Monday, October 18, 2004

Leaf blower

Years ago, when I first heard of leaf blowers, I thought they were a bit silly. Then I actually saw one in use, and thought they were noisy and silly. I thought they were for lazy old guys who didn't want to rake.


Now that I'm old myself (I've always been lazy, and have never liked to rake), it is time for my own leaf blower. The rock that now covers half of our back yard was just the last nail in the coffin -- just try to rake a few cubic yards of elm leaves off of pea rock, and you'll head for Ace Hardware just like I did.

So off I went, clutching a tattered old Consumer Reports buyer's guide. I couldn't find this year's guide, but how much can leaf blowers have changed in three years, anyway? I came back with this unit. Now, imagine me grunting like Tim Allen: 12 amp motor, quick-shift between blower & vacuum, 424 cubic feet/minute airflow.

And it's not all that noisy.

Thursday, October 07, 2004


Have you been wondering what William Shatner has been up to? Now you know.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Nocturnal polysomnography 101

Tired of my snoring, Tami talked me into getting tested for sleep apnea. There must be a long queue at the local hospital, as I had to wait about two months to get in. Last night was it.

It was the worst night of sleep I've had in a long time. I suspect Tami slept well...

First I filled out a short survey ("How much sleep last night?" "How many cups of coffee?") to supplement the week-long sleep log I'd already recorded. Then the nurse took tape measure and colored pencil to my head to decide where to hook up a variety of sensors. Several were placed around my head, one on each leg, two on my chest (those were the most painful coming off this morning), one under my nose, and one on a fingertip.

The plan was to observe for the first part of the night, then if it's warranted, hook me up with a CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure) device and observe some more. CPAPs are a common treatment for sleep apnea. They're a machine with a mask placed over the nose, and work by increasing the air pressure in one's upper airway enough to prevent obstruction.

I had to sleep on my back, both to prevent all of those sensors from coming loose, and to encourage the instance of an observable problem. This second reason seemed bogus to me, but I went along with the program. This turned out to be a problem. As the night progressed, my hips and back, unused to that position, were progressively more uncomfortable, which kept me awake.

After what seemed like about 90 minutes (I hope the results show the actual time), I finally fell into a fitful sleep. I woke up a few times. At some point (again, I'm not sure how long), the nurse came in to put on the CPAP. I was curious to see how uncomfortable the air pressure was going to be. That turned out to be fairly tolerable. At first the device itself was pressing quite hard on the top of my nose, but I called in the nurse and she adjusted it. Later it seemed to shift back into that painful position, but then I just adjusted it myself.

After another eternity, I fell asleep again, and I was even more restless than before. After a number of sleep/wake cycles, I thought to myself "Nurse Ratched or no, I'm sleeping on my side!" (Just kidding. The nurse was quite nice, and bore no resemblance to Louise Fletcher.)

I slept better once I turned.

At 6:00 a.m., the nurse came in to wake me, and removed the sensors. I filled out another form, which included a request to describe "in detail" any dreams that I may have had. It only had a small space, so she didn't get the full story like you're going to get.

In my dream, there was some sort of musical performance scheduled for the morning after the sleep test. There were to be two numbers; the first didn't involve me, and the second was me singing "I Walk the Line." I walked into the next room with wires still sprouting from all over my body. Will Lee, the bass player for the CBS Orchestra, was across the room on a small stage. Apparently he knew what was next, because he caught my eye, winked, and tuned his E-string up about a fifth. I called out "I can't hit a low E." Obviously, he already knew.

He gave me a six-string electric, and I doodled out a few notes, but before the performance started, I woke up.

This isn't the first time I've dreamed about the Letterman band. Once I was on the show with Bruce Springsteen, and I was teaching him the old Henry Mancini "Viewer Mail Theme" on the piano.

Anyway, I don't really think sleep apnea is a big problem for me, but I'm hoping that three months from now I'll be saying things like "I just didn't know what I was missing! I have so much energy now, I get more done, I'm nicer to my kids, and my 5K time has dropped by 3 minutes!"

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Sunday, October 03, 2004

Speech oddity

Johanna has developed a bad Italian accent. She'll say things like "thatsa my shoe."