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February 22, 2003

R.I.P. Grendl

Grendl, our last remaining cat, has died. I had had a crummy night's sleep again on Thursday night, but went in to work and had a productive day, even to the point of fixing another pernicious bug in my product (yay Zombie Programmer!). But as I pulled into the garage Friday evening, I was greeted by Jean and Kelly at the door. "This is nice," I thought.

"Grendl's dead!" they blurted. They were trying to warn me so I didn't wonder where Grendl was and see the box with her body in it.

I actually felt the blood leaving my face. I had to lean against Jean's car for a moment, while the flood of emotion swept through me. I had known Grendl was not long for the world. She'd lived an unusually long life for a cat, over twenty years. Still, I saw her every day, scratched her behind the ears leaving for work or returning home, fed her and kept her litter box clean. There was a connection, even if it felt casual at the time.

Still, the universe occasionally displays a certain benign synchronicity. Last Sunday saw the broadcast of Disney's remake of The Music Man, and we had watched part of it and recorded the whole thing to give it a fair viewing some time later. While Matthew Broderick was putting his own stamp on the role of Professor Harold Hill, he just didn't project in the way Robert Preston could.

So only this Thursday, I had given in to my desire to own the original, and brought home the DVD. Last night, Jean decided that we all needed a pick-me-up, and made popcorn. Kelly saw the original for the first time. Seeing what is possibly the finest musical movie ever made did a lot to lift the clouds, and gave me some breathing room from my mixed emotions.

So now it's Saturday morning, and I'm just gonna say, I'll miss Grendl.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:20 AM | Comments (1)

February 19, 2003

Reading

I forgot to mention that in those sleepless nights of withdrawal, a backlit Palm Pilot is a very good book indeed. I finished Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom, which is part of that time-honored sub-genre of science fiction, the first-person narrative of a complete jerk. I don't know what it is about sci-fi and jerk autobiographies, but it's been done so many times. Sometimes very well, mind you. John Varley has done it more than once, most recently with Steel Beach.

It's a tough act to pull off, since one of the requirements is that the character, warts and all, must begin to grow on you, until by the end of the book, you're sure that he's not that bad after all, despite the terrible treacherous things he's done.

Well, Cory Doctorow has the sub-genre down pat, and I had a great time reading it, despite my suffering. I'll probably write a little more about the effect of strong negative experiences coloring one's appreciation for fun things in a future post, but for now, suffice to say it was worth the read. Have I bought a copy and given it to the library? Come on, I've been sick! I'll get around to it, believe me...

On another reading note, I sent Guns of August back to the library, since I didn't have the reserve brainpower to work through the dense text. Instead, I plan to buy a trade paperback copy for my own the next time I go to the bookstore. So it remains on the 'currently reading' list as in a state of suspended grace .

One final note. I've started reading Toast: And Other Rusted Futures, by Charles Stross, a Scottish science fiction author who's been getting a lot of buzz lately. I'll let you know what I think in due time.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:28 PM

February 18, 2003

Neurologist

I saw Dr. Devere this morning. It was a brief appointment, so I was still able to get a full day of work in, working from home. As I've observed before, I am actually more productive at home so long as I'm not counting 'consulting'.

What I learned: Dr. Winans doesn't know much about Lorazepam. The neurologist, Dr. Devere, agreed with me that I had been undergoing withdrawal, based on my description and the dosage/duration I'd been taking it. Apparently it is rare to get withdrawal symptoms after two to three months of use, but I was on an unusually high dose for initial meds, so that put me on the spot. Dr. Devere is the third doctor to express surprise that Dr. Winans actually put me on this stuff.

I asked if I'd have to go back on Lorazepam to taper off, hoping like crazy I wouldn't. He said that the withdrawal symptoms were diminishing, and the worst was over, so no. Yay! I'm still having trouble with my sleep patterns, but the weight loss and appetite/digestion problems are falling away, and I don't shiver at the drop of a hat anymore, so I'd guess another week or two will see me on the mend.

Dr. Devere had the report from the CT scan. I'm right as rain in the abdominal and pelvic region. No 'obscure' problems like tumors or shrinking/enlarging organs. He then gave me a neurological work-up, which consisted mostly of lots of rubber hammers and sharp pins. After a brief survey, he concluded that he didn't know what was causing my neural twitch either, though it was unlikely it was muscular dystrophy or other major neurological complaint.

He ruled out the idea that I'd caused it doing a stupid exercise on the Bowflex, though he seemed more interested in the notion of my riding a mountain bike for as much as an hour a day, and suggested that I needed to get a seat that was kinder to my posterior. According to him, the apparent source of the twitch is unlikely to be the source of the damage. It's just as likely damage to clusters of nerves in my tailbone, what Jean researched as the pudendal nerve complex. So however weak an explanation, bike riding is as good a candidate as any.

At this point the twitch is sufficiently weak and random that I'm able to ignore it at night. It's hard to say if it would keep me up since my sleep patterns are already wonky from Lorazepam withdrawal. But he suggested that we just wait and see. If the strength or regularity of the twitch returns, then he will try putting me on a 'nerve mediator', called Neurontin. It is relatively benign, compared to Lorazepam, though I'll be doing my reading before taking it, this time. I'm not so wary of this, as Jean is already taking it for her migraines, to good effect.

So the mystery is unsolved, but I have avenues of treatment should the problem grow worse again. Sorta happy ending, I guess...

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:13 PM

February 11, 2003

I Just Noticed

Look at the banner photo...

Kelly looks like I've been feeling for the last week!

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:54 PM | Comments (1)

Work

I worked from home today, and I was about twice as productive as I was when I went in to the office yesterday. Reason: I have ready access to the refrigerator, and can feed-forward the foods my ailing body needs, rather than anticipating and bringing my food to work. My particular ailment has slowed my digestion and reduced my appetite, so having access to a broader menu helps immensely.

I had spent some time a couple of weeks ago getting local port forwarding in SSH working so that I could access my work weblog and add posts. Yes, I have a weblog at work. I find I've gotten quite used to composing my thoughts in this format.

However, there was a catch. Since MovableType uses stylesheets and cgi scripts with the absolute URL in them, my port forwarding scheme ended up stripping all formatting from the pages, leaving me with input forms that were one or two characters wide. Not workable.

So today I figured out why Mac OS X wasn't paying attention to my /etc/hosts entries, and got that working too. I felt very productive!

And no, that's not the only thing I did today! This only took me a few minutes on the way to writing up my day's work results. So there!

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:44 PM

Usenet

God I love Usenet. I know it's not fashionable to like it. It's supposed to be full of junk and trolls. But I have a good newsreader (Gnus) and only frequent groups that have a high signal to noise ratio. One is comp.lang.python, for the Python programming language. The creator of the language, and Benevolent Dictator for Life , Guido Van Rossum, posted a Python Enhancement Proposal a couple of days ago, for a feature he is lukewarm on, saying "if you want this feature, this is your only chance. Vote and let me know."

This one post has generated over 700 posts by my count (which when I think of it, belies my claim of frequenting only groups with a high signal to noise ratio, so never mind), most of which I score down so I never have to see them again. But this post by Laura Creighton, is a quintessential classic post. In it she discusses various voting methods designed to guarantee a winner, and why they fall down when one of the choices is 'do nothing'. It is really interesting, at least to a guy getting minimal sleep!

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:19 PM

February 09, 2003

Been Sick

I was reading Pascale's weblog, and decided I better post a short note. After all, she's found the time to do this even though she's learning how to be a top-flight waitress and is seeing blisters.

So simply, I've been off the weblog because I've been sick. I still think it is due to Lorazepam withdrawal, but I spoke to Dr. Winans on the phone yesterday (he's the guy who prescribed the stuff in the first place), and he says he's never heard of a dependence response after only 2-3 months.

So it's been a week, I've been averaging 4-5 hours of sleep a night -- with the help of Ambien tablets, prescribed by my real doctor, Dr. Selby. On Tuesday I saw him to try to determine if what I was undergoing was Lorazepam withdrawal. He seemed surprised that Dr. Winans had prescribed it, and proposed the Ambien. The pharmacist said it would give me 5-6 hours of sleep, but I guess she wasn't factoring in Lorazepam withdrawal, if that's what this is.

Basic symptoms: anxiety, shivering in a 70 degree room, insomnia, loss of appetite, messed up digestion (resulting in a loss of five pounds in one week), sound like withdrawal to you yet? But Dr. Winans says it doesn't happen, so...

At this point, I'm hoping to get to work tomorrow. But as I've waited a week to feel stable enough to post just one article, I'm prepared to change my mind. Wish me luck!

Posted by dpwakefield at 03:30 PM | Comments (1)

February 02, 2003

Saturday

Yesterday was a NOVA weekend. After taking Kelly to her
swim class, helping Jean with 'shift functions' and compound interest, and going for a walk with Kelly, it was time to go. I didn't know if I'd be able to last beyond the meeting due to the limited sleep I've been getting, but I gave it a try.

The meeting had one of our periodic brouhahas. A couple of members had had a party at a sci-fi convention, and a reporter had assumed they were official NOVA reps. Since these two are severely geeky fellows, he formed a bad impression and wrote that the club was doing socially frowned upon things, such as having public showings of bootlegged anime. The officers have decided to write a letter to his editor demanding a retraction. Some folks were mad at the two fellows, but as Dan pointed out, they didn't misrepresent themselves, and they did nothing wrong other than spout opinions and be annoying.

I got to see the next installment of Cheeky Angel, which I believe is just getting better and better. Then one of the anime companies (Bandai?) had sent us a couple samplers of new DVDs they are planning on releasing soon, in exchange for us filling out questionaires. The first was Argent Soma, which was okay, but certainly not worth buying on DVD. The second show was some new Gundam show, so since I'm not a member of the Gundam army, I gave it a pass. James and I shared a questionaire, since he didn't watch Argent Soma.

After the meeting a bunch of us adjourned to Tom's apartment. I got to see demos of a few games the guys are playing on the Xbox, though I was spacey enough by that time that I can only swear to two. The first was Tom's: Jet Set Radio Future. It's a very neat looking game, with cel-rendering style visuals. It's sorta skate-punk anarchy Tony Hawk mega-pro adventure, though I only got a short demo and am probably short-changing it.

Then Alan brought out Panzer Dragoon, essentially a 3-D scrolling shooter. Boy have things come a long way since I played Xaxxon as a youth! I'm afraid I don't have the excess adrenaline to play this game without collapsing.

At this point I could swear there was another game, but I can't for the life of me remember it. Maybe Tom will read this and jolt my memory. So after the game demoes, we put in Eighteen Bronze Men, a wonderfully cheesy HK martial arts flick by Carter Wong, from the mid-70's. It's a ninety minute movie, so by this time I was only able to make it through about an hour before I had to go home and conk out.

Sunday is still playing out, I'll post a new article if anything interesting happens.

Posted by dpwakefield at 12:02 PM | Comments (1)