alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Since my last posting, I have had an increase in productivity. Not enough to be employable yet, but I have done a great deal of Alan Moore annotation. If my new working methods prove stable, I’ll be pushing the button[1] on this Patreon more often, possibly as much as monthly, but more realistically every other month or less. As always, if this makes you rethink your pledge amount, feel free to change that.


  • Annotations for Chapter One of Voice of the Fire, “Hob’s Hog”, including a complete translation into modern English. This was probably the second hardest chapter I will ever annotate[3].

  • Annotations for the Moore story in Cinema Purgatorio #6, “A Night at the Lawyers”. This was another extra-difficult job, with nearly every panel requiring individual research and notes.

  • Annotations for the Moore story in Cinema Purgatorio #7, “After Tombstone”.

  • Miscellaneous other notes and maintenance on sites.

[1] “Push the button, Max!
[2] The perfectionist in me is forced to add “to a solid first draft state”. Art is never finished, only abandoned.
[3] I am looking forward to / dreading tackling the Lucia Joyce chapter of Jerusalem.

(Copied from Patreon, since y'all might want to know.)
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
So, it's been a while since I did one of these. On a new (ish) antidepressant, that seems to be helping. All eager to get progress going on my various projects. Only to be held back by my chronic pain issues.

Physical Therapy continues to be partially effective, but not to cure me. Currently on a break from it, waiting for more insurance authorization. Sadly, my current (best yet) therapist is getting booted upstairs to management, so even if I get more visists approved, I won't be seeing him any more.

My (mental) therapist suggested an experiment, which I am now in the midst of: spending a month with minimal keyboard interaction, to see if extended rest makes a difference. Please be patient with typos, as I'm using mobile devices to post. At first was very frustrated, as work on my front-burner projects had to be back-burnered. But now I'm working on some previously back-burnered stuff that I can do via mobile.

(Also, am helping Kes with a 'close reading' of Stranger Things, that she is thinking of turning into a thesis.)

Good Days

Jun. 6th, 2016 04:37 pm
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
I often come here to kvetch when things are going poorly. It seems only fair to share with you all when there's an uptick.

When I visited my GP last Wednesday, she gave me a referral for a psychiatrist, apologizing that it would take a while, and I'd have to go out to BMC, because Codman Square was shorthanded just then. But then, I got a call on Friday asking if I could meet with a psychiatrist at Codman on Monday (today)! I could, and did, and it was a pretty good first visit, though it will be a while for tangible results, if any.

Another result of my GP visit was my decision to stop taking a medication I've been on for quite some time, that was theoretically supposed to help me sleep, but which I hadn't noticed any useful effects from. Two days later, despite my sleep in fact being somewhat worse, my energy level and affect were both dramatically improved. (Still, you know, disabled and with lurking depression, but better than I'd been for some months.) And this improvement has even lasted! Yesterday, I even joined Kes and April for a rainy road trip to Salem, and came out okay. Yes, I was totally wasted by the time we got home, but I bounced right back today. Here's hoping this continues…
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Well, I finally got the decision from the judge. It goes on at great length, revealing that he really did spend a lot of time working on it. It concludes that I am not disabled. Dammit.

As best I can translate/summarize the legalese: since my chronic pain does not have an "objective" source, they assume I'm lying about it.

Thank you to [ profile] siderea for her recent post about objective/subjective in the medical realm; it helped prepare me for thinking about this result.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with my GP. I was already planning on asking for tests that could lead to an official diagnosis that was more convincing to bureaucrats. This plan's urgency has skyrocketed.

Thursday, file the actual appeal, and start the process of seeking (free) legal counsel.

Tonight, cry, hug my wife, eat comfort food.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
It’s been a while since I wrote anything of substance here, or indeed, at all. Been a low-spoons kind of winter. I hope spring will improve things.

Chronic pain is chronic. My right arm hasn’t been bothering me much, but only because I’ve been so limited in activity by the pain in my LEFT arm. Saw my orthopedist recently, and got a referral to start a new round of physical therapy. That starts Monday.

Down to about nine hours of “productivity” per week. I put that in scare quotes, because a great deal of that time lately has been devoted to XCOM 2. (Which, by the way, I recommend highly to fans of difficult, immersive strategy gaming.)

Haven’t been able to see my mental therapist since early February, due to computer upgrade chaos at Codman Square. But that seems to finally be ending, and I have appointments scheduled in a few weeks. My low energy lately has led to depression the spikes, and not having a therapist to vent at has been trying.

The legal side of things is a classic case of good news, bad news. I finally have a court date for my appeal to the Social Security Disability Determination people (mid-April). On the flipside, I’m starting the whole disability determination process all over again with Mass Health. And I have every expectation that that, too, will end up being denied and having to be appealed. I expect that, like the Social Security people, Mass Health do not have a ticky-box anywhere in their paperwork for “capable of working, but only for a few hours per week”.

Intermittently doing work on the Providence annotations. I have also been reading Providence to Kestrell. I like sharing stories with people who understand their intertextuality.


Jan. 15th, 2016 09:50 pm
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
I am SO frustrated right now.

In the last week, many of my projects have suddenly acquired new urgency. In itself, this is exciting and good. I spent several days of increased productivity, spurred by exciting new (or recently revived) opportunities.

Then, yesterday evening, the pain hit. I hurt too much to do keyboard work, and even too much to do therapeutic stretching.

This chronic pain is infuriating. There is SO much to do! And I WANT to DO it! But if I don’t rigorously pace myself (i.e. only a few hours per day), it all comes crashing to a halt.

Yesterday evening, despite wanting to do active work, I ended up just trying to distract myself (with limited success) in a tablet game. Luckily, before bed I remembered I had a few issues of Squirrel Girl saved up, so was able to finish the night with a few literal LOLs.

Slowly recovering today. Mostly I like to focus on the positive, but some days I just gotta rant. Don’t worry; I’m doing my ranting into a dictation program.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
So, now that the neck injection is over, I'm allowed to take Ibuprofen again. Yay! (The injection itself isn't expected to 'kick in' for 3-5 days.)

So why am I awake right now?

Sentinels of the Multiverse released a new build to the beta testers this morning. So I got a *little* sleep, but I *literally* dreamed about obscure rules combinations, and eventually the uncertainty woke me up completely and I spent a few hours posting questions on various online forums.


Time for a snack, more drugs, and then sleep attempt, take 2...


Nov. 9th, 2014 10:10 am
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Tomorrow, I go in to get a neck injection that may help with my chronic pain issues. But in the biting irony department, for 48 hours beforehand, I have to stop taking ibuprofen. Last night did not feature much actual sleep. And what sleep I did get was punctuated by dream featuring such restful topics as "wandering around awake because I couldn't sleep from pain" and "watching really bad Star Wars sequels". It's gonna be a looooong weekend, and not in the good way.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Anyone out there have an orthopedist to recommend who meets the following criteria?

* Specializes in muscular problems related to heavy keyboard / mouse use
* Is MBTA-accessible (bus acceptable)
* Takes Mass Health

My current ortho specializes in Sports medicine, and he's just striking out time and again, after literally years of trying things. I'm hoping that someone who specializes more in people like me might be able to identify some more obscure -- but actually useful -- approach to my problems.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
So, my chronic depression is in remission. I'd like to claim to be cured, but I think it's a lot like alcoholism – I get through *today* without misery and self-loathing, and that's a victory. That's a big part of why I haven't posted much in the last while, and I feel like filling y'all in on what’s been going on.

I've been having increasing troubles for roughly the last two years. It peaked in January, as my father's death sunk in. And the ongoing physical health issues certainly aren't helping. But in hindsight, neither of those factors was at the root of my problem.

I have lots of people in my life who regularly reinforce the notion that, socially, I am a Cool Person. This is necessary to keep out of depression, but not sufficient. What I *didn't* have for most of the last two years, but have recently regained, is having people in my life who assure me that I am a Worthy Professional. (It turns out that friends who are not in the games industry are no good for this purpose, even if they are gamers, because I just don't trust their opinions in this matter.)

[Digression: It seems that depression (especially Imposter Syndrome) is endemic in the games industry. People at mainstream companies don't talk about it in public, for career reasons, but a lot of them suffer. And tons of indie game creators have "come out" about their issues. Hell, there are at least three games out there *about* the experience of depression.]

Irrational Games (my old company, who laid me off last September) was not the most sanely-run company. I don't want to dwell on the details too much, but for my last few years there, I was feeling increasingly unappreciated and unvalued. This led to what I now acknowledge to be depression, though I was largely in denial at the time. And, unsurprisingly, being depressed negatively impacted my productivity, which made me valued less, which made me more depressed...

This was made even worse in the final year, when there simply wasn't enough work to go around. I'd sit at my desk web-browsing for hours on end. I tried to start writing my own game project a few times, but I found that just don't have all the necessary mojo to do that on my own. When the layoffs came in September 2013, it wasn't much of a surprise.

In mid-February of 2014, Irrational Games shut down entirely, which had a number of interesting effects. For one, it made the stigma of having been laid off earlier sting a lot less. For another, it meant that suddenly there were tons of HR recruiters pinging me on LinkedIn, which lifted my mood a bit. But *most* importantly, it started a number of people deciding to start up new indie gaming companies in the Boston area.

One such 'group' contacted me. It turned out eventually that it was mostly one slightly crazy guy who was trying to put something together based on charisma and business contacts, rather than a concrete plan. But he *did* have at least that much going for him, I liked him personally, and I didn't have anything better to do, so what the hell. He asked me if I knew anyone else who might be interested, so I sent out a few feelers. Most didn't nibble, but...

Flashback to about five years ago. I'm working on a small sub-project with a single programmer, named Shane Mathews. We click really well together. We think similarly, but our skill sets only overlap a little, and we produce work we're really proud of when we work together. In reference to things that were going on a lot in the industry at the time, I said to Shane "If you ever decide to split off and form your own studio, I am *totally* in." But that never happened, though we worked together at Irrational on and off over the years.

Last September, just after I got laid off, I got a note from Shane expressing his regret, and mentioning that he had (unrelatedly) just served notice, as he was joining a small financial software company that had a lot of ex-Irrational people at it.

So in February, I contact Shane about this new group, and he apparently had been missing the creative life, *and* working with me specifically, so he came on board part-time, though keeping his day job.

By early March, it became clear that the 'group', as such, was disintegrating. But Shane, mirabile dictu, *really* wanted to work with me. I had tossed out a dozen or so game 'design sketches' as proposals for the group to discuss shortly before we fell apart, and Shane was excited about one of them, and thought that the two of us could probably pull it off by ourselves (with some contract Art down the line). So we're going for it! Shane's keeping his day job, putting in some time on nights and weekends (or while waiting for compiles at work :-) I'm living on credit, plus an annuity from my dad's estate, plus a small stipend from Shane, but I can do that for a year or two. With luck, within six to nine months we can get the project to a state where we can start getting some income via Kickstarter and Steam Early Access.

(I'll write more about the game itself in another post.)

As soon as I was fully committed to working on this project, and also believed that Shane was as well (which, given my depression, took a lot of repetition on his part), I started feeling *tons* better -- even though, from a financial, career-oriented perspective this is a pretty insanely risky move. But it's the only path I see that has a real (if, realistically, small) shot at giving me long-term sustainable Bliss. And that makes the risk seem totally worth it.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
My wife often refers to my videogaming as "killing things" (typical usage: "Are you going to go kill things now?"). This is because many (though by no means all) games follow a basic play loop of "kill things and take their loot".

One of my recent games has been "Batman: Arkham City". I first started playing it about a year ago, but got distracted by other things, and recently re-started it. I should say up front that I think this is an excellent game, even if I am going to proceed to discuss some of its failings.

In Arkham City, you aren't *technically* killing things, 'cause Batman has a code against killing. Instead, you just beat thugs into unconsciousness and/or break their bones and/or leave them dangling helplessly from gargoyles. This sort of thing is dubious enough when it happens in the comics, but in the fiction of this game, it's even worse. Arkham City is a lawless prison, with different criminal gangs in a constant state of warfare. To leave a foe helpless in this environment is "not killing" only by the narrowest of margins.


As many of you know, about a year ago, I started having issues with chronic shoulder pain. This was diagnosed as being due to a combination of years of bad ergonomics with oncoming arthritis. I've been in physical therapy on and off since then. The PT has greatly improved my arm strength and my range of motion. It *was*, after months of work, finally getting the pain down to a reasonable level. But a few weeks ago, I had a major relapse, and am struggling with high pain levels again.

Now, I'm not *certain* what brought on the relapse. It might have been the sudden temperature drop, or a spike in the spiciness of the food I was eating. It could be something I didn't even notice, or a combination of many factors. And, of course, I wouldn't have been vulnerable in the first place without years of prior abuse. But I can't help but notice a correlation between sudden increases in my pain level and playing Batman: Arkham City.

I have reached the sad conclusion that I probably can't play "action" games any more :( They just inflict too much punishment on me to be worth their pleasures. I may still be able to play FPSs, as long as I keep them set to Easy, and stick mostly to sniping.

So now, I empathize more with the ordinary thugs than I do with Batman. To Batman, each individual thug is no more than a minor speed bump in his progression through the game. But to the thug, meeting Batman means suffering serious physical damage, almost always including a concussion, and injuries that may cripple him for a lifetime.

After all, Batman crippled me.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Still finding myself a lot more... alert while traveling than I want to be. This will pass.

My shoulder's been acting up increasingly for the last month. Saw the Ortho doc yesterday. He shot me up with steroids, which should theoretically improve things over the next five days. Still quite painful at the moment, but I'm hopeful.

Was cheered up considerably this morning by the discovery of a few ripe strawberries. The garden is under serious siege by weeds, but the strawberries are fighting back valiantly :-)
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Had my last PT appointment this morning. Arm is back up to about 95% of normal function; pain is way way down. The doctor, the therapist, and I all agree that I'm basically better, and don't need to see them again until/unless something else goes wrong. Sleep is back to what passes for normal for me (still need to do some more work there, but the chronic shoulder pain issue is dealt with). I'll need to keep up stretching exercises on my own to prevent recurrence, but that's ok.

In other health news, the diabetes is apparently in retreat. I was taking 2 Metformin a day, and now I usually only take 1, and my numbers stay fine. If I indulge in off-diet food to much, I spike back up for a day or so, and go back to taking 2 until it calms down again. But I *can* indulge in off-diet food, and not hinder my progress very much, which is great for my morale!
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Shoulder issues are improving under physical therapy. Glacially slowly and irregularly, but the trend is pretty clear. I'm sometimes having good nights of sleep again, which is a relief. Still not *well*, but getting towards it.

Had a good-in-an-odd-way night on Friday and into Saturday. Was awake in the middl of the night for non-shoulder-related reasons, and went to get my computer downloading a game I was interested in. While that was going, I figured, I'd fire up another game for 10 minutes or so, then try going back to bed. I didn't get back to bed, but I did manage to break for lunch...

The current addiction is Torchlight 2. I loved T1, and picked up 2 when it came out several months ago, but that was The Week All The Good Games Came Out At Once, so I only played a wee bit of T2, and not enough to get into it. It starts fairly slowly, but keeps doling out new gameplay systems, loot types, and general coolness that it gets amazingly good by Act 2. Highly recommended to anyone who likes Diablo-style gameplay.

Circling 'round to health issues, after a day of extreme over-indulgence in mouse-clicking, my right arm hurt... a little. About as much as I would have expected before the serious shoulder issues started happening. Though that turned out to be a local maximum, and not an "I'm cured!" watershed.

Really, one of the biggest ongoing frustrations with these problems is the complete disconnect between what I do and what results I get. The amount I exercise and the amount of work/game stress I put on my arms both vary significantly day to day. So does the amount of pain I feel. But there doesn't seem to be any obvious correlation between these variances. The pattern-matching part of my brain takes offense.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Yesterday I met with Dr. Comeau, the shoulder specialist, and had some X-Rays done.

• Impingement Syndrome (as expected)
• Arthritis
• “Golfer’s Elbow”

He’s prescribed Physical Therapy twice a week, and for me to see him again in 6-8 weeks to see how well that is doing. He is confident that we can improve things significantly, though not necessarily fast. My first appointment is for next Wednesday morning. Not sure yet if there will be a regular schedule, or if it will be more arbitrary…

He didn’t have any clear way to address my sleep issues, but did prescribe a new painkiller to try. It didn’t seem to work last night, but I’ll keep trying for at least a few more before adding it to the (sadly long) list of “drugs that don’t work for Alexx”. I have an appointment with my GP Monday evening. Hopefully she will be able to address the acute sleep issues, or at least make a stab at it.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Last night, I tried some of Kestrell's OTC pain medication to see if it did anything useful for me. It wasn't until I'd been awake for several hours after 2 AM that it occurred to my foggy, sleep-deprived brain that maybe taking a pill where one of the active ingredients was Caffeine was a really Poor Choice.

This morning, at breakfast, I was at the sink filling a water glass, when it suddenly shattered in my hand. After spending a few minutes carefully disposing of shards, I noticed that one of my fingers was dripping blood. Not a serious wound, really, a band-aid for a day or two should be all I need. But it's not like I was replete with spare spoons to use on this...
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Western thought has a long history of mind-body dualism. I don't believe it's actually *true* in any meaningful sense, but I certainly do see the appeal. Like many of my peers, one of my early role models was Spock, with his (claimed) ability to be "in control of [his] emotions".

When the arm aches start up, I feel a strong desire to deny that pain, to separate it from me. My arm is in pain, but that is not part of the Essential Self, and should be able to be ignored. But then it *twinges*, and *I* *HURT*, in a way impossible to deny.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
This has been a bad winter for my arms.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, I had a pair of flu shots in my left shoulder. I had an unexpected reaction to these that made my arm swell up painfully for over 2 weeks. I was in bad enough shape that I skipped Thanksgiving dinner. But it did eventually fade, and I haven't gotten the flu.

On New Year's Eve Eve, my *right* shoulder started to hurt. I've had problems with it in the past, but Barry had taught me some exercises to help fix things up. These proved insufficient, and the pain was bad enough to keep me up most of the night. I was a wreck the next day, and made only a brief token appearance at Buttery New Years.

It got worse over the next few days. I went to see Barry again, for the first time in a few years, and he thinks I've got Impingement Syndrome. It probably developed gradually, over years, and he thinks it will take a long time to fix. I've got a new exercise regimen, and a second appointment with Barry tonight, but so far I'm not seeing any improvement on the pain front. Icing the shoulder reduces the pain some, and that can help me get a few hours of sleep at a time. But I haven't had an uninterrupted night's sleep yet this year, and no prospects of getting one any time soon.

Between the energy drain from the pain itself, the energy put into the exercises, and the chronic sleep deprivation, I am very short on spoons right now.

My holidays didn't completely suck: Christmas was wonderful. And much of my life remains good. I am gainfully employed, and blissfully married. And my other health problems are under control: My last regular checkup had blood sugar and cholesterol levels all squarely back to the "normal" range. Keep focusing on the positive...
alexxkay: (Default)
Went to the doctor last week, and just got back a letter with my lab results. Almost everything they measured is smack dab in the middle of the 'normal' range. My A1c (a long-term measure of diabetes severity) is not yet into the desirable range, but is getting very close to it.

For many years, I would order new pants when my old ones started to wear out. Since I started modifying my diet a couple years ago, and exercising more recently, I've been ordering new pants when the old ones start to fall off. I'm now down to a 33 waist. When I put away laundry last night, I pulled my 38-inch jeans out of the closet, and put them in the "drop off at goodwill" pile.

There will probably be some backsliding this month. Picking strawberries isn't nearly as aerobic as other exercise stuff I was doing, but takes up so much time that I don't do nearly as much of that other exercise. And the strawberries themselves are pure carbs. But the point of improved health is to enjoy life, and I enjoy the strawberries too much to not make this trade-off :)
alexxkay: (Default)
Well, it's been a busy several weeks, with lots of lifestyle changes.

Read more... )


alexxkay: (Default)
Alexx Kay

September 2017

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