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

Monday, August 31, 2009  

The higher fasting number today isn't too hard to explain: yesterday was my rest day from exercise, and I went to a picnic at a winery. And I got to bed too late as well. I'm trying to do better for tomorrow.

When you have a picnic at a winery, you naturally have to pose for a photograph with the vineyard behind you. When I pose for this kind of picture, I try to look as if I own the place. I see a lot of photos of winery owners in the magazines and local papers here. It's actually a pretty well-established photographic genre, with several rules to follow. First of all, you have to look like a serious person:

And you want to look soulful, too -- a bit of a visionary, perhaps:

But you also want to try to look like a hard-working guy who didn't simply inherit all this from his dad:

I think my pose yesterday met those three requirements fairly well. It was on the fourth requirement ("try not to look as if you've just been sampling the 2006 Chardonnay") that I may have fallen a little short:

Well, it may not be perfect, but I think it's not bad. If I ever do own this winery, Wine Spectator can just run this photo then, instead of sending a photographter to take a new one -- because by then I'll have a lot less hair. I'll be eighty, in all likelihood, but I'll ask them to use this picture anyway.

Now let's talk about media manipulation of a less charming type. Slate.com, a more-or-less serious news source on the internet, has been posting a "sponsored link" to a brazenly fraudulent website which claims to be taking a skeptical look at claims made recently for the "Acai Berry Diet".  Interestingly, the site morphs frequently, so that the details of the presentation change from day to day, but the basic message remains the same.

Here's today's version, which reads Consumer Report at the top:

In yesterday's version, the title at the top was not Consumer Report, it was U.S. Consumer Reports. But the comment in small gray letters a couple of lines down says (and said yesterday): This site is not affiliated with any newspaper publication.

Golly, do you suppose that means this web site isn't affiliated with Consumer Reports, either (that is, the magazine published monthly by Consumers Union)?

You bet your ass it does.

The reporter of the story is "Christine Bennet", at least as of today. She was someone else yesterday, if I remember right. My casual web-searching efforts were unable to turn up any record of Christine's journalistic career, at least under that name. But whatever you call her, she's one hell of a reporter, and researching this story seems to have been a transformative experience for her. "Being a journalist I was naturally skeptical in the beginning,", she says. "But by now my skepticism had faded and I felt confident Acai Advanced was the top Acai weight loss supplement on the market. But would it alone be enough to achieve the results most dieters are looking for? Or could there be a way to maximize the benefits of Acai with another supplement?"

Wouldn't you know it, Christine discovered that there was indeed something else you could buy which would maximize the benefits of Acai! That other thing turned out to be a "colon cleanser", and her article not only supplied links to a site for ordering the stuff, but also supplied "shipping discount codes", too! Hard-hitting investigative journalism doesn't get any more rigorous than that.

Now, some people would argue that shenanigans of this kind should not be treated as criminal acts -- perhaps on the theory that anyone stupid enough to fall for a scam as transparent as this one deserves to be cheated. I'm not sure I can accept that notion. Certainly I think people should try to be more skeptical about health claims reported in the press and on the internet. But I'm not sure I agree that persons less suspicious than myself, who might easily be taken in by an article which they think comes from Consumer Reports, are fair game for any lie that anybody wants to tell them. And I think it's pretty disgusting for Slate.com to act as accessories to what's being perpetrated here.

So far my week of jury duty has been painless. I have to call in each night to see if I need to report to the courthouse the next morning. I didn't have to go in this morning, and I don't have to go in tomorrow morning either; that's fine with me.

My juror number is high enough that I'm very hopeful I'll make it all the way through the week without having to go in -- and if I make it through the week, I'm off the hook. Which is good, because there are some big, messy criminal cases coming up in the county right now, and I don't need to be part of them.

Saturday, August 29, 2009  

Arguably this was not the ideal day for a trail run, as the temperature was 100 degrees in the shade, but I was due for a long run and I didn't think hot weather was a good enough excuse for skipping it. It worried me a bit, though, especially when I got to the state park (usually a popular destination on Saturday) and found it to be largely deserted.

With hardly anyone on the trails, it occurred to me that if I went on a long run and had a problem out there, it might be a long time before anyone else came upon me (perhaps passed out on the ground) and went for help. I took some precautions: I drank a good amount of water before the run, I carried water and glucose with me, and I chose a route that would put me in the shade a fair amount of the time. I also ran at a very easy pace, especially when I was in full sun or was climbing a steep hill. I also chose a particular trail which always seems to greet me with a cool blast of wind as I come over the ridge going west. Well, the blast of wind was only a gentle breeze today, but that was better than nothing, and it did help cool me off.

Of course, 100-degree heat doesn't mean quite the same thing in coastal California as it probably would elsewhere. The air is pretty dry here. I had a much harder time running in 80-degree weather in Austin once, because it was so humid. I can run in the kind of heat we have here without too much trouble, so long as I pace myself and keep drinking water.

Despite the water I drank, though, I did lose 5 pounds during the run. That was kind of fun, because it took me below 170 pounds -- the threshold of "normal" weight for me, according to the Body Mass Index charts. It's an unreal and temporary kind of weight loss, but that I can get there even for a few hours is a reminder that I'm awfully close to normal weight.

Of course the BMI charts are widely regarded as something of a joke, since they fail to take muscle mass into account, and they rate some muscular athletes as "obese". I realize that; on the other hand, I also realize that I'm not muscular enough for the charts to be wrong about me for that reason!

I wondered why my resting pulse rate, which is usually 60 or lower, is in the 70s this evening. I wondered if the heat might have anything to do with it. I looked it up: sure enough, when your body temperature rises, your pulse rate usually rises with it. I measured my temperature, and I was up about a degree. As it cools off tonight (assuming that it does), I expect that my pulse rate will come down.

Friday, August 28, 2009  

It was pretty warm today -- in the low 90s. When we went running at lunchtime, we had to stop and think about whether we were going to carry water. We weren't planning to do a very long run, so it was a borderline case despite the heat. We chose not to carry water, but we followed a route on which we knew we would encounter a drinking fountain along the way.

My running buddy for today was someone that I usually can't hope to keep up with on hills, and this was a hilly route -- but he's just getting over a bad cold, so that slowed him down and I was able to stay with him almost all the way. Obviously that's no accomplishment for me, and yet it made me feel strong, to be able to keep pace with him of all people. The psychology of exercise is a complicated (and mostly stupid) thing. We work with it, because we have to. That it doesn't make sense is something we must agree not to notice.

A blogger who added a link to my blog was asked why he did that, since my blog is boring. I guess it's a valid question. By this point I've sort of gotten over my surprise that there is anyone who doesn't think my blog is boring -- but that doesn't mean I expect everyone to think the opposite. Obviously the fate of the world does not hang on anything I report here. There's very little inherent drama in my acounts of how I managed to fit a workout into my schedule today, or in my speculations about why my latest fasting test was up a little or down a little. Some people do find my blog interesting, for whatever reason, but that doesn't mean everyone should.

I'm not trying to hold myself up as a paragon of perfect diabetes management, whose example should be imitated in every particular (let's be clear -- what I ate for breakfast is not necessarily what you should eat for breakfast). I'm just trying to show by example that it's possible to integrate into your life the behaviors which people with Type 2 diabetes are urged to adopt, but which many of them fail to adopt because it all sounds so difficult and unpleasant. I'm trying to show that it doesn't have to be as difficult and unpleasant as people think. I'm trying to show that it's sometimes possible to get your numbers down without taking expensive drugs that give you diarrhea, that attempting to do so is worth the trouble, and that mere mortals can do it.

Also, I'm trying to show that you can learn to enjoy doing what's necessary, instead of just suffering through it because this is what you've been told you have to do. I don't just go out and exercise by myself; I have running buddies, and I participate in organized races and other community exercise events. When you adopt an active lifestyle you can make it part of your social life; you can add it to your list of hobbies. But you don't have to give up your other hobbies! I've tried to emphasize, whenever possible, that taking up an active lifestyle hasn't meant that I had to give up music-making or other things that were important to me. To the extent that I gave up things when I was diagnosed with diabetes, they were things that I don't miss.

Of course it would be silly for me to claim that people ought to be fascinated by me or by my story. That's not for me to say. The only test of what's "interesting" is whether an individual human being finds it so. That's not something I can control, so I guess I'd better just go my own way, reporting what catches my interest and hoping that it catches someone else's.

Thursday, August 27, 2009  

Yesterday, my blood sugar went down and my weight went up. Today my blood sugar went up and my weight went down. What's the lesson here?

Maybe the lesson is that comparatively small, day-to-day variations in test results are neither as predictable as we would like them to be nor as meaningful as we often assume them to be.

I don't think the rise in my blood pressure tonight is meaningless, however -- I know what caused it. I just got back from a music lesson, and for me that's a very stressful thing. If you haven't had music lessons yourself, picture trying to cook an unfamiliar dish with Gordon Ramsay leaning over your shoulder offering an instant critique of every move you make. For a person of my temperament it is all but unbearable, but my desire to make music outweighs my desire to avoid stress. 

I hadn't had any lessons in a long time, and I knew it would be hard on me to start again, but I needed to do it, and I knew what I was getting into. The no-pain-no-gain principle applies very strongly in music. Be as skeptical as you like of painters and writers who claim to have suffered for their art, but never doubt a musician on that point!

Or chefs either, I imagine...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009  

Well, what do you know -- my blood sugar goes down, and my weight goes up! Don't I get any free lunches?

I guess that's the kind of question that answers itself.

I've noticed that a particular type of article keeps showing up on health-related web sites and magazines: an article consisting of very little more than a list of foods or behaviors which we are told will provide some great health benefit or prevent some terrible health problem. Because a simple list does not convincingly resemble an article, each item on the list has to include a paragraph eagerly praising its supposed advantages.

The title of the article will usually be something like "Top Ten Ways To Prevent Heat Stroke" or "Eight Vegetables That Fight Cancer" or "The Powerhouse Foods Athletes Should Eat More Often".

Because these articles are published so frequently, I have to assume that they are popular with editors. That could mean that it's possible to earn a living writing them (assuming, that is, that articles of this kind are not auto-generated by some commercial software package).

Well, if there's any possibility of earning a living by writing such articles, I think I should try my hand at it, and see what I can come up with. Here goes:

Seven Foods You'll Eventually Be Really Sorry You're Not Eating In Huge Amounts Right Now

by Kirk Poland, Q.E.D., I.O.U., disgraced editor at Men's Health

Depressed? Irritable? Impulsively violent? Forget the pharmacy counter -- the produce counter is where you should be heading if you want to get your emotions and behavior under control! These seven foods with known mood-stabilizing effects could be the key to staying in your job and your marriage -- and staying out of jail!

Well, unfortunately, it's getting late and I don't have time to complete this assignment. But you know what I mean; surely you've read this kind of paper-thin article more than once yourself. The first dozen or so seem unremarkable, but sooner or later you see one too many of them, and then you start to wonder whether the sole function of such articles is to fill space which might otherwise be embarrassingly blank. Which, I suppose you could argue, is pretty much the same function which my parody of the genre is serving above. Oh, well -- you try writing a daily blog and then come back and tell me how easy it was!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009  

Well, that's more like it. Fasting test in the low 80s, which (earlier in the summer) I learned to regard as normal for me. The remarkably low postprandial test, I should admit, followed a dinner which consisted primarily of vegetable stew -- but it did include bread, so it wasn't really a low-carb meal, just a lower-carb-than-it-could-have-been meal.

One of my new cubicle neighbors at work was talking about running with me at lunchtime today, but decided against it because (1) her quadriceps muscles were still sore from a trail-run over the weekend, and (2) another employee invited her to join in a game of Ultimate Frisbee, out on the soccer field at work, at the same time. She suggested that maybe I should do that instead of running.

I had no concept of what Ultimate Frisbee was, and it had been a long time since I had stood on a lawn hurling a disk at anybody. It sounded too easy to count as a workout, so I figured I had better run instead.

However, at the end of my run I diverted from the usual route in order to go run around the perimeter of the soccer field and get a sense of what Ultimate Frisbee was like. I circled the game at a distance, afraid to get too close because they moved around too much for me to have a sense of where the boundaries were. My first thought was, "If this is Ultimate Frisbee, I'd better ask them if there's a game of Penultimate Frisbee I can try first, because I don't think I'm ready."

Ultimate Frisbee appears to be a kind of soccer carried on by other means. They're tossing a disk around instead of kicking a ball around, but it's pretty much the same fierce scramble. It looked to me as if the game carried a high injury potential, which is not the sort of thing that tends to sell me on an unfamiliar form of exercise.

Afterwards my office neighbor reported that playing Ultimate Frisbee had been fun, but that she was a bit worried herself about the physical toll it might take on anyone who did it often. She said that playing the game required you to do a lot of desperate sprints and sudden changes of direction, and it would be pretty easy to get a sprained ankle or something like that. Well, I can't afford to have a sprained ankle. I think I'd better stick to running and cycling, where it is more possible to choose a pace that you can handle safely.

It might seem that, by exercising in ways that never involve a "game", I'm missing out on a lot of fun. Maybe so. Also maybe not. My schoolboy experiences with competitive games did not instill in me a sense of enjoyment in such things. If it's all the same with the rest of the human race, I'd be perfectly content not to get involved in team sports. I do participate in footraces now and again; farther than that I am usually not tempted to go.

Monday, August 24, 2009  

I had trouble sleeping last night because of two problems which I was expecting would come up today. Well, they both did come up today. But by the end of the day they were both resolved more satisfactorily than I was expecting (or even hoping). One of these problems was work-related, the other wasn't, and that's as far as I'm planning to explain matters here. I guess that pretty much sums up my whole day: it started badly, it ended well, and somehow it never quite turned into a good story along the way.

Yesterday was more interesting. It was a busy Sunday. I began it at the gym, with a weight-training workout. I meant to do a cardio workout while I was there, but I was heading to another event and I was running late, so I decided to leave, and then see if I could fit in a run somehow, later in the day.

The other event I was attending was the Cotati Accordion Festival, and I'm embarrassed to say that this was the first year that I attended the festival, after living in Sonoma County for 13 years. (If I moved to New York I probably wouldn't get around to visiting the Statue of Liberty for a good long while, either. I don't rush into things.)

The festival is a nice, recommendable event. Attendance is just high enough to make it seem like an important occasion (especially in a town as small as Cotati), but not so high as to make it uncomfortably crowded. It's not the sort of festival where you're waiting in line for things all day and you can't find a place to sit down. The park is big enough for the event that's being held in it. And the weather was perfect -- sunny but not hot.

When I opened the program, I realized two things: that the festival ran a little later than I expected (closing around sunset), and that one of the bands I really wanted to hear was playing last. That meant there wouldn't be time for me to fit in an evening run after the show but before dark. And my gym closes early on weekends, so doing a cardio workout there wasn't an option. I studied the schedule, decided which bands I was most interested in seeing, and found a gap of about an hour during which I would be content to be elsewhere. So, when that window of opportunity arrived, I went back to my car, got into the running clothes that were in the trunk, went for a 4-mile run, cooled off, got dressed and went back to rejoin the festival. You see how dedicated I am?

Many of the performers at the festival were not easy to classify. Ginny Mac, visiting from Texas, is a sort of country & western singer who also plays jazz, folk, and the occasional Dean Martin number. You know, that  kind of musician. 

And the band Copper Box described their genre as "Polka-Rock-Zydeco". It seemed like as good a description as any.

And then there was Jason Webley, a fiercely energetic singer whose own particular niche was described as "gypsy-folk-punk". I'm not sure that is the right description, but I'm at a loss to suggest a better one. I liked his stuff, though; for me his performance was the most compelling one of the day.

But the most accomplished accordion player was almost certainly Frank Marocco. He was easier to classify -- definitely a jazz musician. He was backed up by a jazz drummer and bassist.

Also fairly easy to describe: Los Texmaniacs, a band that specializes in Tex-Mex dance music. They had just got back from entertaining the troops in Iraq. They were the final act of the day, playing at sunset.

Meanwhile, over in the dance tent, I was intrigued by this very frail old lady, who took her walker to the edge of the dance floor and then risked taking both hands off it so that she could move around a bit to the Cajun music. Now I guess we know how she managed to live so long.

My sunblock failed me slightly, even though I re-applied it after running, so I'm a bit red-faced today. It's not bad, just noticeable. I mainly noticed it when I applied more sunblock to my face before running at noon today; apparently sun-reddened skin is hypersensitive to something in the sunblock spray (probably alcohol). But all in all it was a good day.

Saturday, August 22, 2009  

Golly, another very low fasting test. I probably won't get anything like that tomorrow, as I didn't exercise today. And I did some high-calorie eating, too. If I want my recent improvement in fasting test results to continue, I had better find time to do a solid workout tomorrow.

As it happens, I have a busy Sunday planned. That doesn't matter  -- no excuses! I'll just have to get up early enough to get the job done. I'll probably do a weight-training workout at the gym, and then go for a run. Then I can face the rest of my day with a clear conscience.

Friday, August 21, 2009  

Holy cow, 75!

Probably an under-reading to some extent -- part of the expected fluctuation in the meter's accuracy -- but I must have made some improvement to get a reading that low. (Blood pressure is mighty low today, too, though I don't know why.)

I'm still using the CPAP machine; I don't know whether that is the reason for the drop. I also did a weight-training workout last night -- an easier workout than I did on Sunday, so I'm not hurting today. My weight-lifting friend would surely argue that the lack of pain today indicates that it wasn't a good workout. However, I'm too old-fashioned to see the absence of pain as a terribly serious problem.

I continue to get very vivid and detailed dreams when I'm using the CPAP machine, which could indicate that I've been rather deprived of REM sleep lately and am making up for lost opportunities. One thing that interests me about dreams is the distortion of time. Sometimes a dream seems to last many hours, even though you know for a fact, after you wake up, that you couldn't have been asleep more than 45 minutes. I had a dream this morning -- after I woke up at 5 AM and turned off the CPAP machine -- which seemed to last for more than 8 hours. The dream was about stopping to get a haircut on the way to work (not something I normally do, I admit), and the haircut taking so long that I missed the entire workday. Various complications occurred, including my temporarily losing my wallet (I somehow dropped it out the window and it tumbled down a steep slope into a busy street) and a series of misunderstandings between myself and the barber and her husband. All through the dream I was protesting that I can't waste any more time here, I've got to get to work! And then I woke up, and went to work in the real world, and none of the four or five people who have a basis for calling themselves my boss were there. Some of them were known to be on vacation; the others, I assume, were getting haircuts that took longer than planned. One thing I've learned: as soon as it turns into an argument involving both the barber and her husband, things get very, very complicated. I offer this information to you for whatever it may be worth.

So now is the time when people realize that summer is drawing to its close, and suddenly feel the impulse to get outdoors and make the most of the situation.

The strange thing is that I tend to share in the general sadness as summer fades away...

...even though, to be honest, summer is my least favorite time of year. The main thing summer has going for it is that the sun sets late enough to give you time to go trail-running after work. 

Apart from that, summer doesn't have all that much going for it, as far as I'm concerned. Summer is a pretty boring season -- at least where I live.

We don't get summer thunderstorms in Sonoma County. We get heat waves now and then, and a few wildfires (mainly last year, not this year), but otherwise summer is not very eventful. I like autumn much  better. And yet I feel sad as it approaches!

F. Scott Fitzgerald said that life starts over when it gets crisp in the fall, and although it doesn't get as crisp in Sonoma County as it does in Minnesota, where he grew up, I have to admit that he had a point. 

Thursday, August 20, 2009  

Although my fasting result wasn't nearly as stellar as it was yesterday, I expected it to be up a bit today, and in fact I was relieved that it didn't go up any more than that. The sandwich I had at the tavern last night came with fries; there was an option of having sweet-potato fries, and I chose that. Sweet potatoes, despite their name (and flavor) are supposed to have a lower glycemic impact than regular potatoes. Still, I can't kid myself: fries are fries, and ale is ale: there's no way that wasn't a high-carb dinner. [Confession: I have a lot of self-restraint in the grocery store, but very little in a pub. Put fries in front of me, and they get eaten.]

Well, beer night is not that common an occurrence anymore. We used to do it weekly, when we all worked together. These days we manage to get together once a month at best, and last night's event had been put off for a lot longer than that, because of conflicting vacation schedules and other problems.

So, as special occasions go, beer night is fairly infrequent. The same cannot be said for all special occasions. Many of us find that a special occasion of one kind or another seems to crop up every other day. For example:

  • You're at a family gathering (of any kind at all).
  • You're far from home (for any reason at all).
  • You're visiting someone's home.
  • You're at the zoo / ball game / state fair / ethnic festival.
  • You've just been through some unpleasant experience and are entitled to a reward for enduring it so well.
  • Someone you know is having a birthday / wedding / baby.
  • Someone at the office is leaving, and this is their last day.
  • It's Easter / Halloween / Thanksgiving / Christmas.
  • It's Memorial Day / Independence Day / Labor Day.
  • It's Chinese New Year / St. Patrick's Day / Cinco de Mayo.
  • It's Election Eve / Superbowl Sunday / Oscar Night.
  • It's Friday.

Almost inevitably, anyone with Type 2 soon finds that he has two things: in one hand, a list of rules; in the other hand, a much longer list of occasions when those rules do not apply.

The thing is, there do have to be a few special occasions when you can relax and not follow rules. Even my doctor agrees with that. He told me once (in reference to a party I'd attended after a big annual concert) that he wouldn't want me to come from an event that was important to me thinking "I could have enjoyed myself tonight, but I wasn't allowed to, because I've got this disease". He knew that people who feel that way tend to drift straight into the famous Diabetic Burnout (a situation in which people come to feel that anything, including death itself, is better than continuing to follow the rules of diabetes management). There have to be few days in the year when you just let go.

The trick is identify which of the 364 or so special occasions that come up in a year are truly "special" enough to justify a relaxation of your normal guidelines -- and which are not.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009  

Wow, 79. Big improvement. I'm afraid it won't be that good tomorrow, though, because tonight was beer night with some friends of mine who used to work with me. The food at the tavern tended toward the high-carb, and the ale probably did as well. Well, if my fasting test is high tomorrow, I'll just have to get back to work on the problem.

Apparently beer night wasn't a great influence on my blood pressure, which is up considerably higher tonight compared to last night. But maybe part of the reason is that I came home from work to find yet another phone message from some law firm in Los Angeles that's trying to track down a person named Tiana Ross. Apparently they feel that they've got enough time to place random phone calls to everyone in the country whose last name is Ross, just in case they know where Tiana is. At least one of their messages said that I needn't call them if I'm not Tiana and I don't know Tiana -- but they keep leaving new messages anyway. I don't see why I owe them a call, and I doubt I would enjoy the conversation if I did call them. With anyone else, explaining that I'm not Tiana Ross would be a straightforward matter, soon disposed of, but something tells me that explaining it to a lawyer would be a prolonged, complicated, and thoroughly unpleasant task. At this point I'm starting to hope that Tiana Ross gets away with whatever it was that he or she did.

Well, it's getting late, so I'd better close for now. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009  

Well, that's better -- a considerable improvement in test results today. The post-prandial result is surprisingly low, considering that the meal it followed included potato salad.

I don't know whether or not the improvement had anything to do with my using the CPAP machine last night, to prevent sleep-apnea episodes. It was an interesting experience, though. There was a time when I slept with the CPAP mask on my face every night, but it's been a long time since I've used it at all, and using it again after a long hiatus brought back memories of how hard it was for me to get used to the thing at first. All it really does is blow air into your nose, under just enough pressure to prevent your airway from collapsing while you sleep. What makes it hard to get used to it is that, when you exhale, you have to exhale into a steady wind that it trying to push the air back inside you. So, exhaling feels effortful, while inhaling is pretty much done for you by the machine. This sharp contrast between inhalation and exhalation feels very strange, and even rather upsetting at first. When the simple act of breathing seems to require conscious effort, the last thing you feel like doing is relaxing and going to sleep. I did sleep, eventually, and even had some vivid dreams (which is a good sign, because it means I was able to get into deep REM sleep -- and also a bad sign, because the last thing I need is a more vivid dream life). But I woke up at 4 AM feeling very strongly that I needed a break from the machine, so I put it away. Maybe I'll last longer with it on my next try.

One of my dreams involved a visit to a zoo. The zoo in this dream was run on such egalitarian principles that the animals were not confined in any way. A tiger and her cubs were wandering casually among the visitors. I was sure I was going to accidentally step on a cub's paw or something, and arouse the mama tiger's defensive fury. This dream would make a lot more symbolic sense if I were a schoolteacher or a little-league coach. I think this dream was meant for somebody else, and I got it by mistake. My dreams are supposed to be about plane crashes, malfunctioning plumbing, and oversized spiders. On the other hand, the tiger dream was an improvement over the kind of dreams I usually get, so I guess I won't complain to the home office.

Today was moving day for me at work. I had to give up my old cubicle, which had a nice window view (not a common feature of the cubicles at my office). However, my old cubicle had lately been losing some of its advantages. The nice people who used to be located near me there lost their jobs last month, and in the general shuffle of personnel following the layoffs, some other people moved in to take their place. Loud people. Really, really loud people. People who reminded you constantly of the general rule of human behavior, that those who have the least to say are the ones who will say it loudest. So, I was quite ready to move to a new location.

My new cube has no window, but on the other hand it's far closer to the door (which can be more important at times). It's also far closer to two other facilities of importance to me: the coffee stand and the men's room. I'm looking on the bright side.

My two main running buddies at work have both been unavailable to me this week (one on vacation, the other suffering from a summer cold). Again I decided against running at lunchtime, and went running after work instead. I went trail-running at Annadel State Park -- one of the shorter routes I know of through that park. I started after 6 PM. My favorite time to be there: everything glowing and golden in the evening light. Lots of wild turkeys, no snakes. And it was fairly cool by then.

Tomorrow it will probably be warmer, and I'll definitely have to run at midday, because I'm thoroughly booked in the evening. Well, we do what we have to do! Diabetes is not for sissies.

Monday, August 17, 2009  

Aaaargh!  99 was not the fasting test result I wanted to see this morning. Not that I expected my weight-training workout yesterday to produce a dramatic overnight success, but I've been hoping to see my fasting result drop a little, instead of climbing.  My schedule yesterday may have played a role: I ate late, and got to bed late.

I've been pretty bad about sleep lately, and not just when I was at Lark Camp. For the most part this is just my perennial problem of being a nocturnal animal who is stuck living in a diurnal society (midnight is about when my brain starts to get active). However, it may be that my sleep-apnea problem (which I had been thinking of as a dead issue) is also starting to play a role here. I haven't used my CPAP machine in a long time (because I thought I didn't need it anymore). I think I'll try it tonight and see if I can achieve a better quality of sleep, and a better fasting-test result as well.

For a few months there I seemingly could do no wrong in the diabetes-management department, and I got used to enjoying that feeling. I want it back! And I'm willing to try just about anything that might help.

At least my blood-pressure reading was good. That's something.

Today was a much-dreaded day at work: the quarterly announcement of the company's financial results. What everyone was waiting to hear was whether or not we are going to have another round of layoffs. Apparently not! The result were slightly better than forecast, and the current thinking is that the industry downturn has already hit bottom and is starting to recover.

Even better: the company is planning to restore us to full pay in November (our salaries have been cut for several months).

I wasn't able to run at lunchtime today, because when I packed the gym bag that I take to work, I forgot to put a towel in it. I've made that mistake before, and it taught me that drying myself off after a shower with paper towels is not an adequate solution. I decided I'd have to run in the evening. It was okay -- I was able to find time, after work, to fit in a challenging run (very hilly) before yoga class in the evening.

This is the second time, within a fairly short span, that I have showed up without a towel in a towel-critical situation. I showed up at Lark Camp without a towel, for example, and that's about as stupid a mistake as a human being can make. I was bailed out by a friend who'd brought an extra towel, but the sheer idiocy of showing up at camp without one reminded me of the science fiction writer Douglas Adams, who used towel-preparedness as a general metaphor for competence (as in the phrase "now there's a dude who knows where his towel is"). I'm a dude who often has no idea where his towel is, especially lately. Could be a sign of dementia. Better do some crossword puzzles. Or at least remember to turn on the CPAP machine tonight.

Sunday, August 16, 2009  

My fasting tests today and yesterday were 88 and 87. Not in the lower 80s where I wanted them, but better than being above 90. I still have some work to do to get down where I was earlier in the summer. (The post-prandial test result was encouraging, though.)

Yesterday I found time for an 8-mile trail run, but not enough time for the weight-training workout I had been planning to do yesterday. I did it today instead. I haven't been lifting weights lately, so I hope I didn't push it too far. Probably not, but that's one of the tricky things about weight-training: it's not always obvious, at the time, whether you're going too far, or maybe not far enough. The goal is to feel just faintly sore (not injured) the next day. 

The trouble with weight-training is that it's about destruction. If you didn't damage any of your muscle cells, you didn't accomplish anything. The benefits of weight training come about as a consequence of the healing of muscle damage. The trick is to do just enough damage, and no more. I think I got it about right, but I guess I'll find out tomorrow.

Friday, August 14, 2009  

My company organizes volunteer-work events from time to time, including environmental cleanup projects. Employees who sign up for them get to spend four or five hours away from their desks, doing something or other to improve the world. I've participated in enough of these projects to realize how important it is to choose the projects you sign up for with great care. When there is a choice of alternative projects, the one that involves eradication of an invasive plant species is definitely the one to avoid. (The three hours I once spent ripping mats of Ludwigia peploides out of a swamp near Sebasopol were among the longest three hours I ever spent doing anything.)

So, when I had a choice today between eradicating invasive plants at the Russian River and picking up litter from Doran Beach in Bodega Bay, I opted for the latter without hesitation. What could be easier than a day at the beach?

Of course, a day at the beach sun-bathing and frolicking in the waves is not quite the same thing as a day at the beach filling a plastic bag with trash. And even the people who were there just to have fun may have been daunted by the ferocity of the winds today. There's a reason why Bodega Bay is popular with wind-surfers, and the reason was very evident on this occasion. The platic trash-bag I was carrying with me was whipping around violently all afternoon, periodically banging me in the shins with its contents (which included a piece of wood studded with nails). This is not what most people picture when they hear the phrase "a day at the beach". At least the wind was behind us during the first half of our tour of the beach, heading south. When we turned around to get back to the parking lot, the headwind was so strong that it was difficult to walk into it.

Looking on the bright side, there wasn't as much garbage on the beach as I expected (probably because the winds had flung most of it all the way to Santa Barbara), and the garbage we did collect was less disgusting than what we've found in years past. No condoms, for example. And surprisingly few cigarette butts -- I collected maybe five of them the whole time I was there. Does this mean that fewer people or smoking, or that smokers are learning not to behave like pigs? It's good news either way, of course.

Lots of death on the beach: birds, crabs, jellyfish, a large sea-lion, and the bones of a deer, picked clean. Something decaying everywhere you looked. The waves sighing "ashes to ashes" and so on. Well, there I go: for most people a beach is the symbol of good times, not a reminder of the inexorable cycle of life and death. What can I say? "It's an Irish thing, you wouldn't understand" -- does that cover it?

I don't really count my beach cleanup work today as exercise: I'm regarding this as my rest-day for the week, and I plan to work out tomorrow morning. Still, a long walk on sand, against a daunting headwind, picking stuff up off the ground, is certainly more physical activity than I was going to get back at the office. And it was nice, on a warm day, to get out to the coast, where the wind off the ocean was cold enough to require a jacket. Strange to drive back to town afterwards, though, and get right back into the middle of the heat. Stranger still, in a way, to get back to my desk and finish checking in a set of help files so that somebody in Israel would be able to download them over the weekend. Maybe we experience too many realities per day; I'm not sure our brains can handle the transitions involved.

I'm disappointed that my fasting test was again above 90. Oh well, I'll just have to keep working at bringing it down.  

Thursday, August 13, 2009  

Running felt better today -- my sore foot continues to heal up. Take that off my list of things to fret about. (But I'm making a mental note that I don't want to stub my toe again, ever. I never realized I could pay such a high price for doing so.)

My fasting test was down where I like it this morning. There are a few possible reasons why. One is that I am back home from vacation and I'm recovering from the impact of the higher-calorie diet I was eating the week before. Another possibility is a short-term factor: dinner last night consisted mainly of vegetables. (But one of the vegetables was an ear of corn, and I had some bread, too -- so it really wasn't a low-carb dinner.) Another and more intriguing possibility has to do with allergy medicine.

Some recent research (research on mice, to be sure, but maybe it's relevant to people) suggests that allergy medications can combat insulin resistance by reducing a type of inflammation in fatty tissues that is associated with Type 2 diabetes. I usually take Claritin (a.k.a. Loratidine) for allergies, but only during my season (late spring and early summer). Could it be that the low fasting test results I was seeing during that period had something to do with the Claritin I was taking, and that the more recent increase in fasting test results occurred because my allergy season ended and I stopped taking the stuff?

I started taking Claritin again a couple of days ago. I didn't expect any immediate impact from it, because it's the sort of medication that you have to keep taking over an extended period, and build up a level of it in your system. Whether or not the Claritin has anything to do with the lower fasting result today, I don't know. I guess I'll never know. There isn't a lot of certainty available to us in this game. I may have to do a lot of experimentation over time to figure out whether my allergy medication is affecting my blood sugar or not.

I thought I should at least make some attempt to reduce the amount of uncertainy I have in regard to what my doctor's going to tell me next month about my A1c level. I did a post-prandial test one hour after dinner tonight, and the result was 125 (well within guidelines for the 1-hour point).

The dinner was a Mexican buffet, but I didn't go hog-wild with it. I had chile rellenos, refried beans, rice (not a lot), and a salad with onions, salsa, and guacamole. It wasn't low-carb, but it wasn't as high-carb as a Mexican dinner can easily be. I didn't have any tortillas (or tortilla chips), and the fat in the guacamole and chile rellenos probably had a moderating impact on the carbs that were in the rice and beans. Anyway, it was probably a fair test, and 125 isn't a bad result for the 1-hour point.

These days, most people with Type 2 diabetes are told to do their post-prandial tests 2 hours after a meal, and to aim for a result below 140. I was told (8 years ago) to test 1 hour after a meal, and aim for a result below 150. I'm inclined to stick with that approach, rather than change the rules now. Anyway, I've done enough tests at the 2-hour point to feel confident that I'll be lower then that at the 1-hour point, so I might as well focus on the 1-hour result, and keep that within bounds.

I have been getting by almost entirely on fasting tests lately, but I suppose I should start doing post-prandial tests again whenever my fasting average goes up. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2009  

After trying the ice-and-ibuprofen treatment on my bruised toe, I decided I could handle running today -- and I even surprised my running buddies at lunchtime today by proposing an unusually challenging route which we don't do often (it involves climbing a hill that rises almost 700 feet from our starting point). I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with them, but I figured it would be good for me.

The thing is, that route starts with a steep downhill run -- which normally would be great news, but it's mainly the downhills that have been hard on my sore foot. The initial downhill part did hurt me a bit today, though less so than yesterday, and by the time I got to the second steep downhill, much later in the run, I was already getting enough of an endorphin rush that the pain was minimized.

After the run, I took some ibuprofen (Vitamin I, as the runners call it), and put an icebag on my foot under the desk, and my foot soon felt fine. I'm sure the conventional wisdom would have been for me to stop running and let the injury heal, but I made a battlefield decision that continuing to run would be okay. So far, so good. I'm healing. Maybe I would be healing faster if I wasn't running, but I'm healing.

Oh, nice! I've got jury duty coming up. The week of August 31.

I generally get excused from jury duty because I have family members who are involved in law enforcement. The assumption is that, because of these family connections, I will be inclined to accept uncritically anything the police say. That isn't true, as a matter of fact, but I can't regret having this assumption be made about me, if it means that I don't have to go through a trial. 

My main fear is that it will turn out to be a civil trial, in which having relatives who carry a badge would not be disqualifying. Then I might be stuck on a case with two businesses suing each other over something complicated and boring that takes months to explain. Yikes! Let's hope it's a criminal case in which you have to believe either the defendant or the cops, and everyone assumes I will only listen to the cops.

Another trial coming up: my annual physical, next month. I got the papers for the lab work today, and this time it's going to include a Hemoglobin A1c test. Most people with diabetes have these tests at least twice a year, but I haven't had one in years because I kept testing normal on them. I guess my doctor has decided it's time to make sure I'm really doing as well as I think I am.

I've been thinking the same thing, to be honest. But now that it comes to it, I am worried about the test. I was doing very well during the spring and early summer, with a fasting average around 80, but for whatever reason my fasting average has moved up lately. And, because the most recent month has the biggest influence on the A1c result, my test will reflect the recent rise more than the earlier lows. Oh well, that's the way it goes. I might as well find out whether the reality is as good as the impression I've been picking up from my fasting tests.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009  

Well, there's a pleasant change: the temperature at lunchtime was only 76 degrees today -- down from 94 yesterday. It made for a much easier lunchtime run.

Easier in most ways, anyway. I am currently affected by a minor injury. I stubbed the fourth toe on my left foot very painfully on Sunday (not while running, just while walking around not thinking about what might be in front of my left foot). The toe is visibly injured (red and a little swollen), and it hurt during both yesterday's run and today's. During the first half of today's run, before the endorphins kicked in, it was hurting rather a lot, and I was thinking that running was hurting it too much -- maybe I should do some lighter kind of workout for the next few days. My running buddy suggested that I try applying some ice to the injury. I've been doing that this afternoon and this evening, and it seems to be helping a lot. At the moment, my foot feels a lot better. If it feels better tomorrow, too, I'll keep running. If not, I'll take a break from running and do some easier kind of workout in the gym. (My whole life has been about constructing plans and fallback plans, ever since I was diagnosed with diabetes. Well, at least it keeps me busy.)

When you exercise a lot, this kind of problem is always arising. You keep getting some kind of small injury, and you have to figure out how to keep exercising in spite of it. Often it's a matter of deciding whether continuing to exercise the way you usually do will make the injury worse or speed your recovery from it. And who knows what the right answer is?

I wrote a song at Lark Camp about, of all things, the placebo effect -- the mysterious phenomenon which causes patients to perceive an improvement in their health problems when they are given a fake pill which they think is real. I didn't write it this year (it was from a few years back), but I sang it this year at an evening song-sharing event, and a doctor who was attending camp asked me for the lyrics. Maybe it would be of interest to others, then. Anyway, here it is:

The Placebo Effect
by Tom Ross

In the woods on a sunny day late in July,
all the air was abuzz with mosquito and fly.
In an effort to cope I was spraying some DEET
on my arms, elbows, shoulders, legs, ankles, and feet,
when a fiddler came by and said "Don't waste your time --
there's no evidence that that stuff works worth a dime".
I explained to him I wouldn't care if there was,
'cause it helps me so long as I think that it does.
I would never reject any fake remedy;
the placebo effect is what works best on me.

If I take enough fish oil, I need not grow old,
if I take echinacea I won't catch a cold.
And if I should come down with a cold anyway,
a few doses of zinc will soon make it okay.
Now as far as I know there's no clinical study
showing zinc really makes you feel one bit less cruddy.
So it might not be true, yet I've heard that it's so.
In such matters as this there is no way to know.
I would never reject any fake remedy;
the placebo effect is what works best on me.

If you can't afford insulin, I have heard tell
that ground cinnamon does the job perfectly well.
There are herbs with strange nicknames in English and Latin
which I've heard are as useful as Pfizer's new statin.
I suppose that some day we will know for a fact
how a body exposed to such cures will react.
By the time that these answers are finally found,
I'm afraid I'll already be under the ground.
I would never reject any fake remedy;
the placebo effect is what works best on me.

All this week in a tent, yet my back feels just fine
I assume all that yoga protected my spine.
And it seems my blood pressure has come down a bit;
I conclude making music can help me stay fit.
These are only assumptions, they may not be true,
and if I wanted proof, well, my options are few.
For, to test your health habits, there's one thing to try:
live your life over different and see if you die.
I would never reject any fake remedy;
the placebo effect is what works best on me.

And it really is not just good health that's at stake,
for the thoughts that we live by are most of 'em fake,
and we get through each day by accepting as right
every half-assed conception we dreamed up last night.
If I master this dance, then it means I'm no fool,
if I wear the right clothes it will mean that I'm cool,
and if I could play well every tune on this list,
it would prove to me I have a right to exist.
I would never reject any fake remedy;
the placebo effect is what works best on me.

Though to say it out loud here takes plenty of gall,
I think music's the greatest placebo of all.
For as long as we're playing we think life is fine
and the wide world around us is not run by swine.
Through a skeptic might ask what this fake joy is worth,
at least fake joy's the kind you can have here on earth.
So the moral that I would leave with you is this:
do not seek tragic wisdom where bullshit is bliss!
I would never reject any fake remedy;
the placebo effect is what works best on me.

Monday, August 10, 2009  

I spent last week at Lark Camp, an annual gathering of musicians in the woods near Mendocino on the California coast.  It's a lovely spot. There's so much shade from the tall trees everywhere that it never really gets hot, even in August.

The camp location is the Mendocino Woodlands; the facilities there were developed as a WPA project during the depression (the other depression, I mean -- the one in the Jimmy Stewart movies).

It's a big event -- hundreds of people attend. Lark Camp is devoted to traditional music, but not to any one tradition. Irish music is probably the tradition most strongly represented there, but there were plenty of people there playing music from all sorts of other places (Appalachia, Hawaii, Brazil, Argentina, France, Serbia, Turkey, you name it). You never knew, while you were eating dinner, what sort of band might stroll by the picnic tables and start playing what sort of music.

On the final night in camp, a Latin marimba band was playing by the fire circle, when they were joined simultaneously by a brass band approaching from the north and a French bagpipe band approaching from the south. It was by prior arrangement -- all three bands were playing the same music (and managing to stay in sync under challenging conditions). Lark Camp is all about creating that kind of unexpected coming-together moment.

I was staying in an old cabin which I shared with three other guys. I had almost no contact with them, since the cabin was so dark, even in the daytime, that we never spent any time in there except to sleep. One of the three guys I didn't manage to meet until the last day of camp. It was the first time all week that we were both in the cabin, and both awake, at the same time. There are a million things to do at camp, day and night, so you don't waste much time just hanging around and chatting. And because everyone's interests are different, everyone makes different choices, so the odds are pretty low that the people you happen to be sharing a cabin with will also be doing the same things you're doing. If I was off playing Irish fiddle tunes someplace, they'd be off someplace else, swing-dancing or learning to play Hawaiian guitar. 

The daytime activity at camp consisted of "workshops" -- little music classes which mostly took place outdoors. The classroom facilities typically consisted of a circle of folding chairs in a clearing.

My first class each day was on music theory, a subject usually covered on paper. Large amounts of paper. Chris, our instructor, instead made use of the materials nature provided. He used small pinecones to represent tones, and twigs to represent the intervals between them. Here he is assembling a chart in which the horizontal twigs represent fifths, the twigs slanting right represent major thirds, and the twigs slanting left represent minor thirds.

We learned the harmonic relationships by singing together the tones that his chart represented. Different students were assigned different pinecones, so as he pointed to different triangles we were singing a series of chords together, having our Beach Boys moment in the middle of a forest. If this doesn't sound cool, I'm not telling it right.

Singing was also part of the program in the Simo's Balkan music class, although I mainly played fiddle. Here I am, in the center, trying to sing such easily-pronounced Serbian lyrics as "Otici cu u dalek svijet, da potrazim mom srcu lijek, jer nikoga ne ljubim ja".

Playing Irish fiddle tunes is what I'm actually comfortable with, but my philosophy is that at Lark Camp you should take on at least one musical assignment that you're totally uncomfortable with. Plus, if you play with the Balkan musicians, you get to participate in the big Balkan dance on Tuesday night -- without actually having to dance. (Although, to be honest, it's pretty easy dancing, as everybody's in a big circle holding hands.)

My only indoor class was Danny's songwriting workshop. He gave us a lot of handy tricks for jump-starting creativity -- one of which was "lurking", the art of overhearing other people's conversations, jotting down any odd or striking remark that they make, and then thinking about how to build a song around that phrase. One of the ones I heard was "You two need to do a little eye contact" -- I didn't use it, but I think it has potential.

The Irish fiddle instructor was young Darcy (only 21, but she knows her stuff). Here she is on the porch in front of the dance hall, teaching us a reel, and being slightly distracted by a squadron of ravens the size of helicopters that had settled on a branch overhead and were screaming threats at her.

My last class of the day was taught by John, my first music teacher (on the right below). His class was in a particularly dark corner of the woods. It was nice to re-connect with him after a 13-year gap. (The gap occurred simply because I moved to Sonoma County in 1996.)

After John's class I had about an hour of free time to do homework from the songwriting class, and then take off on my bike to a particular meadow where an Irish jam session happened almost every evening before dinner. Then I pedaled back to the dining hall for dinner, and wandered around from one night-time jam session to another. Sometimes I joined a dance band, if they were playing music that I could fake well enough to make a useful contribution. One way or another, I was usually up till about 2 AM playing music, so I came home with a pretty big sleep deficit, and have been trying to make up for it ever since.

Lark camp is actually three camps, located at rather wide intervals along an unpaved road through the woods. Musical events take place in all three locations, so transportation is a big issue. There's a shuttle bus to take people back and forth between camps, but I used my bike to get around, so that I would be getting exercise without having to make a special event of it. The ride between camps took me 14 minutes, one-way; that was about as fast as riding the bus (which made several stops). I made a back-and-forth circuit twice a day, so I had a daily total of 56 minutes of exercise (plus lots of walking, on hilly terrain).

A nice aspect of these bike rides was that, as I was pedaling my way through the woods, seemingly alone, hearing nothing but the sounds of birds and my own wheels, I would occasionally hear the sound of a music class emerging from a clearing to the side of the road. I'd look that way, and see a bunch of people singing or playing percussion instruments. There was a ghostly feeling to the experience -- an enchanted-forest feeling.

Even if I hadn't been riding around on my bike, simply being at Lark Camp amounts to exercise, because it is on such uneven terrain. Whatever you need to do, no matter how trivial it may be, you usually have to climb a steep slope before you can do it (typically carrying an instrument case). You want lunch? It's up that hill. The bathroom? Up that other hill over there.

The constant activity made me constantly hungry, and every meal was essentially a buffet, so I ended up eating a hell of a lot of food. It was good food, but perhaps a little more carbohydrate-centric than I would have preferred. Still, my fasting tests weren't bad (my fasting average while I was at camp was 91), and I didn't gain weight, which is a minor miracle considering what a chow-hound I was all week. I just need to scale it back a little, now that I'm home and not walking on hillsides all day.

I got home from camp around noon on Saturday, and pretty much spent the rest of the day and night sleeping. I was entitled to a rest day by then, but it bothered me a little that I hadn't been running in over a week. So, on Sunday, I did an 8.5-mile trail run. It was a hot day, so doing a long hilly run wasn't easy, but I figured it was time for me to do a run that wasn't easy.

Today's run wasn't easy, either -- it was less than half as long a run, but it was just as steep and the temperature was 94. My pace was slow, but it was the best I could do today. Probably I'll improve over the course of the week as I get back into running mode.

Sunday, August 9, 2009  

Bear with me: I'm back from vacation, but right now I need to catch up on sleep more than I need to catch up on blogging. It was a musical vacation, and I was up till the wee hours playing tunes every night for the past week. I'll post a report on the trip, probably late tomorrow night.

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