Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Like Wow

My contribution to the Palin speech reaction thread over at Ace of Spades HQ (Link)

Obama = A bunch of guys attacking one at a time.
Palin = Riddick

Palin = Usain Bolt
Obama = Michael Moore

Palin = "Desert Eagle"
Obama = "Replica"

[This clip has awful horrid language. Not recommended for children, adults over 50, or anyone really, be forewarned]

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Does it Hurt Yet?

I’ll say it straight out, I think the vast majority of chronic pain and chronic fatigue disorders are BS. They’re the modern equivalent of having the vapors. As such, I strongly recommend a course of sea air (in a nice tropical clime) and daily hysterical paroxysms (most effective if administered by the hot pool boy).

I’ve researched a good deal about fibromyalgia lately, as I know several people claiming to be debilitated by it. According to Dr. Google about 1% of the population suffers from this horrible disorder. That’s not a terribly insignificant number of folks, especially due to the notion that one may be completely laid up and unable to work or function in any way due to their terrible pain.

Here’s the wikipedia entry on Fibromyalgia for your edification, with a description of symptoms, etc.

I have my own personal theory of this disorder. For the record, unless I acquire a reader with money they need to launder through funding of an amateur research undertaking, this is me talking from a reasonably unscientific compilation of experience and medical research reading.

As an aside, I strongly recommend that anyone interested in any particular disorder skip any website written for laymen about that problem, and go directly to the research. It’s not easy, research papers are boring and require at least a basic comfort level with statistics, but the information therein is 150% better than anything you’ll get on “Jane’s Gallbladder Cancer and Demonic Possession Blog.”

In my opinion fibromyalgia is simply a combination of three factors:

1. Hypochondriasis secondary to availability of tremendous amounts of medical information available on the internet, with gigantic gaps in reliability of source.

2. Societal focus on continuous introspection, with the medical system generally validating self-perception of any symptom with over-testing to protect themselves from lawsuits. Essentially you think: “Why would they be putting me through this test if my itchy thumb wasn’t serious.” But they’re thinking: “Man, I better run that allergy test even though they have no clinical presentation, or if they do have that 0.000001% occurring syndrome they’ll sue me for the GDP of India.”

3. The low level of physical fitness in the general population (also the rising levels of overfat and obese individuals) contributing to a growing number of people who have bodies that do not function correctly, and who do not understand how their bodies work or respond to varying situations.

Please note: I am not at all saying that people with fibromyalgia do not experience symptoms. I do think they are feeling pain. However, I think they are not experiencing as much pain as they think they are, and many of the models for diagnosis and treatment actually lead away from the easiest cure of all. I think this is primarily a disorder of perception, rather than a physical problem. I’m sure this isn’t what some people want to hear, but a perception problem is just as serious as a physical disorder. However it may be easier to fix.

To tie everything together I’m going to veer off for a bit into my experiences with pain. I’ve always thought I had a fairly high pain threshold. I have lots of tattoos, I have cavities drilled without Novocain, when I had appendicitis I could never realistically rate my pain above a 3 on a 1-10 scale. I get migraines infrequently, complete with visual auras and all kinds of fun stuff, and am able to control the pain through breathing techniques I taught myself when I was a kid.

Turns out I really had no idea, and am actually in recovery from being somewhat of a huge wimp.

January of this year I started martial arts training in a small dojo in a bid to improve my fitness. I practice Aikido Yoshinkan which is considered a “hard” form of aikido. Unusually though, our instructor is a former national-class track athlete, and believes strongly in overall fitness and strength training. Our “warm-up” lasts 30-45 minutes, and often leaves pools of sweat on the mat and me staggering. After that we start really training. For example, we did “33’s” to warm up a week ago, that when done properly will have you complete a total of 90 push-ups in about 15 minutes while having a medicine ball flung at your head every 3 push-ups.

Point is, it’s not easy, and I’ve put on more muscle in the last six months than I thought I’d be able to acquire in my life. And it has all been painful. In Yoshinkan we do a lot of falling, rolling and joint locking. All of which hurts when done poorly, and with the joint locking, hurts when done correctly. Very realistically, I probably experience more pain and discomfort in one 2-hour lesson (which I have 3 days a week) than most people experience in a year. In fact, learning to tolerate some of the extreme discomfort of being in a good arm lock or a strangulation hold is part of our training, so we can learn to do the technique, and learn to escape from it.

We have a new adult student who took a bad roll on his shoulder last Thursday, and decided he was too sore to continue being thrown for the remainder of the class. This morning, Saturday, he was still concerned about being injured, though he has full range of motion. I took a poor roll on Thursday too, and stuck my shoulder into the mat so hard that the instructor heard it from across the classroom. I had a good bit of soreness, and the imprint of my gi fabric weave in my shoulder in welts that night. I suspect that I and my fellow classmate are suffering about the same amount of pain. However, I shook it out a little, tested my motion, and knew from experience that I was hurt but I was not injured and continued with business as usual. The other student will learn this in time.

As I’ve trained, both my body and my neurological system have changed. My pain threshold has substantially increased, and I’m getting better at physically reacting in an controlled manner even when in pain or exhausted. Even better, my internal perception of the pain status in my body has changed.

For example, if you asked me right now what my pain level is, I’d say it’s a 0 on the 1-10 scale. No significant pain whatsoever, just normal body feelings. However, if I sit here and carefully examine myself I find that I actually have a bit of a sinus headache, my upper arms and thighs have quite a good deal of muscle soreness, my neck is a stiff and tight, and I have an abrasion on my left knee that burns. My knees and ankles are also pretty stiff as we did seated techniques this morning. My shoulder is still good and bashed up, and I can feel that as well. I’ve learned though, to differentiate between pain that means that I’m injured and need immediate attention, and background pain that signifies nothing. This background pain I can easily dismiss, and don’t notice it much more than I notice wearing a watch.

Looking back at my completely sedentary self of last year, I can see now that I objectively felt much less bodily pain than I do now, but I perceived it as much more! I was laid low by pain that I can easily ignore today. What I have done neurologically is raise my baseline of pain at which my body tries to interrupt my mind with messages of impending doom. Basically the lights and sirens used to go off at 10 psi in the pipes, now they only go off around 5000 psi.

What I believe happens in disorders like fibromyalgia is that a person starts to notice their “background pain” or other relatively normal bodily feelings, and becomes concerned that they signify a major problem. Because this person is pretty sedentary and doesn’t have recent or continuing physical experience as to what constitutes pain that signifies an injury, rather than just noise, they start getting the aforementioned lights and sirens telling them there’s something wrong. They also might be a bit overweight or have little muscle tone, so they really do feel some musculoskeletal and joint pain. This person is pretty responsible, and doesn’t want to go to the doctor frivolously, and fires up old Doc Google to see if what they’re feeling is a symptom of something. They are immediately overwhelmed by myriad sites telling them they have a symptom of everything from fribro to MS to chronic lyme disease to parasites to colon impaction to, well.. you name it.

Now they’re worried. God, this must be bad. They start doing more research and reading more sites. They see that fatigue is an element of many disorders, and realize, yeah they’ve been feeling pretty sluggish lately, and maybe even depressed. Man, they think, as they read hundreds of pages of questionable information, I have a LOT of these symptoms. As they think more about it they focus more on their internal bodily feelings, and to a legitimately concerned person, each feeling can grow in their mind into a symptom. The more they focus, the more they feel, and the more it physically bothers them. For instance, you can feel your watch and clothes if you sit there and concentrate, and they might even start to feel annoying, even if they’ve been comfortable all day.

They eventually go to their doctor and tell them they’re having all this muscle pain and they’re fatigued and can’t concentrate and can’t something be done. The doc orders a bunch of CYA tests, which confirms to our hapless person that there really must be something wrong (or why would they order all the tests). Mr. Doc doesn’t find anything conclusive, but the person (now officially having undergone the transition from person to “patient”) still feels the sensations they felt before, and just knows *something* must be wrong. Someone like me can generally say, “Well, OK, I’m fine, cool, seeya later,” but another person may decide to get a second opinion. They may have also read on the internet that doctors don’t know about this mystery disorder, or that there’s even a medical conspiracy to suppress knowledge about this problem. So they go from doc to doc, maybe one tries a painkiller or an anti-inflammatory prescription, because though I love doctors - but when your tool is a hammer (medicine) sometimes every problem becomes like a nail (medical diagnosis and medication). Maybe they get to a doctor who believes in this internet affluent disorder, and gives them the diagnosis they think they need and a bunch of meds. Or maybe they meet a less than ethical doctor who is willing to prescribe serious pain medications at the drop of a hat and does so.

After a while this persistent patient is still feeling the same sensations, and maybe some side-effects of medication they might be on. They might have a label, as in this person suffers from X Disorder, which for better or worse, comes with a ration of sympathy and ability to make life just a little more flexible: “Don’t bother mommy now, she’s laying down with breakthrough pain (rather than going to work at a crappy office for 10 hours, then driving pell-mell across town to pick up Suzy to get her to ballet and Johnny to guitar and doing all the grocery shopping in 20 minutes flat, picking everyone up, making dinner, helping with homework, writing the bills, cleaning up, herding everyone to bed, trying to figure out whether to file a claim on the roof leak, finishing extra office paperwork, reading a book for 5 minutes and getting to bed 3 hours later than intended).”

Whatever anyone says, there are some benefits to being “sick,” see above for illustration.

Now they still have the sensations which they focus on more and more so they can try to tell if treatments are working, they have reams of medical files, prescriptions, and diagnoses, and all this tells them something MUST BE WRONG!

And we end up with a bunch of folks with the vapors.

My opinion here is backed up by a bit of research. The Journal of Clinical Rheumatology published a paper in 2004 which found that the incidence of fibromyalgia in college athletes is significantly less than the general population. 0.16% compared to 0.5%-10%. Out of 641 athletes they could only find one that met the criteria for a diagnosis. Link to Paper.

Also, it’s been fairly consistently found that exercise cures fibromyalgia. Gee, I could have told you that, and for less money. Link to Paper.

From 1996

This one advocates exercise and agrees with me on source as well.

Oh, just Google fibromyalgia and exercise, you’ll get the picture.

So anyhow, in parting – the solution to your problems is to get off your ass and exercise. It’s a solution to a great many problems, of course it’s not as easy as taking a pill or complaining, wish it were – I’d be able to do more pushups.

Let me reiterate my basic theory for the record: Fibromyalgia is a disorder of perception. Pain is actually felt, but the cure is a neurologic adjustment, not a physical one.

The problem is that the way to change the neurology is to reduce the perception of pain through physical training, which will initially be very uncomfortable. Here's the cure:

--Serious exercise (I'm talking weightlifting, strength training, etc. under the guidance of an experienced trainer, not just a jog at the gym every few days, no pink 2lbs weights).

-- Cognative behavior therapy with the intent of training the mind to refocus away from constant bodily introspection.

-- Additional treament of underlying comorbidity like obesity or overfatness, depression, lack of stress coping skills, or other condition that would interfere with parts 1 and 2.

I am exremely confident if a fibro sufferer commits, I mean REALLY COMMITS, not just takes a stab, feels some pain and gives up (I'm talking at least six months of hardcore commitment), to something like this they will feel better.

I would write a book but I don't think it will sell. People don't want to hear that they need to take responsibility and do something difficult and uncomfortable to be fixed. It has amused me in the past that I've heard fibro sufferers swear they would "do anything" to feel better, but have all kinds of excuses to not exercise, not lose weight, and not start thinking in a productive manner.

Important Note: I'm also conducting an informal study regarding the co-morbidity of fibromyalgia and acute blogcommentum textwallitus. Please be aware that if you write me a six-page essay about your fibroI will:
A) Include you in my study, with or without your permission,
B) Know you probably didn't read my entire post, and
C) Find you really amusing (especially if you have fibro and are also overfat, depressed, bipolar, and/or suffering from Morgellons, chronic fatigue, intestinal parasites, colon impaction, OTC pain med allergies, Aspergers, hypoglycemia, MCS, or you use the ER to treat breakthrough pain, or think the medical establishment refuses to acknowledge your rare disorder so that they can profit from you in an unspecified manner).
D) Please be aware - if you have ever called an ambulance to treat your fibro pain and choose to tell me about it, I will repost your comment in an extremely unflattering manner.


Another Fine Quote

"It is the fool's metric which declares that unless you are perfect, you aren't good."

From this WATN post on patriotism.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Monday Quotes

"Thank you for helping us help you help us all."

"If at first you don't succeed, you fail."

"We do what we must, because we can."

~ Portal

I worry for the guys at Valve sometimes, I really do.

Earth to Venus, Come in Venus….

One of my favorite bloggers, Christopher Taylor over at Word Around the Net, has asked a series of questions that I am supremely qualified to answer, being possessed of a matched set of X chromosomes.

He wonders, quite rightly, what the heck is up with women. Now I’m kind of a guy’s gal. I play video games, shoot guns, like motorcycles, play with swords. Romantic comedies make me nauseous, and I beg to see the latest sci-fi/horror/action flick. I don’t do very girly stuff or hang out with girly girls. I’ve always been one to get along better with men and prefer their company to that of women.

To my surprise getting married clued me in to how truly differently men think. I have occasionally thought I’d have an easier time figuring out Mayan hieroglyphics with no translation key than getting to the bottom of what husband is trying to get across.

I’ll take a crack at answering Mr. Taylor’s questions and be as honest as possible:

1) Is your underwear really that awkward and uncomfortable that you have to keep tugging on it everywhere you go?

Yes it is. Try wearing a chest harness with metal braces in it sometime, you’ll be messing with it too. Unfortunately, it’s more uncomfortable to go without it for some of us. On the other hand, we don’t tend to conspicuously manipulate our crotch area very often. I still haven’t been able to figure out what you guys are doing down there, but you do it an awful lot.

2) Why do you ask questions you do not really want the answer to?

We are under the delusion we might get the “right” answer. Often we just want to be reassured. Between women a line of questioning is usually not just about the topical question, especially in a situation with an uncertain outcome. We are trying to establish the shape of our relationship with the answerer. When asking this sort of question, we are hoping that the answerer will be willing to frame the answer in a protective fashion. This is how men get slapped upside the head when they give the “correct” answer but in the “wrong” way.

3) Why do you care so much about specific dates like the first time we saw a dog with spots and the first week we spent together without seeing a Volvo?

You see, we don’t just care about specific dates, we notice and care about EVERYTHING. I know what kind of toothpaste my husband used when we first started dating and the three kinds he's used since then, even when I can't remember what I had for breakfast. It’s a way of establishing a connection, things we share, even though they’re trivial. I personally kept track of dates and could tell you to the hour how long I’d been dating a guy until I got the current one. With him I’m so relaxed I forget our actual anniversary.

4) Why do you find it endearing when a guy's in love and won't take no for an answer in the movies, but in real life you call it stalking?

This answer is shameful, but realistically, it’s because the guy in the movie is incredibly hot and a stalker. The guy in real life is not very attractive and a stalker. Of course, if you really like the guy, regardless of how he looks, it’s sweet, if you’re kind of lukewarm about him it’s overwhelming and crushes his chances of having us warm up to him over time.

5) Why do you always go to the bathroom in groups?

Hmm. Well, since we all go to our separate stalls, there’s really no privacy concerns. I couldn’t imagine trying to have a conversation with someone standing at a urinal. Also, it gives us a chance to chat about the other people we’re with. Your bathroom buddy can give you a once over for wardrobe and hairstyle malfunctions before you leave. That’s all.

6) Why do you think it's fun to act like a little girl, but stupid when I'm boyish? Related: why do you think the guys that are boyish are so hot, but hate it when I am?

I can’t relate to this one, since I don't like boyishness too much, but maybe you personally don't do boyish very well. I know I'd look like a Doberman in a fluffy tutu trying to pull off acting like a little girl. It just doesn't go with my character.

7) Why is it you always can remember the dumb stuff I said seven years ago but not the nice stuff I said a few hours ago?

The sad truth is that we have a confirmation bias toward stupid and negative comments. You get points for each, and unfortunately you get about -100 points for every stupid thing you say and only about +2 points for every nice thing. It’s rough balancing that particular ledger. Women, as well, hold grudges forever. I don’t think we really understand that you probably left it behind and forgot you even said it years ago, because we would certainly remember saying it and would still have it simmering on a back burner somewhere.

It’s a protective factor, I believe. We are heavily invested in keeping men happy in an evolutionary sense, since we’ve historically relied on their sponsorship for protection and sustenance. A women not taking very strict notice of a man being unhappy with her would be at a disadvantage.

8) If you hate your mom so much, why do you constantly talk to her and run to her every time you are in trouble or upset?

Because, being mom, she can’t tell us to quit whining and shove off.

9) When you read me a quiz out of Cosmo, what exactly are you hoping will happen? What are you looking for?

Couldn’t tell you, I hate those trash magazines. If I did do this I'd be looking for humor.

10) Why is it when a man is the guy that you describe you claim to like and want, he's always the one you ignore?

I don’t know on this one either. I made a mental list of all the things I wanted in a man, picked the person I knew that fit everything the closest, and went out and got him. I know women who do the above though, and I have to think they don’t know what they want (or are willing to admit to what they want), they’re just saying what they think others think they should want.

Ok, with that done, I've discovered my biggest problem with the husband is us having a total failure to communicate revolving around the *way* he says thing. I've found that a number of men simply have no idea how they sound. They just say stuff and expect it to be taken at face value. Even though I'm a bit short in the nuance detection area, I can say that the way that statements are made, the inflection, the tone of voice, the cadence is at least, if not MORE important to women than the actual words. Guys, next time a woman flips out at you and you thought you were being completely innocuous, consider your tone very carefully.

Monday, March 24, 2008

What's New in the West

Well, the typical really... taxes are up, revenues are down, your underage daughter can get an abortion and the first you'll hear of it is when she wakes up with a uncontrollable postsurgical hemorrhage at 2 am. Her school still can't give her an aspirin or mention Jesus without your permission.

Welcome to Cali! Enjoy the palm trees!

So anyway, your intrepid but lazy blogger chick here has been busy. I'm taking Aikido three days a week and really just doing my best to not get too injured. I feel really bad for my partners when I'm a total wuss and squeak at them when I get my hands half wrenched off. On the up side I didn't get pinched on St. Patrick's when I forgot to wear green, the slowly reabsorbing hematomas all over my arms covered for me.

My push-ups are made entirely of fail. If you mainlined this purity of fail you'd die with the needle in your arm.

I'm on a week off and I feel deprived. No one sweaty is going to sit on me and I'm actually getting a bit peakish about it. Whatever will I do without my base level of abuse? May I have another 20 crunches please?

In other news I've landed a new job. To protect the innocent, and guilty, and to enable me to keep my nice paycheck, suffice to say that I now get to be a regulations Nazi with a company car. NOT SHABBY! On the up side I'm in a field position with no obnoxious bosses or insane coworkers since I work from home/field, on the down side I'm probably going to be talking to my cats (er... more than usual) within a month due to crippling social isolation. This will be interesting.

Of course, the catch is that I have to drive to the OC a few times a week for a while. Now, those of you who live in places that do not move at the speed of meth may have this idea that LA/Orange County is at all like the shows you've seen on the telly. I assure you, the box is lying to you yet again. Everything north of San Diego and south of Santa Barbara is one tremendous parking lot. It is your temporal warm-up for purgatory. One does not just "go to LA." One sits on a single linear square mile of LA for six hours with nothing to admire but the other cars (don't make eye contact, seriously, not a good idea) and whatever the local taggers have graced the cinderblock embankment with. That is, if you can see it through the smog.

So my plan is to get up at 5am, be on the freeway at 6am, make it to the office by 8am if I'm lucky and no one's decided to take the sudden unexpected deceleration permanent nap by the side of the road, work for 8 hours, leave at 5pm and hopefully, HOPEFULLY get home by 8pm. Then go to bed at 9pm.


I may be a little cranky for a while. Though I love my manual transmission, clutching in single digit traffic for five hours a day doesn't make one a happy camper.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lucky Wednesday?


My cats have been freaking out all evening about something outside the apartment. Apparently a pigeon couple has decided to nest in the hallway beside my front door. Not up in a corner or on a light or in anything that resembles an actual bird nest, mind you. Just in the corner between the fire door and my front door. On the ground.

When I step out to go to the grocery store I find this:

Yep, that's a pigeon egg right in the middle of my doormat.

So weird.

Of course I'm going to blow out the yolk and keep it. It's my lucky doormat egg!

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Late Review: 28 Days Later

Since I'm a boring person and I don't go to movies, rent movies often, or watch TV, I'm invariably a year or two (or six) behind on the latest Hollywood releases. I finally gotten around to renting 28 Days Later. I had to clean my handgun today, and nothings better than zombie movies for keeping one occupied while picking off carbon deposits IMHO.

Since I'm so far behind, I doubt I'll be ruining the plot for anyone when I described the plot as your typical virus-induced post-apocalyptic zombie survival horror flick.

Wonder what it says about my generation that the above can be described as "typical?"

In the film's favor is a decent cast who are all believable as real people, as real people also do not know how to act. Real people tend to have a significantly lower incidence of washboard abs, but I'll forgive that one too. Overall, I bought the characters pretty well, with the exception of Cillian Murphy's habit of standing around with his mouth hanging open like a pallid trout. I found the zombies pretty cool in a Parkinsonian kind of way. I liked the way they vomited blood intermittently, which is how some real hemorrhagic fevers like to transmit themselves. Nothing like bloody vomit and seizures to really fling some love around.

The zombifying virus is accidentally released from poorly guarded animal labs by activists who are apparently too idiotic noble to understand the definition of the words "infected," "contagious," and "blood-borne." Having some limited understanding of the general mindset of the ALF folks, I found this sequence totally believable.

Perhaps I am too much of what my mother calls "those compound people," but I had some serious problems starting with scene one, when our protagonist Jim wanders out of the hospital in his green scrubs. Am I the only one here that when faced with something severely wrong with the world would attempt to locate a jacket, some jeans maybe?

Ok, ok, I'll give it the scrubs because the visual with the green scrubs in the desolate city is pretty good, but....

Here's where the British influence really shows. If faced with a horde of quick but moronic zombies who need to be killed occasionally and transmit a horrible virus through direct fluid contact, whatever would I use to kill them? Gee, I think I'll use a machete or baseball bat that would effectively guarantee copious blood splatter in my facial direction!

Or I could get a Big. Farking. Gun.

Maybe I'm just an evil American, but the first thing I would do if under immediate threat of zombies is locate the nearest gun store, military base, or survivalist enclave and load myself up some serious firepower. Then, because the zombies are stupid and apparently have forgotten how to open doors, I'd find a location that has reinforced buildings and canned food (like a military base or a jail) and camp out there until the zombies starve.

Maybe it's just common knowledge these days that there aren't any guns in London. Perhaps guns are too politically incorrect to sully the hands of our intrepid survivors with, since we find out the only people who have guns are....

...wait for it....

.... the military bad guys. Shocking. No really, I never expect the military to be the antagonists. It just NEVER happens in movies these days.

This is where 28DL really lost me. I completely failed to understand the conflict that they introduced at this point. Our brave band of adventurers (1 male, 2 females, one of which is underage) are picked up by a remnant of the British Army (all male) who have their act pretty well together, but are a bit frayed around the edges. They act uncomfortable from the get-go, are possibly scandalized by the fact that the head honcho is keeping a zombie captive to see how soon it dies, and go all totally batshit insane when they find out that the military guys are trying to track down women.

First, the military guys had the right idea. They made themselves a defensible point and were trying to figure out how to rebuild some semblance of society. Second, the whole needing to have women around to rebuild society with is spot on. Depending on the available female population it seems completely reasonable to hang on to the few you find, even if you can't be 100% polite about it. Having reverted back to an uncivil state of existence, I really don't find it surprising or particularly outrageous that women might be expected to trade sex and childbearing for male protection and sustenance. I kept having this idea that if everyone stopped freaking out about everything quite so much a nicer solution than getting raped anyways could have been found.

Also, I would have kept a captured zombie too. Good source of killed virus for vaccines, if anyone happened to turn up a GlaxoSmithKline employee.

Anyhow, though I started off all geared up to like this movie, and just didn't. The zombies really weren't that bad and didn't have any really imposing value, as they just jumped out and got easily beat down every so often. The military antagonists didn't do it for me because I agreed with their motives.

Bottom line, I'll rent Resident Evil next time instead. That one has better zombies, evil computers, crushing atmosphere, and lasers. And Marilyn Manson. And creepy little girls. And fandom appeal. Can't lose.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Happy Birthday!

To the US Marine Corps!

You guys look pretty swell for being 232.

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