CPAP Only Works When You Wear It

I did something I haven't done before: I got up in the middle of the night to pee and forgot to put my CPAP mask back on. This meant, for a few hours last night, I slept in my bed without my CPAP.

This isn't the first night since I got my CPAP that I didn't wear it, mostly because I've had a couple of red-eye flights since then. CPAP usage on an airplane isn't feasible, at least in coach. However, its the first time I've slept in my bed without the mask on since I got it.

And, sure enough, I snored. How do I know this? I've been using the MotionX-24/7 app to track my sleep and record sounds that happen while I sleep. Since I got the CPAP, mostly all it picked up was me rolling over and the very occasional quiet snore.

Last night, it picked up truly proper snoring. I have no idea if I snored the whole time I didn't have the CPAP mask on or not. I do know the CPAP only works if I wear it.

phoneboy-1435367804652

Alcohol: It's Not So Great For Your Heart

From Time Magazine, How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?? [time.com]:

The not-so-good news: The more the participants drank, the more likely they showed abnormal changes in their heart structure and function. In men, the changes started accumulating after more than two drinks per day, or 14 or more drinks a week. In these men, the pumping chambers of their hearts increased slightly compared to those in non drinkers, a sign that the heart had to work harder to pump the same amount of blood, which can cause it enlarge and weaken. In women, these changes appeared when women drank much less, just above the one drink a day. In addition, among the women who imbibed more than a drink a day, the scientists found slight drops in heart function compared to women who drank less.

This paragraph hit home because this is exactly the reason my mom died about two years ago. Her heart was, according to the autopsy, enlarged. I'm not sure how much she drank, but I'm pretty sure it was more than a drink a day for many, many years.

My mom was not the only alcoholic in my family. As a result, I made a decision relatively early in my life not to allow alcohol to control my life. As a result, I do not drink alcohol on a daily basis.

Turns out that early life decision ended up being smarter than I thought.

Too Much Chewing Gum

From Samantha Jenkins: Too much chewing gum may have played role in death of 'vibrant, happy and fun-loving' teenager:

Too much chewing gum may have played a role in the death of a “vibrant, happy and fun loving” 19-year-old shop worker.

An inquest heard Samantha “Sam” Jenkins, 19, of Felinfoel, Llanelli, collapsed and died suddenly after complaining of a headache at home in June 2011.

The inquest heard Samantha’s cause of death was cerebal hypoxia (brain swelling) caused by convulsions due to low salt, magnesium and calcium levels in her body.

But experienced Morriston Hospital pathologist Dr Paul Griffiths who carried out a post mortem examination also suggested her death could have been contributed to by the laxative effects of excessive consumption of sugar free chewing gum – her favourite brand being Trident.

In my own experience, I've found modern-day chewing gum, which is often sweetened with aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, to be the equivalent to crack cocaine: if I have one piece, I gotta have another when the flavor goes away. Repeat until I've chewed the entire pack of gum. And, of course, the packs of gum are bigger than they used to be.

While this article focuses on the evils of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners as the potential cause of her death, I'm guessing the real cause had something to do with the fact she clearly swallowed her gum:

Dr Griffiths told the inquest when he carried out the post mortem examination he found five “large lumps” of bright green coloured mint smelling chewing gum in Samantha’s stomach, something he had never encountered before.

Clearly it's an issue of "too much chewing gum" as the headline suggests. That said, while I'm all-in on the idea aspartame may not be so great for humans, blaming the aspartame as the sole cause of this poor girl's death is a bit of a stretch.

What's Wrong With Security?

"But father, what's wrong with security? Everybody likes to be all cosy and safe."

"Yes," Mr. Murry said grimly. "Security is a most seductive thing."

"Well — but I want to be secure, Father. I hate feeling insecure."

"But you don't love security enough so that you guide your life by it, Meg. You weren't thinking of security when you came to rescue me with Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which."

"But that didn't have anything to do with me," Meg protested. "I wasn't being brave or anything. They just took me."

Calvin, walking besides them with his load of wood, said, smiling warmly at Meg, "Yes, but when we got here you didn't go around whining or asking to go home where you could be all safe and cosy. You kept yelling, where's Father, take me to father! You never gave a thought to security."

"Oh," Meg said. "Oh." She brooded for another moment. "But I still don't see why security isn't a good thing. Why, Father?"

"I've come to the conclusion," Mr. Murry said slowly, "that it's the greatest evil there is. Suppose your great great grandmother, and all those like her, had worried about security? They'd never have gone across the land in flimsy covered wagons. Our country has been greatest when it has been most insecure. This sick longing for security is a dangerous thing, Meg, as insidious as the strontium 90 from our nuclear explosions that worried you so about Charles Wallace when you read in science at school that it was being found in milk. You can't see strontium 90. You can't feel it or touch it. But it's there. So is the panicky searching for conformity, for security. Maybe it's because of the Black Thing, Meg. Maybe this lust for security is like a disease germ that it has let loose on our land."

This was an excerpt from the manuscript of A Wrinkle in Time that was cut from the final book. These pages were recently found by the author's granddaughter. The book was written in 1962 and was one I read as a child. In fact, I can still imagine my second grade school under the spell of the Black Thing that had caused a sameness, a conformity in the Madeleine L’Engle tale.

Why was the passage cut? I didn't put the earlier part of the passage in, but it referred to communism, which could have dated the book. Personally, I don't think it was the case at all. I think it's because the passage was a bit too close to the truth. It doesn't take much to see the parallels between what governments around the world are doing and these statements.

Writing To Understand

In high school, I started doing documentation for computer-related tasks, mostly because my teacher at the time told me my skills would be more valuable1. In college, the job I had working in an engineering computer lab also involved documenting various systems administration activities I started doing2. Even in my first post-college job, I ended up writing a fair bit of documentation, mostly for internal use. The writing that some people know me for was the stuff that was prominent on phoneboy.com in the late 1990s and early 2000s: FAQs on Check Point FireWall-13.

This post is not about what I've written, it's mostly about why, and it's actually pretty simple: it's so I understand whatever it is I'm writing about.

Sure, that isn't how I started writing. It was because I wanted to convey something to someone and I didn't want to have to explain it multiple times. Which of course never quite works out the way you hope but it does help reduce the number of times you're asked about it, as well as the quality of the questions you get back.

I've noticed, over years and years of rinsing and repeating this process, that once I take the time to actually write it down in an effort to explain it to someone else, I usually learn whatever it is I'm writing down to the point where recalling it is pretty easy. This only works for relatively simple tasks and concepts. For the more complex topics, it's more of strong mental pointer to whatever it is I wrote so I'll know where to look when it comes up.

However, I've also noticed that in the last several months, as I've experienced some new health issues, I've started sharing them with the Internet. Many people don't care or are even turned off by this, which doesn't bother me. What it has allowed me to do is to better understand my condition and take steps to improve it.

Bottom line: The writing I do outside of work is for myself. If someone else happens to benefit from that, all the better, but it's definitely not a requirement.


  1. I also wrote a bunch of horrible poetry
  2. I also wrote a bunch of horrible poetry in college, too
  3. A few of you know know me for blogging about other stuff, maybe.

Blame the Color TV, Revisited

This is an updated version of a post I did back in 2012.

Does anyone remember watching a black and white TV? I do. My dad had this TV that was older than I was. It also, quite literally, took a minute to warm up before it showed its black and white view of the world.

I remember seeing the old Spiderman cartoons. You know, the one that started airing in the late 1960s but probably reran infinitum during the 1970s. I remember when I saw it on TV. A Color TV.

Like many shows in that era, the show opens with the phrase "in color" to let everyone know the show could be seen in color. Naive me, I thought when I saw it on my dad's Black and White TV, it would say "In Black and White" instead. That seemed perfectly rational to my little mind.

My kids, of course, have never watched a black and white TV. Since we've gone all digital, they won't ever see one. They might see something in Black and White if they watch a really old movie or TV show. Or some more recent television program that goes Black and White for effect.

There is something to be said for watching a program in black and white on a crappy-ass 14 inch TV with a mono speaker on an antenna. You got some sort of picture, if you were lucky, but your mind had to fill in a lot of the details. Certainly with the TV shows of the day, you had to.

Recently I started watching old episodes of The Twilight Zone. All 165 original episodes were filmed in black and white as TV shows of that era were. The special effects were practically non-existent by today's standards but the stories were quality. They hold up pretty well more than half a century later, such as this seminal episode entitled "To Serve Man":

These days, programs are in full 1080p with Dolby 5.1 digital surround sound. You can see every pimple and wrinkle on the actors face—and let's face it, they're all actors. Even the newscasters. Especially the newscasters. And the people on so-called "reality" TV shows. It leaves little to the imagination, exposing the amorality of our collective humanity for all to see.

And, quite honestly, I think we're worse off for it. Even moreso than I did when I wrote the first version of this post in 2012.

A Message To Future Me

As a child, I don't recall giving very many gifts to my parents. One gift that I gave to my dad was a metal "sign" that said the following:

Never get too busy making a living that you forget to make a life.

To be honest, I'm not even sure where I found it. Probably the Flea Market, which I spent many weekends at growing up buying and selling things with my mom. And surely by that point I was starting to become less enamored of my dad, which I did because I didn't understand why he was the way he was1.

And, of course, when I found out my dad passed away a few years back, one of the only things I wanted of his things was that sign2.

This sign today sits in my office in a part I don't use very often. I found it recently and, perhaps for the first time, really started to think about what it meant.

I spend too much time "working." I'll be the first to admit it. Not just stuff for my job but things that might be classified as "busy work." It may be because the cacophony of "life" is often too much to take3. See my last post on the [intense world theory [phoneboy.info]]. "Work," by comparison, seems like an escape—something I have a lot more control over.

What I'm starting to realize, as I get older, is that there is going to be a time where I don't want to work anymore. Whether I can afford that remains to be seen but if I'm going to be able to do that, I need to figure out what that "life" is going to look like.

And heck, even for leisure time while I'm still working, I need to figure out something else.


  1. I later figured out he also probably had Aspergers like I do. Sadly, by the time I figured this out, he was in the advanced stages of brain cancer and he was mostly in his own little world unable to communicate with me.
  2. I also wanted his guitar, but my sister got that.

The Intense World Syndrome

I've read a whole lot about autism and Aspergers Syndrome over the years. However, I think I've finally found an article that explains the condition to people who don't have it and, more importantly, provides some keen insights about autism's more socially unacceptable symptoms and how they might be reduced or eliminated1.

IMAGINE BEING BORN into a world of bewildering, inescapable sensory overload, like a visitor from a much darker, calmer, quieter planet. Your mother’s eyes: a strobe light. Your father’s voice: a growling jackhammer. That cute little onesie everyone thinks is so soft? Sandpaper with diamond grit. And what about all that cooing and affection? A barrage of chaotic, indecipherable input, a cacophony of raw, unfilterable data.

Realize that not everyone that has autism or Aspergers reacts the same way to the same stimuli. Even the same person can react differently to the same set of stimuli at different times, depending on a wide range of things. At least this is my own personal experience, which is certainly different from everyone else's.

I can tell you that when external stimuli begins to impact me, whatever it is, whenever it is, I am overwhelmed to the point where rational thought becomes very difficult, as this article describes:

The behavior that results [from autism] is not due to cognitive deficits—the prevailing view in autism research circles today—but the opposite, they say. Rather than being oblivious, autistic people take in too much and learn too fast. While they may appear bereft of emotion, [Henry and Kamila Markram] insist they are actually overwhelmed not only by their own emotions, but by the emotions of others.

A lot of what people on the autism spectrum do in order to cope is to attempt to eliminate or even slow down the constant flow of stimulus from the world. In social situations, this can sometimes seem like uncaring or antisocial behavior, when in fact, the behavior is rooted in being overwhelmed or avoidance.

Indeed, research on typical children and adults finds that too much distress can dampen ordinary empathy as well. When someone else’s pain becomes too unbearable to witness, even typical people withdraw and try to soothe themselves first rather than helping—exactly like autistic people. It’s just that autistic people become distressed more easily, and so their reactions appear atypical.

[…] “The overwhelmingness of understanding how people feel can lead to either what is perceived as inappropriate emotional response, or to what is perceived as shutting down, which people see as lack of empathy,” says Emily Willingham. Willingham is a biologist and the mother of an autistic child; she also suspects that she herself has Asperger syndrome. But rather than being unemotional, she says, autistic people are “taking it all in like a tsunami of emotion that they feel on behalf of others. Going internal is protective.”

The funny thing is I regularly find myself reacting badly to television shows. I can see what the character is going through on the program or predict what's going to happen next, and it can be painful to watch. Same with movies. Perhaps this is why I find little joy in television and movies on the whole2.

So now we've established the problem, the question is: why? The Markrams did some research on rats they they were able to make appear autistic by exposing them to valproic acid (VPA) prenatally and look at their brains, with the help of a graduate student. It took a couple of years of research before they saw something that could explain things:

“There was a difference in the excitability of the whole network,” [graduate student Tania Rinaldi Barkat] says, reliving her enthusiasm. The networked VPA cells responded nearly twice as strongly as normal—and they were hyper-connected. If a normal cell had connections to ten other cells, a VPA cell connected with twenty. Nor were they under-responsive. Instead, they were hyperactive, which isn’t necessarily a defect: A more responsive, better-connected network learns faster.

Learning fast is not a bad thing. It's certainly something I've used to my advantage over the years. However, clearly with negative behaviors, it can be a bad thing. In fact, the Markrams observed that the VPA-exposed rats were quicker to get frightened, and faster at learning what to fear, but slower to discover that a once-threatening situation was now safe.

While ordinary rats get scared of an electrified grid where they are shocked when a particular tone sounds, VPA rats come to fear not just that tone, but the whole grid and everything connected with it—like colors, smells, and other clearly distinguishable beeps.

“The fear conditioning was really hugely amplified,” Markram says.

And therein lies the issue for many people that are on the autism spectrum, myself included. Once something is learned to be feared, which happens quickly thanks to the extra neural pathways, unlearning that takes a lot of work. This has caused me a fair bit of challenge in my personal relationships over the years.

Meanwhile, there's hope for those born today. If autism is detected early enough, which it can be, "Early intervention to reduce or moderate the intensity of an autistic child’s environment might allow their talents to be protected while their autism-related disabilities are mitigated or, possibly, avoided."

It sounds really promising.


  1. Those who think autism should be cured are probably agents of the Handicapper General
  2. Aside from NFL games, the few TV programs I do like aren't terribly kid-friendly, either

Sleep Tracking

It's been about a month since I've gotten my CPAP machine. So far, it's been working pretty good for me. Not that it was an issue before, I've pretty much stopped moving in my sleep. This means I'm a bit more stiff when I wake up as I tend to stay still. I also wake up quicker and generally feel like I'm sleeping better. All good things.

That said I have a CPAP that collects data, so why not look at it, right? First I tried using a tool called SleepMapper which is an online service the manufacturer of my CPAP machine Philips does. It reads the data from the SD card in my CPAP machine using a Java app (ew!) and uploads it to a website where the data can be viewed.

phoneboy-1428006024045

Unfortunately it doesn't really show me a lot of data, as you can see. Just my AHI, therapy hours, and mask fit. The app also inexplicably couldn't find new data on my SD card for a three day period.

Meanwhile I found an open source app called SleepyHead that is able to read CPAP data from a number or machines, including mine, and render a report locally. It shows me a whole lot more data:

phoneboy-1428006036652

The breakdown between airway obstructions and hypopneas in my AHI is nice. It's also nice to see that, generally, my mask is fitting well except on one night when I apparently had an issue.

It also looks I needed a little more pressure than normal to keep my airway open than usual at some point. SleepyHead shows me graphs of the raw data. I can see that at around 4:40am I had an obstructive airway event that led to what are marked as "vibratory snores." According to SleepyHead's Sleep Disorder Glossary, a snore is "a loud upper airway breathing sound during sleep, without episodes of apnea."

To be honest, I'm not sure what good all this data does for me at the moment. The AHI number is low enough, which I'm sure is all my doctor will care about. I'm sleeping better, too, which at the end of the day, is why I got a CPAP to begin with.

How Am I Sleeping?

It's been a week since I got a CPAP machine. I've slept with it on every night since I got it, and I have to say: I've definitely noticed the difference. I'm less tired in the morning and during the day.

My family noticed it, too. More specifically, they've noticed the utter lack of snoring. It was quite loud before I had the CPAP. Now, just the quiet hum of the CPAP machine. I even used an old iPhone app called Sleep Analyzer to record any loud noises that occur when I sleep to prove it to myself. The loudest thing it recorded was me turning over in bed—a far cry from the snores it used to record.

Even better, of course, is my Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI) number, i.e. the number of breathing events per hour that occur in the middle of the night that interrupt my sleep. Over the last 7 days I've averaged a 1.3, which is a definite improvement over what I had at my sleep study.

Another stat: I'm averaging about 7.5 hours of sleep a night over the last week. This is what my CPAP machine is telling me anyway but it gives a slightly higher number in terms of "therapy hours" which reflects when the machine is actually running.

My only issue at this point is traveling. At the very least this is one more thing I will have to carry with me on the airplane. I probably won't be able to use it on the plane for the really long trips but it's not like you can get really good sleep on an airplane anyway.