Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"The Rat Pack is Back."

Me and the GF have just spent three days in sunny-yet-cool Las Vegas.

What is cooler than the Rat Pack: Sammy, Frank, Joey and Dino. We saw the show, "The Rat Pack is Back": a retro-look at the Copa scene in the 1960s when the pack reigned over sin city.

We had a great time at the show...we sat in the front row and H was included in some of the comedy where Joey Bishop would speak to those in the front row. So much like the shows of my youth when my dad was buddies with so many show-biz Vegas stalwarts.

It's so nice to hear a live 18-piece band, a la the Carson show band with Doc, play the songs and punch in with counterpoint to the crew's jokes. I remember doing similar work in my 20s as a jazz guitarist playing celebrity roasts in LA and Santa Barbara...I wish I had some more pics of last night...more on that later.

Since the weaqther here is so nice this week, I'll go to work on my tan before returning to Canada.

happy new year to all of my on-line friends:
Kazz and the rest of the RW gang.

And especially Annie, who is a good friend.

The real-life people don't need mention.

happy new year!

Friday, December 12, 2008

My Badgers are going to play Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl on ESPN. And I'll be able to watch since I'll be in Ventura, California for the holidays!!!

Back in 1985, when I was selecting graduate schools for music, I chose to apply only to universities rather than conservatories. I wanted a larger school with full PhD programs, and applied to Texas, Cornell, Northwestern, Michigan and Wisconsin. My field was Theory and Composition. All of these schools had solid reputations and were generous about grants and assistanceships to their grad students.

I chose Wisconsin, in large part, because of the large class they wanted me to teach from day one. They offered the best money as well. I never cared much for their music faculty and the program was lacking in organization. But the university itself was all I could have hoped for. Had my grades been a little stronger I would have gone to Yale or Harvard, but I was not really emotionally prepared to crack only the books at 17 years of age. After a 4 year hiatus I returned and smoked the academic from then on.

But the University of Wisconsin was a great place to study. Also, the sports and campus life were just what I'd dreamed of as an undergrad. I had several star football players in my class and for 8 years had season tickets. They were pathetic the first three years, averaging 2-4 wins per season.

But Chancellor Shalala turned the football and basketball programs around and soon I was watching my boring but reliable Badgers playing in bowl games EVERY year. We had multiple Rose Bowls, Heisman winners and at least 8 1000-yard rushers. In hoops the success was similar.

So I still wear my Badger red with pride. As a HS teacher in Minnesota, I always advised my Ivy league aspirants to save 60 grand and go to UW. They could always step up for grad or professional school. The job market has always been so competitive, the brand name on the label is important but secondary to the contents; the portfolio, recommendations, the experience. I was an unsuccessful job seeker, but I blame myself more than the school, which produced some big successes.

Plus, I got to run into Ron Dayne, Michael Finley and Suzy Favor, among others. The Badgers are great to follow and the students are smart, unpretentious and part of a great underground tradition.

I hate this weather!!!

Everyone knows that Canada's cold. Today, in Ottawa it's 22f, in Toronto it's 21, in most of the other provinces, it's between 5-35f if they're near sea level.

But's -9f at noon!. With new snow. I didn't even think it COULD snow much when temps are near 0F. But I've been proven wrong. I went to get a haircut this morning in prep for my California Xmas. Just driving to the mall was brutal. I forgot to warm the car up for 10 minutes before getting in. My hands are falling off and I almost wet myself.

WHY DON'T CANADIANS HAVE GARAGES???? It's not new technology. They have them in the US all over, even in those dumpy fixer uppers. Here, only the elite owners of new homes have them. There absence makes for dangerous visibility due to excessive ice that is all but unscapable in the 0 to -40 range.

To make matters worse, I forgot to unplug my block warmer (if you have to ask, you're very, very lucky) and drove off with an extent ion chord flailing from my hood. When I got home I couldn't plug the heater in because my hands were too cold.

So help me, on my non-teaching days, I'm going to wrap myself in an electric blanket, unplug the phone and hibernate. Here, it's not being a couch potato, it's survival.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The appointment today has lead to the recommendation that I see a neurologist and have an EMT exam. This will take a couple of months up here, of course.

It appears the muscle disparity in my two runner's legs might be a strong symptom of several neurological disorders, some simple (pinched nerve) some more ominous. This might well have precipitated the back trouble. It certainly is a problem for a runner. I call it "arm wrestler's legs". No good if you don't run in sharp circles.

Of course I'm not too sure what to do with my running in the meantime. While in California in mid-December, I'll just do some easy 4-8 mile runs and see if my back, knee or thigh explodes. I'll bike as much as possible. But if I could run 60 mpw with this, I can certainly go 30-40 mpw if the weather's good.

Again, I take this to be a good sign. It might very well be treatable. It's hard to know. Doctors have this way of keeping information to themselves; as if they are teachers and your questions are prying into trade secrets. They're not crazy about even letting you read your own lab results, though I insist upon it.

So again, (not to make excuses) my 2007 and 2008 seasons were compromised. The more training I did, the worse the muscle condition became. I'll be hearing soon from the doctor as to when my tests are to be conducted, and whether or not the neurologist here in Timmins will see me(he's retiring).

Treadmill guy is supposed to pop on over this afternoon. I'm ready to do some easy running, and the treadmill is easy on the back, legs and anything else that breaks down.

Running injuries: the cause is usually undetectable. So one can't help but shotgun the treatment and hope something works.

In an hour, I'll be at my doctor's office. It's -4 out at 3pm; not the kind of weather I like doing much of anything in.

I've been MRId, X rayed and put on PT and several meds since the severe pain kicked-in the second week of September. Yet, only one MD had looked at me for a few minutes. The remainder or the time has been at a nurse-practicianers looking at X-rays, MRIs, etc. All indicate minor degeneration, but that's it.

Since the pain and symptoms are not minor, I want my day in court. I have not been able to point out the locus of the pain, the other symptoms nor answer any of the typical questions regarding back pain. I'm afraid I won't be able to resume an athlete's level of activity without injuring myself more seriously.

I have a photo of my back on a typical morning and two legs with uneven musclulature to be looked at. I need strong pain relief and want to feel I need it in the doctor's opinion (even though mine should matter most). My hunch is that I'll be in and out before I have a chance to do much of anything. Here goes....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Rudolph Hex

Tonight, as we were watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the treadmill was playing Poltergeist.

On "Rudolph," Santa was in a jam at the North Pole(not far from here, BTW) I was munching pretzals, then the heater kicked on. When that happened, the treadmill started up on high speed by itself. It was turned off and the safety magnet was pulled out. There should be no way the belt could move; yet there it turned, humming a high pitch. It was plugged-in, and the surge of the heater must have worked like the paddles on ER.

Repair guy, when he last visited, advised we get a junction box in case of lightning or fallen trees surging up the line. It was on my "C' list of things to do, like replacing the ceiling light that's too high to reach; we don't have a ladder ("C" list also). Moving from apartments to houses in strange towns means a big "A" list, since you get no freebies from the family.

Among other things we don't have yet...

2nd computer for work. B list
flat screen. B list
microwave....A list
snowshoes....A list (it just was bumped up)
a BROOM!.....A list
(we do have have a vacuum and swifters)
an electric guitar for me..A list
Bicycles.....C list (bumped down due to weather)

You get the idea...

We can afford these things, but we're "reluctant" shoppers.

Anyway, the treadmill motor isn't working. I can hear repair guy scolding me already.

In the meantime, there is this "too much snow" problem. I, of bad back, will not run on snow or ice.
Our streets are snow-covered. In Timmins,they do not plow minor streets until the missing children tally reaches double figures.

So I never had the chance to see how Santa made the rounds that foggy Christmas night. Don't tell me, but I'm banking on the red nose coming into play. I'll get the DVD to find out(C list).

Monday, December 1, 2008

As runners, we become very familiar with the look of our legs. Mine have changed over the years. As a teen, I had a sprinter's legs: big quads, well-defined calves and thin ankles.
In my non-running 20s they retained the shape, in spite of running an average of 3 times a week at 2-3 miles per run.
Fast forward to my 40s and I start marathon training. The legs become muscled--very much so--but the contour changes and they are thinner. Nonetheless, I'm familiar with the shape.

This season, I notices a sense of weakness and numbness in the left leg. It seemingly preceeded the back troubles. All spring and summer, I commented on how "tight" and strange my left knee and thigh felt. Then the back troubles started.

Now, I'm running most days on the treadmill, and going 4-7 miles each run. The legs feel OK, though the left leg is still faulty in some sense. I looked in the mirror and asked Heather to look at my thighs. It's become obvious that the left thigh lacks the muscle the right one has. It's probably been this way all year. Never before did I have trouble balancing myself on downhills and turns.

I'm trying to stay positive on this; it's a new symptom that is, almost certainly, connected to the back troubles. The cause-effect chain's unclear to me at this point. Where did the trouble start? It's hard to determine medically. But there is a definate cause for the weak leg--smaller muscles. So, there's something I can do to fix that: orthotic, chiro, more back treatments. Who knows?

So I can show this to the doc as well. It's good to know that it might be something specific rather than being worn-out by age. In the meantime, I'll go easy on the treadmill, do my exercises, and wait.

In time, I'll have a better plan.

This week, we're getting loads of snow. So getting snowshoes is next up.