Friday, June 17, 2016

Acceptance

Since Dayna passed away I've felt strange in that I haven't felt guilty. I took responsibility for her care and have maintained that for years so ostensibly I bear some responsibility for her passing. I've worried that my lack of guilt indicated that there was something wrong with me.

I've begun to accept that I did everything I could. Everything I could was limited by my capacity. I was also in a very difficult situation and my failures and missed opportunities were expressions of that. She was the only one who could save her but she was stuck, trapped by her illness and the habits it had instilled in her.

I made mistakes but I never intentionally acted against her. Were there a solution available to me I would have acted on it. No one can know if there was a solution available to her. That weight was only hers to carry and she couldn't bear it. Many of us reached out to her because we felt responsible for helping her but we could to nothing to fix her. Sometimes that's just how things work out.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Dayna Gordetsky

On Friday the 1st of April I learned that Dayna had passed away, having taken her own life. She had suffered a great deal both physically and emotionally. I don't think any of us will ever really understand what she was going through but we're coming together as a family to work on accepting it. If you're in the San Diego area and would like to attend the funeral, contact me privately for information.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

How I Became a Monster, Part I

I don't really know how it happened and that's part of the problem. It's been like boiling a frog; the changes have been so slow it was hard to see the change happening. I'm writing this via stream-of-consciousness so it's not going to flow well.

Dayna and I have been friends since 2000, and partners since 2002. I'll skip the love story and get to the plot. I've been abusive, neglectful, unsupportive, unsympathetic, and deceptive to her.

I'm compelled to clarify abusive: I've never been directly physically abusive toward her. I've never struck her or anything like that. It would have easily been the last thing I ever did, plus it's just not my way. My sister and I were disciplined with spanking as children up until the point where my father left a bruise on my sister. He never spanked us again and after that he was able to bluff his way through spanking situations. That's how I remember it, anyway. I've never felt physically abused and actually respect my parents' approach to spanking.

I've been an angry, anxious, depressed person for a long time. I took a lot of that out on Dayna. The rest I habitually keep inside until it boils over to take out on Dayna. It's taken me years to recognize the smallest part of this and I know I still don't see all of it. It's hard to know where to start as this has been ongoing for over a decade as part of everyday life.

The first thing to know is that I have a grossly overdeveloped sense of responsibility. I cannot overstate this enough. If I can take care of something I will probably take responsibility for it. I can't possibly do everything so I fail to deliver on most things. Luckily for me this failure is silent. Few if any people know I've taken responsibility for this or that so I can feel inwardly guilty and unconfident but look capable and hard-working and dependable on the outside. I exist in a continuous state of being overwhelmed by my (notional) responsibilities and undermined by my (notional) failures. Saying out it out loud hasn't done much to reign this in.

When Dayna and I really started getting to know each other she told me about a number of mental disorders she suffered from. Growing up I saw my mother as constantly under great stress from her work and my father doing everything he could to make things easier for her. Being a kid I could have been way off but I internalized what I thought I saw. So I took responsibility for making her life better. Had this been something I said out loud I'm sure Dayna would have said this was ludicrous. One person can't fix another, they can just be accepting and supportive. I was pretty accepting and supportive in the beginning but eventually this was overridden by my own shortcomings and misguided ideas how on people help each other.

Things have gotten particularly bad between us over the last few months. Long-standing injuries to Dayna's spine have been getting worse, putting her consistently in a great deal of pain. The pain has made her irritable and my inability to really help her has been triggering my need to fix things. I haven't been fixing her so my mind has been bouncing between "I'm failing" and "There's nothing I can do". I've been physically supportive by way of getting her things, trying to make her comfortable, etc, but I've been almost completely emotionally detached and unwilling to accept that it's not for me to fix. This detachment made me completely emotionally unsupportive. My lack of sympathy and support causes her stress and anxiety which increases her pain and irritability which in turn causes me to be stressed, anxious, angry, and unsupportive. I've been there for her in ways that are completely superficial and rarely in ways that were genuinely meaningful.

To be continued...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Phone Interv(iew|ention)

I participate in the hiring process at work through phone and onsite interviews. The phone interviews are initial screenings for candidates intended to determine who we want to bring in for the onsite interview gauntlet. Our process has me doing Q&A with the candidate then I write up details of the interview and my recommendations. Then, one or more people higher up the chain make decisions about how to proceed.

For both types of interviews there's a fixed time slot. Sometimes during a phone interview I'm confident within the first 10-20 minutes that the candidate isn't qualified. Often in these situations I like the candidate and would happily hang out with them over drinks and geekery but I wouldn't want my project to depend on them.

I come to the conclusion that the candidate won't fit usually after I've given them a few extra meters of rope to climb up with and they just hang themselves more. If it seems unlikely that more rope is going to rescue them my standard bailout is "Those were all the questions I had for today. Do you have any questions for me?" It's polite but dodgy and it seems unlikely to me that the candidate doesn't realize that this is a signal that they've bombed.

On at least one occasion the "questions for me" portion developed into a friendly conversation about skill development and I was able to provide a book recommendation that flowed naturally with that conversation. What I'd really like to do is just cut the interview, be forthcoming, say "the higher-ups may disagree but I think you still need to develop for a position like this", and then provide guidance about what the candidate can learn and practice to up their game.

I see a few potential risks here. First, it's sufficiently out of normal (impersonal) interview protocol as to feel vaguely unprofessional. That said, is it really important to stay 100% professional (impersonal) when I can actually help someone? It's not just me though, I'm also representing my company.

Second, I'm essentially cutting out the higher ups here and decisions about a candidate's progress through the hiring pipeline are under their purview. But, they make those decisions based on my view of the candidate so if I'm confident the candidate isn't a good fit it would be exceedingly unlikely for them to disregard that.

Third, there's the risk that I might come across as providing a prescription for getting the job in the future. I can mitigate that to some extent by being as forthcoming about my intent as possible. Still, there will always be a candidate who gets the wrong idea despite my best efforts. If I've done my best I guess I can just let it be "their problem" but that feels kind of irresponsible.

The easiest thing to do is just get out of the call and forget about them and that's mostly what I've been doing so far. I was asked recently by a candidate if I share my knowledge publicly and it surprised me to say "no". I used to but I haven't been recently and I feel that's kind of a loss. I should be teaching more.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Le Diet

I've been dieting for a couple of months now. I'm down about 9.5 pounds which isn't huge, but it's progress and it's been with minimal suffering. Here's what I've been doing:
  • Drink lots of water. I don't enjoy drinking water but it's a lot more palatable when it's ice cold. I also like adding a bit of lemon juice. There are "flavor drops" you can buy for the same purpose.
  • I gave up soft drinks and artificial sweetener. There's no scientific reason for this. Logically speaking the artificial things aren't needed in our diet. They may or may not be harmless. More than anything I did it to see if I could do it. It took about two weeks for the cravings for soda to go away.
  • I do drink coffee. I'll have a large (16oz) with about a Tbsp of real sugar once or twice a day. This is my flavored drink. Tea would also be fine but I haven't felt like having tea. I don't consider this part of the diet per se, it's just here for completeness.
  • Protein smoothies - this is one of the main facets of my diet. They're high in protein, high in fiber, relatively low in calories, and really tasty and refreshing.
    • A smoothie blender. I have an Oster.
    • A cup or so of frozen fruit. I buy 1-3lb bags at the grocery story and they're usually in the frozen dessert section.
    • 8oz of cold water. This is called for by the protein powder.
    • About 1Tbsp of table sugar. You can use more, less, or artificial to taste.
    • One serving (two scoops) of EAS Lean 15 powder.
    • A generous splash of lemon juice. I love lemon juice.
    • Ice cubes until the fluid is almost at the top.
    • I screw on the bladed cap thingie and shake it until the ice moves around freely (so the blender doesn't jam) and there aren't powder clumps on the wall of the bottle.
    • Blend it until it looks like it's about an even consistency. The fluid should be spinning all the way to the top.
    • This makes a nice fruit lemonade.
    • Instead of lemonade, I also do frozen banana (peel, break in half, stick in sealable bag), cocoa powder, sugar, powder, water, PB2, and ice. Also very tasty.
    • I have 2-3 of these per day. 3 is almost 100% of your daily protein.
  • Chunky soups. Fairly low calorie, filling, vegetables, etc. I get tired of them sometimes but they have the benefit of being trivial to prepare. Any of these with chicken broth benefits from a squirt of sriracha if you're into that sort of thing.
  • Low-calorie frozen entrees. I get the "Eating Right" brand and stick to ones that are under 300 calories.
  • Occasionally, a sandwich. Whole wheat, medium cheddar, turkey breast, chipotle mayo, pickles, peppercinis. These pickles and peppercinis make it for me. This is probably the highest calorie thing I eat.
  • Fresh fruit. Apples and bananas mostly because they're really convenient. When my excess bananas start to turn brown I freeze them as above.
  • Chocolate Mint Builder's Bar. They have other flavors. These are relatively high calorie but sometimes you need a treat. They're tasty, have a satisfying texture, are silly high in protein, low glycemic index, etc. Pairs nicely with a fresh apple. No more than one per day.
  • Gummy multivitamins, just in case.
  • Fish oil pills because my cholesterol is a little high.

Goals

American portions are way too large. We get conditioned to eat an amount of food in one sitting that we can't effectively deal with. Our stomachs become accustomed to getting a lot of food and get pretty large. We get trained to where we don't feel full unless we're stuffed and have had too many calories. The overall goal is to maximize the feeling of fullness while minimizing calories.

One thing to work on is getting accustomed to being full on less food. This means eating smaller portions. This is tough while you're used to big portions. I think this is the part you just have to tough out. Any time I eat something that has about 300 calories in it, I wait 30 minutes before eating something else. I try to drink 8oz of water or so after I've eaten to increase the feeling of fullness. While I'm working on portion size it doesn't matter how much I eat overall. So if I'm eating every 30 minutes until I'm full, that's basically okay. The key is to get used to eating small amounts. Succeeding here is essential to getting away from poor styles of eating. It took a couple of weeks to adjust to the size of meal. During this phase I found it beneficial to prefer 300 calorie servings that were more food.

Be ready to fart. A lot. The normal American diet doesn't include nearly this much fiber. We can't digest fiber. The bacteria in our digestive tracts will happily digest the fiber and their waste product is gas. I fart a lot. The way I poop has also changed. Drinking lots of water helps some.

My weight fluctuates throughout the day and throughout the week. Suddenly weighing one or two more pounds will easily happen as I eat, drink, and eliminate. I can't really judge your progress day to day. Weekly or every two weeks is better; I need to pay attention to the trends and not the day to day weight.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

3D Print Host Log Book

What isn't always clear to the uninitiated is that 3D printing is a hobby of tinkering whether you want it to be or not. The output of a print will vary by:

  • Printer make/model
  • Revision of printer hardware
  • Revision of printer firmware
  • Host software
  • Slicing software
  • Temperature of heating element(s)
  • Speed the print is run at
  • Type of filament (PLA, ABS, nylon, etc)
  • Brand of filament
  • Batch of filament
  • Progress through a single spool of filament
  • Print surface (metal, wood, glass, tape)
  • Condition of print surface (cleanliness, presence/absence of adhesives)
  • Ambient temperature
  • Humidity
  • Nearby airflow
For better or worse there's also not a single set of conditions/settings that will make your prints successful. You may get very similar results to a given print by increasing print speed if you also increase temperature (or maybe the opposite).

Lately I've been working quite a bit at dialing in settings that work well for me. The MG Chemicals glow PLA I've been using for my train track project has been giving me no end of grief. In my setup it's all I can do to get it to adhere well enough to the print surface, let alone reduce corner warping enough to get usable output. Two different spools of Shaxon (natural, blue) work great, a spool of glow green I got from filamentsupply.com is also great. With the MG Chem I'll print a part and get good results, then print the same thing again and it will be a disaster. I've basically given up on it and switched to the filamentsupply glow green.

As an aside, my process now that's working pretty well is:
  1. Preheat the extruder to working temp +5C and let it sit so other surfaces can heat and expand.
  2. Adjust surface tape as needed. So far if I wipe with alcohol I get so much adhesion that it's difficult to sand the tape off the part.
  3. Set the slicer to run at 30% speed for the first layer.
  4. Set the slicer to produce a 3mm brim.
  5. Set the slicer to not engage the fan for the first 3 layers.
  6. Because I have my printer basically in a hallway, I make sure that there are no nearby doors open that will permit a draft.
  7. Take my heat gun and heat the surface until it registers around 110F with my IR temp gun.
  8. Start the print and watch it until the first two layers are complete. If I get there, it's like 95% success chance.
I've started keeping a log of my prep steps, settings, and materials and then recording notes on the results for the output. I expect this to be a handy troubleshooting tool.

Given that this is an inherently tinkering hobby, the host software should have this built in. When I go to do a print, it should record everything it knows. Printer settings (temp, etc), slicer settings, any calculated output the slicer provides (bounding volume, footprint, estimated volume of material, estimated print time), and actual print time. Having integrated cameras to take high-res photos every so often during the print would be amazing. It should of course provide an interface for notes so I can record anything the software doesn't, particularly observations of the output.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I Made It Out of Polylactic Acid Plastic


3D printed dreidel body and separate handle lying on newsprint. The handle is painted with white nail polish, the body is unpainted.
3D printed in PLA with handle painted.
That's how the song goes, right? Well, in spirit at least.

We're a multi-cultural household and I have a 3D printer I'll continually need to justify buying. So, I decided to print a dreidel and see how I could do finishing it.

I'm working with 1.75mm Shaxon PLA in "natural" tone which is vaguely clear-ish. I'm using a Printrbot Simple Metal at .2mm for all layers using Reptier-Host Mac and the newest stable Slic3r.

Right off the printer it was smooth and solid. The handle did not fit into the socket on the top of the body so I first tried sanding the star of the handle. This did not progress quickly so I stepped up to small hand files. This was faster, but still pretty tedious so I pulled out the dremel. This! Was! Fast! I still had to finish with the files as even at low speed the dremel melts the plastic as much as it sands it. Some quick filing and the burrs were off and it had a nice fit that was tight enough to stay together through friction. It spins well too!

A youtube video I saw suggested nail varnish (nail polish here in The States) for finishing prints. The idea is that it's viscous enough to fill in the ridges between layers. Also, it's intended to provide a durable finish. I thought it would be a good way to test out finishing without buying a lot of painting tools. As an aside, some of this was $2 for 0.5fl oz, some was $10.50 for 0.5fl oz. This should be considered an elicit substance!

Dreidel on newsprint, glyphs are painted with white overflowing the shape of the glyph.
Glyphs painted in white.
For bulk-coating it works pretty well. For getting into detailed spaces it's not so great, at least not with the included brush. I already planned to overflow the glyphs and sand off the overflow.

This did not work as expected. The paint really does seep into the ridges which meant sanding off all the overflow would require completely sanding down the surface of the body, at least around the glyphs. Oh well, it's white paint so adding color over it should be just fine.

Dreidel lying on newsprint, glyph painted with white paint. Some of the paint is sanded off but ridges on the surface filled with white paint are still visible.
Sanded the overflow, kind of.
It didn't quite. My blue paint was kind of a blue tint with fairly subtle sparkles. The white showed through easily but the sparkles were nice. This is where I see that this is intended to be going over nails and being translucent can make for a cool effect. In this case it is still kind of a cool effect because it smooths out the layering ridges while leaving them visible. This might be really neat for some projects.

Even though the handle stays in easily through friction alone, I figure at some point I'm going to drop it, it will bang on something, and the handle will go shooting off, only to be found next time I move to a new home.

dreidel is lying on newsprint with the tip pointing up and the handle separate. The surface is a shiny translucent blue.
First coat of blue.. with sparkles!
Ultimately I'm pretty pleased with the results. I'm kind of clumsy doing fine painting but I have virtual no practice and absolutely none recently.





Dreidel is sitting tip down in a soda bottle cap. It is a much deeper blue. The handle is lying beside it.
A couple of coats in, looking snazzy!
Finished dreidel sitting tip down in a soda bottle cap. It's a shiny deep blue with white glyphs. The handle is attached and a hot glue gun is visible beside it.
All done!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Golang, cgo, and XCode 5

TL;DR: Don't. Stick with XCode 4 for now.

I don't know much about developing on Mac. I may also be a moron. I'm a Linux guy and can at least make the claim that I'm a programmer. I'm definitely comfortable with command line tools and relatively uncomfortable with IDEs.

I've been working on a video game project on Mac in go, using go-gl. The go-gl suite is a set of thin wrappers around C opengl libraries. As such, it depends on local C compilers and the cgo compiler. My libraries are installed via MacPorts which required installing XCode and its command line tools. Those command line tools also provide tools and headers that will be used by cgo to compile go code and C code that are linked together.

When XCode 5 came out it showed up as a regular upgrade which I followed. I dutifully installed the new command line tools. I later found that I could no longer compile my game code. Any code that didn't require go-gl was working fine.

Eventually I found that the issue was that XCode 5 no longer includes GCC. I eventually figured out that if I install gcc47 from MacPorts, prefixed builds with CC="gcc-mp-4.7", built go from source, then prefixed all my go get and go run commands wit the above CC envvar I could get it to work. However, it would no longer produce static libraries for the opengl wrappers and my compiles that were previously instantaneous where now taking on the order of 10 seconds.

I upgraded to Mavericks today and my XCode along with it. It didn't help. Being frustrated I did more digging and found that if I went back to XCode 4 things should be fine again. I ripped out XCode 5, navigated the Apple Web Maze to find XCode 4, download it, grab the command line tools, etc. Seems to work now the way it used to.

Except, MacPorts is broken. Mavericks doesn't have /usr/bin/gnutar so I have to ininstall MacPorts. There's no binary package for Mavericks so I have to do a source install. That was at least painless. This gripe has nothing to do with go, of course.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Be Careful With Your Brain Drugs pt II

At a friend's suggestion I tried setting an alarm for a couple hours before I intend to get up and when it goes off I take my Cymbalta and go back to sleep. The idea is that after a couple hours of absorption the "upper" effect of the medication will be there and it will be easier to hop out of bed and be an obnoxious morning person.

Instead I had incredibly bizarre dreams. I normally have weird dreams but this was on another level. While they had what passes for dream continuity, I can only recall fragments and I won't try to reproduce them here.

The really strange thing was after I got up and into the shower. I found myself experiencing real paranoia. I wondered if someone had installed a camera in my bathroom. I wondered if someone else was in the room. I wondered if my girlfriend was going to ambush me when I reentered the bedroom.

For each of these thoughts it only took me a second to realize that it was unfounded, but when the thought occurred it felt plausible for an instant. Very strange.

I'm going to keep trying this for a couple days to see if it persists, settles down, or was just a fluke and additionally to see if it provides actual benefit. So far I don't feel particularly more alert but having taken the meds early they should diminish early and I will hopefully find it easier to get to sleep early.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Be Careful With Your Brain Drugs

I've always had trouble dragging myself out of bed. I've mentioned here that I have sleep problems and the early morning is the worst time for my motivation.

I take my Cymbalta once per it after I get up it. It's therefore at its lowest concentration in my system when I'm getting up. Since it has an "uplifting" effect I figured maybe it would make more sense to take it just before I go to bed so it will still have a fairly high concentration when I got up. The actual result was that it made me jittery at night and had trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep. I switched back to mornings pretty quickly.

I had run out yesterday but had a new prescription ready to be picked up. I grabbed it in the evening and took it as soon as I got home. It wasn't until about 7:00am that I realized why I couldn't sleep. My day was pretty much wasted for lack of ability to concentrate. I think I would have been better off not taking it yesterday.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sleep Study Redux

Got the results back from my sleep study and all I can say is that I'm pretty darn confused:

Clinical Background:
34 year-old patient is now referred for an unattended diagnostic
sleep recording.

PROCEDURE: 
An ambulatory PSG with a digital sleep system for recording
respiratory effort, oximetry, body position, airflow, pulse rate,
and limb movement channels.


SUMMARY: 
Total recording time was 253.1 minutes. The patient estimated a
total sleep time of 178.0 minutes. 


Respiratory Analysis demonstrated 5 obstructive apneas and 12
hypopneas, with an APNEA HYPOPNEA INDEX (AHI) of 5.7. The
patient spent 0.0% of total sleep time in the supine position,
with a supine AHI of 0.0, versus a non-supine AHI of 5.7, though
the body position cannot be verified. 

The lowest oxygen saturation was 89 %, and 0.0 % of the sleep
time was spent at saturations below 90 %.

The pulse rate was at 78 beats per minute.

The PLM Index was 50.9 events per hour. 

CLINICAL INTERPRETATION:
1. Sleep study findings are consistent with mild Obstructive
Sleep Apnea. The overall RDI was 5.7 events per hour of sleep. 
The lowest oxygen saturation was 89 %. This unattended study
likely under estimates the severity of the patient's sleep apnea
(as measured by the AHI) as frequent periods of flow limitation
in addition to the scored events were observed, but these could
not be scored as respiratory events due to lack of EEG channels
in this limited channel unattended sleep study.
2. Evidence of snoring was present.
3. There is also evidence of frequent periodic limb movements. 
Due to lack of EEG channels in this limited channel unattended
sleep study it cannot be determined whether these leg movements
were present during sleep and if they are associated with
significant cortical arousals and sleep fragmentation. 
4. Positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) is usually the most
effective treatment option. Surgical treatment modalities are
alternative options. An oral appliance may be effective
treatment in mild cases. The patient should avoid sleeping in
supine position (i.e. side-sleeping or elevation of the head 30
degrees is preferred). Other non-specific adjunctive treatment
include significant weight loss, and avoidance of sleep
deprivation, alcohol and nicotine. 
5. It is recommended that the patient come-in to the sleep lab
for a full-night attended polysomnographic titration sleep study
to determine the optimal positive airway pressure therapy and
this attended sleep study recording is indicated for further
evaluation of periodic limb movements as well. He will be called
to schedule this study. 

Sleep study raw data was manually reviewed and the report
reviewed, edited, and electronically signed by me. Please feel
free to contact me if you have any questions.

I reported on the form exactly what I wrote in my previous blog entry. I'll reproduce the focus of my confusion:

I doubt there will be anything useful in the hour or less of sleep data that got recorded. I am unlikely to try this again.

I'm not confused about how much sleep I got during the study. I was very careful to write it down. I got less than 60 minutes of sleep. While that may not be entirely precise, I can guarantee I didn't get three hours of sleep. So I apparently have apnea events that I don't notice while I'm awake. I think I can explain the restless limb movements; I was using my limbs.

I am now more turned off toward this.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Boozing, not Snoozing

My sleep has been pretty poor lately and I began to suspect that a recent increase in my enjoyment of fine liquors might be related.

The last two evenings I've abstained and found that my sleep has been better. I've found myself awake less in the small hours and less sluggish in the morning.

I'm a little disappointed since I've been enjoying trying new boozes. I'd like to continue enjoying it so next I have to figure out if there's a cutoff time and if the limit is two, one, or zero drinks.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

(No) Sleep Study

Did my sleep study last night. My borg assimilation included the following:

  • An elastic band around my chest with a sensor in the middle and a wire coming out there. This is to monitor breathing.
  • An elastic band around my stomach with a sensor in the middle and a wire coming out there. I presume this is also to monitor my breathing.
  • An accelerometer taped to the center of the chest band to monitor my position.
  • A sensor taped to the outside of each calf muscle to detect restless legs.
  • A microphone taped to my neck to detect snoring.
  • An oxygen sensor on my index finger, taped to my hand.
  • A nasal cannula with side tubes taped to my cheeks to monitor the pressure of my breath.
  • All wires and tubes running to a recording device.
I also had a form to record when I turned on the device, when I went "lights out", which periods I was awake for during the night, my final wake time, and time when I turned the recording device off.

I got wired up about 11:00pm and read for a bit as I normally do. I was ready to go to sleep about 11:30pm. I got to sleep in about 15 minutes I think.

My girlfriend came to bed about 1:00am which woke me up and I couldn't get back to sleep. I stayed in bed trying to get back to sleep until about 2:00am at which point I got up and took 3mg of Melatonin and sat in a chair with a laptop until the Melatonin could kick in.

About 3:00am I felt I was ready to sleep so I laid down again. About 3:30am I gave up trying to sleep with all wires and such so I shut off the machine and pulled the sensors off. I think I eventually got to sleep about 4:45am.

I doubt there will be anything useful in the hour or less of sleep data that got recorded. I am unlikely to try this again.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dragging My Ass Out of Bed (Redux)

I saw a sleep doctor yesterday for a consult. I described my situation, reproduced here in brief:

  • I used to have a great deal of difficulty getting to sleep. That's mostly been resolved with medication and therapy addressing the thought patterns and emotions that were keeping me up.
  • I toss and turn in bed (thrashing we call it).
  • A relatively recent development: I wake up frequently to go to the bathroom but fall back to sleep quickly. This change coincides with taking Cymbalta but that contradicts it's indication as a drug with success in treating incontinence.
  • If I sleep on my back it's reliable that I snore, sometimes such that I wake myself up. Consequently I try to never sleep on my back. I also never sleep on my stomach.
  • When I wake up I feel like a bag of smashed assholes. The earlier I wake up, the worse it is. This is lethargy in the best case and great nausea in the worst case.
  • It's about 3-4 times a year that I wake up feeling rested and refreshed.
  • No record of waking up unable to breathe, short of breath, headache, etc.
  • While in college, when I had a variable schedule and no job, my sleep cycle would consistently drift forward around the clock.
  • I often have difficulty focusing at work, especially at the beginning of the day, highly dependent on the quality of my sleep.
  • I drink caffeine but on weekdays rarely have any after 2:00pm.
The doctor's opinion was that my circadian rhythm is later than most and that I should get up later than what I normally try (6:45, with mixed results), maybe 8:00.

I'm a little disappointed because if I'm leaving the house by 8:00 I generally contend with very little traffic. 8:30 or later and my 4.5 mile drive to work is on the order of 20-30 minutes. I also like the idea of getting to the office early and finishing my day early.

Of course, if I find that my workday focus and energy level are improved I'll be getting more done and feel better about the day. I also think it will help with my mood and may make it reasonable to bring my Cymbalta down from 90mg back to 60mg. That will be a decision to look at in a few months.

This morning was my first day intentionally getting up at 8:00 and I have to say that I do feel a little more attentive and focus. Not a huge difference, but I understand that it can take a few weeks of getting up at the same time for my body's schedule to settle.

Today I have to pick up an at-home sleep study device to use this evening and return tomorrow. I'll provide an update when I get the results back.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Dragging My Ass Out Of Bed

I'm terrible at sleeping. I frequently have trouble getting to sleep. I frequently wake up in the middle of the night. Maybe a few times a year I'll wake up feeling rested.

Since I've been having a tough time lately I've been really lax about getting up at 6:50, when my alarm goes of. That alarm has transformed into "wake up to evaluate how tired you are and set the next alarm". I really want to be an early riser but I always feel like crap in the morning so it's tough. I appreciate anything that forces me to get up no matter how I feel, like early morning appointments.

This week I've set a goal for myself; get out of bed every day when my alarm goes off regardless of how I feel. I'm trying to train myself to have a mantra: this will pass. Feeling like crap when I get up will pass. When the alarm goes off, I'm going to focus on getting moving so that I just get the feeling like crap over with rather than focusing on feeling like crap and sleeping in, which just delays the discomfort but doesn't really lessen it.

I succeeded this morning so there's one day to check off. As I was in the shower (where I tend to get insights) I realized that by sleeping in every day I had been starting each day off with failure. I knew I should be getting up but just didn't feel up to it. Later, having slept in, I'd feel guilty about having a late start on the day. That's a pretty poor precedent for the day and tough to recover from. Every day that I can get up early is a day I start with success. This is good practice.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Depressing

In the not-so-distant past I lamented the cultural perceptions of mental health in the United States. This year my depression has been particularly bad so I've made the most effort to improve that aspect of my life. I recently realized that I've consciously avoided discussing my depression with my peers. This isn't to say I need to bring it to their attention, but avoiding the subject doesn't make sense if I feel like more people should be talking about it casually.

I've been on Cymbalta for a few months and it's been really, really helpful - in ways that neither Prozac nor Celexa were (SNRI vs SSRI). I've been able to see how totally out of proportion my emotional responses were in comparison to the stimuli. Things that shouldn't have bothered me had made me really angry, or really defeated, or both. Things that should have been enjoyable and fulfilling were insignificant. With the SSRIs I found that my emotional spectrum was just narrowed. Bad things weren't really bad, but good things weren't really good. Now it feels like things are pretty well sorted out. I'm not skipping around giddy, but I feel like what I think normal, healthy people feel like.

When you're depressed for a long period of time, your thought patterns get warped. You get trained to be frame everything you experience through negativity aimed at yourself. The properties you admire in others are reflections of your shortcomings. Remorse (regret for a bad action you've taken) becomes guilt (the belief that you're inherently bad). All insecurity, doubt, and discouragement are amplified. Simple tasks meet with defeat before they are started because your mental habits tell you that you can't do them.

I've been regularly seeing a therapist for most of the year. Behavioral therapy is much like physical therapy. A trained professional can discern between your healthy motions (thoughts) and your counter-productive ones and help you find the right ones. A few weeks ago my medication seemed to be less effective. My moods were crap, but I found that I was able to maintain reasonably positive thoughts. Eventually the low period passed and things were back to good. Also like physical therapy, much of the purpose of the therapist is to ensure your movements are correct; the actual rehabilitation occurs when you're away from the therapist, practicing what you've learned.

Overall, that's the gist of my situation. I intend to write about my experiences as much as I can. I'd like it if this were helpful to others, but that's out of my hands. It will certainly be helpful to me.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Year's Inventory

Now that we've all failed our New Year's Resolutions, we should focus on something genuinely productive. I don't do New Year's Resolutions. Culturally we rarely seem to set them in earnest so I find them to be of little use.

Instead, do a New Year's Inventory. Look at different aspects of your life and assess where you really stand. Do you do well at these things or do you do poorly? Is your performance so low that you should be striving to improve or so high that you should be mentoring?

Consider the following:

  • Family
    • Are my family members adequately cared for?
    • Am I a positive influence on their lives?
    • Do I distribute my attention appropriately?
    • Are there strained relationships I should be mending?
  • Friends
    • Do my friends add value to my life?
    • Are they trustworthy in intention, word, and deed?
    • Do I provide the support they deserve?
    • Am I a positive force in their lives?
  • Career
    • Am I performing at the level I should be?
    • Am I doing what I can to improve my career?
    • Can I be doing more to derive more satisfaction/less stress from my job?
    • Do I cultivate the respect of my boss/peers/subordinates?
  • Finances
    • Am I meeting my financial obligations?
    • Am I confident about the next few month's finances?
      • Next year?
      • Next decade?
    • Am I prepared for a few months of no income?
    • Have I prepared to provide for those who depend on me in my absence?
  • Health
    • Am I eating well? How do I know?
    • Am I active enough?
    • Am I getting sufficient rest?
    • Am I taking steps to prevent illness and disease?
    • Am I managing stress and negative emotions well?
All of those are off the top of my head. You should add the categories and questions that are relevant to you. The first year you do it it is informative. Doing it every year tells you what you're doing with your life.

It's critical to be honest with yourself, not just about your shortcomings but also about your strengths. Identifying where you should improve is the purpose of the exercise but if you don't identify your strengths it's difficult to feel empowered in tackling the other challenges.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Searching For a Therapist Will Leave You Needing a Therapist


Finding a therapist or psychiatrist is a miserable process. Both have specialization criteria that disqualifies them as a good fit. To find candidates you can search Google, but Google doesn't have a sane place to get the information from so it can't give helpful answers: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Google will invariably refer you to the Psychology Today referral site. Their search/selection criteria is spotty at best. It's a magazine after all and I can't help but be skeptical about their listings.

We've never had a Primary Care Provider that could refer us directly, nor have he had a health care network that would give referrals. They direct us to our insurance provider's "Find a Doctor" site.

I've tried to use this functionality through Blue Shield and Blue Cross respectively. I don't know their commercial relationship but their "Find a Doctor" search has been the same. You find a general field for a doctor and they give you a list with name, gender, address, and phone number. The "Accepting new patients" filter seems to have no bearing on whether or not the doctor is Accepting new patients. You can click on one doctor's listing to get details, but that loses your place in the search and you have to start over.

I finally gave up trying to get recommendations. I started going down the list and just calling. Of course they never answer the phone; they're probably in session and can't. So you're left to leave messages and hope they call you back. I called about 25 offices and left in the neighborhood of a dozen messages. Several I was able to skip leaving a message because their voicemail indicated that they weren't accepting new patients. I got 3 quick responses noting they weren't accepting new patients, and I appreciate knowing right away I can cross them off the list. One I eliminated because the voicemail greeting indicated that they worked in pediatrics.

Overall, I most appreciated those 2-3 offices I called where a human being was able to quickly tell me that they weren't a good candidate. Second were those whose voicemail let me know they weren't a good candidate. Third were those that returned my call quickly; one was via text message, which was great.

I'm struggling to understand why this is so difficult. The insurance provider seems like the best place to get this information together. They can't seem eliminate ineligible providers. I'm wondering if it's because they don't actually know about their providers (which would seem pretty reprehensible) or they just don't know how to organize this data. As it stands, their service is little more than a private phonebook. Hell, yellow pages listings would probably have been more helpful.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How do you treat an injured Soul?


(Expanded on from a Google+ post)

This is becoming trite. As the story unfolds in Connecticut we're going to learn that the shooter showed signs of mental illness that went unaddressed.

The reason they went unaddressed is because culturally we have two views on mental health: you are normal or you are crazy. If you seem to fall in between your choices are to try to seem normal, or risk being looked on with shame and lose all your credibility. Worse still, it's a reasonable fear that you might risk being hospitalized against your will if you're determined to be a threat to yourself or others.

Socially, we consider consulting your doctor about physical health problems a sign of good judgement. It's not uncommon for friends and family to come to the aid of someone with a sprained ankle with useful advice. "Put ice on it to reduce the swelling." "Wrap it with a bandage for support." "Take it easy for a while and let me help you." Most importantly, "If it doesn't improve, we'll go to the doctor."

In contrast, consulting a behavioral doctor carries a risk as mentioned above. If we admit we're "crazy", we risk embarrassing our loved ones, being considered incompetent by our peers, and harming what's already a trouble ego.

We don't accept mental and emotional problems as "normal" and thus we don't have normal modes of support. We don't know how to help each other with these problems the way we do a sprained ankle. They go untreated, often until the problem has grown significant that even the appearance of normal function has fallen out of reach.

The tragedy we've seen in Connecticut is clearly the culmination of mental illness, yet we all suffer smaller, more subtle problems. At best our problems won't grow more severe; they'll merely keep us from success and happiness.

We need to:

  • change our views about mental and emotional health;
  • accept that mental and emotional health problems are normal;
  • acknowledge that we all suffer from mental and emotional health problems that we cannot always bear alone;
  • learn about common mental health issues the way we've learned about common injuries;
  • accept that we may need to accept the help of strangers;
  • look upon people that need help with compassion.
Stop looking away. Face your own problems and the problems of your loved ones. With different attitudes we can not only avert the rare tragedy, we can all be more happy, successful, and empowered.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Baked Pasta with Meatballs



  • 2qt Pyrex baking dish (mine's square)
  • .5 lb short pasta (I used small Rotini this time)
  • 1.5 jar sauce (I used Newman's Own Marinara)
  • .5 - 1lb frozen italian style hor's d'oureversr meatballs. I used safeway brand.
  • 8oz Shredded Mozzarella-Provolone
  • .5-1 cup grated parmesean
  • 8oz Ricotta
  • Spices
  • Gusto


  • Boil water for pasta
  • Put frozen meatballs in sauce pan. Add a cup or so of marinara. Cover, simmer on low. Stir occasionally
  • Get a big bowl. Dump in your ricotta, parmesean, 1/2 of your shredded cheese
  • Add spices to the bowl. I did garlic powder, some oregano powder, onion power, ms dash, and pepper like I meant it. 
  • Put about 2 cups of sauce in a microwave safe dish, make hot. Ensure you cover it because it will splatter                                                                         


  • Dump the warm sauce into your mixing bowl and mix it up. The result will be this grainy pink goop.                                                                                 
  • Line the bottom of your baking dish with some sauce.                                                                                                                               
  • Spread about 1/2 of remaining shredded cheese over sauce in baking dish                                                                                                             
  • Preheat your oven to 400                                                                                                                                                            
  • Once the pasta's done boiling, drain, drop it in your mixing bowl and mix with the pink goop.                                                                                       
  • Dump the sauce pan with sauce and meatballs into the pasta and pink goop. Mix that up too.                                                                                          
  • Carefully put all that stuff in the baking dish. It will probably barely fit                                                                                                        
  • If you have sauce left, pour it over top                                                                                                                                            
  • Spread remaining shredded cheese over this. You gotta have lots of cheese on top.                                                                                                   
  • Assuming your oven is ready, stick a baking sheet or some tin foil on a lower shelf, then the baking dish on the middle shelf. The baking sheet is there in case it drips.          
  • Don't play Borderlands 2. You'll forget about this awesome stuff in the oven. Instead, check out tmbo for 25 minutes.                                                               
  • When the time's up, the cheese should be a congealed skin of awesome on top with some crusty brown spots. This is how you know it's done and why you need lots of cheese on top.    
  • Take it out of the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes or so. It's still cooking inside.                                                                                              
  • Don't forget to turn off the oven.


Enjoy. This is a delicious but heavy meal. Better break out the red wine.