Return of neurontin

Sep. 18th, 2014 03:29 pm
badgerbag: (Default)
[personal profile] badgerbag
Took a slightly old gabapentin last night out of total desperation. It went ok. It did its nerve pain relief thing. A relief and yet then i was twitchy and weepy feeling and did not like the side effects. Which thankfully just turned into falling alseep and staying asleep instead of waking up in pain a lot of times. Yay? I still felt in less pain in the morning too. Half a tramadol + tylenol + some coffee (bad idea for stomach, but so helpful) NOw I am back home from the Mountain View office on the couch and still able to work but the pain is very distracting and I am close to the edge of Not Able to Work. I realize this means I need to cool my jets completely for a bit. But I want to go to back to school night. One more thing tonight and then I will cool it for days and days I swear to god. Too much pain. I am making an appointment to renew my Medical Use card and another with my regular doctor to talk about help for worsening ankle(s) and general pain control for my upcoming trip in October. I don't see how I could get through it without serious pain meds at least for night time. I am at the point where I will go beg my doctor for pain drugs, a thing I very much do not like to do. Will work for oxycontin. OK. I find these status updates helpful to look back on someetimes when I forget (near instantly once I bounce out of it) that I just recently had a bout of difficult impairment/pain/whatever. Goal: intervene and stop myself before I hit some sort of rock bottom.

I really don't want to go on nerve pain/ssris long term, it was pretty horrible for me even if it worked for pain. Maybe would consider doing it for a horrible month or two though. Effexor sounds like the pits but it is what the pain clinic recommended i think. Its side effects sound more horrible than cymbalta, which was intolerable.... :(

OR... maybe this leg pain is temporary from the injection and will feel better in a few days. fingers crossed?!
pleia2: (Default)
[personal profile] pleia2

This past week I headed to Florida to present at Fossetcon and thought it would be a great opportunity to do a formal review of a new tool recently released by the OpenStack Infrastructure team (well, mostly James E. Blair): Gertty.

The description of this tool is as follows:

As compared to the web interface, the main advantages are:

  • Workflow — the interface is designed to support a workflow similar to reading network news or mail. In particular, it is designed to deal with a large number of review requests across a large number of projects.
  • Offline Use — Gertty syncs information about changes in subscribed projects to a local database and local git repos. All review operations are performed against that database and then synced back to Gerrit.
  • Speed — user actions modify locally cached content and need not wait for server interaction.
  • Convenience — because Gertty downloads all changes to local git repos, a single command instructs it to checkout a change into that repo for detailed examination or testing of larger changes.

For me the two big ones were CLI-based workflow and offline use, I could review patches while on a plane or on terrible hotel wifi!

I highly recommend reading the announcement email to learn more about the features, but to get going here’s a quick rundown for the currently released version 1.0.2:

First, you’ll need to set a password in Gerrit so you can use the REST API. Do that by logging into Gerrit and going to https://review.openstack.org/#/settings/http-password

From there:

pip install gertty

wget https://git.openstack.org/cgit/stackforge/gertty/plain/examples/openstack-gertty.yaml -O ~/.gertty.yaml

Edit ~/.gertty.yaml and update anything that says “CHANGEME”

A couple things worthy of note:

  • Be aware that by default, uses ~/git/ for the git-root, I had to change this in my ~/.gertty.yaml so it didn’t touch my existing ~/git/ directory.
  • You can also run it in a venv, as described on the pypi page.

Now run gertty from your terminal!

When you first load it up, you get a welcome screen with some hints on how to use it, including the all important “press F1 for help”:

Note: I use xfce4-terminal and F1 is bound to terminal help, see the Xfce FAQ to learn how to disable this so you can actually read the Gertty help and don’t have to ask on IRC how to do simple things like I did ;)

As instructed, from here you hit “L” to list projects, this is the page where you can subscribe to them:

You subscribe to projects by pressing “s” and they will show up as bright white, then you can navigate into them to list open reviews:

Go to a review you want to look at and hit enter, bringing up the review screen. This should look very familiar, just text only. I’ve expanded my standard 80×24 terminal window here so you can get a good look at what the full screen looks like:

Navigate down to < Diff > to see the diff. This is pretty cool, instead of showing it on separate pages like the web UI, it shows you a unified page with all of the file diffs, so you just need to scroll through them to see them all:

Finally, you review! Select < Review > back on the main review page and it will pop up a screen that allows you to select your +2, +1, -1, etc and add a message:

Your reviews are synced along with everything else when Gertty knows it’s online and can pull down review updates and upload your changes. At any time you can look at the top right of your screen to see how many pending sync requests it has.

When you want to quit, CTRL-q

I highly recommend giving it a spin. Feel free to ask questions about usage in #openstack-infra and bugs are tracked in Storyboard here: https://storyboard.openstack.org/#!/project/698. The code lives in a stackforge repo at: http://git.openstack.org/cgit/stackforge/gertty

Originally published at pleia2's blog. You can comment here or there.

Need pain holiday!

Sep. 17th, 2014 09:25 am
badgerbag: (Default)
[personal profile] badgerbag
My injection site/bad leg are truly hideous the last few days. I powered through the weekend on tramadols (about 3 per day plus codeine at night, and i had coffee 3 days in a row on vacation) Now down to only painkiller at night and tylenol in day but today I need to kick that up a few notches. I just want to lie on ice packs/heating pads and writhe around. God.

Lots of meetings today. I would like just a little cup of caffeinated tea....

Fossetcon 2014

Sep. 16th, 2014 05:44 pm
pleia2: (Default)
[personal profile] pleia2

As I wrote in my last post I attended Fossetcon this past weekend. The core of the event kicked off on Friday with a keynote by Iris Gardner on how Diversity Creates Innovation and the work that the CODE2040 organization is doing to help talented minorities succeed in technology. I first heard about this organization back in 2013 at OSCON, so it was great to hear more about their recent successes with their summer Fellows Program. It was also great to hear that their criteria for talent not only included coding skills, but also sought out a passion for engineering and leadership skills.

After a break, I went to see PJ Hagerty give his talk, Meetup Groups: Act Locally – Think Globally. I’ve been running open source related groups for over a decade, so I’ve been in this space for quite a long time and was hoping to get some new tips, PJ didn’t disappoint! He led off with the need to break out of the small “pizza and a presentation by a regular” grind, which is indeed important to growing a group and making people show up. Some of his suggestions for doing this included:

  • Seek out students to attend and participate in the group, they can be some of your most motivated attendees and will bring friends
  • Seek out experienced programmers (and technologists) not necessarily in your specific field to give more agnostic talks about general programming/tech practices
  • Do cross-technology meetups – a PHP and Ruby night! Maybe Linux and BSD?
  • Bring in guest speakers from out of town (if they’re close enough, many will come for the price of gas and/or train/bus ticket – I would!)
  • Send members to regional conferences… or run your own conference
  • Get kids involved
  • Host an OpenHack event

I’ll have to see what my co-conspiratorsorganizers at some local groups think of these ideas, it certainly would be fun to spice up some of the groups I regularly attend.

From there I went to MySQL Server Performance Tuning 101 by Ligaya Turmelle. Her talk centered around the fact that MySQL tuning is not simple, but went through a variety of mechanisms to tune it in different ways for specific cases you may run into. Perhaps most useful to me were her tips for gathering usage statistics from MySQL, I was unfamiliar with many of the metrics she pulled out. Very cool stuff.

After lunch and some booth duty, I headed over to Crash Course in Open Source Cloud Computing presented by Mark Hinkle. Now, I work on OpenStack (referred to as the “Boy Band” of cloud infrastructures in the talk – hah!), so my view of the cloud world is certainly influenced by that perspective. It was great to see a whirlwind tour of other and related technologies in the open source ecosystem.

The closing keynote for the day was by Deb Nicholson, Style or substance? Free Software is Totally the 80′s. She gave a bit of a history of free software and speculated as to whether our movement would be characterized by a shallow portrayal of “unconferences and penguin swag” (like 80s neon clothes and extravagance) or how free software communities are changing the world (like groups in the 80s who were really seeking social change or the fall of the Berlin wall). Her hope is that by stepping back and taking a look at our community that perhaps we could shape how our movement is remembered and focus on what is important to our future.

Saturday I had more booth duty with my colleague Yolanda Robla who came in from Spain to do a talk on Continuous integration automation. We were joined by another colleague from HP, Mark Atwood, who dropped by the conference for his talk How to Get One of These Awesome Open Source Jobs – one of my favorites.

The opening keynote on Saturday was Considering the Future of Copyleft by Bradley Kuhn. I always enjoy going to his talks because I’m considerably more optimistic about the health and future of free software, so his strong copyleft stance makes me stop and consider where I truly stand and what that means. He worries that an ecosystem of permissive licenses (like Apache, MIT, BSD) will lead to companies doing the least possible for free software and keeping all their secret sauces secret, diluting the ecosystem and making it less valuable for future consumers of free software since they’ll need the proprietary components. I’m more hopeful than that, particularly as I see real free software folks starting to get jobs in major companies and staying true to their free software roots. Indeed, these days I spend a vast majority of my time working on Apache-licensed software for a large company who pays me to do the work. Slides from his talk are here, I highly recommend having a browse: http://ebb.org/bkuhn/talks/FOSSETCON-2014/copyleft-future.html

After some more boothing, I headed over to Apache Mesos and Aurora, An Operating System For The Datacenter by David Lester. Again, being on the OpenStack bandwagon these past few years I haven’t had a lot of time to explore the ecosystem elsewhere, and I learned that this is some pretty cool stuff! Lester works for Twitter and talked some about how Twitter and other companies in the community are using both the Mesos and Aurora tools to build their efficient, fault tolerant datacenters and how it’s lead to impressive improvements in the reliability of their infrastructures. He also did a really great job explaining the concepts of both, hooray for diagrams. I kind of want to play with them now.

Introduction to The ELK Stack: Elasticsearch, Logstash & Kibana by Aaron Mildenstein was my next stop. We run an ELK stack in the OpenStack Infrastructure, but I’ve not been very involved in the management of that, instead focusing on how we’re using it in elastic-recheck so I hoped this talk would fill in some of the fundamentals for me. It did do that so I was happy with that, but I have to admit that I was pretty disappointed to see demos of plugins that required a paid license.

As the day wound down, I finally had my talk: Code Review for Systems Administrators.


Code Review for Sysadmins talk, thanks to Yolanda Robla for taking the photo

I love giving this talk. I’m really proud of the infrastructure that has been built for OpenStack and it’s one that I’m happy and excited to work with every day – in part because we do things through code review. Even better, my excitement during this presentation seemed contagious, with an audience that seemed really engaged with the topic and impressed. Huge thanks to everyone who came and particularly to those who asked questions and took time to chat with me after. Slides from my talk are available here: fossetcon-code-review-for-sysadmins/

And then we were at the end! The conference wrapped up with a closing keynote on Open Source Is More than Code by Jordan Sissel. I really loved this talk. I’ve known for some time that the logstash community was one of the friendlier ones, with their mantra of “If a newbie has a bad time, it’s a bug.” This talk dove further into that ethos in their community and how it’s impacted how members of the project handle unhappy users. He also talked about improvements made to documentation (both inline in code and formal documentation) and how they’ve tried to “break away from text” some and put more human interaction in their community so people don’t feel so isolated and dehumanized by a text only environment (though I do find this is where I’m personally most comfortable, not everyone feels that way). I hope more projects will look to the logstash community as a good example of how we all can do better, I know I have some work to do when it comes to support.

Thanks again to conference staff for making this event such a fun one, particularly as it was their first year!

Originally published at pleia2's blog. You can comment here or there.

[personal profile] mjg59
ACPI is a complicated specification - the latest version is 980 pages long. But that's because it's trying to define something complicated: an entire interface for abstracting away hardware details and making it easier for an unmodified OS to boot diverse platforms.

Inevitably, though, it can't define the full behaviour of an ACPI system. It doesn't explicitly state what should happen if you violate the spec, for instance. Obviously, in a just and fair world, no systems would violate the spec. But in the grim meathook future that we actually inhabit, systems do. We lack the technology to go back in time and retroactively prevent this, and so we're forced to deal with making these systems work.

This ends up being a pain in the neck in the x86 world, but it could be much worse. Way back in 2008 I wrote something about why the Linux kernel reports itself to firmware as "Windows" but refuses to identify itself as Linux. The short version is that "Linux" doesn't actually identify the behaviour of the kernel in a meaningful way. "Linux" doesn't tell you whether the kernel can deal with buffers being passed when the spec says it should be a package. "Linux" doesn't tell you whether the OS knows how to deal with an HPET. "Linux" doesn't tell you whether the OS can reinitialise graphics hardware.

Back then I was writing from the perspective of the firmware changing its behaviour in response to the OS, but it turns out that it's also relevant from the perspective of the OS changing its behaviour in response to the firmware. Windows 8 handles backlights differently to older versions. Firmware that's intended to support Windows 8 may expect this behaviour. If the OS tells the firmware that it's compatible with Windows 8, the OS has to behave compatibly with Windows 8.

In essence, if the firmware asks for Windows 8 support and the OS says yes, the OS is forming a contract with the firmware that it will behave in a specific way. If Windows 8 allows certain spec violations, the OS must permit those violations. If Windows 8 makes certain ACPI calls in a certain order, the OS must make those calls in the same order. Any firmware bug that is triggered by the OS not behaving identically to Windows 8 must be dealt with by modifying the OS to behave like Windows 8.

This sounds horrifying, but it's actually important. The existence of well-defined[1] OS behaviours means that the industry has something to target. Vendors test their hardware against Windows, and because Windows has consistent behaviour within a version[2] the vendors know that their machines won't suddenly stop working after an update. Linux benefits from this because we know that we can make hardware work as long as we're compatible with the Windows behaviour.

That's fine for x86. But remember when I said it could be worse? What if there were a platform that Microsoft weren't targeting? A platform where Linux was the dominant OS? A platform where vendors all test their hardware against Linux and expect it to have a consistent ACPI implementation?

Our even grimmer meathook future welcomes ARM to the ACPI world.

Software development is hard, and firmware development is software development with worse compilers. Firmware is inevitably going to rely on undefined behaviour. It's going to make assumptions about ordering. It's going to mishandle some cases. And it's the operating system's job to handle that. On x86 we know that systems are tested against Windows, and so we simply implement that behaviour. On ARM, we don't have that convenient reference. We are the reference. And that means that systems will end up accidentally depending on Linux-specific behaviour. Which means that if we ever change that behaviour, those systems will break.

So far we've resisted calls for Linux to provide a contract to the firmware in the way that Windows does, simply because there's been no need to - we can just implement the same contract as Windows. How are we going to manage this on ARM? The worst case scenario is that a system is tested against, say, Linux 3.19 and works fine. We make a change in 3.21 that breaks this system, but nobody notices at the time. Another system is tested against 3.21 and works fine. A few months later somebody finally notices that 3.21 broke their system and the change gets reverted, but oh no! Reverting it breaks the other system. What do we do now? The systems aren't telling us which behaviour they expect, so we're left with the prospect of adding machine-specific quirks. This isn't scalable.

Supporting ACPI on ARM means developing a sense of discipline around ACPI development that we simply haven't had so far. If we want to avoid breaking systems we have two options:

1) Commit to never modifying the ACPI behaviour of Linux.
2) Exposing an interface that indicates which well-defined ACPI behaviour a specific kernel implements, and bumping that whenever an incompatible change is made. Backward compatibility paths will be required if firmware only supports an older interface.

(1) is unlikely to be practical, but (2) isn't a great deal easier. Somebody is going to need to take responsibility for tracking ACPI behaviour and incrementing the exported interface whenever it changes, and we need to know who that's going to be before any of these systems start shipping. The alternative is a sea of ARM devices that only run specific kernel versions, which is exactly the scenario that ACPI was supposed to be fixing.

[1] Defined by implementation, not defined by specification
[2] Windows may change behaviour between versions, but always adds a new _OSI string when it does so. It can then modify its behaviour depending on whether the firmware knows about later versions of Windows.

Ubuntu at Fossetcon 2014

Sep. 16th, 2014 10:01 am
pleia2: (Default)
[personal profile] pleia2

Last week I flew out to the east coast to attend the very first Fossetcon. The conference was on the smaller side, but I had a wonderful time meeting up with some old friends, meeting some new Ubuntu enthusiasts and finally meeting some folks I’ve only communicated with online. The room layout took some getting used to, but the conference staff was quick to put up signs and directing conference attendees in the right direction and in general leading to a pretty smooth conference experience.

On Thursday the conference hosted a “day zero” that had training and an Ubucon. I attended the Ubucon all day, which kicked off with Michael Hall doing an introduction to the Ubuntu on Phones ecosystem, including Mir, Unity8 and the Telephony features that needed to be added to support phones (voice calling, SMS/MMs, Cell data, SIM card management). He also talked about the improved developer portal with more resources aimed at app developers, including the Ubuntu SDK and simplified packaging with click packages.

He also addressed the concern of many about whether Ubuntu could break into the smartphone market at this point, arguing that it’s a rapidly developing and changing market, with every current market leader only having been there for a handful of years, and that new ideas need need to play to win. Canonical feels that convergence between phone and desktop/laptop gives Ubuntu a unique selling point and that users will like it because of intuitive design with lots of swiping and scrolling actions, gives apps the most screen space possible. It was interesting to hear that partners/OEMs can offer operator differentiation as a layer without fragmenting the actual operating system (something that Android struggles with), leaving the core operating system independently maintained.

This was followed up by a more hands on session on Creating your first Ubuntu SDK Application. Attendees downloaded the Ubuntu SDK and Michael walked through the creation of a demo app, using the App Dev School Workshop: Write your first app document.

After lunch, Nicholas Skaggs and I gave a presentation on 10 ways to get involved with Ubuntu today. I had given a “5 ways” talk earlier this year at the SCaLE in Los Angeles, so it was fun to do a longer one with a co-speaker and have his five items added in, along with some other general tips for getting involved with the community. I really love giving this talk, the feedback from attendees throughout the rest of the conference was overwhelmingly positive, and I hope to get some follow-up emails from some new contributors looking to get started. Slides from our presentation are available as pdf here: contributingtoubuntu-fossetcon-2014.pdf


Ubuntu panel, thanks to Chris Crisafulli for the photo

The day wrapped up with an Ubuntu Q&A Panel, which had Michael Hall and Nicholas Skaggs from the Community team at Canonical, Aaron Honeycutt of Kubuntu and myself. Our quartet fielded questions from moderator Alexis Santos of Binpress and the audience, on everything from the Ubuntu phone to challenges of working with such a large community. I ended up drawing from my experience with the Xubuntu community a lot in the panel, especially as we drilled down into discussing how much success we’ve had coordinating the work of the flavors with the rest of Ubuntu.

The next couple days brought Fossetcon proper, with I’ll write about later. The Ubuntu fun continued though! I was able to give away 4 copies of The Official Ubuntu Book, 8th Edition which I signed, and got José Antonio Rey to sign as well since he had joined us for the conference from Peru.

José ended up doing a talk on Automating your service with Juju during the conference, and Michael Hall had the opportunity to a talk on Convergence and the Future of App Development on Ubuntu. The Ubuntu booth also looked great and was one of the most popular of the conference.

I really had a blast talking to Ubuntu community members from Florida, they’re a great and passionate crowd.

Originally published at pleia2's blog. You can comment here or there.

Late August and early September

Sep. 16th, 2014 08:34 am
puzzlement: (jelly)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Originally posted at http://puzzling.org.

I see Andrew and I had our fifteen anniversary (as a couple, not as spouses) in August and I think managed not to remark on it to each other at all. Happy times. Not very surprising when that was just a week out from his flu recovery. We’ve always largely ignored that anniversary, although it would make sense to mark it since it’s the only event of any significance in our household that occurs in the second half of the year. Instead, we pack it all into the first half with both children born in January, Andrew in February and me in April, followed by our wedding anniversary in May. Andrew and I usually take each other to a joint birthday lunch in March or April, and then we have a family lunch at the pub where our wedding reception was each May and then we’re done partying for the year, evidently.

We had a couple of very quiet weekends after we got back which was good from the point of view of recovering but had the usual effect on me: once I haven’t done anything socially for a few weeks I wonder if I have any friends. We went to the aquarium with V’s friend A (everyone I talk about has the initial A) and A’s family; they commented that it was the fastest aquarium trip they’d ever done, with V hauling A from exhibit to exhibit. “Look here! Look here!”

I was really cranky about it though, because we decided to buy an annual pass — like most tourist things in Sydney, you only need to go three times for an annual pass to be cheaper, and their passes also include Wildlife World — and their system couldn’t be more contemptuous. We bought the pass online and showed up at the aquarium to find that the queue to have our photo taken and cards printed was over half an hour long and for that matter really poorly managed, as it was also being fed through a side door by people who’d been sold passes at the ticket counter as well as the main entrance by people who’d bought them online. And the queue was in a gift shop, so that’s delightful to wait in with children, especially V who is very tactile and would love to shake everything, stroke everything else, and swing off the remainder.

Not recommended. I had to go through half the aquarium before I calmed down, and that was only in the underwater tunnels beneath the sharks which mostly made me wish I was using SCUBA. Partly because a dive site might have 12 people, but the underwater tunnels were packed with 100 or more, but mostly because being underwater is really calming. It was easy at that moment to forget all the difficult aspects of diving: the early mornings, the seasickness, the wetsuits.

I don’t think I’m done with diving forever.

The following weekend was V’s school’s BBQ for the incoming kindergarten group, which was sweet. The kindergarten classes have just hatched chickens in incubators, so while I am dubious about this practice (I am not sure the creation of fifteen chickens, presumably to be short-lived and perhaps not even used for food, is justified by the educational outcomes) the whole day was chicken themed with chicken crafts and so on. V was very excited and left his craft chicken with the real chicks so they could admire it.

We had a lot of trouble and worry trying to organise someone to look after V when I was in labour with A. (Scheduled births made a lot more sense to me with my second pregnancy, especially when A was three weeks overdue, stretching the time for which we needed 24/7 on-call carers for V to six entire continuous weeks over Christmas and New Year.) So in late August I remembered to reach out to our friends Ben and Anna, whose second child was due, to offer at least “call us if you’re stuck”. Sure enough at the end of August Anna went into labour on an evening when their promised child carer had taken off to the snow at short notice (!!!). Andrew got to try and be the big damn hero in this case, driving across Sydney in the middle of the night, because it makes more sense for me to stay here with the baby than for him to. But in the event he only arrived at the hospital as Ben and Anna’s baby was being born. It would have been very handy for them if it had taken longer or there’d been an emergency though, so not wasted effort.

Last weekend V was to watch Star Wars for the first time with his friend A, but as Andrew predicted, the early sequence with characters walking the desert for twenty minutes completely lost them. They watched The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course instead, which was a cultural experience for us all. I was only familiar with the Steve Irwin phenomenon by cultural osmosis while he was alive. The movie is a good type of bad movie, with Irwin doing his own stunts (mostly falling out of dinghies constantly), unsubtle editing together of crocodile scenes and Irwin scenes to make it look like they might be in the same vicinity, and his educational pieces to camera set incongruously in a plot featuring fish-out-of-water CIA agents, Magda Szubanski as a crocodile-shooting station owner and David Wenham as a fisheries employee.

Finally, yesterday we went to visit Ben and Anna, and their child G and to meet new baby H. This was a nicely symmetrical visit, as we took A out to them in her first few weeks as well. H is still the dusky rose colour that newborn A was, and very sleepy. I held him, but didn’t miss having a newborn baby. Without hormones, I think they aren’t a lot of fun before they smile, although they are sweet in their own way. V had a very good time playing with G for hours, from drawing in chalk, staging a concert, and making sandcastles on the beach.

Writing this is half giving the lie to a recent complaint of mine, which is that I don’t really have a social circle! We are lucky to have a reasonable amount of social contact, although some of it would drop off if V had his own friends and could visit them under his own steam. I think two things are going on: the first is that we don’t have a circle, as in, people who know each other. I think that’s probably tough to overcome now unless we primarily make friends in our workplaces. Which brings me to the other problem, which is me working from home. While Andrew could socialise mostly with friends from work, although it would mean his circle would be comprised almost entirely of men and would talk about nothing but Google projects (this is a common condition among people who work there), the entire concept is moot for me. I’m planning to try co-working next year when V is in school and I’m working more days, and seeing how I feel then about the need to have more adults in my life. In the meantime, I will try and value all of my one on one friendships at their full value!

Skiing, August 2014: day 5

Sep. 15th, 2014 08:42 am
puzzlement: (jelly)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Originally posted at http://puzzling.org.

Andrew had, as near as we could tell, pretty typical flu-like symptoms: fever, pain, respiratory symptoms. This makes this the third time in seven years he’s been sick like that, two times in years when he had a flu vaccine. (The first time of the three was the reason he started having flu vaccines.) So not the best of of luck. In a way, however, he felt comforted that it explained aspects of his snowboarding he’d been unhappy about earlier in the week. Had something fundamental about his body changed since 2008? No. He was getting ill.

He’d been a bit of a hero over the previous days, bringing V to his ski lessons and so on, but on the Friday we needed to pack for the trip home, so I lost five minutes of my lesson dropping off V myself. I told my instructor A I’d been planning to go up Merritts but couldn’t now that Andrew was ill, and she agreed that I could be up there at this point, it simply was too long on a chairlift for our one hour lesson for her to take me. So we did one last lesson on Friday Flat and agreed that I would do a lesson next year in which she would take me down a blue (intermediate) run, because of course she would come back and I would come back &c. (Ski lesson version of Before Sunrise, and, spoilers, the Julie Delpy character didn’t make it to their rendezous.) It does become an intense shared endeavour, rather like a theatre performance or something, and the break-up is just as sudden. I later looked her up in the top-to-bottom race that she was hoping to win the following day and didn’t find her name at all; I don’t even know her surname.

I went up to the apartment to help Andrew pack up and lug the bags out of the room; thankfully the owners were storing them for us until the evening. Andrew was determined that I would ski Merritts, and was doing basically OK, so we lugged our gear and our baby down, installed him in the lounge of the Thredbo Alpine Hotel, and I returned his sadly underused performance snowboarding gear, and set off up Merritts.

It didn’t begin promisingly. Merritts is its own little peak and there’s two ways to reach the base of it, the fast Gunbarrel chairlift from Friday Flat or the Merritts chairlift from Valley Terminal. Being at Valley Terminal, I headed for the Merritts lift, which turned out to be old and ricketty. I had to take my skis off and hold them to ride it, no mean feat when they were 155cm long, and it was so old it didn’t have a pull down bar but a flimsy chain that I had to pull across and work out how to fasten while being lifted into the air and holding my skis and poles under one arm. So I was already a bit uncertain. I enjoyed the terrible terrain below me with all kinds of things poking out of the uneven snow, and wondered if it was indeed a ski run. (Yes, it’s the advanced run The Schuss, and I didn’t see a single soul on it on either the way up or the way down.)

Merritts itself has a fast chairlift The Cruiser running up it. I was accustomed to the ludicrous hot and lengthy queues at Friday Flat and The Cruiser didn’t have them, so I was zooming on it before I had a chance to get oriented. It was fast enough I was very worried about getting off, but of course it slowed for dismount, if only at the last possible second. I didn’t fall there. And then there was only one way down; on skis.

This turned out to be really tough for me. Merritts’ beginners runs are at the other end of beginners difficulty from Friday Flat, so they were like the toughest bit of Friday Flat only for about a solid kilometre of unrelenting slope rather than ten metres. (Tough is relative of course, but even so.) I talked myself down the first bit but then chose — it turns out — the slightly harder Squatters Run for the first half rather than Walkabout and arrived at the top of a bit that was steep enough I couldn’t see over it and despaired. I ended up removing my skis, prompting a children’s instructor to come over and point out the escape hatch traverse back to the Gunbarrel Express to me before zooming off with her teeny intermediate skiers, trudging over to and down the steep part (which was only a few metres high, and probably serves as a brief test of intermediate sloped terrain for borderline intermediate skiers) and fixing my skis on.

But of course by then my confidence was pretty shot. I could at least now see clear down Walkabout and knew what I was in for. I prepared myself to just get down it, no need to fret about parallel turns but to stick to A’s Italian-style snowplow turns and take it at my own speed and so on. But I fell twice on two consecutive turns, and the slope was steep enough that the experience was reminiscent of New Zealand all those years ago. Stand up. Try to get in skis. Fail. Knock snow out of my boots. And around. I probably spent ten minutes or more on each of those two turns, all the while crying and heating up. (Thredbo is a pretty hot resort, at around freezing or a bit above.) And I had several hundred metres to go. Eventually I convinced myself to go even more slowly and carefully and just get down and have done it, and I did: several more hundred metres without falling.

I feel just fine about this now and it’s easy to explain what went wrong. It’s just hard to do a new run at the edge of your ability without an instructor or better partner to prepare you for the tricky bits, identify what technique your fear is causing you to forget, to help you knock your boots clear of snow and pull you up from falls. If I’d had time and energy for even one more run I probably would have been slightly better. If Andrew (who is a better snowboarder than I am skier by dint of about two weeks practice if nothing else) had been there, he could have done a run ahead of me and told me which bits to brace for and hung out with me if I’d taken my skis off and had a sulk at the side. If I’d gone up for two consecutive days I’m sure I’d be going down both Walkabout and Squatters Run and enjoying it and beginning to contemplate the intermediate runs. But I didn’t have two days, I had about 90 minutes, and so that was my one run up there.

I was intending to go back to Andrew and work through that line of thought and feel better that way. On my trip back down the slow and creaky Merritts chair I realised that it had a halfway station labelled “Friday Flat” and I could get off there and return to a slope I knew for a final run. So I did that. Unfortunately, that meant entering at the intersection of Sundowner, which is a beginners run, and High Noon, which decidedly isn’t, and having High Noon’s exiting riders fly around and past me, some of them falling themselves. So even though it was fairly flat and well within my ability (I should try Sundowners next time), I fell again and had to have another little chat with myself again about focussing on basics and ignoring parallel turns and taking it at my own speed and etc. I did then make it to the Friday Flats lift for one last run down that, which I tried to enjoy but wasn’t in the right mood for. So I had to have forced pride that I’d picked myself up and tried and tried, even if I wasn’t feeling it.

I feel good about it looking back though.

And then it was time to head back to Andrew, check in, and begin the flurry of things needed to get us home. I returned my skis, and headed over to V’s class to pick him up and return his skis, and smile through V’s own reports of the joys of Merritts where he’d also been that day. (“I went up the mountain on the fast chairlift Mama. And I wasn’t scared.” Thank goodness I didn’t run into his group.) Andrew went up to the apartment to help the owners drive our bags down.

We’d figured the bus back would be easier, because V would be exhausted, and it went into the night, meaning both children would be asleep. This was true as far as it went, but no doubt it was not any fun for Andrew to sit up for seven hours trying not to melt from the inside out. Everything about ski holidays is utterly fixed and unchangeable, including our accommodation and bus tickets, or I might have been tempted to stay another day.

We had a very complicated plan once we got back to Sydney centered around the problem that taxis will not take A without an infant carseat, and that taxis with infant carseats are like hen’s teeth. One of us was going to taxi back to our house, pick up a car share car, fit our carseats for both children to it, drive back to the unlucky parent waiting with two exhausted children in the midnight chill, and drive us all home, at which point we’d put the kids in bed, remove the carseats, return the car and fall into bed. We’d completely forgotten that we were arriving home on a Friday night, and that commuter buses were still running at midnight. So instead we merely hauled our bewildered four year old, who has almost never been out of the house after 8pm, onto a bus, home, and into bed.

The aftermath was substantial for Andrew. He recovered in bed all weekend and into the following week, returning to work only on the Thursday. He still however kindly reflected that he was glad that he’d had a bad week at the snow rather than me, as otherwise we would have viewed the enterprise as thoroughly cursed. Which is fair. But hopefully some year soon I can report that we went to the snow and enjoyed a run in each other’s company and a hot chocolate to wrap up.

Skiing, August 2014: mid-week

Sep. 14th, 2014 09:04 am
puzzlement: (jelly)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Originally posted at http://puzzling.org.

As I expected, I woke up on my second day of skiing, Tuesday, very sore and stiff. As I expected, V did not. We grumpily trudged through our morning.

There was an annoying timing issue at this point: my expensive and timed down to the minute private lessons were to begin at 8:30 on Tuesday through Friday (because 8:30am lessons are significantly cheaper), and that was the earliest possible drop-off time for V at his ski school. I didn’t want to waste ten minutes of my lesson on his drop off. So Andrew gathered up himself and the baby solely in order to do V’s drop off and then go back up the mountain to chill out with her.

Because I’d switched lesson times after Monday, B was not my instructor for the remainder of the week. My instructor was A, a young Italian ski racer and instructor. A and I didn’t start off great with her evicing some skepticism that I was ready for the Giddy Up run, if I’d fallen up there. Her students, she reported, do not fall. She took me up there, I presumably embarrassingly fell off the end of the chair lift and she very cautiously took me down the steeper bit of Giddy Up with a critical eye.

We did better from there, because she agreed that I was the right level for that run. She then wanted me to tell her how I’d learned to turn, and discovered that her suspicions were right: I’d been taught the “Australian way”.

A brief digression into skiing technique: as a beginner skier, I skied with the front tips of my skis close together and the back ends far apart, called a snow plow, or a “triangle” at the kids’ school. This let me go very slowly, because it’s easy to turn both skis inwards and brake by dragging the inner edges of them both along the snow. The “Australian style” of turning (which I also learned in New Zealand in 1998, and which is also shown in the beginner ski school videos I’d watched, is that I turned by pressing the inner edge of ski which was to be the outside of the turn (my left ski when turning right and vice versa) harder into the snow than the other ski.

The “Italian style” turn that A preferred involved shifting weight throughout my body instead. Specifically, she wanted me to do nothing consciously with my feet, but instead always ski with my shoulder dropped down the mountain and my hips tilted up the mountain, with my upper body driving my weight into the lower ski. (Later in the week, she had me actually stepping my uphill ski up off the snow a lot, to prove I wasn’t bearing excess weight on it.) To turn, I was to slide my hips over the downhill ski and my shoulder over the uphill ski, which caused me to turn and restore the original weight distribution only I’d be pointing in the other direction.

“OK,” I thought. “But I really hope I’m not switching instructors every day this week.” Sometimes it’s best to learn one technique well than several poorly, even if it’s not the single best one. (Oddly, learning to breastfeed has this problem: every lactation consultant seems to have their own slightly incompatible technique.)

However, since A was assigned to me for the remaining four days, and the technique worked well, this worked out. Specifically, it resulted in quite fast and very controlled turns, which is great because the slower the turn, the more chance I had to point straight downhill and lose control of my speed and fall over. At the end of the week, A triumphed that I hadn’t fallen in her lesson and suggested we might be at Merritts (the advanced beginners area and early intermediate area, higher up the mountain) at the end of the week.

A had a rare and excellent quality in a physical teacher, which was that for every mistake I was to make throughout the week, she had a diagnosis. To be fair, it was almost always “lean further forward” or “your weight is on the wrong ski again” (especially, for some reason, when my right ski was the downhill one) but even so. Many a person has tried to teach me physical skills but has not brought relentless and flawless debugging skills to the party.

She was, I think, in her early twenties, her first time in Australia, and seemed to be naively charmed by all the lifties greeting her in terrible Italian. There are very many Italian instructors in Thredbo this year! Everyone is being kind and trying to learn Italian and speak it with us! If she had any inkling that there might be any special effort being made to speak Italian with smiley small young blonde winners of the women’s section of the instructors’ race, she didn’t hint at it.

But she probably knew it. The incredibly slow chairlifts meant we had a lot of chances to talk during the week, partly about travel and partly about the many, many things she disapproved of on the snow. For example, people who don’t wear helmets (one time she split a helmet in half in a racing crash), people who ski with babies strapped to them, and, especially, snowboarders. On the first day with her, she side-eyed the snowboarders joining us on our lift chair and asked them pointedly if they knew how to get off the chairlift. I pointed out that I didn’t know how to get off the chairlift and she ignored me while continuing to glare daggers at the snowboarders. (Sure enough I fell and they didn’t. She said nothing.) On the second day, I had my first fall in her class when I heard an “uuuuuh-oh” from behind and a snowboarder knocked my skis out from under me (I was fine, I fell up the hill on my side and slightly bruised my hip) and it’s possible she killed him with her brain. On the last day, I think one of her final piece of advice to me was “steer clear of them.”

I was still confined to Friday Flat, the beginners area, mid-week, on Wednesday progressing to the slightly steeper main area. But after my first day with A, it was my first ever time on the snow that I would happily just circle around. Ski down. Ride lift up. Ski down. Ride lift up. And of course, this kind of practice is necessary to progress, so I was extra thrilled that it wasn’t ski down, nurse injuries, cry, ride back up.

I also solved the chairlift issue after my Tuesday lesson on my own. The trick with dismounting chairlifts is that you need to get your weight above your skis, because that’s the general trick to not falling over when skiing. However, I’m very tall, and while I’m fairly strong in an absolute sense for an untrained woman, I’m not strong for my height or weight. Together, this means that getting my weight above my feet takes me appreciably longer than it takes most people and during this time, I figured I was falling over, especially since the ground beneath chairlifts at the dismount point is close enough to the seat to allow three year olds to get off comfortably.

So, I simply waited half a second longer than most people. Chairlifts all have a short slope leading down from the dismount point, and I would wait until the chair was a little way over the slope, and get off then, meaning I was basically dropping down into a standing position rather than forcing myself upright into one. This was a touch tricky; once I waited long enough that I actually had to jump down very slightly. But it worked and I didn’t once fall again, nor did I ever fail to actually get off and have to go round embarrassingly. (Presumably with increased skiing ability and faith in my skiing ability, I would be able to get off at the normal disembark point too, but I never tested again.)

So on early Tuesday afternoon, I headed up to Andrew comfortably smug at my ability to stand up and slide around on skis. He said he was feeling a bit tired, and we planned out that he would “only” do the Village Trail, Thredbo’s easy but long run at 5km. He didn’t start quite at the top but took the slower Snowgums chairlift most of the way up it (spying a wombat on the way) and came down. He was feeling a bit ill from something he’d eaten and figured it wasn’t the day for a lesson and a short outing was fine. We gathered up V, fed him a donut, and came back for the evening.

On the Wednesday, Andrew was becoming feverish and decided to take the day off. In a selfish way, this was good as I was able to double my practice time, but I was sad for him. He saved energy to do one beginners run with V, who at this point had turned into a child-shaped snow-bullet and left Andrew fallen in the snow half way down Friday Flat. Andrew was worried that he’d inexplicably become a bad snowboarder but (spoilers!) he was in the early stages of getting quite ill.

It was on Wednesday, I think, that A decided that I should start turning parallel rather than in a snowplow, and instructed me to drag up uphill heel with a turn so that the skis turned together. This caused, I’m pretty sure, my first self-inflicted fall under her instruction. No more mention of parallel turns was made for a little while.

Shortly after that, I felt that I was doing a particularly dodgy turn, hurriedly managing to shove my legs back under me before I fell over. A observed this and I waited to be told how to avoid it ever happening again. “Yessssss,” she crowed. “That turn, that turn parallel.” I had been wondering how on earth skis turned parallel, it seemed like it would involve impossible stresses on my knees and ankles to pull two skis around together while both bore my weight. But no. The mechanism is, essentially, to have so much weight on the downhill-side ski (or when turning, the ski that is about to be downhill-side) that the uphill ski can just be yanked around smoothly; thus, the exercise later in the week of stomping my uphill ski in the snow to check how little weight it was bearing. So that was pleasing, considering that A described it as something that was very hard to predict, taking some skiers a few days and some years.

Thursday was another fine day of skiing and gradual improvements as I linked parallel turns on the flatter part of Friday Flat (which is, in its entirety, very flat by the standards of skiing) and another day of Andrew ceding all his snow time to me. Perhaps, I said on Wednesday, this fever just needs a day to blow itself out, but it wasn’t true. On Thursday morning I was planning that I would try Merritts on Friday. By Thursday evening, Andrew was on a continuous loop of paracetamol and ibuprofen to manage the fever and pain, and we were very worried about packing and getting everything down the mountain. I said, very sadly, that probably on the Friday I should just do my lesson, have a celebratory run down the slope to acknowledge how far I’d come, and call it a week, rather than leave him alone for the day to handle packing and look after A while barely able to walk.

Thursday I also had the frustrating experience of my rental skis disappearing during my after-lesson meal, so I trudged sadly around the rental places sorting it out and believing I’d be out a few hundred dollars in loss fees. I ran into my first day instructor, B, during this, and she enquired how I was doing and we had a nice chat in the midst of my frustration, and in the end the rental place told me that they usually recover the skis and, honestly, probably wouldn’t bill me if they didn’t. But it was annoying all the same, not least for costing me an hour of skiing while I sorted out replacements.

Skiing, August 2014: Day 1

Sep. 11th, 2014 04:57 pm
puzzlement: (jelly)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Originally posted at http://puzzling.org.

When I left you last, we’d just stumbled off a bus and onto a minibus overloaded with children and luggage and ski gear and hauled it all up a steep driveway and two flights of stairs on an icy day and fallen into bed in bad moods.

One useful thing I did before falling into bed was watching through some of the earlier ski school lessons on Youtube. Video cheat sheets; new since I was last skiing. So after the second slighter hell which was helping V get down the stairs and the driveway in the morning, while carrying his and my gear, with neither of us very steady in ski boots and both of us tired and grumpy, I dropped him off at his all day ski lesson and then worked through the very first steps of the ski lesson from the videos on my own, namely putting my skis on and off, pushing myself along on the flat, and doing the teeniest of snow plow stops, all in the area which is notionally a milling around stop for people who’ve just shown up.

As with snowboarding, I’d decided to go all-in with skiing and have a private lesson every day, beginning with two hours on the first day. I duly met my first instructor, B, at 9:30 and explained my skiing background. She didn’t seem completely convinced by my attitude of being uniquely cursed to never be upright on the snow and looked at me critically while I stood in skis. “We’ll see how much you remember, I guess,” she said. “You seem to have reasonable balance!”

So we walked (ski-walked? ski-trudged?) over to the beginnerest of beginner slopes, and I got on the magic carpet up the slope while B skated up it at about twice the carpet’s exceptionally slow speed. (Skiers can move on the flat with a skating motion, and instructors get bored easily and do it up beginners slopes too.) Magic carpets, also new since I was skiing last, although I’ve been on one as a snowboarder. Like every method of getting snow sports people around bar maybe gondolas, they are somewhat easier to use as a skier. So far so good, and B had me snowplow gently down the slope once and then work on turning down it. Other than needing to repeatedly use my poles to get started again since it was a very gentle slope, I did fine, much to my surprise and probably not to hers. The second time up the magic carpet I smiled into the snowy trees, smiling being new to me and snow sports.

After that, B said that I was ready for the chair lift and the real beginners slopes (as in, things that actually sloped). I thus fell for the first time getting off the chair lift, got up, and headed for a second magic carpet called “The Burrow”, which goes through a perspex tunnel over a creek. It was fairly magical in a more direct sense of the metaphor and I enjoyed it a lot over the next few days before I got kicked up to Friday Flat proper.

The easiest beginners run is called “Giddy Up” and begins with its steepest part (steep being relative of course), so for the first day my goal was mostly to get down that bit and into the wider, shallower bit to actually work on skills. B had a whole patter for this about not being scared because if I gained speed, I knew how to control it. This didn’t stop me leaning back a few times and promptly flying over backwards for my trouble. Because I was slamming the back of my helmet hard into the snow every time I fell like this, I gave myself a firm mental talking to, including invoking the name of Natasha Richardson, about leaning forward. B meanwhile decided that because of my height, leaning forward at the right angle was actually fairly scary for me (an equivalent angle means my head and torso come way further forward in horizontal distance) and decided to focus on having me shove my shins against the front of my boots instead.

And so we proceeded down the slope three or four times. I even got off the chairlift without falling one sole precious time. But the whole thing was exhilarating and deeply satisfying because I had stayed upright! On snow! And moved down it at a slow speed! B advised me that I could do a sort of circuit, up to Giddy Up, down, up the magic carpet at its base that the children use (leading to a slope somewhere between the first slope and Giddy Up) to work on turns and around.

At the end of the lesson I was happy but extremely tired and hungry (and extremely glad I hadn’t signed up for a 3 hour lesson as I’d considered), so I staggered slowly into the cafeteria and had one of my chocolatey meals for the week and surfed on my phone and felt happy and rang Andrew to bubble at him. I then steeled myself to leave the nest and do Giddy Up by myself, other than falling off the bloody chairlift it went well.

Andrew came down to swap the baby over and get his snowboarding feet under him. He walked a little way up the hill, came down, and then went down Giddy Up. He seemed happy and the plan was for him to do a group lesson after that, so I headed up to the apartment with A to chill out for the afternoon. Andrew’s week then, unfortunately, started in the direction it was to continue as well, with him not being able to find the group class meeting point. Instead he texted that he’d gone up the Gunbarrel chairlift and had gone down High Noon and found it a bit challenging. No wonder, I replied, when it’s one of the hardest intermediate runs at Thredbo (and isn’t short either). I felt proud of him in his ambitious innocence and imagined us doing a run together at the end of the week, although my ambitions didn’t rise to High Noon.

I headed down again to get V from his lesson, and we all came back via a hot chocolate, and for Andrew and me, to the early onset of sore muscles and stiffness that made us dread the morning. But not, happily, nearly as much as I’d dread a snowboarding morning, although I still felt like perhaps some bad experiences were coming.

Simcoe’s August 2014 Checkup

Sep. 7th, 2014 05:57 pm
pleia2: (Default)
[personal profile] pleia2

This upcoming December will mark Simcoe living with the CRF diagnosis for 3 years. We’re happy to say that she continues to do well, with this latest batch of blood work showing more good news about her stable levels.

Unfortunately we brought her in a few weeks early this time following a bloody sneeze. As I’ve written earlier this year, they’ve both been a bit sneezy this year with an as yet undiagnosed issue that has been eluding all tests. Every month or so they switch off who is sneezing, but this was the first time there was any blood.

Simcoe at vet
“I still don’t like vet visits.”

Following the exam, the vet said she wasn’t worried. The bleeding was a one time thing and could have just been caused by rawness brought on by the sneezing and sniffles. Since the appointment on August 26th we haven’t seen any more problems (and the cold seems to have migrated back to Caligula).

As for her levels, it was great to see her weight come up a bit, from 9.62 to 9.94lbs.

Her BUN and CRE levels have both shifted slightly, from 51 to 59 on BUN and 3.9 to 3.8 on CRE.

BUN: 59 (normal range: 14-36)
CRE: 3.8 (normal range: .6-2.4)

Originally published at pleia2's blog. You can comment here or there.

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