Ding 49!

By Shamus Posted Monday Aug 24, 2020

Filed under: Landmarks 96 comments

Well, this is mildly terrifying. This will either be the last year of my life that I spend under 50, or the last year of my life. I’m not excited by either prospect.

In the younger days of this site I had lots of stories about my personal life. These days it feels like all of my personal anecdotes are health-related. 

“Man, I’m having a great day! My knees hurt less than usual, I nearly got a full night of sleep, my blood pressure is down from “life-threatening” to “a serious problem”, and I’m gaining weight slower than I was yesterday. I figure if I watch my meds and eat only salads, I can probably survive to the end of the week!”  

I’m kidding, I’m kidding. 

I never have days that good anymore.

For my birthday, I’m getting an office chair. The one I’m sitting on now is fairly new, we paid a decent amount for it, and it came from IKEA. So it should be good, right? I was expecting something strong, durable, and comfortable. Instead it feels like a $45 garbage chair from Walmart. It’s hard. It wobbles. It creaks incessantly at the slightest change in position, despite constant oiling. This might be one of the worst office chairs I’ve ever owned, actually.

Since I’m nearing 50, the obvious thing to do is get one of those hip gamer chairs that all the kids are using. I’m getting one supposedly custom-built to my proportions. The downside is that I have to wait another month on account of it being a custom-build. A whole month! That’s 1/12th of the way between today and my 50th birthday! I might not even live that long!

Wait, no. I refuse to die before I get to play Cyberpunk 2077. After that? No promisesI’ve given up waiting for Half-Life 3, though..

Now I’d like to leave a message for my past self, just in case he gets that whole time travel thing worked out. Then again, I never figured it out so… whatever.

Dear Shamus from 3 months ago:

So you’ve discovered that you have hypertension. It’s scary, I know. I’m sure you’ll do great in the exercise and weight loss department. You’ve got a big move coming up, and I can promise you that it’s going to kick your ass.

Here’s the thing: You’re an idiot. You’ve decided to cut most of the salt from your diet, but you’ve got it in your head that reading labels is for weenies. You think that you can tell salty items from non-salty ones by tasting. This is tragically misguided.

I don’t know what the deal is, but the salt content is barely related to how much salt you can taste. Those garlic chips Heather used to get you? Yeah, you gave those up because they were “way too salty”. Check the label, genius. They have a teenie tiny bit of salt and the rest is all garlic powder. Yes, the flavor is overpowering, but it’s not nearly as salty as your taste buds are telling you.

On the other hand, that lunchmeat? You know the stuff that must not have any salt because you can barely taste it? Read that label. ONE slice of that is a whole day of salt. And you’re about to eat TWO of them in a sitting. Sometimes more than once a day! It’s possible your salt intake is about to go UP because you’re going to be thinking with your taste buds. 

Just read the label and don’t spend the next three months sabotaging your own efforts to get your blood pressure under control.

Good luck, kid. Try not to screw it up this time,


If anyone is curious, the resulting foolishness looks like this:

Man, if these numbers get any worse I'm going to have to stop tracking them!
Man, if these numbers get any worse I'm going to have to stop tracking them!

I’ve been taking my BP every morning since we discovered the problem back in June. The graph above is my systolic pressure.

I started paying attention to package labels a couple days ago, so it’s not showing up on the chart yet. I should probably go to the doctor, but my hypertension paranoia is very close to my COVID-19 paranoia. I don’t want to sit in a waiting room with a bunch  of sick people, I don’t want to wait for a month to get an appointment, I don’t want to call and make the appointment, and also I just don’t want toDon’t worry. If cutting the salt doesn’t help I’ll make the appointment..

The good news is I feel fine. Despite all of the silly old-man complaining at the top of the post, I’m not actually hurting. I’m down 10 lbs since June and I’m exercising every day. Honestly if it wasn’t for these blood pressure numbers I’d be really happy with this giant sack of meat I use to chauffeur my brain around.

No Diecast this week. I spent the weekend finishing up a video and doing some more programming.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have some birthday cake and watch the Cyberpunk 2077 launch countdown timer for a bit.



[1] I’ve given up waiting for Half-Life 3, though.

[2] Don’t worry. If cutting the salt doesn’t help I’ll make the appointment.

From The Archives:

96 thoughts on “Ding 49!

  1. Liam says:

    I feel like you talking to your younger self is speaking to me! I’m turning 43 in a couple of weeks and the health stuff is starting to dominate my anecdotes too. I don’t have blood pressure issues but I’ve been dealing with heart issues since childhood that have become more prominent over the last few years (culminating in heart surgery recently, which consisted of the doctor sticking some electrical probes into my heart, poking around a bit, seeing if it does something funny, and if so, nuking that bit)

    I need to lose weight, get fitter and eat healthier. I’m being willfully ignorant of the food side of it at the moment, so your note-to-self is timely. Thanks!

  2. RFS-81 says:

    That’s a weird-looking pride flag… oh wait, there’s a graph on it?

    Also, Happy Birthday!

    1. Crokus Younghand says:

      A pride flags with the words “Just Fucking Die Already” on them? You trying to get the poor guy lynched? He’s dying already!

      Having said that, Happy Birthday Shamus!

  3. jurgenaut says:

    Congratulations on your halflife day! Turned 40 last year, but I haven’t had the crisis. I had my dark night of the soul somewhere around 28, and haven’t had cause to doubt my purpose or place since.

    I’ve had shoulder and back pains periodically, and my tips for alleviating it are these:
    1. Move – stand up and stretch a couple of times a day
    2. Get a stable chair. It shouldn’t move, or rock, or bend. I know ‘racing gamer’ chairs aren’t super ergonomic, but when I got mine a lot of my pains went away within a week. It’s a DXRacer racing pro something something, and it weigh’s like 25kg and is solid like rock.
    3. Exercise, something where you move your arms. I do running and boxing.

    Oh, and try keto type diets perhaps?

    1. Galad_t says:

      “I had my dark night of the soul somewhere around 28”


      1. tmtvl says:

        He played an all-nighter of Dark Souls.

      2. jurgenaut says:


        TLDR “During the dark night of the soul a person can struggle with their sense of meaning in the world. Everything can seem purposeless and it seems that there is no place where they belong.”

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      Amateurs. I had my dark night when I turned 18. Although… if that’s the same as a mid-life crisis… I’m 36 now.

  4. Rick says:

    Happy Birthday, Shamus!

  5. Zekiel says:

    Happy birthday Shamus! I’m 8 years behind you and beginning to feel old too.

    Are online/phone doctor consultations a thing in the US? They’re all the rage now in the UK.

  6. Duoae says:

    Happy birthday, Shamus! I wish you many more years ahead!

  7. David W says:

    Speaking of hypertension and reading labels: If you decide to go the ‘Lite Salt’ approach, make sure to get the kind where they replace half the sodium with potassium. Don’t get the kind where they replace half the salt with sand (SiO2).

    1. Christopher Dwight Wolf says:

      And for those who don’t know what it might say on a label SiO2 is silicon dioxide.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Wait, is that a real thing? Some quick googling doesn’t give me any food labels with this on it. Wouldn’t that just abrade people’s teeth? Isn’t insoluble fibre (aka grain husks) cheaper as a filler?

        1. David W says:

          I saw it with my own eyes, at a relative’s house.

          It wasn’t a major brand, mind, brands have a reputation to lose. I’m sure that approach was chosen because it’s cheaper, rather than because of any other possible benefit. Certainly the SiO2 didn’t show up anywhere on the bottle except the FDA mandated label. I think they were hoping people wouldn’t look carefully, or wouldn’t know chemistry enough to understand what they were reading. I would guess it’s hard to get insoluble fiber to look and pour like salt, and to keep it mixed. Maybe it could be done, but probably not cheaper than using actual potassium chloride.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            Oh dang, I thought you meant some normal product with a “less salt” label / marketing. You mean there’s an actual “salt” product…that’s got reduced salt in it? I figured this was in something like chips or soup or something, where salt isn’t (normally) the main ingredient. /facepalm

            1. David W says:

              Yes, something like Morton’s Lite Salt. The idea is that potassium chloride has a similar taste, similar properties in recipes, so mix half and half sodium chloride and potassium chloride and use the mixture anywhere that calls for salt. Then you can still make all your recipes that call for a teaspoon of salt by measuring a teaspoon of ‘lite salt’, but with half the sodium. I’m not sure why they only go halfway – maybe ‘similar taste’ isn’t similar enough to push it any further than that.

              1. Nimrandir says:

                I’ve heard that the human body has a harder time removing excess potassium than it does with comparable amounts of sodium. Perhaps a fully-KCL product is an overdose risk?

          2. Echo Tango says:

            Wait a dang minute – real salt dissolves in water! Won’t this make peoples’ food feel like sandpaper?!? :O

            1. Decius says:

              Probably closer to silt than sand.

              But still WTF.

  8. Kai Durbin says:

    For my birthday, I’m getting an office chair. The one I’m sitting on now is fairly new, we paid a decent amount for it, and it came from IKEA. So it should be good, right? I was expecting something strong, durable, and comfortable. Instead it feels like a $45 garbage chair from Walmart. It’s hard. It wobbles. It creaks incessantly at the slightest change in position, despite constant oiling. This might be one of the worst office chairs I’ve ever owned, actually.

    Wow. Funny that you consider IKEA products to be of high quality because in my family we usually associate them with crap. Maybe our store is just lazy and gets the cheapest stuff possible? Maybe your store is full of more sensitive people when it comes to quality? I don’t know.

    1. Shamus says:

      Yeah, we haven’t bought a lot of things, but the things we DID buy were really good. I got my old computer desk there, and that thing lasted… wow. Like, 15 years? And it was still good when I replaced it. It was designed for the age of CRTs, and thus way WAY too deep for modern monitors. I kept waiting to the dang thing to fail in some way so I could get something shallower, but it was built like a friggin TANK. I finally used the move as an excuse to get rid of it.

      But maybe I got lucky. It’s possible that my perception of IKEA as quality is the result of good marketing, not good products.

      1. coleusrattus says:

        Yeah, in Europe, IKEA is the epitome of disposable fashion furniture.

        1. MrPyro says:

          I like their storage solutions; they are pretty good at getting the last bit of usable space out of a room (my home office is quite small but I’ve managed to cram quite a lot in due to their sorcery). But yeah, I don’t think I’d get an office chair from them as I wouldn’t trust it to be great.

        2. Echo Tango says:

          Up here in Canada[1], Ikea’s relatively decent quality for the price, but Jysk is absolute trash, and only slightly less money. (So you end up paying more, because everything breaks in a year.)

          [1] At least in the half that I live in.

        3. RFS-81 says:

          I’m European, and I have a hard time viewing IKEA as fashionable. Though they do have these little “example rooms” in their store, and apparently, some people actually enjoy shopping there, so I guess it is. For me, it’s just very utilitarian. It’s nice that I can disassemble my bookshelf, wardrobe and bed for transport when I move.

          I’m sitting on an IKEA office chair right now. It doesn’t make my back hurt as long as I remember not to sit with horrible posture, so that’s better than some of the chairs at work. It generates ridiculous amounts of static electricity though. Like, when I stand up, there are audible zaps and my monitor goes blank for a moment. And I get zapped the next time I touch the faucet. I fixed it by throwing a towel over the seat.

          1. smash says:

            IKEA has great price to performance ratio. However it’s at an incredibly low price, which also means you’ll never get a great chair. You just get a decent chair for basically no money at all.

            The next step up is the super expensive specialized furniture, such as custom made by a carpenter. There’s basically nothing in the middle when it comes to furniture.

            It’s a real struggle to find a decent chair nowadays.

      2. Duoae says:

        I’m still rocking the IKEA desk I bought whilst at university back in 2002-ish. It’s actually the only desk I’ve ever encountered* that caters to a tall person by having little screw-feet enabling some modicum of height adjustment. Such a simple concept but it seems practically no design houses seem to understand there are people above 5’10″…

        * Yeah, obviously I could get a super expensive desk which has these sorts of features but this was around £100-150 at the time… I suppose it would cost around a £bajillion in 2020 money! ¬_¬

        We have Jysk in the country I live in nowadays (but no IKEA) and whilst I find their furniture quite nice, they’re not utilitarian enough for office stuff for my tastes.

        1. Syal says:

          having little screw-feet enabling some modicum of height adjustment

          IKEA’s Combination Table And Tent.

        2. Shamus says:

          Height adjustment? My old desk had big thick legs. If you rotated them in place, they’d loosen up and you could adjust the length. Then turn it back the other way to lock it in place.

          Such an interesting design. Never seen anything like it before or since. The only downside is that one leg might loosen over time and compress a bit. It’s REALLY hard to re-adjust it when you’ve got 2 computers, 3 monitors, and a printer sitting on top of the dang thing.

          Still, it was basically indestructible.

          1. Steve C says:

            If something like that comes up again, use wedge. Or two wedges/shims from either side. Or a 2×4 on its end. Hammer them in a way that takes the weight. Remove them after making the height adjustment you need.
            I’ve got a pair of wooden doorstops that temporarily get repurposed like this before returning to their full time jobs.

            1. Asdasd says:

              Or hey, it’s a chance to get more value out of the car jack.

      3. unit3000-21 says:

        But which IKEA chair is it?
        I’ve got Markus, and it’s basic, but pretty good, and doesn’t look like a big dumb F1 car seat.

        1. Asdasd says:

          It’s always a Markus. Everyone has a Markus.

          I’m still using the Markus I bought when I went to uni in 2005. None of the adjustment mechanisms work any more. It’s just about good enough, and a new chair would be just about expensive enough, that I don’t like the idea of buying a replacement that might turn out to be a disimprovement. I guess Markus and I are stuck with each other until a more fundamental bit of him breaks.

        2. Philadelphus says:

          I picked up a Renberget back in April (first time purchasing from IKEA) for AUD$80 when it became clear that I’d be working from home for a long time to come and the dining room chair was no longer going to cut it, and I’ve been quite happy with it. I used to have an even better office chair at home before moving overseas to Australia a few years ago (though I got it from a friend who was moving himself and don’t know the brand), so I have a point of comparison, and that probably would’ve cost at least USD$100 so I’d say it’s indeed a pretty good value for the money I paid.

    2. Algeh says:

      I think of IKEA as the very finest in cheap furniture, much like Daiso tends to be the king of dollar stores (not sure why the foreign brands tend to be better for both of these things, at least locally – maybe they only import the better half of their product lines to their US or Canadian stores?). For example, my IKEA bookcases are a major upgrade from the ones I bought at Big Lots. They have an additional shelf so I can get more stuff on them, they seem to hold more weight without sagging, and they look a bit nicer. They also have options for adding doors, which increases the places I’m willing to put bookcases within my house.

      If I decided to buy Real Furniture rather than flatpack/DIY stuff, that’d be different, but IKEA stuff tends to be higher quality, more durable, and better designed than the equivalent products from Big Lots/Walmart/Target/etc. I’ve also found their kitchen stuff (cheese grater, plastic plates, etc.) to be an upgrade over similar Dollar Tree/Big Lots/Target/etc. items. I’m sure if I were the kind of person who instead bought kitchen stuff from Sur La Table, I’d see it as a downgrade.

    3. jawlz says:

      IKEA has a pretty substantial range in quality in its various product lines. Some of it is low priced, disposable, fast-fashion furniture (albeit probably slightly better than the equivalent from a Walmart or Big Lots). Some lines (like the Stockholm line IIRC) are actually solid, quality furniture. Mid-line stuff like the POANG and Strandmon chairs are good values and a step above disposable furniture; if you avoid their cheapest lines you can do well enough.

      That said, I have never liked their office chairs (including the Markus). You can spend the same amount and get a better, more adjustable chair online (Alera’s line of chairs comes to mind), or spend a decent amount on a really good chair (Steelcase Leap, Herman Miller Embody, et al; sometimes you can find used ones for relatively affordable prices).

  9. D-Frame says:

    Happy Birthday, Shamus! Fun fact: I’m now as old as you were when I started reading your blog, which was back in the Terrain Engine days.

  10. Zaxares says:

    Happy Birthday, Shamus! I’m not far off from my own big milestone (the big 4-0), in just one week. Soon I can’t call myself in my thirties anymore, and if I’m being honest, the moments of mid-life crisis seem to be coming more often these days. :/ I’m also starting to suffer from the inevitable decline from my physical peak, my allergies seem to be getting even more ferocious if I give in to temptation and have an ice cream now and again, I can’t bend over beyond a certain angle anymore without my back seizing up in painful spasms, and it’s like every time I look in the mirror I see another grey hair that I’m SURE wasn’t there before. I’m sure they’re nothing that untold millions of people haven’t had before me, but they’re a sobering, and sometimes terrifying, reminder of mortality. *wry smile*

    1. Nimrandir says:

      I get it. My chronometer will tick over to forty-one next month, and I feel fortunate that muscle aches are currently my only real ‘getting older’ symptom. Well, I also seem to have a proportionally larger forehead than I did when I finished grad school, but I wasn’t a huge fan of my hair when there was more of it.

      It may also help that I’ve had to wear glasses since the fifth grade.

  11. BlueHorus says:

    Happy Birthday Shamus! Good luck with the health issues.

    I’d give unwarranted advice, but frankly I…don’t have any.

  12. Bubble181 says:

    And yes. Salt, like wheat and sugar, are in everything, especially things you don’t expect them. There’s more sugar than salt in the raw meat spread I eat. There’s more salt than sugar in a lot of wheat Americans dare call “chocolate”. Etc.
    As for the blood pressure… Systolic is the higher one, right? Then isn’t going below 11 approaching too low?

    1. Addie says:

      Happy birthday Shamus!

      I thought the normal recommendation was to have 40 between them, and otherwise as low as possible, 120/80 being fairly normal?

      The units are mmHg, because that’s an entirely reasonable 21st century unit; multiply by 133 to get Pascals. So Shamus’ heart pumps hard enough to drive water 1.90 metres into the air, although he’s decreasing that at a steady rate.

  13. Lino says:

    Happy Birthday, dear Shamus!
    Your wit is now legendary, famous!
    But get some sunlight, eat a lot of salad,
    So you don’t become dangerously pallid!

    With your level head, and ponderous attitudes
    Keep destroying EA’s mindless platitudes!
    Keep your head up, chin held high,
    as you let that Souls-hype pass you by!

    So, raise your glass to get some perspective,
    And let’s all reread your Mass Effect retrospective!

  14. CO² says:

    Didn’t you already made a post like this last year?

    1. The Puzzler says:

      Two birthdays in two consecutive years? What are the chances?

      1. Decius says:

        Each day has about a 1/365 chance of being a birthday.

        The odds of going 731 consecutive days with only one birthday are 1/365*(364/365)^730*731, or about 27%

    2. BlueHorus says:

      You’re right! All he’s done is increase the number in the title of the post by one!

      Does he think he’s fooling us?

  15. Vertette says:

    I feel old just because my muscles feel so incredibly stiff all the time compared to a few years ago, but after reading this I’m conceding I don’t have anything to bitch about. Congratulations either way.

  16. stomponator says:

    It seems to me that Shamus’ birthday comes several times a year. I clearly remember reading the the “Ding 48!”-post like maybe ten weeks ago. I even played a bit of bad Robot to honor the occasion.

    Anyway, Happy Birthday, Shamus!
    May your snarky retrospectives regale us for many years to come.

  17. Christopher Dwight Wolf says:

    Feliz Cumpleanos a ti.

    Always something worth living for.

  18. John says:

    Happy birthday, Shamus.

  19. Dreadjaws says:

    Happy birthday, Shamus. Yeah, I can relate. I also like to fix my health problems by way of not going to the doctor and so never hearing about their possible existence. As long as there aren’t any symptoms I should be good, right? And surely some of these issues with my body can be attributed to age rather than health issues even though I’m not 40 yet, right?

    Well, I was forced to go to the doctor some weeks ago due to symptoms that were absolutely hampering my day-to-day life. Turned out to be an allergic reaction, so the good news is that I now know what the problem is. The bad news is that I still have no idea what I’m reacting to. According to the doctor, it can easily be something that has never affected me before and suddenly my body decided I should be allergic to it. Joy.

    Unfortunately, I can’t blame Epic for this. I was already affected well before they started showering everyone with lawsuits. A shame, because then maybe I could sue them for giving me allergies. Surely there’s legal precedent, right?

    1. Lino says:

      Well, if you can’t blame it on Epic, maybe you could blame it on EA? What age were you when they first put lootboxes in FIFA? Were you still in your teens when they released Dungeon Keeper Mobile? I know a lot of people who contracted allergies while they were teenagers…

  20. Bloodsquirrel says:

    I had the same “Start reading the fucking nutrition labels, you fucking jackass” moment when my weight was continuing to increase and nothing I did seemed to be stopping it. I had a lot of major shocks when I realized just how many calories were in some of the things I was eating. A lot of obviously “healthy” foods- like peanuts- turned out to be massive sources of calories.

    Counting calories always seemed like OCD nonsense to me before that, but reading labels taught me just how impossible it was to clean up my diet based on intuition alone.

    Bonus points: It turns out that cutting down on the junk food also solved that heartburn problem I was always having.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Peanuts _are_ relatively healthy, if you’re eating small amounts of them. Protein, fat, starch, fibre – all good things! :)

      1. Duoae says:

        Unfortunately, the tasty ones are dry roasted and salted. :D

    2. baud says:

      I did the counting calories thing a few weeks ago when I was buying food for a hike (as a novice hiker), to find the food with the best calories/weight ratio, and peanuts (and other nuts) were among the best, though it wasn’t my only food, even if I’m sure I had some food deficiencies at the end. But I didn’t need to go buy any food during the 4.5 day hike (and even had some leftover food at the end!).

      1. Decius says:

        I counted calories/dollar when I was poor enough that it mattered.

        There’s some really counterintuitive results if you do it that way; some brands of frozen burritos are exceptional, and most fresh vegetables sometimes underperform frozen, even if you lack a freezer and end up wasting half.

  21. schlemazal says:

    As a fellow hypertensive, a couple of notes that might help –

    First, definitely talk to a doctor. See if your physician will take you on a telemedicine call, most offices are happily doing that these days. They may want you to come in and get a blood test, but it’s worth the risk. Even if you feel fine hypertension is insidious and causes damage to your heart the longer you leave it untreated. Since you’ve already been tracking your blood pressure for months, just showing them that chart will probably be enough (normally when diagnosing hypertension they ask you to go home and track it for a while anyway since single readings are useless).

    Second, salt sensitivity for hypertension, contrary to popular belief, is actually VERY rare. I would not expect your BP to drop from cutting salt out of your diet. It certainly doesn’t hurt to try for a couple of months to see if you are salt-reactive, but it’s not common. Exercise, generally healthy eating, and stress reduction are really the only (non-pharmaceutical) things that make a difference to most people, and even then it may not be enough without medication.

  22. djw says:

    I turned 50 in May. Its actually not that bad. Its really a relief to have almost another decade before I have to worry about changing the 10’s digit again.

    I am starting to really hope that they raise the level cap before I reach it though.

  23. Half Life 3 came out. They just didn’t call it Half Life 3.

  24. Dave says:

    For me, Blood Pressure was *far* more strongly correlated with weight than sodium intake.
    Switching to ‘Low Sodium’ everything provided little benefit for the increased cost.
    When I lost weight, I was able to stop taking the Blood Pressure meds.

  25. Thomas says:

    Happy birthday!

  26. Asdasd says:

    Happy birthday my dude!

    As unsolicited health advice is the pride and duty of the commentariat; have you considered writing a script to filter out Dark Souls related comments when you read below the line on your Jedi Fallen Order posts? I have Opinions regarding combat systems and I don’t want to become an inadvertent accomplice to a spike in BP :)

  27. Adamantyr says:

    Damn, get that BP under control!

    I had to go to the clinic myself recently, as my prescriptions finally ran out of renewals. I wasn’t looking forward to it, I’ve gained a lot of weight during the pandemic. Besides watching BP, I also have cholesterol to keep an eye on.

    Surprisingly, it didn’t go badly at all. My BP was lower than usual (Working from home and having my cats purr apparently helps!) and cholesterol was within standard deviations.

    The clinic I went to was VERY cautious as well. They had someone at the doors giving people masks (they didn’t want you to bring your own, they wanted you to use theirs) and directing them where to go. 3 out of every 4 seats were covered to prevent sitting to establish social distancing.

  28. MelTorefas says:

    Happy Birthday, Shamus! I will be turning 39 in a few months, and I was just diagnosed with severe hyperthyroidism, which the doctor thinks is probably Graves disease (tests this week to confirm). I’m pretty happy about it tbh, I have been sick for ages and just getting worse, and this is the first time the doctors have found something definitive that could actually be causing all my symptoms.

  29. Algeh says:

    Happy Birthday!

    I had to start reading food labels at a relatively young age due to allergies, and yeah, salt is in so many processed foods. One of the swaps that can really help lower salt without making major dietary changes, depending on how you eat now, is to choose frozen vegetables and dried beans instead of canned ones when possible. When I switched one of my family’s soup recipes to dried beans instead of canned and frozen corn instead of canned, it eventually got the salt content so low I had to add some to the recipe directly during fresh tomato season for flavor reasons (the rest of the year, it gets enough salt from the canned tomatoes).

  30. Erik says:

    Happy Birthday, Shamus! I’m a decade ahead of you on the downhill slide, though luckily my BP hasn’t gotten out of control.

    For the weight loss, if you haven’t already I’d suggest looking into low-carb diets. While the extreme low-carb diets aren’t healthy long-term, they work fairly well for aggressive weight loss (especially for men). And a moderate-carb diet, treating breads and starches as a “sometimes” food instead of an “every meal” food, can go a long way to keeping your weight stable once you get to a reasonable point. It doesn’t work for everyone, which is why I say look into it rather than try it, but for the roughly half the population that is too efficient at processing carbs for the modern diet, it can help immensely.

  31. Steve C says:

    That feeling for Shamus if Cyberpunk 2077 turns out to be a hot piece of garbage:

    1. Shamus says:

      “Are you kidding me? You made me live an extra three months for THIS?!?!?!”

    2. RFS-81 says:

      I don’t know about “hot garbage”, but the hype is just too big to actually live up to, isn’t it?

    3. Asdasd says:

      Hot pink garbage? Insert your own Rage 2 joke here!

  32. Alberek says:

    Happy Birthday!!

    Taking care of one self is very important. I want to think that since the COVID-19 I have been eating less junk food… but I have been walking less too…

  33. Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum 49. Geburtstag, Shamus!

    I’m currently 53 years old. When I turned 50 I chose to teach myself how to use a controller in order to play Dark Souls. I’m sure that probably increased my blood pressure! It took me over a week just to get through the tutorial area of Dark Souls 2, but I have since completed 2 and 3.

    I’m currently sitting on an IKEA JÄRVFJÄLLET office chair as I write you this message. I like it a lot! I’m so sorry that you had a bad experience with your chair. I hope your custom-built chair meets your needs.

    I won’t lie. Getting old is frightening. Try to focus on the people who love you. That’s what I do on really bad days.

  34. Nimrandir says:

    I don’t really have any health advice, but happy birthday!

  35. ccesarano says:

    Happy Birthday, Shamus!

    I’m 35 and over the past few years have experienced a gallbladder getting cut from my gut, a herniated disc/sciatica that still be buggin’ my right leg a bit, I had a kidney stone last year and this year, and I’m taking pills for my blood pressure, pre-diabetes, and Vitamin D.

    What I’m sayin’ is don’t feel so bad, you’re doing better than me.

    Enjoy the cake!

  36. unit3000-21 says:

    I guess now we know Shamus’ birthday cake won’t be a salted caramel one ;)
    Anyways – Happy Birthday Shamus!

  37. Aaron B Wayman says:

    Happy birthday Shamus!

    As my job has taken away my helper for the last 2 months, I am FULL of unsolicited, questionable, and flat out bad advice. I’ll tell you what keeps my blood pressure down for the last 21 years of being 29, don’t go shopping! I swear my BP jumps about 20 points every time I walk in a store, especially with my wife. Probably not a problem for you, but why not give it a shot? ;)

    1. Syal says:

      You can actually take it further with going anti-shopping; go into the store, and start putting random stuff on the shelves.

      1. Decius says:

        If you think shopping is stressful, try getting confused for a stocker by Karen.

  38. King Marth says:

    I’ve heard that salt and sugar tend to be balanced against each other in ‘processed’ foods. The sugar is added to get the high of a blood sugar spike (all the better to store energy and survive the next time your hunting and gathering fails to produce food), and the salt is added to get the delicious taste of electrolytes (permitting sustained water retention after all that sweating you’re doing from the 10-14 hour work day). When both are present, the tastes cancel out, so you avoid both the sickly sweet and the painfully salty while feeling the physiological addiction-inputs of both.

    Of course, in the process of writing this I found that persistence hunting (the idea that humans chased down animals Terminator-style by sweating away the overheat while prey were pushed to exhaustion) is a modern myth with about as much substance as viking helmet horns, including the existence of contradictory physical evidence. Keep recording data, working off direct observations might be slow but it’s real.

  39. The tastebuds thing goes for sugar, too . . . a little bit of citric acid can make something taste way sweeter than it actually is. I found that adding a little lemon juice to something only moderately sweetened makes it taste much “sweeter” and can help satisfy a sweet tooth. Works for salt, too, so if you’re missing salt flavor-wise try adding some acid like vinegar or lemon juice.

    Also, IIRC your potassium and magnesium levels interact with your sodium levels in weird ways, so you might be able to help get the pressure down by *adding* some potassium and magnesium. It also might help you feel less salt-deprived.

  40. Moridin says:

    Chips taste way saltier than they are, because the salt is on the surface(as opposed to mixed in), so you taste all of it immediately. Meanwhile, store bought bread often has the same amount of salt per weight unit and sometimes even more(going by labels I have handy, chips have 1.4% salt(these are normal, not even pretending to be healthy chips) whereas random bread has between 0.8-1.2% salt, though I’ve seen saltier, especially at those shelves where you can pick up bread that has been baked in the store itself). In general, anything you get from the store that you don’t have to cook yourself probably has more salt than it really needs – especially if it’s advertised as MSG free.

  41. mookers says:

    Happy Birthday Shamus! We are now officially the same age, because instead of remaining exactly one year older than you, I have refused to turn 50 this year due to the fact that I live in a currently locked-down city due to COVID, and am therefore unable to have a proper gathering to celebrate.

    So I’m not going to turn 50 until I’m allowed to have a party.

    How ’bout those 49ers, eh?

  42. Philadelphus says:

    But if you refuse to die until playing Half-Life 3, you could potentially live forever!

    …wait…an eternity without Half-Life 3? Eh, never mind.

  43. MikeK says:

    Apparently life isn’t easy enough without all the hardcore survival mods and permadeath.

    I remember playing some games in my youth (Might & Magic 4, maybe?) where the timescale was much longer and characters would age significantly over the course of the game (including magical aging), although muscle aches and back problems were never really introduced for older characters. Clearly there is an untapped market here. (Your character awakes with an unexplained shoulder ache. Also, his dietary choices over the last several years have been questionable. Do you even know how much sugar is in those potions of healing?)

    Anyhow, happy birthday. If it makes the transition any easier, remember that you are now actually in your 50th year of life since someone wisely decided to use 0-based indexing for ages (so maybe that makes you 50 in fortran).

    1. Decius says:

      One of the Might and Magic games took a lesson from AD&D and made the Haste spell age the target.

      They wussed out a bit and added age-reducing potions, though.

  44. evileeyore says:

    This will either be the last year of my life that I spend under 50, or the last year of my life. I’m not excited by either prospect.

    It’s okay Shamus, if you don’t make I promise to play CP2077 for you. I’m only 46 so I’ve got 3 more years than you do, so unless it gets really delayed, I got ya covered.

  45. Melfina the Blue says:

    Happy Belated Birthday! Here’s hoping for loads of many more happy ones!

    You could always try anemia to help with the hypertension (j/k), but seriously, having gone to the doc a lot in this COVID time (none-COVID related, this year just hates me), they’re generally insisting on temp readings, masks, only patients (and possibly only one patient at a time) in the waiting room and taking sensible precautions, in my experience anyway.

    Phone/telemedicine is also now a big thing. So, go do it! Hopefully you’ll be like my mom, who got diagnosed with hypertension when I was a kid (so early 50s I think), was on the same blood pressure med for 30 years, and died of something completely non-related in Jan (I mentioned this year hates me? It hated her more.) without any issues or complications from it.

  46. DaveMc says:

    Congrats on reaching another squared-integer milestone. They get pretty thin, up here: next one isn’t until 64, then 81, so enjoy 7^2 while you’ve got it.

    1. Decius says:

      64 is also the next big round number.

    2. Nimrandir says:

      Not to be a pessimist, but the next square of a prime is 121.

  47. Mersadeon says:

    Definitely feel your pain with the chair. My parents bought me a chair a few years ago when I moved – and to be clear, that was a thoughtful and generous idea of them that I am grateful for. I had complained about my old chair disintegrating and not really being able to afford a new one, so this was right on the money.

    But even though they spent 60€ on it, it was just… terrible. I know I shouldn’t be so astonished by it, but it always surprises me when you buy something at that price point and it’s not even average. I sat through the chair in a matter of days, it feels like, and from then on its days were numbered.

  48. Alecwq says:

    My grandma and father both have severe hypertension, one significantly worse than yours when left untreated.
    Potassium supplementation helped significantly. It doesn’t replace the meds but it arrested the condition getting worse and let us lower the dose. The side effects from the BP meds were …unpleasant.

    Weirdly, it was more effective taken with a small dose of sodium raw sea-salt (in an otherwise low-salt, but not salt free diet).

  49. Kerin says:

    Shamus, you’re going to get a million pieces of diet advice here and I’m really wary of adding to the pile. But I’m gonna anyway, because I spent a long time Pretty Fat and eventually got it under control in the last few years, and I’ve heard a lot of shitty advice that made me miserable.

    The single thing that hurt me most was crash diets. Trying to get your weight down fast is counterproductive, because it sucks more than any thin person can imagine. Just hunger, every day, all the time. It’s hard to want to be alive.

    Your goal shouldn’t be to lose the weight quickly, because as silly as it sounds, fat is a symptom more than a problem. You don’t want to be healthier for the next six months: you want to be healthy for the rest of your life.

    So lose weight slowly. A pound or half-pound every week doesn’t seem like a lot, but it means you can do stuff like shrink your portions by 5-10% and not feel very hungry. You’ll spend most of your time feeling like you, which is SO important as a creative who lives and dies by being in the right headspace to create. It’s unbelievably hard to write an article when all you can think about is how goddamn hungry you are, and you’ll start eating things you shouldn’t “just so I can get this work done”.

    Good luck, man. Be kind to yourself.

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