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Archive for October, 2011

Up until a few months ago, I was a runner.

I wasn’t running from anything in particular.  Or to anything in particular.  I would leave my house, run, and end up back at my house.  I was running to keep in shape and be healthy.  All this healthy living cost me several toenails, and more recently, a tibial stress fracture.

But my stress fracture did not heal even after I stopped running for seven weeks.  An orthopedic surgeon reviewed the second MRI and declared that he was “unimpressed.”

So, you got a broken bone?

That don’t impress me much.

But he did think it was okay to start back running again.  A little.  He thought it was in some stage of healing.  He used a lot of big words that we eye doctors don’t comprehend.  I tried to look at the MRI myself , but I couldn’t tell whether I was giving birth to a boy or a girl.  I know this much:  there wasn’t any eyeball there.

Instead of my usual 7-10 miles 4-5 times a week, I was restricted to 1-2 miles at most as my leg would tolerate.  That’s almost like being able to have sex, but you can’t go past foreplay.  At one to two miles I’m just getting loose and finding my stride.  But I really wanted to run again.  Within a week, though, my treacherous tibia was aching again.

I already tried swimming.  That didn’t work for me.  I’m not a very good swimmer with two good legs.  I was a drowning waiting to happen.

Stationary bike?  I’m sure Hell is filled with these.

So when my wife and I had the opportunity to buy a used elliptical from a friend who wanted to share her pain with us, I jumped at the opportunity.  Okay, it wasn’t exactly a jump, since that would stress my fracture.

But an elliptical trainer was on the list of approved torture devices that I was allowed to subject myself to.

So after delivery, I was anxious to try this new machine.

As you probably can tell, I am not a machine kind of guy.  I like to throw on the sneakers, commune with nature,  and hit the pavement.  Unfortunately for me, the pavement hits back.  We have a treadmill, but even with its “cushioned deck” there is too much impact for my tibia.  I simply can’t endure spinning on a stationary bike.  I don’t even like biking outside for that matter.  I have tried the stationary bike while listening to music.  I have tried it watching football.  I have tried it watching movies.  I have tried to spin while watching I Love Lucy in the morning.  I.  Kid.  You.  Not.  I will not pedal here or there, I will not pedal anywhere.  I do not like it, Sam I am!

So I was anxious to try this elliptical, but not without some trepidation.

Would I like it?  Will it bore me to tears?

Will I look like this?

The Tony Little "Gazelle"

Run little gazelle, run!

I have gained 12 pounds since I stopped running.  (Unfortunately, I didn’t stop eating and cheeseburgers don’t hurt my tibia.)  Will I be able to exercise again and feel good about myself?

Will it hurt my freaking leg?

I finally got on the machine.

It wasn’t so bad.  Unlike running on the treadmill, there are handles to hold onto.  This is good because I never quite knew what to do with my hands when I ran.  It keeps them busy for me.  I guess it’s kind of like cross country skiing, if I had ever tried that.  But it wasn’t bad and there was no pounding on my tibia.

Ten minutes into the program, I’m feeling pretty good.  I’ve got my running tunes playing on the Ipod and I am a lean, mean elliptical machine.  I’m not a gazelle, but that’s probably a good thing.  I’m actually starting to work up a sweat.  Then, I notice a button that says ‘FAN.’  I push it and the fan turns on.  What a machine!  Genius!

It’s like I’m cross-country skiing in Antarctica with a cool breeze blowing through my hair.  I am so getting the sensation.  It’s almost like being outdoors, but without the quaint smell of skunk or garbage dumpsters lingering in the crisp morning air.

I’ve used the machine three times now, not exceeding 30 minutes.  My tibia has not flared up.  It remains to be seen whether I will eventually become bored or not, but so far I have been pleasantly surprised.  The motion is surprisingly familiar–close enough to running for me to enjoy it and not so different as to be annoying.

For runners looking for a low impact alternative, I highly recommend getting elliptical.

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It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I’m not sure why.  That is the way bad ideas present themselves—as good ideas when you least know it.

While my wife took our kids trick-or-treating, a sanctioned pastime that teaches our children extortion, I would stay in the mansion and pass out candy to the various ghouls, goblins, and neighborhood brats.

Nearly every good plan that fails does so because of poor planning, poor execution or just plain bad luck.  I think I scored the Halloween trifecta.

In the past, when we lived in a galaxy far, far away, we would take the young ‘uns out together as a family, leaving a bowl of candy on the front porch.  That wasn’t really such a bad idea, and I’m not sure why we ever deviated from that plan.

I was originally very leery about leaving a bowl full of candy unattended on our front porch.  The way I figured it, the first punk that comes by scores a mother lode, and the second schmuck dressed like a Teletubbie finds an empty bowl.  Within fifteen minutes, the unruly masses that trudged all the way up to our porch to find a disappointingly empty bowl will band together as a riotous mob to soap our windows and hang facial tissue delicately from our trees.

But I was wrong.  When we arrived back home, there was still candy in the bowl.  My wife had crafted a sign which she hung on the bowl that said, “Please take no more than two. . .God is watching.”

I think we ended up with more candy in the bowl than we started with.  Some of the little demons must have sacrificed their own candy in an offering at our Halloween altar.  I guess they figured it was like paying a penance or something.  Apparently, the little renegades from a travelling circus must have actually bought into the theology that the Almighty has nothing better to do than to sit guard over a bowl of candy.

But it worked.

And it was a much better plan than having me hand out candy all night long.

I watched my family head out with empty bags and high hopes, as I lit a fire in the fireplace (no easy task, since I actually had to get up and cross the room to turn on the gas switch.)  I then settled in to watch a horror flick on TV.

The opening credits hadn’t finished, the opening theme hadn’t faded away and not a single drop of blood had been shed before the first band of merry ghosts rang my doorbell.

I eagerly took up the bowl of candy and headed for the front door.  I pretended to try and guess who the little hooligans were, acted amazed at their pathetic little costumes, and then passed out treats.

It then struck me, that I was passing out perfectly good candy that I would really enjoy while watching my movie, to people I don’t know or care about, for reasons that were quite beyond my comprehension.  And I knew full well that my kids would return without enough loot to cut my losses.  Worse yet, while I’m handing out peanut butter cups—nature’s most perfect food—my kids were probably procuring stale popcorn balls or lumps of hard candy and stale chewing gum in return.

I began to stuff my face, reasoning that any candy I managed to put away, was candy the little heathens at my door would not get.

The movie hadn’t even made it to the first commercial break, and already my bell had rung five times.  The movie was just getting interesting, by the sound of the music someone was about to meet their death, and I was almost halfway through the Reese’s cups.  I ran to the door with chocolate dripping from my mouth and quickly passed the treats out slick as a Las Vegas dealer palming cards from under the deck.

I hadn’t even got a chance to sit down, when the cursed bell rang again.

This time, I threw open the door and tossed some candy out, shutting it quickly behind me.  I think I hit a witch in the eye with a Mounds, but I didn’t wait long enough to hear if she screamed.

I went to the kitchen for a beer. I needed something to wash down the glob of peanut butter in my throat. Believe it or not, the bell rang again before I had even chugged the first bottle.

“What do you want?” I screamed as I opened the door.

A little girl dressed as a princess fell off the stoop backward, surprised.  Unfortunately, a yew broke her fall, and she came back up for more.

I was running out of candy, and the doorbell kept ringing.  I would rather hear the screaming of the lambs than that incessant ringing.

I think some of the little devils were coming twice.  It was hard to tell for sure, but the costumes looked familiar, and some of them were ducking before I even opened the door.

I opened up a pack of cookies, and started passing them out.

But they kept on coming.

I drank another beer, and said a prayer.

I passed out potato chips.  The first couple of times, I actually took the time to put them in some plastic baggies.  After a couple more beers, I just dumped them in their Halloween sacks.  It’s hard to throw chips.

Apples worked pretty well.  I got rid of the rest of the oranges in the crisper.  There was also an onion, some broccoli and a stalk of celery.  I cut the head of lettuce up into pieces, and offered some salad dressing on the side.

I discovered some little bottles of liquor in the cupboard, left over from some airplane trip.  I didn’t give those out.  But they’re gone now too.

There must have been over 200 kids that came to my door.  I gave out the empty bowl.  I wrote out some IOUs for candy.  I haven’t been able to find my slippers.

Next year, I’ll just put another bowl out, and leave it at that.

NB:  I wrote this article 11 years ago for another site, but have reprinted it here because I got some requests for it.  OK.  I GOT ONE REQUEST.  If you consider my multiple personalities, then it seems like multiple requests.  The title is a quote attributed to Ogden Nash.  Then Willy Wonka.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Food Disservice

Is it just me or is the food service industry going to Hades in a breadbasket of stale bread faster than the food actually arrives?

Twice this week I have had less than pleasant experiences.  Granted, most trips to a restaurant these days are not very pleasant, but for the most part they are tolerable.

I won’t mention any names with the first establishment, only to say that the experience was utterly riDQulous.

We arrived for lunch about 12:15 and ordered right away.  I’m due back at the office at 1 PM.  The food arrived at 12:55.  So much for fast service.  But it gets better than that.

I wanted to order a Diet Pepsi.  Indeed, that is what I ordered.  The girl took my order and handed me a cup.  They have a soft drink machine in the –well, what would you call it?–lobby area.  I kind of like that.  I don’t mind self-serve if there are free refills involved.  I wish gas stations would try that.

Alas, I could not get a diet Pepsi.  I couldn’t get anything diet.  If I were diabetic, I would be stuck drinking water or driving my blood sugar level higher than it needed to be.  My wife ordered a water bottle.  She was told they were out of those, so she reluctantly ordered a diet Pepsi as well.  (She’s a coke person.  I know!  She looks so normal.)  But she couldn’t get a diet Pepsi either.  But she could have gotten water!  (Technically, she did ask for a water bottle.  The girl told her all they had was tap water, which grosses her out.)  I guess that’s what comes out of the machine.  Since she already paid for a soft drink I think she chose root beer from the extensive list of options below:

When the meal finally came, my wife had fries with her order.  She had specifically ordered a side salad instead of fries.  The girl who brought the food out–not the same one that took the order–told her that they were out of lettuce.  Apparently the girl at the register hadn’t gotten that memo yet.  I felt bad for my wife, but it was kind of funny in that way that things that happen to other people are kind of funny.

Then I unwrapped my burger to discover that it was rather flat and very much unlike the photograph above the counter.  It had no lettuce on it.  Where’s the green?  It’s not in my wallet as it now costs over thirty dollars for my family to eat fast food.  It wasn’t fast.  It isn’t cheap.  I just hope it is food.  Since I didn’t have time to eat the lettuce anyway, and I didn’t really want the Sierra Mist I was kind of forced to pour for myself, I wasn’t so late getting back to work.

My daughter tried to order a chocolate truffle blizzard.  Guess what?  They were out of the truffles!

No truffles.  No lettuce.  No water bottles.  No diet soft drink.  How long will it be until there’s no business?

Then tonight, we went to one of those establishments named after a weekday that is not Ruby Tuesdays.  I ordered one of their pre-planned meal deals–you know how it works.  You pick an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert for supposedly a good price.  My family ordered their own fare.  When the bill came for sixty-one dollars, I tried to use a Discount Card that we had purchased from a high school athlete–proceeds to benefit the local team.  With the card, I should get $5.00 off the purchase of $25.00 or more (EXCLUDING ALCOHOL)–that’s how they wrote it, in all caps.  Since we didn’t buy any alcohol and my bill was over $25, I figured that would help defray the original cost of the card.

Au contraire.  And this wasn’t even a French restaurant.  I was told I couldn’t use my card.

You may be wondering why.  So was I.

Apparently, since I ordered the meal deal special, I couldn’t use the card.  The computer would only accept one discount.

Damned computers.  They are taking over the world!

Seriously?!

She wouldn’t let me talk to the computer.  When I complained, she “apologized” that it was a “corporate thing,” and not the local establishment.   And this corporation thinks that the customer is always wrong.

She went on to say that I should have presented the card to her BEFORE ordering so that this could have been avoided.  I disagree.  She wouldn’t have given me the discount whether I had produced the card earlier or magically made it appear from behind her ear.  I could have pulled it out my ____ as I entered the door and they wouldn’t honor it.

But now she was blaming me.  It’s my fault I can’t use the discount card.  Silly, freaking me.

She further added that it is written in the menu that the meal deal is not valid with any other offer.  I had not seen that, and while I desperately wanted her to bring me a menu and point it out, I could tell from the stern look on my wife’s face, and the horrified way that my children were all slumping under the table in embarrassment, that I had better let it go.

But I did try to explain that even without my $12.99 meal special, I had spent more than $25 on the other meals.  Say what you want about me, but I fight the good fight to the bitter end!

But she didn’t want to hear me anymore than the computer did.  She didn’t want to hear me anymore–period.  I guess the manager didn’t want to hear me either because she wouldn’t go get him/her.  She reiterated that it was a corporate issue and there was nothing her manager could do about it.

Could they not ring it up separately?  Could they have given me a $5.00 coupon or gift card for my next visit?

Perhaps the manager can’t do anything about it.  But I can.

I don’t think I will eat there anymore.

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He says Terno!

At this week’s press conference, Paterno was asked about his role in play-calling:

Q. How much personal involvement have you had in the offensive play calling this year compared to past years? Does that change when you’re on the sideline?

COACH PATERNO: Galen (Hall) and Jay call most of the offensive plays.  Sometimes I’ll call Mike McQueary and tell him we like this. But I don’t do a lot of play calling anymore. I’m a cheerleader. Somebody called up and said I’m shrugging my shoulders or something, that I should be back swaggering. Pretty tough to swagger on a cane (smiling). But I’m good now. I’m going to be swaggering all over the place. Don’t get in my way (laughter).

You can see the clip here.

So does that make Jay Paterno the heir apparent to the Nittany Lion Mascot
uniform?

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Manic Moan-day

Unless you are retired, live under a rock, or haven’t saved 15% on your auto insurance by switching to Geico, you probably HATE Mondays.

I loathe Mondays.  Always have–probably always will.  At least until I retire.  Or start living under a rock.  Or switch to Geico.

But this particular Monday–MOANDAY if you will–was particularly heinous.

Normally, when we start a week of call in our practice, you get the Friday before and then Monday morning off.  It’s kind of the calm before the storm, so to speak.

But on this day, the first day of call, I did not get the morning off.  Due to a scheduling “quirk” my staff already had me booked with patients this morning.  Twenty to be exact.  So sorry.  Someone else’s bad.

So I owe, I owe and off to work I have to go.  Yes–in this economy I should just be thankful I have a job.  I’m sorry but the pundits have it wrong.  This economy should be thankful I still do my job.  And pay my taxes to support it.

It’s cold and rainy.  Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.  Monday’s alone do that.  The rain is just fat-free frosting on a stale, moldy cake.  And someone left the cake out in the rain . . . But I digress.

The fire alarm went off while I was examining a patient.  Now I don’t care how many times in your life you have participated in a fire drill, there is always general confusion when the alarm goes off unexpectedly.

Is it real?  Is it just a malfunction?  Did a staff member pull it just to get a cigarette break?  Was someone taking their break in the bathroom?

You just don’t know.  Will someone break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar and just give me a break?!

And worse yet, if you don’t do anything–and it’s not a false alarm–you’re screwed.  If you are lucky enough not to be burned alive, you’ll likely finance some lawyer’s new yacht, his kid’s college education, and probably his time share in the Bahamas because you didn’t do what you were supposed to do.

And what are you supposed to do?

Panic????

Make ninety year old ladies stand out in the rain with the stale cake?  It’s not only raining, but it’s cold.  It’s supposed to be October, but Mother Nature is PMSing right now in central Pennsylvania and it feels like December.  My patients will likely come down with pneumonia.  I’m pretty sure someone will choke on the stale cake even if it is soggy now.

So we all gathered in the waiting room, sniffing the air for smoke and hoping that the sprinkler system required by law wouldn’t malfunction as well.  We didn’t sniff too hard, because, well, it was a room full of older people.  We sang Kum Ba Yah.  If we weren’t so afraid of activating the sprinkler system, or blowing up a colostomy bag, we could have started a fire and made smores.

Thankfully, there was no fire.  A sensor in some heating duct went off, probably because the heat kicked on for the first time since last Spring.  Did I mention that it was unseasonably cold?  The firemen came. They checked things out.  They sang with us.

But now I am further behind than I normally am.

And unfortunately, the further behind I get the longer this Moanday lasts.

I hate that.

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