Posted by tim in SkuddBlog on January 20, 2024

Bleh, every time I try to make changes to this site, I end up deciding that the code is garbage and that I need to fix it.

Here's yet another case of that.

I just wanted to make my UI for the site to be less clunky when I'm logged in, but in order to support that I felt it was necessary to refactor using the old database and the newest version of my proprietary framework.

A couple of things that were introduced:

  • Unregistered/unauthenticated users can post comments again
  • reCAPTCHA 3 was implemented on the login form and on the comment form to help cut down on bots/spammers

There will likely be some things broken still, and I will work on fixing those. Please be patient.

Posted by tim in I Love Music on January 17, 2024

I've been listening to a few of Our Lady Peace's hits from the 90's, and I've got to say, they had GREAT musical abilities back then, even with the lead singer's nasally vocals.

I've tried to listen to a few of their newer things, and it's not as good. I even caught a more modern live performance of Superman's Dead, and it SUCKED.

Seriously, if you want good sounds, check these out:

Pay attention to the musical qualities and aspects, especially on Clumsy.

Posted by tim in I Feel Sick on January 17, 2024

Starting about 7 years ago, I got to a point where things either didn't sound right to me, or I couldn't understand them, whether an audible source (such as spoken word, music) or visual/literary source. When it first started happening, I chalked it up to just being tired, or failing to have sound around me or words in front of me. I didn't think much about it, but then it started happening more frequently, and started affecting me more dramatically. It would come on with no warning, and would never last the same length of time as previous.

I ended up talking with my doctor about it, and was sent on to see a neurologist. Thorough testing and monitoring, no serious underlying issue was found. But the condition kept happening, either robbing me of my ability to understand music, or my ability to find words, or my ability to read written words. My job, being one that required a lot of reading, writing, listening, and speaking, I started to feel as though my abilities were fleeting and I would soon find myself standing in an unemployment line. I've always been regarded as a strong author, both when it comes to things like this blog, or when it comes to writing software. I know several different programming languages and can switch between them with no struggle. I'm a musician, and enjoy being able to hear the different parts of music and even replicate it myself. And people usually rely on me as a human spellcheck. Though when a wave of this issue would hit me, at least 2 of those abilities were seemingly removed from me. There would be times that it would only last a few minutes, but would sometimes last hours or days.

Doctors looked at the makeup of my brain, the blood flow through it, and the electrical signals it would generate. I had MRI imaging done, a variant of it called MRA, and a few different types of EEG. Everything looked normal, nothing was amiss, and the doctors found nothing to remark on. The neurologist I had seen at the time determined it was just a thing that happened and there was no visible cause for it. His assessment was that it would fade over the couple of months following, then I would never deal with it again. It was then qualified as idiopathic transient aphasia, meaning "An unknown loss of ability to perform cognitive duties, lasting a short period of time, then going back to normal". Another way of saying it, "You lose these abilities for a random period of time, but we find no cause for it." As such, it's been classified as benign, having no long term, damaging effects.

I appreciate positivity and can respect doctors who think that way, but there was an air of ignorance to it. I wasn't able to get him to understand that it was a thing that had been going on for a long time. He just said that I needed to give it time and patience and it would pass.

It did subside for a few months during the great COVID-19 pandemic, but it's been coming back since then, much more frequently, lasting longer, and having more profound impacts.

One day a week or so ago, I stood up from my desk and walked towards the door, but the door was closed. I couldn't figure out how to open it. It's not a fancy or elaborate door; it has a simple doorknob that needs to be turned, then the door pulled open. I couldn't figure that out though! I was so frustrated that I just went back to sit at my desk and wait for it to pass then try again later.

Another time in the past that I can recall, I was staring at my browser window, needing to switch to a different tab, but couldn't figure out how to do it. I mean, it's as simple as point and click, or ctrl+tab, or ctrl+a number for which tab I wanted. I couldn't understand any of those though, and I was just as frustrated as I was with the door a few days ago.

Tonight, before dinner, I decided I was going to work on a specific code thing. I felt confident about it, and thought I would be able to wrap it up tonight. After dinner, I came to sit and work on it, and I couldn't figure out the first step to get started on it. That was over an hour ago. I still don't know how to get started on it. I even opened the code that I have been working on for the last couple of years, being the only author/developer of the entire complex platform, but failed to understand any of it. I couldn't (still can't as I write this) make sense of what I was looking at, what the file structure was, or how any of it worked together. I was left dumb in context of software development.

What makes no sense though is that while I might not know how to open a door, I am able to load up a flight simulation, start from cold and dark, plan and enter a flight, fuel up, taxi to the runway, take off, reach altitude, cruise, descend, enter final approach details, and land. I can still drive when it's going on. I might not be able to speak or understand someone else speaking, but I can certainly drive from A to B without any issue. In fact, if I didn't tell anyone about what I was feeling, they would never know.

I need to go over this again with my new neurologist, and I need to get more updated testing done. I'm smarter than this, I'm more able than this, and I am stronger than it is. But the symptoms keep coming around, and keep hitting different faculties, and doing nothing more than frustrating me.

Posted by tim in I Feel Sick on September 18, 2023

For the last few years I've been dealing with what my neurologist has called Cramp Fascination Syndrome in the left side of my body. Starting earlier than that, I have been dealing with Idiopathic Transient Aphasia. All my life, I have also dealt with what I can best describe as panic attacks.

I've been able to manage until recently. There would be times of more degraded ability, but for the most part it was a thing that came and went. I'd bounce back and be able to live as normal. But this past weekend I have started to notice something: My left arm has really lost muscle tone and strength, particularly in my forearm. I noticed it first when I was driving. If I had only my left hand on the wheel as I came to a stop, either a stop sign or a red light, as the forces of inertia kept me moving forward while the vehicle stopped, that arm would not be able to resist the mild forces and would begin to shake and ache like crazy.

It became more apparent at an event we took Jr to, where I helped operate a small rope bridge exercise for the boys for a bit. All I really did was grab the two upper ropes and pull them together and downward for the smaller boys to be able to reach them. But in doing this, the shaking and aches would reappear, but only in the left arm.

Yeah, I'm right-handed, and my right side is more toned than my left, but I have always been seen as the strongest person around and have had almost no issue with any task handed to me. The disparity between my arms wasn't enough to limit me or cause concern until now.

I'm not medically trained in any way beyond basic first aid, so my own self-diagnosis is not likely anywhere within accurate. But with that in mind, most doctors are surprised at how much I know and how close I can get to a diagnosis on my own. Because of that, I have been able to identify two possible conditions that account for all of this:

First, there's Multiple Sclerosis. I have had several tests to determine if that's what it is, and the doctors who have done the test have said "no, this isn't MS." But yet, the more I have read about it, and having one doctor suggest it might be MS, I am thinking that it's not been excluded from a possibility. In all that I have read, I've learned that there's no specific shaped hole that the person has to fit through for it to be quantified as MS; it's a complex disease and has a lot of variability between people who have it.

Second, there's Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA. This is much more serious than MS, but can be managed to live a full life. I am less convinced that this is what it is though, as there aren't enough connections between my symptoms and it.

And finally, there's Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease. this is the most concerning but also seems to be coming more into view as a likely thing. Some of the symptoms include muscle atrophy and problems swallowing. I definitely have muscle atrophy in my left arm and hand, and it's been quantified by my neurologist. But this increase in atrophy has me more concerned. As far as the swallowing issues, I have always dealt with a random choking sensation when I try to swallow my saliva. It doesn't usually last very long, but it does happen frequently.

I'm pretty freaked out at the possibility of it being ALS or SMA, but I can probably manage if it is MS. The more I've read about MS anyhow, I've come to think it's probably the same as Jed Bartlett's MS, relapsing/remitting, given that I have periods of feeling perfectly normal and healthy, punctuated by periods of pain and struggle around all my symptoms.

I'll try to keep this updated with the most current description of what's going on and what doctors think it is as I learn more.

Posted by tim in General on February 27, 2023

Tonic - Open Up Your Eyes

I had a dream one night several years ago that makes this song so much more intense for me to listen to ever since.

I was backstage at an outdoor concert. The crowd was packed. The ring of the electric guitar began, and the crowd went crazy.

I approached the microphone on stage as the ring reached its peak and the rest of the band played the intro. I had thought the crowd was going crazy before, but somehow they found the energy to take it up 5 levels.

The intro was approaching the end and I grabbed the microphone, and just as I got the "ch-" sound out for the opening line, the crowd was still finding new levels to reach.

Then I woke up.

This might seem like a pretty vague description of the dream, but it's really hard for me to paint the picture with words. It was such a vivid dream, and I can remember all the feelings I experienced during it. I was nervous, but excited. I was confident. I walked up to that microphone stand so confidently, you'd think that it owed me money. It was such a wonderful feeling. The crowd's energy fed me. The band's energy fed me. I was full-on experiencing it.

If you think about it, along with the lyrics, you'll see the irony of it too.

Open up your eyes
Don't let your mind tell the story here

My mind was telling the story.

I don't know what it means for my life, at the time of the dream (over a decade ago) or for right now. Am I supposed to explore a singing career? I don't think I'm that talented of a vocalist. Also, who wants someone with a deep bass voice singing lead for a song like this?

When I listen to the song now, it brings a lot of those feelings out, and it's a fun ride.

At any rate, I thought I would log this for my own posterity, but also to let y'all in on how meaningful this is to me.

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