Archive for April, 2003

Love Thy Neighbour, Just Don't Love Thy Neighbour

Health is the vital principle of bliss,
And exercise, of health.

James Thomson (1834 – 1882), The Castle of Indolence.

April 18. Good Friday.

For once it is the recommendation that we think twice about going to Church. It is like some six year old’s dream has finally come through and in some Twilight Zone universe, Church has become something that you don’t have to endure. I am of course referring to the SARS situation here in Toronto. They are now telling us, after being on the brink of containment that there is a serious possibility that this virus may spread from the healthcare environment into the general population. On the one hand people are getting tired of hearing about it and the focus of the media has shifted to the NHL playoffs among other things, but on the other hand it suddenly appears as if there is a real danger that in the coming weeks we could see widespread uncontrolled infection. Unfortunately the Canadian apathy had infiltrated into the attitude towards this disease and on many occasions I have overheard people saying that they don’t really care about it because they have no other health problems and would most likely survive a bout of it anyway. Great, how to kill of the upper and lower percentiles of the population in one fell swoop. Hilarious indeed that they are just too apathetic to be bothered with the precautions, and yet seem to be ignoring the conclusion that they are therefore involved in a passive-agressive euthanasia. I always knew the Canadians had it in them to kill off the old and weak, they just had to disguise it carefully enough so it wouldn’t sting their sensibility. Even funnier is the notion that not only are they well on the way to culling the herd, but they are also abandoning religion at the same time… Nietchze would be so proud.

At some point I am going to get blasted for referring to Canadians as “they” since I am indeed a Canadian citizen, however, gaining a citizenship does not make you a native. No matter how Canadian I become, I will always be a Brit at heart.

Opinion Resurrection

Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’

Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

April 17. Thursday.

I am at the point now of being concerned about repetition, although I don’t suppose it matters since the likelihood of anyone reading more than a handful of pages at a time is remote at best. Since the lay of my life is akin to a rollercoaster ride (as is most people’s I suppose) I often find myself talking about resurgent feelings or capabilities that seem to have been left dormant. It must be a function of the rise and fall of the swell of my existence that causes me not only to experience these times but also to notice them enough to want to talk about them. Today’s thought is that I am getting my old opinionated self back, not in an arrogant egomaniacal way, but rather in an “at least I have an opinion about things” way. This may not be as much a function of my life, but rather as a pleasant side effect of my decision to get back into the habit of writing again. It is monumentally hard to start once you have been stagnant for a while, but if you can bring yourself to write something, anything at all, eventually the rusty wheels will begin to turn again. It is just a case of allowing your ego to get past the vast imperfections of your humble beginnings and to concentrate on the long term rather than the current instant. I have started, albeit in a staggering, drunken and ugly manner, but I now feel the spark of creativity once again warming the tinder of my mind. Pretty soon I will be ranting about drivers using their cellphones, bicycles on the sidewalk and the psychology of tattoos, all of which are topics that at one time or another have placed me neck deep in water much hotter than I would have expected. But that is the beauty of passion, it stirs conviction and conviction is what can put you head to head with someone without fear and without desire for compromise. Of course it is nice to have the ability to meet half way and to see both sides of the argument, but once in a while it is also necessary to be belligerent, to dig in your heels based on belief and principle and to feel the barbs of war that result. I am not a great believer in the subversion of our raw psyche, I do not feel that we should all practice our smooth veneer to the point where we bury who we are and believe our own hype that we are all reasonable intelligent adults who don’t fight, don’t shout and scream, and don’t intentionally do things to make others mad. By the same token, I don’t believe we shouldn’t sing in the shower, dance in line at the bank or laugh out loud in the supermarket because we find an amusing label on a jar of pickles. I think life ought to be a little bit prickly, otherwise we sink into the bland tastelessness of compromise and lose our identities.

So today I will suggest that at some point you go out and enjoy yourself in a very personal and individual way. Turn up the music in the car and sing out loud, smile at your closest strangers, you know the ones, people you see every day but pass by without any acknowledgment. If it makes you feel more powerful, don’t let someone who creeps up the shoulder cut in in front of you in traffic, don’t let the weasels of the world get away with their little victories because personally I just love to teach these little bastards a lesson. But whatever it is that makes you let go of the reigns for a moment, just do it, because today is as good of a time as any, and if you don’t do it now, you may just forget how to do it altogether.

Beautiful Simplicity

Health is the vital principle of bliss,
And exercise, of health.

James Thomson (1834 – 1882), The Castle of Indolence.

April 16. Wednesday.

I am not talking about the writing this time, but rather the other subject upon which I have seemingly unending opinions, my weight. I am beginning to see the paradox of age and the beauty of the passage of time. Even though it now takes me longer to lose any weight I need to or want to, at least now I have the patience and the discipline to navigate that course. As time goes on, I am losing that juvenile expectation that everything can and will happen in the blink of an eye and am starting to really appreciate the aging process, not only the human process, but the process by which all things mature and develop over time. I am starting to get a real appreciation for the flow of money and it’s innate coupling with the passage of the years, and I am starting to recognize the potential in life that until now has been too minute to see, but that is now revealing itself to me as the seeds of greatness.

However it still disturbs me that I am relegated to wearing my “fat clothes” since my waistline ballooned after surgery. I was 230lbs, quite fit and trim when I went in for surgery December 30th. I was 250lbs when I got back from Australia Feb. 28th and thanks to the weight I have gained back from the wasted muscle in my leg I was up to a mammoth 260lbs 2 weeks ago. Since then and a subtle adjustment in my eating habits I am back down to 252lbs and shrinking. In my optimism I am expecting that I will be back within 5lbs of my original weight in 4 weeks. However there is a wrinkle in the plan. At some point I am going to resume my whole body workout which will replenish the muscles that I have allowed to atrophy while in rehab. This, I am thinking, will provide me with another 10lbs of mass with which to deal. I am hoping that the addition of the mass will raise my BMR to a point where that 10lbs will simply melt into the exchange of tissues. Of course, at this moment I am not expecting to be able to do what I was doing before, since shoulder pressing 225lbs would not make my physio happy in the least. I have been promising myself for years that I would finally stop doing ridiculous weights but I find that even with the best intentions I just simply cannot resist adding more weight when I think I can. There is just something primal about being able to outlift anyone else that goads me into silent competition, and besides, bench isn’t bad for your back so I still have that, right? Right? Sure I do. But I have promised myself to take it easy with only machines for the first month until my basic musculature is once again sufficiently developed.

I often wonder if anyone else goes through the same kind of thought processes with themselves, fighting a never ending battle against ego and appetite. Then I realize that everyone does, that is why there are so many overweight people out there and why diet pills and gym memberships are at an all time high. I tried to explain a revelation I had recently to someone and got a blank expression of incomprehension so I will try again here. I realized recently that there is a paradox of knowledge that exists when it comes to experiencing almost anything. Take martial arts as a perfect example, I recall a motivational speaker using this example once and it has stuck with me as a great indicator of what I have seen. He said that in martial arts, a punch is just a punch. By that he means that in the final analysis, the extension of your arm to contact an object is that and that alone. However, as you progress through the ranks of martial arts, gaining belts and learning Katas that the punch becomes so much more. It has subtleties and technique, it has hidden power and commands intense concentration. But he said that a 7th Degree Black Belt will tell you that after learning all the intricacies, all the different uses both offensive and defensive that in the end, a punch is just a punch.
We see the same type of mentality on the football field, although the mantra of “learn the basics” is hammered into young players without the accompanying philosophy, the message is still the same. Besides all the technique, the skill, the hidden tips and secrets, what wins games and makes legends is a mastery of the basics of the game.
The revelation I had came in my relentless pursuit of the perfect health system, a system whereby everything would be in harmony with everything else, where each piece of the puzzle would fall into place revealing a beautiful and intricate tapestry of hundreds of thousands of pieces of information and experience. However I passed that point when explaining to a gentleman at the gym how I was hoping to rebuild my battered body after my surgery. After explaining my approach, my diet requirements and my exercise regimen, my concentration on certain aspects of my physique and my avoidance of particular dangerous situations I had a sudden realization that I knew what I needed to do to stay healthy for the rest of my life. It was so beautiful in it’s simplicity and yet when I hear it come out of my mouth this time it spoke volumes to me. I simply said “I have to eat right, and exercise”. He gave me a smile and a nod of his head as if to congratulate me on my revelation and said “simple isn’t it?”.

I realized at that moment that everything I had striven to learn over the years about kinesiology, nutrition, personal training, powerlifting, bodybuilding, digestion, food composition, insulin balance and the thousand other subjects I had touched on had come down to the most simple and basic conclusion. Eat right and exercise

I am not sure that this entry won’t leave anyone who reads it with the equivalent blank stare that I got the first time I explained it, but at least this time it makes more sense to me, and I hope it makes a little sense to you.

I Used To Be Funnier

Man is equally incapable of
seeing the nothingness from which
he emerges and the infinity
in which he is engulfed.

Blaise Pascal,

April 15. Tuesday.

At least, when I look back at some of the writing that I have done over the past 5 years, much of it seems somehow deeper, more meaningful and far far more entertaining than the stuff I have managed to squeeze out over the past 2 years. I wonder if it is just a function of practice, I mean when you look at the volumes, my productivity has dried up like the visitor lines at a Toronto Hospital. Not only has my journal writing shrivelled but also the rest of the site (yes, there is other stuff here too) has remained pretty much static since 1999 sometime. It started around October of 2000 and by February of 2001 I had all but stopped writing here. I know full well what was going on in my life back then, but I am hard pressed to find an adequate explanation for my retraction from the habits I had worked so hard to form. Not only that, but strangely enough the main motivating factor for much of my writing back then was drama in all it’s forms and certainly at that point I had plenty going on.

1998 105 entries in 180 days or 58%
1999 221 of 365 or 61%
2000 119 of 365 or 33%
2001 41 of 366 or 11%
2002 43 of 365 or 12%
2003 27 of 105 or 26%

The numbers don’t lie. Even now that I am making a conscious effort to get something down, I am still flagging behind disgracefully, and the quality for which I have no measure thankfully, is far below any acceptable standard in my humble opinion. I can recall writing about this before and claiming that the lack of ‘pain’ in my life was the reason. I am still partial to this explanation, knowing that I feel a great deal more passionate about what I write when under emotional duress. However, it would make sense that I would be able to write about the things that make me angry, sad or whatever at any time if I were able to tap into those feelings. But somehow it isn’t the same. Maybe I am just not paying enough attention to my reactions to my environment, or I am insulating myself from it for some reason. That would not explain though how come I am just not as funny as I once was. This factor could be explained by the simple fact that nobody who writes on a regular basis is able to accurately critique a newly created piece of work. Maybe it is our emotional investment in it, maybe it is because our creative process secretly knows that changes are still possible and that the work is still in progress. Whatever it is, on reviewing much of my work here I have concluded that I am becoming far more boring than I once was.

Then there is the pain. These past 2 years have seen me tolerate physical pain that I would not wish on anyone and that in itself has stripped me of much of my humour not only in writing but also in real life. Happily now there is light at the end of the carpal tunnel and the pain should be far less frequent if not gone altogether fairly soon. It really is amazing the emotional weight that certain things put on a person, things specifically like physical pain, problems with creditors, crappy work environment and so on. Thankfully most of these problems are in my past now, having struggled through, caught some very lucky breaks and been given the help and support of wonderful parents and loving girlfriend. So I suppose that the emerging realization of my failure to maintain my personality is a sign that having emerged once again out onto the sunny sidewalk of life I am now realizing just how dark things really have been.

How’s that for a positive spin?

Stupid Mask Tricks

Drugs are not always necessary,
but belief in recovery always is.

Norman Cousins, Ultimate Success Quotations Library

April 14. Monday.

Today is a milestone. I am returning to the physio after a month of being left to my own devices and I have a feeling that I am going to be an astonishing surprise. Last time I was in her office, I was laying on the bed while she instructed me to try and slide my foot from straight out back towards me while bending my knee. The kind of movement you would do to bring your knees up to your chest. At the time I couldn’t manage it at all and she told me that my “ultimate goal” would be to be able to do 10 leg lifts with my leg straight and my left leg raised off the bed. I knew what she meant, my leg knew what she meant, but we disagreed on the execution. I remember leaving her office, happy that I had been given the all clear to go very gently back to the gym. The first day back I worked on my leg, tried to do 5 minutes on the stairmaster as I had the week before and started on the leg lift quest. It is now a month later and I am still working on the leg, but I am doing 30 minutes on level 2 on the stairmaster and I am easily able to do 30 leg lifts with my opposing leg off the floor. I am at the gym 6 days a week and although I do get sore, my back pain as such is gone and the strength in my leg is rapidly returning. I am still a little unstable climbing up and down stairs, but I can get into the Jeep without having to back in bum first which is a huge leap in the dignity department. I no longer use the cane, haven’t for 3 weeks now, and have stopped wearing the belt also. However, I have not yet been able to shave off much of the weight I have gained since the operation. That is my sole focus now since the less weight I have, the quicker my recovery will be. This past week I have lost a couple of pounds, and I am going in the right direction, but as we all know, this is the ongoing war of my life no matter what the motivation.

Still, I need to lose the 20…

On to stupid mask tricks and then I will fill in what happened at the physio since I haven’t been yet.

It starts innocuously enough with the single elastic. Daring I know…

Casual mask day

Then we move on to the “I am eating/drinking” stage…

Casual mask day

This is rapidly followed by the development of stupid mask tricks…

Casual mask day

alone or as entertainment for others…

Casual mask day

Which then leads to the discarding of the mask altogether in favour of the hand filter system…

Casual mask day

Don’t try this at home folks…

Well, it is now afternoon and my visit with the physio went very well indeed. She gave me more specific stretches to do to stretch my hip flexors and adjoining muscles and a stretch specifically for the sciatic area. She was very happy with my progress, saying she did not expect for me to have made such significant progress in only 3 months. There was nothing that she was concerned about specifically, only that I should be careful with my new stretches since I am working on the area specifically linked to the injury and surgery. But her point was that even though my strength is great, I need to start to stretch the area on a regular basis. I have another appointment on May 12th at which time I am going to be assessed for orthotics. The only complaint I had going in was that I felt as if one leg was longer than the other and that my weight was not evenly distributed between my feet. After she stretched my Iliotibial band these symptoms disappeared. Once I got back to work I looked up this strange band about which I had never heard and sure enough there was the diagram and the stretch… Oddly enough, the symptoms most commonly associated with this particular area are knee problems, commonly referred to as “Runners Knee”.

The iliotibial band (ITB) is a thick band of tissue that extends down the outside of the thigh from the ilium bone at the pelvis, over the knee to the tibia bone of the lower leg. More specifically, it attaches to the pelvis via the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL), which is a hip flexor muscle (ie bends the hip), and via the Gluteus Maximus muscle, which extends the hip. It passes over the knee joint to attach at the lateral tibial condyle (ie the outer part of the tibia bone just below the knee). The primary function of the iliotibial band is to provide static stability to the lateral aspect of the knee.
A second more technical assesment of function:
The ITB is considered a continuation of the tendinous portion of the tensor fascia lata muscle and is indirectly attached to parts of the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, and the vastus lateralis muscles. The intermuscular septum connects the ITB to the linea aspera femoris until just proximal to the lateral epicondyle of the femur. Distally, the ITB spans out and inserts on the lateral border of the patella, the lateral patellar retinaculum, and Gerdy’s tubercle of the tibia. The ITB is only free from bony attachment between the superior aspect of the lateral femoral epicondyle and Gerdy’s tubercle.

Unfortunately, most if not all of the information that deals with this tissue is in relation to Runners Knee and has little or no mention of hip discomfort or imbalance caused by or as a result of shortness, tightness or damage. I will keep looking.

Surprise! A Surprise!

Don’t cry because it’s over.
Smile because it happened.

Unknown Context

Theodor Seuss Geisel

April 6. Sunday.

I have to admit that over the past couple of years my ability to surprise and rise to occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries has not been stellar. It is not nonexistent, of course, that would be a heinous crime, but rather with the pace of our lives increasing at what seems like an exponential pace, it is harder than ever to keep up. Casualties have included Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, and not only Nicole but also my family have been affected. However, this time I was determined not to allow myself to get behind the 8 ball and came up with a weekend that was simple in it’s conception and ultimately provided the desired result… Tears of joy.

Nicole’s birthday was on Sunday, so for dinner Saturday we invited her parents to come with us to Fire and Ice, a restaurant close to us in Hwy. 7 in Markham. The place is unique in it’s fare, the idea is that you pick a protein or two or three, depending on what you feel like. This could be a steak, a chicken breast or a mixed grill with sausage, chicken and steak pieces which was what I chose. Once you have told the waitress what you want, she gives you a ticket with your choice and sends you to the vegetable bar where you line up a little like a salad bar and choose come veggies to have as a stir fry. Once you get to the end of the line, a plate full of such tasty morsels as green and red peppers, onions, bok choy, bean sprouts and mushrooms, the guy asks you what kind of sauce you would like. The idea is that they stirfry your protein and your veggies in teriyaki, sweet n sour or peppercorn garlic (there were a couple of others too) and bring it to your table once done. I chose peppercorn garlic since I was having among others sausage and steak. We grabbed a small plate with some salad and a very small and limited salad bar (common sense there for once) and headed back to the table. It didn’t take long for the food to arrive, just long enough for Nicole to dive into a couple of bags of presents that her parents had brought from themselves and her aunt including a lovely selection of tulips (her favourite) from their shop.

The food itself was excellent. The portions were large, although that was determined to a large degree by the amount of veggies you chose, which brought about an interesting point. We had seen almost everyone leaving with doggie bags, which when tied to the fact that most plates being cooked were loaded and piled high with veggies said to us that the idea is not just to have a plate full of food for the dinner, but also to take advantage of the system to provide you with at least another meal the following day. Next time…

I took leave during the meal to track down our waitress to inform her of Nicole’s special day and once the meal was done several of the waitstaff with a huge boom-box and an incredibly sinful chocolate caramel ice cream brownie thing came over and sang happy birthday. Somehow it just isn’t a birthday without public humiliation, but the dessert was definitely worth it. All in all, an exceptional meal, due in large part to the participation (a little like Marché, but not as fancy) and the excellent quality of the meats. The pricing was reasonable for what you got and I am sure we will be back on more than one more occasion to sample some of the other delights on offer. As a coincidence, we had been reading lately about Diet Delivery and the Zone diet, and this particular restaurant was exactly what the diet called for, lots of protein, lots of veggies and very little starch. This, however, was only a prelude to what Nicole would endure the next day.

Sunday morning came and we were up early at my request to head downtown to Fran’s for some breakfast. We are big Fran’s fans, not only because it gives us a chance to go downtown, but also because anywhere that gives you lots of food at bargain pricing is a winner to us. Breakfast of course being our meal of choice for eating out means that a trip to Fran’s is a special and titillating experience and was the perfect way to start the day. Nicole had no idea what was in store for her, and frankly neither did I… All I knew was where to drop her off and when to be back. We left Fran’s and drove around for a while, taking in the ragged serenity of Toronto’s early morning. There is definitely a special feel to Yonge street at 8 on a Sunday that reveals its soft underbelly and invites you to have a tickle. At 8:25 we pulled up in front of The Elmwood Spa and I led a thoroughly confused Nicole up the regal stairs and through the massive wood double doors into the tastefully appointed foyer. The first point of business was for her to fill out the requisite waivers and release forms including of course one determining that she was not exposed to SARS in the past 10 days. After that, and telling the very friendly and helpful staff that not only was this her first time, but it was also a complete surprise, she was led into an elevator to be whisked away into paradise for almost 4 hours. As the lady at the desk said, all she had to do was not think for the next 4 hours. That sounded perfect to me.

As far as what went on in that building, I am not entirely sure, however she didn’t get the haircut she was promised and as a result came out to the car with a gift certificate for a return visit. Now I am not really up on the latest and greatest techniques that they use in these places and in fact personally I have never actually had a massage or a facial, but I have to admit that Nicole not only looked like a million dollars and smelled like a spring garden, but her skin was a soft as butter. Her hands were nothing short of spectacular and felt like velvet, it really was quite amazing and that, along with the beaming smile on her face, made all the preparations worthwhile. It just goes to show that no matter how much they beg and cajole, how they cry and stamp their feet, there is nothing like a really genuine surprise to put the sparkle in the eye of the woman you love. So take it from me… Don’t even hint, just shut up and do it.

Hoppy Birthday

I enjoyed my trip in Asia.

John Baird, Energy Minister, Toronto news Conference

(He had started coughing as he approached
reporters, cracking this gem with a smile on
his face. “Is that funny?” asked a reporter,
quite rightly putting this insensitive little
shit in his place.)

April 3. Thursday.

SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) latest information:

7 now dead in Toronto which pushes our death rate to astronomical proportions compared to worldwide figures.
Another school closes and at least 2 major conferences including the American Association for Cancer Research have cancelled their Toronto venues.
Most recent death at Markham-Stouffville Hospital linked directly to Scarborough Grace Hospital.
Officials still denying the airborne component of the disease.
No media admission of hospitals increasing capacity for SARS patients.

As one would expect, this protocol enforcement is starting to wear on the nerves of many people forced to work and perform normal functions from behind a stifling N-95 mask.

White Rabbits

First, let me back up to the first day of the month in which traditionally Spring arrives and we all start happily peeling off layers and turning our faces to the sun.
The scene that greeted us as we opened the curtains on the morning was a virtual whiteout of snow completely obliterating all the green that had started to become a customary dawn greeting. Despite having had 6 months of practice, apparently the people of Toronto were confused by the mystery white stuff and forgot how to drive leading to some monumental traffic accidents and the slowing of all major routes around the city to a crawl. A trip that would usually take me 20 minutes ended up lasting 90 minutes as I crawled toward the dentist’s office for my root canal. Shame I made it really.

Traffic anyone?

To add insult to injury, this week looks like it may be more of the same, with winter storm warnings for today and snow warnings all week.

It seems that this year is doing its best to truly demoralize the inhabitants of Toronto, hopefully in preparation for a spectacular summer and beautiful fall.

In other news yesterday was my sister’s birthday so a big hello and happy birthday to Fizzy, I hope she had a wonderful day, unless she is waiting for the weekend to celebrate in which case I am hoping my gift will have arrived by then to make the whole getting older thing a little better. Also, this weekend is Nicole’s birthday, more on that after the fact since we can’t have her getting all wound up and giving herself a headache. Mum and Dad should be travelling again in the next couple of days on their way home after languishing in the warmth and comfort of the Australian sun so happy trails to them and best wishes for a safe and happy trip.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Tuesday I had my root canal. It is upper left and happens to be the tooth I am supposed to be having the bridge attached to in the near future. The surgery itself was OK, I am actually getting used to it now, I think that is my 5th root canal, but even today I am still sore and my upper jaw is throbbing with a dull ache. At least it takes my mind off my leg and back.
Speaking of which, this week has been the first time I have not taken my cane on to the gym floor with me, and I am using it to walk outside but no longer using it indoors. I started at the gym doing 5 minutes on level one on the stairmaster but now have graduated to 30 minutes at level 2. I am amazed at this progress, and I have to admit that it is great to have a specific goal in mind again at the gym. So far I have not returned to doing any weights other than my leg, but am hoping that next week I will start some light lifting on the machines. I have been almost every day so far since I started back, and this week will signify the third week of 6 out of 7 days.
My hope is that starting Monday of next week, I will be leaving the cane for good and asking my physio if it is time to lose the belt also. Her input was that as soon as I could do 30 leg lifts and felt comfortable walking then I should abandon the belt and cane at the same time. Maybe I will try some wandering at the mall this weekend without it and see how I feel. The leg lifts are easy now, strange that the last time I saw her I was unable to lift my right leg off the table at all. It is really the last concrete evidence I have of my recovery. My next, and maybe last, appointment with her is April 14th.