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My twitter plea for topic ideas turned up a request for a discussion of transportation systems in Alpennia, but I'm not sure I want to go into too much detail about how much of that is researched and how much is hand-wavy. Sorry!

So for a totally random topic, I've been thinking for some time of doing a follow-up to my attempts to address "tired/sleepy all the time" in a systematic fashion.

My day job involves "root cause analysis (RCA)", i.e., taking an observed failure and identifying the underlying causes--often at several removes--that can be addressed in order to eliminate the failure. Relatively simple causal chains can be identified and addressed easily. There's a RCA tool called "five whys" that's exactly what it sounds like: act like an annoying two year old and ask "why" of every answer that you get:

Failure: I'm tired all the time.
Why? Because I don't get the right quantity of sleep.
Why? Because I stay up until midnight playing video games and my alarm goes off at 5am.
Why? Because I'm addicted to video games and because if I don't get to work by 6am I can't buy more video games.
Why? ...

Eventually you get to an answer that is susceptible of a solution. (The above example is purely hypothetical, mind you. I actually have very little use for video games.)

You know, this is getting long enough I should be nice to my readers. )
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Summer must be well and truly over because I've parked my fold-up bike in the office and am back to driving to the BART station on the home end. I think I held out longer last year but I don't feel like searching through FB entries to see if I commented on it. Last winter I thought seriously about hunting down one of those "simulated sunrise" timed bedroom lights to see if it would help with my sleep habits, but when I looked around I couldn't easily find one I liked. Last weekend I saw one at Fry's and picked it up. It has a reasonably bright light that slowly waxes starting 15 minutes before the alarm set time. You can also have accompanying sound: either a radio station or one of 4 possible "natural soundscapes" (birds, frogs, waterfall, waves). The problem is that you can't have the light increase and the sound increase on separate schedules and after some initial experimentation I've confirmed that the sound wakes me immediately while the light works as intended to wake me slowly. So I have the light set to get me primed and then the regular radio alarm to make sure I don't sleep through it.

So far it seems to be a clear success, although I wouldn't discount the possibility that I'm waking more fully simply because it's a new stimulus. Well, actually the problem isn't "waking fully" it's more a problem with wake-up whiplash, going from fast asleep to stumbling out of bed without the proper interim brain cycles. So there's still some fine-tuning of the time settings to do. I think I can set the alarm about 15 minutes later than currently as long as everything's laid out and ready to go, and as long as I don't doze through the alarm.

The other part of fall is setting the automatic light timers in the living room so that I'm not stumbling around in the dark in the morning or coming home to a dark house in the evening. Thus is the shortening of daylight measured. Of course, it isn't dark yet on the homecoming commute but that will come.
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So for the last half year or more (hmm ... calculates ... more) I've been having problems with "trigger finger". I.e., inflammation of the thumb flexor tendon/sheath, such that extending it fully will "pop" as the inflamed part goes through the tendon sheath. Or such that it won't fully extend at all. At one point I had a medical consultation on it (when regular doses of aspirin didn't seem to help) and got a cortisone injection, which made it go away for a while. But then it came back. I've been taking regular aspirin doses to see if I can coax it into submission again. It sort of comes and goes in intensity, so I have some hope of self-resolution.

But the really fascinating thing is, if I baby the thumb and try to avoid using it, this has no beneficial effect on the problem. But if I have to do heavy manual labor for some reason (like digging in the garden, or assembling furniture, or other interpretations of "manual" that focus on the "manus" part) at some point I'll notice that I'm getting full extension with no pain at all. I can still feel the little painful lump at the base of the thumb where the inflammation is, but it isn't even "popping" at that point.

So maybe what I need to do to cure myself is to start every day with a lot of intense, heavy hand labor. Curious.

Girly stuff

Jan. 5th, 2012 07:22 pm
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It's been a year, as of today. I have ceremonially discarded all the tampons I had stashed in random locations around my life. And I seem to have stopped having anything recognizable as hot flashes about half a year ago. Yeah, I lucked out on the hormone thing.
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The thumb is doing much better. The day after the cortisone shot, the pain was pretty much all gone (although I'm still working very hard at not putting much pressure or extension on it). Yesterday and today, I've been testing the extension occasionally. Sometimes it doesn't go past straight, but sometimes I get the full "hitchhiker's thumb" that's normal for me. (And sometimes I get the "trigger finger" click, which is why I'm testing it only a couple times a day -- that means I could still re-inflame it.)
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For about the last month I've had this annoying pain in my left thumb -- the bottom joint. At particular angles and pressures, it almost felt like the joint was dislocated or the bone was broken ... except clearly it wasn't. Sometimes it would do this odd little "clicking" thing when I moved it. Then it sort of settled down into behaving as if the flexor tendon was too short. Oh, and things that required my thumb to press hard in a flexed direction hurt like a sonuvabitch. (Things like ... oh ... shifting the left gear shift on my bike, or fastening my bra behind my back.) I tried about a week each of putting a brace on at night and trying to avoid using it during the day, of taking regular aspirin, and of doing regular manipulation and forced flexing. No change for any of them. I did some deep soul searching into any activity that might be causing repetitive stress or motion in that particular joint. Nothing. (Now if it had been my right hand, I'd have all sorts of possible causes.)

So finally yesterday I called up Kaiser and asked the advice nurse what her advice was. She set me up with an appointment with my primary this morning, who poked and prodded then got on the computer and set me up a consultation in orthopedics ... immediately. (This isn't "immediately as in an emergency" but "immediately as in they have a very well oiled machine".) X-rays and more poking and prodding and it turns out I have an inflamed tendon of the type nicknamed "trigger finger" (from that "clicking" thing). The orthopedist discussed several levels of potential treatment and we decided that since I'd already tried the aspirin-and-taking-it-easy regimen, we'd go straight to the cortisone shot. Did it right then and there. I tell you, every time I go to Kaiser for something they've gotten smoother and more efficient. So I'm supposed to do an ibuprofin regimen and see what happens. I still wish there were some clear cause I could identify. I honestly don't do that much with my left thumb.
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There's nothing quite like the conflict between wanting to stay home sick from work and knowing that literally nobody else can cover something you need to do. I've been part of a small team putting together an advanced training module. We've been working on it for over a year and really needed to get it to some sort of closure this week. And then Monday evening my throat started feeling tickly. So I plowed on through on Tuesday to get the final details ready for the training. And I got myself up in time to present the first training session at 6:30 Wednesday morning. And then to top it off, I needed to go in early on Thursday to audit/observe the process of counting product vials (for an investigation). And by all rights, I should have been home in bed for at least two of those days. So today was my crash in bed day, in exchange for which I have a splitting headache and a good chance of being back on-game tomorrow for Investiture. Maybe next week will be better.
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So in my last five days of holiday vacation I decided to take the plunge and try to get back into "normal" sleep habits. Specifically, I did without running the audio books all night. I re-committed myself to being in bed by 10pm and lights out by 10:30. (This is now reinforced by setting the laptop to auto-sleep at 10pm.) And I determined that I would refrain from falling back on the audio even if I woke up multiple times during the night.

And it worked. I may not be getting great sleep, but I'm getting just as good (and just about as much) sleep as I do with the audio (and with being bad about bedtimes). And I'm making good use of the falling-asleep period for plotting scenes for the novel. And I'm waking up right around when the alarm goes off at 7am and not demanding another 30 winks.

Last night I got the real test of the system when I got some texts a little after midnight (i.e., over an hour after I'd gone to sleep) of the sort that make one prone to lying awake worrying. And after briefly considering reaching for the audio, I turned my brain back to the interior monologue Barbara has while ambushing her erstwhile stalker wherein she enumerates the good and bad points of simply knifing him and dumping his body in the river, versus taking the effort and hazard of subduing him sufficiently for an interrogation. And the next thing I knew, it was morning.

So maybe I've broken the cycle for a while. Part of the problem has been the pacifier-like certainty of being able to put myself to sleep with the audio. It's a crutch, but it's a very sturdy and dependable crutch.
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Today started out badly with me waking up nauseated at 5am, and again around 6am, and then getting up when the alarm went off at 7am and hanging over the sink for a while with nothing happening. So I figured I'd better go to work, because I didn't feel diseased, just nauseated. It was probably the right thing to do, since I only had a couple bouts of non-productive hanging over the sink and then gradually felt better over the day. Except for reaching that balance point where you're no longer feeling so bad that you shouldn't eat and start feeling bad because you haven't eaten. I sipped my way through a couple bottles of apple juice over the day and then had clear broth and crackers when I got home. Still not feeling adventurous enough for anything more complicated. I was brain-dead for most of the day but managed to get a lot of writing done on a report where I'd already done all the thinking. Now all I want to do is sleep.

I'm really not sure what it was. Probably a touch of food poisoning of some sort, but the only thing I had last evening that I didn't have the day before was some fresh strawberries (yes, washed) that happened to have a hidden ladybug on them (detected when I bit into it -- yuck). I've gone decades without any stomach problems at all, but in the past year or two have had several episodes. Very annoying.

Well, the least I can do is indulge myself and hit the sack really really early in hopes of being thoroughly rid of this by tomorrow.
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It isn't another common cold. It's the flu. (This is self-diagnosis, but I figure the achey-all-over part is conclusive.) And since I got the regular flu shot, let's just leave open the speculation on which strain I might have. But since 12th Night on Saturday is smack dab in the middle of my theoretical infectious period, I think it doesn't matter whether I'm going to feel up to going or not. I have an epidemiological obligation to stay home. How annoying.
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It's not fair. It's totally not fair. Normally I'm pretty healthy, as long as I don't let myself get totally physically exhausted when I'm traveling. Now, in one month, I've had two bouts with a respiratory bug plus the brief brush with the stomach bug. I really should have gone home from work in the middle of the day yesterday, but Santa Claus left me a nice big new investigation on my desk to come back to and I'd promised the Big Boys that I'd have the memo identifying all potentially affected product sent out by the end of the day. (This is the only reason my co-workers didn't bodily chuck me out the door with my sniffling and sneezing. They knew if they did then they would have to finish that memo.)

So I'm spending today in bed. (Except for a brief trip I need to take in to work to pick up my CSA veggie box this afternoon.) Based on previous experience, two days in bed should kick it to the curb. I hope so, since I'd rather not skip 12th night. That's what's so totally unfair: when I got the lung bug at the start of my vacation I did treat it with lots of sleep. Lots. So what's with the repeat? (Well, ok, this time it's more sneezing and sniffles -- which I didn't get with the first one. So either they're slightly different bugs, or my body insists on working through all the symptoms before moving on.)

Time to make yet another pot of tea and nuke some more soup.
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So far the stomach bug appears to have run through at least four members of the gathering. I may be the next to fall, although so far I just have discomfort and complete lack of appetite. But the evening is young yet. Since we have a couple more cousins in town for the east coast memorial service tomorrow, the epidemiological scope can only increase. (To say nothing of the entire membership of the Vassalboro Friends Meeting.)

I did go off to get in a couple hours of skiing this afternoon. The snow was a little grainy but they'd done significant trail grooming and it was quite enjoyable. There's rain scheduled for tomorrow and then snow the next two days, so I'm hoping for two or three more good sessions. Also on tap for the next several days is the movement of all the large furniture items out of my Dad's house, including the piano that my brother here is getting. The theory is to do this while we have lots of home-grown labor. By the time we get to it, hopefully the plague will have run its course.
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I got the call this afternoon saying "come now", so my original Thanksgiving travel plans have been changed to flying out tonight (instead of Wednesday) to Augusta ME (instead of BWI). Those of you who were expecting to see me at Darkovercon (or who might have been surprised to have seen me at Darkovercon, knowing what was going on) -- sorry to miss you. Next year for certain.

This totally validates my decision to pack my suitcase yesterday.
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How's that for deliberately provocative? Yesterday, in the midst of the healthcare meme spreading across Facebook, I posted, Heather Rose Jones considers online memes of the form "post x in your journal in support of y" to be rather unproductive and largely meaningless. Furthermore, my opinions and positions on Issues Of The Day are too complex and nuanced for a facebook post (or a bumper sticker). Therefore, my lack of participation in online memes or opinion surveys should not imply any particular position or lack thereof. In the ensuing comment thread, I noted that if I put forth a more nuanced opinion, it would be in LJ. Having an hour or so to kill....

Having provided the hook, I shall now duck behind a cut, because this is likely to go on for a while. )
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I just got off the phone with [livejournal.com profile] cryptocosm. The current evaluation is that his defibrillator is working properly and he didn't have an actual heart attack, so the path forward is to work from the theory that he needs his medications adjusted. He says they'll be keeping him for at least another 24 hours for observation once they've scared up some of the new drug they want to try him on. He also has some more local candidates for taking care of moving his car, so I'm working under the assumption that I won't be driving off to Sacramento after work today. I'll be checking in mid-afternoon to see if anything else has come up. At the moment, he's just massively bored but I can't do anything about that.

(By the way, for those who get confused by LJ handles, [livejournal.com profile] cryptocosm is my older brother -- you know, the actually genetically related sort.)
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Well, having individualized ringtones for my high-frequency callers does ensure that when the phone goes off at 6am: A) I know that it isn't a wrong number; and B) I have at least a couple seconds to guess at what it might be about. 6am calls from my parents' number automatically put me in mind of medical issues, although as it happens it wasn't their issues. [livejournal.com profile] cryptocosm is in the hospital, having been zapped several times in succession by his implanted defibrillator while at the grocery store (yesterday? last night?). No idea yet whether it's some adjustment needed in his prescriptions, the device malfunctioning, or a heart attack.

While it may have been pragmatic for me to be informed of this at 6am (which, to be fair, is when my alarm goes off and is the best bet for catching me without interfering activities), I suspect the hospital switchboard will consider it a little early for connecting me to a patient's room. So I'll wait until more 8-ish to see about that. There are details that may need to be seen to such as a car still sitting in a grocery parking lot. And who knows what else.
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Woke up with a scratchy throat this morning. Although various people have been wandering around work hacking and sneezing, I really can't blame anything except shorting myself on sleep all week. (Largely because I got sucked into playing with new tools and setups on the 'Phone.) Definitely my default "Winter Cold, Standard Edition" this time -- not like the fluish thing I had a month ago.

And yet, rather than take to my bed, I needed a day out in the sunshine (which I don't get much of during the work week these days). I've been meaning to get over to the Roomax showroom in SF to check out their wall beds (towards the make-over of the guest bedroom). I liked what I saw and got an estimate on the model I liked (which locks in my price for a couple months ... which is good since they're about to raise prices). That gives me a target for starting the initial parts of the process (empty the room, rip out the carpet, paint, install the same flooring I put in the living room).

After that I dropped by Omnivore books which has been on my to-do list since [livejournal.com profile] j_i_m_r raved about it. Picked up a couple of books (one on making easy processed milk products, one 18th c. cookbook that I didn't happen to have).

Now, what I was supposed to do today was get some housecleaning done, take down the Christmas tree, and maybe do some sewing. Nope. On the other hand, I have this cunning idea for a project. I've been trying to visualize the "perfect small purse" to replace my current (worn out) Eagle Creek shoulder pouch and that would accommodate the new phone better than a simple replacement. And I got to thinking about some of the designs in Purses in Pieces that I've been meaning to explore. And then I noticed the purse in there that not only had the cute attached drawstring pouches on the main flapped pouch, but set in between them was a separate rectangular pocket for a set of writing tablets. And it would be just perfect for an iPhone. I'm not planning on doing a straight reproduction of the historic artifact -- for one thing, I want to adapt it to a shoulder bag rather than a belt bag, and this isn't intended for SCA use. But I like the "multiple pockets and divided areas" design. And adding in a few zippers, modern strap fasteners, and so forth wouldn't change the overall esthetic significantly.

Just what I need: inspiration for a new creative project when I'm having trouble keeping up with the day to day stuff.
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Looks like I'm good to go back to work tomorrow. Monday I did a really good impression of sleeping all day. Today I only occasionally managed to nap, but kept to the plan of spending all day in bed resting. The payoff is that I feel like I'm going to be back to full energy tomorrow and I succeeded in keeping the cold/flu/whatever out of my lungs. I hate it when things turn into a lingering cough that hangs on for weeks.

Now I just need to start working on the holiday tasks checklist. (Cards, presents, food for [livejournal.com profile] scotica's party on Friday.)
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Actually "sniffle" isn't the best title for this thread, since the sinus symptoms seem to have moved on. I slept very badly last night, mostly due to being all achy. Made up for it by napping all day (after calling in to work and telling them not to expect me in today or tomorrow). I did something very smart Sunday, knowing I was going to be trying for lots of napping. For some time now, I've been having problems with my favorite sleep positions (side sleeping) because of my sciatic nerve problem. Unless I have my body pillow positioned exactly right (and then don't shift around too much) I end up waking up with my leg asleep (or, worst case, with a charlie horse that I have to get out of bed to fix). But I've noticed that I don't seem to have the same problem in some hotel rooms, and the difference seemed to be having a softer mattress. And ... come to think of it ... the sleep position problems may have started around the same time I got my new bed and new mattress. Hmm. So I went off to IKEA on Sunday and spent a lot of time lying down on various foam mattresses and brought home the softest one. Currently I have it on top of my other mattress (also IKEA, not so soft), and with the same feather-bed topper on top of it as before. It seems to be working, as witness the successful napping all day. Now, back to napping.

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