How I Discovered I'm Bipolar

January 08, 2018

Below is a version of the email I sent to co-workers in December letting them know why I hadn't been in. It's a high level run down of my manic episode and corresponding hospital visit.

I am back at work now. Mostly full time. But still having to check out early on some occasions due to lack of energy. I'm continuing to work with my psychiatrist to tweak my meds to improve that.


Dec. 13, 2017 ~ From: Me ~ To: A bunch of co-workers

So…

As some of you know, I got to spend time in the hospital the week after Thanksgiving.

First off, let me reassure you that I'm in much better shape now.

I'm not back at work yet because I need sign-off from a doctor first. I've got an appointment scheduled for Thursday that should take care of that.

In the spirit of an After-Action Report, here's the high level of what happened:

  • During the Thanksgiving holiday, I decided to experiment with recording a podcast

  • As I got more and more into it, I ended up in what I later discovered was a full blown manic state/episode. I was aware something was off, but figured I'd keep pushing it because 1) I'm me, and 2) well… mania…

  • After several days of constant talking/recording (and very little sleep), I called a buddy (and former TOUR employee) who came over to see if he could help me calm/slow down. (He also happens to be a trained crisis councilor. I wasn't thinking of that at the time, but it proved very helpful.)

  • I still wasn't able to calm down. He called the therapist I've been seeing for a couple years. With their help, I got myself voluntarily checked into Flaggler Hospital's psych ward

  • The psychiatrists there diagnosed me with Bipolar 1. (They were surprised I'd never been diagnosed before. Apparently, it's usually discovered well before someone hits their 40s)

  • Along with the diagnosis, I also received a prescription for a drug called Aripiprazole that I'm taking daily. It's one of those drugs that takes some time to get the dosage right, but I can already tell it's having a solid positive effect.

  • My manager and I have started discussing my return. The basic idea is that I'm going to ease myself back in slowly.

So, that's the gist…

The other thing I'm planning is to be very open about about all this (e.g. this email). There's a lot of stigma about mental health issues. My hope is that by being open about it, I can help remove some of that.

Please note: it's a testament to all of you that I'm willing to be so open. While the idea is still scary, I have more than enough trust in you all and the TOUR in general to have the confidence/courage to do it.

The only thing I'll ask at this point is to please avoid peppering me with questions. It takes a lot out of me to keep having to get back into the story.

Other than that, I look forward to seeing you all soon as I ease back in over the next several weeks.

-a

P.S. Since that was pretty intense, allow me to close with a joke. For those of you that have seen the FX show "Legion", there's still no indication that my time in the psych ward ended up giving me super powers…. yet.


An Ode to Modern Medicine (Or, a search for words)

January 04, 2018

Peace.

My mind at ease.

In a way I've never experienced before.

But, in a way that's still me.

Not a me dulled or altered or bent into a shape that's not my own.

Just me, but…

Quiet, perhaps is better.

That's it too.

But, not a lack of sound. A lack of commotion.

Like looking away from a crowd.

Watching instead the gentle motion of a breeze.

Or, perhaps a ship.

But, not one becalmed.

One harbored in an easy port after rough seas.

Seas ridden so long, I had memories of nothing else.


Bipolar 2017

December 31, 2017

2017 has been a hell of a year.

For me, it was mostly a good one. Personal highlights included:

  • Attending my first national championship game1
  • Seeing one of my favorite musicians in concert2
  • Getting a new gig3
  • Seeing a Total Eclipse4
  • Having a full blown manic episode the week after Thanksgiving, checking myself into the local hospital's mental ward, and getting diagnosed as Bipolar 1

Four outta five on the plus side ain't bad.

Regarding that last one, though: There's a lot of toxic stigma and fear associated with discussisng (and disclosing) mental health issues. It's not unwarranted, either. You don't have to think too hard to imagine how employers could wield that knowledge against you.

There are protections in place that try to prevent that, but it's still scary to talk about. In no small part because there's no guarantee those protections will work. The thing is, the cost of not talking about it can be even higher if it prevents folks from getting the care they need.

After giving it a lot of though, I decided talking about my diagnosis publically is the right thing to do. I've spent 17 years at the PGA TOUR. I trust both the organization and my manager to work with me in good faith5.

With luck, I can be a data point that helps us recognize that with our modern medicines, mental health issues like my bipolar diagnosis are still a big deal, but ones that can be managed. And, more to the point, that we recognize the stigmas we have against them are not only outdated but detrimental to everyone involved.

I'll tell the story of the manic episode another time. For now, just know I'm getting better and working with a doctor to dial in my medications.

In the mean time, may you and yours be safe and happy, and here's hoping 2018 turns out 5 by 5.

Footnotes

  1. Ideally, we would have won the game, but, you know… Roll Tide.
  2. If you are at all into Paul Simon, go see him. It's a delight and his new stuff sings to me just as much as the classics.
  3. I'm still at the TOUR. Just working on internal stuff instead of the web site and mobile platforms. It's cool because it's a change of pace, but all my institutional knowledge is still a huge asset.
  4. If you saw it too, I don't have to tell you this, but if you didn't: DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GO SEE THE NEXT ONE.
  5. So far so good, btw.

Watching for Errors and Rebooting with a Bash Script

December 20, 2017

The Problem:

  • A hardware issue on one of my FreeNAS servers1 causes hard drives to disappear every few hours
  • When the drives disappear, it puts my data at risk2

Warning Sign:

  • Prior to the failure, the system's dmesg3 command starts showing ahcich#: Timeout errors like these:

      ahcich2: Timeout on slot 10 port 0
      ahcich2: is 00000000 cs 00000400 ss 00000000 rs 00000400 tfd 50 serr 00000000 cmd 10008917
      ahcich4: Timeout on slot 31 port 0
      ahcich4: is 00000000 cs 80000000 ss 00000000 rs 80000000 tfd 50 serr 00000000 cmd 10009e17
      ahcich4: Timeout on slot 19 port 0
      ahcich4: is 00000000 cs 00080000 ss 00000000 rs 00080000 tfd 40 serr 00000000 cmd 10009217
    

Goal:

  • Write a bash script to run once an hour that watches for the Timeout errors and reboots the machine if it sees one4

My Solution - Version 1 (Shameless Green):

The first thing I did was to write a Sandi Metz5 style Shameless Green6 version of the script. Meaning, I wrote the quickest thing I could put together that met my minimum requirements of:

  1. Watch for Timeout errors
  2. Reboot if one is found

Here's what I came up with:

#!/bin/bash

dmesg | grep Timeout

if [ $? == "0" ]
then
    /sbin/shutdown -r now
fi

The way it works is:

  1. Run the built-in FreeNAS dmesg command and pipe (i.e. |) the output to grep to search for the word Timeout.

    If a Timeout has occurred, then grep will identify the match which results in an exit code7 of 0 for the line

    If no Timeout has occurred, the exit code is something other than 0. It's usually 1, but I don't really care what it is as long as it's not zero because I then…

  2. Use the special $? bash parameter8 to grab the exit code and compare it with == against zero inside an if conditional statement

  3. If the exit code stored in $? is zero, then I run the FreeNAS reboot command (/sbin/shutdown -r) with the argument now to tell the server to initiate a reboot immediately

    Otherwise, nothing else happens and the script simply finishes without doing anything else

Updated Solution:

I decided to add some logging after confirming the first version of the script worked as expected.

Here's the final version. (Detailing out what each line does is left as an exercise to the reader.)

#!/bin/bash

LOG_FILE="/mnt/z/depot/Files/mingus_protection_tools/ahcich_issue_rebooter/log.txt"

DATE_TIME=$(date +%Y%m%d-%H%M%S) G
echo "${DATE_TIME}: Running script." >> $LOG_FILE

dmesg | grep Timeout

if [ $? == "0" ]
then
    echo "${DATE_TIME}: Found a timeout. Rebooting." >> $LOG_FILE
    /sbin/shutdown -r now
else
    echo "${DATE_TIME}: No Timeout issue found." >> $LOG_FILE
fi

Putting that script in place is letting me move files off the machine without the Timeout issue building up to the point of failure. As long as nothing changes, it should keep my data safe while I move things that weren't yet backed-up to another machine.

Footnotes

  1. This FreeNAS server, as a matter of fact.

  2. The server is setup with 11 hard drives in ZFS in RAID-Z3. Up to three can fail and my data won't be affected. However, if four fail at the same time all the data across all eleven drives will be lost in a way that's basically impossible to restore.

  3. More details about dmesg vai it's manual page.

  4. The script is run as the root user via cron once an hour.

  5. If you're not already familiar with her, you should check out Sandi's work. Her Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby class with Katrina Owen improved my programming by an order of magnitude.

  6. While it took a while to get use to, I'm now in love with the term (and concept) of Shameless Green. It's a specific reminder to do the minimum possible amount of work to get a test to pass. Without it, I have a tendency to internally scope-creep new code in a way that usually comes back to bite me. That little reminder has done more to improve and speed up my programming than anything else I've learned in my 20+ years hacking at code. (Why yes… it does deserve it's own post. Said post is one of the many items on my TODO list.)

  7. Here's more info on Exit Status (aka exit codes).

  8. And, here' more info on Bash Special Parameters including $?.


Bullet Points on Bracelets or: A Wonder Woman Review

July 15, 2017

In case it's not obvious from the title…


### WARNING: Spoilers for Wonder Woman (2017) Below ###



  • First off, I'm continuing my practice of avoiding trailers. This includes closing my eyes during the inevitable 20 minute gauntlet before a feature presentation starts.1 This pays off in spades.

    For example, instead of seeing it the trailer, I got to experience the sword-in-the-back-of-the-dress reveal in context with the rest of the movie.

    It was a delightful, "Ahhhh, yeah. It's about to get real" moment.2

  • It should not have been possible to make a decent Wonder Woman movie in corporate Hollywood today. And yet, they somehow made a great one. One that leaps most movies (comic based or otherwise) in a single bound.

  • They walked an incredible balance of making Wonder Woman a powerful, intelligent, beautiful, confident, humane, and oh-yeah-a-god superhero. All while keeping her relatable.

    Related: Gal Gadot has replaced Daisy Ridley as my #1 Movie Star Crush. (At least, until the next Star Wars movie.)

  • The scene with the nude dude (in reverse of the usual random female sexualization scene) was a touch of genius.3, 4


  • I can't believe they left in the part with the sniper for the good guys freezing up under fire.

    It wouldn't have been surprising if the superhero was a guy. But, to show that breakdown in direct contrast with an unshakable woman superhero… I'm amazed studio execs didn't force the scene to be cut because they considered it emasculating.

  • I got choked up a few times thinking about how the little girls of my friends and family will grow up in a world where this film exists.

    And, more to the point, Wonder Woman (form of: Gal Gadot) will exist in their minds. Helping them realize they are tougher and more capable than society might otherwise have lead them to believe.

  • Trend lines have been on my mind a lot recently. Plotting the increased power women have seen since the invention (and increasing commodification) of effective birth control, I had begun thinking the U.S. will become a matriarchy within 75 years. After seeing Wonder Woman, I'm revising my estimate down to within 50 years.

    (By the way, part of my hypothesis is that much of the badness going on in today's society is the final, and naturally desperate, death throes of the traditional rich, white, male patriarchy. Something there's no way past except by going through it. But also, something that can't and won't last long.)

So, yeah. Two thumbs up.


Footnotes

  1. You should totally give closing your eyes during trailers a try. You'll notice trailers are way longer than you realize. And, despite using very few words, how they tend to reveal a half dozen key plot points that were originally designed to be a surprise.

    I haven't started putting in headphones to try to drown out the audio yet. But, the idea is getting strong consideration.

  2. I fully acknowledge the language in my head was stronger.

  3. I pulled these images from trailers. They don't contain the rest of the Wonder Woman scene showing the much more revealing shot of Chris Pine with nothing but his hands to cover his privates. Otherwise, I would have used that.

  4. For those not familiar with "Star Trek - Into Darkness", the sleeve on the right belongs to the same Chris Pine who's naked in the next image.


Back to Contacts or: Correcting the Lasik Fade

January 06, 2017

So, this happened today:

After a decade plus of fantastic, laser (errr, lasik) powered vision, my eyes started losing focus last year1. It's not to bad, but it's been bugging me. Probably more than most given my former life as a photographer.

I finally made it to the eye doc today and walked out with a new prescription for contacts. You know the, "you never forget how to ride a bike," saying? Turns out, the same is true for putting contacts in.

Today wasn't nearly as profound as the first time I got glasses and discovered what leaves on trees look like. Still, it's nice to get that little extra bit of focus distance that was lacking2.


Footnotes

  1. This is not the near sightedness that's almost certainly on the way. My distance vision is what diminished.

  2. Worth pointing out that I have no complaints about my history with Lasik. Paying for the surgery was some of the best money I've ever spent. Before going in, I couldn't see the giant "E" that's on top of the typical eye chart. Afterward, my eyes were a little better than 20/20. Something I didn't even know was possible.


Thoughts on Rogue One

December 26, 2016

I saw Rogue One opening night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Instead of trying to write a single, coherent narrative about it, I'm just going to throw out a bunch of bullet points. Otherwise, this would never get finished.


### WARNING: Spoilers for "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" below. (Obviously) ###


  • It's pretty strong overall. The last act was masterful.

  • The only thing I wish I'd known going in was that some humans would be CGI1. The initial appearance of each briefly pulled me out of the film. Being prepared for the Uncanny Valley2 would have let me get through it faster.

  • The in-joke references to the original films were well done and not too heavy handed (e.g. while the Blue Milk was there, the camera didn't dwell on it).

  • The "I've got a bad feeling…" line getting cut short was a touch of genius and perfectly timed.

  • I got pulled out of the film when the Rebels set off remote explosives killing Stormtroopers. Instead of The (evil) Empire, I just saw them as soldiers in uniform. Perspective flipped, and all I could think about was uniformed U.S. soldiers getting caught in the explosions. (There's more worth thinking about here.)

  • I kept thinking, "Why the Hell didn't they iron Orson Krennic's cape?". Maybe it's just really hard to have a white cape like that that looks good on film. I can't imagine the look wasn't intentional. It just didn't read well.

  • I managed to avoid all trailers and just about all production stills prior to seeing the film. This paid off several times. For example, take this image from the teaser trailer:

    Since I never saw the trailers, I had no idea AT-ATs would get involved at the beach. When they first show up, I had a wonderful "Oh, Shit!" moment that would have otherwise been lost. Similar moments occurred throughout. I got to delight is seeing scenes for the first time in their intended context.

  • Another thing about skipping the trailers: I wasn't mislead as to why the film is called Rogue One. The trailers make it seem like Jyn and crew go off on a sanctioned Rebel mission. When it became apparent they were going against orders, the dissonance would have taken me out of the film. I'm glad that didn't happen.

  • The photoshopping on the movie poster makes Jyn Erso look significantly younger. It almost feels like an image from an earlier film.

  • Orson "Mr. White Cape" Krennic felt a bit like an over-the-top villain from the 1970s. Everything in the film had subtleties associated modern films except him.

  • In small ways, it felt like the first two acts were edited by a committee. Several folks all making sure their pet idea made it into the film. While it held up, I'd love to see a more refined edit. (No need to touch the last act though.)

  • The quote "Many Bothans died to bring us this information" popped into my head as Rebels started getting gunned down on the beach. This lead to another "Oh, Shit!" Realizing most of them were going to get wiped out3.

  • Lots of credit to whoever came up with the lower power, "single reactor" Death Star blast to solve for letting it shoot in Rogue One without conflicting with the test firing on Alderaan in A New Hope.

  • I'm so glad they didn't kiss at the end4.

  • It strikes me as weirdly morose to sell toys of characters who are introduced and die in the same film.

  • I wonder if Jyn will become a Disney Princess despite the fact that we saw her die.

  • I hope the success of Rogue One opens up more movies from the Star Wars universe. I can't imagine it won't. Disney is a business. Buying the rights to the Star Wars franchise is an investment. They'll do their best to make a good return on it and making new movies is the natural way to go about that5.


Footnotes

  1. Worth pointing out, I wouldn't have wanted to know who was CGI, just that some people would be.

  2. The Uncanny Valley is when things are made to look as human as possible but miss and we get weirded out by it.

  3. Yes, I realized later the quote was about the plans for the other Death Star and those weren't Bothans in Rogue One. That doesn't diminish the feeling I had in the moment and the compounded feeling when the shock wave from the Death Star hit.

  4. I'm guessing there were lots of meetings with big shots at Disney and tons of pressure to have them kiss. Good on whoever made the final call to keep that from happening.

  5. Doing the Thrawn trilogy would be awesome, but it sounds like licensing will complicate that matter.


Blue Angels in Black and White

December 17, 2016

The sky was overcast with a helping of haze during the 2016 Jacksonville Air Show. Color images look dull without a nice blue sky. Black-and-white (done right) doesn't have that problem1.

For example, here's the Blue Angels in Black and White2.












Footnotes

  1. I prefer working in black-and-white anyways. Something working on these images reinforced yet again.

  2. These images are being called by a responsive images loader I'm working on. It's still a work in progress. If you see something weird, or no images at all, please let me know. If this tech gibberish doesn't make any sense to you, you can safely ignore it.


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