Monday, July 30, 2007

Caffeine Withdrawal

The weekend before last, I drank a whole lot of caffeine, mostly in the form of nice delicious soft drinks. Oh, and iced tea. Lots and lots of iced tea!

I drank so much caffeine that I actually got sick from it twice, on two consecutive days. I had a terrible headache and felt fluttery, anxious, and nauseated for two or three hours each time. (Two days in a row? Obviously I don't learn.)

So I gave up caffeine last week. The last caffeine I had (not counting chocolate) was half a soda Wednesday at lunch. Prior to my weekend overdoses, I'd been drinking about 1 or 2 caffeinated beverages (soda or iced tea) most days, so it's not like I was having a crazy amount or anything.

Why did I give it up? Well, I hate the idea of being dependent on a drug, even one as mild as caffeine. I guess Nancy Reagan's attempt to make every child of my generation terrified of drugs worked on me. Also, I'm having surgery in a month, and it would be really nice to not go into that as a caffeine addict. I don't want to wake up feeling crappy from caffeine withdrawal on top of the rest of it. (Caffeine withdrawal is mild - nothing like, say, heroine withdrawal - but it still sucks.)

But it really sucks right now. I've had a headache on and off since Thursday. (It varies from about 3-7 hours per day, I think.) And I have the usual drowsiness and not-good-for-anything-ness.

The worst part is the "dysphoria," which I was almost relieved to hear is in fact a known symptom of caffeine withdrawal. I'm basically having kind of classical depression symptoms. I'm down and very pessimistic. Little problems make me think whole enterprises (like my relationship with Ed) are doomed. And this is really not like me.

I'm really hoping this goes away soon. Stupid caffeine.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Haughty Intellectual? Moi?

Via the great science blog Pharyngula, this:

Your Score: Haughty Intellectual

You are 71% Rational, 42% Extroverted, 28% Brutal, and 71% Arrogant.

You are the Haughty Intellectual. You are a very rational person, emphasizing logic over emotion, and you are also rather arrogant and self-aggrandizing. You probably think of yourself as an intellectual, and you would like everyone to know it. Not only that, but you also tend to look down on others, thinking yourself better than them. You could possibly have an unhealthy obsession with yourself as well, thus causing everyone to hate you for being such an elitist twat. On top of all that, you are also introverted and gentle. This means that you are just a quiet thinker who wants fame and recognition, in all likelihood. Like so many countless pseudo-intellectuals swarming around vacuous internet forums to discuss worthless political issues, your kind is a scourge upon humanity, blathering and blathering on and on about all kinds of boring crap. If your personality could be sculpted, the resulting piece would be Rodin's "The Thinker"--although I am absolutely positive that you are not nearly as muscular or naked as that statue. Rather lacking in emotion, introspective, gentle, and arrogant, you are most certainly a Haughty Intellectual! And, most likely, you will never achieve the recognition or fame you so desire! But no worries!

To put it less negatively:

1. You are more RATIONAL than intuitive.

2. You are more INTROVERTED than extroverted.

3. You are more GENTLE than brutal.

4. You are more ARROGANT than humble.


Your exact opposite is the Schoolyard Bully. (Bullies like to beat up nerds, after all.)

Other personalities you would probably get along with are the Braggart, the Hand-Raiser, and the Robot.



If you scored near fifty percent for a certain trait (42%-58%), you could very well go either way. For example, someone with 42% Extroversion is slightly leaning towards being an introvert, but is close enough to being an extrovert to be classified that way as well. Below is a list of the other personality types so that you can determine which other possible categories you may fill if you scored near fifty percent for certain traits.

The other personality types:

The Emo Kid: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Starving Artist: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Bitch-Slap: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Brute: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hippie: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Televangelist: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Schoolyard Bully: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Class Clown: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Robot: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Haughty Intellectual: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Spiteful Loner: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Sociopath: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hand-Raiser: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Braggart: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Capitalist Pig: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Smartass: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

Be sure to take my Sublime Philosophical Crap Test if you are interested in taking a slightly more intellectual test that has just as many insane ramblings as this one does!

About Saint_Gasoline

I am a self-proclaimed pseudo-intellectual who loves dashes. I enjoy science, philosophy, and fart jokes and water balloons, not necessarily in that order. I spend 95% of my time online, and the other 5% of my time in the bathroom, longing to get back on the computer. If, God forbid, you somehow find me amusing instead of crass and annoying, be sure to check out my blog and my webcomic at

Link: The Personality Defect Test written by saint_gasoline on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Deliriously Happy

So much stuff about and with Ed makes me just deliriously happy. I know this is just kind of typical in-love stuff, so I won't bludgeon my readers with the sappy details. But being in love with someone who is really, unequivocally, openly in love with me rocks.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Range of Neck Motion

I've been doing some research into the type of surgery I plan to have. One question that comes up about having vertebrae fused is whether I'll still be able to move my neck all around, or how compromised I will be. (After all, having two vertebrae become one piece of bone is obviously not how the spine is designed to work; the discs are there to let the thing flex.)

Alan Hilibrand has an article in the journal Spine (Jul2006, Vol. 31 Issue 15, p1688-1692, 5p) with this abstract (emphases mine):

STUDY DESIGN.: Prospective cohort study.

OBJECTIVE.: To precisely measure the effect of anterior cervical fusion on neck motion.

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA.: Anterior cervical decompression and stabilization procedures are successful in treating recalcitrant cervical radiculopathy and cervical myelopathy. Most assume that these “fusion” procedures result in a loss of neck motion, although changes in overall motion following anterior cervical fusion have never been precisely quantified.

METHODS.: Twenty-five consecutive patients undergoing anterior cervical fusion of ne to four levels underwent cervical range of motion testing in three planes using an unconstrained instrumented linkage before surgery and more than 3 months after surgery. These data were compared with that of 10 volunteers with no prior history of neck complaints. Motion data were compared between patients and volunteers, and between the patients before surgery and at last follow-up, using RMANOVA and Fisher’s PLSD post hoc test.

RESULTS.: Before surgery, the patients had significantly less motion than the volunteers in all directions. Following surgical fusion, patients gained a statistically significant amount of motion in all planes, although they did not achieve the motion seen among the volunteers. Gains in motion were seen among all patients, including those undergoing four-level fusions, and there was no correlation between postoperative motion and the number of levels fused.

CONCLUSIONS.: Patients undergoing anterior cervical fusion have diminished neck motion compared with normal volunteers. Following surgery, they may be expected to gain motion, even when undergoing multilevel fusions. However, these patients are unlikely to regain the neck motion seen among normal individuals without neck complaints

This is fairly reassuring. My range of neck motion right now is indeed pretty minimal. I can't look up very far, can't look sideways nearly as far as normal people, and both directions (especially in combination, which is really bad) hurt me. For instance, if I'm in the driver's seat of my car, parked, and talk to someone in the passenger seat for more than a couple of minutes I get a lot of pain.

Surgery Scheduled

My surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, August 29th. My plan is to return to work the Monday after Labor Day, i.e., September 10th.

Before the surgery, I have a pre-op appointment on August 13th. Also, the company that makes or sells the neck braces (one of which I must wear continually for six weeks from when they put it on during the surgery) may contact me for a fitting. If not, they will fit me on the morning of the actual surgery.

I know it is strange to be excited about going under the knife, and I know I won't enjoy it in the event, and will probably be scared, and the aftermath will probably be very unpleasant, but I actually am excited and happy to have it scheduled. I kind of "can't wait," as silly as that is. It's not so much that I anticipate having my problem solved - though that's certainly the hope based on which I'm choosing the surgery at all. I think it's just the new and exciting proposition of having surgery.

(Yes, I am looney tunes.)

I am saving up questions for the surgeon. So far, I have
  • How do you make sure that you operate on the correct vertebrae? Do you count them or are they each just really distinct to you? (It's not like having your leg amputated where you can just write on the other one with a sharpie ahead of time "NOT THIS ONE.")

  • Do they insert the urinary catheter before or after I'm under? (I have anxiety about this.)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Fourth

Ed and I spent yesterday at his parents' house in Longmont. When it got dark around 9:15, we saw a lot of neighborhood fireworks, plus the fireworks at the county fairgrounds some miles away. We all sat out in the street in lawnchairs. It was suburban in the best sense.

I enjoyed seeing the family again, and I was more relaxed this time. Ed's mom (Jean) was feeling better than last time and we got to spend some time together fixing up her cell phone and installing some software on her computer. She told me that last time she had had the aunts interrogate me since she wasn't feeling too great.

"Did you get some good intelligence?" I asked.

"Yeah!" she said.

Ed's dad (Ed) sat with me and Ed for the fireworks and we joked together quite a lot. After arguing about who was whose straight man, the general pattern seemed to be that he would set up the jokes and I would knock them down. Ed bore the brunt of most of it.

We also had another fabulous dinner with two kinds of pork loin (cooked on the grill), three kinds of potato salad, cole slaw, corn, and two kinds of garlic bread. It was feast-like. I had milk with my dinner, which is uncommon for me but seems to be a regular thing in their household.

I think they like me OK.

You're Dethpicable!

Came across this classic Bugs Bunny cartoon ("Rabbit Seasoning") on Andrew Sullivan this morning.

some features:
  • massive cartoonlike violence that would probably not be aired on network TV today
  • the early part: a new marketing suggestion for Texas Parks & Wildlife?
  • Bugs Bunny: master of rhetoric
  • Bugs Bunny in drag
  • Bugs' seductive accent is a southern drawl...I wonder how many men do find that sexy?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

More Surgery Info

My doctor gave me this link where you can see what he looks like and learn more about this type of surgery. If you click on "patient education" in the sidebar, then choose "spine" and then "cervical" and then the last procedure in the list ("anterior cervical discectomy, fusion instrumented (ACDF)"), you can watch an animated illustration of exactly what the surgery consists of. It starts with a good illustration of what the actual problem is.

Monday, July 02, 2007


In March of 2003, for no particular reason, I woke up one morning with a crick in my neck, which then worsened to the point that I had several emergency room visits before being diagnosed with a herniated disc.

Basically, your spine is made up of vertebrae separated by these slightly springy (like a hockey puck) discs. The discs have some kind of jelly-like interior. A herniated or ruptured disc is what they call it when the disc tears and the inside of it pushes out. This can be harmless - some people have ruptured discs and no symptoms - but if the material impinges on a nerve then it can cause numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness. When this happens in your lower back, the result is called "sciatica," and a lot of people suffer from this, but there's no common name for having it in your neck.

It basically sucks. The original thing in 2003 was horrendous, and since that kind of faded I've just been careful all the time, to the point that I feel like people think I am some kind of weird hypochrondriac about it. (I feel like some weird old person who has a trick knee or a hip that aches when it's going to rain or whatever.) It sucks to continually tell people that you can't do some very commonplace thing (turn your head a certain way, sit in some particular chair, etc.) because of your neck.

And it's not black or white. I can do lots of things, it's just that they aggravate my neck, and if the aggravation is bad enough, I get a flare-up.

But this has been pretty manageable until this January, where on the heels of irritating my neck slightly in various ways, I committed the unthinkable crime of sleeping one night on my couch. That started a really heinous flare-up that is still ongoing.

Stupid neck. Bah!

Anyway, last Friday I talked to a surgeon. I already emailed my mom about this, so I'm going to just paste that email into here.

I think I'm going to go ahead and schedule the surgery. They say they are about 6 weeks out in the schedule, but I think I'll aim for mid-September because Barbara is having her hip replacement in early August and it's hard if we're both out at the same time.

The nurse practitioner and the surgeon showed me my MRI and the x-ray they took while I was there on the computer and it's really easy to see how the disc is making my spinal column veer around it.

The surgeon said that I basically have three options:

1. Wait and let it heal on its own. I did this in 2003 and it did basically heal but I've needed to be careful ever since because I always have little flare-ups and now I've got a full-blown breach again.

2. Try a steroid injection. Some people get no pain relief from this, some people get a few hours, and some people get six months.

3. Have surgery.

The reason I don't really feel like trying #2 (the injection) is that it's not pain that's my primary concern. If I just knew I'd have this pain forever, I probably wouldn't have the surgery. What I'm tired of is having to constantly be careful about my neck Every Fucking Day because if I'm not it's going to flare up and be really bad. I'm tired of only have two positions I can lie down in. I'm tired of not being able to snuggle with my boyfriend (and I really do mean "snuggle") because I just can't lie with him in any nice positions.

For the surgery, they go in through the front of the neck. They remove the disc completely, and they take bone from somewhere else in your body (not sure where, but probably the hip or
something) to put between the vertebrae in place of the disc. Then they put a metal plate in the front and screw it on to help hold the vertebrae together. (It's called "spinal fusion.")

It is pretty safe and works for most people. I'd probably go home the day after the surgery and need to take about two weeks off work. I'd wear a neck brace for six weeks to help while the bones fuse together. In 2-6 months the nerves themselves (the ones previously impinged by the disc) would start to heal and that can go on for up to 2 years.

The danger of spinal fusion is that, when that one joint in your spine can't flex, it puts more stress on the adjoining joints. But in follow-ups over 20 years, there isn't an increased risk of needing further neck surgeries for that reason, if you compare people who had this problem and did or didn't have surgery.

Anyway, I'll keep you guys posted, but for now, those are my plans.