Friday, December 6, 2019

Why can't sleeping be EZ?

So last night I failed my second medical sleep study.

I failed the first one about a month ago. The room was far too cold for me to sleep in my light pajamas and I'm too claustrophobic to sleep under heavy covers. Add to that a rat's nest of wires and sensors glued to my body and I did not get much sleep. It was, apparently, enough to tell the sleep specialists that I suffer from sleep apnea and would benefit from better, deeper, safer sleep by using an assistive breathing device. In fact, there are indications that I have "central" versus "obstructive" apnea, meaning that my airway doesn't get blocked. Rather, my body just forgets to breathe. They sent me home sleepy and feeling exhausted with an appointment for later follow up.

At that later appointment, I was fitted for a mask that covered my nose, mouth, and chin, and two devices were tested on me.

CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. As the name implies, the pressure is continuous. A variety of pressure levels were tested. I hated it. Breathing in was fine, breathing out required overcoming the positive pressure and just seemed impossible, or at least very uncomfortable. CPAP is the oldest and least expensive of the sleep apnea treatment devices.

BiPAP: Bi-level positive airway pressure. This device is supposed to provide positive pressure for inhalation but minimal pressure for exhalation. I hated it a little less. The medic said this would be the correct unit for me.

Now keep in mind that I am so claustrophobic that I have problems in an airplane and car seats and full-blown panic attacks in other situations. I cannot do an enclosed MRI. Years back we tried to do one on my lower back with me heavily sedated. I don't remember being moved by gurney to the MRI room. I don't remember being moved onto the MRI table or ever being inside the MRI machine. What I do remember is waking up on the cold, hard floor of the MRI room with my paper gown around my neck and my fingernails bloodied and broken. The upper inside of the MRI machine was streaked with blood, too.

During the fittings for the mask, I had discussed my claustrophobia with the medic. Recognizing that it may be a problem the doctor sent me home with the mask selected for me with directions to wear it without the pressure machine for increasingly long times until I was comfortable with it.

They then scheduled me for last night's adventure.

In the days between appointments, I faithfully wore the mask. A few minutes on, a few off. An hour on, a few minutes off.  I was in control and could take it off any time I needed to. There was no backpressure against my exhaling. I could deal with that! I actually thought I would do OK.

"Welcome to the Sleep Center," said the sign.

After changing into my pajamas (three layers this time so I wouldn't freeze) and taking care of my evening ablutions, I was wired up by the tech. Leads on my chest, leads on my legs, and leads on my head. My vitals were checked. BP-114/77, pulse 61, respiration 12. So far, so good. Then I was fitted with the mask and it was attached to the BiPAP machine which was turned on. "Lie back and relax. Just sleep normally." said the tech.

Right. Cold room. Three layers of PJs. Wires. Sensing straps around chest and belly. Mask. No way to scratch my itching nose. Positive pressure against my airway. Pressure that tickles my lips. Cameras recording my movements. Sleep normally, my ass!

But I tried. I really did. I tried self-hypnosis. I tried chanting. I tried a variety of relaxation techniques. But the BiPap didn't seem to me to operate as advertised. There would be pressure on the inhale--nice, cool, sweet, moist air. About 2/3 of the way into my inhalation cycle, the pressure would go away as the mask made a faint popping sound. It felt as if someone had just pressed their hand over my nose and mouth and required great effort to complete the inhalation cycle. Then, on exhale, I'd start with no positive pressure but before the exhale was finished there'd suddenly be positive pressure that I had to overcome to breathe out. I complained to the tech that it was out of coordination with my respiratory cycle but he told me that it is supposed to sense my breathing and adjust accordingly. It didn't work for me. About the 12th time it stopped my inhale at the 2/3 point, I began to feel the panic attack of claustrophobia building in me. The mask had to come off. I told the tech that I couldn't do this.

At that point, he said, well, there is one other type of PAP device we can try tonight. The newest and most expensive technology for the treatment of apnea: ASV: Adaptive servo-ventilation. This machine adjusts pressure delivery based upon the detection of pauses in breathing during sleep. ASV is primarily used for the treatment of central sleep apnea (which is the kind I supposedly have). I say supposedly because I've been sleeping with the same woman for over 51 years and she says she's never noticed snoring or signs of apnea.

Well, "OK. Let's try that one." And we did. It seemed to work very nicely, very closely attuned to my breathing rhythms. Gentle pressure on the intake, no back- pressure on the exhale. And it was much quieter than either of the other machines. It was good enough that I ALMOST went to sleep. Three times. But each time I'd come back suddenly from the edge of sleep in a panic from having my face enclosed within the mask with straps over and behind my head. And, when I was able to relax, I was also having a problem with saliva. My mouth makes a lot--dentists have commented on how healthy that is. When sleeping, I have three options: swallow, drool, or drown. The mask made drooling almost impossible so I was swallowing. Every time I'd swallow, the machine thought that I was inhaling so it gave me a blast of positive pressure which wound up in my gut with the saliva. After about 20 minutes of this my stomach was distended and I was belching into the mask. After about 20 minutes of belching into the mask, I gave up, sat up, and pulled the mask off.

"So," the tech said, "it's midnight and you obviously can't do this. Do you want to go home?"

"Absolutely, yes!" I replied.

And that is how I wound up at home in my own bed before one am on a Thursday night with no respiratory assistive devices or wires attached to me. And I slept well. I felt great when I woke up at seven am. Before leaving the sleep center I pointed out to the tech that I normally really felt pretty good for a man my age. I'm relatively active and I don't have headaches and such. I also told him that I would rather die in my sleep than have to sleep with a PAP device on my face.

I failed a sleep test, even after studying and preparing for it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The trip couldn't have been better even if it had been EZ.


We got home from San Antonio at about 7 pm last night. I was tired but restless so I watched TV until 11 pm (just junk, the worse the better for my exhausted mental state at the time). Then I slept until 9:30 am. I don’t remember the last time I did that.

We had a great trip. The flights both ways were fine, on time and delivery of service as promised. Still not my favorite way to travel. In coach, I mean. In First, yeah, that’s my favorite way to travel. But, our air fare was $230 each RT PHX to SAT in American’s “Basic Economy.” With this fare there are additional fees so we paid $30 each way for one (large) checked bag and $30 each each way to select our seats (otherwise, with Basic Economy, you likely wind up in center seats in different rows.) Plus parking in Phoenix was $72 and our UBER from the San Antonio Airport to Derek’s was $18 and I passed out a total of $30 in baggage, porter, and driver tips. So the air portion really cost a total of $758 for both of us. American isn’t as bad as some of the other airlines when you buy the cheap seats. United even charges to use the overhead bin and you have to pay for peanuts and soft drinks. “Fly the Friendly Skies of United,” indeed. American includes those in the cost. Still, a two-hour flight each way means more time with friends and family and less time in transit than driving. Plus it would have cost that much or more to drive by the time we paid for fuel, hotel, and meals—even if we did it on the cheap, which I’m too old and worked too many hard years to do—I need a good bed, lots of hot water, and a decent evening meal. I admit to being spoiled. I will proceed to submit evidence of said spoiling, below.

We stayed at Derek and Jill’s. They gave us their room with a wonderful bed which was incredibly kind of them. I think maybe they’re trying to make us feel bad for moving. Our UBER driver from the Airport was a recent “escapee” from the socialist paradise that is Venezuela and he spoke no English. Fun. Thank God for Glenda’s Spanish proficiency. Derek loaned us his car for the stay, and I managed to put a few hundred miles on it. Jill fixed Thanksgiving dinner with ham, stuffing, and sweet potatoes which gave us leftovers for snacking most of the weekend. We did eat out quite a bit, as there are “go-to” cafes in the San Antonio area that we really, really missed.

Friday we had eggs Benedict for breakfast in Schertz at Able’s Diner. (https://abelsdiner.com/) Later, we drove by our old Hull Street house (looks fine) and we got to visit with Jack and MarJo Jones, Schertz neighbors that we have missed since we moved at the end of 2009.  That evening (Friday) we went with Derek and Jill to Johnson City 62 miles north of San Antonio to see the holiday lights display sponsored by Pedernales Electric Cooperative. 3.2 *million* lights in the display. We got a hay ride behind a vintage Farmall tractor and ate Texas-style BBQ at a booth in the fair. There were over 100 vendor booths set up in Courthouse Square as part of the event. I even bought Glenda a sterling chain and medallion with an agate setting that she likes. The vendor was from Nepal. Marvelous time and very Christmassy, if green grass and sweater weather under the Texas stars fits your idea of Christmas. (https://www.pec.coop/our-community/pec-holiday-lights/)



Saturday Derek, Jill, and Ian accompanied us to meet with Amy and family. She brought Lauren, Sarah, Connor, and her eldest son James along with his wife Dulce and their daughter Charlotte (Charlie). We met at an IHOP near Amy’s home and had a great brunch – enough food to have fed Venezuela for a day. There was great discussion and fun around a huge table assembled for us from several by the IHOP crew. We then went to Amy’s for a visit in her home. We got news of Jamie and Daniel though they couldn’t join us. Jamie is engaged to Jackie Acosta (he’s been dating her for several years, so it’s about time) and Daniel is in the Army currently at Fort Hood in central Texas but leaving there soon for an assignment in Alaska. Before we left Amy’s I handed out some small gifts that I had brought for all the children, to include Ian. I didn’t know that Charlie would be joining us, but Amy had a spare new, big stuffed toy of Olaf from Frozen 2 which was a perfect gift for 2-year-old Charlie—Amy saved the day! Hugs and tears of love preceded our departure.

Saturday afternoon I got a 90-minute massage from Phaedra at Moon Goddess Massage – she was our massage therapist for nearly 10 years before we left SA, and I’ve not had a massage since we moved until Saturday. (https://www.facebook.com/MoonGoddesssMassage/) She is a marvelous therapist, and as usual, I was weak jelly afterwards and had to be poured into a recliner when I got back to Derek’s. We may have watched a movie at Derek’s in their theater room, but I really don’t remember. I did sleep well that night. Glenda didn’t get her massage from Phaedra until Monday afternoon, but she did get a mani-pedi from Tulip at Nail Talk (her former and still favorite nail tech) at the same time I was being transported to another plane of existence on Phaedra’s table. That evening we got our Tex-Mex fix at Taco Cabana. (https://www.tacocabana.com/)

Sunday morning we attended church in our previous Ward in SA—Eden Ward in San Antonio East Stake. Great Sunday Sacrament Fast and Testimony Meeting and Glenda bore a succinct and strong testimony. We saw and greeted many, many of our old friends, as we had hoped to do. While the ward has a new bishop (Named Chandler who moved to SA from the Val Vista and Broadway area of Mesa about a year ago!?!) the bishop who had been “ours,” Jonathan Abercrombie, was there and we got to greet him. After church we met my dear friend Nancy Hanna and her husband Edwin Matos at Starbucks inside Barnes and Nobel and had a nice two-hour chat. I’m very glad we got to see them. Sunday evening, Derek, Jill, Ian, and we met with Jennifer who is in town for some training from USAA for dinner. We had a great family meal and dinner at Nicha’s Mexican Comida. (https://www.nichas.com/)  Lesson learned: Don't order a salt-rimmed drink when you have chapped lips. We got home late, but slept well.

Monday morning I went to Jim’s Coffee Shop, a San Antonio tradition since 1959, for a light breakfast. (http://jimscoffeeshop.com/lincolnpark/) While there I noted the restaurant was busy with people of many colors, ethnicities, backgrounds, politics, and beliefs. Wait staff moved around the restaurant chatting easily with everyone. Greetings and remarks flowed from table to table in a spirit of good will to all and laughter seemed the language of the day. This cosmopolitan feeling is common in San Antonio. I miss that, because you just don’t find that everywhere. Then I got Derek’s car washed and detailed and filled it with fuel. I can still hear my father telling me: “When you must borrow something, ensure that you return it when promised and in better condition than you got it.” His teachings have served me well for nearly 70 years. I also helped Derek with a couple of simple repairs in their home – took only a few moments for each and I was able to share some of the knowledge I’ve gained over the years.

Monday afternoon Derek, Jill, Ian, and we took a small spray of white carnations to Vincent’s grave at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. (https://www.cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/ftsamhouston.asp)  Today, December 4th, is the one year anniversary of his passing. While we were there, Jillian was able to find her maternal grandparents graves—she had never visited them before. We also signed up to have Vincent’s grave included in the Wreaths Across America program ((https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/) This was a sobering but wonderful experience—alone, this would have been worth the trip to San Antonio.

That evening we visited with Alex and Amanda Cabrera in their home. That used to be our home on Overton Road. They’ve done it proud and I think it looks better than it ever did when we lived there. The home has a presence – a spirit, if you will. We felt it when we first saw the home in 2009, the Cabrera’s say they felt it on first entry in 2018, and I profess it is still alive. The Cabreras are the fourth owners of this Morton-Southwest 1972-built home. The first owners were the Holloway family. Mr. Holloway was the lead engineer and builder for Morton-Southwest in San Antonio. We think that he may have had the construction crews work a little extra hard on his own home. The son, Mike, is now a respected custom home builder in San Antonio. (http://www.mikehollaway.com/) The second owner was the Catholic Church and housed five lay ministers (not ordained) of the Focolare Movement (https://www.focolare.org/usa/). In order to buy the home, we had to wait for a signature from Rome. We were the third owners and the Cabreras own it now. We were joined by Martha Beard, next door neighbor, and we all went for a wonderful evening dinner at La Marginal Puerto Rican restaurant on Nacogdoches just north of Loop I-410. The restaurant has set the standard for Caribbean Hispanic food and immaculate service since 1999 in the same location. Can’t argue with 20 years of success! (http://www.lamarginalrestaurant.com/) I have, in the past, asked the owners what the name meant, as there doesn't seem to be a direct Spanish-English translation and the restaurant is certainly not 'marginal.' I was told it was intended to indicate the location in the suburbs near the edge of the city. The location hasn't been near the edge of SA for many years. A great meal and wonderful conversation was enjoyed by all. I was surprised when Alex asked me to say grace over the meal. Protestant, Catholic, and LDS joined in mutual compassion, respect, and gratitude.

Tuesday morning was time to pack. Of course, we couldn’t leave SA on a Tuesday without first enjoying a lunch of BBQ Frito Pie from Smokin’ Joe’s family-run restaurant. (http://smokinjoesoftexas.com/) This is Jillian’s favorite place in the world to eat and is only about 1 mile from their home. A delight. (Side note: The ham we had eaten for Thanksgiving had been smoked by Joe for Jillian. They have a family-like relationship with Joe and his family.) After lunch, we bid our farewells with hugs from Jillian and Ian. Derek dropped us with a big hug at the entry to Terminal B at the San Antonio airport and we were on our way home. Dak had been well cared for at our home by our friend Chandra Buchanan, but he seemed to be as glad to see us as we were to see him. Puppy kisses were shared by all.

It is good to be home. It was good to be in San Antonio with friends and family. It is good.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Local control may not be EZ but is worth it.

The Washington Post recently ran an article titled, When a Deep Red Town's Only Grocery Closed, City Hall Opened Its Own Store. Just Don't Call It 'Socialism.'

(https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/11/22/baldwin-florida-food-desert-city-owned-grocery-store/)

The thrust of the article is the irony of this conservative stronghold employing socialism to allow their community to survive. Surely these "salt of the earth" deplorables must hate having their local governemnt involved in what has traditionally been a private enterprise. If they don't, then shame on them, seems to be the voice in the article, for not supporting Basic Minimum Income, Wealth Redistribution, Medicare for All, and the Green New Deal.

What the author (and editor) and the far left in general seem to miss, completely, is the key word "Local."

Our nation has a long and proud history of neighbors helping neighbors and running communal institutions to do that. My father and grandfather in the late 19th and through the mid-20th century were members of local agricultural co-operatives. Most unions started as local organizations of workers. Conservatives are not against neighbor helping neighbor.

What conservatives DON'T want is for bureaucrats in a far-off national capital telling them what they must do, how to do it, and punishing them with taxes or worse if they don't toe the line. Conservatives want local goals, actions, and control.

It wasn't hard to understand in 1890. I don't know why it isn't EZ to understand today.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Making movies is not EZ.

Went to see Ford vs Ferrari last night. Really an excellent movie. Very intense, especially in IMAX. The surround sound made you really feel "there." The movie is a techical tour de force. Filmed in California and Georgia, each lap of the 8-mile Le Mans track viewed in the movie meant that a car traveled from California to Georgia and back. Excellent use of physical and CGI special effects. Matt Damon owns the part of Carroll Shelby. I recall seeing TV interviews with Texan Shelby and with Brit Ken Miles back in the '60s. Obviously, Damon and Bale have watched those interviews, too. An interesting note was Jon Bernthal as Lee Iococca. It would be neat to see Iococca's reaction to the Mach-E if he were still around (note: he died in July of this year.) I also thought that Caitonia Balfe did a wonderful job playing Ken's wife, Mollie. Behind every great man stands a very patient woman. These actors brought the vision to life, but that vision belongs to the director, James Mangold, and all I can say, is Thank God someone had the money to let him bring that vision to the screen. There is a little profanity used, but it fits in so naturally with the characters and the situations that my dear wife didn't even notice (Rated PG-13).

Friday, October 11, 2019

Late night Dak attack



"If I'd had a gun I'd have shot the son-of-a-bitch without a second thought!"

"I wish you had," Said my wife. "Next time you take Dak out you should take your pistol."

"It was frightening. We were just strolling along and he came out of nowhere like a fury. He was really big—a pit bull, I think." I explained. "He hit Dak like a freight train and took him down hard. Dak was crying and yelping in fear and pain while that big dog was all over him. I yelled, 'Get off!' and kicked him, hard, with my heel. He just ignored me, growling and, to all appearances, trying to kill our pup. I kept kicking and yelling for help. I was afraid to get between them. That pit bull had me scared."

After what seemed an eternity the dog's owner reached our location. Reaching in he grabbed the big dog's collar and pulled him off. The pit bull continued to growl and snarl. Dak quickly retreated behind me. Were he not on a short leash I'm sure he would have made himself more distant from the much larger and intimidating animal.

I quickly felt Dak for obvious signs of injury. It was hard to see well in the sparse light from the distant street lamp, but I found no blood or broken bones. Dak’s eyes held a look of pure terror. We were quickly joined by a woman, apparently the man's partner. "Is your dog OK?" She asked.

"As best as I can tell, yes," I said.

"He's not bitten, is he?" She asked.  "Our dog is aggressive and doesn't know his own strength, but he's never bitten anyone or another animal."

“I don’t know your dog." I said. "It seemed to me he was intent on killing us both, my pup first.”

I told her that I didn't find any signs of serious damage. We exchanged names and went our ways. The man never did say much. I didn't hear either of them call the pit bull by name. I don’t recall that either of them offered an apology. Dak was obviously still traumatized as we walked away. He stayed very close and kept glancing up at me. Poor little dog. In his two short years of life this is the first dogfight he's been in that I know of. He’s not an experienced street fighter; he’s never even outside that he’s not on his leash. A few more paces away, under the street lamp, we stopped so I could check him more thoroughly. I didn't find any real damage, although I reasoned there must be bruises under his curly white coat. What I did find was a mess. Dak had apparently been so frightened that he lost control of his bowels as the pit bull rolled and dragged him. His coat and tail were badly soiled. I wiped him off the best I could with my handkerchief which I tossed into the nearest doggie-poo station. Oh well, I didn't like that handkerchief anyway.

Back home by 9:00 pm, we had to add insult to injury by bathing him in the utility sink. After the bath, some tooth brushing, and a chewy treat, he seemed ready to tentatively trust me again.

As I finished my shower and headed for bed, my wife said, "Maybe it's a good thing you weren't carrying your gun." I wasn't yet ready to agree with her.


Friday, September 20, 2019

There's nothing EZ about transportation policy

A recent posting from the Strong Towns organization pointed out that we, as a society, criticize public transit as being expensive for very little utilization, but that, in the author's opinion, roads are a worse investment based on passenger mile costs. But, in my EZ opinion, passenger miles is a dangerously incomplete tool with which to measure the value and utility of any transit system.

What I would like to see is a study that would look at usage/riders/freight in comparison to surrounding population density. For instance, in Texas the State Farm to Market Highway System may be very, very lightly used, but those roads made it possible to move agricultural goods efficiently to market, feeding a large part of the city populations of the world and providing great economic benefit to the farmers and ranchers. I don't think it makes sense to look at whether or not the system is "empty" without looking at other factors including total economic cost/benefit and surrounding population density. Further, to say that a road benefits ONLY those who choose to live along or at the end of it is specious, shallow thinking. Our economic system is much more complex than that. You've seen the signs that read, "If you have eaten today, thank a farmer." Yes, but also thank the road builder that made it possible to move that food to your store and home and the taxpayers who pay for it. As a side note, I think that an appropriate fuel or per-mile tax is the right way to pay for roadway infrastructure - any increased costs for commercial traffic would simply be passed along to the consumer, without whom the goods wouldn't be moved in the first place. Thus, traffic on very high usage roads would "subsidize" the costs of lightly used, but important, roads. From those funds collected, we then decide where to best spend them. When we consider these things, please consider that passenger transit is a side blessing -- the main purpose of roadways is economic and military.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Understanding is sometimes not EZ

This morning, my email included a notification from Medium (https://medium.com/) that I have a new "follower." A person with a feminine name, I thought, but not DEFINITIVELY feminine. You know, kind of like "Lynn." Could identify as either gender. Still, a person I've never heard of.

My first thought? Why? Why would she; why would anyone follow my writings?

My second thought: Who is this person. What do they write and publish on Medium? Following the link left by the follower, I found that their description of their work is, "Satire, Surrealism, Poetry..."

Reading a few of the posted articles I learned that "she" is actually a heterosexual "he," or is a VERY good author with the skills of writing in the voice of someone else. Prolific, too; thirty-seven posted articles on Medium since August 2018. That's more than ten times the number of articles I've posted in a similar period. The articles posted under his name are definitely engaging, so I, in turn, "followed" him. I will look forward to seeing new posts in the future.

My next thought: How did he happen to happen upon my writings? A quick look at my Medium stats showed no apparent upsurge. I am grateful for a new follower. How could that not be good news?

I still have no idea why he would want to follow my writings.