Thursday, May 22, 2008

Helping the economy.

Here is an economic stimulus program I can get behind!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Scott said, and he made me feel very flattered, "Your legs must be like two outboard motors by now." I am here to tell you this kind of thing has upsides and downsides.

MAJOR UPSIDE: Today I did my first spinning workout in over a year. (The last time was back when I was first having shoulder problems, circa March 2007.) Let me tell you: all that kicking has paid off! It was much easier to do the Stand Up Sit Down Fight Fight Fight thing that you do in a spinning class, thanks to my legs of steel. I know I will be stiff tomorrow, because this is the first cycling I have done since spring break, but STILL. I was pleased by how hard I could work and still walk after. (And I do know that it is possible to overdo it in a spinning class. I had a blast at my first ever spinning class--about 12 years ago--but I could barely stand afterwards, and I am not exaggerating. It took me about 2 weeks to be able to walk without screaming.)

MAJOR DOWNSIDE: Most of my pants fit more tightly than they did back in my sedentary phase over the winter--through the thighs, I mean. I attribute this to the tenaciousness of my leg flab, and its desire to keep my leg muscles hidden. Luckily I am a big fan of wide-legged linen pants, and those never stop fitting!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Swimming meditation.

It has been a while since I wrote about swimming. I realized this this morning at practice, which was not going the best. But surprisingly enough, this not-great practice let me make some important strides in approaching things in a more mindful way.

During this not-so-great practice, I remembered that I had meant to write about a couple of recent practices in which I have clocked 3000 long-course meters, of which 1000 of those meters have been swim. (Hooah!) Those have been pretty amazing practices, both because my body has been permitting that much swimming and because 3000 LCM was a new record for one practice since I have returned from Surgery Numero Duo. Let me tell you: I have legs of steel! (Too bad they are encased in sheaths of extra flab....)

Back in the middle of March, I returned to swimming after getting clearance from my surgeon. I started with 450 meters of swimming in a practice, up to three times a week. My shoulder did not initially like swimming 3 times in one week, so for a while I swam twice a week. Then lately I have been able to swim 3 times a week more frequently, and all in all the recovery has been very steady, allowing me to add 10% of swimming distance almost every week, such that this week I am supposed to be able to swim 1100 meters.

Here is a sample of one of those 3000 LCM practices, just for the record (from 6 May):
1200m warm-up: 4 x 300 (=200 k + 100 s), with long fins [400m swim]
1200m IM set: 4 x 300 IM (= 100 FL k / 50 BA s / 100 BR k / 50 FR s) [400m swim]
400m kick/swim set: 4 x 100 (= 50 build k / 25 "madman" k / 25 s [100m swim]
TOTAL: 3000 LCM [900m swim]
I did a similar practice on 14 May, but with 1000 meters of swim.

But for whatever reason, at this past Saturday's practice my shoulder was unhappy, and I cut my swimming portion short. Thus far, things have gone extremely easily, so perhaps this is just a small check. At many points I have had some soreness along my triceps muscle that I believe results from some tightness of muscles elsewhere that I am stretching and stretching to try to loosen--which is working gradually.

Furthermore, my body is still adjusting to the long-course pool. Thanks to the lack of turns, and therefore opportunities to push off the wall, swimming one length in a 50-meter pool requires something like 10-15% more effort than swimming two lengths in a 25-meter pool. As someone who relies heavily on those big jumps off the wall, I take a while to get used to the long pool. (It is a bit of a shame that this adjustment had to come so early in my recovery, but so it goes.)

Today at practice, though, my shoulder felt a bit worse, or else I was being extremely sensitive and noticed it sooner. Given that the soreness is in the front of the shoulder, what I have come to call the "danger zone," I take it very seriously, and play things conservatively, since I would rather let the thing heal, however long it takes. I am concerned, though, that despite my doing regular rotator-cuff exercises, there may be some lingering weakness and instability in the joint, and that I have finally reached the amount of swimming where I can notice it.

So I backed off. Today I swam only 550 meters in a 2400-meter practice.

And while I am trying to remain optimistic, having this happen a second time in a few days does make me a little nervous.

What also made me nervous this morning was sharing a lane with The Human Propeller. I am not joking: this guy, who is rather tall and long-limbed, gets some serious crazy arms-everywhere action going on his freestyle. And on his backstroke, his stroke is wide wide wide.

I do not really mind sharing lane space with people when they are swimming in their normal allotment of the lane, but with this guy I was like, "DUDE. Feel free to take your half of the lane wherever you want it."

So I could feel myself venturing toward having A Bad Practice. Instead of letting that happen, though, I thought I would try a meditative technique. Of late I have been reading a book by John Kabat-Zinn, who writes extensively about mindfulness--living in the present--and how living mindfully can help counterbalance stress, deal with chronic pain, etc. etc. In his book, he talks about different kinds of meditation--walking meditation, eating meditation, sitting meditation, etc.

This morning I thought to myself, why not swimming meditation? Or more technically, kicking meditation? I was doing a set of 150s, which were supposed to go 50 kick + 50 drill or swim + 50 fast kick, but I had modified them to become all kick, alternating FL/BR/FR, and I was doing all of this with a swim snorkel, which made breathing much easier. So during the fly-kick 50, I started focusing on my breathing, and trying to think just about breathing, and then after that got easy, just about the motion of kicking. On the breast-kick 50, I coordinated my breathing with the kick motion, and focused on that. (On the flutter-kick 50, I was trying to kick fast, and that required a little less meditation.)

But the important thing here is that IT WORKED. I got myself back into the present moment of my swimming and out of my fears. Of course, this sort of thing requires rethinking what swim practice is about, which I was prepared to do. The notion of mindfulness as a practice is not something you do to perfect, but rather something that is more a way of life or a part of one's regular doings. In learning about this, I have wondered, What would happen if I thought of swim practice as that kind of practice rather than as rehearsals for meets?

Today I learned that it is easier to have good technique. I realized that during my last 150, I felt stronger and more efficient than during the first one, even though I was tired (and especially so because I had forgotten to eat anything before practice--duh). In particular, I felt that my fly kick was more powerful, as I was getting propulsion from both my down-kick and my up-kick. My breast-stroke kick felt more powerful too. My flutter kick engaged my hips more.

I will continue to practice this, as it were.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I am about to blow town to see this, but if you are looking for entertainment, try this:

I was as fond of LOLcats as the next cat, but these things speak to my inner medievalist. [via]

Terry Gilliam would be proud. And everywhere textual scholars are doing backflips.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Attention sports fans:

Seems to me that neither do you need to be an AC Milan fan, nor need to understand Italian, nor even need to be a soccer fan, to appreciate this guy's glee:

Milan 2-1 Inter commentaire Italien
by t_m
(Props Daily Dish)
I say that without much knowledge you can still guess how sweet it might feel for AC Milan to beat Inter Milan. Perhaps you too have some familiarity with some kind of local rivalry or another?

I wish I had about on-fifth of this guy's ability to express his feelings.

And I cannot stop watching the video!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The dead people.

I cannot stop thinking about the dead people and whether or not they watch you shower. (Explanatory note to tjarrett: check out the items in the sidebars on that list, the "new releases" and the "bestsellers.")

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend, and since I had sent her that link too, she started out our conversation with, "So I understand you're an occultist." She wanted to know if the crystals at our massage therapist's place glow when I walk in the room. Luckily, I had an appointment that afternoon, and since I had never even noticed that she even had crystals, I checked them out. They were glowing!

But back to the dead people, who I cannot stop thinking about. My friend pointed out that it is not that big a deal, because God watches everything, right? But I reasoned, why would God give you a nose and a finger if he did not want you to pick said nose. My concern is that I am not sure that the dead people are as forgiving as God. Nothing against dead people, of course, but there are plenty of living people who I would prefer not to shower in front of--most of them, really.

So now I cannot stop imagining that all the dead people are somehow jammed in my bathroom in the morning, peering over the shower rod or around the curtain. (I hope they have not noticed how mildewed my shower curtain has gotten of late: I expect they are not that forgiving about poor housecleaning either.) Because they are dead people, they probably are not as worried about physical comforts, so given that we have pretty high ceilings, I bet that a lot of dead people can fit in the space of my bathroom. Can dead people see through the shower curtain?

Or do dead people have bodies at all, so is there really not even a question of volume? Do the dead people have to take turns with the shower-watching, or can they all fit in there? Do they sell tickets, make schedules? And why are they so interested in my showering? Shouldn't they be watching you shower? If you and I shower at the same time but in different time zones, can the dead people somehow manage a glimpse of both? And are they only interested in showers? Do dead people watch you sleep? Do they watch you take a crap, now that they don't have noses and so are less offended? Or if they can watch you does that mean that they can also smell you?

How many dead people are in my study right now, watching me type this? Are they making snide comments to each other about my inability to type "the" correctly on the first shot? Or are they saying, "Ooh, ooh, tell them about how we listen to them talking to themselves while they are driving! Tell them we wish they had more sex!" Or would they rather that we not know?

Monday, May 05, 2008

The dangers of self-googling*.

I suppose we get what we need and deserve. This morning's googling of self revealed this. I must admit that have never had my work appear in a list titled "occultism" before. I get to hang out with “Magic and the Power of the Goddess,” the “Satanic Bible,” “Do Dead People Watch You Shower?” and “A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits.”

* In the future, readers unfamiliar with the search engine might wonder if I am writing about auto-eroticism. Rest assured: I am not.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Report: New York Book Launch.

Well, the book was successfully launched, and I am pleased to note that no one broke a bottle of champage over it or me. And no one forgot the launch code, though I did have a moment of panic walking along 21st Street when I realized I had forgotten my talk in my hotel room. The PP and I rushed back to the room, picked up my folder and notes, and reset the count-down. By the time we arrived at Gramercy Park, my co-editor had the launch pad all set up, and we checked that my PC-produced PowerPoint slides looked OK on her Mac, and we were set to go.

I am here to tell you that if you ever have the chance to visit the National Arts Club, you should do it. The glass-case-framed collection of ceramic and glass pug dog statues makes the trip worth it (they and an actual pug dog were the bequest of a member), but take time to check out some of the paintings. The word is that back in the day, member artists were expected to bequeath a painting in lieu of dues. You can learn more about the club's and its building's history here, but let me tell you: that illustration they have of one of the Tiffany stained-glass windows does it no justice. And right near the stairwell is a photograph of Yeats himself, taken when he visited the city in 1933. Apparently the organization can boast to be the only Yeats society in the world that meets in a building where Yeats actually spent any time. Now you know!

I believe the audience appreciated some of my little jokes about the tribulations and trials of textual editing, but I also realized how they did not really believe the details could be true--and also that I had already myself forgotten some of the worst bits, or at least the emotions involved. Perhaps this is necessary, as there is another volume now to be done.

I am happy to report that the launch in Atlanta (well, Decatur, really) at 7:30 p.m. on 17 May will not require a lecture from me. In fact, the folks hosting it have dubbed it a "Yeats Festival"! If you are in the greater Atlanta metro area, and you are inclined to attend, why not plan to recite or read or or sing or even chant a poem?