Friday, June 26, 2009

Long weird week

So yeah. It's been a strange week, and a long one. I've been busy as hell with work and such, and all that. Trying to train my newest co-worker and doing two or three people's jobs all at the same time. Feh.

I'm going to babble and rant here, and it's a long one, so go get a snack and a juicebox.


But, on the upside, I did get my machine to treat my sleep apnea, so that's been interesting. I've only slept with it on two nights now, but I definitely feel a difference already. Yesterday I was able to get through my day at work with about 3-4 fewer cups of coffee than I normally drink, and I wasn't nodding off at all. I also didn't fall asleep in the car going to work or going home. So yay, I'm happy about this.

Most folks with sleep apnea severe enough for the "machine" get a CPAP, which just blows a constant flow of air at a set pressure into the mask. Those lucky, lucky ones who are too bad off get a BiPAP. The BiPAP has a sensor that knows when you're exhaling, and lowers the pressure until you inhale again. This is for those who need an air pressure so high to keep their airway open that they wouldn't be able to exhale against it effectively.

Guess who needed a BiPAP? That's right, yours truly. It's kind of cool though. The pressure changes help me get to sleep by providing a nice rhythm (why the fuck does "rhythm" have that extra "h"? I had to double-check my spelling because it didn't look right, and that doesn't happen to me much). Inhale loud machine noise, exhale quieter machine noise. Inhale loud, exhale quieter. Repeat until unconscious.

The first night went great. I only awakened once, because the dog woke up and needed to go out. Usually I wake up 1 to 5 times on my own, so this was miraculous. Also, I had not moved, not one bit. This presented a problem, as when I awoke my whole right side was numb. It took about an hour to get the feeling 100% back in my right hand. Awesome! Second night was ok, but not as good as the first. Oh well. Everybody tells me this takes time - even though I feel better already.

Anyway, enough about that. What else made the week weird? Well...

Dead Celebrities
Warning: I may piss you off with this part

It's well-known amongst those who know me that I run a friendly little "Dead Pool" competition each year. As a result, my friends, family, co-workers, and people I barely know have gotten into the habit (which I strangely encourage) of immediately informing me of any celebrity death announcements, and ask me if anyone had the celebrity in question on their list.

This week, Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson all died. All were on somebody's list in the competition. Farrah and Michael? Same day.

I was busy at work, and suddenly I have the second job of fielding chat, phone, and e-mail inquiries about the Dead Pool status. I was busier than a date rapist at a sorority party.

I get called morbid, sick, disgusting, ghoulish, cold, soulless, heartless, callous, and just plain mean for running my annual competition, and it doesn't bother me one bit. And this week, I feel like explaining why that is.

You see, we're talking about celebrities. People I don't know. People you don't know. People your cousin's friend tells you he knows, but he's lying about it. The people who do know these celebrities don't know me, and they don't read my blog or my Facebook status and they aren't participating in my Dead Pool competition. So I'm not rubbing someone's death in the face of those who knew them, cared about them, had a personal relationship with them. What I am doing is amusing myself with the concept of death, because for someone who spends any amount of time contemplating their existence (and, by extension, contemplating their own mortality), it's either amuse yourself with the concept of death or live in paralyzing fear of it. I laugh at death!

In our current culture, many people feel like they have a personal connection with celebrities. They become personally vested in the life of this person they've never met. So they seem to develop this illusion that I'm rubbing their face in their favorite celebrity's death. That I'm hurting them somehow.

Now I'm certainly not above having my feelings vested in a celebrity I don't even know. Witness my feelings about the death of Hunter S. Thompson. However, I don't get so vested that I think of some slight to them as a slight to me. And that's where I part company with those who say I'm heartless.

Also, there's the fact that every time a celebrity dies, somebody is going to call it tragic. Even if said celebrity was 110 years old. Yes, maybe it is tragic to those who actually knew and loved the person - but you and I? We are having a relationship with a public persona, not the human. I feel bad for those who had a real relationship with that person, because they lost someone, but death happens to everyone. We all experience the loss of loved ones in our life, and we don't expect someone who never met said loved one to cry about it.

There is one way I will call a celebrity death tragic, and that is if the person had much to left to give their art/science/profession/whatever but was cut short. It's the art, the science, or what have you that these people are contributing to our lives, and I agree that those things can add value to our lives and give us a reason to feel vested in that celebrity. Hence my feelings about Thompson - his writings added some meaning to my life. Still, I don't view his death as tragic, because his prime was over, and he wasn't going to be writing another Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or anything any time soon.

And this is where my little tangent converges with this week's celebrity deaths.

I've heard some guys lamenting the passing of Farrah Fawcett, because she was their first celebrity crush or what-have-you. And I get that. But why mourn her death if the part of her you care about was how she looked 30 years ago? Did you really get turned on by 60-year-old Farrah? I doubt it. And let's face it, she was never a serious or talented actress, she was a sex symbol. When your most critically serious role was the template for every LifeTime Channel movie ever made, you don't have a lot of credibility as an artist. So, tragic for her family and loved ones? Yes, in this day and age 62 is young to die. For the rest of the world? Not so much.

Then there's Jackson. Sure, he was a cute kid who could sing, and made a bunch of music that a whole lot of people inexplicably (to me anyway) love. But the music he was famous for was done over 20 years ago. He was planning a comeback tour, but do you think he was going to recapture the Thriller days? Wasn't going to happen, my friend. And then there's the biggest reason his death was no tragedy: one less child molester in the world. If you have ever complained that O.J. got away with murder but claim the King of Pedophilia - oh, so sorry, I mean "King of Pop" - was just "misunderstood," you are one delusional hypocrite.

Enough of my bloviating. Done for now. Mattbear out.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Two Wheels are better than Four

It's Wednesday now, so maybe I've rested enough to write about my weekend. The weekend wore me out; I had to go back to work Monday in order to chill out.

Last Thursday after work, I headed straight for my Novice Riders Motorcycle Safety Course. Thursday was three hours of class time, and largely quite boring. From the class, it was straight home and to bed to get up for work Friday morning.

Friday was work, and then straight from work to my second sleep study - this time they needed to fit me with the right mask and get the air pressure set right. Saturday morning was straight from my sleep study to my motorcycle class.

Saturday's class was half riding time, half class time. Much more fun, and more intimidating. During Saturday's riding time, one woman went a little out of control on her motorcycle and actually bumped into my back tire. I kept my bike upright and perfectly safe, for which I received kudos from the instructor. Unfortunately, it meant the woman failed out of the course immediately. At the end of classroom time, we took the written test, which I totally kicked ass on. I only missed one question, and in fact had initially chosen the correct answer but started doubting myself and went back and changed it. If I hadn't done that, I would have aced it with 100%.

Straight from my motorcycle class to my weekly poker game, where my wife won. She played well and deserved it, while I made a few huge mistakes that cost me the game. From the poker game, it was home to sleep for a whopping four hours before getting up and heading to my motorcycle class again.

Sunday's class was all riding time, topped off by the riding test. The riding test starts with figure-eights, which I had done poorly on during practice. Sure enough, I blew the figure-eights in the test. What's more, the first test was figure-eight followed immediately by the "swerve to avoid danger" maneuver. I had done fine on that in practice, but in the test I was so thrown off by how massively I screwed up the figure-eight that I messed up on the swerve. The rest of the test I did fine on, but I was sure I had failed.

I was second in line to do the test, so I was also second in line to get my score. Lo and Behold, I passed, with an 84 out of possible 100 (and a passing score of 80). I actually had to verbally verify with the instructor that I passed, so great was my disbelief, and I cheered loudly when he confirmed my passing score. Yippeeee!

So now I can go to the DOL and get my motorcycle endorsement just by handing them the card the instructor gave me saying I passed. Then, it's just a question of getting my old clunker motorcycle up and running again. And then going somewhere relatively safe and doing some practice - lots of practice - because passing by just 4% doesn't seem that great.

Monday, June 01, 2009

My weekend; or, "How often do I stop breathing when I sleep?"

I had an interesting weekend. It started with a sleep study.

For some time, I've known I had sleep apnea, a condition in which one stops breathing every so often when one is asleep. This prevents one from getting to the lowest layers of sleep, where one actually gets rest.

My father-in-law was diagnosed with severe apnea years ago, and has since slept wearing a mask attached to a CPAP machine. This machine forces air into your airways, keeping them open and preventing the apnea.

I have been resistant to the Darth-Vader-esque sleeping machine, and refused for years to get my apena diagnosed and treated. The main reason is, it seems once you start with the machine, you can't sleep without it. Vacation? Have to lug it with you. Camping? Forget about it.

A couple of months ago, I realized that I was getting more and more tired - nodding off in meetings at work, never having any energy, unable to drive more than a few blocks wihout getting drowsy. I went to see my doctor, worried there was something wrong with my thyroid. It took him all of 30 seconds to determine: "Nope, it's your apnea." I was scheduled to see their sleep disorder specialist, and given a little questionairre to fill out.

I filled out the questionairre and saw the sleep specialist. It took him about 30 seconds to say, "Yep, you have apnea; let's get you scheduled for a sleep study." He then explained how it would work: I would spend a night at the hospital all wired up. They would study the data to determine if for sure I had apnea. Then I would come back for another night a couple of weeks later and spend the night, while they fitted the mask and adjusted the machine to fit my needs. BUT, if the apnea was bad enough, they could fit me for the mask the first night. The doc was pretty confident mine was bad enough.

So, last Friday. I get off work, wait for my wife, she picks me up and we head to the hospital. We were rushing so I forgot I was supposed to eat dinner before I got there. As a result, I wound up eating in the hospital cafeteria (while my Judas of a wife went to one of my favorite Seattle restaurants and got my favorite dish). Since I went down there to eat, I was the last patient to get hooked up for the monitors, so my sleep study didn't start until 11pm.

A nice young lady came in and asked me to sit in a chair. I sat down and she started glueing and taping electrodes to my scalp, chest, etc. - I even had to run two pairs of wires through my shorts to connect to my legs. She told me I could turn the TV on if I wanted, as it would take about 20 minutes. I just smiled and sat there. I am used to haivng my wife shave my head every so often, and having to sit still for 15-20 minutes. It puts me in a Zen sort of state.

I wish I could have gotten a picture of what I looked like when she was done. Easily 20 wires were coming off me, all attached to a little blue box she plugged into the wall when she had me lay down. The wires were a nuisance as I tried to sleep, but they couldn't stop me from sleeping. I was too tired. Every time I woke up and needed to go to the bathroom, I had to sit up, say something out loud, and wait for her to come help me. She would unplug the little blue box from the wall and hang it, with all the wires, around my neck. When I was done, she would come back in the room and take the box off me and plug it back into the wall as I lay down.

There was no clock in the room, so I never knew what time it was or how far through the sleep study I was. This was strange for me, as I obsess over what time it is and normally check every time I wake up. Eventually, the tech came in and woke me, and said the study was done.

I was surprised to find that they had not put the mask on me that night as the sleep specialist had figured. I mentioned this to the tech, and she explained: the doctors don't let them put the mask on past a certain time (about 2am) and it was about that time when they had the data they needed to go ahead with it. So, since I forgot to eat dinner before I went, I got started too late and now I have to go back for the mask fitting/machine setting/etc. Oh well.

The tech asked me how I slept. I told her it was the most soundly I had slept in weeks. It must not have been good, because this idea horrified her.

Between writing stuff about the sleep study on good ol' Facebook, and talking about it at the BBQ/Poker game I attended the next day, I found out that way more of my friends have CPAP machines then I was aware of. And they all wanted to know one thing: How many times did you quite breathing?

This seems to be a sort of badge of honor among those with sleep apnea (apneacs?) - how fucked up your breathing is makes you a more badass case.

Alas, the tech did not tell me how often I quit breathing, so I have no such badge.

Soon, I shall have my CPAP that I have dreaded all this time. But if it lets me sleep, and not be this tired all the time, I welcome it at this point.