Thoughts of the Almost-Healthy

By Bay Posted Friday Feb 23, 2024

Filed under: Epilogue 10 comments

I am back from the hospital after spending the better half of a week being poked and prodded. They listened to my lungs a lot, and asked if I was a smoker every ten seconds. I am not a smoker, and have never been a smoker, so I’m a little offended I seem to have the effects of smoking without the edgy vice out of it. If I’d known this was going to happen I obviously would have been sucking cancer sticks down like boba just for the hell of it, but noooo, I had to go the old fashioned genetic way. What was it that landed me in the hospital?

Covid? Flu? Some new allergy? Nope.

A cold. I got the old fashioned cold and now I’m glued to a nebulizer like regular air has gone out of style. I didn’t realize I needed to go get me an old Victorian nightgown and candle to go with my historical ailments. Please sir, may I have some porridge, the poorhouses frown upon my cough, sir, but I do my best, sir.

Whatever, at least maybe people will understand better when I explain the risks of my being immunocompromised. Covid made the phrase a bit of a hot-button topic, but politics or not, I am sick, I am always sick, I will always be sick, and no one’s attempts to warn me of the dangers of too much hand washing or wearing masks is going to change it.

I have three thoughts to give you this week, before I must away to the orphanage for my daily water and stale bread.


If you replace with in any video URL it will give you a version of the video flipped left to right. I am left handed, and just discovered this as a way to learn crochet from right-handed videos. It’s a niche need but it’s hugely helpful and obvious in retrospect.


Experts don’t agree with each other either. Another obvious one, but seeing it in action last week was truly something. A nurse would come into my room and comment that my IV was placed inconveniently and would give them trouble. Another nurse would come in at shift change and comment how glad she was it was so conveniently placed. A third would come in and wonder why they didn’t do my other arm all together. At first I chalked it up to different levels of knowledge and years working, but upon correcting one with the information I had gathered from a peer-reviewed and reputable journal I read trying to research the issue overnight, I unleashed fury. Don’t correct nurses. Every single one of them has been doing this for __ years and knows better than all the others. (Also, in general, don’t do what I did, that was douchey.)

This isn’t to say I think we should dismiss expert information, in fact, not at all. I think likely each of them were right about my IV in their own way. Some cared about how often the machine complained. Some cared about my comfort. Some cared about ease of access for a resting patient. What I saw wasn’t a bunch of idiots disagreeing with each other. It was different perspectives at odds. It’s good to remember that.


Foley artists for video games need to sit down and record some ultrasounds. My ultasound tech and I discussed at length what video game my blood sounded like. We landed on a half-life game where the player is transitioning to swimming being the best match. But there’s a lot of material there. Swooosh blorp blorp, swoosh blorp blorp.


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10 thoughts on “Thoughts of the Almost-Healthy

  1. Zaxares says:

    Glad you’re back home from the hospital, Bay. :) Rest well, and hopefully you’ll be able to breathe normally without needing the nebulizer soon!

  2. Fizban says:

    I am sick, I am always sick, I will always be sick,

    I’d wondered how immunocompromised people managed to avoid being sick all the time- I suppose the answer should have been obvious.

    May you be more tolerably less sick soon!

  3. Daniel says:

    What I saw wasn’t a bunch of idiots disagreeing with each other. It was different perspectives at odds.

    I’d argue that they’re kinda idiots, since they may know a way of doing what they’re doing, but not realizing/accepting that there are different perspectives at play. Come to think of it, a fair bit of disagreements boil down to just that.

    By the way, get well (better? less worse?) soon! :-D

  4. PPX14 says:

    Nice tip with the crocheting! Left-hander helpline.

    I suppose those nurses themselves count as peers who might review such a journal paper… and have rejected it! :D I do often hear people (usually nerdy people with a general interest in things) mentioning the term “peer review” or peer review journals, as if it marks a guarantee of quality and rigour. (Instead of just saying scientific journal, I suppose.) There was a guy on the train arguing with an older man about (the existence of human-caused) global warming and ended up in a rant about the best sources of information being peer reviewed journals (as opposed to the internet at large). When I hear the phrase I think “academic review with heavy reliance on a very small number of people who likely have a vested interest in supporting their own related work”. You should have seen the peer review comments on my friend’s paper – mainly “why haven’t you mentioned my book”. I feel that in industry, when doing anything important, peer-review doesn’t quite cut it! But then in industry calculations come with an Author, Checker, and Approver – and don’t get me started on how many mistakes can slip through the cracks there!

    I was thinking about that “experts don’t agree with each other” a couple of years ago listening to the Munk Debates. Even in the more scientific ones, in many cases they couldn’t even agree on the basic facts! What hope is there for the rest of us…

    That’s my fear in hospitals, people being incorrect. Good on you for at least posing another point of view based on research, at least it gives them another option to consider – better to mention something and regret it, than not mention something and regret it more. Maybe when the fury calms down it will have done some good! :)

    1. kincajou says:

      Peer review is quite an idea that is probably more complex than can be discussed in a single internet comment but as someone working in a scientific field i’d like to throw some counterpoints to what you said.

      however, before i get to that let me push Naomi Oreskes’ excellent “Why trust science?” that makes a fundamental case for peer review from a philosophical perspective and explains the matter much better than i can.

      Now, first things first…. you last points aren’t wrong. The peer review system doesn’t always work and it can be broken in spectacularly ridiculous ways. But even beyond that it’s a system that favours homogenisation of consensus, in the sense that radical new ideas wether correct or not, will pass peer review with significantly more difficulty than an idea that “toes the line” will. This is both a hindrance and a strength of the system (slows down evolution of ideas but also protects against really crazy stuff).

      So it’s not great… why do we trust it then?
      At a fundamental level its because the system “works”. The idea of peer review is that before information is transmitted it goes through the hands of experts who have a chance to have their say on the matter and help assess wether its bollocks or not.
      Now does this mean that the experts will be experts on a particular publication’s subject? That they will be unbiased? That they act in good faith? Not necessarily, it’s an honour system like oh so many out there.
      The experts will act just like all normal humans, the added bonus is that they have proven track records in a field of study (so in theory years of work and analysis on the matter) which they can use to influence and justify their opinions on the matter.

      Peer review does not guarantee you are protected from bad faith actors, but it does aim to ensure that the good faith actors (more than you wold thing, lets remember the bonkers thing here is that everyone apart from the editors are doing this for free!) will have a large corpus of personal experience from which to pool their ides. More so than the average human being.

      And that is why peer review is often considered above non-peer reviewed material, because in theory it should have gone through the hands of people who know what they are talking about and because those people (acting in good faith) would have validated,suggested improvements, or shot down the corpus studied.

      It’s not perfect but the fact that before it reaches your eyes it’s been through the eyes of someone who touches that field for a living, should ensure that the publication is more trustworthy than a random blog post on the internet (like, say my one right here! ). Not necessarily true, just more trustworthy….and in the end that’s the best you can get. There will be very few absolute truths out there but a whole range of things that are more or less likely to be true and peer review is a tool to help you make that distinction (for all its warts).

      If you have alternative tools that you prefer or that you find work better, by all means…this is just the one that the scientific community has settled with until the next paradigm shift.

      Trust the experts not necessarily because they are right but because they are more likely to be right than neighbor bob, and then scrutinise and question the experts…ask them the questions, dig into their answers until you are happy (but in good faith please, we all are humans…we love to discuss, we hate to argue pointlessly)

      1. PPX14 says:

        I know :) I’m not suggesting otherwise – having every academic paper be scrutinised to a far greater degree than the current system surely isn’t practical! It’s the best and most practical system found thus far for academia and the mass-recording of scientific efforts – review by the most relevant experts (perhaps AI-driven review comes next??) I wasn’t having a go at the overarching system on a large scale; I was just commenting on the way in which the term “peer-review” is used by some people (I’m not saying this is what Bay was doing, btw, it just made me think of it), on a case-by-case basis, to support the validity and relative unimpeachability of individual academic/research papers – where it sounds to me that they assert a level of assurance that is beyond the capability of the peer review system, in many cases. For example the person on the train getting into a tizz about it and using the term like a jingoistic slogan. (And I’m not talking about hypothetical scenarios at the cutting theoretical edge of fields such as e.g. Einstein and Heisenberg reviewing Dirac’s work, where few other people in the world would be useful :D ) And also of laymen using the term almost tautologically – of course a paper in any decent scientific journal would inherently be peer-reviewed, it seems an odd term (to me) to mention specifically. I guess “peer-review journal” is just a synonym that people use for “scientific journal” or “academic journal”.

        Hehe you know you’re risking doing that cliché thing of speaking as a scientist, on behalf of all scientists, and the scientific process, almost like a preacher to the uneducated masses :P Don’t worry I’m not one of the unconverted, but perhaps I too am doing another cliché engineer thing of complaining about academia (or at least those who gush over it) !! :D I’ll do the same in return, I’m sure you already know this, but: it often feels like academics speak as if they are the only scientists and logicians out there (and the public believes them!), forgetting that there are probably a tad more of us out in industry, and there are other ways in which scientific validity is reached than the publishing of papers in journals. A white paper can be just as good as a journal paper… better if it’s something you don’t want anyone else to get their hands on haha. Spend too long in a university and you can forget that there are other people out there doing science for a living – I know I did, it was eye-opening when I left!

        My reference to other methods (again you probably know all this already) was more along the lines of that when something really matters, like the safety of a facility, then good practice mandates that more than just peer-review is needed – like multi-stage multidisciplinary reviews – to support the validity of a concept or design. Of course they’re not all that infallible either… :O

        There, a bit of soapbox tennis haha!

        1. Kincajou says:

          Oh my!
          I’m sorry I didn’t mean at all to come across as a pretentious scientist (which, rereading my post is certainly true at some points) or to dismiss any of the points you made.

          In truth I think that a lot of the points you made are very valid and true. I also think that you are right that one must be careful not to start believing that only the people who have travelled certain paths are the ones with valid opinions on matters… Sure such paths, like an academic career, are a gauge of increased likelihood of trustworthiness but the do not guarantee it and furthermore they should not act as gatekeeping criteria.
          Conversely of course it doesn’t mean that everyone’s opinions are equally valid irrespective of their life’s knowledge and experiences (whilst everyone can agree that Stephen hawking was a genius in terms of astrophysics I was eminently frustrated every time they assumed he was an expert in all sorts of other fields from AI to ecology).

          All in all it seems to me that we have similar opinions on the matter and that wanting to make a counterpoint I came across as a bit more “defensive” than I meant to. I guess that it’s one of those trigger subjects (arising from oh so many discussions about anthropogenic climate change, the production and distribution of energy, the use of uncertainties and what they mean…). So yeah, my apologies.

          You make an interesting point with regard to AI peer review but I need to think more about it before I can have a coherent answer. My gut instinct is “possibly one day in the future but the technology is not at all mature enough yet, and I am not convinced it may ever be for this application”.
          I stand currently in the segment of people thinking that currently AI will not be as revolutionary or disruptive as is being sold. There are some amazing things it can do but a lot of it…. Is unconvincing in terms of usefulness.

          To be continued I guess…
          It’s lovely to have such thought provoking discussions

          1. PPX14 says:

            Sorry, I went on a bit of a monologue too! Gosh yes I can only imagine re: the trigger subjects you mention. I reside in the relative bubble of nice places like this forum – where we can have these sorts of pleasant conversations in good faith with friendly people like yourself -and a workplace where I talk to engineers, scientists and project managers for the most part. So I tend to forget why people might need to be a little more “defensive” of good things, or seek to explain simple concepts.

            That reminds me of a fascinating video I watched of someone imploring the scientific community to embrace flat earth theorists (the people, not their theories or the issues with their approach), because they are scientists waiting to be nurtured/accepted.

            That Hawking thing certainly rings true! Being articulate and upper-middle-class on British TV seems to have a similar effect. I think half of the UK assumes that Stephen Fry knows everything about everything.

            It really is lovely having these chats :)

  5. PPX14 says:

    Being immunocompromised sounds terrible :( Hope you feel somewhat better soon. It made me think of a term – instead of healthy, to describe your situation. You’re Nealthy. Maybe when you’re at the best you can be, you’ll be In Good Nealth.

  6. Alberek says:

    I get why people HATE going to a hospital/clinic, not just the monetary cost, it’s having to deal with a doctor.
    You never know when you are going to land on a good doctor that actually cares about what’s happening to you.
    I get why they would ask if you were a smoker every time, it’s probably extremely common for a smoker to have X or Y sympton… truth is there a lot of diseases with similar symptons.

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