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  1. One Man's Garbage...

    by , February 8th, 2012 at 06:34 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    ...yards are another man's source of high-quality exhaustion.

    I am curious if my readers out there in water worlds throughout the dripping universe have any opinions on this topic.


    What, exactly, constitutes "garbage yards" from your perspective, assuming, that is, you believe these actually exist.


    Some, I suspect, subscribe to an opposite point of view, i.e.,
    any yard is a good yard, especially when traversed under one's own power without assistive technology like this, this, and this:



    Taking SDKs to a whole new level!




    Bladefish! The choice of eunuchs and guys who really don't want to share a lane!




    After his excellent work in
    Dr. Strangelove, Slim Pickens was almost cast for the part of Chief Brody in Jaws.

    There are several reasons why I am asking about these so-called garbage yards.


    First, I am pretty sure that if these do indeed exist, they are pretty much
    all I swim these days.

    Second, if I
    am a chronic garbage man these days, and I suspect I am, does such an approach confer any benefit whatsoever to swimming performance other, that is, than to maybe allow one to get a tiny bit better at swimming garbage yards? Are there any competitions for these?

    Third, why do these garbage yards hurt so much? In yesteryear, swimming these same distances at these same speeds were the stuff of child's play! I could plod along, lap after desultory lap, contenting myself to try to coax one of my brain's hemispheres into sleeping, dolphin-style, then switch to the other: a form of swim-napping, if you will.


    But now, I am too tired by the not-terribly-difficult swimming sets I have designed for myself on off days, and my coach Bill designs for us all on actual swimming practice days, to even consider napping while trying to finish them.


    What has happened to me?


    Has anything remotely like this happened to you?


    Two theories, maybe three:


    1. Something is profoundly wrong with me. I've suddenly gotten old, for instance, the decrepitude I have felt stalking me for decades has at last caught up and thrown me off balance, like one of those high speed chases between a lion (decrepitude) and a sick baby wildebeest (me: decrepitude's prey)--just a slight paw brush by the lion is enough to knock me off balance, and then I am surrounded by red faced felines licking their chops as the light on the savannah goes black...


    If not age, it could be something else, like a sickness of some sort, me being no stranger to any of these:


    illness

    noun

    the
    state of feeling sick or of having a disease

    disease

    noun

    an
    illness that affects people or animals, especially one that is caused by an infection

    sickness

    noun

    a
    condition in which you have an illness

    infection

    noun

    a
    disease or other medical condition that is caused by bacteria or by a virus or a parasite

    disorder

    noun

    an
    illness or medical condition

    complaint

    noun

    an
    illness or other medical problem

    condition

    noun

    an
    illness or health problem that lasts a long time and affects the way you live

    ailment

    noun

    an
    illness, usually not a serious one

    epidemic

    noun

    a
    situation in which a disease spreads very quickly and infects many people

    contagion

    noun

    a
    disease that can be spread from one person to another through touch or through the air



    2. I am simply tired out by training reasonably hard at a time when assorted other demands on my physiology, like tax preparation and deadline obligations, are also sucking the life out of me. Could I, in fact, be overtraining?


    Last year in mid-January, I suffered a detached retina, which forced me out of the water for two weeks.




    When I got the go ahead to swim again, I did my best to catch up on my Go the Distance goal in February:





    To diehards, this 50 miles might seem paltry, but it's actually a rather significant amount for me.


    That spring, I did my best times in the 500 and 1000 in years, though the swims (as regularly readers might recall) did not count for Top 10 consideration because the meet wasn't recognized.


    I did these times without a body suit, too, which in some regards made them seem all the better to me since the cheatin' suits always did provide my blubberous flapping body a bit of a lift.


    Flash forward to this season. No detached retinas in January, so this is what I swam in the same time period where I managed only 19 miles last year:




    Over 22 miles more, in other words, which
    should technically put me into better shape than I was in at the same time period last year.

    So far this February, I have been swimming every day and hope to continue doing so throughout the entire month of February, perchance to exceed last year's total. Here is the data so far:




    I have missed a total of 7 days in 2012 so far and averaged just a wee bit over 1.5 swimming miles per day.


    A few other bits of data.


    I got fat. 185 this year vs. 179 last year at the same time.

    Also, my Amish Mudhole swimming times are a bit slower at this time this year comparable to what I did last year.


    Consider the 2011 vs 2012 mid season times:



    • 50 free 25.15 then vs. 25.65 now
    • 100 free 55.27 then vs. 55.09 now
    • 200 free 1:59.81 then vs. 2:01.60 now
    • 500 free 5:33.84 then vs. 5:42.21 now
    • 1650 free 20:03.90 then vs. ?


    Well, it is time for practice, so I must be signing off to go put in my daily garbage yards.


    I am signed up for the 1650 at the end of the month.


    Then there is the Albatross meet in March, and I will see how this year's times compare to last year's. This will be the first time I can swim in the next age group up, so I am hoping to do good.


    Then there are the various championships coming up in the later spring.


    I don't know if swimming as much as I have been will prove helpful or not.


    Maybe it was the enforced two weeks off because of the retina last year that was the real reason for good times them?


    Time will tell. But meanwhile, if you have any thoughts on my situation here, please feel free to give me the benefit of them!
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  2. TT Blogs 2011

    by , January 1st, 2012 at 06:15 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    The competition was, as always, extremely tough this year in USMS blogging. There were a number of familiar names in the Top Ten this year, and a few surprises, too.

    Congratulations to all those who made Top 10 based on the three statistical categories from which the record books are written:

    1. Total number of entries (the Clydesdale Cup, named after the sweaty little workhorse that pulls its weight steadily, ploddingly, and largely without whinnying lament)
    2. Total number of comments (the Pretty Pony Puff Princess Award because this is, let's face it, a popularity contest/gauge of the blogger's appeals to swimming cliques)
    3. And finally, Comments to Entries Ratio (the Thoroughbred Championship Prize, i.e., the only one of these Top Ten blogging categories that really means anything--an excellent proxy for literary excellence combined with swimming magnificence and genuinely deserved adulation. Interestingly, this is also the only category that the USMS leadership is seriously considering awarding the winner with All American Prime status, the "Prime" meaning that it is just a notch above ordinary All American status.

    I am sure everyone is very nervous, so I won't drag things out any longer. Let me now open the envelopes in sequence.

    Total number of entries


    Congratulations to our perennial Clydesdale Cup winner, Leslie "the Fortress" Livingston! You go, girl! Did anyone else think they had a chance? Neighhhh!

    Total number of comments


    Oh. My. God. ! The Fortress does it again, easily capturing the Pretty Pony Puff Princess Award with nearly 13,000 comments! If you could bottle this kind of well-deserved popularity, you couldn't keep it on the store shelves!

    Comments to Entries Ratio


    I can't believe it! Honestly, this is embarrassing! Had I any idea that I was even in contention for the top award in swim vlogging in any medium across the world and in any language, I would never have covered these blogging awards in my, well, er, I guess I have no choice but to call it what it is, my top-Thoroughbred-Championship-Prize-winning-All-American-Prime-Potentially-Earning blog! Thank you all SO MUCH for this!

    It's going to take some getting used to this idea that I am a National Treasure. Please, give me a little time.
    The cat of deserved fame may have my tongue for a little while!

    Meanwhile, feel free to discuss amongst yourselves this incredibly good news about me--a brilliant end to 2011, and even more brilliant start to 2012--in the infinite commentary space below.

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  3. Merry Christmas from Me and Kurt Dickson's Family!

    by , December 25th, 2011 at 11:06 AM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
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  4. Outrage No Mas

    by , November 21st, 2011 at 01:53 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Enough dragging things out.

    I want and need to move on, so I shall try to finish this Triptych of Outrage as quickly as possible. So here’s what happened:

    1. After the Clarion University snafu/cluster**** last spring, I was determined to never again make the mistake of counting on a local meet to be sanctioned, recognized, or whatever else is required to have times count for Top Ten consideration.

    2. Last summer, knowing I had no chance of affording to travel to Auburn, knowing furthermore that I’d be taking my son to college the same weekend as the annual U. MD meet where I usually swim my one USMS LCM meet per summer, I opted to go instead to another annual meet up in Cleveland.

    3. This is in a very nice pool and used to be run by Jack Groselle and O*H*I*O masters. The one time I had swum it before, all my times counted.

    4. The drawback, in the past, had been that it was a 1-day meet, which makes it hard to try for the free style quinella (50, 100, 200, 400, and 800).

    5. But this year, to my delight, I found the meet was being turned into a 2-day meet, name changed to the SynergyFest Inaugural Swim Meet. It was officially sanctioned by the Lake Erie LMSC. Sanction number 18-072923111-LCM.

    6. So I signed up, booked the absolutely cheapest hotel room I could find within driving distance, and signed up for the 5 offered freestyles (I will paste in my results at the bottom of this.)

    7. The meet, unfortunately, was not terribly well attended, probably because they also scheduled a 2-mile open water swim in Lake Erie at the same time as the pool swim, forcing devotees of both to pick one or the other.

    8. According to the meet’s predicted timeline (and I may be a few minutes off here, plus or minus), warm ups started at 9 a.m., the first event of the day would start at 10 a.m., and all the day’s events would be done by approximately 6 p.m.

    9. Unfortunately, the actual timeline was more like this: warm ups 9 a.m., first even 10 a.m., meet over 10:45 a.m. It was absurd! The starter tried to drag things out a little bit, but with only one or two heats for most of the events, the amount of rest between swims was minimal.

    10. On the second day (and again, please forgive me if the details here are a little off), I swam the 800, had about 40 minutes of rest, swam the 50, got out of the water, and was told the 200 would be starting in approximately 4 minutes! I saw on the event sheet that there was going to be a 200 backstroke/OPEN later on, and this would provide me with about 15-20 minutes rest before what is usually my best event. So I asked the meet judge if it would be okay to swim my 200 free then instead. I explained that I was really hoping to make a Top 10 time, and I thought having more than 4 minutes rest after my 50 (and earlier 800) would optimize my chances.

    11. The judge okayed it. Again, I told him I was really trying to make a top 10 time, and I asked him if switching to the 200 OPEN would screw this up. He said no.

    12. So I swam the 200, did reasonably well for me, and drove back to Pittsburgh, confident that this time, at least, I had given myself a fighting chance of picking up a few Top 10 times that would absolutely, 100 percent, no-snafu possibilities anywhere on the horizon, count—provided, that is, my times were good enough to count.

    13. I will now paste in my meet results and the Top Ten results that were just certified a few weeks ago.

    14. Please glance at these and then return for a final word or two about what happened.






    The keen observer will note that my name doesn’t appear in the 200 in the TT list even though my time of 2:18.10 would have just squeaked me ahead of the legendary Larry Wood.

    The keen observer will also notice that my name does appear in the 400, though this is very unlikely to last.

    Why?

    Here’s why.

    When a forum poster pointed out that the preliminary LCM listings were up, I immediately checked to see if I had made any TT times. The area of the website read as follows:

    2011 USMS Top Ten LCM for Men 55-59
    This is a preliminary top ten listing for proofreading purposes only. Report any errors to Mary Beth Windrath.

    Noting that my 200 wasn’t listed, I immediately emailed Mary Beth, who is an unflappably kind person with what seems like a thankless job—collating TT times and making sure they all comply with rules that people like me, evidently, have never heard of.

    When I wrote Mary Beth, I was as confident of 100 percent vindication as I was when I told Mr. Glarow that I had, in fact, written down the correct answer of 5 on my math test, only to learn that he thought I had written an S.

    Here is our email exchange:

    Hi, Mary Beth,

    Can you check the LCM 200 free in men 55-59? I swam a 2:18.10 something at the Synergy meet in Cleveland (which is where my other TT times came from in the 100, 400, and 800), but for some reason, the 200 was left out of the preliminary list.

    Thanks for taking a look. From Event Rankings:

    6 Thornton, James 59 2:18.10 1776 SynergyFest
    Inaugural Swim Meet

    Hi Jim,

    Event 15 was 200 Open, which is not a valid event for Top Ten, so none of the times from that event can count. That's why you don't see it. Only distances and strokes listed in article 102.5 are considered for top ten and records.

    Sorry about that!
    Mary Beth

    Are you kidding me?

    It was freestyle! They never said anything about this not counting at the meet.

    There were a total of about 35 people at the whole meet, so the events had approximately 5 minutes between them. I asked the guy if I could switch from the 200 free to swimming it in the 200 Open so I could get 15 minutes rest after something else I had just swum.

    He said that was fine, never mentioned anything about it not counting. I only went there to try to get some TT times.

    This is a case of where the USMS rules are just, in my opinion, utterly mean-spirited to swimmers who don't have the money to travel to big meets.

    What is the rationale for this?

    PS Sorry for seeming peeved, but I would have been 3rd in the 1000 SCY free, too, last year, but the meet got invalidated because of weird bureaucratic minutiae. I just feel the slogan, "We do it all for the swimmer," which I heard endlessly at the one convention I attended, is a total misrepresentation.

    Jim

    Hi Jim,

    You're not going to like what else I have to tell you, but I wanted to give you a heads up. The 400 Open was also listed as an event in that meet and the swimmers show up in the preliminary top ten, but will be removed for the final top ten. If it's any consolation, the times still are showing up in the event rankings.

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

    Mary Beth

    Thanks, Mary Beth. You have been very kind about this, and I realize that with situations like this, you have a thankless job. I might write a vlog about this, but I will make sure to state clearly that you were extremely decent about it.

    I just think it's an absolutely ridiculous rule and that they should come up with some other way to designate non counting swims--a 400 Fun Swim, for instance, where it's clear to the participants that the race won't count for anything.

    My problem is I live in Pittsburgh, there are virtually no USMS meets nearby, so if I ever want to try to make the top ten, I have to drive to Cleveland or DC. This summer, I drove to Cleveland for the two day Synergy meet, which was clearly sanctioned, etc. So few people attended that there was often only one or two heats of each event. I think I swam the 50, then had 5 minutes before the 200, which I really wanted to try to make the Top 10 in. I asked the meet director if I could switch and have it still count, and he said yes.

    I think there was a similar rational for the 400 Open vs. the 400 Free--no rest between events. And by no rest, I really do mean minimal rest. With only 35 people at the whole two day meet, it ran awfully fast. Warm ups were at 9:00, and the timeline said each day would end by 6 p.m. But both days the events were over by around 10:30.

    All this comes on top of last spring's meet at Clarion, where the pool was measured, there were two certified officials, there was a USMS observer, etc. But someone failed to turn the paperwork in, so my personal all-time top finish in the TT didn't count either.

    I just feel the rules are stacked in the favor of regions that have tons of USMS meets and/or swimmers wealthy enough to travel, pay for hotels, etc.

    I shouldn't be so petty, but there you have it.

    Jim

    Hi Jim,

    Small meets are always tough for everyone to get enough rest, especially if they really want to do well. For this particular meet, we've since notified the official folks about alternative ways to word the meet information, so that times would be valid for top ten. Let's hope that in the future they change the way it was handled. Unfortunately, sometimes we only really learn things the hard way.

    If you have suggestions on how to get the word out about "open" or "Choice"
    events not being valid for top ten, please pass them on. Or perhaps you have a suggested rule change.

    Good luck at future meets.
    Mary Beth

    Okay, I am more or less spent. I only ask that someone familiar with the rules explain why “Open” events can’t count at least for freestyle. Obviously, you can’t expect a time to count if you are using fins or a pull buoy or an underwater torpedo sled. But are there really meets anywhere that allow such items? Assuming you aren’t using some illegal device, is there anything else that can invalidate freestyle (for example, does the 15 m underwater SDK limit apply to freestyle?)

    I propose that in the future, the word OPEN (which many of us grew up thinking simply meant that the event was “open” to any age group) be changed to UNOFFFICIAL. Otherwise, it’s just too confusing to the odd individual like me who does not enjoy curling up with a rule book.

    They say that “once stung, twice shy.”

    I have now been thrice stung.

    They also say, “a nerve struck too many times dies.”

    I greatly fear my USMS nerves are dead.
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  5. Outrage Continued and then Interrupted by Cops!

    by , November 10th, 2011 at 11:16 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    I’ve spent most of the day bussing tables in between headache-inducing bouts of writing about Steven Pinker’s new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes.


    During the few spare moments this has left free in my schedule, I’ve posted the odd thought, on Facebook, concerning the Penn State University pedophilia scandal ("As a Michigan graduate, I'm proud to boast: we are… NOT Penn State!”), then responding to the peevishness such reasonable comments inevitably provoke in the sentimental and self-deluded.


    I’m not sure why, but for whatever reason, my capacity for outrage, at this point, is nearly spent. And yet I shall force myself to motor onwards like a rusted jalopy fueled by french fry grease and bile, a metaphor that is, frankly, not all that far from the mark.


    So where were we?



    Oh, yes, my 5th grade classroom, under Mr. Glarow’s desk, staring at clumps of my blond hair between his clenched simian fingers.



    Let’s now segue, shall we, to last April, 2011…when
    our annual Amish mudhole masters swimming championships was, as usual, being held at Clarion University, a Division III swimming school, whose pool’s official measurement with a steel tape was on file with the college’s coach, easily satisfying the mandate USMS requires for official competitions.


    Moreover, two fully credentialed officials, dressed in neat white linen swim official/insane asylum guard-quality uniforms, were parading up and down the pool deck, their raptor eyes unblinking in search of even the tiniest of infractions. There was, in addition, a certified starter similarly attired and several USMS-qualified meet observers in attendance.


    The first event of the day was the 1000 yard freestyle. Despite the recent outlawing of full body suits, with my freshly depilated body crammed into a jammer, I somehow flukishly managed to swim this event the fastest I have done in five years.


    Before continuing, indulge a quick digression here. I am no swimming ubermensch, no Leslie “the Fortress” Livingston, no Chris “the Greek Olympian” Stevenson, no Dr. Kurt “Dr. Kirk Duxon, D.O.” Dixon, MD. I am but one of those multitudinous fellows whose swimming career was, throughout youth, considerably below mediocrity.



    It is only because of obsessive-compulsive tendencies that persist in the face of heavy dose SNRI treatment that this status has changed even slightly with the passing of time. I have, in short, remained wedded to the sport of swimming throughout most of my life and have thusly managed to deteriorate at a slightly slower rate than many of my former, infinitely superior peers.



    This is why I've been able to do in my dotage what was an impossible dream for me in my youth: crack the top 10 on the odd occasion. I have, in short, outlasted some, though by no means all, of my fellow bastards.


    In yards, clearly the most difficult course to make the top 10, the best placements I have to date managed has been 6th place—invariably accomplished during the first or second year of “aging up.” When I finished last spring's mudhole 1000, and I looked up and saw my time, 11:18.15, it occurred to me that just possibly I would finally exceed this personal TT best.



    Here are the results from the Clarion University state-of-the-art timing system:


    Swim Details
    Swimmer:
    Sex/Age:
    M58


    Club:
    ()


    Meet:
    Event:
    1000 SCY Free


    Heat/Lane:
    Heat 1, Lane 4


    Seed Time:
    11:44.00


    Final Time:
    11:18.15


    Splits
    Leg
    Cumulative
    Subtractive
    1
    31.47
    31.47
    1
    1:05.70
    34.23
    2
    1:40.01
    34.31
    2
    2:14.40
    34.39
    3
    2:48.46
    34.06
    3
    3:23.54
    35.08
    4
    3:57.83
    34.29
    4
    4:32.45
    34.62
    5
    5:06.63
    34.18
    5
    5:40.90
    34.27
    6
    6:15.04
    34.14
    6
    6:49.55
    34.51
    7
    7:23.27
    33.72
    7
    7:57.63
    34.36
    8
    8:32.07
    34.44
    8
    9:05.82
    33.75
    9
    9:39.00
    34.18
    9
    10:13.25
    33.25
    10
    10:47.27
    34.02
    10
    11:18.15
    30.88

    I was confident this swim would net me a top 10, and cautiously optimistic I might even place higher—for the first time in my life—higher than 6th. I was, it turns out, half right.



    Here are the final listings for the 1000 SCY free from last spring:


    1000 Freestyle SCY Men 55-59 (2011)
    #
    Name
    Age
    Club
    LMSC
    Time
    1
    Michael T Mann
    56
    CMS
    Colorado
    2
    Tim P Buckley
    55
    FMT
    Southern Pacific
    3
    Joel Kriger
    57
    SYSM
    Florida
    11:11.47
    4
    Paul G Karas
    55
    MICH
    Michigan
    5
    Larry Wood
    57
    TXLA
    South Texas
    11:26.20
    6
    Michael J Blatt
    55
    VCM
    Southern Pacific
    7
    Mike J Ryder
    56
    SNM
    Pacific
    8
    Jim Montgomery
    56
    DAMM
    North Texas
    9
    Loren Druz
    55
    WCM
    Pacific
    11:43.02
    10
    Peter M Guadagni
    56
    WCM
    Pacific
    11:44.58

    The observant reader will quickly notice two things.



    First, my time of 11:18.15 would have placed me fourth in my age group, the best showing – – to my knowledge – – that anybody in my genetic line has ever finished in a national sporting inventory of this caliber.



    Second, there is, of course, no Jim Thornton listed on this roster.


    At the risk of beating off a dead horse, which, frankly, I don’t think anyone wants to see, let me just stipulate that whatever paperwork was necessary to get this entirely run-by-the-book and completely kosher USMS-sanctionable (though not sanctioned) swimming meet to actually count--well, somehow, let us just say, the balls were dropped.



    Actually, I am being overly generous here. The balls were never so much as picked up in the first place, rendering the possibility of dropping them moot.



    The Clarion meet is by far the largest Masters meet within several hundred miles of Pittsburgh, and whoever is supposed to represent our USMS interests in this backwater region, whoever it is that takes our membership dues and puts these to whatever use membership dues are put, for reasons perhaps perfectly legitimate but perhaps, too, perfectly illegitimate—said persons, whoever they may be, did not pick up the ball and/or drop the ball. There was no ball. The meet didn’t count.



    Live and learn, I eventually concluded.



    Never again would I rely on my immediate vicinity, or any meet within Western Pennsylvania, for that matter, to count for TT. I would not make that boneheaded mistake again!



    Refuse to pick up the ball and drop it once, shame on you! Refuse to pick up the ball and drop it twice, shame on me.

    Next summer, I was determined to swim at least one, absolutely 100 percent, no question about it, guaranteed to be certified USMS certified LCM swimming meet….

    EMERGENCY INTERRUPTION!!!!


    Sorry, I must take a break from this vlog.



    The local police just called to tell us that they arrested two grifters from Erie who apparently burglarized the Hotel of the Unfortunates, a dilapidated property we own and use to store heirlooms.

    I will resume tomorrow after I see how much we have lost.



    It is probably fitting that I don't overload my dear readers with too much outrage at one time anyhow. The last thing I want is for my misfortunes to haunt your dreams.

    Updated November 10th, 2011 at 11:24 PM by jim thornton

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  6. TT Outrage: the Prologue

    by , November 5th, 2011 at 11:08 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Prologue: 1962

    A highly competitive 10-year-old mathlete (in the days before mathletes technically existed) named Jimmy Thornton sits at his wooden desk, distracting himself from anxiety by reading the words carved into the wood by previous generations of students. One strikes his fancy.


    Foetus.

    Hmm, thinks young Jim, didn’t Stephen Daedalus find a similar word etched into his desk in Dublin? But no sooner has Jim begun to calm himself with literary references than the gravel throat of Mr. Glarow, 5th Grade math teacher, intrudes, reanimating all his prepubescent hormones of anxiety and dread.


    “Your performance on this test, class, was as usual abominable,” Glarow says.

    A salt-and-pepper crowned and tweed-coated Pittsburgher in his mid-50s, Charles “Chuck” Glarow is a distinguished looking fellow with more than a passing resemblance to William Hopper’s character, Paul Drake, the private investigator for Raymond Burr’s lawyer, Perry Mason, namesake of the original B&W TV version of the legal drama.


    Jim thinks to himself that no matter how much authority Mr. Glarow
    looks to possess, he is simply incorrect about at least one of his student’s mathematical performance on this particular test, which was not really a test at all, but rather a species of child’s play for Jim, just as all the other so-called tests this year have proved to be child’s play, leading to a cumulative 100 percent perfect average since the first day of class back in September.

    The melancholy groans of his fellow students only make that tiny portion of Jim’s brain that is properly described as sociopathic smile. Clearly, they are examining their grades on something that for them has proven, in fact,
    more than a test: a trial or tribulation, perhaps, or maybe a sentencing--and are now finding that their formerly average F’s—50 percent, say, or maybe 45 percent marks—have plummeted even closer to Absolute Zero.

    Young Jim’s anxiety dims as he finds himself thinking about the genius of the Kelvin scale.
    Oh, what a foil for my own perfect score these dullards’ best work will serve!

    And then the unthinkable happens. Mr. Glarow, who despite his rugged good looks, who despite the endless stories he tells about hunting bears in the mountains of West Virginia every weekend during bear season, who despite these and many other claims to manliness, still lives at home with Mother,
    this Mr. Glarow, this oddity and enigma of a private school fifth grade mathematical instructor with an arsenal of weapons at home and, presumably, an endless supply of freshly laundered underwear cleaned by Mother, hands an exam paper over to young Jim—a lad who does not punch other kids, who does not speak out during class, who does not outwardly do anything whatsoever that might be construed as “bad” (although on the inside, it is a different matter, oh, a very, very different abattoir of a matter, young Jimmy will not deny this!)—and in this moment of handing over the examination paper our earnest outwardly beatific knowledge-loving catenary-curve-graphing mathlete begins ever so quickly to dissociate.

    At the top of the paper, in giant numerals as red as arterial blood, a scarlet number, so to speak: 90%.
    Dazed to the point of vertigo, Jim forces himself to focus. His sharp eyes, their pupils constricted to mean needle pricks by humiliation, scans down the pitiless manuscript, searching for errors. Finally, he finds the problem that he has somehow, against all odds, “missed.”

    Ever so quickly, like a human ENIAC, he does the recalculations ten times in a row, lickety, at it were, split. Ten times he gets the same answer: the answer is 5. Jim looks at his answer on the paper. The answer here, too, is 5.


    The right answer, Jim knows, is 5; the answer he put down is 5; there is absolutely no wriggle room here, no reason in all the known, parallel, and largely speculated upon universes, be these 3D or 2D--no, none, zero reason to mark this problem wrong.


    Jim’s senses clear. His eyes dilate. Mr. Glarow, the tormenting, mistake-prone, stylishly dressed, bear killing Mama’s boy ignoramus, is going over the test, problem by problem, asking the herd of braying dullards to explain what they did in getting their comically boneheaded wrong answers.

    Soon, Jim knows, he shall reach problem No. 7: the problem whose answer is 5, whose solution Jim has clearly written as 5, whose method of solution, the “work” portion of the “show your work mandate” required for full credit Jim has shown in all its jejune ridiculous completeness…


    “All right, then, class,” says Mr. Glarow at last. “What is the correct answer to Problem No. 7?”

    Jim’s hand is instantly aloft, waving—but not obnoxiously, not one of
    those wavings accompanied by sounds of mmmm ahh mmmeee mmmeee, like a hungry dog anticipating the dog food bowl’s deposit by its jowls, not one of those waves at all, but rather a respectful wave, a salute almost, a collegial wave of the sort that one reasonable human being might use to gently gain the attention of another human being, the second human being having made a monstrous mistake, but the first human taking great pains to just alert him of the error without characterizing the nature of it, as monstrous and imbecilic and offensive to the gods as surely this particular-character-defect of a mistake this whopper is, i.e., the one made by Chuck Glarow, dashing in his tweed coat and umbilicus ascot, the private school teacher and injustice administrator nonpareil—to this self-same character Jim says, “Mr. Glarow, sir! You seem to have made a small error here on my test sheet. For as you can clearly see, I put a 5 as the answer for No. 7 and you inadvertently marked it wrong. See: a 5!”

    And just like that, Mr. Bear-Killer Glarow descends furiously upon the sparrow of a boy, and picks up Jimmy by his blond hair, literally drags him from the desk where Foetus is carved, jerks him into the air, yelling, “That is not a 5! That is an S!,” which, in fact, doesn’t sound at all like an S, so heavy is the air now humid with raging spittle everywhere, as if the Blessed Mother’s Son has suffered a stroke and can only twist his voice box into screaming, “That ish an Eshhh! An Eshhh!”

    And flinging Jim around the classroom like a flimsy fabric remnant, all in one motion, the innocent and infallible mathlete’s pupils constricted again to the tiniest apertures imaginable, as if his eyes are conspire to allow him no more than the merest impression of his misbegotten unjust fate, Mr. Glarow seizes with his free hand a piece of chalk, screeching a gigantic S that snake-curls its way across the far reaches of the blackboard, the class all the while agog, and no sooner has the S taken shape then the teacher cracks his student’s head upon the pitiless slate at the top of the S, and shoves the boy’s hair against the chalk, and in one curvilinear motion erases the whole obscene letter, yelling, “Essshhhh! Esssshhhhh! I’ll show you what happenshhh to thoshhe in my classhhh who answer math problemshhh with an Esshhh inshhhstead of a Five!”


    And he throws Jim under his desk, seals any possibility of escape by sitting his 190 lb. bulk on the desk chair and scoots halfway into the hollow space, as all the while the classroom of dullards—finally awakened to the one subject they love now and will always love—wake up and snigger at the sheer delightful cruelty of it all!

    But Jim, staring out at his peers from the small open slatted space beneath the desk’s front, sees that for all the joy his comeuppance has brought them, it has unnerved them, too; for how can even the stupidest among them now fail to see that nobody, nobody! escapes forever the power of mean-spirited authority when it decides to slither out and take exercise in the way it invariabl prefers to take exercise. Even Glarow himself, Jim is suddenly certain, whose mother’s hold has never loosened around his lunatic neck.

    At this moment, Jim turns his neck to see if kicks—surely easily deliverable, sight unseen, within the desk’s little prison chamber—will soon enough start raining down upon his kidneys. But Mr. Glarow’s legs, he sees, are wilted, their fury spent, his simian, tweed-sheathed arms slumped over in the evacuated space between his legs.

    It is there, between in the spaces between the teacher’s black-haired fingers, Jim sees the tufts of his own blond hair alternate like torn trophies.


    Note: I invite you to check back soon to see how uncannily this vignette relates to USMS.
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  7. Whetter

    by , October 4th, 2011 at 10:23 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    As in appetite whetting.

    I've been a taciturn vlogger of late, the consequence, in large part, of having to finish some articles to pay my indentured servant's burdens to the overloads who own me.

    One such article is for AARP: The Magazine, a periodical I fear I am way too old to be writing for.

    Gerontologists divide the Golden Years into four rough quadrants:

    Young Old
    Middle Old
    Old Old
    Walking Dead of Maui Taui

    The latter, of course, is more a state of mind than a chronological condition.

    Most people don't recognize it, but I can assure you, we who fall into this category recognize each other.

    Largely by smell.

    But enough shilly shallying. The topic of the article I just finished the first draft of is tendinosis, the affliction that characterizes many of the most common chronic sports injuries, from Swimmer's Shoulder and Tennis Elbow, to Runner's Knee and Achilles Heel.

    As a frequent sufferer of SS and TE, I made a trek to see an excellent doctor at UPMC's Rehabilitation Institute, a fellow with his MD in physiatry (or physical medicine) and his Ph.D. in anatomy.

    Eventually, when my article appears, I will include a link to it so that those of you who are not yet Young, Middle, or Old Old, or Walking Dead of Maui Taui, can access it without an AARP card.

    But for now, and as indicated earlier, as a way of whetting your appetite, let me just publish four ultrasound images of my right elbow, right shoulder (Supraspinatus tendon, i.e., the rotator cuff most likely to wear and tear from swimming), my left shoulder, and finally my twin brother John's notion of what really causes Swimmer's Shoulder.

    In an upcoming vlog, I shall wax at length as to why these images are, in fact, so fascinatingly paradoxical.

    And on this note, I ask you all to now begin whetting yourselves.

    Thank you.



    My right elbow, which throbs riotously on my many mis-hit one-handed backhands as well as my second (usually slice) serves. The doctor-anatomist assured me he could see no evidence of structural damage.



    My right shoulder. I am right handed, do much more with this arm than the other one, including playing tennis and--in the old days--breaking my falls when, as a frequent inebriate, I followed the drunkard's path.

    This shoulder does show signs of a small, partial tear in the supraspinitus, though the good doctor was quick to add that such a condition is more rule than exception in active fellows my age (59 as on Sept. 24; FINA 60 on Jan. 1).



    My left shoulder, with RC so perfectly in tact the doctor described it as "pristine"--the kind of supraspinitus tendon most commonly seen in Tarzan-like specimens in their teenage years.



    Finally, my twin brother John's concept of what kind of abuse would have to happen to my left shoulder to convert it into the sad shape of my right one. John is not a doctor. I'm not one either, not exactly. But I have seen plenty of oddities in my decades of fake clinical practice and know-it-all blowhardery based on five minutes of Googling Medline.

    I have never seen a tiny digging fat man shoveling away at a pristine supraspinitus.

    But I cannot rule out the possibility.

    *
    Oh, I almost forgot.

    Here's the paradox I invite you all to ponder.

    It's my left shoulder that hurts when I swim.

    The right one feels fine.

    Updated October 4th, 2011 at 10:31 PM by jim thornton

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  8. Victory Most Glorious!!!!

    by , September 10th, 2011 at 06:36 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
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  9. Revolutionary Aqua Shoe Glove

    by , July 24th, 2011 at 01:41 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Yesterday, Bill White and Mark Scholl, their cups overrunning with sweat and hubris, arrived at the Y tennis courts at the generally agreed upon time of 8 a.m. for what I had hoped would be a Super Men's Best of 11 Set Championship match against the indomitable Irishman, John Delaney, and myself, a superb but psychologically frail athletic specimen.

    John and I arrived fashionably late at 8:45, which I am certain Bill and Mark believed was a strategic decision to tire them out via exposure to the pitiless Heat Dome that is currently slow-cooking us here in the Middle Atlantic States.

    Actually, though it may have served this function, both John and I had arisen early to the pitter patter of rain drops and figured we should give it time for the courts to dry out. Mark and Bill, who live across the Ohio River, had experienced no such rain drops and didn't believe they existed.

    But enough preamble.

    The basic gist is that our nemeses were nicely warmed up, and they took the first two sets 6-3 and 6-1 respectively.

    John and I both felt thoroughly beaten down. There is something about a drubbing that tires you out more than the actual activity itself. It is, I think, akin to the learned helplessness of domestic abuse victims.

    But then something amazing happened in the third set.

    The tide turned. We won 6-3. And in the fourth set we won 6-1--the score equivalent of a palindrome.

    Though I argued the fifth set would not decide anything--we were, after all, playing the best of 11--no one else seemed to want to play that long. I suggested that if the match was still going at 5 p.m., we could call it, but again, no one but me intended to suffer the brain damage such would certainly wreak on the wetware of our fast desiccating neurons.

    So the 5th set was to be the deciding one.

    It proved remarkably competitive, with the lead see-sawing back and forth and forth and back. At 7-7 in games, John suggested we play a tie breaker, but Bill, Mark, and I didn't really want to do so. The compromise: two more games. Either a winner would emerge or we would tie.

    But that would be that.

    I managed to win my serve. Score: 8-7. The worst we could do was a tie.

    But then we won Mark's serve, and the match was ours!

    Bill and I immediately headed for the Y's hot tub, which may seem counter-intuitive given the fact that we were already boiling hot and drenched in sweat. But we have discovered a dip in the Jacuzzi post-tennis allows us to do something throughout the remainder of the day that would otherwise be impossible.

    Walk.

    Ten minutes of swirling therapy on the dogs later, we went up to the pool to take a dip and cool off.

    Bill, who wears these horrible discount tennis shoes that rather than cushioning the beating his feet take on asphalt courts only accentuates this, needed to limp to the pool in thonged sandals.

    Before jumping into the deep end, he took these off and placed them on his hands and used them as swimming paddles.

    This is the inspiration for today's vlog: a revolutionary new Aqua Shoe Glove that, with just the slightest tinkering by scientists, would provide active triathlete types the perfect solution to beach run-swimming.

    To wit, how often have you wanted to go for a nice long jog along the beach, then swim back only to be stymied by this question:

    What do I do with my shoes?

    This new approach will allow you to run as long as you want in cushioning footwear, then either take said footwear off your feet and place them on your hands (as paddles) or leave them on your feet but convert them to
    adjustible length swim fins via the retractable flipper.

    If any of my vlog readers have connections to industry and would like to pursue this incredible idea further, I hereby publicly assign to you 1 percent of all moneys collected after the first 2.5 million dollars, this as an incentive to you to pick up the ball and carry it for me.

    Thanks!

    By the way, I could have definitely used the Revolutionary Aqua Shoe Glove later that afternoon when the lovely Heidi Kafka of Chicago, Illinois, convinced me to take her to North Park, a favorite swim stomping ground of her youth in our neck of the woods, and the two of us swam 3200 meters in the 85 degree human bullion, me riddled with nonstop toe, arch, foot, and calf cramps.



    A typical thonged sandal modeled by a professional foot model whose prominent blue veins are deliberately suggestive.



    The same thonged sandal converted by the ingenuity of Mr. Bill White, chemical engineer, to a swim paddle.



    A sketch currently en route to the US Patent office for the Revolutionary Aqua Shoe Glove that is likely to change forever how active humans move at beaches. Please contact author for how you can earn 1 percent of anything over the first $2.5 million in revenue that I receive.
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  10. Lefty Lazarus

    by , July 15th, 2011 at 12:30 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    When my son Ben and I carried Lefty, trembling and feverish, anorexic and unable to stand without help, from the grounds of our estate, it crossed my mind that Lefty might not ever return again to Pugs' Escape at the Maplery. Ben later confessed that he also wondered if Lefty was dying. For 12 years, this wonderful little pug chap had been a constant and comical member of our family, his life as a dog paralleling Ben's odyssey from the 4th grade to the cusp of college graduation; Jack's trek from kindergarten to the start of college; and my own pilgrimage from monkey-grilling Oddventure writer to bankruptcy-fearing worrywart.

    As noted previously in Vicissitudes, we first took Lefty to a local vet who ran a variety of tests but concluded that she did not have the expertise and apparatus to know for certain what the main cause of his suffering was. A quick test of Lyme Disease was positive, but she feared that a more life-threatening problem was a possible bezoar of guinea pig litter. The X-ray of Lefty's stomach showed his stomach was so engorged with stuff that this normally small oblong organ had been shifted over to the right and was swollen to the size of a softball. Moreover, his liver was inflamed and his gall bladder was riddled with stippling, whatever that means.

    {Bezoar, by the way, is a term I'd never heard until this whole ordeal began. To save you a trip to Wikipedia, here's what it means:

    A bezoar is a mass found trapped in the [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gastrointestinal_system"]gastrointestinal system[/ame] (usually the [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stomach"]stomach[/ame]), though it can occur in other locations.

    It comes from a Persian word meaning "protection from poison," and therapeutic bezoars were once prescribed to absorb poisons in the gut before they could dispatch the poisoned. The term "caveat emptor" actually comes from a famous 1603 lawsuit in which a man sued another for providing him with a fraudulent bezoar. But enough on this subject.}

    Lefty's bezoar was by no means therapeutic. The local vet referred us to an emergency veterinary hospital about 45 minutes away. Not only did this have more sophisticated scanning apparatus but there was a staff surgeon on hand in the event opening up Lefty's stomach to remove the contents proved necessary to save his life.

    By the time we got there, Lefty was suffering greatly. His eyes were cloudy and smeared with mucous. His body was hot and he could not stop panting. His back legs were trembling nonstop as if he were shivering to keep himself from freezing to death. His breathing at times seemed ragged. I could not help but remember the death rattle sound of my father's last hours of breath.

    An incredibly nice vet, Dr. Lisa Sepesy, met with us and went over a treatment plan. If you are a fan of Law & Order, Dr. Sepesy looks a little like that affable middle aged blonde woman who plays the medical examiner.

    She explained that she wanted to run more tests--she suspected Lefty might have thyroid insufficiency and a urinary infection along with his other problems. She said they needed to keep Lefty hospitalized overnight. Ben and I both gave him a kiss and surrendered our buddy to the ministrations of veterinary science.

    Lefty's bivouac at the hospital would eventually last for two days. But as early as the first night, Dr. Sepesy phoned us to say he was improving.

    She had put him on intravenous fluids and started him on an antibiotic for his Lyme Disease. She also gave him anti-inflammatory medicine--doggie NSAIDs--for his joint pain. By the first night, Dr. Sepesy said, he was feeling better enough to actually eat a little. And though he had not yet evacuated his bowels, the occasional wafting of flatulence suggested that his system was not 100 percent blocked.

    Dr. Sepesy called again the next morning with more good news. X-rays now showed the bezoar had begun to break up, obviating the need for surgery. She wanted to keep him one more night to further hydrate and medicate him and see if peristalsis might further progress his internal burden towards liberation.

    It did!

    On the morning of the second day, she called to tell us Lefty was doing much better, still limping a bit but eating and showing signs of liveliness. He could come home!

    She arranged for us to pick him up at 2 p.m.

    Ben and I drove back to get Lefty, glad that he was doing so much better, both of us incredibly anxious to see him. The vet had cautioned us he was by no means 100 percent, and that he would need to be on medicines for the next couple weeks, and furthermore he could not "overdo it" with exercise. Keep him inside resting most of the time, with occasional quick sorties outside to relieve himself.

    As we drove back to pick him up, Ben and I both wondered if Lefty's brush with pain and mortality would leave him changed. Would Lefty, in other words, still be Lefty? Or a sobered shell of his former blustery self?

    As is, I suspect, the case with many dog owners, we had embellished Lefty's Christian name over the years with various additions and refinements.

    We had added, for instance, a last name: Lumpkins, i.e., Lefty Lumpkins. And for those occasions that required more pomp and circumstance--for example, during the annual televised Westminster Dog Show--we gave him a title, Sir Lefty Lumpkins. For our Hispanic friends, he became simply Senor Lumpkins.

    Besides wondering if Lefty would still be Lefty, we also wondered if he would still be Sir Lefty and/or Senor Lumpkins.

    I used my camera phone to document our moment of reunion. Here is video of Lefty emerging from his recovery room. He is doped up, a bit wobbly, and discombobulated by his changed environment. But both Ben and I could tell immediately: Lefty was still Lefty!

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkhkIkvsYNc"]‪Lefty Lazarus!‬‏ - YouTube[/nomedia]





    Ben holds a revitalized Lefty as Dr. Sepesy tells us which medicines to give Lefty and on what time schedule. Ben, who is wearing a BallouSkies charity wrist band on his arm-- http://www.ballouskies.com/ --later says that Lefty's I.V. bandage reminds him of the elbow brace that Allen Iverson wore when playing for the Sixers.




    Like Allen, Lefty wears his therapeutic bandage on the front right limb.

    I realize this vlog entry has gone on at some length here, and it hasn't mentioned swimming yet. So let me just mention that.

    Swimming.

    Now back to Senor Lefty Lumpkins. In the interest of keeping this account as complete as I can make it, here is Dr. Sepesy's summary of Lefty's travails and instructions for his ongoing treatment at home. I will also appendage the various tests and other expenses associated with his care:





    (Please note the highlighted sentence above. Most pet owners believe their pets are the best, but here we have a woman of science, with an extensive background in animal analysis, officially proclaiming that Lefty is a sweet dog.)





    (Note: in addition to the $2286.08 paid so far to the veterinary hospital, the original local vet charged $241.)

    When we arrived back home, a real estate agent had arranged to show our house to a prospective renter (we're trying to rent our ancestral home, Pugs' Escape at the Maplery, in order to pay our usurious health insurance premiums), so I carried Lefty up to a platform we built in the woods. Biscuit, our other pug, joined us, wagging her tail somewhat nonchalantly at Lefty's return. Within several minutes, both pugs were using their compact four-wheel-drive style bodies to snorfle around the surrounding hillside. Lefty then circled several times and...evacuated his bowels! He looked so happy and relieved!

    Ben started to laugh. "Well," he said, "that was a $2500 ****."

    Actually, $2527.08.

    And worth every penny we don't have.

    At this point, Jack and his rocker musician friends also joined us on the platform and suggested throwing a Concert for Lefty to help pay the bills.

    The real estate agent never showed. We carried Lefty down the stairs, I fixed his dinner with its extravaganza of medicinal condiment additives, and we tried to coax him to go to sleep. Debbie had bought him a Beanie Baby to carry around in his mouth and throttle, a cute little koala bear. Lefty curled up next to the koala and sort of rested for a little while, then he started begging for Milkbone treats. I gave him one or two or maybe five.

    The next morning, I went down to kitchen, prepared to clean up whatever combination of revolting byproducts had left Lefty's various orifices overnight. To my delight, there were no accidents of any sort upon our kitchen floor. Lefty stood at full attention, trembling with excitement and total alertness, his signature voracious appetite having returned in full force.

    Back in his puppyhood, Lefty got so excited at the prospect of being fed that he emitted these loud humorous yawns, as if anticipation of eating was tapping all the energy he could muster: a narcoleptic's catalepsy. Debbie found his yawns so adorable that she began to reward them.

    Now, whenever Lefty believes food is imminent, he emits these wild yawning sounds that have nothing to do with sleepiness.

    This morning, Lefty was yawning up a storm! He seemed more full of vim than he had been in years.

    There was only one disconcerting sign: Biscuit was nowhere to be found. Unlike Lefty, who has never figured out how to open the kitchen door, Biscuit has mastered this trick and goes to sleep in the living room if we forget to prop a chair against the door. I searched the house for her but could find no signs. Then I looked in the garage and around the immediate outside vicinity. Again, no Biscuit.

    Yikes! How awful the prospect to bring Lefty back from Death's doormat only to have his healthy bride disappear forever!

    I made Lefty's breakfast of beef Alpo, pills, and elixirs, put Biscuit's breakfast in her bowl where he couldn't steal it, and hoped she would eventually show up. While doing some work in my office, I noticed Ben wasn't in his bed, which is very strange given that it was 8 a.m., and he usually doesn't get up much before 1 or 2 in the afternoon. That's when I realized where Biscuit might be.



    Ben and his two friends, Will and Nick, decided to camp out on the platform the first night of Lefty's return. Knowing that Lefty was doctor-ordered to take it easy, but still wanting some dog companionship, they had carried Biscuit's dog basket up with them, where she spent the night. Though I told Lefty to stay at the bottom on the hill, he climbed up most of the way -- I carried him the last six steps --and began snorfling around the boys and his pug bride. I left them all to continue sleeping up there. A half hour later, Biscuit and Lefty both showed up at the kitchen door. I gave Biscuit her breakfast and gave Lefty some treats and tried to get him to rest.



    Lefty proudly displays his koala bear and front leg bandage, the latter which somehow worked itself off overnight.

    Epilogue: Lefty has continued to improve ever since he got home. This short video (please excuse the poor focus) gives a sense of his return to his former self. Perhaps it is the effect of his drugs, but since this was taken yesterday, he has become, in anything, more robust than I have seen him in years.

    Jack, my younger son, said when Lefty was in his most extreme extremis, "He's a resilient pug. He'll be okay."

    Jack was right, and I suspect this resilience applies to more than just pugs. We are all, in our fashion, resilient if mortal creatures. None of us can escape our fates forever, but until that day comes, perhaps the lesson of Lefty is that we won't give up the ghost easily, no matter how much we may sometimes feel inclined to do so.

    Welcome back, Lefty! Welcome back everyone who has sidled up to the brink! Let us all resolve to live our lives as best we can without needless worry!

    Just stay away from the temptation of guinea pig poop in whatever form this might take.

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ct28vaVKbcs"]‪Lefty the next morning! Lefty's back!‬‏ - YouTube[/nomedia]
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  11. Vicissitudes

    by , July 12th, 2011 at 05:45 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    "Life," my dear father used to say, "is vicissitudinal."

    And so it is.

    Brief vlog today with only the most tangential of references to swimming.

    The swimming reference has to do with the fact that so many of our fraternity here--CremePuff, Bobinator, Ande, and countless others--have pugs as pets. There is something in the breed that seems to make a perfect companion for masters swimmers.

    Whereas all dogs offer their human packmates unconditional positive regard, pugs have one additional advantage.

    No matter how bad you might be swimming at any particular juncture in your life, your pug(s) will never beat you. Even if they could, the wouldn't. But that is moot.

    Because a pug can't beat you at swimming.

    Also, they are exceptionally friendly dogs, as the video below begins to suggest. They make friends with anybody they encounter.

    Between not beating us in swimming, and providing companionship to people who, let's face it, can be hard to like because of our competitive natures, the pug is the perfect match

    And herein lies the most recent trough in life's vicissitudes.

    Our beloved dog, Lefty, familiar to many of you from previous vlogs, is in the veterinary emergency room, receiving anti-inflammatories and electrolytes and no shortage of tests. He tested positive for Lyme Disease, which may account for his sudden inability to put much weight on his back left leg. He also has low thyroid levels, which I suspect our friend Leslie can explain is no picnic. These combined anomalies might also account for his fever, lethargy, elevated white blood cells, and assorted other problems.



    My son Ben, who was in the fourth grade when Lefty was whelped, tries to ease his abdominal pains and calm him.



    Ben lets Lefty know he is loved, as both of us in the hospital waiting room become increasingly verklempt.

    These test findings, however, do not account for Lefty's loss of appetite. I have never in my life seen Lefty not hungry before. His gluttony is at the heart of what Lefty is: an eater, a scrounger, a beggar, a relentless snorfler for morsels of unattended foodstuff, no matter what form these might take. I have seen Lefty vomit and then, without a moment's hesitation, begin lapping up what he so recently lost, as if he could not conceive of any victuals within his reach being allowed to stay outside his stomach.

    This hunger of his, I think, may be at the root of his main problem. To wit, he has long had a taste for guinea pig poop, something that I find utterly revolting but which Lefty and his bride, Biscuit, and others of their snub-nosed, child-faced, Chinese-bred ilk consider a delicacy.

    Last week, Lefty may have snarfed down some new guinea pig bedding in the course of snacking on this repugnant delicacy. Alas, the bedding in question was an artificial kind we hadn't used before, designed to absorb liquids.

    Indeed, Lefty's initial X-rays showed that his stomach was distended to the size of a softball (quite big for a 22-pounder), swollen up by a mystery bolus he could rid himself of neither through mouth nor the normal point of egress.

    Many dogs, I learned from the vet, also get in trouble by eating Gorilla Glue, which turns into something like cement in their bellies and must be extracted surgically. It's possible, she told us, that the bedding might be creating a similar blockage.

    Lefty was weakened, in pain, and almost 12 years old--not an ideal candidate for surgery.


    Lefty, dehydrated and feverish, pants to cool off.


    The good news is that he had a good night at the hospital, and this morning's X-rays indicate the wad of stuff has broken up and will likely pass naturally, obviating the need for surgery. When I spoke with the vet this morning, she told me he had even eaten a little, which she said was good because it would help with the intestinal motility, etc. and get the bad stuff out of there.

    They are keeping him another night, hydrating him with more electrolytes, starting doxycylin for his Lyme Disease, and giving him some anti-inflammatories for his sore hind leg. (The doctor told me one of the symptoms of LD in dogs is "wandering limb pain"--they limp on one leg for a few days, then this switched to another leg. Lefty had shown some signs of this.)

    Though Lefty is not an on-screen character in this movie (a somewhat cowardly fellow, he lets his bride Biscuit take the lead in confronting wild animals, like the time she attacked a rabid raccoon, precipitating our need for a family pack of rabies shots).

    But you can feel Lefty's presence here, hovering by the filmmaker's leg (i.e., me.).



    Last week,I happened to glance out my window and saw Biscuit had made a new woodland friend: a baby ground hog. My son Jack and I went out to see if the little creature was rabid, but it seemed quite healthy. Biscuit has caught squirrels and birds before, but she showed no predatorial behavior towards this little one. We think that the long companionship between our pugs (Lefty and Biscuit) and our pigs (Linus and Spaceman) may have left Biscuit thinking that this wild rodent was another guinea pig, mercifully one with no need for artificial bedding. The short YouTube video to follow documents the nature of their interaction, proof positive, I would argue, that pugs are the world's friendliest dogs!

    For what it's worth, Lefty is doing considerably better, and we hope he will be okay very soon. They are keeping him one more night. I shall keep you posted.

    In the meantime, please watch this little movie and forward it to your friends. It's just about the cutest thing you will ever see.

    With luck, yesterday's trough will begin to give way a new and building wave peak in life's relentlessly vicissitudinal way!

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nJNsYSayag"]YouTube - ‪Biscuit the Pug and her Baby Groundhog Friend‬‏[/nomedia]
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  12. Four New Jimmy'z Jammerz and CremePuff's Debut

    by , June 23rd, 2011 at 11:01 AM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Jimmy'z Jammerz is proud to announce potential advertising interest from the following Fortune 500 Companies, each of which might well, one can imagine, be hoping to capture the coveted 55-59 male demographic:


    • Burger King
    • Avis Rental Cars
    • Kimberly-Clark
    • Eli Lilly


    Please add these suit cut-outs to your burgeoning collection.


    It really
    does take two hands to handle a Whopper!




    You'll try harder when you're No. 2, too!
    Or in my case, No. 3, but who's counting? (Evidently not USMS, at least not in the 55-59 men's SCY 1000 freestyle!)



    Don't let a colostomy or incontinence keep you from competing!

    As this handsome line of Jimmy'z Senescent Swimmyz shows, swim diapers aren't just for the wee ones anymore!





    Now you can be ready whenever the mood strikes (though hopefully
    not while wearing this handsome skin-tight Jimmyz Jammer in public!)



    SPECIAL BONUS COLLECTIBLE HIS-AND-HERS SUIT BUNDLE
    :


    Hey! What just struck me? Oh, yes! The mood!
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  13. Jimmy'z Jammerz Home Modeling Kit

    by , June 21st, 2011 at 11:45 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    If perchance you are not one of the 486 viewers (and counting) who have read my most recent swimming-related vlog, "My god my output has been....", please do so now IMMEDIATELY by clicking on this link:

    http://forums.usms.org/blog.php?b=16213

    Familiarize yourself with the details of my new start-up swim-suit-apparel-cum-advertising company,
    Jimmy's Jammerz.

    Then, if you are the skittish sort who has trouble making decisions on your own, talk it over with your financial adviser (if you must) as to just how whopping your initial investment should be.

    Many pick hugely whopping, though the best and the brightest minds have consistently opted for guargantuanly whopping.

    (I don't mean for this to seem like some cheap salesman's trick, but the truth is that the smart money interest to date has been overwhelming. Do not wait too long to divest your offspring of their college money! He or she who hesitates is, well, I'm sure you know all too well the opportunity costs of hesitation, fellow parents of highly indebted college students!)

    In today's installment of what is fast becoming the vlog equivalent of a prospectus, I now present to potential suit buyers and stock purchasers alike my user-friendly system for modeling the message you would like me to wear on my suit at the next competition, be this something recognized and/or sanctioned by USMS, or perhaps more likely, recognized and/or sanctioned by USMS and then, with nary an explanation, de-recognized and/or de-sanctioned after the fact. But this is a subject for a future vlog and probably does not warrant more than a passing mention at this point.

    To make best use of this complimentary Jimmy's Jammerz Home Modeling Kit, all you will need to supply is:


    • a pair of sharpened scissors,
    • some Elmer's Glue-style paste (suitable for eating if you happen to be a disgusting girl named Mary Borie who was a classmate of mine at the Sewickley Academy Kindergarten in 1957),
    • a craft table,
    • a good source of overhead lighting,
    • a pair of archival-quality latex gloves of the sort used by professional philatists,
    • some acid-free sheathes of construction paper upon which to place my body and the shifting array of suits I will be presenting in coming vlogs.


    Here is my front view:



    Here is my hindquarter view:




    As mentioned in my last vlog, Michael P. McDonnell (AKA bzaks1424 on these forums) is the ideator savant who came up with the germ of this concept. In Michael's honor, I will now post his original suit proposal below.

    With your scissors, ever so gingerly cut the front and back views out and then use the tabs to see what this suit would actually look like on me, that is, a swimmer who (according to the Event Rankings section of USMS), posted the third fastest 1000 meter freestyle in the Nation in his age group, though this time, which is no longer there, would later be de-recognized, again, for reasons that make no real sense unless the infinite vagaries of spite and misanthropy somehow figure in!

    But again I become sidetracked and unglued!

    Fortunately, unlike my tenuous hold on records in the 2010 SCY Top 10 roster, the combinations of tabs and a nice shellacking by Elmer's should guarantee this grrrreeeaaatttt! inaugural suit will remain permanently affixed to both my front and rear nether regions!



    Note 1. As always, infinite thanks to my twin brother, John "RustyScupperton" Thornton, whose wizardry with art projects left me behind with the paste eaters in Kindergarten and never looked back.

    Note 2. Please visit my vlog again soon, and feel free to refer your business associates in this direction. I do not want to give too much away yet, but let us just say that interest from a large number of Fortune 500 companies has been robust.

    Not that I am in any way stuck up about "prestige" and "solvency" and other measures of the companies I represent in the pool.

    Honestly, I would feel just as honored to wear the Acme Grease Axel & Flange Co. corporate logo as Coco Chanel--if, that is, the price is right.

    And I am sure it will be!

    More suits soon to sweeten your growing collection!

    And speaking of sweetening, rumors of Kristina Ulveling joining the modeling staff are, in fact, more than just rumors. They are remote possibilities.

    That could happen.

    Barring restraining orders.

    Boy, I never noticed before how good glue smells.


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  14. My god, my output has been...

    by , June 16th, 2011 at 08:26 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    ...pathetic this year.

    Only five vlogs posted in 2011, six if you include this one.


    The reason: the Dour Economy has finally caught up with your humble correspondent.


    In his novel,
    David Copperfield, Charles Dickens famously wrote:

    Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness.

    Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.

    I am not well versed in British currency, but in American dollars, I think the second half of the following translated quote more accurately reflects my own situation:


    Annual income $62,000, annual expenditure $61,000, result happiness.

    Annual income $62,000, annual expenditure $278,000, result suffocation.



    Author Dickens apparently coming up a twopence short himself on the happiness-misery spectrum.

    My friend Charlie H., who killed himself in the midst of the depression phase of his bipolar disorder, used to say the definition of "middle class" was when "expenses equal all income and every available penny of credit."


    For too long has this applied to your middle class sucker correspondent, one-time contributing "driver" of the US Economy by my consumer behavior!
    In retrospect, I can't believe how much money I squandered on ramen noodles, health insurance premiums, and...well, that's most of what I spent, but it was way too much. Why, oh why, did I think I deserved detached retina surgery when I so clearly had the other healthy eye! Spendthrift!

    In any event, I have been scrambling around for months now, trying to bring things into some semblance of balance, so far with mixed (at best) success.

    The frenzy and time consumption such has required of me has put something of a damper on my leisure time, i.e., those
    seemingly endless hours I once wiled away watching TV, sampling different types of bonbons, napping to the accompaniment of Power Lunch and/or golf tournaments, and deluding myself into believing things were all right.

    Such was the
    Golden Age of swim vlogging for me.

    But times have changed.


    Of late, I have become deeply immersed in the
    Merde Age.

    I suspect I am not entirely alone here, but we who at last come to recognize ourselves as Life's Failures invariably sweeten the excruciation of our situation by telling ourselves that we alone have been fools and numbskulls.


    In any event, this past weekend, I traveled to Philadelphia with my older son, Ben, who is a student at Temple, and helped him move stuff from his current apartment to his new apartment. We then went to my brother John's house in Ocean City, New Jersey. The next day, I swam the 5K Bridge-to-Bridge swim in Atlantic City.


    Two of my new 1776 teammates were there: Vibeke Swanson and Jack Martin. Hopefully, my brother will be able to put together a movie about the race in the foreseeable future.


    This event was increasingly typical of the kind of swimming competitions I can (barely) afford these days: cheap, drivable, and in a location where I can stay for free and eat free food.


    The Yiddish word for people like me is
    schnorer.

    I am determined to turn my withered fortunes around!


    I want, for at least a few seconds before I die, to become whatever the Yiddish word is for mensch!

    It is on this note, and against the backdrop of this aspiration, that I am proud to announce the formation of a new company specializing in swimming jammers as an advertising vehicle.

    Based on a concept suggested by Thornton triplet, Michael P. McDonnell of Libertyville, Illinois, I thought I would briefly introduce the new venture in today's vlog, then expound upon it at much greater length in the near future.




    Ideator savant, Michael P. McDonnell, AKA bzaks1424
    [ame="http://forums.usms.org/member.php?u=19682"]U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums[/ame] (Drop Michael a line of tremendous gratitude for his contribution to the evolution of swimming apparel.)

    For now, here is a visual to peak your
    interest and investment dollars:



    Investing money you have and/or could borrow in Jim's new suit apparel start-up, result happiness.

    Failure to invest money you have and/or could borrow in Jim's new suit apparel start-up, result misery.

    Updated June 17th, 2011 at 12:48 AM by jim thornton

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  15. Jim: The CZ Pictorial

    by , April 20th, 2011 at 07:08 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    (Teaser shots to whet the appetite for more. With thanks to Allison Simpson Moore, my photographic Boswell at the recent Colonies Zones championships.)



    In preparation for the mixed 45+ 800 freestyle relay, Jim convinces Vibeke L Swanson to "Sampson" him by lending her locks. Here is Jim in the pre-Sampson coaxing phase.



    Jim with a gloriously full head of Vibeke hair. Get away from me, you harridan Delilahs! Ye shant shorn these locks before I have broken 2:00 yet again in the third of three 200 SCY freestyles in a row! (A relay, the individual 200, then this relay.)

    Enough preliminary teasing...for now. Let us now begin the vlog proper.

    When Henri Matisse became too old to paint, he took a pair of scissors and began creating his famous cutouts. I, Jim Thornton, have become elderly myself, and my capacities have begun to fray. No longer able to type without irritation, I have recently purchased the Dragon Naturally Speaking 11 speech recognition software package, and I have begun to write my vlog by speaking rather than typing it.

    This particular blog is mainly a captioned pictorial recount of the high times experienced by me – and those lucky enough to be around me – during the recent Colonies Zone championships.

    A brief preamble: none of the pictures below actually show me swimming.

    Let's face it: we are all swimmers here, and although we pay lip service to the accomplishments of our lessers and our betters alike, we all mainly care about ourselves.

    What the pictures do depict is my attempt to come up with some way to subsidize the cost of my swimming meet schedule.

    Swimming is a rich man's sport. Those of us who toil away in the cloudy waters of the Amish mudhole community in western Pennsylvania must swim largely in antiquated pools in competitions that have no prayer of being recognized by USMS.

    Because of this, the only way we have a chance to qualify for the national, albeit meaningless, recognition of a potential Top 10 Time is to travel as far as we can afford the gasoline to get to. A certain degree of shameless begging is also a sine qua non for those of us nomadic swimmers wandering about in our junkers in search of a legal swimming venue.

    That is why I have talked the wonderful and altruistic Leslie "the Fortress" Livingston into giving me ownership of 14 percent of her house--as well as the equally wonderful and altruistic Bobinator into providing similar accommodation in her Compound Midwest in Carmel, Indiana.

    In any event, besides trying to swim my best at the meet, despite two weeks of uninterrupted sickness following the conclusion of our unrecognized Y championship meet, during which I did my best times since 2006 in both the 500 and 1000, I was preoccupied by financial worries.

    By the time my little Honda and I rolled into the Compound’s driveway, the automobile flashing its check engine light impotently, I sneezing and coughing and wracked with myalgia, I could not help but wonder: How might I hope to recoup the $49 in gas and $40 entry fees I had spent to get to this point?

    The next day, thanks to Leslie's kindly offer to lend me her Ugg boots, I had my answer.

    Many of these pictures that you shall see below might be construed as erotic. Rest assured: I have no intention of putting them on the market thusly.

    Instead, I have two alternative markets in mind for resale that do not require me to descend into the Hades of sex work.

    1. The Ugg Corporation itself, which I am confident is in need of an attractive model for its products.

    2. A future edition of AARP: the Magazine after its merger with Cosmopolitan--an inevitability, I feel, in today's dog-eat-dog magazine climate. As soon as this occurs, men like me and that septuagenarian Dr. Six-Pack guy who pedals HGH in Las Vegas will become a new kind of currency.

    Without further preamble, let me begin pasting in the pictures and appending captions as needed for clarity purposes.

    Note: in another vlog very soon, I hope to discourse more voluminously on swimming and justice. But for now, please simply enjoy these photos and feel free to forward them to any connections you might have within the supermodel industry. I suspect I could use a few connections to get my camel's toe into the tent, or whatever that cliche is.



    Swimming hard and financial stress has temporarily tuckered this little fella out!



    It's amazing how many young women at this meet keep asking me to tell them, in great detail, about my tick.



    Jim recaps poses he has seen other models of his caliber attempt in pictorial spreads. Not many of them have pulled it off quite so handsomely, though! Doesn't this just scream: Buy UGG Boots Now!!!



    Work with me, work with me! whispers photographer, Alison Simpson Moore.

    And Jim sure does!




    This is worth so much more than a thousand words!



    In this final classic shot from the series, Jim's fellow U. Michigan alumnus-swimmer, Carolyn Voorhees, lends him her iPhone cued up to play Nancy Sinatra's classic.

    In fact, why not click on this link below, and look at the pictures while listening to the perfect musical accompaniment to today's compendium of swimming wisdom?

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRkovnss7sg"]YouTube - Nancy Sinatra - These Boots Are Made For Walking (1966)[/nomedia]

    And on this note, it's time to cart my camel's toe off to the swimming practice tent, or whatever that expression is.

    Updated April 21st, 2011 at 09:53 AM by jim thornton

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  16. I know that I shall meet my fate

    by , April 15th, 2011 at 03:10 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)


    At approximately 3 a.m. on Thursday night, Jim Thornton awoke from uneasy dreams possibly triggered by Mucinex, Ambien, Nyquil, Zocor, Effexor XR, and three porkchops, to find his manhood sporting a small dried-blood-consistent scab of sudden but completely indeterminable nature that had bloomed in the night on the very center of the far reaches of his manhoood....

    (For the rest of this story, please wade through my swimming-related stuff and resume the saga at the bottom on this short vlog....)

    *

    A quick vlog, primarily pictorial, as I ready myself to make the drive, wizzened, coughing, and tic-riddled, to Colonies Zones where, to paraphrase the great William B. Yeats:

    I know that I shall meet my fate
    Somewhere in chlorine gas below
    Those that I swim against I do not hate,
    Those that I swim for I do not love;
    My country is Sewickley Heights,
    My countrymen Sewickley Height's less affluent,
    No likely end could bring them loss
    Or leave them happier than before.
    Nor law, nor duty bade me swim,
    Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
    A lonely impulse of delight
    Drove to this tumult in the pool;
    I balanced all, brought all to mind,
    The years to come seemed more coughing fits,
    A waste of sputum the years behind
    In balance with this meet, the previous and next meets.


    Speaking of which, since my lofty status in the hierarchy is not going to last much longer, let me print the current Event Rankings for the swims I have done thus far (and, due to illness, extremely unlikely to duplicate at GMU if, in fact, I even survive the chill waters at all):

    USMS Times Reported for Men SCY 100 Free Ages 55-59
    2011 Season (2010-06-01 through 2011-05-31)

    # Name Age Time Club Meet
    1 Mann, Michael T 56 51.99 CMS COMSA Short Course Swimming Championships
    2 Groselle, Jack R 56 52.45 SYSM Peter Cath Memorial Inter-Squad Swim Meet
    3 Trevisan, Paul T 59 52.48 1776 North Carolina Sunbelt Championships
    4 Waterbury, Stuart S 57 53.52 CMS COMSA Short Course Swimming Championships
    5 * Thornton, Jim 58 53.68 SEWY AMYMSA Championship

    USMS Times Reported for Men SCY 200 Free Ages 55-59
    2011 Season (2010-06-01 through 2011-05-31)

    # Name Age Time Club Meet
    1 Abbott, Rick E 55 1:53.14 AKMS Alaska 2011 SCY Championships
    2 * Thornton, Jim 58 1:57.93 SEWY AMYMSA Championship
    3 Colella, Rick 59 1:59.27 PNA 2011 Northwest Zone Short Course Yard Championship
    4 Blatt, Michael J 55 2:00.28 VCM UCLA Bruin Masters SCY Swim Meet
    5 Wood, Larry W 57 2:00.98 TXLA South Central Zone Championships

    USMS Times Reported for Men SCY 500 Free Ages 55-59
    2011 Season (2010-06-01 through 2011-05-31)

    # Name Age Time Club Meet
    1 Mann, Michael T 56 5:11.42 CMS COMSA Short Course Swimming Championships
    2 * Thornton, Jim 58 5:22.45 SEWY AMYMSA Championship
    3 Buckley, Tim P 55 5:26.91 FMT UC-Irvine Masters SCY Swim Meet
    4 Wood, Larry W 57 5:31.98 TXLA South Central Zone Championships
    5 Karas, Paul G 55 5:33.32 MICH Lake Orion Liquid Lightning's 2011 Masters "Kickoff"

    USMS Times Reported for Men SCY 1000 Free Ages 55-59
    2011 Season (2010-06-01 through 2011-05-31)

    # Name Age Time Club Meet
    1 Buckley, Tim P 55 11:16.26 FMT UCLA Bruin Masters SCY Swim Meet
    2 * Thornton, Jim 58 11:18.15 SEWY AMYMSA Championship
    3 Karas, Paul G 55 11:22.21 MICH Lake Orion Liquid Lightning's 2011 Masters "Kickoff"
    4 Wood, Larry W 57 11:26.20 TXLA South Central Zone Championships
    5 Martin, Jack R 59 11:51.97 1776 2011 OCY Unofficial Team Championships

    USMS Times Reported for Men SCY 1650 Free Ages 55-59
    2011 Season (2010-06-01 through 2011-05-31)

    # Name Age Time Club Meet
    1 Karas, Paul G 55 18:46.75 MICH West Bloomfied High School - Winter Meet
    2 Wood, Larry W 57 19:02.08 TXLA South Central Zone Championships
    3 Gudman, Jon 55 20:01.29 OREG Oregon Masters Swimming SCY Association Championships
    4 Thornton, James 58 20:03.90 1776 CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY 15th ANNUAL 1650 Yard SWIM CHALLENGE
    5 Penn, William J 59 20:07.78 PNA Beat the Clock -South Sound Masters Swim Team

    Also, for SCM (which presumably could last a little longer since there aren't too many SCM meets left till fall):

    USMS Times Reported for Men SCM 50 Free Ages 55-59
    2011 Season (2011-01-01 through 2011-12-31)

    # Name Age Time Club Meet
    1 Reider, Pete J 56 27.31 TERR Albatross Open
    2 Thornton, James 59 27.52 1776 Albatross Open
    3 Hoffman, Daniel R 55 29.43 MICH 4th Annual Milford Meltdown Masters Swim Meet
    4 Henry, Robert M 58 30.58 JAM SVY SCM Masters Meet
    5 Morrison, Jeffrey W 56 31.20 PNA Anacortes Short Course Meters Meet

    USMS Times Reported for Men SCM 100 Free Ages 55-59
    2011 Season (2011-01-01 through 2011-12-31)

    # Name Age Time Club Meet
    1 Thornton, James 59 59.15 1776 Albatross Open
    2 Karas, Paul G 56 1:02.84 MICH 4th Annual Milford Meltdown Masters Swim Meet
    3 Mead, Jeffrey D 55 1:03.02 DCAC Albatross Open
    4 Sussex, Steve A 56 1:04.62 PNA Anacortes Short Course Meters Meet
    5 Jarow, Jonathan P 55 1:06.79 ANCM Albatross Open


    USMS Times Reported for Men SCM 200 Free Ages 55-59
    2011 Season (2011-01-01 through 2011-12-31)

    # Name Age Time Club Meet
    1 Thornton, James 59 2:13.04 1776 Albatross Open
    2 Jarow, Jonathan P 55 2:32.64 ANCM Albatross Open
    3 Ryan, James 59 2:37.13 GSM SVY SCM Masters Meet
    4 Walters, Mark C 59 2:44.15 GERM Albatross Open
    5 Levine, Steven M 59 2:52.34 GSM SVY SCM Masters Meet

    Notes:

    1. I am 99 percent sure that my SCY times posted above will count for USMS Top 10 consideration, though my name in the event rankings seems to indicate that USMS has never heard of this "Jim Thornton" fellow who evidently swims in some part of the world where Amish children splash about in their mudholes, inhaling fracking fluids. Time will tell.

    2. Even if my SCY times above do count, they may not make the TT, given how very fast my pig-in-the-python demographic of ex-Mark Spitz-and-Gary-Hall-inspired age group swimmers is. Normally, I never make the TT past the first year or two of "aging up," and I am, at 58 (FINA 59!) woefully long in the tooth for the 55-59 age group.

    3. The only hope I have is that it does seem my times may be slightly less affected by the loss of the B70 body kayak than I had previously thought--and my competitors conceivably might prove more hindered then they hoped by their own loss of boats. During the regular season, I was a good 2 seconds off in the 100; but my time at Clarion is only about 1 second off from my CZ time last year. My 200 at Clarion, however, remains at 4 seconds off last year's kayak-aided 200. However, both my 500 and 1000 were significantly faster. More investigations along these lines in a future vlog (and a tip of the bathing cap to Water Dog who specifically asked me to undertake a mathematical analysis of this.)

    4. The day after our Clarion meet, which was almost 2 weeks ago, I got the worst cold I have had in years, and it has not gotten much, if any, better. Not laying ground work for excuses here, but if I can even finish my events at CZ, I must say that someone should forward this to the Vatican because they might want to send out a team of "miracle investigators" to validate what would surely be the most heroic water-related event since Jesus took his famous walk.

    4. To make things even worse--and now we are returning to the cliff hanger from above--I woke up at 3 a.m. on Thursday with this weird scab on my unit. Because I am not sure what words this vlog will allow me to use sans censorship, I will call this body part what my white-collar-in-the-making former 5th Grade student, Jay R., called a "penious."

    So anyhoo, there was this small but painful scab on the middle of the center part of the meat of the end of my penious that was approximately this big:

    *


    I had no idea how I could have cut myself because I am much too old to have sex anymore, and my sansabelt trousers sport the kind of safety zippers designed to prevent precisely this sort of injury in FINA 59 guys like me.

    I managed to tell myself, "Well, it must just be one of those things. Don't worry about it."

    But a few hours later, as I was having breakfast with my pugs, Lefty and Biscuit, I called my brother to ask his advice. He told me, "You really should get it checked out."

    The idea of having to pay money to a doctor made me scrutinize the scab more closely. With reading glasses, I began fiddling with it.

    To my horror and disgust, it wasn't exactly flat up against the skin. With a wee bit of tugging, I could get its outer edges to elongate a bit and actually pull away from the skin.

    My immediate diagnosis: a skin tag that had somehow turned overnight into melanoma.

    I got stronger reading glasses.

    And that is when I saw the little legs.

    I hope, upon reading this, that your skin is crawling even .000001 percent as much as mine was at that moment!

    Take some anti-seizure medicine with vodka to stop your skin from crawling.

    The good news: I had written about tics before, and knew you don't want to "disturb at tic" by tugging at it too hard, lighting it on fire, screaming obscenities, etc.

    I couldn't find tweezers, but I was able to use my unmanicured fingernails to achieve purchase and lightly but firmly begin to yank!

    With what tenacity that little mote held on to my penious for dear life! If only some human would show even the tiniest portion of attachment to this part of me!

    The penious skin pulled a half inch away from my body before finally, mercifully, the tic on my dick, without a click or a hic, let go of the stick! (Sorry, was channeling Dr. Zeuss there momentarily.)

    I was afraid perhaps I had broken off the thorax and abdomen (if, indeed, tics have both these) and left the head embedded in the other head.

    But thanks to the miracle of the Verizon Thunderbolt 8 megapixil camera, I was able to snap a closeup of my little friend. It seems, to this layman, in tact. Thanks again to the Thunderbolt, I was able to post the picture on Facebook within seconds, where the comely entomologist-swimmer Stephanie Dold quickly identified it as ioxedes scapularis ("A female," she wrote, "you should be flattered!").

    I also emailed the picture to my friend, Dr. Paul Oyler, who warned me to be on the lookout for "a red flat eruption evolving from the center of the bite." (I am hoping that Stephanie might help me monitor for this.)

    The bottom line here: I do need to start the trek soon to the Compound in Vienna, and my short vlog seems to have taken on a slight life of its own.

    But I am either:

    --truly sick (I do believe this is the case--green sputum still erupting from the lungs and nose; tic's former purchase point looking ever-so-slightly bull's eye-like in terms of the rash it has left)

    or

    --I have developed a case of delusional hypochondria, a real and extremely common illness amongst our ranks of masters swimmers, I am sure you will agree. Time, or more precisely, times will tell soon enough.

    By the way, I saved the tic just in case I go on to develop that form of dementia/insanity that has caused hundreds of thousands of Russians to be committed to sanitaria. I do not know if the tic is still alive in the little empty antidepressant pill vial where I have incarcerated him in tissue paper. But if he is alive, I suspect he looks a bit like this, albeit smaller:

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  17. An albatross around one's neck...

    by , March 17th, 2011 at 04:06 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    ...has been defined thusly:

    A burden which some unfortunate person has to carry.



    As I head out to compete at this weekend's Albatross meet in the Greater Maryland area, could this unfortunate person be me?

    The origin of the phrase apparently stems from the same magnificently melodramatic poem (Rime of the Ancient Mariner) referenced in my previous vlog entitled simply Albatross (link here for those who want to read and/or reread and or rereread and study: http://forums.usms.org/blog.php?b=14471)

    Specifically, the poet Coleridge (coiner, as well, of the phrases pipe dream, suspension of disbelief, and Achilles heal) wrote of our wearily Ancient and accursed Mariner:

    Ah. well a-day. what evil looks
    Had I from old and young
    Instead of the cross, the Albatross
    About my neck was hung.


    After Monday's miracle practice, in which I rose Lazarus-like from the sick couch to complete, albeit with drafting assistance, a grueling workout for an aging fellow, my own pipe dreams and capacity for suspension of disbelief in myself convinced me to enter the Albatross meet.

    Alas, at last night's practice, the familiar malaise and effeteness thrust themselves upon me with renewed vengeance. Weak? Check! Shaky? Check! Hypoglycemic? Check! In no condition whatsoever to swim in a swimming meet, even one that did not first involve driving for a minimum of 5 hours? Check!

    Still, a tiny voice inside me has always urged: Forward Ho, Jim!--its sound, if anything, growing louder in proportion to the hopelessness of my mission!

    And thus, sickness be damned, I will soldier on to Bethesda and do my best to set the new 200 SCM freestyle Albatross meet record in the 55-59 age group. If I can accomplish this--impossible, I know, but if...--then I shall be forever known not just as a multiple Zonesman but as an Albatrossian, too!

    And it will be the Albatross who must wear me round its pallid neck, not vice versa!

    Dream?



    Or pipe dream?

    Check back here frequently to find out!
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  18. Albatross

    by , March 15th, 2011 at 04:31 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)


    At length did cross an Albatross,
    Thorough the fog it came;
    As it had been a Christian soul,
    We hailed it in God's name.

    It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
    And round and round it flew.
    The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
    The helmsman steered us through!

    And a good south wind sprung up behind;
    The Albatross did follow,
    And every day, for food or play,
    Came to the mariner's hollo!

    In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
    It perched for vespers nine;
    Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
    Glimmered the white moonshine."

    `God save thee, ancient Mariner,
    From the fiends that plague thee thus! -
    Why look'st thou so?' -"With my crossbow
    I shot the Albatross."


    --from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

    Sometime late on Friday, after I have interviewed an ophthalmologic researcher at the National Eye Institute about trends in retinal detachment in healthy men who may or may not play paintball, take drugs to build muscle and other drugs to conceal the first drugs, compete in mixed martial arts competitions, platform dive and/or bungee jump regularly, or blow their noses too violently, after all this, and responding to the Fortress's beseeching Facebook hollo's, I shall make the drive from Pittsburgh to the Vienna Compound for grilled protein, Maine Moon Cattery, reunion with several dear wee girls, a sheathe of papers on overutilization rates by clinical somaticisers (may opt to leave these at home; will gauge Leslie's mood first with regards to her receptivity to self-improvement catalyzed by me), possibly a new HTC 4G Thunderbolt Verizon phone, and the hopes of a nation on my shoulders, and--if I can cajole my lovely bride into supplying me with some--a cache of scones and sticky toffee muffins to give to Facebook fans of the Old Economy Cafe.

    I shall not bring a cross bow.

    I may bring some bird seed for any or all fair weather albatrosses blown off their natural peregrinations by Japanese earthquakes and what have you.

    It almost failed to occur, this bid of mine to come back from retinal detachment, financial depression, and a recent severe case of incapacitating sniffles.

    Last Thursday, I awoke at 3 a.m., my nostrils spilling twin cataracts of Niagara-like mucous falls.

    Last Friday, I spent the entire day daubing my nasal passages with deeply absorbent tissues, and still these were not enough to stem the flow!

    Why can they not make nostril tampons for men who get colds this severe? Why is this natural market niche not being exploited? Best healthcare system in the world? Sadly laughable joke for those of us who cannot find a simple nostril tampon or maxi pad when we so desperately need them.

    On Saturday, I had not the energy to leave the couch for more than an occasional cheesecake refrigerator run.

    On Sunday, I forced myself to go to the Y where I swam an open turn 1650 in about 33 minutes--and almost could not finish, so deeply lethargic and hypoglycemic and dizzy I was in my cold!

    Yesterday, I forced myself to go to practice. I said to myself, "Jim, if by some miracle you can complete all these 100s tonight on the correct interval, then you must sign up for the Albatross meet, hosted by the Ancient Mariners! If nothing else, you owe it to show your appreciation to swimmer-poet Jeffrey Lil' Devil Roddin, who you talked into marriage, and whose appreciation for you knows no bounds!"

    But I was certain I would not make this grueling set:

    10 x 100 on 1:25 warm up
    20 x 100 on 1:20
    8 x 100 on 1:15
    4 x 50 on :40.

    But practice was so crowded last night that a swirling motion of bodies--no doubt abetted by the Coriolis forces so familiar to toilet flushers here in the Northern Hemisphere--allowed me to drag and draft along like a cork in the wake of my betters!

    I made the whole practice.

    I came home and, with 17 minutes to spare before the deadline, I signed up for the 50, 100, and 200 SCM freestyles.

    Paul Trevisan (60 and thus no threat to this Fina 59 year old!) and Leslie (now Fina 50) are both going after world records.

    I am going after the Albatross meet record for the 200 SCM freestyle in the 55-59 age group.

    Equally worthy goals, I must say! And I do not have to race Leslie in any head-to-head events, so for now, at least, my .001 second advantage over her in our last competition of note (the 50 SCY butterfly) still stands with me, the underexercised, still shining in the Glorious Winners Circle!

    Leslie has promised to grill a fine feast for me on Friday night.

    My only request:

    Do not serve up the kindly Albatross! My stomach is still much too delicate to digest it.
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  19. There is superstition

    by , February 6th, 2011 at 07:00 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)


    My son talked me into growing a "Steeler beard" a couple weeks ago.

    It wasn't all that hard to talk me into this because I was lying around with a bubble of gas in my eyeball, awaiting a laser procedure to zap a detached retina back into place, and the opthamologist didn't want me to move around much anyhow.

    So I wasn't going to shave regardless.

    I shall document the retinal detachment reattachment procedure in a new vlog entry fairly soon.

    But I wanted to post this Steeler beard picture now, before the game starts in approximately 79 minutes, give or take, to see if the superstition has any effect on the game's outcome.

    I suspect it will have about as much of an effect on the game's outcome as the outside appearance of my two brown-eyed-handsome-man eyeballs will have on my next Challenge Question.

    To wit, which eye do you think suffered the detached retina--the left or the right?

    Look closely and see if you can determine the problem eye, which is (fingers crossed) no longer that much of a problem, because the procedure seems to have worked, and I am looking forward to trying flip turns again in practice very soon, possibly even tomorrow.

    A shiny quarter to anybody who can guess correctly which eye was affected, and then sends me an SASE with your entry.

    Here, by the way, is Brett Keisel's beard, which is the inspiration for my son's superstition about me growing a Steeler beard to help the team win.



    Brett, in my layman's opinion, seems to be suffering some form of detachment that doesn't have anything to do with retinas.

    The game is now set to start in 73 minutes, and be over 3-4 hours later, depending on how many commercial time outs are taken, the risk of some terrorist attack, and who knows what.

    My own prediction: the Steelers lose in a blow out.

    But perhaps my Steeler beard will ward off this fate.

    Time will tell.

    There is superstition.

    Is it, or is it not, the way?

    By the way, if you want to answer the Challenge Question, I am talking my actual left or right eye, not the eye on the left or right side of the photograph.

    For those who do not want to return to the top of this vlog entry to re-scrutinize my picture before hazarding a guess, I shall repost here:



    Hint: the affected eye still has a surfeit of floaters and what might best be described as heat lightning in the distant periphery. Perhaps you can detect a certain distraction quality from this eyeball, as if it is preoccupied with deciding what is and isn't real.
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  20. The Secret Lives of Twins

    by , December 30th, 2010 at 02:25 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Most of you, I suspect, are singletons.

    A lucky handful, perhaps, are fraternal twins.

    But only a pittance are God's Miracle of Nature: Monozygotic, AKA, identical twins.

    Singletons are fascinated by us miracles, I know.

    There is a constant prying into our clandestine lives for glimpses of what it must be like to be the Chosen.

    We usually brush off these attempts to pry.

    But in the spirit of generosity, the Thornton Twins, former impressarios of the Thornton Twins Podcast (which may or may not still be available for free iPod downloading at iTunes), recently Skyped one another and recorded the conversation via Camtasia technology (I hope I am spelling this correctly.)

    John, the older but much, much younger looking twin, asks Jim, the younger but beaten-down-into-a-craggy-monster-by-life twin, to explicate his rudimentary understanding of epigenetics.

    This new branch of Science, Jim is pretty sure, explains how it is that one twin can look like the dying elderly father of another twin.

    Please enjoy this New Year's Eve Eve contribution to your feeling better about yourselves by proxy film!

    A shiny quarter to anyone who can prove they watched the entire interminable thing!

    (Please send a self addressed stamped envelop to Jim Thornton, 814 Blackburn Road, Sewickley, PA 15143. I will review your proof and if you qualify send you your shiny quarter within 8-14 weeks. Shipping and handling costs may apply.)

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D87QAVDJNwg&feature=player_embedded"]YouTube - 2010-12-30_113020.mp4[/nomedia]
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