Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way


Heart Troubles

I’ve always had what I call palpatations. They were infrequent when I was younger, and often I would attribute them to the tremendous amounts of coffee I’d ingested. In the last year they’ve stepped up their game, a thing that’s distressing along side my significant reduction in coffee a few years back.

After several trips to the cardiologist and a month wearing a heart monitor, I was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia. Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is an abnormally fast heartbeat that originates above the ventricles in the atria or AV node. The doctor suggested putting a doodad into my femoral artery and working it up to my heart and frying the tissue that’s sending out the additional electrical impulses. That sounded bananas to me at the time, so I opted for his second suggestion, which was medication.

I took the meds for a couple months, and although they didn’t have any disastrous side effects they did make my performance at the gym decline a bit. So, after some weeks sticking a doodad into my femoral artery sounded less and less bananas. Doodad it is.

In the weeks leading up to the proceedure I noticed a pit in my stomach when I would think about it. When my PTSD rears its head it smells like a box that was just brought up from the basement. It looks like it’s just an old pair of shoes, but it smells like dank mildew of 100 years.

After sitting with if for some days, I realized that I’ve not needed to rely on another human to take care of my physical needs since I was a child and my dependence wasn’t optional. And the last time I was too small to care for my own physical needs, they weren’t always met. There it is. That’s where the dank mildew is.

There’s no reasoning with trauma-based anxiety. It just is. I could think of one thousand ways this situation was different, but that sort of thing only flies upstairs. It never filterns down to the basement.

The days dwindled and I found myself putting a gown on, and trying to answer medical history questions while Dominque shaved the “field” which was basically my crotch. The procedure isn’t invasive in the sense that my chest wasn’t cracked open, but it is in the sense that it involved wounds two inches to either side of my lady parts. And this fact explains why once in the operating room I was covered head to toe in blankets apart from my crotch, which was on display.

And this really gets at the crux of why medical procedures are weird. You find yourself in social and physical situations that are unimaginable under any other circumstances. All of the nurses were very nice, but when they asked if I was doing ok or needed anything I thought, what am I going to say to that? No, my crotch is numb because it’s 60 degrees in here, and I would really like to rip this IV out. Of course I always said I was fine, because there wasn’t really any other answer I could give.

During the procedure the doctor needed to goad my heart into SVT rythms. Since mine acts up during exercise that meant that I couldn’t be very sedated, and that they put adrenalin in my IV. So, while the nurses were telling me soothing things my body’s chemistry thought I was being chased by a bear. They were using electric impluses to rev my heart up to 250 beats per minute, note that extreme exercise shouldn’t yield more than 160 bpm. So, that’s how I spent 3 hours. My bare-ass crotch in the air with chemicals appropriate for being chased by a bear coursing through my body, and having my heart pounding so hard it felt like my lungs didn’t have enough room to breathe.

It’s a wonder I didn’t have a panic attack or two or several. But that’s one of the odd things trauma can do. Sometimes when I am truly under duress I pull through like a champ. It’s because I’ve had lots of practice at surviving when the house is on fire. Because my house has been on fire hundreds of times.

Unfortunately, the doctor wasn’t able to isolate where the SVT rhythm was originating. He called my heart excitable. And when he irritated one area all its neighbors would put out different SVT rythms in sympathy. That was a whole load of metaphor because I cannot possible use the medical language to describe what he found. The point is they couldn’t complete the proceedure.

Frosty crotch for no good reason. So, I am back to the meds and taking it easy for a week until my femoral wound site is healed enough for me to go back to my normal activities. The good news is SVT won’t kill me, and the meds aren’t insufferable. I’ve also learned that my capacity to tolerate physically uncomfortable and mortifying things is quite high. I’ve learned to ask a new questions when evaluating medical treatment. Is there information you might learn during the process that might show you I am not a good candidate for said treatment? How frequently does this happen?

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Last Look: Bathroom

We’ve remodeled every square inch of our house apart from this last bathroom. Here’s a last look at it in all it’s 1920’s dysfunctional glory. This gem has zero electrical outlets. It has very little storage. It has a charming DIY handheld showerhead, and a nursing home inspired oh-shit bar. It features cracked tile on both the walls and the floors. The toilet has a tank large enough to water an entire village with each flush. The tub has been cemented into the middle of the room, because of course you want that sexy surround curtain rod hanging from the ceiling. Saving the best for last it has a pedestal sink that is too low, features elaborate contours that yields precious little flat space to put useful items like say-soap. It has a recessed spigot to put the water flow out of reach of almost anything you might wish to get wet. Oh, and it has no over head lighting and no ventilation. Wonderbar!

I need to take a moment to lay waste to pedestal sinks. This pedestal sink, in particular, was what we washed our dishes in when the kitchen was being renovated, and this is how I grew to especially hate the spigot on it. It’s recessed to the very edge of the sink, making the vastness of the sink itself completely useless. But, put that a side a moment, pedestal sinks are profoundly stupid, and I just want to make a case for their eradication, except for use in small power rooms or half-baths.

In the bathroom in which you bathe and get presentable, I ask you, when do you not require a surface for putting stuff on? At the very least, you need a place for soap. But apart from that everyone who isn’t a hermit uses some sort of hair grooming products or devices and something to clean their mouths. That’s the least. Most women will have a whole host of other stuff.

The only thing a pedestal sink is good for in this context is forcing you to put all your junk on the damn toilet-or worse the hairy floor-when you’re getting ready. That kicks off a whole thing were you remove and replace all the junk you need to use from wherever it’s stored-because it sure as hell isn’t sitting in the precious 3 inches of available space on your damn pedestal sink-to and from the toilet. NO. I am telling you no more. Never another pedestal sink in a full bath again. I don’t care how small that damn vanity is.

Now that that’s off my chest. Here’s pictures of the old bathroom. And below those a video of it. Good riddance monster toilet and pedestal sink.


Runs With Scissors

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. This thought comes to me often when I encounter new tech. At the dawn of the internet era I thought easy and instance access to information would unquestionably make the world a better place. I thought democratizing the ability to produce content would usher in a new time with vibrant and healthy discussion. 

Instead we have anti-vaxxers and trolls. The democratizing of voices has primarily revealed that many of us are cruel and stupid. Throwing off the gate-keepers of information has left each of us struggling to sift the good content out of the oceans and oceans of bad one google search at a time. Because it turns out that creating good content is hard and being kind isn’t our first instincts, and when you’ve got a little glowing screen in your hand it doesn’t draw the best from us. 

Watching this play out in real time has made me ask a new question when assessing new tech. That new question is what is the worst that this thing might accomplish if used or abused. Enter deepfakes. In summary, artificial intelligence can produce believable video and audio that is fictitious. Have a look at Steve Buscemi’s face on Jennifer Lawrence’s body with her voice if you want to have nightmares. If you want to read more about deepfakes have a look at this article about it from The Guardian

Can you imagine a video of Elizabeth Warren surfacing on election night saying something super racist? Because I can. Sure the video will be debunked pretty quickly. But that sort of thing would spread like wildfire on social media and leave negative emotions that I don’t believe a debunking will clear off immediately. 

We only see the benefits of new tech. We never consider the costs. The guys who developed the deepfake tech did so for the movie industry. They hope to make post production fixes without calling the actors back to reshoot. They hope to better match visuals to translations into different languages. Sure. That’s all good. 

But my god. We already cannot align on what reality is. How can you in good conscience put something else out in the world that will only make truth less and less clear? 

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Seeing With My Eyes – Squirrel Edition

I cannot believe that I am this many days old and have only now learned that squirrels make leaf nests in trees. They make them when there’s no hollowed out little nooks in trees available. I only know this now because I’ve just Googled this topic. But mere moments ago, I had no idea squirrels, creatures that I adore, make nests out of leaves and branches.

I’ve noticed what appear to be big balls of leaves and twigs in a number of trees surrounding our house. I’ve wondered over them. They are too big and look too messy to be birds’ nests. They almost look haphazard enough to be a collection of branches that just got stuck together, but they are a bit too dense for that explanation.

I came about this revelation moments ago. Motion outside my office window drew my eye. I looked and saw a squirrel running across a branch carrying a twig a bit larger than itself with multiple leaves hanging off of it. It ran to one of these bunches of leaves and twigs, disappeared in it, deposited the branch and leaves, and scurried back out. Within moments he was back with another mouthful of tree detritus.

I was astonished and tickled. Partially, I was astonished that this explanation for the leaf balls is so obvious, that I’m not sure how I missed it. Partially, I was astonished to learn that I had no idea where squirrels slept and was blissfully unaware of this gap in knowledge. I was tickled to watch a squirrel build his nest. And I was tickled to encounter my own ignorance of my gaps in knowledge, as discussed in yesterday’s blog post.

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How We Change

This is the best thing I have ever heard on how we change our minds. Spoiler alert: it’s not by producing facts that support the opposing position. Studies show that actually triggers a backfire effect that makes the person cling tighter to their belief. This is one of the main reasons I have mostly stopped arguing with people. Occasionally, I will argue not for the benefit of the person I am directly interacting with, but the people who are reading or watching.

Link to How to Change Your Mind Episode of the Freakonomics podcast.

There are two things in there that fascinate me. First, that we have a weakness that we adopt other’s knowledge as our own. This leads us to overestimate how much we know. This weakness can be rooted out if we force ourselves to think step by step how a thing works. Once we confront that we cannot do this task we update our mental model and mark down how well we understand a thing.

The other thing that interested me was that the most effective way to open someone to changing their mind is to ask them to take the opposing view from their own. I just wonder if getting in this head space just breaks down some barriers in our heads to stop thinking of those opposed to us as others, but forces us to think of them as us. I’m just wondering does this work because it pries us out of our tribes?

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More On Music

There’s evidence that we stop enjoying novelty as we age. Check out this or this. This expiration date for enjoying new things seems to exist in animals as well as humans. It seems that this desire for novelty in humans and animals corresponds to when they seek mates.

It’s entirely possible that’s why I haven’t enjoyed new music for the last 5 years. Maybe I should just feel happy that I made it to 38 before I lost this part of myself. I think the most disturbing aspect of this explanation is figuring out how to disentangle my sense of identity from music. It’s been one of the most consistent and strong parts of who I am since childhood.

But there’s another explanation that I referenced in my last blog post. As noted my disengagement from new music started around the same time I started playing drums. And as I have cultivated a more sensitive sense of time, I am wondering if I can hear music that has digital time vs music that has human time, or music that’s been digitally synched to have precise and accurate time to the millisecond vs the natural variations in time that a human drummer can keep.

I stumbled upon this theory while filpping dials on the radio. I came across a song that I could not flip past even though I didn’t recognize it. After a minute of listening, I heard a subtle inconsistency on the drums that lead me to believe it was a live recording. The crowd noise that came in at the chorus confirmed it. And despite the recording not being particularly good or to my personal taste, I was engrossed. I cannot put words to why I was so captivated.

It only occured to me later, that perhaps I was captivated by hearing the slight variations of a human drummer. My theory is strengthened by my sudden interest in 70’s rock. While I had respect for Queen, Fleetwood Mac, Three Dog Night, and Led Zeppelin, I’ve found myself extrememly eager to hear them on the radio. Synching to click tracks didn’t become prevalent until the 80’s and 90’s in music production; technology to execute the synching wasn’t readily available until then. So, I suspect my sudden interest in 70’s rock might also be my ear longing to hear slight variation.

I am not alone in being hungry for human time. The trans godmother of electronic music says:

“I find it a great tragedy that the drum machine has replaced real drummers, become so omnipresent to many listeners that they accept the notion of a completely rigid, fascist beat–something that’s like hearing a pile driver or factory equipment. Someone recently closed his jazz club in Berlin after being successful for a lot of years, but he said he’s leaving it now because the current jazz/pop music doesn’t swing. And it doesn’t: quantized rhythm is rigid and mechanical. We’ve become robots, and it’s tragic.” -Wendy Carlos

This woman is fascinating. You can read the whole interview here.

For now I am going to lean in to my new found love of 70’s rock. Life is too short for me to force myself to listen to things that don’t inspire me. Is it because I am too old to hear new music? Maybe. Is it because my ears are tired of the fascist beat? Maybe. Does it really matter which? Probably not. I needed to shed more of my ego anyway. I’ll just look at this as a step on the path.