Thursday, June 28, 2007


Pretty-minded, a slang term used in Scott Westerfeld's dystopia trilogy, perfectly describes my mind for the last several days. In Westerfeld's story, a future civilization built on the several hundred year old ruins of ours, has apparently solved the problem of humanity's greedy and warmongering spirit. But at a very heavy price in freedom. At the age of sixteen, every citizen is subjected to an operation that turns them into breath-taking beauties. Beforehand they are known as The Uglies (book 1) and afterward as The Pretties (book 2). It also turns them into vapid, narcissistic, party-goers. Imagine a world full of Paris Hilton's.

Of course, such a world wouldn't work at all if there wasn't another group watching over everyone and protecting them from their carelessness by designing their environments, monitoring their every waking and sleeping moment and subtly constraining their choices so they seldom become aware they are not free. Enter The Specials (book 3). But I really can't say too much more without giving away spoilers. This series is Young Adult but it is so smartly conceived and written it should not be snubbed by adults.

This is one of the series my niece loaned me and I am currently two-thirds done with the second book and the more I read about pretty-mindedness, the more it seems to fit me this week. Not that I've turned into a mirror-gazing party animal. I am as disinterested in either of those pass times as ever. But the vapid part fits. My mind seems to have emptied of ideas, ambition, energy and all but the most subdued and bland of emotions.

This rules out any creative work and makes even reading a chore. This is most discouraging when it happens, as it did this week, immediately after I've had what felt like an exhilarating and productive day. Which is how I felt about my Monday Poetry Train post. I was riding high on that feeling still at noon on Monday after putting in fifteen hours of work on it, when I made myself quit surfing to visit other Poetry Train riders and lay down to sleep. This was supposed to ensure that I would be able to have another good session Monday night, picking up where I left off. But as so often happens, instead I woke up Monday afternoon feeling like I was pulling my mind up out of a vat of marshmallow cream.

When I hadn't snapped out of it by Tuesday evening after dinner, I made myself an iced-coffee, accidentally (sort of) making it about quadruple the strength I am used to. I say accidentally because there was an element of fumbling but I'm not sure I can trust the motives behind my own fumbledness at such times. I made this iced-coffee by disolving coffee crystals in a couple tablespoons of hot tap water. Then pouring that over a tumbler full of ice-cubes. Then pouring in a half cup of milk and topping of the tumbler with cold tap water. But when the color of the concoction remained too pale, I assumed I had put in less coffee than I had intended so I dissolved some more and poured it over the top. Later, upon reaching the bottom of the 32 oz tumbler, I found a layer of very dark liquid. For some reason, very little of the original dose had mixed in. This quadrupling of my typical caffiene intake did seem to light a small fire in my mind Tuesday night, making possible the completion of the tag challenge. So my victims can curse the coffee for that as well as me. :)

But it didn't last. When I woke up Wednesday afternoon my mind had rebounded from the caffeine high to a deeper level of murk than before. Tempting as it was, I did not allow myself to repeat the coffee 'cure'. I know from experience that cure is bogus, an ever diminishing return for an ever increasing dose. The final payback from my system is usually a migraine.

In fact this mental state is very much like that of the migraine without the head pain. There is dizziness and flickering lights in my vision, there is mild nausea. I've a history of migraines sans the head pain. I'd apparently been suffering them for years--throughout my teens at least and into my late twenties when a doctor finally traced the problem to migraine phenomena. Which wa so ironic. Because my mother was a migraine sufferer. Her bouts would come on monthly and last between 48 hours and two weeks. I grew up swearing that I was never going to have headaches. And except for a few fever induced ones, I never did. Until that doctor diagnosed my condition. The very next time, I got the full blown deal with blazing head-pain and vomiting. Just like Mom's.

Among the triggers of Migraine for me were sudden increase or decrease in caffeine, a variety of foods--celery, strong cheddar, walnuts, MSG, sulphating agents, aluminum based levening, coffee creamer, a long string of food additives--stress/anxiety, PMS, and barometric pressure changes. I strongly suspect that last one to be the culprit today. We had clear skies yesterday and cloud-cover today. Maybe it can even explain yesterday if the conditions for that cloud cover were developing just over the horizon or something. I'm speculating. All I know is that I hate this mental state with a passion--but only after I snap out of it. While in its throws, passion is not possible.

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