Crawling out of my cave

I’m beginning to think I should have been born a bear. I keep fighting the urge to hibernate. It must be seasonal effective disorder. I’d always attributed the stress I get this time of year to holiday plans and cramming for finals--you know, poor timing. This year, in hopes of curing those winter blues, I started Christmas early, and paced my studies well. Yet, I’ve still been tired and, well, mopey. For instance, I’ll hear a song or see something familiar, and start crying for no particular reason. Or, just when I think I have free time, I’ll fall asleep right where I’m sitting. Unfortunately, my blog has been the one to suffer the most. It’s a bit frustrating--I have lots to write about, but absolutely no energy to get started.

I might try getting my dose of sunlight in a new manner this year--visiting a tanning booth. I’m curious to see if I can get a small dose of artificial sunlight to boost my moods, without sacrificing my proud and pale nerdy demeanor. At least I’ll have time now--I finished my last final exam today. This past semester--my first at the University of Colorado at Boulder--has been an interesting one, to say the least. So, while I build up the energy to discuss some of my studies, here’s a recap of my semester:

The Demographics: Boulder is a traditional school, meaning most of the undergraduate students are in the 18-21 range, and live on campus, or at least nearby. For me, this has meant long commutes in heavy traffic, and being occasionally asked if I was the TA (teaching assistant.) Luckily, it is a gorgeous campus with some fascinating research going on--so the atmosphere is tolerably balanced. Next semester, I’ll be more used to the youth of the students, and I’ll be taking the bus instead of fighting traffic.

The Classes: I took an odd mix, starting with a basic environmental studies class and a class titled "global change", both of which focused on the climate change problem. I’ll be going into more detail later, but these classes were very informative, and downright depressing. I’ve known for some time change was at hand, but I didn’t realize how quickly it could happen, and how deep the problem went.

Next, I had a class in the philosophy of science, which was interesting to say the least. I’ll share my term paper form that class at some point, which shows what I learned, and how nicely everything tied together for me. (My presentation on defending predictive science was on the same subject--the presentation and the paper were mutual inspiration for one another.) Between these three classes, I have enough blogging material to keep me going for many weeks--if I can find the energy.

Finally, this year I overcame my fear of math classes (a deep-seated fear, set in high school when I ran from lousy teachers determined to chase girls from the subject--one who did it outright by keeping me from skipping ahead, and another who made me think all female mathematicians were prim and dour monsters that made the quietest librarians look like girls gone wild.) So, after years of avoiding the class, I took college algebra--and loved it. I found that I was eager for more--I kept asking questions after class, and was told, "you’ll have to wait until calculus for that" on multiple occasions. I suppose I should have known, that being a fractal artist, I would also be a math nerd deep inside.

The structure: In the past, I’ve taken mostly evening and online classes, as that tended to work best with my motherhood schedule. Boulder classes are mainly all traditional courses... meaning they were all during the day, in person, and included final exams outside of the regular class time. The latter part threw me, especially with the days growing shorter. That’s where I really burned out this week. I’ll be honest--I loved my math class, but a 3 hour long final was a little much to take. I knew the material, but started to fade about halfway through and ended up getting a C. My other exams actually had more questions, but I managed to finish each of them in under 30 minutes with high marks.

Anyhow, now that it’s all over, it is nearly Christmas! Whew. With that in mind, I can’t promise much blogging over the next week. There may or may not be a fractal tomorrow, or there may be one late. Eventually, I’ll start going into detail on the changes in climate we’re facing. But just in case I’m not the only one suffering from winter-low-light blues, I’ll wait until the holidays are over, first. In the meantime, I’ll look for a few goodies to share, and try to catch up on comment replies and e-mails. If you’ve wondered what happened to me, don’t worry... I’m really not planning to hibernate... maybe just dream about it a little.

More like this

Oh, what a week. I’m still trying to recover from the YearlyKos convention. I had a blast, like the year before, even though I had some trouble with internet access this time. The access at the convention was wonderful... as long as there was sufficient power on one’s laptop. In the Hyatt above,…
So, I’ll be the first to admit it. This blog is dead. I’ve noticed it happening to a number of sites I used to read on a regular basis, as the authors found themselves overwhelmed and occupied with many other things--school, work, life--chaos. Yet, what I’m facing is a little different. This blog…
I sometimes wonder if people who are unfamiliar with science are afraid to learn about it. It seems ridiculous, on the surface--"I don’t know much about science, so I’m not capable of learning about it"--but I suspect it is a common attitude. (It’s even worse when it comes to philosophy, but I’ll…
I hadn’t planned to write another post full of complaints. I’m a mother; I intrinsically hate whining. Yet, here I am, with nothing but frustration and disappointment (and an awful pun in the title) to share. Here it is, in a nutshell: I missed my lab in the field yesterday. It was one of those…

I hear you.
Best of luck,

(Too late to write now, i'll be back tomorrow)
(btw : been a while, hasn't it. :)

By kim boone (not verified) on 20 Dec 2007 #permalink

Well, there are some incurable worry-bugs out there. Quite a relief for them to see a fresh post in Chaotic Utopia. I hope you find plenty of things to cheer you up during Christmas.
Season's Greetings and best wishes,

I keep fighting the urge to hibernate. It must be seasonal effective disorder.

Hey Karmen,
It's great to see you back! Concerning the SAD, my friend, Dr. Lawrence Martel promotes a company that makes light to fix that. They are called Blue Max. He sent me a desk lamp in appreciation for my writing a couple of Press Releases for him. I have it on now and it helps! Maybe you could investigate the idea? Again, Welcome Back!
Dave Briggs :~)


You might like to try artificial daylight lamps from they are 5500K, Ra90+ and come in compact fluorescent versions so are environmentally better that tungsten bulbs and can be used as a direct replacement for tungsten bulbs.

The temperature relates to how they look, higher the temperature the bluer they are. Ra relates to the quality of the spectrum; 100 is a perfect blackbody at the rated temperature. Higher the better normally.

No, I don't work for them :o)

The only thing is, whichever manufacturers daylight bulbs you buy, is to ensure that (apart from tungsten bulbs which don't need any) you ensure that they have high frequency ballasts (control gear) as lamp flicker can affect you even if you don't know it is there.

HF gear is also lighter and more energy efficient and lasts longer.

Some manufacturers sell 6000K and 6500K bulbs but I find these too cold; 5500K is Northlight in Yorkshire on an overcast day. That's chilly enough for me :o)

Hope you feel better and have a wonderful Crimble time.

By Chris' Wills (not verified) on 21 Dec 2007 #permalink

SAD Schmad...winter is the best season if you live in cold snowy climes. No bugs. No lawn to mow, No humidity (CO excepted, they have no humidity any time...), and SNOW!!!! Woot! Cross country skiing, mushing, snowshoeing, frozen snot-sicles, it's da best!

My suggestion is to get yourself some nice warm clothes and get out and enjoy the season, There is nothing quite like being out in the woods after a heavy snowfall; almost total silence, everything wrapped up in a blanket of snow, deer footprints here and there...just awesome.

And night...ahhh night. Get away from the cities and their light pollution on a cold clear night and the milky way just comes alive!

Winter, the best season!

Dave and Chris, thanks for your advice! I love having gadget guys as readers. The both of you reminded me that I bought a fancy expensive light bulb for the fluorescent tube fixture in my kitchen--it cost a fortune because it simulates natural sunlight. While I'm still looking around at getting a desk lamp, (an idea I like much better than visiting a tanning booth,) I've been trying to spend some time under the light I already have. It seems to be working--baking cookies all day yesterday, for instance, I didn't get tired and grouchy.

Doug, I'm not sure you understand--I love winter, and all that comes along with it. This is also why I'm discouraged by uncontrollable feelings of fatigue--I *want* to go play outside, but I end up asleep instead. Your descriptions brought a smile though... I love the woods and sky in winter, too.

Stelios, thanks! I'm managing to stay cheery, just not necessarily at the computer. Seasons greetings to you as well!


(btw : been a while, hasn't it. :)

Holy moly! That's one heck of a de-lurk! I mean, on the "crawling out" post and everything! What I mean to say is, Kim, it's wonderful to see you back. I'll have to get a new picture of Otto kitty up sometime for you.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

A very, very merry wintersolstice to you, Karmen!

It's not exactly "tomorrow" as I promised, but hey, Einstein taught us that time is relative, so... (It's great to use science to rationalise. It sounds so, um, sciency.)
Thanks for the warm welcome back.
Actually, I haven't really been lurking, more like visiting once in a (long) while, and never mustering the energy to comment on those rare occasions.
The reason I chose this post to make my Grand comeback is that the title nailed my feelings exactly. I've been in a deep, dark cave for I don't know how many months,and happily, I'm slowly crawling out (as opposed to "crawling out happily.."), with a lot of help from my friends,family and therapist.
I've only just begun to catch up on reading everything I missed, here and on the blogs of your sciblings, but at least I feel I have the energy and motivation to do so now.
It's still a long way to tipperary, but at least I'm in the saddle again.
Your Christmas-fractal animation made me smile. Thanks.
More coherent and on-topic comments are coming, but for now, thanks for the welcome-back.
Please send my regards to both Otto (Hmm.., why did I almost write "Konkie"...) and ofcourse to your lil' gunslinger Roland.

'Till soon,

By kim boone (not verified) on 25 Dec 2007 #permalink

Kim, I understand... it has been an up and down year for me, too. Actually, it started with me finally getting a handle on my mood swings and whatnot, mainly with the help of the Flylady. (Imagine me of all people using a self-help program--of course, it didn't hurt that it was free, and helped control the areas of my life that I needed help in.) But then it was like chaos threw me every challenge possible. I won't go into the details--they're hidden in the archive, so you'll likely run across them, or already have. So, for me, it isn't a matter of doing my best any more, but learning to just simply do it, and be satisfied with what I've done. Best of all, I've learned I'm not alone... so even though you may feel as if you're crawling out of your own cave, remember that you, too, are never alone.

Again, I'm glad to see you back!

I looked at the available research before I bought my light therapy lamp.

Surprisingly, the colour and spectrum of the light doesn't seem to matter (or it might have been a second-order system that got lost in the noise). What matters is the intensity: it has to be really, really high. Like 10000 lux at the distance the lamp is viewed at. That's a lot.

What also matters is when in the day one gets the light. If the light starts a bit before when awakes then (much) less intensity seems to be needed.

By Peter Lund (not verified) on 29 Dec 2007 #permalink


Yes you need a high intensity, that's why desk lamps a good as you can get high local intensity; however the spectrum does matter, somthing with a full spectrum is better than one with a partial spectrum.

Extreme example would be using low pressure sodium (single spike in yellow) that you get on some main roads.
These wouldn't help much irrespective of the quantity.

What is being done is fooling the body into thinking that it is daylight for a longer period than it actually is.
So daylight spectra are more effective, whatever the intensity.

Yes, timing is also important. We do want to start before we awake, makes the body think it is daylight longer.

Just a note: If using Arftificial Daylight tubes don't put a diffuser in the way it'll absorb the UVA

As an aside:
If we used high Ra (>Ra80) tubes in offices instead of the standard Ra50/55 we could, in principle (we do have to maintain uniformity and this is a function of the fittings design), reduce the lighting level by 10% or more due to increased visual acuity. Also Ra85 lamps are more efficacious(more lms/w) than standard lamps so energy consumption could also be reduced. Add that to the energy savings of using HF control gear and we could close a few power stations.

The Daylight (Ra95) & Artificial daylight (Ra95 plus a UVA output) tubes are normally less efficacious in terms of light output; but for accurate colour matching they are required.

By Chris' Wills (not verified) on 29 Dec 2007 #permalink

I've started a climate change project called Many people have blogs, websites, and use social software sites (social networking, social bookmarking, photo and video sharing, etc.). Some standards for tags and text on blogs, websites, and social software sites could turn the whole global Internet into a kind of Web 2.0 participation platform for climate change. Iâm suggesting a few simple standards for tags and text that leverage processes of the sustainable ProxThink growth model. To get this going, we need people to adopt and use these standards. The project could also use contributors, collaborators, partners, funders and sponsors. To find out more, see: