Thursday, January 31, 2013


it's the end of january, so why not throw in another entry?

i revamped my priority ranking system yesterday, surprisingly quickly, in the form of a matlab script (the spreadsheet had gotten too complicated, as tasks were completed and added and modified..). right away it showed me that i should do one small job that i had been putting off for months, and so i did it.

it's kind of sad how by forcing structure on my life in such a simple way - write a computer program to sort out a list of the things i have to do - it immediately becomes undeniable that i have to do something. without this little trick, i am apparently lost in a haze, unable to see what is right in front of me. i suspect it is because i am hiding things from myself, and i still do not understand why.

also, tuesday afternoon, i was smacked with an idea and sat down and wrote a story. i satisfied a secret desire today by sending it in to the Nature Futures series. of course, i'm sure a hundred people do this every day, but i couldn't think of a reason not to attempt it - and i decided not to go through a dozen rounds of revising the story, showing it to friends, etc. etc., just because it's so nice not to have to do that for once. anyways, when it's rejected, i'll put it here so we can have it all to ourselves, won't that be nice?

enough. it's time for february.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


So, 4 days ago I dreamed of seeing a scintillating scotoma, and then became vaguely paranoid of how inconvenient it would be to have one on Sunday morning before my black belt test; then, today, after I'm home from the test and from grocery shopping, I for some reason start a conversation with j* about how migraines can be associated with relaxation after stress, and tell her the story of VanValkenburgh's Vacation; and this afternoon, coming in with the groceries, i get distracted for a little while by a foveal afterimage, probably from the sun glinting off a car windshield - but maybe it was something else. Yesterday, or a couple of days ago, I was distracted for maybe a minute by the noisiness of my visual field, having momentarily noticed how snowy everything looked. I think that was Friday...

So finally, about 9pm tonight, in the kitchen about to explain to j* why my shoulder hurts (because I briefly dislocated it by swinging my arm wildly at an odd angle towards an 18-year old), I realize that my foveal vision feels scotoma-like (if there is a word for 'feels like a scotoma', I don't know what it is. Specific feels, like 'rough', or 'bright', or 'salty', have specific, ancient, singular morphemes attached to them, so it's hard to invent a new word for a new feeling, or for one that is rare or obscure enough that it hasn't been named). I pick up a knife and start trying to use the sharp tip, at arm's length, to find a blind spot, but can't find it; the start is always odd, since I think the scotoma is very small and maybe discontinuous, and maybe even not binocular. For whatever reason, I can tell that it's there, but it's often hard to find. Then, as I've mentioned many times here, it seems to disappear; then it reappears.

This one was right field; headache is very slight, I felt it start midway through the aura, as a little jolt of pain, then disappeared. I have to shake my head to feel it; possibly would be a little worse if I hadn't taken an ibuprofen soon after the scotoma was after, though I took it for my shoulder...

So I got another recording with scotmap, which I think is good, but all my code from last summer is written implicitly for a left-field scotoma, and my code is complicated and uncommented, so it will take me a little while to straighten it out and make another good animation to post up here. I do have the data transformed and fitted to the wave model I came up with, and the result is very similar to the last measurement: exactly 3mm/min, starting a few millimeters on the V2 side of the inferior V1/V2 border, 10 or so millimeters from the foveal confluence. This is consistent with my feeling that there is a scotoma, and yet being unable to see it directly; the scotoma begins in V2.

There's something weird at the end, a bunch of data at a much smaller eccentricity; this may be an error, I don't think it's the 'rough spot' that I have mentioned before. Will work it out this week.

Meanwhile, here's a general migraine data plot, relating my estimates of headache intensity on a 10-point scale (notice what a fortunate migraineur I am) to the time elapsed since the previous headache. Most of these ratings are retrospective, based on these journal entries. I see a relationship: more frequent means more intense. The outlier at zero is the night in China last month, where there was no headache at all, which I attributed to the simultaneous alcohol intake with the aura.

In other news, I have failed to make progress this weekend on E*'s presentation.

Also, saw a nice show at the BSO last night: Hindemith, Liszt, and Prokofiev.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


briefly, because we don't want to dwell on this:

what did we accomplish last year? what did we intend to accomplish?

1a. submitted a fellowship proposal, which was rejected
1b. submitted an R01 proposal, which will be reviewed in 2 weeks (and likely rejected)
3a. submitted 2.5 papers, one published (so we are not zero for 2012), one more accepted, one heavily revised (if all goes well, should be 3+ for 2013)
3b. wrote the classification spectrum paper that is in a holding pattern
4a. completed a binocular rivalry experiment that will make a paper someday, and learned to model binocular rivalry
4b. started a new and improved blur adaptation experiment that is interesting
4c. created a model of my visual cortex that can be fit to my migraine auras
5. wrote a lot in HAZ public journal
6. applied for my first real job
7. learned 14/15 of the bach inventions (9 or 10 of which i didn't already know)
8. trained for my black belt in tkd (testing soon) without getting seriously hurt
9. settled on some new ways of organizing my work (subversion, dropbox, zotero etc etc)

what for this year?
1. find a new job
2a. finally publish the blur adapt paper
2b. submit/publish the classification spectrum paper
2c. write and submit the rivalry paper (short and model-free)
2d. present the new adaptation work and write a paper
3a. learn at least half of the bach sinfonias
3b. learn to sing and play piano at the same time
4a. continue with the journal entries, get back to work-related, less of the self-stuff
4b. start writing journal entries in chinese with some regularity
5a. do the computational experiment in the R01 proposal, funded or not
5b. find somebody to collaborate with on something... hm...
5c. plan some new experiments beyond the proposal stuff

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

dream aura 2

dreamed last night that a scintillating scotoma was starting; i think i was trying to read, but couldn't see letters, space was distorted as though there were blind spots. i'm wondering if now that i'm familiar with the scotoma experience, the normal dream experience of being unable to resolve text in a dream is now naturally triggering thoughts, and ensuing dream experience, of a migraine aura.

i went to get my laptop so i could start recording the aura, but then i got distracted by downloading a video game, which then autonomously tried to download other games, which made it impossible for me to get back to matlab to run the aura recorder.

after a few minutes, i realized that either i had missed the whole thing, or it had stopped, because there was no scotoma and i couldn't remember seeing any of the big peripheral scintillations. at some point after that, i realized it had all been a dream, and i started wondering whether i actually had a headache or not; then i awoke, and went through the same train of thought again. but happily, no headache.

my tkd black belt test is sunday, and i am slightly nervous that i will get a headache sunday morning; i have a superstitious feeling that i have *caused* the headaches before by thinking too much about being about to have one, when in fact i think i've just subconsciously noticed aspects of prodrome. anyways.

Friday, January 18, 2013

gone, gone..

I need to get back to posting on my research activities, which have not ceased completely believe it or not. Next time, next time.

My grandfather, granddaddy, RSM, died Tuesday night. He was 92, born on the Ides of March in 1920. He was my last grandparent, my mother's father. Her mother, Elizabeth, who I will always say was probably the most important influence on the development of the contents of my mind, died almost 3 years ago at 85. My father's father died in summer of 2001, 89 years old. His mother died in 1998, 84.

My mother's parents were always closer to us, maybe because they were younger than my father's - by a decade - and had a lot more energy left. My father's parents could only tell me stories and talk with me; my mother's parents took me places and taught me things.

Elizabeth gave me books, told me about what she knew and where she'd been, took me to museums and historical sites all over the southeast, taught me to explore cities and the countryside and new towns, and to wonder where we and our ancestors had come from, and where all people and their cities and their civilizations had come from.

Granddaddy took me fishing on the rivers and lakes that he'd fished on since he was a boy - since before they had existed, in the case of those big TVA lakes, I guess. He tried to take me hunting, but I clearly wasn't interested. He took me camping and exploring in forests and mountains. He showed me how to interact with nature, and I don't think he ever knew how much of it stuck with me. I'm not a fisherman, but I know how to fish, and I know how to get around in the woods, and I'm at home in the outdoors. He was also a doctor and an artist. On the outside he was a cynic and a skeptic as pertained to human things, but he was always fascinated with nature, and with the human being and the human mind, and I think he was proud of me for becoming what I am. I know for certain that since I was little I learned to copy his personality, and my mother has commented on it positively and negatively, because he could be harsh and negative. I always wanted to be like him.

It was so strange to see him go, just like it was with Elizabeth, who was always so mobile and active and who spent her last year or so unable to get out of bed. Granddaddy, and I told him this the last time I saw him, was always the strongest person I ever knew, the model of strength, invincible even though I knew he was always getting injured in one way or another, always sick but always too strong for the sickness. But in his last years he lost his house and all of his health, and became thin and pale and weak, and finally he too was stuck in bed, but thankfully only for the last couple of months.

One of the last times I saw him, around Labor Day, I went to pick him up in Dunlap to bring him back to Kingston Springs to stay for a while. He said he wanted to start driving again, as if it were possible, and I think he must have known it wasn't, but also that he knew that to get out and get around was his only way of living, and that otherwise he had nothing left. He talked about his old life, basically the time before Elizabeth died, when he still painted and was still on his own, and had her to take care of and to take care of him. Then she went, and he sold his house and moved from place to place, and I kept thinking he was like a living ghost, and he knew it. I wish he could have lived forever, but nobody does.

So is this the best option we have? Live to be old, and watch as everything is subtracted from you, until you are zero. He had nothing left, he had given it all away or lost it or had it taken from him. I think I will always feel like he lost too much that we could have taken, or that we took things too early. He was more than any of us knew how to deal with, and we didn't know how to deal with his slowly fading away. His nurse called my mother early on Tuesday morning to say he was writhing in bed and laughing, and we all took that as a sign, properly, that he was almost finished. He was so tired, I've never seen anyone so tired...

So sad this week, so sad...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

frustration '13

so, this past summer, my boss tells me that he's invited to give a retrospective paper on a particular topic as it pertains to a meeting he's been a regular at for almost 20 years. he asks if i'd be interested in writing it with him, and i honestly said no, i don't know the meeting that well, it's not really my core area, i don't have time now to do a retrospective which means all sorts of reading and research that i don't need to do on old things that nobody cares about anymore, and there are other things i'd rather be doing. he seemed to agree and said okay, we won't do it. then, a week later he tells me he agreed to supply the paper, as if i'd agreed, and so i didn't put up a second protest, except probably for a confused look on my face.

so here we are now, the paper is due, i've written it and spent a few good weeks on it, and i'm satisfied with it. i'm not even going to the meeting to present it. so now he wants to continue making changes and modifications to the structure of the thing, and he wants me to make the presentation for him. this is really frustrating. it's too late to fight it, because the paper is there on the schedule, he's going to present it, and i don't *want* to present it, and if i refuse to make the presentation he's not going to be able to do it himself, and it will just cause a fight and a falling out, which is bad because we're currently on good terms.

this is very frustrating. i'm put, again, in this position of paralysis, where there are several other things that i want to do, or need to get done, and instead i have to do this pointless job instead, and so i wind up doing next to nothing. i'm like a ghostwriter. how is this research? i have papers to revise and resubmit, papers to complete and submit, papers to write and complete, experiments to finish and write up, and instead i'm struggling over this stupid retrospective on a topic that i think is basically irrelevant, and in which my *conclusions* are that that work done on this topic over a 20 year period are basically irrelevant. the paper itself begs the question of why the paper has even been written. i think i made a big mistake in letting myself get put into this assignment.

Saturday, January 05, 2013


a few other observations from china:

in developed, urbanized places, people live, or aspire to live, in flat, spread-out places (single-family houses in subdivisions, or in the countryside); and they go to work in tall buildings in concentrated, densely-built places.

in developing, urbanizing places, people live, or aspire to live, in tall buildings in densely-built places; and they go to work in flat, spread-out places (factories, construction).

all i noticed was that in china, even in small towns, once you get out of the little villages (where each family has a house of their own), the common people live in tall apartment buildings or highrises, but a lot of them are going to work in huge factory floors, although a lot of them are also going to commercial or service-sector stuff in big multistory buildings. meanwhile in the US, common people (except for young people starting out, or the urban poor, or anyone living in a big city downtown) live in houses surrounded by open space, but they tend to go to work in service sector or commercial business in tall, downtown buildings, although many are also going to work on factory floors. so, it's not a perfect 'economic chiasmus', but still an interesting little contrast.

also, this happened several times: after using the second floor bathroom, i would stand by the window to reassemble my multi-layer winter clothing, looking outside through the blinds. across the street, i would see the front window, at ground-level, of another house, with white curtains drawn. just in front of the window was a little tree with what i think were seed pods hanging from the branches, so that i saw the branches against the window curtain background. each time i saw this scene, i at first would think that the curtain had large-print calligraphic characters printed on it, only to shift immediately to seeing the true depthful scene - deja trompé! even after the shift, there would still be a lingering feeling of 'what are the characters, they are too small to read', which would then quickly disappear as it was obviously a wrong question. it did make me wonder whether or not the same sort of scene had stimulated some artful styles of calligraphy..