Tag: The Black Hole

Head games


It's not been a good week for me in terms of The Black Hole. Nor has it been a terrible one. It was—and continues to be?—another of those stretches wherein I feel basically OK but I'm scatterbrained.

If I didn't have a long history of this as a manifestation of my clinical depression, I'd be worried about long COVID or something. But I do have that history, and, frankly, given the choice between a stretch of foggy brain and a severe Black Hole episode of despair, I'll take this in a heartbeat.

A friend of mine—whose birthday I forgot this week, apologies—has mentioned a couple of times over the years that she's observed my Black Hole symptoms are worse in the summertime. I don't know if that's true or not, but this has been a rather quick return for a foggy-head stretch, seems like I just got over one of those. Is it just brain chemistry? Added stress? Ennui? Too damn much sunlight? Who knows.

But here's a rundown of my last week or so:

  • Forgot I had Mariner tickets for June 1st, which turned out to be a great game and it would have been fun to be there. I did realize my error in time to sell the tickets pregame on StubHub, so at least I got my money back.
  • Forgot Nikki's birthday and have yet to rectify that. (Sorry, Nikki.) But she's on a road trip right now, so maybe it'll keep.
  • Screwed up during an umpire shift in a circumstance that required more from me. There was a collision at home plate, completely unwarranted, but also I believe not premeditated, more one of those things that happens fast and reaction time was slow. And then my reaction time was slow. Way too slow. I handled everything in a manner that kept the peace and let us proceed reasonably well, but had I been sharper that night I would have been far more assertive and timely in laying down the law and offering better/more obvious defense of the injured party, who happened to be one of my favorite players in the league. Nobody's holding a grudge (that I know of) or giving me any sort of hard time about it, but I know I fucked up and that it was a disservice to one of my faves makes it all the worse, at least in my head.
  • Was late to my own softball game this week because I had transposed the start times of games (6:30 and 7:45 became 6:45 and 7:30, which makes absolutely zero sense) and I missed the first inning.
  • Screwed up yesterday's umpire shift by not remembering that different parks mean different start times because of things like lights and permits. I know this, it's basic information. Yet, knowing I was going not to Capitol Hill but to Wedgwood, I still timed things to arrive at 7pm. On my way down, at about 6:20, I got a call asking if anything was wrong since I wasn't where I was supposed to be at 6:00. Shit. Then to compound matters when I did arrive I went to the wrong field first (#3, not #2), got confused by the lack of people around when I expected two teams of annoyed softballers, and took an extra five or ten minutes to get things straight. Then I became aware that another group had the permit for that field as soon as we were scheduled to be done, so there was no wiggle room for going over time and I just had to rush things and basically those two teams got screwed out of half their time. I'm lucky that they were all understanding and not actually that annoyed. Again, had I been sharper, there was an easy solution involving moving to one of the unoccupied fields instead which would have allowed us to play later, but that didn't occur to me in time to do any good (we did play the second game on another field despite the fact that the bases there weren't pegged in and basically sucked).
  • Today is my sister's birthday, and as my mind is functioning at the speed of someone trying to run a 100-yard dash under eight feet of water, I didn't realize that until I heard someone on a podcast say the date out loud. So I made a call as I was out on errands and added "buy belated b-day card" to my errand list.

Is this stretch of fogginess over? No, I can tell it's not. I still feel like it takes three times as long to think a thought than it should. But with any luck it'll pass soon. It's a problem.

I did watch the Mariners this afternoon, as they blew a big lead and decided to go to the ninth with reliever Ryne "Panic with" Stanek in for the save. Why did they do that? No one knows. It didn't go well. It felt like ol' Panic was similarly having trouble concentrating on what was in front of him as he walked the leadoff man, served up a base hit and a one-out game-tying triple, and then his doofus manager intentionally walked not just the next guy to set up a potential double-play, but the guy after that as well—a slumping (and slow) Salvador Pérez, who's seen his batting average drop 38 points the last couple of weeks—to load the bases, which even the announcers were a bit dumbfounded by. Result? A hot shot off the bat that only a superhuman effort by J.P. Crawford kept from being a hit but was still enough to score a run and end the game. But hey, those fans in Kansas City got their money's worth tonight, that would have been a heck of a game to be at to see your team give up seven runs before even coming to bat then claw their way back to a close score only to win it in exciting walk-off fashion. Enjoy our slow-witted, unthinking Seattle ways, Kansas City!


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Brain fog


As regulars here know, I deal with clinical depression. I often use the metaphor of orbiting a black hole to try to convey the experience to normals; when things are fine, I'm in high stable orbit. When things are bad, the orbit has decayed and the black hole threatens to drag me all the way down to spaghettification. With good meds, it's a relapsing/remitting kind of thing and since my former doc and I hit on a particular prescription some years back, I've not had a really bad episode. So on the whole, things are good on that front.

But no bad episodes doesn't mean no episodes, nor does it mean no symptoms. 

Lately I've been in a kind of upper-middle ground between "fine" and "spiraling down into noodle form," like the orbit has decayed but only 10 or 15 percent. It's perfectly functional if a bit drab. In the before-time, I'd never have noticed this; it happens gradually, the orbital velocity slows, well, slowly, and I'd have to fall a good distance before it registered. But over the years I have learned to detect precursors to failing orbit episodes and sometimes that's enough to at least arrest the decay if not jump-start a push to achieve higher altitude. With luck I can do that now.

At this altitude, the main symptom of the back hole's increased gravity is a kind of brain fog. (If I lose more altitude the next-worst symptom seems to be excessive irritability.) And today there was a lot of it, sort of cold-morning-in-San-Francisco fog.

I forgot someone's name, not a big deal; I lost track of a bank deposit, which turned out to be fine but wasted a fair chunk of time; I caught myself almost emailing the wrong person named Karen; in preparing to go to the Mariners game, I noted when I should leave home in order to allow for enough time to comfortably arrive in my seat by first pitch under the assumption of a 7:10 start time even though I had just reminded myself that we live in the age of the hated 6:40 starts for most games (yes, I missed the top of the first inning, dammit, but starting pitcher Brian Woo did me a solid by throwing a lot of pitches to get those three outs); and when I got to the ballpark neighborhood, though lucking into my usual free parking space, I left my keys in the car.

I noticed I didn't have my keys after the game ended and we were leaving our seats. Panic started to set in. My car has already been stolen once, and that time the keys were nowhere near it and it was parked in a residential neighborhood instead of a comparatively grungy section of town south of Pioneer Square.

So I left my friends to the mercies of Metro transportation (it's OK, they're used to it) and jogged back to my parking space, expecting to find my car missing. But it was there, untouched, the keys right there on the driver's seat. Faith in humanity restored, at least for now. Whew. Big shout-out to my next-door neighbor and fellow night-owl Sean, who happened to be home when I called and was perfectly willing to go into my place, grab my spare key, and drive it all the way down to me without the slightest complaint. Sean is good people.

So I survived the day without much hassle despite all the fogginess, the Mariners won handily against the Oakland-for-the-moment A's, and I was informed that for my gig as a softball umpire I am getting a small pay raise.

Now if I can just muster up the energy to raise the orbit some maybe I'll be looking at a good stretch of time for a while.

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Happy Xmas, denizens of the Internet. Or, you know, a tolerable one, anyway.

I had started to write a post about how Christmas is a drag for a lot of us fifth-wheel types in this society, and it's true that for me and plenty of others Christmas is less a time to anticipate and celebrate than a time to endure and get through. It's the loneliest time of year, sometimes especially when surrounded by other people unwittingly flaunting their relative happiness.

But that post was starting to get not just dour and depressing but hostile and resentful, and that's not where I want to be. So I'll just say to everyone out there, enjoy whatever you're doing tomorrow and whomever you spend it with. Myself, I will spend tomorrow cooking Mexican food and watching movies and punting my real holiday to Wednesday, when the people I want to be with are free of their relatives. That's just how it is, and I'm good with that as the alternatives are worse or to ignore the holiday altogether.

Meanwhile, some notes of positivity to lighten things up some...

  • The new Captain America comics are outstanding. By J. Michael Straczynski and Jesús Saiz, the new series follows Cap mostly in his plain-clothes Steve Rogers state as he opts to buy his former apartment building from the slumlord that was going to demolish it and instead renovate it and keep its residents from being tossed out. A very Steve Rogers thing to do. While doing this we see Steve flash back to his childhood memories related to the building, which of course were in the 1930s as World War II was ramping up. Those events will tie into a current threat, of course, but it's a nice little parallel to see presentations of scrawny pre-super-soldier-serum Steve and his neighbors clash with the very real American Nazis of the 1930s and witness them describe their nefarious plans for Germany and the US in language that is reflected menacingly by modern-day Republicans in the real non-comic-book world. Straczynski's idea was to explore a Captain America backstory that hasn't been tapped yet:
    The years young Steve was on his own were the same years during which the American Bund – for all intents and purposes the Nazi Party in America – was growing very powerful in real world New York, blocks from where he lived. They held public marches and rallies, harassed people, and spread hate, all part of an effort to get America on the side of the Nazis, a campaign that came to a head with the biggest Nazi rally on American soil in history, as tens of thousands of people, Nazis and Nazi sympathizers, crammed into Madison Square Garden to celebrate their dream of a thousand-year Reich. We are going to put young Steve right into the middle of that real-life vortex, where despite terrible odds he will make a crucial difference at an even more crucial moment. For a young Peter Parker, the murder of his uncle Ben was a transformational event putting him on the path to becoming Spider-Man. This story will be equally transformational, putting a young Steve Rogers on the path to being the hero he eventually becomes.
    Anyway, it's great, I recommend it.
  • Speaking of fascist movements in America, Miles Taylor's new book Blowback is essential reading for anyone who hasn't been paying attention to American politics for the last, oh, ten years or so. Taylor was "Anonymous," the author of the unsigned New York Times Op-Ed that explained that he was among the grown-ups reining in the worst abuses of the Trump Administration; this book not only delves into what that meant, but how as Trump learned how the government worked—which is to say, as he figured out where the laws and officials that prevented him from doing the various un-American and illegal things he wanted to do were situated—he began to worm his way around obstacles via legal loopholes and things like "acting" appointments of toadies that needn't be approved by anyone. Which meant that the adults in the room were no longer effective at reining him in and were largely forced to depart. Each chapter starts with details on Taylor's experiences and ends with the logical extension of how the next authoritarian to reach office will behave. It's an excellent book and a chilling read, so not exactly uplifting and fun, but tremendously worthwhile nonetheless.
  • For all Mankind is back with its fourth season on AppleTV+, and it's great as always. The only characters still around from the beginning are Ed Baldwin, Dani Poole, and Margo Madison, but the whole group is terrific. The show starts off in July of 1969, whereupon history diverges from what we know when the Soviets land on the moon first. Over the course of the series, the divergent history gets farther and farther away from what we know from the "real world," and in the current season we're in the early 2000s establishing a more permanent presence on Mars, or at least trying to. I miss executive producer Ronald D. Moore's more hands-on influence and past characters, especially Jodi Balfour's Ellen Waverly/Wilson, but I still eagerly await each new episode.

2024 is just around the corner. Buckle up, folks, it's going to be a wild one.

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Bright spots

Gifts from the field

Though my climb back to stable orbit continues, it's been slow going and I've not gotten a lot accomplished of late. But there have been a few highlights that perked me up a bit:

  • Mizuki went in to see the vet yesterday and was a champ. Scared out of her little kitten mind, but bravely got through being groped and stuck with needles and she's now had all her shots until next year. She was very popular with Dr. S and the whole staff at Cats Exclusive and I have to admit I liked it when she ran from the technician back to me when they were done with the shots. Don't worry, Tiny Moon, I've gotcha.
  • I umpired a playoff series the other night, three games, and when one of the guys playing in the second game showed up early he saw I was the ump for the night and texted his teammates: "We got Tim tonight!!" It did me good, I wasn't feeling too well before heading to the park. That team won their semifinal but lost the championship game to a squad that also knows me by name now. The softball season is coming to a close soon, but meanwhile it's nice to be appreciated there.
  • Relatedly, last week (or sometime? The days have all melded together lately) I umped another game with The Leftovers, who presented me with a team-branded beer cozy. I don't drink beer, but it functions as a Coke cozy just fine and I discovered they name-checked me on the thing:
    That's pretty great. Many thanks to Neal and the rest of the team.
  • Lower Decks is back! The new season got off to a pretty good start, not the best but still fun. I guess if you're a Voyager fan you'd appreciate it more, but that to me is the bad Trek. On the other hand, they made great fun of some of the goofiest/dumbest things about that series, so that's a plus. I see this LD ep as less of a "valentine" as a well-deserved mockery of some really terrible Star Trek.

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Gaining altitude


Hello, world. Apologies to those who've left me messages or texts or whathaveyou over the past week or so. Between out of town visitors prior to the holiday weekend and an episode with my nemesis The Black Hole, I've been more or less incommunicado. Fortunately, this particular Black Hole experience has not been one of those full-blown depressive sucker-punches, rather one of the milder ones that remind me how much energy I expend to keep my normal stable orbit.

I don't know what, if anything, was the trigger event this time. Doesn't always have to be one. That's what makes it a relapsing/remitting clinical depression rather than a truly emotionally-based one. Well, one of the things, anyhow. So nothing "happened," though we did pass a couple of sad anniversaries that might tangentially connect—we passed what would have been my grandfather's 102nd birthday, shortly thereafter the anniversary of my mom dying. But really, I don't think those were key, I wasn't thinking about them much. It's just my fucked-up brain chemistry.

As I've said before about this, most of the time, thanks to good medicinal intervention, I do OK. My depression is tethered to me, visualized as a black hole with an unescapable gravity well, but usually I keep a good orbital distance. Maintaining it takes energy. And if I slip a little, it takes more energy to try and climb up again. And, sooner or later, it seems, whatever engine that powers that orbital thrust breaks down. Or overheats or something. My metaphor starts to collapse here, but I just get tired. The brain realizes how much effort its been putting into not-crashing and just needs a break.

Which means gravity pulls harder. Which means when I'm ready to come out of rest mode I have to work a whole lot harder to get back up to stable orbit. Which is tiring. You see how this can be endlessly frustrating.

Now, in this case—and again, I thank the makers of Sertraline for the generally effective assist—I didn't get pulled down all that far. I'd like to orbit at, say, moon level but I got pulled down to GPS level. Sucks, but way better than ISS level. Or atmospheric. I need these metaphors to help it make sense in my head.

Anyway, I've been tired. Sleeping a lot. Screwed up my already nocturnal tendencies to be downright vampiric. But it's better today, I can tell I'm gaining some altitude, and it's a good thing because I've got to be out in the world with the Daywalkers the next few days and then in a little over a week I have to take a quick trip to California, which I'm not really looking forward to but neither am I wishing wasn't happening. I'll take that, at this point.

Meanwhile, I have been keeping up with my and Erik's Substack about the Immaculate Grid. Because no matter what, there is always baseball.

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Annual DST whining


I've been in a bit of a mood for the last couple of weeks. I've written a bunch of posts over the years about my struggles with what I call The Black Hole, my particular form of clinical depression; I characterize it as a massive gravity well of paralysis and fatalism surrounded by a powerful band of insecurity. I'm stuck orbiting this thing and am continually working to stay as high above it as possible, having never been able to achieve escape velocity. Thankfully, my current medication works reasonably well and lets me maintain, for the most part, enough altitude in my orbit that I haven't sunken into a severe episode in quite a while. Thank you, modern pharmacology.

However, I do often slip into minor to moderate episodes. It takes a lot of energy to maintain a high orbit and gravity is relentless. This latest one was of the more gradual variety, happening slowly and really not dragging me down that far. Those episodes can be hard to recognize in the early stages, but over the years I've learned to identify secondary indications that the Black Hole is gaining in the perpetual tug-of-war—principally those signs are brain fog and irritability. 

This time I've not experienced notable fogginess, but check that irritability box with big, bold sharpie. Many little things have set me off that are wholly unworthy of a snit. Work things with web projects, umpiring things, household things, Rob Manfred-related things, neighbor things (I'm on my HOA board and shit's about to go down).

I realized I was feeling the irritation of a sinking orbit while I was listening to a podcast that offhandedly mentioned our annual societal wacky tradition of advancing our clocks an hour and pretending high noon occurs at 1:00p.m. for nearly eight months of the year.

I hate Daylight Saving Time. I think it's pointless and dumb, if a fascinating example of social engineering and human psychology. I didn't grow up with it (Arizona doesn't participate in the charade) so it's always seemed kind of weird and goofy—it doesn't save energy, which is how the concept is justified; every time we move the clocks there are incidents and problems like increased traffic accidents and other hazards; and it doesn't do anything to, you know, alter the Earth's position on its axis, we all just pretend it does. But moreover, I am nocturnal by nature and I personally resent being commanded to do things earlier in the day.

It's a minor inconvenience, and yes, this annoys me every single year, but last week when the podcasters reminded me this was happening again the next Sunday (tomorrow, as I type this) I actually yelled out loud. "GODDAMN DAYLIGHT TIME. GODDAMN MORNING PEOPLE. WHY DO WE KEEP FUCKING DOING THIS." I was in my office, which has no shared walls with neighbors, so I likely didn't seem crazy to them, but I did scare Zephyr.

The part of my brain that was not busy trying to maintain orbit spoke up, "Ahem, yes, it sucks, but you know this happens every year and it isn't being done to annoy us personally. Maybe a frustrated sigh and shake of the head would be a more appropriate response than shouting and turning red in the face while our cat runs off in the way he does when we turn the vacuum on."

It's been several days since that incident and I'm on my way back to a stable high orbit. I'm less irritable in general. But I have a three-game ump shift tomorrow starting at noon, which is really eleven a.m., and that means getting up no later than 10:30, which is really 9:30, and despite attempts to adjust my circadian rhythms I still can't seem to fall asleep before 3 or 4 a.m., which is now going to be 4 or 5 a.m., and thus I will show up tomorrow groggy to officiate softball. Fortunately, being this early the players won't have started drinking yet.

Frak you, DST. Some of us like the night.

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First-world troubles


Hi, blog. Been a little while since the last post, hasn't it? It's not that there hasn't been anything to write about—I mean, the Republicans alone provide material for a ream of posts—I've just been a bit uninspired.

I'm a few days away from my birthday, you see, and as I get ready to advance another number on the odometer I've been gloomily thinking of unpleasant things like mortality. That sounds worse than it is; I'm not wallowing in a dark funk or anything, the Black Hole hasn't pulled me into a critical orbit. But I've been having dreams related to age and mortality—not my own, more that of surrounding beings and the passage of years culturally—and subtle prompts have sent my brain to remembering deaths of pets and such.

Now firmly ensconced in middle age, it's hard to keep up the optimism that there's plenty of time left for things to work out.

So, what to do about it?

Well, I've plunked down money for dating apps again. In the past, that's always been (with the lone exception of a woman I dated for a few months over a decade ago that I met though one of these things) a complete waste of time, money, and effort. But nothing ventured nothing gained, I guess, so once more unto the breech.

For another thing, I'm getting myself a new bicycle. If I want to get into better shape and be healthier I need more exercise, and a new toy is a good way to motivate myself. My current bike has become uncomfortable to ride, so I'm getting a more upright hybrid-style model. I'll actually procure the thing soon, I've been waiting for my sprained elbow to heal first (it's going to be a while longer before it's back to normal, but it's probably good enough for riding; I'm not using the sling or the wrap anymore). That'll be good.

Anyway, point being I've been in kind of a shit mood without being in a bad depressive episode. Feeling a little lost and unfulfilled and generally blah despite things being generally good. I mean, I'm comfortable, not straddling the poverty line anymore, my cats are healthy (mostly—Raimei's going in for a dental procedure in a couple weeks) and happily attentive. Umpiring is mostly fun and gets me out of the house regularly, I'm working on a couple of client gigs, I've got friends around; all in all, I've got some nerve complaining about anything.

Except Republicans, of course. We should all be complaining about them, loudly and often.

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Holiday "Cheer"


Oh, hey, Internetizens. It's been a minute, as they say. I guess I just haven't had much of anything I felt was blog-worthy going on.

Plus, you know, holiday-times. Which in my case doesn't necessarily mean super-busy and overscheduled, but it does suggest bad moods—cloudy, overcast with a reasonable chance of black-hole episodes and brain fog. (Also, I sprained my arm pretty badly last week during our oh-my-god-it's-fucking-cold-out winter storm when I tried to take the trash out and slid on the ice-covered asphalt. It's considerably better now, but for the first few days I could basically do nothing with the left arm, including type. You ever try brushing your teeth or cutting food with your off-hand? It's more problematic than you might think, at least at first.)

I don't remember the last time I actually enjoyed Christmas. Not like I hate it now, or anything like that. It's not the Most Depressing Day of the Year, as I know it can be for a lot of folks. As a concept, I still like the whole thing, I want to do well by my friends and relations with appropriate giftage (budget permitting) and appreciate the festive trappings of the season and all. But let's face it, Christmas as we know it is not meant for single people.

The last several years I've either spent Christmas with one of my two also-single pretty good friends or gone to California to hang out at my sister's place with the remaining fam. No shade to the fam, but I don't enjoy those trips; holidays as the fifth wheel tend to reinforce the fact that I'm sick and goddamn tired of being the fifth wheel. Just low-key hanging out with a pal and watching movies while we eat pie was better. This year, my go-to single pal wasn't an option, she's fled the big city for a return to small-town Midwest life, and the other single pal has his own stuff happening. So on the 25th I just flew solo and read some comics and watched some Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a couple of romcoms. Which was fine, because I knew I had a delayed-Christmas dinner to attend with my favorite lady gays a couple nights later. I enjoyed that too, though the gifting portion of the evening was really the only thing to differentiate it from any other hang-out-with-K-&-E time. Which is not a complaint, because I love those times and I wish there were more of them.

Anyway, all of which is to say that I miss Christmas being something I looked forward to and/or something to be enjoyed. Not necessarily the kind of fun it is as a kid; that's neat and all, but I'm more thinking about how it has been, on rare occasion, an either romantic or otherwise meaningful bonding time with someone. Maybe it'll be that again someday, but I'm not counting on it. See above, re: overcast with black-hole episodes. Feeling a bit cynical right now.


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Travel, the midterms, COVID, and the Black Hole

Still managing to escape infection

About a week ago, I got back from a trip to see my dad and Marty in Palm Springs. I was down there for just shy of two weeks and it was largely a nice time; there was plenty to do, which kept it from being too boring, but despite the tasks to perform it was still a rather sedentary time. Assembling furniture and repairing plumbing takes some effort, but there's not a lot of exercise happening. Plus, after I'd been there a while I started feeling less than 100%, like a cold might be coming on. It didn't progress, so I didn't worry about it too much.

The day after my return, that's when it felt like it was progressing. I'm up to date on my vaccinations, but still took a home COVID test just in case. It was negative. So again, didn't worry about it. Just a mild cold, really. But it wouldn't go away. My friends K & E canceled having me over for a tech support/dinner visit before their trip to the UK as they understandably didn't want my germs even if they weren't COVID germs before an overseas flight, and I was good with that because I was just tired. And, frankly, a little gloomy. 

I did very little in the week since I've been back. Ran a couple errands, read some, watched some TV, gave the cats some intensive reunion playtime. Mostly slept, though.

Yesterday I still wasn't feeling great, but the gloomy was threatening to get worse. I've written about The Black Hole, as I call it, before; most effectively, I think, in a series of Cloud Five comic strips. (The C5 site has been neglected for years now; someday I may return to it, but for now forgive the sloppiness of the broken layout components. The strips in question are #75-89, the link goes to #75.) Having learned over the decades something of how my Black Hole episodes manifest, I summoned up enough energy to get outside and walk around the neighborhood for an hour or so. Did the same this afternoon. The lack of exercise while in California (and if I'm honest with myself, a paltry amount for some weeks before that) did me no favors and I feel better having put some miles on my lethargic limbs. But I'm still not feeling 100% with the cold.

My friend Erik caught COVID recently. He had to extend a stay out of town because of it. My friend Dave likewise had it while traveling and had to stay in a hotel isolating for an extra week. Both wondered if they had it before their trips and it just hadn't manifested yet, and I was wondering if I'd gotten it while traveling too and, thanks to having had my shots, it just didn't feel like anything much and my test was a false neg. People are generally behaving like this is all over with, but it just isn't. So, since my throat is still balky even now, I took another test today. Still negative, thankfully. So I return to the presumption that this is just a typical, mildly annoying cold bug (that isn't really that intrusive) and that my blah week was more depression than infection.

One outside element that probably fueled my depressive slide was the midterms. The pre-midterms, I mean. The day K canceled our evening plans was the day before election day, and she signed off the phone call with "fell better!" and I replied, "well, we'll see what kind of hellscape we'll be living in after tomorrow."

The amount of stress and anxiety that was churning below my surface awareness about what the voters of America might do was, it turns out, huge. American journalism basically sucks, so all the stories I had read about polling and surveys, and the TV coverage reiterating the historical norm for the first midterm in a presidential term being a major shift in congressional power, and the sheer awfulness of some of the candidates running nationwide made for jumpy nerves. And, largely because, again, American journalism basically sucks, an astonishing number of voters in this country had proven themselves to be either nihilist or stupid enough to back autocrats out of ginned-up fear and racist manipulation (or just out of plain meanness).

Thankfully, things turned out pretty well. Not great, mind you, but pretty well under the circumstances.

The Democrats retained the Senate and will very likely get a real majority when Senator Warnock wins his runoff in a few weeks. That's a big deal, they won't have to deal with going halvesies in committees anymore with obstructionists. Most of the insurrectionists running lost, including the batshit-crazy governor candidates in Arizona, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. A huge, ginormous relief.

Not great, but oh so much better than it could have been

On the other hand, it looks like the Republicans will take the majority in the House. Only by a few seats, which is so, so much better than some predicted—and will provide some entertainment value when Kevin McCarthy or whomever else gets saddled with being the Speaker is unable to manage his caucus of crazies—but still means we're in for some real problems. The 1/6 committee will be stopped. Concocted-out-of-nothing investigations will be the order of the day, spurred on by a sense of hollow grievance and a desire for revenge. Economic hostage-taking will be very much on the table.

Florida slipped further into full-on nightmare territory with its idiot governor easily winning reelection, its idiot senator winning reelection, and a freshly (and illegally) gerrymandered map providing half a dozen or so Republican congresspeople. New York's redistricting cost a few Democratic seats, but that redraw wasn't on a partisan basis. Georgia was a bit of a shitshow; though I have confidence in Warnock winning his runoff, his race shouldn't have been so close, plus Stacey Abrams lost to that crook Kemp. Wisconsin reelected one of the worst senators in office. Texas kept being Texas. Iowans doubled down on guns being a right. Louisianans voted to continue allowing slavery and indentured servitude as possible punishments for criminals. Ohio thought it was worthwhile to spend a bunch of money to pass a measure reduntantly banning non-citizens from voting.

There are always pockets of insanity in US elections—I mean, I'll never understand why anyone votes for Ronny Jackson or Darrell Issa or Marjorie Taylor Greene—but this time sanity prevailed enough of the time for me to relax. Mostly.

Hopefully this means a bit less trouble for me to get back into a stable orbit around the Black Hole and life will feel OK again.

Especially if Lauren Boebert loses.

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May We Live in Interesting Times

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The past week has been, let's say, trying. I've not been doing well with it.

Those who have been readers of this irregularly updated site know of my struggles with what I refer to as the Black Hole; while in inapt metaphor in some ways, it serves my purposes. The gravity of depression is the worst thing about it—it pulls you into it and the deeper you go the more energy it requires to break free.

Except you can't ever break free of the Black Hole. It's always there, the best you can do is achieve a high, stable orbit. I manage this more often than not, thanks in large part to psychopharmacology, but not always.

Even when not in the grips of an episode, maintaining orbit requires a certain amount of energy. If you get sapped of that, you start losing altitude. Gradually at first, so slowly that it can be a week or three before you realize you've slipped and only notice when it gets to be closer to a free-fall.

Anyway, ever since President VonClownstick was declared the winner of the election four years ago, there's been an extra layer of tension in my psyche. Like many of us out there, I'm anxious. A kind of primed fight-or-flight response waiting to be triggered. My mind has been on a more-or-less constant Red Alert. This year it's only been ratcheted up. I mean, impeachment failed because the entire Republican party has become a corrupt anti-democratic scourge and then the pandemic hit. And that was met with such ignorance, disinterest, and astonishing levels of incompetence as to put the US Government effectively on the side of the coronavirus. It was already enough to drive one up the wall, and then RBG died, and we can't even give her the mourning she deserves because her death set off another round of nationwide anxiety attacks.

I hit the wall. Figuratively, I mean, I didn't actually punch my walls. But I was angry enough to. I was mad at pretty much everything for a while there. My Red Alert mind boiled over in frustrated rage at how our society put itself in an entirely predictable, entirely preventable, mostly self-inflicted catastrophic circumstance.

I've started to gain some altitude on the Black Hole. I'm not spewing anger at every turn any more. I'm a little more even-keeled. But the catastrophic circumstance we're living through is no better. After RBG died and we all set about fretting over how to prevent the VonClownstick brigade from further turning the Supreme Court into a fascistic rubber stamp for government by mobsters, the pre-election GOP propaganda and machinations to interfere and cheat went into overdrive.

I don't know how I'm going to keep up the necessary fight against the Black Hole over the next couple of months; I won't truly be able to relax and really climb to high orbit until this regime of criminal thugs is gone. But in the meantime, we've all got to do our part to make sure we actually get to that point.

That means, first and foremost, to ensure that everyone who is able to vote does vote in this election.

The Trumpsters are out there decrying voting isn't legitimate, that we need to "get rid of the ballots," that people shouldn't be allowed to participate unless they vow to support the incumbent. The president is on TV just about every day making such claims, railing against mail-in ballots, against early voting, against participation, basically. His claims are all bullshit, of course, but they have a purpose. The guy is by no means an intelligent person, but nor is he a total moron. There are one or two areas in which he has some competence, and manipulation is one of them.

The president is railing against voting by means other than in-person at polling places for two reasons. One, because he wants to lay the foundation for his inevitable "legal" challenges to the election when he loses; by squawking repeatedly for months about how mail ballots are fraudulent in advance of the election, before there could even be any evidence of what he wants us to believe, he hopes to make it seem reasonable to make that claim after the fact—he needs this advance primer because he knows his challenges will be baseless and wants to create a false basis in the minds of the public first. Two, and this is something I have yet to hear any media types give much attention to, because mail-in/absentee ballots leave a paper trail, and the more voters he can drive to in-person voting at polling stations, the more votes will be cast on machines that can be hacked and by methods that cannot be traced.

Donald Trump is the most obvious and most prolific practitioner of psychological projection anyone's ever seen on a national scale. When he accuses someone he considers to be an opponent of a certain behavior, you can bet it's because he himself is doing it. Be aware of that whenever you hear him accuse someone of something nefarious. He is accusing the Democratic party of dishonesty and thievery because he is dishonest and thieving. He may actually believe it; it is entirely possible that he cannot conceive of other people behaving in ways he does not, that he truly believes that everyone is as crooked and self-interested as he is because what else is there? He has no frame of reference for anything else.

Anyway, that's a whole 'nother tangent. The point right now is that we all have to vote. We have to turn out in unprecedented numbers, to cast an avalanche of votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris so large that it overwhelms the efforts of the VonClownstick faithful to cheat and sue and discredit their way to "victory." Everyone, if you're not yet registered to vote, do so now. Get an absentee ballot if you can. Cast it as soon as possible. Do everything you can to ensure your ballot is able to be counted on or before election day.

'Cause this is it. If this goes badly, this country is over and we're on our way to being Trumpistan. Donald Trump and the Republican party have declared war on the United States Constitution and on democracy itself, and if we allow them to win that war all bets are off. We have to beat them. Soundly and decisively. And then make sure this can't ever happen again.

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Time Flies When You're Having No Fun at All

Gravity is winning of late

I have not been enjoying life of late. Firstly, this asshat has been making trouble again, and getting the rage and frustration over all that out of my head has been difficult to impossible. More rudimentary frustrations over computer failure, cold viruses, and cash flow happening concurrently don't help, but by themselves would be a lot more manageable. Anyway, for these reasons or none at all—it's tough to tell sometimes—the number of lost days I've been racking up has been troubling.

Holiday season is likely a contributor. Holidays are not the fun time they used to be once upon a time; I may not have really enjoyed a Christmas since the '80s. Hard to say, depends, I guess, on how generous you want to be with your terms.

Plus, it just sneaked up on me. The weeks in between the World Series and December seem to have passed in a blink, suddenly we're in the middle of all these Christmasy trappings and people are holiday overscheduled and oh crap, I should hurry up and make a Christmas list before there are no more shopping days, and you know what frak Christmas anyway. I'm feeling a bit like the gang in the recent Thanksgiving episode of "The Flash."



Anyway, I thought I'd post a little grumpiness as a way of giving myself a kick in the butt to put some extra oomph into the struggle to gain orbital altitude on The Black Hole. And to get back to having days with activity besides internal-monologue-screaming-matches-with-someone-I'll-never-speak-to-again more than four times a week.

Grumble. Humbug.

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Moving Beyond

I'm still sad, but this movie was a good salve

I've been pretty dang depressed this last week. Losing Pixel has been hard, and when things start to level off into a sense of "normal," I'll run across a clump of her fur between couch cushions or something, or just realize that my big new condo feels really empty without my lovely ball of fur and attitude running around it. It's kind of refreshing in its way, because being depressed when there's a clear, external reason to be depressed is a kind of novelty for people like me that take medication to keep the personal black hole that follows them around at bay. But I am working my way through it. Still procrastinating on some things, but starting to get other things done and putting my mind to positive things. Intermittently.

One coping mechanism this week has been one part lazy/one part distraction/one part mood-enhancer, and that's movies. I've watched a few movies this week. Erik suggested one, People, Places, and Things, about a cartoonist with a fucked-up love life. He thought I'd relate. He was right. It's a nice little movie. I also watched Irreplaceable You, which is about a character dying, which I thought might be good perspective but just turned out to be sad (though Christopher Walken has a fun curmudgeonly supporting role). Also Laggies, about a directionless 30-ish woman who backslides into adolescent habits, which I rather enjoyed. But also some good old reliable "comfort food" movies: Spider-Man Homecoming (as fun as I remembered), Thor: Ragnarok (funnier than I remembered), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (fun, but too dumb/shallow for repeat viewing and more violent than necessary), and tonight, Star Trek Beyond.

I'd watched Beyond once before since it left theaters, and liked it well enough but maybe not as much as I did when I first saw it. This time I give it a lot more credit. Simon Pegg and his writing partner (whose name escapes me at the moment) pulled off something really impressive: They made a movie that has the modern-studio-mandated action set pieces and spectacle that also has a solid Star Trek story. It is much better than the 2009 J.J. Abrams Star Trek and a billion times better than the idiotic mess that was Star Trek Into Darkness. Granted, that's a low bar.

Still, it's a really enjoyable movie. It has its issues—Captain Kirk is really stupid in one critical point, something that could have been avoided with a few lines of dialogue to propel the story/action without making him an idiot—and the Villainous Plot™ has a MacGuffin (two, actually) that doesn't have enough explanation to make any sense. (Oh, and a motorcycle? That's 100+ years old and runs great and has fuel in it? Really? OK, I'll let that one go.) But the villain at his core has a nice backstory (not well-developed enough, but points anyway given the need for ACTION SPECTACLE), the story flows well, our heroes are handled (for the most part) well. And the in-jokes/callbacks/homages are organic and serve the story (unlike in Into Darkness, where whole sections of the movie are poorly done callbacks/recreations there for no reason except to be callbacks). And they're funny. Simon Pegg does subtly funny really well. 

It's a shame it didn't do the box office business its immediate predecessors did. But as Erik has pointed out time and again, a sequel's ticket-selling success is largely based on the quality of the previous movie, not its own. And STID, let's be generous here, sucked. But there may not be a follow-up to this one. Which might be OK. Star Trek is not nearly its best when treated as an action franchise, and that's what Paramount Studios seems to think these movies need to be, and the rumor mill has a possible sequel written or co-written by Quintin Tarantino, of all people. Hard. Pass.

Anyway, Beyond is a fun movie. I liked it (again). And it picked me up a little bit.

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