Tuesday, May 29, 2012

on not going to Canada

Each of the last several years, my Loveliest and I have gone to a conference at the end of May in Canada. It's part of the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences, held each year, as thousands LC Canadian academics descend upon the same college town.

This year, I am scheduled to give commentaries on two papers, and to co-coordinate a workshop on phenomenology. I shall do none of these, at least, not in person.

We are instead holed up in Holland Ohio, visiting my folks. The reason for this is that my passport expired in February, which fact I did not know until packing my passport the day before our trip.

There followed several hours of searching for information on whether I could enter and exit Canada with an expired passport, what would happen if I couldn't, what options there might be for renewing a passport in 24 hours, and thinking up other options. The official rule seems to be the following: you may enter Canada with an expired passport and a valid driver license, but you cannot re-enter the US.

My pal Dave "Dave" Koukal called the border patrol and talked to an actual human border patrol officer, who said I could re-enter with an expired passport, driver license, and birth certificate. The state department begs to differ.

I considered this briefly. If I was not permitted to re-enter the States, I would likely languish in Canada waiting forthe US consulate to expedite a passport renewal. Expited renewal means two to three weeks. It wasn't worth the risk, not after I spent a night in the hospital following a panic attack.

Thus Plan B: fly to Detroit as planned, spend the evening and night with Dave and Sharon as planned, but then catch a lift to Holland and spend the week here, hanging out.

So far, so good. It was 97 here yesterday, rained this morning, is now 86, and tomorrow it will be 70. Lauren has an infected bug bite or sting. We're going to visit my brother , whose birthday is tomorrow. We're going to walk through the park I frequented as a lad, along an old Erie Canal split called Side Cut, to allow boat traffic into Maumee (my home town).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

diagnosis: chest pain

Here's how I ended up spending 24 hours in Emanuel hospital.

Tuesday morning, after Lauren drove off to work the day in Modesto, I started my bike ride to campus, right around 10:15. Going up Del's Lane, I started to notice it was taking more effort than usual, riding into a gusty headwind. By the time I reached the philosophy department, I was sweating heavily and a bit more out of breath than normal (I usually ride at high intensity and velocity, as many on campus can attest).

After maneuvering my bike into my office, I mopped the sweat from my forehead and drank some water, cooling down as usual. I didn't feel right. My heart was still beating fast, and the tightness in my chest seemed worse. I sat, made final minor preparations for my 11 o'clock class, added a couple short paragraphs to something I've been writing, and then headed to class. I had to mop my brow again.

I walked over to my classroom, a hundred yards, if that, from my office, upstairs in the Bizzini building. The stairs were very hard to climb, and I was overheated when I got to my class.

Class was short. I had a spell of lightheadedness about halfway through, but while discussing the whodunnit portion of Aristotle's Ethics and students' term papers due on Thursday, I felt okay.

By the time I returned to my office, I was having trouble catching my breath, and the chest pain was still worse than before. I sat, trying to calm down, trying to let myself cool down, but it seemed like my heart was racing. I decided I needed help. I told our department assistant I was going to the health center, and set off for it.

I was unaware that, for liability reasons, the health center will only see students. I tried to say it was an emergency, and the receptionist referred me to same-day care across from the hospital. I said I couldn't get there, because I rode my bike. Eventually, the doctor on call saw me in an exam room, "as a courtesy," he said, and took vital signs. He did a lot of frowning, and said he thought I should go to ER.

While he called for an ambulance, a nurse took my blood pressure a second time, did some more frowning. The doctor came back in and told the nurse to give me an aspirin and a sublingual nitro tab.

It seemed like this was taking forever. Finally two campus police came in, and asked me, like the doctor had, what was going on, and my basic stats - name, age, etc. Then two firemen came in and did the same thing. They took my bp and asked more questions. Then the ambulance came, and the EMTs asked me the same questions all the others had, hooked me up to a portable EKG and an electronic bp monitor. They didn't frown, but they looked very concerned. I couldn't see the EKG, but when I glanced at the bp monitor, it said 155 over 110 or something like that, with a pulse of 105. I overheard them radio in that the EKG was irregular - I think.

Off to the ER. The EMT placed an IV line, gave me another aspirin, asked me about the nitro tab, declared that the health center's nitro was no longer potent, and so he gave me another.

We reached the ER, where a series of nurses, technicians, and doctors all came and went, asking exactly the same questions, frowning, and so on. At 1, I felt like I could try to call Lauren at work (at her former boss' house, actually), and proceeded to find that I didn't have the number. Eventually I reached Lauren, and she came down.

While she was on her way, a cardiologist arrived, looked at my EKG, and told me I was not going to die of a heart attack, because he was pretty sure it wasn't a heart attack. He wanted me to stay overnight, because, it turns out, to rule out heart attack definitively, you have to have three clean EKGs six hours apart, and three blood draws that test negative for a particular enzyme, also six hours apart. The cardiologist ordered a stress test and echo-sonogram thingy for this morning.

The pain in my chest had waned considerably, especially after Lauren arrived. By the time I was in a room, the pain only felt bad when someone asked me how the pain was.

This morning, after a good 3 hours of sleep, I reported for the stress test. The nurse got me all hooked up, and said she didn't like the bp reading at all: it was 137 over 95 or so. I told her I was anxious, have anxiety and depressive disorder, and that being around anything medical was my major phobia. Yet another doctor arrived. I did ten minutes on the treadmill, reaching 4.2 miles per hour (around my typical walking pace on the jaunt to school), at 14% incline, before I reported I was getting a little tired.

I got off, and within five minutes my bp was 130 over 79. I did not say, "told ya!"

The echo was just an echo.

We waited back in my room for another doctor to free me. I got to eat something. We watched an episode of "30 Rock" on my iPad (it was our "unchallenging, unlikely-to-mention-medical-stuff" choice for entertainment, plus neither of us had seen more than 2 minutes of any episode).

Whatever happened, it was not a heart attack. My official diagnosis is, in fact, "chest pain." I am 99% certain it was the worst panic attack I've ever had, and about 91% certain it was the worst physical experience I've ever had. The echo turned up a slightly dilated aorta they think I should check on yearly. Otherwise, aside from being a basket-case after this academic year, I'm fine.

And now all I have to do is grade 120 term papers, approximately 60 additional short papers, and write two conference paper commentaries, before we head off to Canada on 27 May.


Monday, May 14, 2012

blog post topix - where to start?

This morning the LA Times site offered me this: "State's swelling deficit will bring painful cuts. Where to start?"

This is a story I've had keen interest in, for obvious reasons. I thought, good, analysis, maybe an op-ed. Instead, the post repeats the basics of Jerry Brown's preview of the May revised budget doom, then asks readers to offer their no doubt marvelous ideas for cutting the state budget.

This is the genius of contemporary capitalism in capsule form: paying subscribers are now providing the content they read from the LA Times site. (It's also another brilliant tool for undermining information exchange and giving social approval to the uninformed opinion of what Sch├╝tz called "the man in the street.") Eventually, the LA Times won't need to hire reporters, editorial writers, editors, or anybody else but technical support staff!

Interesting concept. So, readers, let me know what topics should be covered in this space in future posts! Increase the chances your post idea will be selected by writing it yourself!

Friday, May 11, 2012

summer reading

The last three years, I've had a great time reading and writing during the summer. I think I've learned a lot, and developed some intuitions into real insights. The way it has worked is that I gather a reading list during the academic year, of anything that comes up related to some glimmer of an idea I have. This year, it hasn't worked out so well, because it has been so exhausting and crappy. But I do have a couple things on the agenda.

Assuming a Body, by Gayle Solomon, a transsexual. The book is about her experiences as understood from the standpoint of philosophical thought about embodiment.

The Transgender Studies Reader.


Transgender Migrations, edited by a colleague on campus, Tristan Cotten, who is cool.

White Coat, Black Hat, a muck-raking book about the business of medicine, which will make me feel sick.

The Body, by Donn Welton. Last summer, I came to the conclusion that the word "the body" is already a fetish, and that even "embodiment" is troublesome. So I have an agenda about this one.

Wanna read some Gramsci, maybe some Fanon.

The last few summers my reading has had a very clear direction. Other than sex and gender, I don't seem to have a direction. And it's a little disturbing to me how little phenomenology is on the agenda.

Maybe that's good. I'm moving outside my intellectual comfort zone, and although that means I will likely have less chance of generating some kind of publishable or conferenceable paper, I could learn more as a result. As I wrote a while back, since I'm among the tenuous-track faculty, projects are less important than ways of life.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

the end of semester blues, sorta

It's finally getting close to the end of this wretched semester and academic year. Some nice things happen at the end of a semester, and I've needed nice things lately for reasons I won't go into, to avoid ranting.

One nice thing is last teaching days, and the relief that provides. Another are the rituals of closing shop - clearing out the inbox, filling the recycling bin with obsolete memos and old papers, the final faculty meetings.

Far better are the lovely exchanges of appreciation. It's amazing how much it means to me to hear that my course was significant, helpful, interesting, or inspiring. I'm collecting a few of those already. I have two students this semester in a GE class who have previously taken another GE class with me. I've seen them as first year students and now seniors. They deliberately chose my class to complete their upper division GE requirement, because of their good experience in the lower division course. They've recently let me know that.

I've also received unsolicited, unexpected, and much needed expressions of appreciation from faculty I represent in the California Faculty Association. I do a lot of work for faculty, and I nonetheless get a lot of flak, much of it illogical, about my representation and advocacy.

It's bittersweet. I have regrets, I made mistakes, I have frustrations, but I also have successes, victories, and joys.

(Yep, I had joys this semester. It just hasn't seemed that many in the face of all the negativity.)

Academic Year 2011-2012: A Year That Will Soon Be Flushed Down The Toilet.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

several unconnected observations

Last year, CFA bought 6 units of my workload, 3 for being lecturer rep, and 3 for being a faculty rights rep. At the end of the year, I told the others I didn't think I'd earned the units for faulty rights. I've earned them this year. Shit, I've earned them in the last two weeks.

 The Filthadelphia Flyers lost to the New Jersey Devils today, and are out of the NHL playoffs. I'm ecstatic. Schadenfreude is a terrible emotion, but what the hell. BLLLLPBPBHH!!!!

 I upgraded my iMac to Lion, had to update MS Word to the 2011 version, and suddenly my fonts went missing. They just came back. I did nothing to cause this. All I've done with fonts lately is copy my font book to a flash drive to move them into the new MacBook Pro California bought me to perform sedition with. I have concluded that MS products are built on a software platform that would have been subject to capital punishment in 1600's Salem.

 The semester will not die. I have not yet decided whether it is a zombie, a vampire, the devil, a rock, Bermuda grass, or fascism.