Sunday, November 28, 2004

During this upcoming week, TheLimey and I both have our birthdays, two days apart. My original plan was to celebrate by aggressively Doing Nothing when we got together next weekend, having gotten a good deal of work done this weekend. However, as I have been having overwork rebound exacerbated by the holiday weekend, this means that I got a good start on Doing Nothing already this weekend.

One thing (not on my list) I did recently accomplish was the traditional holiday consumption of sherry and roast chestnuts while watching Regency House Party. Okay, so maybe the PBS part is not traditional, but it should be. It's a great antidote for commercial TV reality shows, which are largely uneducational, but has all the interpersonal soap-opera machinations that one could want.

I had been hearing about these chestnuts ad nauseum lately, so that when I actually saw some of the $4/lb nippers for sale at Meijer, of course I had to get them. Not having (legal) access to an open fire, I had to roast them in the oven after having a chestnut expert score them, expertly, with an X. To me, a chestnut novice, they were like tiny popcorn-flavored potatoes in a furry, bitterish, peachlike skin and a crispy shell/coat. One of those food items that are compellingly eatable.
I must also mention that my adorable little sister* (yes, another, and there are more where that came from) to whom I will refer as BirdGirl since she has no online identity yet has also begun selling her handmade jewelry on eBay. You can see the link down there by the ones of my aunts. I'm beginning to think I had better come up with something to sell online, and quickly, or I'll be kicked out of the family!

*And by "little" I mean only that she is younger than me, since she is a grown married woman of nearly 24, but will of course always be My Little Baby (TM).

Friday, November 26, 2004

What I really want (what I really really want) is for Frinkenstein to post a narrative regarding "Wing Ding", which, as a non-Frinksibling, I simply cannot describe adequately nor amusingly. How about it?
Did manage some successful baking. The magic peanut-butter middles turned out great, even though I used Land-o-Lakes Baking Butter (which is part canola). It's a shame TheLimey doesn't like peanut butter. Luckily, others did.

All together over the past week I also made: my notorious Invisibly Whole Wheat Butter-Brownies that do not at all seem like any kind of health food; oatmeal-currant cookies for TheLimey (I am always severely disappointed by raisin-like objects, as they are specifically not chocolate chips); a really good apple pie (I have begun adding lemon zest to the stuff I roll the apple pieces in); 2 chocolate meringue pies, cream puffs that didn't stay puffed long enough for me to fill with pastry custard but I did it anyway; onion-rosemary tarts; slow-cooked beef noodle soup and chicken stew with cheddar biscuits; and I can't remember if there was anything else. I'm still not satisfied, and I still have a ton of ingredients remaining. Perhaps will do more later this week when I return home.
As usual, beginning to feel better after less than a week. Now, if only my sleep would also go back to normal. One adaptive function about depression is it often makes me look at things I my life that I have been putting on the back burner or repressing entirely. Darnit! What is a subconscious for if I can't just store a bunch of stuff there, like a big spiderwebby attic or basement? Why do I always have to face every little (or big) thing? Stupid knowledge.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Well, crap.

I've clearly gone from Holiday Blues to a full-fledged depressive episode. How do I know? The following constellation of symptoms:

1. Very suddenly having both insomnia (secondary) and hypersomnia -- extremely difficult time even waking up, let alone actually getting out of bed. I'm usually one of those people who is wide-awake and happy right off the bat in the morning. (The sudden onset is especially telling.)

2. Everything in my life--and I mean everything--suddenly seems not only pointless but also doomed to failure.

3. I've lost interest and enthusiasm for things and activities that usually please me. (Even squirrel-feeding is less exciting than usual.) Things seem grey and dull.

4. Depressed mood. (This seems obvious, but depressed mood can just be situational, and on the other hand one can be quite depressed without actually feeling sad.) However, considering everything else, it's part of a pattern. I've actually been waking myself up in the middle of the night by sobbing in my sleep, and also experiencing weeping in the morning, which is (again) unusual for me.

5. Situation pattern: I have often gotten depressed shortly after I've accomplished something, or worked really hard at completing something, or gotten something I really wanted, or even just gotten excited about something for a few days. This clearly fits that pattern. (If my emotions were an oscilloscope output, it would be the drop after a big spike of some kind.)

Now, this might sound bad. (And I certainly don't enjoy it, though I am lucky in that it doesn't generally get bad enough make me non-functional as it does some people.) However, it always makes me feel better when I finally realize I'm actually having a depressive episode. This sounds perverse, but bear with me.

Recognizing that it is actually depression means that :

1. All the negative assessments, pessimistic predictions, and awfulizations about everything and everyone I've found myself making lately are likely not based on reality and will change when the depression fades, so things in my life might not be as bad as I fear, and

2. Nearly all depression fades within 2 weeks, which is not only my clinical training but also my personal experience. In fact for me it's usually quite a bit less, so all I have to do is wait it out.
Okay, so it's not only that I must wait it out, but also that I should not make any big decisions or important assessments based on my feelings while I'm still depressed. I must temporarily take my negative ideas about things with a grain of salt.

Recognizing what's going on, I now get to go easy on myself and allow the mood to flow "through" me in a zen-like fashion instead of taking it too seriously. And I also must stop trying to "snap out of it" (which is a treatment that works for no-one, yet we all still try to do it to ourselves!)

Monday, November 22, 2004

I think I'm experiencing Holiday Blues. To which I never wanted to fall prey. We always get a lot of clients going through something like this, increased suicide attempts, breakups, etc. etc. I usually like the holidays a lot, and look forward to the domesticity and coziness of them. I have always been relieved that at least I have that, and don't have to be sad at the holidays. There are enough other times of year in which to be sad.

But this year I seem to be having the ever-popular depressive reaction instead, which is a bummer. Literally.

I did some baking and cooking over the weekend, but my aspirations were higher than my achievements. Ironically, this led to my feeling that I had failed--at something I planned as a rewarding relaxation for all my hard work over the past several months! I think I'm conditioned to be far too goal-oriented at this point.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Thought I was tired of thinking about this, but here is a new twist on the election maps: cartograms. Makes me feel a lot less isolated to see how the statistics really play out.

Stretchy maps

Good things about taking steroids:

-Reduced inflammation of everything, whether targeted components (lungs, joints, etc.) or not. As a result, skin looks ivory instead of pale and blotchy. Also less baggage around eyes.
-Sense of well-being and optimism. This seems weird, but is always true for me. Only partly related to feeling able to breathe again.
-Huge, ripped delts and quads! (Okay, maybe not in the 5 days it takes for my lung tissue to de-inflame.)

Bad things about taking steroids:

-Hoarseness. Not such a big deal now, but definitely was a big deal when I was still recording.
-Reduced appetite. I'm trying to gain weight, here, pal, not lose more!
-Increased impatience. I think I even experienced 'roid rage towards some tangled hangers* on Sunday.
-How could I forget the thing where I think I smell like a goat? I forgot it, because it doesn't seem to have happened this time. I wonder why not?
-All kinds of terrible long-term effects if taken for very long. Infections, flesh-eating viruses, brain lobe slippage, irreversible memory loss, voting "red", and I don't know what all.

*Note to self: name next band** "Tangled Hangers".

**Further note to self: go up against TheLimey's putative band, "Suckling Pig" and beat them ... somehow... at something [editor's note: sorry, don't mind her. Must be the steroids talking.]

Monday, November 15, 2004

This weekend will be the first in approximately 31/2 months during which I will be...not so much unbusy as not so insanely busy as to have to a) stay awake until 5am or b) get up at 3am. In fact, it may be the first time I will be able to plan to take an afternoon off! That's right, an entire afternoon.

During the past 31/2 months, TheLimey and I have been able to see each other only approximately every other weekend for quite a while now. That comes out to twice a month, in other words, which is pretty shabby. At least we spent entire weekends together, but were nearly always both engaged in parallel frantic keyboard tapping on our respective laptops for 10 to 12 hour stretches those days. I know, what could be more romantic, you say. What indeed.

Well, as it turns out, we can both have an afternoon off this weekend. I am giddy with possibility. The Ann Arbor U-M Art museum! Watching my VHS copy of Barbarella, which I still have never seen! Feeding squirrels on the big, sophisticated U-M campus for a change! Perhaps a real full-size film, since we haven't seen one since Supersize Me came out! Walking around Ypsi fantasizing about remodeling houses! (Yes, we are a party couple.)

My secret desire: a combination of drinking and baking. Some nice warm Glögg (really, I didn't like mulled wine either until a German friend of mine gave me this stuff as a gift), and my favorite recipes for mini custard-creampuffs, dried-cherry biscotti, and perhaps even the onion-rosemary tartlets. [drools].

I have the grocery list of ingredients and the wheeled shopping basket awaiting me as soon as I get done with school stuff today.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

I forced TheLimey to read Asimov's The End of Eternity, which I suspected he would like as much as I did. I hadn't read it in many years, maybe since my teens, and was surprised to find that it had weathered the years extremely well.

As I was reading it, I thought to myself, "Wow, for something written in the '50s, this somehow managed to remain very undated--even the descriptions of technology seem contemporary!" Then I seem to remember looking at the copyright date and it being in the '30s, which blew me away.

...But now I can't find any reference to its being anything other than 1955, when it was published, and TheLimey has my copy so I can't look inside to see what the heck I was looking at!

Well, anyway--it's still a damn good book. One whose plot hasn't aged in all this time. It makes a lot of current authors look like they're writing cheap retreads. And I hear that the plot twists kept TheLimey awake until 1am a couple of nights. Heh.

Maybe I should dust off The Caves of Steel next.
Whatever happened to "Alternative"? No, I don't mean what passes for "Alternative" now: mere blurred photocopies of Grunge overlaid with yarling (vocals adapted from Southern Rock, a la Eddie Vedder).

No, Back In My Day, one could turn on 89X and a wide variety of alternative musical styles (hence the "Alternative" moniker) might leap out. Anything from Sinead O'Connor to Gangster Fun to Buckwheat Zydeco to Sisters of Mercy to Style Council to The Cure to Patsy Cline. And we liked it that way.

Now Alternative actually means, "there is no alternative to listening to just this one style."

I blame Nirvana, although initially they were just one more interesting flavor. I guess I really blame Pearl Jam.

Back in the day I could wear fishnets, a black slip, combat boots, the de rigeur plaid shirt and biker jacket, and be at home in any venue. Heck, one night I was wandering around Ann Arbor alone dressed like that and found a dive bar where a Rockabilly band was playing. I struck up a conversation with them and ended up singing a Patsy Cline song when they went back on. Back then if I wore spike heels in the mosh pit, people would pick me up if I fell. (Completely non-drunkenly, of course.) Now I'd be pigeonholed as a "Goth" instead of part of a diverse counterculture.

And speaking of diverse, I really miss the few years between 1985-1990 during which skinheads had yet to become closely associated with Nazism. It's a shame, because I really liked the bald-boots-and-braces look. It was very dramatic on pretty guys. Now, of course, it's all about dumb ol' White supremacy.

Friday, November 12, 2004

PS: The fish balls were good. In Norwegian the label states they are made of cod, but in English the label states that they are made of "white fish".

And aren't potatoes great? I forgot how great they are. Just heat them in water for a while, and they're done. What an easy thing to make and eat, even for me.

I think I'll eat the rest tonight.

(The chocolate hasn't been bad, either.)
Why is it that I have such a hard time telling if I'm "really" sick or it's something I could probably give the doctor a miss for? It's as though I am so used to being miserable and exhausted that I can't tell if I'm really miserable, sick miserable, or just...tired or something. I have to resort to the old "If one of my sisters had these symptoms, would I make her go to the doctor?" To which I answered, definitely yes.

I know I could probably have controlled my symptoms enough to get through a day at the clinic, but I am just so worn out, and tired of coughing every time I talk, and itching every time I inhale, that I called in sick and went to the "Health" part of the health clinic myself.

Basically there's nothing wrong with me except that I can't breathe without coughing--no infection or anything. So that's good in one sense--but it also means that I was essentially right in thinking that if I could just control the symptoms AND get a good rest, I'd probably be okay. So now I feel like I wasted an afternoon I could have been resting, and also a bunch of money, for something possibly unnecessary.

They gave me a breathing treatment (which has left me jittery and tired) and a course of steroids to reduce the lung inflammation. They also gave me several other prescriptions, including Advair.

Even though I asked which scrips were the most important (given my insuranceless state) and got only those, the whole shebang came to $180. While the breathing treatment and steroids were actually pretty cheap, that golblanged-freaking Serevent was $80 all by itself.

I'm not surprised my lungs are irritated, because that's how I am feeling overall--unbearably irritated by everything. Little noises, strangers breathing in the same room as me, any tasks related to school, watching my remaining money get sucked into the prescription machine--they all make me just want to punch someone. If only I weren't too tired to do so...

Man, steroids always make me irritable--on top of this preexisting irritability, I can't imagine what I'm going to be like!
Well, hopefully I will get to have a few normal nights' sleep, a couple weekend days where I can work eight or nine hours instead of 16 or 20, and then I can post something less cranky.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

Blogger sure is recalcitrant today. Then again, so am I.

I ended up canceling my class/office hours. (As TheLimey suggested I do on Tuesday so I could get things done, but I guess I had to really get sick first before I was willing to do it.) For the past several months now I have had a lot more tightness in my lungs than usual, and in the past month it has gotten really bad. Last weekend I had a full-on asthma attack, which hasn't happened for about 4 years, and was really not what I had planned for Saturday night.

I think this constant months-long cough/irritation/wheezing is turning into bronchitis, even though I know how to manage the symptoms so I'm not dropping dead on the spot all the time.

Anyway, today I am exhausted and my lungs feel sore when I just inhale. The thing that has helped me the most the past few days is to take Robitussin DM, which has stuff to make your lungs less irritated so you cough less, and to thin out whatever gunk is actually in there. So, given what remedy helps, that tells me what the underlying problem is. (Well, yes, lungs swelling shut--but how, specifically.)

I think I just need to rest, for the love of Pete. Rest and get my immune system back up and my inflammatory response back down. Woke up in a panic about getting everything done at 3:00 am, then couldn't get back to sleep. I hate this! I feel like I have consumption, and it's not very glamorous nor poetic.

This weekend I will finally be able to begin working on my dissertation, now that it's mid-November. Which means that once again I will be running severely behind, as I will be trying to get proposed and get committee approval and graduate school approval by the end of next month in order to begin data collection in January, before the fresh students have been exposed to me and Dr. [NAME OF ADVISOR] for too long. Probably too late to quit grad school now, huh?

Maybe this weekend I can do my dishes, which are nearly all used and are filling the sink and the countertop. Wow: time to do the dishes. What a luxury!

Tonight, if I have the energy to wash a pot and boil potatoes when I get home: canned fishballs and potatoes! (However, I will be eating the potato skins, which seemed positively bizarre to the Norwegians I knew.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I am SO tired of constantly playing catch-up, crisis-management, terror-stricken hurrification in absolutely EVERYTHING in my life for the past year and a half.

Found out today that the US Mail does not run tomorrow as it is frikkin' Veterans' Day. (Not that I have anything against veterans.)

It's just--there went my carefully engineered plan as to how I would mail a few "urgent" apps today (the one day I didn't have clients or teaching) to arrive Friday, and then tonight work on all the individual forms and de-identified sample reports to send, then send them tomorrow Priority Mail to arrive on Monday.

As it stands, instead I had to even more frantically and insanely than before throw together a bunch of real honest-to-goodness crap (that I hope they will even bother to look at) and mail it the most expensive way possible, just so I could get it all out tonight. That would be to the tune of about $180.

In addition, there are still three apps that I absolutely couldn't send today because of all the extra written stuff they require in the application packet, so I will have to send them overnight on Friday, for another whopping $60. Good LORD this is ridiculous.

Not to mention, because of all this insane hurrying, I forgot to include something pretty important in the two I sent first today, the "urgent" ones that are due Friday. I hope it won't count too much against me to fax it to them--if I can find a fax number--but who knows. When people are upset about a pore-sized smear on your vita....


Hope I didn't put anybody's frikkin' cover letter in anybody else's frikkin' envelope. Cripes.

As one of my colleagues pointed out, internship is in itself already such an aversive activity--why do they also have to make applying for it so aversive?! They should at least make the application part easy. I have been working on this stuff from dawn to midnight every day for weeks now. As another colleague remarked: "I can't wait until this 'full-time job' is over so I can get back to my normal full-time job!"

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Weird things that the ants living in my apartment seem to particularly like:

1. Robitussin DM
2. Marmite
3. Turkey ham

Today, received my box of Norwegian foods from NordicHouse...I won't open it until I've sent my application letters. Hopefully tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Last night was not a good night to be alone (or "utterly alone" ... for those who remember your Betelgeuse). I had a hard time working, what with a terrible headache coupled with sheer physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. That latter was exacerbated by watching the TV coverage of this country stabbing itself repeatedly in the liver, and also by how extremely isolated I've been lately due to all this work.

I'm not too optimistic about those few remaining votes in Ohio. Happy to see Democrats finally coming out of the woodwork, but it's still not enough. It's a lot easier to work the system when you're already in charge of it. And also have loads of money.

It seems a bit ironic to me that parties can pour incredible amounts of money into campaigning and ads in certain states, but can't be bothered to spend that same money on improving the lives of underprivileged people in those states. Why? Because pouring money into ads is about remaining in power, which is about increasing wealth and privilege.

Helping others won't accomplish that; in fact, it will undermine it. Can you imagine what it would be like if corporate America and rich donors were willing to pour that same kind of money into improving lives of people in their own locales?
As I teach my students, the purpose of any system or organization is what that system or organization actually does, rather than what its stated goal is. And for most systems, that means ensuring its own survival at any cost. (For others, it means generating endless paperwork!)

Knowing how few people are actually benefiting from this administration, I can't believe how many others are willing to support it. Are we really that dumb? It's the have-nots vs. the haves-and-wish-they-could-haves. And all this crap about "moral values" being the reason to vote that way. Give me a freaking break. If your gay neighbors are just living together rather than married, how the hell is that making your life better?

I don't think we're dumb; I think we've been led to be afraid.

In the course of all this work I've been doing, one thing I've had to do is thoroughly scan [not skim!] the history of research in the area of prejudice and discrimination. A very prominent thread is that of Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA). One study I read investigated how personality traits are related to voter propaganda response.

In a very small nutshell, people who were high in RWA were likely to respond to threat-based advertising (Your kids will become perverted! Communists will take over your neighborhood! Bombs will fall on your local Dairy Queen!), while people who were low in RWA were likely to respond to improvement-based ads (Improve health care for grandma! Increase your state's attractiveness to employers!). Voting out of fear leads to Republicans in power!

I had a guest speaker in my class yesterday: one of our professors who has done a lot of research about gay rights issues. She described ways that anti-gay campaigns are likely to affect the day-to-day functioning of one's gay clients (or non-clients for that matter). Respondents in her study frequently used "Nazi" references in their descriptions of how they felt ("When the amendment passed, I felt like I had woken up in Nazi Germany.")

When research on prejudice first began, it was essentially because researchers wanted to figure out how people in Germany could have allowed things to go so far, and one of the things they came up with was this Authoritarianism business. It certainly played a big part in that system degenerating into such wickedness. So these references to Nazism are not at all out of place in the current political atmosphere. We are high in RWA and we are responding to threat-based political propaganda--fear!

I can't help but remember the seemingly far-fatched conclusion reached by Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine: that an undercurrent of fear in the U.S. is creating all kinds of social ills.

In light of what I've seen lately, I think I'm beginning to agree with that.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Over the weekend, workedworkedworked. Got up at some crazy hour Saturday (only partly on purpose; see previous post), slept in until 7 (!!) on Sunday, then today got up at 3am. To work more, more, more. (With a rebel yell.)

The only way to survive this is to take a couple of 15-20 minute naps during the day, even if it's at my desk. The thing that makes it so hard is that I also have to think and do really hard brainwork during all those extra-long awake hours.

Out of birdseed, suet, onion bagels. Within 12 hours will be out of TP, milk, chocolate soymilk, squirrel peanuts, frozen homemade soup, etc. No time to go to store.

Have plenty of Marmite and tea. However, nothing to put it on or put in it, respectively.