Sunday, January 31, 2010

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

You betcha.

Gary gave me this wonderful Cylon Centurion action figure for Christmas. I've been fascinated with scary robots since a series of nightmares about them when I was a kid, and I love BSG, so there you go. Today, puttering around my study, I finally unpacked My Very Own Scary Robot and perched him on a shelf of the new knitting vault. But then it occurred to me that he ought to be doing something.

Given his location, it wasn't hard to figure out what his hobby should be. Two toothpicks and a bit of sock yarn later, and voila!

I called Gary in to look, and he shook his head and said, "That's really weird. I love it."

This is why we get along so well.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reports of My Falling Off the Planet Are Greatly Exaggerated

Yes, I'm alive, and since both my mother-in-law and Claire have expressed alarm at my lack of posts, I thought I should say something.

I've just been really really really really really busy, and also haven't had a tremendous amount to talk about.

Two weeks into classes, everything seems to be going fine. The department's been busy hosting on-campus visits for candidates in our three searches, though, which means I've been spending a lot of time at job talks and receptions.

Healthwise, I'm eh. Still sleeping way too much. (I think the temporary reprieve was a function of jet lag after getting back from Philly.) Cardiac tests checked out normal and my bloodwork's splendid, so my primary-care doc is baffled. He wants me to call my pulmonologist to see if it might be something to do with my sleep apnea, and he's going to refer me to an endocrinologist, although he clearly doesn't think this will result in any new information. My current theory is that I have adrenal fatigue, a condition that's been all the rage in alternative-medicine circles forever, but has just within the last year been recognized by the World Health Organization as a real ailment.

Whether it's a real ailment or not, it's a real pain. I routinely sleep through church, despite alarm clocks; I've also been sleeping through hospital shifts, although it turns out the Saturday afternoon shift is open now, so I'm going to take that one instead of the morning. I've managed to get to several 9 a.m. meetings at work, but it's been genuinely difficult; I'm always a little bit late and way too incoherent.

The good news is that adrenal fatigue can be treated with diet and lifestyle (I've started taking fish oil tablets, and am trying to cut down on caffeine). The bad news is that it resolves slowly. Last night I talked to a friend who had it several years ago and said it took a full year for her to feel better.

Yuck. And yeah, if this is really what's going on, it vindicates those of you who've been telling me that I'm just getting over the accumulated stress of caring for, and losing, Dad. You told me so!

On a more minor note, I seem to have tendonitis in my right thumb, almost certainly a result of fiddle playing. So I've stopped practicing this week and have delayed tomorrow's lesson until next week. Yuck. I miss playing, but I'm happy that I can now straighten my thumb without whimpering from pain.

In happier news, I've gotten enough done on the clean-up-the-study project that I can now see the surface of my desk. And my couch is clear! I still have to go through lots of files, but I have workspace again, which is very nice. Part of this project has been making room for an old entertainment unit -- real wood, no less -- that I bought at a garage sale for $30 this summer. I had a friend who's a devoted woodworker put a back on it, put shelves in where the TV would go, and do some refinishing. He and Gary managed to wrestle this very heavy, large, and awkward item up the stairs and into my study last weekend: quite a scary undertaking, as several times I was afraid that someone would be crushed under the unit. But we managed to avoid injuries, and I now have a fabulous new storage area.

I originally bought the piece because it has lovely glassed-in-shelves to the left of the TV area; these were no doubt originally used for tapes or DVDs, but I've turned them into a yarn vault. I have different kinds of yarn on each shelf (sock, wool, specialty, acrylic), with lots of lavendar sachets tossed in among the yarn to discourage moths. I love being able to see the colorful yarn through the glass. The other shelves, where a TV would once have been, hold knitting books and projects, the postal scale I use to weigh yarn (along with mail), and various other odds and ends.

One of the happiest things about the new unit is that the top of it's kitty heaven. I covered the top with a blanket and covered that with my stuffed animals and a skeepskin rug my mother sent us -- expressly for the cats -- several years ago. The cats love this arrangement. All three of them spend time up there every day; Figgy's napping there right now.

As for knitting, I finished some socks for my nephew and am working on a very pretty lace pair for my sister. I just hope they'll fit her! I'm also working on a doubleknit table runner for my friend Jim. It's slow going, but I really like the design. Gary's nagging me about making him a cardigan, a project that terrifies me, but I told him I'd plunge into it after I've finished the project for Jim.

Let's see, what else? Oh! We made our reservations for the Alaska cruise! We're going in late May, before the prices skyrocket too much. It should be great, but right now, I can't think any farther than Honolulu in March. We'll be there six weeks from today, and knowing that is pretty much what's keeping me going right now.

Speaking of travel, one benefit of cleaning up my study was finding my ancient passport, long in need of renewal. UNR's having a Passport Fair next week, so I'll get it done then. The photo's hilarious, and Gary scanned it so I could put it on the blog, but I think I'll save it for a before-and-after comparison when I get the new one.

I've bought some new swimsuits for Hawai'i (tankinis, which are much more practical than one-piece suits on the beach). That little project has underscored how badly I need to spend time at the gym, something that's been difficult in the whirlwind first few weeks of school. But I'm happy to say that this afternoon I swam for fifty minutes, and that it was probably a more vigorous workout than usual because I just bought a pair of swimgloves, which create greater resistance in the water. I love them -- having webbed fingers is pretty great -- and now I'd like to get some swim fins, too (the short ones for training rather than the long ones for speed).

And that, dear readers, is all my thrilling news. See why I haven't been posting much?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wake-Up Cat

We keep the cats out of the bedroom at night, but if Gary gets up first and opens the door, Harley and Bali take turns getting me up with vigorous licking and nudging. Figgy usually jumps up too, but only to cuddle.

Here's Harley, looming over me with his "Time to get up!" look.

When I was in graduate school, one of my professors told the story of waking up one morning convinced that he was having a heart attack: he couldn't move, and there was a crushing weight on his chest. He opened his eyes to find the face of his twenty-five-pound Maine Coon cat only inches from his. He screamed, and the cat leaped and fled, leaving claw marks in his stomach.

Cats: endlessly helpful!

Saturday, January 09, 2010


It's a sleepy kind of day. Gary's downtown at a Met opera simulcast; I stayed home t work on various projects. So far I've knkt a bit more on Marin's second sock and practiced the fiddle for an hour. Today I finally managed to sound out one of the themes from Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, the first piece of classical music (other than the mandatory Nutcracker) that enchanted me as a child.

When I was ten or twelve, one of my father's legal clients came over for dinner, listened to me enthusing about Scheherazade and Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije, and turned up his nose. I liked those two pieces because when I listened to them, I could see stories unfoling in my head. But they were lowbrow compositions, the client informed me, as my father and stepmother exchanged glances; I should work on forming more sophisticated tastes. He drew up a list of "better" music -- I don't remember now what was on it -- and I dutifully wrote down his suggestions.

The minute he left, my father harummphed and said, "He's a snob, Suz. You go right ahead and keep liking what you like."

Sounding out the tune today brought all that back. These last few days, I've been thinking a lot about Dad in general. A year ago, we'd just learned that he'd been randomized to the control group in the Stanford study, dashing our hopes for a new heart valve for him. Looking back on it, I think a new valve wouldn't have mattered, or would only have maintained him in relative misery. But a year ago, we were sad, and shortly to embark on a hectic few weeks of Fran deciding to leave, followed by Dad's move into assisted living. In the middle of all that, my mother was in the hospital, too. It was a crazy time, and I'm very glad to be past it.

Oh, speaking of hearts, my test yesterday went fine. I don't have results yet, but suspect everything will be normal. Afterwards, Gary and I went to see Avatar; we even, on the recommendation of friends, sprang for the 3D version. It's a visually stunning film, and we both enjoyed it, even though the story's completely derivative and predictable (Gary commented that Kevin Costner should sue for the rip-off of Dances With Wolves). Even though I saw all the plot developments coming five miles away, I didn't care, because it was so much fun to watch.

I wonder if my father's client would have appreciated my favorite music more in new, startling interpretations. A jazz or bluegrass Scheherazade? Has anyone done that?

In other news, the periodontal putty's still in place. Yay!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Lotsa Socks

I'm happily busy with sock orders. When I was back in Philly I finished a pair for my sister; I'm almost done with a pair for my nephew, and today I finished the first of a new pair for my friend Marin. I came up myself with this pattern, which I call Windowpane, and I'm pleased with it: it's fun and easy to knit, and I think it looks nice.

Marin's allergic to wool, so I'd made a previous pair of socks for her in pure cotton, which wasn't as fun to work with as stuff from sheep. The Windowpane yarn is Bamboozle, a cotton/bamboo blend that's easier to knit. I was a bit worried that the socks would be too large, but they're only a little big on me, which means, I hope, that they'll fit her.

Then it will be on to three outstanding sock orders, plus two Christmas stockings for next year. Yay! I expect other requests to come in and to keep me blissfully knitting at least through the summer.

In periodontal news, I feel fine today, although the putty's still safely in place. If it comes loose, the pain will start. Pray for persistent putty!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Lotsa Docs

On Monday, as advertised, I went to see my primary-care doc. His partner was filling out some paperwork in the hallway, so I introduced myself to her and explained that I'm not a drug seeker. She looked absolutely blank; she had no memory of the incident. When I reminded her what had happened, she looked chagrined and said, "I'm really sorry. I should have spoken to you on the phone myself."

Meanwhile, my doc's putting a note in my file to say that it's okay to give me muscle relaxants when I have spasms. With any luck, it will be another few years -- or, better yet, never -- before I need them again.

I also asked him how I'd go about getting more than fifteen minutes with him were it ever necessary. Could I pay for two visits and get half an hour? He looked slightly baffled and said, "If you need longer, just tell us, and we'll schedule you for half an hour."

I told him that the oversleeping problem has improved greatly since I reduced my antidepressant meds. Yay! Nonetheless, given my two previous wonky stress-echo results (EKG positive for ischemia but normal echo), I wondered if it would be appropriate to test further to make sure I don't have microvascular disease. So on Friday, I'll be having a thallium stress test, which measures perfusion throughout the heart rather than just testing for major blockages. This is probably excessive -- and it's going to be mondo-expensive, even with insurance -- but it's the test that the PA who did the second stress-echo (the one who was using words like "profound" and "globalized" to describe the ischemia, and who thought the docs might send me immediately upstairs for catheterization) said I should press for if I were concerned. I'm sure the results will be normal and that my nagging chest pain will turn out to be nothing. I just want to know. I did check with my doc, though, to make sure that if anything shows up, there will be something we can do about it. Yes: medication.

My previous primary-care doc, when I raised this issue with her, told me briskly that there was no way to test for microvascular and nothing to be done about it anyway. My current primary-care doc dismissed my concerns equally briskly a few years ago, but gave in this time, probably just to get me to let go of this particular bone. (Can you say, "Over-educated medical consumer with too much time to do internet research?" Can you say, "Squeaky wheel gets grease?" Can you say, "Poor folks with much more serious health concerns probably never even get access to this kind of testing?")

The worst thing about the thallium test, other than cost, is that it starts at 8 a.m. and I'm not allowed any caffeine for twenty-four hours before. Yikes!

Meanwhile, I've been meaning to call my periodontist to schedule my second gum graft. I meant to call him before I left for Philly, but forgot. My sister, who's also gone through the misery of gum graft, laughed when I told her this and said, "Oh, you forgot to call your periodontist? I can't imagine why!"

I finally got around to it this morning, explaining that I'd meant to have the second graft over winter break, but, well, since there isn't that much break left, can I possibly postpone it until this summer?

The nurse checked with the doctor. "No. He wants you to have it now. There's already bone loss in that tooth, and it's important to save it."

I wound up having the second graft at four this afternoon. As I type, my mouth's full of putty protecting the graft and donor sites, and the anesthesia's wearing off. Gary and I went shopping after the procedure to stock up on soft foods: smoothie ingredients, applesauce, that kind of thing. The good news is that this doctor -- who's truly excellent, despite the hideous procedures he performs -- was very pleased with how things went and predicts that I'll heal quickly. Also, this graft is smaller than my first one (which covered three teeth, not just one), so if the protective putty comes off again, the pain shouldn't be quite as excruciating as it was last time. I have lots of ibuprofen and acetominophen, which I'm supposed to alternate, as well as Vicodin if I need it; that's the still-full bottle from last time, when I think I maybe took one of them.

When I told the periodontist about the upcoming thallium test, he pondered and then said, "Yeah, that should be okay. I'd say you only have a five percent chance of excessive bleeding in your mouth when you're on the treadmill. I did have one guy who got five grafts and then tried to run a half-marathon the next day, and he bled a lot."

"I'm not running a half-marathon," I said. Jeez!

The bad news is that the bill for this forty-minute procedure was $1,390. My insurance may reimburse a few hundred of that.

Oh, man. But losing a tooth would be even more expensive.

And now, dear readers, it's time to make myself a refreshing soy smoothie.

Happy Birthday, Owen!

My nephew Owen is twenty-nine today. At least one of my readers remembers, as I do, when he was born! (Hi, Ruth!)

Happy birthday, O. I hope it was a great one!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Why Every ER Needs a Chaplain

From the 12/21&28 New Yorker, page 120, artist Barbara Smaller.

Dang, this week's issue had great cartoons! See the other two I've posted below.

This one especially struck me as more poignant than funny. I thought of posting it in my ER when I go in for my shift on Saturday (God and the sleep spirits willing), but then realized that in some of the staff, overworked and fed up with patients who "don't really need to be in an ER," it would evoke only anger about the current medical system: patients without insurance, patients with insurance who don't go to their primary-care docs for simple problems (but we on the receiving end of the stethoscope can't always tell what's simple or not!), patients who wait until 6 PM on a Friday to come in with a problem, now complex, that would have been simple if they'd gone to their primary-care docs three months ago. Of course, if they have neither insurance nor knowledge of local low-income clinics, they could only have come to the ER three months ago, and then they would have been dismissed as not really needing to be in the ER.

Can you say, "No-win situation?"

And even for those of us with insurance, primary care is only dispensed in fifteen-minute installments.


You Know You're Episcopalian When . . . .

From the 12/21&28 New Yorker, page 77, artist Paul Noth.

Susan Palwick, This is Your Life

From the 12/21&28 New Yorker, page 128, artist Emily Flake.

I'm not doing any visual art at the moment, and the electric guitar should be a fiddle, but other than that, this is uncannily accurate!

Winding Paths

My December Hope and Healing column just went up a few days ago. The sidebar to the right of the text links to earlier columns; I'm not sure I've posted all of them here.

Happy New Year to all, and I hope you enjoy these meditations.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Hi! Remember me?

So I'm back: back in Reno, as of Friday, and -- obviously -- back on the blog. The last four days of the trip were less than ideal, I have to say.

Tuesday at the MLA wound up going late; we finished interviewing in the morning, but another search was starting its interviews as soon as we finished up, so we agreed to meet at 6:00 to make difficult choices. This meant that I couldn't head out to see Gary's folks until much later than I'd hoped, although his mother was working until 9:00 (she's an assistant in a children's room in a library, and loves it), so I wouldn't have seen her until late evening anyway. At least I could store my overnight bag in the interview suite.

With six hours to hang around the hotel, I had lunch with one colleague, went to an excellent paper by another, browsed various gift shops (acquiring small presents for my mother and sister), and perched on assorted uncomfortable pieces of hotel-lobby furniture -- mainly fashionable couches with no backs -- to knit. I was surrounded by anxious job candidates in business attire poring over notes, comparing interview experiences with friends, and generally looking crazed. Having been on the job market myself for three years, I sympathized completely, and was also indescribably grateful to have tenure. Nothing's completely safe in this economy, but having tenure is a lot more comfortable than being on the market.

At one point, a young woman in Interview Attire (immediately recognizable, especially since academics rarely dress up in their workplaces) looked over at my knitting, sighed, and said, "You're an island of calm in a sea of chaos."

Later on, I found myself sitting next to casually dressed Asian tourists, two parents and a little girl about six or seven. She was knitting; her mom was helping her. Mom and daughter wore matching knit scarves the mom had made. The little one was absolutely fascinated by my sock-in-progress, both by the multiple double-pointed needles and by the sock itself. "It looks like a pocket!" she said in delight, and I told her that was exactly right, since a sock is a pocket for a foot.

She was small enough that making each stitch was really hard work for her. I spotted a dropped stitch and used a crochet needle to fix it as much as I could, advising mom to tie it off with a piece of waste yarn. This process thoroughly enchanted the girl, who watched me with eyes so wide you'd have thought I was pulling kittens out of some other dimension.

When I meet a kid like that, I always briefly regret being childless. Then I see some other kid, screaming in glee, zooming around with that terrifying energy possessed only by children, and I remember my intolerance for noise and interruption and sleep deprivation, and I come to my senses. Parenting is the hardest work in the world, and I bow to those with the patience to do it well. I know myself well enough to know that I'm not one of them.

Back upstairs, our meeting dragged on. I finally got out of there at 7:00 and took the subway to 30th Street Station, where I learned that a one-way Amtrak ticket to Newark would cost $45. No, thanks! The round-trip SEPTA/Jersey Transit fare -- which involved taking slow local trains and switching in Trenton, and which would get me into Newark at 9:45 -- was only $31, a relative bargain. I happily bought round-trip tickets.

On the train, I called my hotel. Did they have a shuttle that could pick me up at the train station? No, they didn't, but they'd arrange a car service for me and call me back to confirm it. Sure enough, a few minutes later my cell rang. Most of the car services didn't have any cars available at that time, but a limo company could spare a town car. The fare would be $90 for the ten-mile ride to the hotel.

"Ninety dollars?" I sputtered. "That's unacceptable." Fellow train passengers were glaring at me; I'd become one of those monsters who holds loud personal conversations in public. "If you can't find something more reasonable, I'll have to take a bus."

The hotel called back a few minutes later, informing me brightly that, yes, they'd found another car service! This one would only charge me $65!

For ten miles? Ridiculous. "Let me see if I can arrange a ride," I said. "I'll call you back." Gary's brother is the only person in that household who drives. I hadn't wanted to bother them, but maybe he could pick me up? I called the house and got my grown niece, who gave me her dad's cellphone number. I called him and explained my predicament. He had to pick Gary's mom up at work and then drive his daughter back to her own house, and wouldn't be able to get to Newark until 10:00. Was that all right? I assured him fervently that it was wonderful, and called the hotel back to cancel the car service and to order a room-service chicken salad to be delivered to my room so I'd have something to eat when I got there, since the restaurant kitchen would be closed.

To make an already long story a tiny bit shorter, Kurt was delayed by traffic and didn't arrive until 10:30, which meant that I didn't finish my supper until 11:30 and didn't get to bed until a little after midnight. Under the circumstances, I decided not to set an alarm.

I got up around 9:30, called Gary's mom to say that I'd be there by eleven, and set about trying to figure out the hotel coffee maker, a "pod" model I haven't used much. I was leaning over trying to read the fine-print instructions on the side of the machine when my back spasmed.

It's been a few years since this has happened to me, but I recognized it instantly. It was fairly predictable, given the previous several days' combo of travel, stress, lack of exercise, and non-ergonomic hotel-lobby furniture. It wasn't as bad as other spasms I've had, which have put me in bed for several days on muscle relaxants and massive doses of ibuprofen, but it was bad enough to ensure that I wouldn't be able to see Gary's mom as soon as I'd hoped. I called her to explain, said that I'd try to be there by 1:00, and called the hotel to arrange late checkout. No problem on that one: thank goodness for small favors! In the meantime, a hotel clerk dashed out to a drugstore to get me some ibuprofen.

I don't remember what I was doing when my back spasmed again. This one was much worse, definitely in the bed-plus-ibuprofen-plus-muscle-relaxants category. I called my sister to say that I wouldn't be traveling back to Philly that evening, called the hotel to extend my stay by one night (all the time I could afford, since I had to fly back to Reno on Friday and most of my luggage was still in Philly), called Doris to ask pitifully if maybe she could come to the hotel instead of my coming to the house, and called my doctor to find out if he could call a script for muscle relaxants in to a local pharmacy.

My doctor was out for the day. The nurse would give a note to his partner. In fairly short order, the partner's nurse called back and told me in chilly tones that her doctor had looked at my file, but never prescribed muscle relaxants for back pain. I should take ibuprofen for back pain. "This is a back spasm," I said. "I have ibuprofen for pain. I need a muscle relaxant to ease the spasms. This has happened to me before, and two other doctors have prescribed muscle relaxants."

"Then call them," the nurse snapped, and hung up.

Holy crap! I'm an established patient in this office, and you have my records. You can see what he's prescribed! (And I did call him; it's not my fault I got you instead.) Muscle relaxants are not, as far as I know, drugs of abuse; they are absolutely standard procedure for muscle spasms. But the nurse was treating me exactly the way I've seen -- and heard -- ER staff treat patients they think are drug seekers.

I've always sympathized with those patients. I sympathize even more now. The hotel clerk had asked if I wanted to go to an ER, but I didn't need an ER: I needed a script for muscle relaxants. If I showed up in an ER 3,000 miles from home, I would be dismissed as a drug seeker, and I'd pay dearly for the humiliation.

I was weeping from pain and anger and shame. I'd come here to support my bereaved mother-in-law, and now look at me! I couldn't stand up straight. I could barely walk, could hardly move at all without sending my back into fresh spasms. I hadn't showered; my hair was a fright; I'm pretty sure I smelled funky. Just getting to the door of my room to unlock it for Doris was agonizing.

Thank God for Doris! She brought me ice packs. She'd eaten at home, but went to the hotel restaurant to get lunch for me, bringing it back herself so we wouldn't have to pay the that-will-be-double-for-room-service taxes and fees. And, at home, she had muscle relaxants. Having taken a cab from the house to the hotel, she called another one to take her home so she could get the drugs and bring them to me. I don't usually take other people's drugs, but my doctor's office had left me no choice.

With food and meds in my system, I felt much better. I lay curled in bed; Doris sat and chatted with me. She dismissed the housekeeper who'd come to change the sheets. We both took naps. I bought us both dinner, which Doris again collected from the restaurant, over their strenuous objections. "We can deliver it! We can deliver it!" I'd gotten a free cup of ice water with lunch, but this time, they tried to charge $8 for two bottles of water, no doubt to try to recoup lost room-service charges. Doris declined, and we drank tap water instead.

My sister called to say that she'd pick me up early the next morning, since it certainly didn't sound like I was up to multiple train rides, not to mention the hassle of getting back to the train station for less than the GNP of a developing country. Doris left. I knitted a little and slept a lot; muscle relaxants will do that. Liz was going to call me the next morning when she left home.

My phone rang at 7:45 a.m. It was Liz, psychotically cheerful. "Hi! I'm here! What room are you in?" Bleary-eyed and still in terrible pain, I hobbled to the door to let her in as she scratched at the door to annoy me. It had taken her two hours to drive up from Philly in light snow. But by the time she got me and my luggage into the car, the snow wasn't light any more. Roads were very slick. The radio informed us that several highways were closed because of multiple accidents. Liz stopped at a Starbucks to get both of us breakfast and coffee, and then we set out, passing a pick-up on its side and various cars crunched against dividing walls and any number of emergency vehicles. Liz used her GPS to look for alternate routes when we got snarled in traffic jams.

About an hour later, the snow stopped as suddenly as it had started. The roads suddenly cleared. We made it home in only three hours, much less than we'd expected. I used my mother's chair-elevator to get back up to my room, where I spent most of the day in bed. I called my airline to arrange wheelchair transportation; Liz helped me pack to go home. And, mirabile dictu, my flights the next day went very smoothly. No weather delays, very prompt and attentive and helpful wheelchair attendants, three seats all to myself on the second leg of the trip. Since I could now walk a bit but still couldn't stand up straight, all of that was a real blessing, as was being able to collapse in my own bed.

Yesterday I woke up feeling just better enough to swim, which helped immensely. I swam today, too, after going to church for the first time in forever: everyone seemed delighted to see me, and I got lots of hugs. I'm practicing the fiddle again after days of enforced absence. To my amazement, I don't seem to have lost much ground, and yesterday I finally finished sounding out a tune that had been eluding me. My sister told me today that her husband had said very kind things about my playing, and I appreciated that a lot.

I know I've gone into ridiculous detail on this, but it was all pretty traumatic! Oh, my psychiatrist says that the higher antidepressant dose might be causing my excessive sleeping, so as of January 1, I'm back on the old dose. So far, so good. Tomorrow I see my primary-care doc to follow up on other possibilities about the sleep issue. You can be sure I'll be talking to him about his partner! Knowing that I only have fifteen minutes, though, I'm already getting anxious. I have four things to talk to him about: the partner, a mild rash on my face, the fact that my right thumb's becoming increasingly arthritic from fiddle practice, and the sleep issue. I can't cover all of that in a quarter hour. Help!

I guess I'll just have to schedule multiple appointments with him. Aaaaargh.

Luckily, I see my shrink on Tuesday. She gives me a whole thirty minutes. What luxury!

Postscript: I've now learned that muscle relaxants can indeed be drugs of abuse. That at least explains the reaction I got, although it doesn't help answer the question of what one does for a muscle spasm 3,000 miles from home. I guess I would have gone to an Urgent Care clinic and asked them to give me only enough pills for a few days.

For anyone who's worried about me, the last time I took the muscle relaxant -- or even ibuprofen -- was Friday night. I took a total of seven five-milligram pills over three days: not even remotely excessive!