Thursday, January 31, 2008
WEDNESDAY, 30 JANUARY
1000 kick warm-up (500 with fins, 500 without fins)
900 one-arm drill + kick (18 x 50, alternating FR/FL/BA)
300 BR/FR kick (no fins, of course)
TOTAL: 2300 meters
Sunday, January 27, 2008
I will be honest with you: I love voting. I suppose my high school civics teacher would be pleased, since whatever she did worked. But as a rather liberal (the PP would say "fiercely leftist") voter, I usually feel like my polling falls into some vast abyss that is South Carolina conservative politics. Back in 2004, I was pretty involved in Democratic party work in Oconee County, where I then lived, which was exciting in that I felt a part of the process, and--remember 2004?--I actually thought change might be possible. Right.
But the fact is that Obama pulled 55% of the vote here. Sure, he was predicted to win the state, but no one expected that margin. And have you heard? Something like 86,000 more people showed up for the SC Democratic primary than last week's Republican primary? And we are supposed to be a red state, through and through.
So last night I felt like Senator Obama was talking to me, when he said that change is not easy, but that we cannot afford to be cynical, to accept politics and Washington as usual. That we have to believe that change is possible, and be willing to work for change. I go back and forth between absolute disillusionment and Being Fox Mulder.
The dismay (read: return to normal) will come if Obama does not get the Democratic nomination, and all this voter mobilization fizzles away (which it likely would) and all the anti-Clinton Republican mobilization gets in gear. Then all the 124 state House seats, the 46 state Senate seats, 6 U.S. House and 1 Senate seat will, well, you know.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
The first title on the page is the name of your band.
2. Click on this link: http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.
3. Finally, click on this link: http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/
The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover. You then take the pic and add your band name and the album title to it, then post your picture.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
These things happen, of course, when you are used to living in one body and suddenly (or even not so suddenly) find yourself in another. At those moments, it is easy to idealize the old body. For instance, my old body was extremely strong, fit, and significantly slimmer than my new one. My old body made me feel like a champ. My old body did not take up so much space in my pants. My old body enabled me to look at people and say, "Yeah, I could take them." My old body did not make me feel guilty all the time, like I should be trying to subsist on a diet of water and air. My old body got less tired in the course of a day, and it still felt like going for a swim or a ride after a long day, rather than wanting to collapse early in bed. My old body liked to wear tank tops.
In my new body, I look at the USMS Nationals qualifying times I used to make with ease and wonder how many seconds or tens of seconds I need to drop. I laughingly tell myself that cotton pants get tight in the dryer then feel like shit the rest of the day. I wonder if maybe this is the time that it is not possible to come back to fitness. I feel ashamed that I was not able to keep the weight off during the last year.
But if I am being optimistic, which I sometimes am, I remember that the actual differences between the old and the new are not as dramatic as they feel. The tank tops never looked that great. I notice that after a good swim, I start to feel tough again. It's just that it seems like I have so far to go.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
p.s. Isn't that a nice scarf his daughter knit him?
p.p.s. I'm only sorry there is no snowman on his head!
Saturday, January 19, 2008
What do you think?
Friday, January 18, 2008
I got one of those calls Wednesday, and it was hilarious.
Admittedly, at first I felt very important because I thought that I might actually be being polled, and that I would therefore be involved in the patriotic process of mispredicting election results. But it quickly became apparent that the questions were not standard poll questions.
Even though I had answered "No" to the questions of whether I planned to vote in Saturday's Republican Primary and whether I was male, and "Yes" to whether I consider myself a Democrat (which I sort of do and sort of don't, but for primary purposes I do), the mechanized voice asked me whether (a) gun rights, (b) tax relief, or (c) illegal immigration were driving issues for me. When I said no, the voice mechanically paused, and then asked whether I believed that the economy was an important issue, and when I answered yes, it tried to convince me that because Mitt Romney and John McCain both come from money or anyways have piles of it, Mike Huckabee was my man. I tried to explain to the voice that I was not sure I agreed that Huckabee was the best choice if, say, a person believes that there are "two Americas" or "Washington is broken," but it did not listen and instead asked me more questions.
I can understand why this kind of "polling" might at least initially dupe some people, and certainly the statements made about non-Huckabeeans were sort of negative. But come on: the mechanized voice got so very puffed up as it explained the flaws in McCain's and Romney's background, and then even more so (if you can imagine that) when it touted Huckabee's strengths, that how could you really believe this to be John Zogby calling?
Thursday, January 17, 2008
On our morning walk, the Patient Partner and I started noticing something interesting: our city's many bronze statues all had snowmen on their heads. The first ones we saw were on the heads of the pair of students commemorating Sterling High School, the first African American public high school in the county, and we hoped that these snowmen were in the spirit of fun and nothing more. But then we came to Vardry McBee, seated peacefully on his bronze bench, sporting his own fine snowman hat (though his snowman seemed to have lost its arms). Not to be left out, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson also wore a snowman hat (though we had hoped that perhaps someone would have affixed a snowball to his bat). My favorite was Nathanael Greene, Revolutionary War hero and holder of a long-nosed miniature snowman along with his spyglass. The snowman adorning Joel Roberts Poinsett, namesake of the poinsettia, must have gone the way of so many, may they melt in peace. Best of all, Nobel laureate Charles H. Townes had one on his head, one on each shoulder, and one in the fold of his hands. Now that's a city father for you!
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
It is as though he said, "Cheating on your exams is not a new concept," or "Burning witches is not a new concept," or "Beating up queers is not a new concept," or "Slavery is not a new concept."
Meanwhile, will you please chant with me? SNOW DAY, SNOW DAY, SNOW DAY.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
* sleeping on my side (ahhhhhhhh);
* leaving my house without the sling, and therefore not having to negotiate the sling in the putting on and taking off of coats;
* carrying something, even something light, in my left hand;
* driving my very own stick-shift car;
* looking at my sling lying in a heap on the floor and just leaving it there.
OK, so that last one was not so much something I had experienced before, but it is sure sweet.
The difficulty of being rid of the sling is that there is a bit more soreness and tenderness around the place where the surgery was done. (It feels a bit sore and then if I touch it there is no question of the exact spot.) I believe this is part of the process: not wearing the sling puts the wound under a bit more pressure, as I relearn to use the muscles around it to support it. But so far my body has not rejected any of its bionic parts.
But most of all, I have been to swim practice twice. Those of you who swim regularly probably do not remember what it is like to come back to practice for the first time after a long time of being kept away, but being in the water? Moving your body in some strange way that, because you have done it for so long, actually makes you move pretty efficiently through the water? Realizing that you remember every little automatic thing that you do to keep from getting water up your nose? Discovering that it is absolutely possible to do a (somewhat half-speed) flip turn with one arm's worth of propulsion? These are amazing things.
Saturday I was allowed to add a couple of hundred meters to my practice, so it was a total of 1500 meters. Less one-arm drill, because that felt a little bad in my shoulder where the surgical work was done, and the goal here is to do no harm. I am guessing, given that oblique ab work in the gym did something similar, that the body rotation puts some strain on that spot, strain I had no idea about. So I will back away from those drills completely, and then see if they can come in gradually sometime later. For now, then, kickery, and seeing how long it will take before I can do an entire practice. (But this is not a race.)
I know myself well enough to know that after a month or so, I will start to get frustrated that I cannot push further. I might tend to focus again on what I cannot do instead of what I can do. I might get stressed out by my job and lose all my senses. So I am writing this now to try to remember that even being here is terrific.
Friday, January 11, 2008
So first, assessment of last year's goals.
1. Swim 150 yards or more of butterfly in every swim practice. Well, this went down the tubes when the shoulder did. I see that I was doing a decent job about it until then.
2. Find non-computer-related break activities and use them to replace aimless internet searching, doing several days worth of Washington Post sudoku at a time, etc. See? This is one of those embarrassing resolutions, because I was just thinking recently about how I needed to work on this, not even remembering
3. Turn off internet and e-mail while working. I have been much better about this, if only because I have finally come to believe that e-mail mostly brings annoying requests from bosses and colleagues and students. I now also have a sticky on my monitor that reads "NO RAVELRY DURING WORKTIME." So far, yes. We'll see how it lasts.
4. Eat one salad, one large piece of fruit, and one other vegetable per day. Um, hi. I totally forgot this resolution existed. I think, though, that I have usually succeeded on two out of three.
5. Exercise 4-5 days per week instead of 3-5. Did well with this until about October, when I got so damn depressed about the shoulder that I could no longer face the pool or anything else.
6. Do shoulder exercises every other day and also stretch on those days. Shoulder exercises: yes, for the good it did. Stretching? Well, again: this is one I was going to put down for this year.
7. Ice sore shoulder after swim practice. Check.
Then I had a bunch of swimming goals:
1. Swim 200 back in competition.
2. Swim 200 fly in competition.
3. Swim 1000 SCY free in competition.
4. Swim 400 IM strong in competition.
5. Beat previous best time in 100 SCY back (1:23.67) and SCM (1:33.45) in competition.
6. Beat previous best time in 100 SCY fly (1:16.73) in competition.
7. In one week during the summer, swim every practice that my masters team offers.
I doubt I need to say much about these, since I swam in exactly one meet (SCY), where I did not beat my best 100 BA time, and scratched the 1000 FR and 200 BA because I was having shoulder problems.
One thing that is worthwhile (read: a little painful) about this assessment process is the reminder of my great optimism c. January 2007. It reminds me of how I was thinking about swimming before my hubris got nipped. And while my Older and Wiser part is inclined to laugh derisively at that year-ago me, I do not think that is the right answer: instead, it gives me something to shoot for, a place to get back to, though the getting there will take time. And patience--a commodity in short suppy in these parts.
So, 2008, the year in which I set some easy goals and some harder ones.
1. Begin getting back in shape. This means making exercise a serious part of my life again. It means that rather than focusing on how much I am not presently an athlete, I remember that I want to be one again, and that that takes work, and then doing the work. For now, in a concrete way, this means coming back to the pool a couple of days a week (and working to keep my perspective while I am there), getting back in the gym for some other kinds of cardio work (presently, the recumbent bike, because it does not strain the shoulder), and remembering that junk in = junk out. Later (after, say, my March 12 doctor's appointment), this will mean beginning to swim again, and then gradually, beginning to train again, and perhaps eventually, beginning to compete again. But for this year, I probably have to phrase these things as beginning. Really, beginning again.
2. Keep working at nipping the solitaire addiction. Really, I mean this in terms of my general tendency to spend too much time on the internets. I am not really sure how I am going to approach this (and please refrain from commenting about how this post may not be helping. Thanks.)
3. Stretch. Oh yeah, and try not to forget about this one.
4. Learn to knit complicated cables. Then make something with such a pattern. Start simple: make a cap. If all goes well, I'll achieve this one this month, since I am already started on such a project.
5. Learn to turn the heel of a sock. There is even a sock on the needles, eagerly awaiting its new heel.
6. Remember how far I have come. My new Life Coach mentioned this in the context of returning to sports, but I could stand to learn it more generally, rather than constantly focusing on how I do not measure up. Yee haw.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
The practice itself was not much to write home about:
400 free kick on sides with long fins
300 fly kick on front with short fins
200 free kick on front with little cup fins
100 BR kick on front with no fins
300 alternating 50 BR kick on back / 50 right-arm free
(1300 total meters)
But here I am, writing home about it anyway, if only because it happened. And it wiped me out! And that in itself felt good. As did the feeling of being in the water, remembering what it is like to dolphin off a wall (even if I can only streamline with one arm), and pull with one arm, and kick kick kick. What did not feel good was (1) wearing a swimsuit after too much sedentariness (or, in my case, sedimentariness), and (2) how quickly I got winded. But that is fine. I have to start somewhere, and this time, here is where I am starting.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Because she needs some volunteer hours in order to be certified, I agreed to be one of her "coachees." So starting today, she is helping me with:
1. Keeping my motivation up to get back in shape and get ready to get back to swimming;
2. Work on keeping my work and my life in better balance; and
3. Nipping my Solitaire addiction.
We started out today with #1, which I knew would be a sort of softball for her, given her own background and experience, but which I knew I really needed if I am going to stay optimistic once I get back in the pool but cannot really swim yet. We determined that motivation to get to the gym was something I lacked, and so my strategies on that front are setting goals for the number of days/week that I will go to the gym and the pool and then also writing down every workout. These are things I have done before, but what really struck me when she said it was that writing workouts down will keep my focus on what I have accomplished. Obvious, in a way, but given how distracted I have been by how far back I am from where I was a year or two ago, and by how much I still have to do to be able to swim, I really needed to hear it.
Now let's see if I can remember it.
It is a shame that they do not point out that watering your lawn is not really the best use of water, and especially not during the winter, when it can cause black ice on adjacent roadways.
And while I am all about reducing my own personal water use (though I have always tried to be careful), I wonder how I am supposed to tell whether I am using more or less of my allotted 65 gallons per day?
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Is a serious system of peer review too much to ask for?
Now granted, I write to you as someone most familiar with academic publishing, where peer review is a crucial part of the process. So perhaps I am spoiled. But seriously: peer review has something to offer.
Recently I started on a sweater, following a pattern published by a very well respected yarn company. It seemed like a very straight-forward pattern, and I was excited at the prospect of an easy and fairly quick stockinette-o-rama that I could work on while watching TV. And I was excited at the prospect of something new and fun to wear before horribly long.
Trouble is, there was an error in the pattern, and it took me a bit of knitting to realize that the math was not working out. Once I had confirmed that there was no way that the pattern could work mathematically, I went online and found that, sure enough, there was a pattern correction on the company's website.
Now here is the thing: there is no way to know this unless you check online before starting every single published pattern.
And pattern corrections seem to be just par for the course, such that pretty much any knitting book has several corrections posted at its publisher's website.
Peer review would solve this problem--or at least seriously reduce it. If every pattern were knitted by two blind reviewers before it was published, then these mistakes would be found before the darned thing was published, instead of after, thereby saving everyone a lot of headaches.
So seriously: consider it.
Friday, January 04, 2008
As I was doing this exercise, I was thinking about how much I was enjoying it, if only because it is new, and these days each time I go to PT I get new exercises to do, and that, Friends, feels like progress.
So then I got to thinking about how much I was enjoying this exercise, and it occurred to me that these exercises are to swimming what swatching is to knitting.* It is easy to get irritated that you have to knit (and frequently reknit. And reknit again again.) a gauge swatch when you really want to get going on the project. Yet, if you launch into the project without the swatch, well, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't.
Therapy exercises are like that, too. If I were in an impatient place today, I might have been irked that I have to do these exercises instead of diving into the pool and doing a real set. But just as you can remind yourself that knitting a swatch is still knitting, PT exercises are still exercise.
* Note for non-knitters: a swatch is a little piece of knitting that you make before starting a project to see how different your knitting is from that of the pattern designer. Ideally, you want to reach a point where your knitting and the designer's knitting coexist in perfect same-number-of-stitches-per-inch harmony. In the real world, this frequently takes several swatches, or sections of swatches, and even then there are no guarantees.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Even though I doubt that that student is a regular reader of this here blog, here you go:
MORAL: Knitters don’t let knitters on drugs make commitments about projects for other people.
Here is what happened.
On the day after Thanksgiving, a dear friend took me and some others to the LYS (that is “local yarn store” for you non-knitters out there). While we were there, my friend came across a piece of what the shop owners call “bait”: a knitted example of a thing for which they sell both the pattern and the yarn. In this case, the “bait” was a darling baby hat knit from yarn that comes pre-strung with beads:
Isn’t that adorable? And look at how peacefully the baby is sleeping! It is even drooling!
Now here are two things you need to know about my friend in order for this story to compute. First, she is not herself a knitter, and she really has no interest in becoming one. Second, she is one of the most kind and generous and wise people you will ever meet. She is the kind of person who is so immensely nice to you that you want to do just about anything for her. But she does not manipulate you into feeling this way, and really she has no expectations of anyone repaying her for anything. She just does good things for people pretty much all the time because she is that kind of person.
OK, back to the story.
So there we are in the yarn store, and she asks the owner if she can buy the little baby hat, and the owner says no, that none of the “bait” is for sale. So I look at the little hat, and I remember that I have made many hats in my day, and that my friend has been so incredibly nice to me (especially during my shoulder saga) and I say, “I will make it for you.” She asks me if I am sure, and of course I am sure. No really. So she buys me the yarn and the pattern and off we go.
Do you already have an idea of where this story is going? Did the moral give too much away?
So first of all I realize that I do not own the needles for the project, and that is OK because I would have felt bad asking her to buy the needles for me since I’ll use them again and again, but this does mean another trip to the LYS, and do not forget: I am majorly drugged up and only have one working arm. So the PP kindly takes me to the LYS for the needles.
The other problem, of course, is that although the hat is mostly worked on a circular needle—no sweat—in order to finish the top you must switch to dpns. When I read this, my heart sank, because of course I did not have the foggiest sense of how to work those things. OK, I thought, this is the time for me to learn to use dpns. Then, of course, those adorable little loopy things on the top of the cap are made with I-cord. Have I ever made I-cord? No! And here are the directions: “On double point needles [problem 1], Knit 3 sts. Do not turn work. *Slide sts to the beg of needle and knit 3 sts*.” Huh?
Now here is something I have frequently found about knitting patterns. The directions make no sense at all until you have the needle and yarn in your hand and you are doing exactly what they say. Then, they generally work. (Stay tuned for my upcoming post about the serious insufficiency of peer review in the world of knitting patterns.) Anyway, I read these directions about I-cord, and I thought, Oh Great. I can’t really do that either.
Now, as you know from earlier posts, I have since learned to use dpns, and having done that, I have also learned how to make I-cord. In short, I finished the cap. But do you notice a difference between my adorable cap and the one in the picture from tilli tomas? (Go back and look at it again, if you are not yet seeing the difference.)
You’re right! Where their cap has all the beads on the outside, mine has more than half of the beads on the inside:
In short, if a little baby were wearing my cap, it would be screaming its fool head off, as little pellets of glass dug into its tiny head.
What the final line of the pattern should read is, “spend longer than you would like sliding all the little beads so they are on the outside part of the cap.”
It is a shame that knitting patterns do not follow recipes’ tendency to tell you how much prep time and how much cook time to expect. If they did, this one would say:
Knitting time: 3 hours
Sliding-beads-to-the-outside: 1 hour
But then, do you think suckers like us would buy it?
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
In this neighborhood, there are many of these old trees, some in better shape than others. According to the historic preservation guidelines for our neighborhood and several others in the city, they are part of the "urban canopy." The one in our yard must be about two and a half to three feet in diameter. Sadly, and I do not use that word lightly, it is very diseased, and from the look of some of the scarring where earlier limbs were removed, it does not seem that it was very carefully maintained in the past.
But as I write this there is a man sawing away at some of its long limbs, and other men are collecting the branches as they fall and running them through a chipper. They started about a half-hour ago and I expect this job will take hours, as they move closer and closer to the tree's heart. I cannot keep watching this.
We will miss you, Tree.