Saturday, January 01, 2005

Where the hell have I been?

Long story.

Actually, I’ve been recuperating from double pneumonia and pleurisy and trying to exercise my brain while my body heals. But I feel I need to explain myself (about the brain exercise part) which requires me to provide you with a little background. This is what makes it a long story.

For those of you who don’t know me, I used to be a database administrator (that‘s what I actually did, although I was named and paid as a Data Entry Clerk) for the area's Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities Services. It’s this department’s function to manage taxpayer money and other government funding to the mentally ill, developmentally disabled, and retarded folks in this area. In the spring and summer of 2003, I underwent a series of ECT (electro convulsive therapy) treatments in an effort to “control” the depressive symptoms of my bipolar disorder, which was not really responding to meds very well. Although the treatments were done on an outpatient basis, I had to take a lot of time off work. At the end of July, I was required by my employer to turn in a written doctor’s plan for the upcoming months. Well, I missed the deadline by one day, basically because I misunderstood the instructions (one’s mind doesn’t really work very well while receiving electric shocks three times a week), and was terminated. (Yeah, I know—raw deal coming from a non-profit government agency that deals with the mentally ill. But, although I had a few offers from attorneys to “take my case,” I found that I really could not maintain the level of animosity required to pursue it. As long as our clients weren’t affected by it, I didn’t feel it was necessary.)

So…by September I found myself unemployed, depressed (bit of trouble with the ECTs—more on that in another post), and in debt to University Hospital for a king’s ransom. I slept for several months, tried another combo of meds, and began to teach myself the art of being retired. Not easy to accept at 43 years of age. I was able to get disability amazingly easy, so, although tight at times, money has not been too huge an issue. But I’m still learning about how to maintain a balance between healthy activity and the rest that I so desperately need.

As a computer geek, I was required most of the time to really use my brain. When I was sick, it often took monumental effort to accomplish even the simplest tasks. There were days when I could barely add single digit numbers, let alone write a database program. But now that I am out of that oh-so-stressful environment of the average American workplace, I find that I must make an effort to find things that challenge, or “exercise,” my brain.

Obviously, reading and writing are my primary exercises—this blog has been very good for me, as I basically haven’t written anything since college, back in ’82. I plan on writing a lot more. But my favorite exercises come in the form of computer games.

Oh, I know what you’re saying—that games are time wasters, for entertainment purposes only. Not true. In fact, when I was training a group of engineers in the use of personal computers, I required them to play Solitaire or Mine Sweeper for the first half hour of every day. I wanted them to become more comfortable with the PC interface, and to get to a point where mouse use became second-nature. They all commented on how much more alert they felt after exercising their sleepy brains, and coffee consumption decreased noticeably. So there!

Below are some of my favorite sites: I fell in love with these puzzles years ago in Games Magazine. They’re even more fun online, and this international site is truly remarkable. I’ve been a member for a few years—I’m bitzi3 on the site in case you see me online and want to chat! Two new puzzles every day, and when you’re done, click on the “Crossword” and “News Puzzle” buttons at the top of the page. And don’t forget to download “Word Zap”—the best computer word game ever. This site is so much fun. I first found it in my search for free online adventure games, and it has some of the best. But there is plenty more, from logic puzzles to humorous articles to the Oscar Awards. You’ve just gotta check it out (click on the “Site Guide” after you’ve finished reading the home page). Found this site through RinkWorks—when I was having trouble with one of their adventure games and needed a few hints. You’d be surprised at the number of geeks who feel the way I do about computer games! There are hundreds of links to all kinds of online games through these forums, and tons of hints as well. This is a listing of free online adventure game sites. It’s not a very long list (there are better ones—try Google-ing for “free online adventure games” or e-mail me), but I love the name of this site so I check on it periodically. There are some very impressive games, what they call “graphic adventures” online or free for download. Check it out. Some days, all I can really do are jigsaw puzzles. These three are my favorites. Note that the Zylom site has lots of other cool games, too. This site is a recent addition to my list of favorites. I’ve only tried about half the games, but all of those have been exceptional. They claim to be relaxing, and they are—from the graphics to the music to the actual game play, I feel that they are healthy (and beautiful) stress-relievers. I’m including this site, “Weird, Wacky, & Wonderful,” because I think laughter exercises your brain, too. I met Susan Pope at the Griddlers site—she does a weekly show on BBC Radio Wiltshire called “Wacky Websites” and this site is a listing of the sites she’s covered. All are wacky, some are downright brilliant. This is not an online game, but one that you must purchase and install. But I’ve included it because it’s the best computer game I’ve ever played. The story, the graphics, the interface, the whole damn thing is absofuckinglutely brilliant. And the creators are working on the second chapter, which is due out this fall. Part II, Dreamfall (, promises to be even more fantastic—even the government of Norway has gotten involved by awarding the production company with an endowment from the national arts fund. This last entry in my list is not a game, but rather a project that I volunteer my time to. Distributed Proofreaders is a group that helps get books online for the Guttenberg Project, a huge e-book site. See the site for more info…

So that’s where I’ve been lately. I try to keep busy and healthy, and as unstressed as possible. Sometimes all this takes a lot of work—other times I just turn off the phone and sleep!



At 10:57 AM, Blogger Lu said...

I just discovered another website--check it out:

Read what the author says in the link for "The Websites" (#2. Interesting that I should discover this site the day after I wrote my blog. Don't you just love "coincidences"?!



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