Friday, September 16, 2016

Sleep apnea (again)

Following my visit to the sleep clinic in Jerusalem, I was, of course, very interested to see how the reduction in pressure would affect the apnea. I took the memory card out of the machine, inserted it into the card reader which I bought shortly after purchasing the CPAP machine ... and nothing. The card was unreadable. I inserted the plug and sd card into one of my mobile computers with the same result.

A few days later, I rebooted my home computer but still was unable to read the card. At this point I began contacting the sleep clinic, pointing out that the card was readable before I visited them (I had prudently backed up all the data on the card before going there) and now it is unreadable. Could it be that the technician changed a setting on the machine which causes data to be stored on the card but not in a format which a computer could read?

This was the situation for a few days until last night, when I had cause to add songs to the micro SD card in my mp3 headphones. This card has to be inserted into a holder card, which is the same size as the CPAP SD card, then inserted into the card reader, then inserted into the computer. The card was unreadable, both on my desk computer and mobile. Determined to find a solution, I then extracted the micro SD card from the holder and inserted it into a little micro SD/USB converter: I was now able to read the data on the card and add songs.

Conclusion: the card reader is broken.

To prove the point, I then took the SD card from the CPAP machine and inserted it into a hitherto unknown socket on my mobile computer from work - yes, it has a direct SD socket. Of course, I could now read the data from the CPAP machine! I shall have to order a new converter.

Oh, and yes, the data from the CPAP machine shows great improvement. There were even a few nights - funnily enough, Friday and Saturday, which have traditionally shown high numbers - in which the number of apneic events was less than ten! This, of course, should happen every night. I will wait another week then reduce the pressure to 4.5, as the technician suggested. It will be very interesting to see the result of this change.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Intermediate submission accepted, part two: the feedback

I received the feedback on my second version of the intermediate submission for the DBA. It isn't an easy read. Something which I have difficulty in accepting is that the research committee is trying to help me, whilst at the same time, maintaining their standards. If the reviewers say that something is written badly, then they are trying to help me by showing what needs to be improved.

As I have written several times before, there are two reviewers assigned to assess my work; they receive the submission at least two weeks before a committee meeting, do their reading then present their findings to the committee. Once two reviewers are assigned, they stay assigned, so the same two who reviewed my first submission also read this one, and will presumably review my final thesis.

It seems as if one reviewer is on my side whereas one reviewer seems to be against me (good cop, bad cop). Or, one reviewer gets what I'm trying to write whereas one doesn't. Otherwise, how can one reconcile the following statements made by the reviewers under the section "Literature coverage, critique and synthesis":
Reviewer #1: The literature seems to be extensive and current. The candidate demonstrates ability to critique and synthesis the literature.

Reviewer #2: In my first review I said here “Apart from the issues noted above, more work should be done to synthesise the literature. For example, instead of producing three different sets of bullet points for three different sources as to why ERP is adopted, this could be reduced to one set of reasons with reference to the authors as appropriate”. The candidate responded “The suggestions made by the reviewers have been incorporated into the text.” No, they have not, the flaws I cited above under “structure argument and development" above are still there, along with pervasive bullet points, as the sections cited above in the introductory chapter illustrate.

Or under "General comments":
Reviewer #1: Needs a bit more on the research methodology – I think the candidate needs to demonstrate he understands what the different methodologies are, and how to apply the appropriate methodology to this research problem. This will need to be in place for the final submission.

Reviewer #2: The candidate seems unaware of how much difficulty was caused for the reviewers in trying to understand what he was doing. It does not help this time by his generally saying he has dealt with the criticism but not saying how and where. In fact, many of the flaws from the first submission remain.

How much constructive criticism is reviewer #2 actually giving me? A great deal of space is given to my remarks on the feedback, which were written somewhat off the cuff (an idiom which no doubt the reviewers would remark upon); it would have been better to give more detailed criticism instead of devoting time to counting sentences to see how much introductory material. 

I am not going to get into a battle - presumably virtual - with this reviewer as s/he is trying to help me. Unfortunately, this reviewer has a funny way of doing so. I am reminded of a question on the Academic Stack Exchange in which someone complained about the sharp language used by a reviewer; one has to remind oneself of Tom Hanks' mantra in "You've got mail" - "it's not personal, it's business".

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Intermediate submission accepted!

Yesterday evening, I received the following email:

Dear No'am, 
I am pleased to tell you that you have passed the Intermediate assessment and can proceed [with your research]. There are still issues to be addressed, especially concerning Methodology.

Obviously I am pleased with this news: it means that at last I can enter the penultimate stretch of the doctorate - actually performing the research - but for some reason, I can't get excited about it. It's not the 'issues to be addressed' comment which worries me; it's probably my current health situation (sleep apnea and bursitis) which is causing me to be somewhat diffident and apathetic.

Unfortunately, my supervisor is going on holiday today for two weeks; he has asked the administrative manager to send me the research committee's feedback but this may take a few days. I will assess my position after reading this material so I can't really comment on what my next steps will be. In any case, the holiday period will soon be upon us: the Jewish New Year will be on 2 October, after which follows a three week period of holidays interspersed with work, so it won't be worthwhile contacting anyone during October. 

I remember that I completed most of the literature survey during the same period two years ago, back when I was full of motivation. I have to try and recover that motivation, which got lost during the long period of making only minuscule progress.

See here for some thoughts about the submission.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Central sleep apnea

I have written here several times about the fact that I suffer from sleep apnea and use a CPAP machine to alleviate this. But I have ignored the fact that there are two different types of sleep apnea: obstructive (OSA) and central (CSA). The former is more common; in this form, soft tissues in the back of the throat and elsewhere collapse during the night and block the airway, thus causing an apnea; the pressurised air coming from the machine prevents this collapse. In the latter case, the brain does not send sufficient signals to the body to breathe.

I assumed that I suffer from OSA despite the fact that the data from the CPAP machine clearly shows the opposite. Maybe I convinced myself that I had misread the data stored on the memory chip. Since April, I have suffered about 20 apnea/hour; this suddenly jumped to 35 apnea/hour a few weeks ago! Coincidentally (or not), this jump occurred on the same day that I started taking a certain medicine for pains in my left knee/leg. I needed to take this medicine only for a week, after which the rate dropped down to about 20 apnea/hour. Increasing the pressure in the machine to 8 cmH2O did not have any effect.

In a visit to my family doctor, following up the 'knee' medicine, I said that the pains had almost completely cleared up; I also mentioned the huge increase in apneic events. She immediately ordered a pulmonary exam, assuming that I am suffering from OSA. We agreed that the machine should be checked.

Today, I had an appointment in the sleep clinic in Jerusalem (which is much less grand than the name might suggest). The technician (not doctor) checked the machine then extracted the data into a much fancier program than mine. He told me that I have CSA and that it would be better to decrease the pressure in the machine (now reduced to 5.5 cmH2O). I am to see what the readings are like in the next fortnight, then try two weeks at 4.5 cmH2O then two weeks at 6.5 cmH2O in order to find the best setting.

Obviously I will return to my doctor with the intention of both updating her and cancelling the pulmonary exam. There aren't many options for dealing with CSA (apart from CPAP) so I don't want to speculate here. What is slightly annoying is that no sleep doctor is at yet involved. It might be that an appointment will be necessary in another month or two.

Edit: I notice that when I bought this CPAP machine three years ago, I was told that I have CSA, but somehow managed to forget this.

[SO: 4262; 5,21,42
MPP: 742; 1,3,6]

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Revising lyrics, again

At the end of April, I wrote about the ease of rewriting lyrics for old songs, as compared to the difficulty of creating lyrics for new songs. I mentioned in passing "one [song] which is only a sketch at the moment - waiting for lyrics; I even have the title". I developed a very nice arrangement for this song - let's call the style "floral" as it features recorders, flute and clarinet - but couldn't progress because there were no lyrics. Every now and then, I would try to write something but couldn't make any headway. The opening verse took a great deal of effort; this set the tone for the rest of the song.

This is how it all begins
First a smile, then a greeting
Sometimes that smile's returned
Which can lead to a meeting
At which time all becomes clear
How the future will be
How the game will be played

After several months of cogitation, I realised that I could apply my usual song structure to these lyrics: first verse, meeting; second verse, getting in deeper; third verse, problems; fourth verse, splitting. Whilst this created a necessary overview, it didn't help writing the actual lyrics, although the opening line in the fourth verse would clearly be something along the lines of 'This is how it all began'.

In musical terms, this song has two significant differences from my other songs. It begins with a long anacrusis  - all the syllables of the first line except "gins", which falls on the strong beat of the first bar. A simple example of this would be the song 'Epitaph' by King Crimson, "The walls upon the prophet wrote" - the first strong beat is on "walls", thus "the" is an anacrusis. An even better example would be The Beatles' "No reply", "This happened once before"; "-fore" is the first beat, and "This happened once be-" is the long anacrusis. "No reply" also is an example of the second difference: the accompaniment only begins on that first beat, meaning that "This happened once be-", or in my case, "This is how it all be-" is sung acapella. These two devices make the opening very strong.

After great effort, I was able to write the 'missing' three verses a few weeks ago. Looking at them the next day, it became clear that certain changes were necessary in order to improve the lyrics. This revising was so much easier than the initial writing. When revising, I try to enrich the language (which generally means finding more expressive verbs or adjectives) whilst taking care not to repeat verbs. This is what I was taught in English classes many years ago, but never found much use; my first drafts were generally very good. Having written that, I discover that I need to replace a verb in this blog as I used it sentence after sentence.

When the time came to record, I initially used the same configuration which I had used for previous songs, which means my 'new' microphone on its tabletop stand, connected to the mobile computer, on the kitchen table. The results were reasonable but I wasn't very happy with them; the majority of problems stem from the fact that I am sitting while I am singing. A quick search on the Internet revealed a company in Tel Aviv selling microphone stands at a ridiculously low price, even after delivery. This is something which I have long wanted, so without delay, I ordered the stand, which arrived a day or two later. Singing with the microphone on the stand was much more comfortable, although it still took several takes to achieve what I wanted. That long anacrusis was hard to sing! The acapella problem was easily solved: I created a music track with an introduction which would help me sing that opening line. This track was not used in the final mix, so the recording begins solely with my voice (it's quite startling). The first verse is not double tracked, which makes the voice even more startling.

Enthused with the success of this track (obviously entitled "This is how it all begins"), I looked for old songs of mine which could be renewed. I settled on a song written in August 1972 when I was a young and callow lad; I have always liked this tune but for some reason could not sequence it to my satisfaction. This time I didn't have any major problems whilst sequencing - at least, not in laying down the chord changes and figuring out how long each chord lasts - so it didn't take long to create the backbone of the track. I spent most of my weekend working on the arrangement and getting it as good as I can, a task which seems to never end. Whilst listening to it once again this morning, I considered switching the part that the piano plays in the first verse with the part in the third verse in order to improve the track even more; I'll try that this evening.

Once the arrangement was 90% finished, I looked at the words. These clearly required a great deal of rewriting, as most of the existing lines were, to be kind, weak; there was also a metaphor which would not be acceptable in these politically correct times (there was a line whose meaning has changed somewhat in the last 40 years). So I sat down with a computer on my lap and rewrote the lyrics: this took all of ten minutes. Obviously, the resulting lyrics are not a work of literature, but then they're not meant to be. I also managed to change the point of view of the lyrics, which is a definite improvement; in those days, it was always "I" and "my", but now I can write more abstractly.