Monday, January 28, 2008
Did have a multitude of events that constituted a pretty damn good weekend. It did start with a bit of a thud on Friday on my return from the retreat. It seemed everyone appreciated "getting away" but my co-workers peeled off quickly yearning to return to their loved ones, family, etc. When I got back to the office, I uh, went straight to my desk to continue my mapping work on one of our Clean Water Management Trust Fund applications. It was a seemingly calculated effort on my part to stave off having to come in Saturday, which seemed inevitable. It was only another hour or so.
On my return I had some pizza for dinner and watched The Illusionist. I thought it was a fantastic movie with an even better ending! For those that have seen it already, you might wonder how surprised I was at the end - not too much. After being totally fooled by The Usual Suspects, I definitely saw the clues that Eisenheim (along with Sophie) were way too clever to take the standard "I'm leaving you" route. Following the movie I was really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed. The air mattress I have is not even close to being queen-sized is okay (my old housemate Maureen slept on it for over a year), in addition the room at the cabin was way too hot. I hate being hot, if you take away anything about me, it's that I'd rather be cold.
In the morning it was obvious that I would have to work in the office today! Rats. Saturday is usually my day for a long run, so I thought I'd mix it up. Instead of wasting gas to drive up there and back, I left the house around 9AM heading north. My running route took me through the Sedgefield neighborhood, a route I usually take on my bike to reach the Dowd Y. Instead though I did hung out on South Boulevard, which gave me a new appreciation for some of the subtle elevation changes. If you have read any of my Publius posts, you will also know I love to describe and learn about "The Boulevard." I finished the first leg along the new Lynx (Charlotte's light rail) route. The distance was approximately 5.65 miles which I covered in 47:58, which works out to about an 8:30 minute mile. Not too bad for solo running. I always get lazy running by myself. Once at work I spent about 45 minutes working on maps. This was a true gambit as two more people had to have their say on map revisions later on, so it was possible I would have to come back again. From there I left to complete a big clockwise route, running down Morehead, turning on Queens, then Selwyn all the way to Park, forking over to Tyvola and up the hill to where I usually take Cooper to finish off the adventure. This leg was a little longer, 7.62 miles, which I covered in 66:56, or 8.8 minute mile. For the entire 13.3-mile distance I averaged an 8.7 minute mile. Pedestrian but okay.
I know I didn't pass out after that, but what transpired that afternoon remains a mystery. At 5PM my girlfriend showed up and we went down to Ballantyne to watch The Diving Bell and Butterfly, which quite honestly made The Illusionist look like a paltry piece of entertainment. What a tour de force! This is the true story of the Elle editor who has a massive stroke and is completely locked inside his body, and only able to wink one eye. The gravity of the situation and how he defined his life through making the best of the situation just floored both of us! This movie also featured who I sincerely believe is the greatest living actor - Max Von Sydow. Damn he nailed his part!! In my opinion, Det Sjunde inseglet is the best movie ever made. Exactly 50 years later Sydow still rules!
After later reading some background of the movie, I am SO GLAD it was not filmed in English and even more glad that Johnny Depp did not take the leading role. Afterwards we went to the Flat Rock Grill, which was quite good. Both of us had the salmon dish, which I would highly recommend.
Sunday morning is usually reserved for my bike ride! Now last weekend was disappointing as it was too cold to ride. It was obviously going to be sunny for the ride, but still a little on the cold side. I was, relatively speaking, bundled up. I did not RSVP for KC's "and the Sunshine Band" ride, instead I timed my departure to meet up with them at Wilkinson and Old Dowd. My bike route took me out my standard shot of Tyvola, except this time I continued to Byrum (preferred westward route to the climb on West) to Wallace Neal. Nothing had changed with the detour status out there. I constantly fretted about my allotted time, knowing the final climb on Old Dowd would put me close. The good news is that I made it there a minute early, the bad news is they never showed up. Later I read the announcement more closely and saw they probably took another route.
Okay, so it turned into a solo ride. I had my green iPod Shuffle and was jamming out, so all was well. I continued up to Belmont to the base of Cramerton Mountain. I had a decent climb, nothing spectacular. I have been meaning to begin timing my ascent, but it never seems to happen. From there I jumped on 279 for the patented hammer-fest SW past Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens towards South Carolina. From there it is a bit of a slog with four climbs to Highway 49, which ultimately takes you back to North Carolina. Once at Shopton, it seems like a long upward climb. The last part of the journey, after climbing back to Tyvola, is definitely the most dangerous, especially because it's when I'm the most tired and most likely to make a bad move. However today I felt good taking it home. In the end I logged 47 miles and averaged 17.0 miles per hour, which is above average for this time of year. This was my 52nd ride on my Trek Madone, affectionately known as Holman, for 2,653 total miles logged on the saddle.
Once home, I finished off the rest of my pizza as I watched the "Gunmen of the Apocalypse" episode of Red Dwarf (Season VI). I think this is about where Red Dwarf jumped the shark. Well, maybe after this episode, as it is one of my favorites. In case you missed the obvious reference in one of my preceding posts, I consider its predecessor high on the list as well.
Was also running low on foodstuffs, so after my shower I headed south to my local ghetto Food Lion. I could probably dedicate a whole post to my experiences shopping there, but I will paraphrase. My ultimate Food Lion scare was the first night I arrived in North Carolina (Durham) in August of 2000. I went to the nearest grocery story and it scared me. Needless to say, I'm usually the only white person in this south Charlotte store. No, this is not your neighborhood yuppie Harris Teeter. I was about to have a normal shopping experience except near the end two black women started calling each other names and then started to fight. Awesome. What row is the popcorn in, please?
That evening I went over to watch the Duke vs. Maryland men's basketball game at the home of my favorite Charlotte Tarheel, Jin Woo, in Plaza Midwood. He had just received a DirectTV "upgrade" over Time Warner. Anyway, that was a great experience, but I know he'll get worked up with his Duke insults for the big UNC game on the 6th. Later on Lisa came home from her long shift at the hospital. We had a delightful chicken meal over some nice conversation. I left around 10PM and then had my usual Sunday night video conference with my parents in Kirkland (Washington).
And while not technically on the weekend, the most pleasant surprise happened on Sunday afternoon when I got a call from my cousin Jeff Zierdt in Minnesota. He was scheduled to be in Charlotte for business and wanted to know if I could get together Monday night for dinner. So after work I picked him up. I first took him home to meet Winston, and then we went to the Roasting Company. As usual the fare was delightful and it was great to catch up with him and hear all the stories behind the great housebuild. Among our fondest memories was my sister's wedding outside Madrid in 1999. It was a rather toasty day on July 3rd and us guys got to wear suits. OH THE HORROR. Man, that was a nightmare. Only for my sister!
Det är fullbordat.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
You see, the week before I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2006, a group of us ate there after working on a transplant project at the Rhyne Preserve. Rather hungry, I saw they had two sizes of calzones. I ended up ordering the large ham and cheese calzone. Much to my astonishment, the beast was 18" long and almost 6" wide at the center. Of course some unnamed individual, knowing my legendary ability to eat, goaded me into eating the whole thing. I took up the challenge to answer Brinkley's cry (waa?) and ended up victorious without throwing anything up, although I was sick the next day and could no longer eat there or any calzones. I did go on to an amazing marathon experience of 3:30 though!
Okay, fast forward to 2008. I have returned. I decided it was time to mend the old wound and get a calzone, but this time the "small" one (half the size) with chicken and spinach. Just to add to the insult I ordered a side of fries, which were quite tasty. It felt good. This was turning out well!
The retreat itself was quite pleasant, the whole staff was there and Dave's recently completed house was nice enough. It was bitterly cold out with the wind whipping up some whitecaps. Thankfully we scavenged plenty of firewood. I had toyed with the idea of bringing my wetsuit and swimming across and back, but that never happened.
Our mom extraordinairre Kenni made sure we were nice and happy with food. Our main agenda item was completing the self-assessment for LTA's upcoming accreditiation program. 2x4 ready? Okay, it wasn't that bad.
The next afternoon, with the few of us that remained, we went for a little hike. We drove up the beginnings of the famed Linville Gorge and hiked the Pinchin trail down about halfway through some recent burns.
The sun was gorgeous, although it was still cold. For some reason I was harassed about my ability to climb out the fastest. We were back in Charlotte around 5:30. Good times!
Complete photos from event
Monday, January 21, 2008
I am also known as sherpa. Do note that is lower caps, as there is a difference between a sherpa and the Sherpa people. This name is a term of endearment and technically speaking, there are only two* people who are authorized to refer to me by this name. I earned this name in late 2004 by guiding Mona Baset and Lisa Palermo on a series of bike rides. They acknowledged my gift of spatial awareness and my innate desire to safely guide people. It is a name they have repeated often in the presence of others, and thus many have been confused to think that it is okay to refer to me in that way. I am certainly not going to mean about it, but do keep in mind it is a special name that is only properly used by two special women.
Come to think of it, there are two other individuals who have attempted to label me "Spongebob Squarepants." Thankfully one has been deported to Portland, OR but the other still hangs around here. It happened on a Wednesday night run, the 6@6 run in Dilworth on April 13, 2005. It was a particularly nasty night weatherwise, cold and rainy. I was wearing a yellow Nike longsleeve top. It was a hell of a run, one of my best. Anyway, for some fraggin' reason they thought I looked like Spongebob. They are both idiots.
Bottomline, please refer to me by my name Christian name. And no, I certainly do not like being called "Scotty."
*I do give honorary status to Jin Woo Jun, who is an old school Sharksbite member who married Lisa Palermo.
Date: March 12, 2007 2:01:22 PM EDT
Cc: Jennifer Cooley, Cindy Cooley, Nelson May, Jill Keller, Cantey Land, Meghan Marsano, David Hogeboom, Bruce Wagoner, Phil Chamberlin, Jin Woo Jun, Sean Welsh, May King, Jody Dennis, Tim Long, Joseph Asaro, Franco Ordonez, Keith Mrochek, Josh Saak, Ben Calhoun, Monica Ferkowicz, Bevin Jett, Mary Franceschi, Mary Jo Arrington, Renee Simcoe-Martin, Joseph Madera, Liza Beth, Lisa Palermo, Jocelyn Sikora, Ian Seeney, Pete Kaplan
Subject: HOORAY FOR BOOBIES! (and regression analysis)
Best album title - ever. Even The Todd (from Scrubs) would agree
“I have to go, there's a breast reduction on the fourth floor... I'm gonna go try and stop it.”
The MAP Sprint Triathlon on Saturday mostly went well! This is my fifth year doing it, but the first three were in uptown. Last year I finished at 1:17. The 500 yard swim did not go all that well. My left eye cup lost suction and then I had to roughly pass three people near the end (two of which turned out to be Mona’s friends…) I finished at 10:05, five seconds worse than last year, placing 226th out of 332 male finishers. The big difference this year was my sweet new Trek Madone, named Holman. We flew at 20.5 mph over 20K to cross at 36:31, a huge improvement from 40:15 last year. I continued the downward plumet placing 109 out of 331 male finishers. The 5K was a reasonably strong run, finishing at 22:29, another couple of minutes faster than last year. For the run that put me at 93rd out of 327 male finishers. Final time 1:11:21.
Before the results were released, it looked like I had a reasonable shot of breaking the top male 100 for the first time. That didn’t happen, but 109th (0.33) is my strongest finish ever for a full NCTS race. Overall 126/477 (0.26).
I am not going to get all worked up about it, because that race is really meant for me to just start thinking “triathlons” and my goal is very different from the spill-your-guts-out approach of a sprint since I need to go EIGHT times the distance for each in August.
My main interest here is the relationship between bib number and resultant swim time / resultant total time. Bib numbers were assigned linearly from fastest submitted time to slowest. (This is probably not true for the first say 25 elite athletes, whose numbers are often assigned on previous standings or results from last year). After watching all the cluster fucks / passing / scratchings, it’s clear a lot of people aren’t in tune with how fast it takes them to swim 500 yards. Or is it? Attached are some summaries of my analysis.
I did a regressional analysis for the two independent variables. In each the dependent variable is bib number. The charts show a basic plotting first of actual swim time versus bib number (top) and actual total time versus bib number (bottom). Even Todd can see there is evidence for linear relationships. The regression results for SWIM are shown, with a R-squared of 0.42 and some fairly suspect p-values. The next tab shows TOTAL results – the R-squared here is 0.38 which shows there is (obviously) a little less of a tighter relationship. This makes complete sense, given my relatively poor pool swimming ability (bib # 419) versus the dozens of people I passed on the bike and run. You can see I beat two people in the “top 25,” outlasted 13 people in the top 50, and 35 in the top 100. Only 2 people with a higher bib finished better. The first tab with results shows predicted SWIM and TOTAL times based on the proposed intercept and x variable. What would be more relevant per se are a suite of t-tests on predicted and actual swim times, but I don’t have those. And how about comparisons of the two dependent variables? CONCLUSION? People are sorta clueless, but maybe they know something.
This is a cursory analysis fitting for a mediocre tenth grade science project; but alas I do have an actual baseline report deadline this afternoon.
p.s. speaking of the Discovery channel, there was a very interesting piece on army ants yesterday. It reminded me of a McGyver episode where he made a protective suit out of a hose to defeat a massive army ant invasion.*
*okay I was ten at the time and it was a scary episode
Date: March 10, 2007 9:23:38 PM EST
To: Jennifer Cooley, Cindy Cooley, Nelson May, Jill Keller, Cantey Land, Meghan Marsano, David Hogeboom, Bruce Wagoner, Phil Chamberlin, Jin Woo Jun, Sean Welsh, May King, Jody Dennis, Tim Long, Joseph Asaro, Franco Ordonez, Keith Mrochek, Josh Saak, Ben Calhoun, Monica Ferkowicz, Bevin Jett, Mary Franceschi, Mary Jo Arrington, Renee Simcoe-Martin, Joseph Madera, Liza Beth, Lisa Palermo, Jocelyn Sikora, Ian Seeney, Pete Kaplan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: let us REJOICE! Old Asian Running Man is ALIVE!!
Hola, amigos. I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I've had a fistful of problems lately. This all was wiped clean last Saturday when after finishing a 20 mile training run at record pace, I saw someone so special I forgot not only my strong run but every itchy fiber of a problem. I was cooling down in the Dowd Y parking lot when I saw what I first thought was a ghost towards me. It was old Asian running man! He was walking very slowly with whom I could only guess was his equally old wife. They were such a cute couple. (devout reader Bruce can attest to this sighting) I had not seen him for quite some time - my last sighting was Friday, September 2, 2005 when I was working on my hamstrings. He was lifting weights like a badass. Before that I had seen him numerous times running down Tryon, either dressed like an eskimo with thick gloves or wearing a simple white tank in the heat of the summer. Old Asian running man [aka OARM] is my hero!
Maybe I will ask him to train with me for my upcoming Ironman. I recently lost my training buddy for this awe-inspiring endeavor and almost felt like I lost what it really needed to cross that line. I think I'm back on track now.
My thoughts have drifted back to my washer and dryer. They are doing well, but with a day like today my housemate and I prefer to put our clothes on the line in the backyard. That does cut down on energy bills, but as we all know it's very important to not stick exercise clothes with Coolmax or other polyesters in the dryer. My main problem is the washer, or the discharge line. Since I bought the house the line has backed up due to improper plumbing design. My dad and I have tackled the problem several times. What am I going to do? I am saddened at the impending loss of my housemate, who is returning to Milan at the end of the month. I suppose the streets of Charlotte will be safer but still I weep for the death of the spirit and the soul. Winston too will miss begging for his amazing cooking, self-induced howling, and afternoon walks.
Many of you know about all the construction on South Boulevard. This is important to me because that street is the most direct route to my office. After nearly six months of finding other routes, mainly up Tryon or I-77, I am happy to report that I'm back on the beat. I don't understand the engineering behind the split between Old Pineville and Marsh. Won't the light rail disrupt the southbound traffic? The best addition to South Boulevard is the new Performance Bicycle - that's my little crack house. I don't understand why I have to get out of the car though - usually first class service goes a long way with me.
Speaking of service and cars, I've been having a lot of problems lately with my Volvo. We've been together for almost seven years now. I named him Aurelius before venturing out to North Carolina. For this past Thanksgiving I was out in Seattle looking for the perfect tacky Christmas tie (and boy did I find it!) On my return I found my engine was flooded (with gasoline). I took him to this Volvo/high end BMW shop near my house. They found the battery had exacerbated the problem. I didn't realize it at the time, but they only fixed the resultant problems but still charged me a great deal. I did experience their first class shuttle service. Upon picking me up at work the driver related several stories about a picking up a customer who was a dancer at Uptown Cabaret. For some strange reason he seemed fixated on her large breasts. But I digress. The engine flooded again at the end of February. I took it the AAA shop across the street from my house and they actually identified the source of the problem for a lot less. Too bad the mass air flow sensor part cost $370! But I do believe I learned my lesson. Ya got to stick to the Boulevard man!
The CPR Racing business appears to no longer be in business. This is bad news, as I was about ready to publish the results of a study I undertook comparing them with the Rock Shop (which tricks out jeeps). So I needed a new project. I crave data even worse than a cheap bike tire. So I am logging distance and times from various routes from the house to my place of employment. I've only taken data for several months (n=28) but I can share some preliminary data - my average commute is 11 minutes and 46 seconds. One standard deviation, which would account for approximately 68% of the points if normally distributed, is one minute and 59 seconds. There is a temporal component to the study, but I need some quiet time to understand the gravity of the research design.
The Boulevard is alive and well. Apparently Carousel is advertising jello wrestling. I'm not the kind of guy that would go in there, mainly because I identify with Uptown Cabaret. There is a new Chick-fil-A going in. Thanks to fact I usually try to avoid working on Sunday, it will great to always see it open when I zip by. The other day at the Burger King next to it there was a car on fire. Not just kind-of on fire, but engulfed-in-flames fire like you see in the movies. The firetruck pulled in as I passed by. It of course is that time of year to complain about those silly people from Liberty Tax Service that dress up as the Statue of Liberty and get people to honk their cars. I have not seen the woman with the USAT sticker, but perhaps a few months ago I saw that woman that walks to work up near the Scaleybark Library.
I did receive an interesting piece of mail this past year. A friend of mine from high school was working in DC for the summer and wrote in early August asking for my mailing address. I sent the information promptly only to get a soup mix package, a picture of which is attached. Much to his dismay I still have yet to use the package and have no inclination to do so. If you're like him and enjoy humorous "English" products butchered by foreign nations, try http://www.engrish.com
I must apologize to my long-time readers regarding the brevity of this missive and that it contains 42% less the usual numbers of obscure references and wit, but please remember I have been in hibernation. As strong as the OARM epiphany was, it is sometimes slow to regain ones former traction.
“It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information."
Date: February 22, 2006 1:30:26 PM EST
Subject: a confederacy of dunces
Hola, amigos. I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I've had a fistful of problems lately. Sure, my job may be a hassle, but it's certainly not new and I don't have any kids (so none of them have the flu) but it's always sure nice talking to you. I thought I would dispense with the litany of excuses. Perhaps it was my hope to see the old Asian man running down Tryon. But I haven't seen him since September 2nd when I was in the Dowd Y. He punched a mean bag! Wow. I hope he is well. Perhaps he put on too many sweatsuits and just disappeared like Ben Kenobi... So these days all I have left in those environs is to watch loyal reader Brittany's car each day to make sure the hookers hanging outside the Uptown Cabaret aren't using his car for tricks. And of course nothing to report with the completion of that construction job, although the east side still remains half demolished. It seems rather logical why construction would take so long. If you were a construction worker, wouldn't that be your dream job?
Speaking of finishing construction projects, the work on South Boulevard between East and 277 that caused me to take famous detours is now nothing more than a distant memory. But fear not, my daily journey up South Boulevard is always full of amazing adventures and situations to ponder. I thought I would take you on a detailed journey regarding some of the many interesting businesses and how they entertain my noggin' as I journey north every day. Pat McCrory may have made the comment South Boulevard is a dump, but hey - it's my dump!
While the journey technically begins at Seneca where I join South Boulevard, I recently discovered that the Hooters just to the south suddenly closed and went out of business. This is quite a shock as I thought the business of creating money out of boobies was a sure thing. Maybe I should blame myself, as I never patronized the establishment. It's always tough to see a business near your home go out of business, as it could affect property values, but the truth is I don't care for Hooters and I think their wings are adequate at best. Maybe I am a little bitter about my last visit, which was with my Washington friends in Vegas last April. Our waitress Pamela Jean really put a number on us, giving us a bogus phone number and promised to hang out after her shift - all for a big tip. She told us she was an aspiring songwriter and even gave us her website - http://www.pamelajean.net! My friend Russell had a web-enabled phone so we got to see her crouching behind her guitar right away. And that was it. What a huge surprise. Whoops - I violated the sacred Las Vegas mantra - but that was hardly exciting.
But I digress as that building is not on my route. Right at Seneca and South I begin with The Cobber, a private bar that looks quite shady. My former housemate told me they were racist and only invited white people to join. I did believe her at the time, but it later became apparent she lied about a great many things. Perhaps it was my fault. I should have instructed her that my heirloom spoons were only to be used for cereals, soups, and like food products - not to prep her heroin. I hope I will be more clear next time. I don't see that cute woman with the USAT sticker anymore but the first live person of interesting stands outside the Liberty Income Tax business, dressed like a fool in a Statue of Liberty outfit wildly waving to passerbys to remind them it is tax season and perhaps you should entrust your financial information to the shady people inside - who no doubt promise you a great loan in anticipation of your BIG refund. No thank you.
After crossing Woodlawn my scientific curiosities are aroused. You see, I pass two businesses that are in the auto enhancement business. The first is CPR racing where Asian kids trick out their Honda civics with nitro and pizzazz! The other is called Carolina Rock Shop. For the longest time I had no idea what the hell they sold, but I did notice these totally raised and pimped out Jeeps. Those who frequently run the Monday route and notice things no doubt have spotted one of these Jeeps parked on Cottage. So I finally went to their website (http://carolinarockshop.com/) and learned they did in fact pimp out Jeeps for extreme 4x4 adventuring. So anyway, I have been thinking about some experimental designs to discern the statistical differences, if any, between the average penis lengths of those two clienteles, or perhaps pooled versus men who drive normal cars. Perhaps some t-tests - anything so I can derive a p-value. Man, it's been a long time since I calculated one of those! Gathering the data is the part I can't get past.
One of my great mysteries is this woman I see walking southbound almost every day, almost always north of Scaleybark. Every day at 8:50, she is in the same place. Sometimes she is walking with a small child, but not always the same child. I see her every day and I know nothing about her. One day I was really late to work and I made the amazing discovery that she turns onto Scaleybark instead of proceeding down South. Every day. Way more regular that the mysterious old Asian dude. I sometimes want to stop and just say hello, but that's probably a little too weird.
The most humorous business I see is Buggy Bumpers. It makes me smile. Turns out it is auto repair shop. Go figure. There is also a new doggie daycare place near South End. I've seen a few more around town pop up. I often wonder if that business has a legitimate shot at growth. I didn't even know until recently dogs get diagnosed with the restless behavior and have to be tended to and drugged. No one escapes the wrath of the pharmaceutical companies. They are all EVIL - except the one Ms. Cantey works at. She sure is swell! Although her laugh in the vicinity of animals may be construed as animal testing...
Of course the big news on South Boulevard is construction of the light rail. This includes creating sidewalks on the actual street, so that construction is currently hampering my commute a bit, but nothing too aggravating. By that I mean taking detours past the residences of former girlfriends.
If you've waded this far through the journey into my South Boulevard psyche no doubt you are dying to get a washer and dryer update. Things are going well! My old housemate scratched up the dryer and unfortunately the top has started to rust! It is sad and I tried a little paint. With the cold weather the utility room is not heated so I try to be kind. And of course I am the only one using it at the moment.
I bring up the washer and dryer because I think there is an important debate that needs to occur within Sharksbite regarding the drying of running gear. Recently I arrived at a run suffering from extreme static cling on my shirt. I remarked this was the case since I did not machine dry any non cotton/poly running gear. Devout reader Chris (known to many Sharksbite members as Care Bear Chris) voiced his opinion that he machine dried everything because he was lazy and it required too much effort. I wonder if there are any white papers or data to back up the pro or cons of this important dilemma. I can tell you from experience that machine drying silk boxers is a big mistake.
I hope everyone is enjoying the Winter Olympics! I came into the whole thing a bit bitter. You see, one of my high school colleagues, Jill Bakken, surprised the world in 2002 by winning Gold in the Women's Bobsled with Vonetta Flowers. And I patiently waited for her return in 2006 - but she was cut from the team at the last second! So the USA team is cursed as far as I'm concerned - that's why they had to settle for silver this year. I did find out there was another hometown favorite to cheer for, downhill skier Scott McCartney, who actually placed the highest in Super G. That of course brings me to Bode Miller, who is obviously giving me a bad name! I finally saw footage of that Lisa Jacobelis chick "snow-boating" - I don't think she would have done that had she done MasterCard commercials instead. The most amazing race I watched to date was the men's 12.5km biathlon pursuit. Wow! As one of Swedish heritage, I disdain Norwegians so when that French skier powered past my-name-is-too-long my heart was pounding! Of course, I like cross-country skiing as I grew up partaking in the sport. I need to get my skis from home sometime soon...
I think it's time for this missive to conclude, but I did want to thank everyone who has encouraged me to write.
"There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." - Oscar Wilde
Date: August 18, 2005 11:00:33 AM EDT
Subject: [sharksbite] return of the king
Hola amigos, it's been a long time since I rapped at ya! My excuses run the gamut from vacation in Seattle, a work conference in California, and training quite a bit for my appearance in the NYC Marathon. It is good to be back though, despite the intolerable weather.
I must confess I have spent a lot less time in deep thought as I drive to work. I think it has to do with the fact I wait until the last possible second to get out of bed, so I'm actually WAKING up as I drive. So unfortunately I may be one of those crazies you need to avoid on the road. For those that use South Boulevard, the water main construction continues to move south towards the intersection of East. This does mean that I am able to go all the way up to Bland to take my left, although it is easier to turn before the one lane. I do have big "commute" news, related to this, as I am no longer upset about what that detour had meant to me. Strange felicitous events have changed things for the better! ;-) If you don't know what I'm talking about, that's your quandary. Reader banana_brett has repeatedly asked me about the jogging Asian man. I am also happy to report that I saw him about a month ago, adjusting his white gloves at an intersection.
Many have commented on the progress at the Uptown Cabaret. It is certainly shaping up, but the construction has been noticeably slow. If you think about it, that must be a construction worker's dream job - so why the rush? And in one of my previous monologues I made mention that it was only an exterior job. Reader fool_of_a_tooke has informed me that they are indeed remodeling the interior, so this logic does make sense. That's why you hardly ever see the workers outside, I mean really, what is there to see there? I noticed the attached extra building on the east side is being demolished. I figured that was important for keeping the extra poles, but perhaps now that those are functional, that unaesthetically pleasing area can be demolished to park more patrons. On the subject of those that use these facilities, I was also petitioned by the bahama shorts clad reader seti_at_home to talk more about the Men's Club on Tyvola. I think that is really off subject, but he stressed that there are really good buffets at these establishments. As much as I like food, I don't think I would have much of an appetite. My female co-workers have never really expressed an interest in going across the street for lunch anyway. Seti_at_home should not feel forlorn as I witnessed him being offered a spot on "Nelson at Nite" to talk about his dreams of dating a stripper. His shorter companion, who also shared the fantasy, blushfully declined.
Uptown Cabaret isn't the only outfit remodeling these days in the Tryon and Morehead 'hood. After having lost the opportunity to relocate on East near the Greek Church (I would never spied strippers going into work anyway), we have redone our office. We ripped up our carpet and repainted the walls. When I came back from my recent west coast trip I almost felt like I was in the wrong place! Maybe because they all dumped all the unwanted crap in my office while I was gone. I swear it took me six hours to extricate my computer from the corner that first day. And now we have a big sign on the corner so everyone can associate us with the class act that is Uptown Cabaret!
Some time ago reader bruce_goose asked me about my pseudonym Publius. This was the pen name used by the only man ever unfortunate enough to be shot and killed by a standing vice president of the United States. I am referring of course to the genius Alexander Hamilton who along with John Jay and James Madison anonymously penned "The Federalist Papers." Hamilton was one of those people whose star burnt twice as bright but only for half as long. After relating this story to the gentle reader, a glaze came over his eyes signifying to me that perhaps I should not be making all these obscure historical references. Maybe the important lesson that Hamilton taught us, besides establishing frameworks for central banking, is to carefully think about our star; how bright we want it to burn, who we want to touch, and the legacy we want to leave when it inevitably must extinguish.
On the subject of (not) extinguishing, I am happy to report that my dryer has been working flawlessly. May it last longer than Ms. Cooley in her latest job! Wow, that's a pretty safe bet. The home warranty people who botched the repair had the gall to call yesterday ask me to shell out $500 for an additional year of "coverage." Wow, the privilege to pay a fifty Alexander Hamiltons to be screwed... Despite the fact the woman was oblivious to the egregious injury caused to me I let her have it. Normally I am a pretty laidback kind of guy. Even though the warranty expires in a few days I think will call in something to mess with them some more. I'd rather have to pay $2000 to an honest contractor if the situation warranted.
Despite my busy endeavors, I still have a little time to fritter and expand my horizons. You might like to know I tape three shows every day. They are "M*A*S*H*," "The Simpsons," and "Jeopardy." I will NOT under any circumstances watch that mindless show "Wheel of Fortune." Unfortunately, almost ten years ago I was in a live studio audience when the show came to Seattle and I had a epiphany when this airhead won $25,000 for screaming out "FLUFFY PILLOWS!" Never again, my friends. Never again. Still, my favorite quite activity is to read with Winston at my feet. I read all kinds of non-fiction. The only kind of fiction I like is stuff like Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Survivor, etc). Right now I am working on Steinbeck's "Cannery Row" as I was just in Monterey. I eagerly await my next book, a history of the pencil, penciled by Henry Petroski (whose book on great bridges and the engineers who dreamed them I recently finished).
No doubt I will have some interesting anecdotes to publish upon completion!
Date: June 23, 2005 6:09:47 PM EDT
Subject: Who will rid me of this turbulent priest!?!?
This morning on my way to work I started thinking about that woman again in the car with the USAT sticker. Her reoccurance at specified intervals brought me to Halley's Comet and its occurrence in 1066. While I wasn't exactly thinking about Harod's bad omen as recorded on the Bayeux Tapestry, it did make me realize that sometimes it is important to seize upon those opportunities as I may never see her again. I certainly won't be around in another 76 years. So I encourage my readers not to be shy and let your friends know how you feel, give them a hug, or seize upon the opportunity to talk with someone new. I do remind the select few of you this does not give you the right to violate that restraining order.
I neglected to post a most important piece of information in my last letter, as these conversations did in fact originate from the topic of drying ones' clothes. For the last month my dryer was broken and I had to put up a temporary closeline! One of the antiquated breakers went out and the home warranty company was just awful about finding a replacement. I was tempered into deep thought about how we rely on such modern day appliances. It didn't bother me too much, but my housemate was somewhat nagging in the matter. I come from hardy stock. My parents left their dryer broken for at least seven years through the 1990s. My mom liked to store birdseed in there. They actually got it fixed when my (then) one year old nephew made his first trip from Madrid to the blessed shores of the Seattle metropolitan area. On the subject of my parents, they certainly enjoyed meeting those who assembled after the May 12th race. Hearty thanks again for such a wonderful birthday celebration.
Following up from my last post faithful reader annastacia reported to me that Uptown Cabaret is also remodeling the interior. That sort of deflates my joke about the boob job, as it seems my jab was aimed about the superficial qualities of beauty. Could Uptown Cabaret be building something beautiful inside? I guess I will never know, but it is my supposition the interior redesign will only add more poles and seats to make more money. That is sort of superficial too, I guess.
Thankfully the Pedro cake is gone. Apparently it was quite good. See, I hate to see food go to waste. I was brought up to eat everything on my plate. I sometimes struggle with that when broccoli, beets, and/or squash has been put on my plate. One of the great things about becoming an adult though is I do have a little more control what gets put on the plate, which can be a good thing but often can be troublesome when trying to eat right. Perhaps Mary Jo, having just food nutritional bliss at the right price, could help me out there. Otherwise things at work are going a little better. I'm not getting as much static about my messy desk as I have been working fairly hard on filing maps, journals, whitepapers, and other such et cetera away. Unfortunately our neighbors Southeast Origami have just been kicked out, and they are (rightfully) blaming us. The lady there "accidentally" took of one my UPS boxes with networking equipment into her car when they were packing up.
While not drying my clothes or framing some of my posters, I am currently reading a book on Eleanor of Acquitaine. This 12th century (French and later) English queen was known for both her uncanny beauty and governing prowess. She was of course married to the Henry II who accidentally (and supposedly) uttered the line featured in the subject line, which caused four drunk eavesdropping knights to go out and murder Thomas a Becket, thus rocketing him to the number 3 martyred dudes of all time. (Number 2 of course is Fry from Futurama when they cut the show after four measly seasons). I only picked up the book because I knew of an obscure passage making an indirect reference to her beauty in Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. Much to my chagrin I had to read in 125 pages before Weir referenced that quote. The nerve! Seriously though, it is a good read.
Can you believe I got dragged into a bacholerette party last Saturday? I had done a Olympic distance triathlon that morning and was dead tired. I didn't even get a nap in! Thankfully there was lots of alcohol involved and we only had to watch these women drinking from their penis straws for about ten minutes. A special shout-out to fellow SB'ers Lisa, Jin Woo, and Renee for making the rest of the evening one memorable experience.
Next up, cheese rolling in England (aka grocery store shopping experiences in Charlotte)
(whatever said in Latin sounds profound)
Date: June 20, 2005 9:37:49 AM EDT
Subject: Dear Reader
Hola, amigos. What's goin' on? I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I pulled out on South Boulevard this morning and I saw another beautiful woman driving a car with a USAT sticker. I wondered if it was the same woman I saw several months ago and wrote about on this forum, so it in turned reminded me that it is important everyone be kept up with the latest current events.
The major news is that South Boulevard is down to one lane on either side from Park to Bland. My loyal readers may remember that I depend on turning left at Bland, which is no longer available. So in turn I've gotten into the pattern of taking a left on Park. Unfortunately I don't like taking that street as an ex-girlfriend lives in those apartments. But you do what you have to do! I could take a left at East and down past Price's Chicken Coop... Man, I've been here almost two years, work nearby, and have yet to get some of that good fried chicken!!
Before I got there I was watching all the guys in those stand/ride lawnmowers wishing I had my own, as my front yard is rather large. I do like keeping up my front yard so Winston can play out there. While my parents were here my mother created some nice flower beds which I have been instructed to water twice a week. So far so good!
Another interesting thing to watch for on my way to work is this small old Asian guy. He has a long grey beard and about a year ago he was out every morning in the cold, jogging with his funny mittens and hat. What a riot! And inspiration to boot. One time I was at the Dowd riding on the bike and I saw him in the weight rooms, you know, one of those gym rats like Jin Woo. For the last nine months after that I never saw him, so I feared things were not good but about a month ago he returned.
For those that haven't noticed Uptown Cabaret is undergoing major renovations outside. You know, kind of like getting a boob job! I guess they are trying to have this nice facade for a change. I watch the progress every day, not because I have a Very Important Customer card but because I work across the street (above Overstock Market). We were going to move to one of those great houses on East Boulevard, which would have been cool for jumping out to join everyone on the Wednesday run, but we could not afford the rent.
I brought in a cake for my co-workers today. It has "Vote For Pedro" written on it. How I came into custody of this cake is a sad and disturbing story. Let's just say I won't eat the cake on principle. The only reason I know it isn't poisoned is my housemate helped herself to slice last night. So it is better if other people eat the cake and it be gone from my life as soon as possible.
Well, I really should get going. My desk was recently voted messiest in the office by my boss (hint hint) and I am under a lot of pressure to clean up my act.
Often my friends in Charlotte have wondered who Publius truly is. Well, the "real" Publius was a Roman consul named Publius Valerius Publicola who helped form the Roman republic. More relevant to the history of the United States, Alexander Hamilton paid homage to Publius by using the pseudonym for many of the Federalist Paper articles.
So how did Publius come to Charlotte? Well, it is a large banking center with a Federal Reserve office, and Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury. A true genius with a hot head, the pieces slowly came together.
The first evidence of Publius and his posts were in early March of 2005, but were mostly private correspondence. The true moment of awakening came on April 12, 2005 when a young woman by the name of Jen Cooley had been posting on the Sharksbite running club about the stupid trivial details of her life that I could be certain no one cared about. The dam broke that day as Publius burst into public life with this response:
Date: April 12, 2005 11:06:44 AM EDT
Subject: RE: [sharksbite] NEWSFLASH uninteresting post on listserv
Why do you have to bother every single person on the list with these details? It really doesn't require much effort to change the address from sharksbite to tim. In fact, I was going to email Tim this morning about my amazing morning. I didn't sleep all that well, I had my fan on the first time. I did have to get up at 4:30 to let my dog out. Can you believe my housemate was still on the couch?!? Oh, I had a decent bowl, albeit a little stale, of Golden Grahams for breakfast while I read the news. For lunch I put an apple in my bag, along with a great chicken and rice dish I made last weekend. I didn't have enough time to do my leg strengthening exercises, but don't tell my physical therapist!! Today is garbage day for me. My housemate had already brought up the garbage can, and the recycle truck had been by, but not the yard waste. Let's see, and then on the drive to work today I accidentally cut out this really cute woman off. Damn! And she had a USAT sticker on her car. There was this cab too that changed lanes right in the middle of the intersection. Thank goodness South wasn't as backed up this morning! Did you know when traffic is bad I turn left on Tremont and go up Tryon instead of taking a left on Bland? When I got to work I had a yogurt to supplement my breakfast. Boy, I'm really tired and Tuesdays are so long for me! I swim in the morning and then play Ultimate Frisbee at night.
Maybe I should talk to Nelson about setting up one of those blog things...
p.s. if you are actually offended by this email you need to talk with Mary Jo
Sunday, January 20, 2008
[Request: If you know me and are in close proximity, do not read this. Talk to me. I am very shy but would like to talk with you]
I thought I was invincible.
The above photo is a colony of Burkitt's cells. Back in 1996 I didn't even know they existed. I didn't even know what lymphoma was. Now I do. It has caused me much pain and suffering, and may prematurely terminate my existence. But at the same time cancer has caused me to re-evaluate my life, why I am here, and what my goals are.
The Initial Diagnosis
On 4 December 1996 I was diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph node system. Lymphomas are broken down into either Hodgkin's Lymphoma (same as Hodgkin's Disease) or Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL). NHL is a collection of lymphoma types, and Burkitt's falls in this category. In NHL types there are three subdivisions, cancers that grow very slow, at intermediate speeds, or high/aggressive speeds. Burkitt's lymphoma is an aggressive cancer. In fact, Burkitt's is one of the fastest known cancers to grow inside man. It can double its size in 3-5 days. As one can imagine, Burkitt's has historically killed at very high rates and very quickly. If nothing had been done I easily would have been dead by the end of the year. At the same time, since World War II and the advent of chemotherapy, Burkitt's is one of those cancers that have seen very real declines in mortality.
Moving on here, I also need to mention the stage classification of my cancer. Since the cancerous cells where located in only one location (my right axilla) it is classifed as Stage I. This was determined by a Computed Tomography (CT or CAT Scan) and Bone Marrow Biopsy (BMB). Any cancer in a late stage, spread throughout the body, is Stage IV. Also of note is whether one has B symptoms, such as night sweats and headaches. I did not, so the complete staging is IA.
There are only two real courses of action when diagnosed with Burkitt's. The first is to refuse treatment, the second is an immediate course of high dose chemotherapy. I was initially given an 80% chance of the chemotherapy putting me in remission. Since Burkitt's grows so quickly, I began my first treatment that Sunday at Virginia Mason hospital. The drug regimen used for Burkitt's is a somewhat modified ProMACE-CytaBOM (no Cytarabine). Confused about what this means? Take CHOP, a standard regimen consisting of four drugs that is used in most lymphomas:
- (C)yclophosphamide [CTX] a.k.a. Cytoxan (alkylator)
- (H)ydroxydaunomycin [DOX] a.k.a. doxorubicin (antineoplastic agent)
- (O)ncovin [VCR] a.k.a. vincristine (plant alkaloid)
- (P)rednisone [Pred] (steroid)
In my case McMaster's regimen (modifed ProMACE-CytaBOM) consists of
- (Pr)ednisone [Pred] (steroid)
- (A)driamycin [DOX] a.k.a. doxorubicin (antineoplastic agent)
- (C)yclophosphamide [CTX] a.k.a. Cytoxan (alkylator)
- (E)toposide [VP-16] (antineoplastic agent)
- (B)leomycin [Bleo]( anti-tumor antibiotic)
- (O)ncovin [VCR] a.k.a. vincristine (plant alkaloid)
- (M)ethotrexate [MTX] (antimetabolic)
- Leucovorin [Leu] an antidote to high doses of Methotrexate
If you are interested in learning about the general types of chemotherapy drugs, try looking at OncoLink's information.
The Unfolding of My Terrible Story - The Human Side of Cancer
So there I was at Virginia Mason on Sunday night, receiving my first chemo treatment. After the nurse put in the IV, I felt nothing. "Wow," I thought, "this is easy." I kicked back and enjoyed the X-Files. When I left on Wednesday I felt quite odd, but not really sick. The feeling persisted through the weekend, but I was not worried.
Monday night I came down with a terrible fever. In the morning it broke after laying in the tub. We went to see my oncologist. I collapsed in the X-ray room and was scheduled to return to VMMC. Before I left I asked him about a peculiar reddened area on my left upper thigh, close to my groin. He told me I probably stretched something. No worry. By Tuesday I had noticed the red was spreading. At first my complaints were spurred, some tests were done, then the mood became very serious. It was some of the worst possible news - necrotizing fasciitis (Pseudomonas fasciitis), which is often dubbed as a "flesh-eating bacteria." The discoloration was spreading like a forest fire out of control. I was told surgery was necessary or I would lose my leg then my life.
In all honesty, the infection in my leg caused nearly 90% of my misery during the first year, not the cancer. The surgery consisted of debridement, or physical removal of the infected tissue. I spent the next week or so in the Intensive Care Unit, I don't really remember much, except when I first saw them take the bandages off. It was this huge hole covering most of my upper left leg. I later learned it covered 550 sq. mm and was originally 20 mm deep. (about the area of a sheet of paper) The wound dressing had to be changed several times a day.
I was home around the time of the new year. I could only imagine what the new year had in store for me. During January I began the second round of my chemotherapy. Also during this time changing of the dressing became untolerably painful. I was taking morphine in large doses, but it was no help. I then ended up on the 15th floor again with high fever. Life for me was beyond pure misery.
The wait towards the end of the month was so slow, but with the end of chemotherapy the skin graft operation would be possible. After several rounds of preparation, my prayers were answered and the graft happened. The skin was taken from my upper right leg, seven 15 cm by 7 cm strips. The week following the graft I could not move my lower body AT ALL. The surgeon carefully checked to see how well the graft was taking.
When things were starting to look good during this week, two detrimental things were discovered. The first one, was the news that a second biopsy in the axilla showed residual Burkitt's cells. This regiment, which takes care of 80% of people, had not completely worked! I was told radiotherapy would be next, then later down the road a BMT would be heavily considered. This hit like a rock! The other bad news was that in both my feet I began to feel this strange tingling sensation, which slowly crept over my feet. Later it was discovered that one of the chemotherapy drugs, vincristine, had caused an extensive neuropathy (nerve damage) in my lower legs and feet. Just my fate, another rare and severe crippling complication to deal with.
By mid February I was home, but things were really no better, except that the graft was taking very well. I went in for a set-up appointment at radiation oncology, then began 22 daily consecutive treatments. Walking was extremely painful; I spent most of the days downstairs on a bed. During this time physical therapists were coming to the house hoping to improve my situation.
March and April brought slow gains. We began to discuss the options for an upcoming bone marrow transplant. It was put off for the immediate future due to a virus outbreak that is deadly to post-BMT patients. I went to Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center for a second opinion on whether the transplant was neccessary, and if so, would I use my own marrow (an autologous stem cell transplant) or my brother's (he was a 6/6 match, allogenic transplant), which is much more dangerous. My case was brought before a group of doctors there and the decision was that an autologous transplant would be my best hope.
The biggest risk here was that the transplant was unnecessary and worse yet might kill me. This plagued my mind as I carefully decided what was more important. When I turned 22 in May, I was well enough to have a small celebration with my friends. By this time my mind was set; I would have the transplant.
The basic premise of a BMT (hereafter called a peripheral stem cell transplant, or PSCT) is that you store marrow, (same as stem cells), then take an incredibly high dose of chemotherapy to knock the cancer out. You then get your stem cells back and hope they engraft before some opportunistic bacteria or fungus gets you. During that time your immune system is virtually shut down.
At the end of April I had already had my stem cells harvested at the Hutch. I had to get a Hickman-like catheter in my neck, which caused quite a bit of pain for three or so weeks. The pre-conditioning (chemotherapy) for the PSCT began a week or so after my birthday. The three drugs I received where
- Busulfan (antineoplastic agent)
- Melphalan (antineoplastic agent)
- Thiotepa [TEPA] (alkalator)
As I eluded to above, these three old and powerful drugs (approved by FDA in early 1960s) and were given to me in lethal doses. To give you an idea, over three days I ingested over 500 busulfan tablets. Busulfan is also known to cause seizures. Once again I became the victim of chance, one night I had to go to the emergency room after such an event. Then, on May 28, 1997 I received my marrow back. I lasted a few more days before I had to be admitted to the hospital. From there it was a deadly waiting game. I was terribly sick and in the hospital for most of June.
The threat of death does not leave when you leave the hospital. I was still in awful shape, receiving all my nutrition intravenously via TPN (total parental nutrition, known also as "total puke-free nutrition") and being on liquids. I was seen by a doctor every day for the first month or so. The days were long and still full of much misery. The first six months are the most dangerous, that finally passed on November 28, 1997.
I was at risk to catch anything from pneumonia to shingles, so I had to be very careful. And I keep reminding people, but they want to forget, that I am NOT cured of my cancer. I could relapse and die within the month. If a relapse were to occur, after chemotherapy I would go straight to an allogenic transplant using my brother's marrow. These are all "if" scenarios. But at least I'm alive to contemplate them.
DURING MY ORDEAL I CONSTANTLY REPEATED CHURCHILL'S IMMORTAL WORDS
During those dark months I had also turned to several mailing lists that specifically discussed Non-Hodgkins and Bone Marrow Transplants. On the BMT list I could not help but be enraptured by a young little lady named Paigé Wilsek who was had been struggling for many years versus [ALL] leukemia. Her mother's persisent care in posting captured me in a beautiful way. On April 7, 1997 Paigé lost that fight. These days I am so excited to be where I am, but at the same time thoughts of Paige persist. Why am I alive and she is not? Life is indeed very unfair.
364 days after Paige's death I lost another friend to cancer. On August 6, 1998 Sandy Boorman, who was my Camp Director at Glacial Trails, passed away from leukemia. Sandy was a second father to virtually all who served under him at camp. I will truly miss his chuckles, patience, and stories. One of the most touching things I ever heard was when I later went to visit his widow Donna. She told me that from his bed Sandy claimed that if I could beat cancer, so would he. Rest in peace my friend. I will neverforget those words of courage.
You'll notice in this article that the day I was interviewed I knew it exactly how many days have passed since May 28, 1997. For the first couple of years I would have known that, but now I'm thinking bigger (although for the record, today is Day +3,890).
Right now it's been over ten years since that transplant!! That means the chances of remission are now very slight, although it is certain I do have an elevated chance of developing leukemia due to the unknown long-term effects of radiation.
These days I have come very far. I started to run in 1999 then swim in 2003. Before cancer I did bike some with my family. I put it all together starting in March of 2003 and completed my first (sprint) triathlon. In August of 2007 I completed my first "Ironman" triathlon in 13 hours and 9 minutes. Victory indeed.
I always race in Paige's honor.