Stuff People Seem To Like #5: H1N1/Swine flu

14 11 2009

Don’t get me wrong. People don’t really “like” swine flu, H1N1, but they sure are obsessed with it. I think I darn well might have it right now. Every respectable health source I’ve looked at seems to be indicating that the standard flu isn’t here yet and most cases of the flu that are surfacing right now are in fact H1N1. (Don’t quote me on that, however.)

I suppose I should go to the doctor, but what’s the point? The most I could hope for is a dose of Tamiflu and at this point, I’m not sure if it would really help. I’m just going to ride out this awful, awful storm. Now, you may be wondering what this flu experience is like. Here’s my personal experience with this mystery respiratory ailment:

On Monday night of this week, I started feeling chilly at the office. My coworkers reassured me that it was cold inside, I wasn’t getting sick, etc. But I felt like something was not quite right. I made it to work on Tuesday and  continued to worsen, but still wasn’t all that bad. It was raining pretty hard that night and I returned to my apartment soaking wet. After drying myself off, I collapsed into bed. By the next morning, Wednesday, I could hardly get out of bed. I was so sore, my chest was heaving and wheezing, and I was having trouble breathing. My tonsils were swollen and were collecting tonsil stones, which added to my sore throat. I hadn’t had this tonsil problem in probably a year. In short, I could barely make it the few feet across my quasi-loft apartment to contact my colleagues, much less go to work.

I’ve read unsubstantiated rumors that H1N1 attacks the lungs first, versus the upper respiratory tract as in most ailments. That seems to jive with my experience, as I’ve never heard my lungs wheeze like that before. It also theoretically  would make it pretty dangerous for people with athsma. The CDC advises people with lung problems to be cautious and seek help immediately if they come down with flu-like symptoms.

Anyway, I rode out Wednesday night and felt hungry, so I went out for a quick dinner and drinks (one alcoholic, two cranberry virgin). I felt fine, and thought the worst was over, but felt like collapsing as I walked across the street to my complex. That night was the worst of the worst, as I shivered nonstop for about eight hours. Thursday settled down a bit but I had no food or good drinks in my fridge, so I summoned the energy to go shopping that night. I made it back without too much trouble, but was pretty much a rock. On Friday, I decided that I would just take the day off and then ride out the weekend.

Unfortunately, my coworkers alerted me to the fact that Friday was also the deadline for health benefits election. This time, it was mandatory, no skirting, no exceptions. So I summoned my last reserve of energy and slowly trudged to work to do my benefits election. It became clear that I was not capable of making it through a full day of work. I had a terrible coughing fit and almost thought I might have a fit of vomiting. I calmed my queasy stomach and downed as much water as I could, and blew my nose and coughed until things settled down. Then I finished the deed on my computer, e-mailed myself some crucial notes and got the Dickens out of there. I thought it ironic that I had to put my health and others’ health at risk in order to get health benefits. Life is funny that way.

I’ve retraced my steps for the past week, trying to ascertain when I was exposed. I was around a lot of crowds the past weekend and could have theoretically picked something up at that time, but none of my compadres who I hung out with last weekend are feeling the way that I do. Thank God for that. So how did I get so sick? Hard to say, but I’ll be happy to have some semblance of immunity if I make it through this unscathed.

My consolation is that symptoms should be improving starting on days 4 and 5, namely this weekend. I doubt that I’ll be able to join friends and colleagues in partying it up, but hopefully things will be a bit more comfortable. Which is good, because I miss drinking beer and not having such a remarkably short fuse.

Did I mention the mood swings? I have felt horrible both physically and mentally. I am the kind of person that likes to live life to the fullest (yes) and to be in this kind of shape is torturous and causes my thoughts to drift in unhappy directions. I’m trying to think about joyous things, like looking over my vacation photos and planning future trips abroad. Anything to get my head in the clouds and out of the dumps. I’m certain that by the time I am better, I will be a new woman and I will be prepared to take the world by storm. Until then, I wait.

And there you have it. I have once again bared my soul, and perhaps shared too much about my innermost feelings, and I will probably apologize for something I wrote here. But hey, at least it’s cathartic. See you on the other side of the dark side of the moon, world.

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Now you go chase that dream

14 11 2009

I have had a case of the flu for the past few days and it’s gotten me down a bit, but it’s also given me a chance to think about things that are awesome. In particular, I was feeling Star Trekky the other morning (jotting down Captain’s Logs and calculating the actual stardate) when I saw the story of how infamous “last lecture” professor Randy Pausch loved the Trek universe. He got a cameo in the latest movie, even, as well as a small clip of his voice in the film.

Pausch got a signed photo and momentous quote from William Shatner, the prototypical edition of the elder James Tiberius Kirk:

Over the years, some of my sophisticated academic colleagues have turned up their noses at my Star Trek infatuation. But from the start, it has never failed to stand me in good stead.

After Shatner learned of my diagnosis, he sent me a photo of himself as Kirk. On it he wrote: “I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.”

I got to thinking about this guy who dealt with a terminal illness with so much courage and how I was sitting here miserable, thinking that this flu (probably H1N1, let’s not beat around the bush) may never go away. Paush did push-ups and all sorts of demonstrations of his strength during his 2007 speech. He was dead just a few months later. But he took that time in stride, carefully analyzing all the things he’d dreamed about doing as a child. He succeeded at a lot of things and would never get a chance to do others.

So, at the risk of sounding a bit dreary and morbid, I’d say let’s use every minute that we have healthy and alive. If I do sound a bit melancholy, blame this mysterious flu.





Stuff People Seem To Like #4: Elmo

13 11 2009

Let’s pause here for a moment to let a little literary Elmo-nalysis seep in.

As we say Happy Anniversary to Sesame Street (well a few days ago), we can’t help but love Elmo. He’s the quintessential Sesame Workshop creation and an archetype of childlike wonder.

I meant to write this post sooner but haven’t been feeling the greatest. As my recovery from the flu presses on, I could use a hug from a shag-carpeted red puppet with a high-pitched voice. For you see, there is more to this falsetto-voiced creature than meets the eye.

Most people would say Elmo is an archetype for the childlike innocent. He is at once charming and non-threatening, with his ambiguous gender identification and nearly asexual being. Elmo may “love you,” but he will never love you. If you catch my drift. He is, in essence, a child stripped of the requisite naughtiness and heartlessness of unbridled youth, sort of an idealized baby that can talk rather than cry. The fact that he produces no waste products (that we know of) adds to Elmo’s charm.

That being said, people are eager to fuddle the innocence of Sesame Street. One of the most popular posts on my blog is the Sesame Street Thanksgiving, featuring a certain feathered friend offered up as a main dish.

Is Elmo really so innocent? His fur is red, bright red, a color symbolizing passion — both for love and war. He really loves people. He is male-gendered.Perhaps the expression should not be “make love not war” but rather, “love Elmo, not war.”

Perhaps Elmo is all of these things at once, symbolizing our innocent hopes and dreams as well as the passion and zeal we feel both for life and other people. I cannot argue with the simultaneous poignancy and surreality of Sesame Street, when all is said and done. Elmo may have ambiguous taxonomy, but his love for humanity is unquestionable.





Stuff People Seem To Like #3: Bacon

10 11 2009

Mmmmm… bacon. This fatty swine-derived product is suddenly America’s little darling.

It’s not clear when the obsession began, but I started noticing my coworkers’ purchases of bacon-scented air fresheners and bacon-infused donuts. Bacon costumes appeared at the Dragon*Con geek fest and on Halloween. I took a tour of a cave near Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the tour guide was quick to point out a bacon-shaped rock formation. Bacon-wrapped dates and a BaconFest at Dad’s Garage, a local improv theater, are some other baconizations to chew on.

Could it be a knee-jerk reaction to all this talk about healthy eating and vegetarianism? It’s like there are two factions in contemporary popular culture: complete veg and meat-o-rama. To take a moderate road is to be a fool.

In any case, bacon is pretty good in measured amounts. Scientists are quick to reassure you that your breakfast will not give you the dreaded Swine Flu, also known as H1N1 (I’ve sunk your battleship!).  So, of course it’s good for you. I’ll have some bacon on occasion. The gristly goodness and crispy, smoky deliciousness makes it just about the only kind of pork that I will knowingly eat. Maybe it’s time I was beggin’ for bacon.





Stuff People Seem To Like #2: Twitter

10 11 2009

Twitter is the Hot New Thing right now. Actually, no, it’s not.

There seems to be some confusion over the novelty of Twitter, and some speculation as to why middle-aged folks have flocked to it while in theory younger people are attached to Facebook. (And then there’s the folks in the middle, who dabble in both if they can muster the interest.)

Hold on to your Fail Whale T-shirts, folks, because this site is with us whether we like it or not.

I think most people are ambivalent. Twitter is like a bulletin board for mobile communication, but it has a lot of other users and people don’t really agree on what they use the site for. Different apps and habits are at play, creating a tension in the community that is both vibrant and intimidating.

I get a little bit of anxiety every time I post a tweet because it’s hard to know what’s going to happen and under what circumstances people will be reading it. At times, it can be very tempting to rattle off a random thought or go off on a rant, or to announce one’s state of inebriation. Getting a reply is almost always a relief for me because then I know that the message has been received. The low barrier to entry facilitates this kind of impulsivity. But giving two-way conversation is very difficult, and it always feels as if one is showing off when one replies to another. I admittedly prefer to respond to tweets on Facebook, where it feels  a little more personal. Separation of the Twitter Church from the Facebook State is still in effect at this time, but I may change my mind.

There’s a potential for an awkward situation when tweets cross over from Internet to real-life conversation. It’s fine to tell someone you enjoyed their tweet, but I would say real-life critical discussion of one’s online behavior is a definite no-no unless you are prepared to suffer the awkward consequences.

There are people who take this communication medium much more seriously than I, and sit for hours replying and live-tweeting their lives away. It is a use more comparable to instant messaging. Depending on the app shell you have, this will look and behave differently to you. Me, I think I would be a bit self-conscious about living this way.

I don’t know what else to say. I guess I’ll leave the leadership and official commentary to the social media gurus steering this awkward ship.

Note: I’ve engaged in a little self-editing here, as I feel that I might have come off a bit harsher than I was picturing it in my head. The irony that I posted this post on Twitter was not lost on me.





Stuff People Seem To Like #1: Cougars

10 11 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of snapshots into what makes our culture tick: our strange obsessions with odd or silly things.

Cougars are hot right now. I’m not talking about the furry kind in the feline family; I’m talking about older women who purr like a kitten when a younger suitor comes around.

It’s not really clear what started this phenomenon. The first I heard about them started after a late-night discussion about some men’s preference for older women. I know of a few guys who subscribe to this type of thing. Shortly after that discussion, cougars were everywhere. On the news, on TV, in my Twitter feed, you name it. Somebody call Animal Control! I have to wonder if men now feel some kind of subconscious pressure to go for that aging vixen beckoning them from the bar. They do die sooner, after all, and age less gracefully. (I realize this is a gross generalization.)

Or, is this just one of those fads that won’t last very long?

And is a woman who seeks out a younger man really a predator? Or is she simply a woman who wants a more youthful countenance? So many cultural stereotypes are at play here. We will think nothing of an older man who seeks out a younger woman. That’s the way of things, and men are less mature after all.

Chew on that, cougars, there’s more meat where that comes from.





Organization calls

5 11 2009

There are times that I clearly feel like life is telling me something, and now is one of those times. I’ve been told over and over again that I’m disorganized, I need to grow up, whatever. And the fact is, that I truly do need to become a more organized person. It’s finally catching up to me as my work becomes ever more complex and I get older and life just gets complicated in general. I’ve tried and failed many times but I feel like if I can make an effort now, in time I will finally be successful.

I’ve had some degree of success already. After months and months of working and working at it, I finally got my eating and exercise habits under relative control. I’m finally starting to see some results from that effort, both in my physical stamina and the fact that I’m comfortably wearing jeans today that I couldn’t wear a few months ago. I’m no longer craving ridiculous portions of food and things are generally OK.

And now, I realize that if I am ever to advance in this life and successfully become who I want to be, organization is basically my only choice. Drawing on my health habits for inspiration, I am going to make an effort to fix my problems and take control of things.

Starting now, I commit myself to do the following things every day:

  • Spend about 30 minutes per evening reading the news
  • Keep a journal and know what I’m doing the next day
  • Read 5 pages of literature per day
  • Keep my laptop closed from midnight to 6 a.m.
  • Shower before bed rather than in the morning
  • Have clothes, bags, etc., planned out before sleeping
  • Have two alarms set to wake me in the morning
  • Write in my blog every day if possible
  • Work on something creative
  • Give work my undivided attention
  • Do something to expand my skills EVERY day
  • Ask people lots of questions, which I often forget to do

It’s going to be difficult, but I must slay this monster within me. I must take control of my life.