Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Calls To Mom in the Philippines

Ok, so this blog appears to have taken a vacation over the Christmas week. Either that or I was being lazy or even maybe I ran out of things to talk about in my uninteresting and boring life. This is probably the month in the past couple of years that I have posted the least.
Would you believe that I talked to my mom in the Philippines two days in a row? On Christmas Eve and Christmas day there (they are 16 hours ahead of the U.S.), I was able to get in touch with her on the phone which is a Christmas miracle in itself, because all the Filipinos in the U.S. seems to be calling there at the same time the whole day. It’s not a surprise if you get a busy signal or the call doesn’t connect at all on Christmas day. So the first time on Christmas Eve, we talked about our holiday plans – any party invitations or going to church. She said her only plan was to go to mass and have a quiet Christmas at home, which didn’t turn out that way (I’ll tell you more about that later). During the call, it occurred to me to ask her how she and my father met. During elementary school before World War 2, they were schoolmates but other than that, they didn’t really talk to each other, she said. After surviving the war and finishing high school, my mother started working in the box office of a movie theater in Jolo, Sulu, Philippines, with my dad’s mother. That’s when they really started talking and the courtship began. My dad would often go the theater to pick up my grandmother and when he drove his passengers (my dad was a jeepney driver at the time) in the part of town where mom lived, he would stop by and visit. I wish we were able to get into more details but the long distance call was getting lengthy. I hope I would be able to explore that part of mom’s life at a later date and ask her about things we never knew while growing up.
The next day, Christmas Eve here and Christmas day there, I tried calling my mom again while I was at a family party at my uncle’s house. The first three tries, nobody answered maybe because mom was still in church or the call didn’t go through. When she finally answered, she said she had gone to church and was invited to lunch by very close family friends (that's her in the red dress, with the Pabellon Family and their Christmas at KFC - photo courtesy of Jing :-)) , after which she went home to prepare to go to another party. I tell you, my mom has a more active social life than I do despite her osteoporosis and osteoarthritis J. During the call, I passed around my cell phone to my relatives to talk to mom, not caring about minutes because it was Christmas after all and it’s not often that they talk to her. Since she rarely gets to talk to them, I’m sure she was pretty happy about that. Soon we had to say our goodbyes again so she could rest before her next party (she is 79 after all), while we continued our festivities here. The dinner feast consisted of kulma (a native Tausug dish related to curry), potato/macaroni salad, ham, turkey ham, lumpia shanghai, bistek, kilawin shrimp, poached salmon, fruit salad, pecan pie, ube, lemon cheesecake, and cream puffs, plus others that I don’t remember anymore. It was a gustatory and calorie ridden delight!
          As I end this post, let me ask you: how did you spend your Christmas and have you ever asked your parents how they met and got married?

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wimp Out Due To Rain? Or Rational Decision?


Saturday morning’s scheduled AREC run was 10 miles for one group and a longer 18 miles for those training for a marathon. All that to be done in the forecasted rain. Based on my injuries earlier this year, 10 miles appears to be the breaking point of my leg joints and muscles so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I set all my running rain gear out Friday evening: shoes, socks, shorts, long sleeved shirt, Goretex jacket, hat, gloves, GPS watch, ID, cell phone, hard candy, MRE’s. Oh, wait, not the last one. Should I run very easy like last week? Do the 4:1 Galloway method? Wimp out because of the rain and run on the treadmill instead? In the end, my final decision was not made because of the distance or the weather but because my ankles were still aching from last Thursday’s unplanned fartlek workout.
 Let me explain. It was supposed to be a GPSless slow and easy run, but 15 minutes into it, I decided to pick up the pace for the length of a block then recovered on the next turn. Well, instead of continuing in an easy pace, I kept doing the block-long pickups and recoveries until I finished an hour of what I considered an impromptu fartlek workout. It felt really good picking up the pace but the downside is that increases my pounding against the ground so much nowadays that it overstretches my already tender ankle joints. I was hoping that they would recover on Friday so I could join AREC on Saturday morning, but it was not to be. My ankles were hurting too much and I didn’t want them to get worst. Instead, I just repeated Friday’s recumbent bike workout plus 5 more minutes. This was the workout for Friday and Saturday: 4 minutes fast cadence on easy gear, 3 minutes on medium gear while trying to keep the cadence up, 3 minutes on heavy gear = 1 set. Repeat to finish 4 to 5 sets. Not the same feeling as running but it was gentler to my ankles while keeping my pulse rate up and my breathing heavy. Good enough. I might not try to run again until next Tuesday. In the meantime, ice, ice, baby.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Random Thoughts for December 2010

          
            Ever since I injured my left index finger due to the garage door accident, touch typing on the computer keyboard has been a hit and miss exercise. I can’t feel the bump of the F key and I keep hitting the R and T keys together when I type one of those letters.
            When you blog and share it on social networking sites, are you considered a bloggart?
Last week, before I did my gift card shopping, I wrote notes, addressed and stamped Christmas cards while watching a TV program called The Sing Off (acapella competition between singing groups). After I bought the gift cards days later, I stuffed them with the Christmas cards in envelopes, ran to the post office, dropped everything in the mailbox then continued my run. Another one of my errand runs. On a similar note, I ran to a friend’s apartment to update her computer then ran back home, achieving another negative split in the process.
Last weekend I watched what I consider a powerful movie called For Colored Girls. I’m just wondering why it had a poor box office result and a low IMDB rating.
                 You’ve heard of the Clydesdales division in road races? If I remember correctly, if you are a runner who is 200 pounds or more, you are considered a Clydesdale (like the Budweiser horses). Even though I’m almost half that weight I run like a Clydesdale because my stride is so heavy. A lot of those heavy runners are probably much lighter on their feet than I am.
My netbook battery is not holding a full 9 hour charge any more. At best it gives me 6 hours, and even lesser if I’m connected to the internet. The hospital I work in now has Wi-Fi in the main building. Unfortunately not in the building I work in. How can they give us Wi-Fi and we are not supposed to surf the internet at work? Go figure. I guess the restriction only goes for direct patient care staff, while office personnel and visitors are allowed to do it.
I love pumpkin pie because it reminds me of when my mother used to bake them at home in the Philippines. I had four store-bought pies in the fridge and I overdosed on one of them one night because I didn’t want it to spoil. I was hoping that the pumpkin had a good dose of fiber but it was only 1 percent per serving. Oh, well. 

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Stomach Expansion


Ever experienced this problem? You overeat at a party (in this case, Thanksgiving),so much so that it distends your stomach and during the next several days, your stomach seems to have gained extra capacity, and you tend to eat more before you feel full. Well this happened to me this past couple of weeks and I’ve been trying to fight off the lack of satiety, and not too successfully at times. The food was so tasty at the party that I overate beyond the point of fullness, which was an uncomfortable feeling in itself. Sometimes it’s hard to stop what your tongue wants to taste even though you are uncomfortably full already. Maybe I should blame my cousin for being such a good cook and preparing all those culinary delights that my eyes, tongue and stomach couldn’t resist. Perhaps I should lie and say that she put a gun to my head and forced me to eat.
I have a similar experience when carbo loading. In an effort to bump up the glycogen levels in the muscles, there is a tendency to overeat with the excuse that I’m going to burn off those calories in the marathon anyway. The trouble is that I continue to eat more than usual in the days after a marathon because my stomach capacity had expanded and it takes several weeks for the eating to normalize to pre-marathon levels. For those non-exercisers who read this, even some endurance sports participants also have to deal with diet matters.
                By the way, here is something I was wondering about: In your experience, has it been more difficult to shed weight during the winter than the summer? Is it nature’s way of protecting the body from the winter cold by storing more fat?

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tales of Spinning and Running

Other than the errand runs I’ve been doing lately, here are a couple of workouts that happened in the past week. In terms of energy expenditure, calorie burn, and sweat rate, my back up workout to running in recent weeks has been the spinning bike. Because it has a heavy flywheel, you can feel yourself working even when you don’t increase the tension. Let me tell you about the self propelled workout I had last week. I pedaled on an easy tension for 10 minutes as a warm up, then for one minute I increased the tension slightly and pedaled while sitting, another minute I increased the tension more to do stand up pedaling, then one minute on easy tension for recovery. I kept repeating those intervals until I reached an hour. To say the least, it was an exhausting workout. Some days I would do two minutes of stand ups with one minute recovery. All that while reading the newspaper. Since my watch has an interval timer, I change positions or increase/decrease the tension of the pedals when I hear the warning beeps.
Last Saturday morning I was back running with the AREC winter group. I was slightly concerned of having tired legs because of the spinning workout I mentioned above which I did the day before. That concern faded into the background when I was able to run alongside Rich S. from start to finish on an 8 miler. He told me about his and wife Colleen’s recent trip to Machu Picchu in Peru, and I had a lot of questions for him about the place. So for the first half of the run, Rich told me about how to get there, where they stayed, the hiking and climbing they did, the tourist season, and people who lived on reed islands on a river. It was very enlightening to learn about another culture. The second half of the run was spent talking about plans for retirement. We are both the same age and he had planned on retiring when he reached 55 (as did I when the stock market was soaring in the 90’s and mid 2000’s). He remains on track with his plan which is very admirable. In my case, I will have to wait a little longer. I told him my emergency plan was to retire in the Philippines if my nest egg will not suffice if I stay in the U.S.
With everything that we talked about, the 8 miles passed rather quickly and almost effortlessly. Rich - my lungs, legs, and ankles thank you and your stories for a nice leisurely run. The 8 miles would have been much harder without your company.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

A Delayed Christmas Shopping With Certain Advantages


My co-worker asked me last week if I was ready for Christmas and I told her I was not. I already knew I was going to be slightly delayed this year and all having to do with money (or lack thereof) management. Although I’ve already purchased my Christmas cards, gifts were another matter altogether. The only gift buying I do is in the form of cards. Did you know that thieves can copy the serial numbers of those cards, then check them online frequently if they are activated then do their stealing/shopping? When your recipients try to use the cards that you gave them, they find out that the funds have already been spent. What’s this, a public service announcement??? Anyway, I hope none of the ones I’m buying has that problem.
So I’ve been taking a glance at the gift cards when I shop at the grocery store to get an idea on the choices available and what do I see but Farmville gift cards. Really?! What will they think of next? No, I didn’t plan on buying one of those. Anyway regarding the money management aspect, here is the explanation. It has something to do with the next billing period of my credit card. Having had to charge the insurance co-pay for my emergency room visit 3 weeks ago to my credit card placed a slight crimp on my budget, so I had to wait for the next billing period before I wanted to use it again.
This past week, Albertson’s grocery store had a special offer. When you buy $100.00 worth of gift cards, they give you a $20 coupon good for your next shopping visit (with certain restrictions). You can receive as many as five of those coupons if your heart and wallet desire to buy $500 worth of gift cards. This offer was supposed to expire on December 12th. The new billing period for my credit card also started on the 12th so off to Albertson’s I went for my Christmas gift shopping. After picking out some choices for the kids and a few others for adults, my shopping was done for the year, while also getting two of the $20 coupons to boot. Payment for the credit card will be due February of next year. Now I’m ready for Christmas.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Float To The Emergency Room


Saturday night was my turn to work in the emergency room because there were only a few patients on my home unit. I can’t remember the last time I worked there so it was with some apprehension that I showed up at the ER. The night started out slow as I only had to watch one patient who was rather quiet. By 10:30 p.m. others started to show up – a manic woman who talked and laughed loudly, and a doctor from another part of California. Let me just make clear that these were psych patients that I had to watch. I escorted the woman via hospital van to another building at about 1:30 a.m. On the way out of the parking lot after dropping off the patient, what do I see but 3 raccoons foraging for food near the gate! I don’t recall ever having seen a raccoon before in my life but this night more than made up for that by seeing three of them together. That seemed to make an already unusual night even more unusual. Upon returning to the ER, the doctor had been transferred to another unit and my next patient was just being wheeled in a guerney by paramedics. Speaking of mother natures’ creatures like the raccoons I saw just minutes before, this woman was drunk as a skunk. She was brought in the ER because she fell on her face after a bout of drinking. She had a bloody forehead and her nose was slightly swollen. With the x-ray technician, I escorted the patient for a CT scan of her head. She had a bump on her forehead and the scan confirmed a broken nose. This woman was very loud and complained incessantly of pain in her face, neck, back, legs. You name a body part and she probably would have complained on any of that too. Shortly after, a handcuffed man was brought in by 2 police officers. I don’t know the circumstances of his case. All I know was that the cops confiscated his guns. I didn’t ask the patient about what happened as I didn’t want him to be incensed. He was already in a bad situation as it was. Fortunately, he was pretty cooperative and quiet. He spent a few hours watching Law and Order on the TNT network. I could probably have given him a quiz on the show and he would have given me all correct answers. Poor guy had to report to work at 8 a.m. but couldn’t leave because the police put him on a 5150 hold.
Based on the patients I had to watch, the night in the ER wasn’t so bad at all except I didn’t get my 30 minute break until 6:15 in the morning. All I could do was walk to the corner doughnut shop to buy an apple fritter (one of my guilty pleasures that I rarely partake of any more), then return to the ER to wait out the end of my shift at 7:30. Except it didn’t turn out that way. The nursing supervisor called me at 7:05 to let me know that the person who would relieve me of my duties would be late because there was a staffing snafu. Well, I didn’t have too much choice but wait. Fortunately, he arrived at about 7:40 a.m. and soon I was on my way home. Which brings me to the last unusual sight of my day: a man running on the center stripe of a street I was driving on. I think that was even crazier than all the psych patients I had to watch all night.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Dual Purpose Runs


The rechargeable battery on my 3 year old Vivitar camera has not been charging fully lately so I thought it was time to shop for a new camera. I didn’t want anything complicated since I’m just a point and shooter (gone are the days when I was an amateur photographer and owned a couple of SLR’s during the analog age). After reading reviews for 2 cameras which were on sale (one at Best Buy and the other at Office Depot), I decided that Best Buy’s store brand - Insignia was my better option. So on a chilly Cyber Monday morning (even at 8:30 a.m.), I put on my running shoes, bundled up, pocketed my credit card and I.D., then ran to Best Buy which opened at 9 a.m. Instead of shopping online on this day, I went to a brick and mortar store instead. I got there shortly after they opened, purchased the camera, then ran back home while cradling the box in the crook of my arm, like a football hold. It was a 6.5 mile turnaround and by the time I got home, the edge of the camera box was soaked with my perspiration. My pace going out was 10:10 and coming back was 9:46. A negative split with a half pound load in hand! Shopping and running - a couple of birds hit with one stone. What else did I accomplish during the run? Camera savings = $30, gasoline saved = 1/5 of a gallon, endorphin high = priceless.
Another dual purpose run happened on Thursday morning. I had an unplanned idea of printing out a couple of pictures to send to my mom along with her Christmas card. I remembered I still had some photo paper from more than 5 years ago so I looked for them. Upon finding them I was surprised to also find some Jolo pictures which I printed out a long time ago. When I tried looking for the scanned copies, I couldn’t find them so I probably deleted them from an old computer which I had since donated to Goodwill. Anyway, I digress. For my mom, I printed out a Thanksgiving picture with my relatives here in the U.S., and another taken months ago with my new niece, Noelani and my uncle. Having done that, I drove to the LBC courier service and sent the card, photos, and some money. After doing all those, I went out for a run from the courier location in Cerritos towards Orange County. A half mile after I crossed the border, I turned around and ran back to where I started from. A pretty good 6 mile cross-county run. Because of the impromptu activities, I didn’t get started running until 10:00 a.m. and finished at 11. By then it was time for lunch and more turkey at home. My run felt a little rough but I enjoyed finishing it. I hope mom feels as much joy when she receives the Christmas card, pictures, and money.


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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Being a Couch Potato, etc.

Great! Another excuse to becoming a couch potato. The new cordless mouse which I bought on Black Friday has a range that reaches from the computer desk to the coffee table in the living room. No more having to get up from the couch to pause the movies that I’m watching, or to click ‘like’ on Facebook. See, my laptop is connected to my big screen TV. Oh, the mouse? It came from Staples Office Supplies and that’s my only surrender to the Black Friday madness and only because Walmart was out of the $198 laptop and $99 19 inch TV.
Why was I even looking for the TV or the laptop computer when I already have those? I don’t remember if I mentioned before that my back up laptop screen is damaged so either I needed a new really cheap computer like Walmart had or a TV with a VGA input I can connect my broken computer to. Why not just a regular flat screen monitor? Because a 19 inch monitor cost almost as much as a 19 inch TV, so I might as well buy a dual purpose device. Since my choices weren’t available, my last option was way more affordable as seen in this photo: . I bought a laptop table on sale instead, which I can position near my bedroom TV. See the broken monitor on the bottom and the clear image on the TV? I just set the dual display setting on the computer so the output goes to the TV too. Problem solved.


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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Few Virgin Mobile Incidents


While at work last week, my touchscreen cellphone got unlocked while being jostled around with pens in my pocket, and inadvertently ordered some data packs, twice. When I got home, I checked my account for any activity but it didn’t show any, so I deactivated the data function. Upon checking my credit card transactions the next day, it showed that I ordered the two data packs after all, albeit unintentionally. Each cost 21.95 for a total of 43.90 for 10 megabytes of data. Now, I have never used the internet on my phone other than to download email messages which cost only a few cents, so I had no use for those data packs. I immediately sent an email to Virgin Mobile to explain what happened.
This is what I told them: I have two transactions in my Visa account for $21.95 each for a total of $43.90. The other day, my phone which was in my pocket with a couple of pens, inadvertently ordered what I think were data packages. This wasn't done intentionally and I have no use for those packages. You can probably check in my history that I don't use the internet on my phone. Can you please cancel those transactions and reimburse my credit card account? Thank you very much.
This was their response: Regarding your request, we have carefully reviewed your account and saw that both data packs were activated through the web site, not the phone and since both of them were already deactivated, there's no way we can refund them. If you had contacted us immediately to let us know without deactivating them, we could have done something about it, but they were unsubscribed already. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience and we would love to help you out with this. Your understanding will be highly appreciated. 
                So I called them right away and explained my plight again. The call center representative (in the Philippines) apparently consulted with a supervisor and reiterated that they could not give me a refund because I deactivated what I supposedly ordered. Not only that, if I wanted to avail of those data packs after all since I couldn’t get a refund, I couldn’t use them anymore because I deactivated them. In short, I’m giving them $43.90 in exchange for nothing! As a consolation prize, they offered to give me 100 anytime minutes which only cost less than half of what I was charged on my credit card. I forewarned them that I will be filing a dispute with the credit card company and that was the first thing I did after hanging up the phone. Via the credit card company website, I disputed the two charges and explained the situation.
So here is the update. The credit card company contacted Virgin Mobile and they agreed to cancel one of the transactions while they negotiated on the other one. A few days later, I noticed that both charges had been taken off my account. Virgin Mobile, it appears as of this writing, has allowed me keep the 100 minute consolation prize that they gave me.
A week after I thought I finished writing the draft of this post, Virgin Mobile is up to more shenanigans. A couple of weeks ago, I topped up my load and added $20 worth of minutes. Suddenly on Monday morning I received an automated text message from the company saying my auto top up failed (auto top up is a setting where if my minutes fall below $5.00 worth, my credit card is automatically billed $20 so I don’t run out of minutes). How can it fall below $5 when I hardly used the phone? I called up customer service and they said they were going to “escalate” my inquiry to find out how my $20 disappeared. Then I checked my account on their website later in the day. Well, since my credit card company didn’t pay Virgin Mobile (VM) the amount that I disputed, VM took it upon itself to deduct $21.95 from my account! Wow, the nerve! Since they gave me 100 minutes free (see above), I figured we could call it even. The next day, I checked my account again and they had readjusted it by giving me back the $20 I put in. I hope that’s the end of that or else I’m switching to another provider after I use all my minutes.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pre and Post 2010 Thanksgiving Dinner Workouts

Click me and see me trot

While a lot of people started their Thanksgiving Day doing 5 or 10K Turkey Trots in different venues, I, being a wimpy turkey trying to avoid the colder than usual temperature, opted out and did my own trot on the treadmill instead. Not that I wasn’t about to go out and run on the streets, but the late newspaper delivery (9:00 a.m.!!!) sealed my decision to make a run to nowhere, at the same time saving time and reading the newspaper. An hour plus an extra five minutes for the extra spoonful that I may eat during Thanksgiving dinner (unfortunately I lost control and ate more spoonfuls than I needed). What I noticed was that when I increased the pace towards the end of the run, I bounced lesser and was actually able to read the paper better. If only I could run that smoothly all the time.

After visiting a couple of stores on Black Friday (I’ll touch on that in another post), my day after Thanksgiving workout consisted of Spinning. No, I didn’t go to a gym and sign up for a class. However, I downloaded a free Spinning video and tried that workout for the first time. With the warm up and cool down, it was supposed to last an hour but the actual pedaling itself lasted only 50 minutes, but a tough 50 minutes it was. I added another 10 minutes to round it up to an hour. There was a lot of hill climbing and jumps in between seated pedaling using variable tension adjustments. It was a darn good workout leaving my calves slightly sore afterwards. It helped burn up a bit of my cousin’s good cooking from dinner the previous night.
It’s cold enough running outside at 9:00 A.M. so why would I want to wake up at 5:00 to run at 7:00? After all, I wimped out and ran on the treadmill on Thanksgiving morning. Well, after procrastinating the last few weeks whether to join the AREC winter group, I finally did on Saturday morning, without even knowing how far they were planning on running.  It was so darn cold that my face felt numb and to add to the discomfort, I forgot to bring my gloves, but I showed up and introduced myself to Gisele who organized it. She gave me a printout of the directions. The shorter run was supposed to be 7 miles and the longer, 13 miles. I haven’t run 7 miles much less 13 miles in months. My longest run was 6.75 miles earlier in the week and that was a run/walk. We started out and I found myself running alone because I couldn’t find someone with the same pace. After climbing the hill at the 4 mile mark, I saw Rosie and Tina, whom I ran 16 miles with last year, and joined them. We ran together for about 3 miles and I want to thank them for letting me pace with them because I didn’t want to run alone. That’s the reason why I woke up early to run there in the first place, so I can run with others. It turned out the shorter run was actually 8 miles instead of 7, which was not a problem for me on this particular day because running with Rosie and Tina helped a lot. My solo runs in recent months have taken a lot of effort to finish, even the ones which I run for 4 minutes and walk for 1 minute. Having company on Saturday morning plus not trying to push the pace made for a more comfortable run even with the extra mile or so. My ankles weren’t even hurting as much afterwards. If that’s the case, I may even return next week! Just remind me to bring my gloves and maybe even a ski mask.


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Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Great Turkey Roasting Experiment


HAPPY THANKSGIVING Everyone! Did I tell you I bought a countertop roaster last week? It was on Sale at Target for 27 bucks. Of course a few days later, Walmart came up with one for 19 dollars. I didn’t want to repack the one I had and return it to get the one at Walmart, so I left well enough alone. It turns out Walmart had a limited supply anyway and my coworker had to buy the one left on the display shelf without a user’s manual (I had to download it for her). Well, I bought a frozen turkey a few days later and thawed it in the fridge. The great turkey roasting experiment would commence a couple of days later. Why was it an experiment? Because I’ve never roasted a turkey before other than observing an ex gf do it a long time ago.
When I got home from work Monday morning, I got my crockpot, which was the biggest container I had in which the 10 pound or so turkey would fit, mixed up some salt in water to make brine and soaked the turkey in it overnight. I didn’t know anything about the proportions of salt to water so I just dumped it in there until I thought it tasted salty enough.
The next day, the experiment started. I took the turkey out of the brine, patted dry the outside and the inside of the bird, peppered it, then as a shortcut, instead of rubbing the outside with butter, I just sprayed it with butter flavored cooking spray. I know, I know, it was a few days early but I already had an invitation from my cousin for Thanksgiving Day dinner. So 10 pounds x 15 to 17 minutes at 350 degrees would be between 2 ½ to 3 hours. I checked my watch, it was 8:00 a.m., so I set 11:00 as my target finishing time. I went out for a run then lifted some weights while waiting for the turkey to finish cooking. After about 2 hours and 40 minutes I detected a smoky smell so I checked the bird. It appeared well done so I turned off the roaster. I took it out of the pan and let the bird breath while I took a shower. When I finished, it was time for lunch and to taste the result of my experiment. Well, other than the slightly dried edges of the legs and wings, I was pleasantly surprised that the bird tasted quite good, although a little salty. The skin was crispy and the flesh was tender overall. The hard part was washing the roasting pan afterwards because it was so big that it didn’t fit in my sink. Otherwise, I deemed the experiment a success!
By the way, these roasters appear to have been made in the same factory in China because the instructions are the same between the Rival, Sunbeam, or Oster brands. Very much like treadmills and other exercise machines, they just attach a different brand name on them.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Follow Up On My Index Finger Injury


Please forgive the grossness factor but I forgot to mention in the original post that the nurse had to cut off a piece of skin from the finger. The skin was imbedded into the flesh until it was pulled out when my finger was released from the garage door hinge. No, it didn’t hurt because my finger was too numb to feel anything.
When I returned home from work Sunday morning, I had a hard time sleeping and only managed about 2 ½ hours, because my mind was still replaying the events that occurred the previous day. In the middle of the 12 hour night shift Sunday night, I was already running on fumes and had to battle hard to stay awake. Thankfully, I made it through the night and looked forward to being off the next day to catch up on my sleep.
On Monday, I noticed that there was a small blood blister on the outside of my pinkie. I was too engrossed by how my index finger looked that I hadn’t noticed the blister before. Regarding the numbness of the index finger, well, it hasn’t gotten better, so I’m beginning suspect that there may be some nerve damage. The circulation is good but I could hardly feel anything and lost most tactile sense below the last joint on that finger. However, if it doesn’t get any better or at least not get worst, I still consider myself very lucky for only ending up with the condition I have now.
Addendum: 5 days after the garage door spring broke, plus a visit to the emergency room with a 100 dollar co-pay, plus 25 dollars for my handyman neighbor to replace the spring which took all of 2 minutes but with 2 people, I finally reclaimed my garage on Wednesday morning. Hurray!

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Workouts in the Past Week (before the accident)

I ran in an unfamiliar part of a street (Long Beach Boulevard) last Tuesday afternoon. I usually head north up to Market Street then turn around. This time I went farther until I reached the intersection of the 91 Freeway. I was always hesitant to run in that area because it didn’t have a good reputation for safety, but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as bad as what you read in the newspapers sometimes. Of course it could be because you only read about it when something bad happens. Other than kids coming out of school on their way home, hardly anything impeded the run. Both my ankles were hurting afterwards but it was interesting to explore another part of my neighborhood.
After my ankles hurt badly from Tuesday’s run, I opted for the recumbent stationary bike on Wednesday and the elliptical machine on Thursday. For the first time ever, I completed an hour on the elliptical. No use beating my head against the wall and hurting myself further while running when I can do something else to heal first.
Then on Friday morning, I did an hour and forty minute walk and oh, my shoulders sure hurt! Say that again? Shoulders?!  Not only that, but my lower back was hurting the next day too. Please allow me to explain. This walk consisted of carrying a backpack loaded with 15 pounds of weights (from my barbell/dumbbell collection). After about half an hour, my right calf started to tighten up so I thought I might have to turn around and head back home, but it worked itself out, so I was able to continue with my goal to walk for an hour and a half, plus an additional 10 minutes. Not used to carrying that type of load made my shoulders and back hurt, but I didn’t even feel any aerobic satisfaction from that workout.
I wasn’t planning on running Saturday morning specially after the backpack with weights walk the day before and because of the forecast of rain, but after my body warmed up from going to Home Depot and Fresh and Easy market, and nary a drop of water from the sky in my part of town, I went out and ran anyway. The short and sweet 45 minute slow run felt so much better than the longer walk the previous day. And then the accident happened … (A Trip To The Emergency Room or How I Almost Lost My Fingers).

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Trip To The Emergency Room (or how I almost lost my fingers)


What a series of unfortunate events happening to me on Friday and Saturday. Friday afternoon, as I was closing my garage door, the left side spring supporting it snapped. This spring helps keep the door open when you raise the door up. Without it, you need a sturdy piece of lumber or a stepladder to prop it open. I immediately went to OSH Hardware Store to buy the spring but noticed that they were having a 15% off sale the next day. So I decided to wait. In the meantime I had to park my car on the street overnight which was a risk by itself because of the neighborhood I live in and it is a Honda Civic, the No. 1 most stolen car in the U.S. The next morning, I was relieved to see that my car was still there, then drove to Home Depot to see if they were selling the garage door spring for lesser. They did indeed beat OSH’s price by 50%.
Later in the day after my run and lunch, I took my tools and the new spring to the garage and proceeded to try to replace the broken spring (but not before I read the instructions on how to do it on the internet). I propped the garage door open with a piece of lumber, then I was able to attach the new spring but it was not as taut as needed because even though it was easier to raise the door, it would not stay up. So I tried using a wrench as a lever to stretch the spring so I can hook it into one more link on the chain. As I pulled on the wrench, the door rose slightly and the piece of lumber fell away, thus making the door close on top of me. Well, my left index and middle fingers were caught in the hinges of the garage door! I became horrified and scared because I couldn’t lift the garage door and the hinges were crushing my fingers. All I could do was cry out for help in an alley usually bereft of people. I don’t know how many seconds passed by but it felt like forever, when a teenage boy came and lifted up the garage door enabling me to free my fingers. There was no blood but my index finger looked like a mangled mess. It appeared as if the bone had been crushed to a pulp because of the deep indentation that the door hinges caused and that the skin was the only thing holding the finger together. I thanked the boy, showed him my fingers, told him I have to go to the emergency room quickly, and hurriedly closed and locked the garage door. I splinted the index and middle finger together before I left, then drove myself to the hospital. When I got there, the E.R. parking lot was full so I had to drive slightly farther to the parking structure then walk back to the E.R. Imagine to my surprise, there was only one other patient in the waiting room who was registering already, and in less than a minute, I was registering myself. After about 10 minutes, the triage nurse took me in to assess my condition. By that time, blood started to circulate back to the crushed finger. The pain wasn’t too bad, it was more of a numb feeling. When the nurse asked my pain level, I told her, probably 4 out of 10. I went back to the waiting area until a bed became available, which happened maybe 30 minutes later. While in the waiting room, I was finally able to wash the injured area with soap and water. When I was finally escorted to an empty bed, there were a few more minutes of waiting until a nurse checked on me, then another several minutes before a nurse practitioner came to assess my injury. By that time the index finger was perfusing well and with good capillary refill, meaning there was good circulation in the area. The nurse practitioner said there was probably no fracture but they were going to do some x-rays anyway. I told her that the finger looked much worse earlier. So x-rays were taken in 4 positions. It was a relief to learn later that the results were negative for fractures. The only treatment they gave me was soap and warm water wash and a band aid, then I was sent packing home. But not before I had to use my credit card to pay for my $100.00 insurance co-pay. Yikes! It would have been cheaper for me to hire a handyman to do the garage job! Nevertheless, I was so gratified and relieved that I haven’t maimed myself permanently. I could have lost at least one, if not two fingers if that angel of a teenager hadn’t shown up when he did. I didn’t even get his name. Whoever you are, thanks again from the bottom of my heart, buddy.
This incident effectively ends my attempts at do-it-yourself jobs that I know nothing about. Pay someone lesser now rather than pay the E.R. more later when things don’t work out (and still have to pay someone to complete the job because I couldn’t finish it). Oh, my!
Thoughts that came to mind when my fingers were being crushed by the weight of the garage door: my charge nurse who lost the phalange of his right index finger years ago because a patient slammed the door on it, and the movie 127 Hours where a hiker had to amputate his own arm to save himself. Believe me, I did not exaggerate about the fear I felt while I was trapped momentarily underneath that garage door then seeing my fingers afterwards thinking I had done permanent damage to myself. Surviving this experience is one thing that I can be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
This incident is enough to give me PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) symptoms for the next few weeks. Trip to the Emergency Room + 3 hours + 100 dollars = peace of mind that nothing was broken or needed to be amputated. I went to work afterwards thinking that there is indeed divine intervention.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

UnGreen Medical Records and Other Work Stuff


At work, we have to assemble admission packs consisting of papers that need to be in a patient’s chart. There are two packs that we make. The first one goes in a binder and the other goes in a folder. The patients have to sign the papers in the folder when they get admitted, and the staff has to witness their signatures. The rest of the papers in the binder are where the nurses, doctors, recreational therapists, and caseworkers do their documentation. After the patients sign the papers, they are filed in the aforementioned binder.
Here is the problem: in a world where people are attempting to be more “green” and try to conserve natural resources, the psych unit in our hospital has the most paperwork I’ve ever seen ever since I started working in the psych field (even after a couple of forms have been eliminated). Case in point: the first chart pack consists of 30 different forms (some with multiple pages), some are NCR (no carbon required) paper with 1 or 2 duplicates, and the others are single sheets. Out of those 30, 5 forms need to be doubled, meaning we have to put 2 of those forms in the chart, so that makes 35 altogether. The other pack consists of 18 different forms and most of them are NCR. That makes a total of 53 forms to make one chart! That’s before the face sheets, insurance info, emergency room documents, and whatnot are added. The charts are so heavy that you can use them for weight training, and if you are not careful, you can throw a joint out!
The hospital is planning on switching to electronic medical records but I haven’t heard of a target date on when that’s going to start. I hope it eliminates most of the 53 forms that we use now. So much for weight training. I might have to lift the computer monitor instead.
A brief anecdote about what happened last Tuesday morning in the frontlines. The phlebotomist came to draw blood from some of our patients. I asked one very anxious and agitated female who was admitted the previous day, if we can draw her blood. This was her response – “You’re not going to draw s… from my a..! That was so unexpected that staff and other patients in the immediate area erupted in laughter. Who says you can't find humor during a tense situation?!

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Shape of Things

I am currently in terrible running shape because I couldn’t run as much as I want to or even just do maximum of three runs a week. When or if I can depends on how my ankles feel that day. I have to experiment wearing different orthotic and shoe combinations to find out what works best and more comfortably on any given running day. Since running nowadays has been a struggle, I’m out of breath faster and am unable to go far. You probably won’t believe how I can derive joy and pleasure in such small successes like the 45 minute slow treadmill run I did last week. It was enough to trigger the pleasure zones in my brain.
When my ankles won’t allow me to run, I have to rely on other, less satisfying workouts. Here is an example: My watch band broke last Sunday night so instead of running the next morning, I walked to Walmart to buy a replacement. It took 45 minutes to get there at about 16 minutes per mile (I didn’t use the GPS and I’m just guesstimating) so it would have been an hour and a half round trip, but I did an extra half hour. The last time I walked that long was about 4 months ago. Just as my chronograph hit two hours my mp3 player battery died. Perfect timing!
In a related topic, there’s this website called Healthyroads.com which I mentioned in a couple of posts before, where I log my workouts. When I logged Monday’s 2 hour walk at a pace of 4 MPH, the calorie calculator said I burned approximately 530 calories. For the previous days’ 1 hour bike ride at a pace of 16 MPH, the calorie expenditure was the same. I was more exhausted after the 1 hour ride than the 2 hour walk. I do what I can to stay in shape.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Visiting And Running Around The Old Neighborhood


I had a chance to visit and run around the City of Bellflower last Saturday when I stopped by a grocery store there.  This city is where I had my first apartment in 1981, months after I arrived in the U.S. and ran on its streets for several years. Starting from Stater Brothers Store on Lakewood Boulevard and Artesia Blvd., I headed east then turned left on Clark Avenue. When I reached Alondra, I saw the recently burned down abandoned bowling alley which I read about in the news about two weeks prior. From there I proceeded east again and noticed a relatively new bike/jogging path where railroad tracks used to be. When I reached Woodruff Avenue, I turned right and down that street was the bike shop where I purchased my bike over the summer. Turning right on Flower Street, I saw the other end of the bike/jogging path, then city hall, the post office, and on the opposite side of the street, my former eye doctor’s clinic was still in the same location. A block further, there was the Circle K convenience store where a van crashed through a week back during a vehicular accident. The front of the building had already been repaired. Down the same street was the first apartment I lived in for a couple of years, so I ran through the parking lot trying to identify it. Unfortunately I don’t remember the unit number any more. By this time my breathing was getting labored and my legs were feeling heavy but I still have to get back to Stater Brothers a mile away. Near that street, I know of a previously famous chicken pie restaurant which closed a few years back called Moffett’s Chicken Pies. That also reminded me of the also gone hotdog and taco stand called the Pup and Taco, near the same location. Although the run only lasted 5 miles, it showed me some of the changes the city had undergone in the past 3 decades. One thing that hasn’t changed is that after all those years, I’m still running despite the pounding my body has taken, albeit at a much slower pace now. It was a nice experience nonetheless, being able to take a short jaunt around the old neighborhood. By the way, that Stater Brothers store used to be Lucky’s Grocery when I lived there.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

November 2010 Randomness

Why do I blog? I thought of this question and I couldn’t come up with a reasonable answer (yet). First of all, I don’t fancy myself as a writer nor ever aspired to be one. I don’t even have a clue as to what writing guidelines are. I have enough trouble whether to write it’s or its, to mention one problem. Journaling was never my thing either. If ever there was something I put on paper, it was in my running logbooks, and even that wasn’t a detailed description of the workouts I did. My previous forays at writing was an article on fitness in a company newsletter in the Philippines way back when, and running experiences for the AREC club newsletter here in Long Beach (which I stopped contributing to since I started blogging).
For some people exercising is a chore that has to be done even if they don’t like doing it. They may do it to lose weight or maybe a minimum amount to keep their heart healthy. Although some days, it can feel like a chore for me, finishing a workout still feels better than not doing one (of course I don’t know how that feels because I do it every day).
Pull ups (no, not the diapers) with weights. I have a pull up/chin up bar in one of my doorways at home and I use it for my upper back workout. Since I’m latissimus dorsi challenged, I don’t have a well developed back so to increase the effort and reduce the repetitions, I found an old backpack, inserted 15 pounds of free weights it, then did the pull up exercise. I used to run a belt in the hole of the weight then tie the belt around my waist but the felt too uncomfortable. My other upper back exercise is the bent over row. I alternate between the two exercises for variety.
I’m contemplating on using the above backpack with weights for walking workouts. Did you know that they sell weight vests nowadays? Up to 10 pounds for women and up to 20 pounds for men. My home made contraption should work as well and I could add more weight if needed – more than the store bought 20 pound limit.
                Our health insurance premiums from work are increasing by $30.00 a month, in large part due to the health care reform law that was passed last year. Other companies have to do the same thing. Darn! No raises for the last three years and lesser income to boot.
                A strange thing happened to my Windows Media Center DVR. It recorded two shows what it indicated was Do You Think You Can Dance, which usually occurs during the summer. When I played the recordings, they were Spanish language shows instead. The switch to standard time must have messed something up.
                I found the original 1987 Wall Street because I wanted to watch it again after watching the recent Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps. Charlie Sheen, who was one of the main characters in the first installment, had a cameo in the second one. He couldn’t act in the former, and still couldn’t act in the latter.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Replacing The High With Another

My left ankle had been hurting since my last run last Saturday morning but it felt good when I woke up for my next scheduled run on Tuesday morning. After changing into running clothes, putting my shoes on, and warming up, I started feeling the pain again. Should I go out to run and see if it would feel better as I warmed up, or should I just get on the spinning bike? After several shoe and orthotic combination changes, the discomfort didn’t get any better so I changed to cycling clothes and did the spinning bike instead. That would give me another couple of days of resting the ankles before I try running on them again. I was just getting concerned because the good left ankle which is now turning bad, has been hurting more lately than the permanently damaged right ankle. Working thirteen hours last Saturday night then wrestling with a patient the next night certainly didn’t help.  Better to be conservative and take several extra days off than not being able to run for a longer term.
In other running news, I ran to my doctor’s office last week to get my tetanus/pertussis shot due to the dog scratch I got (Rabies Anyone?), and while in the waiting room, a woman noticed my running clothes and mentioned that her husband runs and is also addicted to it. He runs in any kind of weather and did so in the middle of the day during Wednesday’s 98 to 100 degree heat. We talked for a couple of minutes until I was called into the clinic. I actually took a chance when I ran to my doctor without knowing if they received a fresh supply of the vaccine. Fortunately they had it and I was able to hit two birds with one stone – running and getting the shot. The round trip was supposed to be six miles but I extended it on the way out and ended up with about seven miles.
So, I continue to chase the high that I get from running, but nowadays, when I’m hurting, I try to be more prudent by taking extra days off to heal a bit. When I want to feel the same type of exertion I get from running, I get on the spinning bike and do a lot of stand ups. Whatever it takes to stay fit, get my fix, and get high.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Falling Back and Setting a Record in the Twilight Zone

Saturday night to Sunday morning was the return from daylight saving time to standard time, and I was dreading having to work 13 hours that night. In the past several years, I haven’t had to work on this particular weekend and had the benefit of an extra hour of sleep. The calendar finally caught up with me this year. The moment me and my coworkers walked in the door and started our shift at 7 P.M. we got our first patient admission and it kept on going the rest of the night until we had a total of 8 admits by the time we left at 7:30 A.M. the next day.  There were pros and cons of this situation. The main pro was that it made the night go faster than normal. Another was that I was able to make productive use of the extra hour. The con was that the nurses were awfully busy evaluating and documenting the 8 admissions. The mental health workers like me (there were 3 of us) lucked out because most if not all of those patients brought few belongings. Our main responsibilities in admitting a patient are checking vital signs, having them sign admission papers, and inventorying their belongings (clothes, jewelry, money, medications, etc.). The last one is the most tedious if a patient brings all their possessions except the kitchen sink, and only because they don’t usually have a kitchen sink if they’re homeless. The medication nurses have their own set of responsibilities and that is to transcribe new medication orders by hand. On this night, since we started with a very low patient count, there were only two medication nurses working instead of the usual three. Around midnight, in between my own admissions, I was able to fill the extra hour by being productive, making 50 admission chart packets (actually it took about 2 hours). With those 8 admissions, I think we might have set a new record for the night shift because I don’t remember getting more than 5 since I started working in this hospital 8 years ago.
A strange thing happened when we were supposed to move the clock back an hour at 2 A.M. Some of the staff’s cell phones did it automatically but some didn’t. On one of the analog clocks in the nurses’ station, the minute hand started sweeping across the face faster which made the hour hand move faster too. The time kept going forward until it reached 1 A.M. In short, the clock adjusted itself. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be one of those atomic clocks that synchronizes its time automatically with the official U.S. time in Colorado. But wait, there’s more, or in this case, less. The other atomic clocks in the same nurses’ station and the rest of the building didn’t adjust at all. The one that did was closer to a patio with an open view of the sky, while the other didn’t. Did that have anything to do with it? The first thought I had when I saw the first clock moving faster was that we had entered the twilight zone. Here is a video I found on Youtube:
An old joke I remembered from the Philippines – a guy tells his friend that the time is being switched from DST (daylight saving time) to DOT. The friend asks “what the hell is DOT? Don’t you mean back to standard time?” The first guy says no, it’s DOT – Dating Oras, Tanga! (translation: former time, you idiot!). Well, English speakers may not get it but it works better in the Filipino language.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Odds and Ends


My apologies for having no blog posts for almost a week until my rabies story a couple of days back and I’m trying to make up for it.
No more exercise machine purchases! That will be my rallying cry for the foreseeable future. Can you believe that in the past year, I had bought three new exercise machines? First there was the treadmill, then the elliptical machine, and just recently, the spinning bike. That’s what happens when you can barely run and have to find endorphin producing substitutes. Please, no mas! Maybe I can save some money now.
Trying to purge some clutter from my tiny closet, I finally moved all of the old cotton marathon and half marathon t-shirts to the storage cabinet in the garage and retained only the 2 technical ones. A few years ago, I disposed of the old 5K, 10K, 10 Mile shirts. Or maybe they are still in the deep recesses of the garage storage cabinet.
I woke up early last Friday morning at 6 o’clock (that’s early for me) and started updating Microsoft Money financial software to track my bottom line. It was something which I should have done at the end of last quarter but I kept procrastinating.  Well the bottom line didn’t get too far up from the bottom. Earnings have been paltry compared to the stock market boom a decade ago. I didn’t finish updating until 9:30 and started working out late on the spinning bike. The exercise helped the fight against the inflation of my bottom.
The other week, there was a sale on adult technical compression long sleeved, mock turtle neck shirts at Target for $16. They were the store brand of Target named Champion. Comparatively speaking, if you were to buy a major label like Under Armour, it would have cost more than double for similar fabric and quality. Then last week, Target had another sale but in the children’s section. Same Champion brand but this time a mid-layer microfleece long sleeved shirt with a quarter zip at the neck. I tried on the large and extra large children’s sizes and they fit me perfectly. The price: $9.00. This is one time that being a person of small stature has its advantages. Besides, it’s nice to be able to wear these form-fitting shirts without showing unnecessary bulges where you don’t want them.
            Is it possible to exercise more than necessary that your weight goes too low and it borders on being unhealthy? That’s what happened last Saturday. After running for an hour and fifteen minutes and shedding so much sweat, my weight as an adult reached an astounding all-time low of 112.8 pounds. As much as I like to keep my weight down, that was way too low for me. I immediately consumed about 4 pounds of fluids in the next couple of hours. By Sunday, I was back to my acceptable weight and made it up even more at the Halloween party later.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Scary Halloween Experience

Having grown up in a small faraway town in the Philippines, all I knew about Halloween was what I read about in books. What was celebrated more was All Souls Day on November 1st when we visited dead relatives’ graves at the cemetery. The closest thing that came to kids trick or treating was during the Christmas season when they went door to door singing Christmas carols for candy or money. Other than that, my previous experience with Halloween in the U.S. had been observing kids come to the door saying trick or treat. There have not been too much of this happening in my condo complex since we have a security gate so it’s not accessible to the public. This changed last Sunday night.
With the possibility that my body was infested with rabies, I was prepared to scare the bejeezus out of everyone on Halloween. For extra effect, I hadn’t shaved for almost a week. I went to my cousin’s house for a birthday and Halloween party and afterwards she invited me to walk with the kids while they were trick or treating. At first there was a trickle of kids walking about from house to house in the neighborhood. Then with no warning, it turned into a swarm of scary and fancy costumed children out looting for candy. It was like the night of the living dead out there. We went down different streets and saw all sorts of decorations, some elaborate and others simple. What they had in common were the homeowners passing out candy from huge tubs. I can’t believe how much candy was being given away. That, and the decorations that some of the homes had, it was almost as if there was no recession. I’m glad I joined them because it would have been scarier driving home at that time with all the spooks, ghosts, and goblins swarming the streets. I was more afraid about getting lost walking in the dark amongst the costumed kids and not find my way back to my cousin’s house. Oh, I almost forgot. My slightly less than a year old niece Noelani had her first Halloween J Here she is with her grandpa and grandma:  



What I found most scary was this: on my way home, a van which was stopped at an intersection didn’t move when the traffic light turned green. It took several seconds before the driver noticed the green light. It happened again at the next traffic light and I finally had to honk my horn to alert the driver. When I caught up and was beside the van a few blocks farther, what do you think the driver was doing? Texting. Now that’s scary!

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Rabies, Anyone?


Well, I got nicked by my neighbor’s dog last Wednesday afternoon when I tried to get its water bowl to fill it up, because she and her newborn puppy looked thirsty and were licking moisture from the cement. Just minutes prior, I was petting them but when I went to get the water bowl from inside the fence, the dog tried to bite me and as I mentioned above, I got nicked on my left shin. I rushed back up to my place and washed the scratches with soap and water. There were two slightly bloody marks, more like abrasions, but no puncture wounds. Still concerned about rabies I looked it up on the internet. I knew for sure that my neighbor rescued the dog from a CVS Pharmacy parking lot and it was already pregnant. The baby was born in my neighbor’s yard later. But I didn’t know if the dog had its anti rabies shots and my neighbor wasn’t home. Two days later I still hadn’t seen my neighbor so I finally called my doctor to consult with him. The medical assistant asked me if the dog was a stray and I told her what I knew about it. She gave me an appointment the same day. About half an hour before I went to see the doctor, I saw my neighbor and she told me she found out from animal control that the dog was registered and had its shots. Whew! What a relief! But I went to see my doctor anyway to have the wound checked. All he recommended was for me to get a tetanus shot. Unfortunately, they ran out, so this week, I have to call them back to find out if they have a new supply. In the meantime, I’m monitoring the dog every day to see if its behavior has radically changed (info on the web said to monitor for 10 days). If any of you see me drooling and snarling, or acting more strangely than I already am, please call 911 because I may be infected and about to bite you.
On a different note, also last Wednesday, I turned on my back up laptop computer and what do I see but almost all of the right side of the screen displayed horizontal, vertical, and squiggly lines, much like visual static, if there is such a thing. I rebooted but it didn’t correct the problem. When I connected it to an external monitor the whole desktop was visible, so the LCD monitor itself is damaged. Darn! First the dog bite, now the computer! Why me??? Oh, well, that’s life… At least the computer still works in spite of the screen, and I haven’t bitten anybody yet either.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Candy, Free Tools, Dirt Run

My left ankle had been hurting since last Saturday’s “feel good” run so I took a couple of extra days off until the pain subsided. On Thursday morning I was finally able to do another run. But first I had to do a little bit of shopping and planned on running from the last store I went to. Ralph’s grocery store had a sale on Halloween candy so I stopped there first. I bought three bags of fun sized (single bite) Snickers. Those used to come in 16 ounce bags, then 12 ounces,  but now they’ve been downsized to 11.3 ounces and still costs the same. My next stop was at Harbor Freight Tools to collect a free set of screwdrivers from a promotional coupon they had in the newspaper. No other purchase was required. Having done those first two things, I was now ready for the third one: running.
 Starting from the Harbor Freight Tools store (where incidentally, I injured my right calf a few weeks ago as mentioned in this post: A Little Bit Up, A Lot More Down ), I headed east toward the San Gabriel River bike path. I haven’t run on that bike path in so many years although I rode my bike there a couple of times this past summer. When I got there, I went north and immediately noticed that the dirt path beside the asphalt bike path was relatively smooth and hard packed. So I continued running on the dirt instead which felt more forgiving to my ankles. If it was too rocky, I wouldn’t have done it for fear of twisting my already tender joints. On my way back, I noticed a sign saying Lakewood Nature Walk, so I entered the area and it was a dirt pathway underneath electricity transmission towers, 

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Last Week's Sights and Sounds in Life

October 17th to 23rd, 2010
When I got home from work last week, I saw a man who was using one of those motorized scooter wheelchairs and he was dumpster diving. How physically disabled can he be when he can climb up, bend and reach over a dumpster to look for recyclable cans?
I called my mom on her birthday last week and it just occurred to me afterwards that we communicated mostly in Tagalog. Well, I grew up speaking Tagalog at home instead of our native Tausug dialect, that’s why. My mom was chattier than usual and we talked for more than an hour.
I must be getting old. I can’t understand text messages anymore especially the ones from the Philippines which come with a mix of English, Tagalog, and a slew of other dialects. And in shorthand to boot.
What feels good to me nowadays? When you can no longer take things for granted, you appreciate them more when you can have or do them. That’s why I savor every run I can do these days. Unfortunately I don’t have a Long Beach Marathon story to tell this year because I didn’t participate in it. As I mentioned previously, this was the first time I missed the race since 1999 so I can’t say that I partied like its 1999.
Yay! I got all my rewards for this year from Healthyroads.com for doing something I already do every day - exercising. A pedometer and weight training stretch band for signing up, a water bottle after working out for 12 days, a workout towel after 36 days, and lastly for this year, a t-shirt for finishing 72 workouts. The website doesn’t say if they are going to have another cycle of rewards next year.
After watching a movie with a convertible in it, I remembered that I used to drive one - a Volkswagen Rabbit Cabriolet which I had from 1984 to 1998. I remember driving on the freeway in downtown L.A. during the Olympics with my stereo blasting Olympics music from that year. The car was finally donated to charity in 2000 and I saw it one day on the 710 freeway. I thought it looked familiar and when I saw the license plate, it confirmed my sighting that it was indeed my old car.
                Last Friday morning I wasn’t in a Spinning class and I had no Spinning DVD. What I did was a self-propelled workout on the spinning bike consisting of a 10 minute warm up, then 40 minutes of 1 minute pickups, stand ups, and recoveries, plus a 5 minute cool down to finish. It’s a workout I used to do on the turbo trainer a long time ago. It helps to break it down to 1 minute segments of variable intensities.
Regarding recently fired Juan Williams’ comment about him getting nervous when he sees people wearing Muslim dress on planes, did he really think that suicide bombers would wear something so conspicuous as to potentially arouse suspicion, not to mention racial profiling? I would think a suicide bomber would dress so he/she would blend in with the crowd.
On my way home from work Sunday morning (please forgive me, this was the 24th of October), I stopped by a gas station to buy my lotto ticket for the coming week. As I stepped out of the store, I espied a woman in a very short dress with nice long legs just outside the door. With a quick glance, I noticed the sharp features of the “woman” and it turned out that it was a man in drag. As I drove away I saw him “fixing” himself, you know, rearranging whatever he had stuffed in the chest area and also readjusting whatever he was hiding in his nether regions. It was indeed a bit of a shock to see a transvestite so early in the morning. 

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Sights and Sounds of Last Week's Runs

October 17th to 23rd, 2010
I used to joke that when it rains, we could run outside with an umbrella. Last Sunday morning, October 17th, while my friends were doing the Long Beach Marathon or half, I was on my way to a store and I actually saw a woman bedecked in her sweats and Ipod, running in the rain with an umbrella! Too bad I was driving or I would have taken her picture. She coordinated her short strides and arm swings very well to be able to stay under the umbrella. Well during Tuesday afternoon’s rain, although I was tempted to follow that woman’s example, I opted for the treadmill instead. It was a choice bundling up and running outdoors in the rain, or doing it shirtless on the treadmill. Running in the light rain would have been more fun but running with minimal accoutrements indoors was good too.
After having a crummy and sluggish run last Thursday, I felt the need to wipe the bad taste from my mouth and go out for a feel good run on Saturday morning, light rain or not. How to do it? Just keep it simple and slow was the plan. Out the door I went without a GPS watch so I didn’t have to worry about pace or distance. Using my trusty old Timex, I aimed for 45 minutes to an hour of steady state running. Plugged in my ears was my radio tuned to the weekly top 40. Light rain? No problem. Put on a light nylon jacket , leave the eyeglasses at home, and wander about aimlessly half-blind. Half an hour into the run, the radio battery died and I was left listening to the heavy flopping of my stride. Go down one street, then another. Running short of distance on the way back? Just go down another street while calculating how far to go before turning back home to make it an hour. How far did I run and what pace did I go? Heck if I know and I didn’t care. The bad taste was gone and I had my feel good run. I had to take a cold shower afterwards, not for therapeutic purposes but because the water heater was on the fritz again. I got through it, felt refreshed and was ready to face work later that day.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Not Reaching Marathon Potential and Why?


I’m wondering why some people whom I’ve trained with in the past are not getting their sub 4’s or even sub 5’s yet. Meaning, they haven’t gone below 4 hours or 5 hours in finishing a marathon even when they have the potential for doing so. During training, they appear to have the capacity to do so based on their pace during long runs. But this has not translated accordingly during the marathon race. Why is that? Granted, a marathon is a different beast altogether after 20 miles and those who slow down the least at that point till the finish are rewarded with better times. Maybe they started out too fast in an effort to make up for whatever minutes they anticipated to lose in the last quarter of the race. That a common marathoning mistake and it doesn’t usually work and believe me, I’ve tried it. Some people just leave their race in training and that means that they’ve trained so well that they have nothing much left to give during the race when it counts most. For those aiming for a realistic finishing time, here is a tip based on experience:  you have to be really obsessive/compulsive in hitting your marks or splits. Click your watch every mile to see how long you covered it, then relax if it’s faster than planned, maintain if you are feeling ok, or pick up the pace on the next mile if you were slow on the previous one (like the March Hare saying “I’m late, I’m late”). Every marathon is different of course, and it depends on what kind of day you are having, but if you trained properly, your body should know what pace feels like, unless of course you went out too fast or tried to overreach beyond (my goodness, what bad grammar!) your aerobic capacity. That’s why I used the word “realistic” earlier. Ask the more experienced racers in your running group. Is the goal time too high than the training indicates? You can also look up on the internet what your realistic finishing times are based on your current level of conditioning and your race times in shorter distances. My best marathons resulted from a different plan.  With a que sera sera attitude, I went out with no time goal in mind other than to just finish. What will be, will be, regardless of how long it will take me to get to the finish line. What usually happened was I got there faster than I thought I was capable.
Well, nobody ever said that marathoning is an exact science despite all the information you can find on the internet about how to run one. Pretty soon people will learn what works or doesn’t work for them, and that itself is the challenge. You are an experiment of one.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My New Spinning Bike


Oh no! Not another exercise machine! In the quest for another endorphin producing activity as a substitute to running, another workout device appeared in my living room last week. I’ve always wanted to get a spinning bike even before I wanted a treadmill and elliptical machine. More than a decade ago, I used an old bike mounted on what used to be called a turbo trainer, but I had since disposed of that.  Until this year, the prices of spinning bikes were not within the range of my meager income and strict budget, with the cheapest one at $600. That was even down from over $1000 maybe just 5 years ago. In the past year, with the popularity of spinning classes in gyms, the imitators have finally caught up and started manufacturing cheaper spinning bikes for home use. When the lowest price Proform brand bike went down to $299 a couple of months ago, it piqued my interest in buying one but couldn’t at that time because I had to send some money to my mom in the Philippines for her birthday. After that, I started shopping around. The Sports Authority store had it on sale for $299 last week, but with the sales tax and shipping charges, that would have brought the price close to $400. Meanwhile on Amazon.com, the base price was the same but without the extra charges, so I ordered one last Monday and it arrived on Friday morning. Amazon.com was able to get the product to me pretty fast because it was available at their Los Angeles distribution warehouse. Normally, with free shipping, it would have taken a couple of weeks.
So I was helping the delivery guy carry the 112 pound box up the stairs and to keep it steady, I had the left side of my face supporting the box while I lifted with my arms.  Well, when he pulled from above and I pushed from below, the box scratched my right temple drawing blood and bent my eyeglass frame. So now you can call me Scarface and I can also say that the machine cost me money and blood. All that was missing was spilled guts.
Exercise machines should be made this way: mostly preassembled at the factory so it’s easier to put together the rest at home. All I needed to do was attach the front and back base, pedals, handlebars, seat post, and seat to the main frame and flywheel. After that, it was just a matter of making adjustments to fit me. Even out of the box this machine is so darn heavy. My back still felt tired, though fortunately not strained, three days after helping the delivery guy and moving the machine around.
So what did I do to the old upright stationary bike? I considered offering it for free to any neighbor who might be interested or selling it. But since I had stripped it down to the bare necessities, I didn’t think anyone would want it. I moved it to the garage instead and wrapped it in plastic. What I couldn’t do with the old bike was stand ups on the pedals because the handlebars were too high and it felt unbalanced. Now I can do stand ups on the spinning bike. I was able to transfer the old magazine/book holder from the old bike to the new one by replacing the plastic ties that secure it to the handlebars. I have a bunch of plastic ties that I bought years ago from the 99 cent store (the kind the cops use for disposable handcuffs).
                On Sunday, while my friends were running the Long Beach Marathon or half, I was at home trying out my new spinning bike. After warming up and getting a feel for it, I started doing one minute stand ups, which increased the intensity and subsequent calorie burn of the workout. I did a few stand ups and recoveries until I reached one hour. This machine really makes me sweat! I’ve never gotten my tops of my socks wet while riding a bike until now. The next day, I was planning on running but my right calf was still slightly sore from Saturday’s run, so I mounted the spinning bike again. During the one hour workout, I was able to do several repeats of 2 minute stand ups. I’m already loving my new spinning bike! The workouts are exhausting. Spilled sweat, yes, but no spilled guts… yet.

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