Monday, February 17, 2014

Out There

I have always been very interested in cosmology -- as opposed to cosmetology, which never helped me very much.  I remember way back, reading about the discovery on the microwave background, in the mid-1960s, by two guys at Bell Labs, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson.  It was the first real evidence that there was really a Big Bang.

The two great, almost unanswerable questions have often been of interest to the same people.  They attract me, partly because I always find myself thinking is big terms, and as my wife often points out, I get a bit sloppy with the details.

The two questions are "Where did we come from? -- How did ALL of THIS happen? and What is consciousness? -- How does that happen?

Even twenty years ago most scientists seem to feel that the answers to those questions was out of reach, and would stay that way for a long, long time.  Some even were ready to say that our little minds were not really capable of understanding all that.

Now, their doubts may be still true, but our little minds, or at least the combination of many little minds working with some great assists from wires, chips and 1s and 0s. have been able to come up with some very enticing ideas, and some fascinating possible explanations.  It may be proven at some point that all of these theories are just very clever ways of entertaining ourselves, but the whole process of searching for the answers seems much better and more useful than just walking away, or getting annoyed at the question.

I have just begun to read Our Mathematical Universe, by Max Tegmark, one of the physics professors at the local tech school. He is trying to make the case, and he admits that it is a bit beyond the usual realm, that the universe is really based on, and governed by, mathematics.

The scary part, and I have not really gotten that far into the book, is that from my own work with people, and trying to figure out why they do what they do, in terms of behaviors, thoughts, feelings, decisions, relationships and all, I have always had thoughts similar to that.

I do not think in numbers, or use beautiful mathematical formulas, but I have always felt that there are so many causes, factors and influences of behavior that a person's actions are really the result of all the combined, interactive influence of all of them, much more than having the person him/herself, make independent decisions.  I can remember way back when IBM was first becoming prominent and computers were beginning to become impressive machines, that I thought if this gets big enough, we could feed all the factors into this thing -- person, place, parents, culture, subculture, birth order, climate, genetics, nutrition, environmental toxins, diet, friends, school --- everything--- then we would be able to predict, with some degree of certainty, given what was happening to him or her, what he or she would do next.

We are not there yet.  But it is coming, kind of, and sooner than later.  And we will probably buy whatever it is they are selling, because that is what they will do with that information.

More of this, much more, later (and later).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Aging Out

Been a while.

I got away.  I couldn't stand the cold so I went somewhere warm.  It was beautiful.  Came back.  It's cold again.  "Why are we here?" asks the wife.  Answer is becoming more difficult to articulate.
....Well, the grandchildren are here....

Now I am spending two and a half days seeming patients.  I get out in the middle of Thursday and leave the office for the new, young guy.  He reminds me of myself as his age: energetic and idealistic.  He is only sixty-two.

But I didn't go home.  I had to stop on the way at a rehabilitation center (nursing home) and do an evaluation of Martin.  I first saw Martin around 1983. He was sent to me by his doctor, who hoped someone could help him.  Martin was well known around town, especially by the police.  He was angry and paranoid.  He was colorful and expressive.  His ideas of who was out to get him included not only the police, but the utility companies, and the air force.  His delusions about the air force was based upon the planes flying over his house.  This later morphed into being that the birds flying over his house had been trained to spy on him.

In those days that was considered crazy thinking.  Now, of course, how many drones look exactly like birds?

Martin was once good looking and charming, when he was not ranting against the world and getting in fights.  He fathered four boys with two different women.  He wasn't the greatest father, as he would wander off for a couple of years at a time.  Once in a while he would send each of the mothers a check.  He meant well, but really couldn't maintain any consist work, relationships or even state of mind.

About ten years ago one of his boys died in of either a fight, an overdose or a fall.  It was never quite clear, and was probably a bit of all three.  That really upset him and he became more depressed, angry and confrontive.  After a few years of that he calmed down, but was still in enough trouble to come and see me. He hoped that being in treatment could help him stay out of jail, which it did.

But now he is physically falling apart.  His circulation is bad, especially in his legs, so he falls down.  The last time he fell he broke his wrist, so he was put in this rehab center.  One of his son's contacted me and told me where he was and wanted me to help get the son to be his guardian.  That's why I went to visit.

Martin was very welcoming and happy to see me.  He was taking a bit of medication, something he had resisted for years, and it was helping his stay calm and almost reasonable.  He confided in me that he knew everyone was still watching him, but he was OK with that now.  They were nice about it now, even if it was all a cover-up.

His wrist was in a cast.  His knee was in a brace.  He sat in front of a walker, and held on to that so he could sit-up.  His roommate sat in a wheelchair.  There were people in the hall attached to chairs by a thin cord that would set off an alarm if they tried to get up.

Martin looked to me to be about a hundred and three.  It said in his chart that he is five years older than I am.  That's why I am not starting with any new patients.  I am finding that not working is a lot easier than working.  I didn't feel that way, way back when I was sixty-two.