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A Must-Read Mental Disorder Website

The temperature was in the high 60s this afternoon when I went to lunch. Now it's 11pm and still 62 F. Hmm... perhaps there will be another hailstorm. I'm looking forward to it.

I found Defining Sanity, a gripping website about mental disorders told in the first person, whilst searching for links to use in the hailstorm post and listening to Josh Rouse. The effect was like coffee and doughnuts - you'd never think an infusion from the seeds of a tropical bush would go well with a Krispy Kreme? And dudes, some startling facts:

  • Glazed Doughnut: 200 Calories, 11 grams fat
  • Glazed Cruller: 240 Calories, 14 grams fat
  • Blueberry Filled Powdered Sugar Coated Doughnut: 270 Calories, 13 grams fat
  • Chocolate Iced Glazed Doughnut: 280 Calories, 14 grams fat
  • Chocolate Iced Glazed Cruller: 280 Calories, 15 grams fat
  • Glazed Creme Filled Doughnut: 350 Calories, 20 grams fat
  • Vanilla Iced Creme Filled Doughnut: 360 Calories, 19 gram fat
  • Honey Bun: 410 Calories, 24 grams fat

You're hatin' me for that dose of reality, aren't you? Yeah, me too - I wish I hadn't clicked that link on the Krispy Kreme site. Well, never fear, kiddies, because your good friend coffee won't floor you with Nutrition Facts like those! Quite the contrary, coffee helps you burn off those extra Cruller Calories. I'm jonesin' for a latte or similar espresso product, can you tell? The revised caffeine reduction program has been a torturous endeavour, and only moderately successful, although I've only had coffee past noon once, and that was because I didn't get up early enough to make a latte yesterday before the 8am weekend class.

I can go without coffee in the morning and not get a headache, which is good, but it's like losing your best friend, and that's no fun. Even now, I'm reading the Heine Brothers' website, imagining what a triple latte would be like right now. I lost 30 pounds and didn't much miss the food I cut out of my diet, but when I go 3 days without the silky flavor of latte on my palate, the world seems like tarnished silver.

Anyway, back to Defining Sanity. I haven't spent two and a half hours reading a personal website in a long time. The site's tagline:

Defining Sanity is a personal website which takes an unforgiving look at mental disorders through the eyes of a sufferer. This site includes descriptions of depression, anxiety, panic, self-injury, substance abuse, etc. in an uncensored, unrestrained, undiluted method of study through personal experience.

Indeed. This is one of the more intriguing personal websites I've seen. By "intriguing," I mean the average person who takes it at face value will probably have issues with her graphic narrative style and Columbine obsession, so if it's not your style, don't bother. Otherwise, read the journal and appreciate it for the stream-of-consciousness masterpiece it is. Included are her personal writings from 1993 to present. It takes guts, long-term commitment and a whole lotta time and energy to do something on this magnitude. It's essentially one person saying, "Here, read my raw thoughts and emotions; most people never admit the deep, dark secrets they have even to themselves, but I've written mine down for you to read. Here, read everything that goes on inside my head that can be expressed in words." I love the Internet.

:: Bryan Travis :: 02/25/2002 @ 23:14 :: [link] ::

The Irony! (or, Not My Beloved Prius!)

How easy it is for us to dwell on the negative in our lives, but that's where wit and wry humor - the best things in life - are to be found hiding.

I'm 26 years old and have lived in Kentucky all my life. Many of you may think I'm culturally "less fortunate" as a result, and if this is the case for you, please make your checks payable to the "Bryan Travis Cultural Amelioration Fund." A few of us may have family trees woefully bare of branches, but we'll gladly accept your generous contributions if you think we're somehow disadvantaged. It's for a good cause - with your help, we could purchase Uncle Billy Bob's first pair of shoes this Christmas. But this post is not about Kentucky and the Great Appalachian Nightmare, so before I get too carried away, I digress.

Kentucky is not exactly the heart of Tornado Alley, but even so, we get more than the American average. When I think of what goes with tornadoes, the first things that come to mind are trailer parks and hail. Hail and tornadoes go together like America and apple pie, or however that saying goes; quick - someone call George Bush! He'll know how it goes! He's the self-professed expert on Americans and their needs and wants.

Despite the summer thunderstorms and twisters that come our way, in 26 years I've never seen larger than pea-size hail. In Kentucky you hear about inch or golf ball-size hail on the radio falling in some obscure place from time to time or see home videos of it when TLC airs Nature's Fury, but it's never something you see in person. It's such a freak occurrence.

Today is February 24, and right now, it's 30 degrees F outside. It's winter, folks, let there be no doubt about it. You can imagine my surprise last Wednesday afternoon at work when one-inch hail began pounding the roof. This sort of thing is not supposed to happen on February 20. The wind picked up and inside the office, all we could hear was roaring and pounding above our heads. This is so uncool, I thought to myself, less than two months, and the Prius is screwed!

It lasted less than 2 minutes and ended more abruptly than it had begun, as hailstorms often do, and everyone walked out into the winter wonderland as the mass exodus to the parking began. Normally, I would call it an "eerie winter wonderland" when describing the scene after a hailstorm since they usually occur in late spring or summer, but as this is February, it's a stretch to call ice on the ground "eerie," except that it was a layer of rapidly melting ice pellets one-half to one inch across.

DWebb and I walked out together to check on our vehicles - his PT Cruiser is only a few months older than my Prius. With the hail and water droplets on our cars, neither of us could find anything wrong. Relieved, we went back inside.

When I got home Wednesday night after the water had evaporated, I reexamined the Prius using the garage light's reflection on the body panels to look for dents. Sure enough, the smooth curves of the reflection distorted and bubbled in numerous spots as I slowly moved my head along the Prius' contours. Note to self: remind DWebb to double-check his PT Cruiser.

I'd like to pause for a moment as I was examining the Prius' body panels so I may inject a touch of irony to the plot. Auto insurance for a Toyota Prius is very expensive, on the order of $1,650 per year for full coverage with good driver status. That's something to consider if you're thinking of buying one and joining the ranks of the Priusceti. I had the foresight to check ahead of time, and it's a cost I'm willing to accept; try to do the environment a favor, and this is what you get in return as part of the package, although the premium should drop as more Prii get on the road and, unfortunately, generate some real world crash data. Your mileage may vary by insurance company, no pun intended. The global conglomerate I work for owns a few insurance companies, so I probably didn't shop around for car insurance as much as I should have since my employer compounds several employee-related discounts.

Where's that irony? Oh yeah - well, with insurance as expensive as it is for the Prius, I had to do a bit of cost-benefit analysis. The difference between a $250 and a $1,000 deductible over 5 years was greater than $1,000. Understandably, I thought full coverage with a $1,000 deductible was a prudent decision since I can liquidate that much at any given time, and a safe driver can reasonably expect to be in an auto accident less than once every 5 years.

Inside the garage, as my eyes followed the reflection of the light over the contours of the Prius, I became acutely aware of why I have no interest of ever going to Las Vegas. I had made an educated gamble about car insurance using statistics and lost. I was about 67% confident something like this wouldn't happen for at least 5 years, long enough for me to produce the $1,000 deductible from insurance premium savings instead of having to pay it out of pocket - even the insurance agent could appreciate my logic. Yet against all probability, it had happened in less than 2 months: an act of God, a true freak of nature - a one-inch hailstorm in February. In north-central Kentucky something like this is undoubtedly a once in a lifetime occurrence. Too bad it had to be in the infancy of the Prius' lifetime and at the point in my lifetime when I had just bought my first new car.

What can you do? I suppose some people would be sick over it and others would curse the universe, their dumb luck or whatever constructs they form in their minds to visualize the intangible and make it tangible so they can channel their undirected frustration. For me, this is one of those times when Buddhist beliefs and putting things in perspective are more helpful than usual, and that's putting it lightly, my friends. Buddhism acknowledges feelings of strife are part of human nature, but the vast majority of it is unnecessary.

How true! I am blessed with health, family and friends. All my material needs have been met, as have most of my emotional needs; in fact, I honestly think I've made good progress down the path of self-actualization for someone who's only 26. That's not to say I'm happy as a lark all the time, or even that I'm comfortably satisfied only a fraction of the time, but as far as it goes when it comes to knowing what it's about, or at least how to get to a point someday where figuring it out will be somewhat possible, I think I'm doing okay. Point is, I'm at a place today where it's evident a few dents on the roof and hood of my new car don't matter, and there are a lot of potential problems I don't have that really would merit concern.

In a nutshell, despite this freak of nature, I'm luckier and better off than I'll probably ever know, and chances are (beware my previous statistics experience) if you have the luxury of browsing web sites reading weblogs, so are you. Remember that. Everyone who reads this is basically free (although Ali and I have opposing views on free will, free choice and the difference between the two, if there is any) to take any risks (I should also note Ali's statistics skills are better than mine) they desire and attempt to become or do whatever they wish with the rest of their lives.

My kingdom for a horse! "Life sucks" is a relative term. If you're fat, warm and happy, life sucks when you get a hangnail. If you're famished, cold and destitute like two billion people in the world are at this moment, life sucks if you can't find your next meal, and you'd give anything to only have a hangnail to worry about.

So, to hell with one-inch hailstones - I'm lucky to have a car to get inside of when an unexpected storm blows in. And to hell with the deductible, too. I have big hopes and dreams for my Prius: I actually entertain the notion that the 2001-2002 Honda Insight and Toyota Prius will be collector's items someday when we're driving fuel cell vehicles. Hey, it's not that outlandish - the Prius and Insight are the first steps in a new direction and their numbers are extremely limited - so I'm hanging onto my Prius, and I'll pay the deductible. I'll recover it someday.

:: Bryan Travis :: 02/24/2002 @ 08:38 :: [link] ::

Triple-pronged Withdrawal

Strange, vivid dreams are exactly the ilk of side effects one can expect when simultaneously experiencing withdrawal from three addictive substances like nicotine, caffeine and Internet. Yeah, I changed my caffeine reduction goal last week, increasing it from "no coffee after noon during the week" to "no coffee during the week," and I'm paying for it dearly.

Last night I dreamt my alarm clock had turned on and Carl Castle, the NPR Morning Edition newscaster, was announcing Barbra Streisand had died, but in my dream her name was Barbra Streisand-Ross.

WTF? Barbra Streisand is nowhere on my cultural radar screen. I don't listen to her music or watch her movies - I'm as indifferent to her as can be. She's politically and socially liberal and founded the Streisand Foundation to promote projects for race, sex and religious equality. I'm environmentally liberal and mildly liberal overall, so we're more or less on the same team, but with different, non-competing agendas. We go to the same parties, as it were, but never have a conversation.

The dream was so profound I thought maybe it really had been on the radio while I was still in the twilight of sleep and waking, so I intently listened to Morning Edition while getting ready for work this morning and scanned the headlines when I got into the office (Insight, my beloved cable company, deleted my cable modem account when transitioning from @Home, but I'm waiting to post that when I'm really pissed about it... you know, after a week has gone by and they still haven't fixed it, because I can tell Insight is going to drop the ball on this one; do you think the perpetual 45-60 minute wait times to their customer service center since Saturday morning could have anything to do with my hunch?).

The first thing I did at work this morning after checking email was find a cup of coffee. I draw the line at Barbra Streisand dreams.

:: Bryan Travis :: 02/19/2002 @ 14:40 :: [link] ::

Pre-spring Wanderlust

It's 1:30 in the morning and I'm feeling philosophical, or maybe it's more like contemplative. Whatever it is, it's no way to be when what you really want to feel is the soothing pleasure of sleep.

I was driving home from a friend's house when a sudden urge to take a long drive came over me. A Barenaked Ladies CD was playing, and maybe it put me in the mood to keep singing along. It painted quite a picture, driving my hybrid car at 12:45am on the curviest road I could find, playing loud music while I blared along in unison, face bathed in the green and orange glow of the touchscreen display.

During the summers in high school, I'd spend entire days riding my 12 speed bike on the rural roads where I grew up. My favorite trips were finding scenic spots on cooler days when I could pack a lunch and notebook to write poetry. It was an overwhelming sense of serenity and solitude.

Those were the days, and the feeling from driving in the Prius tonight with only the electric motor running was a close match. As I got home and pulled into the garage, the temptation to put the transmission in reverse and drive through the night was immense. I could have driven around the world if the oceans weren't in the way.

What's the point of all this? None that I am aware of, except for a growing sense of 21st century weekend warrior wanderlust. Oh, springtime, where are you? I want to grab my camera, hop in the car, find a scenic locale to rejuvenate the soul and make a vain attempt to capture its beauty and breathtaking splendor with a camera.

This is the most aimless crap I've written in a looong time. No marijuana was smoked in the writing of this post, honest. Sometimes, no matter how contemplative you feel, mental clarity isn't an option. I'm going to bed.

:: Bryan Travis :: 02/15/2002 @ 01:57 :: [link] ::

Big Wave

And a big wave to the person I was chatting with on the Valentine Hearts. Damn, doing that in complete sentences took some skilz! Drop a line sometime.

:: Bryan Travis :: 02/14/2002 @ 01:44 :: [link] ::

Imprisoned WebBots

I was browsing my access log tonight and noticed the Wpoison CGI I installed a couple months ago to prevent spammers harvesting email addresses from my website had snarled a larbin 2.6.0 agent. Larbin honors robots.txt exclusion, but doesn't heed the "NOINDEX" meta tag Wpoison creates. Wpoison returns a webpage with bogus email addresses and hyperlinks, which point to the Wpoison CGI. Wpoison's assumption is a web crawler designed to harvest email addresses for spamming won't obey robots.txt or NOINDEX, so when a harvesting agent encounters a Wpoison CGI, it will harvest nonexistent email addresses, follow the link back to the CGI, and repeat the process all over again. The strategy is to trap the spambot in Wpoison at the top of your page so it never sees your real address.

On this page, the link to Wpoison is a 1x1 transparent GIF called scat.gif (for obvious reasons) just above the "o" in the "about" link in the top-right corner blue square. If you do a "Select All" (CTRL-A for Windows), you can barely see it as a 1 pixel high bump in the selection highlight.

So, a web crawler has been trapped in my weblog for two days, hapless victim of Wpoison. Fortunately, the CGI sleeps 5-10 seconds before closing the returned webpage, so it's not as if this bot will exceed my bandwidth quota, or anything - I'm just amused with it. Hey, want to see how Wpoison works? Here's a link to the CGI. All that randomness for 8.5KB - ah, simplicity!

It appears larbin's no more intelligent than a spambot, and the operator is in for a surprise when she/he realizes what's going on, but since larbin opens multiple connections to crawl pages and is probably crawling plenty of valid pages, it could take a while.

Anyway, tonight's sardonic comedy theater is how I found this catalog of known web robots, and I wrote all this just to have an excuse to post the link.

Oh, yeah... Happy Valentine's Day. Opine Bovine created a few wallpapers for the occasion. I was partial to "Black Thursday" and "The Loveblender," but I don't suppose any of you find that ironic, do you? I'm trying my best not to whine, so back the hell off!

:: Bryan Travis :: 02/14/2002 @ 00:44 :: [link] ::

Good Medicine, But Tastes Like Turpentine

A few days ago the significant other called it off for a second time. The mental image I have is of an old biplane that keeps crashing so hard it bounces back into the air, only to hit the ground again. Well, when the ole jalopy starts flopping on the ground, I guess that's a wrap. Time to kill the throttle and take it to the museum so we can look back and reminisce over the good ole days. Why do I associate this relationship with an airplane?

I told myself if we ever started dating again and it still didn't work out, it wouldn't be because of anything I did or didn't do. It seems my only comfort from the whole ordeal is knowing I accomplished my goal, but it's enough to keep me sane, and life has been going on normally for the most part. Work and school are demanding a significant chunk of my waking hours.

When she first broke it off last May, my job suddenly became insignificant. All I could think of was every insensitive and unloving act or word I had ever done or said. Guilt and regret haunted my conscience, and I would have done anything, anything, for the chance to set things straight. Life was miserable! Until...

I finally got my chance. And you know what? I set things straight as best I could. I was devoted, not in the self-sacrificing way I had feared being "devoted" would mean, but in the sharing, bonding way it was meant to be. For me, at least, the relationship was better than it ever had been. It was almost magical, because I finally had the "space" and "me time" I never felt I had before, and likewise, she had the attentiveness she'd always wanted.

Our relationship was as wonderful as it could possibly be, but unfortunately, that wasn't enough. Zoinks! Hearing and knowing that tore me up inside, like an emotional crosscut paper shredder. Last May I offered everything I could to her in the form of a commitment. In the past three months I've had the opportunity to be everything to her I could be through actions. She even told me on several occasions during the last three months it was what she had always wanted from me. However, it was not enough. She was in love with the concepts of these things. As I think about it, I'm increasingly of the opinion she was more in love with the dream than she was with me.

Did you catch that last statement? Man, it hurts like hell to say that, but I need to heal, so it must be said, and I'm afraid it's more than a bit true. Do you remember last week when I said I needed to have lunch with my mom and talk? That's what she told me. My mother is naive about many of the things I enjoy (technology, abstract problems, science, arguing for the sake of it, chess, and weblogs, to name a few), but she has a way of understanding what's in people's hearts. When I asked her to lunch, I had no idea what I wanted to talk about, and as she paid the bill, she apologized, saying she hated to see me hurt, and wasn't sure she'd been that helpful.

Bless her heart, my mother's a good mom to have. I wish I could loan her out when my friends are in hard times instead of making them listen to my awkward attempts at soothing. It's not that I don't feel compassion, because I honestly do, but my mom's rather more adept at bridging the gap between heart and mouth and expressing it.

For all the fun I make of her naive ways, my mom can be profoundly insightful. And helpful, too.

:: Bryan Travis :: 02/13/2002 @ 02:12 :: [link] ::

Rocket Science for the Hungover

When life throws a curveball in your direction and it's obvious you're going to take the hit, sometimes the best solution is drinking plenty of beer to dull the pain. After becoming acquainted with your hangover the next morning, the million dollar question is "How much did I drink?"

Problem is, it's hard to distinguish one can of Guinness from another, and the alcohol makes it hard to count. When no one else around likes Guinness, it's safe to assume you were the only one drinking it. In these situations, the answer to the million dollar question is derived using a frightfully complex equation:

GC = GP - GR

GC is Guinness Consumed
GP is Guinness Purchased
GR is Guinness Remaining

It may not seem so complex now, but when a hangover's shockwaves are resounding in your skull, it might as well be multi-variable calculus. Fortunately for the hungover, GP is known from the previous evening, so the equation can be solved after collecting data for GR; however, getting at that data can be difficult as it requires counting the unopened Guinness cans, which can be seen in a transcription of my data collection this morning:

One, two - oww, my head! Damn - lost count. One. Oh, my head hurts too much!

You get the idea. After several failed attempts, I eventually determined GR = 3, and had the necessary information to solve the equation:

GC = 12 - 3

The math was too intense and there weren't enough fingers on my hands, so I used a calculator to solve the equation:

GC = 9

Nine Guinnei - amazing! After nine cans of Guinness, it was a wonder the dilated blood vessels in my head responsible for the hangover hadn't split open. Knowing there are 14.9 fluid ounces in a can of Draught Guinness, I tried to calculate the liquid volume consumed, but that kind of math was out of the question at the time, even with a calculator. Later, however, I determined it was 134.1 fluid ounces, minus a couple ounces from the last Guinness left in the pint glass. Let me repeat that for effect:

I drank over a gallon of Guinness in under 6 hours.

That might seem a lot, but the alcohol content was all of 3/4 cup.

I don't remember much of what went on, but of what I do remember, one thing stands out. I was trying to tell a story and everyone was interjecting questions and laughing. Talking was hard enough in my state, and it was impossible to get into a story-telling flow with three other drunk people asking questions and making commentary. I had to take control of the situation, so I quit talking, walked over to the fireplace and stood on the brick ledge until I had everyone's full attention, lifted my hand and quietly said with the proper calm and hauteur befitting my position, "I am Caesar. I must have silence and respect when standing on my soapbox," and gestured to the fireplace and ledge beneath my feet. Maybe you couldn't fully appreciate it without witnessing.

And as for the curveball, well, getting to be Caesar helps put it in perspective.

:: Bryan Travis :: 02/10/2002 @ 21:21 :: [link] ::

> is Jan. 29 good or bad?

Reply to an email in the funtongue scatterplot emailbox this evening, because I'm still numb and don't have much to say about it since the aftermath hasn't begun to add up. I need my mom... I'll email and ask her out to lunch tomorrow.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: ### ### [mailto:###@###.com]
> Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2002 23:28
> To: scatterplot@funtongue.org
> Subject: funtongue scatterplot
> Okay, I can't tell what it means. I have not been reading enough lately.
> Or I never understood too much poetry to being with, but is Jan. 29 good
> or bad?
> ###

Good or bad? Beats me. Honest. I mean, it's just so maddening - what seems good can quickly turn bad, and, metaphorically speaking, what seems a hopeless situation is cracked by a ray of sunshine. Life's more chances than choices, so there isn't much use tracking gains and losses, because given time, they cancel out.

The song, by the way, is Landslide by Stevie Nicks. On January 29 it was foreshadowing, because as of about two hours ago, I'm single again. This has become so farcically frustrating I don't know whether to laugh and try to put the whole mess behind me or hurry along the course of nature by pulling my hair out and dying whatever's left gray. What's a dude to do when he decides he's ready to settle down and his desideratum changes her mind the other way round?

Enron, the World Trade Center, Tyco, the West Bank, India and Pakistan. The rest of the world is up in arms and going nuts - maybe it's time I got in on the action. What a joke!

:: Bryan Travis :: 02/08/2002 @ 03:13 :: [link] ::