Communion Of Dreams

To sleep, perchance to clear amyloid plaques.*

Interesting. They may have found the reason that animals sleep: in order to flush the brain of toxins which build up during waking hours.

And more importantly, this may also be part of the explanation for Alzheimer’s and other age-related dementia. From the NPR article linked above:

The brain-cleaning process has been observed in rats and baboons, but not yet in humans, Nedergaard says. Even so, it could offer a new way of understanding human brain diseases including Alzheimer’s. That’s because one of the waste products removed from the brain during sleep is beta amyloid, the substance that forms sticky plaques associated with the disease.

That’s probably not a coincidence, Nedergaard says. “Isn’t it interesting that Alzheimer’s and all other diseases associated with dementia, they are linked to sleep disorders,” she says.

Researchers who study Alzheimer’s say Nedergaard’s research could help explain a number of recent findings related to sleep. One of these involves how sleep affects levels of beta amyloid, says , a professor of neurology Washington University in St. Louis who wasn’t involved in the study.

Perhaps it is time for a nap …


Jim Downey

*With apologies to Mr. Shakespeare.

Looking back: Weighty matters.

While I’m on a bit of vacation, I have decided to re-post some items from the first year of this blog (2007).  This item first ran on December 1, 2007.


As I’ve mentioned previously, I try and catch NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday regularly. This morning’s show was hosted by John Ydstie, and had a very nice three minute meditation titled Reflecting on a Past Generation which dealt with the differences between his life and his father-in-law’s, as measured in physical weight and strength. You should listen to it, but the main thrust of the piece is how Ydstie’s FIL was a man of the mechanical age, used to dealing with tools and metal and machines, whereas Ydstie is used to working with computers and electronic equipment which is becoming increasingly light weight, almost immaterial.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Last weekend, as part of my preparations for tackling in earnest the big conservation job for the seminary, I got a large fireproof safe. I needed something much larger than my little cabinet to safely secure the many books I will have here at any given time. And about the most cost-effective solution to this need was a commercial gun safe, the sort of thing you see in sporting goods stores and gun shops all around the country.

So, since a local retailer was having a big Holiday sale, I went and bought a safe. It’s 60 inches tall, 30 inches wide, and 24 inches deep. And it weighs 600 pounds.

And the retailer doesn’t offer any kind of delivery and set-up.

“Liability issues,” explained the salesman when I asked. “But the guys out at the loading dock will help get it loaded into your truck or trailer.”

Gee, thanks.

So I went and rented a low-to the ground trailer sufficiently strong for hauling a 600 pound safe (I have a little trailer which wouldn’t be suitable). And an appliance dolly. And went and got the safe.

When I showed up at the loading dock and said I needed to pick up a safe, people scattered. The poor bastard I handed the paperwork to sighed, then disappeared into the warehouse. He returned a few minutes later with some help and my safe, mounted on its own little wooden pallet and boxed up. The four guys who loaded it into my trailer used a little cargo-loader, and were still grunting and cursing. I mostly stayed out of their way and let them do the job the way they wanted. Liability issues, you know.

I drove the couple miles home, and parked. And with a little (but critical) help from my good lady wife, it took just a half an hour and a bit of effort to get the safe in the house and settled where I wanted it. Yes, it was difficult, and I wouldn’t really want to tackle moving anything larger essentially on my own. But using some intelligence, an understanding of balance, and the right tool for the job I was able to move the 600 pound mass of metal with relative ease. And it made me feel damned good about my flabby own self.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

In contrast, the most difficult things I have ever done don’t really have a ‘weight’ to them. Communion of Dreams took me years of hard work to write and rewrite (multiple times), and yet is nothing more than phantasm, able to fly through the internet and be read by thousands. There are no physical copies to be bought, shared with a friend, lugged around and cherished or dropped disgustedly into a recycle bin. It is just electrons, little packets of yes and no.

And these past years of being a care provider, how do I weigh them (other than the additional fat I carry around from lack of proper exercise and too little sleep)? I suppose that I could count up all the times I have had to pick up my MIL, transfer her between chair and toilet, or lay her down gently on her bed. But even in this, things tend towards the immaterial, as she slowly loses weight along with her memories of this life. And soon, she will be no more than a body to be removed, carried one last time by others sent by the funeral home.

How do you weigh a life?

Jim Downey

Right on time.
July 24, 2010, 10:21 am
Filed under: Bipolar, Depression, Health, Predictions, Sleep, Survival

Gah. I hate to be right, sometimes.

In January 2009 I wrote this:

As usual, it’s only in hindsight that you recognize it.  The typical seasonal downturn is something more.  Oh, you’re aware of the symptoms.  The intense introspection.  Desire to sleep more.  Lower level of creativity.  Difficulty in finding the motivation to do anything.  Lack of enthusiasm for the usual things you enjoy.  Tendency to drink more, without getting the slightest buzz from it.  You’re aware of the symptoms, but until you’ve been dealing with them for a while they don’t all add up to something that you can see.

The ‘black dog‘.

And as noted previously, my bipolar condition tends to run on an 18-to-24 month cycle, though that can be effected by external factors.

Count months. Yeah.

Which explains why teaching my class the last two weeks was so hard, so draining, for all that it was also very enjoyable. Being a public person in the midst of a depressive slide is doable, it just takes an inordinate amount of energy.

Ah, well.

But the good news is that once I realize how deeply I am into this cycle, it usually means that I don’t have a whole lot further down to go. Typically, just a matter of weeks. Something to look forward to. And now that the class is done I can put my energy back into the other things which need my attention, and slowly build on the small accomplishments.

Walk. One foot in front of the other. It’s the only thing that helps.

Jim Downey

It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backward.*
July 16, 2009, 7:46 am
Filed under: Art, Health, Humor, Science, Sleep, Writing stuff

And a worse sort that doesn’t even work that way.

OK, briefly: on Monday I did one of those things you’re supposed to do when you reach a certain age. No, I didn’t join AARP. I read a Dave Barry column. Actually, I lived a Dave Barry column. Well, minus the ABBA.

I didn’t write about it because it wasn’t very interesting, all in all. Or at least I didn’t think so until a couple of days later. Following the procedure, after I got home and was feeling more or less human again, I sent a note out to a couple of friends and family members letting them know that everything went fine and I didn’t have anything to worry about. In that email I mentioned that it actually went so well that the doctor didn’t even see the need to chat with me afterward, nor did they bother to show me images from the procedure. I mentioned this in passing to a couple of other people when discussing the procedure.

But that’s not how it actually happened.

My wife, who was there in the recovery room with me following the procedure, told me that the head nurse did indeed go through the images taken during the procedure with me, explaining how each just showed a happy pink colon and other bits.

Say what?

What seems to have happened is that I came out from under the anaesthesia, and part of my brain engaged well before other parts did. I was seemingly fully awake, lucid, conversational, even joking. But the little DVR in my head hadn’t rebooted yet. I had absolutely no memory of having seen the images. Some scattered fragments have since come back to me, showing that the images were stored somewhere in my head but probably the indexing function that the brain usually uses was inoperative.

This is not the first time something like this has happened to me. I have a history of waking and holding conversations, seemingly fully conscious when I am actually still partially asleep. My wife has learned to discern when this is happening. I think that it is related to my tendency for lucid dreaming – that some part of my brain is capable of still functioning in normal waking condition when other parts are in sleep mode.

Which makes me wonder – is this part of the reason why I am so creative? Is part of my brain tapping into a dream state more readily than is typical? It would be interesting to see whether other writers and artists have a similar slight scrambling of their neural abilities, a related ability to smear the seemingly discrete stages of consciousness into a blur.

And hence the quote used in the header. Because if anyone was capable of tapping into dream imagery, it was Lewis Carroll.

Jim Downey

*From Through the Looking Glass.

Time heals.
February 23, 2009, 12:13 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Health, Hospice, Sleep, Survival

Spent a chunk of this morning working on the care-giving book, and came across this post:

I coulda told them that.

October 23, 2007, 10:22 am | Edit this
Filed under: Alzheimer’s, Health, Hospice, Science, Sleep, Society

Made a routine trip to the big-box store this morning, to stock up on catfood. I got one of those large boxes of 48 cans of different flavors my cats like. And when I went to put it away, the “easy open” tab didn’t. Instead, I wound up just destroying the whole box, ripping and tearing, so I had access to all the cans included.

It felt wonderful to be so destructive.

There are days like that for all of us. After a trip to the store, dealing with idiots who don’t know how to negotiate a check-out line. Or sitting behind the twit at the stoplight who somehow misses that the light changed and the cars in the other lane are passing him, getting his shit together just in time to slip through a yellow light and leave you sitting there for another cycle. Whatever it is, you just want to take out your frustrations in a safe and relatively sane way.

I have these days a lot. Part of it is just the toll of being a long-term care provider for someone who has a tenuous grip on reality but can be amazingly stubborn and focused in her determination to do something unsafe (or just highly annoying). But part of it is simply the effect of long term sleep disruption/deprivation that goes with providing care around the clock. I’ve known this for ages, and written about it several times. Anyone who has had insomnia, lived with an infant, or just had a bad string of luck sleeping for a few days will understand completely how grumpy and intolerant it can make you.

And I chuckled a little bit at myself.  It’s helpful, and part of the healing process, I’m sure.  Why?  Well, because last week I picked up another such box of catfood.  And I carefully, quickly, and with little real thought disassembled the box – not just opening it as intended, but popping the flaps off at each end, so the whole thing would flatten perfectly for recycling.  Then I put away the catfood, and folded the box and put it in the bin for recycling.

What a difference 15 months has made.

Jim Downey

February 19, 2009, 11:23 am
Filed under: 2nd Amendment, Ballistics, Guns, Health, Humor, Migraine, Preparedness, RKBA, Sleep, Survival, Violence

I haven’t mentioned it here yet, but the other day one of the cats tried to kill me, and almost succeeded.  Evil little bastard.  As I told a friend:

Dance of Stupidity & Pain

My afternoon was filled with a whole lotta screaming and cursing.  Well, OK, “filled” isn’t quite right, since it was mostly compressed into one 10-minute period.  Which started with me putting down a can for the dog, then turning to try and avoid stepping/falling on the cat coming to investigate.  Damned cat.  I now have three rather nasty punctures deep into the back of the web of my right hand, along with a ugly bruised big left toe, and a swollen left knee.  Oh, and lots of pain associated with all of those, plus the spike in my headache following the adrenaline dump of trying not to kill either myself or the cat.

Well, the headache went on to become a nice little migraine, and the knee is still extremely annoying.  Nothing to see a doc about – this is the knee I’ve had surgery on twice, and I know exactly what is going on.  I probably broke the last bone in the toe, but the only thing they do with those is to take it easy and tell you to let it heal – I’ve done it too many times to count.  Anyway, the low-grade pain has interrupted my sleep the last couple of days, the headache persists, and I’m more than a little grumpy.  This may have influenced my appreciation of the movie last night, but I don’t think so – it was dreadful enough in its own right.

But I just came across something to make me chuckle.  In one of the gun discussion forums I check out, the topic of “why do you carry” came up.  I’ve written about this before, of course, and have my own reasons.  Here’s this, though:

Remember the average response time to a 911 call is over 4 minutes.

The average response time of a 357 magnum is 1400 FPS.

Heh.  The guy’s numbers are even about right.  Well, for the .357.  Response times for 911 calls vary widely, but all are measured in multiples of minutes.

Jim Downey

And all will turn, to silver glass.*
January 20, 2009, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Bipolar, Depression, Sleep, Travel

Off in the morning, to northern California.  Visit family, relax.  Walk in the redwoods, and on the beaches.

Not a cure for the depression which dogs me.  It wouldn’t be depression if it could be resolved so easily.  I don’t think people who have never experienced it can quite understand that.

But it should help.  Help, as today’s quiet observation of an age passing helped.

Passing.  Like light on the water.*

I have scheduled several new items to show up here while I’m gone.  So don’t be a stranger.

Chat with you when I get back next week.

Jim Downey

*From this.