Too Many Long Boxes!



by editor I forgot my name

Discussed this month: Life changes, a lack of sleep and a lack of funds...

In late 1997 I inherited Fanzing from the previous webmaster and founder, and I began tackling it with gusto. After putting the first issue together, I found that it was a lot of work (and this was back when the contents may have been all of 10-13 items!) that kept me up quite late.

Thus, I began my column "Thoughts at 3:00 a.m.", in which I spout off randomly on the various things floating through my noggin right before I collapse and struggle into work four hours later. Some columns have been great, some have been addled...but I congratulate myself that all of my editorials have been more coherent than anything Larry King has written for his USA Today column!

However, Fanzing has worn on me over and over again, month to month...and I've grown quite tired. The labor of putting together the actual issue isn't as much fun as working on other parts of the site like Shopping and the Desktop Themes...but I rarely have enough time to work on the fun sections.

The only saving grace that has saved me from total burnout is David R. Black, Fanzing's assistant editor. David has actually done most of the work in assembling the last four or five issues; I honestly don't think that we'd be anywhere near to the schedule if not for him. Kudos to David! L'chaim!

Chaim Mattis Keller's efforts in taking over the letters page has been a godsend. I appreciate his hard work as well.


Nonetheless, I'm 31 now and I'm going through some lifestyle changes. In the past four years I've gotten married, I've moved, I've lost hair and I've gained weight. And I'm getting older.

There's no escaping it: I can't keep up my younger night owl routine anymore. I've spoken about my caffeine addiction and I realize that I need to cut it out...but doing so may leave me with less productive time in the evenings. How can I work on Fanzing and other projects if I don't stay up late? So I've continued to stay up until 2:00 in the morning...getting up for work five and a half hours later. I'm often a wreck.

Now, a new factor: my wife is bothered by my sleeping habits. Concerned that I have sleep apnea, an ailment marked by loud snoring, constant gasping for air and constant wakening... all of which results in a poor night's sleep...she set up a sleep study for me at the Mayo Clinic.

Sleep clinic is interesting. Here's what happens: they wire me up with about 30 electrodes all over my head and a web of wires. The technician tells me that he can detect when I blink, which way my eyes are pointing and every other little aspect of my behavior...and that I will be videotaped...and then tells me, "Sleep normally." Sleep normally? With wires sprouting from my head? Well, I must have been capable because I still fall asleep in three minutes.

After four hours of monitoring, they strap a mask to my face and pump air at a light pressure into my nose. This opens up the airways which close if a person suffers from sleep apnea.

At 6:00 a.m. they wake me up, pull off all the wires by melting the glue with some alcohol and send me home reeking of alcohol on a Saturday morning. (Gee, thanks a lot!) I thought I'd need to nap, since I never get up at 6:00 a.m. anymore...but I didn't. I was full of energy and had a very productive Saturday.

Today, Monday, we review the data from my sleep study. With the mask, the amount of oxygen in my blood was almost 100%. Without the mask, my oxygen level dips as low as zero! It's only for a few seconds, then I gasp for air and flood my veins with oxygen, and then it lowers again. I'm roused from sleep almost twice a minute! (This doesn't mean I'm conscious, but I'm not in deep sleep.)

So...I have sleep apnea. BADLY. I need to go to sleep earlier, aiming for 8 hours of sleep, and I need to use an air pump device when I sleep to make sure my airways remain open and I'm getting adequate oxygen.

Tonight, as I write this, I'm preparing to strap the thing on for the first night's sleep. I tried it out for five minutes and it's actually comfortable after a few moments.

This may make a world of difference. Believe me, if I can always have as much energy as I had on Saturday morning, my life will be very different! I won't be tired, and I may not crave caffeine as much; that means my caffeine consumption (and calories from non-diet pop) may decrease. More to the point, I'll have the energy to work out and lose which I'm always lacking. It's actually a vicious cycle that I've been trapped in: without energy, I don't work out and gain weight, increasing my sleep apnea and thus causing me to wake up lacking energy and so on.

I realize no one likes reading medical complaints, but I've always admired Ronald Reagan and I'm taking a cue from his life: being public about my ailment may help others to be aware of it and possibly seek treatment that could change their lives. If you are told by your bedmate or family member that you snore loudly and stop breathing during sleep, followed by a gasp for oxygen...then talk to your doctor about possibly getting a sleep study or otherwise investigating whether you (or someone you care about) have sleep apnea.

My father, who has also had this condition, told his congregation that he had sleep apnea. After church, a woman mentioned that she had returned from the funeral of her brother who had sleep apnea and died from the loss of oxygen in the night.

And as long as I'm giving out's something else I wish I'd done a long time ago.

If you've never been to a financial advisor, go to one right now. If you're college age, they can put you on the course to retiring as a millionaire. If you're already in your 30s, like me, they can help you navigate out of debt, get on the track to owning a home and retiring in style.

I'm not recommending anyone in particular, but I went to American Express and our session cost us $350. Melinda's brother saw one 20 years ago that cost more like a $1000...but he now owns a humongous home and put his kids through college, so I guess he can't complain.

Whatever it costs, scrape the money together and go. Don't put it off. I wish I'd visited one ten years ago.

If I were president (or benevolent dictator), I'd scrap this stupid Social Security system where you pay enormous amounts all your life and then get a pittance to live on in the end (or worse, if you're the average black male, you die two years before it even starts paying out). I wouldn't even bother with the much better Chilean model. All I'd do is set up a system where every single American gets a one-time paid-for visit with a financial advisor.

Unfortunately, with our present system, most of us go through our twenties without good financial sense or the cash to pay for a financial advisor...and by the time we think of it, we've already missed the biggest chance to retire in comfort.


Go! Go! and God bless.


Next month, I'll tell you more about where my life has led me and what role Fanzing will play in my life when I'm going to sleep at 11:00 PM.




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This column is © 2001 Michael Hutchison.
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