Fighting Demons, and Other Chores..

Today I've locked myself into my office and I'm not coming out until a key part of my research is done.

A friend two months ago, went through a windshield. It was late at night - and they were driving home down a lonely road in the midwest. She was talking on the cellphone to another one of my friends, when suddenly the line picked up a crash and then the phone made a sound like it shattered and the signal went dead. She had just told her where she was - and so my other friend - my son's best friend's mom - called 911. They went out to the crash site and found her shot through the windshield twenty feet clear of the vehicle. It had careened off the road, and went onto its side.

Her hip is shattered, her face is smashed - her leg had to be reconstructed with pins. Her body was nearly destroyed. But the worst part of her injury was that she hit the windshield so hard that she suffered a cerberal hemorrhage - there was no place for the swelling to go, so it pressed against her brain. The brain swelled against the skull. There was nowhere else for it to go.

She's ok, most of the time. But sometimes she mislabels things. For example, she might call the other friend I referred to - who saved her life - by a completely different name. Two out of every ten times she says something, it doesn't make sense. It's a non sequitur.

I suddenly realized, she probably makes more sense than me. But her speech is slurred and there are words that just don't connect, or label properly. And like others I have seen - her mind is starting to work upon itself. She's starting to come apart. This is not a good thing, it indicates there is a runaway process. Most people - if they're going to recover - make alot of positive strides by the six month mark.

What is a daemon? The ancient idea is a being that comes from the depths of hell, to our planet - reducing us to our base instincts. A bad guy. But in software, we have a different view of daemon. This term refers to a background process that does some kind of housekeeping chore - like checking mail. The HTTP Daemon that served you this web page is constantly listening on your computer's Transmission Control Protocol port 80, for a simple request that tells it to get this page and it will be delivered to you.

Her inability to speak properly can be corrected - speaking rate and emphatic stress paint a multidimensional picture of the person - she knows she isn't herself. But she knows that somewhere inside, she's still the same person. My friend's typical and over the top response to her going through the windshield is to try to get the best doctors, move her down to Atlanta. But maybe the best thing she can do is listen. Laugh. Her mind is trying to handle some pretty simple action items - What is your name? where am I? - and also some pretty difficult ones - Am I broken? What part of me does not work right?

She doesn't know which part of her, is her self. It's not in her arm, or leg - but if she loses her leg. There will be a phantom limb there. She will feel it there, even when it is long gone. Many amputees describe this feeling of having a ghost limb. And so, now she's dealing with big questions as well. Her mind is curious about what part of her mind - is her self. And so she has radically increased her processing load, and traffic congestion is possible. When a webserver is forced to deal with many requests - one response is to spawn an ever larger number of daemons who are capable of listening all at the same time.

She is listening, and learning. She is learning that she is no longer a whole person. And she is listening to the coldness and finality hidden in the Machiavellian tone of the human species - perhaps not her husband, or her children, or even her girlfriend - but it is there. It is part of our survival instinct. It says, quietly - this one will die. There is no hope for her.

It's not a bad thing to be a Christian. It's just a label, it doesn't indicate you're part of a group of people. It's sort of like being a buddhist - you have to follow christ in your own way. He died for our sins. We knew he would die, there on the cross. We watched him die.

His last words were of wonder and disbelief.

She lays in bed , healing. There is so much stainless steel in her - that they cannot do the magnetic resonance imaging that is necessary to diagnose where in her brain she bled. But they did a CAT scan. And I'm at work, on something that might help her too. However much I can. There is good karma in good work. So I will do my best. That's all I can offer.


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