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Do One Impossible Thing every year

March 27, 2009 5 comments

I’m still working on this idea, but it could turn out to be important, at least to me. 

“Impossible” has a couple different layers of meaning.  There are things that are impossible for everyone, like traveling faster than light.  There’s logically impossible things, like Creation Science, or walking up and down stairs at the same time (Escher notwithstanding).

Then there’s “impossible for me, at this time”.  By this I mean, something you couldn’t do even at gunpoint.  It’s something that, in principle, given time, you could do, but you don’t currently have the ability.

This matters because, when you finally accomplish something impossible, you have a new brain, or at least a newer brain.  As Mo at Neurophilosophy explains, new discoveries about synaptic plasticity have exciting implications:

…Until now, it was thought that such reorganization is restricted to small numbers of connections within discrete areas of the brain. But new research published yesterday in the journal Current Biology now provides the first evidence that local modifications to small numbers of connections can induce global changes in brain connectivity…
 
Neurophilosophy: Experience induces global reorganization of brain circuitry

This is not only exciting to people with specific neurological problems; it even offers hope for people who watch network TV.  Every time you hear someone say; “I wish I could…”, you are hearing wishful thinking that there were some shortcut to building those neural pathways.  And the larger implication is that global changes in brain circuitry will create new, unpredictable possibilities.  Maybe new ways of looking at the world, at your own life, at solving problems. 

This year I chose to learn to ride a unicycle.  Even at gunpoint I couldn’t stand up on the thing, let alone move forward on it.  It was of special interest to me because my balance had been impaired by an accident five years ago.  For almost two years I felt off-kilter;  walking was difficult, sitting in a chair required concentration, and riding a bike was out of the question.  For me, ‘no bike’ is a hard sentence. 

Well, after much work I’m riding again but it isn’t enough;  I want to do something I never could do before.  Hence, the unicycle.  Then it occurred to me that there were LOTS of ‘impossible’ things I could learn to do.  What if I did another one every year?  If I start this year and only live as long as my mother has so far, that’s 29 impossibilities (but right now she’s down in California taking care of her mother, who is pushing 100).  What’s the best way to use that time?  What would life be like?

It’s fun to think up impossibility possibilities: juggling, cartooning, calculus, tightrope walking.  They’ll start to interconnect.

I noticed during physical therapy that the most noticeable improvement was between sessions.  It was as if my brain took notes during sessions and then prepared for the next one.  The same thing is true on my unicycle, which I have been practicing for three weeks.  Last night, for the first time, I rode ten feet without holding on to anything.  Smoothly, easily, just a few seconds of pure joy.


UPDATES:

  • 02 April, about 100 feet

  • 05 April, Still learning to steer, been practicing at the skateboard park, riding along a straight space on one edge of the fenced-in area.  Kids on skateboards (who are themselves amazing to watch) are amused but very friendly and tolerant of geezer on unicycle.
  • 15 April, about five weeks.  Can steer much better.  Learning to ride on inclined surfaces and attempting starts on flat surface without holding on to anything.  Have ordered some better pedals (grip is important) and a (hopefully) more comfortable seat.  I think that with the same level of practice, a healthy 10-year-old would have taken about a week to get to this point.  Makes every bit of progress that much sweeter.
Categories: Personal

What camera would you suggest?

August 9, 2008 9 comments

I’m looking to replace my current digital camera, and I want a modernized version of what I have now.  Not necessarily from the same manufacturer, and I am open to suggestions for different types.

My current camera is an Olympus 5050.  It’s a small, magnesium-body hocky puck as digital cameras go, and the display on back can tilt up allowing waist-level operation.  I really like that feature. Operation is somewhat slow, which is not unexpected as this is a 2003 design.  But the main reason I want to replace it is that the exposure control has developed a problem in bright sunlight. 

Once upon a time buying a camera was easy; Olympus made professional-grade cameras that fit my hands perfectly and so that’s what I bought.  But two things have changed.  I have not made a living with a camera for 25 years so I can’t write off a $2K camera anymore.  And I’ve gone digital, and digital cameras don’t have nearly the service life that film cameras had. So it’s hard to justify spending a lot on one.

Two current candidates include:  The discontinued Olympus 8080, which is a four-year-old design, or a Canon G9, which is new and has Canon’s Digic III processor and genuine RAW output, but lacks a tilting display.  (Canon, what the hell?  the G6 had a tilting display.)

I’m not opposed to a Dslr, especially if there were anything like the Olympus E520 with a tilt display.. And just to make matters more complicated, if something incredibly great comes along (a top digital rangefinder, maybe?) maybe I could be persuaded to break the bank anyway. 

Suggestions, anyone?  If you are serious about photography, what do you use, and what would you recommend?  (And no, WeeDram, I’m not going back to film)

Categories: Personal

A chronic pain day

August 2, 2008 14 comments

About 1:30 last night my body decided to start running a series of load-capacity tests on every nociceptor in the nervous system.  Or something.  But I have been damned uncomfortable today and painkillers are not helping.

This started being a problem – sometimes quite severe like today – years ago after my first bout of kidney stones and one of my early surgeries.  It’s as if the pain circuits got stuck.  As I have passed more stones and had more surgeries, it has gotten worse.  Accident 4 years ago did not help.

An MD muscle specialist finally figured it out: he said I have “chronic migratory fasciitis”.  (I resisted the urge to ask him if that was like migratory coconuts.)  But as he explained the malady he kept mentioning fibromyalgia.  I asked him; “Is this fibromyalgia?”  He said; “Well, it’s the same thing as fibromyalgia.”  Thanks for clearing that up, doc.

It reminds me of my old Greek professor – he wasn’t from Greece, he just taught Greek.  He said we pay doctors to translate our ailments into Greek.  You go to the doctor and say; “Doctor, my eye is swollen.”  He says; “Aha!  You’ve got ophthalmitis!  That will be twenty-five dollars, please.” I guess I should update that anecdote to reflect the current cost of medical care.

I don’t know where I’m going with this post but anyway that’s where I am.

Categories: Personal

Gone baby gone

July 6, 2008 7 comments


I am trying to simplify my life and pare down to fewer possessions.  But that isn’t always a lot of fun.  Logically, I only need (occasionally) one car, not two cars.  And if I have to choose which one to keep, then logically it should be the reliable, efficient Honda and not the temperamental antique VW that requires painful contortions for me to work on.

But the bug was a blast to drive.  I loved the way it looked, the way it handled and performed, and the attention it received everywhere it went. The way it could go practically anywhere.  The car had enthusiasm.  It was Bitchin’.

I hope the new owners Richard and Sun enjoy it.

Categories: Personal, VW

Starting up

July 3, 2008 3 comments

I have a guy coming to look at my VW tomorrow, and it hasn’t run since last October.  The concern is, no oil on moving parts.  Here’s the procedure:

  1. Spark plugs out

  2. Squirt oil into cylinders, plugs back in, wires hooked up
  3. Disconnect coil wire, crank engine until oil pressure light goes out
  4. Reconnect coil wire, start engine.  Choke on blue smoke.  But love sound of boxer engine.

Damned impressive the 8-year-old battery held its charge since last October.  But I don’t think the engine likes 9-month-old gas.

Categories: Personal, VW

Congratulations Jon & Katie Weber

June 16, 2008 2 comments

My friend Jon married his sweetheart Katie this Saturday in Kankakee, IL.  MrsDoF and I were there for the happy event.

Happiness and long life together! 

Jon and Katie plan to make their home in the Quad Cities. 

Categories: Personal

Landslide

May 12, 2008 6 comments

I don’t know what this song has to do with our empty nest that begins Thursday,

… but it’s in the right key, emotionally.  I understand inevitability but i guess I’m not one of those parents who does handsprings.

Categories: Personal

When I catch up to Brady Cardia, I’m going to kick his ass…

January 17, 2008 2 comments

Today started dizzy and weak, with irregular heart rate in the low ‘40’s.  After an hour or so it was up to 55 and I went to work, not feeling like the sharpest knife in the drawer.  (I’ve had this problem for years, but it never happens at the doctor’s office.  Heart is always perfect there, beats as regular as as a piston.) 

By late afternoon I’m feeling just fine, heart rate in mid-60’s.  This is not new either, as I always used to function quite well from 2:30 to 6, and that overlaps the time I ought to quit and go home.  But it’s when I’m getting stuff done because I can focus.

Anyone have any experience with bradycardia that happens with no apparent pattern?

Update: Friday morning.  Went to gym last night, 50 minutes of cardio.  This morning, feeling OK, low ‘60’s.  I don’t know what triggers it.

Categories: Personal

A long, rambling New Year’s Post 2007-08

December 31, 2007 8 comments