Emphysema (2017May08)


Monday, May 08, 2017                                            12:32 PM

Emphysema III   (2017May08)

Improv – Deuce


Improv – Trey


Improv – Quatro


Improv – Embracing the New


Improv – Having Fun


Improv – Persistence

Forgive the cliché, but it is the best of times, it is the worst of times. At long last, everyone who wanted me to quit smoking (including myself) is getting their wish—on the other hand, I’m quitting smoking—or, at least, I’m striving to do so—and there is some discomfort involved.

I started with patches and single-digits of cigarettes per day, then I stopped patches and went back up to double-digits for a day—but now I’ve been back in single-digits, and without any nicotine patches, for a couple of days. Learning to use my Advair corticosteroid inhaler twice-a-day has added a wrinkle—lately I’ve been waking up with huge pupils and no irises. It goes away after an hour or so—but apparently I’m tripping in my sleep.

I don’t know if that’s nicotine withdrawal or cortisone side-effects, which I could say about my mood-swings, tremors, and more-frequent spasms as well—and, in a way, not being sure helps with avoiding the cigarettes—I thrive on chaos, and at the moment, it’s non-stop.

Reaching zero total cigarettes is not the challenge for me (well, not the biggest one). Once I full-stop on the cigarettes, I will experience a healthy, calm stillness—I won’t be reaching for things, I won’t be drugged (except for caffeine), my mind will be relatively clear and my ears won’t be ringing.

That will be torture—that yawning void will be begging me to put the cigarettes back into the mix—you know, for fun—and nothing will distract me from that nagging voice—that’s going to be the real challenge. Stillness bugs me—clarity seems like a waste, a self-imposed chore.

That behavior used to have a function—my old mind was always threatening to over-rev itself, always in danger of over-heating—it needed an extra-viscous lubricant to reduce the friction. Nowadays, I’ve merely become used to that approach—my mind has little risk of overexerting itself nowadays, but it still enjoys a bit of viscosity to the thought-process—it’s what I’ve become comfortable with.

But, good-bye, comfort! It’s cigarette-quitting time. And please—don’t mention it. Talking about cigarettes is the worst thing I can do—and I certainly don’t need anyone else bringing it up.

The doctor switched me to a new anti-depressant—it’s hard to say, with all the rest of the chemicals, but I’m pretty sure it’s an improvement. And I’ve stopped taking vitamins every day—I’ve switched to a multi-vitamin every other day, and a B-complex every four days. Apparently that’s more than enough—every day is overkill, or so I’m told—and it makes less work for my stomach.

I could go on, but you get the picture—I’m going squirrelly, trying to become healthy—and I’m so unstable that the whole thing could crash and burn any minute—my kingdom for some will-power!

Tuesday, May 02, 2017                                            11:13 AM

Emphysema II   (2017May02)

Back to the doctor’s office we go—to get the skinny on my breathing and how to use an inhaler. Apparently, I have 75% use of the lungs of a 91-year-old.

Thursday, May 04, 2017                                          2:45 PM

Advair is the brand name for my new cortico-steroid inhaler—it’s a pain in the ass to use and very weird. Sometimes, being sick makes you a helpless, involuntary drug-tester for future users of new drugs.

Inhaling steroid dust is nothing, though, compared to trying to quit smoking. I’ve been messing around with a mixture of nicotine patches and will-power—it’s heavy sledding. I wasn’t sure I had it in me. However, Bear has obtained Chantix for me—it’s a quit-smoking drug with side-affects like you wouldn’t believe. I think I might have just enough will-power to quit smoking, if it means I don’t have to take that shit—I don’t want to give up tobacco for my health and, in the process, go mad or bleed internally or whatever Chantix might do to me.

I’m sure not-smoking is a wonderful thing—but it will never be anywhere near as nice as smoking. How come every time I have to do something for my health, it means making life less enjoyable? The biggest problem with quitting is that I spend all day not-doing-something—which is weird and unenjoyable—and I’d much rather be so involved in doing something that I didn’t think about what I was missing. I need a hobby, I guess.

Thursday, April 27, 2017                                        12:22 PM

Emphysema   (2017Apr27)

Emphysema is fun—a true smoker’s disease, unlike lung cancer or heart disease, which any old Tom, Dick, or Harry can fall prey to, emphysema is virtually unheard of except in the case of long-term smokers. The little bubbles at the end of the bronchioles, the alveoli, become enflamed—or even necrotic—thus disabling their function (to be the exchange-point for oxygen). The lungs can pump away like a bellows—but the oxygen being breathed in does not make it into the bloodstream.

Without that fuel, the body works much harder—shortness of breath, fatigue, and weight loss are common symptoms of emphysema. Most people notice shortness-of-breath right away, but those who lead a sedentary lifestyle may not notice this—or connect it to something other than lack of exercise. Idiots like that may wait until their lungs actually hurt before they get a chest x-ray.

I got a chest x-ray yesterday. Fun’s over. I now have to quit smoking. I already had to quit drinking—this is the last straw. I’ve run out of vices. How does one live a life without vices?

But never mind that. How do I quit smoking? I’m four hours into this brave new world and I’m clenching my jaw and feeling dizzy—that’s with a nic-patch, mind you—so it’s all in my head. We fear change—and this is a perfect example of why.

Since I was eighteen—so that’s about forty-three years, about 16,000 days, at two packs a day—that’s over 600,000 cigarettes, give or take. Honestly, I may have spent more time smoking a cigarette than I’ve spent on anything else. Also, I kind of liked smoking—as an activity—it was relaxing and enjoyable.

But now I have to confront tobacco as an addiction—I’m not ignoring nagging doomsayers anymore, I’m ignoring my own health by any future smoking. As with my old liver problems, the lungs don’t self-repair—emphysema is forever—and while nothing can reverse the damage, each cigarette can worsen it. Good times—as usual. Well, Claire is happy, at least, at last—without ever truly nagging me about cigarettes, she has hoped I’d quit for a long time.

Fancy Words   (2017May01)

Monday, May 01, 2017                                            2:35 PM

If you had never heard of, and then got health-care eight years ago—and it then paid for some health problem in your family—you are not a Republican. If your parents are on Social Security—you are not a Republican. If you are on Medicare and Disability (like me) —you are not a Trump supporter. If you employ non-English-speaking help—you are not a Republican. If you think people are more than employees—you are not a Republican.

If someone just explained to you that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are the same thing—that one is its correct name and the other is its nickname—then you are not a Republican, or a Trump supporter. You may say, “O, yes I am—don’t tell me I’m not.” Let me explain—you may root for that team—that may be your favorite brand—but you don’t support their policies.

No one supports them—no one supports playing nuclear ‘chicken’ with Kim Jong Un—no one supports trashing the environment—no one supports naked bigotry and elitism. They run a great ‘show’—they tap-dance like a mothafukka and they all have a B.S. in BS—but there’s nothing there, behind the scenes, except maybe cynical gloating and paranoia.

There is a struggle going on—in simplest terms I’d call it good vs. evil—but that is too simple—and oversimplification is one of the tools of the forces of evil. By calling one side ‘evil’, we reveal a lack of nuance—better to present a situation, an illustration—and allow others to come up with their own judgements.

For every example I can think of, I usually can describe its good side—and then go on to describe its evil. Even then, while I’m thinking it is good to be open the interwoven nature of good and evil—to see the nuanced, detailed panorama of a certain choice or issue—I’m also thinking that firehose of perspectives can be just as useful in confabulated obfuscation.

It is sad that the grand elegance of the human mind’s mathematical discoveries (or is it ‘inventions’?) is the same mental skill used in contrivance and fraud. Some industries combine the two—marketing, for instance, is the deep-drilling, sociological science of separating people from their money. Likewise, banking and finance—industries that have decided to specialize in business banking—and leave the personal business to the worst of their ilk.

If I sound bitter or critical, it’s not my fault—to be honest about business and politics and such, without sounding so, isn’t possible. It’s pretty common, too—I hear others talk this way all the time—regular-type folks—and the only ones I ever hear push back are hired guns—PR hacks, campaigners, spokespersons (O—and the occasional homunculus sitting outside her trailer).


The Partying Continues (2017Apr05)


Wednesday, April 05, 2017                                              10:15 AM

I’ve never had an ‘edge’, like my late brother—he was cool. He could be dismissive, confrontational, and disruptive—just like a rock star (and it didn’t hurt that he sang like a rebellious angel). That’s not me—I’m more of a gullible rule-follower with an annoying habit of obsessing over detail. And one of the rules I like to follow is ‘try to be positive’. When I write my dismissive, confrontational, and disruptive blog-posts about politics, I often tell myself, “You shouldn’t be such a downer—why not write about positive things?”

But I think I’m over that—you can’t write happiness—if there was anything to say about being happy, I’d have said it—but most happiness is too ephemeral (and too fragile) for words—it’s a feeling. Happiness is hard to share and impossible to write about, at length. Problems, now—there’s no end of things to say about problems.

And there’s no end of problems with today’s politics—leadership requires idealism, but the promise of power attracts the less-than-ideal. When Obama pushed through Affordable Health Care, he knew that it was a political misstep, but he did it anyway—because it was the right thing to do. By contrast, we have Trump recently signing an executive order to un-ban pesticides the EPA had determined were too toxic—and handing the pen to the head of Dow Chemical.

That would suggest that Trump favors business over humanity—but there’s more to it than that. Business can’t thrive in a place where no one makes enough money to have discretionary income (spending cash). Businesses can’t, in the long run, make a profit if all their customers are dead. Favoring business over humanity is a false equivalence—it is really a matter of preferring short-sighted greed over long-term reality, of ignoring warnings—not because they’re false, but because they are not yet true. Businesses love to project their future sales, but they’re uncomfortable with projections of reality.

That’s where science-denial and doubt comes in—they don’t want to admit that scientists’ warnings aren’t yet true—so they claim that such warnings aren’t true at all. Short-sightedness as public policy—for the purpose of immediate profit—resembles an addict grubbing for a fix. Capitalism becomes slow suicide. Socialism becomes the rehab we’re not ready to check in to. The partying continues.


Knowledge is Three-Dimensional   (2017Mar13)


Monday, March 13, 2017                                        11:16 AM

Cheese und crackers, can I write a suicidally depressing blog-post. But never fear, dear reader, I wouldn’t ask you to read that last one—not everything I write deserves posting. Let me try again—let’s see if I can be a little less direct, a little less my quintessential self.

Weather? Well, it’s cold as a witch’s tit, and weather is the death of conversation, so no joy there. Politics? Please, don’t get me started—neither one of us will enjoy that. The day of the week? Do you really want another smug joke about the Monday blues, the Monday blahs, the…oh, forget it.

I put myself back on anti-depressants yesterday—but I messed up and just took a full dose—you’re supposed to ramp up slowly, but you know how my memory doesn’t work. I spent the whole night in the crapper and my tummy still hurts. But, rocky start notwithstanding, I’m now safely back inside the drug bubble—protected from the flashes of rage and frustration, the obsessive behavior, the sleepless nights.

It’s always struck me as funny that the one thing anti-depressants can’t cure is depression. I’ve never stopped being depressed on these things, have you? No, anti-depressants modify your chemical response to depression—they don’t change the thoughts in your head—just the way that your body reacts to them.

Young people don’t usually make much of the connection between their feelings and the effects of those feelings on the body—or the effect of the body’s health on their feelings. Maybe that’s because the hormonal turbulences of young people easily overshadow that resonance—maybe that’s why I’m just starting to notice it, now that my hormones have gone ‘deep background’. For all we know, young people feel the oncoming rainstorm in their joints, too—but their hormones are shouting so loudly they can’t hear it.

I’m reading a story that posits the existence of ancient civilizations with technologies we’ve never learned. I thought about it. When the discovery was made, about electro-magnetic inductance and about EM radiation having a spectrum, from microwaves to radio waves to visible light to infra-red heat, et al., we shouted ‘Eureka!’ and decided that we had plumbed the mysteries of electricity. But what if there’s more to it—what if we ran with EM radiation, and in doing so ignored another basic principle of electricity that goes unknown and unnoticed today?

It’s a valid question: how much of our science is the development of physical concepts we discovered, or figured out, and excited us enough to overlook some other basic concept? What if our standard idea of EM radiation, as perpendicular waves of electricity and magnetism, is actually missing another pair that fit in diagonally—say, unicorn power and ESP, or something? After all, dark matter and dark energy are references to things that we can’t see or sense, thing we can only deduce through corollaries—is it any less likely that there are a few phenomena in physics that we can see, but have not yet deduced the meaning of?

If you’d asked me about this question a few years ago, I’d have been dismissive—but my opinion of human intelligence has taken a nose-dive of late and now, if there’s a question of ‘can we be that blind?’, I’m leaning always towards ‘yes’.

And, really, could electricity be more mysterious? Even after we figured out the basics—the Edison stuff—we still had waiting to be discovered: resistors (materials which change in a current), super-conductors (materials which transfer current without any loss of strength due to resistance), and solar panels (materials which convert sunlight into current). Think about it—Edison invented the electric lightbulb prior to our discovery that light itself was electricity (well, electromagnetic radiation at a certain frequency, if you insist on being technical).

Some discoveries, in short, are brand new ideas no one ever conceived of or guessed at—but some discoveries are of a deeper understanding of the already known. Galileo built the first telescope—but Newton was the first to figure out the optics of it—to explain why a telescope works. In reaching that deeper understanding, Newton was also inspired to invent the reflecting telescope—a smaller but more efficient use of magnification optics than the straight spyglass type.

In summary, there is always more to learn, to discover—but there’s always more to learn about what we already know, as well. Knowledge is three-dimensional.


D is for Dummy (2017Feb28)


Tuesday, February 28, 2017                                             9:11 AM

According to the New York Times, Trump wants to add $54 billion to our military spending, saying, “We have to start winning wars again.” This sorry fuckwad doesn’t see a problem with wars—just with losing them. It may be difficult for those of us living in reality to understand what this drooling moron means when he spews his ignorance. I believe this particular tid-bit was meant to suggest that we will go to every hot spot on Earth and use American Might to slaughter everyone involved, thus ‘winning’. I guess when you’re that old, mere diplomacy and world peace won’t get your dick hard.

BLOTUS says, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” He doesn’t want to admit it was just him—so he says ‘Nobody’ knew. This is the beauty of seeing reality as a story to be shaped, rather than a true thing—you can adjust the facts to make yourself look sane. Every-fucking-body knew—and everyone has known for years and years, that Health Care was complex—only someone who completely ignored politics until last year could possibly have missed the fact that Health Care was complex—and guess who that sounds like.


I know that facts are unpopular nowadays—but here’s one: the ACA was based on a Republican governor’s successful state program—it addressed several injustices that existed in commercial health insurance, it saved lives, and the only way it could be improved or made more economic would be to put back the single-payer option that Obama was forced to drop when he pushed the bill through. That’s the simple truth.

But Republicans and Trump campaigned on the notion that the ACA was evil incarnate—a curse upon the nation. They wanted to repeal it so bad they could taste it. They passed repeal bills in the House like sixty-something times. We can see now why they were so desperate—people have gotten used to health insurance—they like it and they don’t want anyone to take it away now. It turns out that some people look on this evil curse as a blessing—who knew that keeping kids healthy would be popular with parents—even dyed-in-the-wool Republican parents?

But how can they rail against something for years—and then turn around and claim they had no idea how complicated it was? How can they justify ending a government policy so popular that twenty million people signed up for it—and without any kind of replacement? Trump went on to say that his Obamacare-replacement plan is going to be incredibly super-terrific—he doesn’t have one yet, but he knows that it will be terrific. Is that just his subtle way of reminding us that ‘terrific’ has the same root as ‘terror’? I’m afraid so.


But I’m not going to condescend to you, dear reader, as if you were some brainless Trump supporter. You know he’s an ignorant, confused old elitist who snuck into a position he is unfit for. You don’t need me to tell you that the GOP has to use gerrymandering to win elections because their priorities don’t include serving the people. You don’t need me to tell you you’re being lied to—you can tell the truth from a punch in the face without any help from me. I only write these posts because I’m consumed with a thirst for vengeance, just dying for truth and justice to make a comeback.

Trump’s statements, his behavior, his so-called policies—I see them as proof of treasonous criminality and incompetence. Others see them as something to vote for. That’s an incomprehensible gap in our perception of things. I believe that a quarter of this country is made up of people who had trouble with school, with comprehension and reading skills—people who’ve spent their lifetimes being corrected, confused, and condescended to by intelligent people.

They hate subtlety, they hate ideas and ideals, they hate science and math, they hate history and education—and most of all, they hate eggheads, nerds, brains, or intelligentsia of any kind—study and knowledge are the enemy to that quarter of our population—the quarter who see Trump as their champion. Trump told them it’s okay to stand up in public and be an idiot, to say something that three-quarters of Americans laugh at for its inanity—that being a perfect fool is nothing to be ashamed of—and they love him for it.

Of course, it’s a little uncomfortable to come right out and champion stupidity, so they rebrand intelligence as ‘being liberal’. Then they change it to ‘libertards’, to imply that thinking is the real stupidity (and to get away with using ‘retard’ as an insult without anyone being able to call them on it). Sadly, they condemn thinking as if it’s something they would never do—when the truth is that thinking is something they’ve never been able to do.

That quarter of our population got Trump into office—but they had help. The people who didn’t bother to vote (which was fully half the country) may not have been stupid enough to vote for him—but they were stupid enough to let it happen. I give them a D.


Stuck in the Snow (2017Feb27)


Monday, February 27, 2017                                             11:29 AM

I’m tired of discussing it. I’ve been in meetings with people I respected, people who knew what they were talking about—and still, at some point you reach a time when you just get tired. How much more tiring it is to have an argument (I won’t dignify them as ‘discussions’) with someone who is speaking from an emotional, partisan obstinacy.

They trot out their syllogisms, their zingers, their disdain for other points-of-view, their outrage, hurt pride, and puffed chests—the tools of those for whom reason holds no fascination—just a lurking fear that calm, sensible thought will prove them wrong, and a blindness to their emotional attachment to maintaining the wrong, if that’s the case.

It reminds me of a story. I was hitchhiking on I-684 in a snowstorm, coming back north from a visit to a friend in White Plains. Four guys in a real boat of a seventies car picked me up. Their friendliness was greater than their care for their automobile, for the windshield-wipers weren’t working and the driver was trying to reach out his window and wipe the snow from the windshield as he drove.

Traffic moves right along on 684—we must have been doing sixty when the driver’s attention to the windshield caused him to stop paying attention to the road and he went onto the shoulder. The shoulder had deeper snow, and so pulled the car further off the road—the steering wheel, at this point in the snowstorm, had become more a suggestion than an instruction.

Soon we were basically sleigh-riding the car through a field full of saplings by the side of the highway—shearing their tops off as the car’s inertia plowed us unerringly towards some older trees—trees with trunks that would put a quick stop to even the largest vehicle. The car, luckily, slowed to a stop just a few feet in front of one such tree. We all breathed a sigh of relief that we hadn’t met the tree, and piled out to try to push the car back from the tree and towards the road again.

The car wouldn’t budge. We pushed and pushed and nothing happened. I got down on the ground and looked under the car. I could see that we had sheared off a healthy sapling’s trunk and the base of the young tree was not only jammed up into the carriage, but bent towards the larger tree we had just avoided smashing into. Five men with slippery shoes in the snow would have had a tough time moving the car had it been free to roll. But this was five men trying to push a car hard enough to uproot a small tree—while pushing a car.

I tried to explain the physics to my kind travelers—but I couldn’t express myself clearly enough to make them understand that we would have to literally lift the car off the ground to extract it from the spot it was in—I couldn’t even get them to look under the car, as I had. They wanted me to continue helping them try to push the car.

At the time, I felt more stuck by my inability to get through to my new friends than by the car being physically, inextricably stuck where it was. I’m not an alpha-male—I’m not the assertive sort—when I say things, I don’t shout or insist—I just say them. It never fails to surprise me that no one ever listens—it’s not like I’m wrong all the time—and you’d think people would notice that, right? But, no—no one ever says, “Hey, we better listen to Chris—he’s usually right.” I only got noticed when I made a mistake. In that way, I’ve always identified with Hillary Clinton—the smartest person in whatever room she’s in, but the last person anyone wants to hear from—and just let her make one little slip….


Of course this was all long ago, back when I had a pretty sharp mind—I’m wrong all the time these days—I live in a fog. Yet, I still see some things that seem obvious, even in my fog, that I simply can’t believe others don’t see clearly. I still get exhausted trying to argue with people who don’t think about what they’re saying, just saying whatever seems like a ‘good argument’ or a clever rebuttal—and fuck the big picture.

And I’ve found that most people are not at all stupid—even the Trump supporters are not as stupid as one would expect a Trump-supporter would have to be to support Trump. They don’t lack intelligence. They lack respect. They don’t respect reason—because they’re afraid of it—maybe having a hard time in school taught them that logic is not their friend—I don’t know. They don’t respect themselves—and that pushes them to reject any show of respect for people that know what they’re talking about—or even for the subject under discussion. Most Trump-support boils down to self-loathing, turned outwards towards the rest of the world. They’re basically saying, “I’m gonna make an ass of myself—and you can’t stop me, because I voted for the king of the ignoramuses—and idiocy is in charge now.

The Russians support Trump. Bannon is a confessed anarchist who wants to destroy the government. Conway got so used to lying she tried to give it a name: ‘alternative facts’. At least ten of Trump’s hires since inauguration have been expelled due to unfitness. And Trump has claimed that a free press is the enemy of the people—if I was crook and a liar, I’d say the same thing. The Republicans—jeez, these scumbags—whenever one of them opens their mouths, I want to shoot’em for treason. How do these trolls get elected—are their constituents in a coma? What? I just don’t get it—and boy, am I tired of pushing this car.


Not Flat—But Maybe Our Brains Are (2017Feb25)


Saturday, February 25, 2017                                             7:34 PM

20160107XD-NASA-MagneticReconnectionIt should be no surprise that the era of Trump has brought back a resurgence of Flat-Earthers—in the quest for distraction and chaos, no idea is too ludicrous. (And if Trump didn’t generate three scandals per day, our gaze might linger on one of his fouler failings.) Believing that the Earth is flat is kind of like a religious thing—it didn’t exist for the ancient Greeks, who knew better, and it doesn’t exist today, among most developed nations’ peoples.

The surface of the Earth is observably curved. If you watch a sailboat pass below the horizon, the boat disappears first—the masts remain visible for longer—this is not something that happens on a flat surface. If you send a perfectly horizontal laser-beam across the desert floor, someone a quarter of a mile away would have to hold a piece of paper ten feet over their heads to catch the beam’s reflection—that’s because the light is a straight line—the Earth’s surface is not.

The ancient Greeks did not need to see Earth from space to know that it was round—it is perfectly plain to see, from several simple exercises like those just described—not to mention the Moon—also visibly, patently spherical, is hanging in the sky half the nights.

But beyond this—we also have proof that Earth is not only round—but spinning like nobody’s business—the Coriolis force is what causes Foucault’s Pendulum to work the way it does (and why the water spins in a flushing toilet—clockwise here, and counter-clockwise in Australia. Without the Coriolis Effect, water would simply fall down a drain, not spin around it).

And there’s the question of why nights are longer at the poles—why we have seasons in the temperate zones—and why it’s so hot near the Equator. Ultimately, one has to stay indoors, both physically and mentally, to maintain a belief in anything so easily disproved as a flat Earth. I find that those who insist on a Flat Earth are not merely stating that single mis-fact—they are attempting to delegitimize Facts themselves.

In effect, it is a declaration that a person has the right to dismiss reality, for no reason at all—and that is the case—but the result, in a perfect world, would be a diagnosis of insanity, not a debate with serious people. In my youth, a person purporting the flat Earth theory would be told to sit down and shut up—we were busy going to the Moon back then, and had little patience with willful ignorance.

Now it is all the rage—getting someone to say something wildly stupid is irresistible click-bait to the so-called journalists of mass media—a Flat-Earther is money in the bank to them, regardless of how low it puts the bar of public discourse, or eats away at the fabric of modern society. And here is where we find the connection between the rise of Trump and the sudden resurgence of Flat-Earthers in the media. They both substitute attention-getting for intelligence-gathering. They are both subtle attacks on our way of life—perhaps too subtle for us to defend against. What do you think?