i can't be cool
Online dating tips

imageWhen choosing a username for your online dating profile, it can be tempting to include your geographic details. For example, “Melbourne-girl” is not at all original, but it gets the point across.

That being said, this tactic may give people a different impression than what you were aiming for when you live in a suburb like Manly.

I’m looking at you: “Manly-Angel” and “Manly-Girl”.

Welcome to Zombie World

What would it feel like to be a zombie? Constantly craving brains all the time regardless of how many you’ve eaten would soon become monotonous.

Ever since I first got sick, I’ve found that I’m always craving or needing more of something. Regardless of how much sleep I’ve had, I always need to sleep more. If I take it easy and relax and rest, I still always feel the need to lie down.

Now that I’m Herxing regularly, I am always thirsty no matter how much water I drink. I’m hungry all the time — even straight after meals. And, just lately, I’ve started experiencing air hunger; which is the feeling that I need more and more oxygen no matter how deeply I breathe.

Cravings

Yesterday, I had a craving for Indian food so I made tandoori chicken and a red lentil dahl tonight. Naturally I feel kind of gross and don’t crave Indian food anymore. This always happens.

You should see a doctor

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I like to say that people with ME/CFS are the lepers of the modern age due to to the way we are treated by the medical community. When you have CFS, seeing a new doctor is a process fraught with anxiety since around 99 per cent of doctors don’t even believe in CFS.

When you tell a doctor that you have CFS, they will react in a number of different ways. Usually there is awkward silence and they will look angry, flustered, scared but mostly hostile. One thing that happens without fail is they will never look you in the eye from that moment onwards. Practitioners who were friendly just a minute before, will suddenly act as if you are no longer human.

The (very few) nicer doctors will mumble about “making sure you try to exercise and eat well” and hurry you out of their office. Some will simply stop talking to you in a signal that the appointment is over. Others will flat out tell you that CFS doesn’t exist. Many more will be insulting and offensive.

Some medical advice highlights from my experience:

  • "People with CFS are malingerers who want to get out of working".
  • A senior registrar at a large hospital said “you can’t be ill with CFS because that doesn’t exist”.
  • "Your symptoms are just in your head so you simply need therapy to learn how to ignore them, It’s very good for dealing with pain for example." (My retort was "I’d hate to be your patient if I had a broken leg".)

[note: there is no credible scientific evidence that this kind of therapy is an effective treatment for CFS.]

  • "You should try hypnosis".

[note: there is no scientific evidence that hypnosis is an effective treatment for CFS.]

  • "You are not sick but rather just de-conditioned and unfit from years of lying around in bed all day so you’ll feel better if you exercised" (even though I had just told him my symptoms started overnight after catching glandular fever and I tried exercise based on their advice and it made me worse).

[note: there is no credible scientific evidence that exercise is an effective treatment for CFS.]

  • A senior psychiatrist* asked “were you bullied at school or sexually abused as a child?” When I looked baffled, he clarified by saying “I’m trying to work out what caused your CFS”.

[note: there is no scientific evidence that any sort of childhood trauma causes CFS.]

* This same psychiatrist told a woman with CFS that “more women get CFS than men because more women are sexually abused”. [Sidenote: More women than men also get MS but I doubt anyone in the medical community would be stupid enough to claim that MS is caused by sexual abuse.]

Three chillies

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I tend to apologise more than I need to. The woman behind the counter at the local Chinese restaurant short-changed me on Saturday night. I wrestled with myself for a while and then eventually pointed out to her that she owed me a dollar. Then, of course, I apologised profusely for pointing out her mistake.

Sci-fi apocalypse not

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I love science-fiction novels — particularly vintage sci-fi — but it grates sometimes when the authors get their visions of the future so horribly wrong or when they fall for fads and scare campaigns.

Equality

For example, how could sci-fi authors in the 1960s not predict the rise of feminism and equality? Women in classic sci-fi are generally only  portrayed as wives, home-makers, receptionists or personal assistants. For example, while Asimov’s Foundation series contains a few strong female characters, there are no female pilots, traders, politicians or doctors. Given that the series is set 50,000 years into the future and technology and science have advanced rapidly, you would think that society would have changed by then also.

Technology

Sci-fi novels are filled with advanced technology that has failed to eventuate (for example, flying cars, spaceships and laser guns). Moreover the majority of this technology is analogue, contains vacuum tubes (cathode ray TVs) and slide-rules and hardcopy books feature prominently. Most didn’t predict mobile phones, digital watches, flat-screen TVs, the internet, computers or even calculators.

However, given the rapid advances in that era in aviation and rocketry in particular, it’s easy to see why many authors assumed that these technologies would continue to evolve quickly.

Moreover, a world with flying cars and interstellar travel is far more interesting to read about than one where people are able to watch Justin Beiber videos on their smartphones.

Politics and the collapse of communism

While a man derided by many as a dumb actor, Ronald Reagan, foresaw the demise of the Soviet Union, sci-fi authors did not. In many science fiction novels, the USSR is not only depicted as being intact in the future but also as wealthy and technologically-advanced as the West.

It was pretty obvious to many economists that communism was an inherently flawed system (economically, politically and socially) that would lead to poverty, oppression, economic stagnation and mediocrity. (That said, most politicians, the media and academics failed to see the inherent problems and failings of communism until the Berlin Wall actually came down. Even the CIA estimated the size of the USSR’s economy to be several orders of magnitude above what it actually was.)

Armageddon

Perhaps some of the most popular themes in sci-fi take place in our world after some sort of catastrophe. 

Some of the biggest scares of the era included over-population, resource depletion, nuclear armageddon (and the resultant nuclear winter) and pollution. The Club of Rome, Paul Ehrlich and others were responsible for some hysterical predictions:

"The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death."

- Ehrlich, The Population Bomb. (As noted by others, the book went on to predict that “by the 1980s most of the world’s important resources would be depleted. He forecast that 65 million Americans would die of starvation between 1980-1989 and that by 1999, the US population would decline to 22.6 million”.)

“By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people … If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”

- Ehrlich, Speech at British Institute For Biology, September 1971.

“In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.”

- Ehrlich, speech during Earth Day, 1970

“By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.” 

- Life MagazineJanuary 1970

The Limits to Growth (1972) projected the world would run out of gold by 1981, mercury and silver by 1985, tin by 1987, zinc by 1990, petroleum by 1992, and copper, lead and natural gas by 1993. It also stated that the world had only 33-49 years of aluminium resources left, which means we should run out sometime between 2005-2021.

- Donella Meadows et al.

Carl Sagan and others published a paper in favour of the concept of nuclear winter in 1983. As has been pointed out by many (including late sci-fi author, Michael Crichton), this theory relies on an equation where pretty much all the variables are unknown and, thus, cannot be proved. In short, nuclear winter was just another shoddy scare campaign relying on pseudo-science.

Eventually Sagan was embarrassed and his theory even further discredited when he claimed that if Saddam Hussein made good his threat to set fire to Kuwait’s oil wells in the first Iraq war that the subsequent pollution would dramatically reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth by half and lead to “a year without summer”, crop failure and mass starvation.

As we can see today, none of these scares eventuated. This wasn’t by blind luck, chance or government intervention. It is simply the case that humans generally are lousy predictors and the public, media and politicians are gullible for whatever scare or scam is coming along next.

Again, I accept that it’s far more interesting to theorise about a world that is beset by these sorts of problems (and books about them would be more popular) but evidence shows that authors like Asimov actually believed some of these scare campaigns (particularly those of over-population, food shortages, and pollution).

Perhaps as an economist I like to highlight these mistakes since I feel like I’m continuing a tradition: economists like Julian Simon and Colin Clark (who incidentally was an old flatmate’s grandfather) were the voice of reason in arguing so eloquently against these scares and even managed to embarrass Ehrlich on a number of occasions.

hexington:

How do you make the best possible use of your ‘alone time’?

I say this because it seems to be something that is always on the back-burner for me, where I have hazy ideas of personal things I want to achieve and how I want to spend that time, but it never seems to happen. I get plenty of time…

This is a familiar feeling for me too. My old job involved a lot of research and writing so the last thing I wanted to do at the end of the day was yet more reading and writing. For me, solitude was a time to recharge (via, movies, TV shows and games) so I could make it through another week.

After coming down with a long term illness, I now have a huge amount of spare time on my hands but I still don’t create as much as I’d like. I feel tremendously guilty that I don’t take advantage of this time. My reasoning is that I’m constrained by a lack of energy (and simply from feeling like crap), but I often wonder if this is just an excuse. I guess I do read a lot more than I used to but I write only when inspiration strikes.

I have wondered if my lack of productivity is just a matter of discipline. A friend is a moderately successful and prolific author who seems to have the motivation and discipline that I lack. But then, she also seems to be able to write whenever and wherever she wants to (even in busy cafes — where I’d be too distracted by coffee, desserts and the passing parade of people).

For me, meditation doesn’t have to resemble the traditional stereotypes. Sometimes I can clear my mind by listening to music or even reading. These days I can slow my breathing just by thinking of a song I used to use for meditation. I know of other people who use prayer for example.

At the moment, I keep vaguely dreaming of all the things I’m going to do and create when I’m well again. But I’m coming around to the view that the way forward might be for me to spend more time visualising exactly what I want to achieve and then working on a plan as to how I’m going to accomplish these goals. Hopefully the rest will fall into place.

My brain goes to strange places at 3am

Game of Inaccuracies: 1

dissociation

On Monday I had blood taken for testing for Lyme disease. The blood — freshly centrifuged in its little vial — had to be taken immediately to the airport and sent via courier to the US. After that, I followed its progress across the Pacific Ocean and around the United States courtesy of FedEx’s tracking tool.

To be honest, it was a really odd feeling watching something that was a part of me up until very recently travelling around the world while I remained stuck at home.

Note to self: it’s not a good idea to have a very strong espresso straight after giving blood unless you want to feel wired and out of sorts for two days.