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  1. Before

    by , November 25th, 2010 at 06:14 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    176.5

    This weigh-in was:

    * after scootering down to the Y thru the freezing pre-Thanksgiving air to swim practice with Bill and Leslie

    * after pre-warming up in the Jacuzzi with Leslie

    * after having swum practice with Bill and Leslie

    * after having steambathed and Jacuzzi'd with Bill and Leslie


    We shall see how much tonight's engorgement will affect tomorrow's post-practice weigh-out.

    Oh, and as my Thanksgiving gift to my comrades across this great fractious nation, from churning sea to frothing sea, here is a bit of philosophy to ease your minds.

    I discovered this gem of a film quite by accident last night. I used Google Desktop to find a favorite quote of mine from Marcus Aurelius, and in so finding, I also found my dear brother's movie, Stoical Storytime.

    Really, it is very amusing and insightful simultaneously!

    Never surpass the sense of your original impressions. Perhaps they tell you that a certain person speaks ill of you. That was their sole message; they did not go on to say that you have been harmed by him. Perhaps I see my child suffers illness; my eyes tell me so but do not tell me his life is in danger. Always keep to your original impressions; add no interpretation of your own and you remain safe. Or at the most add a recognition of the great world order by means of which all things come to pass.

    --Marcus Aurelius

    The film:

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQM3PTXEr_c"]YouTube - Stoical Storytime[/nomedia]
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  2. After

    by , November 27th, 2010 at 12:09 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    176.98

    Readers of Before will recall that following practice and various sweat-inducing heat treatments both dry and wet, I weighed-in at 176.50 on Thanksgiving Eve.

    My hypothesis was that the next time I officially weighed-out following the Thanksgiving engorgement and Friday's swimming practice, the scales would register somewhere in the upper 180s to lower 190s.

    Fortunately, the hypothesis failed to be corroborated by the actual data.

    Here is a brief chronology of the 48 hours between the weigh-in and the weigh-out:

    * I went home Wednesday night and cooked 8 porkchops on our Weber grill. My sons together ate three of them, more or less. I ate the remainder. When I was done with mine, I scavenged the considerable amounts of meat that had not been gnarled from the bone by my sons. I then gave the remaining tissues to my pugs, Lefty and Biscuit, who were able to find additional sustenance. All that was left of the 8 pork chops was a bunch of very splintery bone fragments of the sort that I have learned from experience to avoid at all costs stepping on barefoot in the darkness. Actually, you do not even need to be barefoot to want to avoid stepping on these bone splinters: I have ruined a pair of perfectly good year-old Route 66 $19.99 K-Mart "winter sandal" slip-on shoes by so misstepping in the darkness--and still lacerated my ball of foot!

    * I followed this meat up with 4 Pepperidge Farm "entitlement" Sausalito cookies. The entitlement aspect came from having swum hard at practice. But I also consumed these cookies because of a Thornton family tradition: the need to stretch ones stomach on Thanksgiving Eve to prepare it to accommodate a literally sickening load of foodstuffs the following day.

    Note: Pink Floyd famously asked, "How can you have your puddin' {or, in my case, 4 Pepperidge Farm "entitlement" Sausalito cookies} if you don't eat your meat?" My answer: "But I did eat my meat! All 5 porkchops plus remainders of my sons' 3!"

    * I had the dregs of my last bottle of Nyquil, one 37.5 mg pulvule of Effexor XR (which, alas, does not seem to be countering the hibernal gloom all that effectively, especially when one factors in the prospect of Marshalsea Debtor's Prison once again looming in the near distance, and the occasional revolting memory of sexual leprosy scares from the past); read a few pages of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (marveling how, when I first began this series, I was devastated by Stieg Larrson's premature death, but by book #3, am becoming more and more at peace with it); hooked myself up to the CPAP machine; turned on Hatertainment radio for 30 minutes to lull me into dream land; and drifted off to fat-storing oblivion where my leptin and ghrelin levels could do their shilly-shallying waltz of obesity-inducement.

    * I woke up rather late, at least for the post-CPAP era, and ate granola, dried cherries, walnuts, 6 cups of coffee, and for dessert a 200 mg. tablet of Provigil. I then began doing battle with our financial situation, which is to say, throwing pebbles impotently at the sucking vortex that is the Final Destination for spendthrifts like me. Ah, how fondly I remember those days of yore when I actually felt like a kind of human being! These days, and by these days, I mean every single second of every single minute, etc., since I first took out a mortgage in Minnesota in 1987, I feel like an increasingly fallow field that is being tilled by dozens of pitiless farmers hoping to extract the final tidbit of croppage from my hide before I expire altogether and become suitable for little but the storing of spent nuclear waste!

    * Bill called, and told me that he and his brother in law, Sean, were going to the Y and asked me if I was up for an Iron Infant (an ultrashort triathlon I invented which consists of 30-45 seconds on an exercise bike; a walk-run for approximately 200 yards to the locker-room; and from there to the Jacuzzi for a few minutes of "swimming" in the whirling heated waters.)

    I met Bill and Sean at the Y, did about 60 minutes of Nautilus stuff (I hate weight lifting, as some of you may recall; but I have decided, purists be damned, to do these machines regularly because they are slightly less detestable than free weights and dry lands with all sorts of weird bocu balls and whatnot that I don't understand how anyone can enjoy), and thenI did the Iron Infant.

    * Back home around 3 p.m., it began to seem like somebody should put the turkey in. A friend of my brother's gave me instructions on how to cook an 18 pounder in 3 hours: preheat the oven to 500 degrees and cook it uncovered at this temperature for 30 minutes; take it out and cover only the breasts with a bikini top of double folded foil; then stick it back in for another 2.5 hours at 300 degrees.

    * I also made cornbread stuffing "snowballs" and jammed these into every orifice I could find, sealing one of them off with the Pope's Nose, and leaving the other major cavity open like a post-resurrection sepulchre.

    * Between breakfast cereal and turkey preparation, I probably ate something, but the truth is, I can't remember what or even if I did.

    * By 7 o'clock, everything hog-like was ready for insertion into my python-like alimentary canal. The little nuclear family sat down at our little dining room table. We discussed our various reasons for being Thankful this year. Then the engorgement began and, in my case, if not for the rest of my beloved relatives, said foodstuff packing did not stop till I was in a great deal of distress.

    I was able to walk away from the table, which is something. Most years, this is not possible, I must get down on the ground and slither out to the couch and be helped up onto it in order to comfortably watch TV.

    Granted, though upright and walking this year, I certainly was in not shape to walk lively, with a jouncy strut, if you will; I doubt I could have even completed an Iron Infant without hydraulic assist, so replete I was with turkey, stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes, gravy, and assorted other items that blend so nicely into a stomach-extending bolus.

    And it was a good hour before I could eat sticky toffee pudding with Ben and Jerry's Hannah Teeter flavor ice cream plus whipping cream.

    "How can you eat your sticky toffee puddin' with Ben and Jerry's Hannah Teeter flavor ice cream plus whipping cream if don't eat your meat?"

    "But I did eat my meat! I ate half a turkey plus all that sausage in the lb. of cornbread stuffing I consumed!"

    Then I watched some more TV, inhaled the final Nyquil fumes from the bottle, repeated my nightly pharmaceutical night cap, read more about Lisbeth Salandar's head wound, listened to more hatred as accompaniment to drifting off.

    * I woke the next morning with very little in the way of appetite and thus had to force myself to consume a caramel and pecan and apple tart with whipped cream for breakfast along with the standard dosages of coffee and Provigil. I spent the rest of the day working at our Cafe. I was not hungry at all, but nevertheless shakey in that hypoglycemic way that afflicts me from time to time. My wife kindly recommended that I drink a SlimFast shake despite my feeling nauseated; this helped a bit.

    At 4ish, I drove back home and ate a package of GU Chomps knowing that swimming practice was imminent. I rested a bit then went to practice early to check Leslie in.

    I thought I had more Chomps waiting for me in my locker, but alas I only had 3 of the disgusting gel formulations. I sucked one and brought the other two to the pool deck, pretty sure I was going to have a hypoglycemic attack because of not eating much lunch.

    The main A practice was only 2450 yards, but I did some extra pre-warm up so that my total was 3600. Thanks to the two extra packs of Gu gel, I was able to make it through the whole thing without seeing lights or feeling shakey.

    However, the combination of breakfast tart, SlimFast Shake, and 4 packets of Gu, did not save me from cramps that started in my toes, moved to my foot arches, and then from these inaugural beachheads annexed my calves.

    It was for this reason, no doubt abetted by character weakness, that my "sprint" 100s were pathetic: 1:00 and 59.99 respectively.

    Afterwards, Leslie and I steamed and Jacuzzi'd. I took a hot shower and dried myself thoroughly and got on the scales.

    Net increase over the Thanksgiving holiday:

    .49 lb.

    Readers of the third in my series on weight loss techniques may recall Jim's Melancholia Spa (TM), documented more fully here: Final Solution for Fatties Like Me

    This Spa, I assure you, is not only a metaphor but also a place to which my life frequently dispatches me.

    I cannot say I entirely recommend bivouacing here for weight loss. However, if you are of the genetic subtype for whom life's miseries decrease, rather than increase, your appetite for food, sex, consciousness, television viewing, etc., and if moreover you find yourself waylaid in a morbid state of mind, then I must say you can take consolation in the fact that your misery will surely help you wither!

    Or should I say, you could take consolation in such a fact if the condition that makes weight loss so effortless did not simultaneously levy a tax of inconsolableness.

    You win some and lose some, I suppose.

    And all the while the pitiless farmers ready your hide for sowing their next, dwindling crop.
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  3. Grunion Data

    by , December 8th, 2010 at 10:54 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    The Long Beach Grunions just posted the results for this year's SCM meet.

    This, by the way, is what a grunion looks like:



    Moreover, according to Wikipedia:

    Grunion are known for their very unusual [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mating"]mating ritual. At very [/ame][ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tide"]high tides[/ame] the females come up on sandy beaches and dig their tails into the sand to lay their eggs. A male then wraps himself around the female to deposit his sperm. For the next ten days the grunion eggs remain hidden in the sand, but at the next set of high tides the eggs hatch and the young grunion are washed out to sea. *


    In any event, because this is a very well attended yearly meet, which Leslie told me some think of as the unofficial USMS "Nationals" for the SCM venue, and furthermore--and please correct me if I am wrong here!--it is held in the same pool at roughly the same time each year, I thought that comparing this year and last year might provide a bit of data for how much the loss of the body suit impacts aging men's swimming speeds.

    Obviously, my interest here is 100 percent Jimcentric. It is quite possible that elite 20-year-old male swimmers might not be affected all that much by the loss of blubber compacting neoprene. I don't care! I am only interested in how much the loss of these suits is impacting my cohorts, how much the loss of these suits is impacting me, and whether, when the smoke clears, I will be hurt more, less, or the same as most guys in my age bracket.

    A few caveats are in order:I looked only at my age group, i.e., 55-59
    1. I looked only at the men's freestyle events
    2. Some of the top swimmers this year had just "aged up" and I did not try to find out what times they had done the previous year in the 50-54 age group.
    3. Not everyone who swam in 2009 also swam in 2010. In fact, in several events, I found no repeat swimmers at all in the top 5 or 6 places.
    4. I have no idea what kinds of suits those who did swim the same event two years consecutively were actually wearing; I am assuming that most top swimmers took advantage of whatever was legal at the time, but I could be wrong about this.
    5. People do slow down a wee bit from year to year, at least on average. This effect is exaggerated in the post-50 age groups, and it really accelerates in the post-70 age groups. Thus, it is possible that some of the poorer times this year compared to last year could have been from aging, but I doubt this alone explains some of the whopping changes I found.
    6. Also, a lot of people train with a bit of extra intensity the year they know they are aging up, because they figure it's their best shot at making good top 10 times. So the fact that the repeat swimmers were one year deeper into the age group might also have lead to some slackening motivation, though once again, I find it hard to believe this would account for such whopping changes either.

    ABSTRACT:

    In every case I was able to find of guys who swam this year and last year, none did better in jammers than whatever they wore last year; all, in fact, did worse.

    Much worse.

    I had expected to see a second or so per hundred. The smallest deterioration in repeat swimmers was just over 3 seconds per 100. In some of the longer events, the deterioration was as high as 6.5 seconds per 100.

    Again, this is an admittedly very small and select data sample. But if there is even a snifter of validity to it, the bottom line take away message--at least for the likes of me--is that the "new reality" is very likely to cause you significantly slower times than your peak performances in high tech full body rubberized body kayaks like the B70.

    I think a lot of people have been telling themselves that the suits really don't make that much of a difference. This, at least, would indicate that's wishful thinking.

    If you can keep your "jammer" times within a couple seconds per 100 of your "body kayak" times, you may, in fact, be swimming faster than before, despite the depressing digital readout on the scoreboard.

    Anyhow, here is the data:

    50 SCM Freestyle

    2009—Body Suits

    1 Gandee, Brad 55 GMUP-10 26.43
    2 van Boer, Eric 55 RHMS-38 26.54

    3 Wilson, Robert 58 NMMS-42 26.55
    4 Williams, Bruce 56 RICE-25 26.59
    5 Dickson, Dave 56 CMSC 27.32

    6 O'Keeffe, Peter 59 UCLA-33 27.50
    7 Mc Bride, Duncan 55 LAPS-33 27.60

    2010—Jammers

    1 Krauser, Larry 57 Hydropower Maste-35 26.27
    2 Blatt, Michael 55 Ventura County M-33 26.50 7
    3 Djang, Philipp 56 Fort Lauderdale-50 27.03 6
    4 4 Behun, Bill 59 San Diego Swim M-44 27.85 5 5 5 Miller, Chris 57 Las Vegas Master-33 28.05 4

    * (No repeat swimmers in top 5 in this event)
    _______________________________________




    100 SCM Freestyle
    2009—Body Suits


    1 van Boer, Eric 55 RHMS-38 58.74 9 28.14 58.74 (30.60)
    2 Williams, Bruce 56 RICE-25 59.07 7 28.21 59.07 (30.86)
    3 Mench, Lee 57 HSAM-44 59.12 6
    28.91 59.12 (30.21)
    4 Dickson, Dave 56 CMSC 59.51 5 28.28 59.51 (31.23)
    5 Wilson, Robert 58 NMMS-42 59.91 4
    27.98 59.91 (31.93)
    6 Phillips, Rick 55 ROSE-33 1:01.63 3
    29.48 1:01.63 (32.15)


    2010—Jammers
    1 Blatt, Michael 55 Ventura County M-33 58.15 9 27.61 58.15
    2 Krauser, Larry 57 Hydropower Maste-35 58.68 7
    27.81 58.68
    3 Behun, Bill 59 San Diego Swim M-44 1:01.50 6
    29.27 1:01.50
    4 van Boer, Eric 56 Rolling Hills Mu-38 1:01.90 5
    29.31 1:01.90
    5 Adkison, Bill 55 Rolling Hills Mu-38 1:02.77 4
    29.60 1:02.77
    6 Heather, Michael 56 Mission Viejo Ma-33 1:03.09 3
    30.75 1:03.09

    * (One repeat swimmer in top 5 in this event)



    58.74 to a 1:01.90--a 3.16 second difference
    _______________________________________

    200 SCM Freestyle
    2009—Body Suits

    1 Wood, Larry 55 TXLA-43 2:08.42
    2 Dickson, Dave 56 CMSC 2:11.13
    3 Townsend, R Scott 56 LVM-33 2:12.34

    4 Penn, William 58 PNA-36 2:33.00

    5 Quinn, John 59 SCAQ-33 2:30.38
    6 Sicard, Federico 59 SDSM-44 2:30.51

    2010—Jammers

    1 Krauser, Larry 57 Hydropower Maste-35 2:09.27
    2 Blatt, Michael 55 Ventura County M-33 2:10.80 3 Heather, Michael 56 Mission Viejo Ma-33 2:22.34
    4 Miller, Chris 57 Las Vegas Master-33 2:42.82
    5 Astudillo, Fabio 58 San Diego Swim M-44 2:49.26

    * (No repeat swimmers in top 5 in this event)
    _______________________________________


    400 SCM Freestyle

    2009—Body Suits


    1 Wood, Larry 55 TXLA-43 4:32.85
    2 Dickson, Dave 56 CMSC 4:39.79
    3 Phillips, Rick 55 ROSE-33 4:41.84

    4 Penn, William 58 PNA-36 4:43.16

    5 Leonard, Dan 55 SCAQ-33 4:49.05

    6 Mench, Lee 57 HSAM-44 4:50.


    2010—Jammers

    1 Krauser, Larry 57 Hydropower Maste-35 4:39.87 9 32.13 1:08.41 1:44.18 2:20.07 2:55.87 3:31.21 4:06.57 4:39.87
    2 Phillips, Rick 56 Rose Bowl Master-33 4:58.51

    3 Leonard, Dan 56 Southern Califor-33 5:06.39
    4 Penn, Bill 59 Pacific Northwes-36 5:09.63
    5 Bias, Philip 56 Unattached 5:45.24 4
    39.32 1:22.73 2:07.33 2:51.85 3:35.45 4:19.87 5:03.23 5:45.24

    * (Three repeat swimmers in top 5 in this event)



    4:41.84 to 4:58.51 16+ seconds slower (average 4 sec/100 slower



    4:43.16 to 5:09.63 26+ seconds slower (average 6.5 seconds per 100 slower)



    4:49.05 to 5:06.39 17+ seconds slower (average 4.25 seconds slower)
    _______________________________________
    800 SCM Freestyle
    2009—Body Suits

    1 Townsend, R Scott 56 LVM-33 9:26.04
    2 Wood, Larry 55 TXLA-43 9:33.71

    3 Penn, William 58 PNA-36 9:42.73

    4 Dickson, Dave 56 CMSC 9:45.91

    5 Phillips, Rick 55 ROSE-33 9:51.01


    2010—Jammers

    1 Krauser, Larry 57 9:42.94
    2 Penn, Bill 10:28.29
    3 Bias, Philip 56 Unattached 12:03.27
    4 Ferguson, Howard 12:39.67


    * (One repeat swimmer in top 5 in this event)
    9:42.73 to 10:28.29 45+ seconds or 5.5 seconds slower per 100

    ______________________________

    * Final thought: Who knows? Perhaps male grunions who swim in the waters of Long Beach, California are exhausting themselves in ways that have nothing to do with swimming. Such speculations, of course, are beyond the scope of the present inquiry.
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  4. 2 Christmas Cards plus Lefty the Christmas Pug: A Tale

    by , December 16th, 2010 at 12:56 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    I have never been one of those types who send out Christmas cards on a regular basis or, for that matter, on an irregular basis.

    Something about finding a suitable card, scribbling a suitably festive message thereupon, getting envelopes, getting stamps, the orgy of licking that ensues, the pasty mouth that makes it hard to swallow and causes you to imagine you have become transformed into an iguana, the trip down to the Post Office to stand in line and make sure you have weighed things correctly, all of this, well, has conspired to turn me into one of those 58-year-olds who eschews Christmas cardery of the Traditional Sort.

    But this year, thanks to technology, I have decided to send all my friends in the USMS greater swimming community not one (1), but two (2), count them! two (2) Christmas cards.

    Christmas Card Greetings No. 1:


    Jim uses an open fire to burn the hair off a monkey prior to machete chopping it into body parts for boiling in a Christmas cauldron! Here's wishing that your Traditional Christmas Feasting Foodstuff o' Choice does not have fingerprints, which makes swallowing difficult.

    I am hoping that this first Christmas card--a traditional favorite of mine--will serve more than just to put you into an appreciative mood regarding the astringent cold waves that are now gripping much of the east coast. I hope, as well, that it will help to jump start the inevitable diet that comes in the wake of Yuletide cookies-marinated-in-nog overindulgence.

    Christmas Card Greetings No. 2:



    Here is a homemade greeting card that invites a certain amount of mental interactivity. Enjoy piling on additional clothing until even the vaguest trace of my hidden existence becomes an unsustainable article of faith!

    And finally...

    This morning's anecdote retold as a Christmas story:

    Lefty the Christmas Pug

    Here are our two pugs, Lefty and Biscuit, playing with Mollie Nadler a few weeks ago (Mollie was doing some house painting and took a break to play with the dogs.)



    Sorry for tilt here. I can't figure out how to fix it. That said, Mollie does look better in the horizontal position.

    About three weeks ago, on the coldest night of the winter up till that point, I fed Lefty and Biscuit their dinners outside and left for swimming practice, confident my sons would let the little pugs in from the dark, cold night and the surrounding forest in which bobcats and coyotes are rumored to prowl.

    When I got back from swimming practice, Lefty--the plump male pug--was indeed in his spot in the kitchen, gnawing on a ham bone. But Biscuit, the lithe female pug, was not in her usual spot, that being the heating register where she regularly stokes herself with hot forced air.

    I went outside into the previously described night and called for her. Unfortunately, her hearing is not that great these days, and no manner of shouts or whistles managed to summon her.

    I called both sons on their respective cells--they had gone out to respective friends' houses--and asked them where Biscuit was. They both told me they had searched for her to no avail.

    Lefty, the amiable but dumb pug, began begging for a dog treat. He is an adorable dog, but can be pretty annoying what with his insatiable appetite for food, and his nearly endless whimpering cries and beseeching for same!

    "Lefty," I said, "how is it that you are here and Biscuit is out there somewhere, possibly being eaten? I thought she was the smart one, and you the dumb one, but here you are, and who knows where she is?"

    We went out looking for her. I put on my headlamp and bushwhacked through the dark woods above our house, but to no avail, Lefty all the while at my heels. Then we reversed course and headed into the dark woods beneath our house. At one point, I could no longer see Lefty and feared that he, too, might be lost.

    Finally, I managed to find Lefty, but his little female bride remained irretrievable.

    Lefty and I went home, hungry and disconsolate, respectively.

    It was so bitterly cold out!

    I tortured myself with images of poor little Biscuit out there in the night, a smart and keen eyed pug whose greatest pleasure in life--more so even than food and treats--was her perch by the heating register.

    I fell asleep, depressed, already in a state of pre-mourning.

    Sometime around 4 a.m., I awoke and went downstairs to check the three doors to our house, hoping against hope Biscuit had somehow made her way back and was patiently shivering in wait to be let in.

    Front door? No Biscuit!

    Patio door? No Biscuit!

    Kitchen door....but no sooner had I entered the kitchen, which serves by night as our pugs' bedroom, than I saw not one (1) but two (2) pugs in their twin pug beds!!!!

    Biscuit was home and back inside!

    In the morning, I learned from my older son Ben that when he got home at 3 a.m., Biscuit was waiting by the back door, and he let her in.

    Safe and sound!

    Flash forward approximately three weeks to this very morning, Dec. 16h, 2010. My younger son Jack, now a high school senior and future Tarheel (accepted yesterday via early decision to his top choice, U. North Carolina-Ashville!), needed a ride to school.

    We put the pugs outside and drove down to Leetsdale, locus of Quaker Valley High School, at 7:30 a.m.

    I was back home by 7:45, and as I drove up the driveway, I beeped the horn several times to alert the pugs that I was back, that it was time for them to gather at the homestead, and that I would feed them their breakfast.

    The temperature was 12 degrees F.

    The pugs did not answer the beep.

    They were not in their Dogloo outside.

    I could not find them shivering in the garage.

    Nowhere!

    The beloved pugs, on the new coldest morning of the year, one week and one day before Christmas, were gone!

    I whistled and yelled for them, to no avail. I went inside and started making coffee. Sometimes, I think they can smell the coffee brewing and know that their breakfast cannot be far behind once this olfactory stimulus hits the air.

    And like clockwork, I soon heard an insistent scratching of pug nails against frigid aluminum! They were back, robustly alive, uneaten by either coyotes or bobcats!

    But when I threw open the door to see what was accounting for all the clatter, there was only one (1) not two (2) pug dogs there to greet me!

    A shivering Lefty, who immediately began his pleading intercessions for victuals.

    I let Lefty in and he begged even more frenetically.

    "Where's Biscuit, Lefty?" I asked him, the entire horror-show of three weeks ago back in a flash of deja vu misery!

    Lefty replied" "Rrrreee yelpppp roofffff arrrryllllll arrrppp!"

    Then he stamped his little feet in a food frenzy dance and began to yawn boisterously in a fashion my wife has taught him. It is adorable to hear him yawn in this desperate way--a signal that usually nets him food.

    Hopeless, I said to Lefty, "I know you are a little dumb, Lefty. And I do not believe this will get through that thick occipital bone that cradles your brain pan. But please!

    "Find Biscuit. Find Biscuit. Find Biscuit."

    And then I sent him back outside without food. I imagined he would just hover by the door and start scratching it again to be let in. But to my amazement, Lefty trotted off with what almost seemed like purpose.

    Two minutes later, the scratching renewed. When I threw the door open to let him back in, I was absolutely astonished to see not one (1) but two (2) pug dogs waiting patiently to be let in!

    Perhaps it was coincidence, Perhaps Biscuit chose this very moment to come back, completely independent of any search party efforts on Lefty's part.

    But I don't think this was the case.

    I think Lefty did, indeed, find Biscuit.

    I think Lefty is, indeed, smart after all!

    It is, I am convinced, a True Christmas Pug Miracle!

    I fed them a fine bowl of assorted meats and meat byproducts followed up by dog treats for them both!

    They are now downstairs cuddled together by the heat register, taking a long winter's nap.

    And I, for the first time in many, many a year, find myself in something that faintly borders the Christmas spirit!

    May all my swimming friends capture a similar sentiment this season as well! Here's wishing you all a faint bordering brush with the Christmas spirit!

    Updated December 16th, 2010 at 02:00 PM by jim thornton

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  5. Drop till you stop

    by , December 21st, 2010 at 07:13 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    As regular vlog viewers know, I rarely write about swimming workouts in this presumably swimming-workout-related venue.

    But today I am making an exception because I think I may just possibly have invented the best fat-burning, conviviality-promoting, civilized-Christmas-Eve, reduced-hours-at-the-Y, practice ever!

    A preamble:

    On Friday, Dec. 24th, the Sewy Y, my home stomping grounds/salmon spawning stream/Amish mudhole frolicking spot 'o choice whenever the cost of gasoline rises above $1.97 a gallon, is going to be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This means our normal Friday night practice is canceled, and those of us who want to swim it anyhow must try to grab a lane with the rest of the unwashed throng of noodling humanity.

    I plan to get to the pool at the nanosecond it is open and secure a lane for myself and possibly adjacent lanes for B and C swimmers I am hoping will join me in this, the best fat-burning, conviviality-promoting, civilized-Christmas-Eve, reduced-hours-at-the-Y, practice ever!

    The plan, which I am in the process of heavily promoting on Facebook, will be for many swimmers, not just from our Y, but from surrounding Y's that are home to no shortage of novelty stimulus females (hopefully, photos to come; stay tuned with crossed fingers), anyhow, one and all are invited to come swim the practice, followed by...

    A late breakfast and/or early lunch at our restaurant, The Old Economy Cafe, 1198 Merchant Street, Ambridge, PA 15003, home of the best darned sticky toffee muffins in Christendom!

    With luck, people will be pleasantly relaxed, not overly strained to the point of nausea, but well-exercised enough to have inflamed appetites and a very strong sense of entitlement eating following the best fat-burning, conviviality-promoting, civilized-Christmas-Eve, reduced-hours-at-the-Y, practice ever!.

    Okay, here it is. Note: I am dividing it into A, B, and C workouts, with A being people who can reliably hold a 1:20 pace per 100 SCY for an hour or so; B reliably hold this at, say 1:40; and C closer to a 2:00 or higher pace.

    If it looks easy to you, that's because it is easy, at least for a good long while!

    Warm up
    A: 10 x 100 on 1:30 relaxed
    B: 8 x 100 on 1:45 "
    C: 6 x 100 on 2:05.

    Relax, regroup, socialize, and wait until the next reasonable "top" to start the next thing. Since I will be repeating this "relax, regroup, socialize, and wait" quadro-exhortation between every set to follow, let us, for the sake of brevity, abbreviate it at RRSW.

    Note: abbreviation should not in any way be construed as grounds for denigrating what each of these letters stands for. Each letter, indeed, needs to be taken very seriously if one is to truly reap maximum benefits from my best fat-burning, conviviality-promoting, civilized-Christmas-Eve, reduced-hours-at-the-Y, practice ever!

    Let us review:

    R, or Relax. Shake your muscles lightly. Luxuriate in their loose litheness. See if you can get your triceps to flap loudly against your rib thingies.

    R, or Regroup. The point of regrouping is to allow everyone, from speed demons to laggards, to start again from the same spot in time--the top, i.e., the 60, where for precisely one nanosecond everyone, me, Michael Phelps, Johnny Weismuller, Eney, Dr. Kurt Dickson, Bill, Leslie, the whole shooting match! where all of us are one big happy fraternity-sorority of identically gifted swimmers with exactly the same time in whatever event we are about to commence, that time being O.

    S, or socialize. Discuss current events, Jim's health insurance woes, mildly ribald comments involving novelty stimulus females and Jeremy Cornman, Christmas puddings, upcoming dreams, how many eggs we will be ordering in our fritattas, in short, anything and everything that allow us to feel as one with the multiarmed and multilegged millipedial swimming organism that is we practicers at the pool right here and now, at this very moment, all for one, and one for all!

    And finally, W, or wait: do not ejaculate yourself prematurely from the wall of the pool, take your time, let your huffing and puffing abate a bit, and only then, when Jim in lane A signals that it is this top, this very one, when the red thing stands completely erect and points to the 60, then and only then begin the next set.

    Which is...

    A: 5 x 100 on 1:45
    B: 4 x 100 on 2:00
    C: 3 x 100 on 2:15

    I know! A luxurious amount of rest! Too much rest? Perhaps! Perhaps not! It is what it is.

    And immediately follow into another round of serious RRSW.

    Followed by:

    A: 5 x 100 on 1:40
    B: 4 x 100 on 1:55
    C: 3 x 100 on 2:10

    And then RRSW

    Continue to follow the same pattern--i.e., 5, 4, or 3 x 100s, dropping your respective intervals by 5 seconds on each successive set, with RRSW in between, until...

    You can no longer make it!

    I anticipate for A, the "you can no longer make it" point might well arrive at the 5 x 1:10 or 1:15 point for me; and the 5 x 1:05 or 1:10 for Bill.

    But do you stop when you can no longer make it?

    No! That is just one of many beautiful elements of this workout! You do not stop, you simply subtract a length and continue.

    So, say I cannot hold 5 x 100 on 1:10, that I miss, say, the second or third one. At this point, I simply switch to 75s and keep on going.

    A reprieve! 75s on 1:10 are child's play compared to how hard Bill must work to continue with his 100s on the same 1:10!

    RRSW then drop 5 more seconds--

    Now I am doing 5 x 75s on, say, 1:05.

    And on and on till eventually, perhaps around the :45 or :50, I can no longer make the 75s.

    Solution? Drop the distance once more.

    RRSW followed by 5 x 50s on :45, then :40, then :35, then....

    Time to drop to 25s!

    Eventually, when we get to the 10 second interval, even Bill will have trouble holding 25s, and practice will finally be over.

    At which point it will be time for a steam bath with all sorts of novelty stimulus females obscured in the hot fog, inviting your mind to run riotous, then off to the Old Economy Cafe for food-based entitlement RRSW of the very top caliber ever!

    Join us, won't you?

    Sewickley YMCA, 10 a.m., Friday, Christmas Eve! If you have a Y card and a picture i.d., you can get in free. If you don't have a Y card, the guest fee is a pricey $10, but worth every penny for the best fat-burning, conviviality-promoting, civilized-Christmas-Eve, reduced-hours-at-the-Y, practice ever!

    Did I mention novelty stimulus females?
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  6. Don't Forget My Senior Discount

    by , December 28th, 2010 at 10:28 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    1. Don't Forget My Senior Discount



    2. Business Idea Free for Taking

    You have probably heard of Vampire Drains in terms of energy usage. Here is a great little graphic illustrating the concept --

    (you can find the original at
    http://awesome.good.is/transparency/...ireenergy.html ):




    The constant low-grade suckage of standby appliances does indeed cost a lot of moolah over the years, but I think an even greater source of Money Suckage is the financial world in general, something that the great Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone so famously described in his article on the greatest suck agent of all, Goldman Sachs:

    The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who's Who of Goldman Sachs graduates.

    I was surveying my impossible bill situation today and realized how many things I have allowed to accumulate on a kind of autopilot basis. Cell phone service for more minutes than I could possibly use, texting and video messaging I rarely use, and so forth; the constant up-creep of Comcast TV, phone, and Internet stuff; my son's subscription to X-Box Live, whatever that is, which seems to contribute $24.99 per quarter into Bill and Melinda Gates respective purses, which I am pretty sure have been made from the stretched scrotums of Microsoft workers who did not make their quota of bad service; magazine subscriptions I never ordered but show up at my door anyhow, like Russian proletarians at Dr. Zhivago's summer home http://www.imdb.com/media/rm721390848/tt0059113; various local tax payments you don't actually owe but would take up so much of your time proving you don't owe them that you are better off just paying; Netflixx subscription that you haven't used for quite some time; various overdo library book fines; etc.

    So anyhow, here is my business idea for anyone who wants to turn it into a money maker: come in and straighten up all these useless money leaks, and I will give you 10 percent of all the money you save me!


    I will also write you a testimonial. You can use this to get ten more happy clients, and ten more glowing testimonials.


    By this point, you will have learned where all the long hanging fruit is and come up with ways to easily handle this sort of money draining stuff.


    Soon, you will be killing the vampire financial drains of millions of people, and netting a happily paid 10 percent of all this money you have saved!


    Just watch out for people who wear hats like mine (Where the **** is My Senior Discount?) because we vote for people who won't like your business and will try to put you out of it.


    But I am rambling.


    We old fellows do ramble. That we do.


    3. Last Sewy Practice of the Year

    I apologize for not being able to turn off the italics here. After I italicized Matt Taibbi's quote at the outset of 2. Business Idea Free for Taking, I can't seem to get the italics to stop. I can bold things. I can even underline them. Change colors. Alter font Sizes. Even do a mix and match of all of these.

    But I can't turn off the damn-your-eyes italics. Which, when you think about it, is pretty much a metaphor for the accumulation of little niggling obnoxiousnesses that will be the death of me!

    But again I ramble.


    After last Friday's hyper successful Christmas Eve swimming practice at the Sewickley YMCA, I am proposing to do a kind of Redux version this Friday, New Year's Eve.




    Swimming coach Bill and shy actor, Mark Cox, attempt to restrain Jim when the palsies strike in the middle of the Christmas Eve 2010 5K. This happens occasionally, most likely because of the pool chemicals. Note: These and the two following pictures by the magnificent photographer, Go the Distance Phenom,
    John Kuzmkowski ( M56 AMAM 561.03 miles as of this posting)





    A very cold novelty stimulus female, Lisa Morrell, attempts to get used to our fetidly hot Amish mudhole swimming conditions. Watch out for crawdads, Lisa!



    The beauteous lithe former novelty stimulus female swimmer Jocelyn Cornman, wife of Jeremy and part of the marital Kona Triahtlon Finishing Family. Jocelyn bedazzled us all when she started swimming. But novelty, alas, wears off. She is now old hat to us, but the good thing for most viewers of my vlog who don't know Jocelyn, she is not by any means old hat yet for you! Grade AAA novelty stimulus. (Regular viewers may recall Jocelyn starred in one of my Polar Bear swimming videos of yore, performing a very spirited girl-on-girl scissoring on the frozen beach. But you need not tell me! I am rambling again.)

    THIS JUST IN!!! Swim Photographer extraordinaire, John Kuzmkowski, has just sent me a freakishly rare photo of shy actor, Mark Cox, who has momentarily emerged from the shadows. This very handsome Captain of Industry lives in a household with one wife, three daughters, and an ever shifting array of the earth's loveliest au peres.

    He inhabits, in other words, an estrogenic fog chamber that has no doubt contributed to the softening and feminizing of his chiseled male features, producing that perfect icon of modern attractiveness for our era: the softer-sided caring man.

    Alas, craggy old get-off-my-lawn-and-give-me-money-now! buzzard types like me, once held in such reverential esteem by the distaff gender, have gone the way of the Cro Magnon Turok Son of Stone comic book characters upon whom we are based.

    Pity.

    Anyhow, here's Mark, whose blog Water Rat can be found here: http://forums.usms.org/blog.php?u=11850





    The self portrait atop this blog entry is like Old Man 2010. Who knows? Perhaps with luck and the rejuvenating powers of this practice I am about to invent, before our very eyes, I will begin 2011 like a Cute Little Baby in swaddling cloth, ready to attack the world with gusto again!

    So here is the basic idea.


    Start with the premise that the A swimmers can hold 1:20s per 100 for a relatively long period of time (we did 9 x 500 on 6:40 on Monday, for 4500 in one hour; I almost but not quite made it. It took me 61 minutes.)


    B, on the other hand, can hold 1:40.


    And C 2 or 2:10.


    So the practice is pretty much based on these intervals.


    Warm up

    A 10 x 100 on 1:30

    B 8 x 100 on 1:50
    C 7 x 100 on 2:10

    regroup


    the rest of the practice are harmonic variations on 5 x 200 for A; 4 x 200 for B; and 3 x 200 on C.


    A:

    repeat 5 times
    100 on 1:20
    2 x 50 on :40

    regroup


    repeat 5 times

    100 on 1:30

    2 x 50 on :35


    regroup


    repeat 5 times

    100 on 1:10

    2 x 50 on :45


    regroup


    repeat 5 times

    100 on 1:20

    2 x 50 on :40


    regroup


    10 x 50 on 1:00 Karmic Yoga Breath Control Cool Downs holding your breath on the 1st 25 while chanting the word "calm" and breathing ad libertam on the way back while chanting the world "peace"


    Total: 5,500 yards, or nearly exactly 5k for A


    B.

    repeat 4 times
    100 on 1:40
    2 x 50 on :50

    regroup


    repeat 4 times

    100 on 1:50
    2 x 50 on :45

    regroup


    repeat 4 times

    100 on 1:30
    2 x 50 on :55

    regroup


    repeat 4 times

    100 on 1:40
    2 x 50 on :50

    regroup


    10 x 50 on 1:00 (see above karmic cool down description)


    Total distance for B: 4,500 yards, or almost exactly 100 yards more than 4k


    C:

    repeat 3 times
    100 on 2:10
    2 x 50 on :1:05

    regroup


    repeat 3 times

    100 on 2:20
    2 x 50 on 1:00

    regroup


    repeat 3 times

    100 on 2:00
    2 x 50 on 1:10

    regroup


    repeat 3 times

    100 on 2:10
    2 x 50 on 1:05

    regroup


    8 x 50 on 1:15


    total for C: 3400 yards, or almost exactly 100 yards more than 3K

    Updated December 29th, 2010 at 09:52 AM by jim thornton

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  7. The Secret Lives of Twins

    by , December 30th, 2010 at 01:25 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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  8. There is superstition

    by , February 6th, 2011 at 06:00 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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  9. Albatross

    by , March 15th, 2011 at 03:31 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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  10. An albatross around one's neck...

    by , March 17th, 2011 at 03:06 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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  11. I know that I shall meet my fate

    by , April 15th, 2011 at 02:10 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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  12. Jimmy'z Jammerz Home Modeling Kit

    by , June 21st, 2011 at 10:45 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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  13. Four New Jimmy'z Jammerz and CremePuff's Debut

    by , June 23rd, 2011 at 10:01 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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  14. Vicissitudes

    by , July 12th, 2011 at 04:45 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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  15. Lefty Lazarus

    by , July 15th, 2011 at 11:30 AM (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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  16. friday and Saturday Swims

    by , July 24th, 2011 at 12:40 AM (Swimming, Life, and Other Stuff!)
    Friday Solo @ Carmel Aquatic Center in scy:
    **500 Freestyle swim
    **10 X 50 Free Drill/Swim (1-arm / fist / finger drag / catch-up)
    **Broken 1650 (11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1) rest :20 through 7 and :10 for the rest.
    **10 X 50 Kick @ 1:00
    **100 IM easy and out.
    Carmel is getting drained and cleaned so this was my last swim there till August 8th. I hate losing a pool!
    [B][U]Saturday [U][B]w/buddies at the Monon Center:
    **200 Swim / 200 Kick / 200 Pull / 200 Swim
    **300 Swim / 300 Kick / 300 Pull
    **4 X 200 Pull @ 3;30
    **3 X 150 Free Pull @ 2:15
    **2 X 100 free @ 1:40
    **1 X 50 Pull
    **10 X 50 Kick @ 1:00 mixed
    **8 X 25 iMO @ :40
    ** 4 X 100 IM

    4,300 scy

    I just returned home from the new Tom Hanks movie; It was a "slice of life" tale of an 'out of work" man who ends up with more than just a new job and education!
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  17. Revolutionary Aqua Shoe Glove

    by , July 24th, 2011 at 12:41 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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  18. 100-meter pool

    Last night I had another fun pool tourism outing—this time up to Crotona Park pool in the Bronx. This is another of NYC’s sprawling WPA-era pools. It dates from 1936, and measures a whopping 330’ x 120’, with varying depth of up to 4 feet. It’s a bit of a hike to get to, but it was worth the trip. I met friends Hannah and Kathleen up there, and we had the whole pool to ourselves for the evening lap swim, from 7-8:30. There were more lifeguards than swimmers!



    Hannah has an amazing streak going—she made a New Year’s resolution in January of 2010 to do at least 2 lengths of butterfly at every swim workout, and has kept it ever since. Things get a bit harder in the summer, with lcm lengths instead of scy ones, but she’s proved up to the challenge. Last night’s super-duper-long-course pool seemed daunting, though, so she proposed starting off with the fly to get it out of the way. Here’s what we did:

    400 s-d-lcm broken IM (chat / breathing break at walls)
    400 broken rev. IM (ditto)

    One interesting feature of the Crotona pool are the two pyramid-shaped structures situated in the middle. Our next few sets took advantage of this:

    200 figure-eight swim around the pyramids

    2 x 100 close-eyed FR swim [This was to see if we went straight—with such a long pool and nobody besides ourselves to run into (yes, we did), it seemed like a good opportunity. I opened mine to check halfway through the first length—perfect! Filled with overconfidence, I then proceeded to veer off 45 degrees on the next 50---I grazed a pyramad after almost clearing the far side of it. The return trip was better.]

    2 x 100 sprint set (easy from walls to pyramids, sprint between pyramids)

    200 warmdown

    (That workout looks short, but there was a lot of chatting between swims, plus a fair amount of admiring the moon and the surroundings, so it took us about an hour.)

    This morning I did an uneventful workout at Riverbank pool.

    Tomorrow I’m swimming a series of races (3-mile, 1.5-mile, 0.5-mile) in Lake Quassapaug in Connecticut. This will be my first time there—I’ve always heard fun things about these swims, and am looking forward to going.

    Happy holiday weekend everyone!
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  19. More pool tourism

    To mark the end of summer we had a final outing of the pool tourism club—this time to the Red Hook pool in Brooklyn. It’s another of the 10 NYC public pools originally opened in 1936, and has similar dimensions to the 100 pool I swam in on Thursday—this one is 330’ x 130’, with a maximum depth of 4’. It also features those odd pyramids sprouting up in the middle of the pool. After our swim today, I noticed a 1950s-era picture of the pool in the lobby that showed these as circular ledges that bathers could sit or stand on, and jump or dive from—I think they were topped with pyramids sometime since then for safety’s sake.

    Getting to the Red Hook pool isn’t straightforward—there are no subway stops right near there—but it has become easier since an IKEA store opened on the Red Hook waterfront several years ago. Today I was able to take a Water Taxi ferry from lower Manhattan to the IKEA store, then walk several blocks to the pool from there. On the way I saw a sign for a cow crossing—not something you see every day here in the city.




    The good thing about Red Hook is that there are designated lap swim lanes set up all day long. At most city pools you have to hit the morning or evening lap swim hours if you want to actually swim. At Red Hook the lanes are set up the short way, so each length is about 40 meters long, rather than 100m. There are no lane lines, so swimmers tend to regard the black lines on the bottom as lane dividers, and circle swim between rather than around them. My group of 4 shared a lane with a couple of other polite swimmers for most of our session. Here’s what we did:

    400 mcm (medium-course-meters) warmup

    80 dolphin dives
    80 breaststroke

    80 one-armed fly, alternating arms
    40 fly
    40 one-armed fly, alternating arms
    40 FR with dolphin kick
    40 BK with dolphin kick
    40 corkscrew with dolphin kick

    40 breaststroke, alternating 3 strokes w/ dolphin kicks 3 w/BR kick
    40 twirly breaststroke
    80 BK/BR

    320 FR catch’em swim (swim until first swimmer catches last)

    (I’m probably leaving out about 4 x 40 other drills/play I can’t remember)

    320 warmdown
    80 dolphin dives

    Then we got out, visited the sprinkler area (those were cold—no wonder no kids were playing in them!), then got dressed and headed over to the food trucks.

    As wonderful as the pool was, the food trucks were actually what drew me to today’s outing—my friends had been exclaiming over the pupusas they ate out here since last summer. We found the right truck, and I ordered a couple. Pupusas are filled cornbread treat, and ours were served with a red cabbage slaw. I went for the plantain-cheese and the chicken varieties, and both were wonderful. A strawberry shake completed the food-truck feast. If triathlons were composed of swimming, eating, and napping, that would be my sport.

    It was a beautiful day and a fun outing with friends. I was glad to get in a final outdoor pool swim to celebrate the end of a nice summer.

    My last two outings have allowed me to add a couple more pools to my NYC list--here's the updated version (and thanks to pwb for the idea!):

    New York City pools I’ve swum at (asterisked = outdoor pool):

    Manhattan
    1. West Side Y (25 yd), W. 63rd between Bway and Central Park West
    2. West Side Y warm-water pool (20 yd?)
    3. Riverbank State Park indoor pool (50M), W. 138th Street on the Hudson
    *4. Riverbank State Park outdoor pool (25yds)
    5. Asphalt Green competition pool (50M), E. 91st and York
    6. Asphalt Green warm-water therapy pool (15m?)
    *7. Asphalt Green outdoor pool (25yd, now gone)
    8. John Jay College Pool (25y) 59th and 10th
    9. Baruch College Pool (25m) 24th and Lex
    10. City College pool (25y) W 145th and Convent Ave.
    11. Columbia University (25y) 116th and Bway
    12. NYU Palladium pool (25y x 25m) 140 E. 14th St.
    13. Vanderbilt YMCA (25y) 224 E. 47th
    14. Chelsea Rec Center (25y) W 25th between 9th and 10th
    15. New York Athletic Club (25y) Central Park South @ 7th Ave.
    *16. John Jay Park Pool (48y) E. 77th and York
    *17. Hamilton Fish park pool (50m) Pitt and Houston Streets
    18. Reebok Club pool (25y) 67th and Columbus
    19. Chelsea Piers (25y), W. 19th Street on the Hudson
    20. JJC pool (25y), 76th and Amsterdam
    21. Manhattan Plaza (25y), 43rd and 10th

    Brooklyn
    1. LIU—Brooklyn (25y) Flatbush and DeKalb
    2. St. Francis College pool (25y) Brooklyn Heights
    *3. Red Hook Pool (40m)

    Bronx
    1. Lehman College pool (50m)
    *2. Van Cortlandt Park pool (50m)
    *3. Corona Park Pool (100m)

    Queens
    1. Flushing Meadows Corona Park pool (50m)

    Staten Island
    1. Wagner College pool (25y?)
    *2. Lyons pool (50m)

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  20. Victory Most Glorious!!!!

    by , September 10th, 2011 at 05:36 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
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