Thursday, July 31, 2014

Depression 3

Scientists have demonstrated that dramatic, positive changes can occur in our lives as a direct result of facing an extreme challenge - whether it's coping with a serious illness, daring to quit smoking, or dealing with depression. Researchers call this 'post-traumatic growth. -Jane McGonigal

Picture Legend:

1. Depressed
2. Solar Radiation
3. Algernon
4. Mr. Freeze
5. Los Angeles Ambulatory Care Center
6. Sharknado 2
7. Big Jim
8. Temperature Anomalies
9. CO2
10. 97%
11. Deadliest Catch
12. Rick Scott
13. Rats
14. Flipping

   Last Monday afternoon I found myself walking north on Alameda Street, as is my custom on Monday afternoons.    
   The temperature in Los Angeles, in the downtown area where I live, has been in the high 80s for about a week, and is expected to continue into the foreseeable future, which depresses me. I don’t care for sunny, clear, warm weather. It’s too damn cheery, and too damn hot. I prefer an overcast, near rainy atmosphere, which always brightens my spirits, to the point that I break out in song and dance in inappropriate circumstances.     
   I am not allowed an air conditioner in my box, which would keep it’s interior nice and cool, and livable during the long summer months. The management of the building where my box is located holds the position that the wiring of the building is too antiquated, and will not be able to safely draw the amount of electricity needed to operate one... except on the first floor, where management’s offices are located of course, their business being to important for them to suffer the indignities of heat that the rest of us must endure.  
   The building where my box is located, for a large part, is made out of bricks (Solid Bricks, often called "pressed reds" in Australia, as opposed to Firebrick, Refractory bricks or Kiln bricks. These are usually a solid brick that has a particular Alumina content (among other additional materials). Naturally the specific heat capacity of common brick is 0.9 kJ/kg K (kiloJoules per kilogram Kelvin), or in other units, 0.22 kcal/kg K (kilocalories per kilogram Kelvin). This must be converted to heat capacity for a given brick size (to convert from specific heat capacity to heat capacity, multiply specific heat capacity by the mass of the object (since specific heat capacity is heat capacity per unit mass). Assuming that the mass of a typical brick is 2.268 kilograms, the brick's heat capacity is 2.0412 kJ/K (kiloJoules per Kelvin.) The calculation is: 0.9 kJ/kg K multiplied by 2.268 kilograms equals 2.0412kJ/K, which technically can be construed as freaking hot). The net result being that during a hot day the interior of my box is typically 20 degrees warmer than it is outside, and the heat is retained long into the night and early morning.
   Accordingly I utilize a ceiling fan, two floor fans,  a swamp cooler, and a little mouse named Algernon, that I have trained to wave palm fronds in my direction in exchange for extra helpings of seasoned kale. 
   They don’t work. At any given time  I need to be in a “fan zone,” with at least two of these devices firmly planted in my direction as I work and sleep in order to maintain some semblance of a normal lifestyle. I’m reminded of the wonderful English actor (Russian born, just like Mila Kunis!), George Sanders, who portrayed Mr. Freeze in two episodes of the 1960's television program, “Batman,” wherein he needed to live in a minus 50 degree environment in order to survive,  and could control sections of his lair to manifest rectangular temperature “zones” that fulfilled that requirement. Inside the zone it was minus 50 degrees, you step just outside the zone, it was the ambient temperature of the room. He used these zones at times as a weapon, zapping Batman and Robin into them whenever he could, subjecting them to bitter cold temperatures, which would normally cause death in a few minutes if it were not for the super thermal long johns that the Dynamic Duo had thoughtfully worn before enjoining in battle. 
   Like Mr. Freeze, I need to live within a temperature zone (also similar to the so-called “habitable zone” the Earth lies within it’s orbit around our Sun. If we were too close to the sun we would fry, too far away, we’d freeze). 
   One would think that all of the power used to operate my fans (plus the energy required to grow kale and seasonings) would be more than required to operate one medium sized window air conditioner. But how can one win with the powerful and entrenched powers that be, other than by threat of waging a prolonged hunger strike, which retains dubious possibilities of success?
   This was this frame of mind I found myself in upon entering the Veteran’s Administration’s Los Angeles Ambulatory Care Center, located on Temple Street, on the corner of Temple and Alameda. 
   I was there to attend the weekly drop in Depression Group, facilitated by the lovely and knowledgeable Dr. Kimberly Newsom, PhD.
   The group meets in a third floor conference room at 1:00pm every Monday. I entered and took my usual seat near the head of the table, where Dr. Kimberly usually stands. Approximately ten old, grizzly, opinionated, cantankerous veterans were already seated, discussing various inconsequential matters, which each had a strong cantankerous opinion about.
   Our lovely intern/psychology student, Christine entered and took her usual seat across from me. This would be her last day with us. After today she would be helping out in the addiction services clinic on the first floor, a clinic I was intimately familiar with.
   More old, grizzly, opinionated, cantankerous veterans arrived and took their seats. About twenty to twenty five would attend that day.
   Precisely at 1:00, Dr. Kimberly entered, and took her place near me, in front of the room. I said hello to her. I’ve been attending this group for over seven years, the longest of any of the other vets in attendance. 
   “How is everybody today?” Dr Newsom asked. She always asks this question.
   “You know,” she said, “today I think I’ll sit at the other end of the room.” And she did, walking the length of the room to the west end, far away from me.
   I felt helpless and abandoned. This depressed me. 
   Dr. Newsom continued, “Okay, the sign in sheet is going around. Is there any new people here today?” There were two new people, men, old and grizzly, no doubt opinionated and cantankerous as well.
   “You’re here for the drop in depression group, right?” They affirmed that they were. “Just making sure you’re in the right place. You’ll notice that on the sign in sheet there’s a place to rate the amount of depression you’re experiencing now. From zero to ten, ten meaning you’re very depressed, zero, not depressed at all. This is used to get an idea of how you’re feeling.”
   She looked around. “Okay, does anybody want to start off?”
   An obese gentleman sitting next to her started out by complaining about not having some claim to the VA  approved due to some technicality, and the dismissive attitude of VA employees he had dealt with while attempting to process the claim. 
   Dr. Kimberly discussed the issue with him and the group, emphasizing how this might have affected his depression. Wanting to break it down, she pinpointed the exact event that caused his feelings of rejection and anger at being turned down, which turned out to be the letter from the VA that turned him down. She continued to identify the thoughts and feelings that the letter promoted, and what an appropriate response should be. On and on. 
   All of us in the room had dealt with huge bureaucracies before having served in the military. This gentleman, and the rest of us knew what a pain in the ass it was dealing with the VA, including Dr. Newsom, who herself is a veteran, of the Air Force (I know what you’re thinking, dear readers, the Air Force is nothing but a bunch of sissies. Well, I’m certainly not going to go into that now). The concensus of the group was: you know how the VA is, do what you have to do to further your cause, and get on with it.
   I raised my hand to talk next. Dr. Newsom looked around the room nervously, asking another vet how he was doing today. He said he was a little upset that his son hadn’t called him on his birthday, and we talked about this inconsequential crap for awhile. I raised my hand again, forcing the doctor to call on me.
   “Man, get over it,” I said. “Your son is all grown up and has a life of his own, and probably just forgot about it. I’m sure he still loves you and all that, that is if you a good father, because for all we know, you may have been a drunk, absentee dad who molested him at every opportunity.” 
   This man objected strenuously, and several other voiced their displeasure with my suggestion.
   “Now, now, don’t get your panties in a twist. I’m not saying anything like that happened. I’m just putting it out that there are things we may not know about this situation and shouldn’t be to quick to judge, or support... just saying.”
   “Alright,” Dr. Kim said, “thank you Rick, now...”
   “You should consider yourself lucky to even have a son,” I continued. “I don’t have a son... or a daughter. All I have is a psycho niece who never contacts me, and an invisible cat, and this freaking little mouse...”
   “Invisible what...” one of my veteran neighbors muttered.
   “I mean that’s really depressing... especially during the holidays... you want to know what really depresses me though?” I asked no one in particular. 
   “Ah... what Mr. Joyce?” Dr. Newsom was forced to ask.
   “Heat depresses me, and sunny days...”
   “Sunny days?”
   “And sharks. Sharks depress me.”
   “Sharks? How can sh...”
   “Sharks are simply creatures that have every right to be on this planet as we do. Yet in the media they are portrayed as evil killing machines, while they are being slaughtered by the millions to make fucking soup! Soup! If you’re a shark, and all of your fins are cut off, you’re in pretty bad fucking shape, because you know what’s going to happen? Huh, do you?  You’re not going to be able to swim very well, that’s for sure. You’ll probably sink to the bottom of the freaking ocean and suffocate because sharks need to move around in order to breathe. And if that doesn’t happen, which it probably will, chances are you’ll get eaten up by other sharks who do have fins. That sucks, if you’re a shark. No wonder they like to eat people when they get a chance. I would if I was a shark.” 
   “And another thing,” I continued. “This Wednesday “Sharknado Two: The Second One,” premiers, and everybody thinks it’s such a big joke, sharks flying around in a tornado, ha, ha. Yeah, big joke. But I’m sure I don’t have to remind you guys of the prevalence of extreme weather events lately...” Several of the men looked at each other, as if they were, well either in agreement,  or confused “... tornadoes not the least of them. And what happens when a tornado starts over the ocean... any ocean? It sucks up sharks, that’s what they do, or could do. Granted it hasn’t happened yet, but America hasn’t had an Ebola outbreak yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Oh no. So this movie should be taken very seriously as a fictional representation of the harmful effects of global warming and bio-meteorological events, perhaps the first of many to come.”
    Everyone in the room was silent for a moment, digesting what I had said perhaps. 
   One of the guys asked, “Wouldn’t a shark die if it was in a tornado? I mean, it’s not in water right?”
   “Not necessarily. The wind could be blowing water through the shark’s gills.”
   The room fell silent once again.
   Dr Newsom broke the silence. 
   “Well, thank you Rick. Let’s...”
   “And don’t get me started on global warming,” I began.
   I thought I heard Dr. Kimberly moan, “Oh no...”
   “This Wednesday,” I continued, “ Senator Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma of course, blocked a Senate resolution that would have admitted that climate change is real. Just That! Not that is was caused by humans, or that we had to do something about it, but just that it was real, that the climate was changing, not for the better or worse, just that it was changing. Inhofe objected to the resolution because he claimed the planet had experienced, and I quote, “no warming for the last fifteen years;” and because nine thousand scientists had signed some petition expressing doubt that greenhouse gases caused global warming. I guess that would be a pretty good argument against human based climate change if any of it were true, which it isn’t. I don’t know what thermometer Big Jim has been looking at, but the one the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has tells us that all of the three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since eighteen eighty. Most of this has occurred since the seventies... nineteen seventies, with twenty of the hottest years occurring since nineteen eighty one! Ten of the hottest years on record have occurred in the last twelve...”
   “Wait a second,” one of the guys interrupted. “You said “this Wednesday.” You mean last Wednesday, don’t you?”
   “No. And this doesn’t even take into account that solar activity has decreased since two thousand, and that ninety percent of all of the heat generated from increased carbon emissions goes straight into the ocean instead of the atmosphere, which is what’s usually measured when attempting to detect the ambient temperature. Inhofe doesn’t get that when the ocean heats up it will eventually  influence atmospheric temperature.”
   “Mr. Joyce, Rick...”
   “How does he explain melting glaciers, and the artic ice cap disappearing, stranding all of those poor polar bears. Now that’s really depressing. Makes me want to break down and cry. 
   Inhofe went on to assert that federal government agencies, including the The Department of Defense, NASA, and the  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, were colluding to promote the agendas of environmentalists. So a vast conspiracy is under way that Inhofe has double secret knowledge of, but no evidence to prove his assertion. In other words he’s pulling that assertion right of of his big, flabby, Oklahoman butt. Why would the government be doing this? What’s in it for them? What’s their motive?  Senator Inhofe doesn’t answer this important point to his argument. 
   Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island made the point for him, and If I remember correctly, he said this, ‘Let me tell you some of the government agencies who are so-called colluding together. How about NASA? We trust them to send our astronauts into space. We trust them to deliver a rover the size of an S.U.V. to the surface of Mars safely and drive it around, sending data and pictures back from Mars to us. You think these people know what they’re talking about? … How about the United States Navy? The commander in chief of our Pacific Command? Is he colluding when he says that? …
   If you want to ignore the federal government, if you live in a world in which you think the federal government colludes with itself to make up things that aren’t true, okay. But look at the property casualty insurance and reinsurance industry. They’re the people with the biggest bet on this. They have billions of dollars riding on getting it right, and they say climate change is real, carbon pollution is causing it, we’ve got to do something about it. So does the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, because they care about the poor and the effect this will have on the people who have the least. So does every major U.S. scientific society. Every single one.’”
   I looked around the room. Everybody seemed suitably stunned.
   I continued. 
      “And what about that petition, the one nine thousand scientists signed saying the science behind global warming was not well established. I happen to know about this petition. It even has a name. It’s called the Petition Project, or the Oregon Petition, which purports to be signed by thirty one thousand, four hundred and eighty seven American scientists, including nine thousand, and twenty nine with PhDs, mostly in engineering. Okay, number one, the signatories are listed without titles or affiliations that would permit an assessment of their credentials, which is rather odd, don’t you agree?”
   Most of the vets continued to stupidly stare at me, or at Dr Newsom, I assume to watch her agree with my argument.
   “Two, assuming that all the people that signed the petition reported their credentials accurately, credentialed climate experts on the list are very few, and really have no business signing a petition that has to do with something that is not in their field. It's like a psychologist, like Doctor Newsom here [everyone looked at Dr. Newsom now, who was looking at me] making an opinion about solar flares. You wouldn’t do that, would you doctor?”
   She shook her head, “No,” she said.
   “Of course you wouldn’t. Third, approved names on the list included fictional characters from the television show “M*A*S*H,” the movie “Star Wars," Geri Halliwell, from “The Spice Girls,” the father of evolution (which is another disputed theory), Charles Darwin, and prank names such as "I. C. Ewe, " “Fook Mi,” and “Fook Yu.” Duplicate entries, single names lacking any other initial, and corporate names. were used. By golly, in two thousand one, the magazine Scientific American took a random sample "of thirty of the one thousand and four hundred signatories that claimed to hold a Ph.D. specifically in a climate-related science, and came to the conclusion, well, let me see if I can remember. Oh yeah, they said ‘Of the twenty six we were able to identify in various databases, eleven said they still agreed with the petition,  one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages. Crudely extrapolating, the petition supporters include a core of about 200 climate researchers – a respectable number, though rather a small fraction of the climatological community.’
   Well my fellow veterans, I think Senator  Whitehouse said it best when he added ‘The fact you can’t find 9,000 people who think the earth is flat is a bit of a stretch, and the idea that we should base our policy on a petition that imaginary people are on rather than on what NASA and NOAA and the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and every major scientific society and the entire property casualty reinsurance industry are telling us, it’s just extraordinary.’
   I would have to agree. 
   Not only that, but when you consider that ninety seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate warming trends over the past century are likely due to human activities, and that most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing that position, well it doesn’t really matter how many deniers come up out of the depths of the corporatocracy (and don’t fool yourselves for a minute that we live in a democracy, my friends, we haven’t lived in a democracy for decades), they are still only three percent of the scientific community, if they are indeed of the scientific community. Three percent compared to ninety seven. If you had a serious illness, which God forbid ever happens to anyone in this room, and ninety seven doctors told you that a difficult course of treatment lies ahead of you, with no guarantee of success, but it was your only chance of survival, and three doctors told you you were okay, and you didn’t need to do anything. who would you listen to? I’m afraid, and I hate to say this because I’m sure some of you might be members of a certain political party, that republicans would rather take the advice of the three, and that saddens, and depresses me. 
   Look, the Governor of the great state of Florida, and Skeletor impersonator, Rick Scott, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, were asked if climate change was real, they replied, “I’m not a scientist,” as if that answered anything. This attitude is representative of the entire republican party. “I’m not a scientist,” seems to indicate that they don’t have the information, or the means of gaining enough information on the subject to make a decision to take any kind of meaningful action, which leads to inaction, which itself is a policy position.  
   Charlie Crist, who is running against Scott, when asked the same question said this, ‘I’m not a scientist either but I can use my brain and I can talk to one.’
   Now that’s the kind of attitude I want my politicians to have, not someone who sweeps difficult problems under the rug, and who would have our children deal with situations when it may be too late!”
   I was a little tired now, and weepy.
   “And let’s not forget our dear friends from the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch.”
   “What?”  I could hear several of my fellow veterans exclaim.
   “Yes, I share your outrage. Because you know what happens when all of this extra heat and carbon dioxide winds up in the ocean, don’t you? It makes the ocean more acidic, and currently the oceans are more acidic than they have been for tens of millions of years. Yes, yes, I know! I’m not even going to mention what effect this has on the world’s reefs, oh no, I won’t mention that! And I certainly won’t mention the fact that ocean plankton provide fifty percent of the oxygen that you and I breathe, and due to global warming, that capacity to provide this oxygen and support the fundamental food chains of the ocean has decreased by six percent over the last thirty years. No gentleman and ladies, I won’t mention that.
   “Good,” Dr. Newsom cut in, “now I think...”
   “So why does ocean acidification matter? Anyone? I don’t want to monopolize the groups time here, but ocean acidification decreases the availability of carbonate, a material that thousands of species of sea creatures use to form calcium carbonate shells. Yeah, that’s right, shells. Without  carbonate, we’ll see an epidemic of clams, oysters, lobsters and, yes, crabs suffering from osteoporosis, with shells that are thin and brittle, or that totally dissipate. And who relies on these animals other than humans? Seals, otters and walruses who eat shellfish, are also in danger of running out of food.
   So my fellow vets, if something isn’t done soon, all we’ll ever see coming on board the decks of the Time Bandit and the Cornelia Marie are empty cages.”
   My audience was suitable shocked. Some were looking at the wall clock.
   “Thank you Rick, I think we can all...”
   “But what saddens me the most, what I find depressing about this whole situation, doctor, and my fellow vets, is that the right question wasn’t asked. All that really had to be done to clear up this matter, in which the whole destiny of our race may depend...”
   “Mr. Joyce,” Dr. Newsom exclaimed, “maybe we should keep the discussion on a personal basis...”
   “Of course! I was just coming to that. Thank you. The right question to ask, as you so wisely point out doctor, is what is Senator Inhofe gaining by championing climate change denial in the United States Senate? Why would he be doing this in the face of insurmountable evidence which contradicts his position? Huummm?”
   “Do you know?” I pointed to one man wearing a “U.S.S. Forrestal” ballcap.
   “Do you?” I pointed to another. 
   “Naw, but...”
   “Of course you don’t! Because nobody asked. I’ll tell you why though. According to Oil Change International, Senator Inhofe has received more than one million, three hundred thousand dollars in contributions from the oil and gas industry since nineteen ninety nine.  The largest donor on his list is Koch Industries, which has given him sixty seven thousand, seven hundred and fifty dollars. Do you think that might have something to do with it? 
   Instead of the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the insurance industry maintaining this massive hoax for no particular reason, and James Inhofe having a very good reason to discount the problem of global warming, namely because he’s getting paid for it, now who would you believe? I ask you, who would you believe?”
   “Alright, I think it’s time to move...”
   “They never ask the right questions... the media... when Philip Zapata,  facing multiple felony weapons charges, argued July fifteenth in a Michigan court, telling the judge “Your laws are violating my rights. My rights don’t come from the Constitution. My rights come from the creator.” Why didn’t someone ask him to have the creator come in to court to testify on his behalf? After all, he’s the making the assertion, right? The onus of proof is on him, not the court. And if Zapata doesn’t want to live according to the laws of the land, where should he go to live? With his creator, of course.
   When Skeletor, er, I mean Rick Scott showed up at a campaign event in Tampa, posing with a bevy of police officers behind him, where it’s illegal for public employees to participate in campaign activities while on duty or in uniform, and asked about it, and when he just smiled like an idiot and repeated “"I'm very proud that last week, police chiefs endorsed me," totally ignoring the question. "I'm very proud that forty sheriffs have endorsed me," and “"So we invite them to our campaign events and I'm very appreciative of the ones that came,' over and over again. Why didn’t someone simply ask him, “Are you a freaking parrot? Does Polly wanta cracker? Or one of those animatronic robots they have at Disney World?”   
   No one asked, and he was begging for it!
   I looked in Wikipedia the other day, and happened to notice that the NRA ‘is an American nonprofit organization whose primary mission is "to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States...", especially the right to keep and bear arms.’ Really? Nobody asks it’s executive vice president, Wayne freaking LaPierre, who the NRA is protecting the constitution from? Or if he and his organization shill for gun manufacturers, whose soul existence is predicated on selling more and more guns.
   And what’s up with the militarization of local police departments?”
   One grizzled old vet tentatively asked, “What about gridlock in Washington? Doesn’t that bother you too?”
   “No. That doesn’t bother me.  
   You know what does bother me though? Police shooting dogs. What the hell is up with that? Everyday I see stories on the Internet about police somewhere shooting somebodies dog. Hey, if you don’t like dogs, don’t become a police officer.”
   “Mr Joyce, we’re almost out of time...”
   “The Small Deep Dish Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza at BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse depresses the hell out of me. Our country is facing an ‘Obesity Crisis,’ and this pizza comes loaded with two thousand, one hundred and sixty calories, thirty grams of saturated fat, and four thousand, six hundred and eighty milligrams of freaking salt. My God! It’s roughly equivalent to three Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizzas! What is this world coming to?!”
   “Mr Joyce! Rick...” 
   “Oh, the horror. And what does “BJ” stand for, anyway?
   Did you know that the world is in the brink of its sixth “mass extinction” event! The previous five were caused by external influences like meteor strikes, huge volcanic eruptions, and alien viruses, this one is different. because it’s caused by us, and I won’y even get into global warming...”
   “You already have,” someone observed. 
   “Alien Viruses?”
   I saw Dr. Newsom call Christine over to her. She said something I couldn’t hear, and Christine hurriedly left the room.
   “Mass extinction occurs due to a distinctive domino effect that’s triggered by “defaunation.” That means a decline in animal population. Now why would that happen, you ask, and quite rightly. Well scientists believe we’re entering a period of “Anthropocene defaunation,” a  loss of animal population caused by human activity. You know what happens when we lose our large animals, the rats take over! Freaking rats, man! Loss of habitat and human predation cause the loss of large animal species, like elephants, zebras, lions, tigers, rhinos, giraffes, and kangaroos. Once they disappear from a land-based ecosystem, the rats come on in and take over, because their’s nothing around to keep them in check. What? You don’t believe me? Well previous experiments conducted in Kenya have isolated patches of land from large animals like  elephants, zebras, lions, tigers, rhinos, giraffes, and especially kangaroos, and observed how the ecosystem reacted. Sure enough, these areas become overwhelmed with freaking rats, and not the nice kind that I have at home. No these were big ugly rats. Grass and shrubs also increased and the rate of soil compaction decreased. And I don’t have to tell you what happens then! Seeds and shelter become more easily available, and the risk of attack by predators drops. Consequently, the number of rats doubles, and so does the number of disease bearing parasites that cling to them."
   It was at this point that two hefty VA Security Guards entered the conference room, and grabbed me.
   “Hey wait a second!” I screamed. “I haven’t even started on the Earth flipping it’s magnetic field...”
   “Take him away, boys,” I heard Dr. Kimberly say. 
   “But this is important! The magnetic field of the Earth is weakening more rapidly than many scientists thought it would, and that’s a sign that Earth’s magnetic poles might flip within a few hundred years, and you know what that means...”
   As they dragged me out my voice diminished in volume until it could be heard no more.

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