shannon_a: (Default)
Writing in my journal has been constantly lagging lately, as all of my free writing time has been going to D&D histories, and when I can manage it, a little something for Mechanics & Meeples. I think I may have turned a corner for that, but more of that in another (delayed?) journal entry.

For now ...

Last weekend, Kimberly and I celebrated our 17th anniversary. It's the furniture anniversary, and though we certainly have cat-scarred upholstery, we had no interest in buying anything new, because every new piece of furniture is something that needs to be expensively shipped to Hawaii on a container ship — or wastefully discarded.

I ran my Burning Wheel game at Endgame on our anniversary. How romantic!

But our celebration occurred afterward. Kimberly and I met at Millennium, which is now conveniently located on College Avenue, between Endgame and home (more or less).

We've eaten there for several celebrations over the years, and this is our third time eating there since they moved to the East Bay (and thus, our third year running). As usual, we had very tasty food ands great service (from our same server as last year, which Kimberly realized and I would not have). Very pleasant!

Since nothing thrilled us on their desert menu, we then went to Smitten Ice Cream a block away, which they slowly make your ice cream while you watch. It was tasty enough, but nothing amazing. But we're already spoiled by Ici, down the street. Mind you, the wait for Smitten to literally create your ice cream was shorter than the typical wait in line at Ici.

Then we had a romantic walk home through the mean streets of north Oakland and south Berkeley, with me pushing my bike and its pannier full of gaming supplies.

On Sunday, we continued our celebrations by taking BART out to Glen Park. This had been our plan, but Kimberly was somewhat reluctant because of the possibility of a big festival at Golden Gate Park making BART very crowded (especially now that they've stopped running more or extra trains for it, because BART sucks), and I was somewhat reluctant because I was feeling highly congested and wondering if I was coming down with something.

But, we persevered.

BART was crowded. And I was bemused how many dumb/new riders there were. Because if you're experienced rider going to Golden Gate Park you get off at Embarcadero, to catch the N-Judah line to the park as soon as you can, and hopefully get a seat. If you're a new/dumb rider you wait until the Civic Center, which is the last N-Judah crossover. Then you certainly don't get a seat on such a busy day, and maybe pay extra for BART too. So about half the crowd got off at Embarcadero, but about half waited until Civic Center. (And afterward the BART trains we were blissfully quiet, but we'd managed to get two of the last seats at MacArthur, so no biggie.)

We had tasty sandwiches out in the park and we enjoyed a walk out to the end and back along the bottom of the canyon.

And that was our anniversary.

Unfortunately, I indeed was getting sick. First cold in a couple of years, and in the middle of summer to boot. Very annoying! (But at least I didn't get a cold during any of my many travels last year or during this year's trip to Hawaii.)

It was never bad, but I was a bit under the weather throughout the week. Bleh.

Other stuff Kimberly and I have done lately.

We finally did another walk from our Berkeley Walks book. We had stopped around this time last year, because the returning students were making the local walks unpleasant for Kimberly, but in July we started with our third, the Berkeley campus walk. We finished it over two Sunday afternoons. Sadly, it was a bit disappointing. The authors seemed to totally punt all the discussion of architectural detail that made the southside walks interesting and also missed many historic details that we were aware of. Ah well. We did still find some interesting stuff on campus. I'd never been to the Women's Faculty Club before, because it's kind of hidden by Strawberry Creek, and I'd never been in the "new" business school, which has a magnificent court yard, where we read during our second walk.

And speaking of reading, we finished Assassin's Fate last night with a 2.5-hour marathon read, which concluded our massive 18-book read-aloud of the Robin Hobbs' 16-book Realm of the Elderling series. (We read two of the three newest books twice, once when they came out, and once as we were concluding the series, two or three years later.) It's our longest series ever to read-aloud (with the 11-book Gene Wolfe Sun series and the 10-book Roger Zelazny Amber series being next up, I think), and it's even more than that by page count, as the books tended to run 500-900 pages(!). Also a magnificent series, full of great characters, and sufficiently distant from the fantasy norm to be truly unique. We'll miss our Fitz and Fool reading, which has been part of our daily life since we started Fool's Assassin almost exactly three years ago. Whew
shannon_a: (Default)
Two weeks ago Friday I went to visit my new doctor at Kaiser.

I switched over at the start of the year because I just couldn't justify continuing with my Blue Shield plan, which bumped up around $150/mo this year, to almost $800. I looked into some of their cheaper programs, since they now have "silver" programs that don't make you pay for doctor visits before you hit your deductible, but the closest primary care doctors were in San Francisco, which is utterly insane, and of course made that plan useless. So I went with Kaiser and dropped my monthly cost to $500.

Now Kaiser has gotten a bad name over the years, so I was somewhat concerned. But I was never sure of how much of that was due to the fact that as a non-profit healthcare provider with centralized care, they do things different. And, I'd had Kaiser when I was growing up, and don't remember any problems. And, I'd had Kaiser when I worked at Chaosium in the '90s, and they were no more helpful or useless than any other doctor I've ever had. (Mostly useless.) Still, there was was some trepidation.

So, two weeks ago Friday. Simple visit: I wanted a new prescription written for my blood pressure med.

The hospital is a little inconvenient, since it's out at MacArthur BART, but any additional work time I lose getting there is more than offset by the $300 I'm saving a month. And, it was a nice bike ride. Warm, pleasant day.

I got there about 15 minutes before my appointment, which was later than I'd intended. I checked in, and within a minute or two they took me in. Wow! I noted they were running early, and was told that the doctor had a schedule where she had to do other things shortly after my appointment (like, perhaps lunch?) so they were making sure she was running early. Double wow!

Meanwhile, I was putting in my personal information on an iPad. Super high tech.

The doctor came in to see me shortly and we talked some. She didn't seem in the least bit rushed. She seemed happy to write me a prescription for the the metoprolol that I was using, but also told me her standard methodology for dealing with blood pressure. So we agreed to try her favored drug, lisinoprol, which she said has absolutely no drowsiness side effects. I don't have a lot of problems with my metoprolol, but it's not controlling my blood pressure as much as I'd like, and sometimes in the afternoon I fade. So I said sure.

She zapped the prescription downstairs, and I followed it a few minutes later. There was the pharmacy, which was utter chaos, with people standing all around. I went over to the most appropriate looking line, and checked in, and was told my prescription would be ready shortly. Sure enough, a few minutes later I was talking to a second clerk, and then sent off to a third place where a pharmacist came and talked to me.

Like I said, utter chaos, but also less than 5 minutes total in the pharmacy. And the default distribution was a bottle of 100 pills, none of this 30 at a time BS.

Overall, Kaiser was a little faraway and a little chaotic, but it was respectful of my time, efficient, and still personable. So, thumbs up so far.

But didn't you say something about frustration, you ask.

Yeah. Pretty much every time I've ever gone to a doctor with a problem, I've visited numerous times with no results. Back in the '90s when I had digestive problems? Nothing. I was told to eat more fiber. (I finally figured out on my own: lactose intolerant.) In the '00s when I had more digestive problems, again nothing. (I finally figured out on my own: allergy to beef.) In the late '00s I started have debilitating headaches, and I saw any number of specialists, but the only help I ever got was a neuropathic pain blocker from an otherwise worthless neurologist. (I finally figured out on my own: allergies.)

So last year I went through this rigamarole again for some new chronic problems, with something like a half-dozen visits to specialists and unnecessary CAT scans and other unpleasantness. In the end I simply just gave up without a solution. And that left me reluctant to head back to the doctor again this year and start this cycle again.

But by summer those chronic problems had faded, as they have from time to time, and I really needed to get in to see a doc before my metroprolol ran out.

So the new drug? Lisinopril? SUCKED.

I was horribly, horribly fatigued. Every day I was dragging. One day I made the mistake of also taking my allergy meds, and was almost unable to move.

And I was also in a bleak, hopeless, sad mood. Every day.

And my chronic problems from the last year revved back up again. (And have stayed with me, to this moment.)

Yep, Lisiniprol can cause depression, and that's a pretty common side effect. Ditto for the other problems. The fatigue is indeed less common, but I have no doubt that was occurring.

I was also surprised how big of an effect the change in drugs had on my exercising. You see, I went from a beta blocker to a ACE inhibitor. The new drug did seem to be controlling my blood pressure better. But I also suddenly lost the heart rate control of the beta blocker.

This was probably a perfect OK thing. I suddenly found that my muscles didn't get as tired when I pushed them hard. Because they were getting more oxygen. So I could sprint on my bike further without suddenly getting worn out.

But I also found that I would be sweating, panting, and out of breath when I climbed a hill that had be no problem just weeks earlier). Because I was pushing hard up into cardio zones that I wasn't used to. Wacky.

(But probably OK.)

The other side effects were not OK. I was really torn with indecision about continuing with the lisinopril because I was supposed to get a new blood pressure test last Friday, so I wanted to stick with the new drug until then.

But then last Wednesday I biked into Endgame. And I was totally beat. And on the way there I came to a complete stop at a green light because the pedestrian signal had gone red. And I realized I was not safe on my bike. (It was the second time I'd spaced out on the trip there.)

Not safe on my bike almost two weeks after I'd started taking the med was unacceptable. So off it I am.

New doctor's appointment on Friday. Which means I'm facing the exact frustration I feared of a cycle of useless appointments.

(I'm hoping that we come to the conclusion that the metoprolol is good enough even if not perfect, but that'll probably require another blood pressure test. But I just need it to hold over until bystolic goes generic in 2021, as I found that worked better and had no drowsiness at all, which means it could also be increased as need be.)

And today I am trying not to freak out that the Republicans in the Senate literally just voted to debate taking away my health insurance. This isn't some theoretical 20 to 30 million people are screwed. I'm the only employee of Skotos, so I get my insurance on the individual market. They want to take that away. They do not want me to be able to work for a super small company. They do not want me to be able to work for myself. They do not want me to be able to retire before I turn 65.

Because they are evil monsters.


Not freaking out.

(I was freaking out when Trump was elected in large part because I feared how they might affect me and my future by taking insurance back to the bad 'ole days where it was almost entirely tied to employment.)

I try to remember that Hawaii has a strong insurance market and did even before the ACA. And that's only a few years away.

Not freaking out.

But my blood pressure is probably up.
shannon_a: (Default)
Injuries. Managed to hurt myself again. Darn it. And this time it was a recycling injury. Sigh.

I was tearing down a heavy corrugated cardboard box on Monday and I was holding it up against my chest as I did, and somehow throughout all of that I managed to spasm my muscles and bruise my sternum and/or ribs. Or something like that. It's been aching for days, especially if I do anything spectacular like breathe. The worst has been sleeping. I can't cuddle with my cat at night, because that requires lying down on that side, and I can't escape her in the morning, which I usually do by turning over. Overall, the result has been a week of poor sleep.

It's been getting better day by day, but slowly. Frustrating. 

Computers. I've laid my old MacBook Air to rest. Or, at least, I'm filing it away for use as an emergency backup if I ever need it. Sadly, of all the Macs I've bought, that was the one that seemed to have some serious manufacture problems of the sort I don't generally expect from Apple.

In the end:
  1. The "1", "q", "a", and <delete> on the keyboard often stopped working, usually just when I opened it up and especially when I had it out somewhere cold. This was apparently a well-known problem with the MacBook Airs and had to do with the keyboard circuitry contracting away from the plug.
  2. The wifi constantly cut out, but would come back if I hit the little wifi icon at the top of the screen. This was not a well-known problem. Or, at least if it was, the only suggested solutions were software, and they didn't do anything.
  3. The battery was starting to die, and though it was still getting decent time with my usually low-energy use, it was to the point where the Mac was suggesting I replace it.
  4. The 120G of hard drive space was becoming inadequate as I continued to add PDFs for my work on the next Designers & Dragons book, on the entire set of TSR & WotC books for D&D. (After 4+ years of working with DTRPG, we've almost covered the full ~1000 or so, and that's a lot of PDFs.)
Only the first two were really manufacture problems, though they were extremely annoying, but the first three probably required hundreds of dollars worth of repairs, and that still left me with inadequate hard drive space. So, after getting the OK from Kimberly, I ordered a new one instead, on Monday, pretty much as soon as Apple announced the new MacBooks.

My new computer is a 12" MacBook. It's a little smaller than my 13.3" Air was, and that's taking a little getting used to, but it's still a full-sized keyboard, and my eyes are still good enough to read the screen at an increased resolution, so I think I willl get used to it. And it's 2 pounds rather than 3 pounds, which will be notable when I'm carrying it around up hills and on long hikes.

Oh, the process of migrating was a pain though. It just wouldn't work, and I eventually came to the conclusion that it was because the Air was one version back of the MacOS software, and the migration didn't work from that to Sierra. Not that Apple documents that, but some forums seemed to confirm it. So I had to unsync my RPG PDFs from my Dropbox to have enough space to upgrade to Sierra. (That's why I hadn't previously.) Then the upgrade wouldn't work either, because it couldn't install a helper. I finally managed to get the old computer upgraded after a reboot. Then I finally managed to get the Migration going after a reboot. Shockingly the Migration with both computers set next to my wifi router only took 30 minutes or so. But it took another day and a half to resync all those D&D PDFs, off of Dropbox.

Still, new computer. Very happy because of all the annoying problems with the old one.

Not being ble to type an "a" can make rticles hrd to write.

RPGs. I've been running my Burning Wheel campaign since sometime left year. I'm enjoying creating an original campaign world in conjunction with the players and I'm enjoying slowly unravelling their story. I have some qualms that the story might be too mundane thus far and that I need to be more accepting of sea changes as the campaign goes forward. But, so far so good.

My only real issue is a pretty common one: I find the prep of adventures stressful. Usually I feel like my Friday nights before games are very rushed as I try to jam together adventure prep along with my usual writing prep. And, I also feel pressure that I prep well so that we can have fun the next day.

So this week I tried something new, based on a thread on RPGnet. I modeled my prep after a game called Agon: prep an adventure with one goal, three sub-goals, and one or more complications for each sub-goal. It's very similar to the system of three complications that I was laying out for Mouse Guard that helped me to minimize my prep time there while still producing good adventures.

I've varied this up a little. I try to introduce at least one notable locale each adventure and at least one notable NPCs, and I try to reuse one or more NPCs from past adventures. So my notes include all of that too. But still, that's less than a page for an adventure, and the actual plot-ty part of the adventure is minimized, making the prep easier and keeping options more open for the players during play.

But there's another thing in Burning Wheel: it's very player-focused. So I bit the bullet early in the week and I prepped four adventures in this style, one for each player in the game. Voila! I now have full prep done, well before Friday. And hopefully I'll be able to do the simpler prep necessary for a replacement player-oriented adventure after I run each.

Sure enough, this Friday I was unstressed. Or little stressed.

The next test was whether my slightly shorter prep was sufficient to run an exciting adventure ... and sadly I didn't get to find out. When I got to gaming on Saturday, Mary could tell that I was in low spirits due to lack of sleep (from my ribs) and due to exhaustion (from offering support for K. in a hard time). So she asked without prompting if I wanted to play board games instead, and I nearly collapsed in relief into that idea. We played 7 Wonders and Agricola. I did horribly in the first and came in second in the second, probably highlighting how worn out I was.

Vacations. And we are already making plans for Hawaii next year. My step-mom is putting together a family vacation, where she, my dad, my sister and her husband, and Kimberly and I will all spend a week together on the Big Island next year. We had a lot of fun hanging out with everyone at Melody and Jared's wedding, so I'm quite looking forward to this, and it'll also be a nice opportunity to visit a different island.

Mary has also talked about doing the same thing on a different island in 2019, maybe. If that indeed happens, then we quite amusingly will not see Kauai again until we move there in 2020.
shannon_a: (Default)
From a post that I never got around to finishing this week because I was too busy.

So thislast weekend I had a free Saturday due to lacking of gaming. My knee was feeling 70% or so better, but I thought, "I better stay off of my hills, just in case". So instead I opted to bike up to Montclair, and from there hike around Joaquin Miller park.

My theory was that I'd do my climbing on my bike, which doesn't have much impact on my knee, and then enjoy one of the hilltop parks.

Yeah, except Joaquin Miller isn't a hilltop park. It may be 600 feet up or so, but there's a lot of steep hillside above it, going up to the top of Shepherd Canyon.

Why was the week busy? My head was down as I was working on Bitcoin documentation during the workday. Then I'm always busy in the evening writing or gaming. It was all quite interesting work though, so my days were filled, but enjoyably.

After figuring out where to lock my bike near Joe-Quinn Park, which is often a problem, I went in at the northwest entry. It was a creekside trail. Totally beautiful. Except it started climbing up pretty steeply. First there was slope, then more slope, then steps.


As I hit steps I started using my (unhurt) right knee to lever myself up. And boy that was slow, going up a single step at a time. I finally got to a crossroads above the creek and there was ... more steep slope going up.

Magnificent views, though. It was obvious that I was climbing up above canyons because green forest was spreading out below me.

Eventually I had to give up on the climbing with my right knee thing, because my right knee was starting to hurt.

And I was pretty astounded that I was getting winded, because I thought I was good on hills. But this was a lot of hill.

Tonight, at the end of the busy week, I got a bit of a reprieve. I went to Safeway for the week's groceries and it was quiet as a tomb. Astounding! The store was a little less crowded than usual, but the big difference was no students yelling in their outside-voice.

So very, very restful.

I rarely had a cellular signal when I was up in the higher hills of Joe-Quinn, which was problematic because I didn't have a map either. I knew there was a picnic area somewhere up there but I wasn't sure where exactly.

I found an old horse arena or something, with a fence fallen down.

Then I found some locked bathrooms.

This is all thanks to Oakland's lack of attention to the park, which is unsurprising; East Bay parks are better upkept, though they're been problematic too in recent years.

Anyway, I was good at finding open spaces. Then I pretty much stumbled across the picnic area. It was hidden in a curve in a road.

I sat there and ate chocolate and wrote for a while, atop the world.

Right, restful, except it's almost 1am and I'm still writing, which I'm not supposed to do near bed times.

But, I was researching for D&D histories, then I stumbled upon a link to a former website full of D&D designer posts that I was able to access from beyond the grave at Then I needed to brush up on the Kingdom RPG for tomorrow. Then there was more writing and researching. Then I was printing sheets and references for Kingdom. Then I found this partial post in my buffer.

I was a bit worried about the climb down, but I took a different route and there were no stairs, just lots of slope that was easier on my knee. It was all very pleasant walks through forested areas. I did a bit more writing at a camp, then I got to the "civilized" parts of Joe-Quinn, which are off to the southwest. I was pretty astounded that my huge uphill climb had been equalled by my easy downhill climb.

There are two dog parks in civilized Joe-Quinn, which were mostly empty, because why would you take your dog to a dog area at a huge park?

There was an amphitheater pretty much hanging off the hillside, which I'd love to see a play at before I leave the state.

There was a magnificent water cascade going down from the theatre, except it's apparently turned off.

Then it was around a few more paths, down to the road and a half-mile or less back to my bike.

I mostly managed not to hurt my knee on the hike, and yet another week later it's feeling almost normal again.
shannon_a: (Default)
So last, last weekend, the first weekend of May, I had a marvelous Saturday hike. It was one of my favorite routes of late: east from my house, up above Strawberry Canyon, and then into Tilden. It's really nice, because it gets me on trails (or at least stairs) about a mile from my house, and from there I can go anywhere I want along pleasant hiking paths.

So on Saturday, I choose a very challenging route: up around the fire trails above Strawberry Canyon (as usual) and then into TIlden. But from there I decided to walk the southwest side of Tilden, around Grizzly Peak, then to take the western most trails along the entire length of Tilden, until I got to Jewel Lake, which is the last civilized point in the north of Tilden, on the way to Wildcat Canyon Regional Park.

Most of these trails were new to me. Grizzly Peak Trail took me westward, and it was a nice trail running along a hillside, with the Wildcat Canyon to my right. It's the opposite side of the Canyon that I usually walk on. The only downside is that you could occasionally hear the cars whizzing by on Grizzly Peak Blvd., just the other side of the ridge. Then I walked Selby Trail northward for a few miles until I hit Canyon Drive, the big steep road coming out of the north side of Tilden. There was a bit of Selby Trail in the middle that was just ugly grassland, but most of it was wooded and very pleasant. Past Canyon Drive it became Memory Trail, which took me around the Nature Area and eventually dropped me down to Jewel Lake. Success!

Fitbit says I walked a total of 4 hours while up in the hills. For the day I made 12 miles and 199 flights of stairs. (Clearly my Fitbit gamification is beginning to fail me, because I didn't bother for that last fight to get my 14th Castle [200 floors] badge.)

There was one weird thing on the hike: I got up to the Island picnic area, and it was full of Porsches. There was apparently a Porsche convention, with people coming from all over the west to talk to other Porsche owners. And someone thought that the optimal place to worship wasteful spending and overprivileged living was a public park.

The cars were all sitting in the Island parking area, and about half of them had their hoods open or their trunks open or both. Some people had stuff sitting in their open trunks, which made it obvious they'd never been to Berkeley before, though the muggers and thieves don't usually make it up to Tilden. The cars all had signs in their windows identifying who the owner was, where he was from, and what model his car was. Meanwhile, the Porsche owners were sitting in the picnic area talking about their real leather seats and how infrequently they had to rebuild their engine. As I said: Weird.

There was a lot of up and down in my walk as I hit heights near Grizzly Peak and near Canyon Drive. My left knee started twinging was I was hiking down Memory Trail.

A lot of the trails in Tilden are becoming increasingly wild. Some have been "storm damaged" for years, others washed out by dripping pipes. Some of my early trails for the day were a wee bit overgrown, but Memory Trail was the worst because it had steps that look like they're maybe a foot and a half tall or so each. They've clearly expanded over time and they were all a muddy mess too. It was obvious that either no one has been back here to look at the state of the steps, or else they don't care. Anyway, as I hopped down those steps billy-goat like, that was when my knee really started to get going.

But I didn't think about it much at the time. Every once in a while when I'm on a big hike one of my knees starts twinging if I'm doing a big descent at the end. This was no different.

No different until I kneeled down Sunday morning, and I had some excruciating pain in that knee. Yowtch!

It was quite a surprise, and in retrospective I can only think of one reason that I might have particularly hurt things. I had lunch at the back of Strawberry Canyon where there's a nice bench in front of a stone wall, and I tend to sit on it sideways so that I can read or work ... with my left leg under me. So maybe I hurt the knee some then, then some more when climbing up and down hills.

Dunno. It didn't really dramatically, surprisingly hurt until Sunday morning. I guess I got something tight or inflamed or something and when I put all my weight on it kneeling down ....

So it's been mostly hurting for the last week, though I think maybe it's getting better. It's more feeling vulnerable and awkward now, rather than hurting.

I've stayed off hills for the last 10 days, and I didn't bike until last Friday. It seemed fine then. And fine for my Saturday gaming.

So apparently the biking is OK.

I'm hoping I'll be OK enough to hike on Saturday, though I may need to figure out somewhere that's not all hills.
shannon_a: (Default)
On Monday we made our long trip home: Lihue to Kahului to Oakland.

Our trip out of Lihue was delayed by about 20 minutes, which would have been stressful as we had a short (1.5 hour) connection in Kahului, but we already knew that our flight out of Kahului was delayed by an hour, so no worries. It actually gave us enough time to sit down and eat lunch then sit down and read about 30 minutes worth of Golden Fool, our current read-aloud book.

The flight to Oakland was uneventful, though for the second flight in a row the *)(@#$@# in front of me put his seat back — and this on a flight where almost no one did. I hate those things, because then I have to put my seat back, and the result is still that I have my seat table almost jamming into my stomach and working on my computer is that much harder. Hate those things.

Lock all seat backs!

Still: 4 articles written, 1 article edited (so I could post it when I got home, for publication Tuesday morning), a full comic read (Extraordinary X-Men: Apocalypse Wars), and a book finished (The Hanging Tree).

After getting off the plane, my lower back was killing me. It only got worse on Tuesday, though it's since mostly cleared up, probably due to a steady diet of NSAIDS. I initially blamed the plane (and maybe those stupid reclinable seats), but after I wondered if it might have been the bike riding the previous day. The one other day I've had notable back problems in the last year was after I went bike riding in Kelowna. It could be that both of those bikes made me lean over more than my own bike does, and that contributed. I dunno. This time around I was also lugging around 40+ pounds of suitcase and doing the aforementioned awkward plane riding, so there were plenty of possible culprits.

(Stupid reclinable seats.)

Other than that, my health was quite good while I was in Kauai. My long-term health issues mostly disappeared (like last year), my allergies mostly disappeared (though less than usual, I still had a bit of a tickle in my throat for days).

This makes me all suspect that the health issues are mainly stress-related. I've actually long suspected that. (But other options include diet and how I work, since those both change in Hawaii too.)

I've been feeling pretty low-key since I got back from Hawaii. That's always the case. But I can already feel the stress bunching up my shoulders since my return.

My biggest stressor comes from worrying about future things that I have no (or little) control of. Will Skotos still be profitable a few years from now? Will my technical writing still be viable? Will I still have health insurance? There are always warning signs that any of these could be endangered ... and I don't know how to let go of these future possibilities. Or to judge their likelihood. Or to let the good possibilities weigh equally. (Perhaps we'll get our co-op play books to publishers, perhaps we'll get some game designs to market, perhaps we will start an RPGnet publishing arm, perhaps the insurance in Hawaii will be cheaper and better than the crap I get in California.)

My second biggest stressor comes from overwork. From having too many things pulling at my time simultaneously. I do my best to allot out individual days for individual projects, so that I can really work on them without spinning my tires and ensure that they get their fair share of time ... but it's a struggle, especially when someone grabs my time with a request for something immediately needing attention.

My third biggest stressor comes from the political world. It's probably related to the first, as there are all these horrible possibilities for the future (but I miss the good possibilities, like Trump might be locked up in jail for high treason). This was better in Hawaii, when I mostly ignored what my very political friends posted. Maybe I need to revert to that. But I also came to the realization that using FB's new :angry: emoticon was just making me angry, and that wasn't helping anyone. So, no more of that.

I'd like to be able to clear my mind and head of these things, to not think about them, to be aware of dangers but not consumed by them. It'd improve my quality of life.

And so we're back in Berkeley, and I'm almost immediately reminded of the things I don't like here. Crazy guy on the BART platform at the Coliseum. A string of broad daylight armed robberies inside Berkeley cafes. A March 4th neo-Nazi (the so-called alt-right) march that's likely to turn into another riot that the police won't control.


I just need to dislike them without constantly harping on them.
shannon_a: (Default)
(1445 days left.)

After the election I spent a week or so freaking out about health-care, and what it meant for my future and our ability to move to Hawaii. I wasn't able to put it aside and not worry about it until I came to the conclusion that it was most likely that things would be OK in Hawaii because they had an HMSA before the ACA, and they'll probably have an HMSA after.

And then I pretty much tried to let go of the political fear, angst, and anger.

But Trump has made that impossible since his coronation. Every day there's been horrible stuff. I was right back stressing when I heard that he'd signed an executive order on day one determined to knock out the underpinnings of the ACA by telling the executive branch not to enforce it. And then there was of course the Muslim Ban. Lately the horribleness is almost farcical, like threatening to invade Mexico or hanging up on the Australian PM or signing an executive order to raise Nazi Stephen Bannon to godhood without knowing what he was doing. (He was reportedly angry about the last, but not enough to kick the Nazi to the curb.)

I dread looking at the news in the morning, but I don't know how not to, especially when this is stuff that's going to affect my life.

But I think I'm going to have to figure out how.

The last two weeks of work were very busy. I'd been so energetic and happy and working on projects for the first three weeks of the year, but then I had stress, stress, stress these last two weeks.

I initially diagnosed it as getting too much work in. And, there was a lot. For example I made four passes on a very technical white paper and I worked on some scripts and docs for Chris. All stuff that I hadn't been expecting. And I was trying to also get everything caught up and in good shape for my vacation.

But I think that was a misdiagnosis. The Trump evilness is what formed the foundation of my stress; an excess of jobs just built on it.

Last weekend I was supposed to start up my Burning Wheel game again, but I begged off because I was going out of my head with the thought of prepping and running it. Again, I misdiagnosed it as being solely work, but there's more going on.

Instead, last weekend ending up being quite relaxing. We'd had 4 or so days without rain, which has been a rarity this year, so I opted to hike up in the hills, which I haven't done to any great extent all year. It was a hike I've done before, though via a couple of variant trails: up Panoramic Hill, across the fire trails, along the skyline ridge trail, into Tilden, along the the ridge trails there, and then down, down, down until I get to a bus stop by Lake Anza.

It was a very pleasant walk because we've finally been hitting 60 degrees again. However, there was surprising amounts of damage from our recent storms. At least half-a-dozen big trees down, two of them blocking the trails. A couple of mud slides infringing upon the trail. Mostly non-muddy trails, except a few times were literal streams were running down the trail.

But great, relaxing, and badly needed.

Oh, and I didn't mention my other stressor of late: I've been having my ongoing annoying health issues again. They mostly had faded away during fall, but just before Christmas they picked back up again, and they've been quite annoying throughout January.


And quite bad this weekend in advance, of course, of our vacation.

I'm reluctant to visit doctors again, after the waste of time (and the pain) of way too many visits in 2016, trying (and failing) to figure this out.

But, I'll have new coverage in March with Kaiser (as an alternative to a $300! increase in insurance rates), so maybe when I do this year's physical, we'll talk.

But the doctors were so, so, so worthless in 2016 and so disruptive.

Calgon, take me away.
shannon_a: (politics)
I first realized how broken America's healthcare system was around the time I turned 30. I was writing the checks for the premiums for Skotos' health insurance, and I was seeing the costs rise dramatically year by year. It was having a major impact on our bottom line as our fees literally doubled over the course of several years.

However, K's issues with health insurance were more notable. She applied for private insurance and she was denied due to pre-existing conditions. It was nothing of particular note at the time, just rare fainting and chalazions (eye styes), but the insurance industry had absolutely no incentive to offer insurance to someone who didn't appear to be in picture-perfect health, so they didn't. It was one of the worst examples I've ever seen of capitalism applied to basic human services, to the deficit of humanity.

We were able to get K. on Skotos' insurance, with fees paid out of our pocket. But if anything that amplified my impression of the core problem. I increasingly realized that our health care — our health assurance — depended on being employed with a company. It made ideas like freelancing and even moving very difficult, because either of those decisions could break our ties to our employer-based insurance system.

In other words, it was heathcare serfdom, locking me to the regular system of employment and making it difficult to go too far afield from the location of the company that I wanted to work with. Perhaps the tie was harder to see than those of serfs with their land in the Middle Ages, but it was there all the same.

America's healthcare serfdom ended on March 23, 2010. The Democratic Congress restored the right of mobility to the population by ending insurance companies' ability to reject applicants, to reject claims related to pre-existing conditions, or to charge more for high-risk patients. As is appropriate in a civilized country, Congress ensured that everyone would help each other, with the healthy supporting the sick. Using a complex system of payments and tax rebates, they also made it possible for everyone to get health insurance.

It made freelancing a real possibility, without living under the Damoclean sword of medical bankruptcy. It also fit with the modern idea of a distributed office, allowing employees spread across the United States to each access guaranteed health insurance in their own state.

Skotos changed over to health-insurance-exchange insurance a few years ago. Admittedly, it's far from perfect. The costs are too high and the networks are too narrow. But it wasn't horrible for relatively healthy people, and it made less-traditional business very possible. More importantly, it offered a way to cut the too-strong tie between employment and healthcare.

For the first time in nearly a decade I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Cost increases finally flattened out, and I no longer had to worry about what to do about medical insurance if a situation arose where my company or my employment would no longer qualify for an employee-backed health insurance.

Meanwhile a new idea fell together for K. and me personally: a move to Hawaii. It was May or June this year when we settled upon this as our intention, for a few years hence. And healthcare was never even a concern, because I knew I could just transition from a plan on the California exchange to a plan on the Hawaii exchange with little problem.

Enter November 8, 2016. Donald Trump won the presidency after running on a chaotic and varied platform that, among other things, promised to dismantle the AMA.

Twenty-two million Americans depend on it. It establishes right of movement, eliminates health serfdom. It opens up new possibilities and removes old anxieties. But it's been the irrational target of hatred for Republicans for six and a half years, so there's every indication it will be gone in a couple of months. Donald Trump's minions even updated their plans on the topic a few days after their unexpected win.

So where do we go from here?

Are we going to return to the bad old days when loss of a job could (eventually, after COBRA runs out) result in the loss of insurance? Will we, the people, once more be bound to our jobs as healthcare serfs?

Trump claims he's going to replace it, but the only specifics on his web site talk about HSAs, which I've always seen as a fancy way of saying, "I don't have insurance."

The ACA was the biggest social entitlement of my generation. It addressed the worst of the human needs not addressed by our then-current government.

If things are rolled back to March 22, 2010, it's going to be ... heartbreaking.

Frustratingly, this proposed repeal is built on lies and unsupported hyperbole that the Republicans are telling about the system. Donald Trump's web site claims that the ACA is unsuccessful due to "rapidly rising premiums and deductibles, narrow networks".

I'd certainly agree that the narrow networks are troublesome. Just last year I wrote about the unacceptable distance I had to go to find an urgent care system. They literally told me to go to Sacramento. I had similar issues with finding an allergist, and ultimately decided to just punt the problem by not dealing with the issue. That's a problem that needs to be fixed.

However the low level of premium increases from 2011-2017 have been a godsend when compared to the decade before. They literally made it possible for me to keep doing what I was doing, what I love, even if the resulting coverage wasn't what I would have liked.

But the worst lie may be the claim that the Republicans can keep the "good" parts of the ACA, like the protection for pre-existing conditions and the ability for young adults to stay on the parents' insurance. Because without that much-hated mandate and without a complex system of risk corridors that moves some monies to the insurance companies shouldering excessive risk due to sicker patients ... it all falls apart.

So maybe the Republicans don't actually kill the pre-existing condition protections which are what protect us from healthcare serfdom, but if they drop the elements that make it possible, the whole system falls apart. And then the ACA dies a slow, shuddering death over a decade instead of a transitional death in two years, as the Republicans proposed last year.

How does this affect us personally? It's hard to say, but it fills me with dread.

K. is no longer dependent on private insurance. She's managed to access Medicare. Mind you, Paul Ryan has been wanting to kill Medicare for years, and he's already stated it's at the top of his list come 2017. So, that's another potential disaster come inauguration day. But there's some indication that he might leave Medicare for current recipients, and if so, things might be OK for a time. And it'd be a foundation to rebuild Medicare after his voucher system crashes and burns.

Instead, my situation will be the trickier one this time. I find it unlikely that my current insurance carrier will want to dump me, because I'm pretty healthy and California itself has some decent protections for insurance costs. I also don't get any subsidies, so all I need is for the insurance company to keep treating me fairly.

But if the ACA is truly gone come 2017 (or 2019), our plans to move to Hawaii just got a lot harder, because I'd need to sign up with a new insurance carrier then. And I have high blood pressure, and that's a pre-existing condition.

It's probably a bit higher as of November 9, 2016.
shannon_a: (Default)
Cutting down those acacias at the start of the month was #2 on the list of things I was not looking forward to in October. And though the actual work wasn't that bad due to good tools and lots of work done in advance by my neighbors, I ended up being very sore for days.

#1 on my list of things I was not looking forward to was an invasive medical exam this Monday. It was uncomfortable and sometimes painful and showed absolutely nothing, as I expected. But it was the last thing to do with this specialist, so I wanted to finish things off rather than wondering.

But what I didn't expect was pain and exhaustion for days afterward as my body healed itself. Yowtch. It took until Friday for me to feel decently good again. (well, not in pain at least, but still a little out of whack.)

Meanwhile, I'm still having issues, but I'm done for the moment. Next year when I get my physical, I'll talk to my doc about other specialists, possibly someone who can look into metabolic issues rather than going the physical route.

There literally was a storm yesterday. It was beautiful seeing the rain again. I realized that the last few times I saw rain were probably in Canada and in New York, so even moreso it was beautiful seeing the rain at home.

And, there's more storm scheduled for tomorrow, so as I write, it's literally the calm.

(And, what did I do in this calm? I hiked out to Orinda today, a nice walk up Panoramic Hill and down EBMUD trails that I've hiked before. It was beautiful Halloween weather: very windy, slightly chill, and gray. But I avoided the rain, though the trails were at times muddy.)

But there's also a metaphorical storm coming up. Next week is the third Rebooting the Web of Trust design workshop, which means that I'll be busy in the City helping out.

And then it'll be Saturday and I'll be running my first Burning Wheel game at Endgame.

So Wednesday through Saturday will be a busy storm.

But for the minute there's calm.

And there will be more calm afterward, as this should be my last bit of true busyness until the holidays.
shannon_a: (Default)
In Which My Hair is Butchered. K. was kind enough to cut my hair on Sunday, which she had done once before with the newish electric razor we have. Because of the long hiatus between the two instances she got confused about what the proper setting was for the razor, which was amplified by her trying to cut with the cover on backwards. When she was done, I had no hair. Quite literally. Between my hairlessness and my Van Dyke, I just need a black porkpie to look like a sociopathic drug manufacturer.

In Which My Cat Escapes a Harness. I've wanted to harness train Callisto since we got her, so K. and I started in on that in the last couple of weeks. Except she totally freaks out when the harness is on, moving like her back is broken, scuttling like a crab, etc. She also tries to lick it off continuously. To try and show her the benefits, we took her out to the deck last week, and that seemed to work OK. But then K. took her out to the front yard and sat with her on the steps. She apparently got freaked out, because when I opened the front door to see how things were going, she bolted for the foyer so hard that she somehow slipped out of the harness. I think we're done harness training her.

In Which I Hike. I am once again on no-biking duty because it would upset a test my doctor has requested. So instead I hiked from Lake Anza, through Tilden, and down home on Saturday. It was a nice long hike. I also did my more typical 70 minute hike this evening, up the fire trails and back down Panoramic Hill. Lots of beautiful views on both those days (though Saturday was a bit hazy).

In Which I Also Walk. On Sunday, when K. wasn't busy butchering my hair, we went out for a long midday walk, traversing another half-a-walk from our Berkeley Walks book. This time we did the first half of the Southside walk, which took us from Telegraph & Bancroft, up toward College and back. (I figured it was the time to do it before the streets filled with returning students.) I knew a lot of what we saw and even predicted some of sites. However, I added dates and details to my knowledge base. Most surprising was that the Togo's was designed by Julia Morgan. That is, the storefront on Bancroft that had a Togo's twenty-five years ago (and the Double Rainbow Cafe on one side and something else on the other) was a Julia Morgan design. The only major change mentioned was that the interior courtyard used to be open. We still have half that walk to do, then another 16 in the book.

In Which the Health Problems Continue. Saw a Doc last Wednesday, to no great results. We agreed that all the drugs had done little good. So he's now got me scheduled for more annoying tests (c.f., no biking), which are to look for unlikely but scary things. If that doesn't turn anything up, then it's off to different specialists. The psychological weight of this (really, of constantly feeling uncomfortable) was really getting to me last week, but I managed to lighten it a bit by taking some music out with me on some of my walks and dancing and singing as I went, without caring who thought I was crazy. (I rarely care who thinks I'm crazy.)

In Which Our Anniversary is Coming. K. and I will be celebrating our 16th Anniversary on Friday at Millennium. Yay.
shannon_a: (Default)
The Bathroom Blow-up. We finally have at least one fully functional bathroom, but it came at cost.

The problems with our upstairs bathroom started when I knocked our upstairs sink out of the wall. This knocked the piping out too. No problem, we decided to take this as an opportunity. We ordered a new faucet, with the goal of having a plumber come into the house, repipe the sink and install the new faucet. (Really, faucet installation is something we should be able to do ourselves, but this sink is very hard to work with, and I just bloodied my knuckles last time I tried.)

So the plumber comes in to do the work on Tuesday ... and the next thing I know, I hear sawing and hammering. It turns out that we've got corroded and rotten pipes leading out of the sink into the wall. And so he took care of all of that in order to get things back together.

Meanwhile, we've been showering upstairs because the downstairs shower currently has some sort of leak. (We had a handyman in today who seemed to have a much better handle on what was going on than the plumber we wasted money on last week; he should be sending us a quote soon.) Anyway, the upstairs shower doesn't work well. The diverter only gets about half the water up to the shower head, and after you shower, the faucet drips, sometimes extensively, sometimes for days. So, having a plumber out, we asked him to look into that too.

First up, it turns out that the tiles and pipes have been installed pretty much on top of each, which makes it very hard to get at the piping without breaking anything. This is typical of the DYI badness that occurred in this house before we bought it, and that we've slowly been undoing.

Second, more rotten pipes. In fact when the plumber pulls out one of the knobs, it literally comes apart. This one requires a trip to a nearby hardware store to get a replacement.

Total damage was a bit more than $700 (including the cost of the faucet, which we ordered from Amazon last week). I'm not particularly upset about it, because this was really 16 years of deferred maintenance, and if we're ever going to rent the house out, the shower in particular was one of those things that needed to be fixed. But, it would be nice if we didn't keep having big expenses.

Now mind you, we still have a somewhat unstable console sink, but we're looking into getting a second leg for it. Otherwise, that bathroom is looking pretty good at the moment. Other than the cat litter all over. The shower and sink now are both much better.

The Passport Progress. Last Friday I applied to renew my passport. This came up suddenly, but fortunately I've got all my identity papers together.

(Which will be really useful is Trump is elected president. Ba-Dum-CH!!)

So I ran downtown to go to CVS and get a new passport photo, which is where I hit snag #1. CVS doesn't have a photo department any more. I suppose that's not too unusual in a new world of digital photography, but it surprised me. They have crappy little photo computers and they say that you should call over an employee if you need a passport photo. But this CVS has also been doing its best to replace all of its employees with semi-functional autocheckout machines. So I waited a few minutes, but their only employee was busy checking out other customers who refused to use the machines, so I left.

Fortunately, Google Maps told me where I could get a passport photo, at an actual photo place in Shattuck Square, and it was quick and easy, other than discussions about whether I should wear my glasses. (Consensus is no, because the gov't now uses passport photos for biometric bullshit and they couldn't manage a picture of my super-glasses without glare.)

So next I went to the US Post Office to get all my papers checked and turned in. Except I wandered up and down the hallway where the passport office used to be, and there were just closed doors. I finally asked at the front counter and they said, "Oh, our person who does passports is out for a couple of months, so we're not doing them right now."

Really. Our main government office that does passports in Berkeley staffs it with just one employee and if she's out sick, that's it.

(My brain goes: "So you have to wait a few months until she's back if you want a passport." But I just say "thank you" to the postal clerk who seems really apologetic and clearly realizes how asinine this is too.)

Somewhere in city hall actually does passports too, but it's by appointment only. Fortunately I'd found one other passport office in central Berkeley: Cal's RSF. (That's the campus' Recreational Sports Facility.) I was a little trepidatious about going there while not being a student, but it was easy. You walk in, the customer service window is right there, and they run all the paperwork for you. Easy. (Also: much more efficient than the passport lady hiding in the bowels of the US Post Office, from my past experience.)

Now the question is if the US gov't actually issues me a new passport. You see, I changed my name when I got married to a combination of my and Kimberly's former last names. But at least in California that's not really recognized anywhere on the marriage certificate. I think it's just assumed that either the wife takes the husband's name or nothing happens, and that would be easy to see from the certificate. Back after our wedding I was able to get my social security card updated easily enough and my driver's license with some determined arguing (that ultimately paid out, as surprising as that is with a gov't bureaucracy). Given that, I'm a bit nervous about sending the passport application out into the void, but fingers crossed.

The Health Hijinx. So when I saw my specialist about my chronic problems (again!) last month he laid out a plan to try out some drugs and supplements over a period of 6-7 weeks. It's possible that increasing my alpha blocker helped a little, but the day I was scheduled to start up a totally new drug I was still having some symptoms, so I went ahead with it.

And this damned thing seemed to make my chronic symptoms worse. I gave it 10 days hoping that would fade, as I had great hopes for the drug, but no dice. So a week ago Saturday I discontinued it entirely, after 10 days of use.

My increased discomfort seemed to recede, but I'm still doing worse than I have in months.


I'm back to see the specialist next week to report in, but I'm beginning to lose hope they're going to do anything useful.
shannon_a: (Default)
K. and I have decided for once not to wait a year to see the new season of Game of Thrones (when it hits DVD).

So I looked into HBO Now, the streaming, on-demand service that you can buy ala carte. Except Tivo doesn't support HBO Now, and that's our main entertainment center.

No problem, I figured, I'll just order HBO for a month through Comcast, then watch it through HBO Go on the Tivo. That's their connected-to-your-account HBO streaming service. I mean, I hate to give Comcast any more money because they're one of the scummiest corporations in the country. But it'd be convenient to watch on our Tivo in our living room. Except (1) Comcast makes me waste 10 minutes talking to a chat operator to sign up for HBO; (2) then they can't even get it to work, and with my experience with Comcast and Tivos and Cable Cards in the past, I'm not sure they ever will; and (3) While wasting my time chatting, I discover that Comcast is the only major cable provider in the US that isn't supporting HBO Go through the Tivo. (Discussions imply it's because they tried to get a bribe from Tivo, and Tivo refused; I don't know if that's true, but it sounds right to me from what I know of Comcast.)

So that order got canceled before it ever worked. It's like Comcast is begging you to cut your cable.

Next up I guess I dig up the Roku we could never get to work reliably and see if it supports HBO Go. (The internet says yes, unless we have too old of a box or something.)

And I hope I don't have to fight with Comcast in a month; they claim that canceled the HBO service at no cost, but I have no faith because Comcast's customer support is full of liars, in my past experience.

Meanwhile, the bathroom. After the leak last week, we didn't use our downstairs (nicer) shower for a few days, then I tested it out on Tuesday night and running the water didn't make it leak.

So we started taking showers. Wednesday, no leak. Thursday, no leak.

I come to the conclusion that the problem is actually in the way our tile is sealed, particularly some broken caulk next to the tub. And I'm being really careful to make sure no water is getting out of the tub. The plan is to get a handyman out to recaulk and seal.

Then Friday morning there's water running down under the house again. Despite the total lack of water outside of the tub. In fact, I look carefully under the house and in the bathroom and I really have no idea where it's coming from, though it seems roughly in line with the outer edge of the tub.


(My guess is that I ran the shower hotter today and that's unsealing something. But I have no idea what. So I think we're going to have to call out a plumber to do expensive investigation before expensive ripping out of walls or something to get to whatever's leaking. I'm really sick of this year costing extra money, while the jacked-up stock market keeps our emergency funds in the doldrums.)

Our deck refinishing of the weekend seems to have gone pretty well, but there are a few spots where apparently the finish got put on too heavily, resulting in tacky wet spots. I tried to fix it quickly during the week by reapplying, letting that eat up the old finish, them wiping it off. (Multiple sites on the web told me this was what to do.) And that slightly improved things, but didn't fix them.

So Sunday I may have to do something more drastic like sand and reapply.

But I'm not sure that we actually have enough finish; I think there might be too much pigment and not enough oil left.

While bitching, I suppose I should bitch about health.

My plan with my doc for my chronic problems was to try some increased meds for a few weeks, then try a new one this Wednesday if things weren't good yet. And they weren't, so I did.

And the first couple of days it seemed to crank up my symptoms and give me a pretty horrible dry mouth. I was on the verge of calling it quits, but today seemed better. So we'll see how it goes.

Two steps forward implies one step back, and therefore progress, but I'm not convinced it hasn't been two steps forward, two steps back.

Except for the deck. That's clearly almost all done.
shannon_a: (Default)
A busy few days.

On Saturday I ran a Mouse Guard game at Endgame. This is the first RPG I've run since my Kingmaker campaign ended last year, and a rare diversion into more indie play.

I thought it went well. The players seemed to enjoy themselves, and the game system really encouraged more roleplaying and more thoughts about a character's motives, exactly as I hoped it would. Meanwhile, I didn't feel overwhelmed like I have with some indie games (Dying Earth comes to mind). They can be really exhausting, but this one didn't feel like that, perhaps because it gives players lots of ability to choose what they're doing.

The plan is to run a total of four-five sessions of Mouse Guard, then if we like that use it as a springboard for a longer Burning Wheel campaign.

On Sunday K. and I took a first walk guided by Berkeley Walks. We picked the Elmwood walk as our first from the book. It's a bit more than 3 miles.

We liked Berkeley Walks when we saw it at the Berkeley Book Festival because it appeared to be full of details about the various houses and neighborhoods that you were walking through. We didn't realize quite how full. We did a bit more than half the walk, but took 2-3 hours doing so. We'd walk several houses (rarely, a half block or a block), then we'd stop, read about the next way point, and examine the house that was being described.

There was some history in the book, which I expected (though actually less than I would have hoped). However, there was much more architectural detail than I expected, and both K. and I found that fascinating. We slowly began to recognize architectural styles ("colonial revival" was quite popular) and also architectural elements that we hadn't know. Now I sort of know what a dormer (a roofed structure that projects out from the plane of a roof) and a mullion (a vertical divider between panes of glass or between windows) are.

We'll finish up the Elmwood walk on another Sunday, then there are many more in the book.

On Monday I worked, but also visited my specialist to see the results of some recent tests.

So, I apparently have a 4mm kidney stone. It's still in the kidney, so it's unlikely to be causing any of my current, chronic problems. But, joy. Massive pain sometime in the future.

The doc is concerned that the next stage of testing for my chronic problems would not be insurance-covered, because insurance companies suck at doing their job. Combined with the fact that my symptoms have perhaps lessened in the last few months, we're trying out some new drugs and supplements.

(More joy.)

So far I've doubled up on the alpha blocker I was taking before and it's making me a little groggy during the day and a little light-headed when I stand up, but hopefully that'll go away in the long-term.

Not thrilled about the idea of any of this doing anything ... but onwards we go.

And on Tuesday I worked, and on Wednesday I video-conferenced about a paper. And now it's Wednesday night, as another week flies by ...
shannon_a: (Default)
Just before I left for New York City, my specialist told me that I could cautiously start biking again. Though I was still having (and am having) ongoing symptoms, the inflammation she had been seeing was gone. None of this particularly surprised me, as I never felt like my symptoms lined up with an inflammation-related diagnosis.

But, I was happy to be able to bike again.

(And I had a CT scan today to look for other organic issues as the annoying next step; I've now got a CD of my innards which my doc will look over next week.)

Despite the fact that I never particularly believed that biking had anything to do with anything, I've carefully followed my specialist's orders. Including being cautious about starting up again. So, I biked out to Endgame the weekend after I got back from New York, but I also continued to BART and bike some.

Then, this last Saturday, I went on a recreational bike ride.

I believe it's my first recreational bike ride since January(!), an impossibly long time ago. And, it was practically my only bike riding since March, when I stopped entirely except a few required trips to the optometrist.

I was also practically starting out from scratch with my new bike, which I just got in late December.

My destination on Saturday was the Wildcat Canyon Trail, a ride that I love dearly, but which I hadn't done since the rains started in November. (Ah, rain, I recall it fondly, and not just because I kept getting wet in New York.)

Still, I was careful. I BARTed up to El Cerrito Del Norte. But, from there I biked up to the Alvarado Park in Richmond, then turned around to ride the Wildcat Canyon Trail through Wildcat Canyon Park, into Tilden.

I'd been afraid that my hill-climbing muscles had atrophied in the last four or five months, and I think they somewhat have.

There are three major (but short) climbs within Wildcat Canyon, then a longer slope to get onto the roads in Tilden Park, then a major (and long) climb to get out of Tilden Park. They're always challenging. Even at my peak, most rides I'm only able to bike 1 or 2 of the climbs in the Canyon. I always bike the slope up to the roads, but then it's 50/50 whether I walk out of Tilden on the shorter route or take the longer route and perhaps ride, but perhaps walk part of it.

But on Saturday I actually biked all three of climbs within Tilden. The last two were very difficult, and I could feel that I'd lost some muscle as I was sometimes putting my legs down and having almost nothing happen. But I feel like I've also built up some endurance and improved my cardio-vascular fitness in four months of regular hiking, and I think that allowed me to keep going. So, it was tougher, but more doable, weirdly enough.

(I was also able to ride the slope leading to the Tilden roads, but then I walked the quarter or half-mile short route out of the park.)

I enjoyed seeing the park again, although it's somewhat the worse for the half-a-year I've been away. Storm damage has closed one of the major routes into the park, and that means that it's been like that for months and they haven't repaired it. (Unrepaired storm damage is becoming an increasingly big problem at many of our local parks; it seems to be accumulating in Redwood Regional and Tilden and Wildcat year after year.) Meanwhile, the whole top of the hillside was cut off for fire abatement work.

Fortunately there was a clear path through from Alvarado to Jewel Lake, then around to the roads, and up and out of the park.

The thing that surprised me the most about the ride was how good I felt. How healthy I felt. Now, I don't think biking is any healthier than hiking, and I'd been doing some darned good hikes, but the fact that I was doing something that I'd been denied for many months for health reasons made me feel better (even if the core problems linger).

The other thing that surprised me was that I missed my hiking! I've really come to enjoy walking our nearby trails in recent months. If I'd had a place to lock up my bike inside Wildcat Canyon, I would have left it a while and hiked up and down a hillside.

I mean, I've always hiked a bit, but I really came to enjoy it more in the last few months, so I guess I've found a new hobby.

And now I can choose to specifically bike to somewhere to hike, if I want.

(And so far, no worsening of symptoms or anything from the biking; I continue to watch it carefully, and I'm going to continue to do some BARTing over the next week or two, but I hope I can continue on. Of course the annoyance is that my chronic symptoms have always continued, which makes it slightly hard to measure if they're getting worse.)

That was Saturday. I had some other stuff that I wrote today about the Berkeley Book Faire on Sunday. But Livejournal gets flaky about its autosaves when you write something on one computer, then recover the autosave on another computer. So, when something or another killed my Safari it wiped out that last part of this journal entry (and my editing!).

Suffice to say: beautiful open air book festival; less beautiful content because there was too much crazy Berkeley stuff; and a great row of food trucks, which I wish we'd known about in advance. K. and I got a book of Berkeley Walks that we liked for how much information it had on its walks, and I got her a cute "K" necklace cut out of a book cover.

And that was the weekend.

And since then, I worked and hiked on Monday, and I worked and CTed and voted today. And I've been feeling burned out in the evenings again and not getting reviews and histories I wanted done. So it goes.
shannon_a: (Default)
A month ago, I was flying back from Hawaii after (yet another) delayed flight. In the morning,I'll be on a plane flying to New York.

Which I suppose is a way to say it's been a busy spring.

Life has been relatively good since I got back from Hawaii. I was stressed out of my mind and/or depressed by my ongoing health problems before the trip. Since then I've been feeling better.

I actually had one week of Skotos work where I got to put work into many of my ongoing projects instead of the crisis of the week, and It felt really freeing.

Since then I've been putting more work in on a couple of different security/writing/privacy projects for Chris, which had produced some good material (and prepped me for the trip). I wouldn't say it's less fulfilling, because I like what I'm doing, but it didn't have the same feel of openness as when I was bouncing between some long-neglected Skotos projects.

Meanwhile, my health problems haven't actually gone away. In fact, I've had an annoying flare-up the last three days, which I'm really hoping is receding, as I'll be on a plane tomorrow, then doing stuff steadily for the next four days. Longer term, maybe things are doing a little better. It's hard to say because every morning when I wake up I don't know if I'm going to have a good day or a bad day. Sometimes I'm feeling poor all day, sometimes my symptoms develop in the late afternoon, and sometimes I'm clear all day.

One of the frustrating bits is that I remain unable to determine any correlation between anything I do and the good (or bad) days. I mean, it's possible there isn't one I suppose. But when this newest flare-up started, I was unhappily trying to figure the culprit.

(If there was one or not.)

As usual, my main issue is worrying about whether we're actually doing something helpful (waiting), or if it's not going to do any good, and will just keep me miserable for longer.

I saw my doctor yesterday, and she does feel that we're not necessarily getting anywhere on the sitting around. So she's going to start work on getting some tests, so that we can see if any of a number of less likely possibilities might be going on. First up is a CT scan. We'll see how it goes from there.

I have my fingers crossed that things will be OK enough in New York.

Oh, the good-ish news. The doc says she's no longer seeing inflammation.

That goes hand in hand with not knowing what's going on and needing more tests. But it also suggests that the inflammation wasn't what was causing the problem (which was always my fear/suspicion).

But because of the lack of inflammation, she gave me the OK to bike. She said to start slowly and stop if I see any problems, but I've to date had zero problems that seemed to come directly from biking. So I'm quite hopeful.

(The starting slow will be the tricky bit; but I'll give it a shot after New York.)

So, New York.

I was going to write more, but I've been working on this journal for days … and now it's bedtime, and I'm leaving in the morning.

So, Short answer: Chris is doing another design workshop, like the one he did in November, except this time it's in New York, following a big identity-related conference at the UN. I told him that if he wanted to drag me out to the East Coast to continue with the facilitation, editing, and scribing duties I did here in SF, he was welcome to, because the topics are interesting, and I've never seen New York before.

Last Monday, he let me know it was a go, so I'm leaving for New York in the morning. Thursday is travel, Friday is the UN conference, Saturday and Sunday are the design workshop. Then on Monday I get to see New York. And again Tuesday morning before I head back Tuesday evening.

Should be a very busy, tough couple of days. But it'll be pretty cool to have it all in New York. At the UN, then Times Square. So, looking forward to it.
shannon_a: (Default)
As I hike down the path, I see someone far below me, on one of the Selby Trail's other twists and turns. She pauses in the path, stands a moment, then does a funny jump and run along the trail's edge.

A few minutes later, I descend to where she was and confirm my suspicions.


I look down at my shoes which still have traces of red mud from Kauai. And maybe even mud from the trails here in the East Bay, before my trip.

Yup, I'm back in the saddle again.

(Except the problem is of course that I'm not.)

Nine Days Earlier.

I'm back to work on Friday, about ten hours after we got home. I actually like having a Friday to work after I get back from vacation, because it gives me one day to catch up with email and phone calls.

Mostly I punt spam that the spam catchers didn't catch. I also start ads, respond to non-spammy email, and do other things that I opted out of dealing with while on vacation.

Then on Monday I start a regular work week without all that catch-up hanging over me.


The weekend and the week flit by.

I write at Clark Kerr. I see a play. I deal with emergencies at Skotos. I research. I write more.

I record the ongoing health symptoms I experience in the hope they will mean something to me or my specialist when I see her next month.

I board game for the first time in April. It's mostly old favorites.

I watch Eric's Dresden Files Kickstarter more than I should, but it's intoxicating seeing the numbers go up.

Day by day I feel the the rest and relaxation from vacation drift away. It's not the work. It's not the crises. I deal with it all well. I'm pleased with how the crises resolve. I'm pleased with the writing I do.

I just can't maintain the joyous relaxation that I gain in Hawaii. I can't stay light-hearted and unworried and unstressed because there are worries and stressors and issues that require a heavy heart. I have medical frustrations to deal with too. Thankfully, I haven't returned to the depths of frustration that I visited before the trip.

But I can't maintain that calm serenity.

I never can.

If I'm not gaming, Saturday is the day I like to take my laptop out for a walk. So that's what I do today, nine days after my return from the Garden Island.

I used to take my laptop out for a ride, but as I said I'm not back in the saddle again. Or on the saddle again or whatever. I'll talk with the specialist about that next month. There will need to be progress on my condition for me to feel this is worthwhile.

But for now, no biking.

I'm starting to feel like I've seen the hikes that our local hills have to offer. But I have a plan for today's walk. Well, mainly I have a desire: a sandwich from Andronico's on dutch crunch with a side of Kettle chips.

So I walk with Kimberly northside and after we diverge I gather my supplies.

Then I begin my ascent.

The goal on a Saturday hike is both walking and writing. I hope to begin the second after my ascent to Codornices Park. However following my lunch, I am forced to flee due to smoke from a nearby barbecue.

This is not the first time this has happened. I begin to suspect that my laptop computer has smoke-attracting circuitry.

I've been playing my route by ear, but I now figure out a new series of paths that will take me up to Tilden Park, which is my intended destination for the day.

I walk Redwood Terrace to El Mirador Path. I'm surprised by how rundown they are. The cement steps are often at weird angles or too shallow due to movements of the earth. Then I take Sterling Path to Keeler Path. The latter is the only one that I'm aware of walking before. It's a rare horizontal Berkeley path, running along the hillside (rather than up it). It goes through an area that's mysteriously empty of houses, and looks very jungly as a result. It's pretty cool.

At the end I emerge into Remilard Park. It has a large rock. I carefully investigate and am relieved to discover there are no barbecues.

I sit down to write.

I am interrupted once by a lady with a small dog named Lucy and once by a hippy dude trying to figure out how to climb the rock.

I scritch the dog and show the dude where to climb the rock.

When I pack up after writing two articles, I try the rock myself, and don't get off the ground. The rock is apparently harder than it looks.

The Berkeley paths have disappeared this high up the hill, so I mostly walk quiet roads to get up to Park Hills. It's at the top of the hill between Tilden and the East Bay. There is indeed a park in the middle. It's a neat little circle of greenery and play equipment surrounded entirely by houses.

There is a picnic table, so naturally I sit down to write another article.

I think the park unused at first, but soon after members of a family drift in: a mother, her child, her wife, an older woman, and their dog.

One of the women, who turns out to originally be from South Africa, is in charge of the dog and keeping her assiduously on her leash. I worry that I might be the cause of that, and I don't want to be when I'm just visiting. So I tell her I'm perfectly happy if she wants to let her dog run free.

She does, but the dog is quite old, so it mostly slowly walks free.

She takes this as an opportunity to talk with me. I don't mind because she is not only very enthusiastic about Bernie Sanders, but she also soon begins to praise my thoughtful political philosophy.

What I find most interesting is her description of this Park Hills area. When I walked in, it struck me as being reminiscent of Ferguson. It's mainly architectural. There's a touch of brick on some of the buildings, and many of them also have (fake) storm shutters. However some of the houses also have details that feel really homey, like the way they display their house numbers.

South African woman says that the area also has a real community feeling to it, where everyone knows everyone.

This is pretty rare for Berkeley.

It sounds nice.

After we talk for a while, she wanders back to her family and I finish the last few paragraphs of my third article and head out.

It's all downhill from there.

Dropping into Tilden I see mud on the paths. It's not as bad as it was in early April, but I do have to dodge it at times. Fortunately, I don't think I add much to the mud collection on my shoes.

Oh, and I lied: it wasn't all downhill from the Park Hills exit, but it was downhill for quite a time, until I hit Lake Anza. From there I head back upward to my favorite picnic area. It's got a barbecue, and I have indeed been forced to flee from its smoke before.

I actually have walked this part of the Selby Trail before, from Lake Anza, up to the Island Picnic area, then up to the top of the stutter ridge.

From there I head south along the edge of the golf course, and this is new trail.

Sadly it's not particularly nice trail. Mostly I can see the road next to the golf course and the chain fence around the golf course.

Ah, nature.

Eventually I exit Tilden and from there revisit many of my greatest hits.

The Space Science Labs. (Great views!)

Centennial Road. (Sucky walking.)

The Lower Jordan Fire Trail. (Nice creeks and trees.)

Panoramic Hill. (Not actually that panoramic because all the houses block views.)

Some trail down to the Clark Kerr Fire Trail. (Which is trickier going down than up.)

Then I'm back on the ground in Berkeley, and it's a short walk home.

25,000 steps for the day, 11 miles, 198 floors.

Apparently I need to run up our stairs twice to get another copy of Fitbit's Castle badge.

Doesn't 200 floors seem a lot for a castle?
shannon_a: (Default)
A week ago a friend asked me how I was doing, emotionally, and I was able to tell him totally honestly that I was doing well. However, him asking what was making me feel good offered a more revealing answer. I told him that I'd been feeling good (jazzed even, bouncy, a little hyper) since I went off my recent blood pressure med. I hadn't realized how much it had been wearing me out and making me feel exhausted. When I stopped taking it, it was like a spring went off, bouncing me all over.

(But I do I continue to watch my blood pressure; a new drug from my specialist also offers some minor blood pressure help, so it's staying at a reasonable level, between 106/69 and 118/81 since my meds reached a new equilibrium; when I'm off that I'll go see my cardiologist again.)

A week later, the mood is not so great. It's mainly been because of my ongoing, chronic health problems. I haven't been in pain or anything, but there's a regular sense of discomfort and wrongness. And hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month that adds up. I get a bit bummed whenever I'm feeling sick or wrong, and this has been ... not quite relentless because it's not constant, but too regular.

Much of the problem is that I'm not confident we have an answer to what's going on or a solution. So there's no end in sight.

I've been logging my symptoms and my diet since my last doctor visit to see if I can turn up any correlations. Whenever I have a particularly bad day, I go back and see if I can pick up something that might have caused it. But thus far no good.

A few days ago, I tried something different. I looked at the good days when I was feeling mostly comfortable, and saw if I could come up with a correlation for that. Funny thing is, week after week Tuesday is a good day. And I tend to have lunch out on Tuesday to break up my week. The other day I tend to frequently do well is Saturday ... and I often eat out then too.

So I'm thinking now, could it be my regular lunch? It's usually the same at home: lunch meat, bread, vegetables, salad dressing as dip. It's going to be something to investigate when I get back, by varying that up. I think a week or two of either PB&J or tuna fish (instead of turkey, ham, or chicken) and chips (instead of veggies) might be enlightening.

(It could also be a physical correlation, like the walking to lunch and back changes something.)

But really I'm probably just struggling for control of something I can't control. We'll see.

I've also been stressed by the upcoming trip. Some of this is the standard: getting ready. I also try to arrange to have work to do on the plane, and I'm still struggling to get some of that lined up tonight. And because of the changes to our plans we're coming back just before taxes are due. So I had to get our taxes done in advance. And they're very high this year for a variety of reasons, so I had to free up money to pay them.

But, prep is done. Taxes are done and payment is scheduled. Meanwhile, I've got at least two things I can edit and four things I can write on the plane for my ongoing D&D histories. And I know I've got editorial work for my Michael Moorcock book.

So, I could really relax if I want. I'm about ready to.

But the being on the trip is also feeling stressful because I don't know how sickly/uncomfortable I'll feel, how much it'll impact what I'm willing to do and all that.

And I somehow managed to strain a shoulder while getting stuff ready tonight. I'll have to REMEMBER to pull that suit case with the right arm, not the left tomorrow, so I don't make it worse.

But the trip should be GREAT. Once we're there.

I need to set myself up with some mental visions of the stress and depression running off of my like water cascading about me in a waterfall.
shannon_a: (Default)
I went and saw my specialist last Friday. The report is that I still have inflammation, which is unsurprising, because I've still had the chronic symptoms that have been plaguing me since November.

The treatment plan? Continue waiting for the inflammation to recede, and continue to not ride my bike. Return to the doctor in May for another useless pronouncement.

I'm of two minds of this.

I'm certain the doctor is right about the inflammation. But I'm less convinced that the symptoms I've having are related, because they'd be somewhat atypical for the problem. To be precise, I'm not having any pain, just a variety of uncomfortable issues. I'm also unconvinced because there really was zero improvement since we last spoke in February.

However, I guess I'm willing to give it the couple of months, and I'll double down on the no-bike-riding, even though the increasingly summer weather is beckoning me. (Even though it means I'm losing a lot of my meditative rest and my exercise, and I'm concerned that I'm going to lose biking muscles that I've spent seven years building.) For February I'd cut down my monthly 150-200 miles to about 60 by just riding the places that were unwalkable (Endgame, the cardiologist, and occasionally the grocery store). For March and April I think I'm going to begrudgingly take BART to Endgame, which should cut my biking to about nothing.


And if it's still not doing anything? ... I guess that's just borrowing trouble.

So the Doc gave me a new drug when I saw her on Friday. It's supposed to help with some of my symptoms. That's not even close to my priority, as I want to see the darned inflammation go away, but if it makes life easier for me, great. And if does something, that certainly suggests to me that the Doc is right, and I become much more willing to do what it takes to get rid of that stupid inflammation.

(Not that I necessarily have a lot of control over it.)

Of course the fine people at Blue Shield & Cross once again fought to not pay for my drug. What really surprises me about their continued insurance malpractice is the fact that they keep fighting over costs to them of like $20. It's ridiculous (and demonstrates how horribly run they must be, if their priorities are that screwed up.)
shannon_a: (Default)
The Cipro Connection. Four weeks ago today I walked in to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription for Cipro, and learned from my awesome local pharmacist that the fine folks at Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield were refusing to fill the full month that my doctor had prescribed. And, it wasn't an unreasonable prescription (barring the whole question of whether antibiotics are overprescribed). I've since looked up the standard advice for my situation, and it's very clear that a four week prescription is the default.

The fine folks at Anthem would only cover two weeks of my doctor's prescription, and this made me a little nervous, because I knew that it probably wouldn't get the job done. So I asked our pharmacist, "Is this going to be a problem when I come in for a refill in two weeks?"

"I've never heard of an insurance company refusing an antibiotic prescription," the pharmacist said.

Given that he'd quoted me a price of $200 for the medicine without insurance, I was still a bit nervous, but went ahead, got my Cipro, and started taking the poison pills.

The Cipro Continuation. Two weeks later I'm back in the pharmacy, and guess who's insurance company is refusing to pay for the pills? That'd be me, being refused by the death panel at Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, who clearly are more worried about their bottom line than other niceties like doing what they're paid for and making sure their patients stay healthy.

My awesome local pharmacist is looking a bit frazzled, and says that he's been on the phone with Anthem for "way too long" and so has my doctor. Which sounds really damned ridiculous to me — that my doctor has written a really normative prescription, that I've got a "gold" level health plan, and that two of my care givers have had to waste considerable time trying to get said health plan to fill said normative prescription.

The pharmacist tells me that they have to charge me full price now, but that he's pretty sure an authorization will be in over the next couple of days, and that the pharmacy (not the insurance company) will then refund me.

I'm about ready to leave and come back in two days. I'd actually delayed starting the Cipro for two days so that I wouldn't run out while in Hawaii, and also so that I had breathing room if Anthem tried to pull a fast one. So I don't need it that day. But then they tell me it's just $30. Maybe the pharmacist had accidentally read me the non-generic price originally? I dunno, but that seems to be case from looking at pricing online.

For $20 difference, I'm not going to make my life difficult.

So I head off with two more weeks of poison pills.

(Has the pharmacy ever refunded my money? It looks like the answer is no, though Anthem did confirm they'd pay for the pills.)

The Cipro Conclusion. I've got just three Cipro pills left. I'll be done taking it tomorrow night. It's continued to make me mildly miserable. I'm perhaps not sick as much as I was about a week in, because I found a good blend of antibiotics and yogurt. I'm perhaps not quite as achey every single day.

But I'm still sick, and I'm still achey.

And the worse part is, I don't think it's done anything. I've been having another bout of my chronic problems, since last Friday or so — at least as bad as it's ever been. It's maddening and disheartening and maybe even frightening.

Pill Position. Cipro isn't the only med I've had going on. About 10 days after I started on the Cipro I went in to see my cardiologist. In January we'd upped my beta blocker to try and better control my blood pressure. It was making me unhappy because it was really damping down my pulse, so that I couldn't get a good cardio workout any more.

Well, Heart Doc said that it wasn't working that well for the BP either, so he dropped me back to my old level. My heart rate came back up ... and I realized how much it'd been making me tired too! So, there's one scant bit of medical happiness this month.

He also put me on a second med, which controls BP in a different way. He acted like it had almost no side effects, as long as you're not having kidney problems, so I took him at his word. My BP looks fine (106/60 at the moment), but I would have said the same after the previous change.

As for side effects: I realized that it's impossible to say if there actually are any, with the Cipro being a freight train smashing right through my vitals. Fortunately I'll be off the Cipro for three and a half days before I'm back to the cardiologist. So, I'll know if the aches and pains and such have disappeared.


Exercise Extinction. But the Cipro ...

Its other main problem is how its impacted my exercise.

First, my doc had already suggested that I not bike for a while due to my condition. Then, the Cipro suggests that you be careful of any sort of exercise. Reading online, this has to do with the possibility for tendon damage, and it's really running that they're cautioning against ... and biking.

So my exercise has been subpar for four full weeks now. In particular, I've only biked when it was a necessity (getting to a distant doctor's appointment, getting to Endgame). Heck, I've even been walking to the grocery store, which is a mile-and-a-half trip, each way.

This last week I've found myself thrown into even more of a fitness funk by the death of my Fitbit. I'm still doing my best to get my 30 active minutes a day, but the lack of statistical information on how I'm doing definitely has an impact and makes me feel at sea ... (And unshockingly the Fedex "SmartPost" has missed its scheduled delivery of today for my new FitBit; new schedule was first Friday, not Thursday, which is typical for Fedex's pennies-cheaper-but-days-longer delivery system.)

Sadly, this all means that my weight loss of the last 11 months has stopped. I'm hoping that'll pick back up when I get back on my feet.

Hill Position. Because of the suggestions against biking, I haven't been doing my usual weekend biking, nor the occasional evening biking. Instead I've been doing some hiking on my free Saturdays (which has been most of them in the last month, between the end of Mary's Cthulhu RPG campaign and the start of my Clockwork RPG campaign).

My biggest hikes were the trail up to the big "C", the two fire trails in Strawberry Canyon, and the fire trail above Clark Kerr. I was actually surprised my how many there were. I always knew you could hike the entire length of our East Bay Hills, but I hadn't realized quite what a network of trails there was, mostly up behind the campus.

I'd hiked the Clark Kerr fire trail before, and it's OK. It's a bit too much "a trail on the edge of a hillside", and the last part is really steep. However, the two Strawberry Canyon fire trails are extremely pleasant. They're mostly shaded and tree filled. They're also quite long. And they also feed into trails that go to some of the local parks.

(I probably shouldn't be hiking either, if I wanted to be 100% cautious about exercising, but it's the balance I settled on, to retain my sanity.)

So that's been the one particularly pleasant thing in recent weeks: discovering all these neat trails quite close to our house.
shannon_a: (Default)
My Fitbit broke last night.

Despite being just nine months old, it's been fading for a while. The problem seems to be the rubber covering on the watch band, which has been coming increasingly loose for some months. I've been meaning to request some warranty repair for that (just because it looks bad) for the last month or two. The plan was actually to send it out just before I went to Hawaii, which would have been this week.

But then Hawaii didn't happen. Meanwhle, in the last week my Fitbit started getting nonresponsive to some of its buttons and physical cues. And then this morning its alarm didn't go off. (Fortunately, my secondary alarm, aka Lucy Cat, woke me up just a few minutes after it should have gone off.) And when I finally plugged it in (the Fitbit, not the Lucy), it just showed a half-empty status bar.

I dunno, maybe it's half-full.

You'll have to guess at the trepidation I felt when I logged onto Fitbit's chat line. But given my recent horrible experiences with customer nonsupport at Hawaiian Airlines, and given my insurance company, Anthem, recently trying to screw me (which I need to write about), I was unthrilled to talk to customer support.

But there I am, chatting and I explain the two problems (peeling rubber and non-responsive Fitbit) and the customer service rep starts looking at my Fitbit account.

Then he's asking me questions like what color & size it is (black, large). And my mailing address.

And I'm thinking, "There's no way they're just going to send me a new Fitbit without making me jump through the hoops of returning my old one."

But that's exactly what they did. They had me a confirmation number within minutes, and had shipped within hours. They promise that it should arrive within 5-7 days of shipment. By next Wednesday.

It's the type of service that companies *should* offer, but no one does. So, kudos to Fitbit for astounding service.

And I now wonder what else my Fitbit might be telling their web site. Like did it send out a, "Help! Ohmigod! I'm dying!" message this morning, which was why the customer service agent was willing to send out a new Fitbit with few questions asked?

I got my original Fitbit last May and absent the manufacturing defect that eventually led me to talk to customer service today it's been quite a success.

I know that it encourages me to be more active. I try to make 10,000 steps on a day (averaging out Saturdays where I usually get a lot of steps with some mid-day weeks, especially Thursday, when I don't). I also do my best to get 30 "active minutes" a day ... something that I'd gotten pretty good at before my blood pressure meds starting causing troubles (another topic requiring another journal entry).

Since last March I've managed to lose 20 pounds, putting me to almost where I want to be, and a lot of that's thanks to the Fitbit device making me more conscious of my activity and the Fitbit website making me more conscious of what I eat. You put those together, and you've got a pretty good combo: burn more calories than you eat.

I was at first afraid that I was going to "backslide" while I was waiting for a new Fitbit. But they pushed out that new Fitbit so quickly that they're now saying it'll be here in 7 days. They unfortunately use a UPS shipping method that uses USPS as its backend, and I've had troubles with that in the past, but (fingers crossed), I should have a replacement Fitbit before I can do any sliding in any direction.

I'm amused by how acutely aware I am of my missing Fitbit.

Any number of times today I've wanted to look at my watch, and it's of course not there. The funny thing is that I've almost never worn a watch in my life. I have a very good internal sense of time. But the last 9 months of wearing the Fitbit has at least gotten me into the habit of looking at my watch as a nervous fidget.

I'm also quite aware of the lack of Fitbit every time I walk up and down the stairs. That's because climbing stairs is one of the Fitbit's "goals", and it's a pretty small number (10 flights by default, though I have mine set to 20 and often try to hit 25 as there's another badge there). So when I go up the stairs without the Fitbit, it's like I'm missing 5% or 10% of my goal ... and that's enough to make me aware of it.

Of course that awareness of doing stuff is what makes the Fitbit work as an encouragement device.

Looking forward to my replacement arriving!

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