Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Sometimes the fates simply smile on us, huh?

I've written about the Nordic Track before--it has done yeoman's service in the 14+ years that I've owned it, and it is still going strong. Right now I'm using it about 3 times a week at around 40-50 minutes a pop.

It originally had a little "computer" thingy that plugged into the bar on which the ropes and the rope wheel are secured. The "computer" keeps track of mileage (well, kilometerage) of the present workout as well as for all workouts cumulatively, of time, and of speed. I used to keep track of such stuff--monitor how fast I was going and how far, etc. Then about three years ago, it just died. It has a liquid crystal display that simply faded into nothingness. I went on eBay to try to find a replacement, Nordic Track having discontinued the part a decade ago or more, but no luck. I found one once, but I was too chintzy to pay the "Buy It Now" price and ended up being outbid at the last millisecond. Meanwhile, the old one is simply stuck to the bar, and I've just left it there.

So I've been letting the iPod dictate the workout--I used to do 12 songs, which, with my shuffled playlist of mostly oldies, worked out to between 30 and 40 minutes. But, with the medical command to drop some poundage came a revved up workout, so now I do 16 songs. That usually nets me 40 to 50 minutes at a nice clip. Well... I thought it was a nice clip...

This evening after work I was setting up the machine, readying myself for my workout, when lo and behold! I knocked the faceplate off the thingy. I didn't even know you could get into it--I just figured it had some built-in battery and when it was spent, it was spent. I was wrong. There, nestled in the guts of the thing, was a battery. A single AA battery. Crappy and corroded, yes. After all, it had been sitting in there for 14+ years (and it worked for more than 11--go figure). I pulled it out and disposed of it, cleaned up the connection points, and slipped in a fresh battery. I didn't think it would work, but it did!

So now I have my computer thingy back... and it spurred me on to quite a vigorous workout. Without it to look at and monitor speed, for example, I'd been slacking off considerably. About three songs in, I realized just how different working out with the thingy and without it is. It's much harder with it. And I didn't think it would make a difference.

It made such a difference that I'll bet I'll be sore tomorrow. AND that wasn't helped along by the fact that the iPod served up a 54-minute workout today.

Well, maybe with this little added taskmaster of a tracker, I'll really start shaping up. Fingers crossed!

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Practicing Detachment on the Indoor Track


Every time I go to the doctor lately, she tells me I should lose weight. And you know, she's right. And I've been trying half-heartedly since I got word about my high school class's 33rd reunion, which was held last October (and which you can read about right here on this very blog). I knew there was no way in hell I'd drop the poundage I wanted to by the big day, but I figured I could at least start the ball rolling. Despite regular workouts and generally cutting back a bit on food, the scale really hadn't been budging. 'Cause you know, I'm of a certain age. And my body is holding on to fat like it was life itself.

But it's not.

Since I DO work out regularly, I've always gotten pretty decent stats, bloodwise. Decent cholesterol readings, normal blood sugar. Until THIS check up. Until THIS blood draw. Cholesterol was a mixed bag: HDL and triglycerides good, LDL too high, by a slight margin. But it was the blood sugar that scared me: one point over the "acceptable" range. Only one point, but it's always been way normal. Sigh. Push has, it appears, come to shove.

So, I've been doing Weight Watchers and revving up the workouts: instead of 35-40 minute Nordic Track workouts, I've been doing 45-50 minutes. And I've been going to the track or running along the lakefront two or three times a week, trying to get back up to a full 5K+ of straight running. (Right now, my runs are iPod driven: walk one song; run two. Next week I'm going to move up to running three songs in a row. Slow and steady avoids injuries!) So far, so good: I've only lost five pounds in the last three weeks, but I've dropped a size--at least I'm moving in the right direction.

It's at the track that I need to develop a Zen attitude, though, because I have to tell ya: my fellow track denizens may well make me blow a gasket if I don't. I'm usually pretty even-tempered--except when I drive--and maybe there is something to being in motion that turns on the foul type-A demon that lurks within me...

First, let me say that this track is in the park house of the suburb where I work. As a perk of employment, we get the residents' rate on health-club membership there, and it is a very nice facility (as one would expect; it's a very affluent 'burb). The track is cushy, and it's 1/8 mile around. And it's open to the public. And there's the rub. The public. The residents of this affluent 'burb, who just ooze the expectation of entitlement for themselves and their wretched spawn.

Case in point: the guy who was walking with weights today--IN THE RUNNING LANE! There are three lanes: walking, jogging, running. Someone who is walking in the running lane puts everyone at risk for pile ups. People pointed out the big sign that designated the lane, but he just kept on going... A variation on this theme is the group of just-the-other-side-of-elderly matrons who form a phalanx across all three lanes, strolling at a leisurely mile per hour pace and trailing combatting musk-and-spice fragrances. Really nice to have to dodge them (if one even can) AND get a nice lungful of their effluvia at the same time.

Then there are the aforementioned wretched spawn. The track rules say that children under 11 years of age must be supervised by an adult. Key word here: supervised. Kiddies come with mom, and she does her walk, earphones firmly planted in ears and mind floating off in the ether somewhere--kids? what kids? Meanwhile, her charming tykes are running the track in the opposite direction of motion, rolling around on it, racing each other and using the old folks who are just trying to stay kind of spry as slolum markers...Sigh.

But none of the above annoy me half as much as my nemesis: the girly girl runner. We've all seen her: in decent shape and not even all that slow, but she runs like she's in Swan Lake: en pointe (my heels will never, EVER, touch this track!) with wrists elevated and flapping as if she hopes to become airborne. Mince after that prince, baby! And, of course, it doesn't gall me at all that every girly girl runner I have ever encountered has run faster than me. No. No gall at all.

Me? I'm pretty slow, but Jeff tells me that I run like a litte Marine girl--all form and purpose (but, yeah, not much actual speed). Running is empowering. Why would any self-respecting woman prance around the track like the fairy queen? Feh.

So, as you can see, I need to get all Zen about running on the track. Detach. Concentrate on myself, my form, my speed, my breathing, not on track hogs or wretched suburban spawn or girly girls who pass me, prissing. Easier said than done.

But hey! I love to run along the lakefront. Well, except for the assholes who ride their bikes on the sidewalk. Don't get me started on them! Heh!

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Orthodontia Update

The braces come off on August 22. Yea! Maybe I will actually get to eat corn off the cob this summer after all. And I'm really going to enjoy chomping a huge honkin' bite out of an apple. And popcorn... POPCORN! Do you KNOW what it is like sitting through a Harry Potter movie in the frickin' theater and NOT being able to munch on popcorn? Feh.

Oh yeah. And red wine. Bring on the red wine!

Whoo Hoo!


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

And I'm not broadcasting which one.

So far, the gift haul has been quite nice, and suitably geogeeky: Two field guides to Yellowstone's geysers, the definitive guidebook to Yellowstone itself (Yellowstone Treasures by Janet Chapple), and a big honkin' thick book on the geology of Yellowstone and the Tetons. And we're not even planning a trip there--at least not this year... Plus the soundtrack of the 1950s-vintage Broadway production of Peter Pan (most thematic song: "I Won't Grow Up"). A shopping trip is planned for later in the day. Heh.

We have our usual weekend errands to run and chores to do (the house doesn't clean itself, although I've been trying to train it to do so for years), but this evening we are planning a nice dinner at Jilly's Cafe, and tomorrow we are going to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Oh yeah. And bonne anniversaire to the French Republic as well!

Update: Alas! Jilly's was BOOKED SOLID, so we won't be dining there this evening. Quel surprise...it's a French restaurant, and it IS Bastille Day, after all. So instead, we're rollin' with the Irish and dining fine at the Celtic Knot.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Bittersweet Fourth

Being a great lover of sparkly things, I try never to miss the Fourth of July fireworks up in Evanston, our neighbor to the north. I know that the Chicago fireworks (always on July 3) are world-class... I just don't do crowds well, and literally millions of people cram themselves into Grant Park and onto Navy Pier for those things. Not for me. And Evanston does some mighty fine fireworks, as you will see.

Usually Jeff and I walk to downtown Evanston and grab dinner at one of their fine restaurants before we head over to Dawes Park for the annual conflagration and patriotic band concert, but this year we had all kinds of things to do (like, um, hooking up our new DVD player/recorder thingy--purchased because the old player stopped playing discs all the way through)... things that kept Jeff busy well into the dark hours of Independence Day. But it takes more than a recalcitrant piece of electronics to keep me from fireworks, so, after dinner, I hoofed it up the lakefront for the display.

Along the way, I passed several parks full of families having cookouts, playing frisbee and badminton and volleyball, just lolling around. In addition to English, these families were speaking in Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Polish, and a host of other languages, and I thought how wonderful and welcoming the place I live is. 'Cause all these folks were out to celebrate the birth of this great nation. As were all the folks who, like me, were starting to gather along the lakefront for the big show.

I got to the band concert about 2/3rds of the way through, but I easily found a place along the edge of the big fountain by which the band was playing (as you can see, the spray of the fountain had been turned off for the evening).

All around the fountain's pond, kids and dogs were playing, adults were lounging and listening, vendors were selling all kinds of flashy gear and glowsticks. The weather report called for thunderstorms, but over Dawes Park it was clear and pleasant.

People were waving American flags here and there in time to the music, which included a fair amount of Sousa (as you might expect). These kids clearly do not have the flag etiquette thing down, though:

It was when the band played "America, the Beautiful," and the director asked everyone to sing along, that the day lost some of its festive edge for me. I kept thinking about the words--especially the verse about patriot dreams and alabaster cities--and I couldn't help but wonder if we are seeing the end of our nation. The Bush administration is so corrupt and grasping. It has worked so relentlessy to strip our constitution of any power the Founders gave it... I used to think that the Founders had crafted the perfect document. A plan for a government that established certain rights as sacred, but that was able to change over time as times and circumstances required. Throughout it all, each branch of government would keep the others in line if they tried to take too much power for themselves. But now, now we have an executive branch that wants the powers of a monarch--no, of an emperor. And the handlers of our puppet leader (a puppet leader his handlers pulled all kinds of strings to put in power) have now rigged the highest echelon of the judicial branch to do their bidding. The only hope is the legislative branch, but they have, so far, been hesitant and cowardly in dealing with the threat of the unitary executive. I once thought we could recover from the presidency of Bush, fils, once he was out of office. Now I wonder if he will ever leave. All it would take is a well-timed, cleverly orchestrated "terrorist" attack, say, a week or so before the next general election... I worry. I really do. And, yes, once I would have chided myself for such thoughts and told myself to go fashion a shiny tinfoil tricorn. But not this Fourth of July.

Well... at least the fireworks were able to lift my spirits a bit--bread and circuses are effective, you know!

After the band's big finale (more Sousa!), people started to move from the fountain to gather on the rocks that separated the park from the beach:

Out on the lake, boats gathered in the darkening twilight to get a front-row vantange on the display. (I hope they show up in this very dark picture!)

And we waited. And waited. And waited. Then a lovely white and red explosion blossomed in the sky! It was beginning!

But no. More waiting... until everyone was getting a tad antsy.

Finally, it began for real, and we were treated to some quite lovely bombs bursting in air. Enjoy!

As the last cascade of sparks faded in the sky, I allowed myself to hope that the worst is nearly past, and that we can (and, indeed, must) rescue ourselves from the traitors who are intent on claiming our freedoms in the name of some specious guarantee of "safety."

Sic semper tyrannis.

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