Thursday, July 14, 2016

What the doctor ordered

As someone with near perfect health, I don't have a lot of experience being a patient. The most traumatic healthcare experience I've had is getting my wisdom teeth removed. Pretty routine procedure.

But after kicking off what has been the worst summer—sleep wise—of my life, I finally did what I should have done years and years ago: went to a sleep doctor. It introduced me to a world of ridiculously high co-pays, repetitive questions about my sleep habits, and trips to the hospital to get blood tests done. All stuff that was new in an almost eerie way, although a part of me enjoyed finding out what the inside life of a patient was like.

Unsurprisingly, the doctor ordered a sleep test as well, which is just another way of saying, "We're going to charge you a buttload of money so you can have the worst night of sleep in your life." Still, I was kind of looking forward to it, partly because I was curious what it would be like, and partly because I was willing to do just about anything to get to the bottom of why I can't sleep like a normal person.

I showed up at the clinic just before dark, feeling like a homeless person as I stood there in my pajamas, clutching two pillows (never underestimate the importance of good pillows), waiting for someone to let me in. The lab tech took me to the same room I had my initial consultation in, where I saw this waiting for me:


The lab tech spent the next 45 minutes wiring me up. That's about 40 wires connected to my body, mostly on my head, with two on each leg, some on my shoulders/collarbone, a couple straps across my waist and chest, a clamp thing on my left pointer finger, and two breathing tube things in my nose (which would have been a disaster if my allergies decided to come play).

I was a sight to see—wires hooked up everywhere, no makeup on, my hair a frizzy mass of unruly curls because they made me wash it beforehand and I wasn't allowed to put any product in it.

Yes, I took a picture, and no, you can't see it. Basically, I looked something like this:


Only instead of the skeleton, just imagine that there are little white squares glued all over my face.

If I wasn't already exhausted from the frustrating 4.5 hours of sleep I got the night before, not to mention months of sleep deprivation, I might have laughed hysterically at the thought that this was the best solution medical professionals have come up with for monitoring someone's sleep. (Oh, and I'm pretty sure there was also a video camera in my room. Creepy.)

Just picture it: a group of sleep experts sitting at a conference room table in their lab coats, laughing evilly as they map out a formula for the perfect worst night of sleep.

  • Strange environment—check.
  • Cheap bed with a thin blanket that barely covers it—check.
  • Wire the patient up so that in addition to having foreign objects taped all over the place they'll also be paranoid that they'll get tangled up in their sleep—check.
  • Sporadic noises throughout the night—check.
  • Turn the thermostat down so patient will never be quite warm enough—check.
  • Prohibit bathroom breaks/don't tell patient where the bathroom is—check.

(To be fair, my lab tech was a very nice guy, and he did ask me if the temperature was okay, I just underestimated how little coverage that stupid blanket would provide.)

All things considered, I don't think it was the worst night of sleep of my life, but it would make the top 5 if I were weird enough to track that kind of thing. The wires weren't as uncomfortable and distracting as I thought they would be, and I actually slept okay once I managed to fall asleep. Which took a good three hours, even after two doses of melatonin and all of my other tricks to stimulate sleep.

After 3–4 hours of sleep, I was awoken and finally got to get rid of all those wires. Which left goops of this jelly glue stuff all over my face and caked into my hair. Luckily, it wasn't hard to wash out, but this is another one of those situations where I envied bald men everywhere.

Now all I have to do is wait and see what the results are. That and finish up what's turning out to be my busiest week of the year. And wait for the sleep-loss headache to escalate.

Am I laughing or crying?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I am Thunderbird, hear me roar

I've been a little on the outs with J.K. Rowling lately because she made The Cursed Child a play instead of a book. But her awesome sense of humor and continued dedication to the wizarding world make it hard to stay mad at her. And today she gave Potterheads a treat I wasn't expecting—a Sorting for Ilvermorny, the American Hogwarts!

First of all, go read the history of Ilvermorny. It's great. Some things I found especially interesting:
  • The school was founded by a descendent of Slytherin and a Muggle (okay, fine, No-Maj)
  • Students don't get a wand until they get to school, and they're not allowed to take wands home until they come of age (17, just like in the UK)
  • Ilvermorny has four houses, all named after magical creatures
  • Enchanted carvings representing each house select the students they want in their house. If more than one carving claims a student, the student decides which house to join.
  • Slytherin's wand was buried for reasons, and within a year a snakewood tree had grown in its place, which has powerful medicinal properties. I love this part: "This tree seemed testament to the fact that Slytherin's wand, like his scattered descendants, encompassed both noble and ignoble. The very best of him seemed to have migrated to America."

Seriously, read the whole thing. It's a delight.

Now, about the houses. I was a little worried they'd be copycats of the Hogwarts houses, especially since Isolt, one of the founders, based much of the school on what she had heard about Hogwarts while living in Ireland (she later escaped from her crazy-evil aunt aboard the Mayflower). But the houses don't match up—the best comparison I can come up with is that America has two Gryffindor houses, a Ravenclaw/Slytherin combo, and a sort-of Hufflepuff. Still, that's not really an accurate description, so just leave the Hogwarts houses in the UK and the Ilvermorny houses in the US.

A quick introduction to the magical creatures the houses are named after:
  • Horned Serpent—a "great horned river serpent with a jewel set into its forehead"
  • Pukwudgie—"a short, grey-faced, large-eared creature"
  • Thunderbird—a creature that "can create storms as it flies"
  • Wampus—"a magical, panther-like creature that is fast, strong and almost impossible to kill"

And there's also this tidbit:
It is sometimes said of the Ilvermorny houses that they represent the whole witch or wizard: the mind is represented by Horned Serpent; the body, Wampus; the heart, Pukwudgie and the soul, Thunderbird. Others say that Horned Serpent favours scholars, Wampus, warriors, Pukwudgie, healers and Thunderbird, adventurers. 

I originally thought I would be a Horned Serpent; it sounds like a melding of Ravenclaw and Slytherin, which is what I've often considered myself to be. But at the end of my sorting, it was the Thunderbird that flapped its wings.


You don't need to convince me further—I love this house already. Sure, I love books and cleverness, but adventures? Those are essential to having an interesting existence. And while I value knowledge and learning above most other things, I think a person is truly defined by their individuality and beliefs rather than by what they know. I'm a proud Ravenclaw for life, but I'm liking more and more that Ilvermorny sees me as more of a soulful adventurer; I'd rather have that on my headstone than "intellectual."

Now, it's your turn! Where does the American Hogwarts sort you?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

When your days are three hours longer

This week I've been putting one of my most useful college skills to good use: forcing my brain to work without luxuries like sleep. My sleep volume has been on a slow, steady decline since March, and it's to the point now that sometimes falling asleep before 2:00 a.m. is just impossible.

It's incredibly frustrating, especially if you succumb to the temptation to keep checking the clock. (You're just torturing yourself, Pal.) I often wish that since I'm forced to stay awake that I at least had a cool reason for it, like I'm fighting a forest fire or doing something really fun and nerdy or coming up with brilliant solutions to the world's problems. But no, it's always just "I'm not tired," even if I've employed all of my tricks to stimulate sleep.

But insomnia has some nice advantages, once you stop trying to fight it. For instance, how many times have you wished you had more hours in the day? Even if it was just for some much-needed relaxation?

Insomnia can make that dream come true.

As a kid, I loved staying up late. The thrill of skirting the rules—even if they were just boring bedtime rules—made any activity more fun at night, whether it was playing cards, watching a movie, or jumping on the trampoline. The risk that your dad (on your mom's orders, of course) would come down the stairs and scare you half to death with his exasperated, sleepy threats was worth it because it added just a little extra flavor to your fun. (Though I do feel guilty now about depriving my parents of sleep—sorry guys! I'm sure I'll get my just reward some day.)

And that childlike excitement hasn't left me entirely—I still love the occasional late weeknight movie and marathon reading session. While all the bozos around me are effortlessly snoozing away, I'm having fun, and there's something wonderfully satisfying about enjoying the extra night hours only you were given.

The fun comes with a cost, of course, but I've always appreciated fun more when it wasn't free.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

I like random thoughts

It's been a long time since I did a good ol' brain-dumping list post. For my own amusement, I thought I'd see if I can still do it.

  • I graduated from high school 10 years ago this week. Oddly, that doesn't make me feel as old as knowing that I graduated from college almost six years ago. I'm much more in tune with my college self, and it's strange that she's so far away. (I know, most of you are laughing at me for thinking six years is a long time to be out of college. Shut up.)
  • I'm on pace to read 100 books this year. While I've always fantasized doing that, I don't think I'll push myself too hard to hit that number. I might end up hating reading if I do.
  • I am far more excited about the new Beauty and the Beast movie and the Gilmore Girls revival than I am about any of the Harry Potter stuff coming up this year. If J.K. Rowling were writing an actual novel—not a play-printed-in-book-form-to-inspire-clickbait-and-confuse-people—I may have caused my own death via excitement by now. I obviously enjoy anything Harry Potter related, from books to movies to theme parks to online discussions to JKR-approved spin-offs, but nothing comes close to the exquisite delight of reading an actual Harry Potter book.
  • Somehow, Harry Potter always finds a way into these types of posts.
  • I tried to give The Office another try a few months ago, and only made it two episodes in. I think I could appreciate the show now, but I just CANNOT stand Michael Scott. I want him killed. I don't think the good things about the show are enough to compensate for my dislike of that character (the actor annoys me, too).
  • For years I've been trying to convince Mother Nature to not allow rain and/or thunderstorms on Tuesdays (softball days), but she continues to ignore me. If you can't tell, I'm in need of something fun outside of books and TV.
  • Yesterday (Wednesday), my first thought was, "At least today is Thursday." Even the warm donut dripping in chocolate frosting I got upon arriving at work wasn't enough to help me recover fully from my devastation knowing that the week wasn't even halfway over yet.
  • I've noticed that when people come to talk to me at my cubicle, I almost always reach for my water bottle for a drink. I guess it's a coping mechanism for dealing with unexpected social encounters. Which reminds me of a Gilmore Girls quote! "Are you sure you don't want some tea? It tends to make situations like these less awkward. There's things to hold and stir." Something like that. 
  • The term "manic pixie dream girl" keeps popping up in the podcasts I listen to.
  • This borderline jacket weather is really getting on my nerves.
  • Fake Coach K agreed to play a game in Provo? That's not a safe place, dude.

And, I'm out, folks. Have a nice day.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Dream Diary: Part 9

Hibernation season is officially over—bye for now, blissful sleep; welcome back, entertaining dreams.

My new career
Angela Carter, freelance dinosaur catcher. Specializes in raptors. Dinosaurs will be delivered in pieces or just plain dead. Makes a popular wedding gift.

Meeting Jimmer
My family is at a tournament BYU game, and we run into Jimmer. My mom not at all subtly asks Jimmer if he has any single brothers or friends. I'm only bringing this up because this would totally happen in real life.

A series of Benadryl-powered dreams
World War III has started, and I spend all night on the lam with three strangers in a 1940s car; Kimberly invites Gaston home for Christmas in hopes that he will woo me, and let me tell you it works; I buy a new pair of earrings and, naturally, swallow one of them, and it impales my throat; a former roommate asks me to watch her baby for a few days while she and her husband go to Paris to get a new one.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lord Voldemort's reply

To an unworthy Muggle:

The Dark Lord has received your letter, and would have gladly accepted your proposal were it not for your Muggle sensitivities. Upon reading that you had resorted to Muggle remedies to alleviate your suffering, the Dark Lord knew you were not fit for his great cause.

The Dark Lord usually disposes of those who waste his time, but I am certain he had forgotten about you within seconds of setting your letter aflame. However, being his most faithful servant, I have noticed that those who annoy him are often cursed in some way. Since you are a lowly Muggle, I suspect you are now afflicted with a common cold, another silly ailment that Muggles can't cure.

This is your warning to not bother the Dark Lord again; next time he won't be so generous.

Sincerely,
Peter Pettigrew, aka Wormtail

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A letter to Lord Voldemort

To the Dark Lord:

At the risk of you AK-ing me on the spot, I have a confession to make: I am a big fan of your arch-nemesis. What can I say—I like sassy underdogs who know how to give proper hugs. Everyone knows this about me, and I see no point in hiding this fact from a great Legilimens like yourself.

But there is something I desire that I'm afraid the Potter boy can't provide.

You see, for about eight months out of the year, I am plagued by something generally referred to as allergies. I'll spare you the sordid details, but just know that I've spent many a day wishing my nose away.

In following the Potter boy's story, I noticed something about your inspiring rise to powerful evilness: somewhere along the way, your nose slowly transformed into a new, less imposing part of your facial structure. And I often wondered, does the Dark Lord ever experience a runny nose or have to fight the urge to attack an incessant itch? (Forgive me for thinking of you in such mundane terms.) Does he ever fear what will happen if he strolls through a vibrant field of luscious grass and blooming flowers?

Silly, frivolous problems, perhaps, but it's enough to make me wish every spring that I could be more like He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Powerful. Crafty. And most importantly, immune to pollen.

After getting by for weeks on unsatisfactory Muggle remedies, I've finally decided to take more drastic action. Harry Potter can't cure my allergies—the best he can do is a quick fix on the inevitable day when I finally break my nose by violent scratching—but you can rid my face of the offending appendage altogether. I can't think of a more attractive solution to my problem.

In return for this service, you will gain a faithful Ravenclaw for life and one less fighter for Harry Potter's cause. If this proposition intrigues you, please respond by owl by the end of April.

Sincerely,

A potential Death Eater