Saturday, February 21, 2009

I Was Really Wired Last Night!

I snore. I've been told that on occasion by people I have shared rooms with (my kids, colleagues on business trips), and more importantly, by Alison. So now I have an important reason to do something about it. I talked to my doctor, who said that she would refer me to a specialist to consider what we might do about it (she even mentioned a minor surgical procedure as a possibility). The next thing I know, I have a phone call from a sleep clinic telling me I have an appointment to spend the night with them to monitor my sleep. So last night I spent the night at a sleep clinic.

I arrived around 9pm with my favourite pillow, and my book and a magazine to read. They hooked me up to a box of electronics the size of a brick, with 17 wires connected. There were contacts on my head, face (including one on my chin to detect grinding/clenching of my teeth), neck and legs, straps around my chest and abdomen, and two sensors stuck up my nostrils to measure my breathing. It was not a pretty sight:

Once I was all wired up, and lying in bed, they had me do several actions to calibrate the sensors and make sure they were all working:
  • close my eyes for 30 seconds
  • open my eyes for 30 seconds
  • look left and right without moving my head
  • look up and down without moving my head
  • hold my breath for 10 seconds
  • take 3 deep breaths
  • push my stomach in and out
  • cough (I did not have to turn my head!)
  • flex each foot up and down
When I was ready to go to sleep, they came to turn the light off for me (I was tethered to the bed and couldn't get up without help!). I asked for ear plugs because I could hear someone in the next room snoring (imagine that), and they were prepared for that.

I actually slept fairly well, apart from waking up 10-12 times because of all the weird shit attached to me. They woke me at 6am, stripped off all the wires, and sent me home. I have a follow-up appointment with one of their doctors in a few weeks, at which I expect to be told "Gee, you really snore!".

So I can check that experience off my list now.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nymonym Controversy

I guess I should know better than to claim to have come up with something original without first Googling it. Though I thought of my meaning for nymonym many years ago, there's another version out there competing with mine. Let's hope we can keep the lawyers out of this dispute.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Valentine's/President's/Family Day in Chicago!

Alison and I had a great weekend in Chicago. We had decided to go because it seemed like the best way to use the $100 United vouchers that we got when United lost our luggage for 3 or 4 days during our otherwise wonderful vacation to New Mexico last year. I had enough Aeroplan miles to get the hotel room for 2 nights, so it was a very inexpensive trip.

I had been to Chicago twice before. The first time was when I was returning home after graduate school in Berkeley. I had a drive-away car from San Francisco to Detroit (an arrangement where I move someone's car where they want it, and get where I'm going for the cost of the gas). I was driving along the I-80, listening to the radio, and landed on the first game of a Cubs doubleheader at Wrigley Field. I looked at the map and the clock and realized I could make it for the second game, so I pulled off the freeway, parked near Wrigley, saw the game, and then hit the road again afterwards. That was before they had lights at Wrigley field, and all the games had to be played in the daytime. That's all I saw of Chicago my first visit. My second visit was for the annual SIGGRAPH conference. I saw a few things near the conference center, and I think we went out for dinner one night on North Wells, but that's about it. So this third time was really the charm.

After landing at O'Hare (and being told that if we looked out the left-side windows we could see Air Force One), we bought 3-day transit passes, and took the train downtown. Do you still call it the "El" even when it's running underground like a subway? I loved how close the neighbouring buildings were to the passing trains, and how the old lines cut through the town, in some places blocking out the sun from the street below. Not beautiful, and noisy as hell, but it's cool.

We arrived at our hotel around lunchtime Saturday, and decided to start off with the classic Chicago food: deep-dish pizza. Our hotel steered us to a popular touristy place a short bus ride away: Gino's East. There was a huge lineup, but it was worth the wait (while we ate salad & breadsticks, which were probably a mistake) and the touristy atmopsphere. The pizza was great, and we ate the entire small thing, which stuffed us so much that we didn't really have dinner that night.

To atone for the gluttony of lunch, we walked around downtown Chicago for the rest of the afternoon. It's a beautiful city, combining nice buildings (old and new), great public spaces, and some cool art.

Saturday night we went to see a comedy show. We expected a lot, because it was a Second City show, called "HORSE!". Too bad it wasn't funny.

Sunday we had breakfast at a great place called Yolk right around the corner from our hotel. It was so good we went back Monday morning! We spent the next while at the Art Institute of Chicago. The highlight for me was the exhibit of Yousuf Karsh portraits; the Edvard Munch exhibit was also pretty good. The rest of the day was spent doing some shopping and checking out cool Chicago neighbourhoods.

After a siesta, we went for dinner at Adobo; we had a great meal, with delicious food & excellent service. Alison had a couple of excellent margaritas, the salsa verde was the best I've ever had, and my lomitos - pork tenderloin in a dark mole sauce - were wonderful. So I guess we disagree with most of the reviews in the link above!

We did a bit more shopping Monday morning on our way back to the airport. It was a short trip, but we had a blast, and left with a really great feeling about Chicago.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I came up with the concept of nymonyms many years ago. Homonyms are words that sound alike, and synonyms are words that have the same meaning. Nymonyms are words that sound as if they have something to do with each other, but don't. M&Ms and nymonyms are nymonyms. Non-ominous and anonymous are nymonyms. Use the word.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Bad Start to the Day**

I now know the answer to two fundamental questions about myself:
1) If I were near death in the intensive care unit, would I pray?
2) If I spilled my coffee beans on the floor, would I try to salvage the beans that had been on the floor for my morning cup of coffee?

The answer to both questions is "No"*. The first was answered in May of 1980, after my car accident. The second answer came this morning, after I fumbled the transfer of the coffee canister from the freezer to the counter. Here is the scene, with coffee beans and shards of broken canister lid decorating my kitchen floor.

And such a nice canister too, part of a deal from Gevalia Kaffe to try their coffee. I think I got it when I was in grad school in the early 80s. Their deal has gotten better with time; now you get a programmable coffee maker with your first order.

It was bound to happen some day. I am a very clumsy person at the best of times, and almost every time my sleepy paws grabbed the slippery canister from the freezer, my caffeine-starved brain would consider the odds of dropping it. I have already taken down the Elmer the Safety Elephant flag that had been flying over my house for so long.

*Well, while I did not use any of the beans that had been on the floor, I did salvage those that were still inside the unbroken part of the canister. Good coffee (not Gevalia).

**And only now, after posting this, do I notice that today is Friday the 13th. Ominous music.

Monday, February 9, 2009

New Routes in the Cave!

As I mentioned in the previous post, I had invited the climbing gang over on Saturday to set new routes in my basement cave. The response was almost overwhelming, as 7 of my friends showed up! It was a little hectic, as you can see by the time-lapse video below that my friend John Schrag put together, taking a shot every 30 seconds over a period of about 3 hours.

(time-lapse video by John Schrag)

We took turns staying out of each other's way, and everyone got to put up a route or two. We wound up with about a dozen routes in all, including (in no particular order):
  • Lean to the Left: all side pulls
  • Handmatchers Tale
  • Light up my Smile: uses all the lightbulb holds (So Ill's Electrophobia set) and ends on the happy face hold
  • Hands use only roof holds
  • Wooden holds + green-taped footholds
  • The Low Route: good handholds, all mounted on the bottom half of the wall (works the abs!)
  • The Undercling Route: all underclings, all the time!
  • Matt's Route: Up the left overhang starting with a sit start at the Cra (the first half of the crack hold pair), and up the arete with several crimpy holds, then a big stem across to the right overhang without using any feet on the end wall, and back down that arete to a controlled finish back on your butt. Elegant!
  • Peter's Route: Green pockets and sandstone slopers
We didn't really finish setting a proper route on the roof, so we'll need to come back to that. But we had a lot of fun, put up some nice routes, and it will take a while for them to get stale (at which point we just do it all over again!). The official event photographer (John Grieman) took a lot of shots, and when he gets those up on Flickr I'll add a link to those, and perhaps post a few of the best here as well.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tearing down the cave

I have a climbing cave in my basement (doesn't everyone?). It's half of the ping-pong room, and the room quickly converts between climbing and ping-pong by folding up the ping-pong table and unfolding the crash mats or vice-versa. It's actually the second climbing wall I've built; the first was on the outside wall of my previous house. I built the cave (with the help of a contractor who made sure it was solidly supported) after I moved, reusing some of the panels from the first wall, and adding two overhanging sections, and also covering the ceiling with panels filled with T-nuts to accept holds.

Here's a video of my friend Matt doing the first traverse of the roof:

It's been a while since I redid all the routes, so on Saturday a bunch of my climbing buddies are coming over to help do that. To prepare for that, I've taken down most of the bolt-on handholds, leaving only the footholds and screw-on features. Well, by "only", it turns out I really mean about 145 holds, or almost half of the total number I have. Here's what the cave looks like stripped down. We may still move a few of the larger screw-on features, such as the 3 long rails, or the crack in the center wall.

And here are the holds we'll be rearranging. I've got them sorted into the milk crates by type: rings & roof jugs, smaller jugs, other positive holds, slopers and "novelty" holds (like the skull, brain, animal shapes...). On the floor in front are the larger "features".

Monday, February 2, 2009

Too much time on my hands?

Since Autodesk reduced its staff by 10% (including my position) on January 15th, I've been pretty busy. I had a lot to do during the first week to disengage (salvaging personal email and photos, cleaning out my office, getting legal & tax advice...). I've been taking advantage of the outplacement services provided to me. And I've been working hard at expanding my professional network, mainly via Linked In.

After 2 1/2 weeks, things are starting to settle down a bit, and I find myself wanting to experiment with this blog thing everyone's talking about. I think it may be a neat way to keep in touch with friends, share some photos of recent trips, and do a little writing, which I enjoy, but have not done much of in a long while.

So here goes nothin'...