#nojoke

Sleeping for the first time in my life.

The doctor cut me off mid-sentence with an uncharacteristic, soft chuckle that made her face mask billow, “Oh, I assure you, Mr. Storey,” she said, her tone turned more serious, “you have never had a good night’s sleep.” I tried to process this information by thinking back to when people asked, “How did you sleep?” All this time, I thought I knew. Now, I wasn’t sure how to respond to that question. I thought I knew what sleep was. I had a reputation of sleeping on command. If that wasn’t sleep, then what is?

I returned to the conversation as she continued, “Based on the data and looking at your anatomy, you have been dealing with this problem your whole life. It is just that when you were younger, your body worked to compensate for lack of restorative rest.” Furthermore, the doctor shared that my problems with sleep have very likely contributed to weight gain (which I’ve always struggled with) and memory loss (I don’t remember if I’ve had issues with memories), and a loss of brain cells (Probably linked to the memory thing but I think I’m okay as I have a few billion or so left).

I was on my second visit to the somnologist, the formal name for a sleep doctor. During the first consultation, I had to answer a simple survey with questions like, “Do you often feel tired?” or “When you sit at a desk, do you start to drift asleep?” Options for answers were on a scale from “never” to “often.” After I finished, the receptionist tabulated the answers heuristically (as in not to be mistaken for medical advice) to indicate a level of sleep disorder. My survey results came close to 100%, which didn’t feel great, but I was finally glad to be in the care of people who could help.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been some form of tired. In high school, I’d often drift asleep for a minute or two during an afternoon class, especially on a warm day. I didn’t have to sleep for very long, just a bit to close my eyes, and I’d wake up feeling great for the rest of the day. I chalked it up to always being busy with school, work, and extracurricular activities like student government, student newspaper, and yearbook committee. As I got into college, my need for a two-minute power nap started to creep into morning classes, but not all of them, just the boring ones. I was still busy going to work and attending class full-time, but I added the additional data point of my level of interest in the subject divided by how engaging the professor was.

Back in the doctor’s office, she continued to share her thoughts on my condition. Newly educated on this problem, I thought back to other times when I had trouble staying awake. Like when I was in a dark room during a lecture or a movie—out for a few minutes. Every time I got on a plane—right before we pulled away from the gate through take off—boom, lights out until the chime that indicated we had climbed to ten thousand feet.

Years later, much to the chagrin of a good friend, I nodded off during a Wilco concert he took me to. I recall seeing the first five minutes of the opening act of Hamilton. Hell, I even fell asleep right before I got married. Thirty minutes out from go time, I decided to grab a quick nap. My mother woke me up to tell me it was time to get married.

All this time, I thought sleeping-at-will was a superpower. People around me frequently joked about how they envied my “ability” to fall asleep anytime, anywhere. Nodding off here and there seemed perfectly normal until it got worse. Much worse.

As I got older, I found myself conversing with people who shared their problems with sleep apnea. They told me about the CPAP machine, and inevitably, I’d make some form of a dad joke. Laughs ensued, and we’d move on to other topics. It’s about this time when I started to think that I might have a problem. Not only with sleeping but admitting that I might have an issue I can’t control on my own. And I didn’t like the idea of being hooked up to a machine, especially at night.

Most sleep tests are conducted in special centers that require an overnight stay. From what I gathered from others, you typically go in around 7pm, get hooked up to all kinds of wires and probes, and then tuck-in to fall asleep. I remember when a friend told me about this visit. He was only asleep for 30 minutes when the technician came in, woke him up, and told him he could go home because his apnea was so severe they didn’t need more data.

Thankfully I did not have to sleep in a lab. Instead, I was cleared to do a home-based version because COVID had disrupted so many tests that the labs were fully booked four months out.

I still had to go to a sleep center to get training on the “home test,” which resembled a giant, G-SHOCK watch. It took two minutes for the technician to explain how to turn the device on and attach it to my wrist properly. It took eighteen minutes to review the insurance disclaimers, legalization, and details on returning the device. I had to agree to conditions about the test and return the device promptly, or I would have to pay $5000 to the insurance company. I made it a point to return the device promptly the next morning as soon as they opened.

The “home test” aka Fancy Sleep Watch, doesn’t provide any data to the user. That information is pulled from the device by a technician who forwards it to the doctor. That’s all to say, I knew I had a problem but taking the test at home didn’t mean I knew any more than I did the day before. Weeks later, I found myself back in an examination room at the sleep doctor’s office for the results.

The Apnea Hypopnea Index is “the number of apneas or hypopneas recorded during the study per hour of sleep. The number is generally expressed as the “number of events per hour.” The number of times a person has apnea (loss of breath) or hypopnea (partial loss of breath) is divided by the hours of sleep. A normal level is considered fewer than five events on average, whereas a severe result is 30 or more events.

The doctor explained all of this to me and then revealed the results of my test. When she said that my AHI score was 70, tears began to roll down my face. I knew I had an issue, but I never expected a result so bad. How in the hell was I still alive? My mind raced to how my life could have been different if I had received treatment as a kid. I thought back to the nights of waking up several times attributing it to getting older or the food I ate or the beverages consumed. I had a hunch my quality of life was decreasing but not this bad. No way. If I had placed a Vegas-style bet, I would have lost my home. Thankfully those thoughts passed as we began to discuss treatment.

Ten days later, I had an appointment to pick up a device that provides “continuous positive airway pressure” or more commonly called CPAP. According to the Cleveland Clinic website, the machine “keeps your airways open while you sleep so you can receive the oxygen you need for optimal function. CPAP machines can significantly improve sleep quality and reduce your risk for a number of health issues, including heart disease and stroke,” which is great because I’m a big fan of never having to suffer either.

I expected to sit through a 10-minute presentation on how to plug the CPAP in, which buttons to press, how to make adjustments—routine instructions. Instead, I got the full one-hour workshop that included everything but the history of CPAP development. I walked into an incredibly bland, beige room, the walls sparsely covered with a few posters from device manufacturers. Half of them featured super healthy people smiling from ear to ear because they were now capable of deep, restorative sleep. The other half of the posters depicted the same type of people with a face mask strapped to their head connected by a hose to the CPAP machine placed on a nightstand with a dimly lit lamp shining down on a book with a pair of glasses resting on top.

I thought this was a big miss on the part of the CPAP company’s marketing departments. You walk into this place knowing that your life is about to change forever—hopefully for the better—but from here on out, each night, you’ll have to strap scuba gear to your face before counting sheep. You go in a Skywalker and come out a Sith Lord. This whole situation screams for the need for positive mask positioning. The walls of this place should be adorned with images of the most badass characters to don a mask: Darth Vader, Bain, Captain Dallas, Maverick, Immortan Joe. Where are the motivational posters with words phrases like BREATHE FREELY, DREAM AGAIN, or STAY IN BED BECAUSE YOU WON’T HAVE TO PEE SIX TIMES A NIGHT!

Why not make wearing masks cool, again, right?

Larry—I honestly don’t recall his name, but the middle age, balding, white (I’m not drinking fucking merlot!) male managing a medical devices sales company…yeah, he’s a Larry—ran me through all of the ins and outs of the ResMed Air Sense 11. His presentation finished with a bit of punditry on how much better the model 11 is from the 10. When Larry finished his monologue I replied, “So you’re telling me this is the Cadillac of CPAP machines?” He snorted, “Oh yeah! That’s certainly a creative way of putting it.” Up until that exchange I always presumed the most boring job in the world was selling life insurance. Not anymore.

I was told several times during the presentation that the CPAP collects data that goes to both my sleep doctor and the health insurance company. Larry told me that to avoid paying thousands of dollars for the device, I have to use it 20 days every month for ten months. I didn’t understand why he kept repeating this warning. If I had my way, I would have been on my third month because that’s how long it took to get through all of the steps. Was I unknowingly casting negative non-verbal communication? So, I interrupted and asked why.

Larry replied that many people go through everything, including this one-hour session, then take the device home and never plug it in. And some of these folks never take the device out of the box!

This process required three visits to a doctor’s office, a visit to a sleep study center in the middle of nowhere to pick up a “sleep watch” and drive back and drop it off the next day, and then sit through this session with Larry at Larry’s CPAP Barn. I estimate at this point, I had roughly ten hours invested in getting to this point. Why in the hell would anyone go through all of this just to go home and do nothing? That’s stupidity on another level, on the stupidity spectrum that I can’t see, not even with a NASA telescope.

As he zipped the carry-all bag closed, I thanked Larry for all of his instructions, grabbed my CPAP Cadillac, and headed home hoping my life was about to get a big upgrade.

I was tempted to try it out immediately, but I waited until the evening to get everything set up. I filled the “AirSense 11 Water Chamber” with distilled water, strapped the mask to my head, hooked up the hose between the mask and the device, and hit the “On” button. The machine came to life with a sound similar to a baby Vader drawing a breath. Air shot into the mask, sealing it to my face as the pressure built up. Larry said to expect a big surprise and that it might take me weeks to get used to the whole sensation. Maybe that happens to others, but I found it comforting. I rolled over to a side, my wife lovingly tucked me in, and fell asleep almost instantly.

While I slept like a log, my wife could not. She had grown so used to my not-breathing properly (aka snoring) for decades that the silence was unnerving. The following day she shared that she checked on me at 2 AM, found me sleeping soundly for the first time ever, and cried.

As part of Larry’s instructions, he gave me some anecdotal advice about what to do when nature calls in the middle of the night. “My advice,” he advised, “is that you leave your mask strapped on but pull the hose, leave the device still running, go do your “thing,” and reinsert the hose when you’re back.” I didn’t think much about his advised process because Larry’s the expert. So when nature called, I got up, and pulled the hose from the mask, and left the machine running. As I did this, the peaceful ebb and flow sound of breathing pressurized air was replaced with the sound of a roaring jet engine-powered vacuum. When I got back, I found the hose, plugged it back in, and fell asleep quickly.

So, in addition to what my wife previously shared with me about her version of the evening, she said that when I pulled the hose, our cats, previously sleeping peacefully, went into immediate DEFCON 1 mode. Manicotti, the cat who is constantly on high alert, shot up three feet into the air, landed on my wife’s head, hissed at everything around her, and bolted, full-tilt, for dear life.

Thinking back on this, I’m going to assume that Larry doesn’t have cats at home.

On January 7, 2022, I slept for 9 hours and 31 minutes. My face mask seal was rated “good” at 20.4L per minute. Events per hour—in other words, the number of times my rest was interrupted averaged 3, down from 70 during my sleep test in December. All in all, I received a score of 98 out of 100. In other words, I slept relatively normally for the first time in my life.

Seven months in my life has improved radically. I rarely wake up in the middle of the night, not even for “calls of nature.” On average, I went from sleeping 9-ish hours a night down to six. During the months leading up to the solstice, I had to make an effort to sleep five. It’s not uncommon for me to be up around 4-5 AM, feeling energized and ready to go.

I’m no longer tired during the day. The quick power naps are gone. It takes effort and meditation to get to sleep at night, a very new experience. My doctor said it would take a while for my body to respond fully to the treatment and I’m just now starting to really feel it. A few months later, I made more improvements to my life with changes in diet and exercising daily (this morning, I got a notification that I have closed all of my Apple Fitness rings for 170 consecutive days). Not only do I feel awake and increasingly optimistic, but I’ve also lost fifty pounds. And thankfully, Spaghetti and Manicotti don’t fear the machine anymore.

I think back on my life in the last couple of decades. All the things I have built, created, and led–Achievements that my younger self would never have dreamed were possible. And I did those things despite this handicap. Now I think about what I am capable of now. I’m not 100% yet, but today I get glimpses of positivity and confidence levels that never existed before. Give me a few more months, and I’ll be ready to Hawaiian Punch everything that comes at me.

I share all of this with you to raise awareness and hope that it helps someone who, like me, never realized they had a severe problem. It wasn’t until my body could no longer compensate for the lack of sleep that it quickly became a bigger and bigger problem. Sleep apnea had a real, increasingly negative impact on my quality of life in the last couple of years. This whole process of getting diagnosed and the lifestyle changes may sound like a bit of a fuss (it’s actually been the opposite), but there’s no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks-hell I’d go back to my life before January 7th.

#everythingisfine

On a mission. Sadly, pas de champagne.

She looked up from her phone and glanced at me from the side, “I’m sending Ted out.”

Taking a sip of my afternoon’s Negroni, I repeated the statement as a question to confirm, “You’re sending Ted out?”

“Yes,” she said while looking at her device and tapping the screen. The late-afternoon sun rays bowed at her feet.

“Shall I get a bottle of champagne,” I inquired enthusiastically. After-all it’s not every day we launch Ted out into the world. And it’s 5:34pm, what better excuse to start imbibing on a Thursday evening (otherwise known to me as California Friday)?

“Shall we sing?” I didn’t wait for an answer and burst into song while she stared intensely at her phone…

“Over there. Over there! Send the word over there. Over there! Ted is coming…” She didn’t wait for me to finish and without changing the trajectory of her attention—not event the slightest of another side glance—she muttered, “You suck.”

And then Ted—our new robot vacuum machine—started its journey on a mission to the back bedroom. Surely mentally preparing in 1s and 0s to wage war with twenty eight thousand, nine hundred and sixty-two cat hairs nestled into the trenches of our carpet.

Godspeed Ted, bon voyage! Domo arigato Mr Roboto! Please mind the pair of Nike’s I left at the foot of the bed and sorry for any inconvenience.

#grok / A current list of BBSes accessible via Telnet.

I had a hunch bulletin board systems were still around. So is Usenet by the way, but newsgroups didn’t have the same feel as a closed system—too much noise. Telnet is great, but I miss the heyday of customized First Class systems like Virtual.Village. I should write about the first GT I went to in the middle of nowhere Alaska, home of the Neon BBS.

#designfiction / What is Design Fiction?

In short, it is “stories about possible worlds that are told through designed artifacts.” Think of it like designing a plausible but just out of reach future with a little reverse archeology thrown in.

A good example is the tricorder from Star Trek, but a better example is the Annual Report from the Future written by Julian Bleecker. Trying to raise money for a product startup, he struggled.

Translating a Vision into bullet points resulted in ‘slides’ that lacked the kind of acuity I thought the Vision deserved. Representing my imagination through clip art, and Excel graphs was like trying to enjoy a meal of broken glass. So, I wrote an Annual Report…from 2024.

I love this idea of creating a future to the degree it can be studied and analyzed. This is the exact kind of work we did in the IBM Design Incubator program based on the Loop: Observe, Reflect, Make. What I like about Julian’s work is that it’s outside of the digital world.

I’m happy to see other design programs are taking shape around this type of work. I know we moved the needle at IBM more than a few times with this type of work. It was liberating and illuminating for the divisions we worked with.

Design Fiction is a perfect way to get outside of bad traditions and legacy thinking.

#yellowglass / Lego brings back the Galaxy Explorer.

From the product description: “This anniversary collectible edition of the Classic 497 Lego Galaxy Explorer model retains all the joy of the 1979 set but on a bigger scale.”

I never had this kit, but I looked at it over and over again in the Sear catalog. Instead I spent many, many hours of my life playing with the 920 Alpha-1 Rocket Base that featured a moon scape “crater plate.”

It’s great to see Lego dig into their archives and revitalize these works of art.

#Empty / “I just didn’t feel up to it.”

Ethan Marcotte writes,

I just haven’t really felt much like, I dunno, being online. I’ve mostly stepped away from my public Twitter account because — well, it’s like the horse said. On top of that, I haven’t felt like writing, or doing much design work, or tinkering with this little website. It’s not that I couldn’t have used a little time with my worry stone, what with the state of [gestures around], but I just didn’t feel up to it. I’d finish work for the day, then it’d be dinner with she, playing with the kittens, maybe a video game or two. Just didn’t have fuel for anything else.

You are not alone my friend. I just finished a small research effort and I got some insights to how people are doing right now. In short: We’re all wiped. Some more than others for an array of reasons. Even those who are trying to make a comeback to what we used to refer as “normal life” are drained.

Also, in the same post Ethan talks about his newly redesigned website. I dig it, especially the new version of the logo! Nice work Beep!

#design / Thibaut Sailly on a better way to create color variations.

This is required reading for anyone who considers themselves a designer. I only provide this quote as a means to entice everyone to click through and read—no, see—the post which includes images that will sell Sailly’s approach.

Before presenting it, let’s cover quickly the first solution that will naturally come to mind for the developers you work with: automating the production of color variants from a given reference by applying a mathematical formula. A formula is objective, stable, and can be automated - reassuring.

The concentric format offers a better visual perception of the variants progression than with the stacked rectangles.

Doing this exercise gives the feeling of shaping the progression and allows the link between intention and result to exist. The mental image I used to help me is that of concentric discs of varying thickness stacked on top of each other, seen from above. The smallest one being the closest to a zenith light source (therefore the lightest), and the largest the farthest away (therefore the darkest).

By increasing the number of variants, it is possible to refine the profile of this fictitious volume, and to ensure a choice of references in the areas of the spectrum that will be relevant to the project.

Good design is a craft, not a formula.

#everythingisfine

The incredible lack of empathy and poor aim from a cold and callous COVID patient.

I held out my hand, making the universal sign for “hey, toss that thing to me, and I’ll catch it.” The gesture is not only a signal but a reference point, a target made by the intended recipient to the provider or the thrower-of-the-thing.

It was an easy six-foot shot (the “social distance” recommended by the CDC for people to avoid COVID contamination) that required minimal effort and expenditure of energy. In other words, a three-year-old could have made the shot with their eyes closed.

The bottle of Ibuprofen made flight for two one-hundredths of a second (approximately as I did not have time to open and start a stopwatch) and hit the ground with a thud followed by the faintest sound of shaken maracas—a solid two feet short of the mark.

I looked at my empty hand, still outstretched, still ready to receive. The bottle finally came to a rest. What just happened? Was she trying a bounce pass? I’m pretty sure bottles weren’t designed to bounce. Perhaps this move was inspired by a few cricket matches we’ve recently observed? How can someone be so incredibly intelligent and not understand physics at the same time?

“What in the hell,” I asked in bewilderment.

She looked at me as if nothing was wrong or out of the ordinary. As if everything is fine. Dog-coffee-flames-fine. Through her mask, the COVID patient casually stated, “What? I wanted to make sure we observed distancing.”

As I recall, the COVID prevention guidelines stipulate the need for distance, but I don’t remember reading anything about the necessity for ground-based exchanges between people. And even if that had been the case, I would have ignored it because fifteen minutes earlier, I bent over the wrong way and mildly threw out my back.

“I asked for the Ibuprofen because of my back, and you just threw the bottle at my feet–and not even at my feet. Are you trying to kill me?”

“Oh yeah,” her laughter built to the point of coughing, “I forgot.” Her eyes started to tear up from the laughter. “And, stop making me laugh,” she said, still laughing, “it hurts to cough.”

And so began our weekend with COVID.

#futureofwork / The Cafe That Helps Beat Writer’s Block—by Fining You $22.

This is interesting: A cafe/co-working space optimized for a specific type of work to be done combined with paid accountability.

The cafe’s co-owner, Takuya Kawai, directs his customers to set a goal for the day and, if requested, prods them to get on with it. If they fail to meet it by the time they leave, they have to pay a fine equivalent to $22. It’s an honor system, says Mr. Kawai, but it seems to work.

It seats 10, and costs around $2 an hour, or $4.50 an hour for a premium seat facing a brick wall.

Students working on book reports, comic-book illustrators, authors, and corporate warriors with a presentation due have been flocking to the cafe, which opened in April in an artsy Tokyo neighborhood.

Whereas this place is optimized for writing, imagine if it was optimized on levels of trust and industry. It’s interesting to gather folks of the same vocation together, but way more intriguing when they have an additional shared trait. Add a level of safety and trust, and the interactions are far more meaningful.

I have witnessed this firsthand in two different settings—first, creating and hosting a retreat for studio or consultancy owners. Second, hosting Design Leadership Forum events for executive design leaders, not based on where they lived but by industry. In both settings, once a level of trust was established, the quality of discourse increased dramatically.

As remote or hybrid working conditions are here to stay, there are going to be more opportunities to explore in offering goal oriented, trusted spaces. I’d love to see more experiments with this idea.