Back in the Saddle Again

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 | 6 comment(s)

I haven't kept exact count, but it's been longer than a month since I've exercised -- until tonight, that is.

Before this little hiatus, my only form of exercise was riding my bike to work.
There and Back
The best thing about biking to work is that I'm killing two birds with one stone (note: no birds were harmed in the writing of this post, nor on any of my bike rides). I'm getting my exercise, AND I'm getting to work. I love multi-tasking (though I hate that word).

The worst thing about biking to work, is that I then have to bike home from work. Up hill.

I'd been riding for several months on a pretty regular basis, and it was only towards the end that I was getting to where I could commute by bike on back-to-back days.

It's about an 8 mile ride in city traffic the whole way. While it includes a decent amount of starting and stopping, there are stretches where I can go for a good while, and there's plenthy of adrenaline pumping when you find yourself sandwiched between a Metro bus and an SUV cruising down 14th Street from Columbia Heights. I don't drink coffee, but I'm willing to guess that this provides just as much of an eye-opening jolt as even the strongest Columbian brew.

November and December were mild enough that I was able to bike 2 or 3 days a week. I bought some cold weather gear to keep me riding through the winter as long as possible, but it seems the one-two punch of a week's vacation around the holidays followed by a two week cold sent my exercise schedule into hibernation.

Once I got out of the habit, I simply didn't have the motivation to face the cold weather we've been having. I think the coldest day I biked in to work in December was just around the freezing mark. So when the thermometer in my bathroom tells me it's 18 degrees outside, I gladly jump in the shower and warm up rather than giving a bike ride even the briefest of second thoughts.

I finally couldn't stand the lack of exercise any longer. Last night I went out to REI and bought myself a bike trainer.

I set it up when I got home from work this evening (after a rather stressful and unproductive day (though not for lack of trying)). It was nice. I set it up in the basement by the exposed stairs. I had my water bottle on one step, my Mp3 player on the next step, and my glucometer, a Nutrigrain bar, and a tube of glucose tabs on the next step -- all within an arm's reach and not stashed in my backpack as usual.

I don't know how long I was on there for (about as long as "Apologies to the Queen Mary"
Highly Recommended
Although officially released in 2005, "Apologies to the Queen Mary" was one of my favorites in 2006 (I'm usually a year behind on the music curve -- I presume this will get worse as I get older).

There were a few weeks where I'd wake up in the middle of the night with lyrics from "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts" and/or "I'll Believe in Anything" running through my head. If you like catchy indie pop, this is well worth a listen.

And I must say "This Heart's on Fire", the last song on the album, is a great song to finish a workout to. Not only did I literally feel as if my heart was on fire, but the song has a great set of upbeat crescendos to push your way through.

Yet another great release out of Canada, too...

by Wolf Parade lasts (except I skipped the song "Dinner Bells" -- I'm not all that fond of it)). But I gave myself a hell of a work-over. Kind of punishing myself for all those missed days and weeks of exercise.

Afterwards, I mixed up a batch of guacamole
Recipe (approximately)
  • an avocado,
  • a quarter of a red-onion,
  • 3 cloves of garlic,
  • a clump of chopped cilantro,
  • a dollop of salsa (Oddly, I'm partial to Chi-chi's Hot Salsa. I usually use fresh tomato, but we didn't have any),
  • and some Kosher salt
I'm kind of new to guacamole. I would eat it ocassionaly before, but ever since I had it hand-prepared at some restuarant down in San Antonio 2 years ago and got to see the preperation up-close, I've been making it and eating it regularly.

Mmmmmm....So much fat... but the good kind...

and ate the entire thing.

Good music, a solid bike ride, a bowl of guacamole... Ahhh it doesn't get much better than that.

What's Been Keepin' Kevin Busy?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007 | 7 comment(s)

It's been a while since my last post, and I feel guilty. Well, I've got some excuses. So here's the skinny, the low-down, the inside track, the hotcakes, &c. (where'd that come from?) on what I've been up to ('cause I know you're all wonderin').

What I've been doin'
Last week, I went to 3 four-hour tax preperation classes after work. Crazy, I know. I'm going to volunteer to fill out tax returns for low-income families in DC with the DC EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) Campaign. It's been something I've known about for several years now and have been meaning to do. Seems strange, perhaps, but this is what do-gooder public policy geeks do with their free time I suppose. I've finished the training now, and I should be getting my schedule to start meeting with folks and filling out tax returns sometime in the next week or so. Should be interesting.

What I've been readin'
The other huge time killer for me lately has been the book I'm currently reading. I've finally worked up the nerve to crack "Gravity's Rainbow" by Thomas Pynchon. Pynchon is a Goliath in the small crowd of PoMo writers. I'm only 206/760ths through so far, but it's been a wild ride so far. It's set in 1944 London during the German Blitz. German V-2 bombs are falling in a Poisson distribution across the city, but (BUT!) Roger Mexico, the lone statistician at PISCES (the Psychological Intelligence Schemes for Expediting Surrender), has noticed that the geographic plot of Tyrone Slothrop's sexual conquests precede the bomb targets by a few days (4.2 on average). Is there a connnection? There's Pavlovian doctors, mathematical equations, Spanish, German, and French passages dropped in, sentences and paragraphs that pick up and drop off in mid-stream (often with shifts in time, location, and character), WWII references, songs (often a foxtrot), a trip down a toilet bowl (which was lifted in "Trainspotting"), pop cultural references (circa 1940s), lurid sex scenes, word play, a non-linear plot, and an octopus named Grigori all written in a prose style that has a break-neck pace. While it is certainly intimidating, it hasn't been nearly as bad as I thought it would be. But then again, I have had to consult the Gravity's Rainbow wiki (this book has its own wiki!)
Jam On It, Jam On It
"wiki, wiki, wiki... shut up!"

more than once (read: regularly) to find out what exactly it was I was just reading about. I've heard numerous anecdotes of people who have started this book up, but never finished. It's actually the only resolution I made this year -- to read (all of) Gravity's Rainbow.

What I've been listenin' to
Shortly after Christmas, I went on a music shopping spree. I bought 5 CDs
Don't Even Get Me Started
You read that correctly.
I still purchase CDs.
Remember those?
Those shiny disks in "jewel cases"?
With impossible to open plastic wrap... followed by a some sort of impossible to remove sticker?

It truely saddens me that these will eventually become extinct. Digital music has changed the music landscape. Perhaps it's just a sign that I'm getting old, or a mild Luddite sometimes, but I have to admit: I have never purchased music online (don't ask about my brief encounter with Mr. Kazaa, though, please). Actual brick-and-mortar music stores are closing up shop. Tower Records has closed! Teenagers in the next generation will never know the joy of hunting, searching, contemplating, head drooped over green wooden bins, flipping, the clapping of plastic security cases, tangentially bouncing from Tower of Power to Tom Waits to Ween to Dr. John to Medeski Martin and Wood to Pavement. Hours upon hours of my young adulthood were spent this way. I loved it. How can it be replaced by clicking through iTunes? How sad is that? What will they think if they ever watch (or better yet, read) "High Fidelity"?

There's passion here. There's value in the tactile. There's value in an album. There's value in liner notes and the accompanying art.

There are still a few music shops around, but I know they won't be around for much longer. CDs will become and an anachronism, a relic, a coaster, or a material to make mobiles with (at least they'll have some use -- better than 8-tracks, I guess). I'm already feeling nostalgic about them. I have them on display in my living room. They're colorful. They serve as a brilliant ice-breaker when we have new guests over.

Sorry about that...

I think I've had that pent up for too long.

(technically, 6 -- one was a double CD):

  • Trey Anastasio - "Bar 17"
    Disappointing. But his show at the 9:30 club was killer. Speaking of which...
  • The Killers - "Hot Fuss"
    Ehhh, maybe "Warm Fuss"
  • Tom Waits - "Heart of Saturday Night"
    Another lack-luster one for me, really. I think I like the Shawn Colvin cover of the title track better than the original. I guess that's why most folks don't realize that Tom Waits wrote "Jersy Girl" (popularized by Mr. Springsteen) and "Downtown Train" (popularized by Mr. Stewart).
  • Fountains of Wayne - "Out of State Plates"
    What was I thinking? I'm not even that big a FoW fan! What was I doing buying a two CD collection of B-sides? I don't even own "Welcome Interstate Managers."
  • Talking Heads - "Fear of Music"
    Easily the best purchase. "I Zimbra" has a wickedly complex polyrhythm going on that grooves, "Cities" is faster than the live version by Phish that I'm familiar with, "Heaven" is a little slower than the "Widespread Panic" version I'm familiar with and who knew that "Memories Can't Wait" on Living Colour's "Vivid" was a Talking Heads song?

But most recently, I've re-fallen for The Beatles "Abbey Road." I'm convinced the second half of this album is some of the finest music recorded in the 20th Century. The seques, the melodic, harmonic, symphonic, tension & release, Nirvana from "You Never Give Me Your Money" through to (appropriately enough) "The End" is just stunning. And I have to note: this CANNOT be listened to in mp3 format or on an ipod, or anything that breaks up the continuity. It just isn't the same. If you wan some cool reading on the music theory behind it all, check out Allen Pollack's Notes.

What I've been watchin'
Nothing much.

I watched the President's State of the Union Address last night (I know: boo-hiss/yahoo/yawn/whatever). But what can I say, I'm a little bit of a public policy geek (see the volunteer tax prep bit above).

And the "L Word" has seriously jumped the shark in my opinion. I'm cashing in my chips, going up to bed to read, and dropping it. We should probably consider dropping Showtime altoghether now, especially since they canceled "Huff." Ooow, but then there's "Weeds" coming next season...

Diversions on the Internets
Two really fun time killers:
I have no idea what it means, but there's a lot of fun cartoons here.

This is a really cool (no, really) interactive socio-economic-demographic graphing tool put out by Google. Informative fun.

And finally: Diabetes
Everything's been hunky-dory. Had another decent week of blood sugars (though not as good as the last one I wrote about) and this week is shaping up to be pretty good, too. Can't complain really. Nahhh. Just Joshin. I could, but what would be the point... And besides, this other stuff is much more fun to talk/type/write about.

The Best Week Ever

Friday, January 12, 2007 | 17 comment(s)

Please accept my apologies (especially Nic) in advance.
I am bragging. No body likes a braggard, I know, but I'm just too damn happy.

This past week1, my body has seen the best blood sugars since more than 1,404 weeks (i.e., ~27 years) ago. That is to say, I don't think that I've had blood sugars like this since I was 5 years old!

I'm pretty friggin' excited by this:

Somewhere around Tuesday, I was starting to think:
"Hey, I'm doing pretty good!"

By Wednesday afternoon, I was thinking:
"Holy Shit! I haven't had a reading above 200 in the past 3 days! That's amazing!"

By Thursday night, I actually said to Meg:
"Not to jinx myself, but I haven't had a blood sugar reading over 200. I'm hoping I can keep it that way through the rest of the week."

I said that to her as I was heading out of the house to meet up with a friend for a beer in what we dubbed "The Grey's Escape."
I Just Don't Get It
How can so many people like a show that is SO DAMN AWFUL??? And why is the entire cohort of 20-40 year old US women (or so it seems) so obsessed with it? The end is neigh, I can just feel it.

I was at 115 mg/dl before leaving the house. I drank 1.5 beers (A locally brewed Hook & Ladder wheat beer). I only bolused 1u (which should cover approximately 12CHO), and sure-as-shit (what a strange idiom to choose), when I got home and tested before bed, I was at 234 mg/dl.

I was totally bummed.

And I felt a little bummed again when a random test 1 hr. after breakfast came in at 204 on this morning.

But I'm not going to let these two (TWO!) readings above 200 get me down.
No way, no how.

This is still the best I've done. Ever.

An average of 119, is just shockingly incredible for me. I've just never thought it was humanly possible for me to have blood sugars like this. And standard deviations below 30 for Monday-Wednesday. Unbelievable. Truly.

I've got another month until my next A1c test, and I say:
"Bring it on!"

I may have slipped up a bit over the holidays, but I'm looking forward to putting in a strong 4th quarter / 9th inning / third trimester / home stretch / or some other appropriate (perhaps sports-related, perhaps not) analogy.

Here's the secret of my (ever-so-fleeting) success:

  1. Maintain a relatively constant schedule, with as little stress and aberration as possible
  2. Eat the same breakfast
    Breakfast Menu

    • 1 8oz. Giant Light Yogurt: 20CHO
      (preferrably vanilla, strawberry, peach, or lemon flavored)
    • 1/2 cup of Fiber One cereal: 25CHO, but with 15g of fiber, so only 10 Net CHO)

    each day
  3. Eat the same lunch
    Lunch Menu

    • 1 Ham & Cheese sandwich with mustard and spinach: 34CHO
    • 1 medium D'Anjou pear
    • ~4oz. baby carrots (aka: the veal of vegetables)
    • 1 24 fl. oz. Diet Coke

    each day
  4. Eat the same dinner for 3 of the nights, too (beef stew)
  5. Hover at around 90-95% recovery from a kick-ass cold
  6. Skip all exercising because of head cold, and
  7. Maintain the "No Sweets Holiday Challenge" (NSHC)

It's kind of a boring existance. And the absence of stress is a ridiculous notion, really, for most anyone for any amount of time. And I really don't recommend not exercising for any length of time, either. But coming home and making a fire each night and reading a book hasn't been such a bad way to spend my time. And if I'm going to get a bonus of blood sugars like these... well you know, something about where not to look when someone gives you a donkey, or a horse, or something like that.

1) To be fair, this isn't really a full calendar week, but just a "work week," but I'm not going to get too picky. Though my blood sugars are usually much more erratic over the weekend, so I don't imagine this will be as nice a picture come Monday morning...

The Sweets of My Success

Sunday, January 07, 2007 | 7 comment(s)

Aside from being a bad pun/reference to a 1987 Micheal J. Fox movie, the title of this post is also the (somewhat unbelievable) punchline to this little yarn I'm about to share.

Even though Meg and I were just coming down with a cold (which has since had us lying around the house with tissues up our noses, taking sick-days off from work, and watching A LOT of bad, bad cable movies for over a week now), we made plans and went out with my friend Peggy for dinner on New Year's Eve at a Cin Cin, a French-Asian-Fusion restaurant in Chestnut Hill (an old, fancy neighborhood in Philly).

While we had reservations for 8, we weren't seated until 9 (I'm not sure if they were using a French-English dictionary or a Chinese-English dictionary, but whichever it was, I don't think we were on the same page so far as what the definition of "reservation" was). They had balloons all over the place, they gave us fancy hats and noise makers, and overall it was a very feastive environment.

Caught up in the atmosphere, sated by the food and drink I'd just consumed, and without much thought, when the waiter brought us out our fortune cookies (dipped in chocholate, I might add), I quickly busted one open, popped the chocolate half in my mouth, and pulled the fortune out of the other half. But before I got to read the fortune, I noticed Megan staring at me with her jaw dropped on the table in disbelief. It didn't register immediately why she was looking at me that way.

Then she said, "I can't believe you just ate that cookie!"
"Oh, shit!"
"I wasn't even thinking!"
"After all that, and a little fortune cookie breaks your streak?!" she said.

We laughed.
Then I read my fortune, and we laughed even more:

You can't make stuff like this up.

While it's a fun little story, the sad part is that even though I avoided all cakes, cookies, and pies through the holidays, my average blood sugars bumped up from the upper 130s to the upper 160s over the past two weeks. Very disappointing. It almost seemed pointless to put myself through all that torture.

Snacking on savory things like cheese, and crackers, and nuts is still snacking and maintaining decent blood sugars with indiscriminant snacking of any variety is difficult no matter what. That, in addition to just being off my normal schedule, an overall lack of excerise, and getting sick, certainly hasn't helped matters much.

All I know is that I certainly don't feel very successful.
But we had a good laugh, and so that was nice.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007 | 13 comment(s)

After driving 6 hours in the rain from Pittsburgh on Christmas day, my sister told me when we arrived at my Mother's house that Grandpop was in the hospital and that they'd found inoperable cancer in both his lungs.

Meg and I made plans to go visit him in the hospital the next day before we left town. But the next morning we got the call that he had died in the middle of the night. He was 82 years old.

He was born in Philadelphia to Italian immigrants. He was given the name "Julamine,"
I have no idea whether this is the correct spelling of his name. My dad says that he has his birth certificate and his baptismal certificate somewhere but that his name is spelled differently on the two documents (and I actually think his last name is spelled differently on both documents, too).

I've searched Italian baby names (interestingly enough, there is no letter "J" in the Italian alphabet), and just plain ol' Dr. Google for what the "correct" spelling might be. I've tried
  • Jolamen
  • Jolemin
  • Joelamen
  • Julamen
  • Guilamen
  • and a bunch of others too
It's pronounced (with as much Italian sing-song flourish as you can muster): JOU-la-meen.

I think it's a pretty cool name, regardless of its spelling.

but he never liked it. Kids couldn't pronounce his name (or were just being cruel and teasing him) so they called him "Jellybean." As an adult, he went by "John," but close friends and family all knew him by the far more endearing nickname of "Beans" (he just dropped the "Jelly-" bit).

To me, he was simply Grandpop.

He was a printer by trade, but his true avocation in life was as a collector of sports memorabilia. Baseball cards, football cards, hockey cards, pennants, posters, autographs, you name it, he collected it. And I shouldn’t really limit it to sports, either, I guess. Ever since I moved to Washington, DC ten years ago, he would regularly ask whether I ever met any Congressmen or Senators, and if I ever did, I should be sure to get their autographs for him. "'Cause, you know, they could be President one day, and that autograph would be valuable."

I can remember sitting around his kitchen table as little kid, and he would entertain Karen and I with card tricks, little puzzles that he’d pick up for us, and other famous "tricks" like "Wanna see me take my thumb off?" (he didn't really take his thumb off, it was just an illusion) or Karen’s favorite: "Wanna see me take my teeth out?" (no illusion, here though). He loved to play around with us and I remember him as a kind grandfather who would make the loudest kissing sounds you could ever imagine when greeting us or saying goodbye.

When my six-year-old nephew heard the news, he said:
"Grandpop died?" and he started to cry.
"But he was good at playing cards."

Two months ago, his wife of 59 years, Marie, died after a long battle with Alzheimer's. My Grandpop was a smoker most of his life and he had recently been struggling with a host of his own health problems -- including by-pass surgery and a heart valve replacement less than a year ago. Despite all that he was going through, he remained a constant companion to my Grandmom. After his surgery, he had decent recovery, though he continued to have some breathing difficulties. Even so, we never expected that he would take such a turn for the worse and pass away so quickly. I suppose it may be better this way.

Together, their names inseparable have rolled off our lips for decades.
They are both gone now, but their influence on us will not fade for a very long, long time.

Beans & Marie.
Grandmom & Grandpop.

We loved them, and they will both be missed very much.