Tommyjournal  archive    January 2006

Monday  01.30.06

I think the antiviral medications I'm taking are improving my overall health. Physical activity isn't leaving me feeling as burnt as it had been. I'm not back to the (subjective) level I was at, say, five years ago, but the improvement I'm seeing is better than the proverbial poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

I felt sore as fuck last night from climbing, but this morning I felt good enough to go climb again.

Today's outing was cut short by my partner dislocating his shoulder in the middle of a route. He talked me through the procedure of putting it back in place (he's been through this before). I approached the task with a bit of trepidation, I didn't want to make his condition worse. But he asked for it, and he said it would be advantageous to get the joint back in place as soon as possible.

It was unsettling to hear and feel the joint move as I was pulling (it took a bit of force). I had no way of knowing whether I made it better or worse, we relied on him to determine that.

He was ecstatic when it went back in. I haven't seen anyone so jazzed about something in a while.



Sunday  01.29.06

Nice day climbing at the gorge today. Sore now.



Saturday  01.28.06

A few years ago, a friend gave me a book written by W. Brugh Joy, M.D. (a friend of my friend) who claimed to be able to sense (with his hands) "energy fields radiating from the body":
...this energy passes through anything I have placed on the chakra areas, including wood, half-inch steel plates and foam rubber. (I have not yet tested with lead.) Because the energy passes through anything, it is not necessary for the patient to undress to be scanned for bodily fields. (Joy's Way, p. 160)
That suggests that Dr. Joy had a healthy sense of curiosity, and made tests to determine under what conditions he could sense the "energies". If his abilities were real and consistent, that would be momentous; the implications in physics and biology could be profound. I wanted to know why Dr. Joy left this as an anecdote in a book rather than showing it to the world in a controlled demonstration.

For example, I wanted to know why Dr. Joy didn't demonstrate his ability in 1998, when 11 year old Emily Rosa made national news by testing people who claimed to have similar powers. (They failed her test.) The publication of Emily's research--in the Journal of the American Medical Association--was quite an event, a true emperor's new clothes kind of story. It brought the topic to the public's attention and provided the perfect moment for Dr. Joy or anyone who could truly sense such energies to come forward and deliver the goods. No one did.

I got a chance to meet Dr. Joy and ask him. I was careful to broach the subject in an unconfrontational tone. He quickly derailed the conversation to other topics.

I'll probably get a chance to talk to Dr. Joy again; he has a house a few miles from me and visits with my friend from time to time. Next time I see him, I'll be more direct. I'll ask him why he hasn't collected James Randi's million dollar award, which has been on offer for some time now for a controlled demonstration of such abilities.

To address some of the explanations put forth as to why no one has claimed Randi's million dollar prize:

The people who have these powers don't care about money or status. I can't disprove this, but I can say that some of the people who claim to have these powers do indeed care about money and/or status. Hell--if someone doesn't want the money, they could donate it to a charity. But forget the money; as I said earlier, a controlled demonstration would be of the greatest interest to physicists, biologists, and others. To have such an ability and not demonstrate it is to hold back progress. If such abilities really exist, why do they only belong to people who have no interest in furthering science?

Such abilities are real but they only manifest in appropriate settings, and the clinical atmosphere of a controlled test kills the effect. Again, I can't disprove this--but it's just too convenient an excuse. If there are people who can do this, I'd think that at least some of them would be able to do it in a controlled setting.

James Randi's offer isn't genuine; he always has a way out, he would never pay. Randi has gone to great length to explain the terms of his offer. Read his FAQ for yourself and see if the offer sounds credible.

A friend of mine has worked extensively with James Randi and introduced me to him earlier this week. I found Randi to be intelligent, straightforward, and gracious--it was a treat to spend time with him.

To report on the rest of what I did in Nevada: Red Rocks is an absolutely beautiful climbing area, and Penn and Teller's show is quite good (get there in advance of showtime, to hear Mike Jones play piano; he's awesome).



Tuesday  01.24.06

A friend stayed at my house Sunday night.

In my guest bedroom is a nightstand. Like most every other overnight guest before him, Sunday night's guest looked in the nightstand's drawer--as if he were in a motel room and was checking for the Gideons Bible.

Tao Te Ching He didn't find a Bible, but rather a copy of the Tao Te Ching. It's not my favorite book, but it's got some passages worth reflecting on.

Maybe Sunday night's guest opened it at random. Maybe he turned to chapter 30 and saw the line

     Those who use force soon end up without it.

and was reminded of the fate of a foolish man who's currently head of state in a powerful nation.



I'm leaving for Nevada tomorrow--for rock climbing, and if all goes as planned, for a conference. I hope I do OK; I'm not feeling so great today. We'll see.



Monday  01.23.06

A friend was having a hard time last year; I'll spare you the details, but some changes in the circumstances of her life were taking a toll on her. She told me that it had been the first time that she was not enjoying life. (You ain't lived, I was tempted to say--but I kept my mouth shut.)

She said that studying martial arts had helped her develop mental discipline, and that she feels better about life now.

I remember being asked some 26 years ago how I managed to deal with problems. I said that music was a great inspiration to me, that hearing (or just recalling) certain pieces of music helped me to stay centered.

That was 26 years ago. That was when I had a 20-year-old's reserves of energy. That was before I knew what being jaded felt like.

But I still find music singularly inspirational.



Wednesday  01.18.06

I'm glad I don't work on cars every day. I spent some less-than-delightful minutes this afternoon lying on my back underneath my car, extracting hidden cotter pins with bent-nose pliers while holding mirror behind them to see what I was doing.

But it's done now, and it gives me an excuse to post pics here.



Tuesday  01.17.06

Below: my answers to a silly questionnaire that has been making the rounds. I'd rather write something original, but I haven't been feeling very inspired lately.

The version of this questionaire that came to my attention included instructions to answer the questions and pass it along to friends by email. But I'm not big on gratuitous emails--thus I'm putting this on the web instead, where it only wastes the time of those who sought it out.

Many variants of the questionnaire exist on the web. It mutates readily--kind of like HIV.


1. IF YOU COULD BUILD A SECOND HOUSE ANYWHERE, WHERE WOULD IT BE?
Somewhere in the southern hemisphere. Obviate winter.

2. YOUR FAVORITE ARTICLE OF CLOTHING?
My white wool cap.

3. THE LAST CD YOU BOUGHT?
Gabriel Prokofiev, Quartet #1, Elysian Quartet
(many moons ago--sigh)

4. WHAT TIME DO YOU WAKE UP IN THE MORNING?
Nowadays, usually between 6 and 8.

5. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE KITCHEN APPLIANCE?
None that I use now is particularly endearing. After having used a Sunbeam T-9 toaster, everything else is just an appliance.

6. IF YOU COULD PLAY AN INSTRUMENT WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Marimba.

7. WHICH DO YOU PREFER, SPORTS CAR OR SUV?
Sports car.

8. DO YOU BELIEVE IN AFTER LIFE?
No.

9. FAVORITE CHILDREN'S BOOK?
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett.

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SEASON?
Summer.

11. IF YOU COULD HAVE ONE SUPER POWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Teleportation.

12. IF YOU COULD HAVE A TATTOO, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
None now, but I once thought I'd like a tattoo that looked like a DB-25 connector. Geek, or what.

13. CAN YOU JUGGLE?
Yes.

14. THE PERSON FROM YOUR PAST YOU WISH YOU COULD GO BACK AND TALK TO?
My friend Howard. (great question, by the way)

15. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE DAY?
Don't have one.

16. WHAT'S IN THE TRUNK OF YOUR CAR?
Tools and a CD changer.

17. WHICH DO YOU PREFER, SUSHI OR HAMBURGER?
Sushi.

18. FROM THE PEOPLE YOU WILL EMAIL THIS TO, WHO'S MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND?
N/A

19. WHO'S LEAST LIKELY?
N/A

20. WHO DID YOU RECEIVE THIS FROM?
I found it in Paul's blog (and located missing questions 10 and 12 with web searches).

21. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FLOWER?
Caesalpinia gilliesii. The red filaments are rad, it blooms all summer long, and the seed pods burst with a snap.

22. FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
Variety is the spice of life.

23. BUTTER, PLAIN, OR SALTED POPCORN?
Butter.
("I see you're having some bread with your butter, Tommy" -SV)

24. FAVORITE COLOR?
Red.

25. WHAT KIND OF CAR DO YOU DRIVE?
Acura NSX.

26. FAVORITE SANDWICH?
Turkey on sesame roll.

27. ON VACATION, WHERE WOULD YOU GO?
It depends.

28. FAVORITE BRAND OF CLOTHING?
Brand? I rip labels off my clothes.

29. WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
Oceanside, New York.

31. COKE OR PEPSI?
Pepsi.

32. R U A MORNING PERSON OR A NIGHT OWL?
I'm boycotting this question because it starts with "R U"

34. WHAT IS YOUR SHOE SIZE?
9½  6E

35. WILL YOU EVER FILL OUT ONE OF THESE AGAIN?
What am I, psychic?

36. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NOW?
Have breakfast.



Monday  01.16.06

Curious category that describes 56.1% of the nubile population in the county I live in:
butt separated
source: 2005 Inyo County Fact Book, using statistics from the US Census Bureau (where the category in question is labeled "Now married, except separated")

Yes, I'm easily amused.



Wednesday  01.11.06

Putting up hundreds of web pages of machine-generated gibberish for the purpose of getting more search-engine hits is a loathsome practice. E.g.
Even aleister crowley found that the craft study the girl next door.
which appears on a page I don't want to give any publicity to with a link, but which you can find at
dweebpress
if you must. The page in question includes this fine print:
The text for this article was generated automatically by a computer. As such, nothing in this article should be construed as a statement of fact or as the opinion of the maintainers of this site.
Too bad the fine print doesn't say "we will do anything, no matter how inane, to sell stuff." I'm reminded of Robert Fripp's aphorism "The quality of a person is revealed in their conduct in front of sex, money and the use of time." A person's sense of principle is tested when push comes to shove, i.e. when a powerful draw like money or sex comes into play. (Understanding what time has to do with all this is left to the reader as an exercise.)

A longer rant (that offers reasons why such nonsense pages are loathsome) can be found at today's Language Log.



Sunday  01.08.06

In a recent letter, a friend says that his pet python "has grown to full size and is a very personable snake." I wonder whether the python thinks of my friend as a very snakeable person.



Saturday  01.07.06

I did well enough with HIV for over 15 years that some people had assumed that would last indefinitely; as one friend put it, "I sort of figured that you were just immune to anything."

I never figured that. I remember someone at work about 15 years ago asking me if I had a 401K or other retirement account, and I said that would only make sense if I expect to live past 65.

I've got a fraction of the stamina I once had. I can do most of the stuff I used to do, just less of it. I nap most afternoons. For a while now, I haven't felt good enough to do full time work.

I'm still adjusting to not being able to do a lot of the stuff I could once do. This is a transition pretty much everyone who lives long enough gets to make, it's hardly remarkable. I'm just saying that it's still new to me, I'm still finding my way.



Tuesday  01.03.06

Tommy's T-cells:
CD4 cells per μL
After the sucky result in October 2005, I started taking antiviral medications; they may well have helped bring the December '05 count up. Also, December's viral load test found fewer than 50 copies per mL, i.e. undetectable, which is what you want to see when the medications are working. So far, so good.

Why am I putting personal medical information on a web page? For the same reasons I write about anything personal. The first posting of a new year is as good a time as any to review what my aim is in blogging:

In general, I think glasnost is desirable. Tommyjournal is an experiment and a demonstration: this is what it's like to share one's personal experience with the world. Sure, there are things I keep private, and there are things I don't need to write about here. But being open has value for several reasons. For one, being open helps keep me honest.
Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and the electric light the best policeman.
- Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
The very act of writing helps me understand myself better. Putting thoughts into words entails a kind of self-examination.

Tommyjournal is also a way to keep my friends informed of the goings-on in my life. Some people send out newsletters with their Christmas cards, recounting what had happened in the last year; I write about stuff as it happens. I prefer the web over (e-)mail for this purpose. This way, I can go into as much detail as I want, and friends (and others) can freely read or ignore it as they see fit.

Maybe I can illustrate the value of openness with an example of the polar opposite. Someone I know used to routinely tell me about the crisis du jour in his life, along with a request that I not repeat what he had just told me. I honor such requests (and I don't feel much of an urge to gossip in general) but in his case the list of things I'm not supposed to repeat got so long that I just treat pretty much anything he has ever told me as seekrit. My feeling is, if much of what you do has to remain hidden, you might want to examine why are you are doing it in the first place.

Okay. Even so, why do I put my T-cell counts on the web? I think it helps to demystify the experience of living with HIV. Tons of general information about HIV is available: how it's transmitted, how it's treated, how prevalent it is, and so on. But that's not the same as following one individual's personal experience. I hope that my writing helps people understand the experience of having HIV.

My T-cell count has correlated fairly well with my overall feeling of vitality (or lack thereof). After the decline in 2004 and 2005, it's nice to see an increase. I'm not feeling any better than I was in October, but that may take some time.

Anyhow--I'm a few days late here, but Happy New Year.



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