Thursday, January 31, 2008

"I've Loved A Million Women In A Belladonic Haze"*

My friend Z and I, and maybe some others, are planning a trip up to Montreal to have our eyes lasered. This scares the bejesus out of me, but the time has come to try. So in preparation, this afternoon I had to have the old "full optical exam" where they put in the atropine drops to dilate your pupils (in order to get a really good look at the retinas.) This leaves one unable to focus on anything further than three inches away, for the rest of the day. Frustrating-- right now I have my face pressed right up against the laptop screen to type this. My plan to do paperwork until my dinner meeting is pretty much shot.

But I did notice, before retreating back to my office, that everyone looks slightly better through the dilated pupils. I mean, they aren't in focus, but the imagination fills in the missing parts, and people look handsomer and more beautiful. We've all heard how ladies of yore used drops distilled from deadly nightshade to give themselves that sexy, turned-on, dilated pupil look and attract boys (and giving the plant its scientific name, belladona.) But now I'm wondering whether the purpose was perhaps just as much to make the boys themselves look better-- belladonna goggling, if you will?

And another thought, I sure wish there was a psychiatric equivalent of atropine-- some drops I could put in patients' ears to dilate their brains and get a crystal-clear look at what's really going on in there.

(* Queen, 1973)

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Okay, it might just be me. It's probably just me. But does anyone else see the striking resemblance between the S&P 500's plot for the past 12 years and the face of a cat? I mean, this would explain a lot. The markets have been absurdly volatile over this span. No one understands it. Everyone's trying to make sense of it. Maybe there is a message being drawn out for us? I will ask Stanley.

(P.S. I've added a few extra lines to the graph, just to help any readers with dim imaginations see what is obvious to most of us.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Collect Them All

For the past few months I've been monitoring Shrink or Fade's stats via Google Analytics. I've become a bit obsessed with getting at least one "hit" from every U.S. state. Some states, such as Pennsylvania, show hundreds of hits (thanks College Roommate and NeoNurse!). But nine states are barren of the Word of Fade, without a single hit. Perhaps not surprisingly, they are all "red states". So now I am on a mission to get someone, anyone, in these locales to read my blog. Maybe you have a friend or family member in one of these states, and could spread the word. Maybe you live just across the border from one, and it wouldn't be too much trouble to drive across and ask someone at the town library to log in. Maybe you have a private pilot's license and could drop some leaflets or something. Anyway, these are the states we need to hit up. Any help appreciated.

Montana (Stay of Execution, I know you have friends there!)
North Dakota
South Dakota
Wyoming (What? No one in Jackson can be bothered to read this?)
West Virginia

(Ha! Ha! Just kidding about Canada. You guys are great! You've sent more hits than almost any other state! It's almost like you're a whole extra country, hit-number-wise! Thanks!)

Friday, January 18, 2008


There is a new presence lurking around the Turbopalace. Stanley (so-named because he was born in tool box) was rescued from my the barn at my friend Nutmeat's mom's farm. He is awfully friendly, which was a problem at first, because he smelled like a walking cow pie. Here is a photo of him looking at me suspiciously, because he knows that I am about to give him a nice sudsy bath.

I don't know if he's going to be a keeper. To tell you the honest truth, of all the cat breeds and colors, black-and-whites have always had low initial draw for me (Millie, Blanche, Sidney, Bonita-- I'm sorry! Don't take this personally!). I've always been most attracted to wild-ish looking (and behaving) cats, preferably with spots or stripes. Perhaps this is partly my own uneasiness-- people always make fun of men with cats, but this can be somewhat ameliorated if the cat looks like his dad might have been a tiger. Black-and-white cats, on the other end of the spectrum, look very cosmopolitan, proper, and well-dressed. They are the metrosexuals of the domestic feline world. They don't frighten people. They barely frighten mice. (At least, this is all my prejudiced impression.)

From a physical standpoint, my ideal companion would be one of these "jag cats" from a breeder in Florida.
But they are absurdly expensive. Maybe I could get one as a friend for Stanley someday, though.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Weather Report

21 degrees of blowin' and driftin' goodness... January thaw over!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Green Acres Interlude

When clients are admitted at Green Acres, they fill out a form indicating their dietary preferences, religion, hobbies, etc.

Today I was reviewing one such form filled out by a fellow who is having some trouble this week. I think I may have found the source of the problem. Under "passtimes", he wrote: "Playing cards, puzzles, games, drawing, reading, demonic possession."

Magical Thinking, Or Communication From The Ether?

Driving to Green Acres this morning (don’t worry, just pinch-hitting there for a few days) I was listening to the iPod, set on “shuffle”. At one point Susan Warner’s song “Petaluma Afternoons” came on. I have about 600 songs on the iPod; “Petaluma Afternoons” is the only one which has lyrics referencing the Doobie Brothers (“Troubles fade into the distance / The Doobie Brothers on the radio…”)

After that song, the iPod shuffled itself and came up with: “South City Midnight Lady”, the only Doobie Brothers song on the iPod.

Now, what are the chances? This is not a rhetorical question; it is a question with a simple answer. The chance of the only song referencing the Doobie Brothers being followed by the only Doobie Brothers song is 1/(600x600), or 1 in 360,000.

To put this in human terms, it is a once-in-a-lifetime (or less) event. If I commute 20 minutes each way to work, listening to the iPod the whole way, and songs average four minutes long, the above Doobies-event would (statistically speaking) happen once every 150 years*.

So what does this mean? Is it just random chance, same as the way venomous snakes developed poison and hollow fangs to deliver it just by random mutations? Or is someone, or something, trying to tell me something? If there is a Great Spirit, and it wanted to communicate with us in these latter days, wouldn’t an iPod be a likely portal (burnable bushes being so rare in the city these days)?

"Tell me if I should believe!", I thought to myself, "Show me a sign!" I figured if there was to be a sign, it would logically be in Doobie lyrics or song titles. Lo! Right in "South City Midnight Lady" itself is this phrase: "I thought there was no reason / For all these things I do / BUT the smile sent out returned with you." (emphasis added.) This clearly pointed the way! There seems to be "no reason" for "these things", BUT THERE IS!

The rest of the song, however, is just mushy giberish about alcohol detox, sleepy sunny eyes, and ladies. So I figured the next clue would be elsewhere in Doobie discography. With shaking hands, I lit up my last cigarette and Googled "South City Midnight Lady Lyrics", expecting revelation.

Things got exciting. In the first Google hit, following the lyrics to "SCML", were links to other Doobie tunes. The first title: "Listen to the Music". Yes! That's what I am to do, listen carefully to Doobies music for the message! Onwards, next title: "Jesus Is Just Alright". Okay, so I've never really understood the meaning of "JIJA" (i.e., is the author empasizing that Jesus is A-#1-OK in his book, or empasizing that Jesus is "just", merely, alright, and nothing to write home about?) but I figured we were getting somewhere-- the messages at least were leading in the direction of a Higher Power or deity.

Then the final two titles in the Doobie song list were: "How Do Fools Survive?" and "What A Fool Believes".

So what now?

* I know readers like to check my math, so:

Chance of “Doobie Event” per year =
(Chance of Doobie Event per song) x (# of songs per year) =
(1/360,000) x ((# of work days per year) x (# of songs per work day)) =
(.00000278) x ((48 weeks x 5 days per week) x (40 min per day / 4 min per song)) =
(.00000278) x (240 days x 10 songs per day) =
(.00000278) x (2,400 songs per year)=
.0067 =

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I've Been Framed

Today, 10 years and seven months after graduating from medical school, I finally decided that I could afford to get my MD diploma framed. While I was at it I brought in my residency diploma, national boards certification, state medical license, and APA membership certificate to get framed up. I had also planned to get my college diploma framed (it has been sitting in the bottom of an old chest for sixteen-odd years), but when I saw the quote for the above work I decided that one was going to have to wait a few more years. Getting things framed is not cheap. I hope I don't accumulate any more advanced degrees. (Note: As a new policy, I am not accepting honorary degrees from any institution unless they are framed in advance!)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Update On Walking To Work

This morning was the chilliest walk to work yet. It was quite invigorating.
I didn't really expect my new one-mile walk to work to be warmer than my previous 58-mile drive, but I did have hopes that it would be considerably safer. After a couple months of doing it, though, I have my doubts.

Between the endless opportunities for slip-and-fall, the many street crossings with their attendant risk of motor vehicle vs. pedestrian contact, and the ever-present threat of urban avalanche and icefall, it seems that the daily expedition is full of its own hazards.
So, I decided I'd better start taking standard urban pedestrian-commuter precautions.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Madness, War, Sailing, Sanity

"I never felt lonely. It’s all so beautiful. You never get depressed, certainly-- at least I didn’t. You are sort of alone with God. You aren’t chasing some girl or trying to make money or get power or do anything else. There’s no opportunity to sin. Time meant nothing. You just lived, for the moment. You’re just happy. Happy. Well, you’re not happy when you’re upside down, but otherwise you’re happy."

-- Commander William Donald Aelian King, quoted in the film Deep Water, on his experience in the 1968 Golden Globe race-- the first non-stop, singlehanded, round-the-world sailing competition.

Cmdr. King was was a much-decorated British Navy submarine commander in WWII. At age 58, he was the oldest participant in the Golden Globe. When interviewed for Deep Water in 2006, he was 97 (but didn't look a day over 70.) In the film, he relates that the war had left him "a nervous wreck", and he undertook the solo round-the-world race to regain psychological health. If a year-long solo sail through the worst oceans on earth is the man's idea of relaxing and unwinding, you can get some sense of how stressful submarine warfare must have been. In an interview last year with the London Times, he explained a bit more about a brush with psychiatry following the war:

"I got the head shrink in England to certify me as 0.125 per cent mad, which meant I could leave the Navy, but didn’t have to go into a nuthouse. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did. My wife and I had 20 years of the best foxhunting in the world."

Ironically, another participant in the race, Donald Crowhurst, apparently went insane while alone on his boat and died, most likely from suicide.

From limited personal experience, I can attest that ocean sailing can be at once a balm for the psyche and a mental torture. I suppose which way it swings depends partly on the weather, partly on luck, partly on your personality, and partly on your frame of mind when you roll over the horizon. During most of my North Atlantic voyage last year, I felt considerably more than 0.125% insane.