Good Days

Jun. 6th, 2016 04:37 pm
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
I often come here to kvetch when things are going poorly. It seems only fair to share with you all when there's an uptick.

When I visited my GP last Wednesday, she gave me a referral for a psychiatrist, apologizing that it would take a while, and I'd have to go out to BMC, because Codman Square was shorthanded just then. But then, I got a call on Friday asking if I could meet with a psychiatrist at Codman on Monday (today)! I could, and did, and it was a pretty good first visit, though it will be a while for tangible results, if any.

Another result of my GP visit was my decision to stop taking a medication I've been on for quite some time, that was theoretically supposed to help me sleep, but which I hadn't noticed any useful effects from. Two days later, despite my sleep in fact being somewhat worse, my energy level and affect were both dramatically improved. (Still, you know, disabled and with lurking depression, but better than I'd been for some months.) And this improvement has even lasted! Yesterday, I even joined Kes and April for a rainy road trip to Salem, and came out okay. Yes, I was totally wasted by the time we got home, but I bounced right back today. Here's hoping this continues…
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Well, I finally got the decision from the judge. It goes on at great length, revealing that he really did spend a lot of time working on it. It concludes that I am not disabled. Dammit.

As best I can translate/summarize the legalese: since my chronic pain does not have an "objective" source, they assume I'm lying about it.

Thank you to [ profile] siderea for her recent post about objective/subjective in the medical realm; it helped prepare me for thinking about this result.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with my GP. I was already planning on asking for tests that could lead to an official diagnosis that was more convincing to bureaucrats. This plan's urgency has skyrocketed.

Thursday, file the actual appeal, and start the process of seeking (free) legal counsel.

Tonight, cry, hug my wife, eat comfort food.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Spring having finally put in an appearance, I’ve been allocating much of my “productivity” spoons to the garden. For the last two years, the weeds have been seriously crowding out the strawberries. So I have been attacking them.

Now, it’s important to note that THOROUGH weeding is actually counterproductive. When the strawberry plants have no nearby competitors, they spread out rather than up. This leaves the strawberry fruit lying on the ground, and much less likely to reach ripeness intact. With competition, the stems stiffen, lifting even heavy fruit.

That said, I am doing my damnedest to genocide the spiderwort.

When it first showed up, several years ago, I was like “Those purple flowers are really pretty. I wonder what they are?” Some Internet research revealed a plant that went by several names, the most evocative of which was spiderwort. It also seemed to be widely regarded as a pestiferous weed. Knowing that “weed” is a subjective and problematic term, I left the spiderwort alone, due to the beauty of its flowers. This was an error.

Spiderwort starts out looking like a patch of unusually wide grass or reeds. By the time it flowers, it can reach a height of 2 to 3 feet. In late summer, after the flowers have had time to pollinate, the strong stems holding them up… relax. THWUMP! Suddenly, a 2 foot radius of the garden is completely covered in limp spiderwort, stealing all the sunlight. And it puts down new seedlings at the perimeter. If you leave it alone, you will soon have a LOT of spiderwort.

The enemy is well dug in, in multiple senses. But, day by day, the front moves back. I shall not rest until they have been driven back to the sea! Well, okay, not quite that far. But I am gonna get them the hell away from my strawberries.

Dream Argh

Apr. 30th, 2016 05:43 am
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Dreampt that I got news from the Judge. Convicted to time on a Chain Gang. Luckily I was lucid enough to force myself awake from that. Woke in significant pain. Decided to write it down in hopes of getting it the fuck out of my head. Back to bed now...
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Though the weather cannot seem to make up its mind, it is officially (if intermittently) Spring. The time when young men’s fancies turned to thoughts of love – and also not-so-young men. This particular man is grumpy about it.

True, the poly aspect of my marriage has always been observed more in theory than in practice. As Kestrell so memorably put it on a button, “Poly, but I’d probably rather be reading.” It takes time and effort to build up a new relationship, and those are rare resources. But it was exercised on occasion. And just having the option available was often very gratifying. It’s fun, when talking with someone attractive, to think, “If I turned up the charm and put in the effort, there’s a decent chance that they would have sex with me.”

But these days… that train of thought goes more like: “If I did manage to get this relationship onto a sexual level, would it even be remotely worth it?” Except in rare cases where the sexual chemistry is as compatible as the personality chemistry, it takes a while to get to really good sex with a new partner. There is a learning curve as you adjust to each other’s particular quirks and kinks. Any new partner I got at this point would face a particularly steep curve, as so many of my body parts now respond to almost any stimulus with “OUCH!” And my ability to give pleasure is just as compromised as my ability to receive it; my once-proud ‘gamer fingers’ can no longer in repetitive motions for extended periods. And my stamina in general has gone to hell.

It’s not the worst problem in the world, but it is One More Thing. I feel kinda pathetic for whining about it. But I figure that there are enough people among my friends who either have this problem now, or will face it in the years to come, that it’s valuable to talk about it.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
So, the good news is that today was my day in court. I explained to a seemingly sympathetic judge why I think that I count as disabled. I think I did a pretty good job.

I say “I think”, because of the bad news aspect: I don’t find out the actual decision for some indeterminate time yet, when it will be mailed to me. Back in fucking limbo…
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
It’s been a while since I wrote anything of substance here, or indeed, at all. Been a low-spoons kind of winter. I hope spring will improve things.

Chronic pain is chronic. My right arm hasn’t been bothering me much, but only because I’ve been so limited in activity by the pain in my LEFT arm. Saw my orthopedist recently, and got a referral to start a new round of physical therapy. That starts Monday.

Down to about nine hours of “productivity” per week. I put that in scare quotes, because a great deal of that time lately has been devoted to XCOM 2. (Which, by the way, I recommend highly to fans of difficult, immersive strategy gaming.)

Haven’t been able to see my mental therapist since early February, due to computer upgrade chaos at Codman Square. But that seems to finally be ending, and I have appointments scheduled in a few weeks. My low energy lately has led to depression the spikes, and not having a therapist to vent at has been trying.

The legal side of things is a classic case of good news, bad news. I finally have a court date for my appeal to the Social Security Disability Determination people (mid-April). On the flipside, I’m starting the whole disability determination process all over again with Mass Health. And I have every expectation that that, too, will end up being denied and having to be appealed. I expect that, like the Social Security people, Mass Health do not have a ticky-box anywhere in their paperwork for “capable of working, but only for a few hours per week”.

Intermittently doing work on the Providence annotations. I have also been reading Providence to Kestrell. I like sharing stories with people who understand their intertextuality.


Jan. 15th, 2016 09:50 pm
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
I am SO frustrated right now.

In the last week, many of my projects have suddenly acquired new urgency. In itself, this is exciting and good. I spent several days of increased productivity, spurred by exciting new (or recently revived) opportunities.

Then, yesterday evening, the pain hit. I hurt too much to do keyboard work, and even too much to do therapeutic stretching.

This chronic pain is infuriating. There is SO much to do! And I WANT to DO it! But if I don’t rigorously pace myself (i.e. only a few hours per day), it all comes crashing to a halt.

Yesterday evening, despite wanting to do active work, I ended up just trying to distract myself (with limited success) in a tablet game. Luckily, before bed I remembered I had a few issues of Squirrel Girl saved up, so was able to finish the night with a few literal LOLs.

Slowly recovering today. Mostly I like to focus on the positive, but some days I just gotta rant. Don’t worry; I’m doing my ranting into a dictation program.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
One of the foods I like to eat frequently is Campbell’s chunky soup (various flavors). Part of why I like it is that it’s dead simple to prepare. Put it in a bowl, cover the bowl with wax paper so as not to spill, microwave for three minutes, eat. The soup being somewhat thick, and the heating happening very quickly, sometimes odd pockets of pressure build up, and I will hear a BANG noise from the microwave. I’m used to it, it doesn’t mean anything other than perhaps a minor spill.

Just now, however, I heard a much louder bang than normal. I quickly got up to stop the microwave. Opening it up, I discovered that the bowl had managed to overturn itself!

Oh well, the microwave was due for cleaning anyway…
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
The wildebeests have been and gone. I took a few photos, which I’ll be posting on Facebook somewhat later. Most popular superhero was Iron Man. There were also many Spiderman costumes; curiously, the vast majority of those were seven-year-old boys wearing heavy coats over the costume, so you could just see the Spiderman mask through the hood. Batman seems to be going out of fashion among children; while there were many Batman costumes they seemed to be worn only by babes in arms or adults. I counted three Supergirls, though I may have missed some. Somewhat more Supermans. A moderate amount of Hulks and Captain Americas (including two adult women!). One Thor, complete with hammer. Only two Wolverines; how the mighty have fallen. One adult woman wearing an excellent leather Catwoman outfit.

Lots of Power Rangers. LOTS of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, including one group that had green face makeup. Many of the classics: witch, princess, random serial killer, clown, cat girl, fairy, skeleton, vampire. Several Red Riding Hoods. About a half dozen Minions, one with a light saber. A nontrivial number of quarterbacks and SWAT members. Many ninjas. A few aliens and werewolves.

One teenage girl dressed as a credit card!

Just down the block at number six, they were scaring the HELL out of the kids, well done! Sound effect records played loud, much set dressing in the yard, and about a half dozen costumed people wondering about the yard and driveway looking creepy and occasionally actively attempting to scare passersby.

We didn't *quite* make it to 8:00 this year. Tom (with help) handed out a bit under 1600 full-size candy bars, making for an average of approximately one every seven seconds. Due to Charley's tweet, Supergirls got an extra bar, but there weren't that many of those...
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
The place where I get my physical therapy usually has a radio playing. Sometimes, I am doing my stretches close enough to hear the lyrics.

Some of these lyrics seem appropriate to what I am experiencing:
Oh yeah, life goes on
Long after the thrill of livin' is gone
Others, however, seem wrong and insulting in this context:
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, stronger
No, actually, quite often what doesn't kill me nonetheless leaves me significantly weaker and in chronic pain.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
A recent post from [ profile] siderea included the sentence The whole Protestant work ethic thing is based on the notion that you can tell where you stand in God's eyes (and your neighbors') by how "prosperous" you are. This reminded me of some thoughts I’ve been wanting to write about for a while now.

A year and a half ago, when it dawned on me just how much my colleague Shane was willing to commit to our joint project, I had an unusual (for me) set of reactions. Gratitude, of course, but also a sense of disbelief and unworthiness, mixed with wonder. I was deeply grateful that it was happening, but I did not (at that time) understand WHY, nor did I understand what was going on inside my own emotional world.

As I struggled to find language to express these feelings, I kept returning to phrases like “blessed” and “by grace of God”. As a near-lifelong atheist, I noticed something odd was going on. I was experiencing emotions that didn’t seem to map to any prior models EXCEPT explicitly religious ones. This didn’t actually change my (non-)belief in God, but I do recall thinking “THIS is what they mean when they talk about ‘grace’.”

Then, being who I am, I integrated this into my existing moral framework with reference to a 20-year-old computer game :-)

From the mid-80s to the early 90s, the Ultima series of computer games spent an unprecedented (and never-yet-repeated) amount of effort on mixing gameplay with serious explorations of moral systems. These explorations were in many ways very limited, but the degree of engagement caused by mixing them with interactive game systems led to some uniquely powerful lessons. For me, anyway.

1992’s Ultima 7, the last one to deal with morality in any organized way, had one particularly cogent lesson.U7 introduced a new religion to the fantasy world, called The Fellowship. The Fellowship would ultimately turn out to be bad guys. Their moral principles had been carefully designed to make intuitive sense on a cursory reading, but to have distinctly regressive effects when actually put into practice.

One of The Fellowship’s principles was “Worthiness Precedes Reward”. Humans (primates) are hardwired to seek out “fairness”, even when we have to invent it. When positively valenced, this finds expression in ideas like “I worked hard to get where I am today” and “self-made man”. But it has a darker side as well. “You brought this on yourself.” “You must’ve been asking for it.” And so on…

This brings us back to where we started, with the Protestant work ethic. If you are poor, sick, or otherwise disadvantaged AND we live in a “fair” universe, then you must DESERVE to be in such a state. (And those who are better off, of course, have no reason to help you out.)

Of course, despite what our primate wiring would have us believe, the universe is NOT fair, not even close. Yes, there is such a thing as cause-and-effect, but the web of causality is so interconnected and complex that that really isn’t any help. Unfair stuff happens all the time.

I had been used to thinking about the unfairness of the universe when BAD things happened to me, but it was new to me to realize so viscerally how, sometimes, the unfairness could happen in a GOOD way. We are stuck with the bad breaks and no way to avoid them. When unreasonably GOOD things happen, we must accept this as well – with “Grace”.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
By "drug run", what *I* mean is a 3-block walk to Walgreens. Not sure that's what everyone else meant by it tonight... During that short walk, I counted 5 patrol cars, 1 police van, 3 unmarked police cars, and 2 police bicycles. And I probably missed some. Luckily, I seem to have ventured on my errand *after* the main part of the fuss was done, as all those police seemed quite calm. Something about "shots fired", but I don't know any details...
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
In the 1980s, my dad went to work at Computer Security Institute. My major memories of him during this time are of his absence. He worked long hours, and when he *was* home, he was often passed out on the sofa. His boss was a workaholic, and expected the same level of performance from his employees.

What this did to dad, and to our family, upset me a lot, and I swore to never do that. As it turns out, of course, in our late-capitalist society, pretty much anyone who gets to be a boss got that way by being a demanding workaholic, so it wasn’t really feasible to avoid them.

Going through dad’s papers of the period, I found out that dad’s relationship with his boss was even more creepy/abusive than I had thought. I’ve been posting scans of the docs on facebook, if you’re curious.

The boss tried to get dad to lose weight on a specific schedule, with monetary bonuses for meeting milestones. Naturally (or so it seems to me from my current perspective on Kay male behavior), dad failed utterly when presented with this sort of structure.

After dad had been at CSI for about 4 years, his boss went so far as to have a psychological profile drawn up for dad! What I find most fascinating about it is that it could easily have been written about *me*, word for word, if one of my workaholic bosses had ever had such a thing done. Not to say that I *agree* with it all. All the business about “untapped potential” is, IMAO, bullshit. The mind structures that give Kay men their intelligence are the exact same ones that continually distract us, and make it difficult for us to focus on things like ‘career’ and ‘job performance’. We’re package deals, not fixer-uppers.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
So, now that the neck injection is over, I'm allowed to take Ibuprofen again. Yay! (The injection itself isn't expected to 'kick in' for 3-5 days.)

So why am I awake right now?

Sentinels of the Multiverse released a new build to the beta testers this morning. So I got a *little* sleep, but I *literally* dreamed about obscure rules combinations, and eventually the uncertainty woke me up completely and I spent a few hours posting questions on various online forums.


Time for a snack, more drugs, and then sleep attempt, take 2...


Nov. 9th, 2014 10:10 am
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Tomorrow, I go in to get a neck injection that may help with my chronic pain issues. But in the biting irony department, for 48 hours beforehand, I have to stop taking ibuprofen. Last night did not feature much actual sleep. And what sleep I did get was punctuated by dream featuring such restful topics as "wandering around awake because I couldn't sleep from pain" and "watching really bad Star Wars sequels". It's gonna be a looooong weekend, and not in the good way.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Thirteen years ago, on this date, [ profile] kestrell and I were wed.

It's a cliche, but thinking back on it, that may legitimately have been the happiest day of my adult life so far. Asking Kes to marry me is absolutely the number one all-time cleverest thing I have done.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
[ profile] kestrell, [ profile] teenybuffalo, and I visited [ profile] gyzki today, on his not-quite-deathbed-yet. It was both good and bad. He's still recognizably himself, but he's fading. It is a bitter irony for such a great storyteller to lose control of language in his waning days.

If you knew him well in better days, please visit him if you can. He's still happy to have (and capable of recognizing) visitors, but you'll need to supply most of the talking yourself. More details may be found in C.'s post here.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Today's my 47th birthday. Been a roller-coaster year.

Started off unhappy with my work life, and generally unfulfilled. Also, dealing with chronic shoulder pain, that wasn't helping with the whole work situation.

In September, my work situation cleared up drastically, when Irrational laid me off.

I took a few months to chill out. But when I started actively looking for work, there wasn't much out there...

My father's health continued to decline. leading to his death, just before Christmas.

I fell into a black depression, the worst in literally decades. I tried various drugs and therapy, but to no significant improvement.

In February, Irrational Games shit down. Weirdly, this marked the point where things started getting better. My earlier layoff stung a lot less in retrospect. And there were all sorts of opportunities flying through the air. By early April, I had committed to a startup with my old colleague/friend Shane Mathews, and my depression magically lifted.

Things are pretty good, now. My shoulder is still an issue, but I can get some work done every day, at home. I'm doing work that I love, and that I think has a good chance of being Important, at least in a small way. It's not yet clear whether this situation is financially sustainable, but I'll know that better by this time next year, and the financial drain has shrunk to the point where I have no worries about my credit lasting that long.

Looking forward to this year!
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Spent the bulk of Memorial Day working on The Dad Project. About a month ago, I went to the storage unit containing all his worldly goods, and salvaged things that I thought might have some sentimental value. Since then, I've been slowly but steadily going through them. I've mostly been trying not to get too obsessive about it, but Memorial Day seemed like a reasonable exception. So I took a deep dive into the photo archives.

Ye gods, dad took a lot of pictures. And seems to have kept most of them. If you thought I posted a lot of his work before, that's only the tip of the iceberg. Of course, the iceberg is too huge to fully deal with, and now largely stripped of its original context. So phase 1 of the project is, sadly, doing a cursory check through, and throwing out about 3/4 of it. Yes, those are pretty (trees | birds | waves | flowers | landscapes | sunsets | boats | mountains) -- but how many such pictures does anyone need? He even kept all his negatives from the 1960s.

Once I finish the first cull pass (itself a big sub-project), I'm going to see which formats of stuff I can scan myself. Other stuff will need to be sent to someone like ScanCafe. I'll definitely need to outsource the few reels of 8mm film I found in one box!

My plan is to spend an hour or two on the Estate every Monday. Indefinitely. At that rate, it's going to take many months to get through Dad's stuff. But that is, itself, only a sub-project. Once that's done, the focus will move to my *own* estate. Seeing the remains of someone else's life in such detail has brought some things into sharp focus that I had already sort-of known, but am becoming more serious about. I had already internalized that I should be evaluating my own possessions in terms of "Will I ever use this item again?" But now I add to that "Will *anyone* ever use this item again? If I get hit by a bus, will the existence of this item just annoy or confuse my inheritors?" So a lot of my own stuff is going to be getting thrown out, given away, or sold.

Other bits of wisdom:
* If you can't find it, you don't really own it. (Lots more organizing in my future.)
* If you're young, poor, and setting up a household, find an estate sale. People die with an amazing amount of basic household stuff that the heirs don't need and would happily sell to you cheap.


alexxkay: (Default)
Alexx Kay

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