• Brief Updates

    1. Still auraing!
    2. Sorry, friends with fMRI scanners, this 19-day migraine aura might be coming to a close any day now! You will miss out on the chance to learn where in the visual cortex the cells are firing abnormally.
    3. Bonus fun: For the past several days, the morning auras have been very bold and colorful, but the afternoon ones have been much more muted and subdued.
    4. Also fun: I have started taking the medicine that is associated with the Scary Rash.
    5. The cats really want me to feel better and go back to work All Day Every Day because they are getting sick of having me around the house all day and asking them if cats get migraines. (Apparently there is a laboratory rabbit model of migraine.)
    6. Still need to call up the insurance company to find out how to get them to pay for the Scary Rash Medicine.
    7. Bought a table for the knitting machine so I can set it up next to the sewing machine.
    8. I promise you that I will knit something interesting with the knitting machine and not more neurology-related content, like a 4-color, 7 dpi representation of an MRI image of my brain.

  • The Knitting Machine

    About a month ago I bought a (used) Brother KH 940 Electroknit. It’s roughly the size of an electronic keyboard (the “pretend to be a piano” sort of keyboard, not the “send characters to a computer” sort of keyboard), and it’s very, very heavy. I’ve reached the point where I can knit almost anything I want as long as every stitch is a knit stitch and I don’t drop any stitches.

    By now I was hoping to have pictures of fantastic knitted objects, but it is taking me longer than expected to create fantastic knitted objects. Specifically, I am having a lot of trouble with the ribber. The ribber is dropping a lot of stitches, and I can not tell if the fault lies with me, the machine, or the yarn. The ribber is an essential part of my plans because you need the ribber to be operating flawlessly in order to knit double bed jacquard, which is a fancy way of saying “knit awesome patterns without the back looking like a rat’s nest.” You also need the ribber in order to knit half milano stitch, which is a technique for knitting where the edges don’t roll.

    My current half-hearted short-term project is to find a source of very cheap yarn that is well-suited for machine knitting. The yarn need not be made of a prestige fiber; it need not feel nice against your skin. It could be a really ugly color. But it needs to be something that will give me the best shot at figuring out how to get this machine to do my bidding. And very, very cheap. This machine goes through yarn at a rapid clip. It can knit up half a pound of sock yarn in just a few minutes.

    Meanwhile I am also fighting with Python because almost 10 years ago some people wrote code that will let your computer send designs to the knitting machine. The world (and Python) have moved on since then, and the code was not that well documented to begin with. So far I have fixed an out-of-date dependency (something about an image library being deprecated; something about the way that modules or packages or something is supposed to be loaded). I haven’t done much else, as this code seems to have been originally written by people who actually know Python, and my skill with the language stops somewhere before the code starts including underscores.

    For those keeping track at home, I am still auraing. The medication that had previously worked is not working.


  • Progressive Aspect

    The first time that I ever really thought about the progressive aspect was when I was learning about the imparfait in seventh grade French class.

    Verbification is a form of verbification.

    I bring these both up because lately I have been thinking about both verbification and the progressive aspect a lot. Specifically, I have been auraing for almost a week, and it is really annoying.

    If you read something like the Wikipedia article about migraine auras, you will find that migraine auras typically last for a few minutes. Maybe an hour or two at the outside. But that is not what happens to me. When I start having migraine auras, they can continue for days or weeks.

    It is too bad that I can not use my auras as a special power. Aside from forming the present participle of a word that few people need a present particple for.


  • Duplication

    It all started with the Pauls. Not long after I started work, we got a second Paul.

    Next it was the Amys. There are two Amys at work. The other Amy works in the front office. Sometimes when all the front office staff are at lunch a package delivery person will ring the doorbell, needing someone to sign for a package. When I answer the door in these situations, I just sign “Amy” on the device. I thrive on ambiguity.

    Things have just exploded since then. We have two Vanessas. Well, technically, we let one of the Vanessas go years ago (she’s the CEO’s wife, and she used to help out when the company was tiny). Two Richards. Two Marks. One of the Marks is Mark Richard.

    We do seem to be cutting down on people who have a first name as a last name. Mark Richard might be the only one left in this situation. David Patrick’s last day was last week; Stephen Lester left us almost two years ago to work for a famous tech company elsewhere in California. One of the interns has a last name as a first name.

    Soon we will have two Amandas. We have full-time Jason and intern-Jason. Full-time Jeffrey and intern-Jeffery (uncommon spelling for the intern). There are Phyllis and Philip. Joseph and Josette.

    And then there are the Chrises. Kris starts on Monday, bringing us up to Chris, Chris, Kris, Christie, and Christine.

    When I started, only 15 people worked on one office. We are now trying to hire 20 people across 12 locations. The other San Diego location has Ashley and Ashley. It’s hard for me to keep track of all the people who work far away.


  • My Life with the Geometric Series

    I was off the Aimovig for a while because reasons, and now I’ve started back on it. My neurologist pointed out that most people find that it takes about three months to start working.

    Did you know that when you pick up a new prescription in California that the pharmacist is required by law to ask if you have any questions? As an intellectually curious person, I always have questions! I am learning so much about pharmacokinetics!

    When you take medicine, you are usually adding to the amount in your system linearly. You take one dose per fixed amount of time. Your body clears the medine from your body under an exponential model, removing half of it in a set amount of time.

    THE CALCULATIONS ARE SO EASY WITH AIMOVIG BECAUSE YOU TAKE IT ONCE A MONTH AND THE HALFLIFE IS ONE MONTH.

    Let’s say that you take a dose d of Aimovig. A month later, this initial dose has decayed to \(\frac{d}{2}\), and you take another dose, bringing you to \(d + \frac{d}{2}\). So we have a geometric series, and at the beginning of month n, you’ll have \(\sum_{i=1}^{n} \left( \frac{1}{2} \right)^{n-1} d \) Aimovig in your system.

    It also means that at steady state that you will have 2d Aimovig in your system.

    At month 3, you’re already up to almost 90% of steady state.

    Clearly I know nothing about how drug companies structure their studies, but if I were working for Amgen/Novartis, I would have structured the clinical trials a bit differently from how they did it. In the trials, one group of patients took a dose of 70 mg/ml once a month, and another group of patients took a dose of 140 mg/ml once a month. Both dosages are on the market. The 70 mg/ml is the standard dose and the one that my insurance company is willing to chip in towards. (I have a $300 copay.)

    The thing about spendy drugs is that the insurance company tends to only want to pay for the drug if your situation matches exactly with that of the subjects in the trial. If the patients in the trial all had at least 15 headache days a month and you are only having 12 headache days a month, then your insurance company won’t pay for it. (And by “you” in this instance I mean “me.”) (Thanks, Allergan.)

    The other thing about spendy drugs is that I have to make a lot of phone calls in order to take this medication. It is kind of inconvenient. And my insurance company says that I can’t get it at Walgreens (my usual pharmacy); I have to get it at CVS. Also, in order to pay less than $300 a month, I need to join “the program” that the drug company has, and I need to keep on top of when that needs to be renewed. So, yeah, inconvenient and potentially expensive. Also you need to stab yourself with the medicine. Not the sort of drug that you’ll just keep taking if it is not working.

    If the study had instead had the subjects take the 140 mg/ml dose the first month and then 70 mg/ml thereafter, then they would have been at steady state from the beginning. Patients would have been at steady state from day one (and would have a better chance of seeing positive effects sooner). And everyone would need to buy TWO injectors the first month, which means more units sold.

    But I am just a mathematician data scientist and not a drug company expert. So there is probably a good reason why they did not go with the dosing schedule that could have made them more money.


  • Generation X Has Ideas for Game of Thrones

    1. New ending: Ned Stark wakes up and turns to his wife and says, “Honey, wake up, you won’t believe the dream I just had.”

    2. Maybe you don’t like that new ending? Snow is falling outside King’s Landing, and Bran goes to the window. In the next shot, we see Bran sitting in his room in Winterfell, holding a snow globe.

    3. Or what about this? Jon Snow flies away on a dragon and looks down seeing that Tyrion had spelled out GOODBYE with rocks.

    4. How about a spinoff? Bran wargs into The Oasis (avatar: F15her K1ng) and meets Parzival. They head off in search of Brandon Sanderson.

    5. In the remastered edition, King’s Landing shot first.


  • The Simpsons

    Subtitle: Who wore it best?

    Everyone I know from upstate NY is very, very, very excited that we have been mocked on The Simpsons.

    Even the Greater Schenectady Metropolitan Area got its own bit of ribbing.

    One of the few landmarks in Niskayuna, NY is the water tower visible over the Mohawk Club. Normally you see this water tower from Balltown Rd., but the view on Google Maps is obscured by trees, so I looked around back for a view of the water tower for you.

    The Simpsons

    Approximately every government official from Albany to Buffalo has weighed in on this episode. It is a little bit disappointing that Kirsten Gillibrand has nothing to say.

    The very best part of this, though, is that comment sections all over the internet are now filled with people arguing about what counts as upstate NY. Apparently there are some trolls who put forward the ridiculous idea that Westchester County is part of upstate NY.


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