cervical radiculopathy

Another year, another diagnosis (or two)

Last year (in March), it was cervical radiculopathy on my left side. This year, it is epididymitis and muscle strains.

About two and a half weeks ago, I was playing Ring Fit Adventure for some fun exercise at home stuff. However, I had some pain in my balls of all places, but it seemed to go away after 15 minutes or so. Okay, no big deal, I thought. I probably just jostled the boys around too much. It wasn’t so simple. The next day, the pain came and went a few times, and that’s when I started to worry. Was it a varicocele? I don’t know what that is, but I like to self-diagnose. Who doesn’t? Then, the abdominal and groin pain started to kick in. It felt like intense muscle soreness. So, then I was worried it was a hernia or a sports hernia. It wasn’t feeling better the next day, so I decided to go to the urgent care. That’s scary enough on its own because I don’t really have insurance coverage right now—it’s a tricky situation and I won’t bore with the details. But I did. And the doctor poked around my groin and my abdomen, then decided that, yeah, it was a hernia. So, that’s what I thought it was.

It wasn’t, but I didn’t know that later. The doctor told me that I could put off surgery and whatnot so long as it wasn’t getting worse. Well, that would be great, but it did start to feel much worse that night. I was shivering and in a lot of pain and oh so bloated, and it looked like there was a growing lump right next to my belly button. So, I started looking for an ER near me because it seemed like going to one was going to be a real possibility. Luckily, there’s one nearby that offers financial assistance, which I was sorely (pun definitely intended) going to need. I got there, got checked in, got poked three times before they finally got the IV in with the fourth, got a physical, got a CT scan, got an ultrasound done on my balls, and then I waited… for hours. Eventually, I figured that was a good thing. If I was in serious danger, they’d get to me right away, right? (Also, when I say eventually, I mean it. I was traumatized. Hospitals scare me. I hadn’t been in one in over a decade. I’ve never been stuck with an IV. I have bad experiences with needles. I was shaking and crying at various points.) Then, I started to chuckle to myself and wonder if this was some elaborate prank by the universe. Alas, the universe had some kind of sentience after all and was pranking me. The doctor would be back any minute to tell me that I just had some bad gas or something.

Well, yeah, my abdominal pain was random, they said. The doctor told me that, for every ten patients that come in with abdominal pain, nine leave with it. It can just kinda happen, I guess. Well, what about my balls? Just an infection—epididymitis. It can be caused by groin injuries (which may have happened during my intense Ring Fit Adventure workout—but really; I pushed myself) or it can be caused by urine going back down the urethra (yuck) or an STI. Given that my groin was still in a lot of pain, I figured it was due to a groin injury. So, I was prescribed antibiotics and painkillers. My aching balls got worse, but then they got much better, and I think I’m pretty good—though, the discomfort can last for weeks to months after the infection clears, which sucks.

But I wasn’t done. That wasn’t enough of a curveball. A week ago, while I was still recovering from the infection, I managed to injure myself. I was grumpy. I wanted some coffee. I went to boil some water. I stuck the thermometer in the boiling water. I wiped the thermometer on my shirt. Only to realize that the thermometer wasn’t clean—it had some taco sauce juice on it. I was beyond grumpy. But I decided to be productive about my grumpiness, and I gathered some other laundry so I could throw my shirt in (after spraying it with some anti-stain stuff). Now, picture in your mind’s eye a grumpy man with a testicular infection whose new favorite shirt just got dirty. Now, he’s pushing laundry down into the top-loading washing machine. Now, listen. His elbow just popped. Did you hear that?

I sure did. Then, slowly, I felt it. To be fair, the pop was most likely just a normal joint pop, but the following pain wasn’t normal. Straightening or bending my arm hurt. And it hurt more. And it hurt even more. So, I held my arm bent and still. Later, I tried to extend my arm again, slowly, to see if the pain had gone away. Oh, I got my arm about 90% straight before white-hot shooting pain manifested in my elbow. That was a bit worrying. The next day, it was back to urgent care; though, I went to a different urgent care that time. The good news was that my x-rays came back clean, so it wasn’t a problem with bones or the joint itself. I got a sling to keep it from moving in my sleep, and I was told to RICE. No problem. It wasn’t really feeling better. It was kind of feeling worse—my arm just felt more sore all around. Of course, I didn’t keep my arm in the sling all the time. I knew it would be good to give the joint some use as long as I didn’t enter the pain zone. At one point, I was massaging my triceps and— Ow! That pain in my elbow was there! It wasn’t nearly as bad, but it still sucked.

Well, today, I had a follow-up orthopedic appointment. The doctor diagnosed me with a severe sprain (but no tearing, I’m glad to say!) of my triceps and forearm muscles. I have to ween off of my sling, start using a compression brace for my elbow, then ween off of that, and I should hopefully be right as rain in two to three weeks.

Oh, and my comfy chair in the living room broke. Just so life could get another laugh, but, hey, that’s just victimization. Though, I did come up with a neat little metaphor for why I could handle the infection rather well, but, after my arm injury, I fell into another depressive episode. It’s like life throws a bowling ball at us. And we just manage to catch it. Then it throws another one. We’re already holding one bowling ball, so we can’t catch another, so it hits us. That hurts. It hurts so much that we drop the bowling ball we’re holding. Onto our toes. Which also hurts.

And then our comfy chair breaks.

Now, rationally, I think I got off easy. Two possible surgeries avoided. Nothing life-threatening. My world wasn’t ending. Though, my depression definitely told me that it was. I’m feeling much better now; though, now I have to figure out financial aid and insurance stuff, which isn’t fun, but I’ll manage.

Late to 2020: Reviewing 2019

I’m not terribly proud of myself for falling behind in December, but I also worked much less on my writing and my conlang. For the first time in a long while, I had a huge boost in motivation to work on GURPS stuff. So, that’s what I did, but I didn’t post about anything because progress in GURPS is always really slow. As I was a few months ago, I spent most of the month working on mixing Knowing Your Own Strength with Conditional Injury, and I made some really good headway. That’s to say I feel a little bit more confident about understanding the underlying math. After not playing GURPS at all in 2019, I’m really trying to make this the year that I get it going again. So, even if I don’t finish all of the stuff I’m working on, I have to let myself be content with running vanilla GURPS/DRFPG (or, at least, more vanilla than I want to).

March

Looking back at March, I was diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy. Though I still sleep with a loose cervical collar, I sometimes forget about that whole ordeal and how I was taking steroids for a few weeks there. I was just starting this site and trying to get it all set up, so I didn’t make much progress in my conlang.

April

I started working on my first custom font. Looking back at those old posts, I realize now that the old font is broken in most of the earlier cases. Oops! I was also obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack at the time, and I gave a presentation on conlanging to an introductory linguistics class. That was fun!

May

I worked on syntax and phrase structure rules for my conlang. I also made my first visit to Ohio with my girlfriend! While I know I’ve only been living here for about half a year, it still feels like that stuff happened such a long time ago.

June

I created the new alphabet for my conlang and had a lot of fun designing a glyph specifically for «h». While I didn’t write about it, I think that means I also saw Flor de Toloache that month too (because I was working on the «h» glyph up until the show started if I’m remembering correctly). If that’s the case, that means I also discovered that I can do a mean grito for a white person.

July

I published my paper on Laiholh psycho-collocations. That was this last year too? I’m proud that I got a fair amount done. I worked on the new new alphabet for my conlang, which I called the 7HR alphabet.

August

I settled into my new home in Ohio. For my conlang, I started working on the first words. I also changed the word class vowels to be head-initial—great idea, past me!

September

That was apparently another month in which I focused almost entirely on GURPS! Looking back, it’s weird to think that decapitation was a topic for one of my blog posts. If prospective employers ever see that, they might be a bit worried.

October

I finalized (mostly) the monosyllabic words and the numerals in my conlang, and I also made a new font for my new alphabet, complete with (some) punctuation! That particular font might just be my conlang highlight of the year.

November

I beat NaNoWriMo! Enough said!

My 2020 Vision

Hey, look! I used the same joke as everyone else! This year, I hope to nail down my powerlifting squat form so my knee stops bothering me so much. While I never talk about working out here, that’s really a huge priority for me.

For my conlang, I want to start working on more words. I’m considering allow «s» at the end of syllables too because there’s a new worldlang called Globasa that I really like that makes the case for allowing /s/ at the end of syllables. Of course, that would mean a few big things like having more options for monosyllabic words and having to redo my font to include those options for all syllables. Though, I am considering removing «n» or «m» as a syllable-final option and throwing in «s» as the replacement.

For my writing, I really want to finish the first draft of my story that I started working on with NaNoWriMo. I’m really excited to continue exploring the concepts in that story. Plus, it’s that story that really rekindled my drive to work on GURPS.

Speaking of GURPS, like I said, I plan to try to play some this year. At the very least, I’d like to prepare and run a one-shot just to get back into it. At the very-very least, I’d like to run a rules lite game like FATE or Powered by the Apocalypse or something.

That’s all for now! I’ll try to post more regularly this month.

Thoughts on decapitation in GURPS

To make execution and decapitation fit the rules better, there are a couple of worthy suggestions:

Kromm says:

If “triple damage” is possible on a lucky shot, then in a set-up situation where luck doesn’t come into it, it ought to be possible as well. So a strong man (but not a musclebound thug) with ST 11 starts at swing 1d+1, adds +1 for a sword, adds +1 for a fine blade, and adds +2 more for All-Out Attack (Strong). His damage roll is 1d+5, or 6-11. To the neck, that’s 12-22. Triple it for ideal circumstances with all the time in the world, nobody fighting back, and endless practice — let’s say that a Professional Skill (Executioner) roll allows this — for 36-66. Average is 51. That’s -4xHP for most people, -3xHP for some really big ones. Three or four HT rolls are needed to survive. If the guy doesn’t die (low damage, high HT), the rare second blow will mean an average of 102, which is automatically lethal even at 17 HP.

Those who want to postulate monstrous guys with 20 HP and HT 18 will be introduced to my bigger executioner with ST 13 and a very fine blade, who will do 2d+4 and average 66 points a chop.

PK says:

My suggestion: Steal from the Forced Entry skill as well.

Professional Skill (Execution): IQ/A

This is the knowledge of how to kill another person quickly and cleanly in a controlled situation. It is of no use if you do not have complete control of your target and access to appropriate equipment (i.e., an executioner’s sword as opposed to a normal combat-oriented sword, a chopping block, etc.) Add +1 per die to the damage done to the subject if you know this skill at IQ+1, or +2 per die if you know it at IQ+2 or better. Decapitation takes at least five minutes to set up (use standard rules for reducing or taking more time) and requires a roll against this skill as well as an attack roll against the subject’s neck (almost always an All-Out Attack after Evaluating, net modifier +2). If both rolls are successful, the damage is tripled (for a net x6)!

That’s fairly generous, but frankly, for executions that don’t involve supernatural targets, I’d usually just call it death by fiat anyways. Brings the range of damage from 36-66 up to 48-78 for a skilled executioner, the average of which is enough to easily auto-kill a HT 10 man. A poor damage roll or higher HT target allows for survival rolls, which might necessitate another chop.

Another suggestion is to add decapitation to the to the dismemberment rules. A limb requires HP injury, so it follows that the neck might require HP×4 injury (or HP×2 penetrating damage), which would require 20 damage for the average human. Then, I thought about the spine hit location in GURPS Martial Arts. Of course, this has been asked before, and Kromm said:

Cervical Vertebrae (-11): Crushing, cutting, impaling, piercing, and tight-beam burning attacks from behind can target the spine in the neck. The vertebrae provide an additional DR 3. Use the wounding modifiers for the neck, but any hit for enough injury to inflict a shock penalty requires a knockdown roll, at -5 if a major wound. Injury in excess of HP cripples the spine. This causes automatic knockdown and stunning, plus all the effects of Quadriplegic (p. B150). Roll after the fight to avoid gaining this disadvantage on a lasting or permanent basis! A miss by 1 hits the neck.

So, this is getting crazy! I’ll say that decapitation can only come from targeting the cervical vertebrae (which only makes me think of my fun time with cervical radiculopathy). That -11 penalty will be hard to soak along with that DR 3. I’d be willing to say then, at that point, HP×2 injury is enough to decapitate, which is going to require 13 damage.

A true longsword (i.e., the GURPS bastard sword—they’re essentially flipped in name) wielded in one hand by a ST 10 individual can do a maximum of 7 damage, or, wielded in two hands, can do a maximum of 8 damage. A greatsword wielded by a ST 12 individual can do a maximum of 11 damage or 12 damage if it’s a falchion (rule from GURPS Low-Tech Companion 2: Weapons and Warriors). An All-Out Attack (Strong) can gives +2 damage to each of these examples, which lets the greatsword do it regularly, and, honestly, that doesn’t feel right.

By the time I had finished writing that paragraph, I started considering HP×3 injury, which would require 18 damage, and that number is much closer to the original 20 damage. It’s -2 to damage but also -6 to skill. So, I think the 20 damage to the neck (-5) works cinematically and that 18 damage to the cervical vertebrae (-11) is probably a bit more realistic. One would need ST 16 and a falchion greatsword doing an All-Out Attack (Strong) to even have a change of doing this in combat—that’s 2d+6 damage for maximum of 18 damage. Maybe Hafþór can try. Of course, if the ST 16 individual has Weapon Master and the falchion greatsword is very fine, that raises it to 2d+10 damage for an average of 17 damage, which is just shy of the 18 damage required.

Where does Professional Skill (Execution) fit into all of this? Well, let’s say that the more realistic executioner is that ST 12 individual wielding a falchion greatsword for a minimum of 7 damage, an average of 9.5 damage, and a maximum of 12 damage. Being able to triple minimum damage to 21 ensures a clean cut every time. I’d probably base it off of Power Blow a bit more, so one can either get ×2 damage or ×3 damage, depending on skill and time, which may allow for some combat use.

Anyway, thinking about damage/wounding multipliers got me in a tizzy! Multipliers don’t make much sense for logarithmic damage (which might be important if I’m using Knowing Your Own Strength, though I’m still not sure if KYOS damage is “logarithmic” or not). But changing cutting to +2 injury and impaling to +3 injury doesn’t scale either—because HP are still quadratic. Well, scaling back HP actually makes it worse in some cases unless I used some kind of system for logarithmic injury—e.g., 7 injury plus 7 injury isn’t 14 injury, it’s 10 injury (because doubling the value is a +3 under logarithmic ST). But do you have to do 10 more injury to get to 13 injury or is another 7 injury wound enough? How far down does the rabbit hole go?

And I never figured it out for sure. Of course, this will work with standard damage. It gets messy with Knowing Your Own Strength. And throw Conditional Injury in there? Then, it’s back to the drawing board.

But, if you want it to work with CI or both KYOS and CI, then I’d say that decapitation requires a Severity 3 wound, which feels like a nice little bonus for a huge -11 to hit. Normally, it takes Severity 4 for an instantly fatal wound, but Severity 3 can do it if you’re cutting at the cervical vertebrae. Sounds fair enough to me! If you can do 6 more damage to the neck, though, you’re better off not trying to soak up an additional -6 to hit.

Greyfolk Font Update 3: Man, the Man Is Non-Stop!

Forget my previous post and even the one before it because here’s another update! I’ve been working on this font day and night like I’m running out of time. It happened after I woke up this morning after my update late last night. “There are just a couple of things I’d like to try,” I thought, then I’d go and finally play some Dishonored. Well, I haven’t played any Dishonored yet—I did this instead. What changed? The font isn’t as ugly as it was a day ago.

Yeah, that’s it. It only took me about 8 hours of trial and error. This program and that program and these settings and those settings and maybe I just gotta do this and maybe I just gotta do that and maybe it’s all because I made it monospace which introduced a non-breaking space that was messing up my syllable ligatures. Shh, it’s okay. I’m fine now.

Here’s the alphabet:

m n p t k f s h l w y a e i o u
m n p t k f s h l w y a e i o u

Here are some syllables:

pa  pla  pam  plam 
pa pla pam plam

Here’s a sentence:

pe  pom  te 
pe pom te
I love you

Here are some other (stand-in) characters:

c q _ ?
c q _ *

*stands in for any other character

Also, «c» and «q» don’t mean anything. «c» is my test vowel and «q» is my test consonant, and, together, they help me test syllable structures with «qc», «qqc», «qcq», and «qqcq».

qc  qqc  qcq  qqcq 
qc qqc qcq qqcq

My syllables are no longer utter trash. I rebuilt my font using BitFontMaker2 alongside FontForge because Glyphr Studio was being a butt. My biggest problem with Glyphr Studio is that it doesn’t respect the svg files that I import from Inkscape if I do so much as combine nodes and merge stuff (which I did to try to get rid of the problems I was having before like vertices disappearing and blurry glyphs).

I remade the basic font in BitFontMaker2, imported it into FontForge, created ligature glyphs in BitFontMaker2, imported those into FontForge, set up the ligatures through FontForge, and proceeded to pull my hair out until I realized that my syllable ligatures weren’t working (presumably) because I made it monospace in BitFontMaker2, introducing that pesky non-breaking space which didn’t want to be a part of the damn team and become a syllable ligature.

I’m gonna try to squeeze in an hour of Dishonored now and pray that I didn’t squeeze out the rest of my spine jelly. Really, though, I’m feeling much better, and I’m hoping to be powerlifting by the end of the week.

It’s a life update!

This is mostly for me, really, but you might learn some fun things too!

The weather was warm today! That was nice. I’m slowly recovering from my cervical radiculopathy, I think.

I’ve been listening to the My Brother, My Brother, and Me podcast as well as the audiobook for A Memory of Light from The Wheel of Time series.

What about video games? Grim Dawn just got its Forgotten Gods update. I love that game and I’ve been meaning to get back to it once the update came out! Deep Rock Galactic also just got a substantial update. It’s been a minute, but I’ve also been enjoying Stardew Valley a lot. Also, both Borderlands 3 and Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition were just announced, so that’s really exciting. It’s also Pokémon season—supposed leaks about Pokémon Sword and Shield have been everywhere. Super Mario Maker 2 and Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled are both coming out in June. There are rumors about two new Nintendo Switch console versions being released. I’ve been meaning to play some more of Wargroove ever since the update for that came out. And I’m always on Metroid Prime 4 and Animal Crossing watch. I’ve got a bunch of other games in my backlog like Divinity: Original Sin 2, which I’ve been dying to give another shot. And they just announced Divinity: Fallen Heroes, which looks pretty cool. And there’s Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire which is getting a turn-based mode reminiscent of what I love so much about the Divinity series. And what about Dwarf Fortress and Halo: The Master Chief Collection coming to Steam? And what’s this about Risk of Rain 2? That looks really interesting, though I couldn’t much get into the first one. It’s a good time to be alive… and I’m starting to think that this post was just a subconsciously-created excuse to talk about all of the overwhelming feelings about video games I apparently have. I don’t even consider myself a gamer, but look at all of those great games!

I’ve been reading the manga of and watching the anime of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures, and, boy, has it been an incredible journey. オラオラオラオラ! Not only do I finally understand all of the memes, but it has been deeply inspirational.

There’s also The Great British Bake Off, which I’ve been watching with my girlfriend. And Daredevil, which I’ve been watching with her and my dad—it’s been a bit disappointing. I still need to watch Get Out and also The Cat Returns. My girlfriend also told me that Legally Blonde is on my list. Like, she told me that just now. Oh, and we just watched Incredibles 2! That was nice.

The GURPS-related DFRPG Kickstarters for Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 and The Citadel at Norðvorn were both big successes as far as I could tell. I’ve also been watching the development of Ooblets over on Patreon, which could also go under video games, but talking about Kickstarter is what made me think of it. Oh, and, likewise, I’m also watching out for Littlewood.

Using the schwa (ə) in the Greyfolk language

My body is so fatigued from my better posture (which I’ve had to have due to my cervical radiculopathy, which I talked about in my last post), but I’m gonna discuss what I can about the schwa in the Greyfolk language until I herniate another disc. This will be pretty short anyway.

I’ve had an idea for quite some time as to how words sound in the Greyfolk language. Every non-final vowel is /a/, and every final vowel has to be one of /e, i, o, u/. Nouns end in /e/, adjectives and adverbs end in /i/, verbs end in /o/, and other things (conjunctions, prepositions, particles, etc.) end in /u/. So, some example words—that I’m making up on the spot—could be «name», «pataki», «fasaho», or «lawayu».

But what about the schwa? Well, there isn’t any lexical stress in the Greyfolk language, which really just means that stress doesn’t matter a whole lot for individual words. However, while it is important to clearly indicate the final vowel of a word because they can differ, the pre-final vowels—which, as I indicated, are always /a/—would probably become schwa (ə) because of vowel reduction. Because pre-final vowels will always be /a/, it is not important to articulate them, and that lack of articulation (in contrast with the important final vowel articulation) may lead to /a/ being (optionally) reduced to /ə/.

This is actually different from the previous version of the Greyfolk language in which the stress was always on the final syllable. This is because it was important to articulate the final vowel to distinguish noun class. In this current version, articulating the final vowel is still important to distinguish words, but I decided that lexical stress is arbitrary/non-meaningful because I am much more inspired by international auxiliary languages (IALs) this time around, and I feel that a good IAL would leave out something like lexical stress because there are a lot of languages (spoken by many people—like Mandarin) that don’t use lexical stress. So, including it would mean a lot of extra work for a lot of speakers of natural languages here on Earth.

That’s also why my phonemic inventory is the way it is—to appeal to the largest number of natural language speakers on Earth while retaining an identity that is definitely Greyfolk. More on that another time.

Diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy on my left side

Well, this is fun. I’m sure some higher power is definitely smiting me for not posting in a while—I’m sure my one reader has felt sorely disappointed. But I’m the one feeling sore now! So, the joke’s on me, I guess…

Between enjoying my girlfriend’s spring break with her, her family being in town, her getting sick, and also (mostly) my own laziness, I haven’t been powerlifting in a few weeks. So, why the injury? Possibly because I haven’t been powerlifting. My doctor and I are pretty sure that I must have cranked my neck pretty hard while sleeping for this to happen because I woke up with this pain. One of my friends also posited that I may have had bad sleeping habits for a while now and that it was this moment of muscle weakness (since I haven’t been working out) that made it much worse. Makes sense to me! I have a (bad) habit of sleeping with my hands above or behind my head as if I’m lounging, which is also how I was sleeping when I woke up with this pain.

Anyway, what even is cervical radiculopathy? Luckily, my cervix is doing just fine. The cervical refers to cervical vertebrae. According to the diagnosis of my symptoms—due in particular to the fact that I feel shooting pain all the way into my middle finger—, it is likely that my C6 and C7 vertebrae did a squishy on the intervertebral disc between them, causing that yummy spinal jelly to herniate, and said herniation is putting pressure on one of the nerve roots in the brachial plexus. Isn’t that fun? Not really. This has left me with radiating pain in the left side of the neck into my left shoulder (which I initially thought was just muscle soreness) as well as occasional shooting pain down my arm, which often ends in my middle finger.

I’m on steroids for 18 days, working on my posture, sleeping with a soft cervical collar, and I’ll be working on strengthening my neck again soon (likely with the help of another friend’s dad). Also, sleeping with a soft cervical collar is a bitch. Actually, let me clarify. Falling asleep while wearing a soft cervical collar is a bitch. Once I was asleep, I slept rather well. The good news is that I’m rather functional and I’ve already worked on increasing my mobility with my neck as the steroids kick in to reduce my pain and herniation. The roid rage hasn’t kicked in yet, but this is only day two.

I’d love to post a linguistics-related update soon, which will likely focus on the schwa and how I plan to use it in the Greyfolk language.

(More like cervical ridiculouspathy, am I right?)