My Me Hurts

I need help. I don’t known where to turn, so, for the first time, I’m writing a post here that I will actually look back to for comments (or is it “replies”? Whatever.)

I don’t know where to begin. There are many threads to what I need to share, and while I’m pretty sure I can weave them together, I don’t know which one to start out with in order to bring you along. But here goes. First, some facts about me:

As many, if not all of you know, I’ve been suffering from depression on and off for years, and was diagnosed with cyclic mood disorder (a cousin of bipolar disorder) a couple of years ago. I was put on a mood stabilizer along with my antidepressant, and have been doing much better. Until recently.

Many of you also know that I’ve recently developed a tic disorder, which may or may not be related to the rest of this. More on that later.

Finally, many or all of you know that I’m an atheist. And I don’t just mean not believing in an anthropomorphic, paternalistic God, the mention of whose name upsets so many people, but that I believe there are no deities at all, no universal intelligence, no Great Cosmic Whazoo, no Gaia, no Force, no nuthin’. Also, no afterlife, no soul (meaning some essence of ourselves that is distinct from the meat and the peculiar, remarkable, and wonderful phenomena that go on in that big lump of nerve cells inside the skull,) no magic, no Majyk, no nuthin’. (OCM has suggested that I’m such an atheist that I don’t believe in poetry. That’s not true. Of course I believe in poetry; its existence is indisputable. I usually don’t get poetry, but that’s because I’m metaphorically impaired. Is my metaphoric impairment somehow related to atheism? I don’t really think so, but it could be.)

I’ve been asked about spirituality by a lot of people in the past. Some ask “How can you stand to live in a world without [God | an afterlife | something like that]?” I answer that, if I believed that there should be a God (or whatever) and also believe that there is none, then, of course, that would be devastating. But since I have no belief that these things ought to exist, it does not bother me at all that they do not.

Others ask “If you don’t believe in God, what do you for spirituality?” The short answer is “Nothing, why should I?” This sometimes leads to discussions of what spirituality means if atheism (my kind) is a given. After many such discussions, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three things people mean by “spirituality.” One (the most common) is mysticism of some sort. They say I can be spiritual without believing in God, but they mean I should believe in The Great Cosmic Whazoo. ‘Nuff said.

Sometimes it boils down to a search for the Meaning of Life. Well, I know the Meaning of Life (life has no intrinsic or inherent meaning; it is only – and all of – what we make it) so I’m not engaged in any search for it.

Finally, it may mean the care and feeding of the spirit. What’s the spirit? Well, sometimes it’s the same thing as the soul, and a conversational dead end. But sometimes it’s something a bit more subtle.

Some false dichotomies are useful, if we are careful in applying them. Mind and body, for instance. They’re not really separate, but the brain does so many remarkable things that are not directly (or not obviously) related to other body functions that it is very often useful to think of them as separate. Likewise, within the area of the mind, there’s the useful false dichotomy of the intellect and the emotions. And this gives us the third meaning of the spirit. For some people, the spirit is a third part of the mind, part of a trichotomy of intellect, emotions, and spirit. Do I deny that this exists? No, I only deny that I’ve ever experienced a feeling that I would not call an emotion or a thought; there’s no third part of the mind that I’ve experienced. But now I’m not so sure.

Now on to the new stuff: I’ve been depressed more in the last two or three months than I had been for quite some time. In the last few weeks, I’ve had a feeling that I can only call hurting, even though nothing actually hurts. It’s not emotional pain; certainly I’m feeling sadness, desolation, and other things associated with depression, but not what I’d call emotional pain. The best way I’ve been able to describe it is with the feeble statement “my me hurts.” I observed a little while ago that some might call this “spiritual pain,” but not me, since I’m aspiritual.

Today I came to the realization that I am, in point of fact, experiencing a feeling that I can’t understand as either a thought or an emotion. Is this spiritual pain after all? Am I experiencing the third part of the mind trichotomy? Or is this some new emotion that I don’t have a name for?

I don’t know how to handle this. I’m sitting here, having (maybe) the first spiritual experience of my life, and it hurts. And I am completely unequipped to cope with it. Coincidentally, I had a routine visit with my psychiatrist today, and I brought it up with her. As I expected, she was sympathetic but didn’t have much to say, except to agree with me that I should see a therapist. She also upped my Zoloft due to my being more depressed lately, but neither of us really thinks that’s the answer. Still, talking to her was someplace to start. So is turning to all of you.

As for the tic disorder, I jerk at random intervals in the neck, waist, arms, legs, and shoulders. An associate of my GP said that it’s caused by “irritation in the synapses” in my brain, leading to random neuron firing. (When the tics first came to a head, my GP was out of town.) I’ve seen a neurologist, who prescribed something to relieve the symptom, but didn’t seem interested in finding the cause. The drug is a little – very little – help with the tics, but is helping me sleep more restfully. (Alcohol is more effective for the tics, which means I’m drinking too much of late.) Stress, anxiety, and depression make the ticks more frequent and more violent, and the more frequent the tics, the more aggravating it all is, so that’s a nice little vicious cycle. I have an appointment with a different neurologist the day after tomorrow.

[Edited 1/6: DCDragon67 got me going discussing this more, and there is more description to be found below in the lengthy response a made to her comment.]

Star Teck Review **** SPOILERS ****

****   SPOILERS   ****   SPOILERS   ****   SPOILERS   ****   SPOILERS   ****   SPOILERS   ****   SPOILERS   ****

I keep seeing these glowing reviews of Star Trek; I think there must be two movies by this name in theaters, and I saw the bad one. The writers of those terrific reviews must either A) have seen a different movie than I did, or B) be non-Trekies with really low standards.

At IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes I rated this movie a 3, but to be honest, as a Trekie I would give it 1 or 2; if I put myself in the shoes of a non-Trekie, it still only rises to a 5.

It started off with a good idea: show the very early days of Kirk et al’s tenure on the enterprise. But it did just about everything else wrong.

Let's review. (Wait; "review" is what I'm doing. Oh, well) First, there a whole bunch of things that violate Trek cannon. Now, I acknowledge that some of the following can be explained away by the fact that Nero (get it? fiddled while Romulus burned; subtle) altered history by destroying the Kelvin and an untold number (at least 3) of her crew; this movie, therefore, takes place in an alternate timeline from the original series. Because of that, the lives of many people would not unfold as they "should" have, and who met whom when, or who was where, can be different from what we used to know. Up to a point.

James T. Kirk has a brother, George Samuel Kirk. ("What are Little Girls Made Of", "Operation Annihilate") The death of George Sr. would take Sam out of the picture if he was younger than Jim, but at least one source says Sam is older. This movie does not state that Jim is an only child, but Sam is conspicuously absent.

Spock served on the enterprise under Captain Pike at the time of the Talos IV incident. ("The Cage", "The Menagerie") Did he leave to teach and then come back?

Chekov did not join the crew until slightly before Spock's Pon Far ("Amok Time" was Chekov’s first appearance, and was the season 2 opener.)

A young Lt. Kirk served on the USS Farragut under one Captain Garrovick, i.e. the Enterprise was not his first posting. ("Obsession")

There is no evidence in the series that either Kirk or Spock had met Uhura before each was posted to the enterprise (though admittedly there is none to the contrary.) There also is no evidence of a romance between Spock and Uhura, and ample reason to believe that such a romance was exceedingly unlikely. Specifically: Spock was "never able to tell [his mother] that he loved her." (“The Naked Time") He had once known one Leila Kalomi, but was unable to return her love; not uninterested, mind you, but unable. ("This Side of Paradise") So, one can logically conclude that he would be likewise unable to carry on an affair with Uhura.

While it is true any of these, especially those that effect Kirk directly, could be explained away because this is an alternate timeline, taken together they are simply too much.

The following can not be explained away by the alternate timeline.

During and after the Earth-Romulan war of Archer's time, "No human, Romulan, or ally [had] ever seen the other." The first visual contact was in "Balance of Terror." At that time, the crew speculated (and Spock suspected it was so) that Romulans and Vulcans shared a common ancestry. Now, Nero's appearance obviously does mean that there is human-Romulan contact before the time of “Balance of Terror,” but it does not change the lack of contact before his appearance. So, how is it that he was easily recognized as a Romulan, and the joint Vulcan-Romulan ancestry was common knowledge?

The Romulans don't look a thing like Romulans. The original series did not succeed in depicting just how alien Romulans (or Klingons) were supposed to look, but Next Gen and the other shows and movies did. The Romulans should have looked like those, not bald and tattooed.

Okay, so far it's been things that only a Trekie would likely care about. But how about these:

At the spaceport where Kirk and McCoy departed for the academy, there was another starship under construction. (Possibly the Enterprise, but not necessarily.) Wrong! You don't build a starship of that size on the ground. You build it in orbit. Even Archer's Enterprise (NX-01) was built in orbit. Heck, even the ISS Freedom is being built in orbit!

Pike named Kirk as first officer under Spock's command when he went over to Nero's ship. No captain in his right mind appoints, let alone a cadet on academic probation who stowed away on his ship, as first officer. I don't care how gifted he is, how heroically his father died, or how well he saved the day by deducing the Romulans had attacked Vulcan, Nobody But Nobody goes from stow-away cadet to captain in the course of one mission!  And what is Starfleet Command supposed to say?  “Okay, Cadet Kirk, you can be the captain, but you still have to go back and take your exams.”

Kirk's string of chance meetings with those who would become his senior crew (Uhura, McCoy, Spock, and Scotty) is outrageously contrived. It's less "Star Trek" and more "Wizard of Oz" than it ought to be by twice.

And speaking of Scotty, how come he's stuck almost alone at some remote outpost and then, after boarding the Enterprise without authorization, is suddenly the chief engineer? Didn't the enterprise already have a chief engineer?

When Spock was in command and Kirk wouldn't stop arguing with him, Spock was right to put him off the bridge and perhaps in the brig; when Kirk attacked the security men, he was certainly bound for the brig. But stranding him on an icy planet, probably to die, is not remotely reasonable or believable. The only reason for this was to set up the meetings with Ambassador Spock (i.e. Leonard Nimoy, as opposed to Commander Spock) and Scotty.

Ambassador Spock, on learning that Jim Kirk’s father had been killed on the Kelvin, would realize that this was a very different man than the Jim Kirk he knew. So why would he take it as given that this Kirk must command the Enterprise?

The sets were atrocious. I didn't expect exact copies to the original series sets, but the bridge bore virtually no resemblance to the original, and Engineering bore none at all.  And what the hell was the idea with Scotty being sucked through those glass pipes like Augustus Gloop?  When he was heading into the absolutely purposeless chopper I could only conclude that the film maker had done his research by watching Galaxy Quest.

Okay, enough nit-picking. These are the reasons that the movie sucked if you're a Trekie or even care about Sci Fi movies making sense. But there are plenty of reasons that it was rather mediocre even if you don’t.

The story was unoriginal and insufficient in scope to support a movie half the length of this one.

The action sequences were largely unnecessary and mostly unbelievable. They were also most of the movie, which is how the length was padded out.

The acting was, by and large, only a notch above that of Kevin Costner, which is, in turn, only a notch above that of a soggy log. I'm sorry to say that even Leonard Nimoy was no exception. These characters didn't seem capable of sustaining any more than two emotional states each, and the two were not convincingly portrayed.

It’s worth saying more about the sets, particularly the Engineering section. This had the dim industrial look that has become quite passé lately, with floor level pipes that impede rapid movement, inadequate light for an engineer to work efficiently, and steam venting for no reason. The engineering deck of a starship is a control room (damnit,) not an oil refinery. Even oil refineries have better lighting.

Were there any good points? Yes, a few.

Scotty has a real Scottish accent. (Too bad they didn't get a real Russian, too.)

The acting of Kirk's parents and Nero were somewhat better than the rest. Their two emotional states each were believable.

At least it's Star Trek on the screen again. Sort of.

And Uhura was hot.

If you have comments on this that you'd like me to see, please email them; I will not be reading anything here.

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Dilettante Seeks Patron

At work the other day, I was depressed about being at work.  There’s so much else to do, and going to work day after day, doing the tedious tasks that someone else wants done is, well, depressing.


Then I thought: I’m working for a major aerospace company, working on a program with a really high Golly Factor, doing stuff that I don’t hate and sometimes enjoy, so what more do I expect?  How can I be depressed about this?  So, I got depressed about that: I have, by all reasonable measures, a great job, and I’m depressed about it, so that’s really depressing.


I’ve often been told that the key to career happiness is to figure out what you love to do, and find a way to get paid for it.  I’ve maintained that there isn’t anything I love to do that one can get paid for; there are lots and lots of things that I like to do, but none that I like so much I would do them for 40 hours a week if not for the money.


What I really want to be is a dilettante.  A renaissance man.  Part scholar and part inventor; part author and part lover; part tinkerer and part philosopher.  It’s hard to get a job doing that.  And, what I am unequivocally not is an entrepreneur; even if I were, I don’t see a business model that would let me make a living this way.


But, I’ve decided to stop being negative and give it a try.  It used to be that artists and the like survived on patronage and sponsorship.  Chemoelectric used to opine that certain people should be supported by the state so that they are free to think and create as they choose; he called them “The Board of Chosen Freeloaders.”  (Not to be confused with “The Board of Frozen Cheeseholders.”)  That’s the career for me: I want to be a chosen freeloader.  A kept man.  The beneficiary of patronage and/or sponsorship.


So, toward that goal, I’m asking you all for money.  If one crazy rich person, or a bunch of somewhat odd financially secure folks, will send me enough money to replace my job income and insurance, I will quit my job and embark on a life of self-guided pursuits.  There will, from time to time, be something to show for this life, such as a bit of freeware, a short story, a novel new gadget, a political essay, or the like.  One thing I promise is reasonably frequent posts to this forum apprising all those who wish to know of what I’m doing with my time and your money.


Do I honestly expect this to work?  Of course not.  But not asking is guaranteed not to work, so what the hell?

Starting Over

Okay, it’s been over a year since my first post in this forum, and that one didn’t go too well.  It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this that I am something of a curmudgeon, but I clearly was rather too much of one on that day.  I only wanted to say that I would not use this forum in the way that most people do (and to air my complaint about how some do.)  Please accept that my intention was to lower expectations, not to raise hackles.  The reactions I garnered are part of the reason that I have not posted since, though I admit that it has at least as much to do with my not having anything that I felt such a need to say as to overcome my inertia.  But today I have such a thing.  (And, in the unlikely event that I am successful in what I hope to achieve with my other post today, I will be posting more often; but that’s really not realistic.)


So, let’s try this again.  I will still come to LJ, when I come at all, to write and not to read.  I will open my journal to comments, and those who wish (if any) may discuss and converse all they like, but I will not see those comments unless they are emailed to me directly.  If you really want me to know what you have to say about what I’ve said, please send it to me.


I still don’t like when people post important life news and expect folks to see it; it’s rather like notice of the impending demolition of Arthur Dent’s house being posted in a filing cabinet in a basement somewhere, making Arthur responsible to go and check whether, just perhaps, he should place his things in boxes.  But I digress.


All right, if anybody is still reading this, here we go…

The Nation in Trouble

I'm certainly not the first person to observe this, but we are in trouble, and heading for more.  It's not too late to change course, but I fear that it is almost so.

A few weeks ago I heard Sen. Chris Dodd on an interview/call-in show (I think it was The Dianne Rhem Show) on a book tour for Letters From Nuremburg, a compilation of letters from his father to his mother during the time that the elder (future) Sen. Dodd was serving as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.  He said something that all politicians are obligated to say, that America's best days are ahead.  But he said it like he meant it.  Like he acknowledges there is some doubt about this, and that saying it is an act of optimism, but that he's thought about it and his optimism is sincere.  I wanted to call into the program to make a comment about that, but did not get the chance.

On December 4th (next Tuesday,) NPR and Iowa Public Radio will host a Democratic presidential candidates debate, and they've solicited questions from the general public (which is the in thing to do this year.)  So, I submitted the following (not that I expect them to use it, but if I don't submit it then they will certainly not use it.)  While it is addressed to Sen. Dodd, I'd be very interested in what any of the candidates have to say, especially Obama, who talks so much about hope and optimism.

            You’ve said that, while there are those who say America’s best days are behind her, you remain optimistic that her best days are ahead.  I want to agree with you, but I’m scared.  This country needs deep- and long-reaching, long-term changes in the figurative infrastructure of our politics, our economy, and our role on the world stage, and those changes will take a long time to complete.  If they are not made, I’m scared that we will wake up one day to find that the pessimists were right.  Solving the problems of today – ending the war, weathering the mortgage crisis – is not enough.  What will you do, Senator, to begin the process of making these fundamental changes.  I believe this is the single most important question of not only this, but the next five or ten presidential elections.

We all know the problems: the public is apathetic about politics and distrustful of government, people complain in the same breath about high taxes and poor government services, we don't even notice when our rights are steadily eroded, the rich/poor gulf is steadily growing, far too many people can't afford to eat and live healthily and also can't afford to be treated when they get sick, the best and brightest citizens, who should be leaders, most often are not because they are not the most outgoing and charismatic, the rest of the world sees us as fat, overconfident bullies and most of them hate us for it, etc.  Most of us realize that these problems are all connected, and can't be solved individually.  The biggest problem, though, is that our elected officials are not leaders; they all know that the problems are all connected, but none of them will say so and actually lead the country toward real solutions.

And, because the real solutions will take a long time to reach fruition, if we are going to avoid losing what made this country great, we had better start working on changing course now.

My brother (who's user name I don't remember) summed it up this way:  About a hundred years ago, our great grandparents came to this country to find freedom and opportunity.  I dearly hope that my daughter will not have to leave it for the same reasons.

A Rant Against LiveJournal

Okay, I give.  Here I am, posting on LJ.

Many of those likely to read this have heard my feelings about LiveJournal before: I don't like it!  So many of my friends post the large and small events of their daily lives here, and expect all of their friends (e.g., me) to read them, that they don't talk to each other (or me) any more.  It is my opinion that if someone wants me to know something about them, they should tell me.  If one posts something on a bulletin board, that does not create any obligation, and should not create an expectation, that I will go read it.  I have two phone numbers, three email addresses, and regular snail mail delivery; I don't need another way to styay in touch, particularly not one that requires me to check regularly whether or not my friends have any news.

So why am I doing this?

Well, first let me state what is not the reason: I have never kept a journal or diary, whether on line, on my own computer, or paper, and I do not intend to start now.  If there is something I want my friends to know, I will tell them.

I have occasionally had the vain idea that others might like to hear (or read) the thoughts and ideas that run through my head on various topics, political, philosophical, scientific, or otherwise.  (At a party once, the sister of a friend of a friend asked me to please start posting here, because I had interesting things to say, so maybe it's not purely a matter of vanity.)  I think, now and then, of putting some of these thoughts, in the form of small essays, on the web in a personal web page; my ISP provides a certain amount of space included with the monthly subscription, so why not use it?  But today, I decided to let the folks at LJ do all the work of making the web site, and I can just write stuff.

So, here are the rules for mister_kat's so-called journal.
  1. I will post something when I have something to post.  Don't expect that to be frequent.
  2. No posts will be locked.  I have nothing to hide and anybody who feels like reading my writing is welcome to.
  3. I bow to the custom of (thinly) veiling my real identity, even though it is silly.  "It's not silly!  Sometimes anonymity is important with the things people write about, and even if you don't care about your own, you have to protect other people who might be identified by tracing back from you."  If there is something you don't want the whole world to know, don't put it on the internet.  There is no privacy, there is no anonymity, and there is no security on the internet.  But I know how upset people get if one doesn't play along, so I bow to the silly custom.
  4. I am not interested in adding anybody to my friends list.  ("Friend" is not a verb!)  To the best of my knowledge, I don't have a friends list, and I don't need one.  My friends know who they are, and see Rule 2.
  5. There will be no comments posted, except now and then by me.  If something I've written inspires you to write something in reply, send me an email.  If I like it (which does not mean I have to agree with it) then I will post it as a comment, giving proper attribution, of course.  Yes, I will attribute by LJ username only; see rule 3.  "But it's so much easier for me to just post a comment directly."  Whatever you have to say, if it's not worth the minuscule effort of sending an email, then I don't need to hear it.
  6. If I think of anything else, I'll post a comment.
So, that's it for now.  I do have something to post at the moment, but I've got to get going.  I'll probably do it tomorrow.