April 28, 2010

Can we prevent a world-wide depression?

No talk of running in this post. Just some thoughts about where I see us going. If not interested in armchair crystal-ball-gazing, skip it.

This recession is not getting better, despite what few Wall Street indicators are ticking upwards. Real indicators - unemployment rates, housing starts, median incomes, income to debt ratios - are universally getting worse. It is not just a problem in America, it is world-wide. Have you read the newspapers lately? The financial parts and the world news parts? They look extremely similar and the outlook is bleak. In short, we are headed for a world-wide depression.

I'm not an economist, but the basics I was taught in college seem to be proving themselves correct as we watch the shenanigans of Wall Street bring down the global economic system. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and Congress is surely getting pissed about what happened, but are doing and can do very little to prevent it all again. I have a solution: keep your bucks local. I'll come back to this in a minute.

Read the headlines again and realize that when the global economy tips, things are going to get very bad. How can we survive? Keep your bucks local.

Like a food chain, the linked economies of the world, from your local neighborhood all the way up to international financial empires, all derive from the power of the local dollar. You spend money. If that money is spent locally, it supports the local economy, which in turn supports you. If you buy something from a national or international corporation, you're supporting someone else's economy, not yours. Chances are, the jobs generated by those international companies are not in your community. And if they are, then your neighbors two towns over aren't getting the benefit.

Use your local banks. They do just as good a job at keeping your money safe, often have better customer service and a wider range of options. Use your local lending institutions where possible. Use your local hardware store and keep the money of its profits in the community, rather than the big box stores - which represent a net outflow of wealth from your community. Buy your clothes and toiletries at the small local shops, rather than the big box stores. Sure, the prices may be higher, but perhaps you'll learn how to take care of your clothes a little better and you'll benefit by keeping your bucks local.

Eat locally. You don't need to spend $5 for a Starbucks coffee fix and another $5 for one of their crappy pastries. Your money is going straight to the CEO's new Mercedes and fourth Malibu mansion (or whatever). But you can spend $2.50 at the sidewalk cart in the morning and walk away with an excellent cup of coffee and a muffin the size of your cat's head. And this money stays local. Don't buy those crappy pre-made "bagels" in the chain grocery store, but the fresh-made bagels from the corner store across the street, which, incidentally, will toast it for you, put a giant amount of cream cheese on it, and pair it with a large coffee. Lunch for three dollars. And the bucks stay local. That bodega owner takes his profits and hires the local painter to repaint his store. That local painter then hires you to do his taxes. Or whatever.

Some of it is karma, some of it is luck, but a lot of it is just willpower: willpower to keep the local economy revolving, willpower to pay a little more for some things, willpower to force the micro-economy to survive even in the face of a disintegrating - or rather transmogrifying - global power and economic structure.

Things are going to get worse - a lot worse I think - before they get better. But communities that band together and use each other's services will do better and recover more easily faster than communities that know only how to send their money outwards.

April 27, 2010


It is not in my favor, but I have embraced the social networking of Facebook. It has proven to be a nice tool for staying in touch with people I never talk on the phone with (old school compatriots, sister, etc), adding a more social dimension to some of my work relationships (which helps us define each other as more than just "that asshole who screws up our shows"), and making tenuous re-connections with people I used to be intimate with and whom I'm interested in keeping tabs on but without the intimacy. Facebook makes that viable in ways never before possible.

It is also a nice place to fart around when I need some downtime.

To wit: while sick, under-employed, or both, I like to play Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook. Some days: I'm not so good, others: I get lucky. And right about now, you're wondering what the hell an online flash game that encourages sedentariousness...uh, sedementation... uh... sitting on your ass has to do with running? Well, it comes down to how the game starts: One minute. GO.

This short phrase is delivered in a deep, even, almost forbidding masculine voice. There is no warmup. You have a set amount of time and you work as fast as your mouse hand and brain can to achieve the best score possible. There are bonuses to work toward and pitfalls to avoid. Along the way, this same voice gives encouragement in the same even, emotionally distant tone: "Good." "Fantastic." "Blazing speed." "A new high score."

There are no exclamation points.

Today's run was very much like playing Bejeweled Blitz. Oh, it started out normally enough - stepping out the door in my spring/summer running garb. Start iPod on Pheddipidations, start up RunKeeper, wait for signal to acquire while doing high knees and waiting for the light to change, then when all is ready, hit the big green button and listen to the female voice say Activity started while hitching my giddyup to a slow trot (or a fast trot if a car is trying to turn left in the same volume I'm occupying).

But today was different. The wind was angry today, my friends! And I knew, five steps in, that this run was going to be a test of a different nature.

I immediately ditched my plans of a 2.25 mile jog, as there was no way I would stay warm enough on my route. I was underdressed. Also, by the time I was up the next block (an uphill segment) and turning onto the new sidewalk next to the cemetary, I could feel my lungs were working better than in many, many months. My legs weren't as fatigued, either. Good, I heard in my head.

But could I keep this going? Could I make it up to the next turn without dropping to a walk? Amazing, I did. Surely I would have to walk up to where the buses turn into their depot, wouldn't I? But it was cold and even windier in the shade of the MTA bus maintenance depot and I kept jogging. It is a medium steep uphill, so my speed dropped, but I did not walk. Fantastic.

I reached the half-mile point - a concrete post painted bright yellow so the myopic bus drivers don't plow into the 14 foot green fence next to it - and turned around. Now it turned into a downhill run the rest of the way except for a two block uphill segment. I think I could manage to not walk any of it, but was already feeling tired. I have lost so much fitness!

I did have to pause maybe 15 or 20 seconds for traffic before getting back on the sidewalk next to the cemetary and maybe that helped keep me from walking any of the rest of it. My pace was good and strong on this return journey, I felt good. I was even breathing a two-two rhythm when needed. Without coughing! Blazing Speed.

I made the final turn, with one long block left to go, dodged three dog walkers, and finally made it to the end of my one mile continuous run. I almost couldn't believe it! I haven't run a continuous mile like this - at the beginning of a run - in over a year; maybe two. I've had other continuous miles - few and far between - like the last mile of last weekend's long run. That was good, but understandable since I was well warmed up and it was all flat and downhill. But the first mile? I honestly cannot remember the last run that started this way. It also happens to be the fastest mile since I began using RunKeeper, as far as I can tell. A NEW HIGH SCORE. Yay, me.

I'm going to go out again tomorrow - this time I'll dress appropriately and will concentrate on a loop of the cemetary, 3-plus miles, almost four. There will be walking, but maybe I can keep it to a minimum. Maybe I can do it a little quicker than usual.

April 24, 2010

Great LSD on a sunny Saturday

Exhausting, unhappy week behind me. Slept in the morning and got up when I felt like it. A couple hours later, I got out for my run. I intended to go five, but with the route I planned being 4.5, would probably just end there (at the grocery). Would be happy getting to 4 without drama.

The first mile was tough. I didn't drink last night, but felt hungover anyway. Very tired, very slow. Maybe it was that I got warmed up or the advil was kicking in, but during mile two I started to feel better. Getting into the park was great - everybody was out there and getting some sun and exercise. This is the nice side of New York and it's been a long time since I enjoyed that! The park looked so beautiful and it was neat seeing all the little babies in strollers and on leashes toddling around. Even though the loop was quite congested, for some reason the dodge-the-other-people game didn't get frustrating or difficult, didn't turn into dodge-the-damn-idiots game. :)

And man what a perfect day for a run! 70 degrees, sunny, light breeze. My sunlight-starved body appreciated being out there. I took off my shirt at the top of the slope, a mile into my run, and tucked it into my waistband. Like a hungry solar cell, my skin was just gulping in the photonic Vitamin D. Maybe that's what made me feel better soon after?

Everything about the rest of the run was so familiar, so comforting. It was nice to feel my body responding a little better than I'd predicted; nice to feel my legs working and not getting too fatigued too fast. Nice to feel the sweat and the slow build-up of salt on my arms and legs. Nice to feel the weight of my iphone and folded up shirt bobbing on my waistband. Nice to return a stray soccer ball with a little sideways kick; nice to smell the cookouts; nice to hear people laughing instead of grumbling or cursing. Nice to hear the different music being played on radios or snatches of the Mets game. Nice to hear the slap-slap-slap of my feet on the pavement; so very nice to hear the hu-hu-wh-wh-wh of my pursed-lip 2-in-3-out breathing pattern.

I didn't think about much on this run. I have a lot to do with weekend, but am happy putting my run first and waiting for tomorrow's rain for anything involving my desk or my computer. I did have a random thought, though, that so much of what people use religion for is not necessarily a direct derivative of religion. For instance, spirituality can be had without subscribing to any particular religion, or even believing in God. It may not be the same kind of spirituality that the Orthodox Jew or the devout Catholic next door have, but it can be had nonetheless. And since it is not a proscribed spirituality, it may, ultimately, be a more meaningful spirituality.

Similarly, morality is not somethign that requires religion in order to exist, to be held as a value, to be acted upon. Morality is quite a separate thing and can be derived from our inherent sense of right and wrong; and refined by the teaching of our parents and mentors. While some people choose to use priests and the church as one of those teachers, and to use the religious texts as their blueprint to their morality, the result is still very individualized, as far as I can tell, and always a derivative of the prime example being followed.

So perhaps this explains why some people have high moral standards or are quite spiritual yet have no ties to organized religion. This suits me fine, actually. I wish I knew more about these subjects, because I suspect that this line of thinking has already been well hashed out somewhere and has some kind of label. Is this what it means to be Humanist? Uh.... paging Lisa Simpson....

So my run went. I had an amazing long, continuous section of running once I reached the top of the big hill in the Prospect Park all the way down to the grocery. Not fast, but the kind of continuity I'm looking for more of. Just as I was exiting the park, RunKeeper announced I'd hit mile 5. Really? Then I realized that it was right, that my math of the intended route had been wrong. Well...I was already moving and moving well, and since it was downhill, I'd just keep going 'til I had to stop for a light or hit Chase, where I needed to get some cash - so half a mile later there I was - a 5.48 mile run for the day. Completely unexpected going that long and a nice surprise that I could even do it without collapsing. Still, I recognized that I probably should have taken more than a bottle of water with me. This run should have had some HEED in it.

April 20, 2010

2010 turning out less than stellar

WTF, 2010?? You were supposed to be better than this! You were supposed to by the antonym of 2009. You were supposed to be the light at the end of the tunnel, the pineapple upside down cake at the end of the bad Chinese food, the money shot year at the end of the decade of amputee porn . You were supposed to be everything 2009 was not: cleaner air, more work, better health, and - quite significantly - less death.

But you're letting me down, 2010. You're not even in full spring yet and you're becoming a very disappointing year. You're the son I want to disown, the tenant I want to evict, the pet I want to put down. By February, I could not have been more disappointed in you, I thought, yet daily you continue to astound me with the amount of fail and suck that you embody.

Need you ask why? You know why. I don't think I need to list all of your minor failings, the ones that everybody are shaking their heads in shame about. The piss-poor winter weather that followed no known approved Winter plan, the complete suckage in movie offerings, pinacled by the most expensive movie ever that turned out to be a rather dull tale of Smurfs and Marines. Or how about the continuing job losses, the blows to the local economy that's keeping any of us from recovering, the wholesale erasure of Poland's rulers, or the damn volcano that's bankrupting the world's airlines, again?

Oh, to be sure, you sometimes have grudgingly offered up a ray of hope. Sometimes I think maybe you might turn out OK. Such as today's run:

This was pretty good. But let's be honest; this was more me, than you, wasn't it, 2010? I'm the one doing IVs and Prednisone and suffering the jimmy-legs in order to obtain, what?, a faster pace by 15 seconds?

No, 2010, your failures are resounding. From divorces to closed theatres, from shitty tenants to a shittier Department of Buildings, you seem to excel at failing. Worst of all is that you seem to delight in jerking me around, giving with one hand and taking away with the other. For instance, you held off on the lung infection 'til mid-March, but then give me incompetent home nurses, limited doses of IV antibiotics because of renal function dangers, and - the cherry on this particular cake - my first-ever yeast infection on my fucking lips that made little kids on the subway cry!

And it gets much worse, don't deny it! Just how many of my friends are you going to kill this year, hm? Last night I find out one fellow CF warrior fell, then mere minutes later found out another one, this time an actual friend, Mike Laird, also passed away. Back in November 2009, you promised me you'd do better. Your whole campaign was run on the promises of less death and more work. Well...I'm still looking for more work and you keep killing people. Just now I found out that my neighbor Tony, a fine man of 76 years, passed away just after Easter. I really liked that guy, asshole! Who's next? The Fat Man? Oh, you'd just love to break some more hearts, wouldn't you?

I'm sick of this. I'm going to give you one more chance, 2010. I'm well aware you have more shit lined up, such as the end of the entire shuttle program - and with it the space age, at least in my lifetime. I'll let you share the blame on that one with years 2004-2009. But seriously, if you can't shape up, if you blow it, then I'm moving on. I'll start ignoring the very fact that you're running your course and instead start putting my stock in 2011. 2011 may not be looking too pretty, but at least it doesn't have a fucking rap sheet! Oh, and in case you're wondering, it's not me, it's you.

(Read this as Baby New Year instead of Cupid, m'kay?)

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @ Explosm.net

April 18, 2010

3.7 mile cemetary run

Not bad. Pleased I went; feeling tired, but pretty good. My fitness is way down from what it used to be. Long way to go, but with my lungs finally feeling better, I can see me getting better at this eventually.

April 17, 2010

Mellow 2.2 miles

Feeling pretty good today after a night of drinking. I didn't mean to drink so much, but we were having a good time and before I knew it, the bar staff was turning on the lights and putting chairs on tables. WTF?? I couldn't believe how late it was! Woke up feeling GREAT this morning!

After some breathing treatment and tea, I got out in the cloudy chill (50 degrees) with the hybrid running outfit - winter up top, summer on the bottom. :)

Not a bad run, really. Slow first mile, of course, but better than I thought it would be and the second mile was really nice. Again, I was able in the last half mile to keep running at a slow pace where I'd have been walking a couple weeks ago. I'd like to keep this up and extend up on it - probably extend my distance. Maybe tomorrow, I'll go all the way around the cemetary. 4 miles seems like a long, long way right now!

April 7, 2010

Another rock near another hard place

I have a new dimension to my continuously-expanding structure of CF care: yeast infection.

For the last five days, I've had very sore, cracked upper lip and roof of my mouth. At first I thought it was inflammation in reaction to one of my antibiotics, and that's what my doctor was afraid of, too. My upper lip felt and acted very much like a rapidly chapped lip - but this problem is localized, it's not over my whole mouth. So WTF?

After seeing a dermatologist yesterday, I now know that I'm dealing with a yeast infection. Now, yeast infections are nothing new. Anyone with athlete's foot, jock itch, or another feminine problem knows all about this. In fact, I've come to accept that one of the side effects of going on antibiotics is that I end up my mild jock-itch, easily taken care of with routine applications of Lotrimin. After the initial burning, it yields to a gentle warmth in the crotchal region and really keeps the itching at bay. Paired with a lighter, it also doubles as a handy method of killing zombies. A couple weeks after antibiotics, the jock itch will go away completely.

But I digress. Thrush is also a known problem when people go on antibiotics, so it surprises me that I didn't make the connection between my lip and mouth problems and yeast.

I've got some medicine now which, if nothing else, seems to numb the affected areas for awhile, but it will probably take a while to really work. In the meantime, eating is fairly painful and I've started choosing soft foods or letting things like cereal really sit in milk before eating. Even still, my mouth ends up quite sore. I never would have thought that my CF would affect what I can physically shove down my gullet.

April 4, 2010

Bunny Hop

Oh, what a difference a day makes.

If the Turkey Trot is the gateway to the winter running season, then surely the Bunny Hop, the Easter run, is the throwing open of the doors of the summer running season. In honor of the masses hitting the streets - and in deference to my own health - I went out for another run today. Been a long time since I ran two days in a row.

It wasn't a long run, but it was of significantly better quality than yesterday's. The weather was a major change and I can't tell if it helped or hurt. I wasn't cold, there wasn't any wind to speak of. On the other hand, I was overheating in mid-70s temperatures. In the middle of the first mile, I peeled my shirt off and that felt really, really good. (It's probably a good thing I didn't plan to go long, as I would have sunburned quickly, I think. My tan from last year is so gone that the paint manufacturers are using my belly as "reference white".)

After the first mile, instead of simply turning around, I trotted over another block, consciously extending my run; maybe making up a little for yesterday's shortage. I stopped quickly to buy a water. The look of bemusement and horror the other bodega patrons had as this sweaty, smelly, unshaven, shirtless, ugly, arm-wrapped runner stepped into the store and frantically looked for water was priceless. (Arm-wrapped: I keep my PICC line site and tubing concealed underneath a cut-off sock cuff at these times.)

The trot home was better than the trot out, since most of it was downhill, but I still had to take several walking breaks. I was not only trying to catch my breath, but also trying to take in some water. After my iPhone announced I'd crossed the two-mile mark, I strove to keep my legs moving and put in a good finish and almost managed a 10 minute pace for the last third of a mile.

After the run, I had to hook up immediately to meropenem to stay on schedule. When this is done, I need to take a quick shower to get the salt off, then go pick up laundry and some groceries. Got to finish grading midterms tonight and prepare for tomorrow's classes. Tomorrow will be a very busy day for me.

April 3, 2010

High Five!

I'm experiencing something new that hasn't happened on IVs before. My mouth and lips are incredibly sensitive. They feel chapped or injured. My lips feel like they're cracking though they're not. Edges of spoons feel like razors and hot liquids are intolerable. I don't know if this is a component of the Vancomycin reaction or an effect of the Benadryl used to counter the Vanco.
As for that particular reaction, I am desensitzing to the Vanco, I think. This morning I took only one Benadryl and though I slept through administering the dose, I don't recall getting the level of itchiness I would have expected. I'll do the same tonight, and then try going without Bendadryl completely tomorrow.

I've got class to teach this upcoming week and am trying to nudge my IV schedule to match up with that. I've also got all kinds of rehearsals to attend, too. Dance concert coming up shortly. Oh, well. We don't get to pick and choose when we get sick or when we need treatment.

So my run today was my first in a week. I can't believe how fast a week can go by when you don't feel good. Or even if you do! This run was brutal. Honestly, I only have runs this hard, this bad, a few times a year. The high winds didn't help, but more than that - I'm just out of shape. I am getting to be what they call "skinny fat". I can't go lift when there's a PICC in my arm, so that's out. I've got to get more exercise in and stop being so lazy about it.

I couldn't quite make it to my intended turnaround point today (though it was in sight about a half mile further along) and I didn't make it to my intended ending point, calling it quits a few blocks short. Still, the iPhone says I went more than two miles. I can certainly believe the slow pace it tells me! I walked large parts of this one. And the cooldown walk home didn't slow my breathing or heart rate any. It took about twenty minutes at home to get my heart rate under 90. I was also dealing with dry heaves. :( But it was bright and sunny and, in the wind-shadow of buildings, warm. And after the cold, grey days of late, that was awesome.

And I had a moment with a fellow runner. Now, I'd chosen a route that most runners simply don't follow - out along 2nd ave in the warehouse district between me and Lutheran hospital. I've written of this route before, with its run-down warehouses, broken sidewalks, even worse streets lined with old railroad tracks, and trash everywhere. But its about the only flat route I've got and I needed that change of pace. Seeing another runner out there is very rare - people usually stick to 5th ave, Greenwood Cemetery loop, or Prospect Park. So I'd already stopped my run and was walking home and just passing Costco when another runner came toward me wearing a very recognizable t-shirt - one from the Healthy Kidney 10K, which I've run many times. This guy looked comfortable and trotted along at about a 9:30 pace I guess.

We passed before I crossed the street, as he was crossing in between cars. On impulse, I threw up my right hand in the universal gesture for "hi five!" It took him a moment to recognize it, but then managed to get his own arm up in time for a messy hi-five. I heard him laugh as he continued on. And I walked home smiling, despite how bad my run went.

There's been so many times I've wanted to hi-five other runners. It's OK if you're cheering along a race route, but out on the road it may be weird. On the other hand - maybe we really do need to encourage each other during these unexpected encounters. It's a little recognition that someone else knows what you're going through, and thinks you're brilliant just for getting out there. It's a sign that we are not alone in a sport that is essentially the antithesis of team sports. That little bit of recognition and camaraderie goes a long way with me; I'm sure it resonates with others, too.

So if you're reading this, and you're a runner, and you got in your weekend workout on this blustery day, consider yourself hi-fived!

April 2, 2010

Feeling better

So I'm on my 2nd day of IVs. I'm feeling a lot better today than I was yesterday at this time: you could have run me over with a city bus and I'd have felt no worse. It was all the aches, pains, and fatigue of the flu without the fever or chills. But today, I'm about halfway back to where I want/need to be for right functioning.

I don't know why the first day knocked me down so badly. I've had all three of these medications before by IV. I've had the Benadryl before, too. But I was just so out of it. Except for breaks to start and stop my IVs, I slept 'til 3 o'clock yesterday! Today, I stayed awake through the morning IVs, lounging in bed watching episodes of Modern Family on Hulu.com. I'm kind of getting going now and it's almost 1 p.m. Well, better than yesterday I guess.

I'm still not going for a run, despite the beautful weather. Experience has taught me that until my PICC site feels "fine" again, the periodic swing of my arm as I run will only aggravate the site. Hopefully, I'll be ready to run tomorrow and that my PICC site will be a lot less tender. I'm getting some flexibility and usefulness out of that arm now anyway, so I have high hopes.

Coram called this morning, in the middle of my IVs and while I was making a string of phone calls to help facilitate a large donation to the Boomer Esiason Foundation. Coram wanted money. I can't blame them. I automatically put their statement aside until several months have passed from the dates of service, because it takes that long for them and insurance to agree to what I actually owe. I checked my bank account and was able to pay what I owe Coram in full. Well, there goes any hope I had of going to the movies anytime soon. Still, it feels good to get that bill off the table.

Another thing that gives me hope: as I wrap up my taxes, some of what I have to add up for the past year includes mortgage interest. My taxes got a little more complicated this year because I refinanced from a 10/30 interest-only ARM to a 30-year fixed, standard. As I punched numbers in from my statements to my financial software (I know, I know - I should have done that months ago!) I was pleasantly surprised. Whereas before I was paying a flat amount towards principal every month and paying X amount in interest, now I'm paying 10% more toward principal every month than I was, while paying significantly reduced interest - to the tune of a total monthly payment that is $500 less than what I was paying before. Each month I can see the numbers change: principal payment slightly higher, interest paid slightly lower. Very gratifying. Now if energy bills weren't so freakin' high, I might actually feel like I'm getting ahead.

A few things to chase down on Monday, since my primary doctor's office is closed 'til then (Happy Passover guys and gals!). I need to renew my referral to my CF specialist and I need to see the doc or a specialist about my nosebleeds. I went all winter w/out a single nosebleed and now I have blood gushing out my nose every time I cough hard and it takes 20 - 45 minutes to stop. That can't be normal. It makes me suppress my cough and that's not good, either.