Rebecca Returns Victorious, A Bizarro Trivia Night, and The FIVE Basic Tastes?!
Thursday November 29th 2012, 11:48 am
Filed under: Family, Friends, Knowledge Junkie, Liberty!

This Tuesday, our trivia team was bursting with knowledge. Perhaps this was due to our special ringer, recently-returned-home victorious Field Dictator Director of northern New Hampshire for the Obama campaign, my sister Rebecca! I’m exceptionally proud of her and all the hard work she did to get the President re-elected. So maybe I’m just a little biased–the whole trivia team was really on the ball. Plus we had Rebecca! So it was both.

After the first six rounds, we were kicking some ass. Lots of ass, in fact. We had three perfect rounds in a row. We were in first place, with a decent lead over our nearest challenger. Honestly, this is very unusual for us. Normally, after six rounds, we’re doing okay or just fine, but we really tend to pull ahead in the seventh and final round. Even in championship tournaments, we always rule as kings and queens over good ol’ Round Seven.

This week, however, the monarchy fell. We bombed Round Seven. We racked up a bunch of negative points and knocked ourselves out of the money. It was a really weird, bizarro trivia night.

The question that really did us in (and which continues to haunt me) was, “To which basic taste group does MSG belong?” The question’s grammatical correctness was almost certainly not as beautifully as that… but I suppose that’s really beside the point. Anyway, I answered that MSG was “salty,” with which my team agreed, hands down.

The real answer was “umami.” I did not know that this was even a thing. But it is. For some reason, something about the word “umami” doesn’t really seem to fit in with the words “sour,” “sweet,” “bitter,” and “salty.” It turns out that “umami” is a Japanese word that means “savory.” It also turns out that we already have a word for that in English. I mean, if it just means “savory,” why not use the English word for “savory” (“savory”) instead of the Japanese word for “savory?”

Also, what exactly is savory? I’d say it’s something that makes me go, “Mmmm… this tastes good.” Surely, though, each individual person must have different things that make them say, “Mmmm,” right? So it would seem very hard to be scientifically objective about this taste category. Bitter I know–I’m always bitter.

It turns out this is just another one of those things they’re teaching kids in elementary school these days that’s way different from what we learned in elementary school. Five tastes! Five oceans! Eight planets! What is happening to our education system?! And more importantly, do you know any fifth graders who might want to join my trivia team?


Thank You Veterans And Families Of Veterans
Sunday November 11th 2012, 11:56 pm
Filed under: Family, Friends, Liberty!

Thank you to my cousin Ivan Martinez. Thank you to my friends Matt McDole, Henry Berkowitz, and Melissa Bland. Thank you to all veterans. Thank you to all the many families of veterans. Thank you for the sacrifices that each and every one of you have made and continue to make. What you do does not go unnoticed. I hope that one day, we can properly show you the entirety of our gratitude and the the depth of our respect by providing all veterans with everything they need–and deserve–when they return home.


xkcd: Electoral Precedent – A Web Comic About Presidents And How I’m Tired Of Dumb Stuff
Sunday October 21st 2012, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Attack Of The Internet!, Liberty!

I really like the web comics over at xkcd, because they’re usually very clever and/or very relatable.

This particular comic (look down), posted last week, happened to particularly strike my fancy (don’t worry, we exchanged insurance info). Maybe it’s because I’m a huge presidential history nerd (I guess I could’ve simply said “nerd” and that would have sufficed… oh well). I don’t mind political analysis based on things like numbers and facts and the truth, but I’m really, really tired of analysis that is just dumb. I realize that this is a bold stance and that I am very brave to stand like this. Thank you.

PRO TIP: If you have trouble reading the comic because it’s too small, you can click on it for the original, big, readable version! If you have trouble reading this comic because it bores you or you think stick figures are lazy cartooning, you should probably just keep that to yourself.


Romney On Women, Point By Point, With Absolutely No Commentary, But A Lot Of Presumptions
Wednesday October 17th 2012, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Friends, Liberty!

During Tuesday night’s second presidential debate, my longtime friend David Reiman posted the following on Facebook:

It needs to be said one more time, and very clearly. Mitt Romney, when asked about equality in hiring and in pay, implied that he and his advisors had to dig to find qualified female applicants – and he had to make accommodations for them so that they could get home in time to make dinner.

HOW DARE YOU, DAVID REIMAN! You know damn well exactly what Mitt Romney meant about pay equity for women! READ THE TRANSCRIPT! FACTS were laid out–there was no implying going on, whatsoever! Read the points below, in which I set the record straight by presenting each of Romney’s facts at face value–absolutely nothing more, absolutely nothing less–also, I’m rather presumptuous.

1) Romney only learned about pay inequity for women upon becoming governor, after a measly 27 years of being a businessman.

2) Romney chose to surround himself with gubernatorial advisors that did not believe women were qualified for jobs in the executive branch of state government, and/or feared girls for the part they played in the great cooties epidemic.

3) Romney’s team, considering women utterly and completely inept, asked a bunch of women’s groups for proof that “qualified women” actually existed. It took the concerted effort of the entire team going through whole binders full of women to convince them that these creatures were more than mere myth.

4) Romney knew he had to be flexible with the women that ended up in his cabinet because they are always so wishy-washy. He made accommodations for women’s traditional gender roles, like taking care of the kids and cooking dinner. Although he did not mention wives setting out a pipe, slippers, and snifter of brandy by the fire for their husbands, so they could relax upon arriving home from actual business work, it is clear he would have said this if that liberal Candy Crowley hadn’t kept interrupting him.

5) In the bright future Mitt Romney will deliver, businessmen will be so desperate for employees that they might even be willing to think about possibly looking into the option of hiring some women, maybe. If they feel like it.


Below is a transcript of the specific portion of the second presidential debate to which I’ve referred, as retrieved from

CROWLEY: Governor Romney, pay equity for women?

ROMNEY: Thank you. An important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.

And I – and I went to my staff, and I said, “How come all the people for these jobs are – are all men.” They said, “Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.” And I said, “Well, gosh, can’t we – can’t we find some – some women that are also

And – and so we – we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.

I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks,” and they brought us whole binders full of women.

I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.

Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort. But number two, because I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.

She said, I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making
dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.

We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I’m going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they’re going to be anxious to hire women.

Honoring The Victims of 9/11 In The Wake Of More Violence
Wednesday September 12th 2012, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Liberty!, NYC

Reider’s Note: For this year’s anniversary of 9/11, I didn’t want to link to the account I wrote eleven years ago about that day, as I’ve done many times over the past ten years. I wrote and rewrote this entry several times yesterday, but I felt it was just too lofty. So I decided to scrap it.

I woke up this morning to news of attacks on the American embassies in Egypt and Libya, in which four envoys were slaughtered. In several accounts today, it was said that Chris Stevens, the murdered American Ambassador to Libya, genuinely loved the Middle East, and sought to find common ground with those who detest America.

Loftiness be damned. This is really how I feel.

Eleven years ago, I experienced the worst day of my life. In the days and weeks that followed, I witnessed and felt grief unlike any I had known before. But I also witnessed the greatest of human compassion. For a brief, beautiful blink of an eye, the day-to-day pettiness of division that creeps into so many of our lives was nowhere to be seen nor heard. In the cold, miserable shadow of the loss of thousands of lives, of innocents and of heroes, of ordinary human beings just like you and me, we momentarily achieved something remarkable: we put ourselves aside and joined together.

We have a duty to continue honoring all the victims of that day, from those who perished as a result of a hijacked airplane to those who still suffer terribly from that day’s previously implausible carnage to those who have given their lives in its memory over the intervening years. To do so, we must honor the living. At first glance, differences that serve to alienate us from one another are much easier to see and to accept as the whole picture. By committing ourselves to the much more difficult task of actively seeking out those things we share in common, those things that bind us together as members of the same human race, we prove that we, the survivors, are capable of learning and growing and making ours into a better world.

As long as we exist, there will be unexpected terrors and tragedies. We should not look to define ourselves by how we try to circumvent these inevitable pains and sorrows. Rather, we should work on defining ourselves by how we choose to react to these things. We must fight the many impulses to surrender to cynicism, fear, anger, and contentedness with the world as it is. We must each, individually, grow beyond these seductive primal instincts, and come together in respect and mutual understanding and, yes, even in love–for more than just the fleeting blink of an eye. In doing so, we will prove that the cruel and violent hatred that so often accompanies intolerance, that obscene brutal force that destroyed so many lives on September 11, 2001, and continues to destroy so many lives today, does not control us.

That is how we truly honor the fallen.


Tweet: Candidate Joe Miklosi Talks To Colorado, Laure Levin In New Commercial
Friday August 24th 2012, 6:25 pm
Filed under: Liberty!, Tweet Tweet

Mom and I just wrapped filming a commercial for Democrat Joe Miklosi’s run for US Representative. Mom is a star! I’m more of a comet.

Trivia, Perspective, and My Most Hated Of All Organs
Sunday August 05th 2012, 2:42 pm
Filed under: Denver, Friends, Health (Not Cancer), Knowledge Junkie, Leukemia

YEAH SURE, it was great that, on Tuesday, I participated in trivia, despite being absolutely overwhelmingly exhausted (more on this later). And anyway, it’s a responsibility I owe to my teammates! Well… no, it’s probably not, and none of them would ever hold me to anything like that. But I do enjoy (and sort of rely on) playing every week to bust up the ongoing tedium of getting well.

YEAH SURE, it was great that, on Tuesday, our team achieved its highest trivia score ever, even if you choose not to count all those bonus points from that round with all those bonus points. We had great team unity, in which everyone contributed, which is always the best. Well… except, of course, when one teammate has a particularly unfortunate off night, which the rest of us don’t seem to notice. A night in which one person continually contributes just absolutely, incredibly incorrect answers and the others, highlighting not only our propensity to never give up on our teammates, but also some occasional bad decision making, support those very, very bad answers. It’s safe to say we’ve all been that incessantly wrong, yet unwittingly convincing person on more than a few nights who begs, “please don’t listen to me anymore,” only to have the team respond, “no, no–that sounds right!”

YEAH SURE, it was great that, on Tuesday, after a well fought comeback from third place and a very competitive finale, we finished in a very respectable second place, a mere point behind our most vile nemeses/best buddies, the REDS!. Yeah, the very same despicable/honorable team that used to be known simply as the “REDS.” Make no mistake, though, even with the addition of an exclamation point to the end of their simple-seeming teamname, they’re still the same old terrible, horrible, nice, and friendly jerks/class acts they’ve always been. We’ve placed ahead of them plenty of times, but to be honest (implying, perhaps, that I may normally be dishonest?), they’re just more consistant than we are.

HOWEVER, there was one deeply disturbing act I haven’t been able to move past. Something I don’t know that I will ever be able to let go. There was a question that, for whatever unimportant reason, we answered incorrectly. That’s fine, it happens all the time. But this particular wrong answer was different from all others. Ever. In the whole world, in the entire history of people answering obscure questions so they can feel smugly superior to all of their friends (I imagine there was that one smarty pants caveman amongst all our cave dwelling ancestors who must have felt particularly smug, as relatively everything was obscure back then)(also, no one liked him). This answer doesn’t bother me because of some poorly worded question or because of any hard feelings or because of an accidental oversight or anything like that. No, this wrong answer, in itself, will always haunt me.

The round’s topic was “anatomy and the human body.” For the protection of our team pride, I won’t go into the exact details of the question. Suffice it to say, we were supposed to name a specific organ. Without completely processing the wrong answer through my sensory organs, without taking much note of why the answer might be wrong in my thinking organ, and without raising any sort of protest about the answer with my bellyaching organs, I let it slip past me. My most hated of all organs. That dastardly concocter of hormones like insulin and glucagon. That unseemly pusher of digestive enzymes like amylase and lipase. That cowardly, backstabbing “when the tough gets going, I’ll digest myself and destroy all these other important organs while I’m at it” organ. That’s right, the pancreas!

GRAAAAARGH! I HATE THE PANCREAS!!! Or mine, at least. I don’t really have anything specific against yours. Your pancreas might be perfectly lovely, for all I know. Based on personal experience, I highly doubt that it is, but hey, who knows? I apologize if I’ve offended you or your pancreas. Just know that they are all great deceivers, every last one of them, and cannot not be trusted. Talk about a bellyache.

It’s not that I’ve had any new pancreatic problems about which I’ve not written over the past year. In fact, my pancreas seems to have given up its old, villainous ways. Notice I qualified (and italicised) that statement, because I will never stop suspecting my pancreas of plotting against me. I must remain ever vigilant with that thing still hanging around, secreting its merry heart out in there.

Even though its last attack on me was over three years ago and even though its worst, most bile vile, heinous act of attempted murder was well over four years ago, the effects of what it did are still very much a part of my life. Not only physically, in the form of my Dalíesque insides, but also in what has been clear for years now: had my pancreas not hemorrhaged, my life would not be ruled by “getting better.” But it is, and so it goes. Each individual problem spawned from my hemorrhagic pancreatitis in early 2008–from re-learning once and then re-learning again how to walk, to spending years getting off certain medications–has been, or in many cases, is still being addressed.

I’ve come to some kind of terms with that. Which is good, because for a long time, I was at total and complete odds with that entirely unchangeable fact. I wasted a lot of energy trying to fight something that I really couldn’t get around.

For many years into chemo, I pictured my life pre-cancer as a single, taught red string connected snugly and cleanly from one end of my life to the other. When cancer and its many complications came along, that red string was unceremoniously cut somewhere between its begining and its end, leaving both sides to drift slowly apart, slowly downward. I pictured these difficult years as an entirely different length of chord–something rougher, less whole, like a length of naturally scratchy twine. One day, I would finally find both of the now dangling ends of that original fine, red string. But, try as I might, I could not reconnect the two parts of the red string, as it had been exactly the right size to stretch from one end of my life to the other. The two cut ends would touch, but there would be no extra length with which to tie them back together.

And so I would knot the beginning of the length of twine to the end of the first stretch of red string, and I would knot the end of the length of twine to the beginning of the other stretch of red string. Thus, I would bridge the original, beautiful red string together with this crude yarn. My “real life,” that red string, and my “cancer/chemo/recovery life” away from it, the coarse twine, entirely different, entirely separate.

But there is no twine; it’s all the same red string. It was around April that I stopped thinking of the years I’ve been spending here as my life on “pause,” or some sort of alternate reality I had been fighting my way back from, trying to escape back to my life. This difficult patch is just as much a part of my life as any other part has been. It’s just been something I was forced into, instead of something I chose or to which I was complicit. Understanding this has made a huge change in my life.

I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve been able to look at these years as happy or good (although there have been a few positives). Given the option, I never, ever would have chosen this path. It sucks. It’s crappy. Cancer imposed itself upon my life and I hate it for doing so. It caused so much damage and it took so much from me, including over half of what should have been my most formative years, my twenties.

But fighting against it, rather than accepting it, serves only to create more misery. I had limited myself in so many ways, because I thought only in terms of “getting back to my life.” I withheld things, relationships, feelings from my life, telling myself there would be plenty of time for those when I got back to my life. Having since realized there is not a life to get back to, rather, that this is my life, I’ve been able to indulge in thoughts and feelings and experiences I had fully pushed away.

Again, I don’t mean to imply that everything is sunshine and roses now. I’m way, way past being ready to be done with all of this. And it’s hard finding out, what feels like every time I complete some part of this process of getting well, that there’s another whole component I didn’t realize was there, but that I must now take on. And as good as I’ve felt at some points over the past year, as much ground as I continue to gain, as wonderful the progress I’ve made has been, I’m still not well, goddamn it.

There was a day in May, right around my one year anniversary off chemo, when I woke up and felt like myself again. I felt like a human being. I’d heard from survivors and doctors that a day like that would eventually come around. Every time I heard that, I thought bullshit, to myself, there’s no possible way I’ll go to bed one night and wake up the next morning feeling how I used to feel. It’s a very long process. And while it is a long process, that fact, for whatever reason, did not stop there from being that day I woke up and felt like myself–my pre-cancer self–again. It was glorious. I went out and did all sorts of things I hadn’t done in years. It lasted for days, but it did eventually wane away. There have been many days since then that I’ve felt like I remember feeling before all of this began. And each one has been a gift.

There have been a lot of days since then, though, that I’ve been discouraged. As I’m still not well, I’ve had bad days. I’ve had lots of them. And, maybe, the fact that I’ve tasted what it’s like to feel so much better has made it all that much easier to get discouraged. I’m not fighting the process–I need to get well. I need to do this now. I don’t have any question in my head about that. But I can’t help wondering when all this will be over, I can’t help worrying when I don’t feel well that it’s going to be that much longer. I never stop moving towards the finish line–sometimes sprinting, sometimes crawling–but I still don’t know where the finish line is.

Up top, I mentioned that I’ve been overwhelmingly exhausted. It’s discouraging. It feels like watching a bad repeat for the umpteenth time, just because nothing else is on and there’s nothing else to do. My sleep was bad, and I understood why I was tired. But then my sleep got better, and I’ve continued to feel not only exhausted and discouraged, but powerless and confused. I’m going with the tide, I’m not fighting against it, but when will I hit land?

It’s not all bad. It’s very important that I say that. But it is hard. Like I said, I never would’ve chosen this, I was pushed into this. I’ve learned a lot about myself and how I view the world. I’ve gained amazing perspective that I know I would not have otherwise been able to, maybe not even over the course of a lifetime. I love what I’ve gained. But I don’t want to be so overwhelmingly tired that I have to cancel plans, that I have to throw myself into bed between doctor’s appointments, that doing the things I want to be doing puts me out of commission for weeks.

This exhaustion has played a huge part in my lack of writing. I began writing this entry on Tuesday night, and am now finishing it on Sunday afternoon. This exhaustion has kept me from what I want to be doing. But, despite it, I’m still moving towards that finish line. I may be crawling right now, but I know I’ll be back on my feet, sprinting again soon.


Just A Man In A Toy Aisle Trying To Discern The Plot Of “The Dark Knight Rises”
Thursday July 19th 2012, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Sodapopcornculture

7/20/12 Update: although this blog entry has nothing to do with what happened in Aurora last night, I’ve renamed it and removed the links to it off of Facebook. It was simply posted at a bad time and, to folks who didn’t know better, it would understandably seem in very poor taste.

The original title was: “The Dark Knight” Is Nothing Like You’ve Imagined!

That’s right, I know what you’ve imagined, and I know that The Dark Knight Rises is totally and completely different from that. Or maybe it’s more that I know what you definitely have not imagined, and that’s exactly what The Dark Knight Rises is. Yeah, that’s what it is: whichever one of those you find less creepy.

The other day, I was intensely perusing the toys in the toy aisle at Target… uhm, because I got… lost. Yeah… that’s totally why I was so gleefully pulling entire sets of newly released Batman action figures based on The Dark Knight Rises off the shelves and balancing them recklessly on top of armfuls of other officially licensed Batman-themed crap merchandise (in retrospect, I should’ve grabbed a cart, but I was too caught up in the moment), imagining all the fun I’d have playing with all those bat-tastic toys, despite their extremely limited five points of articulation, down in my bedroom in the basement of my parents’ house (my very own Batcave!), recreating 1993’s classic Batman #498 with all of my carefully rehearsed voices for Batman, Bane, Michael Caine, and especially Catwoman… was… because I got lost.

Anywho… several Internet people have suggested that the director and co-writer of The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan, created a campaign of intentionally misleading promotional materials (commercials, posters, toothpastes, etc.) for the film, solely to hoodwink the moviegoing masses about the the film’s actual plot. Some crazy geeks theorize that to truly enjoy the film, which is both radically different from what we expect and also an awesome new take on the Batman, we must experience it freshly in theaters with no preconceived notions about its true nature. So naturally, I looked over a few of the toys to see if their packaging hinted at any big surprises in the film.

Michael Caine: The Action Figure

Imagine The Limitless Possibilities For Adventure When Playing With A Butler Action Figure!

Predictably, most of the action figures were packaged generically enough that they did not give away anything surprising or even vaguely interesting about the keenly-guarded plot of the film.

That is, until I laid my eyes on this baby:

Swing Yer Bat-Pardner Round n' Round!

Yeeee-haw! A Gen-u-ine Gotham Hoedown!

No, your eyes are not deceiving you! These action figures are indeed square dancing! They’re straight out of one of the most critical parts of the film, in which Bane challenges Batman to a good ol’ fashioned Gotham hoedown! Holy spoilers, Batman! This package of cheaply molded, crappily painted plastic “action” figures that bear little resemblance to their big screen counterparts is absolute, indisputable proof that The Dark Knight Rises will be a mindblowingly original take on Batman. I can’t wait to see all that do-see-do-ing and swingin’ of partners round and round!

Well done, Christopher Nolan. Well done.


You Can Comment On My Blog Again! …whoops!
Thursday July 19th 2012, 8:12 pm
Filed under: Me, Myself, and Reid, Technobabble

D’oh! Somebody apparently turned off the commenting system on my blog (you are here) at some point and never turned it back on. I’ve turned it back on, so please, go ahead and engage in whatever type of commenting your heart desires: criticism, condemnation, and/or cutting me down to size.

I apologize for any inconvenience you or your loved ones may have experienced as a result of the comment system being offline. The offending Reid Levin Dot Net administrator has been slapped in the face.



On My New Blue Titanium Ear Tube, Facing Down A Lion, Channeling Hemingway… and Writing.
Friday July 13th 2012, 5:24 pm
Filed under: Family, Health (Not Cancer), Me, Myself, and Reid

On Wednesday, I had an ear tube installed in my left eardrum. The inside of my left ear has been giving me trouble since at least the time I underwent hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Maybe the HBOT is to blame–it was, after all, a giant pressurized chamber that got its jollies by making my ears adjust to pressure in a way that sounded and felt like they were filled with active poprocks. Maybe it’s been bothering me longer than that, maybe even since before chemo.

Or maybe that popcorn kernel I stuck in my ear when I was six-years-old has finally taken root in my brain and grown into a popcorn tree. That would be a just and fitting bite of karma for having accused my sister Rachel of popping that kernel into my ear and then successfully getting her convicted of said crime by my mom. Many years later, I did finally admit that it was, in fact, I, Reid Levin, who had perpetrated the insertion of the kernel into my own ear. I did so out of an extreme guilt that built up over the course of decades, day in, day out since the day Rachel had been punished for the absurdly stupid crime I, myself had committed! Actually, I’d done it before several times, that was just the only time I wised up and blamed someone else. Umm… sorry about that, Roo…

Truly, it could be any one of those things! While my memory has improved tremendously in some areas (presidential trivia, names of obscure Star Wars characters, a third example), it still kind of sucks in some pretty major areas. For instance, “Have I showered today?” and, “Have I showered this week?” Or, often, “Was I really supposed pick you up at the airport? Really?” And most especially, “When did my ear start giving me so much trouble?” (Note: admittedly, there are many better examples I could use for things “most especially forgotten”, but a) I don’t remember what they are, and b) that troubled ear example there helps propel a narrative that fits a theme I’m going for in this particular blog entry.)

For whatever reason, the inside of my left ear has hurt badly enough off-and-on that I’ve seen several doctors about it. Almost every time my ear was examined, there was no visible problem. I only say “almost every time” in case this is ever fact-checked. Knowing me as I do, there were probably some actual infections, but I am not qualified to comment on that subject at this time. In addition to the on-and-off pain, I noticed that, when ascending or descending in an airplane and when driving to different altitudes in a car, my left ear didn’t equalize pressure in the efficient manner I think I kind of remember it doing back sometime in the past. In fact, it was failing miserably at equalizing. Also, I was diagnosed with mastoiditis on two separate occasions this year, after never having had it before in my life.

If you’ve never heard of mastoiditis, it’s probably not because you’re stupid (although I can’t be sure, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt). Mastoiditis is an infection of the hollow bone behind the ear (the mastoid) that swells up and forms an abscess. It’s likely something you’ve not encountered if you’re a human being currently living in an industrialized nation in a year after 1941. What happened in 1941? Doctors began using penicillin to cure ear infections. Mastoiditis generally occurs after an ear infection has gone untreated for a long time–long enough for the infection to spread to the mastoid. So all sorts of people that existed before 1941 got it whenever they had a bad ear infection, and hardly anyone that has access to antibiotics gets it now.

So how did I get mastoiditis? Twice in one year, no less? Isn’t that just soooooo weird? No, no it’s not. In fact, it’s one more super exciting, fantabulous head-scratcher you can only find in The Big Book Of Reid Levin Medical Mysteries (Vol. 1)! You’ll just have to buy the book and read page 1,928 to find out what happened. It’ll be on Amazon soon. In fact, if you pre-order the hardcover, I’ll sign it and send you some of my weird germs for absolutely no additional cost (plus shipping and handling).

Last month, I finally visited a neurotologist to have my ear thoroughly examined. A neurotologist is a person who decided, after spending four years as an undergraduate, four years in medical school, five years in an ENT residency, and maybe like another two years or something of a fellowship working specifically on ear stuff, that they weren’t quite ready to get on with their life. So instead, they hung around medical school for another two years studying neurological ear problems. Apparently, this particular neurotologist also took a course on how to make patients wait obediently in the waiting room for several hours after their scheduled appointment time. Though, I think that particular course actually counted as business credits, rather than science credits.

Anyway… after waiting for two hours to see him, the neurotologist talked to me for nearly three minutes and then sent me off to get a CT of my head, which has clearly not had enough radiation zapped into it already. (Though, of course, it was something I understood and for which I agreed there was a need.) The following week, the CT was performed to determine whether some past ear infection had moved into my mastoid, stayed there like a deep cover sleeper agent, and eventually grown large enough to scar the semi-fragile, hollow mastoid bone, causing it to separate from my ear canal. That, or anything else weird. But mostly that. I waited three days after the CT to meet with the doctor again and to learn the results of the scan. This was necessary because, instead of using computers, this doctor’s office receives all of its data by courrier. And, apparently, their courier rides a fantastically slow horse.

After another two hours in the waiting room, I met with the doctor again–this time for almost five whole minutes. He told me that my ear looked beautiful (awwww yeah!) on the CT scan and that he couldn’t see anything wrong with it. But he was certain something was wrong with my ear, he just couldn’t be positive about exactly what it was. He proposed surgically implanting a teeny, tiny little tube in my eardrum, which would act as both a diagnostic tool and, perhaps (hopefully), an antidote to the pain. If my ear felt better with the tube in after a few weeks, we’d know that the problem was my ear’s inability to correctly regulate pressure changes and, the tube, itself, would actually alleviate this problem. If my ear did not feel better after several weeks with the ear tube in, all I would have to show for it would be a totally rad blue titanium eardrum piercing.

When I was four-years-old, I had ear tubes put in both of my ears due to chronic infections. I had my tonsils and adenoids removed during the same operation, in what turned out to be a successful plan to make me less prone to ear, sinus, and throat infections. That lasted… a few years. For those particular surgeries, I was put completely under. However, it turns out that as an “adult,” you aren’t put under to have ear tubes implanted. They just numb your eardrum right there in the office, make a small incision in the eardrum, and pop that little tube right in. On some other day.

For weeks, I was dreading this in-office outpatient surgery. I knew that once my eardrum was numbed, the rest of the procedure wouldn’t hurt. However, the thought of having a local anesthetic jabbed into my eardrum with a needle scared the hell out of me. I know I’m not supposed to stick ’em in there, but I’ll just come right out and admit that while cleaning my ear out with Q-tips, I’ve had the displeasure of bumping my eardrum more than once. As much as that hurt, how much more must a pointy needle hurt? As the date of my ear tube insertion grew ever closer, I became more and more scared. But I had to go forward with it, I had to try, because it might make me feel better. I arrived at the doctor’s office a full 15 minutes before my scheduled appointment time, as they requested, and then proceeded to wait nearly two hours… to have my eardrum stabbed.

I was finally called back to the ear piercing room, where I sat waiting for another half hour. I grew more and more apprehensive each moment, until Rachel texted me about the doctor’s questionable management of time. In drafting my response, I set out both to allay my fear and to fool my younger sister into believing I was much more comfortably resigned to my situation than I really was. I responded by framing my feelings in a manner that I imagined the manliest writer I could think of, Ernest Hemingway, might have done:

I found myself with an extra hour and a half to do nothing but panic. Every time a nurse opened the waiting room door, in the long moments before she called out another patient’s name, my heart beat as if I were facing down a great lion. This panic served no purpose though, as, with or without it, I would inevitably be called upon to wrestle down the mighty beast.

And I was. And I did. It happened. Wrestling the mighty beast was filled with very unpleasant feelings and sounds. The doctor injected a powerful anesthetic into my eardrum, which hurt. This particular anesthetic did not simply block pain, the doctor explained, it actually killed nerve endings that will need several weeks to grow back. He then made an incision in my eardrum and, into the resulting opening, stuffed a super awesome blue titanium ear tube. Throughout the procedure, it sounded as if someone was doing a mike check in my brain.

Afterwards, I received another text from Rachel, asking how the procedure had turned out. In an effort to avoid sounding like my actual, embarrassingly squeamish self, I once again imagined myself channeling Hemingway and responded:

In the end, it was a fine thing. The lion was more docile than I had built him up to be. Nonetheless, he was still a lion.

While riding home with my sore ear, I considered whether or not either text I’d sent actually reflected how Hemingway would have described the situation. Because that’s the kind of thing I do. I realized that I was way off, that I wasn’t even close. Hemingway never would have described his fear in such terms, because Hemingway wouldn’t have had any fear in the first place. He’d have relished the opportunity to show off his machismo and would have equally revelled in fighting the lion head on. When I realized this, Hemingway’s text became so obvious:

The lion is a fine animal. He is not afraid or stupid. He does not want to fight. But man is not made for quiescence. Consequently, I punched the noble beast squarely in his testicles.

Hemingway may have been a brilliant writer, but he was also kind of a jerk. Poor lion.

I hadn’t really thought much about Ernest Hemingway in a while. In high school, I didn’t care for his books at all. In fact, there weren’t many books I cared for–there were so many poorly chosen “classics” we had to read. There were some books that few teenagers will ever appreciate, and many others that make me question who exactly determines which books are considered “classics.” In college, for Better Than The Machine, based on an idea by Tucker Dyer, I developed an Incredible Hulk-like “Incredible Hemingway” character, who transformed from an ordinary man into a hefty drunk writer that enjoyed fishing. He appeared in a sketch I wrote called “The Old Man And The Seaport.” After the Incredible Hemingway and after college, I read and reread a lot of the real Ernest Hemingway’s work and came to appreciate it.

Trying to write in Hemingway’s style for the texts to my sister was basically a joke about manliness. But it got me thinking a lot about the man, himself, again. Specifically, one of the greatest things he was ever quoted as having said:

There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.

With those words echoing in my head, I knew it was time to get back here to my blog. There have been other times I thought were right to get back into writing my blog regularly. But those times, over the past nine months, only led to a ridiculous number of unfinished entries. I’ve had such trouble writing for what feels like forever. For a time, it sustained me, mentally and emotionally–and it came so easily. 2012 has been a year of false starts with titles like “2012: A Fresh Start,” “One Year On: One Year Off Chemo,” and “P/SL Nurses Tried To Kill Me.” They’re all very important to me, and they contain information I’d really like to share here. There have been a lot of really great things, important developments, and difficult challenges that have been a part of my life, but are missing from here.

Writing about everything that was going on got me through chemo. But I think I had to live for a while without critically evaluating the major (and minor) events in my life. I think there was just a big period of time that was wrong for writing. That time is coming to an end. Sure, I hope I’m able to use writing to once again get me through challenges and woes. But, the truth is, I love writing and I’ve really missed it.

We’ll see how my ear does. In the meantime, thank you, Mr. Hemingway; I think the time for blasting has finally come to an end.