Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wandering off

I am going to experiment with the Dark Side - you can now follow me at http://dolbia.tumblr.com

If it all goes horribly wrong I may come crawling back here. We'll see. Thanks for your patronage.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Nathan Lane’s eyebrows

You may be familiar with the actor Nathan Lane from The Birdcage or The Producers, or from his recent guest spots on Modern Family. He voiced Timon the meerkat in the Lion King franchise.

He’s in possession of an incredible pair of eyebrows.


The right and center photos reflect fairly common eyebrow positions - “normal” and “raised”. But the photo on the left features the Nathan Lane trademark eyebrow expression. The left eyebrow arches up and forward, while the right one dips inwards, giving a plaintive effect that would melt the coldest heart. (Melting hearts would be an awesome supervillain power, incidentally.)

If I had eyebrows like Mr. Lane’s, I might go for days without speaking, communicating only through eyebrow expressions.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What’s the difference between lying and make believe?

I say a lot of things that aren’t true. For example, I wouldn’t really prefer drinking laundry detergent to Diet Pepsi. But recently, a friend of mine introduced me as “Jez, the source of all lies,” and that got me thinking. Where is the line between a joke and a lie?

Why are you even thinking about this?

Once upon a time, when I were just a lad, I was in the next door neighbor’ s back garden. They had a climbing frame which they were giving us, and I was there for a test drive. As I climbed up on it, the neighbor lady (who was a child psychologist) was chatting to me about something or other. On my way down, she waited until I was on the bottom rung of the ladder, and then asked me the question in the title of the post. I lost myself in thought so rapidly that I fell off the frame and broke my arm, which then took my mind off lying fairly rapidly.

Nowadays there are three kinds of falsehoods I enjoy sharing, but I never considered lies. I’ve been including common-or-garden sarcasm into my repertoire for a while now, and it always makes me feel a bit smug that I saw the opportunity. I also enjoy exaggeration for comic effect, which I think I probably learned from the television.

More recently, I’ve been trying out statements that have no relation to the truth, like claiming that some bottles had spiders living in them, or that I taught Ron Paul to read. I don’t know if there’s a name for this kind of humor, but it’s a way for me to entertain myself using the power of make believe.

Is it really lying?

As I see it, a lie has to have two properties:

  1. It is false.
  2. The intent is for the listener to believe that it’s true – usually in order to give some advantage to the liar.

Sarcasm is clearly marked as falsehood by tone of voice and its absurdity, so I don’t think it meets the second criterion. Similarly for the exaggeration – no-one really believes that Midori has so many shoes we needed to build an extension to the house for more than a second.

But the absurd statements? I’m not expecting to convince anyone, but I am amused by the thought that someone might believe that I’m from Tennessee, or that I was a mail-order groom, or that I first met my friends by selling them illicit substances. Those few seconds of watching facial expressions as they parse the sentence and think “could he be… no, that’s not possible” make me giggle on the inside. So I suppose those really are lies. Sort of.

What do you think? What is it that pushes an untruth into the realm of lies? Am I missing something? Did a philosopher that I’ve heard of but never read have a theory about this?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Now that I’ve broken the seal, the depression words are spilling out.

There’s, like, a stigma?

Even amongst people who acknowledge that depression is A Real Thing (as opposed to something you need to just get over), there’s an uneasiness around treating it with medication. People who have never been depressed believe that the first line of treatment should be enhanced diet and exercise, then changes to routine and sleep schedule, then self-help books, then talking therapy, then voodoo, then antidepressants.

Now, I’m not saying that lifestyle changes don’t help. But they didn’t get me close to functional – and I had professionals keeping me on track for 6 months. Without support, and without fairly immediate results, it’s not really feasible for someone who’s severely depressed to take on these kinds of changes. When you’re barely coping with life as it is, how do you fit in 5 hours a week of cardio?

Part of the problem is a misconception that antidepressants are “happy pills” which replace all genuine emotion with unspecified elation, and so taking them really just avoids the problem. This couldn’t be more wrong. If people want to feel good regardless of what’s happening in their lives, they have options – we go to doctors to feel normal again. Antidepressants don’t replace real feelings – they enable them in a person who would otherwise just see grey.

There’s also concerns about the effectiveness of some antidepressants (most notably the SSRIs, which have never worked for me but do for some other people) as well as generic fears of Big Pharma. No fears of Big Diet and Big Exercise, I would note.

Me and my meds

It wasn’t easy to find meds that work for me. I am currently on a cocktail of 3 different drugs (an antidepressant, a stimulant, and an anticonvulsant, for some reason) which get me out of bed in the morning and let me taste food. It took YEARS to find this combination, and it’s changed my life.

For a long time, each new treatment I tried worked for a while and then stopped. For medication, the pattern usually went something like this:

  • One month to build up to a therapeutic dose.
  • Two months of things working out pretty well.
  • One month where it starts dropping off. I understand that people have good times and bad times, and put it down to bad times, and give things a chance to clear up on their own.
  • One month where I stop being able to function. I miss work, can’t socialize, and otherwise exhibit full-on depression.
  • One month to taper off the drug; and the cycle starts with the next one.

Throughout this I’d have ups and downs at work and in my personal life, making commitments when things were going well that I’d break when they weren’t.

The current regime has been working for about 9 months now. Let’s hope there isn’t a next one.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Here comes the downer...

This blog is called Brain Heal for two reasons.

The first is a reference to the nickname of a healing spell in World of Warcraft that doesn’t require a lot of thought to use. I was planning on posting a lot about WoW, so having a reference to it would be relevant.

Every picture of "depression" on the internet is of a
person in this pose.
The second is a reference to my own mental health, which is not always good. I was also planning to post about my experiences, my challenges, and the treatments that have worked for me. I put it off for a long time – in part because it’s kind of a downer for me to think about, as well as for anyone to read. I’d much rather be sarcastic about people on the internet – that lets me feel like I’m better than them.

But then I saw this video, and read the accompanying post. It’s focused on people in the skeptic/atheist communities, but the call for people who have struggled with mental illness to speak out and let others know that they aren’t alone is universal. It's the only way we can change the culture that believes that the only cure for depression is to "just get over it."

I'm still going to post more about what I've been through, but I want to get this out there while I'm stalling:

I have suffered from depression off and on for much of my childhood, and my entire adult life. I am on a drug regime that is keeping me functional. And it's time for me to start talking about it.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Third life crisis

I am 28 years old.

I own a house and a car. I pay bills for electricity, water and sewer, sewer capacity charge*, cable internet and television, voice over IP phone, mobile phone, rubbish collection, mortgage, property tax, and homeowner’s association dues. They are all automated except for the water bill and the capacity charge. If I forget to pay the water bill, the city will cut off my water. I don’t know what they will do if I forget to pay the capacity charge.
I have been in the workforce for longer than I was at university. I have been a Subject Matter Expert in three technical areas. I have presented on one of those subjects to an audience of 200. I have trained my colleagues in my areas of expertise.
I have been in the same relationship for 2/3 of the time since I became sexually active, and married for half of that time. In the past 6 years, the longest we have spent without seeing each other is 2 days. I cannot imagine how I would live without her.

I am 28 years old.

Most of the “books” I read are comics about wizards. Many of the non-comic books feature people who believe they have been abducted by aliens, or pan-dimensional spiders.
Today I spent 4 hours virtually positioning guns to shoot aliens, preventing them from stealing my stuff. After the first 3 hours, I discovered a sneaky trick which made it a whole lot harder for the aliens to steal my stuff. This made me feel inordinately pleased with myself.
I spend an obscene amount of time watching television. I wish I could tell myself that it’s some form of high art, but 90% of what I watch is crud. I wish I could tell myself that it’s a social tool, giving me something to talk with my friends about, but I watch far more TV than any of my friends. I wish I could tell myself that it fulfills a critical role in my relaxation process, but I don’t have a relaxation process.

I am 28 years old.

When Seth MacFarlane was my age, Family Guy had been cancelled and renewed. Twice. When Freddie Mercury was my age, he wrote Killer Queen. When Johnny Depp was my age, he had played Edward Scissorhands. When Morgan Freeman was my age, he was an extra. When Jim Morrison was my age, he had been dead for a year.
I don’t have a clue what I want to be doing in 5 years’ time. I’m iffy on what I want to be doing in one year’s time. Not being entirely sure on where the apostrophes were supposed to go in that sentence made me feel uneasy.
I thought of myself as being 15-and-a-bit for years. Then I was 22-and-a-bit. I don’t think I can be 22-and-a-bit any longer. Midori says I’m 40-minus-a-bit.

I am 28 years old. I am an adult. And I have no idea what that means.

*My house is in a new development, so the city had to lay a new sewer pipe. To cover their costs, they charge a fee to residents for the first 10 years.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Be like me, buy a flail!

A few months ago, Robin Hood - the Legend of Sherwood became available on Steam. It's currently on sale for $5. I wrote this email to some friends to express my feelings towards it. While I'm working on some longer posts, I thought I'd share it with a slightly wider audience.

This is a fantastic game, as in the best game EVAR. It was released in 2002 so will run on most hardware that's available today. The story is engaging (if a bit familiar), the control is intuitive, the characters are personable, and the dialogue is funny.

If you have ever played any kind of game, you will like this game and you should get this game and play it and then you should tell all of your friends so that they can play it.

This game is better than ice cream. This game will clean your house for you.

There is a lull in the plot about 80% of the way through. This low point is better than any other game you have ever played.

If I had to choose between never playing this game again and drinking a can of Diet Pepsi, I would drink the Diet Pepsi. And I hate Diet Pepsi with the heat of a thousand hot wings.

When you play this game, you will know what it truly means to be alive. On the fourth Thursday of November, you will list this game as one of the things you are thankful for. You will want to thank me for introducing you, but instead of the traditional blow jobs and cocaine, please send money.