It’s been almost exactly a month since my doctor and I started tinkering with the prescriptions. First up we swapped out Actos for Victoza, and then a couple of weeks later, we swapped out my blood pressure pill (bisoprolol and lasix) with Amlopidine. In both cases it was about trying to encourage weight loss (Actos has been implicated in encouraging weight gain, or at least making weight loss difficult, and ditto the bisoprolol) and reduce some of the water retention in the legs to make pushing forward my exercise work easier.

And a month later, how are things? I tolerate the new drugs well, which is a good start. The blood pressure change takes me from a beta blocker, which regulates blood pressure by slowing your heart rate, and lasix, which makes you pee and look for a horse track to race on to a calcium channel blocker, which relaxes your blood vessel walls and opens them up to reduce the pressure. A side effect of the change, I’ve found, is that my pulse goes up faster because it’s not being suppressed, so I feel even more out of shape than I did before (because it’s true), and the first day or so of the conversion it sometimes felt like the heart was racing, but it quickly settled in, and I no longer have the ritual two hours after taking the pill pit stop.

And the Victoza? I’m damned impressed. It’s injectable, but in practice that’s a minimal hassle and not a problem, even for someone like me who’s a bit needle averse. The first one was an interesting study in stress reaction, and after that, it was no big deal.

Victoza, among other things, slows the movement of food from stomach to intestine, so a side effect is it suppresses hunger and makes you feel full faster, leading to (at least for me) smaller portions and less snacking. I also found that the Actos seemed to have a buffering effect on carb eating that kept the blood sugar from spiking that the Victoza doesn’t do, which had made me more aware of how many carbs I’m eating — which wasn’t a problem by the way — and that’s led me to reducing the percentage of carbs in the diet from the 30-35% range down to the 25% range, give or take a few percent.

The result so far? When I started the victoza around 402 and had been on a slow creep up I was unable to stop since the start of the year (grump). Today it’s at 396. Along the way I quickly dumped about 4 pounds of water weight, put it back on (and a bit more, creeping up to 403, and then dumping it off again where I’ve been stable at this weight for the better part of a week, give or take half a pound. That, in microcosm, is the fun of watching your body adapt to the drugs and find it’s new balance.

And the blood sugars? I generally test three times a day: at wake up, before dinner and before I go to bed. The average of these three over time seem to match up well with my A1C tests (of course, I’ll test any time I feel off or if things aren’t stable, and yes, sometimes things are really stable and I’ll test twice a day). Just before I switched to Victoza I was averaging abour 162. During the transitions this bounced up a bit to 170, and as I got used to both drugs, it started to drop again. Right now, I’m averaging 145, and my wake-up number is averaging about 10 points down from before the change. I’m happy, my doctor is happy, and my blood glucose is happy.

There’s some sense I’m starting to see some non-water weight come off. And I’m back to what I weighed in March, and within a couple of pounds of where I opened 2016. So.. Progress. and hopefully setting the stage for more later.

Remember when we were taught that a calorie is a calorie and that if you eat less you lose weight and if you eat more you gain? Well, welcome to the land of its complicated. Fortunately, my doctor has studied up on this stuff and in our discussions, we found alternatives that seem better in line with trying to move the needle on the weight loss, since the current setup was pretty clearly acting as an anchor to me.

Now, all I have to do is make the damned needle move. but at least I feel like I have a better chance now.

Going on the Road

Laurie and I are getting close to our vacation together and sometime in the next few weeks we’ll hit the road and unplug for a while. Our original idea was to head to Yellowstone, but the reality of the 100th anniversary and the crowds it created convinced us to put that off a year — and the fire problems they’re having this year on top of the crowds makes me think that was a smart decision. Second choice was a long-delayed visit back to Victoria BC, but I ended up not doing that because Victoria is a walking town and I just wasn’t sure if my legs and conditioning would hold up. Because of the above the legs are a lot better (thank god), but the conditioning is still a work in progress, and yes, having to make compromises like this sucks. Kids, remember that giving up on keeping yourself in shape when you’re young comes back to bite you later like a high interest credit card… keep the balance low.

Instead I suggested something we’ve had on the list for a long while, and we’re going to make a quick run up the Oregon coast for a longer stay near forks at the Kalaloch Lodge in Olympic National Park. We have a cabin there, and it’ll let us explore the park and up into Port Angeles if we want. What’s sort of amusing about this is that my family had a cabin on the Peninsula for years outside Port Ludlow and we used to visit them and stay regularly, and yet we never really took the time to explore the park while staying there — we either sat and unwound, or we ferried over to Victoria. I’ve wanted to fix that, and this seems a good chance.

We’re playing a bit of roulette with the winter storms this late in the season, but honestly if we don’t get some rain I’ll be disappointed, and if we get nothing but rain, we can sit in the cabin and unplug and enjoy the stormwatching. Along the way up we’ll make stops in Medford, Newport (where I’ve found a new place that I really think is interesting, more once we stay there, maybe) and Astoria (of course), and then home the fast way with a stop in Grant’s Pass. It really is shaping up to be a fun sit, poke around and explore, and there should be some nice photographic opportunities on the lodge site even if weather limits our movement.

The one downside? That lodge is managed by Delaware North, the folks currently fighting with the National Parks over the trademark names in Yosemite. I would much prefer not giving them any money because of that, but there really isn’t an equivalent facility I could stay in instead, and I didn’t want to stay inland in a motel in Forks proper or in Port Angeles, because I wanted to be on the water and I wanted the in-park lodge experience, especially given the chance we’ll have some rainy down time. So, we’ll grit our teeth a bit and do this and enjoy it despite what DNC is doing to Yosemite.

And, Jury Duty

This week’s added complication was jury duty. It’s friday, and I just got the notification that my service is ended without having been called in, so I’m done for at least a year. In general, it seems I get a jury duty call about every three years or so, and in the time I’ve been living here in Santa Clara county, this is only the 2nd time I haven’t had to go into the court to be considered for a jury. And for the times I have been called in seven times I haven’t gotten on a jury (six times by pre-emptory decision by either prosecution or defense) and once I ended up on the jury, foreman of the jury, and we convicted the poor guy.

This is a duty I feel a citizen should take seriously, so I do. That said, when I was younger, I generally preferred not sitting on juries, and I had a tendency to answer questions in ways that might encourage one side or another to not want me around — and there’s a strong bias against more educated, analytical thinkers anyway, from my experience. And I also had a tendency to show up hauling a book to read, of course, and they tended to be hardcovers written by Joseph Wambaugh. When I showed up one year reading my copy of The Onion Field I noticed one of the prosecution lawyers notice the book, make a look, and later that afternoon I was sent home. (by the way, Wambaugh’s an interesting writer, and one people might want to read and compare to our current challenges that have led to some of the ongoing protests by Black Lives Matter).

The only time I actively tried to get off a jury was a criminal case involving some gang activity by the Nortena involving drugs and guns and stuff, and I really didn’t look forward to putting about three weeks into listening to that, so during the jury interviews I let it be known I was a strong supporter of the three strikes initiatives, and the defense lawyer left contrails on his run to the judge to discuss me, and I went home about ten minutes later. I am, by the way, but I’m also in favor of some of the modifications that have been made involving non-violent crimes as well as we’ve seen how it’s been implemented.

The one jury I actively wanted to get on was a solicitation case where the defense was going for entrapment, and it kind of fascinated me (not in that way, you), but it ended up I didn’t get seated.

And then my last jury about three years ago I finally got seated, and it was a two day domestic violence case, and it was actually rather sad. Boyfriend gets in an argument with Girlfriend, loses it, slaps her. Girlfriend grabs the baby and leaves, goes to a fire station a couple of blocks away. They of course bring her in and call the police. Boyfriend arrives wanting to apologize, police arrive, and he ends up charged with a minor felony assault. The Girlfriend refused to cooperate on the charge or testify and they didn’t try to force her.

So here we are, this mid-20’s guy with a kid and a felony count. The defense did the best they could trying to put together a reasonable doubt defense, but the prosecution had it completely lined up, and it was a no brainer. We agreed as a jury to convict on the first vote, with one hesitation by a juror who was worried about how this might affect the kid — something the judge had explicitly told us not to consider. Once reminded of that he voted to convict we were done and reported back to the bailiff before he’d had time to get his sandwich out of the fridge.

The guy was up for, probably, probation and counseling, not jail time. I felt bad for him, but he hit her, and I don’t care why, you don’t do that. It was the correct choice to convict based on the law, but beyond that, it was the right decision, because you don’t hit people in anger. And yes, we felt bad for him, because at some level it was an honest mistake with no (at least told to the jury) history of violence or abuse. But still, a big mistake.

And I felt bad for the defense lawyer, because he did the best he could but I got the sense he knew there was no chance. I’m not sure why there wasn’t a plea deal here and it actually went to jury, but it did and we did our job. As part of the responsibilities as foreman, I had the option of making myself available to the lawyers after, so I did. The defense lawyer saw me and just left, the prosecution came out after and we had a short chat about broad general feelings in the room. And then I went home.

I know people who blow off the jury duty summons and that annoys me; as a citizen, you’re not asked to do too much and you should take your citizenship seriously. And in the jury rooms I’ve watched people try to blow smoke up the judge to get out of it (hint: they’ve heard it all), and I’ve seen anger and hostility and outright abuse for the audacity of being told to put a little time back into the country that supports you. One year there was a woman so openly hostile to the judge he sent her home, and she stalked out with a smile looking like she’d won, when in reality her attitude was so impacting the room nobody could get work done until they got rid of her — and I feel sad for someone like that because living with that kind of anger at things is destructive to the person more than those around them.

But honestly, with Jury Duty, what I see is a system that is by definition a bit awkward and uncomfortable, asking people to do their best in situations outside of their comfort zone, run by people trying to make it as least-uncomfortable as they can given the limits placed on them. when you sit and talk to them, from clerks to judges to lawyers to bailiffs, you find people who really care and who understand the imposition and try to minimize it. Only once have I run into a clerk I felt had checked out and was just taking the paycheck and doing the robot thing.

And you’re involved in and impacting people’s lives, and when I was on the jury and voted by the group as foreman, it was an interesting kind of stress that came with it, because the decisions are small, but very personal and important. We changed a guy’s life for a mistake — hopefully for the better, but we’ll never know.

But I do know that when I get the summons, I try to honor it, because that’s part of my payment for my ability to be a citizen here. Those of you who don’t, think about that for a minute. And compare that to what others are doing for the country in our armed forces, and ask yourself why you aren’t willing to give up a bit of time every few years to make sure the systems continue to work for all of us.