Sunday, January 29, 2012

Electrolyte Imbalance - Me With Hyponatremia? No way!!

 I mentioned in a previous post that I have been having abdominal pain at the end of the December. It hadn’t subsided and not only that but my dizzy spells have come back. So I finally made an appointment with my doctor last Tuesday. The first thing I noticed upon entering the examination room was that the doctor was now using a laptop to access and document my medical records. Gone was my paper chart. I printed out my symptoms and medications I was taking prior to the visit so I just gave it to him to read. He palpated my abdomen and said he didn’t feel anything unusual, then did the semi-dreaded prostate exam. Afterwards he ordered some lab tests. Before leaving the office, I was given a couple of printouts. The first was about the visit, what the doctor ordered, and a list of my meds. The second had the lab test orders which I took to the lab across the street. Fortunately when I got there the crowd had thinned out. From previous experience, when you don’t have an appointment, you would have to wait awhile before you blood can be drawn. Since it was almost noon, most of the other patients were gone and I was seen in about 15 minutes.
The results were supposed to be out the next day and I had another doctor’s appointment for Thursday. On Wednesday, I was notified by the medical assistant by phone that my sodium level was low, my cholesterol and blood sugar levels were high. The surprising thing was not the cholesterol and blood sugar, it was the low sodium level because I’m such a high salt eater. When I went back to the clinic the next day, I was told to control my cholesterol, eat a little bit more salt, and have another blood test done the following week to check my sodium, a long term blood sugar test called Hgba1c (glycohemoglobin - it tracks sugar level over a length of time), and a stool test for occult blood. By the way, my chloride level was also low so that made both Na and Cl abnormal. More salt in my diet was the answer. The only possible explanations for these abnormalities would be because I take a diuretic for my high blood pressure, or that I’ve been drinking too much fluids. I believe it’s a combination of both because I do drink a lot of fluids during the day so I have to cut down on that plus eat more salt. We shall soon find out after my next blood test. As far as the high cholesterol, I could probably blame all the fatty holiday eating for that. All other tests – CBC, liver function, kidney function, and prostate specific antigen (PSA), were normal.
 I couldn’t believe that I had hyponatremia with all the salty food I eat! No wonder I was feeling sluggish and fatigued the past few weeks. As I write this, I feel slightly better. I still don’t know the source of the abdominal pain and I’m supposed to see the doctor in a month’s time. If the pain isn’t gone by then, he said was would order an ultrasound. In the meantime, I have to watch what I eat so I can get back to normal. I’m talking about the body here because the brain is a lost cause: still crazy after all these years. Frankly, with all my symptoms, I was expecting worse.
A few days ago I had my follow up tests and the doctor’s medical assistant notified me that my sodium level was back to normal, my glycohemoglobin likewise, and there was no blood detected in my poop. That was very reassuring. Now I have to work on getting my cholesterol level back down. There is no cure for my dizziness problems, they just come and go. Here is a link to my dizziness problems from last year: and

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My First Workout With The Asus Transformer

I’ve been trying to find reasons not to buy a tablet PC. After all, I can only think of one reason to get one and that is to read the news while working out on the stationary bike and treadmill, which I’ve blogged about before. So far I’ve managed to make do with my trusty old netbook, so why buy another device which would be used in a similar way?
Well, has been tempting me for weeks with their post holiday specials. First they offered a refurbished Asus Tranformer 101 for $319 (regular price for a new one is $399). Then they slashed it down further to $299 and that finally broke my resolve. I absolutely had to have one!
 Wait a minute, so I wanted to buy this tablet PC so I can read the news while working out, because I didn’t want to continue my daily subscription to the local newspaper, because they increased their prices, right? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of saving money since the price of the tablet PC is roughly 3 year’s worth of newspapers? Especially that I’m able to do the same thing on the netbook? I’m debating myself here regarding a want or a need and the want side won. Blame Steve Jobs for that because he came up with the Ipad.
Well UPS delivered the device last week and since I had a few days off, it gave me the opportunity to try to figure out how it works. After tinkering with it for several days, I still don’t fully get it. What can it do that a laptop or netbook can’t? I think I was able to adjust most of the settings to my liking and needs. Things like learning to open a link in a new browser tab, synching my contact list and my bookmarks, and downloading apps similar to the ones I use in my laptop.
After all that, I was finally able to test it out on the treadmill, twice already in fact.  Here are some findings.  While hill walking on the treadmill, I was able to read the digital edition of the local paper quite easily. The problem was the page didn’t fit in the whole screen so I had to swipe from left to right and back often. While turning a page, sometimes I would press the back button by mistake instead of the forward button(that was the only way to turn the newspaper page – you couldn’t swipe to the next page). When I scroll up or down, the page sometimes doesn’t go in a straight line because of my movements on the treadmill. Compare that to the netbook where I only press the up or down arrow button. I don’t think reading anything would work with either tablet or netbook if I run on the treadmill (which I could do with a real newspaper although it took some effort to turn a page). Wait, I think I just found one advantage and that it’s easier to turn a page. On the recumbent bike, the tablet and netbook worked similarly other than instead of looking up to the netbook screen, I can now look down on the tablet thereby lessening the discomfort on my neck. I still have to try the tablet on the spinning bike.
So, is this refurbished tablet a keeper? I can’t say I don’t like it. The learning curve is small if you already use laptops and smartphones. Oh well, because of the store policy, I can’t return it anyway unless it’s damaged and it would just be replaced with another refurbished one. So I get to keep it by default. Just as well I guess. After all I have to keep up with the technological times while I can still somewhat afford it. Ai, ai, ai, my poor credit card L.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tom Tom and Magellan Differences

Ok, this has been stored in my flash drive for almost two months now and I haven’t posted it because there were other things to talk about. Just keep in mind that these are older products and not even last year’s models.
I hinted at this purchase briefly in my post about Black Friday shopping. Well, I happened to order a refurbished Tom Tom XXL GPS which has a bigger screen than my old Magellan Roadmate (5 inches as opposed to 3.5 inches). Why I ordered it when I hardly used the old one, I can’t really justify other than wanting a bigger screen and the cost was too good to pass up. There was also no sales tax plus free shipping.
When the product arrived, I set it up, downloaded the latest updates, then tried it on my way to work. The first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t announcing the street names the way the old Magellan did. It was actually better to read the text directions because you can see which street is the next turn. The problem with that is you have to divert your eyes off the road briefly to read the directions. Of course, the device would still say turn left or right at the next street and announces how many yards to go before the turn. The Magellan would give a 2 mile and 1 mile warning, announce the upcoming street name at which to turn, then makes dinging sound when you reach it. Well, at first try, I was disappointed with the Tom Tom because of this lack of street name announcements. Wow, did I make a mistake in buying this? Maybe I’ll discover better functions later.
Upon further review and after fiddling around with the settings, I found out that I had programmed the device to use human voice for directions rather than a computer voice. That was the difference, the human voice only gave turn by turn directions without announcing the street names while the computer voice, which was a bigger file, announced the street names. That takes care of that problem.
One difference I noticed is that the keypad for the Tom Tom is in QWERTY format while the Magellan is A to Z format. Maybe the newer Magellans are now QWERTY, I don’t know. Another difference between the two: when I divert from the suggested route, the Magellan announces “recalculating route” while the Tom Tom just shows this in text on the screen. There is another advantage that the Tom Tom has. It doesn’t need a separate mounting bracket because it already has a foldable one at the back. You just unfold it then attach it to the mounting disk on the dashboard. I still have to take it through its paces of course but as far as first impressions, I think it was a good buy. Anyone wanna buy the Magellan Roadmate? 

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Free Car Inspection

Several times a year, AAA has a special offer for a free 40 point car inspection at any of their approved auto repair shops and I finally made use of the service last Thursday.  I took the car to the nearest shop at 8 in the morning and the service person said it should be done by 11:30 a.m. Since I was off from work that day, I had no problem being carless for a few hours. In the meantime, I did my run/walk workout around the area which lasted for an hour which also brought be back home. 11:30 passed and no call from the mechanic, so I had lunch and watched a movie. The call came at about 1:30 p.m.  and I was given a breakdown of needed repairs: oil leak in the engine, hoses and belts replacement, window adjustment, resurface rotors and new brake pads. Well, they weren’t so much repairs but more like maintenance work. After the mechanic enumerated everything, the total quoted to me was an astounding $2574.63! I tried to stay calm over the phone and told the guy that I would have to save some money before I could have the work done, and to please let me know when I can pick up my car. He said that he would call again when it’s ready. While waiting for that next call, my uncle called for computer technical support. A few days prior, I had installed Teamviewer on his computer just so it would make it easier for me to assist him with his computer problems. Anyway, that’s another story for some other time. I’m just showing how much time I had to kill while my car was being inspected.
         After assisting my uncle, but not yet getting the second call from the mechanic, I started walking and hoped that by the time I got there, my car was ready. I guesstimated that it would take me about 25 minutes of easy walking to cover the mile and a half distance. It was 15 minutes into the walk when I got the call. The inspection was finally finished at 3 p.m. When I got there, the mechanic reassured me that my car was basically in good working order other than the maintenance work. But $2574.63 for a 14 year old car?! Um, I’ll have to think long and hard about that. Wait…thanks, but no, thanks. It may make more sense to sell it and buy a second hand or new economy car. Not that I have that kind of cash lying around to get another car. But anyhow, just a thought.
          Wait, did I mention a run at the start of this post? Hey! I did manage another run so that means another pair of running shorts in my laundry basket. I ran/walked for an hour at a pace of 11:03 per mile.
          By the way, thanks for the free car inspection AAA and Orozco’s Auto Repair. I have to commend Orozco’s for their excellent customer service even though I didn’t have my car repaired there. I’m glad I was able to avail of the AAA offer because by next month I won’t be renewing my membership due to a similar service offered by my car insurance company for a cheaper price.
          Has anyone used this free inspection offer before? What was your experience like?

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Random Happenings Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day

          Over the Christmas holidays  my abs hurt so much I almost went to the doctor. It was a combination of muscle strain from exercise, straining, and irregularity (for lack of a better word). I must be getting old because I now have to eat Activia and take probiotic supplements to regulate myself.
I installed 8 gigabytes of memory on my laptop and it now works blazingly fast. I remember my first laptop with 640k of memory and two floppy disk drives, and what about my first desktop which was an IBM PC jr. with 128 kb?
Some people don’t like laptops because they don’t have expansion slots and others just because they want a bigger screen. I hazard to guess that the ones who mostly just use a computer to surf the internet fall in the latter category. My solution: just connect a bigger monitor to the laptop and use that at home while you still have the option of using the laptop on the road too. You can buy an 18 to 20 inch monitor for less than a $100 nowadays. That is exactly what I did and for some reason, my browser is more responsive with the external monitor. When I was just using the laptop screen, sometimes the browser would lag.
Speaking of monitors, if you want to shop for a new computer, monitor, or tablet in California, you might as well do it over the internet from an out of state store. There are too many fees and taxes  in CA. Consider this: as of the end of last year, if you bought a 15 to 35 inch TV or monitor, you would have had to pay an extra $16.00  for the electronic waste recycling fee on top of the 9. 75% sales tax.
I haven’t had a thick jacket since the 1980’s when I bought a Windbreaker brand jacket which I think was made in the Philippines. I always wanted a puffer jacket since they first came out about 10 years ago, I just don’t have a reason why I didn’t get one earlier. Basically it’s a sleeping bag in jacket form. With the attached hood, it becomes a mummy type sleeping bag. So in December I finally bought one from Walmart (wait for it…)  from the children’s department. Children’s size XL fits me just nicely. I now look like poppin fresh dough or the Michelin man when I wear the jacket.
I haven’t checked my blood pressure at home in a month and I was surprised that not only my reading was normal but that my resting pulse rate hasn’t changed from my hard running days. It was 45 beats per minute which has been ongoing for the last 30 years, plus or minus a couple of beats.
My mother had an opportunity to visit my brother in Quezon City, Philippines, thanks to my cousin Rica who gave her a plane ticket. With that, mom finally experienced video chat via Skype, first with just me, then with a few of our relatives during our Christmas Eve dinner party.
This one is a subject of another blog – I got a refurbished TomTom GPS after Thanksgiving Day and will be writing my comparison between that and my equally refurbished Magellan from two years ago.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Digital Newsreading on the Stationary Bike and Treadmill

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Remember when newspaperboys used to yell those words in the movies? Nowadays newspaperboys or girls or men or women, just toss the paper in your front yard or gate. They don’t even print extra editions anymore when there is breaking news. And when I read all about it, it’s now done in a different way. I’ve written about cutting back on my newspaper subscription and getting the Sunday edition only. That means less tossing for my newspaper delivery person. So how was the transition from hardcopy to digital? Believe it or not, easier than I thought. It has helped that I’m still getting the digital edition, because it is arranged exactly like the hardcopy. It actually might be more convenient to read the news now because a whole article appears on one page rather than continuing on another page (mostly the front page news). I mentioned before that I might miss the comics section. Well, I’m still getting that with the digital version. What I don’t miss is dressing up for the early morning cold so I can limp my way to the front gate to pick up the newspaper. My ankles don’t work very well upon waking up. All I have to do now is boot up the computer and open a browser in the indoor warmth. Cold weather boots not required.
Now, about using the netbook to read the news while indoor cycling. One time last week while on the spinning bike, I almost knocked the netbook off the bookrack  when I bumped it after wiping sweat off my brow and returning my hand to the handlebar. It feels easier to use it on the recumbent bike since it’s positioned in front of my face thus making it easier to read. I’m also getting used to manipulating the touchpad and using the arrow keys to scroll up and down (I’ve hardly used those keys in the past because the mouse has spoiled me). I haven’t tried using the netbook on the treadmill yet. If I walk, it might not be much of a problem but bouncing up and down while jogging might make it impossible to use the touchpad. Either the computer would fall off the treadmill, or I would. I’ve been considering buying a tablet PC but in spite of the touch screen, I don’t think that ‘s going to help if I use the treadmill for running either. I’ve read suggestions on the web about attaching Velcro strips to the tablet case and a bookrack, and there are also dedicated tablet holders which you can clamp on the treadmill. I’m going to try running while netbooking or vice versa soon and I’ll let you know how that turns out.
For now, I may be able to hold off buying a tablet PC because I can make do with the netbook while stationary biking. It’s hard to justify the expense since I only ride the stationary bikes an hour or less a day. When I got last Sunday’s newspaper and started reading it, I actually missed reading the news on the computer. Well, that was a quick transition!
Quick update: I used the netbook on the spinning bike for an hour and five minutes on Tuesday afternoon and did a few stand ups during the workout. The computer remained steady on the bookrack, and I almost finished reading all the news for that issue.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Running Shorts in my Laundry - Part 2

*The Old and The New (running shorts buried underneath)*

Months of hardly running meant my bi-weekly laundry most likely did not include running shorts. However in the last week of 2011 and first week of 2012, I counted four running shorts in the laundry basket. Whoa! That could only mean I was pounding the pavement again though few and far between in a two week period. From zero to four runs in two weeks is an accomplishment for me nowadays and I’ll take it. At least it breaks the sometime monotony of indoor cycling (that didn’t sound quite right, but WTH).
 So how has running been like lately. Well, to give the ankle tendons a break on the road, I keep the jogging part to four minutes and walk for one minute. That is nothing new of course except nowadays, I keep the total minutes to about 50. Anything more than that and my form deteriorates. I try to use my quads more to absorb the shock but those muscles tire more easily (believe me, it's not an efficient way to run but it protects my ankles to a certain extent) than when I run in my normal stride in which I use the lower leg muscles more. I’ve also tried experimenting by skipping some of the walk breaks. Also in the past, I would stretch my hamstrings and calf muscles before and after running. This time I just stretch the hamstrings after running. I’ve always known that you are not supposed to stretch an injured muscle or joint but out of habit, I kept doing it until two weeks ago when I decided that it was time to try something else. The wobble board doesn’t work well for me either because the movement irritates the fragile posterior tibialis tendon. So far, not stretching before the run has worked except I feel very stiff at the start and it’s hard to get going. Before my ailments started I used to do plyometrics to get a bounce on my stride at the start of a run. I can’t do that anymore.
On my run last Sunday morning, I passed by my former training partner’s house and saw her on her way to her first hash run. We exchanged pleasantries and she asked how I was doing with my injuries. I told her what has been going on and she said “that’s the Noel I know”. I think she meant that I was hard headed, which I took as a compliment. Oh by the way, it used to take me about 20 minutes to run to her house but now it takes me 25. Did it matter? Not really. That day I made another contribution to my laundry basket in the form of running shorts, which is more than I can ask for. It was a joy to be running outdoors again and absorb some vitamin D from the sun.
Speaking of laundry, I finally replaced my mid 1980’s era laundry basket. I can’t believe that darn thing lasted about 25 years! If only there was a way to replace ankle tendons…

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Long Beach Press Telegram’s Stealthy Price Increase

I found an unusual transaction billed to my credit card. It was from the Long Beach Press Telegram newspaper. Since I was signed up for automatic payments, the newspaper would just send the charge to my credit card whenever my subscription term is up. Unbeknownst to me and maybe other customers, the Press Telegram had increased their subscription rates without notification. I would never miss anything like that. People who buy their paper from a vending machine might have noticed the change. Because of the automatic billing, I had already paid the new higher rate for 16 weeks. It was only when I called customer service and questioned the bill that I learned the daily paper was now 50 cents instead of 25 cents, and the Sunday paper which used to be 50 cents was now $1.50. This has been going on since October. I told customer service to stop automatic billing and payment via credit card and to send me a bill next time I had to renew my subscription.
                Upon thinking about it further and after studying the Press Telegram’s promotional rates, I decided that I might try to get by without getting the daily newspaper and just have it delivered on Sundays, and only because of the store sale ads. I called customer service again and was told that the promotional rate for 52 weeks of Sunday delivery is only $26. I’ve been relying on the newspaper to distract me while I do my workouts on the stationary bike so I was a little bit concerned about what I’m going to read while cycling. I have not been too happy with their recent change in delivery system which has been very inconsistent, so that helped make up my mind about giving up getting it daily. I might end up reading the news on the netbook more often now. I mentioned in a blogpost how that turned out when I tried it last week. I found it difficult to move the mouse pointer around with the touch pad and wondered if a tablet pc would work better. So if any of you have tried working out while reading on a tablet pc, please let me know what the experience was like.
                What I can’t understand is how the Long Beach Press Telegram could stealthily increase their rates without notifying their customers first. If I knew about it earlier, I might have modified my subscription sooner. I’m going to miss having a daily hardcopy of the paper but I feel that the higher rate is just too much for a newspaper that has too many advertisements already and has an inconsistent delivery service. If I need to find local news, I’ll just read their free internet edition even if the news is a day late. The thing I’m going to miss most is the comics.

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 - A Year of Acceptance

2011 was probably the least number of posts I had since I started blogging and all because there was nothing much to write about running. Well, 2012 is here and looking back to what I wrote on January 2, 2010, I mentioned that I had to stop running four times that year because of my worsening ankle tendon problems (Reflections in the Past Year of Not Running). In 2011, it was not about stopping but rather finally learning to accept that running is no longer a regular or routine part of my life. It only took more than two years for my brain to get rewired to realize this. The pleasure I experienced from running can never be duplicated by cycling but if I think about it as just another workout then it feels like a good enough substitute. Heck I didn’t even do any outdoor cycling last year because I figured I got a better workout on the recumbent or spinning bike in lesser time. I also did a lot of brisk walking in the spring and summer, but just like road cycling, that took too much time. It was more efficient to walk at a constant uphill on a treadmill. Sure I’ve tried running a few times but only short distances and they were few and far between. To celebrate the last day of my mostly non-running 2011, I managed to shuffle/walk for a whole hour. I don’t know how many times I was able to run last year. If I am to guess and say 20, that may be too much (this from someone who used to run 365 day a year for 21 plus years). Of course I keep a log, but I don’t look at the whole picture any more. I just take it one workout a day at a time. Being able to maintain an acceptable weight played a  major part of being able to live without running. I was relying too much on running to keep my weight down in spite of overeating. Since I’ve mostly stopped running, I’m learning to eat lesser.
A few months ago, I partially disassembled my elliptical machine and placed it in a corner of my living room. The movements of the workout further irritated my ankles. For those without problems like mine, I’m sure the machine is still a good running substitute.
So what does 2012 look like in terms of working out? I don’t see myself signing up for any more races including my annual visit to the Long Beach Marathon. An occasional short run will have to do, with the majority of my workouts consisting of stationary cycling. In short, more of the same as last year. This is what my body allows and so be it.

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