31 October 2012

To My Hallowed Health


Since about the 2nd of October, I've been having some abdominal pain, generally on my right side. This came packaged with a prolonged sense of pins and needles in my right foot that would occasionally run up and down my leg. Both were persistent, never painful to the point of debilitating, but worrying nonetheless. I chalked it up to a combination of stress and simply sleeping wrong. Short version of the stress and sleep situation: Roommate and I shared a bed for some time, mattress is shot, roommate drives me nuts (see Powers of Observation, and I decide its time to get some personal space. So, like I said, I think it's stress. Then, after the numbness went away, the pain stayed, and I decided to do a little research to see if it was a sign of something more severe.

To give this worry context, I had surgery on my right leg two years ago. Without getting into the gory details (especially following the surgery), I had flu-like symptoms that never amounted to much beyond an occasional cough and the mildest of aches and pains. Next thing I know, I have a lump which I think is a bit of knotted muscle that I chalk up to physical exertion at work. Lump doesn't go away despite applying heat, ice, and massage therapy. I tell my Dad about it (he's a physical therapist), and the moment I mention the location, he virtually says, "Get your ass to the emergency room right now!" as he thinks it's some kind of hernia. I go, and after some back and forth and having about two or three different doctors look at it, followed by exploratory surgery by a specialist, it's concluded that a cluster of lymph nodes in my leg fought off an infection (influenza) and won a costly victory, effectively creating a lot of "collateral damage" with nowhere for it to go, hence building up in that lovely lump. In the end, I have a scar on my leg that's bigger than the one from when I had my appendix out in 1992. Speaking of my appendix...

Turns out "Right Side Abdominal Pain" can refer to a veritable cornucopia of "Oh, Shit!" conditions, including hernia, ulcers, and various organ failures or infections including the kidneys, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. When I called my doctor (this is after two weeks of telling myself, "it's just stress." as it was never all that severe), the receptionist asked, "Are you sure you want to wait for an appointment?"
Luckily, nothing in my condition changed between then and the day of the examination. Between my doctor and her shadow, they were stumped, especially considering I had my appendix out. It was funny how they kept referring back to it, almost like they were angry, "IF ONLY YOU HAD AN APPENDIX, WE COULD JUST SAY THAT'S WHAT'S WRONG!" I know, how dare I got to an all-you-can-eat restaurant at DisneyWorld 20 years ago and ruin your chances of an easy diagnosis. I'm a total bastard.

Anyway, after bloodwork and whatnot came back negative on all fronts, I was referred to Radiology for an ultrasound just last Friday. 12 hours of fasting and a hundred dollar copay later, I was told it would take until Monday for them to have a report. Monday arrived and I patiently waited for the call. When none arrived, I called to ask what the holdup was. It turns out, "ready by Monday" means it's mailed out to my doctor on Monday, and then she'll call me and dictate the results. I know, how dare I take initiative and find out what's wrong with my own bloody body. Total, total bastard.

This brings us to today, a day when the HR lady at my work came up to me and told me that I'd stored up too much vacation time and should take some between now and the next four pay periods to avoid losing any of what I've got. Well, I got the call from my doctor later that afternoon, and learned the results of the ultrasound.


A 12mm lump of solidified bile and cholesterol was discovered in a most precarious position in my gallbladder, which itself looked strangely fine. The stone, meanwhile, could only cause me intermittent pain in its current resting spot just above the bile duct. If it moves, however, it can be extremely painful. Needless to say, I was given a number to the scheduling department at the hospital to get in touch with a surgeon for a consultation. In the meantime, I'm to avoid fatty foods (which I was actually being really good about avoiding anyway) and obviously go to the ER if the aforementioned ductwork gets stoned. At that point, the question will be whether or not the surgeon thinks we can get away with just removing the stone or if the whole situation is problematic enough to yank the whole gallbladder out as well. Hopefully, the whole thing can be done laprascopically (small incisions, narrow tubes, everything except nanoships piloted by Dennis Quaid) and I'll be off work for a few days.

So there's my Halloween. I didn't go as anything, I bought my own candy, and I trumped Charlie Brown by not only getting a rock, but the sort of rock that can't just be taken out of a treat bag and tossed at the tricky treater's window. Beat that, blockhead!

Good grief....

21 October 2012

Never Gets Easier

Today was rather depressing, and it left me at my wit's end, and while there may be a happy ending for my mental state, it means someone else may not have one. A few weeks ago, we came to have a third cat, one that we rescued from a couple taking her to the shelter to be put down. We named her Angel and tried to introduce her slowly to the idea of living with two other cats. We kept her corralled in one of the bathrooms with her own food dish and litterbox. We'd let her out during the day, where one of us could watch her, keep her from fighting too badly with the cats or keep her from marking her territory, and then set her back in at night. Eventually, it worked out to where she was no longer being pent up at night and seemed to be getting along with the other cats.
This didn't last, and she fell back on old habits. We tried everything to help her get back in the habit of using a litterbox and also not overeating. She was painfully skinny when we got her (we even thought she was a kitten until a vet told us she was at least the same age as the other two cats) and while we gave her food, she was so unused to having that much food, she could barely keep it down. The biggest problem this created was that we couldn't get her spayed (which would have stopped her marking her territory, hopefully, and keep the other two cats, both neutered, from bothering her) which meant we couldn't really take her to my roommate's mom's place to be an outdoor cat.
Today was the worst of it. She'd squat down to pee on the rug or a piece of paper on the floor or her little cat cubicle, I'd pick her up to take her to one of the two litterboxes, and practically hold her in until she'd do her business. The fact that I didn't have to do this before is what makes it the most painful. I won't get into the politics of how the three cats have or haven't gotten along, and which of us they have or haven't taken to as a result, but when all is said and done, I just can't take care of three cats.
I went to my roommate, expecting a fight as this was meant to be her cat, and told her, "I can't do this anymore." She turned out to be very understanding, but insisted we try and see if her mom could take her early, keep her penned up in a spare room like we had until she could be let outdoors. There was also the possibility that they'd find someone to take her in. However, I was fed up with waiting, and with my patience gone, I didn't want to wait on promises of "maybe." So, I'm writing this after our talk, and the deal is that she'll talk to her brother and mother, and if they don't have a decision for me by the time I get home from work tomorrow (Monday), Angel will go to a shelter.
This pains me because I've had to do this before with another cat for similar reasons. It also just makes me feel guilty because it's as if I've given up, and there's others out there who wouldn't. I have to assure myself that I did everything I could and that, failing all else, I'm better than the people who had her before. I may not believe in fate, necessarily, but I'm a firm believer in the notion that God helps those who help themselves. Angel has spent countless hours in my lap since we got her (she even let me put her around my shoulders like a scarf, that's how trusting she is), and I've had her looked over by a vet to be given various immunizations and boosters. Now, though, it's as if there's been no change, and I've done all I can for her. I still feel guilty, but my roommate helped me, and I feel confident that I have done all I can for little Angel, but now it's time to move on.
October, and fall in general for that matter, always seem to be the most hectic of Hells for me, and this is just one more thing that's happened. Another reason I'm sending her on her way so early in this week is because toward the end of the week, I'm having ultrasound to find out the source of my abdominal pain, now that my doctor has ruled out absolutely everything the location of my pain indicates. Hopefully, it's nothing, at worst a little blockage, but it's still one more damn thing to deal with.

09 October 2012

Confusion Is Not Stupidity

Something I always wonder is if I spend too much time thinking about words, how people use them, and, most importantly, whether or not they actually know what they're saying. In fact, I often wonder who's actually got what wrong when it comes to words, if I'm the one misreading something, or if I'm right all along and witnessed a genuine murder of English.
I have to tell myself when I'm on the internet that many of the people who commit these acts of textual homicide are either too young to know any better, or are not native speakers like myself. Sadly, unless they up and tell you so, there's no way to know, and you'll always be guessing. Regardless of the reason, however, people need to understand that since at least 99% of the people who read your words don't know you personally, have never heard your voice, or even seen your face, you have to put that much more effort into your words and how you put them together to make up for the lost paralanguage. You can be a reasonably intelligent and rational person, but if you're still mixing up "you're" and "your," no one is going to think that of you and, like it or not, your credibility will take a hit. No, it isn't right to make judgments like that, even if you're one to make them as well, but given that lack of nonverbal information, we can't exactly NOT make them.
I belong to a dating site, and it has this great big emphasis on user-generated content, especially survey questions used to help find matches. They're mostly standard fare, hypothetical situations gauging how one would react to certain social situations and the like. Other questions, meanwhile, are general knowledge questions used to help flesh out one's personal beliefs, and others are just brain teasers, or rather, someone's interpretation of a brain teaser. The question in, er, question, reads like this:

"If you turn a right-handed glove inside out, it fits ___?" with the answers: on my right hand, on my left hand, and what kind of question is that?

I was very suspicious of this question, because I felt like I'd heard it before, and it was one of those lateral thinking riddles that's meant to challenge preconceived notions, with whatever seems like the right answer not being the right answer after all. As such, some of you have probably already have an answer in mind. If so, hold onto it, especially if it's your first impression, the first thing that popped into your head without thinking too hard about it. Don't worry, no one's going to make you feel stupid for guessing wrong, unless you're the person who tried to settle the original version of this question once and for all.
Like I said, I couldn't help but feel like I was missing something about this question. I kept trying to see it as one of those "ton of feathers/ton of lead" or "zero as a number/one as a prime" type of puzzles. So, I tried putting the question itself (or its keywords) in a search to see if this had some other origin. Sure enough, it does, but it reads more than a little bit differently than the one on the dating site.

If you turn a right-handed glove inside out, will it be a right-handed glove or will it now be a left-handed one? 

If you're not seeing the difference between how these questions are worded, remember that the key words in the earlier version are "IT FITS" while now the emphasis revolves around the phrase "WILL IT BE."

What the "WILL IT BE" question is asking is whether or not misusing an item fundamentally changes what that item is to begin with. The "IT FITS" version is merely asking if the misuse can be even be done in the first place. If it still sounds like we're comparing ketchup and catsup, let's use another example:

If you hold a newspaper over your head, it will (if only momentarily) keep your head dry in the rain. Does that make it an umbrella? No, it's still a newspaper, but it's doing the work of an umbrella. If a robot in a factory is doing a job otherwise done by a human, is that robot a human? Again, no, it's just doing the work of one. It shares qualities with, can stand in for, and can even improve on, something else but it ultimately retains its original identity. With that all in mind, let's go back to those answers you were asked to retain from earlier, your knee-jerk, first-response to the "IT FITS" version of the question (as it appeared on the dating site).

If you said, "left hand," you are correct. If you said, "right hand," you're also correct, just a little ahead of the game, if not being more practical about the situation. That glove will fit on either hand, but it's going to be a better fit on the one it's made for, and it obviously won't fit both hands at once.

In the end, even if the version on the dating site is somewhat simpler than the other one, it works equally well as a kind of personality test than a lateral thinking exercise, with people answering the question divided into, say, pragmatists and pedants or outside/inside-the-box thinkers, however you want to read it. Something may have been lost in translation, but it gained insight in the process, walking away a little wiser, perhaps.

Then, there's this buffoon:

This answer was not given on the dating site, but on the other site containing the "earlier" version of the question. For starters, it's not actually a yes or no question, not the way it's worded; it's an either/or question, on both sites. Second, going back to what I was saying about credibility and, to paraphrase, "sounding as smart as you are" this site was an "Answers" site like Yahoo!Answers or eHow. In fact, it was the original Answers site. As such, it's meant to be a tad more formal than your average forum or chatroom or message board, because that's what the site expressly exists for. Between the lack of punctuation and capitalization, not to mention the all-too-pointless addendum of "lol," nothing indicates that the person writing this wants to be taken seriously or seen as any sort of expert on the subject. He may think he's solved the Sphinx's riddle, but all he's done is made a bigger riddle of himself and how exactly he believes he comes across when writing like this. Does he think that pointing out his own "out loud laughter" will highlight some absurdity of the question and potentially invalidate it as a logic puzzle? Even if he'd forgone the abbreviation and opened with, "I laugh at this question because..." it's no less irrelevant to addressing the aim of the question. 

When all is said (poorly) and done (haphazardly), the part of this so-called answer that got under my skin the worst is how this idiot tries to expand on his own point by offering what he believes to be a counterpoint, only to completely fail at doing so every step of the way, right up to letting us know, whether we want to or not, that he find this question loudly laughable. 

My biggest pet peeve when it comes to bad writing, grammar or otherwise, is when people say "but" when they really mean "and." It's a type of incompetence that goes far beyond double negatives, comma splices, run-on sentences, and even the seemingly inescapable "possessives vs. contractions." I can genuinely forgive most of those issues, mainly because they can still make sense when spoken aloud. We don't speak apostrophes and commas, we speak words and phrases. "You're" and "Your" may mean very different things, but they don't sound different, and unless someone sees your speech notes, no one's going to be able to tell one way or the other. At best, the pauses between certain words and phrases could be a verbal form of periods. Punctuation is a guide for how to read words and phrases, not a series of rails and walls to restrict how we communicate. However, confusing a word that means "like" with a word that means "unlike" is never coherent, spoken or written. If you know the difference between "YES" and "NO" there is no reason to confuse "AND" with "BUT." 

yes it does BUT you can always do it 

Whether or not you can always do it (assuming he means turning the glove inside-out) was hardly the issue in the first place; if a glove can be turned inside out, why wouldn't you be able to turn it back? Furthermore and finally, how is this meant to contrast what came before? 

My favorite fast food place is Steak 'n' Shake, but I go there often. 
I love this movie, but it's my all-time favorite. 
I can drive, but I have a license. 
You're inside, but you're in here. 
This book is on the table, but it's not on the floor. 

Whatever wisdom or intelligence this person possibly meant to convey, none of it has come through. He's treated a multiple choice question like a true or false one, he's tried to present a display of common sense as a counterpoint that doesn't counter his first point, and he's compounded that respectively mismatched and irrelevant information by revealing that he laughed out loud. Here's a riddle, was he laughing at the question or his own answer?