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|Sunday, March 9th, 2008|
I'd like to say a word about politics, the burning fire of the moment. I'd like to address some things that are on my mind: someone in particular who is sort of bothering and confusing me right now. Her name is Hillary Clinton, and I'm having trouble figuring out what she's up to in this primary race these days.
Obama has won 29 contests thus far in this primary season, to Clinton's 19, he's ahead in delegates by 135 (not counting whatever he got from Wyoming). Unless the rest of America feels differently she simply can't win.
What she can do is more of what she's been doing: slander him and condescend to him. Plant doubts in the mind of America as to his capability as a future leader. She's all but outright accused him of having a 17-year old crime record, lorded her "superior experience" over him time and again - and when he has questioned what exactly that experience was, one of her aids compared him to Kenneth Starr, and she has publicly stated that she feels this was an accurate comparison. I can't claim to fully understand this, but my guess is it's because Kenneth Starr also questioned her record at some point, and she doesn’t feel it’s fair for anyone to question thier opponent’s background.
Oh, yeah here’s the video of her questioning her opponent's background, insinuating that he's potentially got a 17-year criminal record.
Do you think Hillary would agree it's fair to say: they're both just like Kenneth Starr? Honestly, it's just so silly.
Hillary's repeatedly implied that she thinks John McCain would be more qualified for president than her rival. She's been questioning his record, which is really about equal to hers, for months now, publicly and through her scary attack adds.
She complained that the media likes Obama more than they like her.
Well, you know, I think that might be true. On the other hand, how far are are reporters supposed to go to stay balanced in their reporting?
In the last debate Hillary attacked Obama for using the words of a man who was on his campaign staff and had done some speech writing for him in the past, saying something like “If you’re going to run a campaign on speeches, the words should be your own.” And followed it up by saying “That’s not change you can believe in, that’s change you can Xerox!”
Well, that’s a great zinger, but does anyone think she wrote it herself? Personally, I’d bet every dollar I’ve got that she owes it to a speech writer of her own. So, if I were to support Hillary for president, I’d really like to know what her point was here, because to me it seems as if she was attacking her rival for doing something she does herself – something she was doing THAT VERY MINUTE in fact. And if the press happens to have a bullshit detector, yes, maybe they might smell something. It seems to me like many of her attacks are of this nature – really, really dumb.
It seems like Hillary’s attacks aren’t voiced because she has concerns about her rival, but simply because she’ll say anything she has to in order to win.
This is deeply disturbing because it tells us one thing about her: She’ll say anything she has to in order to get the American people to do what she wants them to do.
In this case she wants the American people to vote for her, so she says things like it’s bad for candidates to borrow portions of a speech from people on their campaign staff even while she’s doing it herself. But what will she want us to do once she’s president, and what will she tell us then? When it comes down to it, is she willing to be just another really manipulative politician?
I know that may sound awfully anti-Hillary, but one of the biggest problems our nation faces right now is Iraq. Hillary voted for this war, and if she’s got one good excuse for that vote, it’s that our commander-in-chief announced about a thousand times and on no uncertain terms that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and we absolutely had to do something about that.
Here's a fun trip through memory lane if anyone wants to recall that experience
Of course not everyone would agree on this, but one could speculate that our president was saying whatever he had to in order to manipulate the American public – in fact, to listen to her, Hillary sounds like she feels sort of manipulated herself where Iraq is concerned.
Really, no matter who the next president is, I’d like it to be someone who won't treat me like I’m really really dumb. Hillary's flashing fear tactic commercials on TV and throwing hot air attacks at her rival - how could I trust in that?
And now Hillary's telling everyone she might want Obama to be her VP. There's a nice campaign strategy, isn't it? But frankly I'd like to know how she plans to become the nominee and make this man with a 17-year crime history her #2, because as behind in delegates as she is, there's only a handful left for her to grab. There are the superdelegates of course, but they mostly seem to be saying they'll be voting with the voters. It doesn't appear we're going to have a coup this time around. So what is she doing but tearing apart the party in sort of a political temper tantrum?
More importantly, why is the news media acting like she's still got an excellent shot at winning this? Is the election just getting them great ratings? It’s hard for me to figure out. Perhaps Michigan and Florida will hold their revotes and I guess that may do it – but neither state has really even said they want to do that yet. Obama just won Wyoming. He’s almost certainly going to win Mississippi. Does Hillary really think she’ll be the nominee once Obama has a sizable lead and 30 contests under his belt? What sort of leader can she hope to become?
Does she even want to be the nominee now that she has lost over half the contests?
It seems to me that at this point, she's undermining a man she really ought to begin supporting in the very near future.
And yes, I do have fun with embedded video. Oh god
|Monday, February 4th, 2008|
|Sunday, January 6th, 2008|
Last night, during the final debate of the primary season, Hillary Clinton attacked Barack Obama. Specifically, she felt he was being inconsistant on health care - his plan differs from Hillary's in that it makes health care extremely affordable for Americans, but does institute universal coverage. It does, however, mandate parents to purchase coverage for their children.
Hillary attacked him for forcing parents to purchase health care for their children, without forcing every adult to purchase health care for themselves, thus framing Obama as sort of a flip-flopper on health care. But The whole idea of the plan is to make certain that every American has the ability to acquire affordable health care, if they wish have it. How many children do you know who can afford to purchase their own health care - no matter what the cost - if they decide they want coverage?
None. Zip. Zero. It was a silly, desperate, dishonest attack.
Hillary Clinton is a dishonest candidate, and I sure hope Obama continues to do well, because I don't see myself voting for her.
Obama, on the other hand, his success has me very excited. I don't think America has ever seen a candidate quite like him. He's an idealist firmly grounded in reality, a revolutionary who knows exactly what compromises need to be made for successful change that he wants to bring about. He's intelligent, honest, sincere, and deeply inspiring.
He says he's the candidate for change - now every other candidate is saying the same thing: Hillary is the Candidate for change too! So is Edwards! Hell, Romney is suddenly the candidate for change too, if you can believe that!
Speech after speech he spoke of the importance of uniting Americans: Democrats and Republicans, and Huckabee adopted that message himself a few weeks back. Look how well it's worked out for him! Not that I can blame him, I go on that same rant myself now and then. But the point is, Obama appears to be a pretty good trend setter. And when he says he's the candidate for change, he doesn't say that vaguely - he's specific about what he's going to change and how he's going to do it.
A black president seems unlikely. But a politician that talks of great change and speaks in specifics? Now that's just weird.
|Friday, January 4th, 2008|
2007 wasn't just a year. It may be one of the most monumentous years of my life. So much has happened in the past 12 months that I simply could not capture it in words. Much of it is simply too personal to write about here. I'm not sure there's anyone who could fully understand - but I feel like I've been exposed to a lot of wonder this year. An awful lot of wonder. I feel baffled by it, unmanned. The year has left me both frustrated and encouraged, and I couldn't say quite how.
I spent the first half of the year in the Philippines. 6 months ago seems a lifetime ago now, but it wasn't. It was just yesterday. And those months encapsulated a world of their own experiences which seem quite distant now. Among those experiences I had in 2007 was the most sweet and wonderful relationship of my life, with a girl named Marianne. That ended, as everything Peace Corps related did, quite abruptly, but I'm deeply thankful that I have it to look back on.
Looking back, 2007 overflows with times I'm deeply thankful to have had. I feel like it's been a year full of moments that pile up, little memories that I didn't think much of at the time, but overwhelm me upon reflection.
I'm a strikingly lucky person, and I don't know what I've done to deserve those great friends that I have. Lord knows I'm no good at staying in contact with them, but the truth is, with every year that passes, the more I appreciate what an extraordinary group of individuals my friends are. Perhaps it's because I returned from living abroad I've appreciated that extra this year, but for whatever reason, I do.
We're all getting older, and we've become adults. I don't think anyone I know has fully adjusted to that state yet (though I wonder how many adults have). Rachel got married, became a mommy of two pretty awesome kids - thanks a lot for making me feel old!!! ;-)
I'm not sure if I know anyone who would describe this as an easy year. It's been a tough year for everyone I know, and I'm certainly not excluded from this. It may be one of the toughest years of my life. I've spent a lot of time feeling drained and frustrated, and I discovered just how poisonous that frustration could be.
In fact, I spent weeks filled with frustration. I couldn't exactly say why, but what I can say is that during those weeks it poisoned everything good in my life. During those weeks I poisoned everything good in my own life, and what's scarier, I came to be aware that I was not alone. I started to suspect there were a lot of people whose lives were being eaten whole by frustration. But for me, for now, I escaped.
I began serious work with my father this year. I won't go into details. It's too difficult to explain them all - even explaining in person takes some explanation. But it's work I'm proud of, and I'm still following my passions. I think that's the challenge I'm facing - to continue to follow my passions professionally. But I feel surprisingly confident about it. Things always move much slower than I'd expect, progress is agonizingly slow - but I also recognize that I'm learning new things almost every day. As long as progress is progressing and I'm personally growing, it's hard to see where things are going wrong.
2008 promises to be a big year for me, and to bring a lot of change. That's intimidating, but it's also very exciting. I hope every person reading this is in good spirits and has had an excellent 2007. I also hope you have an even better 2008 Thank you for contributing to mine ;-)
|Thursday, December 13th, 2007|
|Summation of the past 2 weeks
I got my car back. Sando is awesome!
I am now working full time with my father - we're setting short term goals for our work, we're planning for it to last about 6 months, but we're still developing the timeline at the moment. Basically, there are some major projects I'm helping to accomplish, some structure I'm helping to set up.
I combined the above two items to move out on my own, to a lovely area known as Savage, MD. I'm living with Jeremy, a cool cat I've known since college. Pretty cool.
And that's my nut in a lifeshell. For now.
|Tuesday, November 13th, 2007|
|Educators to Enemies
In recent days I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the presidential primaries. As an Obama fan, I must admit I’m feeling a bit crestfallen by the way things are going. But more than anything I’ve just been fascinated about how this whole thing is playing out. The news media of today isn’t your momma’s news media, and it seems to be playing a very different role than it has in the past. It seems to me that they’ve gone from reporting on the differences between the candidates to actively fomenting dissent among them.
It was pretty awful to watch this last debate, in which the would-be leaders of the country were directed to attack each other with questions like "Specifically, what are the issues where you, Senator Obama, and Senator Clinton have differed, where you think she has sounded or voted like a Republican?” Aw snap, thems fighting words, are they not? It also happened to be the first question of the debate.
The debate that followed was not about the issues, but about the ratings that conflict could generate. It was the first of it’s kind, a Democratic Presidential Berate. The media made our leaders dance, and they had at each other like attack dogs. Responding to that first question, Barack seemed hesitant, but that just made him look petulant when he did dig into the heels of his rival. Edwards, the trial terrier, was vicious and merciless. I’ll bet he scares small children. He certainly scared me. Kucinich, ever relaxed, just smiled.* The next day plenty was heard about how vicious the other candidates had been to Hillary, but I didn’t hear much mention of the fact that they’d been directly asked to do so.
I remember just a few years ago I used to get so upset about Fox news because of how they sensationalized everything. That plague seems to have spread pretty quickly, and all the news networks seem to have dumped their integrity for ratings. That’s sad, but I didn’t find it quite so disturbing until now. CNN’s doing the next debate, and they’re advertising it as if it were a boxing match, claiming that this time the gloves are gunna come off.
So far I’ve only mentioned the Democrats debate, but the last Republican Debate was hosted by Fox News. Not that there was a great deal of difference there. The Republicans spent all their time attacking Hillary too.
Fox didn’t seem too upset that the candidates weren’t focused on the issues, either. In fact, they often accepted Hillary insults in place of valid answers to questions. For instance Guliani was asked the question “on a lot of the social issues, like abortion and gay rights and gun control, that there's not much difference between you and Clinton. Is there?” He responded via rant on how much he dislikes Hillary Clinton. Bravo.
Question dodges don’t get you far in a real debate, but that’s an A+ on Fox News. And in all fairness, with a question like “There’s not much difference between you and this lady we all find intensely distasteful, is there?” what sort of answer could they have been hoping for?
Politicians have been dodging questions since the beginning of time, so responses like Mr. Guliani’s aren’t really so surprising, but debate questions that sound like they were written by Jerry Springer are. Oh, ha, Jerry used to be Mayor of Cincinnati didn’t he? I guess he’d be over-qualified to write these questions now, come to think of it. But you know what I mean – these questions were written by mobs of eager instigators, not news reporters.
Regardless of what you think of the candidates in the race, it’s hard not to think that the media isn’t doing their best to bring out the worst in our nation’s leaders. I’m saddened to see that they’re succeeding so well at it, but I wonder how it will work out in the longer term. Next election season, will candidates continue to play the networks games and walk knowingly to whatever ‘debate’ MSNBC sets up? Or will the candidates be more careful in setting the terms next time?
This seems to me like it’s setting some interesting historical precedents. I guess these are being set all the time, what with modern technology interfering, but the idea that this could be a trend that continues well into the future sends chills up my spine. A media that broadcasts Black Hawk Down and an actual war with the same goals in mind – ratings – is starting to scare me more and more.
*He also thickly criticized all the other candidates positions and the institution itself, but in his usual friendly manner.
|Monday, November 5th, 2007|
|A Time of Change
In the last two weeks a lot has happened in my life. I went to Canada, for one - though it was fun to see miles turn to kilometers and all it was certainly more about seeing the people: Jinx, Sarah, Maria, Jason, Baby and of course the birthday pup: Corky (Maria's terrier, the reason I went to Canada). I also went to the Getaway, the annual weekend-long gathering of folkies, though I wasn't quite in the singing mood that I could have been, I did get a good chance to catch up with my brother.
But those events sort of take a back seat to greater changes. When I set out to Canada (starting with a greyhound to Cleveland) on the very first day I received an email from my Peace Corps country director that led me to think that I could not only be returning to the Philippines, but that I might be doing so to work on exactly the project I wanted - something which was better than my best case scenario. I immediately offered to extend my contract an additional year if this could be set up.
The last day of my time in Canada I received an email regretfully informing me that this would not be as possible as hoped (the position was going to take too long to set up, if it could be set up at all), and effectively closed the door on Peace Corps in my life.
So there's that. I'm here to stay folks. I'm sure that won't surprise many people at this point, but it was sort of a surprise to me after I had begun preparing myself for the next big trip. But truthfully, I feel nothing so strongly as relief at having a final decision. As hard as it was to step on the plane and leave for Peace Corps, keeping my life in this continuous stasis since July has been much more difficult.
Obviously it's now time for me to take the next step, and that's the change: I think the next step is law school. This is a real change in direction for me, and it's bound to surprise a few people, but I feel pretty certain about it. I don't want to be a defense attorney or any lawyer you see on TV - I think that's what steered me away from the idea when I was younger (I remember heavily considering the career of Lawyer when I was in HS). But if I want to continue helping people, there are many ways to do so as a lawyer (after all, isn't that what people think of when they think of lawyers?). At this point I'm thinking of advocacy work or throwing my lot in with an organization like the ACLU, but the idea's still fairly new in my mind.
Everything's still disorganized, I'll not pretend otherwise. But my thoughts are starting to get ordered. We'll see how these first steps go. I need to hunt out scholarships and such, and if anyone has tips for that I'd love to hear them. I think they're pretty sparse for law school, but they must be out there. There are signs I'll have my car back before long, and now that I know I'll be in the country three weeks from now, figuring out greater employment should be less prohibitive.
Fun times we live in.
|Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007|
I went and saw my doctor today. Paid that man $70 because i suffer pain sometimes, and I've read on this hear interweb that many people who suffer similar pain find great relief through oxygen therapy - that is, they keep an oxygen tank and mask in their room, and when a nasty headache hits, they put on the mask and breathe it in for 10-20 minutes. For lots of people, this is very very successful at completely relieving their headaches.
But my doctor, he didn't feel oxygen therapy was right for me. Too expensive, he said, and although I do experience cluster headache-like symptoms, I don't fit the classic symptomology - therefor he didn't write me a prescription. And in America you can buy many things without consulting a doctor: cigarettes, a big mac, Everclear - you don't need a note from the doctor telling you that it would be healthy for you to use these items. Oxygen, however, is widely considered to be slightly more hazardous than over the counter items such as cigarettes and chainsaws, and for that reason I cannot purchase oxygen (for inhalation) for personal use without my doctor's OK.
I was surprised when I returned home and discussed this with my parents that my mother was not the least bit surprised that the doctor had refused to write me that prescription. 'It just seems very extreme' she told me. And I think that highlights a sort of folly in the way we look at medicine.
See, I've mentioned this oxygen therapy to a few people - I'm pretty sure it always comes across as an extreme measure. Buying an oxygen tank and an oxygen mask to keep in your room does seem pretty extreme, not to mention a little bit strange. But to my mind, it's a great step down in seriousness from the other medications I'm taking.
See, right now I take a medication called Topamax on a daily basis - also used to treat bi-polar disorder, epilepsy, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A quick trip to webMD lists 96 potential side effects of Topamax, including suicide. When I consider the effect that might have on my body, oxygen doesn't seem so extreme. And really, I don't think the long term health effects of many modern drugs such as Topamax are well understood - I don't think there's anyone on the planet who was using it 15 years ago. And just recently some migraine medications were pulled from the market due to their long-term effect on the heart. As it happens, since the heart attack, my mother is also forbidden to use any migraine medications period.
Oxygen, by contrast, has some good longitudinal studies behind it. Oxygen out-dates the FDA, and inhalation of pure oxygen probably has some side effects, but WebMD doesn't bother listing them.
I'm deflated here, folks. I used to think of doctors as heroes - and I still do. I mean their job is to make us feel better, be healthier, and live longer, right? Doctors save lives, and when they're not saving lives they're enhancing lives - and that's all their job is. To make lives better. A few months ago, doctors probably saved my mother's life, went home, and forgot her face - because it probably wasn't even a memorable day. So why is it that I just want to beat my doctor until my $70 comes back out?
|Thursday, October 11th, 2007|
Hey, there have been some hot words exchanged around here around these parts. That's fine, I do enjoy a lively debate. However, there are limits, and I'm posting this to make them known: lets not get personal. I do my best not to make person attacks, and by that same token, I won't receive them either. From this point on, let two things be known: First, it really doesn't matter who you are, I'd love to hear what you have to say. Please feel free to leave a note, if you'd like to. And the only restriction I place on that is that if there are personal attacks in your note, it will simply be deleted, because that's not the style of discussion I like to engage in.
Now in the most recent example of this, I believe my own entry was not well-written, or at least it was not the piece I wanted it to be. I suspect it came off insulting, and lent itself to the mud-flinging that occurred in response. While that's not the atmosphere I wish to cultivate, and I do apologize if I've offended anyone, I also want to make this "insulting notes will be deleted rule" as crystal clear as possible. It doesn't matter what I write - this is where I come to write down my thoughts, introspections, and feelings of an unmanly nature; the very function of this site means that I won't always self-edit my thoughts as well as I could. The things I write here are sometimes of a personal nature, and that's one reason why I don't feel a need to withstand attacks on them. In short: while I try not to be insulting, the rule is and always will be: I write whatever the hell I want here, and the reader is able, nay encouraged! to leave civil commentary on what I've written.
If you do read something I've written and take offense, I'm not asking you to stay silent. You can argue constructively or even just tell me "That offends me sir, I challenge you to a duel!" Actually, I'd like to know if I'm offending someone out there, so please tell me. All I'm asking you to do is refrain from personal attacks. This hasn't really been a problem in the past, so I don't expect it will become one - I just figured a warning like this was appropriate before I delete any notes.
You're all pretty much awesome, good day
|Monday, October 8th, 2007|
|Strange Days are Coming - Peace Corps
Do you ever get the feeling that the universe is fucking with you? I do. I get that feeling a lot. Honestly, if my fascination with religion has been driven by any one thing, it's been by this feeling, which has come and gone through different times of my life. A feeling that while the universe may be made up of many components and people all functioning separately from me, their arbitrary interactions with my life and their timing frequently seem planned from the start. And this is such a time of my life. Boy howdy, I don't know what to make of it.
But enough of my crazy. That's not what you came here to read. What did you come here for anyway? Well there's more I haven't told you of my life. Actually there's alot more. But I'm going to talk about the question I get asked most - "What's the deal with Peace Corps?"
There's a reason I haven't answered that before now. Because it's complicated. I think about a month ago most people stopped believing me when I told them I couldn't make any long term plans because I was waiting to hear back. I mean, I've been waiting for over 3 months now - 1/4 of a year. How long am I honestly going to wait?
Well here's the thing: when we last left our hero, he was stranded, dead in the water, unable to get a letter of medical clearance from his neurologist, who refused to write him a letter of medical clearance until November at the Earliest. Roughly 5 weeks ago, I decided to write him a note - because I felt he hadn't properly understood the gravity of the letter I'd asked him to write for me, or what effects they had on my life. Unfortunately he was on vacation so it took a while for him to get back to me -- but I was absolutely right. He conceded and agreed to at least discuss the matter with me (which I am fairly certain means that I can convince him to write me the needed letter, because I don't need it to say much).
So I'm medically cleared to return to the Peace Corps.
But it's late in the game now. Really late in the game. The next step is to contact my Country director-so that's exactly what I did. Unfortunately, the quick reply I received to my email is that my country director was gone, and would not return for more than another 2 weeks.
Now, 2 weeks is normally a reasonable time period to wait. But I have to admit, in this case, I've had a difficult time not thinking that "Well that's it. That's that last straw. I don't want it to be, but how can I take another?" On the other hand, the email was sent, inquiries were made, I assume he's going to respond. And depending on how he responds, no matter what sort of despair I feel right now, that might vanish. My life might be turned on it's head tomorrow.
And I mean that, because my country director is supposed to return to his post tomorrow. Though how quickly I can expect a response, I've no idea. But this whole Peace Corps thing has been dangling in my life, unresolved for an unbearable amount of time. And I really, really hope that it's about to get resolved one way or another.
On a side note, I should once again make mention, for anyone who doesn't know me well enough: I love Catholics, and I love Catholicism. That's why I'm so hard on them sometimes. I take strong disagreement with the church on MANY issues - I mean I'm honestly not sure I'm a Christian myself, so you can see where I might have some reservations. But there are too many people out there villainizing the Catholics in particular for me not to say this: several of the finest people I know are Catholic, and take their faith very seriously. I don't mean to insult that. I admire that, even if I have strong disagreements on the cosmology of things.
The Catholic church takes a lot of flack. Some of that (such as not adequately punishing priests who molest children) is deserved. But truthfully, I think they get more than their fair share, and it borders on hate-speech sometimes. That sort of message bothers me, and I really want to make sure I'm not spreading it. So I just wanted to mention that, in case I came off as overly harsh before.
Wish me a good week folks, it's sure to be a long one.
|Thursday, October 4th, 2007|
|Major ChAnges * Cluster FucK
The internet is an amazing thing, truly it is. And last night it changed my life in a way I really hadn't anticipated.
You know, I've heard more than one doctor complain that they really hate the internet - they keep having patients who read about diseases online, self-diagnose themselves, and come into the office thinking they know more than their doctor. "::cough cough:: I think I got the black lung". Now I'm sure that sucks from the doctor's end. But personally, I'm a patient, and last night, as I surfed the internet in hopes of finding another person, any person, who suffers from the same peculiar migraine symptoms that I do, I discovered something kind of mind-blowing: I really don't think I suffer from migraines at all.
Well ok, I DO suffer from migraines. Occasionally. But that's not my issue, not the great foe in my life, and last night I discovered that I thought I'd been fighting the wrong one all along. The Grand Pu-Bah I've been battling is actually known as the "Cluster Headache". Now, he doesn't sound quite as cool or dramatic as "migraine" I know. However he does commonly go by the nickname "suicide headache", but don't worry -- this is only because people have been known to kill themselves to escape the pain. Now, probably if you don't actually suffer from them, the subtle differences between a cluster headache and a migraine will probably escape you, but to me the differences are not small. It opens up a whole new world.
Physiologically speaking, migraines and cluster headaches are very similar -- in fact the treatment I've been receiving for migraines is perfectly suitable for cluster headaches as well. However, while that treatment has been ok, and it seems to be reducing the number of cluster headaches (dubbed "cluster fucks" from hear onwards, so pardon my Canadian) I get in a given month, the medication I have doesn't reliably do much for the pain once I DO have a cluster fuck.
However, recognizing that I suffer from cluster headaches opens up a whole host of new treatment options that hadn't previously been considered. Of course, it's entirely possible that they will be just as frustratingly ineffective as past treatment options have been - pain treatments aren't really known for their effectiveness among pain sufferers. But it's something. And there's a particular treatment used for cluster headaches - oxygen treatment (the equivalent of having a home oxygen bar!) that could be worth exploring.
Most importantly though, it explains things in a way that pretty much discounts medical abnormality. Cluster Headaches would explain so much that I've been trying to understand since my migraines first struck - symptoms I've heard of no one else having, and that no doctor can explain to me or recall any other patient having. Symptoms that kept me up at night, worrying what the hell could be wrong with me. Because when I saw that list of symptoms for cluster headaches, my world just sort of snapped into place. It all just made sense.
For the sake of these migraines, I have seen 3 Neurologists, 3 ENTs, had 3 CAT scans, an MRI, and an EEG. I've had surgery - primarily because my ENT thought that my migraines were caused by Sinusitus. This turned out to be false (although I probably suffer from chronic mild-moderate sinusitus, and who the hell knows how that's contributing to all of this, but I'm starting to think that the matter has been exaggerated to me in the past).
Have past Doctors known about this or had their suspicions, and simply never told me? I'm not sure. If so, I'd prefer not to know that. I really don't want to harbor that sort of hatred against someone - because there are lifestyle changes that I could have made that might have helped me as a cluster headache sufferer, that I knew nothing about. If they had known they ought to have told me. If they didn't know, then they ought to have known.
I do know that it seems like my 2 hours of online research may have done more for my personal health than any doctor or specialist I've seen (or surgery I've had), even though that research was practically free while my neurologist costs me $70 / visit. Last time I saw him, I handed him a piece of paper vividly describing my symptoms, and although he is supposed to be one of the best neurologists in the dc area, he didn't mention a thing to me about "cluster headaches".
Personally, I suspect he didn't really read it. But that's alright, what's a few more "suicide headaches" to put up with, right? Inattentive jackass.
The sad thing is, I think it's a dysfunction the health care system, not with my doctor(s). If I ever have children, their doctor may be downgraded to the role of "prescription writer". Because really, what the fuck else are they good for? All the information they tried to learn from their fancy texts books, but actually forgot somewhere along the line (just like I did 3 days after every test I took in college) is available somewhere on the internet, and probably discussed in greater detail among people dealing with the issues.
Well that was a rant, wasn't it? But by God this could be a very good thing
|Saturday, September 8th, 2007|
|Attention Suckers / Music Lovers / Music Loving Suckers
The Mountain Goats, September 20th @ The Black Cat
The Mountain Goats, September 21st @ Sonar (Baltimore)
Iron & Wine, September 29th @ the 9:30 Club
These are both bands that have my eyes wide in anticipation of their arrival. Two of my favorite bands in a single month! But, you see, lacking a single local friend who really shares these musical tastes, I will need to either make new friends or find suckers.
If you're the slightest bit interested, or even interested in being interested here's some info.
The Mountain Goats is basically a guy named John Darnielle. He's been recording in a huge variety of styles and subject matters for 16 years, but mostly these days his music tells a story. Sometimes those stories are biographical, sometimes they are fictional (he just recently began doing biographic concept albums), but what draws me to him is the combination of wit and blunt emotion that he combines in his songs. For instance he made an entire album centered around his childhood relationship with his abusive stepfather. Now does that sound like the most whiny piece of emo music you can imagine listening to? But he actually does it without managing to sound the least bit self-pitying, and I consider it a pretty wonderful album.
Anyway, Youtube has a little selection of Mountain Goats videos, if you're curious
Dance Music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddxbQbqjHhw
This Year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYCzDhaRV60-
Iron and Wine is basically a guy named Sam Beam. His music typically strikes people as being really soft and melodic, almost unbearably so. The first time anyone hears an Iron and Wine album, their first inclination is probably to fall asleep. But the gift of Sam Beam is that the first listen is a trick of the ears: Underneath the sweet melody he's able to keep an underlying current of very real intensity that, personally, has come to blow me away over repeated listening. The third video link I put up isn't one of my favorite songs of theirs, but it's the only one that ever came close to being popular (technically it's a Postal Service cover) so I figured I'd try and lure you however I could ;-) .
Free Until They Cut Me Down: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=360M4a9dong
Such Great Heights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZYhgG32pn8
So there it is. I repeat, if you have any interest at all
The VanBone wants YOU
To come to a club with him.
Let's do This
|Wednesday, September 5th, 2007|
|Bringing Allan Home
My journey to Cleveland was haphazard, but reaching Cleveland was in some ways, like reaching home.
No, that's not really an accurate thing to say. It's an overly simplistic metaphor for something very complex I want to express. It wasn't at all like home. Jinx lives in a duplex with her mother - I've never really spent time in her house before.
But ever since I've returned from the Peace Corps I've had this recurring feeling that I'm doing more than seeing the places and people I used to know again - I've felt as if I literally haven't been Allan for some time now. And now that I'm home, I keep feeling these fierce urges to pour through old letters and belongings, through anything that had meaning to Allan. In fact, I've completely taken apart my room searching for old writings, letters, gifts, anything to remind me of things I've left in my past. I never meant to forget.
And I've forgotten a lot. But the memories come back. And one thing that I discovered that weekend (and here's the piece where what I'm ranting about connects back to the beginning) is that there are, beyond question (to my mind anyway), certain people who are just so essential to who I am that that without them, I am not the same person. I guess that's something lots of people know instinctually. We know some of our friends can be bad for us, and some of our friends are good for us. Especially in romantic relationships we're all familiar with situations where you have to tell a friend "Leave her, she's no good for you!" But... I felt as if this were a radical change. By the time Jinx, Maria, and I dispersed that weekend, I left with a piece of myself I didn't have when I'd arrived. And more than that, I felt refreshed.
I know that sounds odd, and more than a little melodramatic to write. But in fact, I don't think my words fully convey the full weight of truth and conviction I mean them with. The Allan who existed in Cleveland that weekend didn't all arrive on the same greyhound. That's puzzling, but I'm glad to have him back.
It probably helps that we all feed each other's memories when we gather. We've known each other for too long, we see each other too seldom, and the memories we do share have been so intense. So they were more than happy to share in my memory digging fervor; in fact we spent the last night listening to old tapes we had.
You see, when we were young and stupid, we bought a bunch of hand-held tape recorders. We thought they were so cool. And every time the three of us (there were 5 of us then) would get together, we would just tape record EVERYTHING with the idea that many years later we would be such bloody sentimentalists that when we got together we'd have nothing better to do than to sit around listening to what we were doing and saying when we got together a decade ago. And we were right on the mark!
I'd spend more time talking about what we did for Jinx's birthday weekend, but the truth is, it was who I was with that counted far more than what we did. For the record, we visited tea houses (I got to try clotted cream, which I did not particularly care for), watched bad movies, ate cake, And surfed the waves of lake eerie. On Jinx's birthday the four of us took a bottle of wine to an empty field to watch the Perseids fall (ghetto, I know, but we make do ;-). Sadly, I don't think anyone got a direct look at a falling star (though I'm certain I saw a nice one out of the corner of my eye. Jinx thinks it was just a giant firefly skimming across the atmosphere at subsonic speeds). On another evening we decided we would all go out to a bar and... failed utterly. Don't ask how we did it. We're talented. But for the record, I'd like to note that bars may be the only establishment that claims the right to have regular business hours, but lock their doors whenever they feel like it due to a lack of business. This bugs me. I'm quite certain that if Starbucks ever closed early some latte-hungry customer would smash the windows in with a patio chair. But on this particular night, it reminded me of our endless walk at Ocean City, and I smiled.
It was a... really great visit. I guess I have to leave it at that. Seeing Maria and Jinx again felt like coming home to myself and ALSO seeing two great friends. And getting to know Sarah (who I realize I haven't mentioned yet) was also really cool. I felt like I knew her much better than I had any right to. If you want to see pictures of said trip, you'd best blame her
I think this rambling drivel has been allowed to go on long enough. Honestly, why do you people read this stuff?
PS: Please. Please. Don't quote drew carey when responding to this post. I'm pretty sure I already know what ditty you're humming to yourself.
|Sunday, September 2nd, 2007|
|Wanna Take You For a Ride - Greyhound!
Now for anyone who hasn’t been blessed enough to ride greyhound in the last few years, I feel you ought to be informed: ride greyhound – you probably won’t enjoy it, but chances are, you won’t forget your experience! For me, I’ve taken greyhound twice in the last month, and both experiences left me with more stories than the actual visits I made.
My first greyhound experience began with a taxi cab driver who spent the whole ride on the phone to his ex-wife, pleading with her to let him see his children again after 2 years. Over the course of the ride, it came out that his ex-wife’s hesitancy was probably related to some experiences with crack the man had had, but those experiences were behind him now (or so he assured his wife). This has absolutely nothing to do with my trip, but I think it really set the mood perfectly for what was to come.
There are two buses that leave daily from Lexington, KY to Cleveland, OH. Now, if you look online, that’s not what their website says. Their website says there are 3. But one of those buses is marked “transfer” and magically arrives in Cleveland 45 minutes before the other. That bus doesn’t, in fact, exist. But greyhound still lists it, just to confuse any customers that might want to use their service.
Confused customers might want to call the station. Clever move! But those customers would find that Greyhound, as always, is a step ahead! First, to confuse such customers, there is one number listed for their station on the greyhound website, and another completely different number listed in the local phone book. No matter, because anyone dedicated enough to call these numbers will find that neither one actually answers the phone, or even bothers with an answering machine to detail things like hours of operation, addresses, or bus times. Silly bits of information like that, that modern businesses often wish to present to their customers. Additionally, in their local phone book, where they list this phone number, seemingly disconnected from a working phone, they list no address. To a bus station.
Can I repeat that? In the Lexington, Kentucky phone book, Greyhound chose to list the phone number, but NOT the address of their local bus station. And they don’t answer that phone. This is why, incidentally, my taxi cab ride was necessary.
Anyway, back to my actual trip. As I said, there are 2 busses that leave for Cleveland daily: one bus departing in the morning, one about 8 hours later. I arrived in the morning, purchased my ticket, but when I tried to board I discovered they had overbooked the bus by about 15+ passengers. The driver never really explained this to us in so many words. He just sort of stopped the line of people from boarding the bus and said “Ok. Can’t take anymore folks. The rest of you are going to have to take the next bus, or else you can stand in the aisles. ‘Course then you’re ridin’ at your own risk.” He never did say a word of explanation about how we all came to have tickets to get on his bus, or why they had sold us these tickets. At that particular time, I didn’t ask - I was overwhelmed with the sudden desire not to wait around that bus terminal for additional 8 hours (or arrive into Cleveland at 1am for that matter).
So it was that I sat in the aisle for the first 2 hours of my trip (until our first major stop). It really wasn’t that bad. But what I found comical is that they have a similar practice in the Philippines. The difference is, when they overload a bus in the Philippines they have plastic chairs that they set down in the isle for passengers to sit in, and if you ride on greyhound you have to sit cross-legged on the fucking floor until a seat opens up.
So basically, what I’m trying to say, in complete seriousness, is if you want to find a better run bus line than greyhound, try looking in some 3rd world countries. You’ll find them. Easily.
Then there was my bus returning from Cleveland to DC. From what I could tell, they overbooked that bus so massively that they had to split it into 2 busses. I was on the second bus to depart – 2 hours late. I think the difficulty was in finding a bus driver, who, when she finally arrived, seemed quite disgruntled. She just might have been the least friendly bus driver I’ve ever had. One customer was loudly discussing his dis-satisfaction with another. Not in a belligerent or angry manner mind you, more with an amused “once they’ve got your money you’ve got no leg to stand on” resignation”, but he made no attempt to keep his voice down. He must have offended the driver, because she asked him if he needed to get off the bus.
This driver proceeded to get lost at every stop along the way, including getting hopelessly lost for about 45 minutes in Pittsburgh (during which time she also hit a sign). Now, if by chance any representative of Greyhound should read this, I’d like to make you an offer. I recognize that we are living in an age of technology. I have multiple friends who have their very own hand-held GPS devices, which would have directed my driver out of any one of these messes. However, I do recognize that these devices are not cheap (I certainly don’t have one yet) and bus drivers certainly aren’t known to be rich. I guess greyhound can’t afford to provide it for them yet.
All the same, GPS is really overkill, isn’t it? If ever I do ride Greyhound again, I would like to personally offer to pay an extra 20 cents on my next greyhound ticket to cover the printing cost of Mapquest directions. Now, I realize that this might only cover the cost of directions to one or two stops, but surely we can find a second person willing to donate 20 of their cents too? Or maybe someone could sell a cigarette and we could print the whole route out?
Anyway, I was supposed to have a 2 hour layover in Pittsburgh. Instead they held the bus I needed to transfer to there at the station a whole half an hour for me (to their credit!!).
And the final leg of the journey? Well it might have been quiet, but it wasn’t. I ended up engaged in two conversations with two very different people over the course of the journey. First, I sat next to a middle-school teacher from Pittsburgh. Now, I’ve been on my share of bus rides in my life, and I’ve seen lots of people start of conversations with people they have randomly found themselves next to. I’ve never been the sort of person to do that. I keep to myself. But this one day seemed to be an exception, and though I couldn’t tell you her name, I got along really well with this elderly middle school teacher. Probably it was her sense of humor. We talked about half way from Pittsburgh to Maryland. At that point, she got off and I ended up sitting next to my second conversationalist.
My 2nd conversationalist (conversationalist #2) was about my age, maybe a little younger, black, in a suit jacket, and I’ve come to believe he was mildly autistic, schizophrenic, and obsessive-compulsive all together. I know that’s a pretty impressive list to put together, but he was a pretty interesting character.
He would break long silences with questions like “What does your pillows smell like?”
[Pause] [humoring pillow sniff] “Feathers”
“Oh.” [Pause] “From here it smells like hair gel” (It smelled like absolutely nothing).
Or he would say things like “I was thinking the other day, do you think it’s possible that the government could have raised us from birth to work for them, only we wouldn’t ever know it?”
“Uh… I think that might be possible. But I don’t think so. That’s a scary idea.”
“Nah. I don’t believe that.” [Unsure eye shift] “That’s crazy. I don’t think that’s true.”
And over the course of the ride he told me that the day before he had been riding going the other way, but he had been kicked off the bus (he didn’t say why and I didn’t ask) and discovered that pizza places won’t deliver to the bus station, and he described certain places around the area, but in a way that made them sound like they might be imaginary. Certainly parts of his description were, like stairs that you didn’t want to go down very quickly, because they sucked you down.
The truth is, he was definitely the lighter side of crazy, but I liked him. He seemed like a personable guy. I think the funniest part about the whole thing was when he asked me what I did for a living, and I ended up telling him about my peace corps experience. His response was an almost instant, amused “Off alone in some hut in a jungle on an island? Nah, I don’t believe that”. Although I did convince him pretty quickly I think, there’s something really funny about a schizophrenic man refusing to believe what you tell him.
Anyway, I got home. And thanks to Greyhound, I’m not likely to forget my travels.
|Saturday, September 1st, 2007|
|Tramp, keep on a-trampin'
Today I’ve been home for 2 months.
Yesterday, I sat outside and remembered what it was like, the first time I returned home. Not when I returned 2 months ago, but 3 months ago, to visit. The first time I’d been home in over a year, and how strange and perfectly normal everything seemed all at once. Memories like that don’t strike me when I call to them. They come unbidden, disorienting my thoughts and concentration. Coming home that first night held several currents of emotion for me, particularly in my side yard where no side yard had been when I left for the Philippines. This made the yard something of an oddity – the rest of my house seemed more or less how I had left it, as did the people. I think a lack of evidence had my subconscious mind convinced that I had never really left. Peace Corps was no more real an adventure than Dorothy had, only I had aswang (mythical flying bat people) instead of flying monkeys, and malaria prophylaxis instead of ruby slippers.
Yet here, this side yard was bothersome. It poked a glaring hole in the “the last year an a half didn’t happen” theory my brain was espousing. A nagging thought was gradually shoving upwards into my consciousness: This new house resembled the home I’d left, but could not be mistaken for the same place.
And last night, in the side yard, that feeling of having returned home but also to a somehow strange place trickled through me again. Memories of that first night tugged at me, begging for attention. It was only 2 months ago guys, what’s so urgent?
Since the last time anyone’s read anything here, a lot has happened. I went down south to North Carolina to stay with my brother and cousins in my grandma Joan’s beach house for a few days, and naturally I had a great time catching up with family. I hadn’t seen grandma for a matter of years (she’s been busy being MAYOR!!! And the rest of us have been busy being losers and living far far away), and of course I haven’t spent time with my cousins or aunt in a while.
Then I helped David move up to the UK. That was a fun trip, one which began with some sort of bird (perhaps a vulture or raven) trying to either dive bomb or land on our car as we sped along on a busy interstate.* I’d never been to Kentucky before, but I will say this: they have plentiful horse statues, voluminous sacks of rice, and overwhelming walmarts. And, seemingly out of left field, the fortunate man has an Irish-style pub within walking distance of his house. I can only assume the UK placed it there out of respect and anticipation of his arrival.
I’m not sure what to say about Lexington, Kentucky. I have a feeling, like many college towns, it’s different now that college is in session. When I was there, it was, for all intents and purposes, a small town. It was hot, and things were slow, but the campus was slowly starting to move, preparing for the school days ahead, the area was like water slowly rolling just before the boil.
After I had helped Dave move in, I ended up at the Greyhound station, bound for Cleveland. Jinx was, after all, turning 25 in a matter of days. And how long had it been since I’d seen my cousins in Cleveland anyway?
Oh, right. A year and a half.
*Miraculously I feel fairly certain the bird survived his final landing, although for how long I couldn’t say
|Thursday, July 19th, 2007|
These days, the currents of life seem to be passing me by faster than usual. Or is that slower? I'm not sure. All I know is that I've lost the ability to tell. Recently I've been looking back to the beginning of my weeks and thinking "Really? That was just monday, was it?"
I took up work as a misc office worker for DSA for roughly 4 days. That was fun. Got some files in order, managed to accomplish some feats that I thought might have required greater skills with computers than I possessed. I'll be back at work doing that again soon enough, no doubt but meanwhile greater duties come first!
At the last minute, against all the rules, I had the gaping hole in my jaw filled by a dentist and followed my parents to nantucket like the dutiful son that I am. To help with the manual labor and stuff, you know. The sort of thing a son can't get out of.
I left for Nantucket about a week ago, and I've been here about 5 days now. It's been grand. I've been kayaking, and really enjoying it. Every day until today, come to think of it. There's something wonderous about traveling in such a fragile, but mobile manner over the water. And drifting on a pond is really a different experience when you're literally drifting just a matter of inches over it. It's more interaction.
I saw seals in the ocean the other day. I've never seen seals swimming in the wild before - didn't even know there WERE seals on nantucket. But there they were, right out in the tide, so close in we could easily have been swimming with them.
When my father first spotted one, I thought it was a person. A seal head bobbing up and down looks remarkably like a persons head, and I was all getting concerned until I noticed several more heads. Then I assumed it was several people swimming together, and I was relieved, when actually it was a great number of seal swimming together. The most I counted at one time were 8, but I'm sure there were at least 10, I just couldn't count them together because they were always diving and never together.
They were so close. So incredibly close, much closer than any dolphin I've ever spotted. In fact, I don't think they could have gotten any closer without the waves smashing them on shore. I'm quite certain they were staring at us too. Actually they followed us down the shore after we lost interest in them (or lost interest in standing there staring at them in the wind), and it seemed to me that they would edge closer when they thought we weren't paying such close attention to them. It was... really quite an experience, and an entirely unexpected one.
So that's where I am now folks. Kayaking, enjoying the company of family, seal watching, and actually managing to be vaguely productive too if you can believe it. Hope everyone out there is doing so well.
Long days and pleasant nights,
|Friday, July 6th, 2007|
|Here I exist - p5 - The Joy of Homecoming
So the last four entries have been sort of despirited. Couldn't have come off very well. But let's be honest here for a minute - I'm back in America: Land of Milk and Honey! When I haven't been on hold, lost hopelessly in some bureaucracy phone maze, I've been having lots of fun, and just generally happy to be home.
I landed 6 nights ago, and in that time I've eaten great mexican, sung heartily in a pub, seen quality fireworks displays, gone to the beach (well it was sort of a beach), gamed until 4:30 in the morning. It's been good, even in the midst of everything else, to be home.
It looks as if I'll be around for a while, no matter what happens. My best case scenario places me here for a month and a half, and of course my worse case scenario never sees me back in the philippines. It looks like I'm going to be doing some part time work for DSA to get some extra spending money, and that will be good. If I don't go home... well my options are many. But it's early for such thoughts.
Long days and pleasant nights everyone,
|Here I exist - p4 - The Sinuses - Case Open
Now I've got the trick of trying to figure out how best to deal with my sinus infections. The first step, all on its own, is a tricky one - seeing an ENT. In order to get the Peace Corps to let me see an ENT, I need the neurologist (the one doctor the peace corps had decided I DO need to see) to recommend that I see an ENT. He's already done that. BUT as it turns out, he needs to do so in writing, also saying the reasons he wants me to see one, and what he expects an ENT to find. And I need to fax that to some guys, who will then approve or disapprove it.
Then there's what I want. Do I want to pursue this sinus issue right now? I'm afraid that if I do, it will vastly hinder my chances of returning to the Peace Corps. Or will it? If I am successful in actually getting the surgery, well I'm not sure if that really would hinder me. Because my medical issues would be solved, right? And I'd be much happier, especially if it helped or solved my migraine issues, which at best current hope could simply be diminished.
Of course this all hinges on what an ENT has to say. I certainly want that second opinion, regardless of what that opinion is. Honestly, their opinion could heavily impact my life just now. Hope I find a good doctor.
|Here I exist - p3 - The Neurologist - Center Stage
Even before I arrived home, I took the advice of my health officer and arranged my appointment with a Neurologist. As luck would have it I was able to see an excellent neurologist at the soonest plausible date! He didn't tell me much unexpected - but he did say that he wasn't confident my sinus issues were causing my migraines, though he felt they might be making them worse. Might be.
In any case, this man is the key. My perception of things is that the best chance I have of appealing this decision and applying for reinstatement is to find an effective treatment for my migraines that I can live with, and to do so as soon as possible. He is an excellent neurologist, and he's convinced me to give Topomax a chance, as well as Imatrex (ironically a combination of treatments I was already getting while I was in the Peace Corps).
So I've got this treatment now, and another appointment in early august. I'm keeping a migraine calendar for him and hopefully, next time I see him, he'll be willing to write a letter saying that I'm healthy enough for Peace Corps service - a letter that should fuel my reinstatement. Unfortunately, this puts me back in the Philippines by mid-august at the absolute earliest.
And of course there are hitches in a plan like this; ie I need medicine. And when I dropped my prescriptions off at the pharmacy, I quickly learned that my new peace corps insurance doesn't know who I am. Not the pharmacy services branch anyway (they're being paid by a company, who's paid by another company, who's paid by another company, who's paid by peace corps, or so my phone calls have informed me). But that was days ago, and as of this afternoon, I think that's been solved. I'll find out soon.