My day begins again, darn it!

I went to bed last night with bees in my ears. My tinnitus is acting up something fierce, which usually happens when I’m feeling stress, and I regard as a kind of built-in siren telling me things are getting bad and maybe I should slack off a little bit. It’s also a bad sign when you go to sleep half-hoping you don’t wake up again. But I did, and here I am, and there’s all the work I have to do. I would actually have preferred if all of that had died, rather than myself, but we both survived, me and my nemesis.

Anyway, what’s up is that I typically teach what is called a 3-2 load, where one semester is a little heavier than the other. I guess I should say 2-3 in my case, because this spring is my killer, with an extra course to be taught. Further complications: stupid goddamn pandemic. I’m teaching everything online, which involves rethinking everything as I go, basically throwing out 20 years of material or re-writing it. Second complication: we were hit with pandemic rules in the middle of spring term last year, making a hash of this course then, and I’ve been wrestling with how to do it right this time around. So I’m second guessing everything I guessed at last time, and hoping it works better. Third complication: last spring, we just threw up our hands and gave up on the lab, sent all the students home with some sample data, and had them work through the theory. This year, while absolutely nothing has changed vis-à-vis COVID-19 (we’re worse off, if anything), we’ve gone ahead and implemented the lab, with the difference being that each section has been split into three sections to allow social distancing for the students, while greatly expanding my lab load.

I’m feeling it. Boy am I feeling it. We’re only about a quarter of the way through the semester, but I think I aged a decade this past year, so I’m not quite the agile, youthful, enthusiastic teacher I was in 2019.

I think, though, I can get a break by turning play time into a scheduled obligation. That’s my plan for today, anyway. Work all morning on grading, then take an hour or so off at noon to play a video game, then back to the salt mines to finish grading and write a shiny new lecture for class tomorrow. Yeah, that’s all.

At noon today I’ll live-stream a little more No Man’s Sky. I’ve taken advantage of a little loophole in the game’s mechanics (actually, the fabric of the universe in the game is totally broken, and the conservation of mass and energy no longer applies) to make myself a multi-millionaire with no effort at all — it’s not cheating if violations of the laws of thermodynamics are explicitly written into the game rules — and have decided to lounge about in a busy spaceport, watch the pretty starships fly in, waiting for that perfect space truck or space yacht to land, and then muscle in and wave mega-millions under the pilot’s nose and buy it. Standing around doing next to nothing for an hour? I’ll host a little Q&A and talk nerdy while I’m doing it, and y’all can weigh in on which starships you like best. It’ll be relaxing. I need relaxing for a bit.

The plan is to buy a big space truck to hold all my stuff, and maybe a vicious sleek little fighter. Later, like the typical space billionaire I’ve become, I’ll turn to piracy. That’s what all rich people do, right?

Now — back to work. I can get a few dozen exams graded before noon, right?


  1. christoph says

    Tinnitus can be horrible-I have a friend who has it, and she’s made similar remarks about not wanting to wake up. She’s on meds that help, but not enough. I think she mentioned Klonopin as one of the meds. I’m sorry you’re afflicted with this, it’s one more burden you don’t need.

  2. says

    PZ, PZ, PZ. You cannot keep going under this stress load. It’s great you’ve scheduled a little self-care/”me time” into your day, but unless it involves rigorous exercise those stress-response hormones you’re spouting like a fountain will indeed age you–and then some. It’s already affecting your mental health, and almost certainly your physical health. In my book, this is called an EMERGENCY, as in extremely urgent. There has to be some way to take some of the stress load off your shoulders. I don’t know what resources you can tap, but it’s well past time for you to tap them. E.g., can you deputize some students/TAs to help with grading, or with anything else on your plate?

    And not to add to your load… but…everything else can fucking burn, just DO NOT forget to wish Mary a happy Valentine’s day. Priorities.

  3. robro says

    Living with tinnitus is a testament to the will to live, or at least the will to sanity. I almost lost it about 5 years ago after I started having it, but I told myself I had to live with it and that I could live with it. Luckily and surprisingly that stuck. As an amateur musician it seemed scary and depressing, but then I heard several prominent musicians suffer with it and keep going. So I’m pressing on.

  4. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin has a patented cure for tinnitus! Well, she says she will as soon as she thinks up one… some time travel may be necessary to make it available. Her current reasoning is an ecologically sustainable relocation of the beehives in ears to some other suitable location. The problem at the moment is what “other suitable location”, since earbees would probably be an invasive species, probably without predators. Best idea so far might be other ears, specifically those of the already-invasive predator qAnon, who are unlikely to notice yet another voice screaming in their head. Earbees might even drown out the headvoices bellowing Covid-19 are pedophile 5G microchipped-lizards ruling the world, proven by Benghazi’s e-mail!

  5. says

    Tinnitus is a plague. When mine acts up it’s a high-pitched whine, which would be debilitating if it were loud. Fortunately, it’s not. But years ago I adopted the practice of playing music at night to drown out the whine. Since the tinnitus is minor (so far), quiet Dvorak chamber music suffices to overcome it and lull me to sleep. I guess it’s my legacy from unprotected ears around farm equipment and noisy carpentry without earplugs. (Of was it Wagner’s Ring in San Francisco?)

    One of the advantages of being a math teacher is no labs. My colleagues in the sciences put in so many tedious hours in their labs that breaking them up into multiple sessions is clearly a major case of faculty abuse. But for now, we remain nearly 100% online. My college is currently making plans to relaunch lab classes in the fall and devising protocols to reopen as much of the campus as possible. Smaller lab classes and multiple sessions appear to be a part of the mix. Oy!

  6. williamhyde says

    Tinnitus has been with me sixty years now (present at the moment) but never remotely that bad. Here’s hoping it quietens for you (and never gets that bad for me!).

    I’ve discovered an old computer game, “Alien Crossfire” which is one of Sid Meiers “civilization” type games.

    At the moment I am playing Joe Hill, leader of the union forces (union as in unions) happily bashing the Spartan militarists and the Morganite capitalists. It’s therapy.

  7. blf says

    Despite sticking my head into speaker stacks at live concerts and yelling moar ear damage! when younger (and even, pre-pandemic, now-ish) I don’t suffer from tinnitus on a frequent basis.

    No, I never so-yelled, but wasn’t adverse to being next to the speakers, with one exception: Concerts (usually reggae or similar sound systems) with a bass so loud your body was literally vibrating, being pummeled by the sound. That was when I retreated back to a (safer) distance; too close was both uncomfortable and (being aware of at least some of the dangers) alarming (despite all the beer (typically Dragon Stout at such concerts)).

    Of course, the mildly deranged penguin is now in the vicinity, and she likes LOUD sounds. That previous loud band / sound system “training” is perhaps useful, albeit there is a considerable difference between a mere “loud” which causes one to retreat to a somewhat safer spot, and LOUD which is perhaps best handled by retreating to a somewhat safer planet / galaxy / Universe. In such a locale, compared to the mildly deranged penguin’s LOUD, Disaster Area is a sedate acoustic string quartet playing lullabies.

  8. bad Jim says

    I spent so many years listening to music on tape (open reel and cassette), tolerating the attendant hiss, that at first I didn’t realize that I had tinnitus. One evening, though, I was playing an LP and still heard a hiss. I double-checked all the wiring to no avail. Finally I went into the quietest room in my house and had to admit that the noise was coming from inside my head.

    It’s probably just the result of typical age-related high-frequency hearing loss, my brain compensating for the lack of input. It doesn’t really impair my quality of life or appreciation of music. It gets louder in noisy environments, most ironically in the lobby of the intimate hall where I have season tickets to a chamber music series.

    A few years ago I installed a couple of inexpensive rotary dimmer switches which are allegedly compatible with LED’s. Somehow I was able to detect their whine (which must be way below 15 kHz), and the other day I decided I couldn’t stand them any more and swapped them out. For good measure I took the battery out of the wall clock; 1 Hz can be annoying as well. Silence may be out of reach, but aggravations don’t have to be tolerated.

  9. fergl says

    Your stress seems to be building PZ. Dont have any advice just take care. I have tinnitus too, seems common on this blog. Is it the cause?? Mine could be due to IV Tobramycin over the years.

  10. captainjack says

    Tinnitus started for me about 60 years in high school. Both ears, every waking moment. It doesn’t seem louder when I’m stressed, but it is more irritating. I feel you about not wanting to wake up with it sometimes. It can help if I think about it as just noisy neurons.