Homer's Travels: February 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

End Of The Month Haiku

This post was going to be about faltering on one of my resolutions.  The last week, devoid of writing for me, convinced my pessimistic mind that I was falling behind my goal I'd set in January to post more regularly.  My informal goal that I'd set for myself was three posts a week.  I thought this may be too difficult to achieve especially after my writing lull.  When I actually counted up my posts I realized that in the last eight and a half weeks I'd posted twenty-two times!   That's not bad!  I nearly met my goal!

Having realized this, I still can't shake the feeling that my writing mojo is pretty dim right now.  Actually all motivation has been a little lackluster of late.  I have a couple projects that I want to start - I haven't written about them on Homer's Travels yet - and here I am at the end of month number two of 2012 and I haven't even pretended to start them yet.  Neither project is really difficult or necessarily time consuming but I just can't get the ol' motor running.

I think I need something to give me a jump start.  I'm hoping that a weekend in Galena, IL this weekend with the Matron of Honor and Best Man will get the creative juices a dripping (flowing is a little too much to hope for I think).

So, what am I doing in this creative wasteland?  Not much.  I'm reading a good book.  I'm playing eight simultaneous games of Scrabble with Facebook friends (and six games of Words With Friends).  I'm erroneously fretting about not writing enough.

Inspired by the Poetry Out Loud regional competition that took place a couple weeks ago, in which one of the Wife's students is participating, I think I'll end this post with a haiku:

Projects, planned, go unborn
Mistaken perceptions of progress lacking
What to do with I-I-I-U-U-C-V?

P.S. This is post number twenty-three, only two short from my goal.  Go figure.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

No ... I Don't Think So.

So ... The other day I was reading the Camino de Santiago Forum.   A thread called "Blister Prevention and Foot Care" caught my interest.  I was scanning through the comments looking for good ideas to try when I saw a comment that made me double take.  The comment suggested putting maxipads in your boots to help prevent blisters.  Feminine Hygiene products ... in you boots.  Okay.  Made me chuckle.  Later that evening I shared the comment with the Wife and we both got a little chuckle out of the idea.

Yesterday the Wife gets home and she has this mischievous smile on her face.  She pulls off her shoe and shows me a maxipad firmly stuck to the inside of her shoe.  WTF?!?  She actually tried it?!?  She was even pleasantly surprised at how well they felt.

Turns out that the adhesive keeps the maxipads from moving around.  The maxipad itself provides a nice amount of padding while not crowding the foot.  To top it off - the blister prevention part of this - the maxipad absorbs moisture keeping your feet dry (wet feet are one of the contributors to blister formation).  The only drawback is the durability - the maxipads would have to be replaced every couple days or so.

So ... will I be carrying a box of maxipads in my pack on future long treks?

No ... I don't think so.

P.S.  I never dreamed that I would ever ... ever use the work maxipad in a Homer's Travels post, let alone use it seven times.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Six Simple Words

Back in 2006 I read an article in Wired magazine: "Very Short Stories".  The article was about six word stories.  Some of the ones included in the article are amazingly expressive.  It's kind of incredible what you can say with six words.

I was reminded of this article by an TEDTalk given by Sebastian Wernicke last year.  Here's the video (please take the time to watch the video - it's fun and only eight minutes long).  Wernicke talks about summarizing all the TEDtalks, over a thousand, to a single six word summary.  I really like the summary he came up with:

"Why the worry.  I'd rather wonder."

While I watched the video I was thinking about a summary for my life ... at least my life so far.  These six words flashed into my head:

"Lived my life.  Regret not living."

I guess I have a ways to go to meet my optimism resolution.

What six words would summarize your life?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Book: David Ewing Duncan's "Experimental Man"

I am a data person.  I think we should collect more data ... on everything.  If we knew more about ourselves and our lives we could live more efficiently, healthier, and, very likely, more happily.  David Ewing Duncan's "Experimental Man: What One Man's Body Reveals about His Future, Your Health, and Our Toxic World" is one man's attempt to collect and understand data about himself to help improve his health and life.

The book is divided into four sections: genetics, environment, mind, and body.  In the genetics section the author has his genes mapped to looks for indicators for susceptibility to diseases such as heart disease and cancer.  He also has his parents and daughter's genes mapped as well for comparison.  The result is confusing, contradicting, and ambiguous data.  You can sense the author's frustration when one gene says heart attack imminent while another says don't worry about it.

The environment section just confirms the soup of potentially deadly chemicals that we are exposed to every day.  The section also confirms just how little we know about the long term effects of the chemicals we use in manufacturing, agriculture, and food preparation.  This time the author is not only frustrated but worried as well.

The section on the mind discusses brain scans.  While I found this section interesting, I come out without any useful conclusions.

The last section, the body, summed everything up and discussed new health models that are being developed to predict future health problems and how they affect our expected life span.

I wish the author would have talked more in depth about our attitudes about having this health information.  Would you want to know that you may get some untreatable condition?  I think I would.  Some people think, if they couldn't do anything about it, they don't want to know.  The author touches upon these choices but doesn't really dig into them.

Duncan is a writer for Wired magazine.  His writing style felt a little chaotic, sometimes digging too deep into the too technical and sometimes digging too deep into his own feelings.  I can't say I enjoyed his writing style.

The final conclusion I got from reading this book is we are a researching some really cool stuff that will do wonderful things someday but we're not there yet.  I kind of finished this book feeling hopefully frustrated.  I give the book a mediocre recommendation as there were some interesting stuff in the book.  Just as the science could be better, the book could have been better as well.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Cherry Chip Soft Sugar Cookie Hangover

I woke up Sunday morning with a cherry chip soft sugar cookie hangover.  It started Friday.

When we didn't make it up to the Lake Cornelia Winterfest last weekend, we rescheduled the family get together for this weekend.  Everyone was bringing food.  The Wife provided the Chili.  I baked soft sugar cookies with cherry chips.

I found the original cookie recipe on allrecipes.com.  At the suggestion of the Wife I added some cherry baking morsels to the recipe.  I think I may have overdone it a bit when I added two bags of cherry chips.  Turns out that the cherry chips alone added 50 calories to each cookie (that's about the same calories as the sugar and the lard - yes, lard - combined).  To walk off ten cookies worth of cherry chips, you would have to walk seven to eight miles ... JUST for the chips.  For ten cookies ... close to 16 miles.  Before the weekend was over, many more than ten were consumed.

On Saturday we drove to Lake Cornelia and met up with the Mother and Father-in-Law, The Wife's uncle KN and aunt EL, and the Matron of Honor (MoH) and Best Man (BM).  The first order of business was for the Wife, MoH, BM, FiL, and uncle KN to go out on the ice and set up two ice fishing shelters and fish for about an hour.  I helped set up the shelters and then went back in the lake house (It was around 10 - 15 °F and windy - lately I haven't been handling cold well and fishing ... not my thing).  In the warm house I ate some cookies.

Not having caught anything, they came back in and we had lunch.  I had cookies for dessert.

In the afternoon the ice fishers went to another spot on the lake and fished.  The BM and I drove into town to check into our hotel.  I took the time there to nap ... and watch cartoons.  I needed the time to rest ... and to get away from the cookies.

Ice Fishing Catch.
I went back to the lake house and, waiting for the ice fishers to return, ate more cookies.  When they got back to the house they'd caught six fish (and at least a dozen nibbles ... if you believe the stories).  The ice fishers were excited except  for sore "bucket butt".  The Wife, trying to get one of the shelters off the ice, fell and banged up her elbow.  I swear we need to wrap that woman in bubble wrap.  We ate dinner, Chili and homemade garlic bread, and ... I ate more cookies.  They were very good.

The evening was filled with our usual attempt to fix all the problems of the world ... this time not totally successfully.  Some subjects are a little too divisive for solutions.  Not even cherry chip soft sugar cookies can fix everything.

That night in the hotel, the lights out, I laid in bed ... my mind racing a mile a second.  I had trouble sleeping ... imagine that.  I finally drifted off just to wake up around 3:00 AM with a headache.  I sighed and tried to fall back asleep which I managed to do.

When the alarm went off Sunday morning I felt pretty crappy.  I think my blood sugar will be high for a few months.  Fortunately my next blood test isn't til 2013.   I felt like I was crashing and burning ... over and over again.

Back at the lake house I ate more cookies ... hair of the dog ... before breakfast and heading home.  We left the bag of cookies with the FiL and MiL ... where I can't get to them.

I have no idea how many cookies I consumed this weekend.  Four on Friday, four more on Sunday, and an unknown large quantity on Saturday.

... and now, back to my regularly scheduled diet, already in progress.

P.S. I took pictures of the fish but I did not take pictures of the cookies. An sad oversight on my part.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Photograph: Winter Robin

When I see my first robin, I often think that Spring is just around the corner.  I saw my first robin the other day, right before eight inches of heavy, wet snow was dumped on us.  Now I'm trying to figure out if Spring will be early this year or if Winter is just coming late this season.  I bet the robin wished it knew what was going on too.

"Winter Robin"
by Bruce H.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Photograph: Claws Of The Snow Beast

Like icy fingers reaching from under our deck.  What manner of beast lives there?

"Claws of the Snow Beast"
by Bruce H.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Plans Are Fluid And Fluids Are ... Planned ?!?

Well, I'm writing this post in m our living room, not from Lake Cornelia.  The weather, having been so spring-like of late, decided to assert itself by dumping eight inches of heavy, wet snow.  We knew it was coming and the family festivities were postponed.  As I suggested last post, our plans were fluid.

It took a couple snow blowing sessions to clear our driveway and sidewalks (and those of our neighbor whose snow blower I'm using).  We're kind of lucky the snow was heavy and wet.  It was also windy and a dry, fluffy snow would have drifted making the chore of clearing the walks even worse (it tends to drift in front of our house).

Not the best way to end such a beautiful week weather-wise but there were a couple things that made this a pretty good week for me.  The first were my blood test results.

You may remember that my blood tests last August were terrible with all my number being out of range.  I'd been a bad boy during my Camino and Route 66 adventures.  On Thursday I went in to have blood drawn and I am proud to say that all my numbers are back in range (except for my good cholesterol which has always been low).  Not only that but my doctor has asked me to not come back for a whole year.  This is a change from the every six months I've been doing since ... 2007 (???).  He didn't tell me why (his nurse gave me the good results) but I can think of two reasons.  I've proven, several times, that I can control my number by diet alone - as long as I'm 'good'.

The second reason may be that they changed the 'good' range for Hgb A1c.  Hgb A1c is a measure of your average blood glucose control over two to three months.  A high A1C can be an indicator of diabetes.  The old normal range for A1c was between 4.5 and 5.7.  As of December the range is between 4.5 and 6.3. Using the new range, my highest A1c measurement (back in 2009) was at the top of the normal range.  My number from last August was easily in the new good range.  I guess I became healthy at the stroke of a pen ... or a change of a range.

The second good thing that happen this week concerned my knee.  My right knee has been bothering me for a couple months.  It hurts in two places - the kneecap - which is a pain in the front of the knee - and the joint - which is a pain in the side of the knee.  Last Tuesday I had a headache.  Before I went to bed I took an ibuprofen (some of my leftover pilgrim's candy).  The next day I got out of bed and ... NO PAIN in my knee.  At first I figured that the the Ibuprofen hadn't worn off yet but the pain has not returned, at least not all of it.  I still have some kneecap pain when I walk but the joint pain has been greatly diminished.  I'd kind of given up on my knee ever healing but now I have new hope.

New hope ... and just in time for me to clear the snow off the driveways.  Perfect timing.  Oh, and the snow ... makes everything look clean, white, and beautiful ... at least for a couple days.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Weather ... And The Fluidity Of Plans

So ... what season is it anyway?  The calendar says it's Winter but the weather is saying Spring.  Monday the high in our back yard was 70°F (21°C) ... in January ... a record ... incredible.  The first few days of February ... 50s and 60s.

Now it's hard to complain that we're having spring-like conditions in the middle of winter but I miss the snow.  It hasn't snowed - real measurable snow that lasts more than a day or two on the ground - since mid December.  Everything is brown and dreary looking.  It's seriously interfering with our plans.

Our plans.  We were going to go dog sledding in Minnesota with the Matron of Honor (MoH) and Best Man.  No, or little, snow means no dog sledding.  I'm majorly bummed about this.  Hopefully we'll do it next year.

The other activity is Winterfest at lake Cornelia this weekend at the in-law's lake house.  We're hoping that there is more some snow there for the festivities.  Hopefully there will be enough ice so the wife and MoH can go ice fishing.  Hopefully there will be enough snow for me to go snowshoeing.  There is a 2 mile (3.2 km) walking trail around the lake and if there is enough snow, and my knee is willing, I'll try to do a loop around the lake.  I'm not that optimistic (I'm trying to be positive, I really am, but ...).

Now I'm not too worried.  If there isn't enough snow or ice there will still be lots of good food.  The Wife's family always feeds everyone well.

There is one potential fly in the ointment though.  Ironically the weather forecast is predicting rain followed by snow Friday into Saturday.  This should make me happy but I can see it coming already:  Snow over ice ... and we won't be going anywhere.  The weather is being a real pain.

I'll let you know how it goes.