Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Thumb update; thinking

Stitches came out last Friday, and the cast has thankfully been replaced with a removable splint. Yay, washing. When I was there, I got the skinny -- the ligament had torn from the head of the metacarpal bone, he reattached it and anchored it down and then put in the pin to immobilize the joint. He said that I was fortunate that they got it aligned on the first try. Let's just say I was shocked that it could take more than one try, especially given that I recognized that the reason for the non-trivial amount of pain I've been experiencing was due to the drilling to get the pin in. Had it taken three or four tries... oy, I don't even want to think about that.

So, the pin comes out in three weeks (I've already scheduled the appointment) and then I should be in the splint for another two weeks before I start rehab. (The doctor said that the joint needed to be immobilized for six weeks.)

Anyway, washing. I've since gone on two short runs and snuck in a handful of points at the tournament this past weekend. Shh, don't tell. I feel a little guilty "not behaving," but I think I was pretty careful, and didn't do anything too crazy. The doctor did say to treat it like a cast, and I'm quite certain I would have played with a cast... (if it weren't for the gunk buildup) Yes, yes -- all rationalizations, I know. But it was good to move around, and even play a bit, although it really wasn't enough to get me out of my funk. I maybe broke through for a short bit on Sunday, where I actually felt like I was contributing, but it's otherwise been mostly funkity-funk city.

But at least I'm feeling a bit more functional. Sadly, the left hand is pretty close to useless in its current state. I can't really hold things very well with it, turn doorknobs, hold a phone. I have difficulty tying shoelaces, and my one attempt so far at doing the dishes is making me lean strongly in the direction of eating out for the next 4 weeks.

* * *

In other news, trying to work from home a bit more. Seems to be working out alright. With gas prices edging awfully close to three bucks a gallon, that 44 mile round trip commute starts adding up.

Interesting experience trying to problem-solve this week. Reminds me of something... At the moment I seem to be having a lot of difficulty doing abstract problem-solving when I'm sitting at the computer trying to write code. Or at least it doesn't seem particularly effective.

I've been wrestling with a particular scenario I'm trying to test for, and I've spent the better part of two days just going in circles -- looking at existing code, reading specs, gathering info -- and so far I've only been able to crank out maybe two lines of code without a decent sense of how to structure things. So at the end of the day, I set things aside and head out to meet some friends for dinner, and not a minute after getting in the car, data structures and process flows come front-and-center and I can't understand why I hadn't thought of such simple and obvious things. Certainly not a complete solution, but a helluva lot more to work with than what I'd written up to that point.

Full of these concepts and ideas when I get back home, I sit down at the computer ready to code up the rough structure and maybe scratch out a few thoughts on paper, and... Dude, WTF?! I write down five or six lines of notes in my notebook and cross out just as many.


Step away from the computer. Retreat to the couch in the darkened living room.

The cats join me.

Slowly, the ideas seep back in.

Once I get enough pieces, I sit back at the computer and get as much in as a can.

Damn that's annoying.

Time to call it a night, and hope for better luck tomorrow.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Seeing the world differently

An interesting article from the AP:

"Asians live in more socially complicated world than we do," he said in a telephone interview. "They have to pay more attention to others than we do. We are individualists. We can be bulls in a china shop, they can't afford it."

The key thing in Chinese culture is harmony, Nisbett said, while in the West the key is finding ways to get things done, paying less attention to others.

In various ways, I've often felt like I'm grinding gears, caught somewhere in between two cultures, and it's nice to see some evidence that it's not all in my head.

Although I guess technically it is.

One might further take the researchers' basic stereotype of the typical American of European descent (the bull in a china shop, presumably with no pun intended) and extrapolate that to a bigger picture* where it might result in industrial-level environmental neglect and general corporate malfeasance, but we all know how believing stereotypes can be misleading. Right? And besides, we really don't want to go there, because well, things are kinda depressing enough as it is, y'know?

* I guess that's kind of what the article was talking about, huh?


Today's fortune:

Insecurity is your biggest hurdle.
well, duh.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Depression - surgical segway - Chicago

I've been meaning to write, but I don't really feel like writing...

Actually, I really don't feel like doing much of anything, which I've learned pretty much means that I'm depressed.

I just got back from a nice visit with the SOOTTAD, but I'm back home alone with the cats, trying to get up enough energy to decide what kind of lame, barely-food concoction I can throw together and call dinner. I think it's gonna be spaghetti with sauce and cheese which at least doesn't feel as pathetic as ramen and egg (well, it's good Korean ramen, at least) or mac 'n franks. It's embarrassing how poorly I eat these days now that the SOOTTAD isn't around. I used to cook a fair amount, but those skills atrophied when the SOOTTAD came along, and I've also been busy and low energy, and well, depressed. I mean, she's not here, after all.

But part of the whole depression thing has a lot to do with the lack of exercise. With the beautiful weather and being in the thick of disc season, this normally wouldn't be a problem, but there's the whole post-op cast from the surgery that's keeping me from doing things.

The surgery went as well as could be expected. They ended up giving me a general anesthetic when the local wasn't taking quickly enough. Thankfully, no post-anesthesia problems thanks to an anti-nausea patch they gave me. But man, when the nerve block wore off, it sure as hell hurt like a motherfucker. (thank god for vicodin.) I hadn't expected it to be too bad given my previous experience with hand surgery (and I still have to tell that story one of these days), but that one didn't involve drilling holes in the bone to place the anchor for the ligament or inserting the pin to stabilize the joint. I still don't know what the whole mess looks like since it remains buried under layers of gauze and plaster, but I'll know soon enough. Thankfully, it doesn't hurt so much anymore, only aching from time to time either from lack of movement or putting stresses on things in the wrong way.

Anyway, it's day 8 of no disc, no running. The one-handed showers have been sucking the proverbial donkey-balls, and even then, they do nothing for the buildup of oils and salts under the cast just from day to day movement.

Ugh -- this is turning into a whining post. Sorry.

Trip to Chicago was good. We saw The Aristocrats the night I got in, which was fucking hilarious. Nice quiet hangout time in front of the tube and/or the computers. We're geeks, we can't help it. Saturday night, we did finally get off our asses and made it out to the Kingston Mines.

Funny thing about the Mines, it's the first time the SOOTTAD and I have been out together to catch some blues in Chicago, but it turned out that we had each only been out to a Chicago blues club once on separate visits, and they had both been to the Kingston Mines. The SOOTTAD had visited during a business trip a few years back; I hadn't been since my coach had taken us when we were in Chicago for the NCAA Fencing Championships (and a teammate had made All-American) back in 1989. Good memories, that. The club is split into two rooms, and the acts switch off back-and-forth, so when one finishes their set in one room, the second act starts up the next set in the other. On Saturday, the Chicago Rhythm and Blues Kings were on the main stage, but it was all about Linsey Alexander and the L.A.B.B. on the north stage. (Not just a great guitarist, but also a performer, walking through the crowd as he played. Golden age of wireless, I say.)

A few other thoughts:

  • The crowd: a mostly white audience, with more asians in the crowd (maybe 5-6 with the self included) than black folks. I'd say median age in the late-30's. More boomers than I'd expect, or maybe as many as I'd expect given the $15 cover.
  • it may be $15 a head, but it's not a bad deal considering they don't kick you out until 5am. If you get there when doors open, that's 9 hours of drunken bluesy goodness.
  • with almost every set of both bands, they'd start with one, maybe two, slower blues standards, and then switch over to a bunch of rock covers, at which point a bunch of people would get up and dance. Invariably, we were hoping to dance to one of the slower, grittier bluesy tunes. (We finally got our timing right around 1am.)
  • Cover charge for two: $30.
    Two Turkey on the rocks: $9.
    Four bottles of Old Style: $14.
    One Linsey Alexander CD: $20. (Ouch)
    One forty-something white chick, hammered, putting moves on the headliner: priceless.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Another two trips to the hospital

Not emergency visits, thankfully.

First trip this morning was to see a hand specialist about my thumb. A young doctor, which had me a little concerned, but he seemed to know his shit. His diagnosis -- a torn radial collateral ligament. He was able to produce a scary noise/sensation checking the stability in a significantly more thorough exam than the one given by the nurse practitioner (well, duh). And he could show me the problem on the X-rays that were taken a few weeks ago where the bone (the proximal phalanx) was clearly subluxed. He recommended surgery to improve stability and strength, and hopefully get back my range of motion, since it looked like part of the reason I can't flex the joint is because things are out of alignment. I have my misgivings, but for now, I've tentatively scheduled the surgery for Tuesday morning.

Of course, it's not going to stop me from playing tomorrow and at the tournament this coming weekend. And my hope is that if I have the surgery sooner rather than later, I can have the post-op cast off in time for the summer club league end-of-season tournament (on the weekend of the 20th-21st) as well. The other advantage to having the surgery sooner is that it's less likely that he'd have to do a tendon graft to repair the ligament (meaning a more complicated procedure, and potentially a longer recovery time), which becomes more of a possibility the longer I wait.

I've also considered scheduling it for after the summer league tourney, but then the post-op cast stays on through dance camp (yes, I finally decided to attend with the SOOTTAD), and that just seems like a situation I'd like to avoid. 10 days of the whole plastic-bag-over-the-hand-one-handed-shower business is bad enough, without an extra 4 days during which I'd be getting all sweaty from dancing. I suppose I could keep pushing it out, but then we start bumping into school issues. And while I'm not sure there won't already be problems if I had the surgery immediately, I'm concerned that I'd have problems with technique class (and the assigned homework) if I don't get the surgery. (The physical therapist who was making my splint suggested that I might have problems with a damaged RCL, considering the number of massage therapists she was treating with collateral ligament issues.)

Anyway, trip two: MRI, for my knee. The doc at NWOA (recommended by my friend JBar), again with the more thorough evaluation than the last doctor, noticed a small amount of fluid present in my left knee and, given the symtoms and an absence of any indications of other ligament or tendon problems, thought it might be... a meniscus problem. So he ordered an MRI and I should be getting the results on Friday. Interesting experience -- the MRI facility at Newton-Wellesley is currently undergoing renovations, so their MRI machine is in a big 18-wheeler truck parked outside the building. Pretty uneventful, other than two botched runs because I was getting small spasms in my leg. Oh, and the appointment was at 10:30pm. I guess they're making good use of the equipment.

Ok, Order of the Phoenix tonight....

Monday, August 01, 2005

Obsession, Fear

Yeah, I know. It's been a while. But really, how many of you are really out there reading this anyway?

It's been a busy month, despite school being done for the summer. Lots of stuff, although my time seems to have been largely devoted to disc, work and nursing injuries. Maybe I'll do a rundown in another post, but I don't think I have the time or energy to go into it right now.

Kind of distracted at work today, what with the current obsession -- Harry Potter. I don't attend midnight Potter parties, pre-order the books or even typically know what the release dates are, but once in hand, I have trouble putting the books down. When the last book came out, the SOOTTAD and I read the book together over the course of a few days. And by together, I really mean TOGETHER. As in: reading the same book, waiting for the other to finish a page before turning it, sometimes asking to go back, snickering at the same jokes (with maybe a delay of a few seconds when one of us is slightly ahead of the other), pointing at entertaining turns of phrase, particularly poignant words or paragraphs, from beginning to end.

It's probably one of the best reading experiences I've ever had. It's a sense of connection -- being able to share something that's normally done alone somehow makes it more intimate. It's almost the opposite of going to a movie, where you often go with friends as a group, but in the end it's you and your friends quietly sitting in a dark room staring at pictures on the wall. You could get the same experience going alone and then talking about it on the phone afterwards... unless there's a sufficient amount of heckling, I suppose.

It's got the nerd-o-meter pegged, I'm sure. But what can I say? We're nerds, it kinda comes with the territory.

So I got the Half-Blood Prince for the SOOTTAD's birthday, but really, it was a gift for both of us. And we read it at the airport, on the flight down to Philly (for a wedding), in the hotel, and after the post-reception party. Unfortunately, we only got about halfway through it before I had to fly back home; and the SOOTTAD had to fly directly back to Chicago for work, and it WAS her birthday present after all. So once back home, and after a few weak attempts to find a friend with another copy -- I bought another copy myself. (Although I'm rationalizing that I'm going to give it to a friend who wants it, but hasn't purchased it yet.) The SOOTTAD and I both finished it by the next evening (her on her flight back to Chicago and me on a flight out to L.A. the next day) and we're able to debrief one another over the phone. Not as good as finishing it together as we had the last one, but as good as it was going to get given the circumstances.

Of course, now that I'm done, I'm in my full-on post-completion obsessive phase where I'm surfing around on line to find out when the next (and last) book will be coming out (currently, sometime in 2007), corroborating personal theories about the characters and the storyline, and rereading the series. I've already finished Sorcerer's Stone and am halfway through Chamber of Secrets. And after finishing Sorcerer's Stone, I wanted to see some of the scenes in the movie, so I watched that last night.

And I have to say -- man, that movie really sucked.

Ok, maybe I'm being a little harsh. It certainly wasn't Van Helsing, which wasn't worth the 4RMB (US$1) I spent on it. But for all it's massive budget, cast, production values and CGI bells and whistles: not impressed. And the self-promotion, oy. I clearly remember watching one of the special features on the Chamber of Secrets DVD with the SOOTTAD when we first got it, and the narrator was talking about the impact of the musical score on a given scene. And they showed a scene with the music, and without it. And I was blown away... by how much the music ruined the scene. Without music, it was touching, personal, heartwarming; with it, it was cheesy, self-aggrandizing... frankly, kind of embarrassing. I was talking to the SOOTTAD about it and she agrees, but didn't think that Prisoner of Azakaban suffered from it, what with having a real director and all.

So anyway, kind of obsessed right now. Which isn't so helpful when I'm trying to get work done.

In other news, I also saw the doctor about my knee again this morning. Different doctor, actually. Same knee, same problem. Although it hasn't really been bothering me so much recently. Maybe a month ago, after trying to go easy on the knee was getting me nowhere except out of shape, I tried a different tack and focused on more strengthening and stretching, hoping that the pain was being caused by the tightening muscles compressing whatever it was that was unhappy. And although I have no idea what was broken (since my primary theory was shot down by the first doctor), things seemed to have improved to the point that I've been able to play without significant discomfort. (although not quite NO discomfort, and still with the pain after not moving for any significant amount of time.) But I was feeling good enough to play in a tournament in Montreal, which was great... except that I hurt my hand.

I have no idea how it happened, but during a play in our second game of the first day, I had a severe pain in my left thumb. Jammed it, or something. Iced it off and on for the rest of the day and was ended up playing with it later that day, and for the two games we stuck around for on Sunday.

After 3 days without any noticeable improvement -- I ended up scheduling an appointment with my PCP and seeing the attending nurse practitioner. She was convinced I'd fractured my thumb (possibly at the Metacarpo-phalangeal joint), but X-rays were negative. Which was great, except that it still hurt like a bitch. I asked if she thought it might be some kind of connective tissue injury, but she was convinced that it wasn't because I had such good range-of-motion. Which I warily accepted, since that's what I wanted to hear. Except that after checking things more carefully for myself, it seems apparent to me that I actually have almost NO range of motion in the joint in question. The ROM she had observed was in the carpo-metacarpal joint and the interphalangeal joint. (Thank you Anatomy class.) So I'm thinking I need to see yet another doctor. Except that I don't want to have my hand put into a cast or splint -- one that I'll have to keep dry. (I am SO done with the one handed shower with a bag on my other hand game.) And I don't want to hear that I'll need surgery. I don't want to be told that I can't exercise. That I can't play. Right now, it's one of the few things I've got between visits with the SOOTTAD. And I've mentioned before how much I need exercise to keep me sane. (Well, more or less.)

Ok, enough blogging. I have to go finish Chamber of Secrets.