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November 26, 2011

US healthcare still sucks though (, )

by fluffy at 9:21 PM

Just because I have a working theory for what's going on doesn't mean I don't have a lot of ridiculously high (post-insurance!) medical bills from the ER visits I had earlier. Sigh.

Back on T-Mobile; Virgin Mobile sucks (, )

by fluffy at 4:15 PM

It wasn't enough that their best phone (the Motorola Triumph) had a terrible touchscreen and problems with battery life.

It wasn't enough that, despite it being an unlimited-access pay-as-you-go service, they didn't allow forwarding to third-party voicemail providers, and didn't provide any decent application-based voicemail of their own.

It wasn't enough that the data service was slow and the voice service horrible.

It wasn't enough that they never updated the phone to anything even remotely recent Android-wise, and never released the kernel source allowing the modding community to take it into their own hands.

It wasn't enough that they didn't anticipate that my expiring credit card would cause a problem and prompted me to update it instead of freezing my service when I was out in the middle of nowhere and needed to get in touch with people, and didn't give me any way of finding out what had happened until I got home.

What really pushed me over the edge is that they remotely disabled all of my phone administration applications (Astro File Manager, Gingerbreak, Superuser) and limited my access to my own filesystem.

(Of course, all the stuff above didn't help either.)

November 25, 2011

Labyrinthitis ()

by fluffy at 12:08 AM

So, when all is said and done, a fairly likely diagnosis for what's been going on with me is that I have labyrinthitis (an inflammation of the inner ear, usually due to viral infection). It certainly fits the symptoms, at least — bouts of dizziness which turn into anxiety attacks, occasional tinnitus (more than baseline for me, anyway), and so on. My working theory right now is that the stress of Chris' death made it easy for me to get very dehydrated and therefore rather constipated, which turned into an impacted bowel, and somewhere along the line I also got labyrinthitis (I don't recall exactly when the dizziness or anxiety attacks started but they were I think around the time that I passed out on the 2nd). The stool softeners I've been on for the impacted bowel (and the discontinuation of spironolactone) have helped immensely on the bowel (I'm pooping normally and regularly again, yay!) and the remaining symptoms are all just explained by labyrinthitis and a re-emergence of Raynaud's syndrome, which I've had in the past but haven't had trouble with for a while. And of course, anxiety is a pretty major Raynaud's trigger, which explains how one thing can lead to another (and the progression of an attack really does strongly imply that it's labyrinthitis → anxiety attack → Raynaud's attack).

I don't know the underlying cause of the Raynaud's but I know my mom has it chronically and so there might just be a genetic component, and I just need to learn to relax when I'm having an attack. For a while I had been just meditating (usually while lying down) although I'm not always in a situation where I can do that, and the times that it's gotten out of control have been when I've been in a situation where I just plain couldn't take a break, or just when I was getting better some concerned friend would come over and make sure I was doing okay which would of course just make everything come right back (such as during Chris' funeral, where I'd go lie down in the car and things would be getting fine and then someone would knock on the window, bringing everything right back; of course, Chris's funeral had plenty of NON-dizzy anxiety as well).

Anyway, hopefully if that was the case then I can go back to normal life and be more confident that I'm not going to just die unexpectedly or something, and that in and of itself should help to keep things from getting bad to begin with.

My understanding is that viral labyrinthitis usually takes a few weeks to a few months to clear up on its own, and my bloodwork doesn't support it being bacterial labyrinthitis. My doctor seems to think the labyrinthitis theory is plausible (per a brief email conversation) so I guess I'll just stick with that for now, until something else happens to make me think otherwise.

November 23, 2011

Kickstarter ()

by fluffy at 6:29 PM

November 20, 2011

Accumulated travel achievements (, )

by fluffy at 2:35 PM

If you follow me on Twitter you probably saw some of these get posted when I "earned" them:

There's a lot of other stuff I should have granted myself achievements for, such as going to the cow-mooing meadow (drink a bottle of Skal) and having a temporary Groundhog Day loop, and perhaps one for being an intense shutterbug.

Oh, and after this week I'm a lot better at reading kana. I'm maybe at a two-year-old level now.

November 19, 2011

Breakfast (, , )

by fluffy at 11:21 AM

Very few things demonstrate the gap between any two given cultures so well as how one prepares the breakfast of another. Tastes can vary so much that in some cases it seems that aliens from outer space who had never even heard of "break fast" are likely to do a more accurate job.

The Japanese take on an American breakfast is a prime example. What do Americans eat? Sausage, eggs, fruit, potatoes, that sort of thing. What kind of sausage? Well, the most popularly-eaten sausage in America is hot dogs. Oh, and those are often served on a bun with chili and onions. Fruit? How about some nice berries... like tomatoes and bell peppers? Potatoes are easy to cook; here's a nice recipe for roasted potatoes, served with carrots and green beans. And how better to scramble eggs than by making an emulsion?

This isn't to say that any of this is BAD, of course, but if you happen to be in Japan and happen to be homesick for America, ordering a nice American breakfast probably isn't the best way to alleviate this.

Of course, it's hard to fault them for trying. Ask any given American to prepare a Japanese style breakfast and you'll probably end up with wasabi corn flakes.

November 18, 2011

Travel tip: laundry bags ()

by fluffy at 6:27 AM

As usual, I forgot to pack a bag in which to sequester my dirty laundry. I found that in a pinch, a dirty piece of clothing (shirt, pair of pants, etc.) could be used as a makeshift one instead.

November 17, 2011

Blogging from THE FUTURE ()

by fluffy at 6:57 AM

Japan's clock is 15 hours in the future. This is a natural consequence of its location on the rotating supermassive ball of dirt.

Japan's vending machines are 15 months in the future. Dozens of selections in every sort of drink category (coffee, tea, beer, vodka drinks), all of them are smart enough to refine your selections based on the inserted amount of money (some with large dynamic touchscreen displays), and some of them take electronic payment schemes that put Google Wallet to shame.

Japan's elevators are 15 years in the future. Banks of elevators are scheduled on-the-fly such that they know which cars are going to stop at which floors so as to maximize their throughput. As soon as you press the elevator call button you know which car is going to arrive first. The soothing chimes and voice tell you where you are and where you're going and where the elevator is going to stop next. The door close button actually closes the door.

Japan's bathrooms are 15 decades in the future. They sense when they are sat upon and start warming the seat. They use a precision-targeted stream of water to clean the user's anus. They intelligently flush. Even the scummiest dive bars have perfectly-maintained self-cleaning robo-bidet toilets.

Self-service restaurants (, )

by fluffy at 3:31 AM

I just had a rather interesting dining experience at the Shinagawa Prince Annex Tower mall food court.

When you enter, there is a sign saying "this is a self-service facility." There is nothing else to direct you. Looking around, there are a number of stations, next to which there are what look like touchscreen vending machines. You put your money into the vending machine, and make your selections; then it gives you your change and several tickets that you run to the stations. They give you a little call box to let you know when your order is ready, and you get it from the pass yourself. Then when you're finished with your meal, you take your tray to the bussing station yourself.

It all seems very Japanese, and once you figure it out it's especially easy because you don't have to deal with language barriers or whatever (the touchscreen ordering systems have menus in English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, although it took me a while to figure out that's what the buttons along the bottom of the screen did - and the English text was pretty minimal, and even the button to complete your order is in Japanese the whole time).

Anyway, I got a Margherita Pizza, which was about the only thing I thought I could stomach (most of the menus were full of greasy fried stuff and rich seafood udon, and even the pizza menu was primarily made of, well, typically Japanese takes on pizza), as well a melon soda, which was very, very green.

おいしいでした。

November 15, 2011

Differential diagnosis ()

by fluffy at 5:52 PM

Maybe the Internet people can figure out what's going on here.

Symptoms

Normally I feel fine (aside from being somewhat constipated), but when I'm having an attack the following occur:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Numbness (esp. in hands and face, sometimes in feet)
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Dry mouth, feeling dehydrated
  • Lack of water retention/frequent urination
  • Feeling faint (and actually fainting a couple times)
  • Loss of appetite

Attacks seem to occur most often after exertion or eating/drinking certain things (I haven't narrowed down which things yet).

Lab tests

WBC: 8.5 (high normal)
RBC: 4.8 (low normal)
HGB: 13.0 (low normal)
HCT: 36.9 (low normal)
MCV: 77 (low)
MCH: 27.1 (low normal)
MCHC: 35.2 (normal)
PLT: 181 (normal)

GLU: 112 (slightly elevated)
UN: 13.7 (normal)
CRTNN: 0.81 (normal)
NA: 138.8 (normal)
K: 3.7 (low normal)
CL: 102 (normal)
CRP: 1.09 (rather high but not considered extremely elevated)
TP: 6.1 (low)
TB: 0.3 (low)
LDH: 136 (normal)
AST: 22 (normal)
ALT: 27 (normal)
AMY: 40 (low normal)
CK: 84 (normal)

This is from my Japan ER visit last night. I don't have actual lab numbers for the American visits.

Contributing factors

The slightly elevated GLU is likely because this measurement was taken a couple hours after I'd had a sweet mixed alcoholic drink.

The high CRP is a sign of inflammation. I have persistent inflammation in both wrists due to chronic RSI issues.

What it isn't

Diabetes
It has a lot of the superficial symptoms of diabetes, but none of the labwork supports it. My doctor has categorically stated that there is no way it could be diabetes, as has a friend of mine who is medically-inclined as well.
Anxiety disorder
There seem to be too many physical symptoms for this to be the case. It's possible that my recent anxiety attacks have been caused by whatever the underlying cause is, or that generalized anxiety attacks are causing whatever this is to trigger.
Medicine intolerance/sensitivity
The only medication I'm taking now is a prescription stool softener, and I only started that well after these problems started. Before the problems started I was taking spironolactone, which was certainly contributing to the dehydration, but probably not the root cause of it.

What it could be

Food sensitivity
This one does seem like a distinct possibility, especially since it sometimes comes on after eating. A wheat or gluten intolerance would seem the most likely. I really hope this isn't the case because holy cow do I love me some pizza. I'll try avoiding gluten foods today and see if that helps.
Some sort of autoimmune disorder
"It's never lupus." Except for when it is. But it seems unlikely.
Raynaud's Phenomenon
I guess that's more of a symptom complex caused by vasoconstriction (which could also be caused by an autoimmune disorder) but a lot of things fit. Numbness in the extremities brought on by cold, exertion, or cigarette smoke (and caffeine doesn't seem to help any, either), and during attacks my hands to seem to get a bit more pale although I could just be getting pale everywhere and I just don't know it. I do have a family history of this (from my mom), and she said it started at around my age (and has only gotten worse over time). Obviously this isn't a disease on its own but it's not exactly a symptom, either.

Differences between American and Japanese emergency rooms (, )

by fluffy at 7:23 AM

In Tokyo, the emergency room is staffed with enough people that everyone has multiple attendants always taking care of them, whereas in the US it can often be hours between check-ins by the staff.

In an American emergency room, it is up to the patient to undress themselves and put on a gown; if they are unable to do that, the staff will cut the clothing off. In Japan, they do as much as possible without removing any clothing, and are exceptionally conscientious about the patient's comfort.

In a Japanese emergency room, the language barrier is something they attempt to overcome and make sure that everyone knows the same amount of information; in an American emergency room, the attending staff tends to not communicate or even listen to the patient.

In an American emergency room, regardless of what's going on they always hook you up to a saline drip, while in a Japanese emergency room, that is considered a treatment that they only perform when it appears to be necessary.

In an American emergency room, if you have to use the bathroom it takes quite a lot of time before an attending nurse even finds out that you need to, and they just give you a jar to pee in before disappearing. In a Japanese emergency room, they accompany you to the bathroom and make sure that you're doing okay.

An American emergency room bills you later, via the convoluted process of American medical insurance. A Japanese emergency room either bills your insurance directly and asks you to pay the difference (if you have insurance), or just bills you directly and has you pay before you leave (and provides receipts for reimbursement with foreign insurance claims later). Fortunately, the overall uninsured bill of a Japanese emergency room is less than the copayments involved in an American emergency room, so even if one doesn't get reimbursed you still end up ahead.

An American emergency room is doing good if they keep track of your name and mailing address. A Japanese emergency room issues you a personalized smart card that keeps track of your medical history with them for easy access later.

On the other hand, an American emergency room understands that people come in all sorts of sizes and shapes, whereas in a Japanese emergency room, the beds are very small and cramped, the slippers they give you for going to the bathroom (you don't wear shoes!) are tiny, and the adhesive on the tape sticks exceptionally well to a hirsute-American's arms.

Neither one can figure out what the hell is wrong with me.

November 7, 2011

Who knew ()

by fluffy at 10:52 PM

Apparently having silly, subtle stuff automatically happen when a blog entry is linked to externally, and having certain images on my site prevented from being hotlinked (mostly ones which don't work well out of their original context), is exactly the same as obsessively checking my referrer stats and changing or taking things down whenever someone says something mean about me on the Internet. Oh no, someone's linking to me! On the web! Whatever shall I do?!

(You know how HTTP referrers work, right?)

November 6, 2011

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