine include aroma, taste, feeling/texture and appearance.  (This is a horrible example because I don’t have a rule for it – so I going to make up one, a bad one) The location in your favorite wine store could be one.

So here is one where I do have a decent rule. It is about how much I like a movie.  I recently saw “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – part 1”. It is a moderately long move at 2.5 hours, but it felt short. I think I would prefer seeing part 1 and 2 together with an intermission and removing the credits in between. So the rule is: A good movie seem short, a bad one – long,

So what are your rules-of-thumb?  (Hint: I am not looking for biases, like people who are X are stupid. I hear enough of that shit; thank you very much.)

Events that Define – 47 years ago today – Part 2

22 Nov

I was talking to my mother tonight and she reminded me about my uncle Declan. Declan was one of the younger siblings of my father, who lived in Dallas  in the early 60s and had married a Russian woman with two children by a previous marriage. There were not many expatriates from Russia in the Dallas area and they pretty much knew each other. I guess you can see where this is going. His wife, who I  remember as Katcha  (questionable spelling) knew Oswald’s wife, Marina.

My uncle worked for some agency of the federal government. Of course with all the publicity of the assassination his connection with Oswald came out. Overnight he became a pariah. Although I never knew  or saw it, probably because I was still a child the time, my mother stated that this changed and ruined him. According to her this is why he started drinking heavily becoming an alcoholic.

Note: doing a Google search it appears from the records of the assassination that my aunts English name was Katherine.


Events that Define – 47 years ago today

22 Nov

We all have personnel events that define us. Today is the 47st date of a shared event.  I am not going to write about Kennedy’s assassination or the stories/conspiracy theories; there are volumes and volumes of that. I have nothing new to add, but I would not be surprised if I watch some on the History Channel this week.

I was in second grade at the time living in Richmond Virginia. I had move there from Annandale VA just outside of D.C. where my mother’s family live. We had move to there from Los Angeles, the home of my father’s family. He was no longer with us. He had died four and a half years earlier at the age of 42, on my mother’s birthday.

She had a special fondness for JFK.  He was a young Irish Catholic attorney with a sharp wit and two children, the oldest a girl and the youngest a boy.  This described my father.  The loss felt personal. Since so many were grieving or in shock, I can’t say we were more so. I recall a feeling of numbness permeated.

Dallas is where it happened and Dallas was to blame – “the City of Hate.”  Even into the 70s it had this stigma; even following the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.  The stigma was only Dallas’.  Little wonder my anxiety upon learning of my step-father transfer to Dallas. I was moving to Dallas.

There was always a fascination associated with this tragedy, possibly more in Dallas. Year later I heard a story from my best friend’s father.  I don’t recall why or what brought it up, likely one of those ‘where were you’ conversations.

He had a direct connection. Turns out that during WWII he was stationed in some remote place, I think working with Radar that required him to have a fairly high security clearance.  He worked for Kodak. So when the FBI or Secret Service got hold of the Zapruder camera and film they escorted it to the local Kodak headquarters. A quick check had his name popped up and they summoned him to develop it.  The news was Kennedy had been  shot; from the film he was sure it was fatal.

JFK’s Assassination: ‘Changing From Memory To History’

My cousin Linda

21 Nov

(Linda is in the fore ground and I am hugging her, the one with the cap. I don’t know who the little boy with the wagon is. Didn’t we have horrible hair cuts?)

Just this past week my aunt Geraldine, who I call aunt Gerry, sent me a photograph of me with my cousin Linda taken in April of 1960. I was four years old at the time, or as I probably would have said four and a half, almost 5, because those few months seem really important back then. She was a few months older than me and she would have already been five. I don’t remember her birth date.

Back then we were really close-almost inseparable, as Forrest Gump would have said “two peas in a pod”, but with time and distance, with her living in Northern Virginia and me moving off to North Texas we didn’t see much of each other growing up. As young adults we became concerned with our own lives and pretty much lost contact.

Linda had a wonderful imagination. She could just sit down and make up fascinating and intricate stories that she would tell even at that early age. Looking back I wonder what she could have become if her life hadn’t taken a turn for the worse.  In my mind’s eye she could have been another J. K. Rowling.  As an adolescent, she had all the typical adolescent problems, maybe worse than most but not nearly as bad as many.

What did her in was a chronic debilitating disease, multiple sclerosis. I really don’t know in full what happened to her since we were so far apart by that time.  I know she lost muscle strength and control of her body and she was going blind. She looked much much older than her age. Her husband, whom I’m never met, sounded like a saint but even saints have their moments. What I’ve learned of her later life was all second or third hand from her mother, my mother or cousins. It sounds like he was devoted to her, but that she felt overwhelmingly guilty that she could not be a wife to him and was depriving him of having a family.  A disease like multiple sclerosis not only eats away at one’s body but tears one soul. I am sure she thought she was doing the right thing when that one morning after her husband went to work; she went into the garage, closed the doors and started the car. I don’t feel I can judge her. I wasn’t going through her pain and I certainly wasn’t there to help.


Addendum:  Check out the play ground set up, metal pips and dirt. Now look at a modern play ground.  Now there is plastic padding and no sharp or hard edges.  I wonder what lesson is taught, if any, to the children of today.  I should write another post about that.

I see dumb people

18 Nov

Okay, so I’m in a bad mood because I’m on-call, but really because I have to deal with the stupid technologist. Just received a page from a technologist informing me, using the short version of the story which I finally elicited, that a patient who had earlier refused the study, returned and it was now completed and ready.

The version I got from the technologist seemed like she was trying to compete in the verbal version of nano-nano-writer-month (#nanowrimo”). She would ask rhetorical questions, provide totally unnecessary circumlocutions narrations of the event, somehow including how big bug scared her grandmother as a child, before it I could interrupt her enough time to ask if the study was ready? The simple retort would have been, “yes.”

Instead what I got was ‘well if you would let me finish this is what I trying to tell you and then some other things that need to be said about, you know how, I position the patient and took the images which is the regular way we do it but I wanted make sure you understood that it was clear and you understood it before I let you go yada yada yada.’

Another tech called me regarding a stat procedure because the patient had a previous exam yesterday that could interfere. I told him that because of what was ordered we were going to have to do the study now anyways. But he kept insisting that I look at the background images and call him back to see if we wanted to proceed. I had to explain it to him three times and he still didn’t get it. Finally, I said to do the study now. So he asked, “you want me to do the study anyways?”

The conversion is complete

2 Nov

October 20th, it has been a year since contact, 10 months since the disaster and six months since the horrible letter. He could not feel it, but he could tell. The process was there, it was happening. The evidence was plain to see. His reaction to daily events, the irritation with stupid people doing stupid things, the verbal retorts when interrupted or pressed with a question he’d already answered; the total void of any pleasure in activities that had been joyful just a moment ago –  although that “moment” was actually months in the past.  He knew this was not the nominal pattern, first spring then summer, summer followed by autumn, then winter with spring soon returning. It had been winter for oh so long before that brief spring. Too quickly autumn had arrived and now winter.  Winter was getting colder and the nights longer.

He was surely returning to his previous state. All the evidence was there. The “state” in its simplest analogy was like a light bulb, being either on or off. But not that simple,  a perspective – how things looked. Standing here and looking there, he would see  buildings and the road, turnaround – the park and its river, the mountains and sky. Walk a little further down along the road and there was the Victorian Bed and Breakfast Inn located just up a hill besides a meandering road that switched-back and forth as it climbed the hillside. The “state” was his position and location and determined how he perceived the world and how the world perceived him. He was returning to his common state, his known or previous state that had been apparent for so long that he didn’t even realize that anything other existed or could exist. He thought that this was who he was, how he was born, how he grew up and how he would die – like the colors of one’s eyes. But what of all your life your eyes were brown and suddenly, one morning you woke up and they were blue? Would you question your notion of just who you were? Maybe not, but something had happened to him on contact – his stated change – same person – different person. That change was chaotic, abrupt – state A – POP – state B.  Now he was reverting back to state A – not so abrupt.  Sometimes A, then B, oscillating, cycling, and then rapidly flip-flopping from one to the other, one second A, another B.  Sometimes so rapid that they merged, superimposed, A–B at the same time, but also not A–B. He could tell it was occurring, but he could not feel it, the ever imposing presence of what had been the norm, the rational again becoming supreme and ultimate – the Guardian of his sanity.

This guardian would protect him, keep him from being hurt, pushed the pain away. The Guardian would keep him safe.

Why did this matter? Even the Guardian knew now the price he had paid all those many years ago when it first stepped up to protect him. What happened a year ago on this day?  He’d written her a simple letter, no more special or deep than a note saying how nice the weather is today. But in that process overwhelmed him.   He knew he had liked her. She was pretty, smart and there was something else; something he could not verbalize.  Why the attraction? But that was such a long time ago and he put that behind him, he’d forgotten her and moved on, or so he thought.

It was a lie.

Only upon writing the letter did he recognize the existence of the lie. He had not forgotten her, or moved on at all. He had squelch, suppressed, buried those feelings and memories of her.  Push them way down, deep and covered them, left them undisturbed for decades.  Now those emotions exploded to the surface. This surprised and disturbed him. Even more disturbing was the other. The other being that emotional state he went into upon receiving her first reply. Where did that come from? Truth was it was not just the memory of her that had been buried but all sorts of emotions, traits, perspectives that logically had nothing to do with her nevertheless they were linked – no, bonded to her.

He had a muse! He had not known he had a muse. He knew, as a child, he had won a couple of small awards but he had no passion for music or writing or art of any sort now. The closest he could recall having the passion for was writing computer programs. Optimizing the code for size, speed and clarity, then watching the results displayed. He would become so involved that hours would pass – he would lose track of time and not eat. Only a few of his computer nerd friends appreciated the beauty and eloquence of these programs.

“So it draws circles?” someone would ask.

“No, it’s not just circles…” and off he would go explaining the algorithm and its results until they would excuse themselves and walk quickly away with a  puzzled look or one of relief having escaped with their sanity intact.  During that brief interlude, after contact, he found that he liked reading fiction other than science fiction. He not only liked it but he had ideas, inspiration for stories and poems. He saw opportunities for photos everywhere, things he had looked at all his life but had never seen. He was seeing the world through the eyes of a small child where everything was new and it was wonderful.

He didn’t ponder at how he had arrived at this new state, there were too many amazing things to see and do-and never enough time. People noticed. They commented and complemented him. He was fun. His wife told him he was the husband she had always wanted.

Then disaster; he didn’t want think about it, much less talk. It was abrupt, catastrophe and created a new state – Gray. The world was black and white, not in a morality sense but in a monochrome color sense. Oh he could still see colors, but they were almost as if color was just a label with  no life.  He was emotionally distraught. His responses were all emotion. Reasons struggled to reassert itself. Reason tried to make a bargain to regain control, allowing him believe a lie. Reason told him that the belief is false but thought better than to force the subject until necessary.

“She is a reasonable person;  we can be congenial? – Right?” His emotions would ask.

“Don’t do it!” Reason would say.

“But why? This would be helpful to her.  She would understand that.”

“No! She will never understand your motives. She will misinterpret. She will be angry and afraid and you will be hurt again.”

“But there’s a chance…”

“No, there is no chance; it is not to be!”

Reason was right.  Reason had always been right in the past.  Reason is always right. That is why reason became the Guardian in the first place. But why must everything else, all the inspiration, etc., be bonded to her?  Why did that have to disappear too? Reason had no answer for that; Reason only knew that it was. Reason knew what was and Reason knew what wasn’t but didn’t know why. Reason could build a wall to protect him, but it didn’t know how to give a hug to reassure him.

He picked up the pen to try to jot down a short story. He sat there. There was nothing to write. He felt nothing. No sadness. No despair. The muse was gone. He put down the pen and closed the journal, got up and walked away without recriminations or a second thought.

The conversion is complete.