Saturday, March 31, 2007


I don't want to jinx anything, but I think this cortisone shot might be doing its thing.

The PP and I had dinner at friends' last night, and then this morning we went to swim practice with our old swimteam. It was great to see folks after way too long, but because there have been, ahem, coaching changes there, there was no coach, just a group of swimmers, including my coach-friend who helped me train for Nationals. A feeling of frivolity was in the air, so we had "practice" moreso than practice. To me, it was GREAT to be in the water again (after a week and a half), so I did not mind kick-kick-kick. During a fly set, where my lanemate was swimming a 25 fly fast, I'd swim 25 fly kick underwater (with the big fins), and my lanemate was almost swimming on top of me, and he said he could get a draft off me. That was funny.

At one point in the "practice" the group was doing a set of 50s, where you swim 25 build and then 25 easy, IM order. I did most of the set kicking with short fins, but I tried out a little breaststroke swimming (with a much narrower, tightened in pull, in order not to strain the tendon), and that felt good. I also swam 4 x 25s of freestyle with short fins (and with a much wider entry, again to avoid the tendon). That felt good, too. So it was not enough swimming to make anything hurt or sore, but just to feel around a little.

This coming week is our team's spring break, so I think after that I will try to come back slowly.

Meanwhile, spin spin spin!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thursday Unrandom 10: I will give you anything just please don't stop spinning Edition.

It is now officially one week since I last swam. Wow--time flies, sort of.

I'm pleased to report that the cortisone shot seems to be helping, in that there is not the lingering achiness in the shoulder that I had before, although I cannot be certain whether that difference is from the shot or the lack of swimming. It is sooooooooo tempting to try swimming again, but I will be patient, although I may break down at some point and do another kick practice, just to be in the water. It is a little like a cost-benefit analysis: will just being in the water feel good enough to make up for not being able to use my arms? Often, yes, if I am not trying to do the kicking too frequently.

But I digress, because I came here today to tell you about my recent bike ride. Wish you could have joined me today for my beautiful ride through wine country. It was a gorgeous day, nearly incandescent, with lush scenery.

OK, let's be honest.

Wine country = my basement.

"Incandescent" = completely artificial lighting.

"Lush scenery" = boxes, paint cans, old light fixtures, and the water heater.

But it was 30 minutes on the trainer, with some good intensity mixed in, and I am happy for that.

(But unhappy that I cannot think of as good a name for the bike trainer as "thrillmill." How about "strainer"?)

This is just another episode in the continuing saga of not swimming, which has also included some pleasants jogs around our local park full of blooming daffodils and tulips, some time on the bike machine and thrillmill at the Y, and a fun spinning class (GREAT instructor + pretty fun music = all the difference), and long walks with the PP. I need to get out for a run tomorrow, but for today I'm feeling sweaty from the cycling, and happy from the little adrenaline burst.

The greatest difficulty in indoor cycling, as you may know, is heart-wrenching boredom. But a few good tunes can really help. So here is the playlist from my recent ride:

1. "L.I.P.S.T.I.C.K.," Ralph Myerz and the Jack Herren Band
2. "Natasha '75," Ralph Myerz and the Jack Herren Band
3. "Single," Pet Shop Boys
4. "Somebody's Watching Me," Rockwell (don't even say it)
5. "Stop, Drop and Roll," Squirrel Nut Zippers
6. "Bedlam Ballroom," Squirrel Nut Zippers
7. "State of the Nation," New Order
8. "Such a Lovely Thing," Devotchka
9. "Sunday Arak," Balkan Beat Box
10. "Take Me, I'm Yours," Squeeze

Can you tell that I was using my little player that plays tracks in alphabetical order? (Some by artist, of course.)

Friday, March 23, 2007

In the meantime...

Thanks for the words of support for my last post: I really appreciate that. The resounding question seems to be what I will do for exercise since I am not swimming, and since no one seems to think that knitting counts. Funny, that was the big question for me, too, the thing that kept me in the water for as long as it did.

I decided on Wednesday night, while I was showering after my shortened practice, to join the local YMCA, since it seems to be the nearest gym with the widest offerings. When I got home that night I checked out their workout classes (they also have a pool with open swim hours, for a future time when I want to do swimming at times other than designated masters practice). I was specifically hoping for spin classes (yes, Joe, I am a lemming!), because I used to enjoy them for off-season triathlon training, and even taught them for a little while. Next to swimming and actually doing a big bike ride, they are my favorite kind of exercise--and definitely the best indoor thing. The Y does have spin classes, along with various other aerobic classes--including something called "Body Blast," which just seems like it would smell bad. I see they also have Yoga, which might be good if I can modify some of the arm stuff, or just for the future. Also, there are the usual cardio machines and weights, although I am not looking for weight stuff just yet. In short, this might be a good thing generally, as it will fill in some facility gaps I have been feeling since the move. So my application form is filled out, and I'll go tomorrow morning while the PP is at swim practice.

Also, I ran yesterday. Woo-hoo! I wore my little music device to keep me motivated, and to block out any impressions of people laughing at me. Truth be told, this was my third run of recent times, as I did a bit of running during recent travel. Yesterday's was 50 minutes, a combination of running and walking, and, I think, 2.5-3 miles. (I don't have one of those fancy GPS gizmos.) (And I'll ask the PT today whether I need to wear a sling.)

It is funny: 6 years ago when I had my bad ankle tendonitis (way worse than the shoulder thing, because I did not realize what it was as it was setting in), it was running and cycling that were impossible, swimming the only alternative. Now? Isn't it ironic.

Today I'm also getting an injection in the tendon, to see if that helps with the healing and inflammation. I know that for some people, these things really work, while for others, not so much.

We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


The time has come: I need to stop swimming. I hope this is temporary.

Last night was the kind of practice that has become too typical for me lately, where I spend most of it frustrated or angry or crying. I kicked for an hour, 2000 meters, and called it a night.

At first I thought that doing this kicking thing, which I have been doing since the beginning of Februrary, would be a way to be in the pool while I recovered from this injury. When I realized this week that I am going to need to do a bit more rest before I can get back to swimming for real, I had to look at what will likely be 4-6 more weeks of kicking, and I just cannot do that. Not because kick is so horrible, but because at every practice I have to watch all the other people swimming for real. Like Monday night, when a couple of guys in the lane next to me were doing a good practice together and since they are relatively recently returning to the sport, I could have hung with them if I had the use of my arms. I just wanted to badly to be in their lane, doing their practice.

So no more pool for me for a while. Please, keep your fingers crossed for me, that it is not too long.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The infamous 100 things.

OK, Joe is saying everyone should do it, and I see other people are, so I will, too.

100 things about me:

1. I am a lemming, apparently.

2. I am a superhero, or a goddess, but not in real life, where sometimes I cower in my house.

3. But my house kicks ass--you'd want to cower here, too.

4. I am not trying to be arrogant about the house, it's just that it is about 90 years old, with gorgeous windows, tons of wood, beautiful high ceilings, and two doorways per room.

5. And some questionable plumbing.

6. I like to plant things in the garden, but I have not done any of that since we moved last August.

7. We = me + Patient Partner + 2 cats.

8. Patient Partner is amazing. I am finding it harder and harder to imagine life without him, even though I never found it easy.

9. The cats are nutso, but I love them too.

10. I like to make up stories about the cats and their rich inner lives.

11. I have recently become obsessed with knitting, which I taught myself to do a few weekends ago. So far I have made 3 + 3/2 scarves.

12. I would like to learn to make hats.

13. I would like to learn to make ridiculous hats.

14. Knitting calms me.

15. I really need that.

16. I love swimming.

17. I cannot swim right now because I have tendonitis in my biceps tendon.

18. And lingering tightness in my anterior deltoid.

19. Sometimes after kicking 3000 yards I want to scream. (see #14)

20. Or cry.

21. But I cannot bear to be out of the water.

22. I do not love running because I feel like a trundling lump.

23. And I do not know how to breathe properly.

24. I know, it should be easy when you are not in the water.

25. I love cycling, but we do not do it anymore.

26. Partly this is circumstantial, partly because my bike is a hair too big, and partly it is because it takes so much time.

27. I have a great job where I get to spend a good bit of my time doing the things I want to do.

28. The other parts can be a drag, of course.

29. I enjoy cooking, but I do not find enough time to do it, especially with evening swim practices.

30. I am not afraid to try new things.

31. Because I just act like a clown when I am bad at things, to cover up the embarassment.

32. I enjoy learning new languages.

33. I love traveling.

34. I have done a lot of traveling alone, which is not exactly my preference, but it has its upsides.

35. But it is good to come home (see #3).

36. I rely on my friends, who sustain me.

37. And who I have a really great time with.

38. I spend almost all of my disposable income on (1) music, (2) yarn, and (3) eating out.

39. The PP and I do not have children so, according to a friend, we can throw our money away.

40. We really try not to do that, my recent visit to the Virgin Megastore excepted.

41. Oh yeah, and the dinner after Nationals where I accidentally ordered a $150 bottle of wine.

42. Blame it on 2 days of racing.

43. I am very proud of my medals from Nationals.

44. And the wine was pretty great.

45. I went dogsledding while I was in graduate school.

46. It was one of the best weeks of my life.

47. I secretly want to race dogs now.

48. But the sled won't get far in South Carolina.

49. I am on spring break right now, which is how I am finding time to actually write in my blog again, which I have missed.

50. But the knitting comes first.

51. I wish I were taller and thinner.

52. I have never felt a desire to have children.

53. I often admire and envy families with children.

54. I had no brothers or sisters growing up.

55. I am very, very good friends with my parents.

56. I often wonder what it would be like to have a sister or brother.

57. I am very bad at sharing my space.

58. The PP is an exception, but it took me a long time to learn to do that.

59. It was worth it.

60. He still teases me about how I thought we should have houses next door to one another.

61. That was not such a crazy idea, really.

62. But not financially viable.

63. I do not really like to shop, but recently I have been thinking a lot about shoes.

64. And bags.

65. I am not a religious person.

66. I have a profound sense of the ineffable.

67. Thinking too much about environmental problems makes me emo.

68. I would like to travel to Antarctica.

69. But not on one of those cruise ships where you take your photo with penguins.

70. I know how to play the piano.

71. But I never practice, and I do not play enough.

72. I wish I played more, and that I had real musical ability.

73. I am a jack of all trades, master of none.

74. I do not really mind that, most of the time.

75. I love sweets.

76. I wish I were more creative.

77. I wish I were more willing to take risks.

78. I would like to live in Italy for a while.

79. I love eggs. That's why I order a omelet.

80. I watch too much Law and Order.

81. I am more likely to participate in sports if I can do so with friends. (see #1)

82. I like watching basketball on TV.'

83. I frequently cannot watch UNC basketball on TV without leaving the room in agony.

84. I am not a Duke fan.

85. I am learning to be a Clemson fan, unrewarding though it can be.

86. I do not watch many movies.

87. I am mildly afraid of movies.

88. I am not afraid of French pastries.

89. I am addicted to the Washington Post's daily sudoku puzzle.

90. That is not the first video game I have gotten hooked on.

91. I just finished knitting my fourth scarf.

92. That leaves 2 partials to go.

93. I find knitting scarves out of that ribbon where there are little strings everywhere CONFUSING.

94. My favorite part of the knitting is the yarn.

95. Soon I will learn to knit hats.

96. And afghans.

97. And little animals.

98. And how to use those round knitting needles.

99. I will wrap the entire world in little knitted things.

100. Look out world.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Times matter.

Recently Scott wrote about masters swimming, arguing that times should not matter there. Granted, he was talking about swimming times in the grand and glorious sense--national records, world records, even racing with one's competitors. He did allow that times could matter as a benchmark for individual assessment, although I suspect he would note that an adult swimmer measuring their success or failure against their times from their youth is in for nothing but hurt.

This is true. As adults, we not only lack the time and compunction to train at the level necessary for peak achievement, but our bodies are disintegrating around us. I suppose I am even more aware of this fact since I am still not able to use my arms for more than 600 yards in a practice (total), but I also see around me plenty of other swimmers with injuries or whose bodies are betraying them.

But I want to argue for the importance of competition in mastsers swimming.

I am not writing from the same perspective as Scott, since I have no dreams of real glory, nor do I have much of a swimming past. I swam avidly growing up, but only during the summer season. There was one year when I swam year-round, but I did not much care for it, and I knew that I would never be that calibre of swimmer. Really, I swam all year just to be in better shape the next summer.

The coach at my previous team often argued that his swimmers should be super-serious about the sport, prioritizing it above other activities, willing to train with great dedication. "Jack of all trades, master of none," he would say. Sure, if you want to achieve, you have to put in the work. But I hate the idea that kids who are willing to put a good bit into swimming, but want to do other things too, were discouraged.

To me, there is an analogy between these two positions, that masters swimming times are irrelevant and that swimming should be the top of the list for kids who swim.

What I would hope for instead--or really, in addition--is a space for achievement and even small bits of private glory, even with the knowledge that those achievements and that glory would not matter to the wider world.

One of my favorite aspects of masters swimming is seeing people who you might not expect kick ass. For instance, the man who broke world records in the 90+ category in the 1000 free and 1650 free at nationals last year. Sure, those records might not mean much compared to the current time standards for Olympic trials, but to do that swim--and to prepare for that swim--at that age is pretty awesome. Similarly, when you see someone who can hardly walk helped to a starting block so that they can dive in and then swim like a shark to beat everyone in your heat, that is awesome too.

What I am saying is that masters swimming (like other lifelong sports) offers many ways to achieve glory. For me, someone who often wonders what it would have been like to take my swimming seriously as a teenager, it is the chance to achieve the physical and mental gains that come with athletic discipline. And times are definitely a part of that. To be able to qualify for various national or world meets means something important: it means that the work I am putting in (limited, as it is, by life and other obligations) is paying some kind of reward. Then to race with the other swimmers in my age group who show up means something more: it is an acknowledgement of all of our place in a sport that we love.

So even though I do not swim just for the times, and I do not swim just to race, and I do not race just to win, the swimming, the racing, the times all matter.

But not as much as getting back to something other than kick.

Why editing matters.

Greetings! I am back now from New York City, having enjoyed the authentic New York experience, i.e., a mid-March sleetstorm. The joys of such a thing in The City include not having proper footware (I do not recommend Mary-Jane-style shoes, as the snow can fall or seep right in from the top), gale-force winds funneled by tall buildings, and stepping off curbs into feet-deep snow banks which may or may not contain a puddle of ice water at the bottom.

But now that I have spent the better part of the week considering the processes and theoretical backing for editorial practice, I need to comment on this, from the NYTimes:

WASHINGTON, March 19 — A House committee released documents Monday that showed hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industrylobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a humanrole in global warming or play down evidence of such a role.

In a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the official, Philip A. Cooney, who left government in 2005, defended the changes he had made in government reports over several years. Mr. Cooney said the editing was part of the normal White House review process and reflected findings in a climate report written for President Bush by the National Academy of Sciences in 2001.

Well, I am just back from the biennial conference of the Society for Textual Scholarship, and I am here to tell you that neither I nor the STS support the version of editing conducted by Mr. Cooney.

For starters, Mr. Cooney appears not to have included any kind of note on the text, indicating what he used as his copytext, what his principles for emendations were, and what his editorial perspective was. And where was his table of emendations, indicating modifications made to support 2001 knowledge in favor of more up-to-date information? Furthermore, any good textual editor (and I do have some experience here) knows that rather than modifying the text to suit a particular point of you.

How many times must we tell you, Mr. Cooney: Follow. The. Text.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

That Thomas Wolfe plaque.

Greetings! As Jarrett would say, rumors of my blog death have been exaggerated. It has just taken me a little while to process a few things about my recent trip to the southern part of heaven.

Here is something Ian Williams said about his own trip, which, stars being aligned, coincided with my own:
Almost without fail, Tessa and I have journeyed to Chapel Hill every year to teach one of Dr. Peter Kaufman's classes at UNC. And without fail, it's always a fantastic trip, getting to dip our toes in the undergraduate experience once more and meeting a cadre of cool kids. I use the word "kids" self-consciously, because every time I step onto campus, time stops and I am eighteen years old again, wondering what Jon, Chip and Bud are doing for dinner. In essence, I don't feel that different from them, even though they were born in 1987 and I have a toddler who keeps yelling "Daddo has ears!" (emphasis mine)

I agree with some of this. I admit it: I spent a good bit of my time there sitting on my favorite couch in Davis Library (NCMarcus: Davis says hi back) doing the work I needed to do for my own classes. I even took a nap there, even though I was facing out the window and I knew that some 2000s version of my 1990s self would walk by and laugh at me. And I ate or tried to eat at all my fav places, wondered at the transformation of Chez Lenoir, tried to track down a couple of old profs, dropped way too much money at the Bull's Head, wandered around Fortress Greenlaw, ate a sandwich in the Pit, etc. etc.

And don't get me wrong: it was seriously cool to give a talk at my own alma mater about the subject of my own undergraduate honors thesis in front of professors and new students.

But I cannot agree with what Ian said in the bolded part of his message. In large part, I think this is because in the years since I left UNC I developed a new relationship to college campuses, such that without even realizing it I made the nostalgic return that I really desired impossible. You see, because I spend most of my days on college campuses, grading papers, trying to get the youth of America to think for itself, navigating jaywalking people on cellphones--because of all this, when I looked around the Pit, I saw not latter-day versions of myself, but instead I saw ......... my students.

I felt as if I had entered some kind of liminal zone, where I could not really identify with the faculty there, even though they could now be my colleagues, and I could not really identify with the students, because (apart from the distinct lack--thanks be--of orange) they could be the sleepy faces looking back at me at 9:30 a.m. Here I was, looking for the big reconnection, only to find . . . I'm not sure what, but not that. It was not until I took a 6-a.m. walk around familiar territory (Winston, Spencer, Grimes, the rose garden around the planetarium), while most everyone else was still snoozing, that I could reclaim the campus as my own.

So what does it mean to require a post-rapture landscape for such a feeling?

And it was not until I returned home and was narrating the trip to a friend and burst into absolutely unexpected and overwhelming tears that I realized the biggest gap in the whole thing. How can you go back to something when one of the biggest somethings about the thing is not there? You know, I noticed this visit that there is a new commemorative Thomas Wolfe plaque on campus: I suppose he was right.