July 2003 Archives

Side Effect du Jour

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Those who guessed "nausea" are awarded five points. All others, thank you for playing.

So, here's the deal. My sinuses have sucked for pretty much my entire life. Plugged, runny, completely inflamed -- name a state of discomfort, and I'm likely to be in it. As health problems go, pretty small and dealable. But now there's this thing where I keep getting sinus infections, and this one was completely unresponsive to the run-of-the-mill antibiotics. I have a sense that I was much sicker much longer than I had realized. So now, after 10 days of one antibiotic and another 14 days of Nuclear-Strength Killzall, on top of the antihistamines and decongestants and everything else, I'm almost feeling human again (though my eyes were all unhappy today). I can even run, so I'm easing back into that. But the doc says I gotta do something about this, which may be a combination of returning to allergy shots (no big deal, and well worth it if they work), and a possible, um, well -- in carpentry terms, it could only be called "reaming" -- of the sinus passages. But first, I must stick my head in a box and let the seers take a reading. There will also be an animal sacrifice of some sort, not because it's necessary, but because it lends a proper solemnity to the proceedings.

But first, the vacation! Away next week, lying on a beach along a bike path in scenic Burlington, Vermont. It if rains, we visit the Ben & Jerry's factory. It's as simple as that.


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Do you realize that I cannot think of a single song, not a solitary one, about a high school reunion? There must be something in the country realm, but over on the pop side of the planet, I can't think of a single one. And in classical, the only thing that comes close is Mussourgsky's "Class Pictures at an Exhibition," and frankly I'm beginning to suspect that street vendor's CDs weren't all on the up and up. Because don't you think I would have remembered a Sinatra rap album?

Swiftly veering back to the as-yet-unannounced point: high school reunion Saturday. Held at a house in the Stockade, one of those houses that everyone wishes they had -- three story house from the 1700s, in the city and on the river, its lot stretching to the river in a series of three terraces, the lowest one containing a large swimming pool. Brick wall in place of a fence, with gates leading out to the alley and down to the riverfront park. What keeps us all from owning such houses? Sanity! The gardens alone would be a full-time job! (And of course, my mind begins to wonder just how a two-hundred-plus-year-old house is wired, and I suspect the answer isn't anything I'd want to be responsible for.) So we don't own houses like that, but we're grateful for the people who do, and who occasionally let us use them for delightful events like this.

So, this was the 25-year reunion (more formal event to follow in the fall). This is where you start to see who has hit the wall. There were the people who had always looked good, and to the annoyance or delight of others (depending on how you felt about those people), most of them still looked good. There were the people who have settled into a comfortable cruising altitude and look pretty much like middle-aged people should look, except that you have a picture of them in your head from kindergarten or fourth grade or ninth grade, and to some extent that picture will always meld with however they actually look now. There were people who have hit the wall at 42, or perhaps earlier, and who have much cardiology work in their future. There were people (though far fewer) who now look so unbelievably different from how they looked in high school that when these people introduced themselves, I was unable to understand their words, and having committed an introductory faux pas, was never really able to recover, conversationally. And there were people, and had you gone to my high school you could have guessed who they would be, if you had even remembered them at all, who think that such an occasion calls for mixing extreme drinking and that there swimming pool. There was one fine fellow with whom I shared a drunken conversation (or was it half-drunken, as I was in my 24/7 stone sober state?) who could not begin to remember that I was in the same graduating class. I thought that was natural, since a) we weren't exactly on the same academic track; b) his academic track involved being bused somewhere else for most of the day (and I'm not busting on BOCES kids -- in fact, I think there should be a lot more technical education than there is -- but most of those kids might as well have been on another planet as far as I was concerned; c) he and most of his cohort used to reek of weed on a full-time basis. I was impressed he knew he'd been in high school. Perfectly fine guy, by the way.

So, interesting. Enough old friends were there that I had someone to talk to, and a couple of interesting people showed up. There's this odd and interesting bond you share with people you grew up with, even if you never see them anymore. And there was a strong contingent of people who still live in and around Scotia, and know each other and see each other all the time. I guess that's what they call a "community." We talked about what grownups talk about -- our kids, our parents, insurance, internet music piracy, Schenectady's endless tumble into the abyss. Carol's still a sweetheart, Nancy's still quick and witty, Bruce is still a guy I just like to chat with. Louise is still Louise, and I mean that in a good way.

Only one set of new breasts that I noticed. I wasn't looking that hard.

Okay, I got a couple of disturbing search requests yesterday. By disturbing search requests, I mean someone typed an odd search request into Google, my site showed up as a possible answer to that search, and said someone decided to visit my site as a result of that search request. Some are so disturbing that I wouldn't even mention them here, lest I continue to draw in freaks and weirdos. The phrases sought do not, as a rule, appear all of a piece in my weblog, but Google finds them nonetheless. (I'll confess to use of the phrase "Parisian whore," in a now-forgotten discussion of Henry Miller, but that's less disturbing than colorful. By modern standards of perversion, that's an old Toulouse-Latrec sort of Google. A Google-Latrec, if you will.) And if these are disturbing but interesting, I'll post them over at Disturbing Search Requests, a repository of such arcana for the desperately bored. (As mentioned previously, the Tour de France is over, and I have no clue what to do of an evening.)

Yesterday, there were two such searches. One was for "Lance Armstrong wife lonely," which is disturbing in the sense that, in the spirit of fair play that pervades bike racing, one should not be scouring the web for information on whether Lance's wife is lonely anytime around the Tour. The only use for such information would be to make a move on her, and that would just be wrong. It's also disturbing that someone thought my site was worth a look. I can provide no insight into his domestic life; I've got my own glass house, thank you.

The other was an expansion on a previous disturbing search request, by adding "naked" to the already odd "duckhunting girls". On Yahoo, mine was the only site that came up. The searcher came to my site anyway. Then I posted this odd search at Disturbing, hoping perhaps someone could enlighten me. What is it with duckhunting girls? It is a band, a movie, or what? Well, today my site was inundated by people who wanted to learn more about naked duckhunting girls.

I mean, I know I'm sick, but I didn't know so many other people were...

Tired and Sleepy

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I'm so tired, you can't even imagine. No longer sure if this is a side effect of the Avelox (which has a different side effect each and every night, including one night when the side effect was that it didn't have a side effect), or if it's just the cumulative exhaustion from 11 nights running without decent sleep. But my witty and pithy retelling of the reunion will have to wait at least one more night. Me, I'm going to sleep.

What a race!

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Wow. Unbelievable race for the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France. Lance arrived safely to his closest and perhaps best victory yet. He really had to work for this one, and Ullrich is going to be tough to beat in the future (Vinokourov is no slouch, either, and Beloki was doing very well until he fell and snapped his femur in two). He's already said he's going to try for number 6 (how can he not?). Unbelievable excitement. But now I can have my evenings back.

Le Tour est fin (almost)

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Have to realize that even if he hadn't fallen, Ullrich (who is surely the second greatest athlete in the world, behind Lance) wasn't going to gain time on Lance in the time trial. He knew that too, which made him take risks. He fell hard and skidded completely across the road and was lucky that there were actually hay bales at that location to keep him from slamming into a curb. He got up and got back on, seemingly not much worse for wear, but you could see how much that shook him and he couldn't do anything to try to gain back the time. Lance had scouted the course that morning, had been warned by Hincapie that the final 15k were like ice, and knowing that Ullrich had lost time in a fall, he took all the twists and turns ultra-conservatively, and in the end still took back another 11 seconds from Ullrich. A phenomenal finish to an unbelievably exciting race. Lance has hinted a couple of times that there are things going on that people don't know about, which of course makes one wonder if he was hurt in his fall at Dauphine Libere, or if his cancer is back, or what. And normally, they'd be able to say it's all over and tomorrow is just a slow, easy ride into Paris, but the green jersey for best sprinter is still in contention, meaning the peloton will be working tomorrow, and Lance will have to watch out for any breakaway situation that Ullrich might be involved in, and his teammates will have to work to keep him out of trouble in the peloton. Too much, baby.

Oh, you wanted to hear about the reunion? Not yet. But soon.

1. Easy Way. 2. Hard Way. 3. My Way

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Many people build a treehouse by finding a tree of substantial girth and nailing random pieces of wood (or not-so-random, as the treehouse biz has gone all high-end) into it. I've taken a different tack: I built a very substantial tower (known around these parts as The Crow's Nest) several years ago, and am allowing maple seedlings to grow underneath it and carry it up to the sky. My children's grandchildren will have a seriously cool treehouse, I can assure you.

Some level of order has been restored to the yard, including the yanking of aforementioned seedlings, which were growing unimpeded since we surrendered the idea of keeping the sandbox free of cat poop. Raked up half a billion maple seeds, too. The party tomorrow has a camping theme, so we will be pitching tents in the morning. Bekah is seriously overloaded with the enormity of her birthday, and cries about every three seconds. All is going according to plan.

Lance, you're killing me, man. . . . Listen, the leaders of the race are NOT supposed to competing for sprint bonuses, anyway. What is going on here?

The suspense is killing me

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Lance is 67 seconds up. Yesterday's was the first stage in which you could truly say that nothing exciting happened. Which is fine. But I'm told that something exciting happened today, and I didn't want to know if it was exciting good, exciting bad, or exciting Lance broke both his legs. I just don't want to know. I'm suspecting he wants even more than that 67 second buffer, just in case he has a bad time trial tomorrow. Which he won't, because it's not as hot and he won't make the dehydration mistake again (and really, he just wasn't on in the first time trial, either.)

Gotta say, this whole Murder in City Hall thing creeps me out more than just a little bit. I do feel better that it was some kind of warped personal-political attack. But as someone who occasionally has to face angry mobs and tell them things they don't want to hear, and who has done it on a number of occasions in that very chamber, I found the whole thing unsettling. I like to think that once I've passed through the metal detectors, there's some level of security inside. (That's something that's not provided for at all, and should be, in the State Legislature's hearing rooms. Decent security around the chambers, but nothing at all in the hearing rooms across the street.)

The presents are wrapped and ready to go... let the big Double Birthday celebrations begin!

Quick notes

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When and how, exactly, am I supposed to go grocery shopping when the Tour de France is taking up my every evening hour? I know, there was a rest day, but I was having one of my more interesting reactions to these antibiotics that night, so actual movement was out of the question. They're taken once a day, and the first few hours after a dose are always interesting. Anyway, last night, Tyler Hamilton joins a breakaway very early into the stage, and incredibly, he stays with it and keeps the lead forever. Unheard of for a major player to do that, and you can bet they'll never let him do that again. And you could see how much pain he was in from his fractured collarbone -- his was not the calm face of Lance Armstrong. An amazing ride. Armstrong and Ullrich maintain their time separation of 1:07, the race gets flat for a few days, and it all comes down to the time trials on Saturday. First time I've ever been able to watch the TDF, and it's apparently one of the greatest of all time.

I actually ran yesterday. Embarrassed to say how long it's been, what with the rain and the heat and the sickness mmmmGLAVIN!!! (to quote Lileks quoting Simpsons). Started out in a light, delicious rain that felt just great, but then it started to heat up and muggy up, and by the time I was done, an invisible sun was punching UV through the mist and it was one of those days when you could get a sunburn even though it was dark. Got in a good 45 minutes in the zone, had to ice up a little last night and I'm a touch sore this morning, which is good in that it means I actually worked some muscles. Would have gotten out for another run this morning, but it's raining pretty hard.

Coming up this weekend: Two birthday celebrations! Eighteen seven-year-olds running around my house! High school class reunion (note to self: lose 6 pounds; experiment with caffeine/Rogaine mixture)! And the final time trials! Can I get a woo and a hoo?

Web-commerce props

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I wanna give props to four e-tailers who have just in the past couple of weeks given me what I want, when I wanted it, no problems or questions or anything else. Need right-sized inner tubes, plus a couple of helmet liners and a fancy pump? Performance Bike. Need a new tent, like, now? Mountain Sports. Need a footprint for that tent? Backcountry Sports though the turkey-hunting bent may not be for everyone (Mountain Sports was out, but they had it back in stock within the week.) Need bike shorts for kids so you don't have to stop every 3 minutes to fix a wedgie? REI.

There is nothing better than coming home and finding UPS boxes waiting for me, full of goodies.

Can ya dig it?

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Bekah, the hippie chick
This little wonder turned 7 yesterday. Can ya dig it?

My 15 minutes of exercise

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Just wrote a long, and very witty (I can assure you) diatribe about my afternoon. Unfortunately, I was writing it in my browser, which I shouldn't have been doing, and when I went to copy it before posting it, just to be safe, my finger hit the wrong key and my evening went the way the entire afternoon went.

Pithier version: After weeks of being sick, I finally felt well enough to ride today. Took the bike out despite the tires feeling soft. Got about 15 minutes out into the hills and realized they really were soft, and I was going to do some rim damage if I kept on the road I was on and didn't pump them up. So, stop in the shade, take down the little miracle pump, start sawing away at the back tire, and *POP* goes the valve. (A person who hasn't had the afternoon I've had might have made up a very cute little "pop" graphic. I am not that person.) Luckily, I was a Boy Scout, and although I mostly learned that you never, ever let other Boy Scouts know you're about to spend some quality time in the outhouse, I also learned to be prepared. Either that, or I just hadn't ever bothered to take the spare tube out of my little bag. In any event, I had a spare tube. Aren't I clever. However, I haven't changed a tire in this decade. Or the one that came before it. And my tube was kinda generic-sized, rather than a perfect 700-25. There was much experimentation, I can tell you. The correct answer: A little air in the tube, one wall of the tire entirely in the rim, less air in the tube, then squeeze that bastard for all you're worth. Total time of experiment: 30 minutes. In 90 degree heat. On a lonely road with a dog barking at me. But I got that thing on, and having learned my lesson about shaking a Presta valve, I put it into a nice comfortable position and leaned the pump against my shoe so I wouldn't shake the valve head. And I got it up to around 65 psi before this valve blew off with such force it got stuck into my pump.

But I'm not only a former Boy Scout, I'm a vitally important official who must be reachable at all times, and that means I had my cell phone with me. And my wife and kids were at home, so all I had to do was make the call and the sag wagon would come get me. Except, of course, that where I was stuck, nearly 4 miles from my home, there was no cell reception. So I sifted through a number of curses that were available to me, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each one. I finally settled on the Jerry Bruckheimer summer blockbuster approach -- when you can't decide what to blow up, blow everything up. And then I put the wheel back on the bike, sort of, gathered up all the crap I had lying in the road, refused -- refused, I tell you! -- to recycle my first spent inner tube, and started the lonely walk up the hill to civilization, as it is defined by cell coverage.

Wife and children are extremely patient with me, too, but man am I depressed. I need my exercise (just as much as I seem to need these italics tags tonight), and haven't had it in ages. My cure for depression is a shower and a nap, and I got half of that. Maybe a little more. But one of our neighbors has embarked on a massive earth-moving project which I suspect is only because he was able to borrow a bulldozer (we live on postage stamp lots; you could move our earth with teaspoons), and by god, his equipment is OSHA-compliant, backup-alarm-wise. And I was even sleeping through that racket, until the ice cream truck came and parked on the corner under my bedroom window.

And I was just about to make some tired quip about seeking out a nearby tower (we were driving through Austin a couple of years ago, and looked out from the highway and realized, "Hey! That's the tower! The one that started it all!" Which is sick, in a way, but really, there was no expression about shooting from a tower before that happened...), when my finger slipped, causing me to recreate this (and honestly, I did a much better job the second time). Now I'm going to curl up with a tonic and lime and a little pre-race show. But if Lance had a bad day, better you don't even talk to me tomorrow.....

True Homeowner Confessions

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The thing is, our attic is just an attic. You need a ladder to get up there. It has no floor, and it is filled with mountains of blown-in cellulose insulation, so you can't see the joists, making moving around VERY tricky. There are a few boards strewn here and there, so I can store some boxes, but that's about it. For some reason, not long after we moved in, I got up there and started poking around a little bit, and got a good look at the bathroom ceiling fan (a project the previous owner never quite completed, as it vents only to the attic, which wasn't exactly begging for all that moist air -- the rest of the piping is lying right there next to the fan). Traced the wiring and found a huge electrical no-no: the fan was wired to the switch in the bathroom, but the wires were joined only with electrical nuts, and then stuffed down in the insulation. No junction box. Never leave a wiring junction exposed! However, I learned this all on a very hot day in, say, 1992; it was 110 degrees in the attic, and the house hadn't been set on fire yet. To make things safe, we put a very high-tech electrical switch blocking mechanism on the bathroom fan switch: we covered it with a piece of scotch tape, the universal symbol for "don't use this switch." Doesn't mean people haven't used it over the years, but I can't take responsibility for people who don't understand their universal symbols. Anyway, this highly unsafe condition was left to rot for, say, 11 years. Until yesterday, when I had a massive brainstorm about supplying the attic with electricity in case I ever wanted a light up there. While I was running a wire up from the ripped-asunder bedroom, boxing it up and tying it off, my eyes ventured over toward that damn bathroom fan, and I realized I was due for a good night's sleep, the sleep of the electrically just, if I just boxed up that fan junction. And I did. 10 minutes work that I've put off for 11 years. I should be embarrassed, but I am a man, and therefore will bask in the glory of my minute accomplishment.

Lance Armstrong is killing me, by the way. Further loss of lead against Ullrich. Says he was massively dehydrated in the time trial (massive enough to rehydrate by IV), lost 6kg on the course, which is huge. And he didn't look so good yesterday, though he came in fourth. Yesterday's stage had an inhuman climb of 10% grade; today's has a number of grueling climbs. This is where he usually excels, but Ullrich is like a freight train this year. This is killing me.

Now it's gone too far

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My Blogspot/Google ad banner that appears on the top of the page today offered these links: Glycerol Ester of Rosin Hung Kuk offers Chinese Glycerol (Glycerin) Ester of Rosin Resin. Gum Rosin Suppliers Find Exactly What You Need Contact Suppliers & Search Catalogs
This has gone too far.

I got your BX cable right here, pal

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What goes on in my wiring is truly frightening. But like most people, I'm convinced that if I don't know, it must not be a fire hazard. I realize that cutting into the insulation, wrapping the wires over each other a dozen times and then tying the whole thing up with electrical tape was state-of-the-art back in the '30s, but now it's the kind of thing that makes me afraid to go away for the weekend. I've replaced a LOT of the wire in this house, but there's still a bunch of BX cable (the old metal stuff that looks like Doc Ock's arms) all over the place. Well, as of today, there's one room less.

And then I found myself wondering, "How the hell did I learn wiring, anyway?" Really not sure. When my parents rebuilt the upstairs of our house (years of devastation, and much hauling of the plaster and the lath), they hired an electrician to wire the place. (By "electrician," of course I mean a guy who worked for the telephone company and did house wiring on the side, under the table, you-scratch-my-back, using tools and parts probably stolen from somewhere else. That, the unreasonable requests of his family to spend some evenings at his own home, and his low low price, meant that the wiring was about a six-month project.) So I had nothing to do with that. When we redid the downstairs, I think my father and his brother put it together, so maybe I learned it there. Anyway, for some reason, I know how to wire, and in fact I enjoy it. It's about the dumbest and most satisfying project you can do around the house. Before, there was all this old, musty, dangerous wiring and cracked outlets with insufficient grounding; after, shiny new well-grounded outlets, lights that work, and everything on motion detectors. I'm a motion detector kinda guy. This is the first time I've ever gotten to use new construction boxes instead of rehab boxes. It's like electrician porno -- smooth and easy.

Forget I said that. I gotta go get more parts, though. Later.

Don't even ask

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For reasons inexplicable, I suddenly had an overwhelming desire to enter The Wolverton Zone. Don't say you weren't warned.

Tearing down the house!

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We're never really clear whether this place was built in 1929 or 1939, but whenever it was built, man, they built it solid. There are, by my estimate, 14 million nails holding the drywall ceiling up (genuine Beaverboard! Ask for it by name!). Every goddamn one of them has to come out. So I spent the morning, despite the depths of my sinusial misery, playing around in ancient gypsum dust. Got the ceiling down, which involves getting just COVERED with dust, wood shavings, old newspapers, and all kinds of other stuff they threw down on the ceiling from the attic side (there is no attic floor). Especially old newspapers. Also, one very intact and good condition Batman comic book -- can't wait to figure out what that's worth, because other then being a little dusty, it's in great shape. Some other weird stuff, too. I'll photograph it and throw it up on Fotolog.

Speaking of Fotolog, I'm posting a bunch of old family photos over at my Fotolog site, for those who find these things as fascinating as I do. Even if you don't know the people, some of the old snapshots are unbelievably evocative. I saw one on someone else's site the other night, it featured two women playing Cootie on a kitchen table. Lee had no idea what I was talking about or why I was excited. To me, pictures that show people doing something are vastly more interesting than just pose-and-grins, and in cases like this, they can really evoke another time that is lost to all but memory now.

Wow, aren't I all linky today?

Morning drive time and berries

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Just two notes about my non-urban life. First, my morning drive to work is barely long enough to fit in two Natalie Merchant songs, and that's if I circle the block to get coffee. Also, at this time of year, our yard is awash in black raspberries, quarts and quarts of them, and we've been on a raspberry high for more than two weeks now. The strawberries, smaller than your fingernail but more flavorful than anything you can get in a store, were also plentiful this year, and we had six or seven cherries off the cherry tree! (Growing up, our yards all had apple trees, pear trees, cherry trees, and my aunt's place out in the country was black-cap heaven.)

Another sign of summer

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Apparently, some people are enjoying slow, leisurely days by the pool. They're sunning themselves, reading a trashy novel, and enjoying a nice beverage. And because there's not much difference between the literature in their hands and the literature on their beverage label, they're studying that beverage label. They're studying it, and, unlike the book, it sets them to wondering. Wondering. Wondering. They're wondering, "What the hell is glycerol ester of wood rosin?!" And then they're coming to my site, dozens of them, each and every day, to find the answers. I guess that makes me a pretty important part of summer, too. Because I have the answers, people. I have the answers. Ester of wood rosin shall set you free....

Cigarettes and Red Vines

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It's just that time of year. Aimee Mann has an odd summertime vibe, especially "Ghost World," which captures that school's-out-I'm-all-alone-with-nothing-to-do vibe. But tonight the firefly imagery of "Red Vines" crept into my head, and if you don't know it, I'll just have to give you some of the lyrics: So you're running 'round the parking lot 'til every lightning bug is caught Punching some pinholes In the lid of a jar While we wait in the car With cigarettes and Red Vines Just close your eyes, 'cause, baby - You never do know And I'll be on the sidelines, With my hands tied, Watching the show I finally had some Red Vines a couple of years back, and I've gotta say, they must be an acquired Southern taste. It's Twizzlers for me, baby.

More drugs! More drugs!

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Apparently the reason I feel so lousy is that I am actually not well. This is not what I want to hear from my doctor. I want him to tell me to stop being a big baby. I want him to tell me to take it like a man. I do not want him to run screaming from my x-rays, crying out, "It's a cookbook!" I do not want him to throw his scrubs and gloves on the floor and start disinfecting them with a propane torch. Unfortunately, what I want does not count. My sinuses are in charge here, as they have ever been, and this little boy has reason not to put his head under water anytime in the near future (my excuse for not training for a triathlon -- not being able to swim is not excuse enough for me). New antibiotics of a strength sufficient to frighten Cipro, and I should be off them sometime before I die. But at least today I feel like I could perform an activity that requires more cardio work than watching TV requires, which is a marked improvement.

Important Pop trivia question

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I forgot to ask, does anybody happen to know how tall Iggy Pop is? Because I'm pretty sure that was him camping near us this weekend. I really want to ask him how he sold a song about heroin addiction to a major cruise line. Or did they just not listen to the lyrics?

Alive and blogging

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This sinus infection is proving to be a beast, and I still haven't shaken it. Spent the weekend camping down at Taconic State Park -- nice campground with access to a bike path right from the park, which is always nice, but a decidedly downstate influence in the campground, so a more urban camping experience than I like. But I basically want utter silence when I go camping, so just about anyone else's idea of camping is going to be less than perfection to me. Had a couple of nice rides with the girls and a short hike up to Bash Bish Falls, so it was a nice weekend. Also, fantastic new tent courtesy of my mother (a birthday present to both me and Lee). Turns out there's a real difference between a $400 tent and a $120 tent. Who'd have thought?

But still run down by this sinus infection, biking a long distance on my own was real work, and I'm not back to running, which I wanted to be. Soon, I hope.

Tour de France? God, how exciting. Beloki? Let's just say, I don't want a broken femur. Ouch! Lance is making me nervous here, I'll admit. But I have faith. Postal is incredibly strong.

Gotta rise early. Not allowed to say why. Really. Just trust your gummint, okay?

Tired and sleepy

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Just not enough sleep. Too much needs to get done around the house, and the Fourth and being sick threw it all off. Got to get back to it. Garage roof needs replacing, finish the cellar windows, finish the concrete work, etc., etc. But summer's too damned short (especially this year), and this weekend we're going camping, dammit!

Hey, how about that Alessandro Petacchi, eh? Mad sprinter takes his FOURTH stage win! Amazingly, no major crash at the end yesterday. I'll have to miss the next couple of stages -- serious withdrawal pains ahead!

Got to ride

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Yes, I did get to ride, 16 miles on the back roads to Tawasentha Park to listen to Alex Torres and the Latin Kings. Love Latin music in a park or festival setting, but not something I generally listen to at home, so it's always a treat. Slow ride with burning lungs and more traffic, even on the back roads, than I had hoped for, but it was all right. Still only at about 80% after the sinus infection earlier this week, but getting there.

New tent! New tent! New tent! Hey, where's the groundcloth I ordered?

30 seconds!

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US Postal won the team time trial by 30 seconds. They'd actually been behind the pace at the first two splits, so it's all the more remarkable. Incredible. And Victor Hugo Pena, the first man from Colombia to wear le maillot jaune, is some kind of Colombian national hero...

Me, I'm hoping just to ride my bike today. Work trip up to Ray Brook yesterday, long ride up and back, and as soon as I got home, it was off to a Valleycats game (they were getting hammered by the Auburn Doubledays). Tonight, we're supposed to meet up with a friend to listen to music in a park, and then tomorrow night we're off to go camping. Perhaps in a brand new tent, if it arrives today. A-tenting we will go...

TdF: Sweet heartbreak

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Of course, it was incredible that 2 riders would break out from the pack only 5 km in on a 204 km stage. More incredible that they would maintain a lead for another 180 or 190 km, always just about 10 minutes in front, not enough that the peloton would chase them down, but far enough out. Finot and Jegou were out there alone for almost the entire race, and then all of a sudden you could watch Jegou hit the wall . . . Finot pulled around him on an uphill, and there was nothing for Jegou to do but wait for the peloton to swallow him up. But incredibly, Finot had more to give, and they didn't catch him until there were only 2.5 km to go. Everybody was rooting for him, that he could pull off an incredible performance that would probably live on forever in TdF history -- it simply isn't done. You can't just break off into the lead and stay there for the entire race. Sadly, it wasn't done. They swallowed him up and taught him the essential lesson of the Tour de France -- conserve your energy -- as the sprinters, having gone 202 km, suddenly poured it on for an amazing finish. These are guys traveling in a tight pack, around corners, doing 30-40 miles an hour after hours of riding. It looked like McGee would do it, but it was his teammate, Baden Cooke, who took the win. McGee still wears le maillot jaune. Unbelievably exciting. (Finot finished with the peloton, and got the same time as the winner. Jegou finished 7 minutes and 10 seconds back, which is an eternity in bike racing.)

You have no idea what I'm talking about, do you? Oh, well . . . All I can say is, bicycle racing ROCKS!

It's Hammett Time!

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Okay, I've had this little diatribe about Hammett stuck in the back of my head for some time now, and I've been holding it back, but fever and antibiotics and the tremendously regrettable running of "Song of the Thin Man" on TCM. So, sorry, here we go.

The problem with Hammett is his dreck was so tremendously drecky that you begin to doubt your belief in his good stuff. He built up some quality through the series of Continental Op stories (though, really, they'd have been forgotten were it not for his classics). His stories of a nameless tough guy detective, fashioned from his brief experiences as a Pinkerton, helped shape the hard-boiled genre -- but Chandler's lesser stuff holds up better. But building on what he'd done with "The Big Knockover," he went on to create "Red Harvest", a blood-filled shooting fest set against a dark background. Then, "The Maltese Falcon," which was made into a movie twice before they got it right on the third try by shooting the book as the script. A classic on the page and on film, it launched the career of the detective Sam Spade, though what was done with it on radio was diluted from one of Bogart's best performances. Then "The Dain Curse" and "The Glass Key," both okay but not terrifically memorable, and both fairly hard to follow. Veronica Lake did a star turn in the movie of "The Glass Key," but the movie wasn't any more understandable. Then he did "The Thin Man," a light-hearted romp in some ways but slightly disturbing in others. The Thin Man was NOT the detective, Nick Charles, but the victim in the book, so thin he was a skeleton. But they made it a movie the same year, and suddenly William Powell was The Thin Man, and off Hammett went to Hollywood. He never produced another book of note, as he drank like a fish, encouraged Lillian Hellman in her career, and produced a pile of lousy screenplays and radio scripts.

In there somewhere was an attempt at a Hearst comic strip, "Secret Agent X-9," a teaming with illustrator Alex Raymond that should have been fantastic but which was hastily dashed-off pastiches of his previous characters and stories. Some of the individual lines are fun, but the stories are preposterous. Eventually Hammett was axed and Raymond went on to write it himself. I dug up an old copy of this a couple of weeks ago and was stunned at how weak it was. But now, TCM is showing a 1947 film he "wrote," though who knows how much it had to be doctored at the time to even be filmed, "Song of The Thin Man." 13 years after playing a dashing drunken couple in their 40s partying their way through Nora Charles's inheritance, they're back again, with an annoying child detective (see jumping the shark), and a dog of inexplicable longevity. Priceless lines? Well, there aren't any. It's cut and pasted from the leavings of some Bowery Boys pictures.

You see stuff like this and wonder, is it possible that The Maltese Falcon was really that good? I guess the gin'll do that to a man....

It's just gotta be time for my medicine.....

Sick like dog, but TDF must go on!

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No longer able to deny it, I is gots something. Started feeling poorly on Thursday, of course exerted myself too much on Friday what with the Fourth and all (which included a quick climb up to Copperas Pond and then, for reasons I'll never be able to adequately explain, a competition to run up the bottom of the 120m ski jump slope. You have no idea how steep . . . ), collapsed on Saturday, remained collapsed yesterday, remain collapsed today. Probably bronchitis. Karmic payback for my complaints, even if they were primarily in my head, about being the only healthy one in the house (I have listened to coughing all my life, and sometimes it gets to me.) Another day of rest and a quick visit to the doctor and all should be well. I expect to achieve Sustained Vertical status by tomorrow.

Had a panic attack on Thursday, though not without reason -- OLN suddenly disappeared from my cable lineup. One of the main reasons I picked up digital cable was to get OLN, which features such odd sports as skiing, snowboarding and bike racing (as well as way too much bull riding). My excitement built to a fevered pitch as they led up to their daily coverage of Le Tour de France . . . and then all of a sudden, the channel disappeared from my favorites list and couldn't be found anywhere in the sports tier. Panic ensues. E-mails are hastily fired off in several directions. E-mails are hastily returned from all directions. They've just moved the channel. Calm down. It was so popular (go figure!) they put it in with the basic cable. (Just to note, all the OTHER channels that are in basic cable are ALSO listed in with their categories and are available in two places, so it's not like I was insane thinking it had gone away.) But I'm resting easier. The prologue was great, although David Millar was robbed by a chain drop, which looked like a fluke until one later learned that FOUR bikes on his team lost their chains in the time trial, so no he may have been justified in throwing the bike when he got to the pit. That kind of thing cannot happen at this level of the game. Postal scored three of the top ten, did very well. Day 1 was an easy 168k, but there was a stunning smashup in the final kilometers. Still haven't heard who got hurt and how badly. The peloton came to a stop, but through the arcane rules of cycle racing and TDF, everyone who was in the peloton in the final kilometer was granted the same time as the winner since they were unable to proceed. Since your overall time through the 21 days is what counts, that means no one was put at a disadvantage because of the crash, and the winning of the sprints along the way, which gives the rider bonus seconds off his time, becomes hugely important.

Just read an update from this morning -- another, smaller crash with a motorcycle cameraman in today's 204.5 km stage. One of the FDJeux riders is wearing a neck brace from yesterday's crash. That's gotta hurt.

Lake Placid, Home of the Fourth

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I mean, really, there can't be a town that does it better. For starters, they have ski jumping on the Fourth of July, going back something like 75 years. That's just so crazy as to be perfectly American. Why have a ski jumping competition in the heat of summer? Because we CAN. They used to do it with hay and ice, and now it's high tech, but still . . .

Then, the beach at Mirror Lake. We had boiled in the sun, but you can never be so hot that Mirror Lake doesn't feel like an ice cube. The girls were in for about 3 minutes. I put my toes in and retracted immediately. Found a shady spot and settled in there for an hour. De-sanded them, hiked up to a simple little restaurant we had been to last year, had a nice dinner, and then staked out a prime spot for the Fourth of July Parade Slash Candy-Hurl. A great parade with the local war hero, police, fire and ambulance companies, a couple of bagpipe brigades, a marching band from way over to Pulaski, and the only rollerblading accordionist I had ever seen. Most important, to the kids anyway, is that pretty much every unit in the parade is obliged to hurl ridiculous amounts of candy at the crowd (lake side of the street gets much more, we've learned that much). The kids all scramble around for stray Tootsie Rolls. I scored an Atomic Fire Ball, so I was a happy daddy. Pictures at Fotolog later on in the day {NOTE: well, maybe tomorrow. Fotolog seems to be unavailable}. Then, down to the lakeside park and bandshell for some speechifyin' and the Lake Placid Sinfonietta, all the children get to march around the bandshell to some appropriate old Sousa wheeze, and then we stake out a spot on the hill to wait and wait and wait for the fireworks. Of course, there are LOTS of random pieces being shot off around the lake, and a smokebomb thrown into a restaurant caused a little bit of excitement on the street, but there was a bit of a wait. It was well-worth it -- the show was great. ONLY disappointment of the trip is that the Aroma-Round no longer serves meals, just coffee and pastries, so our visions of truly perfect Belgian waffles were dashed the next morning. Ah, well . . .

Happy Independence Day!

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Not much I can say that this flag doesn't already say -- from the Great Hall of Ellis Island.
Flag in the Great Hall of Ellis Island

Humor and threats

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A friend wrote that, although my re-turtle joke was beneath her (say, in the way that the Titanic is beneath the sea -- way, way beneath), her just-post-pre-teen son had gotten what is called a boff out of it (Pogo's words, not hers). What some people don't seem to understand is I'll just keep telling the same joke until you admit it's funny. I'm not going anywhere.

When "My Left Foot" was out, I amused myself by telling others that I had stood up in the middle of the movie and cried out loud, "The Christy Brown Story?!! I thought this was The Christy Mathewson Story!!" Since the joke required, in combination, knowledge of the aforementioned movie, the fact that its protagonist was named Christy Brown, and some acquaintance with a middle-level Baseball Hall-of-Famer . . . Well, let's just say that I got more odd looks than guffaws. Undaunted -- in fact, without a daunt to my name, as I was in those days -- I swore that I would continue to tell that joke until somebody got it. And got it non-begrudgingly, but actually found it funny. Amazingly enough, someone did. I'm friends with him to this day.

But, come on . . . "no deposit, no re-turtle?" This is priceless stuff. I'm giving this stuff away, people!!

Random notes

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  • 24-mile ride through the hills of western Rensselaer County yesterday afternoon. Took a route I haven't used before, made several wrong turns, didn't quite end up where I wanted to, absolutely baked in the sun, attacked the hills too hard, and had to stop for 10 minutes to make phone calls. Other than the phone calls, had a kick-ass time. Was going to go much longer but it was just too hot for it, by the time I made the loop I wanted I'd have been fighting traffic and I just didn't want to deal with the cars, so I went with shorter but safer.
  • Have I mentioned how much my iPod rocks? You're sure? Because I could go on . . .
  • Watched much of "Cool Hand Luke" the other night. Appears that I have never seen it before, which is surprising, because EVERYBODY is in it. Couldn't stay up for all of it, though -- went to bed right after Paul Newman said, "Sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand." Decent flick.
  • I am totally sick of being available 24/7. Just wanted to note that. I want a time when I know I don't have to have the cell phone with me, and when I don't have to worry about being in range. I must have been out of range on my bike for three minutes yesterday, tucked into some little valley without cell coverage, and when I popped back out my shoulder started buzzing (keep the cell phone in a shoulder pocket on the Camelbak), and I had three voice mails to deal with. Enough!!
  • It is VERY hot out. Hoping to get that call, the one where wife and kids announce they're going to the pool and taking a swimsuit for me.
  • No interesting roadkill on the ride yesterday. Sorry, nothing to report. But I could re-tell the turtle joke . . . .

I said . . .

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No deposit, no re-turtle!
Is this thing on? Hello?

Does this look any better?

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This is a test. This is only a test. In the event of actual new content, you would be advised to tune to your local broadcast affiliate, which would disavow any knowledge of this blog. And with good reason.
My utter lack of schooling in HTML and CSS and all that other nonsense that gets in the way of communicating on the web is giving me little glitches and hiccups. Of course, things appear to take two or three "republishings" to take hold sometimes, and what I see on my Mac looks quite different from what you saps see on your Windows machines. But I'm getting this where I want it. The old design was getting cluttered and hard to follow, and what was up with those ENORMOUS buttons? Still don't have the logo quite where I want it, but I'll nail that bastid down yet.

New photos

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Bunch of new (and some very old) photos over at Fotolog. Check them out and leave a note. Also, I'm still working out the kinks in this new layout template. If I could get the headlines to pull tighter to the copy, I'd be very happy. HTML is a bitch. In my day, if you didn't like where a headline landed, you'd get out the X-acto knife and move it where it belonged . . .

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2003 listed from newest to oldest.

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