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I finally did it.

I ran a marathon.

PhillyMedal2017.jpg

Apparently, I am officially insane.

Yesterday, I ran my first marathon in Philadelphia.  For those of you who may not be runners, that is 26.2 miles.  That happens to be just about 16.2 miles too much if you ask me.

RockyStatueRun

I ran faster than this statue!

Some people question  my sanity when I run everyday, in any kind of weather–rain, sleet, snow, sub zero wind chills, etc.  After mile 18, I was questioning my own sanity.

At the half way point, I felt more tired than I usually did after a half-marathon.  I have run two half marathons a year for the past four years.

By mile 18, I was thinking I might not be able to finish.  I have never hit a wall before.  I have hit a few cars, a tree, a light post . . . but never a wall.  For the shorter races, I almost never stop to get a drink.  I can run 13 miles without water.  I’m like a damned camel without the humps.

But everything I’ve read about running a marathon stresses the importance of fueling and hydration.  So at about mile 6, I started regularly hitting the gatorade/water stops.  And this usually meant at least a stop, if not a walking pace, because I am not one of those people who can run and drink at the same time–not without wearing most of the gatorade and choking.  I can barely type and chew gum at the same time.

After mile 18, it became noticeably harder to restart running and regain the previous pace after stopping for gatorade.  I started skipping water stations just so I wouldn’t have to restart again.

tinderdate2017M

What do you mean no RUM????

Around mile 20 there was a group offering cups of beer.  I am all over that.  I would have come to a complete stop for a beer at this point.  Had they had some bar stools there, I might not have finished the race.

I started grabbing half bananas and oranges that people offered along the route.  I kept looking for donuts or Reese’s Cups, but apparently those items are frowned upon by the racing establishment.

The route of the marathon travels up along the river, does a U-turn in Manayunk, and then heads back down the river to the finish line near the Art Museum.

The U-turn brought me back to the group serving beer,  Hallelujah!  One of my prayers was answered!  I paused to gulp down a second cup.   I was praying an awful lot after mile 20.  A mile later I was regretting not taking a six pack to go.

And then an interesting thing happened.

cutebutt2017M

Not that.  But rather, I found after mile 22 it was starting to get a little easier.  I still felt like crap.  Every muscle in my legs hurt.  But I actually felt a little better overall, and I slowly realized that I just might be able to do this after all.  It had to be the beer!

I crossed the finish line after 4 hours, ten minutes and 54 seconds (a 9:34 pace.)  After the race, I slowly–painfully–made my way back to the hotel.  Just stepping up a curb was a painful ordeal.  When I got back to the hotel room, I accidentally dropped one of my gloves on the floor.  I bent over to pick it up . . .

Who lowered this floor???!!!

OMG.  Running had shortened my arms!  I couldn’t reach the glove.  My back was stiff, my glutes were in pain, and my hamstrings acted like they had looked upon the head of Medusa and turned to stone.  I did manage to pick up the glove, but resolved that anything else I dropped would have to be left behind.

After a long shower, I could hardly put my socks on.

Why do we runners do this to ourselves?

I’m going to stick with the insanity defense for now.

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I came across this advertisement on Facebook . . .

RunOver45
Seriously?  Are we supposed to think that runner is over 45?  I’m wondering if she’s even over 25!

And by the way, I am over 45, and I can run faster than a nine minute mile (especially if I am following her!)

I guess I should get the rate I deserve on life insurance!

And if you are over 45, you should probably ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough to have running.

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I had to move.

This was a moment I had been dreading.  With seventeen years living in the same house, I had accumulated a lot of stuff.

“You’re a hoarder!”

Whoa!  Let’s not go putting labels on people here.

“You have game programs from Penn State games in the 80’s.”

I’m a collector.

“You have twenty coffee cans of rusty nails, nuts, bolts, and some things that cannot be identified.”

OK.  I’m a hoarder.

But I still had to move, and with me, all my stuff.  Well, most of my stuff.  Some of my stuff?

I called a moving company and the guy went through my house.  I detailed which furniture was to go, what I was planning on packing, and what I expected the movers to pack and move.

He gave me an estimate.  $950.00.  Basically, they charged $150/hr with a $450 minimum. If you do the math, this estimate works out to be a little over 6 hours.

Now, quite frankly, I thought this was a little low for a five bedroom house with seventeen years of stuff.  But, I was only moving 5 miles away.  It’s not like I was going to another continent.  OK–it was a different zip code.

I has pressed for time as closing on the house was imminent.  I was hindered by the fact that my ex still resided there, and made it difficult to get access to my stuff.  With time running out, I accepted his estimate in good faith.

The morning came.  It rained off and on the entire day.

Two trucks showed up at 9 am.  Five men started carting out my hopes and dreams into these large trucks.  By early afternoon, one truck was full and the other was half-way filled.

I got a call from the moving company.

“Um, my guys tell me it is taking longer.  We’re going to run over the estimate.”

UnderestimateMove

He paused.  I wait apprehensively.  $200?  $500?  They were just about 4 hours from the starting point, so 10 hrs times 150/hr is $1500?

I barely had the math done in my head (actually, I just did the math but guestimated it at the time) when he added, “Way over the estimate.”

I took a deep breath and asked the question I did not want to hear the answer to.  “How much?”

“I think we’re looking at over $2000.  Maybe as high as $2400.”

W. T. F.

That was more than TWICE the estimate!  How long has this guy been in this business?  How in the wide, wide, bloody world of sports can you be that far off???!!!  I’m scrambling to do the math in my head.  $2400 divided by 150, carry the one, add a zero, curse this long division, it must be a shit ton of hours.  (16 to be exact.)

So this is going to take until one am to unload?

I questioned this.  I even reminded him that he quoted me a cost of 150/hr.

“Well, I had to send more guys.  That’s extra.  It’s more like $192/hr.”

Beep.  Beep. Beep.  Back this truck up.

Both of these trucks showed up with 5 guys (not the burger joint, in case you are as confused as I am) at nine o’clock this morning.  The estimator KNEW he had to send more guys before the job even started.  He didn’t send a second truck later on when they “realized” they had underestimated the job.

But at this point, what are my options?

If I say no.  Do they just take my stuff?  Do they unload it back into my old house?  Do I still have to pay for their time today if they don’t actually move it away?

I am screwed.

The maddening thing is, I would have gotten more estimates if he had truthfully told me it would cost $2400 to begin with.

By lowballing his estimate, he locked me in and then took advantage of the situation.

Worse yet, I paid a trash hauler an additional $750 to take what was left in the house–they didn’t even move everything!  (My ex moved out the weekend before and left me to clean out the house.)

If I ever have to move again, I am selling my stuff with the house.  I will move on without it.

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As a routine precaution during cataract surgery, we normally tape the patient’s head to the operating bed.  Our patients are sedated (wouldn’t you want to be sedated if someone was working on your eye?) but sometimes they wake up at unpredictable times.  Everyone metabolizes drugs differently.  So to prevent them from suddenly sitting up like the Cowardly Lion and quipping, “Unusual weather we’re having, ain’t it?” we gently but firmly run tape across the forehead and under the head rest.

May be a bit low tech, but IT WORKS.

In the past, we had this big ass roll of tape to make a couple of passes around the head (or more if the patient seemed likely to be a problem child.)  A typical roll might last for eight cases.

1inchtape

More than enough tape to get the job done!

Enter UPMC (the acronym for “U People Must Comply.”)  Someone, somewhere, in the vast corporate mind of the beast decided or calculated that  “single use” rolls of tape were more economical.  Or maybe they ordered 10 million rolls of the wrong tape.  Whatever, the reason, this is what we have to work with now.

singleusetape

The picture can be deceiving.  One roll of this single-use roll just barely makes one circuit over the head, so on most cases, we are now using TWO rolls of single-use tape to protect our cataract patients from their own involuntary movements.

Never mind the insanity of making rules to govern every situation as if every situation is identical, but isn’t this terribly wasteful?  At two rolls per case, we’re using about 8 rolls for every one of the larger multi-use rolls.  Is that environmentally conscious?

Rather disgusted, I told the nurse to just order the old rolls for us to use.

I was informed that we can’t do that.  This is what we are required to use.  Silly me.  This isn’t the United States of America.  I can’t be allowed to do what I think is in the best interest of my patients.

I’m going to go off on a rant right now (and several run-on and poorly structured sentences) so you might want to grab a Snickers and an English teacher.  Okay.  Do not grab an English teacher.  Unless you are Donald Trump.  Or you are married to said English teacher.

I am getting rather tired of people telling me, the surgeon, how to do my job.  I am told that I have to mark the patient’s eye.  (That is a good idea.  We always did it before, but . . . )  I am told where I have to mark it (in the holding room instead of the operating room where my chart is and with the patient in the proper position for the surgery–I know that sounds weird but when I operate I sit behind the patient’s head so his right eye is my right and his left my left, but when I face them in the holding area, my right is his left and vice versa–for someone who had operated for years the other way, it took some getting used to and I tried carrying my charts around, but now I have two charts, the previous patient and the next patient and of course I wrote on the wrong chart shortly into this new experiment which quite frankly made a simple but important safety act more cumbersome and difficult with no definable benefit), and how I am supposed to mark it (on the cheek below the correct eye, marker that won’t rub off easily (patients have to scrub, often with alcohol, to remove my initials tattooed on their face), and I have to include THREE initials, because I might forget who the fuck I am after following all these god-damned insane regulations.)  I am basically told what medications we can use because if it’s not in the hospital formulary, it ain’t happening.  I am supposed to date and time my orders–this is an outpatient procedure that takes 10-20 minutes in most cases.  How is dating, and worse yet timing, my signature of any benefit to patient care???  Anything I sign in the chart has to be on that date and within a fairly definable time frame.  I’m not supposed to wear a watch in the OR, yet I am supposed to time everything.  What the hell did I go to medical school and residency for?  I could have saved EIGHT years of my life and just had the federal government (The Joint Commission) and UPMC tell me what to do.  Maybe Trump will wipe out the Joint Commission after he’s done erasing the EPA.  And I am done digressing.

But I heard this single use tape experiment has been so wildly successful at improving patient care and cost-efficiency that UPMC is going to roll out their next great idea:  single-use toilet paper rolls.

toiletpaper

Because you shouldn’t be pooping on company time anyway!!!!

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I was dragged kicking and screaming into the new millennium about a year ago.  I finally gave up my cherished flip phone for a smart phone.

And while I haven’t had many regrets–it is a lot easier to text and having access to the Internet is very convenient–it did present me with some new problems.  For one thing, smart phones are not as durable as flip phones.  Within six months, the screen was cracked.  Fractured.  I managed to drop it several times. Threw it once.  After I got a call for a “routine” consult at 10:30 PM on a Sunday night.  Are you freaking kidding me?!?  If it’s routine, couldn’t it wait til business hours on Monday when someone else was on call?  But I digress.

The phone worked fine, but now the surface looked like a cobweb (and a few fragments and one corner were missing) and I was concerned I was one more phone rage call away from it not working anymore.  Or, since I like to take it running in case I fall or do something stupid, I was one drop of sweat or an unexpected rain shower away from water getting in my smart phone’s head.

So I stopped by a place that advertised fixing iPhone screens.  It was a paintball store, but that did not deter me.  They must go together.  Shooting paintballs probably results in some broken phone screens.  But Mr. PaintBall wanted $120.00 to fix my iPhone 5 screen.  Apple already is up to #7, so it seemed like a lot of paint to pay for an outdated phone.  (I didn’t want to enter modern civilization too quickly.)

But my good old flip phone never gave me trouble like this.  It bounced off walls better.  Makes you wonder which one is the smarter phone.

So I went to Google.  Low and behold, you can purchase new screens and replace them yourself.  There are multiple videos on You Tube.  It looked so easy.  And I could buy one for around $25.  Take that Mr. $120 Paintball shyster.

I waited for my salvation to come in the mail.  I had two weeks before I was on call again, and I would need my phone.  And one more pitch against the wall might be too much.  It finally came.  I rushed home, loaded up the You Tube videos and prepared to save myself, um, like almost $100 bucks.  A lot more if you factor in the unreasonable cost of a new iPhone.  $700?!!!!

I managed to get the cracked screen off, fracturing it even more.  Nothing to worry about.  I was going to fix this cracked phone with a brand new screen.

Okay.  What was underneath doesn’t look like the video.  Maybe it was the wrong video.  Nope.  None of them looked like my broken mess.  I can’t start sweating now–the perspiration will drip inside and fry the smart phone’s stupid brain.

iPhoneParts

I’m pretty sure I had more parts than this.  If I walked away, they would start replicating.  It was like a sci-fi horror flick.  Low budget.  Very low.

After some praying and swearing (I might even have swore while I was praying, God help me) I figured out that my phone was more broken than I had imagined.  There is a frame that should have come out with the screen and did not.  I was able to get that out.

But I realized that the videos were all replacing screens that had home buttons and cameras already in them.  What I had bought, was just a screen.  No home button.  No camera.  WTF?!

Screen1

Just an empty shell of a real phone.

I did consider stopping at this point, but I couldn’t get my old screen to work anymore.  I had to press onward.  But no matter how hard I tried, I could no longer get the phone to work.  With either screen.

So I made a decision.  I would purchase the proper screen with home button and camera.  I still had a week before I was on call.  I could live without a phone until then.  Cavemen lived without phones for years.

I found the proper part and ordered it.  I paid extra for 1-5 day delivery.  Unfortunately, it was President’s Day Weekend.  I still hoped it would be delivered to my office by Friday.  It did not come.  I did get three emails asking me to rate their product and offering me on-line instructions on how to use it even though they have failed to actually deliver said product to me.

I finally got a tracking email that it was being delivered Saturday.  My partner was going to be working Saturday morning, so I thought I’d stop by later in the day and get my salvation.  Apparently, even though the office was actually open (one Saturday out of every five) the post office doesn’t bother to deliver mail, assuming we are closed.  I had to wait until MONDAY.

Monday came.  The mail came.  But the screen was the same one I had already ordered.  No home button.  No camera.  No working phone!

Screen2

I called and complained, but was told that that was what I ordered, regardless of the photo of the product.

Now I’m down $60 and still no working phone.  It’s like a series of Two Broke Girls episodes with the total changing after each episode.  I have a pager, but no way to call back.

On  my way home, I stopped by the paint ball store in desperation.  This time I talked to someone different.  I was afraid since I had already tried and failed to fix the phone that they might not want to get involved at all.  To my surprise, the guy said he could fix it and it would cost me $50.00.

I wasn’t going to argue with him.  At $110 so far, I was still ahead of the paint ball shyster who wanted to charge me $120!

Currenttotal

And my phone works.

I put the money I saved toward an otter box that so far has kept my new screen without a scratch.

I will consider this DIY project a victory.

 

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I have been cursed!

Someone has enchanted me with promises of untold treasure and solutions to mysteries that are centuries old.  It’s like a real life National Treasure, one of my all-time favorite movies.  Curiosity and greed pull me in to their tangled web of clues, false hopes and commercials, week after week.

Curse you Oak Island.

curseofoakisland

In case you don’t know, the Curse of Oak Island is a History Channel series chronicling the adventures of a band of brothers (Marty and Rick Lagina) in search of a mythical treasure buried on Oak Island, a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia.

oakisland

Apparently, centuries ago, someone stumbled onto a depression in the ground on this island.  This was odd enough that they started digging.  They found several platforms of logs at various levels.  Some levels had coconut fibers.  (There are no coconut trees on the island.)  At ninety feet, someone found a stone inscribed with strange symbols.  Someone else apparently “decoded it” and the stone reads, “Forty feet below, two million pounds are buried.”  I hope it was etched by a Britain!  Otherwise it begs the question, two million pounds of what?  Rock?  Coconut fibers?

oakislandstone

Hypotheses range from just a sinkhole, to perhaps the buried treasure of Captain Kidd, the Templar Knights, or the lost crown jewels of Marie Antoinette, among others.  Some think it is an elaborate hoax.  The whole thing has been dubbed the money pit.  Millions have been spent trying to find the treasure–often thwarted by traps set to flood the tunnels with sea water–and at least six people have died in the course of these treasure hunting expeditions.  John Wayne apparently invested at one point, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was photographed as part of an expedition to solve the mystery as well.

And while evidence that any treasure actually exists is sparse, I am intrigued.  A natural sink hole would not have layers of wood at various levels, nor an inscribed stone which is obviously man-made (assuming that the history is correct and this stone was actually uncovered in the pit and not part of some hoax.)   At some point coconut fibers were found deep in the hole where they would not be naturally found.  And at the risk of offending Monty Python fans, I do not think coconuts migrate, nor can they be carried by swallows:

It’s not a question of where he grips it! It’s a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a 1 pound coconut. . . Oh, yeah, an African swallow maybe, but not a European swallow, that’s my point . . . But then of course African swallows are not migratory. . . Wait a minute — supposing two swallows carried it together?

If there are coconut fibers in that hole, then it is not natural.  It is a game changer, to quote Marty (or Rick, I often confuse them) Lagina.  And a hoax?  We can’t uncover this damned thing with 21st century technology.  Who in bloody blazes would be able to construct such an elaborate hoax 200 years ago?  Aliens?  Sorry, but that is a different History Channel addiction. And why?   Such a hoax would mean there must be something else in the area incredibly valuable to warrant such a complex diversion, right?

So I’m addicted.  I sit there each week riveted to this program that spends 45 minutes rehashing what we already know and have seen just so we can be taunted with 15 minutes of new revelations . . .

Look, it’s a piece of wood.

I think it’s a rock.

The wood looks carved–by man.

We dredged up a bone.

There’s a plank in the swamp that could be part of a boat.

We got more rocks.

gotarock

Charlie Brown on Oak Island

There’s a Templar Cross etched into a stone miles away from Oak Island.

At one point, they sent a camera down shaft 10X (not the money pit, but another shaft to a watery cavern that they believe connects to the money pit) and it showed murky, muddy water, but then there was a bright shiny gold object.

goldobject

Now we’re talking!

That was three freaking weeks ago and we still haven’t found it yet, despite three or four dives into the cavern.  And what looked like a chest on sonar?  It’s apparently a rock. Shaped like a chest.

One recent episode they traveled 130 miles away to look at a boulder that seemed like it had a face carved in it.  (I could see it, but not well.  Kind of like looking at a baby’s face on old ultrasounds.  Frankly, I’m more impressed by the coconut fibers and the inscribed stone.)  The boulder faces toward Oak Island.  Sure it does.  The boulder wants to know what that shiny object is too!

Now they’re off to the Roosevelt Presidential Library to do research (data mining is just as important as actual mining my ass) because some producer thinks watching them data mine through old papers is more exciting than actually finding that shiny gold object.  Show me the damned gold object!  That’s what we want to see!  I don’t care if Roosevelt himself put the damned gold there.  Show me the money!

rickandmartlagina

If that’s NOT a rock, then this is game changing data.  Game changer!

The opening credits talk about the legend and how six men have died and how a seventh must die before the mystery will be solved.  All right already.  Let’s shoot somebody and get this treasure found!

It’s excruciating and fascinating at the same time.  Scholarly and conspiracy theory simultaneously.  Mesmerizing.  Of course, they may be making more money from the series than they’ll ever recoup from the watery depths of Oak Island.

But I’m going to watch this week nonetheless.  They’re so close.  I can feel it!  Maybe we’ll get to see that gold object tomorrow night!

Or probably not.

Too many commercials to show and not enough shiny gold objects.

 

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It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime.  A trip to remember.  And remember it we will.

We fly to Peru.  We hike the Salkantay Trail through the Andes Mountains, and arrive at Macchu Picchu.  What could possibly go wrong?

Never ask a question you don’t want to know the answer to.

We flew out of Baltimore to Miami via American Airlines.  From Miami we flew to Lima, Peru.  From Lima we flew to Cuzco, Peru, from which our (mis)adventure would begin.

Unfortunately, the airline did not tell us that we had to retrieve our luggage in Lima to go through customs before heading on to Cuzco.  The Cuzco airport is a domestic airport, and does not have customs.  While my girlfriend has had some experience in world travelling, this was my first time out of the land of E. Pluribus Unum (unless you count a driving day trip to Canada via Maine back in the early nineties when you didn’t need a passport to cross the border.)  I have never flown outside of the United States before so how would I be expected to know this.  Dammit, Jim!  I’m just a doctor!

As we waited in Cuzco for our luggage which never came, the error of our ways became apparent.  A few phone calls confirmed that our luggage–along with most of our hiking equipment, was enjoying the scenery in Lima, not Cuzco.

Here is the view as we left the airport in Cuzco:

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Now, I don’t know about you, but this is not what I would consider a “vacation view.”  This is a vacation:

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Fortunately,  our tour company flies masochists hikers in a couple of days ahead of the trek to allow them to acclimate to the altitude.  So we had from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday morning to somehow retrieve our luggage.  Paperwork was reluctantly completed.  In Spanish.   People frowned. In Spanish.  We tried to keep smiling.  The travel agency put in a good word for us.  Apparently, we are not the first pioneers to show up without luggage.

It’s not as though we couldn’t rent equipment. We could.  But we had already invested money in new sleeping bags, backpacks and air mattresses prior to leaving on this trip.  It made no sense that they sit in Lima having a better time than we were.  This was a matter of principle.

So we tried to enjoy some tours of Cuzco and learn about the ancient Incas, while the airline industry took their good old time saving our trip of a lifetime.  Most of my clothes were on the checked luggage because I hate toting heavy carry-ons through an airport.  I paid dearly for my laziness.

I had to wear one of my girlfriend’s coats, as my outer gear was in the lost luggage.  It wasn’t pink, but a brighter purple than I would have ordinarily opted for. And her hiking pants were a little tighter than socially acceptable I suppose.  People kept asking her who her muchacha (Spanish for young lady or maybe cross dresser I’m not really sure) was.  I was apparently abused but not amused.

The hotel we lodged at was quaint and had a European flair.  Don’t ask me how I know since I’ve never been to Europe, but dammit I do watch movies.  It’s probably the Spanish influence.  But I was somewhat confused by the fact that you couldn’t throw toilet paper in the toilet.

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Each bathroom had a little trashcan sitting on the floor to dispose of toilet tissue, etc.  Seriously?  Help us protect the environment?  Did you just see what I flushed out of my system?  And you’re worried about some paper?

Time ticked by and at nine o’clock Monday night we finally get our luggage and hiking gear.  We were scheduled to leave at 3 am the next morning because they apparently close the only road that leads to the base of the trail at 7 am for road construction and we have to get past checkpoint Charlie before the window of opportunity closes.

Only ONE road in . . .

 

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