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[cancer] The IQ tests - Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2008-07-07 11:47
Subject: [cancer] The IQ tests
Security: Public
Tags:cancer, personal

Just as a brief followup to last week’s post on the emotional costs of cancer [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ], I had a couple of cognitive reminders today.

On boarding the plane, I tugged out the inflight magazine. Normally I can kick airline sudoku puzzles sidewise in a couple of minutes. I’m not a speed champ, but those things are very accessible to me. I haven’t touched one since the surgery, not even at home.

Nothing. Nada. Zip. I blew the “Easy” puzzle pretty quickly, to the degree I couldn’t untangle it. (I have long worked them in pen, without any of the little “hint notes” you’re supposed to use … pre-op, I could keep all the logic and conditionals going in my head without difficulty and only mark the definitive answers.) It felt like something I knew I was supposed to be able to do — I explained the rules to my seatmate, in fact. But actually doing it? No dice.

So I flipped to the crossword, and managed to rail through that like butter on a stove top. That part of my brain is working well. Which helped keep me from getting depressed about the sudoku, thankfully. And given what I do for a living, it’s just as well the lexical processors are firing on all tubes.

Then I read an actual book; Pavane by Keith Roberts. Or most of it, at any rate. This is the first new piece of long form print I’ve tackled since before the surgery. (I’ve been working on The Alchemy of Stone, but I was already into it before I got sick.) And that part of my brain is working as well, thank Ghu.

So the puzzle pieces continue to return to the table. But it’s still very weird, and discouraging, to simply not be able to do something at which I ordinarily consider myself adept.

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

Post A Comment | 16 Comments | | Link






Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-07-07 18:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's a quick logic puzzle, sort of a print version of Rubik's cube. I think you do logic puzzles for a living, more or less, so there might not be much of a point in doing it recreationally.

Just a guess...
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Jodi Davis: brickwall
User: jodi_davis
Date: 2008-07-07 19:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:brickwall
I broke my ankle last Halloween and I'm feeling all the things you're feeling. There was surgery and drugs. I didn't have to fear death and it's not cancer, but I'm still not 100% and I'm as frustrated as hell about it. I do get to blame myself for being so clumsy however. So that's an extra added bonus.
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Ruthanne Reid
User: ruthannereid
Date: 2008-07-07 19:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Eeeg... yes, I definitely know this feeling. It's especially hard when you know the diet restrictions aren't helping. How are your protein levels, in spite of all this?

It'll come back. It really will. Sudoku shall once again be pwned by you.
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Mindy Klasky
User: mindyklasky
Date: 2008-07-07 20:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
A data point and sympathy:

My father, a complete-in-ink crossword puzzler for all of *my* life, had open heart surgery several years ago. Due to a slow recuperation (underlying diabetes), he was in the hospital for nearly two weeks. At the end of that time, he was going *nuts* for something to do, so I brought down Scrabble.

We sat down to play and he was - literally - unable to build words of more than three letters. (And it took him up to five minutes to find those.)

I was horrified. I didn't know whether to run and find his docs, whether to let him win, whether to play as I normally would.... I finally settled on playing my tiles as quickly as I could after he played his. I beat him by more than 200 points.

At the end of the game, he said, "Well, thank God. I know I'm not dying. If I were dying, you would have let me win."

It took several months, but his capacity has returned completely. Docs said that it was a typical reaction to anesthesia, and that the delayed return of ability was totally, completely normal. (Never talked about, but normal.)

Hang in there, and keep writing to us. And realize that all the parts of your brain will come back online, gradually.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-07-07 20:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Pavane is awesome. I don't know why it's not far better known.

And the funny thing about sudoku is that it's not numbers, it's positional logic. The numbers are just markers, basically. To me it feels a lot more like those old GRE questions about "Mr. Brown lives next to the man who drives a blue Chevy, so what color is Mrs. White's house?"

But it's definitely a weird skill.
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fjm
User: fjm
Date: 2008-07-07 20:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The year I was sick, I lost the ability to follow a plot. By the time they diagnosed me, I could only read Harlequin romances. I had not realised before how much of our reading is conditioned by a whole raft of skilled expectations.


Convalescence is something to value: take it easy, take it slowly, and be kind.
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coreolis
User: curiositist
Date: 2008-07-07 20:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I am, at this point, up into double digits of full anesthesia surgery. All I can tell you is that you're describing my own experience very well. Bad news is, when you find of the hazy points of thinking it's sometimes enough to make you want to throw something. Good news is, you can resharpen the bits of your brain that have decided to take a vacation.

Edited at 2008-07-07 08:55 pm (UTC)
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farmgirl1146
User: farmgirl1146
Date: 2008-07-07 20:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You system is still recovering from cancer, drugs, and surgery. Your body has to relearn how to get nutrients without a colon. Healing is a lot of work, and not nearly as fun as sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll.
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kameron_hurley
User: kameron_hurley
Date: 2008-07-07 23:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I had a lot of memory and other cognitive problems after I got out of the hospital a couple years ago. I always put it down to that whole "sugar the consistency of soup" and coma thing, but sometimes I do wonder how much of it was also just the result of trauma. Too much stimulation and mental and physical stress too quickly.

My deepest fear was always that I wasn't going to be able to fully recovery, cognitively, after going into a sugar coma. It's another reason that finishing this next book will be a boon. It'll be the first one I've finished post-diagnosis.

Things did come back for me, eventually, but again: I do think that a good deal of it was just due to stressed-out shutdown of parts of the brain in response to stress, in addition to the whole high sugar content. heh. Hard restart, reboot.
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kameron_hurley
User: kameron_hurley
Date: 2008-07-07 23:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Addendum: Ok, it'll be the first book I've completed *start to finish* since diagnosis. I did actually finish God's War that summer, I believe, but it was already 3/4 done by the time I hit the hospital.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-07-08 02:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yeah. We'll all make it, but, man. And I don't even have to cope with the implications of a coma, just anesthesia...
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russ: lyles constant
User: goulo
Date: 2008-07-08 06:48 (UTC)
Subject: Sudoku
Keyword:lyles constant
Given that the other parts of your brain seem to be working, an alternate explanation is that you're simply out of practice on Sudoku. I know that my own Sudoku skills fluctuate wildly, especially when I'm rusty.

By the way, I met Denis Berthier, author of a hard-core mathematical and AI analysis of Sudoku titled "The Hidden Logic of Sudoku", in India on our recent trip!
http://www-lor.int-evry.fr/~berthier/HLS/index.html
A friendly smart guy who mathematically analyzed Sudoku and worked on various algorithms for solving them as a "little" project for an AI class, and it ended up being a 400 page book. :) I was surprised that he said the best known algorithms can solve most Sudoku problems in only a few seconds, except that one can construct some problems which take orders of magnitude longer for the computer to solve.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-07-08 10:39 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Sudoku
Fascinating. I don't think of it as math (by which I suppose I mean arithmetic) but as logic. The numbers are just game markers, they don't actually undergo operation.
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russ: lyles constant
User: goulo
Date: 2008-07-08 11:55 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Sudoku
Keyword:lyles constant
Yes, of course it has nothing to do with math-as-arithmetic, but as math-as-logic and higher-level structures, groups, symmetry, and whatnot.

BTW we recently got really into Killer Sudoku
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_sudoku
...don't know if you're familiar with them, but they're quite fun if you're feeling burned out on Sudoku.

And we just bought a book with various puzzles, including Nonograms, which are fun:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonogram
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Jeff Ford
User: jeffford
Date: 2008-07-08 14:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm just amazed you got an in-flight magazine where they weren't already filled in. Not that I'm bitter about yesterday's flight...
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