It’s been a while since I’ve done a personal status report of sorts, so I figured now was as good a time as any…

Overall, my state of mind seems mostly to be something like “Wait? How can it almost be October?”, but when I sit down and think about what I’ve gotten accomplished in the last year or so, I’m pretty happy. One day when I was fretting about how I’d let Occam’s Fireaxe slip again I was annoyed I wasn’t reading more, but when I sat down and made a list of everything I’ve read in the last year? It was well over 40 books; I can’t complain there, although much of it was not fiction (the good news, I’m now scheduling written reviews for the rest of it).

General state of mind? Pretty happy with where things stand. Right now I’m realizing it’s almost freaking October, and I have a couple of projects I want finished by the end of the year, and if I don’t get going on them seriously, that won’t happen. So I need to prioritize them. But other than that…

kittens

If you’ve been following my Instagram feed, you know this, but we lost Manon after 18 years, and a few weeks ago we adopted a pair of kittens, Hunter and Buster. They are happy, healthy, and growing like crazy. They go in for their next (last, I think) shots this Friday, and yesterday, we were looking at Buster and realized he was starting to look like a cat, not a kitten. They seem to like this place, and they give our house a lot of energy and I find that a really good thing. We think their foster family may have offered them people food, because they’re really enthusiastic about what we’re eating, but we’re making good progress at discouraging that, or at least not needing quite as many rounds of setting them down before they give up.

It’s a joy to have them around, although I’m not sure Tatiana agrees.

The job search

Short update on the job search: it’s still going on. I’m pretty happy with how it’s going, really. I’m meeting with the VP of Marketing for a company this week to have a chat about a role, and it’s a situation I’m pretty enthusiastic over. There are two others I’m at various stages of talking to people about and have been for a few weeks, but for various reasons (in one case, a promotion where someone new took over the position and got buried in figuring out their new role so hiring had to wait a bit) neither is moving quickly, which I’m cool with.

I’ve also had a few groups I’ve talked to that along the way I’ve pulled out of because I just didn’t think it was the right thing for me.

Overall I’m happy with the general interest level and the discussions I’ve been having. I don’t think I’m being too picky, but if I needed to, there have been a few things I could have taken and been happy doing. Maybe this next one will be it, or maybe not. Either way, it’s okay.

The Novel

As I mentioned when writing about my recent Tahoe trip, I’ve decided to dust off the novel I stopped writing 20 some years ago and give it a go. A side effect of this is that the Dungeon Delve app I was designing goes on hold, at least for a while.

This is a discussion I’ve been having with myself for about three months seriously, and it actually came out of the work I was doing on the app — because I kept finding myself doodling on the book when I was supposed to be doodling on the app.

What it really boiled down to was this: I’ve always known I’d want to get back to my fiction writing some day, and I realize I’d hit that “if not now, when?” moment. The app is in a way a similar thing going back to my early years at Apple, but when I sit down and be honest with myself, I realized I felt the fiction was more important to me.

And so I’ve changed directions, and we’ll see how it goes. In Tahoe I wrote the initial draft of the outline, and some detail of the opening and ending — with a big “many adventures go here” in the middle. And this has led both to a number of questions I’m having to figure out answers, such as “Why does this magic thingie do things the way it does?” (Answer: it’s actually a lost artifact of an ancient advanced civilization, so in fact, I’m writing a classic fantasy quest novel that at it’s core is a science fiction book. Thank you, Anne McCaffrey) and “if the gods can simply kill someone they’re mad at, I have no plot, so now what?” (Answer: if they kill someone, they live through what the person they kill goes through, and so killing is very low on their priority list. Setting traps that cause accidents, or convincing people to do something they can do, so…)

So I’m still in the creating more questions than I answer stage, but so far, I’ve found answers that I think improve the book while avoiding idiot plot syndrome. But I’ve also needed to go do some basic research, so I’m right now digging into some books that talk about the Greek and Roman god pantheons for background, and that’s helping me fill out the details of that middle with the big question mark in it.

It’s way too early to think too much of marketing or selling it or any of that, beyond some basic sniff tests on whether the book might fit into the market. I think it does; it feels kind of evergreen to me within the Fantasy genre. But if I were to express a preference, I think it would be to go the self publishing route and use it perhaps to start building a base of material for a future Patreon, as opposed to looking at a traditional publisher for it. My mileage may well vary on that, but I’m thinking at my point in my life it doesn’t make sense for me or a publisher to get involved in a career dance that I may or may not want to attend.

Also, as motivation, I’ve signed up for Nanowrimo this year. It’s an organization that I really think is well run and does a good job of working with writers, so I’m happy to use it to try to push the book forward and perhaps see if I can help in other ways down the road.

Health Update

I know it’s been over a year since I’ve done any real update on health things; a couple of reasons for that. If you follow my twitter you may have noticed I made some references to emergency room visits, but I’ve been hesitant to talk about it in part because for a good while we weren’t really sure what was going on, and in part because I didn’t want to say things that might poison the job search.

It was almost exactly a year ago that we made a decision to switch away from Actos to Victoza and shift around some of the other prescriptions, in the hopes that it might help with the weight loss. In fact it did, and we noticed the changes fairly quickly.

But… we then made one other change and it turns out that this new drug and my other drugs didn’t like each other, and went off and had a gang fight in my liver. That caused all sorts of crazy, including blood sugars shooting up into the 300s and my first ER trip for heart palpitations and dehydration. (Whee?)

From that point on, it was a struggle to get things under control again. I was having random periods where the pulse would spike for not understood reason, and the sugars were refusing to come back under control. I got to know the people at the ER pretty well, and slowly we eliminated things it wasn’t and got ideas from different doctors on what might be going on.

Through this period, my energy levels fell through the floor and took my fitness levels with them. In reality, I mostly stopped job searching from October until into March because there were times I didn’t know if I had the energy to handle a job; fortunately, I could afford to do that — but many things more or less ground to a halt for a while.

Eventually one of the ER docs made the suggestion we needed to get the sugars down NOW, and after discussing it with my doctor, we made the decision to switch to Insulin. We also we really thinking there might be an issue with Atrial Fibrillation, so I started what’s known as a 30 day Holter test, which is effectively attaching an EKG to your body and living with it for a month.

The Holter test turned out negative to my surprise, and all of the tests indicate the hearts in good shape; no sign of blockages or anything. So there’s that. And as we dialed in the dosage of insulin, the sugars finally came down, and with them, the weird heart stuff finally went away.

And as I write this, it’s been six months since I’ve visited the emergency rooms. The last tests on the liver finally show normal numbers again, and my A1C is actually lower than it was using Actos.

A side effect of that? My energy levels came back, which allowed me to start working on increasing my fitness again, so I’ve been walking more and exercising more regularly (with the Apple Watch as part guide and part nanny), and last week, I felt good enough to try going out with a birding group for the first time in about 18 months, and ended up walking a full 2 miles with them on the trip without ever holding them back or feeling like I needed to cut it short. 2 miles may not seem much to you, but for me, it wasn’t too long ago that half a mile through the grocery store was enough to put me down for the rest of the day.

Which makes me really happy, and now that fall migration is going, I’m planning on getting out and walking some of the areas I haven’t felt up to in a long time, and reacquainting myself with them.

My weight

How’s this affecting my weight? Well, if switching to Victoza was aimed at making it easier to lose weight — and it was, until everything blew up — shifting further to insulin was a step backward. The studies show that insulin tends to encourage weight gain, although not as much as Actos does. This worried me, but not as much as repeated visits to the ER, so, whatever.

And in fact, my weight stabilized for a while as I adapted to the insulin, but I worked on the diet to keep calories and carbs low, worked on the fitness as I could, and then it seemed like almost overnight the body decided it wasn’t going to win the fight and I started up the weight loss again.

End result? As of right now, I’m sitting right at 355. That’s down a full 60 pounds from my high, almost 45 pounds from this time a year ago, and 25 pounds in 2017. I’ve lost weight in 11 of the last 12 months and 14 of the last 17, and I haven’t seen 355 since about 2003.

Think of it this way: 60 pounds is about what an average 8 year old boy weighs. I used to have that strapped onto my body, and now it’s gone. Or here’s how I like to help people visualize weight: a two liter bottle of soda weighs about 5 pounds. 60 pounds is 12 of those. stick 12 of them in a back pack, strap it on and walk around. That’s what I’m not doing any more.

Four months ago, pushing a cart through the grocery store would peak my pulse into the 140s (about as high as it’ll go), and I’d have to stop and catch my breath and leaving me sweating. Today? Maybe into the 110s and I can just boogie through. I’ve been able to fairly reliably do mile walks, and I’m starting to stretch those to mile and a half.

I’m probably not going to hit my January goal of 50 lost for the year; I think I’m trending to about 35 — and that’s okay, because I knew from the start it was a stretch but one worth chasing. More important is I feel better, I can accomplish a lot more, my energy levels are way up, I’m sleeping less, too.

It all looks good from here, finally. For a while there, I wasn’t sure, but with the help of some really good medical types, it all got sorted out and I”m in better shape than I’ve been for over 15 years.

The Knees

One side effect of the weight loss: I’m putting a lot less stress on the knees, which means I can go longer between cortisone shots. This makes me happy; and it makes my orthopede happy. we’re shifting from 15 weeks to 17 or 18 and see how it goes, I think I may be able to push that to 20.

Since the length between shots is the primary determiner for when I have to consider knee replacement, pushing that time out means that fades into the distance further as well. Which makes me happy. And makes my doctor happy.

Oh, and along the way, I’ve gone from wearing 5XL clothes to 3XL, and I’m starting to think I may need to shift to 2XL for the pants soon.

The landscaping and the garage

A couple of projects I’ve been meaning to get to forever are done: last spring I brought in a landscaper who completely tore out the old gardens and installed new ones. Not everything we did worked as well as I hoped, and so this year, I put some effort into taking what we’d started and tweaking it to be what I wanted. I hired a gardener — your classic mow and blow type — to do the routine stuff, and that gave me the time to focus on finishing it up. Along the way we planted a bunch of stuff (four or five 5 gallon, about 15 one gallon and a bunch of smaller plants), completely replanted all of the containers, added about a dozen more, and finished up the sprinkler systems to handle all of the new planting and the containers — going from two circuits to five, including Laurie’s veggie beds. Those beds are doing stupendous this year, with the winter squashes attempting to devour the entire back yard. And we added another 6 cubic yards of wood chips as ground cover.

We’ve been able to keep the weeds, even the Bermuda grass at bay, and everything looks awesome. And I have what I’ve long wanted, which is a low maintenance yard (even without the gardener, but he’s worth the cost) and in a year or so as things grow out we’ll have a lot of bird friendly plantings, flowers from early in spring through late fall and a yard that looks fine in winter as well. And gardening is great exercise, if you think about it…

The garage was… a challenge. A few years back I built a small workbench — basically three kitchen cabinets from Lowes with a counter top. The end result, though was that I was constantly dumping stuff on it, and then when the counter was full, I’d dump that into a box and stick it on the pile until I had time to sort through everything and put it all away. It was you classic dumping ground.

So I pulled it all out and started sorting and putting away. I ended up with 11 boxes of TBD, plus two boxes that were the remains of the stuff I had in my old Cisco and Palm offices that also had ended up in that pile along the way.

Seven trips to the Goodwill trailer later, a pegboard installed behind the bench and a lot of sorting and throwing out of crap, not only did I have my workbench back, but I could pull the bikes out from behind all of the boxes and put them where we can get to them for use. I still need to put fresh tires and tubes on them and do maintenance, but that’s an upcoming project. And we can walk through the garage without feeling like it’s a maze…

Oh, and hauling around boxes and schlepping all of this stuff back and forth is good exercise…

Getting that project done, though, has made me face the real challenge: we’ve lived in this house for 20+ years, and one of the bedrooms along the way got converted to storing stuff until we had time to deal with it. And I guess it’s time to start. Wish me luck. There’s easily 3x the amount of stuff in there than I deal with in the garage, so this will take some time.

But it’s good exercise. And it will clearly help Goodwill or Salvation Army.

The photography podcast

So, a couple of months I made a comment that I was thinking of starting a photography podcast, and I asked people to stop me. I got some interesting comments and feedback on it, but none of it convinced me to stop.

Since then I’ve been thinking about what this might be, and doing research looking for others who might already be doing it and whether it made sense to move forward. And honestly? I think it might. So nothing is written in stone yet, but I’m continuing to develop this concept.

One thing I have decided: if I do move forward on this, it’ll be a video, not an audio-only podcast and hosted on YouTube, because I simply can’t see talking about the topics I expect to cover without showing images and techniques and there’s simply no way to do that in audio with any chance of comprehension. Related: the thought of putting my face on camera in videos freaks me out, and I have to get over that and move forward.

And that’s about it for now (isn’t that enough?) but to close out, I thought I’d make a quick mention of a couple of topics that have been swirling through my brain recently…

Looking forward — bikes

As I get the weight off, I’m starting to think again about getting on a bike, first by rehabbing the one that’s been in storage. I still think that for comfort I want to take more weight off before pushing forward here, so maybe the bike is a spring project.

But I’ve also started thinking about ebikes, which are electric augmented bikes that carry part of the load of pedaling for you. I’m starting to see more of these around the area, and I know people who have them and love them. They’re currently in the $1500 and up price range, but I’m intrigued and I’m definitely in the researching stage with them. If you have thoughts on them, especially if you own and use one, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Looking forward — Kayaks, Boats and RVs

I’ve been thinking about boats again. This is one of those “maybe someday” things that comes and goes, but Anne McKinnell has been talking recently about how her boat has enabled her photography, and that got me thinking about it again. A boat could come in really handy in places like Moss Landing and Elkhorn Slough or on trips down to Morro Bay.

Reality intervenes, though: when you take the cost of buying a boat, the time and cost of maintaining it, and that I’d have to find and rent a storage space for it, it becomes an expensive proposition, and I know the number of times a year I’d use it would never make the purchase worth doing. But still…

So what I’m thinking of doing instead is over the next few months take the necessary boat safety classes to get me back up to speed, and look into renting one in places that I visit where it makes sense. That seems to be the middle ground here that would work without saddling me with an expensive camera accessory I feel guilty not using more.

And that makes me circle back to kayaks. I’ve considered a kayak a really good addition to the photo gear (and my life) for a while, but at 400 pounds, practically speaking, it wasn’t an option. But again, as I’m losing weight, that’s changing. In reality, I think I need to take at least another 50 pounds off before this becomes practical for me. But we’re getting closer.

So again I’m setting a longer term goal — maybe spring — to look into taking an introductory kayak course and a safety course and see how it goes. And if it works, then buying one and carrying it on the car is a lot less hassle than getting things set up to tow a boat around and will still let me cover a lot of the water territory I’m interested in covering. But I need to be in much better shape — but I’m getting there.

And it’s kind of fun to be thinking further into the future than the next month or two in a positive way again…