(I've written an explanation elsewhere of why disclaimers of this sort may be necessary.) 

Thursday, April 30, 2009  

Once again, blood sugar going down -- and weight going up, dammit. Today the peer pressure to overeat was especially bad. A lot of the people who got layoff notices at work were departing today, and there were multiple farewell lunches, farewall snacks, and farewell dinners. Where I work, every change of any kind has to be ritualized with calories, and anyone who doesn't join in is suspected of not being a team player. (It's not an easy place to be diabetic, or to keep your weight under control.) I managed to dodge the pizza lunch, and at the afternoon snack-gathering I managed to hold it down to one cookie. Dinner at a restaurant downtown was a tostada salad -- without meat, but with cheeses and some kind of fatty sauce. This isn't helping me.

On the bright side, I felt much better while running today than I did yesterday. The soreness in my rib cage wasn't entirely gone, but it had diminished to the point that it didn't much interfere with running, and my pace was faster today. I'm now starting to feel more confident about being able to run in the relay on the weekend.

The map below shows the relay course. It's not as tough as it looks, because I'm part of a 12-person relay team and I only have to run the parts that I've marked with red squares here. Most of the time someone else will be running and I'll be in the van. I've got the best assignment of the whole team this year, because I get to run across the Golden Gate Bridge under the full moon at midnight.

The tough part for me will be on Sunday, when I have to do a very steep climb in the Santa Cruz mountains (I will be gaining 1157 feet of altitude over the course of 3.1 miles). After that, I'm done. Maybe I will even be able to take a nap. The finish line has been moved from the Santa Cruz boardwalk to a berry farm in Davenport -- maybe there's a shade-tree there that I can curl up under on Sunday afternoon and make up for the sleep I didn't get Saturday night.

Of course there's a fly in the ointment -- rain is in the forecast for this weekend. It figures. We're in the middle of a severe drought, and there's been almost no rain all spring, but it managed to rain on the Napa Marathon, and now it's supposed to rain on The Relay. People at work are telling me I should sign up for more big running events, because California needs the rain.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009  

Well, blood-sugar is recovering nicely from my long weekend of indulgence, but my weight certainly is not. Considering how long it takes to lose a few pounds, you would think there were would be some limit to how fast you could regain them. Apparently not!

The reason there was no blog post yesterday is not that I didn't write one -- the problem was that I got sleepy at the computer and forgot to post what I had written. Maybe it's better not to post anything at all when I'm sleepy, judging from the outrageous typo I was guilty of on Monday (discussed in Tuesday's post below). It does seem a little stupid, though, to write something for publication and forget to publish it.

I'm still feeling sore in the rib-cage from my fall on Sunday morning. At least my knee was feeling better today, and I was able to do a long and very hilly run -- but I couldn't run it fast, and my running-buddies left me far behind. I hope I manage to heal up by this coming weekend, because that's when the big relay race (which I described in my March 6th post) is happening, and I don't want to be doing slow, painful running all through that event. In the meantime I'll keep taking my Vitamin I (as Ibuprofen is known among runnners) and hope for the best.

I'm concentrating on eating vegetables for right now, and hoping to get my weight once more drifting slowly downward rather than rocketing upward.

The concerts over the weekend seemed to me to go exceptionally well. We've been doing this annual concert series for a long time now (I've been doing them myself for 16 years), and I think the concerts have generally tended to get better over the years, but this time there seemed to be a sudden leap forward. We made all our mistakes in the rehearsal room instead of on the stage, and all three of the concerts came together wonderfully in performance. There was something "in the air" this time that made us feel that this was important, that it mattered, that we had an opportunity to share something valuable with people in a difficult time. The surprisingly good ticket sales, at a time when most people are trying to cut their expenses wherever they can, made us feel as if we were performing a valuable service -- that people needed something from us, and we could provide it if we tried hard enough.

That we weren't kidding ourselves about this is borne out not only by the very warm audience response at all three concerts, but also by a great deal of feedback we have been receiving this week from people who attended the concerts, and who said that they were excited and moved by our performances -- that they needed a shot in the arm and we gave it to them. The most remarkable evidence so far comes in a report from Ehlert Lassen, a guitarist who participated in the concert -- it's lengthy, even though I've abbreviated it here, but it makes a pretty interesting story:

"I work in two group homes in Sonoma County. The residents are elderly developmentally disabled and are lovely people. Being that their ages are from 54 to 87 years, there was a time when most of them lived in institutions. I thought it might be fun for the "guys" to attend the Yountville gig. Sunday afternoon they showed up at the venue and had the musical experience of their lives. They loved each minute of the event and it will be with them for a long time to come.  They were seated in the balcony and you should have seen their faces all lit up like Christmas trees when I went to greet them during the intermission.

One of the residents, the 54 year old, is a woman who has Down's syndrome.  The majority of her life has been a nightmare.  It is documented that she was used and abused in unspeakable ways by her parents and siblings and "rented out" as a young girl.  She was removed from the home and was then in an institution for years.  Since leaving the institution she's been a resident of one of our group  homes -- is a part of our family --and has now a dignified, clean, secure and predictable existence. She's a very happy and expressive person but she's obviously scarred in ways that are hard for us to imagine.  In the year and a half I've been taking care of her I have noticed that during her morning shower she'll weep loudly and heavily (sometimes moaning, sometimes wailing) .  I've asked the other caregivers if they've had the same experience and they confirm that this is what she does.

One of my colleagues remarked this morning that it must have been a great concert Sunday because "Colleen" (not her real name) was singing in the shower Monday morning.  Funny enough I had the same experience Tuesday morning as I was making her bed while she was showering.  None of the customary weeping could be heard -- indeed she was singing! This woman has at most 30 words in her vocabulary and a speech impediment but she was singing a loud and clear melody and there was immense joy in her voice.

Some might say "coincidence" but that's their business.  I'm of the mind that our music touched her in a spot perhaps as nothing else has."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009  

Last night I was still sleepy from the after-effects of the big concert weekend, and I was so fatigued that I didn't make any attempt at proof-reading what I'd written in yesterday's blog-post -- which was a shame, because it contained the worst typographical error I've ever made in my life. I've corrected it now, but maybe I might as well own up to it anyway. I'd written that I'd had toast with "peanus butter" in the morning. An alert reader pointed out that I didn't seem to have had a very nice breakfast. Well, actually, it was peanut butter.

And by the way, that word isn't spelled "peanus", either. But I can see why raised eyebrows were in order.

That's the trouble with blogging -- you do it in a hurry, in whatever small interval you can open up in your schedule, but the whole world can see your mistakes.

There was a time when a fasting glucose test result of 88, and a weight of 176, would have been good news to me, but that time is over. I'd been doing better than that until recently. My three-day weekend of traveling around with a bunch of musicians and eating party food has given me a bit of a setback. Well, I'll just have to get over it, and get back on track. Less food (particularly less carbohydrate), and more exercise (if I can work it into my schdule I plan to run at leat 6 miles tomorrow).

I still felt a bit sore from having fallen down during the trail-run on Sunday, but I managed to get out for a run today at lunchtime. My rib cage was still feeling hurting on the left side -- that was the main thing slowing me down. Probably it will be much better in a day or two. (And that's good, because this coming weekend is the Calistoga-to-Santa Cruz relay race).

I was sent a group picture of us posing after the Sunday afternoon concert. I'm in there, but maybe you'll have to trust me on that point. 

This was the concert in Yountville (in the Napa Valley). It was a beautiful, sunny, warm spring afternoon. I always worry when we're competing with a beautiful day (why should anyone go indoors to listen to a concert when it's so nice outdoors?), but I needn't have worried -- we had a big, enthusiastic audience.

Monday, April 27, 2009  

Okay, I'm back -- after a pretty frantic weekend of music-making. Concerts on Friday night in Oakland, Saturday night in Salinas (near Monterey), and Sunday afternoon in Yountville (in the Napa Valley). These locations are not close to one another (Salinas and Yountville are about 125 miles apart), so there was a lot of time spent on the road in addition to all of the time it takes to get a hugely complicated concert (with over 120 musicians involved) put together and ready to roll.

I was determined to make time for exercise during all this, especially as I was I was embedded in this traveling circus and was eating whatever everyone else was eating (including all sorts of things I usually don't eat -- such as rich desserts). But maybe it was a mistake to get up early yesterday (after getting home from Salinas at 2 AM!) and go trail-running. I was sleepy and thinking about other things, and the result was that I tripped while running downhill on a rocky trail.

Time stood still as I fell to the ground, and some sort of instinct kicked in and told me not to break the fall with my hands. I fell mostly on my left side. As a result, I had no significant injury to my hands, and was able to play in the concert that afternoon without difficulty. However, I did scrape up my left shoulder, my left knee, and various points in between. I was feeling pretty stiff and sore today. My rib cage is hurting on the left side (not hurting enough for it to be a broken rib, though). I went to my yoga class in the evening, and told my teacher what had happened; she gave me alternative things to do that didn't involve, say, putting weight on my left knee. I felt better for having done the yoga class. Still, it takes a while to heal from injuries of that sort, and maybe it will hurt more before it hurts less.

Today I was pretty much ambushed at work, by coworkers who had found out that I'd had a birthday over the weekend -- they brought me a birthday cake. Obviously I had to eat it; some things in life are not subject to renegotiation. Eating cake, especially on a non-exercise day, is obviously not a great idea for me, but I was in the situation and I went with it. Here's hoping it doesn't elevate my fasting test too much tomorrow.

Thursday, April 23, 2009  

One of the reasons why it's nice that I just found out I'm not being layed off is that it leaves me free to concentrate on my big concert weekend coming up. I'm taking tomorrow off work, and in the afternoon I'll head down to Oakland for the first concert. The second one is in Salinas (near Monterey) on Saturday night; the third is in Yountville (in the Napa Valley) on Sunday afternoon. If you don't know California, take my word for it that those three locations are pretty far apart, so it will be a hectic weekend. I don't know how I'm going to fit exercise in (trust me: I'll find a way).

The concerts are quite elaborate (with over a hundred musicians onstage). Fortunately, our "final" rehearsal tonight wasn't really final. The sound-check before the concert tomorrow will be lengthy, and it will really amount to another rehearsal -- one more chance to work out the tricky parts. Almost without exception, the tricky parts are the beginning and endings of the tunes we'll be playing. The pianist Arthur Rubinstein once said "You must begin well and and well, and in between it's nobody's business". True, but in between it's usually easy. Getting everybody starting together and ending together is the hard part. No doubt we'll have a few awkward, embarassing, opening-night mishaps tomorrow -- which will make us cringe even though most of the audience won't notice. Then we'll get it right on the second and third performances.

The first concert is already sold out and the third is selling well. The second, in Salinas, is more of a concern. We've never played there before, so we're not a known quantity and we have no base of supporters there. However, we're a non-profit organization that exists to promote Scottish music, and we wouldn't be doing our job is we only played in communities where people were already interested. We need to do a little pioneer work now and then.

I will be extremely busy for the next three days, so it will be a while before I do any more blog posts.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009  

I found out something interesting today -- that I'm not losing my job. Always a good thing to know.

It was a day of high drama. We've known for about a month that a big layoff would be happening in late April, and we've known for about a week that today was when we would each find out if we're staying or going. There was a rather elaborate notification ritual -- each employee was given an appointment to report to a conference room, where a manager was waiting to tell them whether or not they are staying with the company. As people tried to guess the outcome, or at least get an idea of their odds, there were a lot of attempts to read the tea-leaves. One rumor said that the managers were getting the terminations out of the way first -- therefore, an early-morning appointment meant you were going, and a later one meant you were staying. Another rumor said that, if you went into the conference room and there were two managers there, you were being terminated, but if there was only one you were in the clear. (Both of these rumors were untrue.)

I didn't sleep last night, so I wasn't in my best form today to begin with, and spending most of the day watching my coworkers leave, one at a time, to go get the news did not exactly relax me. There were a lot of sad stories unfolding in front of us, all day long. My own meeting didn't happen until nearly 2 PM, and by the time I got to it I was feeling so tense and awful that I wondered if I was going to have a stroke. (I would hate to know what my blood pressure got up to, while I was climbing all those stairs to get up the hill to Building 1 for my meeting.) The manager I spoke to made it clear pretty quickly that I wasn't losing my job, which of course was a relief. But you can't recover instantly from that kind of a buildup, and my brain was so fried that I couldn't fully take in what he was telling me in the rest of the conversation (which was about my place in the restructured organization, and might be of some importance to me shortly.) I think I'll have to request a meeting with him later to discuss these matters when I'm better prepared for the conversation.

The people who were layed off today were remarkably calm and mature about it. This brought me up short, as my own inclination had been to be extremely childish about it, and now my peers were setting me a good example to follow. Perhaps it's just as well that I wasn't actually put to the test, but I suppose I could have come up with a reasonable imitation of maturity if I'd had to.

My two main running buddies at work are both staying with the company. We had recently made an informal agreement to keep running together somehow, even if some or all of us were caught in the layoff, but now we can just continue with the lunch-hour running routine we have had going for years.

The stress of waiting for hours to find out my fate (while watching others find out theirs) made this one of the more exhausting days of my life. Running the Napa Marathon last month was merely a physical ordeal -- it did not leave me feeling quite as drained as the emotional ordeal I went through today.

After work I went to the local state park for a trail run. I felt pretty bad during much of it (weak, tired, faintly nauseated), but I knew the run would help me, and it did. I felt much better when I was done, and after I got home my blood pressure was 106/71. If I hadn't gone for a long run it would probably have been much higher. Sometimes you can feel your blood pressure getting too high, and I could feel mine climbing all day. Even after the news was broken to me it was probably very high. I knew the only thing that would bring it down would be some hard exercise.

Well, now I can focus on the concerts this weekend. The final rehearsal is Thursday night, and the first concert is Friday night. I can't tell you how glad I am not to have to do those concerts with the layoff situation still hanging over me.

I'm glad that my fasting glucose wasn't up at all today, despite the sleepless night, and I'm also glad that my blood pressure recovered so well from the stresses of the day. Here's hoping that life will get easier now! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009  

A blood pressure of 119/66 is pretty good under the circumstances. Tomorrow is layoff day. In the morning, each of us will have an appointment to go into a little conference room in the building next door, and be told whether or not we still have jobs. Looking on the bright side (which, as you know, I always do): I've heard that we then get to go home early, even if we still have a job to do. Free afternoon, yay! Actually, I have my doubts about being able to take that free afternoon, given the schedule pressure on my current project -- but then, maybe it will turn out tomorrow that it just became someone else's project. In which case: free afternoon, yay!

Maybe I have a duty here to try to set an example of diabetes management under pressure. A lot of people with diabetes feel that they can do the right thing by their diabetes so long as their lives are going reasonably well. However, at times when they're worried or depressed or angry -- when they're dealing with a failing relationship, a family conflict, a problem on the job, or the problem of not having a job -- at times like that, they can't possibly stay on top of their diabetes, and no one should expect them to. In stressful times, diabetes cannot be managed. It's not humanly possible.

The trouble with taking this attitude is that diabetes doesn't care how stressed-out you are. Diabetes does not listen to excuses. Diabetes has no scruples whatsoever about kicking you when you are down. You have to keep doing the right things, no matter how bad you feel and how many other problems are claiming your attention. Maybe you won't get quite the stellar results you would have got in happier days (after all, stress tends to increase your blood sugar and blood pressure), but you'll get a lot better results than you will if you just throw in the towel.

Today at lunchtime it was warm (in the mid-80s, and a little humid), and I absolutely did not feel like running, but I went for a run anyway, mainly because it's Tuesday and that's what I do on Tuesday, but also because I recognize that my need for exercise is greatest when I least feel like doing it. I was a lot slower than my running buddies, who had to take a little out-and-back detour along the route to let me catch up with them. I seemed to have no energy, and I had a feeling of sick tension in the pit of my stomach. Years ago, those feelings would have been enough to discourage me, but I'm sort of past that now. I do what needs to be done, whether I feel like it or not. As the Nike ads say, Just Do It. I suspect that's an abbreviation for "stop your damned whining and just do it already!". Just Do It sounds a little nicer.

Surprise, surprise! The Veterans Administration did a study of death rates among middle-aged and older men with Type 2 diabetes, and found that fitness correlated very directly with longevity.  The men were given fitness tests, and sorted into three categories according to their capacity for exercise ("low-fit", "moderate-fit", and "high-fit"). Their medical histories were followed up over a 7-year period. The results were (for some reason) broken out by race. "Among African Americans, the death rate was 46 percent in the low-fit group, 27 percent in the moderate-fit group, and 15 percent in the high-fit group. Corresponding rates among Caucasians were 37 percent, 19 percent, and 9 percent."

For whatever reason, the benefits of fitness were stronger in white men. But for either group, the difference in death rates between the low-fit and high-fit groups is remarkable. For white men in the high-fit category, the death rate was less than a fourth of what it was for the low-fit category!

These findings should startle nobody. Diabetes causes a wide range of health problems, but the ones that are likeliest to kill you are the cardiovascualar problems -- the very problems that can be prevented by exercising but cannot be prevented by taking diabetes drugs. I think it's safe to assume that most or all of the men in this study were on diabetes drugs, but it was the ones who exercised that had a low death rate.

So I guess that's why I go for a run at lunch even when I don't remotely feel like it.

Monday, April 20, 2009  

Summery weather outside today (it got above 90 this afternoon), but I wasn't out running in it. This was my rest day.

Another creepy day at work: although most of us don't find out until Wednesday who's being layed off, the managers (many of whom are being layed off themselves) found out today, and the scouting parties were watching them come out of their meetings, and sharing their observations: who was crying, who was hugging whom, what it might mean. I'd say it might mean that the world is not a nice place, and that the business world is not even as nice as the rest of it.

Blood pressure is good this evening (especially for a non-exercise day), but my fasting test was up a bit today. Why was it up? I don't think I was a very bad boy yesterday. But I couldn't sleep last night, and there's nothing like a insomnia to push your blood sugar up.

Yesterday I went down to San Francisco for some Irish music-making and, earlier in the day, a long walk along the coast trail. The weather in San Francisco was so uncharacteristically warm, and the air so uncharacteristically calm, that it looked and felt like a different place. Greece, maybe. This was not the San Francisco we know.

My sister, who lives there, showed me some walking routes that are not very well known -- they take you to places that seem a world away from the city.

Because the coastal trail is so hilly, the walk was strenuous enough to count as a real workout (it was something like 7 miles, but it was the terrain rather than the distance that made it difficult). Even when you're working hard, San Francisco is not usually a place where you would find it necessary to take your jacket off. Well, it was that kind of place yesterday!

Saturday, April 18, 2009  

Went to the farmer's market this morning, and wondered why there was such a big crowd this time. It's always hard getting in and out of that parking lot, but this time it was gridlock. Why were so many people here today? It turned out that somebody had organized an additional activity at the farmer's market site: Baby Animal Day. Everyone in town was bringing their children to pet the young goats, pigs, and cows.

I tend to feel that a visit to the farmer's market is a wasted opportunity if you only come home with familiar-looking produce, which looks just like the produce you could have bought at a chain supermarket. I like to keep my eyes open for unfamiliar varieties -- things that make me ask the person selling them "What exactly is this, and how do you cook it?". Not that I always fall in love with these oddball varieties once I get them home and try them, but as with unfamiliar wines, you never make any discoveries if you're not willing to risk trying something that might be a dud.

One of the things I bought today is something called a "sweet lime". Sounds like a contradiction in terms, doesn't it? I don't know what kind of hybridization process produces it, but it's a lime that is the color of a lemon, has the size and shape of a small orange, and has a flavor that is mildly sweet rather than aggressively sour. I was told you can eat it as if it were an orange, so I took it home and did that. Even though it lacked the tartness of an ordinary lime, the mild citrus flavor reminded me more of a lime than it did of anyting else. I'm not sure I this is the sort of fruit I would throw in a lunchbag, but maybe it would be a good thing to chop up and put in a salad. Maybe I just bought the sweet lime because I liked the sound of it. I can imagine a waiter listing it as one of the ingredients of tonight's dinner special: "Chilean sea bass pan-roasted in yak-butter with crocus pollen, Jamaican dill, fresh bamboo leaves, and sweet lime."

The other novelty I bought, which I forget the name of, is a kind of beet which looks pretty standard from the outside (dark red) but turns out to be mostly white on the inside, slightly marbled with streaks of red. It's very pretty when you slice it into coins, and it makes a good stir-fry ingredient, but I think I should have sliced it thinner than I did.

To be absolutely honest I wasn't in the mood for a trail-run today. That didn't matter. The time when it made a difference whether or not I was in the mood for exercise is now a fairly distant memory. I decide how much exercise I need to do, and I do it -- whether I feel like it or not.

I usually do a long run on Saturday. That's not a rule, but I had some good reasons to go ahead and do a long run today: I'd had an oversized dinner the night before, my weight-loss program has been stalled lately, and the situation at work (waiting to find out which of us are being layed off) has been stressing me out. Everything pointed to doing a long run, so I went to the state park and did one. I didn't especially enjoy it, and I wasn't especially energetic, but I got the job done.

I ended up wishing I'd brought a camera with me. There was an explosion of wildflowers, with big blue and purple patches in the meadows. By the time I get in there again with a camera, they will probably be gone. Oh well -- some things we just have to remember for ourselves.

The run certainly helped me with my blood pressure: 97/68 has got to be the lowest reading I've ever seen. It was low enough to make me wonder if it was a mistake. I tried again later in the evening, and got 104/63 (a bit higher on the systolic, a bit lower on the diastolic). Anyway, my blood pressure is down, and that's my final answer.

I thought I was about due for a post-prandial test, which I usually don't do these days. My test result after dinner was 88 -- about as good as it gets. You only have to be down to 140 to qualify as non-diabetic, although I'm sure many would argue that 140 isn't really "normal". Well, surely 88 is normal -- I don't think anyone can dispute me on that. So there!

Friday, April 17, 2009  

It was sunny and warm, but the day couldn't be creepier. Yesterday the corporate reorganization was unveiled, along with the statistics about how many people are being layed off in various divisions. My division is doing its deepest cuts in marketing (which is where I fit in the org chart): almost a third of the marketing staff will be layed off. Next Wednesday we each have to go off to a little room, one at a time, and be told whether or not we have a job. People were so anxious and depressed that huge numbers of them took today off to recover. The five people whose desks are closest to mine were all gone today. Those who did work today were quiet, withdrawn, and gloomy. It was a laugh a minute, I'll tell you.

My two usual running buddies were both out today, so I ran at lunchtime by myself. Running helped -- a little. I wouldn't say I came back from the run cheery and invigorated, but I did come back feeling better than I had in the morning, and probably a lot better than I would have if I hadn't gone running at all. I have learned over the years that nothing promotes depression and anxiety like living without exercise.

Tonight I went to a relaxation workshop that my yoga teacher does once a month. Two hours of lying on the floor in various "restorative poses", propped up with folded blankets, bolsters, and sandbags. That isn't a total cure for anxiety either -- but, like exercise, it helps. Did I completely clear my mind? No, random thoughts did keep intruding, but at least they weren't thoughts about the situation at work. Unfortunately, they were mainly thoughts about how hungry I was, and I had a pretty big buffet dinner afterwards -- with more carbs than usual for me. I doubt that tomorrow morning's fasting test well be anything like today's (75!). My weight will probably be up, too. But I'll do a long trail-run tomorrow, and burn off some of those calories.

My blood pressure was nice and low this evening, despite the stressful week. I guess the yoga relaxation workshop actually helped.

I wonder what I'll be able to do about health insurance if I lose my job next week. The "Cobra" system for continuing your employer-sponsored health insurance after you lose your job is said to be very expensive, and maybe more expensive if you are "diabetic". (I put the D word in quotes because, by medical definitions of the disease, I don't really have it, but by medical-insurance definitions of it I am branded with it forever.)

Maybe there isn't a diabetes surcharge for continuing my insurance, but I imagine I might pay a terrible price if I try to apply for new insurance after a break. My health insurance doesn't actually benefit me, currently (my heavy annual deductible never gets used up), but if I had a serious accident or a heart attack, I might come to regret my decision to let the insurance lapse. So I suppose I'd have to continue paying for the insurance somehow. I sure would resent it, though.

America has the most expensive health-care system on earth, even though it doesn't have an especially good one (in terms of life expectancy, we rank behind Jordan and Bosnia). Part of the reason for the high-price/low-quality combination is that a large share of American health-care dollars are spent to finance health-insurance bureaucracies, whose main contribution to medical practice is to try to prevent it from taking place.

I find it amazing to listen to people arguing against any significant change to the existing system because they fear gettting a "government bureaucracy" involved in health care. What government bureaucracy could manage, even if it tried, to be as nightmarish as the matrix of corporate bureaucracies that are in charge of health care now? A recently-retired cardiologist I know told me that when he began his practice there were four doctors in his office, and one secretary to handle the health-insurance paperwork, but by the time he retired, that 4-to-1 ratio of doctors to secretaries had flipped the other way around. Every doctor's office needs an army of clerical workers to do battle daily with the health-insurance industry. And what does all this hassle contribute to our society? Apparently not much, if people in countries that don't have this system spend less on health care, and are nevertheless healthier!

Well, if I lose my health coverage, at least I won't have to be spending money on medications, unlike most people who have been diagnosed with the big D. My monthly bill for prescription drugs is zero. I do buy test strips, but I could get by with testing less often if that expense became an issue. My gym membership is really a medical cost, but I could exercise without it if necessary. Running clothes? That's a medical cost too, but I could last a long time with what I've got... except for running shoes, which need to be replaced fairly often. I can easily see running shoes becoming my biggest health-care cost.

Everyone claims that eating healthy foods is more expensive, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it can be done for less money if you figure out how to do it. Well, maybe I'll get my opportunity to figure out how to do it! But I still have my job for now, so I think I'll hit the farmer's market tomorrow.

Thursday, April 16, 2009  

This is the third day in a row that my fasting test result was exactly 80. That's a nice low number, of course, but what intrigues me is the constancy of it over a three-day span. Does it mean that my fasting level is exceptionally stable this week? Does it mean that my meter is more stable than I thought? The trouble is that there's absolutely no way to know.

It could be that the consistent numbers result from a series of measurement errors that happened to line up just right. Conceivably my actual numbers were 92, 72, and 86, the meter reading was off by +12, -8, and +6 on the last three mornings. The accuracy spec for glucose meters would certainly allow for errors that large, and when the sample size consists of only 3 tests, it's not wildly impropbable that something like that could have happened.

On the other hand, if I look at a longer sequence of test results, I would expect to see some large variations eventually, if my meter was that variable from test to test. For example, my fasting tests for the month of April were: 82, 81, 79, 81, 79, 85, 81, 80, 80, 85, 85, 76, 86, 80, 80, 80. That's not a lot of variability. About two-thirds of those results are in the incredibly narrow range of 79 to 81!

Also, I have certainly seen higher numbers, with larger variations, using that same meter in the past. So, if my meter is telling me that this month my fasting tests are hovering very near 80 on a consistent basis, then I think I'm not being over-optimistic to conclude that my fasting blood sugar is consistent, and is as low the average non-diabetic person's is.

So what does that mean for a guy who's had Type 2 diabetes for 8 years and has never taken any diabetes drugs? I assume it means that I have, at the very least, gone a long way towards achieving a normal level of sensitivity to insulin. It may also meant that I have achieved a normal level of production of insulin (assuming that I was not producing enough of it earlier, which I very likely wasn't).

Insulin resistance is common in Type 2 diabetes (in fact, it's pretty much the defining characteristic of the disease), and it's generally conceded that patients can do something about insulin resistance (mainly by exercising and shedding excess pounds). Reduced production of insulin is also common in Type 2, especially in the later stages, but it's generally assumed that this is not a problem patients can solve. In other words, once your insulin production goes into decline, that's that; you can't hope to get better. Maybe so, but it's hard for me to see how I could be seeing the kind of results I'm seeing, 8 years after diagnosis, if hadn't made progress on both aspects of the problem. So maybe it's possible to do more about Type 2 than is generally understood!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009  

My weight and my fasting test result were the same as yesterday, which was a good thing in the case of the fasting test. My 30-day fasting average is now down to 82. Weight is still up a couple of pounds, so I know I need to work on that.

It was still cool and breezy today, but less so than yesterday, so running was comfortable enough (especially as I wasn't dressed so thinly this time). We did our most difficult route today, which has some very long, steep climbs. We needed the relief. Sitting around waiting to find out who's getting layed off is not relaxing, and the tension level in the office is constantly rising. In these situations the best remedy is hard exercise -- the harder the better.

Keeping occupied is also helpful. Right now I'm playing a lot of music -- an Irish session at a pub tonight, and a concert rehearsal tomorrow. The concerts themselves will take place a few days after I find out if I'm on the layoff list; if it turns out that I am, maybe the concerts will give me a welcome distraction.

I was going to give a summary here of an article I read about a medical study of cardiac screening for Type 2 diabetes patients with no symptoms of heart disease (conclusion: doesn't make enough difference to be worth it), but then I realized that the only reason I wanted to mention the study is that the head researcher (from Yale University) has a funny name. So I'll just tell you his name be done with it: Dr. Frans Wackers.

Just think: if he discovers a rare medical condition, they'll name it after him, and someday an embarrassed patient will be told, "Mr. Jones, the lab report has come back, and I'm afraid you have Wackers Disease."

Maybe it will be even more specific than that: Wackers Elbow, say. I will be watching his career with interest.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009  

A good fasting test result after my non-exercise day, but my weight went up 2 pounds. Mostly that's water, but it certainly wasn't a good reason to take in more calories than usual today.

Basically, I should not be allowed near a buffet table, and I normally wouldn't seek one out. I can resist the temptation to buy calorie-dense foods at stores and restaurants, but ignoring them when they're spread out before me on a table is harder. Today we had a pot-luck luncheon for the department at the office, with about a dozen people bringing dishes. I just felt I had to go with the flow, and fill my plate like everyone else. It was too much, and I should be ashamed of myself. Even though I did run today, my weight will probably not be down when I measure it tomorrow morning. Oh well, climb back on the wagon.

Today's run was something else. There was a cold, hard wind blowing outside, which I was not expecting (and hadn't brought the right kind of running clothes for). Most of the way it was just a cold breeze, but periodically it would turn into a blast that would just about knock me over. It was a lot warmer than this in March -- and even in January.

The pain in my left thigh which bothered me last Thursday came back this morning (before I ran). It made running very difficult at first, then gradually faded away to nothing by the end of the run. And then, after I finished the run, it came back immediately, and bothered me whenever I walked for the rest of the day. Maybe I need to take a longer break from running to let it heal. I'll have to exercise somehow, but running might be too much for now.

Blood pressure is creeping back up, and it's not hard to guess why. If all goes according to rumor, we will know by Thursday how many people the various divisions are laying off (and by the following Thursday we'll know who's going and who's staying). It makes for a very relaxing atmosphere at the office. Today's pot-luck was organized with an explicit goal of "taking the edge off" the waiting game. At least we didn't talk about the layoff during the pot-luck; few conversations at work have excluded that topic for the past three weeks.

Someone on the dLife forum was saying that she was confused about "good carbs" versus "bad carbs". Which carbs were the good ones, she wanted to know?

I think too much is made of this idea of good and bad carbs. It's like the old interrogator's trick known as "good cop, bad cop". The "bad" cop is there solely to make his partner look "good", so that you'll choose sides with his partner (and overlook the fact that they are partners, that they are on the same side and the apparent conflict between them is a sham). The good carb/ bad carb thing seems to me just as deceptive.

I admit that it is a little better to eat carbs from whole grains than from white flour, because whole grains contain more fiber and other desirable compounds, and your system can handle them a little better. But if you have diabetes your system isn't especially good at handling large amounts of any carb, good or bad. If you decide that white bread is the bad cop and whole-wheat bread is the good cop, you will get a very exaggerated idea of how much difference there is between them. You may decide that you can eat as much bread as you want, so long as it's whole-wheat, good-cop bread. And that is very unlikely to be true.

I'm not saying that there's no point in making a distinction between one kind of food and another, but when the language gets as childishly simple as "good" versus "bad", I begin to doubt that the distinction is serving a useful purpose. If the only reason we want to call whole-wheat bread "good" is that we want to pretend we can eat large amounts of it and it won't matter, then that's not a good enough reason!

Monday, April 13, 2009  

Now that was stupid. I literally lost sleep over the weekend, worrying about what was going to be in my e-mail inbox when I got to work today. Last Friday, just before I left, I sent a messge to someone revealing that a project he had assigned to me was unlikely to be done on time, and explaining why it couldn't be helped. I was dreading his reaction. Instead he replied saying that he'd been expecting this to happen, because he was aware of the circumstances which were delaying me, and he merely asked me to do the best I could in the situation.

Some day, before I die, I may learn not let myself get so upset about things that aren't under my control anyway.

Today on NPR they had a program which tried to explain to confused listeners what could and couldn't be believed about the health impact of eating various foods. Allison Aubrey, NPR's consumer health reporter, gave a confident-sounding summary of various controversies concerning food and food ingredients. What intrigued me was what she said about High Fructose Corn Syrup. This peculiar industrial product, made by subjecting corn starch to heavy-duty chemical processing, is used in many if not most processed foods. Because the American obesity epidemic correlates so well with increasingly heavy consumption of HFCS in recent years, and for other reasons as well, it has long been suspected that HFCS is a health hazard of one kind or another. The idea is that the body processes fructose differently than glucose, so any form of dietary sugar that contains a surplus of fructose is going to have a different sort of impact on metabolism. To put it mildly, any public airing of such suspicions has been vigorously opposed by the HFCS and junk food industries.

But is it just a lot of fuss over nothing? Aubrey claimed that studies making close comparisons between the effects of fructose and other sugars could not uncover any significant difference. The body doesn't care which kind of sugar you eat, and reacts the same either way.

Really? Her report surprised me, because I had just read a report of some research by M. Daniel Lane and Seung Hun Cha at John Hopkins Univeristy, entitled "Effect of glucose and fructose on food intake via malonyl-CoA signaling in the brain". They studied the chemical signals which regulate appetite, particularly a chemical called malonyl-CoA. They found that glucose and fructose had very different effects on this regulatory system: "Thus, fructose has the opposite effect of glucose on the AMPK/malonyl-CoA signaling system and thereby, feeding behavior. The fact that fructose metabolism by the brain increases food intake and obesity risk raises health concerns in view of the large and increasing per capita consumption of high fructose sweeteners, especially by youth."

This kind of thing drives me crazy. On the very same day I'm told there is no evidence that fructose has any unusual matabolic effects... and that fructose increases food intake and obesity risk. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009  

A sunny and warm Easter, with everything in bloom.

Had brunch with my Dad; a more high-carb meal than I usually have, but not too bad by holiday-food standards. A bowl of chocolate eggs was sitting on the table in front of me, and I gazed at it longingly many times, but I ended up resisting the temptation to have any.

He told us a story about a well-meaning but definitely insane neighbor who regularly makes the rounds, giving plates of cookies to people who never eat them because they notice what she does not: that the dog which she keeps with her constantly is licking the cookies before she hands them over. Anyway, she apparently won't be coming by with cookies for a while; she left him a note the other day which he showed us:

You made my dog poop in the house.
-- DORIS --

It is a little difficult to imagine Doris's thought process here. How, exactly, did her selfish neighbors make her dog poop in the house? And how did she calculate that the treat embargo should last until June, rather than, say, July?

The conclusion of the note is sensible enough, however. It really isn't healthy, you know, to eat poop. Ask anybody.

I don't want to give the impression, just because I exercise so much, that I don't have any trouble fitting it into my schedule. I do have other things to occupy my time. The thing is, I'm constantly thinking about how to fit exercise into my schedule. Today, for example, was a busy one. I had to leave early to get to my Dad's place, which is in Pleasant Hill, about 75 miles from here, so there was no time to work out before I left. On the way home from there, I was going to stop in Cotati to play at an Irish music session that started at 4 PM. If I was going to exercise today, it would have to be after I got back from Cotati, but it seemed impossible because my gym closes early on Sunday, and I didn't think there would be enough daylight left to do an outdoor run. OK, I'd just have to make Sunday my rest day instead of Monday this time. However, when I did finally get home, the sun was reasonably far above the horizon. If I changed into my running clothes quickly, I could still do a run around Spring Lake and finish it before dark. So I did that, and got my exercise in after all.

Finding time for exercise is difficult, yes -- but if you're always thinking about how to find that time, you usually find it. Even the busiest people manage to make room in their schedules for what really interests them, even if what really interests them is something that's difficult to schedule, such as conducting an extramarital affair. You just have to find a way to get comparably interested in exercise.

Saturday, April 11, 2009  

The weather cleared yesterday, but I figured I'd better stick to my plan of doing a light gym workout instead of running outdoors, to make sure that whatever I did to my left leg while running on Thursday had healed. It felt fine just walking around, but that doesn't always mean I'm ready to run. The gym workout didn't bother it either.

Then, yesterday evening, I drove down to Marin for an extra concert rehearsal (in addition to the one we'd had the night before). This rehearsal was being held at a country retreat center that is situated on the top of an extremely steep hill, with limited parking at the top. We're a large group, so when we meet there most of us have to park at the bottom, and whoever has a van ferries people to the top. Nobody walks it because it's seen as a terribly long, difficult climb. But I figured I would walk it. My gym workout that day hadn't been very strenuous, and I thought it would do me good (and stretch out that muscle or tendon that I had strained on Thursday). Also, the late-afternnon sunlight on the landscape was stunning, and I wanted to take pictures as I went up.

It seemed like a reasonable plan, but there was a catch: I was the only one walking, and everybody else passed me in cars and vans going up the hill. I had to explain to each of them in turn that I didn't need a ride, that I wanted to walk, that I was doing this on purpose. 

I thought I was well-compensated for the difficulty of the walk by the fresh air and scenery, but everyone else seemed to have a hard time understanding why anybody would do such a thing if he had a choice.

This wasn't exactly a trek across the Andes, by the way. If I hadn't stopped to take pictures I probably would have finished the climb in 10 minutes. What have we come to, when a 10-minute walk in the country on a sunny spring evening is seen as an ordeal which no one would undertake willingly?

After the rehearsal I took the same walk down the hill in the dark. Downhill was pretty easy, obviously, and I had a light so I didn't feel as if I were in danger, but once again people in motor vehicles wanted to give me rides, and I think this time they were even offended, not just puzzled, that I declined. I liked the walk down; it was a starry night, and I surprised a jackrabbit on the way, which was nice -- or at least it was nice once he had leaped through the beam of my flashlight, and proved to me that the thing moving past me in the dark wasn't a mountain lion.

Since my left leg was feeling fine, and the weather was beautiful again today, I decided to risk doing a long trail run. Everybody was out there. I passed a big group of people walking together on the trails, with everybody carrying brightly-colored helium baloons, I guess to help them keep track of all their walkers as they spread out. It seemed like an organized event of some kind, but I don't know what. One of them called out my name, and it turned out to be someone from the office, but I just exchanged hellos and kept running instead of stopping to ask what the group was. I guess I'll find out on Monday.

I found that I felt better and better as the run was progressing, and the steepest climbs weren't bothering me, so I decided to take a slighly longer trail-route than the one I'd had in mind originally -- I knew the total distance would be at least 9 miles. Wouldn't you know it, once I was thoroughly committed to that route, I did start feeling some trouble in my left leg, where it had hurt on Thursday. It wasn't as bad this time though, and I found that it only hurt when I tried to speed up; if I maintained an easy pace it didn't bother me, so I stuck to that. My mile-pace ended up being 11:08 -- nothing to brag about, but not bad considering.

Easter brunch in the morning -- here's hoping I don't eat too many things I shouldn't!

Thursday, April 9, 2009  

It was raining in the morning, and my running buddies at work had no interest in outdoor exercise today, but I decided to chance it -- I went for a run a lunchtime. And Mother Nature rewarded me for it: the rain stopped before I got outside, and didn't resume until after I was safely back inside. The clouds overhead kept looking as if they were about to drop a bunch of rain on me, but they never did. I think about 3 raindrops fell on me the whole time.

The bad news was that I seemed to pull a tendon or something in my left thigh while I was climbing the steepest hill. After the run, I felt no pain while sitting down, but it hurt every time I got up and walked (only while I was picking my left leg up, not while I was putting weight on it). The pain seemed to diminish as the day and evening went on, and it's a lot milder now. Tomorrow I might do a lighter workout in the gym instead of going for another run, to give the injury (whatever it is) a little recovery time. I can't just take the day off exercise in general -- that's not part of the deal -- but I can at least exercise in a way that puts less strain on the body.

It's late -- I just got back from a concert hehearsal, which was in Marin (about a 50-minute drive from here) -- no time to say much else tonight.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009  

The skies were gray all day, threatening rain but never dropping any. We decided to risk going for a trail run after work in the state park nearby. Hardly anybody was there this time, I assume because people were worried about the weather. So, it was nice and quiet, and pretty comfortable except when we got up to the dam, and a very chilly breeze came up for a little while, making me wonder what I was doing out there in shorts. Anyway, it never did rain, so we got away with it. On the whole, a very satisfying run.

We talked a little about The Relay, which is coming up soon (the first weekend in May). That's the big footrace involving 12-person relay teams, running all the way from Calistoga (in the Napa Valley) to the beach at Santa Cruz, a distance of 199 miles. The race runs continuously from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon. It's a fund-raiser for organ donation programs. I landed the choice assignment: running from Marin to San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, under the full moon on Saturday night. (I will also run two other sections of the route, in Napa and in the mountains above Santa Cruz.) We did this event last year and enjoyed it, but there's one thing I'm determined to do differently this time: get some sleep! I'm not quite sure how I'm going to make that happen, but it's going to happen one way or another. I don't care what drugs I have to take, I'm getting some sleep this time and that's that.

Our relay team consists mainly of people I work with, and that's a potential problem, because some percentage of us will be getting layoff notifications between now and race day. That could do a lot to dampen the fun, to say the least. But the sort of people who sign up for an event like this are the sort of people who use exercise challenges as a coping mechanism and a distraction from stress. I expect that, no matter what our runners are going through otherwise, they will carry on with the race, and find a way to throw themselves into the spirit of the occasion. And now that I've predicted that, I guess that means I'd better do the same, if it turns out my name is on the dreaded list!

But The Relay isn't until May. The big event in April is the concert series I'll be playing in. I guess I'd better break off and do some practicing, because we have another rehearsal tomorrow night.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009  

I promised I would go running today even if it was raining, and it was raining, and I did run. However, keeping my vow didn't cost me much, because by the time I got outside the rain was very light, and even that stopped about 2 miles into the run. One of my running buddies, who decided not to go with me on account of the rain, decided to run after all, about 15 minutes after I took off, because the weather was obviously improving. The mildly wet weather was kind of nice, actually -- cool and comfortable for running. If the weather is dry tomorrow we'll do another evening trail-run.

More wildflowers are out every day, and maybe this little bit of rain will keep them thriving for a little longer than they otherwise would have.

Monday, April 6, 2009  

Oh, I get to do a blog after all -- but not a long one. The phone line to my home went dead this afternoon, and my internet connection goes through that. Late this evening it was unexpectedly restored. I can't stay up very late writing, because I have an early phone conference tomorrow.

I've been feeling a bit of back pain while running recently (and in the upper back, which is not where I usually have back pain when I have it at all). It bothered me during Saturday's trail run. So, I decided that I'd better take a break from running on Sunday -- my exercise was a light gym workout, on the elliptical trainer. My back still felt a little stiff today, but in the evening I went to my yoga class, and as so often happens my teacher gave us poses to do that were very therapeutic for the particular difficulty I was having, even though I didn't tell her about it. Almost everything she had us do involved lying on our backs and twisting the spine in various ways. Anyway, my back feels better now, and I'm pretty sure I'll be able to handle running at lunchtime tomorrow.

The weather forecast says there's a 70% chance of rain tomorrow, and possibly thunderstorms. I'm skeptical of that -- particularly the thunderstorm part. Thunderstorms in coastal California are not commomplace. They're predicted frequently; they occur rarely. I'm sure it's been more than a year since I last heard thunder, even though thunderstorms have been predicted a dozen times. Going running in these parts when thunderstorms are predicted is not much of a risk. I'm a little more ready to believe that it might rain tomorrow, but that doesn't matter: I'm willing to make a vow that I will run tomorrow whether it's raining or not.

No matter what I do or where I go, I can't seem to avoid having depressing conversations with people about the layoffs that my company will be doing later this month (we don't yet know who's going and who's staying, and people are speculating about it endlessly). In a conversation with my boss today I said that it was a problem I was struggling with, and I mentioned that I even had to talk about it on Saturday morning, when I went to the farmer's market and ran into a couple I used to work with who brought it up. My boss was able to top me: on the same day, she was waiting in line at the pharmacy, and someone waiting in the same line (but in the back of it) called out to her loudly, saying "I remember you, I used to work with your husband! What about the layoffs, do you know if you're safe or not?", and so forth -- thus causing every head in the drugstore to turn toward her, as people waited for her answer. I guess she needed another prescription after that.

Well, that's life in America now. It seems that everybody I know has been layed off or is in great danger of it. And the remedy that business leaders seem to be waiting for is a big increase in consumer spending. That's what will start the recovery. But so far consumers don't seem to be getting with the program, for some unexplained reason, so we'll just have to keep throwing them out of work until they see the light.

None of this is helping me keep my blood pressure under control, but I guess I'm not doing too badly considering the circumstances. I wonder what we would find if there were a way to take America's average blood pressure, and track it from day to day. My guess is that we'd find it has been going up lately.

Saturday, April 4, 2009  

I bought a box of Kleenex today, and the box is labeled with the proud claim that Kleenex "KILLS 99.9% OF COLD & FLU VIRUSES*". That asterisk leads the persistent consumer to a notice on the bottom of the box, explaining that the citric acid and sodium lauryl sulfate in the "moisture-activated middle layer" of this tissue kills most viruses "within 15 minutes". (I think light and air do the same, by the way, although maybe not as fast.)

I'm still trying to figure out the use-model, as we say in my business. That is, I'm wondering how I am supposed take advantage of this tissue's virus-killing capability. Does blowing my nose on an anti-viral tissue kill the viruses in my nose 15 minutes later? That seems far-fetched. Perhaps I'm supposed to stuff the Kleenex into my nostrils and keep it there for 15 minutes. Not a very practical plan. Or is the idea that others can safely re-use my discarded Kleenex, provided that they wait 15 minutes before doing so? Even if that were technically true, it hardly seems like a good example of finding a need and filling it. Even in these hard times, there can't be many families out there who have been waiting for mankind to find a way to use a Kleenex more than once.

Anyway, the Kleenex people aren't actually saying how the virus-killing feature of this tissue is supposed to benefit me, so it's not as if I can sue them later, claiming that it didn't work. Who's to say it didn't work, if no one knows what it was supposed to do in the first place? There's something oddly appeealing to me about health claims that are self-evidently silly. The shame isn't on Kleenex if anyone takes this seriously.

I did buy the Kleenex, but not because of the label, and I'm planning to use it exactly the same way I used the older version of the same product, which apparently was a viral breeding-ground before the Research & Development people went to work on improving it. Thank goodness that problem is solved! Now I can get some sleep.

I procrastinated most of the day about going for my trail-run. I wasn't feeling especially energetic today. I knew I would probably feel better once I started running (and it was so), but starting was hard to do. I didn't get started until after 4 PM.

I thought I had put on the right running clothes. Not so; a cool breeze came up during the run and made me feel underdressed for the occasion. It's hard to judge these things just right. The run was nice, though. Just since Wednesday, when I was in the same park, new wildflowers are suddenly blooming on the south-facing hills -- mostly a single species, a purple flower that looks kind of like a lupine, but isn't. Also a sprinkling of smaller yellow flowers, and a few big bright-orange poppies. And there was still a lot of green grass everywhere; I'm trying to savor it before it disappears, which it soon will.

The run certainly had a good impact on my evening blood-pressure test: 105/65, compared to 131/81 last night. It had to be the run that did it, because I haven't stopped worrying about the impending layoff announcement at work just because I'm not at work today. I thought about it the whole time I was running, despite all my efforts to think of other things. At least I wasn't surrounded by coworkers talking about it all day (although I did have to talk about it for a little while this morning, when I ran into a former coworker at the farmer's market). There's no escaping an issue like this, you just have to work through it somehow.

Friday, April 3, 2009  

Something like a triumph today: I ran with my fastest running buddy on a difficult hilly route, and very nearly kept up with him this time. I maintained an average mile pace of 9:33, which is the best I've been able to do on that route so far. (It doesn't sound fast, I realize, but you try running up those hills, and let me know how fast you went.) 

The weather was sunny and in the 60s, and the world was green. The green won't last long, thanks to the drought we're having here in California, so I took a walk after dinner to capture some photos of it before it vanishes.

Last night I was at a large concert rehearsal, and at the break there was a kitchenful of snacks that various people had brought to share. I managed not to eat any of them. There were some things that I could have eaten without remorse (the strawberries, say), but I know myself well enough to realize that I'm an all-or-nothing sort of guy, and if I started in on the strawberries, the cheeses and chips and mini-muffins would have been next. Black coffee was my treat for the evening. Oh well, we do what we have to do. I was there to rehearse, and that's what I focused on.

The vegetables I roasted tonight included asparagus, carrot, a vaguely turnip-like novelty that I bought at the farmer's market, and broccoli. The broccoli was of the slender, juvenile sort, and when I took the vegetables out of the oven I though at first that I had burnt the broccoli to an inedible cinder. It turned out that the broccoli was delicious -- crispy, and certainly smaller than it was when I put it in the oven, but not turned to ashes. I think I got the timing just right. I'm going to have to try that again. The words "broccoli" and "delicious" do not often appear together in a sentence, and I want to see if I can do it again.

My blood pressure's a lot higher today. Maybe that has to do with the situation at work -- everyone's waiting to find out who's going to be on the layoff list later this month, and few conversations are about any other subject. Running every day should be helping me, but maybe there's only so much it can do.

Thursday, April 2, 2009  

I got outside for a good run at lunchtime -- a very hilly route, but I was able to keep up pretty well with my running buddies. It was as sunny as yesterday. Not quite so summery, though: there was a cool and rather strong breeze blowing, when we were facing into it, it seemed to be trying to slow us down. Even so, I liked the sensation (imaginary or real) that I was getting more oxygen than usual. The wind sometimes seemed to be forcing fresh air down my throat.

No sign of the mountain lion; there haven't been any reported sightings over the last few days, and I'm hoping the beast has moved on. Over the past few weeks there has been much discussion about whether the mountain lion is male or female. That the mountain lion was seen on the work site repeatedly over a period of more than a week made some people think that it was a female (according to this theory, female mountain lions confine themselves to a small area, while males range widely over a much larger territory). My own theory has been that the mountain lion has to be a male. I mean, think about it: the creature has been walking in circles in the immediate neighborhood for several days, and it still hasn't asked anybody for directions. I rest my case.

Women like to laugh at male behavior patterns of this sort, believing as they do that male behavior patterns are optional (that is, men are insecure in silly ways because they choose to be, not because they have to be). What they overlook is how harshly society judges any male who isn't adopting conventional male behavior patterns. It's all very well that women are unafraid to ask for directions, or to request help of other kinds, but women shouldn't assume that a male will be treated just as well as themselves if he asks for directions or help. Often he won't be. Men are supposed to be competent at everything they do (whether they have ever done it before or not); men are not supposed to need help at anything, and therefore they shouldn't be asking for it.

I went to a concert rehearsal after work, and came home late; I think this is all I have time to say today!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009  

Here's what I learned today: it's hard for a Californian who's up early, and hasn't had his morning coffee yet, to work up to the level of conversational energy that is required for a phone meeting with Israelis who are getting ready to go home for the day. I think that, before next week's Wednesday morning phone-date with Israel, I'm going to have to get up even earlier, and stop at the espresso place that just opened up across the street from my office. Eventually I'll find out how much caffeine it takes to enable me to keep up with them. I hope it turns out that the amount I need is a non-fatal dose.

I went for an evening trail-run with two of my running buddies from work. We're trying to make the Wednesday-night runs a regular routine. We went up an especially rough and rocky trail tonight, one which offers so many trip-hazards that you pretty much have to keep your head down, examining the trail ahead of you, the whole time. The minute you allow yourself to look around, or think about something besides not stumbling, you start to stumble.

It was fine weather -- sunny and about 72 degrees when we started. We didn't dare go fast, but we did manage to finish before sunset (and before it cooled off very much). For most of the distance we didn't talk about the scary situation at work, but during the last mile we somehow fell into the trap, and started trading contradictory reports from various sources about what percentage of people in which parts of the company are going to be layed off. It's speculative, useless, and depressing to have such conversations, but sometimes people can't help themselves. I wasn't the one who started it, though, and after we finished the run I proposed that we try not to have that kind of conversation next time. I tend to see the Wednesday night trail runs as a mid-week escape from the work world and its problems. I like it that it's just us and the trees and the lizards -- I don't want us to bring the office with us to the park, and drag it along the trail behind us.

My weight-loss program seems to have stalled, but I'll just have to keep ratcheting down my portion sizes until I start losing weight again. The trail run tonight burned an estimated 771 calories -- that should help a little. It certainly helped with my blood pressure tonight: 110/69! I guess the effect of the running itself outweighed the gloomy conversation we were having during the last mile of it.

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