Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Goals update eleven

One. I’ve started dabbling with my most complete script again, but time is tight right now.

Two. I’m still jogging around three times a week, but haven’t got beyond week six of the 5K programme. If I feel up to it, I’ll have another go at the third run later this week to try and push on to week seven of the programme.

Three. My weight today was 109.4kg, which is 0.3kg higher than last week. I did go over 110kg when I came back from holiday in late August, but mostly it’s been between 109-110kg. I haven’t got back into full on intermittent fasting, instead I’ve been doing calorie restricted and time restricted eating on certain days. Although I’ve been holding it down, I’ve noticed that more sugar and booze is creeping back in to my diet, something that won’t be helped by a wedding I’m going to next week. I need to set myself up for another round of intermittent fasting, ideally before the end of September or bad habits will cement themselves again.

Four. Been doing quite a bit of work in DAX. I’d been hoping to order the new edition of the definitive guide published by Microsoft, but it’s currently out of stock in the UK.

Five. I’ve had a few more bits of DIY recently, like sorting out the loft hatch. However, my wife is now pushing me to make a start on the garage door before the weather gets too poor.

Six. I borrowed a book on Python from the library last weekend, but I haven’t had any time to work with it yet.

Seven. Nothing.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

12 Rules for Life: a review

More than two years on from the Chimp Paradox I’ve read my second self-help book, or my second sort of self-help book, as I suspect Jordan B. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is also atypical of the genre.

Like others with an interest in contemporary politics I’ve come across Peterson online and found him an intriguing character; my interest piqued by the hysterical overreaction of certain sections of the left leaning commentariat to even his most mundane pronouncements. I’ve seen him denounced as a dangerous ideologue and a hard-left bigot on the back of fairly innocuous, if distinctly untrendy, comments. Having now read three hundred plus pages of his work I’ve still yet to see any proper evidence legitimising such ad-hominem attacks, but I do understand why they are dished out in bad faith.

In summary the book is a series of didactic lessons spun from a mixture of philosophy and anecdotes that entreat the reader to accept the human life experience as fundamentally challenging and to work towards becoming better individuals. It’s very much about brutal self-honesty, recognising our failings and trying to find small but realistic ways of improving ourselves and more importantly the world around us. Peterson has a fundamentally socially conservative, anti-authoritarian worldview which is grounded in Christianity with a smattering of eastern and classic western philosophy. But he’s not trying to convert anyone, his call to something higher works just as well for atheists; it’s finding our personal meaning that counts, not finding god.

Is it an interesting and thought-provoking book? Yes. Is it profound? Not for me personally, but then I have a fairly individualistic, liberal-conservative outlook to begin with. Peterson is an intelligent man for sure, and there are some genuine bombs of insight dropped from time to time, but I don’t think he’s a great writer. At times the pedagogical mix of high philosophy and homespun wisdom comes across a little patronising, and though the arguments are intellectually well constructed they are just a bit too laboured at times. A tighter editor could probably have whittled away twenty five percent of the verbage without losing the messages.

So how about those ad-hominem insults, well it’s clear that his worldview runs counter to modish post-modern/nihilistic philosophies, and his strong moral backbone will be incongruous to those who prefer cultural and moral relativism. Once upon a time those holding the views he criticises might have fronted up to the challenge, but today the noisier sections of the commentariat tend to be hyper-sensitive and overly emotive when challenged, measured disagreement being replaced with hysterically overblown insults; he’s ‘hard right’, he’s ‘a bigot’, he’s ‘a misogynist’. 

Such screeching bad faith serves a double purpose. Firstly, it bypasses the need for coherent counterarguments, such as would require a decent level intellectual of horsepower. Secondly, the spray of logical fallacy demonstrates how ‘right-on’ the critic is, which at least signals virtue to the similarly minded who also lack the intellect to address the arguments head on. I can’t help but feel that if he was less white and leaned towards a religion that isn’t Christianity the same critics would offer him free pass to hold genuinely unpleasant views.

Peterson stands bravely and unapologetically in opposition to popular grievance narratives of oppression and victimhood, so it’s no surprise that he rattles the nerves of those hooked on such junk, whilst those who make a living peddling them sense threat from a man with a popular platform calmly dismantling their business models.   

Claims of misogyny seem to stem from Peterson’s warnings around the unwanted side effects of emasculating men with supposedly ‘progressive’ social engineering campaigns. It’s stretching to more than the absurd to find hatred of women in such views, though it’s true some of his best advice is probably more useful to young men looking to find purpose in life. What he does well, unforgivably well for his critics, is raise tough questions around how the biological characteristics developed over hundreds of thousands of years clash with fashionable modern concepts of ‘gender as a social construct’ (especially in the context of the identity politics industry). For Peterson it isn’t about the patriarchy versus the matriarchy, it’s about evolution and that definitely matters to the happiness of both men and women.

Some criticism stems from his use of the loaded term ‘Cultural Marxism’ to describe the pernicious effects of critical theory in academia. This can be arcane stuff; it’s certainly highly charged for those who both peddle and oppose such ideology. I think he’s probably right about the toxic affects of such charlatanry on post-modern philosophy, but the terminology is problematic. Many of those promoting what he refers to as ‘Culturally Marxist’ views probably don’t consider themselves part of that tradition even if they are heavily influenced by such woo, whilst for some grievance professionals it’s a pseudoscience they don’t really need even if it is convenient to their scam, whereas the genuine Marxists would probably reject such identification as too lightweight even if the workings are familiar. Better care should have been taken with terminology.

Ultimately, it’s a useful volume for people of all genders, sexes, cultures, creeds and ethnicities who are looking for a way beyond the cesspit of victimhood narratives and moral and cultural relativism. Such people have nothing to lose, as the only people who ever gain from such narratives are those who make a professional living selling them. If your willing to be honest with yourself and take small, positive steps to make yourself better, then Peterson can probably help.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Goals update ten

One. Nothing, and I’m getting a bit conscious I’m not taking advantage of the time I could spend on it.

Two. I’m stuck on week six - run two of the programme, which I’ve repeated three or four times now. It’s two ten-minute jogs, with a three-minute walk in the middle.  I did attempt run three a couple of weeks ago, a straight through twenty-five-minute run, but I screwed up my rhythm, went to quick too early and blew up after about eight minutes. The current run is still a reasonable workout, especially compared to where I was three months ago, but to do run three I need be in the right mood and quickly find a good rhythm. I’ve found that settling into a comfortable pace can really make or break a run, and I find it easier on fast days when I feel lighter. My longest run to date was a straight through twenty minute one at the end of programme week five, but it was a real struggle and I’m not sure I’ve got enough miles under my belt yet to go longer. Main thing is I keep repeating my current run until I feel the momentum is there.

Three. I’ve been doing a mixture of intermittent fasting and time restricted eating for about seven weeks now, and my weight was down to 109.3kg this morning. I’m roughly 7kg lighter than when I started and its noticeable in the fit of my clothes. I recorded 111.3kg on the hospital scales on the 30th July, which was within my target of 111-112kg, and got a positive remark from the locum consultant. The weight loss has started to tail off, but I know I’ve been gradually relaxing my discipline. I always knew it’d be hard to stick to such a rigorous plan for a long time, so I’m going to try and stabilise for a few weeks. I’ll still be keeping an eye on what I eat and drink, but I’m not going to be as strict. I’m away camping next week, then it’s the annual Challenge Cup Final jolly, so keeping a strict diet would be very difficult. So, I’m just going to try and avoid ballooning over the next two weeks, then I’ll start stricter intermediate fasting again when I go back to work the last week in August, and aim to do it for about four weeks up until a friend’s wedding on the 20th September.

Four. I’ve been doing some DAX work, but it’s still pretty simple formulas. I’m going to look at ordering the new essential guide when I get back to work in a couple of weeks.

Five. I’ve done a few bits and pieces on the DIY front, and finally got around to measuring up the side door of the garage earlier this week. If I get chance before we go camping next week I’ll have a scan around B&Q and Wickes to price up the materials I need. I’ll also do my usual YouTube research on how to put it all together. With a bit of luck, I might get it done over the bank holiday weekend.

Six. Nothing.

Seven. Nothing.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Healthier You Update

Been a bit too busy for blogging lately, but I did get a positive response from East Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group about my complaint. I received a call from the diabetes prevention programme manager who apologised for the way my referral was handled, he admitted there had been ‘resource issues with the provider’ (although he didn’t name Ingeus by name) and that I wasn’t the only working person who’d had difficulties. Apparently, there is a new provider coming in shortly to provide a more flexible service including an online programme for those who cannot get to appointments during the day. He’s going to put my name forward as one of the first to be referred to this, so I await further news.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Thoughts on the Fast 800 Diet

Having picked up Michael Mosley’s Fast 800 book a couple of months back I finally got around to reading it at the end of June. I’ve been toying with trying intermittent fasting for a while now, so this was kind of research. The approach centres on fasting, basically reducing calorific consumption down to 800 calories a day, with some additional elements of time restricted eating, basically eating within a certain ‘window’ of time each day to promote ketosis.

The recommended plan is a period of rapid weight loss (the Fast 800) by consuming just 800 calories a day for between two weeks and two months, followed by a less restrictive regime of intermittent fasting, whereby you fast a few days per week, and eat normally but healthily on the other days (the 5:2 diet). However, it accepts that sticking to Fast 800 for several weeks may not be practical or even advisable for everyone, so there is a degree of flexibility. Slower, but less intense weight loss options that are recommended include just doing the 5:2 or adding additional fast days without going the full Fast 800.

I decided that the full Fast 800 was unlikely to work for me, the severity of the restriction would be difficult to maintain, particularly at weekends. But fasting a few days a week, and doing time restricted eating on non-fast days was probably manageable. So, for the past two weeks I’ve been fasting around 3 to 3 and a half days per week. Basically, I’ve been fasting on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, keeping my calories down to around 800. On Friday’s I’ve been fasting up until the evening but not sticking to 800 calorie limit (although still consuming less than a normal day). On Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday I try to consume all meals within an eight-hour window, typically noon till 8pm, although I have drunk the odd beer after this time. I chose these days because I’m in the office Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday which helps restrict potential for snacking or large meals, whereas Wednesdays and the weekend have more temptations. 
So far, it’s gone pretty well, during the early fast days I did feel tired in the afternoons, and occasionally light headed (‘keto flu’ apparently), but it has gotten easier. I do feel mildly hungry for most of the day, but not as bad as I thought I might. The results are also encouraging, before I started I was weighing (on my scales) between 116.2kg and 116.8kg, this morning I was down to 113.0kg. I suspect the rate of loss will taper off, but if I can get town to between 111kg and 112kg for my next consultant appointment on 30th July I will be happy. After that I’ll consider moving to 5:2 plus time restricted healthy eating as a possible long-term pattern. It will also help that we’re going to attempt to change our diet as a whole family, so out with sweets and highly refined carbs and in with more complex carbs and fibre.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Goals update nine

One. Nothing.

Two. Things are going well, I'm now on week four of the new programme and running for longer than I'm walking. Last night I managed a total of sixteen minutes of jogging, in two three minute bursts and two five minute bursts. A combination of growing stamina and sense of pacing are the key. A couple of months ago I struggled with a minute and a half of jogging, now I can manage five.

Three. My weight has been bouncing around all over the place. Two weeks ago I weighed in at 115.8kg on my home scales, only to weigh in at 115.2kg on the GP scales three hours later. Last week I was 116.8kg at home despite feeling I hadn't done anything to warrant the rise.
I finally got round to reading Michael Mosley's 'Fast 800' book which I picked up a couple of months back, so I'm now giving intermittent fasting a shot, but I'll try and write something more about that later this week. At my annual health review last week my blood sugar levels were stable, and my cholesterol had improved slightly, the only worrying thing was that my eGFR came back at 23 which is lowest yet. I'll be having another test in about three weeks so I'll have a better view by the end of the month when I see the consultant again.

Four. Some light DAX work as part of a solution I'm prototyping in Azure Analysis Services.

Five. My wife and I discussed replacing the garage door in the next couple of months, but we've decided to leave the electrical supply for at least a year till we replace the decking in the garden. But I've got a list of other jobs I'm working my way through at the moment, so not had much time to plan this work in.

Six. Nothing.


Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Ingeus and Healthier You: a total shower of shit

In my last few posts I’ve mentioned all is not well with my referral to ‘Healthier You’ the not so early intervention diabetes programme. I’ve written before about the shambolic performance from Ingeus, the outsourced provider delivering the programme in my area, but having given it the benefit of the doubt several times I found thing only ever got worse.

A short summary of events: in late 2017 my GP referred me to this programme, he thought it would be helpful given my health issues and weight management difficulties. I didn’t hear anything for several months, I mentioned this to the practice nurse during a routine appointment, she did a little digging and uncovered I’d been rejected. But Ingeus hadn’t bothered to inform me, and nobody at the surgery had picked up on it. So, she helpfully got the referral raised again, a month or so later I got the letter inviting me to join and a few weeks later a phone call to arrange times.

According to the bumf, the programme would be delivered as group sessions around two hours long, starting with four weeks of weekly sessions and then nine months of monthly sessions. Sounded like a clinically charged-up version of Weight Watchers. The first advisor offered me sessions on a Tuesday afternoon, but I had to decline as they were nowhere near work and taking thirteen half days off was a bit of a stretch. But it was okay, they would find me an evening session, after all there will be loads of people like me who work during the day, people who could benefit from early intervention but find appointments during the day a challenge.

About eight months goes by without word, then I get a second call offering me a later afternoon slot, a little bit further away. I decline again, tell the advisor I’m waiting for an evening slot, they tell me they class late afternoon as an evening slot. I tell them it’s still not helpful as I need an actual evening slot, they confirm they can see this from my previous contact. I’m told they’ll have another go at finding me a genuine evening slot and someone will get back to me in a few weeks. 

Two months later a third advisor calls and admits that evening slots don’t exist and they think it’s best if I’m discharged from the programme so my GP can try to find something more appropriate. We have a slightly awkward conversation where he tactfully acknowledges the programme isn’t designed to support people who work during the day, without presenting this as a bit of a fuck up.
A few weeks after that I get a gratuitously inappropriate letter from Ingeus, packed with glib platitudes about how serious diabetes is, and expressing how sorry it is I’ve decided to leave the programme. What the fuck! 

Now, maybe the warning signs were always there, the failure to communicate the initial rejection, the extended wait for the non-existent evening slots being pretty clear indicators. But, perhaps the biggest warning sign was in the promotional bumf, the brochure is plastered with a diverse range of stock photos, but go to the patient case studies on the website and they are overwhelmingly older people, the type who are likely to be retired or semi-retired, not so much in the way of people who work full time and have young families to juggle.

I decided to complain to NHS England, firstly about the piss poor communications which meant it took a year and a half to get to the point where Ingeus, grudgingly, admitted it wasn’t able to support people who work during the day, and secondly about the stupidity of commissioning delivery from a provider unable to support a large chunk of the population for whom an early intervention programme could bring major benefits. Unfortunately, NHS England claims it didn’t commission the programme, which was a surprising given its website says it did (here and here). Maybe the NHS website has been hacked with fake news?

So now I’ve raised the same complaint with East Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group. I sent the letter over a week ago and haven’t heard anything back yet. I don’t have high expectations. I’m betting on a letter with some waffle about budgets being tight, brushing over why a small portion of it couldn’t be put towards people who need evening appointments, especially given the long-term cost saving to the NHS from doing early intervention properly. Or perhaps it’s deliberate, and it was always intended as early intervention for older people, but Ingeus just forgot to mention this when put together communications material?

However, I’ll end on a positive note. I had my annual check-up last week and my blood sugar levels are stable, even if they are still in the pre-diabetes range. I also have an appointment lined up next week with the diabetes lead nurse to discuss possible ways forward.