Aftermath; and some progress

by Bernard Brandt

It has now been three weeks since I had my little ‘incident’ requiring emergency admission into the local hospital and a colonoscopy. The good news is that I do not appear to have colo-rectal cancer. The bad news…

The bad news is that I estimate that I experienced a Class II hemorrhage (15-30% blood loss), had in fact lost about 1.5 liters of blood, and am currently as weak as a kitten. I used to be able to walk between 3 and 6 miles a day with no problem. Now, if I walk more than a couple of blocks, I’m exhausted for hours afterwards. A week after the wretched event, I made the mistake of walking ten blocks. As soon as I got home (at 10 a.m.) , I went straight to bed, and slept for the next nine hours.  No fun whatsoever.

The fifth rate quack factory which calls itself a hospital sent me home with no instructions for diet or other self care after major blood loss, and hardly any other suggestions for recovery. I had to look all that up on ‘teh Webz’, thank you very much.

So, I’ve been drinking plenty of fluids, and have been eating foods rich in iron and protein, such as beef and beets. The available literature tells me that it takes four to six weeks for a blood donor to recover from the loss of a pint (or 500 ml) of blood. So, I have no idea just how long it is going to take to recover from three times that amount of blood loss, except that it’s probably going to be a long time. Great. Just great.

Of course, had either the ER or the hospital actually monitored the amount of fluid that I was losing (which I estimate as 2 liters from 2-6 p.m., and 4 liters from 6-12 p.m.) or observed the quantity of red in it, they might possibly have taken steps to try to stem that red tide. For example, they might have actually given me the Golightly prep for the colonoscopy at 6 p.m., when they first told me that they would be performing a colonoscopy the following morning, rather than waiting until nearly 12 midnight to do so.

Of course, had they been observing me, they might have noticed that the bleeding stopped about an hour after I began drinking the Golightly. I suspect that what was happening was that the blood and the faeces in my bowel were irritating the ulcerated polyp, which proceeded to bleed all the more.  It was only when the Golightly began to wash away the irritating matter that the bleeding stopped. I believe that had they administered the Golightly a lot earlier, I would not have continued to experience the amount of blood loss that I did.

I’m only thankful that the night nurse, a guy named Kurt, figured out that I was supposed to be prepped for a colonoscopy, and got me the Golightly so that the prepping could be done in time.

And I’m thankful for the care I actually received from the GI doctor and her team, who really did good work. I’m also thankful that they referred me to a local clinic, and that the administrators, and one Antoinette in particular, got me on MediCal, as apparently LA Care, my supposed insurers, had dropped me like a live hand grenade. Without informing me.

So, enough grousing. In spite of the exhaustion I’ve been experiencing, I’ve actually managed to continue with some of my studies. I have, alas, had to drop music and theology, at least until I can recover my lost strength. But I have kept on with Duolingo and Khan Academy, with some success.

I have completed the entire learning tree of skills in Duolingo for Spanish, and am now at level 14. I am also now working at reading through online newspapers in Spanish, and with my present vocabulary and knowledge of grammar, I can read nine out of ten words without recourse to a dictionary. For those pesky remaining words, I open up another tab in my browser, set it to Google Translate, block and copy words and phrases, and read through the article. I first read the article aloud, pinpoint the words I’m not sure of, look them up, and then read the article through aloud again. Needless to say, both my ability to read, speak, and understand Spanish, and my vocabulary, have been improving rather rapidly as a result.

For the past two months, I have been using Duolingo, and have spent three hours a day learning Spanish, French, German, and Italian. In addition to the Spanish, I’m at level 13 for French, level 12 for German, and level 9 for Italian. As I am just doing maintenance study in Spanish now, I started the Duolingo course in Portuguese a few days ago, and am already up to level 3 in that language. At the rate I’m currently going, I will probably blast through French, German, and Italian in another month or so.

When that happens, with each language that I finish, I will start up with additional languages. At present, the candidates (along with Portuguese) are Dutch, Russian, and Modern Greek. As Duolingo has courses for about twenty-eight languages, with more on the way, I can keep this up for at least a year or three more. We shall see what happens then.

But, if anything, the results of my work on khanacademy have been even more impressive. When I started, some months ago, I was clocked at 10 to 15 percent mastery of Grade 1 through 8 mathematics.  In less than a year of work, doing somewhere between one and three hours per day, I have achieved one hundred percent mastery of kindergarten through 7th grade math. In addition, I have attained 87% mastery of 8th grade math, 51% of high school geometry, 42% of Algebra 1, and 32% of Trigonometry.

But what encourages me the most is a little known counter on the website which is described in KA as ‘The World of Math’.  It basically lists all of the skills from basic Arithmetic all the way up to Calculus, Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra. This counter tells me that I have achieved 58% mastery of all of those math skills. More particularly, it tells me that I have mastered 713 out of a total of 1225 skills. Like any collector, I want to get the whole set.

My current plan is to finish Trigonometry, Geometry, and Algebra 1, and to go on to Algebra 2, Probability/Statistics, pre-Calculus, Calculus, Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra. In the meantime, as soon as I have finished Algebra 1, I plan on working through KA’s physics module (which includes AP 1 & 2 Physics, together with astronomy and cosmology), chemistry (which includes organic chemistry and AP Chem), Biology (which includes Health/Medicine and AP Biology), and Electrical Engineering.

Of course, when I’m done with that, all that I will have is a good grounding in lower division STEM courses. But a Nobel Laureate, by the name of Gerard t’Hooft, has been kind enough to provide the online course work for Physics, entitled How to become a GOOD Theoretical Physicist. And a crack mathematician and physicist by the name of John Baez, who also happens to be the cousin of Joan Baez, has provided an extensive set of texts, both dead tree and online, for physics and mathematics, which can be found here. And finally, there’s a little college known as MIT, which has decided to put ALL of its coursework online, here.

But, you may say, WHY are you bothering to do all this, Bernie?

Well, I suppose that part of it is that I was able to get a rather good education almost for free, in my mis-spent youth. I feel sorry for those who have come after me, and lost out on that opportunity, because of my damned hippie/yuppie co-evals who screwed that particular pooch. I want to show all you youngsters (after you all get off my lawn, dammit!) that you can still get a free education, if you want it. And the only way effectively to do that is to do it myself.

Another part of it is that I, too, was a slacker, and I made poor use of the opportunities that I was given when I was young. Having had a wake-up call that closely resembles a two-by-four upside the head of this particular mule, for the first time in my life, I want to see what my mind is actually capable of. So sue me.

Finally, though I am no longer a Roman Catholic, I kinda have an appreciation for the Church of my youth. You see, there was this little thing called Vatican II, and soon after that happened, the turd was dropped into the HVAC unit of the world. Fifty years later, the resulting untidiness still has not been cleaned up, and seems to be getting worse.

Now, loads of people have opined as to how and why it all happened. My particular take is that the actual documents of that Council were pretty nifty, but there was the problem of actually implementing those documents afterwards. As I have once or twice remarked, I feel the same way about the reforms of Vatican II as Mohandas Gandhi did about Western Civilization: both would be a good idea.

One of those documents was Optatam Totius: a directive for the reform of the education of Roman Catholic clergy and laity. It suggested that seminarians, before applying to the seminary, be educated in the humanistic and scientific studies proper to those who go on to professional studies. It also suggested that candidates to the priesthood be educated in the languages of Scripture, Tradition, and Church Authority. Finally, it suggested a reform of the philosophical and theological studies for seminarians.

It has been my observation that none of these reforms have been accomplished. It has also been my observation that most of the studies of the past have been abandoned.  And it is my opinion that as long as the past has been abandoned, and a reformed education does not occur in its clergy, the Roman Catholic Church will continue its process into shipwreck.

And so, I want to obtain for myself the humanistic, scientific, philosophical, and theological education which Optatam Totius mandated. I have no hope that it will ever be implemented in the RC Church anytime soon. Or that I may be of any help in changing things.

But at least I will have done a worthy thing. That is enough for me.