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so in love with bridges

December 23, 2011

View from my desk window:

I am

Today marks the end of an era for me, and as is only just and utterly justifiable, I am drinking beer at my desk in the middle of the day.

I have just submitted the very last shred of the very last of my final papers, and oh my sticky sweet goodness, let freedom ring.

This is also the very last hour of the very last day of my employment with Blazing Cloud, and while that is a perfect circle of sad farewell, it is simultaneously an explosive ejection into my changing future.

As soon as I am done with this beer and its subsequent brethren, I will be taking myself to the sidewalks of San Francisco for one of my final jaunts as a sojourner. In an unbelievably short time I will be bundling my cussing cats into a uHaul and traveling back to the promised land, from whence I am determined not to stir in any sort of permanent fashion for at least a month of Sundays.

The present is curling in on itself like a fat little potato bug, and the future is yawning in the remarkably near distance like a long, laconic cat in the sun.

Life is weird, and it goes on and on.

I am

variable as a function

December 14, 2011

Second to last paper of the term! OHMIGOODNESS.

Golden Years

Each person approaches their life in a different way, which creates endless possibilities for an individual path to old age and the second half of one’s lifespan. In this paper I will share the beautiful and striking similarities between my grandfather’s viewpoint of his second half and my vision for my own. My grandfather, Forrest, will be turning seventy four years old in March and is constantly surprising himself and others with this fact. Although I admit that I have no clear opinion on what seventy four should look and act like and I have been spoiled by his wit and energy my entire life, I can easily see that he is an exception to many rules about old age and aging. He continues almost stubbornly to improve with age, and his progress through his life is an inspiration to my plan for my own future.
When I ask him what he considers to be the most engaging facet of his experience within the second half of his life, he answers without hesitation, ‘the lack of ego.’ As he ages, he explains, he just doesn’t care as much. It’s not as important to him what other people think, and because of this the limits of other people’s perspectives and the constraints of societal norms have less and less hold on him. He finds that he becomes more and more his own man as he ages, and that everything gets easier and easier as far as attitude and dealing with people are concerned. He tells me that the ‘second half’ used to be referred to as the ‘golden years,’ and that he discovers they are golden indeed. He is more himself and happier with life than he has ever been before.
For my grandpa, a clear transition period into the second half of his life is illusive. He wonders if we will believe him when he says that most often he simply forgets that the second half has even started. For him, aging has been a slow, gentle and consistent flow; little situations of change occasionally arise, but the overall journey has been a continuous process largely unmarked by any critical event or moment of realization. He remembers going through some difficult periods in his forties, and remarks that it can take twenty years to get over the problems you realize you have in your twenties…but after his forties everything just got easier and easier. His later years are just another period of his life, one in which he is still learning and growing all the time. He says that the only real difference is that he’s not in quite so much a hurry for the future, and there’s a good reason for that!
The bit of living that brings him the absolute most satisfaction is waking up in the morning. He thinks to himself, another day above ground, it’s got to be good. He has a wonderful family, a wife that he loves and continues to share his life with, and overall his later years are better than he could ever have anticipated. He remains active and engaged, and is brimming with goals and plans for the future. He’s still out in the world creating new business ventures even though he has a long established company of his own to run, and he feels that although he is older there is still a world of opportunity for him to pursue. In the second half of his life, he doesn’t get stressed out and he has learned to take wisdom from every experience, whether it first presents itself as a blessing or a calamity.

I have been planning for the second half of my life since I reached the first quarter mark. When I turned twenty five for some reason a little switch of some sort was thrown in my brain and I began to contemplate for the first time in my life the possibility of old age one day finding me. As I was nine years into a career in healthcare and a self admitted lifelong science brain, I was unable to escape the face of aging in all its reality. I say reality, but in fact I mean Consequence. Since the moment I was first able to comprehend for myself a future that extended beyond my mid and beautiful twenties, living fast and dying young having been my previous expectation, I have been faced with a constant barrage of hard choices and far flung decisions. I realize that from the early twenties onward, perhaps even sooner, the body enters a consistent state of gradual breakdown. No one is more aware of and happier than I that the body continuously repairs itself and that good health can be enjoyed well into a ripe old age; but I am also aware that the longer a body exists, the more occasion it encounters to undergo trauma and damage and, ultimately, errors in cell duplication. Therefore, in my mind the body will begin to go no matter what you think or do. For a madcap month or so of moments, this resulted in a teenage display of self destructiveness and rage against the machine. I smoked like a furnace, drank like a fish, and ate like an unsupervised three year old. I was suddenly faced with the concept of old age as applicable to my very own self, and the idea of it was offensive and terrifying.


As soon as my pre-mid-life crisis had finished, I gathered up the scattered scraps of my personal intelligence and determination and I began to take the matter of living rather seriously. Not in general, mind you, as I feel that serious living is one of the more fatal deadly sins, but in regard to my health and wellness. I began to really, truly try to eat, sleep, drink and breathe well. I paid attention to nutrition instead of fat content, worked hard on developing a preference for wine over Jagermeister, continued to sleep like a rock every night but made more time in which to do so, and embarked upon my thus far lifelong battle to give up the most passionate love/hate relationship of them all, the cigarette.
For these and many other reasons, which I add to on at least a weekly basis, I expect to be granted a fairly decent second half of life. There are always natural disasters such as cancer and traffic accidents, and if any of those befall me then I suppose I will remember that the gods laugh at those who make plans and I will deal with it as it comes. But barring such extreme tragedies, I anticipate an active, happy life up to and after fifty. Most of the time I am working very hard to lay a foundation of solid health for myself in later years, and in all honesty, all I really require for happiness is health. You give me my health, and I will do whatever it takes in any other regard to have what I want or want something else.

And I am

shining with all his might

December 14, 2011

One of the most beautiful things I have ever written, not in composition but in content. Words: mine; spirit and soul: they belong to my oldest hero.

That Monday Feeling

There is an old story often told, of persistence in the face of hardship and victory after a battle of will against the odds. This story has taken many forms and presented many heroes throughout human history, because we as a people are compelled by the struggle and inspired by the triumph. For many people today, depression is an overwhelming and consistent adversary that must be recognized and controlled if they are to have any hope of a fulfilling and productive life. One of these people is my father, who has just turned sixty years old and has been one of my greatest inspirations for the twenty eight years I have been on this planet. I have seen him sinking into the deep darks of his own mind on many occasions, and on just as many I have watched as he pulled himself up by nothing more than his own bootstraps, determined to escape the murk of depression and move forward with his life, love and pursuit of happiness.

Depression is a term that is widely thrown around nowadays, but in its clinical definition it is known as a mood disorder whose exact causes are not known but are linked theoretically to chemical imbalances in the brain, which create feelings of sadness, anger, hopelessness and frustration which interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer. When I ask my dad to describe the term depression as it applies specifically to him, he says that he calls it ‘that Monday Feeling.’ His own depression just makes him feel slightly off, everything has a feeling of blandness and disinterest. He gives me the example of colors: when everything is all right in the world, you have rose colored glasses; when you’re depressed, everything is just slightly, irrevocably blue and you are left with a constant wispy feeling of evasive sadness.

Within his own depression, my dad most often experiences a feeling of disinclination. He just simply doesn’t want to do anything, and it is an effort even to get out of bed and go about the business of the day. This will last for as long as he lets it, but with time and experience he tries to nip it in the bud as soon as it starts. He says that this lack of desire for any movement will eventually culminate in a frustrated boredom with the emptiness of existence, which will finally spur him to action in some direction or another. However he tries never to let it get that far. As someone who has been depressed as long as he can remember, even as a small child, he knows that the mood swings come in cycles. He knows that when he’s in the midst of a downswing he will find life a complete and utter bummer, and will begin to wonder why he should even bother going on with it. Because of these constantly fluctuating mood swings, he tries to make a habit of keeping tabs on himself. He doesn’t consider himself a very even keeled person; he is constantly experiencing ups and downs and is always having to remind himself that his current state is quite possibly totally temporary.

Depression has of course affected my dad’s life deeply. Because he has carried it with him for the entirety of his memory, he is constantly uncovering negative or fearful patterns in his thought and speech processes. He tries not to be negative toward anyone else in his life, but toward himself he is deeply critical and judgmental. When it comes to his own life, he feels himself always under the shadow of Murphy’s Law, which states that ‘whatever can go wrong will go wrong.’ He knows that this is not truly the case, and that he has been very lucky and successful at times in his life as well as unfortunate. However, his central mindset is one of worry and doubt, and he has to work hard every day to get himself out and keep himself out of this mental trap.

There are many obvious ways in which my dad has had to adapt in order to live with depression. It’s hard to put into practice, but he says that he has to realize, ‘this is not the end.’ Whatever hardship or worry he is facing, it isn’t the sum of all things and his feelings on the matter do not dictate the facts of the situation. The scenarios in his mind are not always real, and a lot of the time they are in fact false and will never come to be in existence. One of the red flags he has set up for himself to recognize the onset of a bout of depression is when he begins to play these false scenarios in his head. As soon as he notices that his thoughts are becoming frightened and negative and unrealistic, he can think to himself, this is all in my head right now and I need to slow down and be calm. When he has achieved a state of calm, he can then begin to figure out what may have triggered this particular state of depression. He says that one of the most important methods for dealing with his depression is the space and quiet for introspection. He can actually think about the possible factors for his mood swing when he puts himself into an environment where there are less things in his life competing for his attention. He says that the more a person learns to think about the factors contributing to their depression, the sooner they will be able to recognize when a bout is coming on; and if you can recognize the symptoms earlier on, you will begin to be able to train yourself to put your mental safety measures into practice.

My dad employs many of his own safety methods to pull himself up out of depression and go on about his busy and productive life. The first and most important one to him is, Recognize that you have a connection with depression. Denial will only bring on self loathing and further depression. As soon as you have recognized what it is that you’re dealing with, you can begin to understand that the monsters you’re facing may not be real or at least may not be as bad as you currently perceive them to be. His favorite way of putting this into practice himself is to keep a journal and write everything out. This is an incredibly valuable tool to him because it allows him to look back over time and notice patterns and cycles; this in turn enables him to analyze factors that may incite times of depression in his life and create awareness for the future so that he can avoid repeating the same episodes. He says that in recognizing his own patterns of self destructiveness he has not always been able to solve the problems within a given situation, but he has always been able to spot certain elements of a depressive episode and make goals for himself and his future.

For anyone who may be living with depression themselves, and for the good of all mankind, my father has a few further words to say.

Extremes are not good, regardless of which way they swing; depression is a broken way of living, but so is denial of reality in favor of a happy go lucky mindset which ignores problems and refuses to deal with hardship. Depression in particular is never going to be a positive experience in and of itself, but if you look for it you will get something positive from it every time. There is always a positive side to every struggle you make it through, and for every demon you conquer there is the sunshine of personal growth to bask in on the other side.

I am

 

Gallery of Hats

12/03/11

Nite.Lite

Mattie!

Scarlet Frost

Lazer Blue Eyes

Befurred Hood Ornament

Mumps!

Now I own his soul.

Cake Goddess

Grom!

eat this, BJ, you’ll like it.

— Danger —

Santa Cruz Representz

’tis herself

Lana!

Master of Lady Jane Grey Slossun

CLOWNFACE!

Timmeh!

torktomelson

lowride

Victor!

Shimmers

Baby Sayid

HATEZ YOU SO MUCH

a windywindywindywiz!

there’s one at every party.

……….

Gallery of Pig

…………….

whyfore

I am

and silver lanes aglow

December 7, 2011

also this is one of the most perfect pictures I have ever seen in my life:

from whence I stole

Hello my hamsters,

Here is one of my ELEVEN final papers. This is why you get no stories about times I fell down.

Biology of Aging

The Prefrontal Cortex in Old Age


Although research is in its preliminary phases and is indefinitely ongoing, there are many intriguing studies and theories in existence today regarding the diminished function of the prefrontal cortex within the process of aging. For this paper I have drawn information from two scholarly articles chronicling two studies conducted to discover some of the causes and effects of impaired brain function in old age.

Interactive Effects of Stress and Aging on Structural Plasticity in the Prefrontal Cortex is a study conducted and published in May of 2010 by Erik B. Bloss, William G. Janssen, Bruce S. McEwen, and John H. Morrison. This study seeks to determine whether age influences the reversibility of stress-induced morphological plasticity in prefrontal neurons. Using laboratory rats to test the loss of recovery related neuronal activity, they found that aged rats demonstrated a selective and profound loss of recovery-related neuronal morphological resilience. The major finding of this study is that age selectively impairs the ability of neurons to reversibly remodel after stress exposure. Furthermore, they found that this reduction in plasticity is evident in rats as early as middle-age. In young animals, stress induced reductions of dendrite length and branch number, which were reversed with recovery; in contrast, middle-aged and aged rats failed to show reversible dendrite remodeling when subjected to the same stress and recovery paradigm. The data presented here provide evidence that aging is accompanied by selective impairments in long-term neocortical plasticity. This study of course was not conducted with human subjects, but laboratory rats have been used for many years by scientists for their similarities to humans in brain composition. From this study the conclusion can be drawn that dendrite damage caused by environmental stressors can create permanent damage within the prefrontal cortex. This theory offers an explanation for the impairment of brain function in elderly humans.

The Prefrontal Cortex With Age by Don Glass was published in September of 2003 by A Moment of Science. It is an article that describes how elderly persons use both hemispheres of the prefrontal cortex regularly, which is not the case with younger people. Most persons show evidence of processing more on the right side of their brain, but this changes as they reach old age and begin to process bilaterally. This discovery has led to two different theories attempting to explain the phenomenon of bilateral processing in the elderly. The first supposes that this is evidence of the natural decline of the body and the mind, and that bilateral processing is actually a malfunction of the brain due to old age. The second supposes that enlisting the help of the second hemisphere is a way to compensate for reduced capacity in the more regularly used hemisphere, which would be evidence of the brain making up for its own failings. Scientists conducted a study of cognitive tests on adults in their sixties and seventies, and from concurrent PET scans concluded that high performing older adults show significantly more bilateral brain processing than any other group. This research supports the theory that bilateral hemisphere use is a method of the brain to compensate for reduced capability of the right hemisphere with increased age.

My life stories subject Chris Forte is an avid believer in the importance of prefrontal cortex elasticity and activity as a key to a healthy lifestyle in her older years. She feels that frequent and varying cognitive activity as a long-term lifestyle habit can significantly promote mental acuity and highly functioning sensory systems throughout the lifespan and continuing into old age. As an equine behaviorist, she became fascinated with the brain and how it functions; she also began to wonder about how physical fitness affects circulation, which in turn increases blood flow to the brain. She thought about how circulation brings blood, nutrients and oxygen throughout a persons’s internal systems so that the entire body and brain are truly alive. As she has worked with horses throughout her life she has realized that both humans and horses are parallel beings. Horses and humans are both born either right or left handed, and this designation has a small impact on which side of their brain they are naturally inclined to use more regularly. To create balance in a horse’s stride and a rider’s seat, one of the most important of Chris’s jobs as an equine behaviorist is to get the horse to think with both sides of its brain. This duality of thinking allows the horse to balance physically more naturally with practice. Chris exercises both sides of her horses, which requires them to problem solve with both sides of their brains. Putting emphasis on a particular portion of the body also puts emphasis on a particular portion of the brain, which can create balance or imbalance as the case may be. Chris realized that if she wanted the horse to be balanced, as its rider she needed to be as balanced herself. She knew that she was naturally left handed, with a tendency to use the right hemisphere of her brain more regularly. To attain the level of balance she was training her horses to have, she began to use the right side of her body for more tasks to create more and varied activity in the left side of her brain. She began with simple tasks such as brushing her teeth or using her fork with her right hand, which were very difficult and felt unnatural at first but soon became easier and less awkward. Another discipline she worked on with her horses was walking with their weight evenly distributed, and she began to remind herself to carry her own weight balanced, which requires equal input from both sides of the body and brain.
Another tenet of cognitive activity in later years that Chris considers vital is the capacity to continue to learn and enjoy excelling at new things. When she looks at the majority of the elderly people in her life she feels that they have lost the ability to problem solve. She thinks that you have to push yourself past your comfort levels all your life, not just when you are young or in your middle life. Her secret is to make a constant habit of thinking happy thoughts to herself, one of the most important of which is, ‘I can figure this out.’ After she made the decision to keep that mantra as a lifestyle pattern she learned that no matter what the problem was, if the solution to her happiness was there, to just go for it. This was a transformation in her life. She knows now that when she can solve problems on her own most of the time, she’s happy; and when she’s happy she moves, thinks, has clarity of mind, and energy. Blood circulates, nutrients swirl, her mind sharpens. She believes that if she keeps herself happy, she’s going to keep herself sharp and energetic and she’s going to be a good problem solver all her life.

I am in total agreement, and I hereby resolve to