Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Muscle relaxant relaxed to the point of indifference.  That's all I can muster tonight.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Every breath I take

While at the football game yesterday, I noticed that when I took a deep breath, I'd feel some pain in my chest.  It wasn't unfamiliar.  I've had it pop up before, maybe over the last year or two, and I want to say I chalked it up as a muscular issue.  Some pain in the left pectoral area did get me to have an EKG done at the doctor's office last year, though.  If I recall, he attributed it to posture and the like.  Nothing appeared to be wrong with my heart.

The pain varied in intensity while I was at the game, on the ride home, and while I sat at home watching TV.  I'd experienced the pain in the same spot, but I couldn't recall ever having it for this long of a time.  And thus began my great capacity for worrying.  Logically I didn't think I was having a heart attack or displaying the symptoms.  I'd engaged in no physical activity that would explain its appearance, but there it was anyway.

This is the point where I began looking up information about heart attacks and the like to determine if I really should be getting to a doctor as soon as possible.  It was later at night, and by now I had sufficiently scared myself into deciding that I would call the doctor's office first thing in the morning.  I also had the irrational (?) idea that I'd be better off staying awake the entire night so that if something more serious did manifest itself, I could call 911.  I didn't want to go to sleep because what if something happened and I didn't/couldn't wake up?

I didn't feel in immediate danger, although I'll grant that not wanting to go to the emergency room and rack up big bills there was playing into the decision too.  My attempt to stay up all night couldn't be maintained by the time 3 a.m. rolled around, but I awakened a mere three and a half hours later to sweat out the remaining time until the doctor's office opened.

As it turned out, I couldn't get an appointment today and was pointed toward urgent care or the emergency room.  Again, trying to keep costs down, I went to urgent care and gave a detailed history as to what I thought might be going on and why.  Long story short: the EKG seemed OK, but you walk into urgent care reporting chest discomfort and (as I found out) you're pretty much guaranteed to go to the ER.  They would not allow me to drive myself.  That's understandable, although I wasn't thrilled.

So I was transported by ambulance to the hospital.  All the time I felt like I'd be OK and that I'd made a possibly expensive decision to get this checked out.  But what was done was done.

Blood and a couple chest x-rays were taken.  I laid out the whole story to I don't know how many people again.  And then I waited while arranging for my aunt to be available to take me back to my car.  (Like I said, I felt pretty certain that this wasn't something serious despite my presence there obviously meaning I'd been worried enough.)

My blood was fine.  No clots were spotted.  Everything looked OK.  The doctor thought that it was musculoskeletal and may have been a lingering symptom from the early 2010 car accident I was in.  He offered to crack my back, so to speak, and that this may pop whatever into place that was causing the problem.  I agreed to give it a shot, and I'm relatively assured that this may be all that was needed.  (The ER doctor said something about everything in my back perhaps having been out of alignment.)

I left with prescriptions for ibuprofen and muscle relaxants as well as--and more importantly--(mostly) peace of mind.  After a night of working myself into a fearful state, I'll take that result.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday afternoon in The Jungle

I've been to my share of Major League Baseball and National Hockey League games, but when it comes to the National Football League, I can count the number of times I've attended a game on one hand.  The tickets are more expensive (if available), there are fewer games, and the weather often can be less than hospitable.  It doesn't help that may favorite team, the Cincinnati Bengals, has not been very good for most of my teen and adult years, which lessens the desire to bother springing for tickets.

Before today I'd been to an NFL game twice.  I saw the Bengals host the Detroit Lions in 1989 and Baltimore Ravens in 2004.  A friend won tickets to today's game against the Browns and invited me, so add a third game to my list.

For late November the weather certainly could have been worse.  It also could have been better.  The sky spit rain intermittently, and when the wind came through, it could get chilly.  I suppose I could have dressed warmer, although I was wearing the hat I knit in Bengals colors last year.

I'd been to Paul Brown Stadium once before, but I had little memory of the stadium's interior.  Maybe it's because the building is not owned by the team or maybe because it's used for a limited number of events per year, but the concourse lacks personality, especially compared to the baseball stadiums I've visited.  Is that how most football-specific stadiums are?  (While I haven't been inside, the one in Dallas most assuredly is not.)  It isn't a big deal, but unlike baseball team homes, this one was less than awe-inspiring.

The NFL's product is very friendly for the TV viewer.  To a certain extent that's to the detriment of the fans at the game.  The stadium experience was lacking in some areas.  Since our seats were in the corner of an end zone, there were times we were better off watching the action on the scoreboard to have a better idea of what was happening on some plays.  The length of TV timeouts is more deeply felt as you stand around waiting for the action to resume.  Although out-of-town scores and highlights are displayed, one feels sealed off from much else at an NFL game.

Those reasons, in addition to those I mentioned in the first paragraph, are probably enough to keep me from ever being a regular attendee at NFL games.  (That the team is a two-hour drive away factors in too.)  Don't get me wrong.  I enjoyed the time at the game, which was a good one in general.  The Bengals won in semi-dramatic fashion with a late field goal at the end where we sat.  I definitely won't complain about that.  Unlike other league's games, though, I don't know that seeing them in person is the best way to experience them.  Weird, that.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

The appeal of diving into the mess of day after Thanksgiving shopping eludes me.  Fine, there are deals to be had, although I wonder if they're often as good as they're perceived to be.  Camping out a couple days for one of them strikes me as absurd.  Even doing it once "for the experience" doesn't interest me.  To each their own, I suppose.

That said, I did use this Friday to stock up on something I needed: rest and relaxation.  There was more football and basketball to be watched on TV after a day spent also doing much of the same.  There were cards to be played with my family.  There were naps to be taken.

Shoppers, you have it your way, and I'll have it my way.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Day

I know I've been quiet here the last few days.  It's been a hectic run-up to Thanksgiving.

Speaking of running, I wanted to fit in one more race this year if I could, and it so happened that there was a 4-mile race today in Fort Wayne, which is relatively close to where my parents live.  I got up way to early on a holiday and ran with perhaps close to 3500 folks this brisk morning. 

Some dressed for the occasion, meaning Thanksgiving-related outfits or hats were donned.  (I saw one person in a turkey suit and another in a chicken outfit.)  There was even a real, live turkey available for photo ops, which you see above in all its blurry, smart phone photo glory.  That turkey was remarkably calm, especially when considering the number of people around it in the gymnasium's lobby.

The hilly route was mostly in a cemetery and enough of a challenge on this gray, foggy morning.  I felt like mostly good throughout the run and kept what I felt like was a good pace, although I'm sure it dropped off around the middle.

I was hoping to crack 44 or 45 minutes, but I finished the course in 46:46.  (Hey, I beat around 1500 participants.)  Having looked more closely at the results and the course, I see that it was a bit more than four miles long, so my 4-mile time was 45:56.  I feel pretty good about that.

I had my dad drive me to the race, and I was glad that he got to see me finish.  I don't think anyone else in my family has run in a race like this, so it meant something to me to be able to show the result of what I've been working hard to do to get in shape.  While I still have a ways to go, I can take satisfaction after a run like this one that I'm doing OK.

And while I didn't pig out at lunch, this made it easier to justify eating a little extra for Thanksgiving lunch.   

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

In the stream

Amid a lazy Sunday of watching football, napping, and wondering what in the world I did to pull something in my lower back (or so I assume), a thread about Toto flared up in my Twitter feed. I thought I could only name three songs by the band. You know, the one about Rosanna Arquette, the one with ridiculous lyrics shoehorned in about the eponymous continent, and "Hold the Line". After checking out what singles of theirs charted, I recognized one more.

And that's all I have today. Time to hobble around like an old man.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011


Christmas candy and decorations were out at the grocery store the day after Halloween.  People were complaining about Christmas creep before Halloween.  Typically I'd be one of them, but for some reason I don't mind this year.  Scanning through radio stations while in the car last night I even thought I wouldn't mind finding one playing Christmas music.

Why the change of opinion?  As best I can figure, it has to do with wanting a transition to what December usually represents.  I'm ready to wind down for the year and hole up at home after a hectic fall.  This autumn has been especially busy with the longer academic term that seems like it's never going to end.  I want the mental break that comes with a break in the work schedule.  I want to be thinking about year-end lists and getting awards screeners on a near daily basis.  I want to feel like everything isn't one big rush.

In actuality December isn't necessarily a slow, peaceful time, but I'm searching for what it might be or what it could be.  That doesn't mean I can't chase it in its idealistic form or be reminded of it as a chill permeates the air and retailers encourage anticipating that time.  It does mean that I ought to think about how I can make it possible.  Since Thanksgiving isn't here yet, I'm certainly capable of putting that work in.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Into the past

I've seen Dave Alvin's name thrown around enough that I knew it even if the only song I'd probably heard him do before tonight was the one he performed during a season 2 episode of the TV show Justified.  I thought, why not go see him play this evening?  So I did.

The concert was a long one--and enjoyable--but what really won me over was the venue.  The Grand Valley Dale Ballroom seemed like something out of another era.  Apparently it has had quite a history, especially from the big band era.  I had no idea.

What a cool step back in time by entering this facility.  It's a wonder that it's still around.  You'd think it would have been torn down by now.  While easy to get to, it's off the beaten path and wouldn't seem like the place to bring in performers with national reputations now.  Still, I'd have to think that stepping foot inside is all that would be needed to persuade someone that this was just as good as any downtown club, if not better.

An independent promoter has started booking his roots music (for lack of a better identifier) performance seasons here since the previous spot is being taken over.  I've gotta say, I think he found a winner.  I can't wait to go back.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

A little night music

Several years ago I found it helpful to listen to music when trying to go to sleep. Particularly good was an ambient music program on the local NPR station. Echoes, which is described as a "two-hour music soundscape" on its website, is tailor-made for such purposes.  I don't mean that as a slight against the music on the show, even if it what appears on it isn't what I'd likely listen to during more wakeful parts of the day.  It is good for passive listening, especially when trying to relax.

I hadn't listened to the show in a long time, but last week, for whatever reason, I tuned it in on the clock radio by my bed.  I'd been trying to get the classical music station, but its move to a new frequency appears to mean I can't pull it in where I live.  As I scanned down the dial, I landed upon the show I used to turn to for winding down.

It's been a stressful couple of weeks, so listening to Echoes has been good for attempting to clear my mind as I try to get to sleep.  The only problem is that the show runs from 10 p.m. to midnight Mondays through Fridays.  Typically it's unusual for me to hit the sack before 12 a.m., but I'm making an effort to curl up with the radio by 11:30.  (Let's face it, I could stand to get to bed earlier, especially on weeknights.)

Depending how I set the sleep timer, I'll drift in and out of BBC news.  On the weekend I've ended up hearing radio drama, which was actually kind of interesting, and what is the public radio version of a Saturday night dance party mix.

I hadn't engaged in this old habit of falling asleep to the radio.  I think I did it fairly often growing up too, although the music was surely livelier.  Honestly, sometimes it probably ends up keeping me awake longer.  Still, it's kind of nice, and if it improves my sleeping habits, it can't be a bad thing.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Time of day

I was looking for a song by U2 that shares the name with a certain popular series of books and film adaptations, the latest of which opens Friday. It was going to be a dumb joke leading into some thoughts on the whole phenomenon--I saw the latest entry tonight--but I've scrapped that because...well, because I wasn't sure where I was going with it. (I haven't liked any of the films, but I don't begrudge the audience that goes in droves liking them.)

So, instead here's another song by the band that came from the same performance. It's quite a good one. Plus, "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" is kind of what I always feel like when it comes to writing something for this space.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

'Tis the season

Social media introduces one to the sorts of things that may not be stumbled upon in the normal course of things.  Today that saves my blogging bacon and keeps me on topic.  So, here you go: knitted gnomes vs. snowmen.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

In a mood

Near the end of the work day and a metaphorical fire appears.

About a half hour later another one ignites.

Then I think I've lost my iPhone.  (At least this turned out all right and I found it.)

The fires will have to continue to be dealt with tomorrow.  In other words, I'm in no mood for much of anything tonight.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011


Perhaps it's simply the result of being in better physical shape, but I've felt a lot better after the switch to Daylight Savings Time a week ago.  I woke up that morning well rested and grateful for the extra hour on the clock.  Even though this past week was a hectic one, I didn't feel tired or terribly thrown off by it getting darker earlier.  Falling back is more appreciated than springing forward time-wise, naturally, but I want to say that both have typically required an adjustment period of some sort.

Not this time.  I rolled with it and have been feeling about as good as I can remember.  Best I can tell, it's because I'm actually getting restful nights of sleep, which didn't happen for most of last year and early stretches this year.  There's no denying that exercise has played a big role in that.

It's funny what we get used to, even those things that aren't beneficial.  After the car accident last year and the eventual physical therapy, I was still locked up some in the neck and upper back.  While I didn't attribute the headaches or restless sleep to that, it seems apparent to me that the tightness in those areas was responsible for such effects.  Having strengthened my shoulders and lower back, those problems have largely dissipated.  My neck will still pop some, but it's nothing like what it was doing earlier this year.  I'm thinking clearer too.

I'm often content to roll with the punches.  How it is is how it is.  While that is a useful way to go about things, especially when you don't feel much in control, I can see that making the necessary adjustments to what is in one's power can lead to improved results.  I'm far from being in perfect condition, but that I'm feeling more like I'm there tells me a lot about where I was.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Unplanned hiatus

There I go letting the daily blogging streak end last month.  Look what that led to: not blogging most of this week.  I couldn't even drag my sorry behind to the blog on 11/11/11.

So what's the deal?  Mainly it's just been trying to keep my head above water.  Work occupied a good share of my time this week.  Then I had to go into scramble mode to clean up my apartment as my brother and his almost one-year-old flew up here a day earlier than expected.  (My brother is in town to attend a wedding.)  I was particularly concerned about how much of a hazard my place is for a baby, especially one crawling around.  Then they got here.  Simply put, there have not been enough hours in the day.

The upsides in all this are that my apartment is straightened up (somewhat), I found my missing checkbook, and I got to see my nephew again (even if I did lose some hours of sleep during his stay).  But what a crazy week this has been.  Or is that the theme for the year?

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Winning and losing

I like watching sports and do plenty of it.  Of course I want my teams to win, but enduring years of losing shows that success isn't essential to keep me following them.  But you know, winning is so much more fun.

I was hopeful for this fall's NHL season to start as the local franchise had made some splashy moves in the offseason and presumably addressed the biggest deficiencies.  I was pretty pessimistic about my NFL team of choice as the football season approached.  So far my expectations were completely wrong for both.

The hockey team has been dismal in getting off to a franchise worst start, which is saying something considering the club's history.  How bad has it been?  The season sure seemed like it was essentially over two weeks in.  A month in it definitely looks like they're left playing for pride.  Never mind that the regular season isn't over until early April.  The team doesn't just lose; it looks uninspired.  (They lost 9-2 last night in a sport in which putting up nine goals is not common.)

I am a partial season ticket holder for this team--I have a 10-game plan--and I'm kind of regretting having those tickets now.  I'm not demanding them to field the best team in the league, but yeah, I do expect them not to put the worst one out there, especially since they're not in rebuilding mode.  They're not even losing in ways that make my attention justifiable.

On the other hand, the football team has been surprisingly good, especially since I anticipated them being the worst team in the league this season.  On the weeks their games haven't been on local TV I've gone to a sports bar and cheered them on.  Imagine this.  It's been fun.  Everything seems to be going their way, and they are winning games.  Dumb as it sounds, it feels good to watch them win.

I don't stake my identity or happiness on the outcomes of the games my teams compete in, yet the results do have an effect.  For now I'm glad at least one of my teams is coming through.  I hope it lasts.

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Saturday, November 05, 2011

Keep on running

At best it was in the low 40s when the 5K road race began this morning.  It may well have still been in the 30s.  Wearing a thin long sleeve t-shirt, a light jacket, and shorts, I was dressed for the event, not the temperature.  I certainly regretted that while waiting for the race to start, but once I got moving I was comfortable.  This was more proof that running when it's on the cool side is preferable.

I felt very good throughout the run.  Clearly my regular exercise on a recumbent bike has done wonders for improving my legs' strength, but it's the weight training that may have made the most difference.  My posture and upper body strength are better, so I wasn't burning energy trying to avoid slouching over.  Perhaps that's common sense, but I was surprised how much this affected my performance.

As I came around the last turn and saw the race clock, I opened it up and let it fly.  My legs could more than handle a short sprint as I zipped by two people near the finish line.

I finished in 35:25, which is a good five minutes faster than the best time I've posted in the two other 5Ks I've run this year.  (Because of my sensor not working in the first race and an estimated time in the second, I'm not sure exactly what I ran in those races.  I was slower, though.)  My goal is to break 30 minutes.  If I get another crack at it this year is to be determined.  Regardless, I'm on the right path.  I've run in a fair number of races over the last fifteen years--probably about one a year--and this one was among the easiest.  Do I have enough in the tank to slash another five minutes off my time?  We shall see.     

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Friday, November 04, 2011

The night before

Gotta get a good night's sleep as I'll be running in the Olympics tomorrow morning.  Scratch that.  It's a 5K race in the suburbs.

By the way, what a weird detail to include in this video at :35.  There's a close-up of the composer taking a big drag on a cigarette.

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

The sands of time

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.  As I try to keep up with everything and spin my wheels here, I wanted to post Squeeze's fun "Hourglass" video loaded with optical illusions, but embedding is disabled.  The vintage Letterman clip up top is nice to see, though.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

In the stream

The day's already almost over?!  OK then, a couple items recently in my Twitter stream:

-Anonymous art left around Scotland.  (Seriously, take a look.)

-How to make kids hate you on Halloween. (I got a pretty good laugh out of this.)

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Where it's at

I have little need for personal checks in this era of debit and credit cards and online bill payment.  I have one monthly bill that I must still pay by check, but an electronic option appears to be in the works soon.  If it weren't for paying the rent, I'd come close to writing zero checks a year.

Yet that way of paying one bill remains, which is why the fact that I can't find my checkbook is all the more vexing.  I have other checks on hand to make one out (and throw off the sequence), but the location of the half used checkbook is beyond me.  

I looked in the two places where I expected it could and should be but came up empty-handed.  Hmm.  I'm certain it hasn't been stolen but that I've misplaced it.  But where?  It's probably under a stack of something.  This means I really need to straighten up the place, doesn't it?

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