July 26, 2011

Head Games

For the record, concussions suck. I've been trying to find an eloquent way to say it but I can't. They suck -  big time - and it doesn't take much to end up with one. So after more than a week off work, countless complaints and frustrations, a new mission, and a slew of people asking me questions I thought I'd share a bit about my mind jarring experience.

What happened?
A rather simple outing on a giant tube whist being pulled behind a speed boat took a rather nasty turn for the worse when I was flung off the tube after hitting the wake as I swung around the corner. The spotter tells me I was a good 3 feet above the water for around 20 feet before the tube hit the water, and when it did.... things got ugly.

I was on my stomach and when it hit the water again I bounced off the tube. Instinct told me to just release my grip and go limp. I've fallen enough times doing enough things to know that if you fight it you will seriously hurt yourself.

Unfortunately, the first thing to hit the water was the back of my head. I then folded over backwards (and as a note I am not accustomed to folding, let alone at a high rate of speed) and tumbled ass over tea kettle a few times before landing face down in the water.

Yes, I was wearing a life jacket.

Ouch. Did it hurt?
Yes. It hurt quite a bit. I remember the sound of my head hitting the water and the feeling like someone had just whacked me with a baseball bat in the back of the head. Once I got my senses, which was a few seconds and a good swallow of the lake later, everything hurt. Everything. My head felt like it had split open. I had cramps in my arms and legs, and I thought I was having a heart attack.

Then what?
The driver and spotter confirmed I had movement in my fingers and toes and pulled me into the boat. I felt dizzy, nauseous, disoriented, confused, and scared.

About a half hour after the accident I called my mother-in-law (she is a nurse). She told me to take it easy and look out for worsening symptoms and if I noticed any I should go to the hospital. A few minutes later I stood up to get some water and basically disappeared mentally for a few seconds. Off to the hospital. The doctor and asked me to do a barrage of mental and physical tests and confirmed that in his assessment I was concussed, with a mild case of whiplash as the cherry on top.

How long will it take to heal?
Another great question! Weeks. Maybe months. In the words of my family physician, "If we were in the middle of a hockey season you'd be done for the year". Nice. On top of that she told me "Don't hit your head again any time soon. I'm not even slightly joking. Another blow to the head and death becomes entirely plausible".

So what's it like living with a concussion?
It sucks. I'm not a happy camper at the moment. I can do everything but not anything. I can't exert myself or jostle my head too much. I have to walk, not run. Take the elevator, not the stairs. Limit screen time and other visual stimuli. Even after 10 days of doing absolutely nothing but stare at the wall and check in with Twitter every couple of hours I was finding that it literally hurt to think.

I was told to expect to feel confused, disoriented, and distracted for weeks. I didn't believe it. Then I tried to work. Rescheduling 5 meetings took me 30 minutes. I couldn't focus - not in terms of eyesight, but in terms of targeting what I needed to do. Things that I used to just do would out of nowhere stump me and leave me staring at my computer, lost, and that would anger and frustrate me and just make it worse.

I can do things like write, but only for an hour or so before I start to get a headache. I am finding that am capable of more right-brained activities than I am left-brained. Using the left part of my brain right now is a challenge for some reason. I don't know why that is. There's no evidence I hit more on the left side than the right, but then again who knows, a bruised brain is a bruised brain and it'll act however it damn well wants.

So what now?
I go on vacation. As my doc said, "Enjoy it. Force yourself to slow down and not think about anything. Just have a nice time and RELAX". So that's what I'm going to do. My brother is getting married in Germany and we've got an apartment for a week in Paris after that. The house/cat sitter is arranged. Work stuff is covered (thanks Jamie!) and I've got enough travel insurance to take care of any hiccup that might arise.

Is there anything I can do?
That's very kind of you to ask. The answer is yes!

If you have 100 words stashed away in your head somewhere please consider lending them to me for my new project, "1000 Word Picture". My goal is to raise money for brain injury prevention and people and families living with brain injuries.

Also, wear a helmet whenever you can, take care, and be safe.

July 21, 2011

Lend Me Your Words


A new site is up and running specifically for this project. You can find picture #2 along with the results from picture #1 here. Future pictures will be done through the other site in an effort to keep my personal work separate from the project.


So while suffering from post-concussion syndrome I got this idea that would allow me to explore some creativity without me needing to be on the computer for too many minutes in a row (screen time hurts the head).

I wanted to put the adage "A picture is worth 1000 words" to the test. I posted an original photo of mine and asked the people of the internet (mostly Twitter, but also the blogosphere, Facebook, and Google+) to lend me 100 of their words in response to the picture.  Once I had received 1000 words I would then edit the submissions and post the completed work as a little bit of "flash fiction".

The only rules were that people submit 100 words (or thereabouts) in the form of full sentences and that I would only rearrange full sentences and not just grab words here and there to create new text.

I am pleased to say that in less than 24 hours my post became the 2nd most visited page on my blog (next to the one Kevin Smith did a shout out for on Twitter - to 1.5 million of his followers) and I received just over 1000 words from 10 different people. I'm in the process of editing and I plan on having something complete soon.

At any rate, this has spawned a new idea for me that a couple friends think has some legs. I want to put a whole bunch of these 1000 Word Pictures together, a hundred words at a time, from anyone and everyone who wants to contribute (and hopefully some well-known / famous people) and publish the collection, or display it as an art exhibit, and use it to raise money and/or awareness for a worthwhile cause.

So what do you think? Do you have 100 (or so) words rattling around in your head just itching to get out? Do you know Margaret Atwood or Rick Mercer, and can you get them to spare some words? (please say yes, that would be SO cool). If so then please, email me at thousandwordpicture@gmail.com or comment directly to this post as I present to you the 1000 Word Picture (100 at a Time) #2:

July 20, 2011

I'll Take "Words" for a 1000 Alex...

Another Update!

The final results from the first photo are in and can be found here (at the new site).
Thanks to everyone for participating. I look forward to seeing where this takes me...


This was a huge success. So much so that I'm going to continue with this project and eventually put a collection together to raise money/awareness for charity. I have started the 1000 Word Picture (100 Words at a Time) #2 here. Once I get roughly 1000 words submitted for that photo I'll post another, and so on...

More information to come on the project as a whole and the charities / foundations it will help support.

Thank you everyone!

Out with a concussion and unable to string together more than a half hour on the computer (and having deplorable handwriting) I'm in a bit of a creative holding pattern. Then I got an idea... maybe it's not even a new idea, but it's new to me, so I'm running with it.  It is said that a picture is worth 1000 words and I'd like to put that to the test.

Here's the picture (thanks to Instagram for the iPhone - and yes, that is me):

Now, I need 10 people out there to each lend me 100 words of their own based on what they see. I need exactly 100 words in the form of complete sentences. As few or as many sentences as it takes, but totaling precisely 100 words when you're done.

Post them as a comment here or email them to me or Twitter DM them to me or whatever, so long as it's electronically transmitted to me somehow and there are exactly 100 of them I'll take it. I'd prefer if they were written in isolation, free from the influence of other responses (I must try to maintain some semblance of scientific control over this experiment, you know)

I will then rearrange the complete sentences as I see fit (without taking single words here and there) to put together the 1000 words that this picture is worth. Read my blog, go through my Twitter feed, send me an email asking questions... all good ideas to start the words flowing. All I need is 100 words from 10 people, and I'll do the rest.

I'll post the completed work here and then credit each contributor with a link to their original words in a footnote. Please let me know if you are not OK with that and I'll omit you from the list.


July 12, 2011

Making Progress

In typical form this post started out as a bunch of randomly jotted down half sentences. Even as I typed this was not sure where it was going to end up. I'm considering the fact that words were typed at all as some kind of progress. In fact this is the first week I have instituted a word count target. Not necessarily daily targets but I have split them up into three categories: Blog, Novel, and Short Stories; each one with a modest target assigned per week along with a suggested breakdown of which one(s) get attention on which day(s). Monday's (when this was written) would have normally been a "Novel" day for me but my head was not in the right space for it so the blog post won. 

It's amazing what a little progress can do for a person's motivation. I mentioned my word count targets to a friend (a non writer) and their response was, "If you have to meet a target, won't that start to feel like work?" You see, I have a day job, a regular 9-to-5 if you will, and I am just doing this to fulfill a creative desire, and because writing is something I truly enjoy doing, it never feels like work. How does that saying go? Find something you love to do and you'll never work a day in your life. Something like that. As you can see, I'm not so good at research.

Speaking of which, Albert Einstein has a great quote which I like to pull out for various occasions, this being one of them: "If we knew what we were doing it wouldn't be called research". I usually pair it with another quote from my favourite scientist, Richard P. Feynman: "Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts."

I pretty much live my life according to these two quotes (along with another great one by Niel deGrasse Tyson, "When scientifically investigating the natural world, the only thing worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier.") As modern, evolved humans, every day we challenge and interact and learn. Input. Observe. Change. Input. Observe. Change. If you don't have some kind of end goal, if there's no measuring stick in the ground, it's easy to get lost, or worse, caught in a circle where it feels like all you're doing is work but you're not actually getting anywhere. There needs to be progress. 

In order to show progress you need to know where you are going and where you started. In order for that progress to have any meaning you need to know how to measure it, and what makes things really interesting is that as a society there are billions upon billions of individual goals all scattered about. Each one of us, knowingly or not, willingly or not, charting a path from Point A to Point B and often with very little regard for what impact our progress may have on the progress of others. When progress towards a goal doesn't align with someone else's progress towards a goal we end up with conflict, and any good storyteller will tell you that conflict makes for a good story. 

So go and do something right now. Create a goal, chart a path, interact with others, learn, adapt, change,  measure your progress, and above all else - challenge. If we had no way to measure progress, if no one was ever challenged, if there was never any conflict... I dare say that there wouldn't be much to write about (and I'd already be behind on my word counts for the week.)

July 07, 2011

Tell Me a Story

The world is full of storytellers.

There are enough columnists, authors, bloggers, tweeters, and filmmakers to make your head spin, and they are all telling stories (and I am one of them). But what about true storytellers? These are the people who can stand in front of a group and spin a yarn without any props, dictionaries, thesauruses, slides, notes, drawings, scribbles, doodles, cheat sheets, or pictures (moving or otherwise).

There is something to be said for listening to a story unfold before your ears as its told by a skilled storyteller. I have to admit, it's probably been a long time since I last heard someone tell a story that wasn't some recounting of an event in an effort to relive the experience, or boast, or simply hear themselves talk. We all gather around the water cooler, or at the bar, or in the kitchen at someone's house, and we tell tall tales about the one that got away (fish, girls, boys, all of the above), or the single greatest / funniest / scariest / offensive / interesting / cool thing to happen that week. But how many of us actually stand up and tell a story simply for the fun of it? For the sake of the story alone.

Well after heavily researching the history of storytelling (OK, I briefly skimmed this page on Wikipedia), I can say that storytelling is not completely gone, and there are many practicing storytellers - and even storytelling associations - today. That being said, I do have a concern that all this writing and multi-media and social media might be damaging this ancient art.

Everything today is documented, recorded for posterity, indexed, and completely searchable with a few clicks. The company that went on to become Open Text Corporation put the Oxford English Dictionary in an electronic format and at the time that was a major accomplishment. Just a few years later, all the information online surpassed that stored on paper, and a lot of that information includes transcription of previously existing text, as well as audio and video of just about everything to happen (and everything made up) since we figured out how to keep track.

Where would we be today if more than a handful of people could read and write back when Pontius Pilate was holding court? Jesus in the 21st century would have a webcam in his tomb and a billion people would be watching it 24/7 like those falcons in Alberta.

Some guy: "Did you hear about the crucifixion?"
Some other guy: "Dude, some guy tweeted the whole thing from his basement and didn't even know what was happening!"

I guess what I'm getting at is that everything today is so traceable that it's to the point where even someone telling a story is on YouTube. Part of me thinks that's a little bit sad.

This kind of universal browser history allows us to track pieces of information back to their origins and then analyse the differences between versions of this and variations of that, and to compare and rank and +1 and re-tweet... and I get the sense that the phrase "word of mouth" might actually be losing its meaning.

Somewhere along the way we've forgotten what it's like to just sit... and listen... and enjoy.

Thanks for reading ;)