Monday, May 31, 2010


It takes energy to web-log, and I've felt bereft of it lately. That I may suffer from sleep apnea is the current possibility (suggested by my doctor and rather disconcertingly seconded by everyone I've mentioned it to, all of whom seem to know at least one person who wears a breathing mask while sleeping; see photo below). I can't say for sure whether or not I might "have" it; I just know that I've been very tired for many weeks now.
Regardless of type, the individual with sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. Sleep apnea is recognized as a problem by others witnessing the individual during episodes or is suspected because of its effects on the body (sequelae). Symptoms may be present for years (or even decades) without identification, during which time the sufferer may become conditioned to the daytime sleepiness and fatigue [emphasis mine] associated with significant levels of sleep disturbance. [–Wikipedia]
Anyway, I'll be spending a night in a "sleep clinic" soon. If I "have" it, will singing lessons be prescribed? I'd do them, even wear a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP), to feel like doing again the lonely but lively singing known as blogging.

I hope that singing exercises will suffice. Wearing a CPAP isn't pretty. The wearer shown does, however, report:
Easy; no more 1- to 4-hour naps after work, I get up in the morning easier, my family does not make me sleep in the basement any more (because of the snoring1), no more "bad" dreams, my blood pressure is down, my energy is up, and I have not fallen asleep while driving2 since getting the CPAP.
  1. For the record, my wife wakes me less often than once a month to tell me to roll onto my side (where I'm much less likely to snore).
        Speaking of rolling over, she reported reading about a strap one guy wears around his torso, with two big balls positioned about at his shoulder blades. Whenever he tries to roll onto his back, I guess he bounces back onto his side.
  2. I fell asleep driving home from work in June 1990. I woke up doing fifty-five in the concave-curving median of I-40 at Chapel Hill. (That is, I was going toward the oncoming traffic.) The next week I was diagnosed as having CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome). Makes me wonder whether sleep apnea and CFS have any scientifically demonstrated correlation.
    Can Sleep Apnea Cause Fibromyalgia (FM)- and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)-like Symptoms?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Not so plucky yesterday

Yesterday's "Word of the Day" from was:
plucky \PLUHK-ee\, adjective:
    Having or showing pluck or courage; brave.
Plucky is originally boxing slang from the 1800s, from the meaning "heart, viscera" as that which is "plucked" from slaughtered livestock.
My bleating yesterday like a sheep waiting to be eviscerated seems to me today to have been an expression of shame about being a member of the unregenerated human race. My friend Yvette (a pseudonym) commented that:
Physical discomfort can make us feel tired, weak, and sensitive. When we read or watch something that touches our heart, we understand it more deeply and might react more strongly to it. When we are weak physically, our brain sometimes becomes more active and we have deeper sympathy for the weak and poor. We may sense the unfairness of the world more. In turn, it can make us feel even tireder.
    Indeed, since Monday I have been very tired, owing somehow to ophthalmological (or neurological) symptoms I experienced that morning. There was a bright arc of white light in my left eye's image, with a faint, quick dispersion of black specks (like a fast-moving flock of crows). My wife took me to the UNC eye clinic when it opened. Doctors there told me that there was no evidence of retinal detachment. The younger one of them said that I actually had less chance of a retinal detachment than he did, for the vitreous fluid in my eyeballs has hardened enough that it has already pulled away from my retinas and so can no longer pull on them (a common cause of retinal detachment, I was given to understand).
    I went to work the next day, but realized immediately upon arriving that I should have stayed home to rest. Feeling exhausted and with a prominent new floater in my left eye, I worked steadily all day on a number of little tasks, one at a time as well as I could manage, until it was time to go up the hill to catch my van ride home.
    I stayed home yesterday, lying down much of the time. And, apparently, ruminating "sensitively" about being weighed down.

Not that I'm feeling any less sensitive today, but it occurred to me a little while ago that my usual attitude toward exploiters (whether of other people or of other animals—or of the earth itself) is anger and condemnation. In short, I fear, a sense of self-righteous indignation.
    I'm not sure which is worse to feel, the sadness of shame or the futile pluckiness of moral superiority. In either case I suffer an awareness of the incessant exploitation that seems to be woven into the coarse fabric of things.
    It doesn't help that Darwinian evolution is sometimes characterized as "the survival of the fittest"—not now that a presumably moral species has evolved.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Weighing on me

A pervasive sadness has lain on me lately. The 2009 Oscar-winning documentary, The Cove, which describes the annual killing of dolphins in a national park in Japan, went back to the library yesterday unwatched. I told the librarian, "I just didn't have the courage to watch it."
    As I waited in line at Costco's optical shop on Friday, I had, on several huge HDTV screens, watched the complaisant exultation of two overfed fishermen who had just landed a huge fish on their boat and were displaying it for the videographer.
    For several days, I've been listening to Timothy B. Tyson's 2004 account of the racially motivated 1970 murder of Henry Marrow, a black man, in Oxford, North Carolina, Blood Done Sign My Name. Forty years later, we still haven't seen the last of white supremacy in this country, and we may be as unlikely ever to see it as we are to see the last of the human presumption that dolphins and fishes and other creatures have less right to live than we do.
    I don't know why the weight of this racial immorality should be lying so heavily on me precisely now, but its balance could have been tilted on Saturday night by my watching Michael Moore's 2009 expose, Capitalism: A Love Story. I think that its incontrovertible thesis that Jesus would not have approved of capitalism thrust a sword into my breast for having theretofore had little reaction to the causes of the financial crisis of 2007–2010. I suspect, that is, that I'm suffering remorse for my own apathy, as well as despair that the weak and powerless of the earth will continue to come in last.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Review readers unanimous

Readers across America (or along a portion of the eastern seaboard, at any rate) seem to agree with me about Walter Kirn's April 18 review of Ian McEwan's latest novel. At least, all four letters to the editor printed in this mornings New York Times Book Review criticize his review sharply.
    From Pennsylvania, Ms. Robinson and her husband spent a weekend reading Solar and laughing. He called it a "delicious romp." She says, "The novel we find so smart and hilarious bears no resemblance to the one Walter Kirn described...."
    The author of the letter from New York "was seriously taken aback by Walter Kirn's review...The tone was so venomous and vitriolic, it read as if a personal vendetta were taking place on the front page...."
    In Virginia, the letter writer was thankful that she'd already read Solar because Kirn " significant plot turns...that extend well into the book's heart."
    The writer from Massachusetts says she has "been reading book reviews for 48 years, and I don't recall another quite as hate-filled as his."

Jealousy on Kirn's part was what I posited; nothing in these letters is inconsistent with that.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Весела пролет [happy spring]

Our son sent us a card from Bulgaria with the traditional greeting for March 1. Inside, he writes:
Happy 1st of March and best wishes for the coming Spring!
    P.S. This card is a production of school children from the town of Rila.
    In subsequent email he explains that "Chestita Baba Marta is like Happy Grandmother Marta, or Greetings for the 1st of March." "Chestita Baba Marta" is phonetic, I think, for the "Цесмчма Баба Марма" in the photo—I'm impressing into service, as well as I can manage, letters found on the web1, as Cyrillic is Greek to me, alas, despite having a Bulgarian grandson whose father has lived in Bulgaria almost twenty years.
    My son explains that "the Martenitsa (the red and white yarn ornaments) are like good luck charms for meeting the spring. People wear them until they've seen a stork and then hang them on a blooming plant or tree."

So, why am I publishing this greeting on May 1? The card arrived only a couple of weeks ago and I had accordingly misread "March" in my son's note. But I see now that it is dated 2.28.10. All the fortnight I've planned to wish my readers a happy 1st of May! I must have figured that "coming Spring" was appropriate for Bulgaria on May 1, but now I remember how like California's climate I thought Bulgaria's when I visited there. Or, more likely, secure in my assumption that I was receiving a May 1st greeting, this never even occurred to me. As I've said more than a few times on this blog, we humans have little trouble deluding ourselves.
    Well, let the joke be on me. You, certainly, may you have had a Baba Marta, and have a happy May! And no jokes on you in either month.

As for humans' deluding themselves, it's so easy to do, one must wonder whether it was an evolutionary adaptation, perhaps to enable us to look at things in a hopeful light and avoid seeing stark reality (so as to lessen the chance that we would kill ourselves before producing offspring). God's in his heaven, suicide's a mortal sin, and all that.
  1. From the website:
    Before you start learning [the] Bulgarian language, you need to learn the Bulgarian alphabet.
        In Bulgarian, we use the Cyrillic alphabet. The same alphabet (with some modifications) is used in other languages [such] as Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Serbian, Macedonian, and some Central Asian Altaic languages.
        Every Bulgarian letter has an English equivalent close enough to give you a clue as to its pronunciation. In the first few lessons, every Bulgarian word I use will be followed by [a] phonetic transcription of its pronunciation. For this, I will use Latin letters—the ones in the column "Symbol" [not shown in this footnote].