Monday, June 18, 2018

boulder dash

Trying to do this on my phone.  Computer's all dismantled because the apartment needs more work, and my computer desk was in the way.  The desk is falling apart, so it couldn't be moved except piece by piece.

This was scheduled for tomorrow morning but I got it mixed up with another appointment I had today.  I dismantled everything a day early.  Not so bad, I thought.  I should spend more time away from the PC anyhow.

Feeling lousy though, not up to doing much.  I'm starting to feel a little more confident in my ability to procrastinate judiciously though.  I know how long it will take me to write a paper and it doesn't need to be today.  Thankfully, as I clearly can't be bothered to type anything up right now..

I'm getting it all done so far.  The other appointment that was today was to set up financial aid.  Again, shocked at how easy that part has been.  Most Americans can neither afford college nor qualify for much aid, but I'm lucky in that I have nothing at all, and am officially disabled. 

So, it's all set.  I'll be going full time in the fall.  Guess we'll find out how disabled I still am.  I have some doubts about my competence, but so far, so good.  It's long past time I gave it a shot.  Especially given that it's so affordable for the time being. 

Which is not to convince myself, but to reassure.  I don't feel I have much choice, which is probably what I was so afraid would happen.  Now that the big scary ball is rolling, I need to keep going. 

Which was also what I'd intended.  Sink or swim?  Alright, fine.  Maybe I can swim.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

fear of scarcity

I've been sick the last few days.  Just a head cold or something, but blowing my nose this much is debilitating in itself, and feeling rather lousy on top of that.  Being sick feels a lot like how I normally feel, only amplified.  It's even more difficult to concentrate, or even think about doing anything.  I hope this is my last day of it, because I have another paper to write. 

That I might have to do it while feeling like this seems particularly unfair, but I guess it's the same old idea, might have to do it anyhow.  Get over this inertia, hammer something out.  BJJ is out of the question though.  This would not put me on good terms with my training partners.

I keep wondering about this feeling, most noticeable when it fluctuates.  What does it mean to feel like I don't have the energy?  I can't?  If my apartment were suddenly besieged by hornets or something, I'd find the energy pretty easily.  Not because of any miraculous burst of adrenaline, but because physiologically, the energy is there.  I'd just have to collapse into a heap and take a nap shortly there afterwards.

On an unconscious level, I'm calculating how much energy I have, and trying to keep the needle from dropping into the red.  Not actually being on empty, this becomes arbitrary.  Subjective.  How do we figure how low is low?  A quarter, a third, below half?  Half of what?  Is this based on some lizard brain instinct to make sure we always have enough in reserve, for those times when we might go a few days without food?  Do mental health conditions throw the whole calculation off?

I'm pretty sure that I have more energy than my lizard brain is telling me that I have, even when I am sick.  My immune system might need that, though.  Think I read somewhere that healthy fats are best for keeping the immune system powered. As long as I eat some peanut butter or something, I should be able to write a paper without all these unpleasant biochemical reactions hassling me like this.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

week two

Made it through another class today, but I definitely have attention span issues.  Even had that so very typical moment, where the teacher says, "Josh, ideas?"
There was only one way I could respond.  "Ideas about what?"

I can't remember what I was thinking about that took such priority, but my mind had been elsewhere.  I had no idea what he was asking me, but I recovered quickly.  Just a few words, and oh, right, here's my distractingly decent response.  Good enough that most can forget that fleeting moment of awkwardness.  I think it was something about Buddhism.

I think about things like all this, while I'm trying to think about something more imminently relevant.  At least I pulled it together.  I didn't panic, curling up under the desk to hide.  Real slow like, so no one will notice.  I'm having some doubts as to being able to do this full time, but still think I should give it a try.  Have to deal with getting that rolling soon.

Even went to BJJ class afterwards.  Signed up for a year commitment, so that I could get the cheapest rate.  I feel confident now that I'll be doing this for the foreseeable future.  Although, I'm terrible at holding target pads for people in kickboxing.  I get distracted and well, you can't get distracted when you're doing that.  Even doing the combos myself, my mind drifts elsewhere, and suddenly I'm doing a combo I learned ten years ago.  Muscle memory.  Cerebellum memory, because my frontal cortex is being uncooperative.  I can hit my training partner in the wrong places and that's not good either.

So, as the theory goes, if I keep at it, my attention span will get better.  It just takes a while, and the trick is to do at least well enough that I can keep at it, in the meantime.  I can't piss my training partners off too much, or get poor grades.  So, kind of stressful.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

learning to read and write

Have to turn in my first college paper the day after tomorrow.  One of the courses I'm taking turns out to be very literature oriented.  The textbook is a book of essays.  I've had to read two so far, and they were only a few pages long.  Much lighter reading that Sapolsky or Krauss.  Almost want to say too easy, but I knew college would start this way.  I'll have to take a lot of easy courses these first two years, just to accumulate credits.  Still, I'm quite nervous, being new to all this, so it's probably good that I'm not starting with physics.

Anyhow, since I haven't felt like blogging lately, figured I'd post my essay here.

“Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong," ~H.L. Mencken

Life is complicated.  I've been having some trouble figuring it out.  I don't understand how the rest of you get through it without inflicting all sorts of harm and misery on yourselves and each other, but alas, we actually don't.  They say we're making progress, though.  Here in the twenty first century, there are only an estimated thirty million human lives still being held in chattel slavery.

After reading these two essays - "Learning to Read and Write," by Frederick Douglas, and "Library Card" by Richard Wright - I figured I'd give my self some time to digest what I'd read before attempting to write about it.  Well aware that this is just the sort of gibberish my mind uses to get me to procrastinate, I pretend wasting some time on Twitter to be the better idea.  I almost want to argue that it can be a more productive endeavor than some might think.  A small fragment of this latest evolutionary leap in human interaction we call the internet.  Learning language, learning to speak, learning to read and write, across telephone lines, radio waves, cable television, and now Twitter.

I try to imagine books, reading and writing, in a world without all that.  A world where I go from reading these two essays in a matter of minutes, to reading a tweet, which points me to an article about Kalief Browder.  He was only sixteen when thrown into prison, pending trial.  Never to be convicted of anything, charged only with a petty misdemeanor that was eventually tossed without ever going to court.  He spent years there, much of it in solitary confinement.  I'd already known all that, but this tweet linked to an article about a research paper Browder had done, as a student at Bronx Community College, prior to taking his own life.  A research paper on solitary confinement.  It struck me that there were parallels between his work and the two essays I'd just read.  It all strikes me as an effort to rise above oppression, by learning, and then by sharing what's been learned.  This goes right to the heart of what humanity is all about.

As put by another great writer, Michelle Alexander, more black men are in prison today than were enslaved in 1850.   To quote the thirteenth amendment of the United States Constitution, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime," in a country that has the worst incarceration rate per capita in the world.  Not merely the "western world" or the "industrialized world," but our land of the free imprisons more of it's citizens than any other government anywhere.  Iconically, it's the old plantation state of Louisiana that's now known as the prison capital of the world, where prison labor is a booming industry.

For most of my life, I've agreed with Dr. Martin Luther King's assessment, that the moral arc of the universe is long, but that it bends towards justice.  Many a compelling case can be made for that being the way things are going, but I'm not so sure, anymore.  When we seperate technological advancement from social progress, distinguishing all the suffering that's been mitigated by advancements in medicine, comfort, and distraction, are we really making social progress at all?  There's probably less abject suffering.  I'm just not so sure it's because terrible people are being any less terrible towards each other at all.

These two essays both touch on the power of communication technology.  What progress would we have made, without books to facilitate the spread of ideas?  Where would we be, if books were taken away, our means to learn about the world, sharing ideas across great distances, across history, our knowledge and conceptual framework predicated on countless others we've learned from?  I suspect that we'd be back to square one, all that progress collapsing in short order, without the technology that's not only made it possible, but keeps it going.

Maybe this is why, at times, it does not seem like such progress after all.  So much of it depending on what people have access to, but this is also what's been changing.  The spread of ideas through technology growing increasingly ubiquitous throughout the world, seeping into even the most totalitarian states, growing more and more difficult to keep at bay.  I get very discouraged and cynical at times, but I am looking forward to seeing where it all goes.  It is precisely because of our ability to exchange knowledge and ideas, building upon each other's efforts, that I do have some hope.

Frederick Douglas writes that learning to read at times felt like more of a curse than a blessing, and while I can hardly imagine what he went through as a slave, that sentiment does resonate.  So much of what I've learned and taken for granted, shattered as I've expanded my horizons, as only reading has made possible, from books to social media.  Comforting narratives about progress and evils left well behind us, crushed beneath the weight of learning just how terrible the world still is.

Richard Wright also comments on this matter, no longer merely feeling that the world was hostile, but coming to understand it as fact.  As horizons expand, learning just how murderous and hostile humanity can be, and struggling with that realization.  I struggle with this myself, both the feeling, and the understanding that it's all too accurate.  I struggle with how to approach this.

I consider what Douglas and Wright then went on to accomplish though, having taken those steps.  Looking forward, using any means available to learn, using that knowledge to fight for what might be possible, merely by sharing their own ideas, in much the same way they'd shared in ideas of others.  Even long after their passing, their own writing still changing the world to this day, on their behalf.  On humanity's behalf.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

unparalleled solipsism

"To argue that, in a universe which seems to have no purpose, our existence itself is without meaning or value is unparalleled solipsism, as it suggests that without us, the universe is worthless.  The greatest gift that science can give us is to allow us to overcome our need to be the center of existence, even as we learn to appreciate the wonder of the accident that we are privileged to witness."
A paragraph towards the end of Lawrence Krauss' latest work, where I wonder if this is something that he worries about.  There's almost this assumption that this is something we should worry about.  He seems a bit defensive, but his solution has a nice poetry to it.  The book is full of stories.  I was hoping for a little more science, little less history of science, but it was still interesting.  Not as good as the first half of his previous book, which I never finished a few years ago, for no good reason.
"The story I have told is not the whole story.  There is likely to be far more that we don't understand than what we now do.  In the search for meaning, our understanding of reality will surely change as the story continues to unfold."

"The greatest solace that science provides, comes from perhaps its greatest lesson: that the best parts of the story can yet be written."
It helps to look forward to things.  In getting through our days, our years, and even in trying not to forsake the entire human race.  In our willingness to put up with the very universe itself.  I don't think it has anything to do with meaning.  I don't think it means anything.  It's just the way we're coded.  A cognitive fabrication that keeps us moving forward, which helps propagate our genes, or at least not starve to death.

It might be important for a well functioning human psyche, if you're into that sort of thing.  I guess I'm giving it a try.  My days have more shape lately, I look forward to some more than others.  I'm a little vague on where it's going, but have a sense that I might figure something out.  I'm happy to be doing martial arts again, in the meantime.  Even if it does turn out that I am in fact a bit fragile.

The important thing is to find a reason to place the next step, a sense of direction, going somewhere for some reason.  If we're pretending that anything is really important, per se.  If we want to get from one day to the next, we probably should be.

Almost looking forward to reading this one next.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

anticholinergic antagonism

Little over a month ago, my psychiatric nurse practitioner and I decided to try stacking antidepressants to see if that helped.  I've taken lots of different ones, but never tried combining them.  Low dosages of meds with a good synergy could be a good idea.  Bupropion seemed like a good choice, as I seem to have dopamine issues, and that one inhibits dopamine reuptake.

Instead I've only been reminded of why I gave up on psychiatric meds in the first place.  Sertraline has been unique in that it actually seems to do some good.  Most do nothing good, while wreaking havoc with side-effects. 

As I've been diligently meditating every morning, I've been noticing that my thoughts are all over the place for a month or so now.  My mind wanders so much, I keep forgetting my breath entirely for five minutes at a time.  Bring the mind back to the breath again, only to be lost in thought again a few seconds later.  Normally, it's not good for practice to worry about this.  Just keep at it.  Practice.

I did notice it though, as well as the timing of it.  Why would Bupropion do this?  Is it just my imagination?  Is dopamine just distracting?  Why would it cause the same problem coffee does?

I remember reading about acetylcholine and coffee.  It's part of the Bulletproof™ schtick.  They say coffee gobbles up choline, so it's a good idea to stack a choline supplement with it.  That whole bit about adinosine receptors seemed like a bigger deal to me, but I've been rethinking that.  Bupropion also antagonizes choline, possibly more so.  Suddenly my floundering attention span makes sense.

Reading the list of side-effects for anticholinergics, I couldn't stop taking the this useless med fast enough.  I've tried alpha-GPC supplements a bit, but I'm thinking of testing what happens if I take a more serious stab at that.  I avoid high doses of anything, but like the idea of using lower doses to hit a target from multiple angles.  Maybe I'll try stacking alpha-gpc, citicoline, and bacopa.  

Monday, April 30, 2018

recovery time

I remember reading a while back, about some parallels between depression and our innate responses to being sick or injured.  Maybe it was just one particular type of depression.  The symptoms being like a protective response, the drive to recover, going all wrong.  As if a reflex is being tripped, and feeling like we desperately need to recover, far too often, for no good reason.

There could be some truth to that.  Maybe not that it's the root of the whole depression problem, but possibly a piece of it.  I've been thinking about this feeling, that the more I'm doing, the more I start letting myself lay around doing nothing again.  It's a feeling of needing to recover, of being justified in taking time to do so.

Entirely reasonable in a way, but it's still a feeling that comes over me far too easily.  The more depressed, the more easily.  It helps that now I have a good excuse for it at least some of the time.  I hope that means I'm still moving in the right direction.

I missed a class tonight that I wanted to go to.  A guest instructor was teaching Muay Boran, but I had to call my doctor, pick up some groceries, and walk a dog.  I got the date mixed up, saw the reminder in my feed too late. 

I worry about how little it takes to get me mixed up.  Grown-up school coming up in like two weeks or something.  It's May, right?