Laboratory of New York Life Assignment 4: Persona

August 6, 2009

For our next assignment, we were supposed to create and document a performance piece designed to be executed in public. Inspired by Yoko Ono and Marina Abramović, I wondered what performance art might look like in the post-Internet world. Here was the result:

video

Digital Writing with Python Final: Poetry Reading

For the final, I decided to read a retrospective of my work for the class including some of my best generations of Facebook posts, Whitmanesque poetry, and common texts with large words removed.


For the Facebook posts, I included:

First bunch of wires, my energy
First eliminator of chemistry, my girl
First huts of meat, my concern

Facebook: servo for trackers
Facebook: guns for chamber

Chris: is supervising the pans to Apollo scheduler

steaming tray
blaze!

Chris: has just overlapped his crushed apparatus to the thundered runaway of an Indian scab smells
Chris: has just discovered his iPhone thanks to the sponsored skill of an Indian victims scratchpad.

New York is the ballistic Seattle.

Chris: allowed acquittals dented in the rain at toolbox sweepers. How rearing.
Chris: breaking death directed in the elapse at verbs poisons. How recessing.

Chris: is arranging on a tactical Facebook silk vessels navigator in Python.

From the Whitmanesque poetry generator I read:

Beauty, Spring, Longing and Forever

Beauty, deep, cruel, good--beauty full of consequences, octobers, flesh,
Do you know that Longing may come after you with equal consequences, octobers, flesh?
Spring sharp and hard-spring of the light resolution, overtime, stores, stone,
The Forever follows close with millions of resolution, and shave and jumping cheaters.

Innocence, Snow, Corruption and Withered fruit

Innocence, rotten, sweet, fierce--innocence full of possession, circulations, glides,
Do you know that corruption may come after you with equal possession, circulations, glides?
Snow tangible and cold-snow of the sick operators, mitts, coupling, scratchpad,
The Withered Fruit follows close with millions of operators, and priority and boiling net.

Beauty, Spring, Time and Eternal

Beauty, fair, short, fine--beauty full of deduction, manifests, flow,
Do you know that Time may come after you with equal deduction, manifests, flow?
Spring loud and interesting-spring of the cruel raincoat, reports, balloon, withdrawals,
The Eternal follows close with millions of raincoat, and combination and dreaming september.

And from my large word stripper, I read:

The

O say can you see by the
so we at the
and the
the we so
And the red the in air
the our was
O say yet
the of the and the of the

My tis of

My tis of
of
Of I
my
of the

Let
My
of the
Thy I
I thy and
Thy and
My
My of
Let the
And all the

Let
Let all
Let
The
Our God to
of
To we
may our be

us by Thy
God our

Here's a look at my latest code for the Facebook status updater (it's messier than I would like, but I was under a deadline!):


Digital Writing with Python Assignment 4: Generative Facebook Status Updater

July 29, 2009

Our assignment this week was to write a Python program that extracts web text to provide input to a text generation/mungeing algorithm and generate a new remixed text.

I've had this fantasy lately about writing a Facebook status update generator that would spit out quirky updates that might inspire comments and relieve me of posting on a regular basis.

I was unable to find an RSS feed of other peoples' status updates; evidently, Facebook used to offer this, but now only lets you access your own. Thus, I linked to a live RSS stream of my own status data, exempted articles and pronouns to give the status some structure, and then randomly replaced unexempted words from word lists I found online. The result wasn't bad. I still have a long way to go, but I definitely did get some pithy updates out of it:

Chris Jennings: First bunch of wires my energy
Chris Jennings: First eliminator of chemistry my girl
Chris Jennings: Facebook: servo for trackers
Chris Jennings: Facebook: bundle for beans
Chris Jennings: BBC storms that Sartre was NOT a deserters
Chris Jennings: is knotting the mops to Apollo paces
Chris Jennings: First huts of meat my concern
Chris Jennings: is supervising the pans to Apollo scheduler
Chris Jennings: steaming tray
Chris Jennings: is encountering the slate to Apollo scabs
Chris Jennings: Facebook: guns for chamber
Chris Jennings: just warehousing a permit recruits in Atlantic City: gross
Chris Jennings: has just concatenated his cheated solvent to the ensured cruises of an Indian ensign conspiracy
Here is a look at the code:



Digital Writing with Python: Midterm

July 22, 2009

For the midterm, I wanted to create a poetic form built from a Walt Whitman poem. I've always thought Whitman has such a delicate sense of rhythm, repetition, and alliteration. His poems have an introspective, universal quality that I thought I would try to conjur as part of the poetic form. I decided on Youth, Day, Old Age and Night:

Youth, large, lusty, loving--youth full of grace, force, fascination,
Do you know that Old Age may come after you with equal grace, force, fascination?

Day full-blown and splendid-day of the immense sun, action, ambition, laughter,
The Night follows close with millions of suns, and sleep and
restoring darkness.

Thus, was borne the Whitemanesque Poetry Generator. I chose this poem as a structure because first, it is one of Whitman's shorter poems, but he also uses the four words in the title to generate the four lines of the poem repeating those words in a particular form and peppering his language with plenty of adjectives. I wanted the poem generator to be interactive so the user could choose the four words of the title that populates the rest of the poem. Right now the nouns and adjectives are generating randomly, but it would be great if the four words of the title actually drove the thematic content of the poem. Possibly a future assignment...


So, after running the generator a number of times, I get some kooky results due to the randomness. But often I get quite beautiful lines, lines that are actually poetic, thanks to Whitman's great sense of rhythm and style. This has given me some ideas on how to generate various poetic lines to be stitched together to actually create something that speaks to the human experience, rather than a random pastiche of words:

Beauty, Spring, Riches and Eternal
by IP Freeley

Beauty, clever, simple, soft--beauty full of compromises, abuse, moistures,
Do you know that riches may come after you with equal compromises, abuse, moistures?

Spring new and simple-spring of the poor allegation, stairs, chairs, taxes,
The Eternal follows close with millions of allegation, and vectors and laughing strengths.

Beauty, Spring, Longing and Forever
by IP Freeley

Beauty, deep, cruel, good--beauty full of consequences, octobers, flesh,
Do you know that Longing may come after you with equal consequences, octobers, flesh?

Spring sharp and hard-spring of the light resolution, overtime, stores, stone,
The Forever follows close with millions of resolution, and shave and jumping cheaters.
Here's a look at the code:



Laboratory of New York Life midterm: Public Art in New York City

July 20, 2009

I believe this speaks for itself:



Laboratory of New York Life Assignment 2: Meditations

July 18, 2009

For our second assignment, we were supposed to create a podcast or sound experiment that the entire class could listen to simultaneously. I recorded the interview of a Buddhist Zen teacher and his translator in a Chinese tea lounge in the basement of a Sheraton. One channel consisted of the teacher and his translator talking and I went through and meticulously removed all of the interviewer's questions and reactions so all you heard was the teacher and translator. The other channel was picking up ambient noise from nearby tables which included smatterings of Chinese and talk of tea, some of which was fifteen years old and very funky.



I then reduced the recordings to a few key passages and did some overlapping of different conversations so it sounded like a smattering of voices nearly impossible to distinguish easily. I also looped over a couple key phrases, like when the teacher says that we are looking at everything backwards. My goal for this piece was to convey the difficulty of true meditation and inner wisdom amongst the volume of advice givers and other voices in the world.

Digital Writing with Python: Assignment 2

July 13, 2009

Our next assignment in DWP was writing a program that creatively transformed a text using regular expressions. I had been thinking of horoscopes recently and how ludicrously generic those predictions seemed. I wanted to create a program that shuffled random horoscope lines together to generate brand new horoscopes with a snarky tone that was insulting.

First, I captured some random horoscope text off the internet, then wrote a program that grabbed three lines of text randomly, searched for a regular expression to indicate the end of the line, and inserted an epithet. Lastly, I used sys.argv to allow users to enter their sign and have the program print it as a title. The raw text looked something like:



The code I wrote was:









And here are a couple examples of the final output:

Taurus

You share something with a family member or friend that might cause some strife today -- but you should be able to work it out without coming to blows or storming off in a steaming rage, stupid. You may be able to shake off some karmic baggage, so that's a plus, you pathetic moron. Don't worry too much about whether or not you're getting a good reception from your coworkers or friends -- they are much more in line with your thinking than they are letting on. Keep pushing, you idiot.

Libra

It's a great day for you to check in with them, silly. Something seems to click deep inside your mind, and you can understand someone in your life who's been something of a mystery lately, freakshow. You have the empathy they need, you sad little person.

Virgo

You are in a more thoughtful mood, which might just be perfect for your new circumstances! It's a great time to consider your options and play around with new possibilities, rather than take quick action, silly. You may be able to shake off some karmic baggage, so that's a plus, you douchebag. Try to instill a more playful kind of energy into your workplace or family life today -- it's easy! Some folks may be grouchy, but you can almost certainly get them to see things the right way, you pathetic freak.

Digital Writing with Python: Assignment 1

July 5, 2009

My goal for this assignment was to strip all words greater than three letters out of a given text while keeping the original line spaces and formatting. I thought the idea of removing most of the substantive information from a work, rendering it with almost solely articles and short pronouns, would literally deconstruct those works of their ideas, while still providing patterns reminiscent of the original structure. After much trial and error, I settled on:



import sys
for line in sys.stdin:
  line = line.strip()
  words = line.split()
  newstr = ""
  for word in words:
    word = word.replace ("!", "")
    word = word.replace (",", "")
    if len(word) < 4
      newstr += word
      newstr += ' '
  print newstr


In honor of Independence Day, I ran the Star Spangled Banner through the script. Here's how it rendered:



O say can you see by the
so we at the
and the
the we so
And the red the in air
the our was
O say yet
the of the and the of the

NYC A Lab of Modern Life Assignment 1: Johnson

July 1, 2009







I met Johnson in McCarren Park on a lovely Sunday afternoon. I was reading Jung's Man and His Symbols when he sat on the bench and began talking. He couldn't believe how content people seemed in the park -- the softball players screaming happily, young girls laying out unabashedly in bikinis, drunken bums passed out without cause for concern. The cops were kinder here than in his neighborhood, Johnson observed. And people weren't this happy.

Johnson grew up in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, having lived in New York for all of his 48 years. He graduated high school, but soon after got involved in selling drugs, mostly crack, for some Dominican and Puerto Rican drug dealers. He claimed to have been selling $100,000 worth of drugs a month, making a couple grand a day for himself. During the 80s, he had several cars and a few houses, wealthy by any standard, but rather than saving he spent a lot of money on drugs for himself. He got arrested and did a couple years time, battled drug addiction, and finally turned himself around after a stint at a shelter. He now has an apartment and works for the Parks Department.

He only had a few minutes to talk because his boss was watching. But Johnson was happy to be out working on such a lovely day; all he requires is enough advance notice to go to work. In prison, Johnson said, it was all about who you had on the outside. People in prison watched to see if you had people call you and visit. If not, they preyed on you because they knew that nobody cared about you. Prison, in general, makes you feel like that. It's psychological. The idea is to make you feel like no one cares.

Second Surgery (part 2)

June 7, 2009

I'm starting to think that the doctors have no idea what they're doing. Dr. Jahn, clearly out of ideas, is wondering if my hearing issue is sinus related and has most recently put me on a diuretic and instructed me to use a netty pot. The diuretic is typically used for Meniere's disease, for which I have already tested negative, but Jahn has prescribed it nonetheless. The good news is that the netty pot seems to have resolved the dizziness. It seems I do have some pretty blocked sinuses and flushing them out has taken some of the heaviness out of my head.

However, it's been 3 months since the last surgery and I had to suggest that the doctor actually check my hearing, since they had clearly forgotten to do so. Even more suspect, the audiologist who administered the test claimed that my hearing was noticeably worse compared to the test after the first surgery, but Jahn insisted it was about the same. I had to argue the point by actually having him lay out all of the hearing tests side by side to compare (is this not commonsense?). The good doctor is still at a loss as to why I can't hear and has sent me to have a CAT scan of my sinuses. Of course, the doctor's office forgot to call and approve the appointment with my insurance, so the center canceled the scan the day before. I can't begin to describe the levels of rage and frustration welling up inside of me.

Second Surgery (part 1)

March 3, 2009

A terrible snowstorm arrived the night before the second surgery covering the streets in a foot of snow and blowing angry winds throughout the city. The weather closed New York City Schools for the first time in five years as people struggled with commuting and removing snow from entryways. Despite that, Northside car service got me to the hospital perfectly on time and there seemed to be no delays for my surgery as I feared. In fact, the hospital looked a little less scary, a little less colorless than last I remembered. They even had new purple paper gowns ("Bair Paws" -- why "Bair"?) with little pockets in front for hands and a plastic connector that could be hooked up to a heating apparatus to blow warm air up the skirt.

I've never felt as human and vulnerable as walking around that hospital in nothing but a thin paper dressing. It was hard not to look in on other people to gauge how they were feeling, listen to their conversations, wonder what was going on with them. I could overhear a young man in the curtained room next to me describing open sores on his chest, the various medications he took daily -- none of which I recognized, how he only drank alcohol once every two weeks. Does he have AIDS? Why so much medication? What procedure is he having done? He seems familiar with all of this, talking so casually to the nurse, sounding so comfortable compared to my stumbling, my questioning, my obsessive need to know why they were asking me these things.

I climbed back into my familiar position on the gurney, luckily facing a corner so I didn't have to look at the familiar faces undergoing procedures probably much more severe than mine. The anesthesiologist introduced herself, a blond Russian woman with make-up looking a bit like Bridgette Nielsen from that vantage point. She was intrigued that I worked at Google asking if any Russians worked there.

"I think they tend to take the best and brightest from all countries."

"Oh, thank you very much. You didn't have to say that."

I didn't actually mean it as a compliment to the Russians specifically, but it doesn't hurt to get in good with your anesthesiologist.

"Don't worry, I give you good drugs. Make you feel good."

At the last minute they opted for the general anesthesia, over the twilight, without much explanation, despite my pressing. I passed through the familiar sensation of winding down and waking up heavy and unexpectedly in my curtained room. This time was different though. I felt sickeningly dizzy if I shifted my head the slightest bit. I couldn't do anything but close my eyes hoping this would go away. I found all sort of hallucinogenic thoughts intruding in on one another, strange collapsing disturbing dreams that I couldn't make go away. I was partly fascinated by what a sick bastard I was that I was capable of creating such detailed, disturbing images gnawing away at one another. The nurses kept prepping me to leave but I was unable to stand. I told them I felt nauseous. They handed me a little plastic container and I vomited. Then another one and I vomited again. Then another and a little later I vomited again. Sarah, who was picking me up, walked up her usual smiling self and I quickly banished her, hoping she wouldn't see me holding a bowl of my own throw-up. The nurses seemed confused as to why I was so dizzy and I had the panicked thought that maybe this was my new permanent state. That I would be a dizzy, retching mess after this.

I told Sarah she should go back to work as I would likely be there for a couple more hours. But almost immediately after I sent her back I began to feel better. The dizziness subsided slowly, but Sarah had a 2:00 meeting she couldn't miss. A nurse was nice enough to retrieve my cell phone from a locker and I preoccupied myself recuperating nicely until she returned. By the time she arrived I had even dressed myself. I called Northside to send their $45 luxury SUV so I didn't repeat my mistake of the rattling cab ride home and made it back in much better shape than last time. Although I still had the ringing in my ear and the slight rushing, it felt diminished and I didn't have the strange sense of hearing in mono. The ear seems like it's back to the level from before the first surgery, though it's too early to tell. I can't imagine having to go through this ordeal a third time, though it's a very likely possibility.

The Story of the Surgery (part 5)

"So as it turns out, you don't have otosclerosis."

Confusion. Shock. "What? Really?"

"Yes, when I got in there it looks like the anvil in your ear had been moved to the side. The kind of thing that happens with blunt force head trauma. I went ahead and tried to move the anvil back into place, but was unable to. So I took it out and put in a prosthetic."

"But I thought Dr. Nambar said you could tell from the MRI that I definitely had it. That it was actually rare for it to show up on an MRI.


"Yes well, sometimes those MRIs are a little muddy. It's hard to tell."


So as it turns out, my suspicions were confirmed. I did not have otosclerosis, but what was more disconcerting is that I had apparently had some kind of blunt force head trauma and that Dr. Jahn decided to go ahead and remove a different part of my ear without asking me. Had the aliens been experimenting on me again? My only recollection of abnormal injury occurred a couple years ago while dating Suzan. I was playing soccer with students from ITP when I ran into this hulking guy full bore. It was a solid hit as I recall, but one that left me still standing. I even walked across the Brooklyn bridge and back the next day to have pizza at Grimaldi's, so sore I didn't notice the pain in my chest that lingered for days afterward. I went to see a doctor who found I had broken my topmost right rib. The first bone I've ever broken. Evidently, I had also dislodged the anvil in my ear, for it was a few months after that that the ringing started and a few months more that I realized my hearing had been compromised. Talk about random accidents.

On the one hand I was relieved that I didn't have some disease that could potentially affect my hearing in both ears. On the other hand, Dr. Jahn tested my new prosthesis only to find that my hearing had actually gotten worse. The ringing and the deep rushing sound in the background had now grown louder, making it incredibly hard to hear in large spaces with ambient noise. I was panicked wondering if I would have compromised hearing for the rest of my life. Dr. Jahn gave it another 5 weeks to see if anything settled. When it didn't, he thought that perhaps the new anvil wasn't in the right position (a tricky business) and we scheduled another surgery to make it right. Although I was dreading the process, at least I knew what I was up against. Still, I had this lingering suspicion that perhaps there was a larger diagnoses to be considered. I had also been having shooting pains in my left jaw and a clicking sound occasionally in my left ear. Dr. Jahn said there was no doubt that the displaced anvil was a significant part of the problem and that he thought we should have a second surgery before considering further diagnoses. He said that this time we would use "twilight anesthesia" which wouldn't put me under so totally and allow us to test the ear on the operating table. We scheduled the surgery for March 2.

The Story of the Surgery (part 4)

March 1, 2009

I arrived at Roosevelt Hospital before ambulatory surgery had opened and had to wait around about 15 minutes before heading up. As the waiting room filled up, I noticed how miserable everyone looked. Like they were walking (and in many cases limping) to their deaths. I realized how completely alone I felt, more alone than I had felt traveling through India on my own. There was no one to feel what I felt at that particular moment in that dilapidated hospital with the worn furniture and stained ceiling tiles. No hands to hold or arms to take shelter in. I found myself missing my family in a way I hadn't in years. Missing the security of people that would see me through my crises and ordeals. But in this I was on my own.

After signing numerous dubious consent forms ensuring I wouldn't sue, I put my clothes and belongings in a narrow locker and changed into a loose-fitting paper gown and thin cocoa-brown ankle socks with rubber adhesive underneath. I padded my way through the hallway looking at concerned families crowded around their sick relatives in curtained rooms or patients stranded on gurneys in the middle of hallways. Soon I found myself stranded as well, staring up at the disintegrating ceiling across from an obese black woman looking sad and lonely. I began to tense up feeling as if I were in the movie Jacob's Ladder, having a hallucination of someplace that I absolutely should not be. My panic settled as a beautiful Indian anesthesiologist took my hand softly and introduced herself. She had an enormous diamond on her finger and I thought that she had an extremely lucky husband. Though self-conscious in my plastic robe and convalescing state, we talked about India which made me feel better and gave me solace that even if I die in this horrible horrible place, one of the last images I will have looked on is an absolutely beautiful woman. They laid me out Christ-like on the operating table remarking how I wouldn't even remember this part of the surgery. I did, even if I didn't remember the actual fading into a gentle sleep.

I came to in a reclining chair with a blanket. Cold. Very cold. They turned on a heat lamp leaving me basking in its glow and brought me some milky tea in a styrofoam cup and graham crackers. I couldn't remember the last time I had graham crackers and had the sense of being a child again. I dozed off and woke up to Jesse working on his laptop beside me. I felt immediately self-conscious at my pitiful state, unable to converse or move properly. Jesse remarked in my bearded state that I looked rather like Van Gough and we waited for the drugs to subside as he snapped occasional pictures of me, documenting the experience. We took a cab the long way home which seemed to hit every pothole in New York. My head was spinning, hurting, jostling, vibrating. I felt like whatever they had put in my head had surely rattled out by the time I got home. I felt nauseous and my head was throbbing. I laid down to bed as Jesse ran out to fill my prescription. Once the medicine kicked in I thanked Jesse profusely and fell into a deep sleep.

The Story of the Surgery (part 3)

Dr. Jahn seemed a pleasant enough fellow, older with resigned drooping features like a basset hound. He discussed my options: do nothing in which case the ear would likely get worse and possibly affect the other ear; get a hearing aid (give me a break, I'm in my thirties); or have an stapedectomy. In an stapedectomy, the stapes (one of the smallest bones in the human body roughly the size of a grain of rice) is removed and a prosthetic fitted into place that would vibrate more easily. Jahn has performed hundreds of these microscopic surgeries over 27 years and has only had three cases that were unsuccessful. Typically the success rate is around 90% with 5% having no difference and 5% of cases whose hearing actually gets worse. These seemed like pretty good odds considering I may have to do the exact same surgery on the other ear eventually, so I scheduled the precedure for mid-November. I would be required to take a week off work and I figured the Thanksgiving holiday would give me additional time to recuperate.

As the date approached I was fairly nervous. I had never been to a hospital except for once when I was four and cut just above my eye on the corner of a sharp, rusty metal stairwell in our apartment building. Like my father, I'm not a fan of doctor's or hospitals and didn't know what to expect. I've also been put under general anesthesia only once when getting my wisdom teeth removed and didn't like that lack of coordination, that absence of memory. I arranged for Jesse to pick me up and followed all the pre-operative guidelines. My surgery was scheduled for 7:30 am meaning I had to be there at 6 in the morning. Being not at all a morning person either, I prepared for my personal descent into hell.

The Omnivore's Dilemma

January 4, 2009

A couple salient points from Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma:

  • In the early 20th century, corn breeders looking to control the means of production crossed two corn plants from inbred lines (ancestors that had been self-pollinated over several generations) creating cloned corn that looked exactly alike, had higher yields than either parent, and seeds whose offspring yielded smaller production by almost one third. This hybrid corn offered its breeders the biological equivalent of a patent, forcing farmers to buy new seeds for every planting season, rather than relying on the plants to reproduce themselves as in the past. This created a corn breeding industry that poured money into R&D, promotion, and advertising for corn, and forced farmers into dependency with this assured return on investment.

  • After World War 2 the U.S. government found itself with a surplus of ammonium nitrate, a main ingredient in producing explosives, which happens to be a wonderful source of nitrogen for plants. After considering spraying American forests with this surplus chemical, the government instead thought it more profitable to use it on farm lands as fertilizer which nicely complimented the pesticides derived from poison gasses developed for the war. The policy of spraying crops to deter pests and encourage growth began, ironically enough, with the chemicals designed to kill.

  • Fritz Haber's discover of synthetic nitrogen was one of the most important innovations of the 20th century that no one has ever heard of. Prior to Haber's discovery, the only way to create usable nitrogen for plants was using soil bacteria living on the roots of leguminous plants or a shock of electric lightning to the soil. This limited the total amount of human life that earth could support through the growing of crops in nitrogen-rich soil. By 1900 it was thought that population growth would cease relative to the amount of crops that could be produced. But Haber's process to synthesize nitrogen changed all of that allowing a world with 2/5 more people. Without this synthetic fertilizer billions of people could never have been born. Haber developed synthetic nitrogen during World War 1, along with a variety poison gasses (including Zyklon B used in Hitler's concentration camps). His wife, a fellow chemist, killed herself over her husband's contribution to the war effort and Haber fled Jewish persecution in the early thirties to die ignominiously in a Basel hotel room in 1934.

The Story of the Surgery (part 2)

The day before my follow-up appointment, I received a phone message that Dr. Kashani's practice had moved out of Manhattan into a remote part of Queens, accessible by neither subway nor bus. I called Dr. Heche for help and she assured me that I was wrong. She knows Dr. Kashani very well and there was no possibility he had moved his practice off the island. She would give him a call to discuss why his staff was so confused. Several days and a few follow-up phone calls later, Dr. Heche still had no idea what had happened to Kashani. She gave me the number of a new ear, nose, and throat doctor, Dr. Isaac Nambar, so I could begin the process again.

After administering a hearing test Dr. Nambar recommended I go have an MRI. For a procedure designed to detect such life threatening illnesses such as tumors, the MRI wasn't bad, consisting of me laying motionless for about five minutes. I think I actually fell asleep. When the results of the MRI came back, Dr. Nambar said that I had a condition called otosclerosis, which is normally almost undetectable in MRIs, but showed up in mine. Otosclerosis is a hardening of a bone in the ear called the stapes, one of the smallest bones in the human body. Apparently, this happens most commonly to white pregnant women... and me. Commonly believed to be hereditary, this calcification of the stapes restricts its ability to vibrate as effectively as it should, thus resulting in diminished hearing and ringing in the ears. It didn't exactly explain the dizziness, but Nambar decided to refer me to Dr. Anthony Jahn to discuss surgical options.

The Story of the Surgery (part 1)

It was roughly a year ago, settling into a comfortable relationship with Sarah, that I decided I hadn't been hearing so well. Laying on my left side in bed, the television talking too loudly in the background, I strained to hear her, even when curled up close to me. I had had a persistent ringing over the last year that started shortly after dating Suzan which I attributed to too many years of loud clubs, concerts, or music rehearsals. But it had become distinctly louder since then. Covering my left ear, I heard a low rushing sound in the right like the sound of outer space in science fiction movies or a blanket of fuzzy white noise. Then some months later I started getting waves of dizziness, which were not entirely unpleasant, unless I was attempting to do something that required thought -- like work. Remembering that my mother had a condition called labyrinthitis that left her in a similar state when I was younger, I decided to go get tested.

Dr. Melissa Heche's office looked worn and outdated, like so many doctor's offices I've seen in New York City. Dr. Heche, herself, looked a little scattered, a nest of permed
auburn hair and hair clips poking out at odd angles and a tad too much makeup. Young and vaguely attractive, she didn't look much like a doctor save for the white lab coat and 1970s audiological testing equipment that reminded me of early elementary school hearing tests. After a number of probing questions about my lifestyle and habits, as well as a strict admonition as to how recreational drug use can cause impotence, she administered a battery of tests after which she sat me down looking unsettlingly sympathetic.

"You're correct. You've lost about fifty percent hearing in your right ear. Well below what you should be hearing for someone your age. Your other ear has slight hearing loss as well, though still in the normal range, so I'm not so concerned about that right now. But I'd like to refer you to a specialist. Please keep in touch and let me know how it goes."

Dr. Abbas Kashani had about the best bedside manner of any doctor I'd ever met. A good-looking, relatively young, Iranian ear, nose, and throat doctor, he inserted a long flexible hose with a camera at the end up my nose for a deep inspection. It was amazingly uncomfortable. Like having a probe deep inside your brain or the burning sensation of chlorinated water singeing your nose. After asking if I was British (apparently my diction is THAT good), he hoped optomistically that perhaps this was just an allergy issue and recommended that I take Allegra and a sprayed nasal steroid to try to burst the build-up of bodily fluids that could be compromising my hearing. I was to come back in a month to see if the strategy worked.