31 January 2016

miracle drug

I used to be a regular taker of ibuprofen. I considered it a miracle drug. After all, something hurts and then you take ibuprofen and then it hurts less. Miracle!

A few years ago, I was overdoing it in martial arts + hiking + jogging, and ibuprofen was the thing that got me through my days. Thanks to ibuprofen, I didn't notice that my wrists couldn't handle that many pushups. Thanks to ibuprofen, the knee pain that kept me from walking up the stairs in the morning was gone by 9 am. Thanks to ibuprofen, I could work out 12 days in a row, long past when my body was telling me to take a day off.

When I quit taking ibuprofen every day, I was no longer able to do as much in the way of working out. I had to do a plank instead of some of those pushups. I had to stop jogging when my knees hurt, and get poles for hiking. I had to keep my martial arts to three or four days a week and my hiking to one or two. 

Last summer, when my shoulder started hurting and then hurt more and more, I went back to three ibuprofen three times a day and my shoulder continued to get worse, until the day I quit ibuprofen and switched to turmeric. 

(Insert turmeric evangelism here.)

I haven't taken one single ibuprofen since August. Some days, like today, I still get sinus headaches (welcome to the valley of sickness), but I can usually make them go away by drinking a bunch of water. Otherwise, the turmeric seems to keep most minor injuries from hurting too much, and I think it's helping with my allergy inflammation, too. I haven't gone back to martial arts, but many days I run 60 flights of stairs in batches throughout the day, and my knees are doing great.

I spend a lot of time trying to sell people on turmeric. It's the beeeeeeeest. No, seriously, just try it. You'll like it. You'll be hooked.

Apparently I have a new miracle drug.

25 January 2016


A few weeks ago, I was downtown on a Saturday afternoon. It was cold. It was 28 degrees F cold (that's cold, for here). I was wearing many layers, and also a warm hat and mittens. I walked downtown, so my car was far away and the wind blew hard across the bridge.

I stopped at re1 to see if they had any good snow pants (later purchased at a cheaper store), and on the way home, I passed a man lying on the sidewalk. He was wearing a white t-shirt, khakis, and an unzipped soft-shell jacket. His shoes were off, exposing his white cotton socks. He had his hands tucked under his arms, and he was rocking and moaning.

There was a police car parked next to him, with an officer inside looking at his phone. 

Never one to leave well enough alone, I went over to the man lying on the ground and started talking to him. "Are you okay?" I asked. He moaned louder. 

"Do you need a blanket?" I asked. After some time, he and I ascertained that he did, indeed, need a blanket. I wasn't sure where we could get a blanket (or several blankets, given the temperature) short of going back to re1 and getting a sleeping bag, which would be beyond my financial capabilities at this point, but I knew that there was a drugstore not far away, and I figured we could go there and buy a fleece throw or two. I also figured that getting him moving was a good idea.

Very slowly, with a great deal of moaning, we got his shoes on his feet. Even more slowly, with even more moaning, he finally stood up.

As soon as he stood up, the police officer, who was very young, shockingly young, came over, said, "Do you still want to go to the warming center?," patted him down, and put him in the back seat of the police car. 

Hey. HEY. This was my victory. I was helping this guy. I got him to stand up. I was annoyed that the police officer just snatched my opportunity to help someone away from me. I was practically dancing around in frustration.

"Where are you taking him?" I asked the officer. "Which warming center?"

He told me and then said, "We've been getting calls about him for a while. He'll die out here overnight."

"Are you going to take his stuff?" I asked. "Can I talk to him?"

The man was calling frantically from the back seat of the police car. "Whyyyy? Whyyyyyy?" 

The officer rolled the window down so I could talk to the man while the officer gathered his things in a garbage bag and put them in the trunk.

"He's just taking you somewhere warm," I tried to assure the man. 

"Why do I have to go?" he moaned. 

"It's too cold out here," I said. "It's not safe to be out when it's so cold."

"Whyyyyy," he said. "Why do I have to go?"

And then they left, and I don't know what happened next. I guess we don't always know what happens next to the people we meet, and I don't know if that man stayed in a warm place for the night or if he ended up back on the street that night or the next very cold night. I hope he's okay.

24 January 2016


After two semi-disastrous experiences, I planned more carefully for my third round of cross-country skiing.

I only invited people who were willing to take a lesson with me. (It ended up just being two of us.)

I raced back to Gone West one evening to get to the cheaper outdoor clothing place before it closed, tried on every pair of snow pants on the clearance rack that looked vaguely like my size, and bought the only ones that were long enough. (They also happen to be a sort of teal/mint green. Yay.)

I bought toe warmers.

I was set.

The day was perfect: about 30 degrees up on the mountain, and snowing. The snow wasn't icy like the last time. 

I offered to drive, but oddly J. preferred his Subaru. As if my 18 year old Civic couldn't handle snowy mountains. My little car was insulted, frankly. He did just fine in Colorado two years ago. I only had one sheriff's deputy follow me up the pass to make sure I got out alive. That's just normal, right?

So we made it, all-wheel drive and all, and taking a lesson turns out to be the best decision I've made in quite some time. 

I'm sure cross-country skiing just comes naturally for some people: they get on the skis and zip off into the sunset. I needed someone telling me to bend my ankles and look farther ahead than the tips of my skis and twist my hips just a bit and hit the ground with my poles right next to my foot. I learned thing I didn't know there were to learn.

A week later, back out on the trail in warm, slippery snow (it was raining, actually), I wasn't afraid to push off with my poles and go whizzing down the hill. I knew I could stop if I needed to stop. I didn't fall once.

On the drive home, someone rear-ended us in SHO's SUV, and when we pulled off to the side of the road, the bumper of the car that hit us was skewered on the SUV's trailer hitch. All involved necks were fine.

10 January 2016


I've gone cross country skiing thrice this winter. The first two times were remarkable, if the remarks being made happen to be about how miserable one can be while cross country skiing. 

The first time, I raced back from State City to get to the rental place in time. They were very nice there, if somewhat unable to make the calculation from US to European shoe sizes, which was maybe a bad sign. (They brought me boots three sizes too small, and then proceeded to bring one size bigger at a time, until someone finally looked at the chart.)

I managed to wedge the skis into my little car, and then onto the roof of SHO's car, and things were good.

Except that the skis appeared to have last been waxed never. I collected an inch of snow on the bottoms of them every few minutes, so that they stuck in the wet snow instead of gliding, and I'd have to hold my skis up sideways so SHO could knock the snow off of them. And that was after two rounds of waxing on the trail.

So that trip was beautiful and fun, but also a lot of work.

On the next trip, the snow had melted and then iced over, and most of the sno parks* we tried were crunchy and slippery. We ended up at the Nordic section of a downhill ski area, where you have to pay to use the trails but also they groom the trails. The trails were still ice, just ice covered in a bit of snow, and the trails were not all easy trails. Most of them were intermediate. (Read: hills.)

My basic survival strategy was to careen down toward the right and crash into the ice bank on the side of the trail, then get up and careen down toward the left and crash into the ice bank on the other side of the trail. It hurt and it sucked and I hated it. After way too long of this, I finally gave up, took off my skis, and marched off down the trails back to the Nordic center. There was self-pity involved.

The Nordic center is mostly staffed with older people who are like wizards on skis. They zip around effortlessly. One of them told me, as I was sitting in the warmth trying to recover from the adrenaline of all the thinking I was about to crash into a tree and bash my head in, that there are skills one can learn to help deal with the ice.

Then and there, I vowed not to go cross country skiing again until I took a lesson.

* I'm not spelling this wrong. They are actually called sno parks. It's very annoying.

15 December 2015


You know what is really great? Having good health insurance.

I know I've been harping on this (over and over) since I began the Journey of What I Want to Do with My Life two years ago, but it's amazing how having money helps you save money.

For example: 

A year ago, I needed new contacts. I didn't have vision insurance, so I bought a C0stC0 membership and had my eyes checked there. It cost me about $265 (plus the $55 membership) to have the exam and get 18 contacts (12 for one eye, 6 for the other, based on what I had left over from before). 

This week, I paid $53 for an eye exam and 24 contacts. I already have the membership, but I didn't need it, because insurance covered the whole cost of the contacts - they never asked for the card - and it is only the actual contacts that are purchased from C0stC0. The eye doctor is independent.

I'm going to remember this lesson. I'm not going to forget. Those of us who already have get even more, and those without anything have to spend more because they are poor. It's mind-boggling how unfair it is.

14 December 2015


When I got my new job and told people that I was about to start commuting 2-2.5 hours a day, just about the universal reaction was, "podcasts." (There were occasional exceptions along the lines of, "books on tape," or "that sounds awful." Actually, most of them started with, "that sounds awful," and progressed to "podcasts," or "books on tape.")

The truth is that I don't mind driving. And I never intended to listen to podcasts or books on tape. If I'm going to read a book, I want to see the words. I'm much more a visual person than an auditory person. If I listen to a book on tape, I suspect that I will zone out and miss a large section and have to rewind. (I know, we don't rewind anymore. I'll have to go back, however we say that now.) I might as well just read the book and catch the whole thing.

I listened to music and jammed along in my car for six weeks. 

And then, on impulse, I switched from music to NPR last week.

So basically I'm smarter now than I was a week ago. My brain is being trained in listening, and I know all the things there are to know that are going on in the world. Brains.

27 November 2015


I have my feet up on the coffee table, a cup of chai next to me, and a tiny dog curled at the end of the couch.*  The sun is shining. I'm in the middle of a good book, and I'm still wearing my pajamas. I just hit play on a pandora station.

This is about 1000 times better than putting on real clothes at 5:30 am, or any time ending in am, really, and going out to spend money I don't have.

There really isn't anything I want to buy. There are some things that I need to buy: a plane ticket to the Mitten for Christmas, Aquaphor for that eczema spot on my neck, mouthwash because mine is running low, a haircut. But nothing that I really want. Not badly enough to go to a store especially for that. 

I'm perfectly happy here on the couch, annoying my friends by sending them job postings. (Now that I have a job that I love, I am that annoying job search evangelist: "Just try it! You'll like it!" They are going to get sick of me really fast.)

* I am dogsitting. Not my dog. Bonus: this house has central heating. Luxury.