A Pain In The… Neck

This diabetes thing is going to turn me into a grumpy old man.

Even though I currently feel no differently than I did before I was diagnosed, I’ve been prescribed medication that I must take twice a day, and remembering to do so — especially with the schedule I keep — has proven problematic. And the only way I have to track my improvement is to take a blood glucose reading three times a day, every other day.

This has been the infuriating part of this new life. The Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) gave me a kit containing an Accu-Chek reader, a lancet device and some reader strips.

My doctor sent in a prescription for additional lancets and strips, which I got after a small bit of confusion and mix-up. I’m not entirely sure why I needed (or need) a prescription, as these all seem to be over-the-counter products. My problem is that every time I try to test my blood, the device tells me that the blood drop is too small and to try with a new strip. I have wasted more strips this way than actually getting readings. After three finger-pricks, I’ve had it, and put the stuff away. It also costs me in used lancets.

This isn’t the way to manage this disease. I know. I have tossed all my white foods (pastas, sugar, rice, bread, potatoes) and am trying to maintain a healthy diet. It’s pretty easy for me to do that at home, but when I travel on business, as I am currently, it becomes quite a challenge.

Today, my first day on a five-day business trip, I skipped breakfast due to an early flight, and then when I arrived, had to find a restaurant that served healthy cooking. I was fortunate, as when I asked my server if I could have a double portion of vegetables in place of mashed potatoes, she was kind enough to offer me a soup and salad in place, so I stayed as low-carb as possible. At dinner, I opted for (another) bowl of soup and a dozen chicken wings. Again, not ideal, but as low-carb as I could make it.

Somehow, I’ve got to overcome this glucose metering issue. I’m likely going to have to keep testing myself, and I have to find the solution to doing so quickly, easily, and accurately.

The Acceptance Factor

I was recently diagnosed as Diabetic. I’m still processing that news. I guess at some point in everyone’s life, bad news about one’s health is inevitable. After all, no one lives forever.

My surprise came at the fact that I do not fit the profile of a Type-2 diabetic; I’m not overweight (5’10”, 147 lbs. a BMI of 21.1 – smack dab in the middle of “normal”), I don’t drink alcohol, sugary beverages, smoke, dine at fast-food restaurants, am relatively active, and feel great! But there it was: blood tests showed my hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c, also referred to simply as A1C) level at 13.

According to WebMD, a normal A1C reading is below 5.6. 5.7 to 6.4 suggests a pre-diabetes condition, and anything over is 100% diabetic. My test at 13 showed I had over twice the level of glycolated hemoglobin.

HbA1c Readings

So, in the face of immediate denial, I thought back on my behaviors over the past year. Sure, I don’t drink soda pop or eat greasy fast food, but I have been gorging on Starburst candies, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and lots of ice cream. Add pasta, rice and potato dishes more often than not, and there was certainly a recipe for disaster!

Starburst Candies
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. The “mini” size

A wake-up call, for sure! Here I am, a former marathon runner, getting old, sedentary and careless about my diet. My second thought, post-denial, is that diabetes is one condition that is managed by self-care. There are some, like Joel Fuhrman, MD, who believe that Type-2 diabetes is completely reversible! This is accomplished by adopting a new way of eating — a “nutritarian” approach, that focuses not on macronutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates), but on food that are dense with nutrients, phytochemicals, vitamins, etc. He has a simple formula: H = N / C, where H is health, N is nutrients and C is calories. Focusing on macronutrients means counting calories. Focusing on micronutrients automatically reduces calorie intake and feeds (literally) the body what it needs.

There’s a lot of (often contradictory) information and advice online. While I’ve been researching, I’ve also started building a healthcare “team.” I now have a primary care physician, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), an endocrinologist, and a dietician. In addition, I include my dentist, eyecare doctor and dermatologist. I will likely add a podiatrist to the list. But the “boss” of my health care is ME.

As in running, this battle will not be a sprint, but a marathon. I may experience setbacks, but I’m determined to lick this condition!

Docker Doesn’t Do/Like Windows

This is a “techie” article/rant, so if you’re reading this and not into technology, I suggest you move on. Much of what I’m posting about requires explanation anyway, and doing so would make this article so much longer…

I’ve become interested in Docker recently as the result of a number of customer questions. Docker is a way to “containerize” applications. It’s similar to virtual machines, except VMs deploy a guest operating system inside their silo, whereas containers leverage the host OS directly.

Containers vs. Virtual Machines (image courtesy docker.com)

Hearing that one of my colleagues had done some preliminary work in “containerizing” our company’s product, I wanted to see it running “natively” on my Mac. Docker Desktop for Mac is free, so I downloaded and installed it. The next step was fetching (called “pulling”) the app from a Docker online repository, which worked like a charm. Once running, I pointed my (Google Chrome) browser to the URL specified by Docker on my laptop, and voilà!

RadiantOne FID on a Mac

Good stuff.

So, the next thing I wanted to do was to install Docker and our app on a Windows machine. Since the program has no native Mac binaries, our customers are all Windows or Linux users. I wanted to perform more of a real-world test.

That’s where the problems began. On my office computer, Docker downloaded, installed, and ran the sample programs used by online bloggers and sources (“hello-world, busybox). But when it came to running our product, Docker threw errors, complaining that ports needed didn’t have the proper permissions. Ugh.

At home that evening, I decided to install Docker on a Windows laptop I had purchased as a “sandbox” machine (expressly for the purpose of experimenting with Windows apps). This was even worse. Docker wouldn’t start, claiming that resources I needed had to be enabled. I spent the better part of a day turning on and turning off BIOS settings, Windows Hyper-V and growing frustrated by the hour.

Back in my office, I thought I’d try some remedial experiments, along with the help (?) and advice (?) of the online community. Most of what I found was old and did not address the current release of Docker. Still, all kinds of problems and suggested solutions abound at the click of a Google search…

I’m taking a break. If I want to experiment with Docker, I’m turning to my Mac. Docker on Windows is, for me, a deal-killer right now.

Getting To The Bottom

This past Saturday I met with the worship leader at church. For those not into the “lingo,” the worship leader is the band leader who kicks off worship services with music and song, and energizes the congregation into singing in praise.

I had previously informed him that I was adding bass guitar to my stable. Since the band has been playing without a bass for a while, I felt this switch might get me involved with the band.

And so, we met on Saturday for an audition/rehearsal. Let me say for the record that Jesse, the worship leader, is a consummate professional musician, a terrific singer, and a devout Christian. We spoke first, and he informed me that the worship band is not a place for showing off, or being the center of attention. Knowing that eyes are on the performers, the band members should appear professional, and not grimace if the make a mistake, and that the focus is on God and not the band.

I concurred, and so we went over two songs. We both are aware that bass is a new instrument to me, so he kept it simple, indicating that the most important thing for me, as the bass player, was to keep time. Play just the root notes of the charted chords, keep time, and that’s all that’s asked of me.

We practiced and agreed to meet every Saturday morning to refine my skills, and with the hope I’ll join the band on stage when he’s decided I’m ready. When I’m ready, I hope to publicly debut my newest, and premier bass guitar, an Epiphone Limited Edition 20th Anniversary Jack Casady Signature Bass.

Epiphone Limited Edition 20th Anniversary Jack Casady Signature Bass Guitar

Reading reviews on bass guitar forums, this guitar is considered by all who own one a top-notch instrument. It’s a semi-hollowbody, designed with Jack Casady’s (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna) input and advice. Yes, he plays one.

The Bass Guitar Headstock With Signature and 20th Anniversary Truss Rod Cover

This is a gorgeous bass! I need to get used to the 34-inch scale, as my small fingers are creating fret rattle as I move along the fingerboard. I may need to have it professionally set up, but I have time to do so. In the mean time, I’m using my short-scale Ibanez to rehearse.

Ibanez GSRM30 “MiKro” Short-Scale Bass Guitar

2019. First Post.

Happy New Year! I am sometimes surprised that I’ve made it this far, this long. God has blessed me with good health despite my not always taking care of it. My only physical complaint is a back that sometimes causes me discomfort. My hair has thinned and greyed, I’m showing wrinkles I never had before, and I’ve slowed down considerably. But I take no medications, can still fit into suits that I purchased decades ago, and have a generally positive outlook on life.

My only New Year’s resolution is the same one I’ve made for years: to not make any New Year’s resolutions!

There are changes coming! Recently it occurred to me that the church’s worship band has no bass player. Since there are already two guitar players who are well established with the band, the thought came to me that maybe I could pick up the bass and join the band.

I did some research, and felt like I could buy an inexpensive bass. To make a long story short, I found a used bass guitar I paid $99 for, and a used amp I bought for $35, and thus the story begins…

Dean Edge 09 Classic Black bass guitar
Dean Edge 09 Classic Black bass guitar

But wait, there’s more. Because I’m an impulsive guy, I read that guitar players with small hands may be more comfortable playing something called a “short scale” bass. The regular scale of a bass guitar is 34″ (measured from the nut to the bridge). A short scale bass usually falls into the 30″ range.

Having a computer and an Internet connection can be a dangerous mix. I surfed around and found a short scale bass from Ibanez called the MiKro.  At 28.6″, it’s even shorter than the standard. I found a store that had one in stock, so I went and played it. Nice!

I hated the color, but fortunately, they come in a variety of colors, and everyone — online or local — sells them for the same price. So, now on order, due to arrive January 3, is an Ibanez GSRM20RBM MiKro in Root Beer Metallic.

Ibanez GSRM20 MiKro Root Beer Metallic

One of my college roommates had an Ibanez guitar. I never really cared for them, but they seem to be very popular with heavy metal rock players and “shredders.” However, their reputation for building quality bass guitars — especially at the low end of the price scale — seems to be unmatched.

Time will tell. If nothing else, I have a new interest to keep me occupied for the near future. That future is 2019. Happy New Year!

Time Keeps On Slipping Into The Future

With apologies to Steve Miller…

A digression right at the start: I was a big fan of the Steve Miller Band when they first started out. I bought their first five albums, and then, following Miller’s car accident, the band resurfaced with a new “pop” sound, I lost interest. I saw them in concert in 1968, and then again in 1998. I took my daughter to see them, since she’d become a fan. The opening act was Little Feat, who I wanted to see more. Miller announced it was his 30th anniversary tour, and I told my daughter I had seen him on his first tour!

Image of "Sailor," Steve Miller Band's second album
Cover of “Sailor,” Steve Miller Band’s Second Album

Okay, now on to the point of this post and why it’s titled as such:

Last Sunday, while I was seated in church, my phone vibrated with an incoming call. I checked to see who was calling, expecting it to be a spammer (on Sunday?). It was from Richard K. I couldn’t imagine why Richard would be calling, and when the transcript of his voice mail was done, he had indicated he had “serious” news and needed to talk.

I quietly walked out into the atrium and called Richard. When he answered, my first question to him was, “Is this about Duncan?” Duncan is a mentor of mine. He is now 91 years old, and the Christmas card I received from his wife informed me that he’d been in and out of the hospital, and was “not doing well.”

“No,” Richard replied, “it’s about Mark.” Mark?

Mark is a long-time acquaintance I see on Fridays when I’m in Great Falls. I had not seen him this past Friday. Now I know why.

“Mark passed away Friday night,” Richard informed me. Shock!

Mark was 63, a husband and father of three daughters. He had not been seriously ill, to my knowledge. Apparently bipolar, he’d been on medication to treat this condition for thirty years. His latest medical “challenge” was prostate-related. He never said it was cancer, just that his PSA numbers were high and that he’d been given meds to address that condition.

It seems that he was admitted to the hospital with excessive fluid surrounding his heart, a condition known as pericardial effusion. Frequently, there are no symptoms, especially if the fluid has developed over time (source; Mayo Clinic)

It was too late for Mark. Doctors tried relieving the fluid, but even still, they could not save him.

As one gets older, this kind of news becomes more and more frequent. Years ago, I worked with an elderly (to me) man who would often say, “I check the obituary page every day to make sure I’m not on it.” One day, though…

For me, this was a great reminder to tell my loved ones that I love them. Every opportunity I get!

Musescore – Music Composition Software (FREE!)

Being in the computer field, I frequently look to technology to help me in my life’s endeavors. So it is with my ongoing efforts to improve my guitar playing.

Some background: I began playing piano as a child due to my parents’ insistence that all three of us siblings learn the instrument. Odd, because neither of my parents played! Eight years of keyboarding, recitals and basement practicing took their toll on me. Especially the basement practices, where I had to go to a clammy, dank, knotty pine-walled room sitting at an upright piano with my back to the door.

Eventually, the piano disappeared as we moved, and it wasn’t until I was in high school that I heard the beginnings of the “rock and roll revolution.” Spurred by the Beatles and surf music, I was hooked. My best friend sold me my first guitar, a Sears Kay acoustic, for $10. With my limited knowledge of music learned from piano playing, I taught myself to play guitar. I would buy sheet music of songs I liked that included guitar diagrams, and would follow along, learning the chords.

Guitar is not the same kind of instrument. A piano is a linear progression of keys (88 in total) that span the full range of musical notes. In western music, there are 12 tones per chromatic scale, and eight notes per tonal scale. The guitar, on the other hand, (usually) has six strings that are staggered in tone. This means that the same note can be played in different locations on the fretboard.

My guitar instructor is teaching me in the “classical” way–he’s giving me standard sheet music on which he writes the fingers and frets to use, referring to scale fingering terms such as “two over five” (second finger beginning the scale on the fifth fret). This is a new way of learning the guitar for me, and I continue to lean on technology for assistance.

Some of the software I have purchased to further this goal in the past are titles like Neck Diagrams, which as the name indicates, lets one create images of a guitar neck with notes and chords.

Songs Pro is another guitar-based program. Sadly, the author has discontinued support for this program due to changes in macOS. It’s a little quirky, but its strength is the chord search function that lets one choose from a large number of chord diagrams for a given tone.

My latest dilemma became how to transpose written music (staves, notes, rests, etc.) to guitar tablature? (Side note: I never learned TAB either, as it was not standardized when I was teaching myself to play). I’m not sure how I found it, but the answer to my newest problem is a piece of free software called Musescore.  Available for Mac and Windows, this is software capable of producing professional music scores (hence the name).

Originally, I found it hard to learn (it’s still hard, but getting easier); there are so many features available.  But once the work flow and keyboard shortcuts are learned, the process starts becoming faster and easier.  Here is my transcription of Freddie Hubbard’s classic “Little Sunflower.” I wanted TAB to use the proper fingering.

little sunflower

Little Sunflower © 1967, Freddie Hubbard

On a final note, I have also found some useful online sites for finding guitar chords, diagrams and names. Among those are Chorderator, chordsearch (it does more than just search!), and The G-Net, which displays chords in TAB!

Ain’t technology great?!

I Travel Because

I couldn’t think of a suitable title for this post, and may come back and change it (and this post) if I can think of something more appropriate.  Why?  The reason is simply complex:  I decided to take a mini-vacation to accept my “elevation,” and since it was hard to justify a “down-and-back” overnight trip (cost-wise, time-wise, etc.) and since I had a surplus of vacation time coming to me, decided to extend the trip.  Fine.  But then what?

Well, I decided to do what I’ve done before:  Let someone else house and feed me for a few days.  So, here I am, less than a week away from another Caribbean cruise.

carnival cruise lines logo

Carnival Cruise Line’s iconic smokestack and logo.

This is a four-night excursion, most of which takes place asea. There is one stop, Cozumel, Mexico, which I have visited several times. I doubt I will even get off the ship. But I might go ashore for a couple of hours just to walk around.  I’m feeling lazy, so my plans are to just wander the ship, eat, and relax in my stateroom, practicing guitar.

Speaking of which — I just ordered a new guitar specifically for this purpose.  Somehow, I learned of a kickstarter-funded company that was making carbon fiber travel guitars.  The carbon fiber makes them virtually impervious to temperature and humidity changes (they have wooden necks — I ordered my with carbon fiber truss rod reinforcement).  The key here is that the neck is removable, make the guitar a “foldable!” So it’s downsized and foldable, which means it should be packable in a suitcase!  These are KLŌS Guitars, and they get surprisingly good reviews!

KLŌS Foldable Guitar

KLŌS Foldable Guitar

Order fulfillment said 2-6 days, and not wanting to risk not getting it in time, I paid extra for expedited shipping. I hope it’s worth it! I’ll post a review when I return.

Finally, I hoped to be included in the special Chef’s Table meal (I did it last time, and it was FABULOUS). I received an email saying they had filled all the seats, but I’ll be waitlisted. If I make it, great. If not, that’s fine too.

Sail away!

An Elevation Surprise

Four years ago, in 2014, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I had been “invited” to become a Knight of the Order of Salvador, a chivalric group of patrons of the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

I have been a long-time member, supporter and patron of the museum, so this was a recognition of that.  Not that I thought I’d done anything extraordinary to deserve it, but it was a nice gesture, and it resulted in a silver (real!) medallion that I am to wear on formal social occasions and government events.

Today, I received an envelope from the museum.  I expected it to be the annual notice of the Ceremony of Investiture and Elevation.  Just earlier, I had debated going.  But it was more than an invitation, it was notification that I will be “elevated.”  This is like getting promoted.  I anticipate being invested as a Knight of the Order of Salvador First Class.

Outside the museum it’s a pretty meaningless award, but I’m thrilled and honored.

I’ll post more after the ceremony (I’ve already made my hotel reservation.  Next is my flight…).

A Four Song Playlist

I’ve been giving this some thought:  There is an “open mic night” at the church every week.  And though it’s aimed more for the younger crowd, I’ve been thinking of taking the stage and practicing my live performance capabilities.  Performers are only allowed three or four songs per set, so what songs would I play?

These are the songs I’ve been playing and practicing.  Some are new (to me) and others I’ve been playing for years (but have gotten of practice):

  • Daydream (Lovin’ Spoonful)
  • Presence of the Lord (Clapton)
  • Dino’s Song (Quicksilver Messenger Service)
  • Pride of Man (Quicksilver Messenger Service)

As backup songs, I might also consider:

  • Thinking of You (Loggins & Messina)
  • My Sweet Lord (George Harrison)
  • Melissa (Allman Brothers)
  • Little Wing (Hendrix)

The latter four are more complex, and would require more practice before I feel comfortable playing them in public.  Heck, I would have to practice all of them before playing publicly.  But no dream is to great, eh?

Daydream - Lovin' Spoonful

The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Daydream”

Presence of the Lord - Clapton

Eric Clapton “Presence of the Lord”

Pride of Man / Dino's Song - QSM

Quicksilver Messenger Service: “Dino’s Song” and “Pride of Man”

Loggins & Messina - first album

(Kenny) Loggins & (Jim) Messina

George Harrison - My Sweet Lord

George Harrison – All Things Must Pass solo LP

Melissa - Allman Brothers Band

Allman Brothers Band – Eat a Peach (Melissa)

Little Wing - Jimi Hendriz

Jimi Hendrix Experience – Axis: Bold As Love (Little Wing)