Thirty-Nine / 三十九

Year thirty-eight was pretty strange, y’all.

I went to look back at last year’s birthday post so I could address my successes and failures—and I didn’t make one. I suppose that’s basically 2018 in a nutshell. Some thoughts about the last year of my life, though:

My thirty-eighth was a year of professional growth.

I hit some personal milestones I’d set for myself in my career last year, and it feels pretty great. I’ve been working on an important and long-term project at WordPress.com VIP, and seeing that progress has been really good. I feel respected and valued, even when I’m not feeling great about myself or my abilities.

I’ve also been able to continue to build a reputation as a hard-working and dependable volunteer at fighting game events in the Midwest, and have been recognized with staff positions at Frosty Faustings and Combo Breaker, the two premier events in the Midwest.

Having teenaged kids is pretty fun.

I now have three teenagers, and I’m constantly interested in how fascinating it’s been to watch my kids grow up to be young adults. It’s challenging at times, and I feel old a lot more than I used to, but I really enjoy engaging with them and finding out what they are interested in and who they are going to become.

My health continues to be problematic.

I’ve really failed at this one, yet again. I’m still around the same weight I’ve been for several years, and what started as a fairly dedicated gym routine at the start of the year ended up being months of just not going and putting in the work. I have no-one to blame but myself on this one. I just haven’t been able to turn my diabetes around and get ahead of it.

Here are my hopes for year thirty-nine:

It’s time to learn JavaScript.

I’ve been neglecting this professionally for too long. JS is becoming more and more the language I’ll have to work with on the web, and not being at least somewhat proficient with it will eventually become a deficiency. I’m spending some of this week at work on experimenting with JavaScript and trying to learn how it and other modern front-end technologies work.

I’m using NodeCG as a bit of a starting point, because it has a lot of crossover with my hobby life, and presents interesting challenges I can attack that will teach me the concepts I need to continue to develop my technical skills.

I’d like to hit 250 pounds by Combo Breaker.

Can I lose thirty-some pounds in the next five months? I’m invested in finding out. I need to lose some weight. It holds me back in so many aspects of my life, and is a prime indicator of how well-managed my diabetic condition is. I know that weight can be just a number, but this is just a part of my life I feel I need to conquer before I’m 40.

And in the end, the only person I can be accountable to is myself. It’s going to be hard work, and I’ll have to give up things I really like—such as being lazy and a number of food items I love—but I need to get back to physical activity and pair it with controlling my carb intake properly.

I want to start streaming local events.

Last year, I came back from Frosty Faustings and my first work on stream direction alongside Will English with goals to establish myself in the St. Louis area as an event streamer. I have most of the gear I need for the job, and really enjoyed helping run the stream at Frosty. For various reasons, this never materialized.

There’s a possibility that the opportunity will present itself again this year, and if I can smartly approach it, I plan to. I’m still not going to stream anything where I’m unable to attach my name or channel to it in some way, and I hope attitudes towards that have changed here in a way that will allow for me to get more event experience. We’ll see how it goes.

I’d love to be able to engage with the FGC outside of those two specific events every year, but it’ll take some effort and luck.

I’m going to conquer learning Japanese.

Some of you know that I started down this path last year, a bit too late to take advantage of the yearly sale at WaniKani. I managed through the first two levels of learning kanji, and put my learning on hold around mid-year so I could purchase a lifetime membership to the site once the sale came back around at the end of the year.

I purchased my lifetime membership a couple of weeks ago, and I’m already back to where I was when I stopped (I reset my progress back to level one when I purchased the membership).

I’d like to be at level 20 by the end of the year, and start working towards speaking proficiency as well. I’ll be reading through some grammar within a few months, and I would like to be able to take the test for N5 proficiency in December.

So I begin year thirty-nine.

It surprises me sometimes when I think about how much stuff in my life is now significantly far away, temporally. Lots of things have been over for a while now—high school was two decades ago and change, my career change is now over a decade old, and my children are approaching the age when I went off to college. We’re officially done with the “little kids” stage of our lives, and there’s an uncomfortable inevitability to that notion.

I recently listened to a recording of a performance I was part of when I was only two years older than my oldest son. It was sobering to consider.

I’m by no means done with, though. My life didn’t really have solid direction until I was thirty, and there continue to be opportunities that will present themselves as we continue to forge along in life. I count myself amazingly fortunate to be accompanied on this journey by my wife, who supports and encourages me along the way. And we are likewise enriched by the presence of our children.

I’ll try to check in on this stuff every so often throughout the year. And I’ll be streaming live on Twitch later today, as well! It’d mean a lot to me if you’d stop by on my birthday.

Be seeing you.

Health Check: 2018

Fair warning: this post is going to be pretty personal, and if you don’t care about my struggles with my weight and food, then you should probably just skip it and move on to the next post.

In fact, I’ll add a cut link here to encourage it unless you really do care about me, in which case, please proceed.

Yes, I want to know this stuff.

It’s the Sugar, Not the Fat

Some of you know that I have been fighting to change my diet and weight because about three months ago my doctors suspected that I was diabetic (and had this partially confirmed with some blood work).

I have been trying to lose (and have lost) a significant amount of weight for about a year now. I have lost a total of about 40 pounds (it was 45 and then Thanksgiving happened and I can’t round down at the moment). For the first nine months, I did what amounts to a basic lifestyle change: I ate many of the same things but began limiting portions and attempting to be more active.

At this time I was already on two drugs: one for my blood pressure (which had been high in the past) and one for an irregular heartbeat and as a reaction to an episode of pericarditis that I had suffered in May of 2010.

After those first nine months, I had blood work performed. The results weren’t good.

The first test was by my cardiologist, who wanted a lipid profile and glucose reading (12-hour fasting). The results were:

(“Normal” healthy readings are in parentheses.)

  • Glucose: 200 mg/dL (65–99 mg/dL)
  • Triglycerides: 600+ mg/dL (<150 mg/dL)
  • LDL (“bad” cholesterol): 200+ mg-dL (<130 mg/dL)

The LDL number was considered to be “unreliable” due to the super-high triglycerides number. In any case, these numbers are bad. I also had what’s called a hemoglobin alpha-1 C test, which came back at 10% (which is solidly in the “WHOA YOU’RE DIABETIC” range).

It was at this point that I was put on a couple more drugs: one to suppress glucose production by my liver (this is why I can’t drink anymore) and the other to reduce my lipid levels (a fibrate).

I also changed my diet at this point to counting carbs and watching the sugar that I was taking in. Generally, I focused my dieting on changing carbs to between 45 and 60 grams per meal, with less in the morning. I paid less attention to the fat intake in my diet and probably ended up increasing it a bit with the increase in meat I was eating.

(In retrospect, I probably should have tracked this for curiosity’s sake.)

The medical “wisdom,” backed by the food pyramid and other aids, has been to pay more attention to the fats in your diet and eat more things that are starch and carb-heavy, such as grains and fruits (yes, fruits can be “bad” for you).

I am here to tell you that this is likely wrong.

Test results after a bit wore weight loss, change in diet to a more diabetic one (I’m not perfect), and drug therapy:

  • Glucose: 127 mg/dL (65–99 mg/dL)
  • Total Cholesterol: 145 mg/dL (125–200 mg/dL)
  • HDL (“good” cholesterol): 36 mg/dL (≥40 mg/dL)
  • Triglycerides: 218 mg/dL (<150 mg/dL)
  • LDL (“bad” cholesterol): 65 (<130 mg/dL)
  • Hemoglobin A1c: 6.2% (<5.7%)

I am looking forward to seeing what other changes will affect this, but I’m already debating limiting my carbs more to see the effects. I’m pretty sure that an overabundance of carbs and not fat in my diet was the cause of high levels of accepted heart disease factors.

Anecdotal evidence, I’m not a doctor, your health is your own risk, mileage may vary, blah blah blah.