Thursday, January 19, 2012

Breathing Easy

Morning weigh-in: 188#
(Ha! You probably weren't expecting that! Too bad the scale is out of whack, or needs batteries or whatever, or I'd have a percent body fat for you too. I'm on it...)
My breathing has been OK-but-not-great for about a year now (starting about when I got the other allergy problem -- eczema -- under control, how convenient), with breathing problems worsening with the onset of the colder weather and mostly abating by spring. It got bad enough for me to complain to my allergist about it this past November, at my semi-annual skin checkup (skin being really the the only reason I go to her), and she gave me a "spirometry" test: breathe into a tube and the device figures airflow vs time, lung capacity, things like that -- it connected directly to her laptop, and pumped out a bunch of results and graphs.
The graphs meant nothing to me of course, but my allergist took one look at the results and said "Huh. That's not asthma!"
Next thing you know, she has me signed up for a chest X-ray and a more sophisticated version of the spirometer test (and others) at the hospital, and has referred me to a pulmonologist. Gulp! She tried to be reassuring, but I went home and Googled what I remembered of the test results, and came down with a bad case of hypochondria on top of everything else...
Fast forward to this Tuesday, when I saw the pulmonologist. (Anne came with me, so she could hold my hand while they told me I had emphysema or whatever -- it didn't help that the other patients were all overweight elderly with oxygen tanks.) Nurse takes my height/weight/pulse/blood pressure, then comes a long interview with a PA, all my asthma/allergy/medical history, review of those test results, listening to the lungs etc. He disappears for a while, presumably conferring with the pulmonologist, then the both of them come in to announce that I do, in fact, have asthma (and nothing else), my allergist was right to refer me, but the test results were close enough what they'd expect that they don't think anything else is going on.
They put me on a new, twice-daily maintenance inhaler, and gave me a new type of rescue inhaler -- one of my complaints was that my regular rescue inhaler didn't seem to do much -- and I go to see them again in six weeks to check on my progress. In a year or so, I'll probably be repeating those breath tests.
There was a definite feeling of letdown after all that drama, and I am not happy with the new inhaler regimen -- and it's hard to see "you do have asthma" as the good news -- but I'm slowly starting to feel like a weight is off my shoulders. I plan on giving these medications a few days to kick in, then I'm giving them an on-the-bike stress test over the weekend. Last year was terrible for me in terms of cycling and mileage, maybe this year will be a bit better.

Monday, January 16, 2012

On The Bleeding Edge

I updated my laptop's operating system the weekend before last, something that needed to be done and that I'd been dreading for months. The process took a while -- two hours of downloading stuff, plus another hour or so of computation -- but the process was mostly automatic, and happened while I was out riding, and the result was a surprisingly smooth transition to the new distribution.
(I use Ubuntu Linux on my laptop, and the way Ubuntu handles upgrades is: there is a new release of Ubuntu every six months or so, and the support for an individual release ends soon after the next release comes out -- you are supposed to stay on top of the upgrades. If you do, you can automatically keep your installed software up-to-date fairly automatically, but when the support for the version you're using ends, your only option is to upgrade to the next version.
Every two years there is a "Long Term Support" version, which means that it's supported for about three years, and this is a great way to keep from getting caught in a constant upgrade cycle -- OK, it means upgrading every two years rather than every 12 months, but still -- though they eventually shut down the support for even these LTS versions. That's what happened to me: I upgraded to the April 2008 release some time in 2009, when my original release was discontinued, and support for that April 08 release was finally discontinued this past May, so my software hasn't been updated for months. I remembered the previous upgrade as being fairly painful, and I needed to do a comprehensive backup of all my data before I did any kind of major overhaul, so I put off the change for as long as I could stand. There's also been some controversy in the Ubuntu community regarding changes to the interface, so I wanted to let all that work itself out before I made the change -- I'm OK with being a somewhat early adopter, but I prefer the cutting rather than the bleeding edge.)
Like I said, a smooth transition: none of the software I was already using disappeared, even though some of it had been discontinued from the default version of the release, and I haven't found any weird discrepancies/glitches so far, except for a problem with the fingerprint recognition software. Right now I'm going through the system, looking for new or upgraded goodies, and checking the software repositories for fun new stuff to download.
The one thing I've discovered -- rather, been forced to face and acknowledge -- is that I really need a good backup solution. Right now my "backups" are a bunch of files scattered across several memory sticks, SD cards and free cloud storage sites, I have (or had, at the time of the backup/upgrade) no real backup software, and while I was at Staples paying $80 for a 32GB micro-SD card, I saw that I can get a terabyte drive for less than $200. So now I have less than $200 burning a hole in my pocket...
Some other things: we missed the Great White Caps / Start Making Sense show on New Year's Eve, but Anne and I saw our first indoor concert at Steel Stacks this past Friday, when we saw Chris Smither with Ellis Paul in the Musikfest Cafe. An awesome show, in what amounted to a nightclub or dinner theater atmosphere.
Saturday was brutally cold, so of course I went for a ride... It was the VMB pre-party ride at Sals for the annual holiday party, which we have a week or two after the regular holiday stuff calms down. A really fun ride, though I was a hurting puppy right from the start; there were about 15 people in all, and when we split into fast and slow groups I was the slow guy on the slow ride... I think it's going to be a tough spring. The party was pretty cool too, as Spanky's parties tend to be: garage converted into a "disco," a (very welcome) fire in the fire pit, plenty of good company.
Sunday was also cold, but this time it was an indoor day as Anne baked and I played with the computer.