On The Cost of Ghost Towns in Connecticut and Detroit

@Samantha : I'm afraid that it was resolutely un-haunted. Strange lights seen in the otherwise closed-up buildings were almost certainly me and my friends poking around the spooky old wards and stuff.

Posted on October 30, 2014 at 10:21 am 0

On The Cost of Ghost Towns in Connecticut and Detroit

I spent the better part of a year living in a former administrator's cottage on the grounds of a closed-down mental hospital. All the patients had been transferred, and the buildings were all closed up, but the place was like its own little city. It had its own power plant, firehouse, machine shop, a huge old greenhouse, even a movie theater and bowling alley (in one of the old patient dormitories) -- more than 40 buildings, most from the 1920s and 1930s, all connected by actual streets and landscaping, spread out over almost 1000 acres. Massive old trees, dead quiet at night. So, yeah, I'd buy that ghost town in a heartbeat.

Posted on October 29, 2014 at 4:15 pm 0

On A Fractured Skull, a Lost Sense of Smell, and a New Job

@Rachel Bailey@facebook : You bet! The brain is certainly one of the most staggeringly complicated systems we'll ever get to explore ... and yet, we each carry one between our ears 24/7. So close, and yet so far. So take good care of yours -- and for a reminder of how weird things can get when you damage your brain, Google "somatoparaphrenia". You'll thank me. (Also, if this admittedly unpleasant experience has interested you in the brain's extraordinary ways of failing, I recommend Oliver Sacks's "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." It's full of fascinating brain-damage cases, resulting in both deficits and excesses, and requires no brain-science background to enjoy.)

Posted on October 28, 2014 at 10:58 pm 0

On A Fractured Skull, a Lost Sense of Smell, and a New Job

@Rachel Bailey@facebook : Because I can talk about this kind of thing allllll day long, here is some more stuff you might find interesting / horrifying : From your account, you landed on the back of your head? Here is a nice graphic of the likely mechanism of injury to your olfactory nerves : http://www.nucleuscatalog.com/shear-injury-to-the-olfactory-nerves-cranial-nerve-i/view-item?ItemID=8884 These nerves carry odor information from your nasal cavity to the olfactory bulb ("the OB" to its friends); if they get cut, when your olfactory receptors encounter odorant particles, they can't pass that information along to your OB, and you don't smell anything. Even if you didn't actually shear your CNI (the nerves in question), bleeding and inflammation from your head trauma may have caused these nerves, or the OB itself, to be compromised by inflammation. If the nerves or OB get inflamed, the cells may die or stop working very well, and again, you won't be smelling anything for a while.* Still, if the primary injury is inflammation rather than direct trauma, as the inflammation goes down, your CNI and OB will start communicating better, and your sense of smell will start coming back. So, with a combination of inflammation and CN1 nerve damage, you may find that your anosmia gets better in stages. Initially, as the inflammation goes down, any nerves that weren't sheared off in your cribriform plate or killed by inflammation will start to work better. Later, you may get the cell regrowth which only the OB (and the hippocampus) appear to be able to undergo. It all depends on the mechanism of injury and on a whole bunch of stuff we don't know re. OB neurogenesis. * The second case, where the OB is directly implicated, is really interesting : your OB isn't just a relay from the nasal cavity to the rest of the brain, but it actually gets input from the higher structures of the brain and appears to perform all sorts of processing and do complex neuronal computations on the olfactory information. Like a lot of things re. the brain, what looks simple has been recently discovered to be not so simple at all. The OB used to be considered just a relay; recent work suggests that it's far more complicated, almost at the level of the other sensory systems' primary cortices. So, with direct damage to the OB, you may find that your regained sense of smell doesn't work quite right -- like, you can smell something, but it smells wrong. To complicate matters, this may also occur if only some of your CN1 cells regrow ... each nerve's receptors are "tuned" to specific odors, so you may only get back part of your odor-detecting spectrum. It's fascinating!

Posted on October 28, 2014 at 12:48 pm 0

On A Fractured Skull, a Lost Sense of Smell, and a New Job

@Rachel Bailey@facebook : I am not a doctor, and any comments I make should not be treated as medical advice. That said, thank you for your kind words, and I wish you all the best in your recovery!

Posted on October 28, 2014 at 12:37 pm 0

On A Fractured Skull, a Lost Sense of Smell, and a New Job

My sense of smell has started to return, through a combination of time and I’m getting craniosacral therapy... Anosmia, or loss of sense of smell, is often produced by head injury. In certain kinds of head injuries, anosmia presents in over a quarter of cases.* It's also a remarkably good indicator of many types of brain dysfunction -- for example, more people with Parkinson's disease present with anosmia than with the disease's characteristic tremors. In any case, there's an upside for people with head-trauma-related anosmia or degraded olfactory function : the bits of the brain that handle your sense of smell (the olfactory bulbs) are one of the few areas of the brain where the cells actually regenerate.** So, if you're experiencing your sense of smell getting better, it would be occurring with or without the alternative therapy you're undergoing.*** Less-severe head injuries tend to have better outcomes for olfactory-nerve regrowth, but even completely severed olfactory nerves can regain some function. *Olfactory dysfunction presents in about 7-15% of head traumas, generally. **Recovery from head-trauma-related anosmia is nowhere near a sure thing; I've seen figures from 10% to 38%. ***Generally speaking, if your sense of smell is going to start coming back, it will start to return within a couple of months. Any longer than that, and chances are very good that it never will.

Posted on October 27, 2014 at 4:11 pm 0

On A Fractured Skull, a Lost Sense of Smell, and a New Job

I got about halfway through and the overwhelming bad-medical-decision anxiety made me stop, so I'm going to post this now and go back and read the second half. As the author makes abundantly clear, a person who has suffered a head injury is not the person who can tell you whether it was a minor injury. If someone has suffered a head injury, you need to follow three steps as soon as possible : 1. Take the person to the hospital right now. You drive. No car? Ambulance. 2. At receiving, say the magic words : "this person has suffered a head injury." 3. Wait with them until they have been seen by a physician. Considering that you've said the magic words, this should not take long. Keep talking to them in the meantime. Watch for any -- and I mean any -- change in their state. If someone you know has suffered any impact to the head, you need to err on the side of what will probably seem, at the time, to be waaaaay too much caution and do the above steps immediately. No "field concussion test," no FAST test, just go. This applies to suspected or probable head injuries as well ("I fell off the ladder, but I landed on my arm" still means "time to go to the hospital"). Since this is a money-centric forum, I'm going to underline the fact that head injuries are an exception to worrying about your insurance, or lack thereof. However, I know you're not always going to follow this ("it was just a bump on my head, and I don't have insurance so they're going to charge me $$$ for nothing"), so I'll just list the symptoms which turn "go immediately to the hospital" into "really, go immediately to the hospital, no kidding" : 1. Loss of consciousness, even for a brief period. 2. Dizziness or confusion. 3. Amnesia, even for a brief period. 4. Headache 5. Vomiting So, in sum, don't fool around with head injuries. That broken finger will probably heal just fine if you tape it up. A brain bleed will not.

Posted on October 27, 2014 at 2:11 pm 5

On Kids Trick-or-Treating Across Class Lines Makes 1%er Feel Faint

@ATF : Ahhhh, what a great story. You're awesome. @Stina : Right? Who in their right mind divides Halloween into "giving out candy to the good kids" and "being forced to distribute candy to the other kids"? Just turn off your porch light and go to sleep if you don't want to participate. They're kids, it's Halloween, you're awful.

Posted on October 24, 2014 at 10:12 am 0

On Kids Trick-or-Treating Across Class Lines Makes 1%er Feel Faint

@SaraHinkley : I'm right there with you. The worst part is that terrible people are apparently unaware of the fact that they are, y'know, terrible. WE MIGHT BE TERRIBLE AND NOT EVEN KNOW IT. ... nah. As long as we can recognize it in other people, I think we're OK.

Posted on October 24, 2014 at 10:03 am 0

On Job Of The Day: Holiday Dog Sitter

... I’d need to book 20 nights’ worth of dogs (or 10 nights’ worth of two dogs). I suggest the eventual movie be titled "20 Nights of Dogs".

Posted on October 22, 2014 at 12:53 pm 1