Sharing Ideas and Experiences and Droning On

One of the many benefits of writing stream-of-consciousness blogs (or diaries or daily journals or any other form in which one’s thoughts are recorded for access in the future) is the ease of retrieving what was on one’s mind at any given time. I remember writing about an idea for a science fiction piece in which one’s thoughts could be retrieved after death. Essentially, it involved “mining” the brain with electrochemical probes that captured data points that could be interpreted or translated, resurrecting specific thoughts from a dead person’s brain. I dismissed the idea (though not entirely) because my understanding is that the brain works in a manner similar to RAM, versus the way a flash drive works.

Thanks to last night’s trigger (dreams, of course), the thought came back. I dug up several things I’d written and thought about them as I mulled over last night’s dream(s). What if, I pondered, my earlier idea would work…not on the brains of dead people, but on the brains of the living? Might we be able to “play back” dreams? Or, even more intrusive and potentially embarrassing (and possibly dangerous), what if we could play back a person’s entire thinking experience?  Think of the money to be made with that technology! The potential revenue from promising to maintain the confidentiality of personal fantasies, alone, could be staggering! That’s how this post began. Let me steer it back toward real recollections, though.

My dreams haven’t been particularly vivid, or stayed with me if I had them, in recent weeks. Until a couple of nights ago. Two nights ago, I had a very vivid dream; I woke during the dream and thought about getting up and writing about it, but I didn’t. Now, I don’t remember what it was about. I remember only a couple of the key people, people I know well. But I don’t remember any details; only that it was odd.

Last night, I had another odd one…or it might have been two. It wasn’t as vivid, but I remember some of the details. I hired a guy to move a bunch of material from a garage (maybe the garage attached to my present home) to off-site storage. He backed a box truck into the garage and, in the process, ran into a set of drop-down stairs leading into the attic. When I expressed how upset I was with him (because he ignored my screams to “STOP!” when it became apparent he was about the smash into the stairs), he feigned being deeply hurt. I think I then got in a car and drove west, across west Texas or New Mexico. I stopped at a couple of gas stations/convenience stores, where I had trouble finding the doors leading to the convenience stores inside. None of the doors were plate glass; they were large, wooden doors, unmarked with signage of any kind. Finally inside one of them, I stumbled around and found a place to order a soft drink over ice. I tripped over something and had a very hard time getting up. I remember saying to people around me, none of whom offered to help, “I wasn’t always this old. I never had trouble getting up before I reached this age.” The final scene of the dream, before I woke with an urgent need to pee, found me at the door to the men’s room. I was holding my large, ice-filled soft drink as I tried to enter. Before I did, the door opened and I saw a line of people waiting to use the urinals.

A fellow blogger recently wrote that no one has any interest in the dreams of other people. He suggested that listening to or reading about others’ dreams are equivalent to watching paint dry. And he’s probably right. Most people probably have no interest in the fantasy lives of people they know, much less people they don’t know (if dreams represent fantasy lives, which I’m not convinced they do). But I have always been intrigued by dreams. More so my own dreams, of course (which I think is natural), but I’m similarly entranced by others’ dreams. I view others’ dreams as windows into their lives. The window panes may be made of tinted and translucent or opaque glass, but they offer peeks into their minds. I suppose the same can be said about my dreams. But I’ve long since stopped trying to understand the meaning, if any, of my dreams; yet I still find them fascinating.

Returning to the theme of dream or memory playback, I am confident humans will achieve that capability in the not-too-distant future. Provided, of course, we do not annihilate the species before we attain that technological breakthrough. If and when that happens, the ethical issues surrounding those capabilities will be stunning. At what point do we say “we cannot share any dream or memory without the informed consent of the owner of that information?” Will there be a point at which we may force the release of the information; for instance, after reading a recollection of a murder from the killer? And what of the memories of infidelities? Does the privacy of one’s secret thoughts trump the cuckolded husband’s right to know of his wife’s indiscretions? These thoughts do not seem new to me. Have I written of this recently? Hmm. I don’t know and I’m not sufficiently curious to take the time and energy to find out.


Last night, we went out to dinner with seven other people, two of whom celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. We ate at 501 Prime, one of the high-end restaurants in Hot Springs. My wife had scallops with polenta; I had very rare ahi tuna over a bed of rice and mushrooms (with wasabi, soy sauce, seaweed, and assorted other goodies). Most of the other people a the table had steaks. HUGE steaks. One woman ordered an 18-ounce rib-eye; her husband had one almost a big. Almost everyone, except for the celebrating couple, ordered their steaks cooked medium-well to well-done. To each his own. But, what a horrible thing to do to Prime beef! Most people took to-go boxes home with them; we did not, inasmuch as our meals were sized for humans, as opposed to prepared as family-sized helpings for packs of wolves.


I saw my oncologist yesterday. No real news there. Except she still doesn’t seem to bother looking at my chart before entering the examination room. My CT scan, she said, was unremarkable. She didn’t mention the abdominal x-ray. But this morning, I received an automated email, informing me that the results of the x-ray had been posted to my patient portal. The report on the results included one bit of information I found a little concerning: “Coarse calcification in the right upper quadrant may reflect
cholelithiasis.” One interpretation of that statement involves the presence of gall-stones. Another, even more disturbing, says this: “It may indicate disease in the gallbladder, adrenal glands, kidneys, pancreas, lungs or chest wall. Disease processes associated with calcification in these organs include echinococcal cysts, calcified renal cysts, chest wall masses and degenerative cystic lesions of the pancreas and adrenal glands. However, if calcification is associated with porcelain gallbladder, the incidence of carcinoma is high. Treatment consists of cholecystectomy with a careful search for malignancy.” After reviewing the report, my first action was to send a message to my primary care doctor, asking whether the radiologist’s impression suggests any particular course of action.

My recent experience with lung cancer and subsequent aches and pains and other medical unpleasantness seems to be turning me into a hypochondriac. I’ve said it before. I don’t really mean it, but…you know, I should probably not ask Mother Google medical questions, because she delights in taunting me and causing me anxiety. That’s just what Mother Google enjoys.


In spite of last night’s culinary indulgence, we’re going to do it again tonight. Tonight’s dinner out will, again, involve our church’s “dining out” endeavor, for which my wife is providing planning and orchestration. We were “adopted” by a group that took pity on us for having decided not to join a group because, by joining, we would have caused a group to be larger than it was intended to be. They decided the addition of the two of us would not ruin the experience for everyone else. So, tonight, we visit The Beehive, the nearby bar and small-plate restaurant that could easily serve as my afternoon hangout every day. The beer and wine, alone, could keep me happy every day of the week.


And that about does it. It’s now 7:43 and some seconds, far later than I’d normally be writing. But I had a lot of drivel to drone on about.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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