Kyle Maxwell

Just me.

Anaphylaxis

Last fall, on the advice of my doctor, I started immunotherapy for my allergies (primarily environmental, like grass). They were as severe as any the clinic had ever seen. The therapy basically involves my wife giving me a small injection in each arm every other day, with the dosages increasing every month or two. This also includes a clinic visit every time the dosage increases.

Up until this week, the therapy has gone really well. I went through the north Texas spring season without too much difficulty and the summer has been particularly clear. The only side effects were small localized reactions at the injection site on one of my arms that I could usually control with a very small dosage of Children’s Benadryl. Even if I didn’t take that medicine, I could still tolerate the reaction, which you could probably compare to a particularly uncomfortable mosquito bite.

Then this past Monday, I returned from a trip to Las Vegas for DEF CON. That night, my wife gave me my set of injections just before bed time, per our usual practice. As I went to lay down, I felt really warm, which didn’t strike me as unusual: it’s the start of August in Texas and I’m generally a bit hot-natured anyway. Turning on a bedside fan didn’t provide much relief, but when I went to get a drink of water from the bathroom, I noticed I looked a little flushed and had bloodshot eyes. But within a few moments of taking the Benadryl, my situation had deteriorated rapidly and I had significant trouble breathing.

They’d warned me about this. I’d literally trained for this.

I grabbed my epinephrine autoinjector (“EpiPen”) from the bathroom, sat down, and prepared for what I thought would be a painful injection (but still preferable to not breathing). I jabbed my right thigh and, other than the tiniest pinch ever and a small drop of blood trickling down my leg, didn’t actually feel too much. Immediately following, I dialed 911 and requested paramedics and an ambulance. By the time they arrived (probably <5 minutes, though I didn’t actually measure), my breathing had become far more labored and I couldn’t swallow at all.

They administered oxygen and checked my vitals, and though the first team (in the fire engine) didn’t understand what I was trying to explain about the immunotherapy injections, the second team (in the ambulance) definitely knew what was up. So an ambulance transported me to the emergency room, for the first (and hopefully last!) time in my life.

I felt a lot better in the ambulance, but that didn’t mean everything was okay. The shot is really designed to give temporary relief so you can survive long enough to get to a real treatment center. Once I arrived, they immediately gave me a breathing treatment (albuterol) plus a much stronger shot of Benadryl, a steroid, and Pepcid (which apparently has an antihistamine effect as well).

albuterol

Ignore the mohawk – that was just for a charity fundraiser and I hadn’t had a chance to get it removed yet

We’re fortunate enough to live near our extended families, so I had one sister-in-law watch my children (who slept through the entire event, yay!) and another follow the ambulance to bring us home later. My mom and sister also came up to the hospital for a while. They sent me home in the wee hours. The next day, the doctor explained that we’d have to temporarily reduce the dosage for a while and ramp up slowly, but also that I’ll have to have all my injections done in the office for about a month for observation. If I have another anaphylactic reaction, I won’t need to go to the ER because they have all the appropriate treatments on hand. But that would also mean the end of my immunotherapy, as after two adverse reactions it would be deemed unsafe for me.

I had lots of love and support from my friends online and locally as well, so many thanks to all of you who sent thoughts, prayers, well-wishes, and whatever assorted bits of good karma you could spare. It really did mean a lot to me.

With apologies to Leo McGarry

So this guy is walking down the street and he falls in a hole. It’s deep and he can’t get out.

A doctor walks past, hears him, and throws a prescription in the hole, then keeps going.

A priest walks past, hears him, and says a prayer, then keeps going.

His buddy walks past, hears him, and jumps in the hole.

The guy says, “what are you doing?! Now we’re both stuck”

But his buddy says, “yeah, but I’ve been here before and I know how to get out.”

came in handy for me today

Cutting down on the snark

On Friday, I made it through the entire day snark-free. That presented a lot of challenges, since I normally engage in a lot of good-natured ribbing with guys at work. Sometimes I feel like I over-escalate through the day, to the point where I feel like I become disrespectful and unkind. I wanted to make significant efforts to treat other people the way I teach my children to do.

Current events make this highly challenging. So many people have gotten misleading information on the Fukushima nuclear disaster and overreacting inappropriately, largely fueled by the media’s self-serving actions that work against anything resembling the public interest. And then we see the start of a new war in Libya, which will undoubtedly lead in the next few weeks to the sort of jingoism that sets my hair on fire.

Humanity frequently uses humor as a defense mechanism in the face of incredible tragedy or traumatic stress. But that shouldn’t mean taking it out on other people. Now to see how well I can handle matters this week…

New toys!

A little over a week ago, I finally got my first tablet. And rather than follow through (for now) on my desires for a Honeycomb tablet, like the Motorola Xoom, I bought a refurbished low-end iPad 1. It came with 16GB storage and a Wifi-only network connection, but for me that does the job quite well since I can just set my Droid Incredible as a wifi hotspot. The Twitter app for iPad really rocks, unlike their Android app. And reading news (New York Times, The Economist, Flipboard, etc.) has become the pleasurable experience it ought to be. My primary complaints, so to speak, have to do with apps with minor issues (e.g. feedly) or the lack of a coherent way to manage settings (e.g. the browser).

Just as importantly – actually, more so – my new desktop finally came to life. Built from scratch, godel runs Ubuntu 10.10 on a 6-core AMD Phenom II and 16GB of RAM, with a pair of linked Radeon HD 5770 graphics card each holding 1GB of on-board memory, all wrapped in a black monolith Antec Three Hundred case. Yeah, it runs like lightning, although today I need to get audio working properly and perhaps find a way to cut the fan noise. (Plus this monster deserves a new monitor.)

Of course this machine can and will run games (think EVE Online), I didn’t build it like this principally for that purpose. Rather, I want to spend significant time delving back into development, perhaps including Android development or data science projects.

Playing chess again

I’ll write more about this later (probably elsewhere), but I’ve decided to dive back into playing chess. Not that I ever had much skill, but I’d like to become a better player. You can find me on Chess.com as technoskald. I’ve started playing a bunch of games, plus spending time with their adaptive learning system and tactics trainer to see what might help.

If you play, throw me a challenge or such. Given my current ranking, you will likely win, but we’ll have fun and I might learn something.

Memory apartment

'Memories Side Street' by shinyai

I’ve started trying to use the concept of memory palaces. However, I’ve never done anything like this before – bit of a newb, really. While I have a pretty good head for numbers and useless trivia, generally I resort to mnemonics of one sort or another the memorize lists and whatnot.

So I decided I wanted to remember things that I need to do first, as that tends to cause me problems. An apartment where we lived several years ago had an entry way where you immediately turned left, saw an open kitchen, then cut back to the right to see a den and a living room. I liked that apartment, so it made a perfect test “palace”.

To remember the tasks I needed to carry out, I visualized the entry way completely covered in flowers (send a sympathy bouquet). Turning left, President Bill Clinton greets me (payments due) and I see a cow in the kitchen (need milk for office). Turning back to the right, I see a large black monolith with a two-headed alien phase shifted in it (testing dual graphics cards in a new workstation). An old dot matrix printer sits in the living room (finish a report for the CSO) and He-Man stands nearby with a blue torso like a Pict (call Master Paint & Body).

You get the picture, literally.

Have any of my friends out there used this sort of technique before?

Priorities

Let’s see… revolutions against dictators all across the Near and Middle East. The Wisconsin capitol is full of protestors. The Space Shuttle program is winding down. No doubt your locality, like mine, has lots of important things happening that you need to know about.

And some of the biggest stories in the news (including on NPR) revolve around a drunken actor and a fashion designer doing dumb things in public.

Well, I’m glad the public knows how to focus on what’s important.

Private pain

This morning, I received some sad news about a death of a man I knew just about my whole life, but from whom I’d grown distant over the last few years. No need to go into any detail publicly, except to say that I find the situation exceptionally complicated and tragic.

'Art of Pain' by azarius

My first instinct, honed over the last 10 or 12 years, is to reach out via my online life. I want to express how I feel. I want to encourage others to make good decisions and always do ‘just so’. I want people to love each other and look out for each other’s interests rather than their own.

But then I remembered a piece I read a couple of years ago in the New York Times. Maureen Dowd interviewed the founders of Twitter, Biz Stone and Evan Williams. One bit stuck with me:

ME: I heard about a woman who tweeted her father’s funeral. Whatever happened to private pain?

EVAN: I have private pain every day.

I suppose we all do. Sometimes we keep it private out of shame. Other times we can’t handle the pressure. Still other times, like in this case, we do it out of respect for other people’s privacy.

Either way, I just need to watch out for the oversharing. But this is okay, it seems to me, because it’s a little more ‘meta’: it’s about the need to refrain from putting too much out there even when we want contact.

I’m going to go give someone a hug now.

Thoughts on a tablet purchase

I’ve wanted to replace my Dell Mini 9 for a bit. As an Ubuntu netbook with decent performance, it got the job done for me when it came out. Now, though, I’ve had it for over a year and a half, so it probably can get passed on to a family member. And a tablet form factor would fit my use cases much better: lean-back computing, generally at home or a third place such as a coffee shop or book store.

This has led me to set up a few criteria for the device I’ll eventually get.

  • Android device. I’d rather not get an iPad and thus delve further into the Apple ecosystem at this point. (Though as I look at the probability matrix for the rest of the year, certain family events could cause me to re-evaluate that position.) Still, for my own needs, I’d like to stick with Android to the degree possible.
  • Hackable device. Specifically, I’d like something I can jailbreak. The idea of flashing the tablet with a custom OS appeals strongly to me, especially for running Android Honeycomb.
  • WiFi only. I vacillate a little on this particular issue, but given that I primarily expect to use it in locations that provide WiFi, the extra expense of 3G or such doesn’t really appeal to me. (And it should make the previous requirement a little easier to match.)
  • Decent quality hardware. Bargain-basement knockoffs with flimsy casings and low-quality touch screens don’t appeal to me. Not that I want to go drop USD 1000 on the device, but I don’t have to go get the Wal-Mart special, either.

I’ve started to look at my choices, but mostly in ruling some of them out (e.g. the highly expensive Motorola Xoom).

Maybe I should get the Honeycomb SDK in advance, too, so I could mess around with some “Hello, World’ stuff. Mostly, though, I want to prepare myself for the inevitable moments where I tell myself that I can’t find an app that meets my needs and decide to roll my own.

Any recommendations from my friends?

We hardly knew ye

If you can watch this without getting a lump in your throat and a sting in your eye, then you’ve got something missing in your chest.

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