Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pacman the Slave Driver

My 1/2-day in the office, 1/2-day at home arrangement is working well, right now. After next week, I hope to be back full-time.

As it it, I worked more hours this week than anyone expected, including Pacman. I offered on Friday to come in Saturday to help him meet a deadline, and he accepted. I showed up a little bit later than planned, but I stayed later than he did, too, to make up for it. Four hours in the office on Saturday is considered downright abusive in our office, where it's A-OK to not work a full 40 hour week: as long as it's somewhere between 35 and 40, you're golden.

And then, Sunday, I showed up to work more overtime without telling him. He was very surprised (even more so, since I looked nicer than I did on Saturday. I pre-gamed by having brunch with the parents).

I took work home with me, too, and completed about an hour of it, once you discount the internet surfing that occurred. Regardless, I finished what I needed to do, so we're that much closer to Issue for Permit set of construction drawings Monday.

After feeling useless and like a drain on the company's resources (hello, insurance, how are you? No, no, I'm not working, this month, I'm lying in bed, scratching Major Tom, and eating ice cream... but it's all because of the chair, so whatever) I feel like I redeemed myself a bit.

Added bonus: This good posture thing is habit-forming. I find myself standing up straighter all the time, even at the grocery store, which makes me feel much more confident. Like I need more confidence. Seriously. Next thing you know, I'll have to get my skull trepanned lest the size of my ego cause a pressure build-up leading to brain damage.

Just one more medical adventure to look forward to!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tonight, On Medical Mysteries...

I think my medical mystery might be solved. I think I solved it myself.

I think it's my work station.

No, I'm not joking.

I started back to work on Monday, working 4 hours in the office and 4 hours at home. Guess what? Since I've been working at my desk, the pain has increased, and has now spread to my fracking arm.

Again, no, I am not joking.

I posited the possibility of my ailment originating with my seating on Sunday while lunching with my parents, at which point my dad told me he'd buy me a new chair for the office, if I thought it would help me out. I have yet to choose a chair (a chair-looking trip is in order for tomorrow afternoon), but I looked on the interwebs for some research about the proper posture for typing, mousing, etc.

I sit all wrong. My arms are at the wrong angle (well, hello, elbow and thumb pain, where did you come from?) and my feet don't rest properly or at the correct angle (I have long legs, but to reach the floor and rest perpendicular to the floor, they'd need to be two inches longer).

Our desks at work were designed for the halcyon days when hand drafting ruled the world of architecture. They are intended to be stood over, leaned over, as you curse while your smallest-nibbed Rapidograph pen gets clogged and you suck on the nib in vain in an attempt to get the ink flowing before deciding you don't have time for this s%@* because you have a deadline tomorrow so you go drop another $20 on a new pen that will get clogged two months down the road.

Ahem. Not that I have any experience with that from college, or anything.

So today, I set about correcting my posture as best I can, under current working conditions. I don't lean back in my seat, because my ergonomically-challenged chair forces me to slouch. So I sat up, shoulders back, probably looking like an utter prig.

When I got in the car to drive home, I realized that my poster there, too, is terrible, as I lean to one side, resting my right elbow on the console, bending my left leg, and resting my left elbow on my left knee to drive. Oh, sure, I might look amazing in that devil-may-care position, cruising around in my superfly 2005 Honda Civic, but you know what? The devil truly is in the details, and right now he's causing a royal pain in my... hip. And leg. So I rectified my posture driving too.

Have I noticed a change? Well, frankly, no. But I'm also not sitting at the correct height for my keyboard. I'm getting a little keyboard desk thingy to go under my desktop to lower the keyboard and mouse to the appropriate levels for ergonomically correct typing/mousing tomorrow (Pacman is sacrificing his because he doesn't like it).

In the meantime, I'll just carry on, looking more like a girl at a finishing school than a superfly superstar. But no books will be balanced on this head, thank you very much. I refuse to sacrifice my superfly hair.

That's simply too much to ask of a girl.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

In My Own Little Corner, In My Own Little Chair

And if anyone can tell me what that's from, I will buy you a beer. Well, maybe not, because you can Google anything these days.

I'm back at my apartment, as of Thursday, and it feels so wonderful to be in my little home again. I've been cleared to drive, so I start back to work on Monday, and I'll work 4 hours in the office and 4 hours at home. Pacman is ecstatic, since there's gobs of work to be done on his project, and he needs me "desperately," according to Radio. Hmmm...

I went and did something enjoyable, today (pedicure) since there hasn't been much of that, lately, and then decided to drive by the projects in my neighborhood to see what my firm has been up to, in my absence.

We've been up to a lot. One of my projects has topped out and is almost entirely sheathed in plywood, already (whoop!). I didn't get out of the car to look at it, though, since I was wearing post-pedicure flip-flops, and those just aren't safe for a construction site. Also, there's a big fence around it, and I couldn't remember the combination to open the gate. The other project is one I've only done shop drawing approvals for, and it's also sheathed in plywood, and is much larger than I thought it would be. It swallows the lot. Enormous.

And now I'm back in my apartment, having just written some checks to a laboratory that did blood tests for my surgery and pondering how I'm going to keep all my medical bills for the year organized. I usually just throw them all in a file folder and let them stew until taxes roll around, but there's a huge quantity of them, this year, so I'm thinking it might be time to buy a binder and stow them all in there, in order, with the Explanation of Benefits forms nicely arranged with my invoices, etc.

At the very least, it gives me a reason to visit the Container Store once again, right?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mixed Feelings

I met with Ugga Mugga (the Witch Doctor) today for two hours. Her practice involves using acupuncture "pathways" to diagnose health conditions in conjunction with a computer that beeps a lot and makes pretty graphs on the screen.

A lot of my graphs were not where they were supposed to be.

Through her readings (I'll get into the digital readings in a bit) she was able to tell me that my liver still contains chemotherapy from ten years ago, and that she suspects the bacterial meningitis I had during chemo is still lingering in my large intestine.


She prescribed a combination of nutritional supplements and holistic medicines to get me going again. I took the lengthy list of supplements and decided that it was time for the Google-ator to ride again.

After almost 3 hours of research, I discovered that most of what she prescribed is perfectly healthy for me to take. There are a couple of exceptions, though, and I'll be consulting my regular doctor before I try those two things. Fortunately, I have an appointment with my regular doctor tomorrow.

Exception #1: A compound in one of the serums she prescribed is estrogenic, and I have aural migraines. This could be a problem, since aural migraines are directly affected by estrogens, and increased estrogen can (if I'm not mistaken, but don't quote me on this) increase the risk of stroke in patients with aural migraines. That's a problem.

Exception #2: Several of the compounds in one of the tablets she prescribed for liver health contain chemicals that inhibit the function of certain liver enzymes (I won't go into the details of the scientific name, but they're found in milk thistle, schisandra chinensis, and their ilk). This could drastically change the levels of my migraine preventive medicine, leading to... seizures. Whoop whoop whoop! Red Alert!

So I will not be diving in head first to her prescriptions.

I'm not 100% sure I buy her methodology for testing, either. It involved my holding what looked like a brass mini-ShakeWeight (after my hand had been spritzed with water) and having her press an electrified node (also dampened) onto various acupuncture points on my hands and feet. When the readings she was getting on her computer screen didn't look like they'd reach the "Green Zone" (where they're supposed to be), I would feel her increase the pressure of the node on my hand or foot. A couple of times, she took 3 readings in the same spot, and two were positive, but one was bad, so the reading was bad.


I'm trying to keep an open mind and all that, but then she launched into homeopathy.

A lot of people think homeopathy is simply natural medicine and overall well-being.

It's not. That's holistic medicine.

Homeopathy works on the belief (because there is no scientific evidence supporting it) that if you take a substance, dissolve it in water, and shake the container (I'm not making this up. Wiki it if you don't believe me) then the properties of the substance transfer to the water. Or, rather, their "energy" transfers to the water. It doesn't matter how much you dilute the mixture, the properties are supposedly still there, even if there is no physical evidence of any molecules in the mixture after dilution. This super-diluted solution is then sprinkled on sugar crystals that are ingested by willing patients, just like you and me (but don't touch them with your hands before you ingest them, or they lose their magic unicorn powers).

Scientific studies pitting homeopathic remedies against placebos by and large turn up with the result that there is no difference between homeopathic remedies and the placebo. Because it's a bunch of bunkum.

The nutrients I can buy. The homeopathy I can't. Fortunately, my mom is paying for that, because as she said, "What can it hurt?" So I will, after receiving my shipment of homeopathic remedy, be ingesting $15 work of useless sugar crystals because neither of us wanted to tell the nutritionist that homeopathy is a hopper of hooey.

I hope those $15 sugar crystals taste good, or I'll be pissed.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Preparing to Meet My...

This afternoon, my mom received a voicemail from a woman in her Sunday School class, who urged her to call a nutritionist friend of hers, currently in Dallas from Pennsylvania. The nutritionist, to whom we will refer as Ugga Mugga, has successfully diagnosed multiple ailments within the aforementioned friend's family, and has her Ph.D. The friend suggested we call to make an appointment with her before she leaves on Wednesday, saying that she might be able to help me find the seemingly inexplicable source of what ails me.

In short, on Tuesday, I will be going to see a woman who I perceive as being something of a witch doctor.

She uses acupuncture methodologies during her diagnoses, and I have a two hour appointment with her.

Fortunately, my parents are offering to foot the bill, seeing as I doubt my insurance would have any truck with Ph.D nutritionists attempting to diagnose what supposedly was a problem to be cleared up by routine surgery.

What will be the outcome of my visit with Ugga Mugga the Witch Doctor? I don't know. I do know that I was able to pull myself together for long enough to discuss with her some of the ailment's background and the surgery, and hardly cried at all.

That, these days, is a triumph indeed.

And as we all know, the most important detail in life-threatening medical situations, after you've been crying, is to make sure your mascara isn't running. Never fear, dear reader: my mascara is still firmly in place.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Still Reading... A Lot

I spoke with the nurse at my doctor's office, this afternoon. There's been a hitch in my recovery - as in, I'm experiencing the same painful symptoms I had before surgery, which should have been relieved by the surgery - and she told me 1) Not to drive myself anywhere (I haven't been); 2) Not to undertake any strenuous exercises (no problemo); and 3) go get this prescription for painkillers from the pharmacy and tough it out until my appointment on Wednesday.


I had hoped to be able to return to work on Monday, but since I can't drive and my mental faculties will be impaired somewhat by the lovely opiates I'll be taking to get me through the next few days, that's not an option right now. I'll have to call my office tomorrow and tell them as much. I had already hinted that I might not be back on Monday, seeing as my recovery was slower than I had planned, and they seemed okay with that.

Not encouraging.

The upshot of all of this is that I'm still reading like a ... like a ... I've run out of metaphors here.

I'm reading a lot, okay?

And I haven't been back to the bookstore because 1) I just dropped a load of money paying for apparently ineffective (but necessary) surgery and 2) I can't drive myself to the damned bookstore.


So what have I been reading?

Mystery novels. I usually don't read them, and in fact, they are one of the last types of book I usually pick out for myself (The Girl_________ trilogy excepted), but my mom is a lover of mystery novels. We have gobs of them floating around, and so I've been scavenging for ones to read.

I've discovered I like P.D. James, especially since she uses the same characters over a period of 30 years and they don't age during that time period. It's a pretty sweet concept, and one I'm sure many Hollywood and Highland Park ladies would love to turn into reality.

I read a Michael Jenks mystery set in medieval England that was okay, but I'm not going to go searching out his books after this. They were kind of dry, and short on the descriptive passages that I so enjoyed in Dame James' books (I think she's a dame... she has a title, anyway).

Nevertheless, I might have to go to the bookstore this weekend to see about buying some books. There's only so much murder and mayhem I can stand.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Reading... All Over the Place

Not all over the place physically, you understand. My geographical location has been limited to my old bedroom at my parents' house (now referred to as "the Green Bedroom" for a host of reasons... like the fact that I usually sleep in what was at one time my sister's bedroom, but which is now referred to as "the Yellow Bedroom." It's like we live in the White House... but not).

Rather, it's my literary tastes that are all over the place, recently. In the past three days, I've read three books (thank you,!) that are each completely different from the other.

The Fall of the House of Walworth
If your mom and dad were stepsister/stepbrother, and your dad was a mediocre romantic novelist in the 19th century, you'd probably want to kill somebody. Frank Walworth, son of Mansfield Walworth - the mediocre novelist who was married to his stepsister, Ellen Hardin Walworth - decided he did need to kill somebody: his father. Yup. Daddy-o had been sending threatening letters to his (estranged) wife and threatening the lives of his children for several years, and Frank Walworth couldn't take it any more. At the age of 19, he shot and killed his father, and set off one of the biggest trials/scandals in the country.

Frank Walworth was the first person in New York convicted of second degree murder (murder "in a fit of passion" or "without malice aforethought") which meant he wasn't automatically sentenced to hang (lucky break, kid - 2nd degree murder was legislated the week before he offed his dear old dad). The book traces the rising and then precipitously declining fortunes of the respected Walworth family, one of the oldest families in America (they were Pilgrims, what?).

Too bad, too, because little Frank Walworth was also the best-looking member of his family (some of his sisters... woof).

Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocolypse
A serial killer is talking Toy City. Can 13 year old Jack and Eddie Bear (the Teddy Bear) figure out who the killer is?

Yes. Yes they can. And they can do it after orgies of underage drinking, virginity-losing (in Jack's case - Eddie's a regular at the brothel, but he only does it with other stuffed bears: no interspecies action for him. No, I'm not joking.), driving under the influence, and scamming innocent toys in Toy City.

Entertaining: YES.
Horrifying: YES.

I am so glad I read this book, although I doubt I will read any of Robert Rankin's other novels. This is one to keep on the top shelf, kiddos, at least until the real kiddos are over the age of sixteen.

A Little Princess
Wait! Wait! You cry. You're following up a review of a book that involves gratuitous sex and violence with a review of a beloved children's classic, illustrated by the illustrious Tasha Tudor?

You bet your bippy, I am.

I've read A Little Princess multiple times, but I couldn't find my copy of the book. I decided on a whim to buy it (you'd think there'd be less impulse buying online since you can review your purchases multiple times, but noooooooooooooo) and I'm glad I did. The copy I now possess is a hardback edition (I'd only ever had the paperback edition before) and half the illustrations are in full color!
Yes, I can get excited about that and it's perfectly acceptable.

It follows the rising and falling and re-rising fortunes of Sara Crewe, daughter of Ralph Crewe, an adventurer who made and lost a fortune in India, and then died. Sara is at boarding school in London upon his death, and is forced to become a servant in the house. Although the author's descriptions sometimes get a little sappy, it's overall a wonderfully written book (and I could just be jaded because of the Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse). Everything turns out okay in the end, just as it should, and Sara gets to spend her days as a little princess should.

Of course, I always think she should marry her wealthy benefactor - or is Indian retainer - but that's just what I would have done.

I'm blaming that last observation on the Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, too.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Potentially Traumatic... Yet Not

I had surgery Thursday morning. Everything went well prep-wise: the anesthesiologist had no problem inserting the (huge) IV needle into my (tiny) vein, the drugs kicked in, I was ready to go.

I woke up from surgery some time later with a vague feeling of uneasiness, and an IV in a different hand. A few hours later, once home, I realized that I was still numb from about mid-thigh to my navel.


And then I remembered.

I remembered a wave of panic, in myself and externally, someone trying to put a mask over my face, me fighting them off, crying, struggling to keep the gas mask away, telling them I was claustrophobic. Then someone stroking my forehead, calming me down, me requesting that they wipe the tears off my cheeks because the salt from my tears makes my skin break out in a rash (yes, I'm serious). And then me asking if my mascara was running. And then I was vaguely aware of slipping back into unconsciousness.

The upshot?

I woke up during surgery. The IV needle that had been in my left hand most likely completely punctured my vein, so I wasn't getting anesthesia any more, and I woke up. The needle in my right hand when I finally really woke up was smaller than the original IV needle had been.

I don't remember feeling any physical pain during my brief period of quasi-lucidity, just an atmosphere of panic in the operating room, lights right over me, and then my own panic as they tried to place the gas mask over my face. If you're not breathing calmly, gas masks don't work, and they probably figured that out and gave up, thus the local anesthetic to keep me from experiencing pain while they inserted a new IV and knocked me back out.

Never a dull moment with Ms. Strainedconsciousness. Even when I'm supposed to be Ms. Unconsciousness.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Getting Prepped for Surgery

I was supposed to meet a friend for tea, this morning, but I was awakened not by my alarm clock, but by pain, so I decided it would probably be wise not to push myself too hard, and I called to cancel. I fell back asleep and dozed off and on until 2:00 p.m. I've been trying not to sleep too late in the mornings - or afternoon, as the case may be - because I don't want to mess up my circadian rhythms, or what-have-you. I think I failed, today.

About two hours after I finally woke up, I decided that I felt halfway okay, so I should probably go get a manicure and pedicure in order to prepare for my surgery on Thursday. I'm not going under sedation without attractive toenails, and having nail polish on your fingers can interfere with oxygen metering during surgery (or so my oncologist once told me - those little things they stick on your fingers, with the little red light in them... has something to do with that).

I should have just stayed home.

The manicurist was a new gal, and she succeeded in trimming my cuticles so close that my finger started bleeding. She did, however, give one heck of a neck and shoulder massage. She buffed my nails, so I don't have to worry about that pesky nail polish interference.

But now, I'm exhausted. It is a sad testament to my ill health that sitting up for a grand total of one hour, plus the 45 minutes it took me to get dressed, is enough to wear me out. Pathetic. And the pain started up about ten minutes into the manicure/pedicure, so that made it less enjoyable.

But at least now my toes are pretty for surgery Thursday. You know, in case the anesthesiologist is cute, or something.

And there is no picture today. I don't suggest ever conducting a Google image search for "red toenails." Gross.

Monday, August 2, 2010

We All Make Mistakes...

Don't bother with the children's books I blogged about, last time. They're repetitive (I have a hunch they were serialized, and reading them once every month spaced far apart wouldn't be so awful, but back-to-back... repetitive) and the moralizing starts getting a bit heavy-handed after a few chapters.

I was reading Five Children and It and gave up after the sixth chapter because I could pretty well get the gist of the plot line: the children keep making wishes that keep going wrong, blah blah blah, and don't learn their lesson until you're ready to give them all a good swift kick in the pants.

I hoped The Enchanted Castle would be better, but again, it turned out to be a treacly bit of fluff that was all moralizing and very little entertainment. Ms. Nesbit reserves all her rapier wit for the first two chapters, and then leaps into the chasm of teaching us how to behave ourselves properly for the next ten or so chapters. I know how to behave myself, thank you very much. Okay, I know how to behave myself most of the time, but that applies to everyone, right?

So now I'm reading a novel by Pearl S. Buck (quite a switch, I know) and it's fascinating. I'm enjoying it immensely, even though it's written in a very reserved tone, and it makes me want chicken lo mein all the time. I rarely eat Chinese food (or Japanese, or Korean, for that matter), and I most likely won't indulge my craving, because Pei Wei doesn't have booths.

Yes, I'm serious. Booths are a requirement.

But still, something noodle-y sounds pretty good, right now...

Curse you, Pearl S. Buck.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Being Bookish

Seeing as I'm now on furlough, I find myself with more time on my hands (and less worrying about the fact that I'm not able to sit up to work on projects, which is a relief). I don't enjoy watching TV, so I've been marshaling my strength for excursions to book stores. (By the by, if you Google the correct spelling of "marshaling," the ads on the free dictionary site invite you to train for a position as a U.S. Marshal. I doubt this invalid is qualified.)

I have a favorite cashier at the Borders nearest to my apartment, and she recognizes me, now. The last time I ventured out for a brief episode of bibliomania, she commented on how many books I must read. I told her I'm on medical leave from my job and that I pretty much have to lie down all day, so there's not much else to do. Her response was, "Lucky."

I think she missed my point.

Books I've read in the past two weeks:

The Historian
I somehow missed in the back cover book synopsis that this book involves vampires. On the occasions that I have nightmares, they tend to be about one of three things: 1) witches; 2) Nazis (yes, seriously - these are the worst); and 3) vampires. Granted, the vampires in my dreams are usually ridiculously good looking, but they're still trying to kill me, so it's not much fun. I'd already been reading for a while when I figured out the book involved vampires, and by that point, I had to know how it ended, otherwise I wouldn't be able to sleep thinking there was an eternally living army of vampires under the auspices of Vlad the Impaler roaming around the globe.

I read all night.

I probably wouldn't have been able to sleep, regardless, because I was in pain, but the fear of a roving guild of blood-suckers - none of whom were described as being attractive - did not encourage me to sleep in any way. That being said, if you're okay with reading about vampires, I recommend the book.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, & The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest
Yeah, I've read all three of them already. In about four days. They're not short books, but when you have nothing better to do... The first installment was disturbing, to put it mildly. There is violent sexual assault depicted in the book, and it was difficult to read. The main character isn't particularly likable, but the reader gets to understand more about her psyche in the second and third books, and she becomes more likable as the trilogy progresses. It's too bad Steig Larsson died when he did, because he probably could have ended up one of the better thriller writers. I'm not a huge fan of the genre, in general, but I definitely enjoyed the series. The bad guys all get their just desserts in the end, and the good guys... well, the good guys will be okay.

I'm currently plugging my way through a couple of children's stories from the turn of the 20th century called The Enchanted Castle and Five Children and It. They involve slightly spooky supernatural happenings, but nothing too scary. The authoress, Edith Nesbit, has a funny sense of humor, makes fun of the fact that children generally believe what they're told, even when it defies what they observe on a daily basis (the earth is round, for example. It doesn't seem like it when you're standing on it, and yet, children are told it is round and believe as much). She also mocks adults. Her stories have morals to them and point to the fact that you shouldn't wish for more than you have, but they're not heavy-handed in their moralizing. Pretty pleasant reading, and nothing too challenging. (Apparently, there was a movie of the same title but a pretty different plot made in 2004 that completely shredded the book to bits and featured Eddie Izzard, of all people, and Kenneth Branagh. Go figure. Also, a BBC movie was made in the 1990s, which was faithful to the book).