Archive for Personal issues

Arrogance Writ Large

My town is littered with church billboards.  I’ve started to collect and comment on them.  I recognize that, when you are selling something, you need to advertise, even if what you are selling is eternal life and you won’t make good on your guarantee. But I am disturbingly literate.  This means that I read their stupid signs before I can stop myself.  Thus they can insert words and ideas into my brain without me being able to stop them. Fortunately, they can’t stop me from thinking about their words.

Here’s one I noticed this morning:

I have often heard atheists described as arrogant.  Supposedly this is because we do not believe there is any controlling intelligence beyond human beings. Nothing bigger than us. No celestial father figure. But consider the arrogance of imagining an all knowing, all powerful deity and then presuming to speak for that deity.  Presuming to know what that deity wants, believes, thinks and says.  I call that arrogance indeed.

Instead of sticking words in their god’s mouth, how about:  “We believe that God commands us to love our neighbor.” That statement is at least intellectually honest.  That’s what they believe.  Good ’nuff.  Stop making up direct quotes that aren’t direct quotes at all.

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The Evolution of Darwin Harmless

With a blog like this one, which is not monetized in any way, there is no real pressure to add any new posts.  Especially since the multitude who seem to have subscribed don’t ever comment on anything I write.  (I’m looking at you, Lurker.  I need some love here.) So a new topic is always a puzzle.  A new topic requires inspiration.

Darwin Harmless self portrait, total dickhead.Finding my voice has been a interesting process.  I started this blog because, at the time, I was employed at a Chinese university where my official blog served the interests of students and visitors to China.  It was read by my employers and, I’m pretty sure, by state officials.  I had one complaint from some prude when I posted a picture of me kissing my wife.  The university suggested that I should take that picture down, which I did. Expressing my true feelings on many issues would have resulted in expulsion from China very quickly.  So Darwin Harmless began as an outlet for my frustration.

My early posts were mostly rants about some of the outrageous things happening in the world.  Things like the murder of Salman Teseer.  I used obscene language liberally, and my writing style more or less imitated the voices of Freethought Bloggers.  I was ugly.  I was not polite. I called people stupid and idiots with wild abandon.  And slowly I became tired of that voice. I found myself toning it down. I found myself trying to be just as forceful without breaking language taboos unless severely provoked.

The choice of subject also changed.  I stopped commenting on things that were already saturating the Internet blogosphere. I think I have posted on Donald Trump twice, once before the election when he claimed to speak in my voice, and once after, in recognition of the social bubble that caused me to feel safer than we were, a social bubble that shattered with the election.  But mostly I try to avoid the obvious that is covered by so many other bloggers, unless I feel I have something new, personal, special, or genuine to add.

Writing as Darwin Harmless has been an interesting exploration of who I am, of who I want to be.  I now feel like I’ve found my real voice. I feel like the stuff I post is bravely personal and worth spreading around.

This site is still a wank. But even wanking can have a purpose – getting one in touch with his body, his feelings, his needs and desires, overcoming shame at something that is healthy and natural.  Verbal and emotional masturbation can serve the same purpose. So, Darwin Harmless, wank away.

Now if I can just find something to inspire a good wank.

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Sex Positive

I recently got a link exchange request from Zoey Miller, wanting to promote her post on how to give good fellatio.

I usually don’t do this kind of thing, because the requests I’ve had have come from people with blatantly commercial interests and no relationship to the content of my site.  But Zoey and I are on the same page.  Let’s talk about sex, and what sex is all about, and let’s stop being so damned uptight about it.

Zoey constantly refers to her target audience as “girls”.  That made me cringe just a bit.  I think women who are ready to give their man a good hummer should be called women. They are certainly, or at least hopefully, not girls. But I’m going to forgive her for that, though my feminist wife might not.  I guess women can call themselves girls if they want to.

Besides, reading Zoey’s post gave me a pulge.  With the hormone therapy that has cut my testosterone down to trace amounts, a part of my prostate cancer treatment, a pulge is a rare event.  The least I can do is pass along her post.

By the way, on a completely different subject, either my site has been infested with robots or there are a heck of a lot of lurkers out there.  I’m getting a couple of hundred subscription signups every day, and this has gone on for weeks.  I feel like a guy doing standup comedy in a huge theater and he can’t see past the footlights and the audience is totally silent.  Uncomfortable feeling.
This is a provocative site.  At least I hope it is. If you are a real person and reading my words, please consider laying in a comment.  And thanks in advance.  I live for your comments.

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Is it Over Now? Am I Cured?

I had my follow up visit with my oncologist last week.  The treatment for my prostate cancer is finished. I’ve had hormone therapy, twenty-three days of radiation therapy (which I affectionately call putting my butt in a microwave oven), and brachytherapy, implanting radioactive iodine seeds in my prostate.Time to get the report card, which, as expected, was good news.  My PSA level is down to 0.5.  Since anything under 4.0 is considered normal, this means that my cancer has been beaten back.  All that remains is to monitor every six months.  So it’s okay to buy green bananas.  I will live to see them ripen.

Unfortunately, my testosterone level is also down to 0.5.  I’m not sure what units this is measured in, but that is way below normal for a man my age.  This is not surprising. I was given a testosterone blocker at the very start of my therapy. Apparently, prostate cancer feeds on testosterone.  In the old days the primary treatment was an orchiotomy, which is the medical euphemism for castration.  Anybody who longs for the “good old days” should consider this.Nowadays they give you a drug that blocks testosterone production, probably stilboestrol (now known as diethylstilbestrol or DES) the same drug the court ordered for Allan Turing as part of his probation after being found guilty of indecency, i.e. being gay.  In Turing’s case the drug resulted in gynecomastia, enlargement of the breasts. In my case my nipples have only become painfully sore, without my chest growing man boobs.

The hormone therapy has been the only part of my cancer treatment that goes beyond inconvenience.  Losing all my testosterone has been quite unpleasant.  Aside from the tender breasts, the side effects have included a desire to sleep all day, a lack of ambition and motivation… uh, okay.  Maybe that was normal for me already. It’s also included a complete inability to have an erection.  I mean complete.  My dick has actually shrunk like it’s threatening to internalize.  It has shrunk so much that it now appears to have a foreskin again.  Be careful what you wish for.

I shall try to end this post on a positive note.  The obvious one is that I have had superb treatment by dedicated professionals who have saved my life.  No complaints. And thank you Tommy Douglas, the sainted politician who gave us our Canadian health care system. My treatment has costs thousands, and there’s no way I would have been able to afford it in the Untied States.

I asked my oncologist if I could have some testosterone supplements.  He said no.  It will be a couple of years before they are confident that my cancer is truly gone.  But there’s a possibility that I will enjoy another puberty in a year or two.  So there’s something to look forward to.

I really miss sex, but life is still worth living.

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What do we tell the kids?

I wrote this in response to a very touching article by a mother with terminal lung cancer.  It’s a beautifully written article, and well worth reading.  I totally get where she is coming from.  Hiding the truth from children is a terrible idea.  But her truth made me feel really sad:

A beautiful woman with her beautiful daughter.

Picture from the article used without permission.

(I initially put this in the comments under the article, which is why it speaks directly to the author.  But then I wanted to share it with Darwin Harmless readers.  To preserve my anonymity I decided to put it up here instead.)

This is such a difficult time for you, and a difficult subject. It takes a lot of courage to face it the way you do. And yet, you don’t face it at all as I would. You told your daughter your truth. But everybody’s “truth” is different.

You see, I am an atheist. I do not believe in an afterlife. And telling my children that I will be watching them from an invisible place is not a truth I can believe.

What I would tell my child is that time passes and things change. There will come a time when I am no longer here. I will not exist, except as a memory.

I might ask my child if they remember what it was like before they were born. Unless they engage in intense fantasy, they will recognize that they don’t know, they don’t remember. I will explain that they have no memory of that time because they didn’t exist yet. It will be the same for them after they are dead. They won’t exist. And I won’t exist after I am dead. There is nothing wrong with that. Nothing to fear. Not existing, which is the same as being dead, didn’t bother us before we were born. Why would it bother us after we die?

It is painful to live without somebody you have loved. I miss my father and mother terribly, and I miss friends who have died. But pretending they still exist just doesn’t work for me. It would be like losing an arm in an industrial accident, yet insisting that my arm still existed, only invisibly, in another place.

Everybody goes where they need to go to get comfortable with death. Our social norm is to deny that death really happens. For me, that is not accepting reality. That is not truth. I find reality is not all that terrible, if I just accept it. And I’m not going to pass on a belief in an afterlife, no matter how socially accepted or attractive, to my children as “truth”.

I’m okay with knowing that time passes and things change.

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Oh no. No. No. Please not that.

Okay, I’ve got it figured out now. That horrible ripping roaring rumbling, complete with moans and screams, I heard last night was the sound of my echo chamber falling apart.

President trump our new reality.

Obviously my echo chamber has been saving me from perceiving reality. The people I talk to, associate with, or count as Facebook friends, are all in the echo chamber with me. None of them would have voted for Trump. None of them are sexist, racist, ignorant privileged fools. Nobody I knew thought Trump spoke for them, or considered him their hero. He wasn’t even good at what he claimed as his turf, business.  He would be worth more, I was told, if he had simply invested his inheritance in an indexed fund and avoided the business world.
Every Facebook meme condemned Trump.  Every comedian made fun of Trump.  Every clip of Trump talking made him look absolutely unelectable.  The Scots made fun of Trump in very colorful language.  The British parliament was forced to debate the question of banning Trump from the U.K, triggered by a petition that garnered thousands of names, and did so with appropriate disdain, calling him a fool and a buffoon.  It seemed that everybody was against Trump and the only warning that he would be elected came from Michael Moore and could be dismissed as a scare tactic to motivate Americans to vote.  Who on earth, other than the idiots at his rally, was going to vote for Trump.
So I was left with the impression that we are safe. There was no way Trump could win.
Damn, I’m going to miss my echo chamber. It made me feel so good. But now it’s time to explore the real world. Sigh. Couldn’t I just enjoy my childhood for a while longer?
I usually refrain from commenting on things that are covered so completely by other bloggers and the Internet.  Usually I have nothing more to add.  But this is about me.  My pain. My worry.  My awakening.  My disillusionment.
Capitalism has failed the American middle class.  They have responded by electing the ultimate capitalist pig.  I may die of irony poisoning.

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Is this how Alan Turing felt?

Alan_Turing

I have now been chemically castrated.  I assume this was done with the same drugs that were used to chemically castrate Alan Turing as punishment/control for his homosexuality. If not the same drugs, then the same results.  I have been injected with a drug that blocks my testosterone.  I am now sexless.

In my case, the law no longer cares whether I am gay or not.  I have been rendered sexless as the first step in treating my prostate cancer. So, what did Alan Turing experience?  Certainly it’s not something that will lead me to suicide. That would be counter productive indeed, since this hormone therapy is intended to save my life.  Obvious it was the social pressures, the stigma, and the bullying by legal authorities that contributed to Turing’s depression and suicide.  The physical symptoms of being chemically castrated are no big deal.

In fact, I’m having a hard time putting my finger on any physical/emotional symptoms at all.  Maybe I have the occasional hot flash.  Maybe the old fire in the belly for achievement and success has been banked somewhat. My aesthetic appreciation of sexuality seems unaffected.  I still find young women attractive and erect dicks erotic. I don’t think that my appreciation of sensuality has changed.  But there definitely is a difference in functionality.  I’m now like a dog chasing cars.  There’s not much I could do if I catch one.

Mind you, even this is untested theory.  It’s been a while since I caught one.  Who knows what would happen with the right partner and circumstances. As the old saw goes, I used to have to avoid temptation but now temptation avoids me.  Alas.

In the meantime I can experience a fancied connection to one of the great men of science. What is life but a series of experiences.

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Dodged the Second Bullet

I had a visit with my oncologist last week.  The good news is that my CT scan also came in clear.  So my cancer is confined to my prostate and I’m not likely to die in the immediate future.  Whew.

The bad news is that I should undergo treatment.  My oncologist is recommending a triple treatment approach – hormone therapy, focused radiation therapy, and implanted radioactive seeds (brachytherapy).  For me the most worrisome of these is the hormone therapy, which shuts off my testosterone.

I’ve started on the pills, one a day, and next week I’ll have an injection.  And then that’s it for a sex drive until this thing is over, if my sex drive ever comes back.  Two things to be grateful for: in the old days the hormone therapy involved an orchiectomy, which is the nice not so scary medical term for castration, and there is a possibility that my testosterone level will rise after treatment.    I guess the third thing to be grateful for is that this beats dying.  But just barely.  I’m going to die eventually anyway.  We all do. But, much as I love it, there’s more to my life than sex.  I’m glad I’m going to stick around for a while.

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Dodged the First Bullet

I had my bone scan last week.  They injected radioactive isotopes into my veins, waited a couple of hours, then did a full body scan.  Then I went home to await results.

bonescan images

I’ve had some pain in my left foot for months now.  I complained about it, was sent for an Xray, and the doctor told me it’s arthritis.  But… what if he was wrong.  What if the cancer from my prostate has gone into my bones.  What then?  So of course that took me to Google and this page, where I learned this:

Metastatic prostate cancer without bone metastasis:

  • one-year survival: 87 percent
  • five-year survival: 56 percent

Metastatic prostate cancer with bone metastasis:

  • one-year survival: 47 percent
  • five-year survival: 3 percent

Metastatic prostate cancer with bone metastasis and skeletal involvement:

  • one-year survival: 40 percent
  • five-year survival: less than one percent

Holy shit.  Survival rate less than one percent after five years.  And the cancer can show up anywhere in the bones.  Like in the foot, maybe.  IMA GONNA DIE!!!

I spent the weekend trying to remain calm.  I don’t want to mess around with the early stages of Kubler-Ross – the denial, anger, bargaining bullshit – but to jump straight to acceptance.  We’re all going to die.  If it’s my time, I’d like to see it coming and get ready, mostly by not denying myself that dessert or second shot of scotch. But it’s hard to be complacent when faced with numbers like these.

This morning I phoned my doctor for the results of the bone scan.  His receptionist read them to me, which I supposed she is allowed to do ony if it’s good news.  “No persuasive indication of metastasis.”  Whew.

Now I feel a bit silly for worrying about it.  This prostate cancer thing is an emotional roller-coaster.  I got bummed when I was told they were shutting off my sex drive.  Then I got really bummed by the statistics on life expectancy.  Now I’m almost happy because I’m only going to lose my sex drive.

Whew, I guess.

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Shit Gets Real

I went to see my doctor
He said I’ve got some bad news
You’re gonna be singing them
No fuckin’ fuckin’ cancer blues.

A couple of weeks back my doctor informed me that my PSA level was high.  I had never heard of PSA levels, but was about to get an education.  PSA stands for Prostate Specific Antigens, and a high PSA level can be caused by many things, one of which is cancer.  My doctor ordered a second blood test.  The result was an even higher PSA level.  So my doctor ordered a biopsy. That isn’t something I’d do for kicks on a Saturday night, but not too painful.  The doctor and ultrasound technician were wonderfully professional about it.

Prostate-Cancer

Last week I got the results of the biopsy.  Cancer.  High risk cancer.

IMA GONNA DIE!!!

Well, okay, calm down.  Prostate cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer.  I have friends who went through treatment years ago and are doing fine now.  Most people with prostate cancer will die of something else.

I asked the urologist what would happen if I do nothing.  He said I will die, but they can’t say when.  Maybe in a year.  Maybe in five.  And the death gets painful when the cancer goes into the bones or lymph nodes.  Treatment is obviously a good idea.

Treatment?  Well, first they are going to shut down my libido completely.  Reduce my testosterone level to zero.  So that’s it for sex. Whimper.

Then they will send me for radiation treatment – five days a week for seven weeks, in a city two and a half hours away by car.  The treatment only takes fifteen minutes.  Travel time would be five or six hours a day.  Or I could stay at the cancer lodge at forty bucks a night.  Or I can move into my sister’s condo in another city and be closer to treatment but away from the homestead.

Before the treatment starts, they want more tests – a bone scan and an MRI – to see whether the cancer is confined to my prostate.  I’m not sure what it means if it isn’t.  Maybe I’m toast.

Last week the medical imaging department at the hospital injected me with radioactive isotopes.  After a brief delay to let them circulate, they scanned me from head to toe.  I’ll get the results in a couple of days.

Through all this I remain oddly calm. I’m symptom free. And happy. I’m either living in the moment, or I’m in heavy denial.  Every once in a while the reality that my sex life is coming to an end hits me.  Hard.  I have always loved sex.  I’ve never been able to figure out whether I’ve been any good at it, but if appreciation has any value for my partners there should have been some shared pleasure involved.  At least I can’t recall any complaints – aside from one former lover who told me she didn’t like the way I kiss.  That was hard to take.  But I’ve also been told that I’m a lesbian in a man’s body, which I took to be the crowning compliment of my sexual career.

I suppose this is the way Olympic level athletes feel when they realize they are too old to compete.  It’s still possible to enjoy the sport as a bystander and coach. But damn, I’m going to miss it.

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