Category: Health

A Keto Failure

  • If you’ve been following along at home, several weeks ago I began the great reset. Calorie control, daily workouts, and going back to keto. So far it’s been going great. Down about seven pounds and solidly back in ketosis. And then I ran into a brick wall. Otherwise known as “regular life”. A few days ago we went out to dinner with some friends to a Puerto Rican restaurant. Great food. I did fine with calorie restriction… but a few deep fried plantains and some other taro root appetizer thingy snuck in, knocking me out of ketosis by the next morning. I did ok the next few days diet-wise and then we went to a hockey game last night. (the other day I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out. Bada boom. I’ll be here all night) I was smart with calories – I made and ate a huge pot of steamed broccoli before we went so I wouldn’t be tempted with food (you have no idea how much willpower it took to not dive into the pizza and wings). But everyone was having drinks (I haven’t had one for several weeks) and I caved. I had a vodka since it’s keto. And then I couldn’t resist having a beer. How do you not have a beer while watching hockey? Which brings me to my point. It’s so tough to “diet” and/or maintain keto and have a regular life. It’s so hard when everyone is ordering food and enjoying a few drinks and you’re that guy… not eating and drinking iced tea. Sigh. I desperately wish I could find the right balance that allows me to actually eat and maintain a healthy weight. Maybe I’ll just go crazy with the workouts. If I burn a 1,000 calories a day I can still eat nachos, right?

  • The events of Kenosha and the Rittenhouse shooting, and so many other events the last year, are a direct result of elected officials abdicating their responsibility. If you fail to enforce the law or offer basic policing services to your citizens, the outcome will be predictable. Like it or not, a much larger percentage of the population than you’d think are generally not good people – for a whole host of reasons. Given the opportunity they will lie, cheat, steal, and use violence and force to prey upon the weak. Those folks have always been a part of the human condition and always will. If you don’t keep them in check, they will take advantage in a heartbeat. America historically has, for the most part, managed the balance between police authoritarian/overreach and anarchy pretty well. Until now. The woke, progressive, lawyers, and cancel culture have cowed elected officials into being afraid to do their jobs. The end result is predictable. And the longer it goes on the harder it will be to wrest control back from the mob. I fear it may already be too late.

  • Directly related to the last point, I highly encourage you to read this post. I’m not going to try and restate it because I’m not articulate enough. I’m 75-80% 90% in agreement with it. The part I’m curious about… is there some George Soros type person or big tech cabal orchestrating this, or is it an organic thing fueled by people like AOC and Ilhan Omar who in pushing their day to day issues are inadvertently driving us closer to the outcomes stated in the post? Regardless, history reminds us that chaos will create a power vacuum. You may not like who steps in to captain the ship.

  • Speaking of chaos, I’m most of the way through a great book on the history of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. I hadn’t read much about the civil war, so there’s lots of details that I never knew. It’s hard to imagine what Lincoln faced as he took office. The south almost immediately seceded directly in response to his being elected. A number of the battles in that war had casualties of 20,000 – in a single day. That’s unfathomable. We just recently had 13 servicemembers killed in the bungled Afghanistan withdraw and we went apoplectic. Can you imagine thousands in a single day? The pressures Lincoln faced were truly remarkable. It’s a good to be reminded of how close this country came to not surviving.

  • We’ve had a bear circling our neighborhood for several years now. During the summer you’d have the occasional sighting, and then more frequently as we get closer to winter. The last month or so he’s been a pretty frequent visitor. We caught him on the security camera the other night going after our garbage can. He flipped it over a few times, pressed down on the side, and pop… it opened up like a ripe banana. So much for the “bearproof can”. The can is now in the garage. I’ve seen him on the camera several more times looking for it in the middle of the night. I’m worried for him. He’s clearly become accustomed to foraging for garbage in neighborhoods. Bears like that tend not to have a good outcome. Relocating them doesn’t tend to work. Time to hibernate Mr bear, before Fish and Game come looking for you!

  • We’re about to join the hordes of people off traveling to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving. Please give a quick prayer for my waistline. And folks, as Sergeant Phil Esterhaus in Hill Street Blues said at the end of every roll call… “Let’s be careful out there“. Whew, that’s dating myself.

Song of the day: The Ting Tings – Shut Up and Let Me Go

It’s Time To Fear The Toilet

I like learning new things. Most of the time it’s useless information like, on average 100 people a year choke on ballpoint pens. Or Al Capones business card said he was a used furniture dealer. And that licking a stamp is one-tenth of a calorie. But once in a while I stumble upon something that’s interesting and useful. Like Covid is spread through the toilet. What?

If you have time, this article is an excellent read. It’s long and complicated. I confess, I’ve read it three times now and still don’t understand at least a third of it. It’s about the origins of Covid. But one section about transmission routes of Covid caught my eye. It turns out that the initial, and most probable, sources of infection were from fecal aerosols and Class B Biosolids. Fecal aerosols? That sounds horrible!

Toilet aerosols are, well… produced by the forceful evacuation of fecal material, followed by flushing (not sure how else to put it?). Large amounts of virus are shed in fecal matter. Part of the longstanding methodology of tracing virus spread is from testing wastewater. (I didn’t know that) So, you’ve produced a plume of virus containing aerosol that now wafts through the plumbing and hovers in air. Household member number two comes along to conduct their daily constitutional and, boom, transmission. The bulk of transmission, especially early on, came from intra-family and group living settings. Hmmm.

Next up is the Class B Biosolids. I’d never heard of that. I wish I hadn’t. It turns out that the “sludge” that comes from wastewater treatment facilities is repackaged as fertilizer. Yes, you read that right. Human feces, now branded as a “Biosolid”, is given/sold to farmers as fertilizer. Class B means it has NOT been treated to remove pathogens. So, we’re happily spreading Covid virus packed human feces fertilizer on our food source. This chart blew me away. It shows the top 500 US counties with Covid case increases early in the pandemic (Nov 2020). Next to it is the US counties with the highest level of corn production. The two are a near mirror image. Nah, that’s not frightening at all.

A few minutes of searching time and you’ll realize that none of this is new or novel information. It was well known science long before Covid, with plenty of papers in the various journals. Our various health departments and agencies clearly know about this. Yet, they spent over a year pushing respiratory droplets and fomites as the primary vector of transmission. We’ve been forced to wear useless masks in the hopes that they might stop the larger mucus particles and to panic buy sani-wipes to clean every conceivable surface before we sit down. Meanwhile the virus has been happily aerosolized and is wafting along in plumes, and slowly drifting down to be inhaled hours or days later in any room that doesn’t have adequate ventilation.

With pro sports back in swing, how many “super spreader” events have there been from stadiums of 70,000+ fans? None. They’re outdoors or in facilities with fantastic air circulation. There’s clearly been some limited spread at events like Sturgis. While most of the Sturgis rally is outdoors, what other component does it have? In the evening everyone heads to the bars and clubs with little to no real HVAC capability. Why haven’t there been any large spread events documented with the airlines? If primary transmission was direct respiratory droplet spread, you’d think we’d constantly hear of entire planeloads of passengers that tested positive. We don’t. Airlines have some of the most effective air circulation you’ll find.

This is not to imply that you cannot get Covid via respiratory droplets. Of course you can. But that’s going to happen in an environment of close contact for extended periods of time. Bars, clubs, friends sitting around the kitchen table for hours. Coughing, laughing, touching their face, sharing drinks, smokes, and physical contact (what do you think the young kids are doing at the clubs, silly rabbit?)

You are not going to get Covid walking through the grocery store, strolling through the restaurant to your table, or passing people on the hiking trail. If you do, you most likely passed through an aerosolized plume that’s been wafting in the air for hours already. Unless you’re wearing a properly fit tested N-95 mask… nothing is going to prevent that. Sorry.

There’s much more to unpack in this article, this was just the first part that jumped out at me. How much further I go with it depends upon the current state of my ADHD attention span, the weather, and my natural inclination to throw up my hands and decide never to write again at any given moment (happens multiple times a week).

The image I’m left with after reading this is that poor fellow who you spot walking along by themselves, outdoors, alone, wearing a mask. Fearful and paralyzed with the idea that the ‘Rona is just waiting for them around every corner. Can you even imagine them finding out there’s Corona virus in fertilizer and fecal aerosols? Being unable to eat or ever poop again would be a sad ending.

With Discipline Comes Friction

I read a short article this morning about Tom Brady and other various GOAT contenders that made a great point. Brady said that he’s not the most gifted athlete on the field… just the most disciplined. Someone told a story about him playing in a celebrity golf tournament in early spring. He was spotted running wind sprints in the parking lot before the tourney. When asked what the hell he was doing, his reply was “trying to win a super bowl”.

That attitude is what 90% of the population lacks. There isn’t a person on this planet that doesn’t know what needs to be done to lose weight and/or get in shape. We simply lack the discipline to do it. It’s hard. When everyone else at the table is having a cocktail, it’s hard to ask for iced tea. It’s hard to order just a salad without that creamy dressing when everyone else is ordering burgers and pasta. When you’re sore and everything hurts from yesterday’s workout, it’s hard to go back to the gym. That’s the friction that bombards us daily.

Friction is the enemy of progress. Friction is why my weight ballooned up. I couldn’t say no. Working out sucks when you can no longer do a pull up or run a mile, so why bother? I know I could change it, but it’s going to take a long time. It’s hard to picture six, eight, or ten weeks out before being able to get that pull up. You picture the discipline it will take to get the workout in every day for all that time… and it just seems like too much. And suddenly you’ve skipped a day. and then three. And we’re right back where we started. I already blew my diet today, so I may as well order pizza and start again tomorrow. I’ve been starting again tomorrow since August. Friction is a killer.

Tom Brady’s throwing coach Tom House has observed, “What separates these elite athletes, the Hall of Famers, is that they try to get better every day not by 20 percent but just 1 percent.”

“When you’re disciplined, with it also comes friction, because you’re not just doing what everyone else is doing. But if you’re willing to pile enough of those 1 percents together over 20 years, they can turn into seven super bowl rings”.

We’re on day five of the great reset. Down four pounds. Solidly in ketosis. Last night provided some serious friction. I had an event that I’d scheduled way before the reset that was all about good (non diet) food, wine, and desert. Skipping wasn’t an option. Normally this would derail me completely, but I’m determined this go-around to find a sustainable way forward. I worked out hard prior to dinner. I limited my calories pretty significantly during the day. And then I enjoyed the evening. I ate the food (and desert) and drank the wine. I fully expected to pay for this setback.

This morning I did not want to step on the scale or check my ketones. I guessed I’d be plus a pound and be knocked out of ketosis. But… ignoring reality is what got me here in the first place. I closed my eyes and stepped on the scale. And… down another pound! I checked my ketones and low and behold, still in ketosis! I’m not sure how that happened, but I’ll take the win.

Is it a 20% win? Nope. More like a 0.25% win. But it’s progress. It’s motivating. Ten weeks of work to get that pull up feels slightly closer. Definitely not skipping the workout today. Somebody needs to figure out how to bottle that feeling. Because that feeling, that glimmer of hope is what makes a diet and exercise plan successful. It’s not eating a magic combination of foods or buying the fancy piece of exercise equipment or gym membership. It’s the continued, small incremental wins against friction that make or break your march towards the goal.

I’m not on the downhill slope yet. In two weeks we have Thanksgiving. Travel. Family. Food. Lots and lots of food and drink for multiple days. I’m worried. I’ve clawed out some tiny improvements… I don’t want to go backwards. The next two weeks will be a hard core push to keep the discipline and make gains as a hedge against T-day.

Friction is a cold hearted bitch.

Bro, Do You Even Keto?

Crisis, noun

a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.

As I’ve mentioned before, my health has been in a downward spiral for a while now. I can’t point to any particular reason, other than general sloth. In September of ’20 I hit my goal weight and climbed Mount Whitney. I felt fantastic. All health markers were exceptional. I decided to take a “timeout” from the strict diet for a short period. Fast forward 14 months and I put all that weight back on, plus a few. While I’m generally physically active, as the weight increases my frequency and intensity of activity drops. Basically, I feel like crap. Tired all the time. Sore after every attempt at working out. Depressed because I can barely run a mile, when a little more than a year ago I was comfortably doing 8-10 mile trail runs at 7,000 feet. It’s truly frightening how fast you go backwards.

Some weeks prior I started trying to turn this ship around. Increased workouts, trying to run a bit again, and half-assed paying attention to my calories. And then a number of days ago the ship ran aground. I wasn’t making much progress. And then an event happened that hit me hard. In a nutshell, vanity and embarrassment at how I look prevented me from doing something fun. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. I finally had the courage to step on the scale again and measure BP, HR, and blood sugar. [cue blaring klaxons and flashing red lights]

I don’t remember the exact statistic, but over a three year period, something like 95% of all diets fail. That’s why the experts generally don’t want you to “diet”, but rather make small, incremental healthy choices that are sustainable over the long term. Unfortunately, in crisis management you don’t have the luxury of long term planning. You need to make choices to solve the immediate, critical issues in front of you. When the crisis is over you can revisit plans and recalibrate your long term path forward. That’s where we’re at today… crisis management.

So, say hello to my old friend the ketogenic diet. I really didn’t want to go back to keto. I was on it for almost two years. I found it very restrictive and do have some concerns about long term heart health. Back in my peak health I was just about to do some advanced calcium tests to get the true picture of my heart, and then the pandemic hit and everything was shut down. So I really don’t know what the full impact of almost two years of keto was.

But, for me keto worked. I don’t think it has anything to do with ketogenesis – there are too many studies showing equal weight loss and health results with other diets. I don’t believe insulin/sugar/carbs/inflammation, etc… are the great drivers of fat loss/gain (note – when I started keto I went hard down that rabbit hole and was a rabid convert. Like the old joke, how do you know if someone is vegan/keto/paleo/Crossfit? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.) Don’t misunderstand – I think controlling blood sugar is massively important. But you can achieve the same blood sugar control with exercise and being lean in most cases. Keto is not a magic bullet for this… but it can jump start the process.

Keto worked (in my opinion) because it forces you to pay attention to macros which lends itself to being aware of calories. High protein and fat is much more satiating, which helps curb cravings. And when you really can’t eat/drink carbs, those in-between meal snacks tend go away. Keto, for those of you who haven’t gone down that road, has another benefit. When you first enter ketosis, for a while you tend to dump a ton of water weight. The result is seeing the number on the scale plummet rapidly. You see progress and that’s self-reinforcing to keep going with the diet/exercise. Positive feedback loops are a good thing.

So here we are. Crisis management. Keto. Officially day 4. Peeing like a racehorse. In ketosis (via blood test). Down 3.6 pounds (mostly water weight). As an interesting anecdote, I am a believer in teaching your body to be fat-adapted. We evolved cycling between high protein/fat and then long periods of plant based carbs and intermittent fasting. Our ancestors had to go long fasting periods, running down antelopes, fueled only by stored fats. When I first attempted keto it took several weeks to just edge into ketosis and several more weeks of dropping in and out before I was solidly in ketosis. Throughout the next year and a half I took three or four calculated one week breaks from keto (but maintained the same caloric intake). Each time I restarted, it took shorter and shorter amounts of time to get back into ketosis. Even after a 14 month break, I was (barely) back into ketosis after only a day and a half. No fasting, just high fat/protein. Your body remembers what to do. I find that fascinating.

  • Side note for those who don’t know. Generally “in ketosis” means blood ketone levels greater than 0.5 mmol/L. After a few days I’m hovering around 0.8. At my peak 14 months ago I was generally between 1.5 and 2.3 mmol/L daily.

I’m not sure what the long term eating plan is. I originally quit because of how strict keto is. Eventually, I want to be able to have a beer now and then. My favorite food is Mexican. I freaking love potatoes. Nachos are my kryptonite. None of those are compatible with keto or my current weight. When things are back in control, I’ll need to figure out a lifestyle plan that works. The weight cycles are so incredibly unhealthy, I can’t keep doing it. I’d love to hear what you diet experts feel is a sustainable eating plan?

Besides, when the supply chain / economic collapse / zombie apocalypse finally hits, anyone not fat adapted is going to struggle. As the movie Zombieland stated, there are 53 rules for surviving. Number one is cardio. And you can’t run from zombies if you’re feeling woozy from lack of carbs. But that’s a post for another day.

I Like Pickles

  • This week Mrs Troutdog and I celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary. It’s still a mystery how she’s managed to put up with me for that long. An even greater mystery is how I managed to hide my love of pickles for this many years. As part of our anniversary celebration we flew down to Palm Springs to play some golf and see the in-laws. On day one of our visit I discovered a giant Costco tub of pickles in her mom’s fridge. I spent the next few days diligently working my way through the giant vat of pickles. At one point Mrs Troutdog declared, “all these years and I had no idea you liked pickles so much?”. My secret is out. I guess I have to confess. I’ve been hiding pickles to eat when she’s not there. I’ve been sneaking out of bed to visit late night pickle stores. If we can get through the shock and shame of my pickle secret, I’m pretty sure we can make it through another 29 years of marriage.
  • While looking stuff up for my pickle story, I discovered that there are a ton of pickle of the month clubs. Who knew? I never would have guessed that the pickle community was large enough to support monthly deliveries of pickles. So, if any of you are looking to buy me a gift… now you know.
  • If I ever become super-woke and feel compelled to list my pronouns, I’m going with… rib/eye. Stole that from twitter. Not sure why that amused me so much.
  • Speaking of Palm Springs, we played a couple of days of golf at some high-end courses. I tend to be a local muni-course type of player. I bring my own water, walk the course whenever possible, and expect to see the condition of the fairways and greens as… “variable”. These Palm Springs courses are not that. You pull up to the clubhouse and dudes run out and put your clubs in the cart. They supply tees, wet towels, water, and divot repair tools. The greens and fairways are perfectly manicured. You truly feel bad taking a divot on the fairway. It’s honestly intimidating if you’re not much of a golfer. I was a bit worried leading up to the trip. Spent a bunch of money on travel bags for the clubs, dealing with checking them in at the airline, and the super expensive green fees – last thing in the world I wanted to then play horribly. It got in my head leading up to the trip. This is why I could never turn pro. Well, that and that whole lack of coordination thing. But, I played really well (for me). It was a fun experience and I look forward to our taking more golf trips. Except how do I now go back to regular people courses where you have to load and unload your own clubs from the car?
  • There was a political bloodbath last night. Shockingly, it turns out that when the economy is tanking and crime is through the roof people stop caring about frivolous topics. First and foremost people want safety, security, jobs, and a working economy. In times of scarcity, climate change, race, race, race, race, race, race, and socialist spending are not high on peoples list of concerns. It will be interesting to see what the democrats do in response. At the moment the progressive wing is claiming the problem was that they didn’t go hard enough on progressive demands. We’ll see how that works out.
  • COP26 has wrapped up and the end result was… nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. Not a single accomplishment. Oh, how will the climate survive? The two biggest greenhouse gas emitters chose not to attend. Too busy building out coal fired electrical power plants I suppose. The African countries did make it clear that they’re pissed though. Why? We’ve reneged again on the 2009 pledge to pay them 100 billion a year to “cope with climate change”. Clearly John Kerry wasn’t on top of his game this year. But hey, at least he got to take his private plane out for a spin again. Along with 400 others carbon spewing planes, 85 car caravans, and massive gala dinners (where I’m sure they at least used paper straws).
  • This trip we took was the first time I’ve traveled out of state since the pandemic started. My state is mostly anti-mask and I haven’t had to wear a mask anywhere (other than work) for a long time. Traveling to California is different… mask mandates everywhere, vaccine cards required to eat inside restaurants. Masks in the airport and on the plane. And all of it is just theater. Wearing a mask to walk twenty feet into a restaurant only to take it off at the table is absurd. Sigh… and the plane – both Mrs Troutdog and I were scolded by flight attendants several times for letting our masks drop. Until food and drink service arrived – then yay! Everyone can eat, drink, talk and cough. The ‘rona is smart enough not to spread while you’re eating and drinking. I still cannot grasp that our public officials continue to push this nonsense. If you had told me two years ago that the entire country would soon think it was normal to walk around outside with a mask on your face, I would have sworn you were smoking something.
  • Speaking of smoking something, California is one of the states who has legalized the ‘herb. It was odd to see marijuana dispensaries on every corner. I could care less. I do wish there was a test or definition for what “under the influence” was, but otherwise each to their own. It may or may not be true that the bottle of vitamin gummies that came back no longer contains “vitamins”. The challenge at our age is remembering to grab the right bottle when taking the morning vitamin regime.

Song of the day: Macka B Legalize the herb

You’re Going To Be Disappointed

Wow, that’s a very pessimistic title. I didn’t mean it to be. I also didn’t intend this post to be negative, although it is. I wasn’t trying to wallow in self loathing or pity, even though it may seem like it. I’m just trying to keep it real. To be honest. Ok enough of that, here’s the backstory.

Lately I’ve gathered quite a few new readers. That’s a good thing. But for reasons I still don’t understand, virtually all the new folks are connected in some way to health, fitness, and diet. My most liked and read posts are the ones somewhat related to diet and weight loss. How I need to diet. How I need some discipline. How I need to get back in shape. Why can’t I lose weight, diet, or get back in shape? There’s a clear theme going on. I honestly don’t understand why those are so popular? It clearly feels like what people want to read are inspiring stories about recognizing you need to make a change, starting the journey, sticking to it, and showing success.

And here’s where you new readers are going to be disappointed. I’m good at recognizing I need to make a change. Not so good at executing on those plans. For reasons I can’t identify, I have failed miserably at getting my health back on track. I probably need years of psychotherapy or possibly electroshock therapy to understand my inner demons, but I’m too cheap for that. I’ve done great in the past at making a change. When I lost all my weight the last time, I literally decided the day before a huge Christmas party to start keto. I resisted all the good food and drink at that party and never looked back. Boom, hit my goal weight pretty quickly and felt great. Same when I decided to run. I simply went for a run one day and never stopped.

And then eventually the wheels came off and I fell off the wagon, hard. Here I am back at square one. Except this time I can’t seem to get the mojo back. I’ve been starting my diet/exercise routine tomorrow – for about six months now. Sound familiar? Reminds me of the old joke – “quitting smoking is easy, I’ve done it dozens of times”. I don’t know why I haven’t been able to be like Nike and “just do it” like I’ve done previously? I’m happy. I’m in a good place with work. Been loving my hobbies and sports. Spent lots of time this summer with family and friends. I feel like I’m busy and productive in a good way. Life is good. I just can’t seem to put down the fork.

So I see new readers come on board via the health route… and I ignore what they like and instead write about political crap and vaccine conspiracy stuff. And nobody reads those posts. But how do I write about health related stuff when I’m not actually doing what I said I’d do? If I was a politician or a CNN contributor I’d just make it up. But I don’t want to do that. I actually haven’t felt like writing much about politics lately as it’s depressing and I worry it makes me sound like an angry QAnon guy. I pretty much wore out the ginormous motorcycle stories, so that avenue is limited. In a nutshell… I think I’ve run out of words.

It’s clear why the diet and fitness industry is worth a gazillion dollars. Everyone’s looking for that magic jumpstart. Just eat this one food, just do this one exercise and the pounds will melt off! I know that once I start, success builds on itself and the motivation just gets stronger and stronger. I know what to eat. I know enough exercise physiology to make the changes I want. I understand the health risk factors for covid because I deal with them every day at work. I know exactly what I need to do. I just can’t seem to start.

So, there we are new readers. You came for some sort of insightful reflections on my health journey. And got rantings on bureaucracy, motorcycles, and vaccines instead. So what’s next? Hopefully I’ll be writing a post in a few days detailing in agonizing detail my new knee pain because I’ve managed to run three days in a row. Or that I’m feeling a little woozy due to lack of calories, but my ketones are off the chart! But if you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s probably because I had to go buy new ski pants because I can no longer button the waistband on my old ones. And nobody wants to read about that.

Wait, did you hear that Susan Rice and Obama are secretly running the government behind the scenes? The way I heard it is…

Tony Soprano: I think it’s time for you to start to seriously consider salads.

Bobby Baccilieri: What do you mean?

Tony Soprano: What do I mean? I mean get off my car before you flip it over, you fat fuck.”

Let’s Go Brandon

“Let’s Go Brandon!” It’s currently trending on twitter. I think it’s hilarious and an absolutely perfect representation of where we’re currently at as a country. If you’re not familiar with the phrase, stop being selfish and get yo’self plugged into the social medias. ‘Cause you ain’t gunna hear this reported in the mainstream news. Anyway… if you’ve watched any large sporting event in the last few weeks, a curious event has been taking place. The crowds, tens of thousands strong, have been erupting into long chants. And what are they chanting? “Fuck Joe Biden!”.

Pro sports, college sports, doesn’t seem to matter. Once started, chants go on for quite a while. Not sure I’ve ever seen that before for a sitting president. Not once, not twice, but every single weekend at multiple events. It seems to be gaining momentum.

What’s this have to do with Brandon? At a recent NASCAR race, driver Brandon Brown won. As he was being interviewed, the crowd in the stadium broke out in an enthusiastic Fuck Joe Biden chant. The NBC reporter tried to cover for the expletive filled chant by saying “As you can hear the chants from the crowd, ‘Let’s go Brandon’,” she said. LOL

I think it sums up perfectly the current mood. Literally everything this administration has done or touched has been an unmitigated disaster from day one. And it’s getting harder and harder to cover for the continuing errors, missteps, poor decisions, and incompetence. Each attempt to explain away the disaster of the day is more and more doublespeak, deflection, and finger pointing.

So “Let’s Go Brandon” perfectly fits. Of course that’s what the crowd was chanting. And if you don’t believe it, then you are clearly part of the right wing disinformation machine. And you probably watch Fox News.

Meanwhile, my digital scale indicated that I’d lost a significant amount of weight. Far more weight than the previous scale. I reject any characterization of the number displayed as being inaccurate. I’m not going to get into the technical details of the scale, I’ll refer you to the manufacture for that. I don’t want to get too far ahead of the data. Perhaps we should circle back on the topic. With this tremendous weight loss, all indications are that I can clearly afford to eat nachos tonight. Besides, I went for a run yesterday which means the calories are paid for so the net caloric cost is zero. Works for me. Let’s Go Brandon!

Dodged A Bullet

One of the unique aspects of hospital work is the concept of being “floated”. I have my home floor where I was hired. But the hospital has the right to send me to any floor they choose in order to cover staff shortages. I guess the theory is that an RN is generic and doing nursing shit is the same on every type of floor right? Doesn’t matter that I have no idea who the providers are and many of the medications on that floor are something I’ve never seen. I have no idea what the policies are for that specialty or even how to find the supply room. Imagine being in marketing and working day after day on a particular product launch. You show up to work and your boss tells you to have to go work on a different product team today. After all, marketing is marketing, right?

Anyway, I showed up the other day and checked the schedule. The dreaded words… float to the covid floor. Sigh. Naturally nobody wants to work the covid floor, so everyone has to take a turn. Unfortunately due to the spike in cases in my area, coupled with huge staffing shortages, getting floated to the covid floor is becoming pretty common. So off I went to the hot zone.

Twelve hours of putting on a heavy plastic gown, gloves, N95, surgical mask, and face shield, going in the room to take care of business, then stripping it all off. Then doing the same in the next room. Then going back to the first room. Then the next room. Over and over and over again. These folks are sick. For the most part not much bothers me medically – but watching people struggling to breathe when there’s little I can do, is just hard. It makes for a long day.

Fast forward a few days and I woke up and just felt… off. I did a bunch of errands and then some yardwork. By early afternoon I had zero energy and a splitting headache had set in. The next morning, no change. No energy, fatigue, brain fog, and a dull headache. Classic covid symptoms. Crap! The China virus finally got me. How ironic that I’ve been writing about breakthrough cases in vaccinated people and now I’m going to be one of those statistics. In my mind I replayed all my patient encounters. Did I get sloppy with my PPE? Did I forget to wash my hands and then touched my face? I was adjusting my mask when that guy coughed on me, maybe that was it?

We have some people coming to visit and an upcoming trip, so I figured I better get tested just to confirm. Insurance will pay if you’re willing to wait 2-3 days for your results. If you need immediate results it’s out of pocket. So I plunked down my $142 and got the swab via a drive through testing center. I went home and started making a list of who I may have come in contact with so I can tell them they might have been exposed.

Negative. Negative for covid and influenza. Whew. And this morning I woke up and felt fine. I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was a cold? Too many days of poor sleep? Didn’t drink enough water? Too many nachos in one sitting? Weird.

Our world has certainly changed. I never used to think twice about feeling off for a few days. Now, the slightest sniffle and we all worry that the dreaded virus finally got us. We’ve been brainwashed into becoming a society that fears normal human interaction. Half the population endorses authoritarian/totalitarian measures of control. The other half is ready riot in protest.

I live in a weird dichotomy. I live my life as normal as possible, without fear. My odds of grave injury in a motor vehicle accident are higher than being struck down by covid. I’m going to eat in restaurants, enjoy time with friends, and see family. Yet, in the back of my mind are images that not everyone sees. A few days ago I watched a man be wheeled into his wife’s room for a few minutes to say goodbye – before we pulled her off oxygen support. Another covid statistic. That’s real. It’s not a meme on Facebook.

I miss normal.

Crossing The Minefield

Because I have some time on my hands, and I’ve got my tinfoil hat shaped just right, I’m going to add an update to my previous (poorly worded) post on leaky vaccines. This one is about risk assessment. I think we’d all agree that each individual should be able to make an informed decision about the risks of getting or not getting the vaccine or booster. In a perfect world we’d see all the pros/cons and decide what’s right for your particular scenario. But what if you weren’t told all the info?

(adjusts hat) Ok, here we go. It’s starting to look like after your first dose of the mRNA vaccine you go through a roughly two week window of a highly immune suppressed state. The reasons why are not clear yet. The most likely cause seems to be that the mRNA vaccine has to turn off the toll-like receptors so the vaccine can enter the cells without being attacked by the immune system. Other options are a fall in lymphocytes and neutrophils that are seen three days post vaccine. Regardless of cause, it appears likely that you are in a highly immune compromised state for several weeks after your first dose. This does not happen after the second dose.

The impact of this is a significantly increased death rate post first dose. This was seen clearly in the Israel data and now in the Palestinian data since they are just now getting their first doses. Going back to Israel, we see the same corresponding rise in death rate following the booster.

Just to be clear, people are NOT dying from the vaccine. They appear to be briefly in a highly immune compromised state and then get covid or a cancer spreads, etc…

So to steal a brilliant analogy – we have some percentage risk by not taking the vaccine, based upon our age, comorbidities, fitness, etc… We can mitigate some of that risk by taking the vaccine, but in order to do that we have to first cross a minefield. You’d probably want to know what are the odds of stepping on a mine, right? Well, the first study on this shows a 46% increase in suspected covid during that two week period. Even the Pfizer data itself shows a 40% increase.

Don’t you think it would have been good to know that you’d briefly have a nearly 50% increased chance of getting covid and massively increased odds of being hospitalized for several weeks after getting your vaccine? The tradeoff for running across the minefield is a vaccine that is eventually 56% effective (not the 95% we were sold).

Again, I’m not arguing that you shouldn’t get the vax. I think most folks 50 and older, or folks with comorbidities should. BUT, don’t you think folks should have been advised that for 2-3 weeks post first dose you need to self isolate as much as possible to reduce the risk of getting covid? I blissfully went back to work after my first dose, including working the covid floor! And why in gods name would we be pushing the vaccines during peaking cases? From a big picture, public health standpoint, you’d want to be vaccinating during lulls in case rates.

Which brings me back to the previous post. What if we’ve created a bunch of vaccinated asymptomatic superspreaders who are inadvertently causing a spike in case rates? And then in response we push/mandate vaccinations and start boosters. We just potentially put millions of people into that two week risk window with covid on the increase and superspreaders walking around… The hospitalization and death rates will be interesting follow this winter.

Come to think of it, my tinfoil hat is feeling a little snug. Time to take it off and go do something productive outside.

Did We Screw Up?

Sit back and relax for a minute. I have a short tale that might worry you a bit. One that, if true, would prove to be one of the greatest public health blunders in history. It’s about a vaccine. Wait, wait, don’t go… this isn’t an anti-vax tirade or a rant about mandates. It’s a story about what happens when people rush to make a decision without waiting for all the data.

A question – what happens if we created a “leaky vaccine” and pushed it out to billions of people?

Here’s the background. I follow a number of statisticians. Yes, I know I’m a geek. But I like data and charts and graphs. I admit much of the stats are above my head, but I took just enough statistics to semi-sorta understand what I’m reading. Anyway, I first heard about the idea of leaky vaccines from something that Joe Rogan said on his podcast. He, of course, was immediately blasted for pushing tinfoil hat conspiracy stuff. Which, of course, made me want to read more about it. Enter the statisticians who plot and analyze the data and ignore the politicians and media wisdom.

What you want is a sterilizing vaccine. One that creates an immune response powerful enough that it instantly attacks and wipes out the virus in the host before it can replicate and spread. What you don’t want is a “leaky vaccine” that produces an immune response sufficient to protect the host, but isn’t able to prevent a buildup of viral load or transmission. Every day it’s looking more likely that we’ve produced a pretty leaky covid vaccine. This is generally ok for you, the vaccinated individual. Your immune response protects you from getting really sick. But the population as a whole…

Here’s the worrisome part. The data is showing that when a vaccinated person is hit with covid, their viral load and shedding of virus is equal to that of unvaccinated people and lasts for days. And the best part? Because they have an immune response that starts working to protect them, they are generally asymptomatic. Are the lightbulbs starting to go off? In our mad rush to push the vaccine without sufficient testing, we may have just created a bunch of vaccinated asymptomatic superspreaders, happily walking around and infecting the unvaccinated and those unhealthy folks (vaccinated or not) who managed to dodge the bullet during the first covid wave.

Israel, one of the most vaccinated nations on the planet, got hammered with a second wave. Similarly the UK and many highly vaccinated cities in the US. The hospitals are being overrun in many cities, including my own. In many places it’s far worse than the first covid wave. We’re seeing tons of “breakthrough” cases – vaccinated folks who get covid. Unfortunately many of those folks have multiple comorbidities, which is why they got the vaccine in the first place. Their outcomes aren’t great (but still better than without the vaccine). Get vaccinated so you can safely visit your immunocompromised family and friends! We need a vaccine passport so we can safely shop and go to restaurants! The potential irony would be humorous if it wasn’t so tragic.

It’s a catch-22. The vaccine we rushed into the population is clearly good for the individual, but may be bad for society as a whole. Politicians and public health officials panicked and pushed out something without knowing the potential long term impacts. And now that we’re facing skyrocketing case and fatality rates again, the panicked response is boosters! We need boosters in every arm ASAP!

Never mind that the FDA advisory panel voted 16-2 AGAINST authorizing the booster for everyone. The CDC ignored that and did it anyway. The two top virologists at the FDA resigned over the politicization and handling of all this. Yay! Trust the science bitches.

It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback, I get that. But what makes science all sciency, is a willingness to continually examine the data, re-evaluating, questioning, and rethinking your hypothesis if results weren’t what you expected. Unfortunately politics and fear forced us to throw all that out the window. Politics and vanity will keep anyone from saying out loud, “uh guys, we might have screwed up?” Maybe this is a big nothingburger. Maybe in a couple years this will be a minor, annual flu-like annoyance. Or maybe we’ll be on booster #8 and wondering why we keep getting so many mutating variants? My tinfoil hat fits me just fine, thank you.