Monthly Archives: October 2013

Sleep Study

I’m tired this morning. This is probably because I spent last night having my sleep studied. This was my first sleep study in ten years or so, and that was just long enough to forget how non-sleep-inducing a sleep study really is.

A sleep study is a classic case of the observer effect – if you’re measuring something, there’s a high likelihood you will change it. (This is similar to (but not the same as) the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which is a much cooler name.)

First of all, you’re in a strange bed. This is not too challenging for somebody who travels, but it’s still a strange bed in a strange place, without your wife’s Nook glowing quietly next to you and a PBGV pressed to your butt. It’s also dark – no nightlights, no clock (!), and you’re wired to the bed, so you can’t just get up to pee without calling for help.

Then, there are the wires. Ah, the wires. Now, there’s a challenge. You have fourteen probes on your head, two on your chest, four on your legs, a snore microphone on your neck and a pulse oximeter on your finger.  That, my friends, is a rather large collection of wires. They are all connected to a box that has a serial port (haven’t seen one of those in years – don’t they use USB by now?) that is connected to a port on the wall that is connected to a computer somewhere in the facility.


Then, there’s the timing. I was scheduled to arrive at 7:30pm. My usual bedtime is about midnight – I shoot for 11:30pm or so, but it never happens. So, we’re four and a half hours before my bedtime. By the time I changed into shorts and a t-shirt (I’m too old and too young for pajamas), had my blood pressure checked (it was high – go figure), had a CPAP mask tryout (I still don’t like the nose pillows that stick in your nostrils, just give me a mask) and filled out the pre-sleep questionnaire, it was 8:15pm or so. (I guess. Who knows? There’s no clock in the room.)

The sleep clinic wants everyone in bed by 10:45pm at the latest – but really, they want you in bed much earlier so they have enough time to monitor the quality of your sleep, which will certainly be high, given you’re in a strange room with wires all over you.

After a short break, one of the technicians came to “wire me up.” This is the slow procedure of hooking up the fourteen sensors on the head (positions marked on the scalp with grease pencil after measuring with a tape measure), four taped to my legs (two per leg), two on my chest, plus a snoring microphone on my neck and the pulse oximeter (glowing red) taped closed on my finger.

Then, all of the wires are hooked to the main controller box, and it is looped over your chest with a lanyard. At that point, you’re “mobile.” Hahahahahahahaha! For those of us with glasses, you can’t wear them at this point, so I couldn’t read. I did manage to use the bathroom without calling for help, so that was an accomplishment.


I had just sat down on the bed to determine my next move when the speaker crackled on, and someone said “Just let us know when you’re ready to go to sleep.”

It’s ten to freakin’ nine. I’m pretty sure my grandchildren don’t go to bed this early.

Still, what else was there to do? I couldn’t get my glasses on, so reading was out. I desperately feared discovering what channels are available on sleep clinic TV. (Although, if they want people to “sleep normally” in a strange bed in a strange room, there might have been pay-per-view. Just sayin’.)

Just after nine (according to the text I sent home), I gave in. It was bedtime.

This was a “split study” (I did not know that until after I arrived), so the first part was to observe me sleeping “naturally” (I’ve had a CPAP for ten years). I can’t sleep without a CPAP. So, “naturally”, was going to be painful.

A CPAP is “continuous positive airway pressure.” Basically, it’s a little machine that blows air through your nose (through a mask) with enough pressure to keep your airway open, so you can actually breathe while you sleep. In my case, my throat would close while I was sleeping, blocking my air. I would choke, wake up briefly, fall asleep, and the cycle would start again. This made me snore (really, I would just breathe through my mouth), which the Spousal Unit noticed was getting worse, which is how my sleep apnia was discovered. That, and I was falling asleep at my desk in the afternoons – even without meetings.

So, if I don’t have a CPAP, I don’t breathe very well during sleep, which means I don’t sleep.

Here’s a challenge – I can’t really sleep without a CPAP, I’m wired for study, I have sensors in my nostrils, I’m in a strange bed and it’s 9pm. Why isn’t this conducive to a good night’s sleep?

I lay still. I turned over (which is stressful and a slow process, since I was worried about pulling a sensor loose.) I turned back.  I tried to figure out why the left leg cable was much shorter than the right (I was lying on it.) I adjusted the pillows and accidentally hit the main controller box.

Main Controller Box

Nobody called, so it must have been alright.

After a long time of no sleep (I thought – we’ll see what the sensors say), I heard the speaker crackle on. Jesus (Hay-sus, not Gee-sus) was coming in. Whew. Time to put on the CPAP.

I asked him what time it was. It was 12:30am. Just over three hours of no sleep. On the bright side, at this point, it’s just after my “real” bedtime.

Off go the sensors, on goes the mask. Ahhh. I really hate things sticking in my nose.

Now, I could sleep. Maybe.

Jesus said, “Could you try sleeping on your back? If you can’t go to sleep after a while, just roll over, but we’d like to try to have you sleep on your back.”

I had been warned about this while getting wired up. Apparently, sleeping on your back is more likely to cause distress in sleep apnia patients. This is why I don’t sleep on my back. However, since this is a study, distress is good. (I was told this morning when I got home that I do in fact sleep on my back. A lot. Who knew?)

So, on my back, off to Dreamland.


After about  a half-hour (which will turn out to be five minutes), I turned on my side and went to sleep.

After about four hours, I woke up – I was having a dream that my family was leaving the house and I was supposed to drive, but my truck was in the shop. (It was the truck I had just after I graduated from college – so I haven’t seen it in over twenty-five years. Whatever.)

I rolled over and heard something snap. Oops. I think I popped a leg sensor off.

Jesus came in to re-attach the sensor. Since he was there, I asked to get unhooked to visit the facilities. He disconnected the main controller box, looped it around my neck, and wandered out.

Peeing around wires attached to your legs when sleep deprived with a heavy controller on your chest is not as easy as it sounds.

I asked what time it was. He said, “It’s about one-thirty.”

Four hours? Not so much.

Flushed with success, and re-wired, I went back to sleep.

The next thing I remember is Jesus on the speaker, telling me the study was concluded. He came in to unwire me and I asked what time it was. He said it was 6:15am.


I changed, did the post-study survey, and headed out. I stopped at Whataburger, since I was pretty sure that someone with goop in his hair, looking disheveled and half-asleep would not cause concern. (I was correct.)

I would go back to bed, but I have meetings this morning. This could be a challenge.

Next week, I find out if I passed.

Principal for a Day

Dallas ISD and the Dallas Chamber of Commerce with a number of business partners sponsor an annual Principal for a Day – where business people shadow a local principal for a day and see what life is like within Dallas schools. I thought it would be an interesting experience, so I volunteered. 156 or so others from the business world agreed with me, and volunteered as well.

There are actually a number of schools in DISD that I could claim a connection with – although I went to private school all my life. However, I know teachers all over the district through mentoring and IBM Summer Camps.

That said, I requested Dan D Rogers Elementary School since it was five minutes from my house, and I played football on their team when I was in third grade (I waited too long to sign up and the St Thomas Aquinas team was full. Never play against your classmates if you are on the offensive line. They tend to just knock you down and ignore the actual play).

I had a full day of activities. I met with Lisa Lovato, my Principal, before the actual day to discuss how I could assist her and what I could do during my visit.  She seemed surprised that someone had been assigned to her school, but when I explained five minutes versus the hour-long challenge that is my daily commute to Coppell, she understood. She had a long list of possible assignments for me to do – much more than a day’s worth. I was surprised to find some of my fellow Principals for a Day spent as little as a couple of hours at their school. While I understand time is tight, there didn’t seem to be much you could accomplish in two hours.

On my day as Principal, I shadowed Ms Lovato for part of the day and also managed to do lectures for a couple of classes – and do lunchroom duty! There is a lot to do in an elementary school.

The most stressful part of the day was doing the morning announcements – I was warned ahead of time, but the script was a bit longer than I expected, and I had to remember which were my lines and which belonged to the students assisting me!  Also, nobody told me the bell was going to ring in the middle of my speech. You cannot speak over the bell. Afterwards, one of the students was celebrating a birthday, and part of the announcement had been to remind him to come to the office and get his birthday pencil, so I got to sing “Happy Birthday” to him while presenting the pencil. At this point, I wondered if this was actually a Principal’s regular duty or just a wee bit of hazing.  Considering my singing, I think the student was more traumatized than I was.

One of the teachers actually called during my announcements to find out what a Dallas Principal for a Day was going to do – she had transferred from a district where students were principals for a day, so she didn’t know what to expect. It is always good to strike fear in the hearts of those working for you.

Ms Lovato and I did spot checks in a couple of classrooms – observing how the teacher was delivering the day’s lesson plans and taking notes for later discussion. We also visited the special needs pre-school classroom and visited with the kids, who were doing counting and color matching exercises. It was impressive to me how many of the students she knew by name – across all the grades.

Since I am the President of Sparky’s Pals and I do humane education as a volunteer, I did our “Be a Tree”  presentation on bite prevention to two of  the second grade classes and later to all four of the kindergarten classes. The presentations went well, and I had a lot of good questions from both classes. The only part that threw me off a bit was at the end of the kindergarten presentation I was asked “How does a dog smell?” I wasn’t sure how that was part of the presentation, but I said, “With his nose, like you do. If you don’t wash him, he smells bad.” {Ha, ha.) Next question – “How does a dog see?” Hmm. “With his eyes, just like you do.” At that point, one of the teachers mentioned they had been discussing the five senses just before they came to the lunchroom to hear me. Suddenly, the questions became clear.

I did lunch duty for the fourth and fifth grade, which is mainly reminding the students that there is a limited time to eat – but there will always be time to chat later in the day. It was also a good chance to talk to some of the students and get to know them, even though they were supposed to be eating. I was asked why I was so scared doing the morning announcements, and we had a good discussion on my lack of Spanish-speaking ability. If a student says, “I don’t speak English at all. I really don’t. Just Spanish.”, he may be fibbing.

It seemed like both a short time and a long day. I left before the parents started arriving to pick up their kids, since I could have been blocked in the parking lot. The staff was worried about my being able to leave on time, since there was a reception in Uptown for all the Principals for a Day and their “real” Principals. I reminded them I was still Principal for a Day and could just declare early dismissal. They all laughed politely.

Ms Lovato said a number of students asked if it was true I was the new principal. I guess “for a Day” was not emphasized enough.

Because of my time in the school, I’ve been asked to present at their upcoming Career Day, to be a reader at Dallas Reads (11/12/13 and 2/28/14) and I was also asked to help judge the Science Fair. So, I’ve gone from driving past Dan D Rogers on my way to work each day to being much more involved with the school. This was an added benefit.

I did see two of my IBM colleagues at the reception, so I was not the only IBMer. Hopefully, next year, we can find more volunteers.

I will be able to tell my colleagues that want to “help” in the local schools – the best way to volunteer is apparently to just show up – the principal and teachers will find something for you to do!

I will have to update my resume to include DISD Principal (for a Day) (Retired.) Well, I’m retired until next year, at least.

The Company Store

“You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store”
— “Sixteen Tons“, Merle Travis

Tennessee Ernie Ford sang those lines a long time ago, probably the famous version of a song that had been around for a while, and is still heard today. It’s a coal miner’s lament – miners were tied to a mine, living in (and paying rent for) company-owned housing, and forced to buy necessities from the company store, because miners were basically immobile – they never left the mines.

The company store is a target of hatred in story and song – a place where the mining company basically took back most of the wages it paid by selling required goods to the workers at inflated prices. Often, miners weren’t even paid cash – they were paid in scrip, fake money that could only be used at the company store.

It was an unfair practice, one that took automobiles (cheap, personal transportation) and the formation of unions to end.

Imagine a company store today. One selling low-quality products at inflated prices – and selling products that many people don’t even want. However, with this company store, you’re required to buy the products – in fact, if you don’t buy the products, you can pay a fine.

That’s Obamacare. Welcome to the coal mines.