Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturday Video

Everyone's favorite Canadian indie power-pop band do not fail to entertain and amuse with this video of the lead-off single from the 1997 album One Chord to Another. One guess as to what movie is lovingly referenced.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Which of These Does Not Belong?





Some harmless fun for your Friday.

*EDIT: There are no wrong or right answers.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Presented Without Comment

Currier & Ives, 1875.

For Those of You Wondering How Long Before the Dow Hits Bottom

The short answer is, it could be a while.

This graph shows the rapid growth of the Dow during the boom times of the 1990's. Much of this unrestrained uptick we know now was comprised of little more than paper wealth and speculative bubbles that had yet to burst (see: for a particularly pertinent example).

The 1980's and the 1990's were fruitful periods of stock growth whereby market indexes made substantial strides year after year. The precedent for this swelling gain, however, goes not much farther than our recent past. For example, on November 14, 1972 the average closed above 1,000 (1,003.16) for the first time, during a relatively brief rally in the midst of a lengthy bear market. Though our economy as it currently exists is far more complex and far more interconnected with world trade and sundry complications than it was during the seventies stagflation, it has only been within the last couple decades that American wealth and American well-being have been this linked closely with the stock market. As we have invested more actively in the market, taken part in 401k plans through our employers, and entrusted more of our retirement savings to the fickle nature of the New York Stock Exchange, the market has taken a role in our daily lives only rivaled by one other period in American history---the fad speculation of the 1920's that arguable greatly contributed to its tremendous crash.

Whether what we face is today indeed a mere harsh correction or a harbinger of doom no one can say. What can be sure is this. A tremendous amount of nest eggs and supplemental incomes have been already lost. Many will never return to their individual investors. Still, without meaning to seem preachy, this was the risk many took to play the game. It is written nowhere that the market is obligated to keep its value forever or that the price of any commodity or stock must remain high. If one wants to assign blame as to precisely why we are in a state of recession, there is plenty to go round and it falls on the shoulders of speculator and investor alike. Personal responsibility, or the lack of it, is the real culprit here, as is the eternal human desire to want something for nothing.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Republican Response?

President Obama's rousing speech last night, though it often contained a few rehashes of previous rhetoric, was a strong attempt to negate the naysayers and justify the need to spend close to a trillion dollars in taxpayer money. I, as an unapologetic liberal, applaud this effort as a good first step because I have observed the incredible impotence of the Republican response to this crisis. In short, states cannot often be trusted to effectively govern their own affairs. Insularity in thought and in local government is a restrictive force that delays progress and fosters backward-thinking logic. Tax cuts are no panacea. The government that governs least governs without a rudder.

The stimulus package, as I understand it, often boils down to a laundry list of improvement and upgrade plans that should have been enacted long ago. They've been part of the Democratic Christmas list for decades. We've long needed new roads, new interstate highways, new bridges, new sewer systems, new power grids, new and more effective public transportation, an expansion of broadband internet access, and the like. We've long needed substantial reforms of both Medicaid and Medicare. We've long needed a renewed focus on energy conservation and alternative sources of fuel. That it has taken a severe recession and economic downturn to enact these measures speaks to the time-honored fact that change will not be made when it is possible to avoid confrontation, prolong the status quo, and not ruffle Congressional feathers.

As for the Loyal Opposition, if Bobby Jindal's speech last night was any indication, Barack Obama should coast easily into re-election in 2012. If this is the best the Grand Old Party can do, it is in more trouble than I could have ever imagined. Jindal's affected speech was a combination of Sunday school teacher, Bible salesman, and milkman. As has been mentioned exhaustively by talking heads, columnists, and pundits alike, the Republican Party have no new ideas and instead have dug in for pitched battle and siege, hedging their bets that the recession will worsen precipitously, Obama's initiatives will fail, unemployment will swell, and that they will then be able to make gains in both chambers in 2010 by playing the I-told-you-so card.

At this point, I think I may need to cite my credentials. Though I am often partisan I am also not a kool-aid drinker. This very same guerilla warfare approach was taken by the Democrats after the Republican Revolution of 1994 put them out of power in both the House and Senate for the first time in decades. Lacking neither a strong leader, nor much in the way of new blood or new shining stars, Democrats at times resorted to obstruction, rumors of filibusters, threats of filibuster, and on a few occasions, outright filibuster. These often are the only substantial cards dealt to any party out of power. Yet, it goes without saying that as the minority party, there was a severe limit to what these tactics could accomplish by themselves. This stalemate produced a new class of Democratic politicians whose desire and passion were stirred by helplessly observing just how strait-jacketed their party had become at the hands of a rubber stamp Congress and dangerously incompetent President. Since politics runs in cycles, I know that with time the Republicans will toil in the wilderness long enough to inspire their own Obama-figure. I know that power corrupts and that eventually the Democratic brand will accumulate its own tarnish.

Still, the hope is that before best intentions go awry, a party can manage to stay a couple decades ahead of the opposition, thereby making it far more difficult for a revived opponent to reverse the gains made in the name of progress. For four years, at least, liberal or at least moderate judges will be appointed to Federal posts. Liberal to moderate judges will fill any vacancy that might arise in the Supreme Court, thus swinging the balance of power in that chamber more towards the middle than the right, as it currently is weighted. Abortion rights will be protected. Gun control will be an option on the table. Government will have a stronger say in many avenues and the private sector will neither be trusted to regulate itself nor exalted as anyone's savior. Though I wish we'd see the end of our enemies forever, I know enough from my own admittedly modest life experience and the study of history to know that hubris, greed, money, and power have always eventually poisoned the most idealistic of causes. The point, then, is to take stock of this, temper our expectations accordingly, and use this rare opportunity to lay the groundwork for the coming years.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This Entry Rated P for Personal

One of the wonderful things about meeting someone and building a relationship is in learning about them. When you add the sexually active caveat to this it means exploration and discovery. But with getting to know someone this means that adjustments must be made. No one's body is the same. No one's desires are the same. No one's body rhythms and cycles are exactly similar. A certain amount of on-the-job training should be expected and when minor oversights happen, they should be taken stock of and not repeated, whenever possible.

When I embraced activism, with that also came a tremendous embrace of contraception. I was schooled about multiple forms and methods by people who believed that education alone could solve the world's overpopulation problem and sexually transmitted disease crisis. My Father had been on the board of Planned Parenthood for a while when I was in my childhood and although he was good about explaining and educating me on the particulars of the act itself (and early enough that I wasn't confused by playground misinformation), he was not nearly as didactic as some I would come across later in my teens and early twenties. His advice took a kind of folk wisdom format, while others I encountered acted like birth control education was their own private college class.

I think we've all had some minor pregnancy scares from time to time, except, of course for those of you who are not heterosexual. Feel fortunate, because as non-breeders, you have one less major headache with which to contend. Had the worst case scenario transpired, I know enough to have told my girlfriend immediately and gone directly to the drug store to buy Plan B. As it was, simply forgetting I wasn't wearing a condom for all of fifteen seconds counts as one of the more mild indiscretions. Yes, I probably should have told her, but I had no intention of worrying her silly for no good reason after what had been an already stressful day, since the poor girl is now the target of constant snippy verbal attacks by a prudish roommate whose conservative Catholicism likely coupled with sour grapes makes her inclined to engage in hit-and-run skirmishes of cattiness and passive-aggression. Thankfully for the both of us, recent events have told me that I have nothing to worry about regarding pregnancy this time. All I can do now is vow to be much more mindful in the future.

Still, I've gotten some criticism for this. While in conversation, a female friend of mine felt it necessary to rip me apart for my perfidy, tacitly accusing me of being the typical irresponsible male. I took offense to this characterization because I can't stress enough how I never wanted to be the typical boorish male cultural stereotype. While I make great pains to keep this my blog my public face, I post this rather personal anecdote for two purposes: one, to keep myself honest for making a mistake and vowing to not repeating it again. two, to point out that while we are often quick to condemn those who contribute to unwanted pregnancies through their own carelessness, sometimes even being 95% cautious isn't sufficient in and of itself. There is always a risk of pregnancy each and every time we engage in intercourse (unless, of course, surgery or menopause has rendered this next-to impossible) and even an obsessive preoccupation with contraception can't remove all the risk. Intercourse is designed to create babies. That was how God designed it.

I criticized Bristol Palin on this blog a week ago, but mostly to point out the folly of believing that not having sex is any sensible solution and also to criticize the belief that abortion ought not to be an available option. Lest I get too high and mighty, I know that biology has a way of making hypocrites of each of us, and I keep that in mind, too.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spread the Love Around

Utah Savage gave me this lovely award, which is entitled I Love Ya.

The description of this award is as follows:

"These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

There are many sites I love and blog friends I love, so I don't intend to single anyone out or snub anyone in doing so, but I will grant this same award to...

Presented Without Apology

Treatment Update

I'm concerned, frankly. Since Thursday of last week I've been really dragging. My energy level has been noticeably not what it should be. One of the nurses noticed it in casually observing my behavior around the unit, so I know it's not something I'm imagining. At first I thought perhaps I had contracted a virus, but aside from the fatigue, I have not developed any other symptoms. In times like this, my mind flashes to a million terrible outcomes like chronic fatigue syndrome or the beginning stages of terminal cancer. Most likely this is nothing terribly serious but having to compromise my otherwise busy life for the sake of something I can't easily identify is not a comforting notion.

The original diagnosis of the doctors was that I had gotten slightly toxic from lithium. A blood level showed a slightly elevated level, so my dose was promptly cut down from 1500 mg to 1350 mg. Today and yesterday I made a point to drink as much water as I could in the hopes of reducing the lithium concentration in my bloodstream as much as I could. None of this seems to have done much good. Perhaps during rounds today the doctors will have some ideas.

Parnate's number one side effect is that it encourages insomnia by making it more difficult to get sleepy enough to drift off to bed. I don't think it creates fatigue as well. With time, the concentration of Parnate in my system has grown, and as a result I have developed a tolerance to the sedating effects of Seroquel at my current dosage. Since I have both chronic insomnia and bipolar disorder, a full night's sleep is the difference between a functional day and a day with limited pleasure. 500 mg for the average person would render them asleep in 30 minutes. As for me, it now takes an hour and a half to get off to sleep, at which point I attain five to six hours, which is not sufficient for me to be at my best. I've never understood why sleep is such an issue nor have I grasped why I develop a tolerance to the sedating effects of the drugs used to treat it. Most likely, I know my doctor will probably increase the Seroquel to 600 mg and take a wait-and-see approach from there. One can be on as much as 800 mg before serious contemplation is given to going up higher than that.

Welcome to the life of the medicated manic depressive. Few of us ever can remain on one combination of meds at the same proportion for very long. The brain is a complex, perplexing organ and any psychiatrist worth his or her salt knows that educated guesses are the only defense against an illness still largely misunderstood by modern medicine.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Quote of the Week

"By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you'll be happy. If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher."- Socrates

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday Video

An old favorite of mine, though I couldn't be farther away from the plight of the narrator at this point of time in my life.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Facebook is Forever

See here.

It should, of course, go without saying that nothing ever posted on the internet goes away. With time, compromising information will age out of a Google search, but a competent user can eventually locate much of it. Any e-mail sent to someone or some other entity has a large likelihood of being retained due to the fact that mass storage makes it easy to never need to delete one. Then there's also a possibility of an e-mail being posted onto someone's web page. Facebook has a way of creating a trail of pictures, personal messages, and easy-access searches that make many lives much more frighteningly public then ever imagined.

For example, blogs like this one can always be read and referenced by search engines unless I choose at some point to make this exercise in wanton self-indulgence Friends Only. Or, I suppose I could always delete this weblog if worse came to worse. The kicker with Facebook, by contrast, is that a recent policy makes it clear that nothing posted on its servers can ever be deleted so long as the user maintains an active account. Those who have ever tried to delete their Facebook account know how difficult a process it is. What everyone has been talking recently is taking care to make sure that potential employers aren't repelled by the presence of too much personal information on a Facebook page. Few talk about how Facebook gets final say about how it uses the data you input, ALL of it. The idea that I could be unconsciously contributing to marketing and research studies is reason enough for me to give pause, or at least make my profile private.

To conclude, ours is a Brave New World, when even those of us who take great pains to keep a sense of privacy will find it more and more difficult to do so. The irony is that while we have a Patriot Act in force by which our government has the right to spy on us based soley on the flimsiest suspicion, we often surrender much of our privacy voluntarily.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Bishop!

On a busy day, this is all I have time for right now. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quote of the Week

*I've thrown this up a bit late this week. Sorry about that.

The unhappy are egotistical, base, unjust, cruel, and even less capable of understanding one another than are idiots. Unhappiness does not unite people, but separates them.- Anton Chekov, 1887.

From someone who in his own life has said some very harsh things when feeling deeply unhappy, I relate to this.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bristol Palin Doesn't Regret Having Child

Sure you didn't, Ms. Palin. I mean, what average teenager doesn't regret her out-of-wedlock baby with a self-proclaimed "fucking redneck"? Everyone knows the brain doesn't fully develop until the early twenties, making teenagers capable of ill-thought out decisions like getting a lip ring, drinking most of a bottle of vodka, or popping out a kid. I ask you as well, does baby-sitting qualify as experience raising a child? To me, that's kind of like saying someone is qualified to be a parent based on the fact they minded their sister's child for three hours on weekends. Not the same.

Whether you intended it to or not, your pregnancy became a political football. It is admirable that you say you will speak out against teen pregnancy in ways your mother won't for fear of angering the conservative base of the Republican party, but do know this. You are very fortunate to have the economic well-being to at least have the tools to raise this child properly. Most out-of-wedlock teen mothers do not have a support network nor the money to be an effective parent and the end results, predictably, are almost always unfortunate. You seem to be a shy, sweet girl who got into an unfortunate situation. Since I think of parenthood as something best managed by those a few years older and with a few years extra life experience under their belts, that's why it's easy for me to be skeptical of your abilities in the motherhood department. You just haven't lived long enough.

The delusion of abstaining from sex as an effective form of birth control is the real loser here. It doesn't work and it never will. Any political party who would advance wishful thinking in its public face and then behind closed doors acknowledge that responsible sexual conduct is probably the best option to avoid unwanted pregnancy is catering to a kind of cultural schizophrenia that absolutely astonishes me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Off My Blogging Rhythm

I am usually so good about locating an interesting blog topic, writing a thoughtful synopsis, and putting every element together in an attractive complete form. What threw me off stride altogether was the arrival of a girlfriend. Not that I am complaining, of course, but it's been a drain on my time. But so far as time drains are concerned, this is one of the best.

For those of you who are regular readers, please pardon if I am not my usual, verbose, political self. What I will say is that I have recently learned to revel in the so-called simple pleasures. Human companionship being, of course, one of the most pleasurable. And to an extent, though this connection is simple, in a much large sense nothing could be more complex, more intense, and more multifaceted. Though we live in the internet age and though technology continues to influence more and more of our daily lives, nothing quite comes close to the organic joy of human interaction and connection. I do not believe that artifice will ever replace what is ours by nature of being alive.

Such things are, in my opinion, gifts from God. They are proof that God loves us and bestows upon these gifts as a testament to His goodness.

I'll probably be writing more about this later. In the meantime, she fits many of my desires: exceptionally intelligent, funny, and kind. I'm trying not to transform this into a gushy relationship post but a couple of you asked for more details about this in your comments to yesterday's post. Though I am only twenty-eight, I've had many share of dismal failures and drama storms in the relationship department so I am inclined to understate what I have right now. Probably it's best not to analyze this to death and to aim to be in the moment.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

In Dedication

To new romance, to the best Valentine's Day I've ever had, and to not feeling obligated to hate myself one more year for not having a significant other.

The lyrics could not be more oddly applicable.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday Video

When your mother sends back all your invitations
And your father to your sister he explains
That you're tired of yourself and all of your creations
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane?
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane?

Now when all of the flower ladies want back what they have lent you
And the smell of their roses does not remain
And all of your children start to resent you
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane?
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane?

Now when all the clowns that you have commissioned
Have died in battle or in vain
And you're sick of all this repetition
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane?
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane?

When all of your advisers heave their plastic
At your feet to convince you of your pain
Trying to prove that your conclusions should be more drastic
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane?
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane?

Now when all the bandits that you turned your other cheek to
All lay down their bandanas and complain
And you want somebody you don't have to speak to
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane?
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Twisted Valentine's Day Social Outings

This week, I been have inundated with advertisements, relationship advice, and highly unscientific surveys commemorating this day dedicated to being coupled with someone. After a while, it all gets kind of nauseating and cloying. So in the spirit of sarcasm, I recommend a few alternative Valentine's Day gatherings for couples.
  1. Venereal Disease Lecture- Spend the holiday listening to an expert in sexually transmitted diseases tell the lengthy historical record behind the spread, growth, and treatment of STIs. Leave feeling strangely enlightened, and thoroughly disgusted by the slide show presentation of sexual organs in advanced stages of syphilis. Make a dual vow to bone up on contraceptive techniques immediately. The rest of the afternoon is spent at a drug store investing in multiple forms and methods of birth control and prevention.
  2. Cheap Candy Gift Exchange- In lieu of giving each other expensive gifts, present your partner with the most inexpensive possible boxed chocolate candy product. Selections found at the dollar store and/or Costco are particularly favored. Milk Duds do count, barely.
  3. Unorthodox Romantic Walk- Instead of strolling hand-in-hand by a river bank or related scenic view, consider changing your location to a slum, ghetto, and/or port authority. Observe the worst of humanity, bad smells, and petty crime as you enjoy each others' company. Delight in narrowly avoiding being hit by a car while crossing the road.
  4. Pornographic Film Date- Nothing facilitates a healthy relationship like mutual pornographic film viewing. Granted, this trip will take you to rather rough parts of town, but you can easily stumble across a few decaying smut theaters while on your unorthodox romantic walk. As the both of you sit down to enjoy the film, try not to be distracted by large number of single men sitting alone quietly by themselves, trying not to call attention to whatever it is they are doing, each man occupied with some secret task that involves something to do with the hands.
  5. Going to a Sports Bar- What could be more romantic then average-quality hot wings, draft beer, and 47 television screens per square inch? Men should consider this option if they wish to cause sure-fire relationship friction, unless of course, the woman in question was at some point in her recent past a female athlete, especially in rugby or lacrosse.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Abe

Before Barack Obama openly invited the Lincoln comparison, this would have already been The Year of Father Abraham. Today marks the two-hundredth anniversary of his birth in a settler's cabin on the frontier of Kentucky. A city which prides itself on being privy to a wealth of historic places devoted to the martyred President has kicked into high gear. One wonders, however, if these destinations and the media buzz surrounding the celebration will revive Lincoln's Birthday from its current place as an increasingly minor holiday. A few decades ago, most schools and some business were shuttered to observe it. Now only a handful of states observe the holiday. Over the past few decades, Lincoln's Birthday has been paired with Washington's Birthday into the catch-all holiday of Presidents Day.

Around DC, Ford's Theater, closed for over a year to perform renovations, re-opens for public tours. The Lincoln Summer Home has been available to view since early last year. Today a ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial will included laying a wreath at the at the monument and will be punctuated by several speakers, scholars, and dignitaries. I do think, however, that any gains made by those currently promoting this remembrance will have to wait until the peak tourist season of next summer.

I have nothing much to add to all the adulation. My regard for Lincoln as a President and statesman has always been in high esteem. He has far more patience and forgiveness than I would have ever had for all of the high drama and interpersonal strain that existed in this country as a result of the Civil War. His was the steadiest hand at the tiller and also the coolest head. This two facts cannot be overemphasized enough.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Grim Little Anniversary

(October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963)

Today is the 46th anniversary of the death of Sylvia Plath. I've always felt a kind of spiritual kinship with her in ways that go beyond the stereotypical and the fashionable. The fact that we both share the same illness has given me a kind of sympathy for her troubles and also allowed me to understand myself better as well as my own rapidly shifting moods. I can't help but wonder how much longer she would have lived if had there had existed, in her day, more effective treatments for bipolar disorder and mental illness in general. It is quite feasible that had she lived in this age, with the improvements in medication and therapy made since then, she might have been able to carry on very normal life without the highs and lows.

Here is a rarely heard interview from the BBC, recorded in October 1962, only a few months before her death. Since YouTube limits video to only ten minutes a piece the interview is posted in two sections.

Part One

Part Two

For the curious, the best biography of the life of Sylvia Plath is entitled Rough Magic: A Biography of Sylvia Plath (1991, Da Capo Press) by Paul Alexander

Treatment Update

It's that time of the week again!

Anyone who has ever been on multiple medications for any condition knows that every drug interacts with another in some form or fashion. Side effects are inevitable. For the past week or so I've been struggling with grogginess from one med (Seroquel) and obscenely dilated pupils from another (Parnate). It is entirely possible that these symptoms will subside with time, but in the meantime it has not been pleasant. Today, however, has been better.

As for dosage changes, Parnate was increased to 30 mg yesterday. The regimen is broken down into two sections to minimize adverse effects--2 pills in the morning, 1 pill at noon. Furthermore, I have been pleasantly surprised as to how well Lithium has been keeping away even the beginning stages of manic symptoms. As I was told by my doctor yesterday, Lithium has, for many patients, been known to increase the beneficial effects of other psychotrophic medications used simultaneously to treat bipolar. Seroquel will eventually be decreased back down to 400 mg, where it was for a week or so last month. 400 mg was the dosage level I was on when I entered NIMH treatment back in late October.

Yesterday, during consultation with my psychiatrist, I was told that I'll be discharged and heading home within two to four weeks. Once my condition is better regulated, I know they'll feel more comfortable with releasing me. There is another factor as well in my leaving sooner than expected. When I entered treatment three and a half months ago, the unit was only half full and new patients entered only at a trickle. Now we are at full capacity. Every bed is taken. We got a huge influx of new patients within the last three weeks alone and this will continue for a while. A waiting list exists now and the doctors will be pushing as many people out as possible to accommodate new research subjects.

I am not in active protocol right now, so I am aware that my leaving soon is just a matter of time. As you'll recall, I didn't sleep for a week solid due to the fact that I'm an insomniac and simply cannot obtain sleep by natural means. The studies here had rigid criteria and in order to qualify for them, one couldn't be on any medication at all except for a mood stabilizer like Lithium or Depakote. While I'm thinking about it, I could have participated in another trial, but I would have been taken off of Lithium altogether, and the doctor believed that being on the old gold standard for manic depression was the only reason I didn't experience cycling moods or psychosis when I hadn't slept several days in a row.

Still, I will be completely honest. I disagree a little with the methodology used here in treatment. Two of the studies offered for bipolar patients offer limited relief. Ketamine shows significant promise as an anti-depressant, but the way the protocol is administered, the most relief any person ever receives is four to six days. Only one infusion is given and the dosage is so minute that a recreational drug user would laugh at how tiny it is. A placebo infusion is given as well, as one would expect in a double-blind study. If the active agent were given frequently, like say every day, no one would experience significant depression, but the point of the study apparently is to measure how long a person can maintain a normal mood with only one treatment. It's almost sadistic in a way to contemplate, observing these people who have been mildly to moderately depressed beforehand get the infusion, enjoy four or five days of feeling euthymic, then see that good mood slipping away like sand between their fingers.

Another study uses Riluzole, a drug developed for Lou Gehrig's Disease, which in all my time here, I have never really seen significantly help anyone. Much of this is because every day a person is given a 50/50 chance of receiving either active agent or placebo. Psychotropic medications require a build up over time to work properly. One can't expect to feel better if one takes a drug every three days or even every other day. With time, some mood-improving effect will transpire, but it will be quite minimal. Medications which work specifically on the neurotransmitter glutamate are what every research institute in the world is pursuing at the moment and Riluzole is believed to have some action on it. Yet, I cannot help thinking that this particular trial is a bit like shooting in the dark, hoping to hit something.

Other studies are being developed, but most of them are limited to uni-polar patients, because one needs only account for depression in documenting the results, not mania or hypomania. I suppose then the results are less debatable, less complicated, and less subject to criticism from the medical community. It seems a bit unfair, really. Two promising medications are an anti-anxiety medication called NR2B, which is named after the neuro-receptor upon which it works directly, and a brand new study that works on opiate receptors. Still, yet again these are only being tried on patients who have experienced only depression, and not mania or hypomania. As the doctors have told me, many of these trials are never offered for bipolar patients because if they are offered for manic depressives, few are capable of making it through the entire process and resulting trial without cycling to some degree or another.

I know I'm in the end stretch now and I intend to make the most of my remaining time.

Monday, February 09, 2009

What Is Old Is New Again, Sadly

Check out this clip from the classic satirical UK puppet show Spitting Image. Originally made in the mid-1980's, it is now completely current once again.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Awordz! I Has It!

Thanks be to Mauigirl of Mauigirl's Meanderings

Now for the addictions meme. I am to list five addictions in my life. That's easy.

1) Taking Myself Seriously

Like many intelligent folk, I have a habit of reading serious books, watching serious movies, using words with more than five syllables to accentuate my point of view, and waxing nostalgically about grad school. Fortunately, this temptation is tempered by the fact that I have never visited a third world country, do not know the ins and outs of Ethiopian food, and do not fluently speak a foreign language.

2) Obsessively Using Wikipedia

Before Wikipedia, one had few tools at easy disposal to fact-check talking points or confirm the names of obscure pop culture figures. What I love about Wikipedia is that many topic pages are so obsessively cross-linked that one can start out at say, World War I, and end up reading about the history of peanut brittle.

3) Orange-flavored candy

Since I was a child I have always loved the taste of citrus fruit, but have a particular weakness for anything orange-flavored. Such products include orange jelly beans, orange-flavored chewing gum, marmalade, orange tea, Tang, and the like.

4) Differently-designed guitar strings

Most conventional guitar strings are manufactured similarly, with a nickle or steel center, which is then wound with copper or brass for a bright tone. Some guitar strings are made without the shiny coating, making the sound produced muddy and less resonant. Others are wound heavily with brass, creating a more immediate, high-pitched twang. Depending on how the strings are put together, what material is used, and in what proportion these ingredients are used, the sound varies considerably from brand to brand.

5) Being Annoyed at Certain People on Public Transportation

Riding public transit allows a person to see all the best and all the worst qualities in humanity in one convenient location. For every person who sits quietly, shuffling through his/her iPod playlist, text messaging another person on his/her cellphone, or reading a book, there are always several riders with no sense of privacy. These people air shockingly honest confessions via cell phone conversations or fail to supervise their children while they run haphazardly up and down the car.

I probably should lighten up and stop being so grouchy, but then I'd fail to have an outlet to feel smugly superior or to vent my frustrations.

Quote of the Week

I have a gift for enraging people, but if I ever bore you, it will be with a knife. - Louise Brooks

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Should We End Black History Month?

The case is made for both positions, here.

My own personal opinion, as someone who majored in history in college and has taught history is that we ought to consider doing a much better job of educating students about the virtues of the discipline and the breadth of American history as a whole before we focus on anything else. I'm not arguing that African-American history isn't important, but rather that most teachers do such a crappy job of providing the basic facts and contexts of a so-called white-dominated subject that there is a corresponding deficiency in U.S. History literacy for everyone. The student who doesn't know who Frederick Douglass is mostly likely won't know who Stephen Douglass is either.

African-American history finds itself tucked into textbooks and teacher manuals but the same basic mediocrity of pedagogy stays constant. So long as football coaches are allowed to teach history with a sloppy, largely uninformed, overly-simplified, wholly disheartening bone-headed approach, thoroughly boring students and leaving them with an impression that history is a dull topic with no real application to their own lives, then, sad to say, no amount of denoting weeks or months to the study of any minority group is going to make much difference. I didn't enjoy my history classes until I got to college and by then, of course, it's much too late for most people who would sooner take math than history if they even choose to attend a university.

Back to Black History Month---I see the arguments for both sides and I think a more synthesized approach would be best, but that would require many teachers to take workshops and continuing education seminars to learn how to correctly incorporate the history of different racial groups and expertly weave them together. If it were me, then I'd make an effort to not discriminate, since a record of the past includes everyone who lived during a certain time period. It's only descendants who leave things out. Those who lived in those times experienced the broad spectrum. Before we devote time and effort towards Gay History Month or Immigrant History Month, let's aim to not have to isolate each minority, making it seems as though they only time we tip our hat to their place in forming who we are collectively to just thirty days (or less) every year.

Saturday Song

In light of the recent dismal economic news, I offer this selection.

Them that's got shall get
Them that's not shall lose

So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have

But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own

Yes, the strong gets more
While the weak ones fade

Empty pockets don't ever make the grade
Mama may have, Papa may have

But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own

Money, you've got lots of friends
Crowding round the door

When you're gone, and spending ends
They don't come no more

Rich relations give
Crust of bread and such

You can help yourself
But don't take too much

Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own

Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own

That's got his own
He just don't worry 'bout nothin'
Cause he's got his own

Friday, February 06, 2009

Times Change

This forthcoming post may be interesting only to me or Birmingham-area residents, but I'd like to talk about this in any case.

As a child of the mid to late eighties, I remember that my home town had six grocery store chains: Bruno's, Food World (owned by Bruno's), Winn-Dixie, Western, Piggly Wiggly, and Delchamps. Bruno's was a proud city institution, Piggly Wiggly was an archtypical southern fixture, Winn-Dixie held much the same reknown, Delchamps was a recent arrival from South Alabama, and Western held sway another local chain with a decidedly blue collar feel to it. Many, if not most of the retail outlets in the town of my childhood were locally-based, aside from the biggest names.

Back then, Birmingham retained a kind of business provincialism that was displaced by competition and the rise of out-of-state corporations. When the early nineties recession receded and the long boom of the later nineties swelled, I began to notice the introduction of chain stores previously familar only to other parts of the country. Speaking specifically about supermarkets, most of these stores were undermined and undone by the rise of two major factors, two recent arrivals---Publix, an overachieving Florida chain that worked its way up from Florida, and the dreaded Wal-Mart, whose decision to expand to include grocery stores in its stores proved to be too much of a temptation for shoppers.

Delchamps went out of business in the early nineties. Winn-Dixie had to file for bankruptcy in the early part of this decade, though it still manages to limp through uneasily and has only a handful of stores currently open. Western pared back considerably itself and runs half the number of stores that were around twenty-five years ago. Piggly Wiggly has eked out an meager existence, though it has opened no new stores and I'm sure clings to its share of the market, hanging on by its fingernails. Now, Bruno's has had to file for its second bankruptcy.

The old icons of my childhood are rapidly going away. Local businesses are being replaced by larger chains. To cite another example, the drug stores of my youth were never CVS or Walgreens, instead they were Big B or Eckerd, both of which are out of business, swallowed by larger players. Each decent sized city used to have a unique flavor to it and every year I see it less and less. Sure, some of these changes are for the better. The reason these smaller stores failed, in part, was their inability to keep up with the times. Many of them believed that they could have kept doing things the same way forever without acknowledging that change is not necessarily an evil. Even so, there's always been something deeply disturbing to me about the possibility that we all soon might eat the same foods, wear the same clothes, shop at the same places, and drive to the same theaters in the same cars.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Because I Couldn't Think of Anything Else

I'm adjusting to medication today so this will have to suffice for an actual entry. Long-time readers will note that I haven't done a movie review in a while, and the reason why is the same. Yesterday I began to experience a decrease in appetite (which is one of the good side effects) and an increased sensitivity to cold (one of the bad side effects). My general agony, guilt, shame, and self-defeating thoughts have been muted. They are still there, but the intensity of pain has lessened, which is wonderful. No medication has ever completely eliminated them so perhaps the best I can hope for is a reduction in symptoms.

I feel like I owe someone an apology.

Listen to the music instead.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Hardly, David

David Brooks makes wide sweeping generalities again. This article should be titled, "I'm Acting Like I Know What I'm Talking About." This is why many of us in the blogosphere call him McBobo. Where there should be facts in this column, there is merely spleen and bile. Par for the course, I'm afraid.

I suppose what I don't understand is why he's lamenting the fact that, due to the economy, the rich supposedly are now beholden to other forces (read: evil liberals) in shaping their own destiny. The wealthy have always shaped their own destiny. One economic crisis doesn't mean that there's some kind of lasting middle-class chic going on now. It's almost amusing to see rich people being envious and spiteful of richer people. File under irony. While it is true that Bethesda (which is right down Rockville Pike from where I am) does have its own kind of ridiculous pecking order and social coterie, that's hardly different from anywhere else in the world and it's certainly not indicative of a unfair Puritanism which seeks to impose its will out of self-righteousness.

Nor, I might add, have I noticed a huge amount of resentment between DC residents and their fellows in NYC. What I have noticed, however, is a lot of population exchange between the two cities because of their national stature and also because they're only around four and a half hours apart by car. The past week there have been trumped-up, hand-wringing columns in the paper in which supposedly fears exist in NYC that Washington, DC, will replace NYC as the center of the universe. I think not.

The mainstream media loves to criticize the blogsophere for being fear-peddling, rumor-mongering, and unresearched, but once again David Brooks has proven to be no better than one of those supposedly dangerously amateur bloggers.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Treatment Update

I've noticed some significant improvement after being on the Parnate for nearly ten days. Most tellingly, I've realized that for the last several months I have been in a low-grade depression. Anti-depressants have in times past had a nasty habit of throwing me into a manic or hypomanic episode so they've been avoided in my standard treatment regimen for the past eight months or so. Surprisingly enough, Lithium, that old standard, has proven to be a great help in regulating cycling and tamping down on the intensity of my moods.

Once upon a time I chanced upon a song, the lyrics of which read something like--the world is a friendly place when you feel good. Nothing could be truer. When I am depressed or highly anxious the world seems packed full of enemies, grievances, pettiness, callousness, submerged anger, and fear. When I am feeling well, these imaginary problems evaporate and I can appreciate the great amount of good which exists alongside the bad. I have often wondered if perhaps I am not being delusional when I feel and observe all of these horrible things. The world is full of shades of dark as well as shades of light. Only a naive optimist or radical cynic would believe our world is monochrome and tilted soley towards either extreme.

That being said, problems still exist. I've been in treatment long enough to know that every medication has side effects and the more medications one adds to a regimen the more side effects will be produced. Still, I am pleased thus far with how I am feeling at the moment. I pause to note that I was extraordinarily fortunate for starting medication and seeking help as soon as I did. The longer a person goes without taking medication, the less effective the drugs are. Not only that, with time, symptoms progressively worsen. A manic episode when a person is thirty is much less severe than a manic episode at age fifty. This is why it is imperative for those who believe they could have mental illness to seek treatment immediately and not wait to get worse.

Blogroll Amnesty Day

It's that time again--the time of the year when those of us small potato bloggers tip our hats to our fellows. The independent liberal blogsophere is a wealth of creative expression and I am proud to be a part of it. I am also consistently amazed by the amazing degree of talent and thought that each author puts into his/her blog. In that spirit, and in no deliberate order save alphabetically, here is my blogroll. Each of the below is worth the time to peruse.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Quote of the Week

Masturbation is cheap, clean, convenient, and free of any possibility of wrongdoing — and you don't have to go home in the cold. But it's lonely.- Robert Heinlein

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A Super Bowl Memory (or Two)

It's funny the way this illness will grant you some odd remembrances and transform otherwise ordinary occurrences by filtering them through the lens of your condition. For example, I remember one Sunday watching a football game on the television in my room and now only remember the final play, in which the Atlanta Falcons kicked a field goal to defeat the Minnesota Vikings. I remember vividly the green artificial turf and the deep purple of the end zone. I must have watched the entire game but remembered only ten or twenty seconds of it after it concluded. The shock treatments have a way of scrambling your short term memory and even raiding your past, too.

When I think about Super Bowl Sunday, I mostly remember a party I went to directly after an extended three-month hospitalization. As I think back on it, I must not have been discharged for more than a week, at most. My best friend in high school was raised in an extremely right-wing Christian family and attended the Church of God. He invited me along, I think not knowing in particular what had recently come before. In his mind, I had simply disappeared from school for three months for some undisclosed reason. The worst depressive episode of my life was what had come before and I was still reeling from the impact of too many sedating medications combined with several sessions of electro-convulsive therapy. I was unsteady and largely uncommunicative, but even in my impaired state of mind I wished for company.

As I was a senior in high school at the time, everyone else at the gathering was in their teens. I sat at the back, shyly, not making conversation. An elder in the church was holding the party in his den, so at halftime instead of watching the entertainment the game was switched off and we were treated to a VHS video starring prominent NFL players eager to profess their unyielding faith in Christ. It made me a tad uncomfortable, since the Methodism of my childhood was a subtle affair, one that certainly didn't make any attempt to win converts by direct witness. In an aside that might be interesting to some readers, my friend later drifted away from conservative Christianity and the Republican party into a kind of netherworld of apathy that is the truest sign of the true believer gone sour.

As I have mentioned before, the immediate aftermath of shock treatments produces convoluted recollections and so I don't remember much else, aside from the fact that I felt out of place and wasn't sad when the game came to a conclusion. Interestingly enough, as I think about it, I also have a Super Bowl Memory from a mere two years ago that is still too fresh for me to wish to revist in much detail right now. At that point, I was in a state of mild mania, but managed nonetheless to luck into winning nearly $100 via a betting game. It was money I needed, since I was living off of disability payments by that point. As I recall, I used it to pay for groceries and co-pays to my therapist. Both of these instances come from places of pain and it is in the spirit of forgetting that I even mention them at all.