Detrimental Assistance

Everybody needs help at one point or another right? You start off life as this confused deformed looking form of life, but now you’re no longer a fetus safe from the outside world anymore.  It’s time to start learning things on your own once you come out of that dark gaping hole crying, covered in blood, and other things you’d rather not think about. Of course you receive assistance while all this going on , much more than you will later in life (hopefully) because you are too young to fend for yourself and you’re probably about the size of  a large house cat at this point.

This is all perfectly acceptable right now. You can’t even lift more than a hair yet,  you have no idea what’s going on, people are constantly fussing at you, you can’t speak yet, and the only things you know how to do are things that are based off  instincts. If you take a shit, you can’t tell anybody you feel like you need to drop a deuce, you don’t know how to change your own disgusting piss and shit filled diaper, you can’t feed your hungry happy ass whenever you please, and so on. I’m sure you guys get the point now.

Life goes on , you grow into a young budding child (who’s still a little bratty snotty nosed shit), but you still get help from the people around you when you need it. There’s so much left to learn, and you can’t fit it all in that screaming hyper child sized head of yours. Many mistakes are made by you, but at this point it’s for the most part forgivable because you’re not ‘old enough to know better’ yet. Enough time goes by, and soon you learn  not to use your little smart mouth with your mother, lie about the fact that you just beat the shit out of your sibling (even though they are in tears on the ground beside you), or whine and bitch about a toy you weren’t bought at the store.

You also learn one very important concept of life. Showing up on time matters, and will matter much more when you get older. In order to do this ‘being on time’ thing you are also taught that getting a proper nights sleep is essential, because it usually allows you to wake up on time for any appointments, interviews, or important matters you may need to handle the next day in your adult life.

School bells ring in the morning to tell you school is starting, and you better get the fuck into the classroom.  There are also bells that ring to signify your next class is about to start, so you better hurry and end your conversation with your sticky, dirty, and dumb little friends about who has cooties and who doesn’t. Then there’s the lovely bells that ring to tell you that you’re late to class,  because somehow your dumb ass apparently hasn’t figured this out yet even though you’ve been in school for a few years now. This is supposed to condition you to learn to manage your time in order to be on time, appear reliable to your current teachers, and  appear professional to possible future bosses when you’re older.

When you’re still in these young years, you thankfully have your mother, father, maybe grandparents, or some family member/guardian who gives you a bedtime and expects you to follow it religiously. Some parents or guardians are better at reinforcing this than others, but for the most part most kids who don’t get into bed when told to can expect to see a belt or some other form of punishment coming for them. At least in our years this was true.  Now you can’t spank kids, so that creates a problem…no wonder they are all little shits, you can’t even so much as lay a hand on your kid to give them a high five anymore without someone jumping on you claiming you’re abusing the child. Anyway, that’s a different topic for another day.

Finally you hit your adult life, and hopefully you’ve learned how to set your alarm clock, wake yourself up, and drag yourself into whatever lame routine of life you may have set for yourself. Mommy is no longer waking you up saying, “It’s time for school sweetie, get the hell out of bed!” Mommy is no longer beating your ass when you refuse to get into bed the night before, and she’s no longer beating your ass for oversleeping in order to get you where you need to go on time. You’ve HOPEFULLY by this point trained yourself into being able to handle this basic part of life on your own. You can go to the bathroom on your own now, feed your own overweight hairy ass, dress yourself in your own horrendous outfits, and speak for yourself. Hopefully, at this point you aren’t crying for no apparent reason, crying to let people know you’re hungry, need to use the restroom, or need to play.

Here’s what inspired me to write this story. I love to help others, and I love to help my friends. However, I’m beginning to wonder if this is all getting to the point where it’s just detrimental to certain people in my life. I wouldn’t be overly concerned except for the fact that a majority of my friends are older than I am by several years, and I thought that with those years came something called “experience”. At least that’s what I was lead to believe…

I am finding it difficult to process that my 30 something year old friends can’t manage to get themselves up in time for work , or in some cases class (I know a few people going back to school). I often wake up to last minute text messages about how they woke up late and if there’s any way I could possibly give them a ride (I have a few friends who are unable to access cars at the moment as well). It doesn’t, or I should at least say it DIDN’T, used to bother me before because for the past 3 months I’ve been out of work with nothing better to do. In fact, I was the one who offered rides many times even though I know these people are fully capable of  finding ways to get themselves where they need to go as well as arriving there on time.  However, I’ve noticed a trend in some of these people becoming more and more reliant on me.

Maybe I’m weird, but I never found it difficult to get up and get to work or school on time. I follow a basic rule: If I have somewhere to be or someone to meet the next day, I go to bed at a time I know that I will be able to still make a timely appearance.  If I made the mistake of staying out too late and partying the night before, I mentally kick my ass into gear. Why doesn’t anybody else seem to have this in them?

What I guess I’m trying to really get at is the fact that I’m realizing my help seems to be more damaging than actually helpful. I seem to be sending these people straight back into reverse, and quite honestly I feel like a mother trying to wean my 30 something year old children off breastfeeding. They have teeth which really fucking hurt first of all, and don’t forget they can talk back in a way that doesn’t send me crying for my mommy, but rather trying to collect the bits of my brain they’ve exploded with their words as well.

It’s time to fly free birdies, I won’t be off work much longer, and if you don’t make it to where you’re going to be on time, I won’t be found anywhere within reach. I’ll most likely be stuck behind a register arguing with some numbnut about why the coupons they brought with them aren’t valid, because they refuse to read, and refuse to believe that coupons have dates, fine print, and restrictions.   No more help from me at the drop of a hat . It may be what I love to do , but I also hate hurting people, and in this sense I am hurting you by stifling the growth you apparently still have to do.  It’s time for me to move on, and all I can do is hope that you figure it out.

The AVM experience – What it’s like to have a stroke at 22

This has been swirling around in my head for about the past week. I kind of quickly shoved it back as soon as I was alert enough to realize what happened to me back in January, but now I feel like I should speak out about every little detail.

Sunday January 17, 2010  around 9:30 p.m. I had just finished getting ready to go out with my friends to our regular Sunday karaoke bar. I left my apartment feeling normal, I rode in my friend’s car to the bar feeling normal, I walked into the bar, and I started to drink like normal. I had put my usual song in to sing (Portishead-Sour Times) and found my way back to where my friends were hanging out.

We sat around our table, bullshitting like we always do, and having a good time. Soon I was called up to sing, but just shortly before that happened I started feeling a pressure in the top left of my head which traveled down to the end of the bridge of my nose. I had felt this same thing about two years before while out grocery shopping once, but it was a very very light sensation that went away on its own so I continued on with life.

As I continued singing the pressure started to turn into a pain. I tried to ignore it thinking it would pass, but the more I kept going the more pain came. I got to the point where I was less able to focus on the words on the screen, or even remember what I was singing anymore. Somehow I made it through my song, and sat back down at the table in a quiet state of shock because I had no idea what was happening to me. I have a problem with anxiety disorders, and I did not want to provoke myself into a panic attack even though it was getting past the point where I felt in control of what was happening within my head. I did not want to freak out the rest of the bar which is a small place where most of the crowd knows each other, and the last thing I needed was people smothering me asking what was wrong.

I casually texted a friend and asked him if he was coming out to the bar, but I quickly noticed that for some reason when I looked down at the screen of my phone I couldn’t see my thumb or my index finger there touching the buttons. I thought that I was maybe causing this by panicking (I had about given up at this point on trying to control it), so I tried to make sure breathe, but nothing was helping. Shortly after, I started seeing a small triangle shaped pattern that had mini orange triangles inside of it, and was sort of “flashing” in the bottom right corner of my right eye.

I let the friend sitting next to me know what I was seeing, and that I didn’t feel right. She had dealt with my anxiety before , and has a general idea of what to do when I am freaking the hell out. We both went outside, and at that point I couldn’t even keep my breathing straight anymore. I was hyperventilating, and trying to force myself to cry because for some odd reason sometimes crying helps me get over my attacks.

I was too nervous about what my body was possibly doing to itself that I couldn’t even force myself to cry as much as I wanted to and tried to. My friend asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital. I told her no, and that I just wanted to go home to shake this off. It kept getting worse. All of it. The anxiety, the way my head felt, and the flashing shape in my eye were just feeding to the anxiety problem. I have rarely ever had it reach the level where it’s beyond controllable, and it did get to that point that night. Thankfully , my friend decided it was time to go to the hospital anyway after discussing that my mother had and still has problems with migraines, but I never had before in my life.

Everyone (by everyone I mean a guy friend who drove us to the bar, his girlfriend who is also my friend, and another girlfriend of ours) quickly packed into the car, and it was off to the hospital with me. I tried calling my mom to let her know what was going on , but she didn’t pick up her phone. Later in the night she noticed it was my number that popped up on her screen, so she texted me saying she thought it was one of her friends calling to bug her, and asked what was up.

At that point I was already at Clarkson Medical Center’s 24 hour urgent care building out west. I remember walking up to the counter, handing the man behind the desk my insurance cards, and trying to fill out the paperwork. I was so disoriented at that time that I could barely even state my name to the guy, when I was born, or my social security number. I had to think really hard to complete such a simple task such as writing in the information needed on the emergency room papers. It got to the point where I just passed the paper over to my friend and asked her to fill the rest out for me.

I was quickly called back to see the nurse who asked me to describe my symptoms to her. I was still in full on panic mode, feeling like I was barely able to function. I was doing my usual nervous habit of shaking my legs, but I was doing it so bad that she had to remind me to settle down so that I could continue to tell her what was wrong. As I told her what was going on with my eye, and the headache I felt, I noticed the right eye went slowly back to normal, but in my left eye I was seeing a blurred transparent circle. Almost like a cap covering my pupil. I remember telling the nurse this , and about jumping out of the chair because I was that terrified. I had no idea what was going on or what to do and felt like I was losing all control.  Right after I jumped out of the chair, it suddenly felt like someone had stuffed cotton balls in both of my ears, and I could barely hear the nurse asking me any of her other questions.

I was sent back to the little check up room, and waited for a doctor to come in to take a look at me. Keep in mind hospitals have always made me nervous, and I hate setting foot into them even if I’m not there to see a doctor. Being in that room experiencing what I was (at this point the orange triangles had come back) was only bringing my anxiety levels right back up after I had just calmed down a tad bit. I panicked so bad from just waiting in that room for what felt like an eternity, that I decided in a dazed and almost unconscious state it was a good idea to get up and leave that hospital room by myself to get my friend for comfort.

I got out of the room, and started to make my way down the hallway. But something was wrong. My legs weren’t moving properly with my body at all. I was literally dragging dead weights underneath me that I had absolutely no feeling in. The tops of my feet were dragging on the ground too as I tried to focus on my walking and how to take steps…bring one foot up, bring the other foot up. Left foot , right foot, left foot , right foot. It was almost like dragging a puppet through a hallway, but not pulling it’s feet off the ground to make it walk correctly. I somehow miraculously made it to back up to the waiting room door, but the receptionist caught sight of me  and asked, “Whoa! Where are you going?”

I explained to him that I really needed someone back in that room with me for comfort, he kindly asked me which person I wanted, and all I remember telling him was “the girl with the dark hair.” He went and got her after getting me back to my room, and somehow she managed to calm me down entirely. I was starting to get drowsy, and just sat with my back up on the bed ’til I felt like I wanted to lay down.

We chatted for a bit and tried to take my focus off of what was going on, but soon my stomach became uneasy.Thankfully, I can always tell when I’m going to vomit because my throat sends me nice little warning signs. My friend managed to get a nurse in quick, and I violently threw up into the tub a nurse was holding in front of me. When I say violently I mean it too. I had to have my entire face wiped off, and I almost couldn’t breathe through my nose because the force I had was just pushing the puke back up into my face.

I was given medicine for nasuea, and had been ordered a CT scan because if this had been a migraine it would’ve been my first. About five minutes after the vomit scene, a man came with a wheelchair to take me back to the CT machine. I felt like I was falling in and out of it, and to this day I’m not sure if it was because of my condition, the anti-nasuea medicine, or possibly both. I laid there on the bed in absolute silence, and I remember the scan not lasting more than five minutes before the guy silently helped me back onto the wheelchair.

On the way back to my room I began to feel worried again because I noticed how fast the guy was wheeling me through the halls. Neither of us said a single word, which of course led me to believe something was wrong. I can remember thinking to myself repeatedly to “please let everything be okay”.  Shortly after I was dropped back off to the room, a woman came to the door and in her calmest most upbeat voice informed me, “We’re going to take you down to the medical center (UNMC) because your CT scan shows some bleeding in your brain, and they can figure out exactly what it is going on when you get down there. okay?”

My heart sank and my mind tried it’s hardest to race in my delirious state. I had seriously thought I’d be going home that night with some migraine medication in hand, and that everything would be fine again. Instead I was being wheeled down the hallway yet again, but this time it was to the exit doors to be loaded into an ambulance. I was starting to feel out of it and drowsy, and I was thankful that they allowed my friend to ride in the front seat while the other paramedic sat in back with me. Hearing a familiar voice made me feel comfortable enough to calm down, because at that moment and time I was facing on of my biggest fears ever(having to ride in the back of an ambulance strapped to the stretcher). I closed my eyes, and off we went to the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The longest car ride of my entire life even though in reality it’s only about twenty minutes.

We finally arrived at the hospital, and I remembered feeling the cold winter wind for about two minutes before I was inside staring up at the flourescent hospital lights. I kept wishing I was going to be okay. Before I knew it I was finally in the ICU on the 8th floor (neurology cases).

I barely remember being stripped of my clothes and quickly thrown into a hospital gown. I do remember hoping that it would all be over tomorrow, and that I would be back in my comfortable apartment with my familiar surroundings. I do remember four of my friends (the driver of the car we came in followed the ambulance to the hospital) standing at my left corner by the door as several different nurses hooked me up to IV’s and checked my vital signs. The very last thing I remember before falling asleep that night was my girl friend asking her boyfriend if he needed to leave the room (hospital rooms make him queasy), watching him say yes and walk out, listening to her state to the nurses that he’s a medical courier which made it ironic that he couldn’t stand hospital rooms. I remember hearing laughter about his situation, and  listening to another friend tell me to be strong before they all left the room for the night.

My friends informed my mother later that night that I was in the hospital because I never was able to respond to her text after all that had just happened within the past two hours. They also informed a few of our good friends from the bar who had noticed my sudden disappearance  and were texting my phone asking where I went, letting them know my situation and what was going on.

My mom and my brother arranged for a flight from California as soon as possible, and arrived on that Tuesday (the 19th). It was on that day that I had an angiogram, and that day that they discovered that I had an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) in the left occipital lobe of my brain. Something I was born with, but it (my brain)finally couldn’t take it anymore for some reason, and bled about the size of a half dollar causing a hemorrhagic stroke.  I am not paralyzed or anything surprisingly, but I am an extremely lucky case.

Coming soon: It’s not like it’s brain surgery! Wait…yes, it literally is.

Cell phones apparently inhibit logic too

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not completely against them (cell phones), I mean hell, the one I own barely leaves my hands or my sight (unless I am driving or somewhere where a cell phone is inappropriate). They’ve helped me out in situations where I  needed help immediately, and they have given me the ability to assist others.

Anyways the thing that irritates me is the fact that recently I’ve been having this issue with receiving several texts from several different people asking me what I was doing.  Well it was actually more like, “Wut r u doin/What ya doin?” This also has a tendency to only ever happen when I’m occupied of course.

Yes, I am guilty of  sending these texts as well, but they are extremely rare coming from me. If someone says that they are busy, I stop texting them. Simple as that.  I also actually take the time to spell out all of the words, and use proper grammar in my messages. You know…because that whole three extra seconds was so important to my life. Don’t want to lose those!

I don’t mind letting people know what I’m up to at the moment, and  I like knowing that my friends care enough about me to ask, or at least send me some type of text at any time during any given day. It’s good to know I’m at least cool enough for some people to want to hang out with, or at least talk to if I’m not occupied.

The thing that has been bothering me is the fact that when I specifically state that I am occupied in my texts a few specific friends of mine continue to text me with questions about whatever I am doing at the moment, or about things that don’t matter.  What does this have to do with common sense you ask? I’m getting to that, don’t worry your pretty little head.

First of all, I am out on the road a lot. I love to drive, and my friends know this. I do not own a hands free device, or have a way of texting by or with my mouth (they know this as well). So when I get asked a question like “what are you doing?”  as I’m busy driving, I will make it a point to state that I’m doing so. I make it as short and sweet as possible (usually with a text while stopped at a red light) with the simple word “driving”.

Common sense would tell any normal human being with half a brain that the person driving most likely has both hands on the wheel , and has their attention on the road. So why, why do my friends take it upon themselves to continue to ask me questions, and then proceed to follow up with a frustrated “????” when I don’t respond within two minutes. I’m sorry, but I thought making sure I didn’t endanger other drivers and focusing on the road was a bit more important than answering your question anyway. It’s never urgent or of any concern, and I would hope that if it was, my friends would have the sense to get my attention by calling me rather than texting me.

So I guess you could just say I’m irritated at the fact that people (specifically these friends) aren’t using their brains to put two and two together, and that this is happening too often.  I could tell them that I was hopping in the shower, and they would ask me, “So how’s your shower going? What kind of shampoo do you use? Are you shaving your legs? How long are you going to be in there for?” I could be running around the house with my panties on fire, let them know this, and these people would still ask me, “So what are you up to?” Hello?! Anything in that space in your head? Most people have one, USE IT!

Zombie pay-for-play?

I am going to link to a flash game that breaks my heart: Zombie Assault 2 – Insane Asylum.

This is zombie survival with guns and upgradable barriers. I”d rather like to know how the zombies manage to carry cash, and what agency it is that sells you barrier upgrades that you have to fix your own self. But anyway, it”s a rather bog-standard mix of frenetic shooting, base defense, and upgrading your offense and defense to survive upgrading waves of undead. It”s a good formula. The mix this time around is needing cash to add on to the map, to find… well, it”s not the weapons themselves, like I”d expect. It”s an outline of the weapon that lets you buy them from the shop. Like pieces of a picture-menu for a mute customer.

At first glance, it”s a horrid trade-off. You buy, essentially, an increasing number of ways for zombies to enter. Some do not even allow barricades. Fortunately, the undead are stupid and stick with their assigned doors, even walking past an already-smashed barrier to beat upon one that had caught their fancy. The number of undead in each wave is static. These two details mean that you have spread out the zombie problem, so your barriers should last a bit longer. The kitchen and adjacent… porch-y area give vital obstacles to run around, exposing flaws in zombie pathfinding I haven”t needed to exploit since Lode Runner. (look it up, whipper-snappers!)

The undead themselves are a fun mix of speeds, toughness, and special effects. Clowns which are nearly unkillable… save for their own detonations a few seconds after they run near you and root themselves in place. Big beefy meat-cleaver wielders that have a few mutant tapeworms to share with you on their death. And even some demon-y guy who likes to chuck eldritch fire at you. The best bit is that you have some warning. The game”s sound effects include screeches and chilling clown laughs to let you know what a given wave is about to throw at you. But not from which direction… so that you might decide if you are using a good weapon for the upcoming problem.

All that is to the good, believe it or not. Each element listed enhances the experience. Even the pathing issues, as the difficulty is high enough to where exploiting the AI isn”t any guarantee of victory… just a slight edge.

Difficulty, as in all of this class of game, comes from a simple source… you need to buy things, and you don”t know what will help you survive until it”s too late to spend the money elsewhere. As you are spending the exact same cash on expanding your living space that you do on weapons… it becomes even more of a challenge. It is simpler if you know which areas contain which… uh, weapon potentials? Menu items? So you simply do not get to know what”s even available on the first playthru, until you have unlocked the entire map.

You do start off with the ability to buy better barricades tho. Which are repaired to full health instantly, by walking up to one and tapping a key. However… upgrading this to the point where the barriers will damage the zombies that bash them costs as much as the mid-range weapons… and represents the game”s obvious tipping point. If you get the barricades to full, and the map unlocked, you can hold off quite a lot. A sentry gun or two would also make it possible to survive to the endgame.

This is also the point the game appears calibrated to leave slightly out of reach. I”m not saying it”s impossible… there”s bound to be some cryptic range of upgrading and ultimate zombiefighting that allows a human player to survive. But the difficulty of the game… even with health restored between waves, the bulk of players are going to be stymied just short of being able to balance themselves against the ever-steepening difficulty.

Which is where the game promptly decides to break my heart.

You can register yourself with the game”s handlers to unlock a persistant profile, so your XP and character perks don”t go away (the shop and inventory is reset every time tho. Sorry!). And you are given a couple “premium” items for free. Few extra grenades, a rifle that”s quite a bit better than the starter pistol… and this brings you to the bloody shop. Don”t get me wrong. I am not opposed to paying money for a game. Good games are awesome, and worth supporting. This game is playable for free… but you pay to unlock certain… perks. For real cash, you can lower the difficulty of the game. There”s weapons ranging from autoshotguns to proton オンライン カジノ packs. Permanent boosts to damage, armor, health regen, and bonus income from zombie kills. You can buy the whole set of upgrades for $10 or $15 if you”re getting them individually. Clever pricing scheme, since $5 is the minimum, and would give you the most critical upgrades. But for twice the price, you can have it all. Nice marketing.

Now, if they had made this a bit like shareware, so that I were unlocking, say, an end-game boss… I could dig it. The thing that sends me into a bit of disgust is not that they are charging for the games… they are charging for things that lower the difficulty. This disgusts me. Thoroughly.

Some of you don”t need this explained to you, so I”ll try to be brief. Games used to come with a range of difficulty. There would be an easy mode so that you could experience the bulk of the game, but you wouldn”t be trying very hard. There might be a hellfire and brimstone mode where it would take weeks of training to survive the game… maybe in order to get a different ending. The ending wouldn”t really be all that great, but the elation of finally getting there… to no longer be banging your head against a bit wall in a silicon prison… that would give a giddy rush and instant bragging rights. And anyone sane would have long since found that one guy who could beat it, and watch them do it, so they wouldn”t actually have to.

But you didn”t pay money to make the game easier.

MMOs spend countless hours trying to destroy the practice of “Gold Farming”, wherein real money is exchanged for in-game currency, to allow for purchases that the player hasn”t earned. Ostensibly, you are outsourcing the grinding of the game. Frankly, the games are a bit grind-tastic, and like to keep you from having “fun” as much as possible… but the efforts to stop this industry are due to very real issues of in-game inflation (which puts prices so high that new players cannot buy any upgrades with their hard-earned cash) and of the farming activities crowding out “legitimate” gamers from vital resources.

These are beside the point, but I cannot truly express the outrage I feel without giving them as perspective.

The actual practice of requiring a player to spend money on lowering the difficulty level, and increasing fun… goes against good game design. It”s also a hideous business practice. You end up with a paying customer base of gamers who may be obsessive, but certainly do not have the skill it takes to conquer your game without your little perks… so every single customer is going to be ultimately dissatisfied with the experience, because they will know they couldn”t have beaten the game on their own. They are paying to cheat themselves of the very illusion of victory these games use as a reward for playing.

From a business perspective, you are giving yourself customers who will be disillusioned by the very game they bought into… which can”t do future sales much good. From a game designer”s perspective, I look at this and feel that there was a lot of playtesting put into making the difficulty exactly right… so the game will be addicting but impossible without paying, for most customers. The gaming purist in me scoffs at spending money to gain an edge in a game. The smart shopper who once bought a gameshark figures the price point is WAY off for cheats (But not bad for buying a full game of this type). The casual gamer in me… is intrigued, but not going to spend money when I have a book I could be reading.

I”m not sure what the target market is for this experiment, but as a mutation of the old shareware model, I can”t help but think it”s headed down the old Darwinian path.