0004 Yortera 07: Delivery

Wow. A week into the new year, already. Normally, I would've taken great pains to commemorate Thilafa, but events have not favored it. That's a pity, really; I do what I can to mark the holidays and important events of the Lapinian Calendar. After all, if I'm not going to use my own calendar, who will? And yet, that's the drawback, too. Because nobody else is using it, nobody else accounts for it unless I make a big deal of it. I imagine it's a little like trying to get Yom Kippur off from work without using vacation days. "You celebrate what? That's not a federal holiday, is it?"

Ceci n'est pas une blague juive.

Yesterday was the first beta run of the
puzzling event that we're hosting, and it went far better than it could have. I'd be lying if I said everything ran without any problems whatsoever, but that's what beta-tests are for. More importantly in the short term is that the fundamental theories of everything I wrote will work. I'm working on some revisions, but my contributions to the event should survive in something close to their present forms. This is a good thing, as the live event runs in a little under a month. Now is not the time to have to rebuild anything from scratch. I've got a few revisions that need to be made, here and there, but they're all manageable, and I've got every confidence that things will go well for the real thing.

Less confident at the moment am I of how well I'll be at interacting with humanity at large for the next few weeks. In the time leading up to the beta, I had a lot of late nights, and near the end of last week, it started impacting my ability to get enough sleep to function at work the next day. Under other circumstances, I probably wouldn't have cared so much. However, I'm down to the last week-and-a-half of the quarter and my big Get-This-Done project doesn't look like it's going to complete in time, for reasons that have some to do with me and a lot to do with other people's Get-This-Done projects that kept them from being to help me with mine. What this ultimately means is that even if I can't get my stuff together on time, I need to at least
look like a dedicated and hard-driving employee, trying everything possible to meet the target, so I can say at the end that I really couldn't have done anything more. Showing up late and hopping around in a daze won't help my case.

It's not even really that I care about this particular project itself, so much as the fact that my boss is using it as a benchmark against my ability to do team-lead and project-manager-type work, which is the big path to promotion right now. Making matters worse is the fact that I really can't do any of the technical work myself, so I'm having to juggle other people's availability to accomplish it. It's highly frustrating, and it's made this quarter... well, to be blunt, it's sucked. I don't want to be a project manager, so much as I want to be team lead, and apparently at T-Mobile or at least for this manager one implies the other. So, I learn, even though I'm not sure I'm very good at it.

Outside of the work complaint itself, I'm just feeling oversocialized right now. Those of you reading this who're extroverts, go ahead and skip to the next major heading; you're not going to understand this part, and that's okay. I've had to hook up with the same small group of people multiple times over the last week to work on this event, culminating in roughly three miles of walking and taking notes in the cold yesterday. Then I went out to dinner and we talked about everything that had happened over the least ten or so hours. I really haven't had a chance to get much downtime in a few weeks, and as we get closer to the live event, that's really only going to get worse. I know that at least one weekend I'll have to myself between now and then; Orbus and Mufi are going to
Norwescon, which happens to be the weekend before SNAP, but outside that break, I know I'm going to be seeing a lot of people I already kind of feel like I've already seen a lot of, without much chance to recharge in peace.

Nobody plan on talking to me on Zelera 2 or the weekend of the 9th. I won't be here.

In other completely unrelated news, the
sibutramine seems to be doing exactly what it seemed like it was going to do when I first started taking it. My weight this morning was 346.1 pounds, down from 364 when Dave weighed me two weeks ago. I'm eating between 1200 and 1300 calories a day, and while I'm hungry from time to time I never really get the yawning-chasm food cravings that used to plague me. I don't feel the urge to eat when I'm not hungry. My weight situation is actually improving for the first time in eight years.

Now I just have to go back for some bloodwork so that Dave can verify that my liver is still functioning.
Ha-ha, only serious. The odds are small, but it's worth checking. After that, I should get a refill on my prescription, and that should set me for a while. I'm not sure how often the blood tests are necessary, but for now, I'll take it.

Jessie mentioned to me not too long ago that apparently I've been carrying myself better since I started seeing a positive change in the scale. I believe it, but it's surprising to me. I'm still obese, but I'm finally feeling like I have a plan and that that plan is coming together. I'm starting again to feel like some of the things that I want are actually going to be able to happen, if not today then soon. I'm looking forward to feeling comfortable about myself again, about making clothing decisions that look good instead of simply covering the necessities. Dobbs help me, I'm actually starting to seriously consider a fursuit... and some other things.

This is, in its own way, all tied in to the big
talk that happened during my last Portland visit. These are all interconnected parts of a whole. I've all but quit City of Heroes; all that remains at this point is the install on my hard drive and the automatic payment on my account that I haven't deactivated in case the next big release interests me enough to return. I haven't exactly been vegetarian, per se, but I've been close enough as makes no odds, and the few times that I haven't stuck with it have been either necessity or a minor step outside, with no real urge to walk away from the path I've chosen. I'm even starting to rediscover a lot of my sexuality. It's embarrassing to put it that way, but even I have to admit that the weight gain hurt my self-image considerably, and seeing the progress, I'm starting to feel confident in my existence as a sexual being again.

In that sense, I've actually been looking at porn again, both creating and consuming. In specific, yes, I've been after the furry bondage again. Most of it is a wasteland of I-can't-help-myself and you-forced-me and the like, and the context is as much a turnoff as the subject matter itself might be intriguing. Every so often, the search does turn up a gem, but by and large it's uninspiring, which is a shame because I know what I like and finding it is a challenge.

Last night, as I was winding down for bed, I happened across
A Private Heaven. In a strange way, this is perhaps the worst thing that could've happened. I wanted something fairly quick, fairly arousing, and easily forgettable. What I got was... well, read it. Go on; I'll wait here.

Finished? No? I'm serious.

So, now that you're done with it, let me tell you about how it made
me feel. I talk a lot about wanting the characters in the media that I peruse to invite me into their heads. That's what I got out of this. Ignore the exposition; it was bad, and it was handled clumsily. Ignore the insertions; the names could've been changed and I don't think anyone would've noticed. Ignore even some of the individual aspects of the scenes that you didn't like. Some of them were cheesy and others were highly improbable. All of that aside, this story touched me, because I saw on the page and in my mind the words and the ideas that I had had before then, that someone else had made concrete, albeit fictionally.

I could go here into detail about my headspaces and what I do with them, but in the nine years that I've been keeping this journal, I've already done it before and I don't much feel like going into it again right now. Perhaps later, if the time is right and the mood strikes me. What's important right now is that for all its faults, I felt as though the characters were telling
my story as much as theirs, and that moved me. It excited me, sure, but more importantly, it impassioned me. It wasn't validation from another person, but it was pretty close.

If nothing else, it gave me ideas of what to strive for, and on the nature and shape those ideas could take.

Welcome to my private heaven.


0003 Kolera 16: Mobius

This past weekend, I think I sprained my brain.

Kimya evening, Jessie and I loaded up supplies in the back of the Lander and headed off to the Microsoft campus for Puzzle Hunt 12. Coming home for a good night's sleep before thirty-one hours of puzzle-solving, running all over the facilities, bad food, and sleep deprivation. I competed as part of Grey Goo, the puzzling group that Jason and Mufi more or less founded with Shaterri, Jessie and I. In addition, we had Jeff, Jason's coworker Garret, Shaterri's sister Stefanie, Kiefer, Jason's friend Jack, Jessie's friend Steven Stair, and an extra MS employee that we recruited through the company puzzling-events mailing list. All told, of the seventy puzzles in the event, we saw fifty, solved about three-quarters of those, and generally had a blast.

I think we also learned a lot about how not to run an event like this.

By the designers' own admission at the closing ceremonies, Puzzle Hunt 12 was, in fact, Puzzle Hunts 12 and 13 that had been sort of smushed together. The team developing PH12 had been aiming for a straight-up Jeopardy theme, and at the same time the next team in line was working on a horror-themed PH13 at the same time. However, both teams started to stall out very badly, and they collectively made a decision to throw their efforts into a joint project to ensure that some kind of event happened this year, but of course their themes were nigh-incompatible. Determined not to let this stop them, though, they cleverly blended their respective storylines into... okay, no, Jeopardy ruled the first half of the event, and then suddenly upon entering round two we discovered that we had unwittingly assembled some kind of artifact that had broken a mystic seal. Had we gotten through the whole event, we would have discovered that Death had come for our souls.

Now, it's fair to say that most Hunts have some kind of plot twist; it's become a fairly conventional plot element in the events run at MS. I joked about an hour into the event that this year's plot twist was that Alex Trebek was going to kill us all. Little did I know how close to right I was. In fact, PH12 was both PH12 and 13, each half shorter than a conventional hunt but together longer than any previous event.

This alone wouldn't have been enough to condemn it. I'd have cracked some jokes, sure, but given the necessities I can let the theming slide. No, what really made this event a problem was the fact that, at about 22h00 on Jugya, we ran into what can best be described as a blocking problem. Normally at events like this, there's some kind of "unlocking" mechanism whereby as a team solves one problem, it gets N more where N is some positive value, until all the puzzles are unlocked. In this one, we got all of the Round One puzzles and its "meta"—a puzzle that requires information from other puzzles to solve—and then were completely unable to move forward to Round Two. We spent between four and eight hours—reports differ based on amount of sleep and degree of time dilation experienced due to temporary insanity—trying to figure out how to solve the big puzzle without making any real headway. This became a serious demotivator to most of the team, and some of our teammates didn't really recover from it in the morning.

Again, that alone might not have been a killer, but a lot of the puzzles were in some serious need of cluing. Normally when a team receives a puzzle, there's some indicator as to how to approach it, even if the message doesn't make any sense or is painfully obtuse. Most of these puzzles had no cluing at all, which meant that by and large we were guessing not only how to solve them, but how to even begin tackling them. This left a lot of us floundering on a number of puzzles, wondering if we were making headway or if we were just chasing red herrings all night.

Now, all this said, I still had a blast, and I'm looking forward to the next one, which if my reckoning is right will be Puzzle Hunt 14. That, however, is months if not a year away, and in the meantime... Team Grey Goo is running on its own event. True, this one won't be nearly as long or as large, but it's a step, a much needed and welcome first step. I'm really looking forward to this. It's coming together beautifully, and I hope everyone that plays in it has as much fun as we've all had in putting it together.

This world is spinning around me.

In other news, I think I've finally found somebody I can call "family doctor" again in good conscience, and it's not just because he gives me the drugs I want.

So, as a bit of prelude to this discussion, I would like to remind the home audience that I have been fat my entire life. Overweight. Morbidly obese. I'm not saying this out of any sense to desensitize myself to the words, but as a simple recognition of the truth. Both of my parents are overweight, my mother has crushed vertebrae in her back because of her weight, my father had a quadruple coronary artery bypass graft when he was in his fifties, and overeating has just been a part of my life for years. Plus, I eat when I'm stressed, I horde food, and I'm not particularly active. So, in short, I'm pretty screwed when it comes to my weight, so much so that for most of my life I had essentially given up on ever getting better.

As discussed in the past, as part of my transition I said I would lose the weight, and with the help of Dexatrim and SlimFast, I did. I went from 360 pounds to 209 in a year. Now, I may have gone overboard, but I dieted like I meant it, and I did what needed to be done. I then kept the weight off for six months, taking one Dexatrim a day as an appetite stabilizer. Then the FDA banned PPA, and Dexatrim got reformulated into something that didn't work for me. Since then, my weight had steadily crept back upwards again, and a few months ago, I topped back up to where I had been before I had started. The scale has been, for a few months now, topping out around 364.

Square One was a great television show, but a lousy place to which to return.

Ever since I'd gotten to Seattle, I'd been looking for someone to help me with my weight. My metabolism is more or less broken and my appetite regulation is next to nil. I could finish off a large pizza and still have a psychological craving for food despite feeling physically bloated and ready to vomit. I'm not happy about it, but those were the facts, and I wanted medical help in dealing with them.

The first doctor that I saw told me that surgery was the answer and he wanted to refer me to Swedish Medical for a gastric bypass. I said I wasn't comfortable with the operation idea, seeing as how reports are starting to trickle in suggesting that weight loss as a result of surgery is temporary and results in nutrition complications later in life. Plus, I have a bad habit of waking up on operating tables, which isn't any fun for anyone. On top of this, operating on the obese is always risky, which means even for a theoretically simple procedure, there's still more danger than there would be for someone healthy. Upon voicing my concerns, the doctor essentially said that he wasn't going to give me drugs and that if I didn't like the surgery, I could eat less and exercise like everyone else.

Strike one.

When I went to see the second doctor, I went in armed with facts, figures, statistics. Research is starting to show that the "eat less and exercise" argument, which great in theory, simply doesn't work in practice because the body is too good at screwing itself up. We've evolved to gain weight, not lose it, and I'm a prime example. I've seen the studies done that talk about about the set point, and all the other going theories on fat gain and storage. I tried to explain all of this, passionately, to my second doctor, and she said that she might consider pills, maybe, but that first she wanted me to go through the nutritionist and do yet another round of dietary alterations and increased exercise. I tried to explain that I couldn't do enough exercise to make a dent in my caloric intake as long as I was fighting hunger pangs 24x7 regardless of how much I ate, and she just said that she wasn't going to do it my way until I'd done it hers, regardless of my insistence that I'd tried her way a hundred times before and failed.

Strike two.

So, when I recently changed over to Capitol Hill Medical on a recommendation from Rachel, I was skeptical, and concerned. The ARNP I was going to see was the third attempt in a year to get some help with my weight. Without wanting to admit it publicly, I was really starting to feel like it was a this-or-nothing proposition. So, on my new-patient visit, I mentioned to him that I was interested in getting some help with weight loss and that I'd had real success with Dexatrim back in the day. He was noncommittal at the time and said he knew bad things about PPA, but he didn't tell me no; he just disagreed with my choice of medication. I let the matter drop, and that was that.

Now, during last weekend's Puzzle Hunt, I managed to come down with a urinary tract infection. I know this because I woke up having an intense need to go to the bathroom, and when I did I thought someone had set my crotch on fire. Then, five minutes after I stood up, I had to pee again, but nothing came out. Having had that symptom before, I knew immediately that it was time to call the doctor and get the no-nonsense FUCK-YOU-UTI medication. Then, while I happened to be in the office getting an antibiotic prescription, we talked about some other health goals and he said I needed a Hep-A and Hep-B vaccine, and he asked me if I'd be comfortable with the first set of shots today.

Actually, he more or less said, "unless you tell me no, I'm sticking you with these needles," but much more politely and with a sense of humor.

So, while he was prepping my shoulders for the injection, I thought I would pop the question. "I mentioned before about wanting some help with weight loss; are you willing to help me?"

He looked up, stuck me with a needle, and asked me if I'd ever tried xenical. Now, xenical—sold over the counter as Alli—blocks the body's ability to absorb fat, which means not only does it guarantee loose stool for the duration of the prescription, but it also hampers the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. I don't need any more help with malnutrition, and I said as much, so Dave asked me if I had any other suggestions.

I asked, "what about sibutramine?"

He whipped out his iPhone, hit some kind of pocket drug reference, and proceeded to read off the list of suggested side effects. At the end of it, he shrugged and said, "that's everything that's ever been found on anything anywhere. You want a prescription?"

I blinked. A medical professional, listening to his patient and giving her what she asked for? Sacrilege! We haggled a bit on dosage and such, which is to say he told me he'd start me on the lowest dose and if I needed it we could increase the strength later, and then he made me pinkie-swear that I'd be back in four weeks for my Hep-A booster and a liver-function test. Then he handed me my new drug prescriptions and sent me on my merry way.

I took my first pill last night. This morning, I woke up around 08h00 and figured, "I should have a bagel." I wasn't particularly hungry, but I figured it was breakfast time and I should have something to eat. So, I had a jalapeño-cheddar bagel, and I went to work. Around 12h00, I realized that it was lunch time. That was it. No pangs. No hunger. No clawing inside my gut. Just... "hey, it's normally time when folks eat." But I wasn't hungry. I did start getting pretty peckish around 15h00, but two cans of V8 and a can of grapefruit juice were enough to calm my needs until I got home and had a black-bean-and-egg-with-cheese sandwich with Jessie. Then we noshed on Sun Chips, but I got bored of them after a bit while she kept going.

It's now 23h30, and the worst that I'm feeling is... vaguely peckish. That's all. It's like I have a normally-functioning body that knows it got fed and is happy with what it got. I've got dry mouth from hell, and my tongue tasted like the floor of a taxi cab this morning when I got up, but those are some pretty small prices to pay for what may be the first steps towards actually going back to what a normal person of my height should weigh.

Maybe this, too, can be another square one.

I was told there's a miracle for each day that I try.