Saturday, January 31, 2009

Altered States

My doctor changed my blood pressure medicine about 3 weeks ago. Now, I've been taking medication for high blood pressure for nearly 20 years, and been through several formulas in the process. My experience has been that, when you start on a different regimen, the drug hits you with with both effects and side-effects, and you learn to tolerate them all. The balance, naturally (or un-naturally, I suppose in this case) is to be found in getting the right imbalance of the desired result over the undesired. What had happened was a change about 7 weeks ago, a follow-up, and then the drug was boosted another 50%. I'm going to try and explain, briefly, what happened to me, for reasoning that I hope will be meaningful.

Beta-blockers basically lower blood pressure by slowing one's heart rate. They are also used as an occasional anti-anxiety drug for this reason. In the first few weeks, I noticed that the slowdown was mental, as well, but, when you tend to be a sullen curmudgeon with occasional outbursts, I didn't see this as that much of a negative. My weight loss continues, albeit more slowly - if I couldn't be fat, then 2 outta 3 (dumb and happy) might not be so bad. As the dosage increased, I found myself having a hard time concentrating, particularly when someone was speaking to me about anything complex; building control programming, the plot of  "Burn After Reading." At the beginning of the week, I started experiencing panic attacks, but they were very,very strange because a> I had absolutely nothing to be that anxious about, which only made me more anxious, and b> my heart rate wasn't rising to meet the anxiety, which physically felt a lot like stepping out on a very high ledge covered in Crisco(the ledge, not me- that'd be really creepy). I slept for a couple of days, changed the time of day for taking the stuff - didn't really make any difference. Saw the doc yesterday, I'm starting today with a combination of a couple of old favorites to perhaps mitigate the problems with both. Of course, a possibility is aggregation rather than mitigation, but if that happens, there's always litigation. I'm just kidding. Healthcare and lawyers - now there's a prescription for side effects lasting more than four hours. But I digress.

The reason I'm writing about this is that I was reminded, over and again as I went through the motions, mostly at work, moving through the same spaces that I've traveled in for 20 some years, but feeling so very different, that we're not perceiving this world identically. We may be occupying the same spaces, but our senses and conclusions can be as different as night and day. If I might be so bold, I think it's been a real factor in my unease this year concerning politics - seeing relationships torn asunder because, in my opinion, they were just incapable of understanding/accepting/relating to a different view than their own. I was quite frightened, on Monday, by the prospect that I knew that something was wrong with me and it was somewhat out of my control - fortunately I was aware of what was (probably) causing it, and could do something about it. I've been contemplating what it would be like to be in that position without the last part of that sentence in force. I've been reminded that, if I truly want to be the kind of person I'd like to be, I need to be aware of others' contexts, perhaps even drug interactions, when interacting with them. This is pretty easy to observe, where I work, where there are ready examples of a full spectrum of humanity -  from the certified mentally ill to the ultimate ego-driven specimens known as surgeons. It is fortunate that the gemütlichkeit of my workplace includes empathy and compassion; they are inherent in the business plan.

So. How do we come to trust what we trust - our senses, each other, gravity? Experience and Love? What if they're wrong, misplaced, misled? Should I even be asking these questions, are they merely borne by beta-blocking? I'm not sure - but I guess that's the point.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Professor Longhair/Bowfinger/I came, I saw, I sat and sawed.

We attended our first concert at Sam's Middle School, last Wednesday evening. We told no one (sorry G & G) because a) we didn't know what to expect and b) Sam advised us that his portion would be rather small. He also wasn't thrilled about a white shirt, tie, and shoes, for that matter. Suitably attired, he assumed his position on stage.



This is only the second year that this program has existed at Pershing. It also looks extremely ambitious to me. There were seven separate groups that performed - separate orchestras for 2 grades, bands for all 3 grades, an 8th grade wind ensemble, and the Pershing Panther Jazz Pride band, complete with 3 bass players playing the "Peter Gunn Theme" in unison. It was actually interesting to track the progress of musicianship from one grade level to the next, and that's all I'm going to say about that. I was most impressed by the way the young teacher managed this large, intermingled group of students, music, and logistical swarming between group changes. He certainly seemed up to the task. Initially, I feared for his sanity. Whether he is in fact sane or not is not actually important; I nonetheless admire his fortitude on several levels.

The auditorium was suitably filled with a family crowd out on a school night. Sam's group, first group up, nervously waited with us through the requisite announcements and introductions. The 6th Grade Orchestra dove right into "Beginning String Medley",
"Grasshopper Chomp", and finally, "March of the Metro Gnome". Thunderous Applause, Sam's done, off the stage, and we settled into our seats for the polite finish.

Evening turned to night. Instruments came and went. Tympani were tuned, re-tuned, and, of course, in true ugly American fashion, the crowd began to dwindle. Sure, part of me longed to join them (mostly my middle-aged rear end on that wooden auditorium seat), but we do our best to teach the right things by doing the right things. Emma even eventually lost interest and turned to the Sesame Street-laden iPod from Mom's purse. The numbness from the aforementioned region eventually spread to my cranium as we passed the two-hour mark. Then, gratefully, it was over. We collected our cellist and headed home to a ten-o'clock dinner.

With the exception of some pre-k bell ringing, this is the first time I've been the one in the audience and not the one on stage. I have a few more times to go before I can sort out all of the feelings about that, and I'm more than willing and happy to do so. Pride and awe in my son, first and foremost. Wistfulness for times past. Newfound empathy for that teacher. Joy at hearing the "Peter Gunn Theme" played with a certain juvenile vigor. The cornucopia of sounds that surround "intonation."  "Playing Through." Yes, I'm thinking of you, Mark. What smug punks we still are - rightly so, man, rightly so. The confidence of youth I saw in those bass players. The promise of things to come, promises kept, spent, fulfilled and left wanting. It was a good evening. Bittersweet.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wanna see my Jr. High School AV qualification card?

***I want to do a lot of things. I don't seem to do many of them. One of my desires is to update this blog at least once very couple of weeks. It's been three, so I've been feeling a certain unnecessary pressure, on top of all of the other stuff that's been not working in my life, lately. So, here we go:***

I have always been a gadget geek, and I suspect that, although there are many varieties of geek, I am one of the worst kind. I tend to buy cheap stuff and spend endless hours finding ways to make them work, rather than spending the money to buy something that works right out of the box, or - better yet - not buying it at all. As I teeter on the precipice of my golden years, I'm tending to buy better stuff, when I can, but even now, on my computer desk, my fabulous iMac suffers the indignities of the insertion of various USB, DVI, and Firewire devices into its ports. The iPod that I received as a Christmas gift confirmed all of this for me. A couple of years ago, I bought my phone, a Motorola RAZR, and soon learned that my carrier had it pretty much locked down in ways that did not please me; capitalistic pig-dogs that they are, trying to maximize their profits by charging me airtime to transfer files! So I hacked it, and have spent probably 3 times more time getting it to do what I want it to do as I have doing what I want to do with it. While there is some satisfaction in this, it's beginning to wane. My iPod does what it is supposed to do, and more, like saving my spot and returning to it in the middle of a podcast. Of course, my Mac-running-Vista-running-iTunes isn't perfect, but it's pretty close. I'm growing more comfortable with irony, every day. HA!

At work, I've been trying to get a PC-based Character Generator/video player thing to work. It's kludgy. It doesn't work anywhere near the way that (what there is of it) the User's Guide says it will. The supplying company, up there in the amorphous mass that is Orange County, has a guy, "Steve" (I think all of the geeks that live in Orange County are named "Steve", I think they're aliens living among us, just biding their time until they can overtake the Disney headquarters and rule the world), who has been extremely helpful, but unable to get me to get it to work. It very nearly does what I want it to do, but fails to complete the entire program. Of course, it does not fail in the same place, nor does it fail in any sort of logical manner that "Steve" has ever experienced. Of course, the implementation of this video programming involves those with political clout in my little world, so I've been under a bit of pressure to make it happen. Because this 'thing' runs on a 24-hour schedule, I've been faced with making a minor change/ticking or unticking a checkbox/etc., then waiting several hours - or until tomorrow - to see if anything positive occurs. After about six weeks, I've finally run out of options, so next week "Steve" will either be coming to visit me, I'll be taking the box up to see him, and/or we'll be buying another box. In this instance, my willingness to "make it work" has probably cost me more in the long run than if I'd given up a month ago. Frugality in the electronic age is not always a virtue, I guess.

Friday afternoon, on the way home, I bought a fairly expensive gadget. I brought it home, hooked it up to my iMac, and it didn't work very well. I goofed and fiddled with it, and figured out that I could eventually get it to do the things I wanted it to do, but it wasn't going to be as easy as either promised, or it should be - it would require geekyness on my part. I resisted my primal urges, packed it all back up into the box, and returned it to the store. I'm still going through withdrawal, and looking for an alternative, but I do feel strangely better. My house is filled with stuff that sorta works, so we keep it (that's probably Vicky's attitude toward me, now that I think about it). I guess I'm trying to behave as if I've learned something, after all of these years.