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I'm sick. 2nd degree hacking cough and a head full of mucus.

The cold came on fast Friday afternoon and evening, during what turned out to be an 11 hour shift. Nevertheless, I hoped on my bicycle for home come about 02:15 Saturday morning, then got back on it at about 11:15 for a return trip and another 11 hour shift on Saturday. I returned home a little after midnight, having cycled about 35 kilometres since the onset of symptoms.

I say all this not to brag (or not to brag much), but to note:

Less than 10 years ago, when I caught a cold it was my practice to take to my bed, to suck down Neocitrin, and basically spend the next four to seven days in bed.

Since then, though, I stopped smoking, cut my drinking by more than half and started biking a lot more and playing soccer. And — fancy that! — now when I catch a cold, I function. I doubt I get over it any faster, but I don't take to my bed like some upper-class Victorian lady with The Vapours, I just carry on. (And, probably, spread my illness around to my passengers, but what the hell; I'm pretty sure one of them gave it to me in the first place.)

And speaking of that cycling, I've long maintained that my bicycle is my primary mode of transportation; now I have proof.

After I bought a new machine some time back in August, I decided to splurge on an odometer. Which turned out to be an unreliable piece of junk, which I was fortunately able to return. At which point I took Raven's advice and tried out a GPS-based cellphone app called Strava — which works like a charm (so long as I remember to enable my location services). I started recording my rides on August 23rd. I've missed a few and will manually enter the information later, so the image below does not include all the miles (kilometres) I've cycled since then, but it's not too far off.

1,290 km in less that three months, damn it! And you know what? I'm proud!

1200 km cycled in less than 3 months!

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You know what's scary? That moment when you realize you've grabbed the handle of a copper pan just out of a 500 degree (Farenheit) oven, just before you start to feel the burn.

I let it go awfully fast, so that only my fore-finger and, to a lesser extent, my thumb, sizzled. But even so, I knew it was going to hurt. I went immediately to the freezer and pulled out a bag of frozen corn and held it tight for some minutes, even as we ate.

The conversation, as it will, turned to the wound, which pulsed with pain every time I took it away from the icy kernels. I wondered if I could try analgesic I'd bought for a sore tooth a couple of months ago, and Raven wondered whether there was some sort of natural remedy I might try.

And that question turned on the proverbial light-bulb: Aloe!.

Raven has been carrying for an aloe plant longer than I've known her, and so she made her way upstairs and snipped off a bit for me to try.

And ladies and gentlemen and fair folk (hmm ... does that last term work?), let me tell you, it worked like a fucking wonder. The sap went on cool and soothed the burns instantly. Within an hour, the pain had vanished almost entirely. This morning, the dead skin is dry to the touch, but it doesn't hurt.

Kids! If you don't have an aloe plant in the house, get one! They don't take a lot of care. As Raven pointed out last night, it doesn't like a lot of water and she never fertilizes it, and yet it grows and it grows and it grows. Just keep it away from frost. And when you need it, snip a little off and apply liberally until the pain goes away.

A tale of burns and aloe: photo shows burned finger with aloe plant in background
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I think I mentioned it in a comment on someone else's journal, but I haven't said anything about it here.

I had an appointment with my MDeity this morning, on account of Raven having noticed a scaly kind of discoloration on the side of my neck way back around Easter. At the time, I dismissed as probably being a result of my bike helmet strat abrading it or something, but she took a photo of it around the end of July and that was enough to make place a call to Doctor Chow's office.

If you want the details, they're below the cut, hidden for those who don't want to be reminded that human skin is flawed and patchy and full of holes. )

Anyway, the news today was mostly good. She told me the markings aren't cancer (the big worry, 'natch), but since she doesn't know what they are, referred me to a specialist. Figures it will be about four months until I see her.

She also told me that the blood tests she'd sent me for blood tests to check for adult-onset diabetes (I'd complained of a series of "near colds", maybe a month in which I felt like I was coming down with something every two or three days). Not only were my results good, she said, they were "very good. I pee a lot 'cause I drink plenty of fluids — and the near-colds stopped happening the moment I walked out of her office last time.)

And finally, the arthritis. She says it will subside with time, and approves of my desire to stay away from meds that would see me getting blood tests to make sure I'm not fucking up my liver every three months.

So, yeah. For now I deal with the pain, take ASA and see if the twice-daily does of turmeric tea (which I started trying this week) does any good. When I mentioned that I can't do push-ups because of the pain, she made the very sensible suggestion that I do them on my knuckles and I'll give that a try.

So. All things considered, not to bad. The process of deterioration is ongoing, but moving at a pleasantly slow clip. And there's nothing stopping me from playing soccer or carrying on my 25 kilometre round-trip commute to work on my new bicycle.

Now if I can only get back to writing, I'll be in clover.

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As the Canucks among you will know, Canada is in the midst of a federal election, one in which the ruling Facists Conservatives have taken off the gloves and are using blatant lies (did you know that marijuana is "infinitely worse" than tobacco? Well, now you do! If a Prime Minister asserts it, it must be true, right?) and out-right racism (anti-Muslim xenophobia dressed up in women's rights lipstick) to divide and conquer. With two weeks to go until election day, the fear-mongering and hate-stirring seems to have moved the necessary 10% or so of voters so that Harper's thugs can taste victory. In a first-past-the-post system, 35% of the vote might be enough to secure a majority in Parliament.

  Image: Photo of my right thigh, rear, about one week after tearing my hamstring.

All of which is to say, rage and despair are the primary emotions I'm feeling when I look at the world around me; and that's just in Canada.

Worse (or better?), I still haven't managed to finish that fucking long-promised review of last year's be-damned Doctor Who Christmas Special. That despite having watched the stupid thing at least four times by this point, maybe more. And it's already three episodes into the new series and I have yet to watch a single one of them. And I realized the other day that I'm not missing the show at all.

Sigh ...

On the up-side, I have fully-recovered from the torn hamstring I suffered last spring (that's the ugly pic above and to the right) and in fact finished my latest "season" with the bloody well-organized Ottawa Footy-Sevens yesterday, with a double-header. I'll guestimate that I spend close to an hour-and-a-half of the tours hours on the field — which, I hasten to add, isn't why we lost both games.

But fun was had, and (as I've said before) the fact that I even can more or less hold my own with people who probably average 20 or 25 years younger than I am still thrills me all to all.

That said, soccer does not come without its costs. And in my case, the hamstring aside, the primary payees have been my feet. Specifically, my big toes. In the past few years I've lost four or five tonails, and two more will soon follow.

For reasons I don't fully understand, I feel compelled to show them to you.

But for reasons I do understand (the pictures are gross!; and so are my feet, as I discovered yesterday when I looked at the photos Raven took before I set out for my games), I'm placing them behind a cut so that you will see them only if you actually want to.

Click here, if you dare! )

You're welcome!

And now I must be off to the day-job. exeunt

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So that's what it feels like to pull one's hamstring. (Hint: Not Good.)

After a week off since my old team won our consolation game (against a team that had previously beaten us 6-1), today was a beautiful day to switch from the fetid air of a dome to a field under the big sky — at Carleton University, as it happens.

Warm, sunny and with just enough wind to make things interesting, I met my new team of more-or-less randomly-assigned individuals. Five girls and six (or was it seven?) guys — a pretty big squad and I think more women on it than I've previously experienced.

On the whole, this team is not going to be a world-beater. There's not a ringer in the bunch and I definitely consider myself among the top half in terms of skillz and energy. Which means that, if winning was the primary objective, this would look like being a really long season.

But rec soccer is, thank god, primarily meant to be recreational, and everyone on the field seemed to be more worried about having fun than in whether or not we were going to win. In fact, the half-time pep-talk consisted mostly of a general agreement that we should try to keep the ball away from the other team as much as possible.

And we did considerably better in the second half. I believe the final score was 5-2 against, which is better than the Montreal Canadiens did against the fucking Lightning later on this evening.

But that hamstring. That fucking hamstring. Came with only a minute or two left in the game, and I was playing centre D. I'd pinched a little and suddenly found myself running like hell — sprinting, in truth, and not for the first time that game (so happy I can do that!) — to catch the opposing forward. I managed it, too, but as we jostled one of my cleats caught something in the turf and I felt a sudden, searing pain shoot up the inside of my right thigh.

I went down like I'd been shot, and I stayed down. Wasn't quiet about it, either. Jesus god, but that hurt!

Still, after probably two minutes, I was (with two people supporting me) I able to get to my feet and off the field. And a little while later, managed to hobble to my venerable bicycle and clamber aboard the saddle, to gingerly and slowly pedal my way back to Centretown and home.

Will I be able to play next week? Dunno. In fact, I don't even know if I'll be able to drive a van at work on Tuesday, though I'm hopeful on both counts. I'll have a better sense of things tomorrow, no doubt.

I'm not complaining. It's been a at least a good three years or more since I've managed to hurt myself on the pitch, and a pulled muscle is a hell of a lot less serious than a stretched tendon or (got help me) a blown-out knee.

So, cheers! Raven and I are going to catch up on an episode or two of Scott and Bailey and then I'll see how and whether I'll be able to sleep.

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"You are so strong!"

I came down with a cold last weekend, a nasty throat infection that left me sore and raspy and without much energy. Too weak to enjoy the increasingly clement whether that's been creeping up on Ottawa this week — until today.

Throat still a little sore today, I nevertheless felt well enough this afternoon to head for the airport by bicycle instead of bus — nevermind the rain clouds that chased me the whole 12 kilometre ride. (The sky began to weep about 10 minutes after I locked up my machine.)

Despite the layoff, I pretty quickly fell into a good groove. Maybe a little too good because, a couple of kilometres shy of the Ottawa International Airport, my front tire bit gravel and I had to work to keep my balance on the rough.

Disconcerting, but I kept control and soon glanced back behind me for the merge back onto the pavement.

There were no cars in sight, but there was another cyclist, coming up fast. But not so fast as to keep me from signalling my intent to get back onto the pavement. Once on blacktop, I pushed hard to regain speed in hopes of not my pursuer too much before they had a chance to pass.

We were closing upon the off-ramp to Uplands Drive. I toed the line of the main road and so did my trailer. When we reached the point where the ramp fully split, I pulled right and and waved the other bicyclist — a woman, I saw now — passed me in full training regalia: tight bike shorts and top, arms and (especially) legs bulging with an athlete's muscles.

She returned my wave with a smile and startled me mightily, saying, "You are so strong!"

"What do you mean?" I shouted as she nosed ahead, "You're passing me!"

"Sure," she said, looking back at me, "but your bike isn't stripped-down!"

And as she settled in before me, I realized it was true.

Her bike consisted of a frame, wheels and a plastic water-bottle strapped its main pillar. Mine? Well first, I was wearing work-boots and long pants, along with not-at-all aerodynamic safety-vest. My bike is saddled with fenders and a 70-kilogram capacity carrier, to which are attached two metal paniers. Those, in turn, were laden with a bags containing a couple of magazines, my (very small) laptop computer, a notebook, two litres of water (in stainless steel bottles), a change of clothes and a few other random odds and ends. Not to mention, that the bike is more than fifty years old and made of steel, not some lightweight modern alloy.

And I wondered: was she in training? Was it a real athlete who had admired my strength? Without really intending to, I found myself pushing harder; she had been pulling away, but I kept pace, maybe five metres behind, the same competitive instinct taking hold that saw me, a couple of winters ago, straining to keep up with some guy who'd passed me on a bike hauling a child-carrier trailer (sans child), even though I was only going to work.

A kilometre or so on, she took the right ramp to the airport's departure level, while I went left. Arrivals, where my office lurks at the far end of the terminal. We waved to each other and went our separate ways.

The funny thing is (and I really hope all this doesn't sound like bragging, because that's not my intent; I save that for Facebook) I really don't feel "strong", let alone "so strong."

What I feel is a middle-aged, is ex-smoker, is (yes) too fat. Sure, I play soccer with kids 20 and 30 years my junior, and maybe — objectively — I'm not doing too bad at resisting the hideous depredations of Father Time, but I am (or think I am) usually one of the worst players when I take to the pitch, belly jiggling more than I'd like it to when I "bounce across the field".

Reason tells me I'm doing pretty well, I guess, in comparison to most other 50 year-old men, but in my mind's eye I ought to be Batman. Or at least, Guy Lafleur in his prime.

No, not Guy Lafleur in his prime; rather, I am comparing myself to Batman or Lafleur. And so, always come up on the losing side of the equation.

So thank you, unknown cyclist. You looked like you were in serious training, and your words made me feel pretty good, even if also a little confused. And they helped to remind me that I really am grateful (as I think I've said here before — I've definitely said it elsewhere) that I'm doing as well as I am. As an ex-smoker and long-time heavy drinker, I marvel with more than a little humility to be able to do the things — cycling, soccer, even — recently — jogging for a block or two or three just for the hell of it (or to catch a bus) — but I still can't shake that picture of myself as the second-cousin to the class Fat Kid, as the nerdy (and chubby) teenager too shy to tell a girl he liked her.

And how stupid is that? Truth is, in the five or six(ish) years since I met Raven, quit smoking and (not at all coincidentally) cut way down on my drinking, I've gotten into the best shape of my adult life, whether or not my belly still jiggles a bit when I hound an opposing player the length of the pitch. Why is it so hard to shake the pictures of ourselves that develop in our youth?

Well, maybe for the same reason that the first reaction of nearly every old person who spies a long-lost acquaintance is to wonder why that old person looks so damned familiar.

I dunno. What do you see when you look in the mirror? Yourself as you are, as you once were, or some gross distortion of one or the other (or both)?

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Down three goals at the end of the first half, playing short-handed the entire game and forced to accept a sub from the opposing team when their captain — and only girl playing — went down with a knee injury, the @UOttawa-A's of the Ottawa Footy Sevens Recreational Soccer League faced inevitable defeat with heroic defiance.

Early in the second half, they found the back of the Zinedine Shenanigans' net, then found it again. The Shenanigans struck back to re-gain a two-goal lead, but by the time the clock showed less than five minutes to go, Young Geoffrey answered the call for a sub at forward, despite spending most of his career on the back end of the pitch.

Young Geoffrey, the oldest player on the pitch, saw the ball land four metres in front of the opposition net and drove towards the orb. Eye on the net, he pivoted on his left leg and left fly with his right. The ball curved towards the far corner, even as a team-mate's foot lashed out and caught his ankle with a might blow. Young Geoffrey went down like some ancient oak crashing through the underbrush, yet he kept his eye on the ball and gloried in the sight of the netting billowing outwards.


His team-mate went down as if in sympathy. "Jesus!" said Greg, "I'm sorry! Are you okay?

Young Geoffrey was already getting to his feet, even as the referee and players from both teams began to gather round like hyenas sensing blood concerned recreational players.

"I'm fine, I'm fine," said Young Geoffrey as he rotated his ankle to verify his words. "We scored, you know."

"You scored," said Greg, "that was yours!

The final four minutes saw the Shenanigans push for the trying goal with all their might, but despite their extra player, the uOttawa - A's held on for a victory well-earned.

* * *

I get mocked for my braggadocio, by colleagues at work and even by ostensible Best Friends, but fuck it. I was a fat(ish) kid as a youth and, though I loved to play pick-up hockey at the local (outdoor) rink, and soccer at recess in grade school, I was never under any delusion I was an athlete. I only once played an organized sport — soccer, the summer after grade five or six.

My sainted mother remembers me as a plucky little boy who "trundled bravely down the field". Thanks, mom; you make me sound like a dancing dog, as if it were a miracle I could play at all.

Anyway ...

Anyway, outdoor shinny gave way, in my teens, to indoor drinking and smoking and I kept up those virtues until well into my 40s.

So you know what? That at the age of 50 I find myself playing with and against "kids" who are mostly in their 20s and 30s is at least partly due to having had the wisdom to choose a robust set of ancestors, the truth is, I am proud of myself, as well as grateful.

It is fun to find myself getting better a fucking sport in my Late Youth, and watching that ball go into the net was an absolute joy, somehow made even sweeter by the fact of the kick that took me down almost in the same instant.

* * *

My god! Has it really been more than five years since I gave up that noxious master, tobacco? (It has.) A whole tenth of my life, now that I've passed the fifty year mark! The rate at which the passage of time continues to accelerate is as astonishing to me as it is appalling.

Which also means that another 5th anniversary is almost upon me: About a week from now will mark exactly five years since I reached over and draped my arm over Raven's shoulder. And, shortly thereafter, kissed her. (She made me sleep on the couch that night. But deigned to share it with me.)

We moved into our own apartment some three years ago or so, and are now about to move again. This time into a god damned town-house! Two floors. Carpets. Landlord a non-profit housing organizing, instead of rapacious slumlords (rent miraculously only $100.00 more than we're currently paying for the shoddy, mouse-infested hovel we'll call home for another two and a half weeks or so).

50 years old and a townhouse! Can it be that Young Geoffrey is not quite so young as he once was?

Hell, I dunno. All I'm sure of is, these entries would come a lot easier and more organically, if I wrote more of them.

I'll try ...

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Actually, the exclamation point in the subject-line looks kind of celebratory, doesn't it?

Not my intention.

In truth, I've buggered up my wrist (tendonitis, repetitive strain injury) and am in search of a WSIB-approved physiotherapist. Anyone in Ottawa have a recommendation? Feel free to forward or repost if you think you know someone who might have an answer. Thanks in advance.

ed_rex: Winter Warrior icon (Weekend Warrior)
  This is what obsity looks like? Photo: Young Geoffrey takes a break on the sidelines of the pitch, summer 2013. Photo by the Phantom Photographer.
  This is what obsity looks like? Young Geoffrey takes a break on the sidelines of the pitch, summer 2013. Photo by the Phantom Photographer.

I know it's been said many times before, at length and probably with greater eloquence, but sweet Jesus don't we make a fetish of numbers! Give some phenomenon a number with a decimal point — say, for instance, 30.2 — and we leap to embrace it as a Significant Truth, as Science, no matter how shaky its foundation nor how often that particular scale has been debunked.

I'd meant, some three or four weeks ago now, to update my personal blog with a little bragging amid a more general report on the State of Young Geoffrey's Corpus.

Y'see, I've been cycling quite a lot again, since the snow melted, and when I went out for my first soccer game in a couple of months — and a 90-minute game it was, not a mere 60! — I was really pleased to note the improvement in my fitness. I not only jogged across the field at half-time to find the bathroom (and jogged back), but was surprised when the game was over.

"That's it?" I called out, "I thought there was another 20 minutes to go!"

"You've got the energy for another 20 minutes?" one of my team-mates, a 20-something named Paul, asked me. And when I said, "Yeah, I think so," I realized I was pretty sure that I did.

It was, to put it mildly, an awesome feeling for a once-heavy smoker, and I whooped and hollered as I cycled my way home for the sheer joy of movement.

I wanted, too, to discuss the fact that the psoriatic arthritis I first mentioned a couple of years ago seems to be in remission. Concerned some enzymes in my liver were a little high (I hadn't cut back quite as much on the beer as I'd been supposed to, I admit it), my specialist told me to take a week's break from the Scary Powerful Drug he'd put me on, Methotrexate. So I did. And, when I felt no sign of pain returning, I took another week off. And another after that, and so. Six months later I still hadn't taken another dose and, when I saw said specialist for a follow-up, he shrugged and said to keep on keeping on, so long as I felt okay. "Start taking again and call for an appointment if the pain comes back. Otherwise, come back in year."

And that, more or less, would have been that. Young Geoffrey feels pretty good, he's playing soccer with 20-somethings, thank you very much, and he feels both vaguely grateful for (and maybe just a little bit smug about) his good fortune.

Image: Photo of Taylor Townsend, September 5, 2011, by Robbie Mendelson, courtesy of Wikimedia.org  
Detail of photo of Taylor Townsend at U.S. Open Juniors on Sunday, September 4, 2011. Original photo by Robbie Mendelson, courtesy of Wikimedia.org.  

Unfortunately (or not) for the state of said personal blog, I came across a couple of items that combined to complicate my report. Three or four weeks later, I don't remember which came first, but I don't suppose that really matters much. One was personal, the aforementioned 30.2, a number that applies to me. The other an item I read about a young, female, African American tennis player called Taylor Townsend.

Though I am by no means a professional athlete, nor a woman, nor black, nor (if the truth be told at all) even all that young any more, Taylor and do share something in common. We are both, at least according to some standards, fat.

In fact, though my blood pressure is excellent and my resting heart rate typically clocks in at just over 50 beats a minute, I carry some extra flesh on me. If there is a 6-pack to be found on my abdomen, it is well-insulated, or perhaps, as my sweetie puts it, it is disguised as a one-pack.

Image: Young Geoffrey's BMI rating: Obese, via hall.md.

To add insult to injury, the internet, via a 150 year-old measurement that is still, apparently, accorded a not insignificant diagnostic respect by laymen and medical professionals alike, has informed me that I not only jiggle a little, but that I am, in truth, obese.

Not pleasantly plump, not chubby, not carrying around "a few extra pounds", but obese. A big fatso, a lardass, a Homer J ...

And presumably, so is Taylor Townsend, who (by the way) made it to the third round at the French Open a few weeks back.

Would my knees thank me if I dropped 20 or 30 (or even 40) pounds? Presumably. At one point in my 20s I got myself down to about 145 pounds and if I still felt like the chubby kid whose clothes all came from the Husky racks, photographic evidence from that era shows I was pretty close to lean. If I'd been playing soccer and cycling 2 or 3 thousand kilometres a year, I probably would have been.

Would Taylor Townsend's knees thank her if she dropped a 10 or 20 or 30 pounds? Presumably. But would dropping that weight make a better tennis player? Maybe not: Teen Tennis Prodigy Taylor Townsend: 'My Body Is A Total Gift'.

Despite the subject's own answer, my instinct is to say yes in answer to that last question, but really, what do I know about the best "fighting weight" for a particular 18 year-old African-American woman called Taylor Townsend? Presumably knees are always calling for a lighter load to lug around, but the rest of the body is, or at least can be, a hell of a lot more complicated.

What isn't complicated, and the reason I'm going on so god damned long about this, is that far too many of us and, I believe, too many doctors and other ostensible health professionals who ought to know better, look at a person's BMI, at the number and presume it means something, all by itself. Because ... number! With decimal point!

By all means, check heart rate and blood pressure; measure body fat; maybe see if you can pinch an inch ... But don't look at a height/weight ratio and think it means something! It might, for those who have a typical European's body type and who carry an average amount of muscle tissue and have average length arms and legs. For the rest of us: for real athletes and chubby weekend warriors, for the naturally skinny and new mothers alike, it isn't even useful as a ball-park figure. It's worse than useless, in truth, because it's liable to be mis-interpreted and to create all manner of useless anxiety — or unwarranted self-confidence.

If your doctor looks at your BMI number and not at you, find another doctor.

This isn't, by the way, intended to by some fat-positive message either. To be honest, though my sweetie thinks my "roundness" is "cute" (and thank god for that!), I don't. I don't much like the figure I see in the mirror and would love to trim down some. But all the real indications are that any weight problem I have right now is aesthetic and cultural, not medical.

So, come Sunday afternoon, I (and my belly) are going to "bounce across the field" in all our enthusiastic glory after a little round soccer ball. Wish us luck!

Right. It's nearly 04:00 and I need to be at work for a 12-hour shift by 13:00 hours. Time for something really offensive to take us into that good night ... Take it away, Bruce McCulloch!

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I've been having chest pains over the past few weeks. A sharp, vertical blade of pain whose strength ranged from a barely-noticeable twinge to a slice of near-agony in certain positions.

That the onset coincided with my longer commute and my growing tendency to use the curls on my racing-style bike's handle bars; that it did not seem to correlate with physical exertion; and that I had an appointment with my GP scheduled for last Tuesday all combined towards my decision not to rush off to Emergency but rather, to wait for the scheduled consultation.

Did I mention that I (and Raven) have actually managed to land a family doctor? No? Well, Raven and I have landed a family doctor. She is a young Doctor who had been (and still is) working out of a local walk-in clinic and Raven and I both found her personable, intelligent and willing to take time to answer questions. Further, she tends to suggest exercise or stretches rather than jump towards prescribing pills. When she mentioned that she was starting a private practice, Raven and I leapt to sign up.

That was probably nearly two years ago. Whether for reasons of bureaucracy or something else entirely, it took nearly that long for things to be made official. But it happened, and I went in for my first physical with Dr. Chow as my Primary Care Physician a week ago.

I told her I was feeling pretty good, "I think." She confirmed my "excellent" blood pressure and my resting heart rate of 54 beats per minute (which, ahem, the internet tells me is that of an athlete), then prodded my chest a little here and there. "I'm pretty sure it's costochondritis," she said. "Inflamation of the cartilage in the ribs." She said she wanted me to have some tests done, to be sure, "but mostly to have a baseline of your heart functioning for the future," she said.

And so it was that, yesterday, I found myself in a small room, shirtless, with a technician scraping away at me with (really!) sandpaper, before attaching electrodes to the tender spots, all attached to a belt that looked like nothing so much as (I thought, but did not say) a suicide bomber's detonator.

The machine itself looked pretty much exactly like a treadmill in a gym but, the technician told me, has an extra level of inclination — I think it maxed out at 14%. At least, that's where I maxed out, when 10 minutes 24 seconds in and panting and sweaty, I cried Uncle. I had passed my target heart rate of 158 beats per minute a minute and a half before but learned that jogging "uphill" even for a brief time is harder than it looks.

The technician was, happily, willing to give me the benefit of her experience. "Off the record," she said, "I don't see any problems. But of course, the doctor will send the results to your doctor."

The stretches Dr. Chow had recommended had already been working, but the relief I felt surprised me. I hadn't, consciously, thought there was much chance I actually had something wrong with my heart but, apparently, my subconscious was a lot more concerned.

And meanwhile, if anyone is keeping track, I'll be seeing a specialist about my arthritis in December; 'till then, I trust the ibuprofen will keep that pain relatively muted.

P.S. to my American readers. I have no private health coverage; none of this cost me a penny out-of-pocket. I think that's a very good thing.

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The sublime, the glorious and the mundane:

Simple pleasure, complex joy (and chronic pain)

Complex joys

Batman and Raven visit Gatineau Park, September 2011. Photo by the Phantom Photographer.

It's difficult to believe, but it's been two years and close on two days since that fateful night early morning I mastered my fears, dropped my arm across the shoulders of Raven as we sat close watching a movie, then offered her a kiss when she turned to look at me.

Wonder of wonders, she did not refuse me and the rest, as they say, is ongoing history.

It's not that we haven't occasionally had our disagreements, our arguments, and even fights, because (of course) we have. And it's not that we are obviously "meant" for one another. In truth, I can't imagine that any computer dating algorithm would have even introduced us to one another.

Beyond the nearly 20 year age-gap, lie barriers of cultures, of interests and of tastes. Beyond our shared bonds of godlessness and loves for food, the differences are almost legion. Tastes in literature, degrees of interest in politics and musical preferences only start the list of differences between us.

And yet ... And yet ...

We make one another laugh and think; we share many (if not all) of the fundamental values that count; and we have spent very nearly every day of more than two years in one anothers' company. And I can state with confidence that I see no signs that I am growing bored or unhappy.

In truth, I love her more with each and every sunrise.

Happy anniversary, my darling; I only hope I have brought as much joy to your life as you have to mine.

Simple pleasures: Chahaya Malaysia

Chahaya Malaysia restaurant, image from restaurantthing.com.
Chahaya Malaysia restaurant, image from restaurantthing.com.

We celebrated our anniversary in typical Geoffrey/Raven style: with food.

And what food it was!

Near the western end of Montreal Road, east of Blair, in a desolate suburban area of high-rise apartments, parking lots and strip malls lies an oasis of magnificent cuisine. Or at least, of what is almost certainly the best food of which I have had the pleasure of partaking in Ottawa.

Hulking across a wall from a shuttered Chinese eatery, the Chahaya Malaysia looks like the sort of mom and pop ethnic restaurant that will either be quite good or very, very bad.

Inside, the decor is casual, brightly-lit and with an almost bohemian feel to it. There are cloth table-clothes beneath glass on the tables, and napkins folded elegantly, but I don't start wondering whether I should have been wearing a tie.

We were greeted by the husband-and-wife owners and learned that the restaurant had once graced the Glebe, before gentrifying rents had driven it to the outskirts of town. They had, she told me, taken the chance they had enough customer loyalty to become a Destination on the outskirts in 1995 and, since they are still around, it seems they guessed a-right.

We ordered four dishes, so I can by no means speak for the entire menu.

A vegetarian spring roll, an order of Laksa Penang (a hot and sour fish soup (two stars, out of three on the chili scale), Beef Rendang (Daging Lembu Rendang, three out of three), chili fish (Ikan Masak Berlada, also — we realized once it had arrived, a three out of three) and Nasi Puteh, a plate of flavoured basmati rice.

The spring roll was very nearly the Platonic ideal of its kind. Deep-fried, yes, but only briefly, its pastry wrapping its simple ingredients in delicate layers. The Laksa Penang came with a strong whiff of shrimp paste (unfortunately, one of too many no-go aromas in my life), but I forced myself to taste the broth and very nearly demanded a bowl for myself anyway.

Then came the main courses. The Daging Lembu Rendang was every bit as fiery as we had been warned it would be, but there was a hell of a lot more going on in that than just heat. Behind the fire was a complex symphony of spices, cooked right through each piece of meat and each one insisting on being tasted in its own right.

So good. So, so good.

And the chili fish, the Ikan Masak Berlada, might have been even better. All I said about the beef was true true of the fish (if in a different key), with an undercurrent of sweetness to a sauce lovingly enveloping lightly fried piscine flesh.

The meal was without a doubt among the five or ten most memorable I have had, ever. The only caveat is that their three-star meals are hot. The hostess suggested we should have ordered a vegetable dish to moderate things and the next time, I will take her advice (Raven says she might just order two bowls of the Laksa Penang and be done with it); the particular combination we had was a little rough on the insides.

But o! so worth it.

'Behold! The ravages of age'

Bart and Lisa Simpson behold the ravages of age in 1998.

Among the stereotypes about senior citizens, the elderly, old people, call 'em what you will, is the one that sees a little old lady (or little old man, though there are fewer of 'em around) sorting through an enormous pile of pills as they, creaking, start their days.

Like more stereotypes than most of us what care to admit (but that is a post for another day), there is a fair bit of truth to this one. What's worse, it is one that is starting to apply to "young" Geoffrey.

I know, I like to boast of my youthful vigour and macho outdoor exploits, and by many measures I am in better shape than I have been in a decade or more.

My blood pressure and cholesterol levels are "excellent", my resting heart rate is around 50 beats a minute and my teeth are (still) to register a single cavity.

At the same time, my waist — never slender — responds not to kilometres I have cycled in recent months, neither does it shrink. Raven, thank God, thinks my modest belly is cute, but personally, I find it more than a little unfair that a significant increase in physical activity should leave my weight and girth more or less unchanged.

But that's largely aesthetics. Much worse is the state of (some of) my joints.

Some of you might remember that I have psoriasis, an auto-immune disease that until recently I thought was strictly a skin disease, causing scaly patches (sometimes to the point of bleeding) on the skin but, in my case, not too severe and localized enough that I could live with it fairly comfortably.

What no one told me until recently is that psoriasis can affect a lot more than just one's skin.

For the past year or so, I've been experiencing pain in my right thumb. Sometimes just annoying, but more often painful to the point of being frankly crippling. I gave up crosswords quite a while ago, in large part because cursive or even printing very often hurts.

Then I noticed that I was having similar problems with my right big toe and occasionally the right ankle — a tensor bandage helps the symptoms with the latter, nothing helps with the former (other than not walking on it).

And then, two or three (or four? Come to think of it, I noticed a problem last summer, while playing tennis and badminton) months ago, my right shoulder started giving me a hard time. Just moving it in the wrong way, or rolling over in the wrong way, can cause not just an annoyance but an really serious, yelp-inducing pain.

I've become one of those half-crippled old farts who grunts and groans while performing the most common-place activities, like rolling over in bed, or signing my name, or walking.

The prognosis is still unknown. I have been referred to a specialist and my name now resides in a pile of similar referrals being triaged. I've been told I will see him within "a year".

And meanwhile, I am taking an ibuprofen or two every day, along with 40 mg of ran-pantoprazole every morning. The latter is to deal with the recent appearance of chronic acid reflux (heartburn to you), which apparently is also associated with that fucking psoriasis.

So there we are. I haven't smoked for more than two years, I've cut way back on my alcohol intake, I'm eating very well and I'm getting more exercise than I have in years.

But I can't lose weight and the major joints on my right side are causing me pain, sometimes a lot of pain. There are people who have things a lot worse (including some of you folks, yes I'm paying attention), but I can't pretend that I'm happy to find myself joining those who lose in life includes pain as a quotidian part of existence.

Meanwhile, in the spirit of lighting a single candle against the darkness, I think it's time to sign up for another summer of soccer. With cleats, this time!

ed_rex: (Default)

I felt like I played my best game of the season on Sunday. I was running hard, I took a decent turn in goal, and was aggressive against the opposing teams best players.

I even managed to make it home without any blood flowing for a small wonder.

But maybe two hours after I'd showered, I realized that my right knee was starting to bother me — no, to hurt — quite a lot. Indeed, by the time I'd finished supper, maybe four hours after the game, I could barely bend my at all. Just sitting down in a chair required me to carefully position my left leg, sink to the seat, then manually swing /em> my right leg over and (more or less) into place. I could make it up stairs only with difficulty and down was painful indeed.

By the time I was ready for bed, I found it difficult to pull of my slippers and getting into bed required an elaborate maneouver that finally included Raven lifting and (slowly!) swinging the recalcitrant leg onto a cushion. She also, bless her, spent quite some time rubbing some kind of liniment into the joint and she barely complained when I swallowed a couple of ibuprofen.

Weird thing is, I couldn't tell you when the injury occurred. I didn't limp during the game, nor did I immediately afterward. Was it a twist? Did I get kicked? No idea, though a twist or sprain was my best guess, going on the assumption that I would have noticed a kick to the knee.

Regardless, though I didn't think it was a serious injury, I know that soft-tissue damage can take a very long time to heal. I was seriously concerned that I wouldn't be able to play this coming Sunday and the thought that I might miss the rest of the season worried at the back of my mind.

More depressing still was the thought that I was only just starting to get into some kind of decent shape and that this would be a huge set-back on that score.

All of which is to say that I am thrilled — thrilled! I tells ya — by the pace of the recovery.

Monday saw me still limping but in considerably less pain and, by days end, I was climbing the stairs almost normally and was able to get into bed knees first. Raven did the liniment rubbing again and this morning I awoke without a limp and barely even a twinge.

Suggesting a round of badminton tonight would probably be begging for trouble, but tomorrow ...? We'll see.

To say that I'm relieved is to put it very mildly indeed.

* * *

On the other hand, Livejournal has been down for at least 24 hours and I find myself jonesing quite badly for my reading list there. The Dreamwidth technology is just fine (more than fine in some ways), but the critical mass certainly is not.

I signed up here as a precautionary measure, a year or two back when LJ peremptorily canceled a number of accounts for what, on freedom-of-speech grounds, seemed worrisome reasons, so DW's explicitly pro-free-speech philosophy was extremely appealing, as was (and is) its non-profit, cooperative business model and its very sensible, slow-growth planning. But I nevertheless find myself missing LJ badly on a personal level and also on a political one, since I learned, during the last denial of service attack, that LJ is one of the major remaining popular arenas for free speech in Russia, a country in sore need of same.

In truth, at least in terms of my own "friends" list, few are posting any more and fewer still (I think) are reading my posts, but I miss it and I miss the various feeds and communities I read there as well.

So here's hoping that LJ's recovery from whatever it is that currently ails it be as speedy as was my knee's.

July 2017

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