philosophy

Quality of Life: Sad Cat

I just finished getting a very expensive surgery to fix my own quality of life. Meanwhile my cat, who I adopted in January 2000, has health issues that are effecting his quality of life. Specifically diabetes and some digestion issues. One requires a low sugar/low fiber diet and the other requires a high fiber diet. Insulin shots (twice a day at meal times) can help with this balancing act but lately he’s gotten worse. He has a vet appointment this afternoon to discuss how to get him feeling better.

My cat sleeps a lot. He doesn’t groom himself. He throws up way too often (from one end or the other) and makes a pitiful meowing noise when he does. He walks stiffly, like he’s in pain, and hisses when someone walks too close to him. Given enough experimentation I can extend his life through medicine. He will have bad days and good days. Lately the bad days have gotten longer and the good days fewer. He still loves me, still purrs when he sits next to me all stinky and crusty.

Part of me feels like an evil scientist experimenting on my cat “for the better good.” I seem to have defined good as his continued life. I don’t know if that is right any more.

With people it is possible to have a sense of how to approach an illness. A little reason can be offered, hope spoken of, pros and cons weighed with great empathy. Linus, my cat, doesn’t know what is happening to him. He recognizes that the shot makes him feel better (or used to) but I can’t explain all the conflicting issues. He feels like he is dying right now. That’s how I interpret his no longer cleaning himself. I don’t know how to tell him that all this suffering I put him through may make life nicer. I don’t know how much suffering counts as fair.

At what point am I torturing my cat to keep him alive?

Categories: cats, health, philosophy | Leave a comment

Yes and We

I’ve always liked the improv rule of saying “yes.” When I apply it to life in general I call it “Edie’s Rule” because my husband loves to talk about how his mother always kept a positive outlook and how she was always right about things turning out well.

Harold Ramis meant to be giving filmmaking advice here but I find it very universal.

You have to live your life with a certain blind confidence that if it’s your destiny to succeed at these things, it will happen, if you just continue to follow a straight path, to do you work as conscientiously and as creatively as you can, and to just stay open to all opportunity and experience. There’s a performing motto at Second City…to say yes instead of no. It’s actually an improvisational rule…It’s about supporting the other person. And the corollary to that is if you concentrate on making other people look good, then we all have the potential to look good. If you’re just worried about yourself—How am I doing? How am I doing?—which is kind of a refrain in Hollywood, you know, people are desperately trying to make their careers in isolation, independent of everyone around them.

Since my vestibular rehabilitation (relearning balance) started I’ve had what I like to call “getting better headaches” and the blues associated with slow improvement compared to magical unicorn healing. (Magical unicorn healing is that belief that a pill or a surgery will “fix it” without any effort on the sick person’s part.) Sometimes I even feel oppressed by my own inability to think clearly.

I hate not thinking clearly. It’s particularly hard when I know my work is almost entirely brain based. Today as I walked to work after my balancing appointment I had a long conversation with myself and came to this conclusion: I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I can be there, handy and helpful and hard working. So that’s my goal. Even on days when I feel like I’ve taken two steps back on my way going forward I can still be Handy, Helpful, and Hard Working. I can say “Yes.”

Besides all that I love the part where Harold Ramis says “And the corollary to that is if you concentrate on making other people look good, then we all have the potential to look good.”  It’s really worth repeating. I may feel off but is it really about me or is it about we?  I think it’s about we, we the group I work with, we the company, we my husband and I, we my family, we the city, we the world. Let’s all look good. Let’s all cover for each other and do as well as we can.

So there it is. Yes & We.

Categories: philosophy, SCDS, surgery recovery | 1 Comment

Privacy vs Writing Online

There’s a fair amount of worry over writing about health issues in a public sphere. Potential employers or health insurance companies could easily mark me as broken, though I prefer to see myself as mended or kintsugi.

I can write about balance and the importance of sharing my experience, from the relatively quick process of discovering what was ailing me to the long slow process of recovering from surgery and getting back in shape. I do have altruistic feelings about this. I feel sharing my experience may help or edify others.

I also feel like this:

xkcd dreams

Apologies to my mother for the momentary vulgar language but it really ecapsulates the importance of speaking my individual, strange and not always perfect truth.

Categories: geeky, health, philosophy | Leave a comment

Feb 11: Say No to Mass Surveillance

ACLU, EFF, and I all agree. Mass surveillance is bad. Just say no. Privacy matters. If you wonder why then consider this Wired article.
No Mass Surveillance

Privacy matters.

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Difficulty Level in Life and Video Games

I recently upped the difficulty level on a video game I play a lot. I like the challenge.

A while back John Scalzi wrote about how various things effect the difficulty level of life.

A lot of people comment on how rough I’ve had it with my health lately. I agree. It has been difficult. I wouldn’t choose it and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The sick part was bad enough and now recovery has aspects both boring and challenging. A head cold will still wipe me out when sinus pressure meets surgery site.

If I focus on the challenging part though this whole experience becomes something interesting. What helps improve my health, what makes it worse? How can I grab back the life I want? What about life has changed such that I want to do more or less? A health scare really helps set priorities.

Going back to work exposed me to germs and got me out in the cold weather freezing my poor nose. Of course I’d catch a head cold. Sick, bored, unimaginable pain in my head. It’s very tempting to wallow in sad. I’m working very hard at staying focused on the interesting parts of getting better, the process, the stages, the moments.

Categories: geeky, health, philosophy, SCDS, surgery recovery | Leave a comment

Woman in Computer Science

In the United States certain professions have gender attached. You can be a nurse or a male nurse, a teacher or a male teacher, a chef or a female chef, a computer programmer or a female computer programmer. I’ve known men who worked as librarians, teachers, and speech language therapists and they are all minorities. They go to conferences with hundreds of people and see maybe two or three other men. The male teachers in particular have their motives questions. Why would you want to work with children? (Are you a pedophile?) I am lucky not to have to deal with that question. There is a rudeness to it that hurts my soul.

I am a female computer programmer. I get asked if I wouldn’t rather be a project manager or the person who knows about tech but acts as the go-between for customers and “real” programmers instead of programming. I end up doing a lot of documentation (because it is important) and then worry that I will end up on the Docs team instead of coding where I love the work.

Ignorance and minorities go hand in hand. Not ignorance on the part of the minority but ignorance about minorities. It can range from hostility and stereotypes to the more “innocent” sort of ignorance that I now call Can I Touch Your Hair?

Every type of ignorance deserves its own response and each response is based on an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. In the land of computers people are often shy, introverted and have a history of being bullied. Men and women alike with years of high school under their belt where they were the ones who were beat up or had tampons thrown at them. Some grow aggressive, some quietly submit, some educate. I call these categories Malcom X, Uncle Tom, and Martin Luther King. I try to emulate Martin Luther King.

Being on disability as I recover from brain surgery gives me a lot of time to think. I remember back to a moment in time when I brought up how differently women write their resumes than men. We were looking to hire a new team member and we were comparing two candidates, one an over qualified male and the other an under qualified female. My male team lead said, “Since you’ve brought up the gender differences would you mind if I asked how I could tell if a woman was exaggerating her abilities or lying about something on her resume?”

The question really threw me off. I didn’t know how to answer. Instead I walked through her resume and showed him where she had chosen to do projects like move databases from MS Access to MySQL (a smart move) because she was bored with what she was being given. Her history looked a lot like mine.

We ended up hiring neither and kept looking for someone closer to the middle ground.

Now here in the future I feel haunted by this moment. I feel like I missed the chance to educate him on something about women in computer science. Women will only put on their resumes what they absolutely know they can do and have had actual experience with. We know walking in that our skills will be judged from the get go and there will be no time to “learn it on the side after I get hired.” We can’t afford to exaggerate on our resumes or, at the very least, we feel we can’t.

I wish I could go back in time and say, “She seems like a real go-getter. Let’s hire her.”

Categories: feminism, philosophy, women in computer science | 8 Comments

What Makes a Person

Approaching the intentional transformation of self for me includes an outline of what makes Self. Foundationally I agree with Joseph Campbell on the concepts of masks.

We all wear masks throughout our lives. These masks come with familiar phrases like “professional behavior will help with networking for a job” or “don’t talk like that around your grandmother.” Sometimes the masks are changed out with barely a thought. One outfit is for a night on the town and another is for on the job. The idea that these different ways of presenting ourselves are just masks that we wear and switch out is not a new one, though also not always done consciously.

Underneath these masks exists a fundamental me with traits that thread through all the masks. For me one of those traits is I won’t lie just to get ahead. I failed a class in college because I wouldn’t just go along with what the teacher was saying. My truth was more important than a grade, or a relationship, or a free ride, or a job or anything. I value sticking to my guns on topics I believe in and I’m not going to say “yes, we should all be vegans” just to get an A.

My goal is to sift through my traits, figure which ones are firmly me and which are simply taken on for convenience and then facet them out into masks appropriate for each situation in my life.

To make this easier I’ve divided traits into the following categories:

  • Actions
  • Appearances
  • Dreams
  • Environments
  • Feelings
  • Memories
  • Perceptions
  • Physical States
  • Thoughts
  • Words
  • Works

Each one is plural because each one is changeable as well as potentially multiplicital (spell check says I made that word up).

Here’s the list again with examples:

  • Actions: Exercise, hug a friend, or share lunch with a homeless person
  • Appearances: Wear spikes on a leather jacket or smile at people
  • Dreams: Wipe polio off the face of the planet or eat pumpkin pie every day for a week
  • Environments: Live in a small town or read in a coffee shop
  • Feelings: Sadness or love
  • Memories: Picking mint for Mama’s tea or almost drowning
  • Perceptions: Eugene is the big city or Eugene is a town with delusions
  • Physical States: Healthy, head cold, or heart murmur
  • Thoughts: E = MC^2 or I wonder if she’s out of my league
  • Words: “Thanks for the lift!” or “I can’t believe he did that!”
  • Works: Founding a non-profit, building a skyscraper, starting a successful business, creating art, or etc

So given my belief that these things make a person I simply (ha!) have to quantify myself in each of these areas as I have been, as I am and as I want to be.  Then I just (ha ha!) facet that into appropriate masks for the situations most likely to occur in my life. In the end I will have a solid sense of core self with easy to reference facets for general purpose use.

Categories: philosophy, surgery recovery | Leave a comment

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