Friday, June 27, 2008

Daily leavening.

I don't know how many of you out there are Stephen Colbert fans. I am. The trick is, of course, that I never stay up that late, so the PP and I catch the show a day late.

Last night (which really means Wednesday night), the show featured more entrants in the "Make John McCain Exciting" contest, where you give his "green screen" speech a make-over. There have been films of him speaking in front of a wild west sceen, or a rock concert, and last night someone had even imposed him onto Elvis's body and into a Star Trek scene.

This one blows them all away, and I suspect that whatever your politics, this is funny:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Meet" Report.

This meet is happening this weekend. I was hoping this would be my first post-surgery competition. After some of the set-backs experienced recently, though, I decided that competition would be a mistake. I would have had to go out and "just swim"--not race. I decided that would be too difficult. It might be discouraging, and frankly I did not trust myself to let someone else win, even if it would have been what I needed to do to preserve the shoulder. So: no meet for me.

But this morning at practice, the coach had a "pre-meet" practice lined up, with some starts from the blocks and sprinting. Initially, I planned not to do it, just to do my own thing, but as I was warming up, I changed my mind.

Yesterday Elizabeth wrote about deciding to go out on her own for a wheel, even though she thought she should not. Even though everyone around her said she should not, and she knew that the risks involved would be tremendous:

I thought, “It looks like a good day to go training.”
I thought, “It would probably be better to spending the day resting.
Besides, training by myself is really risky." I paused, "AND Linda would kick my butt.”
I thought, “But, I’ve thought out the route and while it might be risky, it is also, I think, possible.”
I thought, “When are you, Elizabeth going to decide to do SOMETHING?”
I thought, "Does it have to be this? This is riskier than the trip to Port Angeles and look what happened there!"

Even though her post today is about the repercussions from that decision, it was one of the most inspiring posts I have read, because it was about how living life is about taking risks--even sometimes taking risks you know to have impossible odds--because otherwise you might not really be living. In some ways it might have been easier for her to decide not to go for that training ride, because it was not worth the risk, but she made the (really) harder choice and did the dangerous thing, the dangerous thing that for her is necessary to living life.

In no way can I say that my situation is like hers, but her post did come at a time when I needed a little kick in the pants. Too often recently I have tended to hole up at home rather than "getting out there," even though I know that "getting out there" makes me happier. It just seems too scary, so I stay in.

I am taking a long time to come around to saying that as I was warming up this morning, I thought, "If Elizabeth can go out for a training ride by herself (and without oxygen), then I can at least try to do this pre-meet practice."

I was a little nervous about whether diving might be risky, whether sprinting might be risky, whether I might be too tempted to pull too hard, but I decided to assume the risk and give it a shot, knowing I would be responsible for the results of my actions.

It felt great.

There is just something different about racing (even just sort-of racing) from swimming carefully, and I have not raced in a long time.

We did a series of break-out swims off the blocks (only 15 meters, which means the dive plus about three pull cycles), then a set of 2 x 25 sprint + 50 easy. I was ready to stop at any time if I felt any pain, but I managed to do the full set. And I beat the PP on most of the sprints. Heh.

For the first time in a long time, I feel mighty.

WARM-UP: 1000m with long fins (total of 700 kick + 300 swim)
KICK: 700m kick with no fins (7 x 100, odds w/snorkel, evens on back)
STARTS: 60m swim (4 x 15m sprint from dive)
SPRINTS: 400m [4 x (2x25 sprint swim + 50 easy kick)] (200m swim)
RECOVERY: 200m easy (140m swim)
KICK: 400m (2 x 200 fast kick with long fins)
COOL: 100m easy swim
2860 LCM (800 LCM swim)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Saturday, June 07, 2008

You don't really care for cowbell, do you?

Come on, people: can I not get any takers on my cowbell questions? No one is willing to help me with my mix?


I got thinking about it again this morning during a spinning class, where the instructor really had a better than usual array of musical choices for my morning torment. To me, it is the music that really makes a spinning class. Too many instructors choose the a boringly typical array of musical choices. I remember back when I got certified to be a spinning instructor (certification has since lapsed), the teacher made a point of saying "Pick good music." She recommended variety, things with different levels of beats that participants could connect to, not just pop music but surprising choices.

I thought to myself, This is the job for me, because I could not only get paid for getting a workout but also apply my DJ'ing skills. Who could ask for more?

But the instructor today gave me an hour of listening pleasure. Granted, there were a few tracks in there I did not recognize, but mostly it was stuff I knew but did not expect to hear--some Ramones, the theme song to Mortal Kombat (test your might!), a medley of songs with "Jump" in the lyrics, some Shania Twayne, but then, she even included the song that I thought would be the best spinning song of all time.

Can you guess what it was?

"Sing Sing Sing" by Benny Goodman. (Luckily for us she had a shorter 6-minute version, so we did not have to spring for the full 12 minutes and 15 seconds. I have done that on my own, and it is no picnic.)

But back to the cowbell. I was trucking along, maintaining a decent cadence, enjoying the hell out of it, and when suddenly WHAMMO! I realized that Gene Krupa is a mad user of the cowbell!

Who would have guessed?

Well, really if you have ever heard the man whale on a drum set, you should have guessed. I should have guessed, because back in about 1987 I saw a film of the Benny Goodman Orchestra performing the song, and the image of him playing has not left my mind since. Let me tell you: no drummer in rock 'n' roll has anything on Gene Krupa.

The down side is that it might be tough to fit a song lasting 12:15 on my cowbell mix.

Now seriously, if you have any opinions about cowbell mixes, won't you please answer my questions?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

It's not the heat, it's the . . .

well, maybe it is the heat.

I knew I was in trouble when I was driving home from physical therapy at 9:40 a.m. and it was already 90 degrees F.

Luckily, I came up with the brilliant idea to buy one of these. (I am miserly about air conditioning.)

The assembly instructions and I did not get along perfectly, but the thing is put together and working.


(The downside is that it turns out there is a lot of dust and cathair on my desk, and the nice fan is stirring it all up.)

In shoulder news, I was able to do some of my strengthening exercises today in physical therapy, though not a lot of them. Still, this is progress from Monday, when my PT just stretched me and sent me home.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Daily leavening.

He went on to win, by the way.

Monday, June 02, 2008

You cannot be careful enough.

My regular reader knows that in my work to come back from my surgery back in November, I have been extremely careful. Despite my desire to recover faster, I have been taking things at a snail’s pace, adding swimming at a rate of 10% a week, and backing off at even the smallest sign of discomfort. I have done my exercises regularly. I have kept my coaches in the know. I have taken careful notes.

It has been about 10 days since I went back into physical therapy. I believe that the stretching and new exercises my PT has had me doing have been helping. On Saturday morning, I was able to swim 900 meters in practice without any pinching or soreness or anything. Great!

But then: bad luck. I was swimming backstroke, because that is the stroke that is feeling the best right now. (I know: the irony, since it is, in terms of competition, my weakest stroke and the one where I have had to work the hardest as an adult to gain better skills—still very much a work in progress.) In the next lane, another swimming was also swimming backstroke, and somehow, under the lane line, our pulls matched up so that our left (yes, left—the bad one) elbows interlocked as we passed. Since the joint is weak and a bit unstable, the contact pulled my shoulder up and a bit out of joint. OUCH!

I stopped immediately, and I did a heavy icing and ibuprofen regimen over the weekend. Oh, and wine.

Today I saw my PT again, and he says the shoulder capsule is stretched, kind of like a sprained ankle. So I need to lay off it for a while, and off the exercises, until it can settle down.

What dumb luck: all that caution and then a freak accident. A friend told me that day I should buy a lottery ticket, but I was afraid I would get one of those tickets where I end up owing a million dollars to the state of South Carolina.

Reflections: He laid that golden cowbell on the ground at Johnny's feet.

A while ago--uhm, yes, well, technically quite a while ago--I made mention of a long-time goal of mine: The Ultimate Cowbell Mix. At that time, I suggested that I had little to add to the world of cowbell mixes, because everything I could think of was on this list.

I take that back.

Now that I have truly set my mind to it, I have found many things not on that list, and also now I am not afraid to replicate some things that are there, too, because you know what? The world needs a decent cowbell CD.

You might be surprised by what a diverse array of cowbell music is out there, with more being produced every day! I have tried to limit myself to pretty mainstream stuff, because I figure most listeners are most interested in the cowbell music they most recognize.

There are hitches, however. I find myself listening to some tracks over and over--like "Whiskey You're the Devil" or "My Sharona"--trying to figure out: is that a cowbell? or a woodblock? or a drum rim? And although you might think "Devil's Haircut" has cowbell, it is really something more like a radiator that he is beating on. And what about "Tequila"? The sound in there may be a little too high-pitched to be cowbell, but it is not triangle--so what is it? (Personally I think that list could use some peer review: there are a number of things on it that do not really have the cowbell.)

And be warned: having ventured into the world of cowbell, you may leave with more questions than answers. For example:

* Do synthesized cowbells count?

* Why did Phil Collins not explore the world of cowbell?

* Is there something about the genre of country music that cannot tolerate the cowbell?

* Must guitar-virtuoso rock exclude cowbell? For instance, you might think Heart could get down with some cowbell, but NO, just snare and high hat.

* And what about all those tracks that you could swear have the cowbell--but then when you listen to them again with your eagle ears you find that no, that is just plain old drums or something. Like Outkast's "The Way You Move" or "I Need a Man" by the Eurythmics or "Private Eyes" by Hall and Oates. Damn, that's disappointing.

But Dear Readers, I have a few judgment calls for you. If you have opinions about cowbell mixes, would you be so kind as to leave your answers to the following questions in the comments?

1. Should my mix
a. only include the over-the-top blatant cowbell songs, like "Hey Ladies"? (FYI, I have an entire CD's worth that fits this category)
b. alternate between the blatant cowbell songs and more subtle ones, like "Owner of a Lonely Heart" where the cowbell is clearly present but not at the very forefront, or is perhaps muted?

2. When it comes to songs featuring synthesized cowbell sounds (e.g., "U Got the Look"), should I
a. include them?
b. exclude them?

3. When it comes to somewhat more out-there cowbellcentric songs, like Les Claypool's Whamola," should I
a. include one or two of them, just to show the vastness of the cowbell repertoire?
b. show no prejudice against them at all?
c. exclude them in favor of better-known cowbellery?

Anyone who votes will, if they provide me later with a mailing address, receive their very own copy of the mix.