Monday, February 9, 2009

Ghost in the Machine, Pain in My Arm, and Bunnies in the Yard

So one day, the TV starts displaying closed captioning. There's a button on the universal remote with both words and symbols indicating that it's for closed captioning, so we try pushing it. Nothing happens. We try lots and lots and lots of things. Nothing. So how did it get turned on in the first place? Presumbly one of the dogs had something to do with it, but damned if we can figure out what they did. Both cable TV and DVDs give us printed words as well as sound, and neither of us is hard of hearing. During Australian Open tennis, the printing covered up the score line. This is apparently not a unique problem: when I searched for an answer, I found this person.

For me, the situation has an additional wrinkle, in that I tend to mentally copyedit everything I read and the captions have an awful lot of typos. Aargh!

I've been working out for a couple of months now, gradually building up the intensity. I've tried this many times over the past few years. Usually an injury or illness stops me, and then I don't get going again. But this time it's going pretty well. I started on the exercise bike in front of the TV. Then when I could do five days in a row at a decent intensity without feeling much soreness, I moved up to step aerobics. I've been gradually increasing the length and intensity of those workouts, and just last week I added my homebaked version of BodyPump (a weightlifting routine set to music, with ~5-minute sets for each muscle group). I think I had a mild hamstring pull in December, and then I got the stupid ankle-nerve thingie last week (see last post), but I've kept it up. It feels really good.

Then yesterday, I guess I overdid it on the tricep extensions, because I woke up to agonizing pain in those muscles. I couldly hardly push myself to a seated position to get out of bed. (The Rottweiler snuggled up against me like glue didn't help.) It took a few hours, but I finally sorted out the pain enough to figure out that, instead of being muscle soreness (of which I have none, I'm happy to say), it was injury. The left arm has pretty much cleared up, but the right tricep doesn't want to extend. It contracts just fine, which makes me think the problem is a tendon/ligament thingie rather than a muscle thingie. Yes, I'm right-handed. Dressing myself and feeding myself present real challenges. Fortunately, there's no problem working at the keyboard. Unfortunately, I was going to do housework today and really can't. So I'm writing this.

I won't be doing upper body weights again for a while, but I should be able to do step as long as I'm careful to keep my arms straight-ish as I move them.

Rabbits have always been attracted to the spilled seed under the birdfeeder (birds are messy). After we put up the privacy fence around the backyard about five years ago, we got a lot fewer rabbits in the backyard. One night this winter, though, we spotted a bunny under the feeder. I started filling the feeder at dusk every day and intentionally spilling a tablespoon or two of seed on the ground. Bunny came back, started coming back more often, and now comes every night. In fact, there may be more than one bunny -- I think I'm seeing at least two, one larger than the other, but only one shows up at a time so it's hard to tell. I've never had a steady "relationship" with a bunny before, so this is fun. I'm looking forward to baby bunnies in the spring.

Fun:

  • I haven't yet acquired this book, but I must: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. This novel "features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. . . . [It is] a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead."
  • This new study published in the journal Science may explain why copy editors and proofreaders (and many English teachers) use red pens (or the electronic equivalent). Apparently, the color red may help people focus on detail, while the color blue may help us be more creative. Although I can't help wonder, given the tasks the study used, if the connection has more to do with red = verbal and blue = spatial. Anyway, interesting stuff. I had my office walls painted peach (a mild red tone) and the ceiling an intense blue-green, so I think I've got some inspiration for whatever kind of thinking I want to do, depending on where I look. :-)
  • If the zombies invading Regency England don't give you nightmares, this might: Titanoboa cerrejonensis was probably about 45 feet long, snacked on crocodiles, and was the biggest land animal on earth for about 10 million years. It was named for its size (genus) and the Cerrejón coal mine (species) in northern Colombia where at least 28 skeletons were found.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

I was on fire last week!

In addition to having two new clients (see my last post), I'm excited about a prospective new direction that will combine some of the knowledge I've gained from freelance editing work and certain skills I honed in the human resources field. And that's all I'll say for now. I'll know a little more at the end of March.

In the meantime, I just wrapped up work on a fascinating book that's a series of true-life stories by pediatricians about their work, some of them deeply meaningful and moving. Plus, I'm working on a couple of books for educators that address diversity of brains and cultures, respectively, in the classroom -- a topic I always love to read more about. Last week, I finished a test-prep book for the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). So lots of variety, as always.

Now about that fire . . . I set the tea kettle to boil on the gas stove and reached up to grab a tea bag from the shelf over the stove. I felt the heat of the stove against my hip. I dropped the tea bag into my cup and relaxed, prepared to wait until the water got hot. But I noticed that the warmth, instead of fading, was becoming downright intense. I looked down and saw flames on the hem of my T-shirt. I quickly moved to the kitchen sink and shoved the cloth under cold water. The T-shirt had a 3" square hole in it. It was my Caesar's Palace shirt from last year's Vegas trip -- not a favorite shirt, but not a shirt I wanted to burn a hole in, either. The pajama bottoms underneath were only slightly singed, and my skin was untouched. This seems like the kind of thing that happens to elderly people -- setting oneself on fire. I'm not elderly, even if I do feel creaky some days.

Speaking of creaky, my ankle-nerve thingie flared up again for a couple of days last week. Not sure why. It was probably due to using the exercise bike, but I've been using it without the ankle acting up. Maybe I had the tension set a notch higher? Anyway, I clumped around in my big plastic "boot" (cast) for a couple of days, and it got all better. Having this thing, I totally get why people who don't know about nerves would think invisible demons or a pin in a voodoo doll was attacking them. That's what it feels like.

Been reading Tony Horwitz's A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World -- great stuff about the first Europeans who came to this hemisphere (hint: they weren't the Pilgrims). He structures his narrative such that it's part history, part travelogue, and part contemporary sociology, simultaneously exploring the past and its impact on our present. By the way, every American and everyone who wants to understand America should read Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic. It's a brilliant exploration of the American Civil War and its continuing reverberations in the national psyche.

Been watching figure skating at the U.S. National Championships and tennis at the Australian Open. Regarding the former, I am thrilled that Alissa Czisny won the Senior Ladies event (click here for photos of this beautiful skater). Regarding the latter, I am grateful that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are giving us so many great matches, desolated that Federer did not win, and grateful that I can come back to U.S. Central Time after partially transitioning to Melbourne time. Ah what the heck: What do time zones mean when the earth spins continuously on its axis?

Fun:
  • Local metereorologists were getting pretty excited a couple of weeks ago about snow rollers nearby. When the snow is sticky and the winds are strong, the wind can "roll" the snow into shapes like bales of hay. Here's a picture of some snow rollers.
  • You can Obamicon a photo of your choosing. The website, put together by Paste Magazine, lets you apply the style of the famous Shepard Fairey Obama poster to any photo you want. I used it to great effect on a photo of Angel (the late Rottweiler). Then the site stalled out and I wasn't able to save it, but I'll definitely give it another try. She looked . . . presidential!
  • After a few years away, I've gotten hooked on the Washington Post's Crickler puzzles again. Fun!

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