Flu update

I came down with the flu over 4 days ago.

I am so thankful for Tamiflu. The drug cut way back on the symptoms.

I felt like “crap” instead of “death.”

We were even able to get out of the house and go shopping yesterday, but that wore us out! (And Sears won’t haggle on closeout lawn mower prices. No sale!)

Tonight I feel 95% better. Appetite is back, and I feel fully human. About all I am lacking is the stamina to do a workout.

I was able to keep with my Lent fast.

Tamiflu is awesome

Even though we proactively got flu shots in the fall, my wife came down with the flu on Tuesday evening.

I got it Wednesday evening.

Alec is showing symptoms as of Thursday afternoon.

It turns out that in 16% of flu seasons, the flu shot does not cover all flu variants. This is one of those years. (link)

I last got the flu 11 years ago. It was awful–I was laid up for several days, barely able to function.

This time I have Tamiflu. Probably thanks to this drug, both my wife’s and my flu have been comparatively mild. I’ve been somewhat productive on computer work, something I can’t do during a regular cold.

Since we started my son on Tamiflu before symptoms began, he may escape with little more than a runny nose and a little fever.

Tamiflu works by blocking a viral protein function, thereby preventing flu virus reproduction. All the virons already in me will still live, but they are unable to reproduce. Supposedly this reduces the disease’s severity and duration.

So far I have been able to abide by my Lent fast, but I am very tempted to indulge in some ice cream. Normally when I am sick like this, I have little appetite, so I go for foods that are calorie-dense.

I can’t wait for this to be over! I can’t believe I am saying this, but my work team and I are in the middle of a lot of bog, influential projects, and I hate having so many unplanned days away them.

2008 Lent Fast

My wife and I picked a difficult Lent fast: giving up foods full of junk carbohydrates.

Junk carbohydrates are a feature of foods with disproportionately more carbohydrate content than other healthful substances. Example junk carbs include simple carbohydrates (enriched/white flour, white and brown sugar, corn syrup, honey, et al), fruit juices, and white potatoes. Disallowed foods include:

  • Almost all bread products
  • White rice
  • Virtually all snack foods or desserts
  • Fruit juices
  • French fries
  • Most barbecue sauces, many of which I call “meat syrup” because of their vile sweetness. (Do you like maple syrup on your bacon? Why put equally sugary junk on roasts? Yuck!)
  • And many others.

Foods with junk carbohydrates only as accents are OK. Generally, I want to see the junk carbs follow behind an ingredient that I intuitively know is sparsely used in the food. Examples are a sauce thickened with a little flour, 85% dark chocolate in moderation, or salted peanuts that have a little corn syrup. Even Nature’s Own Double Fiber Wheat is OK in moderation: it has more wheat gluten (4th ingredient) than white flour (5th ingredient)!

Even though junk carbohydrates are counterproductive in a human diet, it is hard to give them up! You don’t know how addicted you are to them until they are out of your diet.

Pants size

Between high school and Thanksgiving 2006, I wore the same jeans size.

At that Thanksgiving, I realized those jeans literally fell off me without a belt. I quickly switched to jeans with two inch smaller waist, and they fit well.

Today, I tried on jeans that were an additional inch smaller, and they fit great!

What’s my secret? I’m doing better avoiding junk foods (stuff made with white flour,  stuff with partially hydrogenated oils, fruit juices, etc.), I’m further reducing eating when not hungry (you wouldn’t believe how much eating is done not out of hunger), and I exercise 3-5 times a week. That’s really it.

Asbestosis and Silicosis–Overblown Fears

Remember the great asbestos scare of a couple of decades ago? In hindsight, the fears were exaggerated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 3,750 deaths in 1999 were attributable to asbestosis or mesothelioma, the two main asbestos-related diseases.

This means the average US resident has a 0.0014% chance of catching either disease.

Further affecting this scant probability, the vast majority of cases involved extended occupational exposure. That is, you work with asbestos-containing substances for years. On top of that, smokers appear to account for the majority of asbestosis deaths. (The same smoking link does not hold for mesothelioma.)

It’s almost impossible for the average American to suffer asbestos-related harm.

The hoopla over asbestos, especially the associated litigation, is vastly disproportionate to the actual harm. This suggests asbestos fears are a profiteering ruse by trial lawyers.

It doesn’t end. The next big scare is silicosis.

Many home improvement products, including stuff as diverse as cement and wood filler, now have silicosis warnings. These products can release fine silica when disturbed, such as when sanding. This fine silica gets in the lungs and causes silicosis.

CDC stats show that 1999 had 187 silicosis-related deaths. At 0.000069% of the US population, that represents a drastic decline since the late 1960s.

A detailed study of three states found that silicosis deaths are highly correlated to the victim’s occupation and industry, again suggesting extended occupational exposure is key to suffering harm.

I believe that the average person, especially even the hobbyist or “do it yourself” person who repeatedly disturbs materials containing substances, has little to fear. The vast number of people who already do this without suffering harm should be enough evidence. It takes persistent, long-term exposure, sometimes coupled with smoking, to cause harm.

Data sources: