Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Little of This, a Little of That

Things have been kind of weird lately...busy, sleepy, sickly, in pain, and involved in other things...hence the lack of blog posts. But I feel like updating today, and maybe gaining some perspective from it.

The biggest piece of news, I think, is that my poor Miss Jane (my first new car, a 2002 Ford Focus SE) has dropped dead; there's a design flaw in that model of Focus, where the "valve seat" (which is the bottom of the chambers that hold the pistons, I believe) cracks or, in my case, simply falls off the engine block; the only repair available is to buy another engine, at a cost of at least $3000 (more than the down payment on a new car) and only lasts a year or so longer since it has to be an engine from another 2002 Ford Focus, which will contain the same flaw.  And since the model is ten years old, and the flaw never manifests until well after 90k miles (on average more than 110k) there's no recall available.

And of course, I haven't the money to buy a new car... nor even an old car.  I mean, I might be able to save for two months to afford a total beater that rattles like a dying whale and smells of old upholstery and french fries, but I'm not really into the idea of driving an old beater again after having had a new car.  So I've decided to become a public transit user.

Winter is of course not the ideal moment to get into the habit of taking buses and trains, especially with the utterly epic rainstorms we had last week; and the walking from home to the bus-stop and from bus to BART and BART to work and work to bus and bus to home is no fun in the rain when I'm not feeling my best to begin with; but after getting used to the timing of it, I find I rather enjoy it.  There are always people to look at, after all, and it gives me lots of mental downtime... I can listen to music, and even read, but most of the time I just sit and look around me without thinking about anything in particular at all.  It's quite restful, in its way.

So pleased am I that I decided to apply for Commuter Checks through my employer, so I can buy my transit card with pre-taxed dollars, having $60 taken out of each paycheck so I can load my Clipper Card with an $80 bus-pass and $40 worth of BART fare (I find I only need to take BART in the morning, though I can take two buses home... a matter of timing and of avoiding high-school students) and reduce my taxable income a little bit further.  So even if I do get a car (and I will have to have a car sometime, I won't be able to live in my neighborhood indefinitely without one), I will continue to commute to work on public transit.  It will save me a fortune in parking fines, I'm sure, not to mention wear-and-tear on whatever kind of vehicle I end up with.

Which left me with the question of what to do with Miss Jane.  Since she's essentially irreparable, I figured I'd just have her towed off to a wrecking yard to be squished.  But then I realized that I'd have to clean all of my junk out of the car first, which delayed my decision-making long enough to find out that I can actually sell her for parts.  There's a place called Pick-n-Pull here in Oakland (it's a chain, actually) that I have visited on a number of occasions with my sister, back when I was driving beaters; they have loads of broken-down old cars that you can go into and scavenge for parts.  So I requested an online estimate, and they offered me well over $300 for the carcass.  It's rather an ignominious end for an old friend, but I think of it as donating her organs to vehicles in need... and getting a nice little bonus for my troubles.

In other news, I have finally launched the process of having my teeth replaced by dentures.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I was able to apply for a credit account to pay for it, so I can get the work done first and then make convenient monthly payments instead of having to save up and pay for them up front.  I had two more teeth pulled a couple of weeks ago when they became painful, and they started taking molds (a vile process) so that I can have a temporary set of teeth available before they pull the rest of them.  I have to wait another week for the first set of molds to be completed, and then have a second fitting to make sure they look right and feel right before the manufacturer mills the product; then another few weeks before they start extracting.

I am going to have to time it just right... after the last two extractions, I was in so much (and such prolonged) pain that I missed two days of work and was virtually useless during the week when I did manage to get to work... the last tooth pulled had breached my sinus, which got infected, and then allergy season started, and the hole was really deep and didn't heal as quickly as other extractions had, and I was just a big old mess.  So when I go in to have all of my teeth pulled at once, I want to be sure that I have time to recover before returning to work, and then a light workload waiting for me when I do return.

But I'm looking forward to it.  I am vain enough to want straight nice-looking teeth, though my one crooked tooth isn't that big a deal and nobody but me notices it; and I'm not so vain that I can't stand the idea of false teeth at age 44...after all, both my parents and my sister had dentures long before my age.

And speaking of vanity, my project to snazzify my wardrobe continues apace.  I never go out anymore without something around my neck, either an ascot (or more likely a large scarf tied as an ascot) or a necktie; I usually wear shirts with collars, most with cufflinks, with either a v-neck sweater or a waistcoat, and though I occasionally will go back to my old layers of thermal tee and sweater, I still dress the neck up with a cravat and stick-pin at the very least.

My latest craze is pocket-squares, I bought an enormous lot of handmade Italian silks in a couple dozen different colors and patterns, and have been coordinating them with my neckwear... though very little of my winter clothing has top pockets for squares, since I don't wear a lot of blazers at this time of year: I'm pretty much in my big black raincoat all the time now.  But I do have a very nice herringbone wool overcoat for the non-damp days, and when spring (or what passes for spring) actually arrives, I'll start back into the blazers and go hog-wild with the pocket squares.  Maybe even launch into boutonnieres.

On the other hand, I'm starting to wonder about my lower half... I'm still wearing khakis and sneakers on a daily basis, and they sort of undermine the dapper look I'm going for.  But I can't wear just any kind of shoe with my balance problems and joint pain; and I don't like wearing slacks, as they tend to be either too thin or too scratchy of material, and have to be dry-cleaned instead of thrown in the laundry. During this cold weather I've been gravitating toward corduroy to keep my legs warm, and they do look a little more dressy than twill, but I only have a few pairs, and most of them are jeans-style.

Oh, well, I'll cross that bridge later on.  If you're interested in keeping track and seeing  how I'm doing, I've started documenting the more appealing outfits by taking pictures and posting them on FaceBook; if it's a really great outfit, I post it on Pinterest, too.

Pinterest is my latest obsession.  A coworker turned me on to it, and though on my first visit I wasn't terribly impressed, seeing mostly pictures of cute animals and overly-precious baked goods, subsequent visits caught my interest with men's fashion, really interesting DIY projects, art, architecture, home decor, and of course beautiful young men in various states of undress. 

If you've never heard of it, Pinterest is a place to share (pin) things in which you are interested (hence the name).  If you're interested in home decor, for example, you can browse the Home Decor category and see things that may inspire you, and that you may wish to pin to your own board; and while you're browsing around on the rest of the internet, you might see something that you'd like to share, and you can pin it to your board with a link and picture to share with fellow "Pinners" and have handy for reference.  You can also pin things into different categories than the one in which you found them...for example, I find things on the fashion pages that go into my beefcake category, or something in an art board that I end up placing on my elephant-enthusiast board... thereby exposing the image to more people.

The interface is image-driven, so if you're interested in things which do not have some kind of visual representation, you probably won't find much to detain you; but if you like crafts, or cooking, or fashion, or any visual or visible art of any kind, I encourage you to visit.  I get a lot of great clothing ideas there (the pocket-square obsession had its genesis on the Men's Apparel boards), and I get to pin things that I've seen online and want to buy or copy sometime in the near future.

One of the best things about Pinterest, for me, is that it's easy-in/easy-out.  You can spend an hour or so browsing, or you can spend a minute checking on the pinners you follow or glancing over a favorite category.  There's nothing there that you have to become engaged with, as there is on FaceBook or other places I visit regularly.  It's the perfect visual respite while doing data entry or waiting for something to download.

So what else...Oh, yes, the CPAP machine... as I posted last time, I have been diagnosed with moderate sleep apnea, and so before prescribing me a CPAP machine at a great deal of expense to Kaiser and to myself (since my plan only pays 50% of "durable medical equipment," or DME) they gave me a loaner to try out for a couple of weeks to see if it works.

At first I was very excited about it, since it's a very nice machine that warms and humidifies the air before forcing it into my nose, and since the mask that comes with it is extraordinarily comfortable.  I had fantasized about being able to get a full night's sleep without waking up three or four times, as I've been doing, spending the appropriate amount of time in REM sleep, and having oxygen-rich blood pumping through my system and restoring my tissues to a more youthful vigor.

Alas, the reality was something of a let-down.  For while I was quite comfortable wearing the thing while I was awake, and enjoyed having the air blown into me, I found it impossible to sleep with the mask on: every time I moved my head, the mask slipped and air came blowing out around my face... sure to wake up even the deepest sleeper.  If I tightened it enough that it wouldn't slip, it pressed against the flesh around my nose and made it harder to breathe.  And finally, the pressure of the forced air (it doesn't breathe in and out like a respirator, it maintains steady pressure) requires you to push your exhaust breath out of your nose, which was surprisingly painful to my inner ear (forcing air into the eustachian tubes...a word I'd always loved until they started hurting); and the pressure on breathing out made me instinctively open my mouth to get the air out more easily, which results in short-cirtuiting the air pressure and sending all the air out of my mouth instead of into my lungs.  It's a very strange sensation, blowing a continuous stream of air out of your mouth (plus it gives you a nasty case of cottonmouth).

So the CPAP is apparently not for me.  Maybe if they have a kind that has variable pressure or something, I might look into that, but in the meantime I'm just going to have to do what I can with other remedies.  I have found, for example, that cleaning out my nasal passages with a saline rinse and then sniffing a Vic's Vapo-Inhaler before bed helps me breathe a great deal easier at night.  A half-dose of allergy medication is also extremely beneficial, and makes me drowsy as well.  And I am planning on getting a larger bed (this one, in fact), which might also help, as I don't think I'll wake up every time I turn over as I do now on my rather narrow sofa.

Well, that's really all I can think of right now... or rather, all I really want to talk about today, though there are some other topics I could explore, changes in my home and work and social life.  But I have gained some perspective from the above: I have an awful lot going on, no wonder I'm so dazed and vague!  Maybe I can be a little bit kinder to myself about it.

Until next time, don't take any wooden igloos!