April 27th, 2012

#3327: This could totally be an anime series.

Schoolgirl falconer. It really needs a better title than "Schoolgirl Falconer".

...she's been raising and training falcons for years. But she's cute and knows how to use her birds, and all it needs is a better antagonist than "a huge flock of crows that descended on [city]".

Unless the huge flock of crows was only the first wave of attack by some evil entity bent on Japan's destruction....

Yeah, that could totally work.

#3328: F-ing anxiety!

For the past week I've been essentially reliving the first real panic attack I had as an adult--the one that led me to starting with Paxil and Xanax.

In 2003, one fine Sunday morning when I didn't have to work, I woke up in bed...and as I woke up my heart began pounding, rather hard for someone who walked 5 miles every workday. Then it skipped a beat.

Then it skipped another one.

...and as I lay there in bed, my heart pounding and skipping beats, I frantically tried to decide whether or not I should call 911 or drive myself to the hospital or wait, this wasn't a heart attack because there was no pain and I could swallow just fine, and there was no tightness in my chest but my breathing--

Finally I remembered those times when I was a kid, on Saturday mornings, when I'd feel like I couldn't quite catch my breath. I'd be laying in my Dad's bed watching cartoons, and it felt like I had to yawn but couldn't quite manage it. That Sunday in 2003, that sensation clued me in to what was happening.

After a little while I calmed down and it stopped bothering me as much. I realized that I wasn't having a heart attack and I wasn't dying. The whole episode didn't last more than 15 or 20 minutes.

Went to see the doctor that week, on my next day off (I think it was Thursday that week) and she ran an EKG which came out completely normal. She suggested anti-anxiety medication, and I refused; but when I got home, I reconsidered it, called her back, and said, "Yeah, let's go." $50 later I took my first dose of Paxil...and slept for 15 hours.

And I felt enormously better, better than I had for years. I felt more relaxed, more patient--because I was no longer on edge all the damn time.

But the heart issue wasn't fixed, so I went back to the doctor, who sent me to a cardiologist. They strapped a monitor to me and I ended up at work with the thing tucked into the inside pocket of my scrub tunic. (They're reversable so there's a pocket on both sides. Convenient when you're wired up like a lab rat.) When I felt anything unusual I was to press a button on the thing and make a note of what I was feeling. Based on one event--a brief sensation of dizziness--that coincided with a skipped beat, they decided on further testing.

So I got a comparative perfusion scan.

What they do is sit you down in a chair and have you relax, and then inject radioactive dye into you. After about 15 minutes or so they put you into a gamma camera and scan your heart. The dye shows how well your heart is taking up glucose when you're at rest.

A few days or weeks later, they do it again...only this time, they put you on a treadmill and have you walk, then walk faster, then incline the thing, then speed it up more, until you're just about to puke, and then they inject you with the dye. As soon as you can walk again, into the gamma camera you go. The dye shows how well your heart is taking up glucose right after strenuous exercise.

The difference in the two scans tells the cardiologist how healthy your heart is: how well it's working, how efficiently it's using oxygen and glucose, how thoroughly the muscle is being oxygenated.

Result: healthy as a horse. "Your heart occasionally throws in an extra beat," the cardiologist told me with a shrug, and explained the mechanism by which this happens. "It does not raise your risk of a heart attack. We can give you beta blockers if the sensation really bothers you, but no other intervention is really warranted."

It has to do with how the left ventricle works. If I recall correctly, the actual nerve that fires the muscle is somewhere near the bottom of the ventricle, and after it fires there's a kind of cascading effect. This way the ventricle squeezes from the bottom towards the top (where the valve is) and it ensures maximum efficiency.

Inside the left ventricle, there's this line, or train, of muscle fibers. Each one "listens" to its neighbor, and when the guy below one goes off, he goes off a very brief moment later, and after that the guy above him does. A nerve impulse gets it started, 'way down at the bottom, and it works kind of like a bunch of people at a sporting event doing "the Wave".

These cells have a certain period they're willing to wait, and if that time runs out they'll go off spontaneously. Usually, when this happens, it still happens in a more-or-less orderly fashion: the cells at the bottom of the heart went off first, so they reset first and then "time out" first, and they trigger the ones above them and so on, and "the Wave" proceeds as normal.

In my case, some of the cells in the middle "time out" before the others; it's like there are some nerds in the crowd who don't quite get the concept of "the Wave" and stand up too soon.

But generally speaking, this doesn't happen to me. I've gone months without this happening, because it's not really a defect in my heart but in my head that's causing it.

It's a symptom of anxiety.

...because if I can get my mind off my heart--which is not easy to do when it's skipping beats and feeling as if it's about to leap through my sternum--the thing settles down and beats normally. Xanax puts me to sleep; but sometimes before I go to sleep I notice that Gee, my heart's finally settled down!

When I go for a walk (and when I tried jogging) the thing ticks along like a metronome--like an atomic clock.

Besides beta blockers, the other thing they can do (for particularly bad cases) is to run a catheter into the heart and burn away the defective tissue. I know a guy who's had this done--twice. It's not fun, but it's better than open-heart surgery would be. In extreme cases, a pacemaker is warranted. But I'm a long way from needing that. ESPECIALLY since the damn thing hardly bothers me most of the time.

It's just that--right now--I've got this musical that I'm in, and rehearsals aren't going too well for me, and so--well, here I am, in Anxiety Central.

So when I woke up this morning it was the same as it's been all week: I wake up feeling fine, but once I stop feeling groggy, the heart begins to pound and-and-and. *sigh* Today I decided I'd go for a walk. And as I walked, the ticker ticked along, regular as regular can be.

The real hell of it is, I know I'm not dying, but I can't convince myself I'm not dying--because it's an anxiety disorder. When I'm in the throes of a panic attack, saying, "Okay, it's just a panic attack, there's nothing actually wrong" DOESN'T WORK. Even though I know I'm having a panic attack, it doesn't fix the problem.

As bad as that is, at least it's just anxiety. One of my nieces is bipolar--I can't imagine how bad that would be.


* * *

On the plus side: when I went for my walk, I decided to wear sweats, which meant I needed to dig out my sporran (read: "fanny pack", but fanny packs are for queers) to carry wallet, keys, cell phone, etc. (I can't take a walk in this state without my cell phone. See above--I can't convinced myself that I'm not about to keel over--so I bring my cell phone along, turned on, so I can call 911 if need be. It's a security blanket for my hindbrain, nothing more, because up in my conscious mind I know I don't need it.)

So I went to put on my sporran, and it was too loose!

The last time I used it was last autumn, and I had adjusted it to be snug then. It means my waist is smaller than it was. Hooray low-carb diet!

#3329: Yeah, that $153 million really makes a difference when you owe some $9 billion.

$9 billion is $9,000 million. $153 million is less than two percent.

Illnois' "Amazon Tax" is unconstitutional. Also it's against federal tax law to boot.

Illinois is probably going to appeal the ruling, because "We need to recoup some of the estimated $153 million that was not paid by online merchants prior to the law being implemented." Because Illinois is so broke it can't pay attention.

...and Illinois Democrats are making plans to spend even more money they don't have, even while the state is already past being in the red.

Yeah, I'd like to know what color the sky is in their world. Can't be blue, that's for damn sure.

* * *

A couple of links to commentary on the EPA jackbooted thug who likened EPA enforcement strategy to the Roman method of crucifying the first five men they found in a rebellious village.

Michelle Malkin.
Armendariz explained to his underlings: “You hit them as hard as you can, and you make examples out of them, and there is a deterrent effect there. And, companies that are smart see that, they don’t want to play that game, and they decide at that point that it’s time to clean up.”

In other words: Suck up, fly left, or face prosecution. The goal isn’t a cleaner environment. The goal is political incitement of fear.
You think it's just a federal regulator trying to bring recalcitrant companies--habitual and willful polluters--to heel?
Armendariz the Executioner tried nailing a drilling company — Texas-based Range Resources — to the cross in 2010 with an emergency declaration that its fracking work in the Lone Star State had contaminated groundwater. The Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees the oil and gas industry, found no scientific evidence for the Obama EPA’s claims.

Forbes magazine reported: “In recent months a federal judge slapped the EPA, decreeing that the agency was required to actually do some scientific investigation of wells before penalizing the companies that drilled them. Finally in March the EPA withdrew its emergency order and a federal court dismissed the EPA’s case.”
Emphasis mine. It's not about protecting the environment, as said above; it's all about a boot stomping on a human face.

It's about making energy more expensive in the United States; it's about the exercise of power.


Senator James Inhofe wants an investigation. I don't know what a Senate investigation will do when the Senate is run by Democrats. But I give him points for trying.

We've really got to rein in this monstrosity that Nixon saddled us with. Damn.

* * *

Obama's not that dumb, Mr. Bad Example. What it is, in fact, is Obama playing dumb. He knows the federal student loan program is socialism.

He just doesn't want anyone else to twig to it. It certainly isn't his desire to have it known--outside of D.C., anyway--that it's socialism.

* * *

Okay, the economy!

Despite Washington, D.C.'s best efforts, GDP only grew at 2.2% last quarter.

Despite record deficit spending, despite fudging the Consumer Price Index, despite finagling the unemployment numbers, reality stubbornly refuses to cooperate and give Obama the booming economy he needs.

That's a CNBC article. The "C" stands for "communist"; those guys can't write a word contrary to Obama and they spin the latest numbers as hard to the left as the helmsman of the Titanic trying to steer away from the iceberg.

Karl Denninger explains the facts. "...[W]e are again decreasing capital formation and borrowing forward in an attempt to use our fingernails to keep from falling off the cliff."

The Dow, predictably, is up. Well, the "2.2%" figure is essentially flat, as economists were expecting 2.5%.

But that's annualized: quarterly it's 0.55% and that stinks.

Surprisingly, though, government expenditures decreased. This means that the number we're seeing has actual economic growth in it. It's not enough to bring the per-capita numbers up--per-capita, GDP is in decline--but it's the one single bright ray in an otherwise gloomy report.

...but deficits are not changing. How on Earth "G" (government spending) can decrease but deficits cannot--that, I do not understand at all, unless it's the effect of rising interest rates.

(Interest rates are not rising, though. Go figure.)

* * *

A speech to the Fed. It's not too long and worth reading, but I especially liked this paragraph:
The noose is tightening on your organization, vast amounts of money printing are now required to keep your manipulated economy afloat. It will ultimately result in huge price inflation, or, if you stop printing, another massive economic crash will occur. There is no other way out.
Not because of the information it conveys--I think he's right and this is disastrous--but because the guy had the balls to get up in front of the Fed and tell them they're a bunch of cockmonkeys.

Only not in so many words, of course.

* * *

While on my walk this morning, I gave some thought to some of the niggling problems with "RELEASE CANDIDATE #1", and I came up with some solutions. Better, I like them.

Given a certain supply of energy, a civilization can only develop so far. If our civilization, for example, had been limited only to burning coal and wood to generate steam--if we didn't have petroleum or nuclear power--how advanced do you think we'd be by now?

Given the economic circumstances of the colony world where the story begins, then, I realized that even if the society could go on burning the local equivalent of coal ad infinitum, it still could not increase the size of its economy past what steam power could support.

The world has no real petroleum--its dinosaurs did not live the right way for that--and though on Earth you can do organic chemistry (plastics etc) starting with coal, the biochemistry of life on this colony world is not conducive to any similar result from the local equivalent of coal.

And don't even suggest "biofuel" to me. When your civilization is staring energy starvation in the face, you're not going to try something that requires an input of 1.2 BTU for every BTU you get out. No.

...and no economically exploitable deposits of uranium, either. That's explicit in the story as written; the planet is about 25% settled and as the story begins a big war over the right to expansion is ending. (One government went to war to unify the nations of the planet in order to put an end to the "dog in the manger" attitude towards the annexation of new territories.)

There are such deposits of uranium there; they've just never been found, and no one can go look without starting a war. And then, other things happen during the course of the story.

But it's a promethean tale, and it's a fun read (I am told; I know I enjoy it) which is why it's "RELEASE CANDIDATE #1". It just had some things which were bothering me, questions I know that nitpickers would ask me; and today I came up with answers for those questions.

Now all I have to do is figure out where to put them.