The New Old Me

On June 28th I had spent the night at a friend’s home and then got up early to take a shower before being driven over to the hospital. Once there I checked in and a short time later I was directed into a small room to undress and put on the hospital garments.

My parents weren’t going to be there after getting into an argument with my mother. She thinks I’m a lazy, self-centered, lying, man and won’t talk to me anymore. I was trying to reach out to her and form some kind of communication with her because it has been strained but she just made it worse. I’m not seeing any viable way to repair it now and I let her know not to come down, it wasn’t worth it.

All my other family and friends were kept in the loop about what was going on mostly with some people knowing more than others just because some of my family members have medical backgrounds and they knew what they needed to know when chatting with me.

I looked out the window from my room in that early hour and saw my chance to rebel. I could press my gross nakedness up against the glass and let the public all gasp in horror, but it was so early no one would have seen it and I let the thought pass. Soon I was seated in my chair waiting for the staff to get me ready and wondering when I was going to start freaking out.

The nurses came in first to set the IV but as always I had to warn them that even with extra liquids, I’m difficult to get a surface vein that works. Usually people try a few different places until they find one that works but these people were on a schedule and if it caused me pain but it worked then that is the one they were going to use. So, with a little injection to numb the back of my hand, they were able to effortlessly get a good stab on a working vein. Soon I was connected to a bag of something and kept comfortable until it was time to head to surgery.

I’ve never had an experience such as this other than having my wisdom teeth removed and that setting was completely different. I don’t think I even took off my shoes when they pulled the teeth and the room where they did it reminded me of an old 70’s doctor’s office. Not this though, this was in the new surgical center and not a single strip of wood paneling was in sight. They had me get up and walk down the hall to the operating room and then my mind went somewhere else.

The room was really big with a bunch of equipment set around a central table with separate arms that swung out from the sides. The room was rather chilly but not as bright as one would expect. There were two arms mounted to the ceiling for devices that I cannot remember looking directly at because I was more fascinated with the ceiling in the middle. There was a different set of tiles where the equipment was mounted to the ceiling and I was trying to figure that out and now that I think back on it, I wonder if there wasn’t something in my IV that made me disconnect from reality a little.

Soon I was laid down and made as comfortable as possible on the narrow bed. They covered my legs with warmers and put a blanket on me, then rested my arms on the little side arms. And then, well, that is where things get a little off for a moment.

I have this memory that I cannot place because I have no sense of time for it. The event could be before they started or after they finished but I’m not really sure. There was a brief moment where they had a respirator mask on my face and it was not seated just right and I saw it being pulled away a bit from my face and then set back down in the right position and then I was out again.

The next time I woke up I was in some darkly lit room and I could not discern what my surroundings were except for there was possibly a nurse either beside me or near the foot of the bed. I think was really got me to wake up was the kid screaming constantly across the room. I was trying to say something myself but the words would not come out and that was a little worrisome but then I was out again.

Then I was back where I started and no idea how I got there. Sitting in the chair in the little room with my friend just coming in and me responding with some semblance of a joke. I would drift in and out of consciousness for awhile and get a couple shots of pain reliever until I could finally sit up. Almost immediately after that the staff came in and wanted me to go for a walk and that was not happening. Although I was able to eat and drink, I hadn’t had any real food for over a day and I was really weak to the point were movement was making me feel sick to my stomach. Eventually though I was able to stand and then a little while longer I walk walking down the hall.

What came out of this all was a gallbladder with many stones in it including one about the size of a golf ball. After the recovery pain, healing of the scars, being able to move around, and getting back to my regular life, I can say that it was definitely worth it. I can eat dairy and fats without having to be curled up in pain waiting for it to go away. I no longer have to fear that something I am going to eat is going to trigger the pain and leave me incapacitated for hours at a time. This has given me back my old life.

Still, there are some differences in that I still don’t trust food completely yet. I have had some cheese from different foods but I’m wary of having ice cream yet. I have been doing good with my low fat, low carb diet and I don’t think I’m going to give it up just yet. Right now my weight has leveled off because I haven’t been walking as much so maybe when I get more active and lose another 50 pounds I can have a small cup of ice cream. Maybe.

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Lately I have been feeling a little reserved because of something new in my life. The pain I had been having for such a long time, off and on again, turned out to be my gallbladder being obstructed by a large gallstone and down further it contains several other smaller ones. Because of this discovery I will need to have my gallbladder removed through which I will need to be sedated and lose track of myself for a short period of time.

I can’t tell if I’m worried, lost in thought, or aloof about the whole idea but I do know that the chance of having that pain from the gallstone again definitely scares me more than the surgery. I just don’t know how to feel about it all combined with the busy weekend schedule I have been having and the Sentra being parked for awhile until I can get the engine looked at. Plus, I’m looking at another MRI to look at the tumor in my head to see where we are at with that treatment so there is another item to think about.

It helps to keep my mind off of the issues and what helps with that is by being at work to keep me more or less distracted from my life. Right now I have to pry myself away from my desk to go home because I would rather be there, working on an Excel project I have, than to come home and sit in the silence wondering how all of this will play out.

There are things to do here at the house that I surmise could provide me with some distraction but more and more I end up sitting on the bed thinking about everything that I need to address before that date. So much I have to clean up and organize, paperwork I have to prepare, maintenance, everything, and letters I need to write that will lead me back and around to the issue once again. Now I remember what it was like when they found the tumor in my head but that was scarier on some levels whereas this issue has similar risks despite it being a relatively common procedure.

In about a month this will happen so I have time to process it and get myself from this melancholy state and back into the strange world where I am accustomed to more dark and twisted views so once again I can laugh it all away. Yet for now I’m trying to search out my feelings and figure out what I should be doing right now.

There are friends and family helping out with the logistics for getting me to and from this future task and I’m not particularly worried about that. I’m not even worried about the procedure itself or the post surgery recovery. What has me in a funk is that period of time that my mind will be shut off and time passes in a blink. I’ve gone through the process once before and it was terribly confusing coming out of it.

The chemical they use to sedate you does something different than put you to sleep, it causes the brain to drop into a different consciousness level where it is not aware of any outside stimulus and although you are not awake, you are not asleep either but more or less mentally paralyzed. Granted, it’s for the better that one be unaware of people cutting into your body and removing defunct organs and I’m glad we have that technology to perform that switch but it still bugs me.

For me, I’m always actively talking to myself and working on ideas, visualizations, planning, creating, feeling, and sorting and the mere thought that all of that will be switched off is like being trapped in a box with no lights and no air. Mental Claustrophobia if you will.

I will be fine though. I will get through it. Especially if it means I can have some ice cream once again without the worry of excruciating pain. That will be nice.

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Angular Implementation

I’ve been travelling around the wilds of South Dakota, looking at the small towns that most people never see, and one item has stood out for me so much that now I’m looking at everything for this one feature. Pretty much every building that is not used exclusively to store grain is rectangular or contains sharp corners.

Almost every home, garage, barn, office, etcetera, has a rectangular floor plan including my home, my workplace, and any place I have ever lived. There are some exceptions but very few buildings contain curves or round floor plans and now that I see this, I find it really odd.

Granted, I understand that it is simpler to build with square corners and older construction was fast by doing this but as we reach into these modern times of new construction methods and new understandings of energy conservation I wonder why we still cling to such an inorganic design.

So far, I’ve only seen a few types of residences that have either a curved portion or a rounded corner but it is usually excluded to one corner of the building and most of the time it was on houses that were in the more opulent neighborhoods. Some of this has to do with how you put a window into a curved wall and not many could get curved glass windows. Otherwise the vast majority of homes are variations of squares and rectangles stitched together to give dimension but always standing out from nature, never blending in with it.

And yet as I look at pictures of round homes online I still see a sharp contrast that makes me painfully aware that our homes don’t belong. Maybe it is the contrasting color or still having sharp roof lines that bothers me so much. But in reality it is going to be “each to their own” when it comes to what works or not.

In my ideal setting, I would like to have a place that was set into a hillside where most of the house was underground and the roof extended the drop in the slope. It would need to face southeast to gain the warmth and light of the sun with a small courtyard to spend time outside when it was nice. The main structure would need to be like a crescent that was visible but only when you were right up to it, hidden from the side where vehicles would travel. A place where it looked out over the valley where very little human activity is visible so that it could be open and private at the same time.

But for now I will have to accept the square corners of my home on the rectangular section of land that it sits upon. Maybe one day I can upgrade with a turret style living room, or make a curved garage space. Either way, I will still explore and look for something that feels right.

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The Me Variable

I haven’t written anything in a while because of one thing or another but there has been constant inner dialogue about what I should be saying. Some of my thoughts have been about the people I have lost and others have been about the day to day activities with a few scattered thoughts about new ideas I have wanted to explore.

Right now I’m recovering from a cold that has been keeping me mostly in bed or doing less active activities while my body goes through the motions of attacking the invader and flushing the dead from the system. Mostly I’m drinking fluids and eating pain pills to deal with the coughing I have to do to get this cleared up. I’ve been sick enough to know that despite all of the annoyances there is with coughing, it has a good purpose besides spreading the contagion around for others.

In a related type of pain, someone noted that they didn’t realize that I was still so affected by losing Angela. It’s been four years now since I lost her and after spending nearly fifteen years together and due to the way I found her I really don’t expect myself to fully get over it. I have PTSD from the whole experience and certain thoughts and ideas will still take me down into that pain where I found her so that is something I contend with every single day by being aware of those triggers and adjusting to make sure I don’t fall into that well of pain. Plus, on top of that, a big portion of the things that I own were either hers or given as presents to me so again I am fully aware of my position but I know how to deal with it and I don’t let it take me over. I get a couple days every year to be super mindful but most of the time I’m a functioning individual and it doesn’t prevent me from living my life.

I have two primary views about life that I look at every day and they are what determines how much I need to be social or retreat into my introvert cave and hide away.

The first view is that the universe is going to destroy everyone and everything around me the longer I go on, with the eventual snuffing of my own flame. It is my grand view that life exists in a certain way and despite the little ups and downs of the human civilization, we are less that a thought in the universe. All of us are going to come and go just as everyone before has come and gone. The planet was born from dust and fire and will die in dust and fire, taking all of the successes we have created and wiping them out completely. The only relics of our existence will be the probes that are still flying out past the solar system until they too encounter something that destroys them. It is all just so big an ominous that there is no reason to be worried about the strife we experience here.

The second view is that while we are here, try to find the thing that makes you happy and roll with it. Try to accumulate the resources you can to get you to that next stepping stone and see what you can do with it. You will still experience pain, loss, fear, and many other things that make life appear to be hopeless but the way to escape that is to find that happiness. It’s not going to be easy and it might make some other people angry or confused but it is that special thing for you that is going to make this life important to you.

In my case I see where my universe is trying to collapse upon me and I take steps to adjust and work around those problems. Sometimes I have to take some less-than-honest approaches to this survival but it works. With all of the pain and hurt I have discovered a ton of things about myself and the world around me. I see my problems and my faults then use some creativity to keep them from tearing me down and work towards that perceived happiness. As I have said before like many others, I am my own worst enemy. And yet, I am able to come up with some really neat ideas for others and myself and that inspiration keeps me going and looking for that next stepping stone.

Right now I’m working on rebuilding some of my finances so I can pay off some more debts but I’m not letting the debts control my life. I have the ability to forego certain bills without having to worry about the negative consequences of financial ruin. This way I can still take care of my monthly bills, make car repairs, work on the house, and treat myself and others from time to time without worrying about making it to the next paycheck. Mind you, my methods are not for everyone and I don’t think I will be writing a book about it to sell on TV. Money is always one of those things that is nice to have but also it can be the ruin of someone that gets in over their head with it.

Just like finances, material objects have a way of overwhelming a person and that is the other thing that has been eating away at my life over the years. So every day I take more and more steps to try and clear away more of the things that I own and get them to people that can be burdened with them instead. My plight is that I hate just throwing stuff away and want to resell or recycle as much as I can so sometimes the process of cleaning up can be daunting. Not a hoarder mind you but I know I need to clean up more. The bigger problem is that I have inherited things from people over the years and those items carry with them a lot of emotional memories and those then are the hardest for me to let go of.

A little¬†bit of pain and the world coming apart mixed with a little bit of finding happiness in things and this is my life. And as I type this I can feel my mind start to grind to a halt. I’ve dumped as much as I can think of, as broken as it appears to be. Maybe a little more strangeness on another date.

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Spaghetti Fractures

Something is amiss in my creative process lately and I have not been able to figure out what to do about it. I can write but I really do have a different focus that I wish to be undertaking other than just general writing. There are projects that I want to work on but when I do, my brain goes limp like a wet noodle and I resort to less creative, less mind taxing issues.

There are people that I need to write letters to and let them know about the deeper nuances of my life and personal adventures that I go on which I don’t share in other online outlets. The personal touch I can put into a letter is one of my creative passions and yet when I sit down to try and channel those thoughts they all come out so very vanilla. There isn’t a splash of flavor to them like I want them to be and I think part of it is because I have too much going on both in my mind and out in the physical world.

My days involve computer support and repair and my nights are filled with information overload from YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Hearthstone, and various other small games found in apps on my phone. There are books that I really need to sit and read and training that I really need to study and yet the constant flow of information pulls me away as if there are multiple instances of boredom constantly flashing by between the lights and sounds of the Internet coaxing me into a new behavior.

The only escape that truly takes me out of this massive electronic ocean is when I can focus on the repair and updates of both the house and my vehicles. That hands-on work is the best distraction and I really do need more of it to build up better experiences that I can share and possibly give me more diverse stories to write for others. As the days get warmer I think that this will become more and more of a reality and then other ideas will become workable projects as well.

Part of this comes from trying to figure myself out and trying to see why I have such difficulties learning some things but excel and others. What I enjoy doing the most involves lots of complete silence but the world I work in partially requires my verbal communication and they language is a bit of a stretch sometimes to keep track of. That verbal component of my ability to learn is much like trying to get anything to stick to a Teflon coated all. You can tell me things but if I can’t read it or experience it then it gets lost.

As I dwell on these learning issues I get a better sense of the direction I need to go to get my projects worked on more and that means dumping some of the accumulated information in these online writings. Essentially the information overload is preventing me from exercising the creativity held in my grasp. There is so much going on that I cannot take from my surroundings because they are blinded behind the glowing screens of my digital devices.The inspiration I need has to come from less technological sources and that means I just have to get out more.

Right now, the letters can be done any time but one project is time sensitive. I am refining a design that needs to be sent off to company so that they can manufacture it and get the final product to me so I can present it to someone. It’s an idea that might have some meaning to others but to this one person I think they will really like it … I hope. But still I need to get out of this funk and finish it. After that, I guess I had better look more at doing repairs to the house while I come up with another idea.

Although taking away the electronic distractions sounds like a good way to bring back my creativeness, I think it will eventually turn around on its own. My ideas do suddenly blossom unexpectedly it’s just that this time, I wish they would happen faster.

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The Learning Angle

Over the years I have had problems with various educational systems. A lot of time and effort by many people have tried to figure out what is “wrong” with me but in the end I have come to learn that what is happening is that I fall into a couple now defined learning styles. Of the three styles defines, Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic, each has their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to grasping information.

I know I have mentioned my specific attributes before but I keep running into the learning traits time and time again as it is part of my daily life to learn new things and remember information. Mostly this becomes a problem while I am at work because there some information is only presented in a certain style or worse of all the training materials are only in a certain format.

Sometimes I can make things work out but most of the time I find it all highly frustrating. My coworkers hear me gripe the most when it comes to new training material and at times I’ve had someone just tell me the answers in order to get through it. Cheating, yes. Worth it, definitely. But it’s only for the simple review stuff and not the major certification things.

How do I learn? Well, I have a combination of Visual and Kinesthetic learning styles and I really suck at Auditory. I do really good with things that I can touch and think about visually, my memory is all visual, and I can usually pick up on a task within one or two attempts. But, you tell me to do something or expect me to memorize something without being able to write it down and I will most certainly forget it in a few seconds.

So, right now my biggest challenge is that I am being asked to complete the certification for Lenovo’s basic course. The course is all presentation with very little reading and because I have no idea what to focus on, it is really painful to go through. To add to this, I got tired of listening to it and decided to take the test once to see how I would do and I got a 78% … 80% is passing. *grumble*

Pretty much I have to find a moment where I can accept the pain of learning from the auditory angle but since it is so irritating I am thinking that I might have to have a little alcohol to calm my nerves. Even then it is going to take me forever to get through it because I need to take breaks, constantly, to let my mind sort through it all and create notes that actually mean something to me.

A nice little PDF of the material would be the best solution but then I guess you could cheat on the exam. I get why they did it this way but it takes people like me out of the success rates. There is no good answer to meet everyone’s needs but I have to vent about it. I need to be grumpy with this one.

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Clicking Paper

Back in college I fell in love with the process behind Text Markup and the programming tool that we used to analyze texts with, SPITBOL. The initial direction of text analysis was just a starting point for me and I have since created the outline for a much grander project, which has gone nowhere.

I have this theory that human speech isn’t just a repetition of words but, when done confidently, a subtle musical flow that can be extracted and then applied to texts. By finding that flow of music which is a combination of the sounds that are in each English word and the pauses and gaps between words, one could create a text to speech system that would sound completely natural to anyone listening to it.

In my spare time at college I would try to take the code I new and find out everything about how it functioned and what else i could do with it to meet this new idea. SPITBOL was designed so that it would allow me to access external programs and include them in the final compiled code. This then gave me the flexibility to create a program to create my own dictionary to build the initial phonetic sounds of each word.

The process at this point is simple. Take a list of all the words in the English language (downloaded from a website as a text file), have a program look up each word on a dictionary website and find the corresponding phonetic breakdown, and then write both the word and the breakdown to a new list.

Another list of the phonetic pronunciations of letters and letter combinations would need similar treatment but instead of just grabbing a corresponding list of data from online, one would need to create a series of musical notes behind those sounds and then apply them to the list of words from earlier. This then would give each word it’s own musical score.

From that preliminary data then, the main program could read any text and play back the resulting musical representation of it. You would be able to “hear” the words but not the actual pronunciation of the words.

Of course there would need to be a little more code to handle the various punctuation marks to add pauses and inflections as well.

That was the start of my project but things in life changed such that I never spent all the time I should have on developing it. Now, years later, I think about how this idea could be expanded upon  with some of the new neural network and deep learning tools available. I wonder if by using my musical extractor with some code that learns if I could create a program that could read any text and sound completely natural but also listen to others speaking and hear exactly what is being said.

Right now if you interact with a system that is operated by a computer, it listens for key words and then responds with new menus. This unnatural way of communication on phone menus is always awkward to deal with and you are left feeling a little off because you really wanted to talk to a person.

But if you took my system, you could build something that would not only listen to your entire speech but also know where to pull the key elements out of it to continue on a meaningful, albeit artificial, conversation. I know this sounds dangerous as well but my intentions for it are a bit more personal. I want a computer at my house to act like Jarvis from the Iron Man movies. Something that has an air of intelligence behind it.

And despite my dreams and my ideas, my lack of progress has let others find the same path and create the solutions ahead of me. Adobe has created a program called VoCo that can listen to a person speak for about twenty minutes and then creates not only a transcript of what was said, but also gives someone the ability to change the speech by just changing the text. With just a good sample of speech, you can make anyone you like (or don’t like) say anything you want them to say.

Who knows what other idea I’ve been sitting on for the last ten years that someone else is about to release. This is why I’ve decided to just write about my ideas because they just fester and become nothing so I’m letting the small group of people I interact with see what is in my treasure chest and at least get it out there even if it goes nowhere.

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