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Articles: life: 2008 June

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Daisy, Daisy...
Saturday, 2008 June 28 - 9:49 am
The other day on NPR, neurological research Jill Bolte Taylor was discussing her experience of having a stroke. It occurred in the left hemisphere of her brain, affecting her ability to speak, read, and put events together in order. Because her logic was impaired, she had a hard time even recognizing that she was having a stroke, or figuring out what to do about it. She was barely able to call for help, having to match the "squiggles" on the phone against the printed phone number of a neighbor.

After the stroke, she was left without her memories and her sense of self for years. She had to relearn how to read and speak, and reestablish relationships with friends and family. But she did recover, for the most part, and has since written a book about her experience called My Stroke of Insight.

The reason I mention this story is because it touches on one of my greatest fears: losing my mind to the point where I lose my sense of self, whether it be due to old age, a stroke, Alzheimer's, or some sort of brain trauma. If I lost my identity, it'd almost be like dying. And aside from being mauled by a thresher, being buried alive, or being digested slowly in the belly of a Sarlacc, I can't really think of too many worse ways to go.

And here's the thing: I can already tell that I'm not as smart as I used to be, at least in some respects. It's like I'm the HAL9000 and I've lost a couple of computing modules. I can feel it. Compared to when I was in college, I'm not as able to absorb information and grasp concepts as quickly now. It takes more mental effort; I have to make analogies to things I already know, draw pictures and diagrams, and write things down. I know it's a natural process; I mean, that's just the way the brain works. Over the years, it's less capable of taking in raw data, but tries to make up for it by organizing information more efficiently... like, by making analogies.

But when confronted with a completely new idea, or when needing to memorize large amounts of information, I just can't do it as well as I used to. So I have to wonder: is this the start of the eventual decline? Thirty years from now, will I even realize (or care) that my mind is going? Maybe I'll look back on this blog entry and say, "What a load of hooey... and hey, look at that shiny thing!"

There are a number of times in my life when I wished I'd had a "Save as..." command on myself, preserving the ideas and feelings and abilities of my life at the time. This is one of those times. I have a happy marriage and great friends, and I want to preserve a snapshot of that. If I do have a stroke or something and I lose my identity, please don't let me forget all that I have.

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Posted by Ken in: life

Reversal of Fortunes
Monday, 2008 June 2 - 11:01 am
I normally try to avoid work-related posts here, but this one seems important. Reversing several years of downsizing, our company is now hiring software engineers. We have a number of open positions. I won't go into specifics here, but if you're local to the Raleigh area and you're looking for a job, let me know and I'll email you the details.
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Posted by Ken in: life

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