January Part II

The kids’ iPad was breaking down (restarting randomly, sometimes <5min in between, yes I did all the troubleshooting steps), and we have a long trip to Florida coming up. We decided, with mixed feelings, to buy two new ones. One, that’s a lot of money, and two, it means they don’t have to share (something we feel they need real world practice at). But, I learned there are some unexpected benefits (the expected one being less fighting, more quiet) — the first day, Chilkoot was asking how to spell things and trying to type them out. He has to do more things for himself since his sister is occupied.

The kids went down to stay with Papa for a night (the Super Wolf Blood Moon night, I think), and KrisDi and I went out for beer and food with P Dubs & T. That was nice, except that riding in the car that long was a bit much for my back, and the seats weren’t awesome for my back. We did manage to take a couple decent pictures of the moon with the megalens.

We got tickets to go to a Tavour beer party, and Papa came up to watch the kids while we went to it. We met some friends there. They had Cantillon and a number of other hard to find, delicious beers. It was crowded, chaotic, and almost no seating for me, but it was a lot of fun and I would totally do it again (hopefully in better back health.

M False Alarm turned 8. For her birthday party, she wanted to go to a nail salon (and not bring along little sister). So, I hung around at their house with G while B and Chilkoot barricaded the door. After the kids came back, it was presents, cake, playing, dinner. Somehow ending up with B’s foot stuck in a tree. I don’t understand. Oh, and they made slime, which Chilkoot disliked.

KrisDi got rear ended on her way home from work. She was stopped on an off-ramp; the car behind her was not stopped until it wedged firmly into her rear bumper. Everyone was OK, but KrisDi’s car is likely out for almost 4 weeks and by guidelines, we need to replace the kids’ carseats. This, of course, helps make logistics super easy the week I have surgery.

KrisDi started prepping for Chilkoot’s Harry Potter birthday party. I’ll save most of the pictures for the actual party.

Chilkat is selling Girl Scout cookies (contact us if you want some). She was making personalized sales videos and thank you videos for a while. We sent a sheet to work with A False Alarm, who has nearly doubled Chilkat’s sales.

Posted by snaotheus in Family, Photo updates, 0 comments

The Back Story

If you don’t like gory pictures, you probably shouldn’t look through the album above, since it includes a close up of the disc material removed from my back.

So, as I previously wrote, I had a lower back event on New Year’s Eve. That appears to have been my L4-L5 disc exploding, squishing like a tube of toothpaste, excess material constricting my spinal canal where the spinal cord splits into the nerve roots that feed the butt, hips, legs, and feet.

MRI on January 16th pretty clearly shows this (you can see the black/gray blob blocking off most of the spinal canal between the last two full-sized vertebrae). By stupid measurements, compared to MRI of the same area three years ago, I may have lost 1/4″ of height by squashing that disc.

I saw a neurosurgeon about whether I should have surgery; his opinion was basically “No-brainer, yes.” He said with or without the surgery, I’ll be in basically the same state after about a year, with basically the same risk levels for re-injury, and the same after 5 years. I asked him about risk of repeat rupture, with versus without surgery. He laughed and said, “Basically the same — but either way, there’s so little disc left that it probably can’t do much.” Way to look on the bright side, doctor! The main differentiator between yes and no seems to be faster relief with the surgery.

Before going through with the surgery, I went back to talk to my regular back doctor to make sure he didn’t think it was a mistake. He thought it was a reasonable decision to make, although he said something like, “If I was a surgeon, I’d want to operate on you, too — you’re young and you’re going to heal well and quickly, versus performing a ‘salvage’ surgery on a 75 year old.”

The surgery is a microdiscectomy, which apparently has some other names. Small incision, grind some vertebra bone out of the way, reach into the spinal column with cutting and grabbing tools (guided by some kind of camera/microscope) to remove the extrusion and any other bulge that the surgeon deems beneficial. Animated explanation behind this link.

The surgery was last Thursday, January 31st, 9:20 AM. Shouldn’t be any real surprises — no drinking alcohol for days beforehand, no eating or drinking anything starting at midnight before the surgery; IV, brief conversation with the surgeon who said it should take about 90 minutes and that he’d give us a picture of the removed material (and that it would look like crab meat). I remember hugs and kisses and see you laters with KrisDi, then waking up in the recovery room with a nurse who started feeding me crackers and soda — feeling groggy, confused, and sore.

Apparently, during this time, KrisDi talked to the surgeon, and he showed her this picture of Krang after removal from my back.

After a while, they moved me back to the same room I was in pre-op, where KrisDi was. Getting from the gurney into the chair was very unpleasant, with a giant shot of pain down the back of my right leg while trying to turn and get up. Continued getting snacks, various blood pressure or other minor medical tests, then they decided it was OK for me to go, around 12:30. KrisDi went to pick up prescriptions and get the truck, a volunteer (who arrived like 15 minutes late) took me in a wheelchair down to the truck.

Then we went out directly to have ramen for lunch. The lack of nerve pinch was already quite noticeable. Soreness and drug affects still had me moving pretty slow.

Before bed, I could already tell standing up straight was better, I could stand up and look up and look around without tweaking in my tailbone, I wasn’t getting shooting pain in my butt or down my legs (I have gotten one or two shooting pains in the process of getting in and out of bed).

Now…entering my fourth 24 hour period following the completion of my surgery. I stopped taking painkillers yesterday. My back gets tired if I sit or stand too long, and I actually feel pretty normal when I stand up after lying down and resting for a while. When I’m not tired, I can go up and down the stairs pretty comfortably.

Bending and twisting is clearly a no-no, aside from the fact that it’s currently forbidden. KrisDi has to do almost everything for me, which is frustrating.

Recovery plan…I’m not sure how long the no bending/twisting stricture lasts; I know I’m not allowed any exercise aside from walking for at least 2-3 weeks. No lifting more than 10 pounds for 3 months (so KrisDi gets to carry all our luggage for a family trip to visit Dad in Florida). In the short term, I’m supposed to limit stints of sitting or standing (which is pretty natural right now). I’ll have a follow up with the surgeon in about two weeks.

On a logistics note…I haven’t driven my car since December, since it’s low (therefore difficult for me to enter/exit) and a clutch. When we bought the truck, one of our lines of reasoning was “Well, snaotheus might get hurt and be unable to drive his clutch; we might have an accident and need a spare vehicle. This way we don’t need to rent a car. It’s unlikely those two things would happen at the same time.” Of course, KrisDi got rear-ended the week of my surgery. I need the truck, her car’s in the shop, and she can’t drive my car. So, Les is borrowing my car, and KrisDi is borrowing his.

Posted by snaotheus, 1 comment


I haven’t done this in a while. I used to do it fairly frequently.

Generally, I split my attention between five books or so. I can categorize them by context / purpose:

  • Work reading: Something work / skill related, that I read at some reasonable pace, which takes precedence for reading starting Monday until I finish the week’s quota. Currently I’m reading Design Patterns, and my weekly chunks are “read one pattern” which only takes about 30 minutes and makes a nice cognitive segment.
  • Personal chore reading: Something that I always mean to read, but never gets started unless I make a point of it. Currently it’s the entire collection of Edgar Allan Poe. Right now, each time I finish a personal pleasure book, I read 5% of this collection (minimum — keep reading until 5% is reached and I hit the end of a story or other natural break). After I realized how long this was, I wasn’t willing to follow my normal pattern of alternating between chore and pleasure reading.
  • Personal pleasure reading: These are the things I would read naturally — usually science fiction or fantasy. I try to vary between the two, and vary between older and modern. Currently it’s the Broken Sword.
  • Commute listening: Now that the kids aren’t in the car with me, I don’t need to worry about whether they’re sufficiently entertained during my commute. So, I started listening to audio books, since I get a minimum of one hour per work day to do it. Currently it’s Lord of Chaos, book 6 of the Wheel of Time. This is an attempt to get through the entirety of this series in a relatively unbroken chain and relatively short amount of time (which will probably be more than a year).
  • Home paper reading: All the reading above is digital. Mostly I read on my phone. And I have a huge queue of digital reading already. And I rarely have paper books with me, unless I’m at home. So, paper books just don’t get read if I don’t make a point of it, and I can’t reasonably just stop other reading when I start a paper book, because I would have it with me so rarely. Therefore, on the weekends at home, I read a paper book. Currently, it’s How Music Works. I might get through 10-20 pages a weekend, so it moves slowly.

Every once in a while, I get a specific reading assignment at work, which I have to dedicate time to in order to finish — over Christmas break I read Winning with Accountability for a discussion among managers at work early this year. A smaller subset of managers and I are going to start going through The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which should take roughly one hour a week.

The last batch of Poe stories (Lionizing, Devil in the Belfry, Three Sundays in a Week, King Pest) have been boring or ridiculous in ways that I think could be made more interesting. A lot of his writing is over the top in a way I don’t find very appealing. I’m really not a huge fan of most of his writing. It seems to be a good bet that if the story’s name is a woman’s name, I won’t like it. I actually started reading Poe because someone told me that Lovecraft mostly wrote Poe fanfic. Maybe for some particular Poe stories, I suppose.

I’m not going to be able to differentiate between what happened in Wheel of Time book 5 (last finished) and 6 (currently listening) — but it’s right in the murky middle of the series where all of the female characters are the same unbearably annoying character, and where Jordan seemed to have lost focus on actually getting anywhere with the damn story. The book could probably be cut in half pretty easily without really losing much.

Provenance by Ann Leckie was not a bad book, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped. I got this because I loved the Ancillary trilogy. This was clearly in the same universe, and wasn’t a bad story — but maybe it focused too much on the main character’s experience simply exerting self-control and weathering self-doubt and fear.

Posted by snaotheus in Reviews, 4 comments

January 2019 Part I

Well, I’ve already talked about how my new year started. I’ll talk in more detail about the continuing Back Saga in a separate post, but I got another lumbar MRI and a cortisone shot. I mentioned previously a lying down workstation — I used a Bluetooth split keyboard, a Bluetooth trackball, and the stand from my floating jackolantern so I could lie down on my back, with my feet up, my hands on either side of my hips, and a computer screen directly in front of my face as I look straight up. I started using a cane around the office, and one of my team members gave me a sweet-ass upgrade.

KrisDi started to prep for Chilkat’s birthday party. This year, she turns 8 and chose Harry Potter as her theme. The picture above was one taken in preparation for making invitations. She made a bunch of unfinished wands for the kids to paint or color during the actual party. I helped by suggesting using a pencil sharpener to start rounding the tips.

We finished Chilkoot’s pinewood derby car. He decided it needed to be painted like flames, and that it should named Daddy.

The pinewood derby itself was odd. It was a much smaller crowd than the Girl Scouts’ version with Chilkat last year — but it was very disorganized. They didn’t even get started until about an hour late because they didn’t have the track set up. Many of the cars were more fancily made (I have the impression the dads “helped” a lot). Chilkoot didn’t win anything, and mostly just ran around not paying attention.

Chilkoot’s front two teeth have been very loose, so much so that her left front tooth could be described as dangling. But, she completely freaks out if we even mention the tooth, acting as if we’re going to smash her over the head and pull it out with pliers. We let it go until she had her dentist visit, where she acted like a total idiot. Chilkoot was even infected by her shitty behavior. The dentist said the tissue is inflamed and that she thinks Chilkat avoiding the tooth during brushing was starting to cause problems. Chilkat has a cavity, and has to go back to get it fixed. The dentist said she could “extract” the teeth at ~$250 a pop. Total bullshit for something a fumbled toothpick could handle, so we told the girl we’re going to do it whether she likes it or not. Part of our job as parents is to help her take care of herself, and there’s no guarantee she’s going to like everything we need to do to achieve that.

For the most part, it’s been a quiet month while I potter about the house ineffectually, make KrisDi do all the chores, and try to figure out my stupid worthless back.

Posted by snaotheus in Family, Photo updates, 1 comment

Fives Of Years Ago

2014…I was 32. My back had started to degrade but wasn’t useless yet. Chilkoot was ~6mo, Chilkat nearing 3. I think I wasn’t managing a team yet, just a project. I can’t remember if I had actually resumed reading yet (this was triggered by the discovery of Kindle on the iPhone) — based on GoodReads stats, probably not. I’m sure I was tired. Probably at this phase in my life, it was more survival than anything else. I would have been a fairly experienced traveler, having visited Japan several times for several reasons and various spots around the US.

2009…I was 28. I think this was shortly before my first clearly recollectable lower back episode. This is the year KrisDi and I got married, so at this time of year, we were engaged, she was approaching end of her Master degree. We’d been in our current house for about a year — I probably still had a room where we kept all our space (we don’t have any anymore). I was a “System Engineer” writing requirements, using Quick Vision and QVPAK every day, solving and communicating about concrete problems. Kids were a theoretical notion at the time. This was probably only a couple years into serious beer interest — I was probably still searching for Lagunitas Imperial Red.

2004…I was 23. I’d been working for the Navy for less than six months. Living in California, traveling a lot. I had probably already gotten to the point where I knew more about RAM than most people who’d been working on it since I was in middle school (not to be conceited or anything, but totally likely). Still in my original apartment, living alone — not sure if I had bought any furniture or anything yet (or if my futon-mattress on the floor had started molding). I think by this time I had discovered Old Rasputin and started paying some attention to beer — associated with starting to date KrisDi, of course. She was most likely feeding me regularly. I had probably gotten my car running again and I had probably lost 30 pounds by commuting by bicycle in the meantime. I’m not sure if I’d been to Japan yet at this point. The other JPs and I had regular social events like barbecues and parties — maybe the most active and normal my social life has ever been.

1999…I was 18. I was in the middle of my first year of college, living in a dorm at NDSU (with a wrestler named Craig with whom I had absolutely nothing in common). Dating or conflicted about dating Meredith; possibly still conflicted about wanting to date Awz’s cousin. I was probably off of crutches from my 2nd knee surgery at this point. Actually, this might have been about the time that I walked a couple miles to get to PT for my knee, only to have the therapist tell me to go away because I had so taxed my knee walking out there. Of course, all my Beulah friends were still in Beulah, since this was the year I was supposed to graduate — this was before I got my scholarship at OU (or before it was effective, at least). I was hanging out with Abu, Wrong Ryan, John, Big Scary Dave, others of the same crowd. Smoking cigars from time to time. Hadn’t started to drink yet (was still zealously opposed to the idea of drinking). This was probably close to the time that Dave and I took a 12+ hour walk to Minnesota and back, bullshitting and smoking cigars. I walked a lot with my NDSU friends, and we bullshit a lot while walking. We watched horribly made horror movies (like Jason) and threw koosh balls at the TV to express amusement at their cheesiness. I listened to the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy radio show on mp3 a couple times. I was an EE student, I had probably at least learned what Matlab scripting was. Napster didn’t exist, but I was starting to build an mp3 collection by somehow discovering and downloading them directly from other people’s computers via FTP. I probably still have some of those mp3. I remember marveling at having something like 120 mp3s (currently my kids have nearly 200 on their playlist, and I have 8-9k). I was driving the 1980 Cougar XR7 (RWD v8) I’d gotten when I was 15-16. My knee was too shitty to drive a clutch — I remember helping Wrong Ryan get his stickshift truck out of a snowbank (in a parking lot), and nearly collapsing with knee pain (I was in the driver seat, he was pushing).

1994…I was 13. I was hanging out with JJ a lot, starting to discover “sexy movies” (like Johnny Be Good). I had a hernia surgery somewhere around this time, and this was about the time that I grew a foot in a year — going from one of the smallest kids and getting picked on a lot to being one of the tallest kids and being left the fuck alone. Also, my bones hurt. I remember doing stretches constantly in classes (I think I was trying to keep my muscles and tendons caught up with my skeleton). My 7th grade teacher hadn’t figured out that his pre-algebra extra credit scheme was dumb — if he followed it strictly, I would have gotten a 260% in the class. I understood it better than he did. He was more of a volleyball coach than a teacher. When I got in trouble, he wrote my older brother’s name on the board out of habit. I remember killing some kind of standardized testing that made me eligible for skipping math classes, or something similar. I think I was in track, or running long distance. I remember one particular event where somehow the coach pissed me off beyond my capacity to handle, and I ran something like 5 miles about twice as fast as everyone else while crying the whole time. I can’t remember if I was actually running hurdles at this time — I wasn’t good at it.

1989…I was 8. 2nd grade. Mrs. Swegarden was my teacher. I was learning to read. I think I was primarily hanging out with Awz at this time. There was a kid named Matthew that I hung out with — he may have moved away this year or the year before. I don’t remember what I was reading, but it was pretty simple stuff (Dick and Jane type).

1984…I was 3. I don’t remember anything for sure. We were probably in our second winter in North Dakota. I probably hadn’t met Awz yet. I have either a dream or a memory of when the house was being built — the driveway being piles of dirt, and my brother kicking me in the face and making my nose bleed.

Posted by snaotheus in Stuff I remember, 2 comments