Mental Health Update

This has not been a good summer.

Backing up, this spring I had a trial of Adderall for ADD. It briefly seemed to have a positive effect, but that passed. We considered increasing the dosage, but I ended up stopping it instead.

When I started taking Adderall, I would decide to do something (work, cleaning, whatever) and immediately do it. This is unlike my normal behavior, which usually involves an indeterminate period of procrastination between deciding to take action and actually doing anything. Unfortunately, I fell back into my old habits within a few weeks.

A couple of months after I stopped the Adderall, on June 8th, I had a seizure. I was walking down the sidewalk, decided I wasn't feeling too good, sat down on the ground, and woke up in a bed in the ER. The followup CT, EEG, and MRI didn't show anything out of the ordinary. I had a similar experience in 1998, and the attitude of the neurologist is that sometimes seizures just happen, and if I have one seizure every 18 years or so, that's not so bad.

I spent two months after that feeling "off". My balance felt weird, and I sometimes felt more substantially unwell, like I was in danger of another seizure.

A couple of weeks ago, I started taking Lexapro for anxiety, and immediately started feeling "normal" again. This is a little bit of a surprise, because Lexapro must be taken daily and has a ramp up period before the full effects are felt.

It had become clear that I had developed a fear of having another seizure that was interfering with my life and was getting worse. As part of this, if I felt mentally "off" in any way, I would sit, or in some cases, lie down, until it passed. The frequency and duration of these events seemed to be increasing until I started the Lexapro, when they stopped at once.

I haven't felt perfect since then, but when I have felt at all unwell, I have told myself that it's fine and gone on with what I've been doing. I have not been having escalating symptoms since starting the Lexapro. This implies that a large part of what I've been experiencing this summer has been anxiety about having seizures, and I've been misinterpreting that anxiety as a possible warning of an oncoming seizure.

As a bonus effect, I've always been a high tension person, and the Lexapro has reduced my overall stress level. This feels quite nice and is something of a relief.

On the other hand, since then I've been struggling to accomplish anything. Fear of seizures was definitely interfering with my ability to get work done, and now that is controlled. But instead I feel a certain lack of motivation. It's almost as if I rely on my baseline anxiety as a motivator, and now that that's been reduced, I don't have adequate drive to do the work I need to do.

So I restarted the Adderall. The combination of Adderall and Lexapro was catastrophic. Adderall has potential side effects of jitteriness, anxiety, etc. (It is, after all, a stimulant.) When I had been taking Adderall alone, I did not feel these side effects at all. And Lexapro is supposed to reduce anxiety. But taking both together causes my anxiety to explode. I had a severe panic attack. I spent the onset of the panic attack in certainty that I was about to have another seizure, until it went on long enough that I decided that if I was having a seizure, I would have lost consciousness by now. Turns out I was probably just hyperventilating, even though I was trying to take slow breaths in order to relax.

It wasn't exactly clear what had happened, but I stopped the Adderall, because there is a small seizure risk associated with it. Things calmed down, I was feeling better, the Lexapro was working, but I was still struggling with motivation.

So we decided to restart the Adderall, at a lower dosage. This time when the panic came on, it was clear that it was triggered by the Adderall. Adderall is clearly not the solution to my problems.

So I'm still trying to find the way forward. I don't know what to make of the fact that Adderall by itself does not cause panic, but when I also take a drug which is supposed to (and clearly does) reduce panic, the combination with Adderall makes me a dysfunctional wreck.


So today's ruling in Utah (!) striking down the law prohibiting same sex marriage is great. But the best thing: it cites Scalia favorably.


The Space Between Wonder and Why

This is a little late, but the solstice and the supermoon made me want to babble about the orbits of the Earth and Moon. Most of you probably already know most of this.

Looking down on the solar system from the direction of the system's North Pole, most things in the solar system move in a counterclockwise direction. The Earth spins counterclockwise on its axis. At the same time, it revolves around the Sun in a counterclockwise orbit. Meanwhile, the Moon revolves around the Earth in its own counterclockwise orbit. (There are exceptions to this rule. Venus's rotation is clockwise, for example.)

Before I go on, I want to talk about scale. Most drawing of the path of the Earth and Moon imply that the Moon is making giant loops around the Earth, and at various times is moving directly toward or away from the Sun or moving clockwise relative to the Sun as it circles the Earth, even though the dominant motion is counterclockwise.

Let's consider a scale model of the Sun, Earth, and Moon. Imagine a model of the Earth that's the size of a basketball, 9.4 inches in diameter. Then the Moon is approximately 2.5 inches in diameter, or the size of a tennis ball. The Moon is approximately 23.5 feet from the Earth. The Sun on the other hand is 85 feet in diameter, but it's 1.75 miles away.

What this means is that from the Sun's perspective, the Earth is approximately 150 million kilometers away and moving right-to-left, completing a full lap in a year. In comparison, the Moon is approximately 150 million kilometers away and moving right-to-left, but with a tiny wobble in its motion. The simple description of the motion of the Moon around the Sun is an ellipse, not a bunch of loops around the ellipse. The loops seem large to us on Earth, but are almost too small to matter to the Sun.

Since the Moon orbits the Earth, from the Sun's perspective, the Moon passes from behind the Earth to the left of the Earth to in front of the Earth to the right of the Earth. This gives the Moon its phases, since the dominant source of light on the Moon is reflected light from the Sun. When the Moon is behind the Earth, the entire side of the Moon which faces the Earth is also facing the Sun, so the Moon is full.

But wait, if the Moon is behind the Earth, why doesn't the Earth cast a shadow on the Moon? Why don't we have a lunar eclipse every full Moon? The orbit of the Moon is tilted 5 degrees relative to the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. Most of the time, the Moon is either above or below the Earth, so the Earth and Moon do not cast shadows on each other and we don't have eclipses.

Visualize it like this. The Earth is the hour hand on a clock. We start at 12 o'clock, so the hour hand is pointing straight up. The minute hand, for the Moon, is mounted at the end of the hour hand. It also starts straight up, but also sticking out from the clock toward us. This is a full Moon, and the Moon appears above and behind the Earth from the Sun's perspective. The clock starts running and the Moon spins around the Earth. As it travels around the Earth, the distance from the face of clock decreases, until the Moon is pointing straight down from the Earth but tilted in toward the clock face. By the time we get to 11 o'clock, (remember the Earth and Moon move counterclockwise, so they spin backward on the clock) the Moon is pointing straight up again and tilted away from the clock face.

However, even though the Moon was full last time it was pointing straight up, it is not full now, because the Moon is only full when it is on a straight line with the Earth and Sun. The Earth has moved, so the angles have changed. To get to a full Moon, it must keep rotating around, and as it does, the distance to the face of the clock decreases. At the next full Moon, the Moon is still above the Earth, but by a smaller amount than the previous time.

Since the Moon is always tilted away from the clock face when it is pointed up and toward the clock face when it is pointed down, by the time we get to 9 o'clock, the Moon is the same height as the Earth, and we get a potential lunar eclipse at the full Moon or solar eclipse at the new Moon. Because of the sizes and angles of the Earth, Moon, and Sun, the timing has to be precise to get an eclipse, so it doesn't always happen. But we get potential eclipses every six months.

The position at which the Moon reaches its maximum height actually rotates over time, so the time between possible eclipses is slightly less than six months. The time for the position of the maximum height to rotate all the way around is about 18.6 years. In terms of the clock, it is not always sticking away from the face when it is pointed straight up. The time at which it is farthest from the face rotates in a clockwise direction, for a change, requiring 18.6 of the Earth's rotations around the clock to come back to having the greatest distance when it is pointing straight up.

Meanwhile, the orbit of the moon is elliptical. The distance from the Earth to the Moon varies over the course of a full orbit. This change in distance is almost imperceptible. The Moon is slightly larger and slightly brighter when it is closer to the Earth, but this change is washed out by the changes in lighting because of the Moon's phases. The largest practical effect is that when the Moon is closer to the Earth, tides are larger. Like the height of the Moon at the full Moon varies, the distance of the Moon at the full Moon varies. Last month's full Moon occurred at nearly the same time as when the Moon was at its closest distance, leading to the supermoon. Don't worry if you missed it. This month's full Moon will be nearly as large and bright, even though it's not as close to Earth as last month's full Moon.

The direction of the ellipse also varies over time, like the direction of the tilt of the orbit. The angle to the closest point rotates in a counterclockwise direction, and completes a full circle every 8.85 years.

Just like the Moon's orbit around the Earth is an ellipse, the Earth's orbit around the Sun is an ellipse. When the Earth is closer to the Sun, we get more heat and light from the Sun. This year the Earth reached its closest point on January 2nd, and its farthest point on July 5th, which explains why it's been so cold lately. No wait, we have seasons because the Earth's axis of rotation is tilted 23 degrees from the axis of the Earth's revolution around the Sun, and when the Northern Hemisphere points toward the Sun we get more sunlight for longer and things heat up, causing Summer.

Wait a minute. The Moon's orbit is tilted relative to the Earth's orbit by 5 degrees, and the Earth's axis is tilted relative to the Earth's orbit by 23 degrees? 5 and 23? How did that happen?

God is a girl, and His name is Eris.
  • Current Music

Jon Lord

Jon Lord, organist for Deep Purple, died Monday of pancreatic cancer.

Jon Lord is one of my rock gods. You may disagree with me, but as far as I'm concerned, his organ made Deep Purple what it was. If you think Ritchie Blackmore was the heart of Deep Purple, that's okay, but you're wrong.

He and his playing will be missed.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.


Book review: Bitterblue

On a certain level, it feels like my comments about Bitterblue have limited value. I adored Graceling. I adored Fire. Unsurprisingly, I also love Bitterblue. But I still want to set down some thoughts on Bitterblue, and in particular its differences from the previous books, hopefully without giving anything away.

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I'm not sure I have a real conclusion, other than that, yes, I liked it, both on its own merits and in relation to the previous books.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.


And the voice said:

Neither snow nor rain nor gloom
of night shall stay these couriers from the swift
completion of their appointed rounds.

'Cause when love is gone, there's always justice.
And when justice is gone, there's always force.
And when force is gone, there's always Mom. Hi Mom!

So hold me, Mom, in your long arms. So hold me,
Mom, in your long arms.
In your automatic arms. Your electronic arms.
In your arms.
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
Your petrochemical arms. Your military arms.
Your electronic arms.

Outcomes in Risk

It is possible that no one but me cares, but I have been wondering about this for a long time, so I finally worked out the answer:

In a game of Risk, if the attacker is rolling 3 dice and the defender is rolling 2 dice, the average number of wins for the attacker is 1.079. So on average, the defender will lose very slightly more armies than the attacker.

However, the standard deviation is 0.8112, so many battles will go much better or much worse than this.

The raw numbers are: on 5 6-sided dice, there are 7776 possible outcomes. Of those, the attacker wins twice on 2890 rolls, wins once on 2611 rolls, and wins zero times on 2275 rolls.

(Edited to correct numbers.)