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  1. Tatts I would get if I was a Tattist

    by , February 19th, 2009 at 07:31 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Perhaps you, like me, have been feeling a bit dour, or dower, today. Not terribly surprising--

    Perhaps you, like me, also live in a part of the country where the meteorological forces are similarly conspiring to dampen your joie de vivre, though I must say Pittsburgh might be hard to beat on this cold and gray front:

    (Note: I hear the Good Doctor Dickson saying that Salvation by Photons is an illusion; still, I must say that Death by Snowflake Burial is very real.)

    There is, of course, all manner of idiosyncratic misadventure, familial and/or employment social dysfunction, and other causes for grief we each, in our own circumstances, can ladle endlessly out of the tureen of life's bouillabaisse gone septic!

    Even the wicked, it's been suggested, get more than we deserve.

    Still, what is the point in stewing?

    One of the strategies very often suggested for extricating yourself from personal misery is to stop focusing upon yourself and instead do something nice for someone else. Call this selfishness via altruism.

    I am going to give it a whack and see if it helps.

    The other day, I happened across a potential new swimming friend of a swimming friend named Deborah Milan Brudvig, who only recently took up swimming. On the forums, her user name is SwimMuseDeb.

    Anyhow, I discovered that Deborah is, among other things, a cello teacher and an artist. In her Facebook info, it gave the site where some of her artwork is sold: SwimMuse

    Some of the stylized swimming designs really caught my eye--I think these are beautiful and capture the spirit of those who are able to flow like currents (see yesterday's vlog) in the Popovian waterworld.

    Here are a couple examples:

    Though I am not a tattoo kind of guy, plenty of my younger teammates are riddled with them--sharks, dolphins, carnations, etc. It occurred to me that if I were a tattoo kind of guy, I would definitely consider one of these slightly abstract designs.

    I contacted Deborah about this and told her I didn't know how she could possibly get any money for it, but perhaps anybody who wanted to use one of Deborah's designs could make a voluntary contribution, a la Freeware or Shareware programs that altruistic software designers bequeathe to us all.

    She said she wasn't a tattoo person either but would be happy for her work to reach a wider swimming audience.

    Anyhow, check it out. Anyone who draws swimmers by day and teaches cellists by afternoon has to be a good egg. Note: if you or someone you know does get a tattoo like any of these, please let Deborah and me know!

    Lordy, I am feeling better already.
  2. Rotator cuff areas of both my shoulders are very sore...

    I have a meet next Sat and don't know how much to practice. Monday I plan on making an appt. with an orthepedist and get a PT program going...but until then... What should I do about workouts? Should I go or rest? Please help rescue Flipper as she feels the presence of danger!!!

    Updated February 21st, 2009 at 09:40 AM by flippergirl

  3. Cliffhangers

    by , February 21st, 2009 at 04:05 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    The endgames cometh.

    In the next month or so, the following questions may or may not be answered, each of which is vitally critical to Jimby's welfare:

    1. Will he lose what little net "worth" he has left to the IRS?
    2. Will he get over his cold?
    3. Will his estrogen levels rise in a clinically significant way, and will he then sell video access to his moobs on the Internet to a wealthy subset of very peculiar fetishists?
    4. Will he act on an impulse, increasingly boisterous within his serotonin-depleted brain, that urges him to substitute one stubborn vice for an old relinquished one?
    5. Will he lose his job?
    6. Will he get the go ahead to write about masters swimming and perchance get to attend Y Nationals in Ft. Lauderdale and try to talk the B70 Corporation into lending him a suit?
    7. Will he be forced to sell his ancestral stomping grounds and boyhood home for worthless pennies on the even more worthless dollar?
    8. Will he grow a spine or continue to lose bone density here until the metamorphosis into an invertebrate is done?
    9. Will he figure out how to get Windows Movie Maker to work again on his computer so he can do piss poor video edting, which would at least allow him to vlog again?
    10. Will his brother John ever download the most recent batch of lugubrious footage he sent him and turn it into something amusing?
    11. Will he spell cliffhanger with two f's, i.e., the conventional way, or with one f, in deference to the soy-filled energy bars that are helping him to grow a pair of hirsute titulars?
    12. Will readership of the vlog continue its downwards trend as his fellow Americans, bloated with their own grief, tire of reading about his?
    13. Will he swim tomorrow's 1650 at CMU despite his head already swimming within its suffocating skullcap?
    14. Will he appear on Court TV after doing something, or some many things, decidedly ill-advised?
    15. Will he ever again smile and swagger and speak without a palsied twitching of the voice box?
    16. Will he end up in the one place he has always dreaded most, the Snake Pit, being administered to by nurse R?
    17. Will he go to his grave waylaid still in the one dimensionality of the first person?
    18. Will he keep the card house standing?
    19. Will he enjoy the “largely unanticipated delight in the suffering of another which is cognized as trivial and/or appropriate”--or will he find this cold comfort at best?
    20. Will he hang or drown or go the way of most?
    21. Will he get a PR again?
    22. Will he have his way with a CreamPuff like vision?
    23. Will he gain or lose his will?

    Well, will he?

    Stay tuned. The endgames cometh in Season 2 of Vlog the Inhaler: the Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton!

    Updated April 16th, 2009 at 10:37 AM by jim thornton

  4. Who's Your Trinidaddian?

    by , February 23rd, 2009 at 10:07 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    We all swim for different reasons.

    Yesterday, at the 1650 meet at Carnegie Mellon, I saw my old teammate from Team Pitt, the lovely and brilliant Mee Ra Ram Zook Singh (the last name pronounced like an exotic bird call: Ram Sook Sing!)

    Here is a picture that shows Mee Ra's motivation for this meet:

    Mee Ra, I should point out, is a descendant of former citizens of the island nation of Trinidad. She came to Pittsburgh to study neurobiology at the University, and then decided to double major in this subject plus German literature, with perhaps a snifter of Slavic languages thrown in for good measure.

    She taught me how to say my now deceased father's favorite tennis expression:

    Er, der ein Grab für andere graben würde, muss in ihm selbst liegen *

    He who would dig a grave for another must lie in it himself

    * I have lost Mee Ra's original, and better, translation and will have to ask her again. The above is from Babelfish, but I add it just to give you a sense of how my father hated it when an opponent on the tennis court tried trickery.

    Mee Ra knows more about CRF and glutamate in rat brains than any dozen other people I have met in my life put together.

    No wonder that I have trademarked a phrase to be used in conjunction with wonderful Meera-like individuals:

    Who's your Trinidaddian!!!???

    Anyhow, Mee Ra brought her camera to the meet, and I will paste in a few snaps of me, followed by a few snaps of her as a reward for those who must scroll past me to get to her:

    Jimby models the 2009 T-shirt. He did not understand the design till someone explained it was the lap counter doohickey thing, double orange signifying the last length to go, staring back at you with not exactly sinister eyes.

    On the back of the T-shirt, the meet record holders are honored with their times and age groups. This is the only T-shirt in the history of Thorntondom with the name Jim Thornton on it whereby said T-shirt is actually likely to be worn by people not exclusively named Jim Thornton.

    Hope springs eternal. Last year, when Jimby swam the same event at CMU, his time would have made the TOP 10, but alas the meet was not sanctioned by USMS so his accomplishment evaporated into the ether. This year, his slower time is very, very unlikely to make the TOP 10, but it would have squeaked in last year, so he fills out the paperwork necessary to get credited for what is likely to be, at best, a TOP 17 placement.

    Lovely rat brain scientist "who's your Trinidaddian?" Slavic vodkaphile, Mee Ra, does an excellent impression of Latika from Slumdog Millionaire.

    Who's Your Trinidaddian, indeed????

    Mee Ra lookalike and Gunga Jimby wannabe before the Polish Vodka celebration begins.

    Final super exciting Vlog promotional note for those who have waded down this far!!!!

    To wit, Thornton Twins Productions is thinking of starting a regular MUST SEE TV feature available only here on Vlog the Inhaler Video:

    Sunday Night Movie Feature Extraordinaire

    It was scheduled to premiere last night, but then we realized that the Oscars were on, and we didn't want to draw too many viewers away from the Industry with whom we have the same intense Love Hate relationship as a dependent infant who is A) starving and B) lactose intolerant has with the teat of a voluptuary.

    So, the premier of A Tale of Two Jimby's is being postponed till tomorrow night.

    Set your clocks and calendars, please!

    Sunday Night Movie Feature Extraordinaire

    officially premiers this Tuesday, February 24th, sometime most likely in the evening.

    Updated September 21st, 2010 at 06:03 PM by jim thornton

  5. Tuesday Edition: Sunday Night Movie Feature Extraordinaire

    by , February 24th, 2009 at 04:24 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Whereas I have written, or perhaps overwritten, the introductory section of my forthcoming treatise on soy and the quiveringly buxom male body....

    Whereas my gray matter, no doubt fast losing its myelin sheathing and hence less gray than once said matter was, needs recharging for tomorrow's continuing efforts...

    Whereas the superb PBS science show NOVA is broadcasting an episode, entitled "Rat Attack!", which I have been looking forward to watching for weeks now...

    Whereas this is being followed by a presidential address on the state of the US economy, an address that is likely to serve as a fitting sequel, "Rat Attack 2!"....

    Whereas I am still coming to grips with the noxious sequellae of a tidbit my accountant told me about the likely reason for my audit, this being that in the waning moments of the previous Administration, the IRS was instructed, in essence, to forget going after hedge funds, because these were too complicated to understand, but instead concentrate their rapacious siphoning efforts on little people with schedule C's because it is virtually impossible not to extract easy money here....

    Whereas my invitation to CreamPuff to share an In-n-Out experience at the next meet we both attend [ame=""]How do you recover after a meet? - U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums[/ame] has me so addled with anticipation of a positive reply and anxiety-riddled over the prospect of a restraining order....

    Whereas I managed to swim last night's entire workout of 500 warm up, 10 x 100 on 1:25, 4 x 100 on 1:20, 5 x 200 on 2:40, 2 x 500 on 6:40, 2 x 100 on 1:15, and 1 x 100 cool down on 1:30 without missing any send offs...

    Whereas the sun is finally out and I can at last feel that A Tale of Two Jimbys is not 50 percent fraudulent...

    I herewith premier the first of the Thornton Twins Sunday Night Movie Feature Extraordinaire:

    A Tale of Two Jimbys

    A humble little filmic homage to one Mr. Charles Dickens, another scrivener (albeit infinitely more successful) who, like me, wrote for money and vlogged for love...

    [ame=""]YouTube - Hoop Dee Doo with jim Thornton[/ame]
  6. Jim de la Selva

    by , February 25th, 2009 at 10:51 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)

    A very short vlog tonight. Tired from practice:

    400 warm up
    10 x 100 on 1:40, evens IM
    6 x 50 fly :55
    6 x 50 back :55
    6 x 50 breast :55
    6 x 50 free :50, first one no breaths; 2-6 1 breath down, 2 breaths back
    1 x 200 alternating free and back easy
    1 x 200 IM hard (2:33 for me)
    1 x 100 cool down
    steam bath
    fried six Wallapa Bay oysters (those giant pacific kind) in vegetable oil and butter; ate them with bread, lemonade, and then some Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream with organic raspberries and extra creamy Redi Whip, followed by medications...

    Also tired from writing about a curious case of soy protein induced gynecomastia in a retired attack helicopter pilot.


    It occurred to me when I recently inventoried the Many Faces of Jim--Jimby, Master Jimmy, Golden Boy, Jamesuardo, Spunky Po'Boy McPunkerton, etc.--that I left out perhaps the most complimentary moniker I have ever been given.

    Here is a brief excerpt from a story I wrote 8 years ago for National Geographic Adventure magazine on the time I traveled to the Equadorian Amazon for training at La Escuela De Contrainsurgencia De La Selva--i.e., jungle soldiering to keep the F.A.R.C. over in nearby Columbia where the kidnapping bastards belong....


    At breakfast on my final morning at La Escuela, I sat with Lt. Colonel Bravo and Capitan Freddy in the Casino, a gigantic domed officers’ mess that resembles a modern church and was built as a largely unwanted gift to the military by petroleum interests. Bravo, who looks a little like a mustached Raul Julia, had just outlined our upcoming itinerary: a couple days on real patrol with BOES-60 troops near the Colombian border, and then off on our own for the trip to Huaorani land, deep in Yasuni National Park and far from any possibility of military protection.

    “The principle thing,” he told me in heavily accented, deadpan English, “is theese. Do you have insurance?”

    “Do not worry, Jim,” Freddy added quickly. “You are equal to Schwarzenegger now. Do you know theese TV show we have down here, Jim de la Selva? Eees about English man who lives in the jungle. I think you are now the real Jim de la Selva.”

    The complimentary moniker was just starting to take hold when my eyes happened to spy a photo in the morning newspaper, El Comercio. It showed an Indian police investigator holding three spears found at a murder scene in the Oriente. I asked Freddy to translate the accompanying article, the gist of which was this: members of the Tagaeri tribe, a renegade offshoot of the Huaoranis who have refused all contact with the “civilized” world, had just assassinated two Quichewa Indians who unknowingly wandered into Tagaeri territory. The first victim, a 60-year-old man, was lanced with thirteen spears, his wife was then killed with four spears inserted in such a way that she was found still standing in death. Their five-year-old grandson survived the attack by hiding in the vegetation. He told authorities that he witnessed “several naked people” kill his grandparents.

    This was by no means the first time Tagaeri have resorted to murder to defend their territory against encroachment by cowore, their term for outsiders. The tribe made international headlines in 1987 after assassinating Spanish missionary Alejandro Labaka and Colombian nun Ines Arango, lancing them both with a bevy of 13-foot, triangular-cut spears designed, like military bayonets, to inhibit clotting and promote fast blood loss. A one-time victim of Brookside Bible Summer Camp myself, I’m sure part of me might once have admired the Tagaeris spunk--that is, from the safety of the United States.

    “Where we’ll be going with Stalin after the patrol,” I asked Freddy, “is it close to Tagaeri territory?”

    “Si,” he said, nodding with confident nonchalance. “Eees cerca, muy cerca. But there is no problem, no is danger for you.”

    “Why not?” I asked, emboldened by his apparent confidence and figuring he knew something I didn’t.

    “Because,” he said, “you are Jim de la Selva.”
  7. Player-Coach Resurrection

    by , February 27th, 2009 at 05:29 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Thanks to his wife Colleen's good luck at winning an office lottery, where the grand prize is a weekend retreat at a local resort, our regular coach Bill is not going to be at practice tonight.

    This has left an opening for me to resume my erstwhile position as beloved Player-Coach of yesteryear's Sewickley YMCA Sea Dragons, Aging Division.

    Actually, Bill said he could leave a workout unless someone else wanted to write one, and before anybody else could object or emit a peep, I said, "Me! Me me me!"

    Unlike a "professional" or "paid" or "respected" coach of the sort that wins "USMS Coach of the Year" "honors" or avoids being "fragged" by his "swimmers" or "shivved" in the "showers," we Player Coaches have our own way of writing workouts.

    I shall write tonight's practice right now, and show you our technique while doing so.

    Really, it's not that hard.

    I quickly consult my voluminous library of swimming manuals, cross referenced according to energy systems and training volumes indexed according to different phases of the microcycle within the current macrocycle.

    Three to seven seconds later, I am thinking: Are you out of your mind?

    Practice starts in an hour, and just trying to remember the definitions of all this physiological gobbledegook--Krebs Cycles this, intensity coefficients that--is so far beyond my soylient green-fed brain as to be laughable.

    I laugh.

    I decide to rely on the thing that made me such an emininently forgettable coach in yesteryear: my intuitive feel for what we swimmers need. Well maybe not we swimmers, exactly.

    Consideration No. 1: Ask yourself, what do I feel like I need to accomplish in swimming tonight?

    It might be nice to wake up a little, but to do this in such a way as to not make it hard to fall asleep later tonight.

    It might also be nice to allow the stretched and cranky cartilaginous sinews in my right shoulder and left knee, respectively, settle down.

    We have a meet on Sunday, and I signed up for the 100 IM, 50 and 100 fly, and 25 something, breaststroke maybe? Anyhow, no point in swimming these things tonight. Gotta rest up the various micromuscles involved with the off strokes, as I like to call them: fly, back, and breast.

    I need, in other words, the taper equivalent of a farmer rotating his crops. We planted sorghum, cranberries, and alfalfa on Wednesday and Thursday. Tonight, it's time to go back to planting petunias, that is to say, freestyle.

    It is also Friday, and Friday is sprint night. 100s freestyle seem kind of long to sprint. They actually seem absurdly long. 25s might be good, but you really do have to sprint a 25. I mean it's hard to fool anyone doing a half-assed 25 freestyle and trying to pass it off as a sprint.

    The good player-coach, like the good Lt. fresh out of the military academy and shipped to Nam, needs to lead by example. Otherwise, the odds of getting fragged by the troops, or shivved by the swimmers behind you in your lane, go way up.

    Don't I know it!

    The last time I player-coached a sprint practice, it seemed like it would take forever for the stab wounds in my feet to heal.

    Okay, so 50s it is. Or, more grammatically, 50's it are. Or, even more grammatically, 50's they are.

    With this settled, we come to...

    Consideration No. 2: Do you want to reinvent the wheel?

    Of course not!

    And with this in mind, I locate and copy a favorite 50 workout written by another coach, who actually is all the things I am not: professional, paid, respected, and--to add just one more characteristic to the list of attributes thatTeam Pitt's great masters coach, Jen Michaels, has that I do not--competent.

    Since Pitt has 1.5 hour practices, and we in Sewy get only 1 hour, I include much shorter warm ups and cool downs and just use in tact her main set:

    10 x 50 on 1:00 easy
    1 min rest

    8 x 50 on 1:00 odds easy, evens 200 pace +2 *
    1 min rest
    8 x 50 on 1:00 odds easy, evens 200 pace +1
    1 min rest
    8 x 50 on 1:00 odds easy, evens 200 pace +0
    1 min rest
    8 x 50 on 1:00 odds easy, evens 200 pace -1
    1 min rest
    8 x 50 on 1:00 odds easy, evens 200 pace -2

    1 x 200 on 4:00 ez cool down

    * divide your best 200 time by 4 to get your average 50. Example: if you swim the 200 on 2:00, your race pace 50s are :30. Your fast ones should thus be :32, :31, :30, :29, :28.

    I will let you know how it goes. Sewickley swimmers, with a few exceptions, have demonstrated an antipathy for math that would make the average 7th grade Airhead Sorority seem geekish in comparison.

    I preminisce no shortage of mayhem, especially in C lane, where the new-to-swimming triathletes are, under the best of circumstances, concentrated in an arrogant frothful cauldron of rudeness and disorder, as if they sense that learning to throw elbows and climb over one another in a frenzy is actually a better use of training time for their chosen sport than swimming itself.

    Just kidding guys!

    Really, put those shivs awy!

    I shall keep you posted.
  8. The Live Comedic Swim Stylings of Jim

    by , March 3rd, 2009 at 09:02 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    For those so lacking in impulse control that you simply cannot wait, go ahead and click the play button.

    However, you might want to first read the explanatory comments below, which may well enhance your viewing experience in a way similar to taking a college course in Classical Music can make it possible to sit through a concert without immediately succumbing to narcolepsy.

    [ame=""]YouTube - High Noon at the New Castle Y[/ame]

    Okay, I am assuming that if you have reached this point in today's vlog, you have not yet clicked the start button. You have wisely chosen to extend your pleasure by postpoining it!

    In the process, you have opted to become educated in the nuances of the admittedly palsied footage you are about to see and hear. Good for you! I, for one, am proud of you. I don't know if I personally could have resisted pressing the start button already myself. But I admire people like you who can!

    Let us begin with the Dramatis Personnae and Narrative Overview of our little drama, and so forth.

    The film opens with the protagonist, Jim "Aging Golden Boy" Thornton, now known behind his back simply as Jim "Fool's Golden Boy" Thornton, pointing out several of the features of the New Castle YMCA swimming facility--its five lanes, the narrowness of same, the impotent gutters that seem, if anything, more designed to augment rather than dampen waves, etc.

    What the film does not, in fact, cannot show is how hot the water is. During warm up, or perhaps more accurately, hot up, I felt like a queasy chunk of semi-digested flotsam in the belly of a dyspeptic whale.

    But just as such flotsam, under the right conditions, can be vomited out of the leviathan, found by explorers, gathered up and sold to the finest perfumeries in France, and end up converted into Chanel No. 5 and spritzed on the slender necks and elbow crooks of the world's most enticing would Jim "Fool's Golden Boy" Thornton make something magical out of the ambergris of his being...

    After the set up, we cut to the Men's 200 Freestyle Relay in the 180-219 additive man years division. The Sewickley YMCA has fielded many a glorious team in this legendary race since the circa 1982 founding of the Allegheny Mountain YMCA Masters Swimming Association, or AMYMSA (pronounced "Amy Missa")

    A quick check of the all-time Top 10 relay results clearly bears this out:

    Men 200 free.relay Total Age: 180-219

    1 SEWY Andre Weisbrod Jim Thornton Bill White Kevin Robertson18104-05CLAR1:39.16

    SEWY Bill White Dale Sirinek Jim Thornton Preston Test18011-02GRBG1:39.21

    SEWY Ronald Jacobs Jim Thornton Dick Lynn Andre Weisbrod18309-00SEWY1:39.71

    SH Robert Casey Bob Jenner Bill Herzer Gary Matyko18604-97CU1:41.03

    5 SEWY Ronald Jacobs Andre Weisbrod Dale Sirinek Jim Thornton19904-03CLAR1:41.90

    SEWY Andre Weisbrod Jim Thornton Bill White Dale Sirinek19604-04CLAR1:42.54

    Note 1. With the exception of SH, or South Hills, which placed 4th all time and which I have highlited in pink, SEWY, or Sewickley, has all but one of the top 6 all time finishes in our league. It is of some curiosity to note that all of these have occurred since the arrival of one swimmer in particular, who returned to his boyhood home of Sewickley from St. Paul, MN in 1995, like a magnificent male salmon who, despite prodigious quantities of milt, dodged grizzlies and powered up cataracts via powerful flicks of his tail flukes, to arrive at last upstream where he started.

    Note 2. I have taken the liberty of highlighting this one milt-laden salmonid-like swimmer in Royal Blue.

    Note 3. The relay swimmers in the video appear in the following order:

    1. Lead off: Bill White, 38. Adjective: Magnificent. Our team's coach, a harsh but lovable task master who is on almost as many of the Top 10 Relays as the individual highlighted in Royal Blue
    2. Next: Dan Nadler, 58. Adjective: Avuncular. Our team's absolutely brilliant and generous eye doctor, the former YMCA Pennsylvania state champion in the 14-15 age group (yes, they did have this age group 43-44 years ago when Dan's peri-pubertal morph emerged victorious in the York YMCA pool waters) is also the uncle (hence avuncular) of Mollie Nadler, who makes a to-die-for cameo later in the video
    3. Next: Jim Thornton, 56. Adjective: Spiritualeaderish. Your's truly, about whom if you do not yet know something, you are not keeping up sufficiently with this vlog. Of particular importance filmically: I am wearing a red swimming cap borrowed at the last minute from the lovely Jamie Heil [ame=""]U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums[/ame] of the Cranberry YMCA masters team. She leant it to me after I realized I had forgoten to bring a cap with me to the blocks.
    4. Anchor: Mark Cox, 40. Adjective: Dimpled. A new recruit to the Sewickley Y, Mark has been compared to Clark Kent by the young women on our team--a serious fellow with his glasses on, but once these are removed, his movie star good looks and high wattage amiability reveal an underlying superhero quality. Bequeathed his three gorgeous little daughters with dimples, too.

    Together, the four of us are much more than our individual parts. Together, we are one lean, mean 192-year-old man you do not want to mess with.

    The old record to beat: 1:39.16

    Splits in the relay:

    Coach Bill 23.49

    Uncle Dannny 26.94

    Golden Boy 23.87

    Mark the Coxman: 23.53

    Total: 1:37.83

    Record: Smashed so far beyond all recognition that even the Pittsburgh CSI had trouble identifying it.


    The film then cuts to my next event, the 50 yard butterfly. Narration for this scene is provided by the lovely Mermaid [ame=""]U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums[/ame] whom some of you may have met at last year's USMS convention and/or Albatross Meet. If so, I am sure you remember her. A forrmer Miss Teen Age Pennsylvania, it is fair to say she cuts an unforgettable figure in the minds of men.

    To my side is Coach Bill, who also flanked me during the later 100 yard butterfly swim. Unfortunately, Mermaid, who assured me that she would film this event too, got caught up in other activities when the time for the latter money shot came. How quickly the young girls forget your narrator Jimby's attempts to preserve his glory for posterity! It is as if they want absolutely nothing to do whatsover with anything involving my posterior!

    Oh, well. It's okay. My disappointing time in the 50 fly--27.78--allows for an easy DIY simulation of my 100.

    Simply watch the 50 in its entirety, rewind back to its start, pause exactly 5.24 seconds, then watch the 50 again.

    My time for the 100 was 1:00.80, and if the above math is correct [(2 x 27.78} + 5.24 = 1.00.80], the above should allow you to relive the experience vicariously down the the nearest hundredth of a second. Just make sure to time your blinking so it doesn't look like I get to dive twice, which I am pretty sure is a rule violation.


    This meet experience, especially the 100 fly that didn't get filmed, does give me hope that with a little more butterfly practice, I have a prayer of breaking a minute again in the 100 before I die.

    Hell, if I can secure financing out of TARP funds to pay for a B70, there's a good chance I can break :50.

    For those of you who love a good story of adversity overcome and impossible dreams realized, stay tuned.

    For the rest of you, I will try to get Mollie to make another cameo.

  9. Alternative You's

    by , March 4th, 2009 at 10:40 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Did you ever wonder what else you could have been had you taken other paths in life, made different choices here and there, pursued other career avenues, taken more or less or different risks, found refuge in a different set of arms, become a runner instead of a swimmer, etc.?

    As an identical twin, I have the ability to glimpse answers to such wonderings via the miracle of nature that is human cloning.

    To be sure, researchers now know that a variety of transcription factors can turn various genes on and off in complex ways mediated by the environment, so that identical twins slowly become less alike over the decades. Still, we started off with identical DNA, and even though it is likely that we are not currently expressing exactly the same complement of genes, we do represent something of a living laboratory for the study of a single organism taking two different paths in life.

    Those who know John and me also know that it is John who has blundered onto the better road, the high road, if you will, while I have meandered along the potholed low road, stumble-bumbling my way along, havoc and disharmony in my wake, like a comet's polluted tail, or, less grandiosely, the flatulent clouds that follow a nervous steer down the chutes of the abattoir.

    In tonight's vlog, I present my twin brother John's recent film wherein he reimagines a myriad of even more alternative routes he himself (and by extension, me, his trollish clone!) might have taken had we been born at different points in the history of art.

    John, as I think I may have posted somewhere earlier in the vloggish memoir, was a swimmer at one point in his life, a member of the Junior Varsity at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where his greatest athetic achievement was not so much as a swimmer but as the inventor of the game John Ball.

    Mitch Kupchack was one of many members of the Tarheels bball team to play John Ball, which involved a hand ball, the elevator banks at Granville Towers which housed the basketball team, and horrified co-eds, before the game was permanently banned from campus.

    Still, John's swimming accomplishments are no small matter. He still holds Thornton family records in the 100 freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly.

    That's neither here nor there, I suppose, at this stage of our lives. As indicated earlier, John's charming new film highlights many other scenarios that, as fate would have it, are also neither here nor there but quite possible could have been both here and there had we been here or there...

    We (and by we, I mean he) herewith presents more Alternative Us's to give you fodder for rumination about your own Alternative You's, and in so doing, find a portion of contentment in your actual lot:

    [ame=""]YouTube - John Thornton Takes You on a Wild Art History Tour![/ame]
  10. Last Goblet 'o Soy

    by , March 5th, 2009 at 10:42 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Tomorrow, I get my estrogen checked.

    I think we all are saying a silent prayer that the results turn out as God and the United Soybean Association and CremePuff hope they will, and not as a growing cadre of researchers, the Israeli Health Ministry, and one fired FDA whistle blower fear they might.

    In tonight's short film, you might detect a hint of lugubriousness. This, I cannot in all honesty blame on the soybean or its phytoestrogenic fungicidal contents, genistein, daidzen, and equone. There are, as always, other reasons for this dearth of mirth.

    In any event, I shall sign off forthwith to present what could be my final address as a normal man.

    Soon enough we shall know if Jimby the She-Male will be vlogging in the near future, and if same Jimby the She-Male will be lobbying USMS hard for the rights to swim in the female divison, 55-59 year old age group, and in so doing cream CremePuff in a way that the 100 percent male morph of Jimby could only dream of doing in the darkness of his private night.

    [ame=""]YouTube - Video 14[/ame]
  11. High Note On A Down Day--plus a Horror Movie!

    by , March 9th, 2009 at 09:38 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Thanks to the amazing Kristina Ulveling, AKA, CremePuff, who just alerted us FaceBookers that FINA has posted its 2008 Top 10 Masters Tabulations, I discovered that:

    A) Kristina did extremely well here, including some No. 1 in the World performances

    Kristina Ulveling, multiple world champion, resting in between "heats"

    B) Leslie also did extremely well, though not quite as well as the Puffster, but still really good

    The magnificent Leslie; if you squint and hope enough, you can almost convince yourself that is you reflected in her designer sunglasses. Almost!

    C) Soy Jimby also managed to make the Top 10 in the World in 4 separate events, including for the first time in recent memory, one involving non-freestyle.

    This sort of thing does not happen to me every day, so I am taking the liberty of posting my name in the actual tabulations for your perusal and admiration:

    Your vloggist places 6th in the World in the marquee event, the 100 meter freestyle

    He continues ascending the world hierarchy, making it to 5th in the World in the 200 free...then, alas, plateaus with a second 5th in the World in the 400 free...

    And finally, I managed to squeak in--10th place on the Planet known as Earth to you Earthlings--in the 400 IM. For what it's worth, this race was the first time in 3 or 4 years--and I am including practice here, not just meets--that I swam a continuous 100 butterfly...

    After a month of soy ingestion, Jim's resemblance to Ghandi-playing actor, Ben Kingsley, becomes impossible to ignore. Jim, too, tries to use a combination of non violent protest to beat his competitors in the pool.

    How soon will his soy ingestion finally get him the swimming world recognition as Outstanding Shim* Swimmer in the 55-59 age group, not including Laura Vall?

    Only time will tell. But here is a Thornton Brothers film that continues to make my case as one of the world's outstanding old Shims:

    (* Tom Patterson, AKA, tjrpatt, has very kindly explained to me in a previous comment that "Shim" is now the politically correct noun for us She-Males. I am so new to the community that I don't even know when I am accidentally insulting us! Sorry, guyals!)

    [ame=""]YouTube - Soymare on Elm Street[/ame]
  12. Appalachia Risin' and Mermaid Done it!

    by , March 10th, 2009 at 10:51 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    You probably did done yersefs some readin' bout analog boob tubes here'n the hollers and how folks in these here parts cain't get no recepshun now the gubbmint done gone messed with the airwaves and all that?

    Well, I ain't got no idea how she managed to git 'er done, but one of the loveliest little critters here in the cabbage patch o' AMAM finally done put us'n up to the Google and modern times.

    Some youns may 'a heared of our little Mermaid, one time MIss Teen PA, but hailin' back then from the central part of the state where inbreedin's not quite so intense.

    Let me post a couple photos here for your viewin' pleasure, courtesy of one fella out o' New York, who hired some other models who resemble our Mermaid quite a bit, though she is much too shy to appear here in person.

    Land o' Goshin'! I done raced myself plumb outa my britches!

    What the hell is that, Harlan? That don't look like no trout I e'er done saw!

    Now don't you go an tell Daisy Mae why I'm a fishin' this crick all the time, Jr.

    Unlike most of us in these here parts, who had the advantage of learnin' to swim in any neighborhood Amish mud hole or pig latrine, our little Mermaid is whatcha call an adult-onset swimmer. Hell, me and Billy boy, my coach, done taught her how to do a flip turn not more'n three years ago. At first, we just done it for sport, you know, cause she looked so cute sneezin' and snorflin' and such when her nose holes got all flooded up.But damn if the sweet young thing didn't take to the water like some kind of late-learnin' CremePuff or Fortress-style masters champ type prize-winnin' 4H quality swimmer. I suppose, comin' from the fancy pants East part of our state, York, the home of them peppermint patties and air conditioner units and all, where the girls get raised all sophisticated and lazy and like that, it just makes sense she's not the world's hardest workin' swimmer. I mean she does practice. A little here and there. In spurts and all. But damn that girl could be good iffn' she put her mind to it.

    But then again, who needs a mind bein' put to it when you got yourself a siren call.

    Leastways, that's what I'm a thinkin' to my dumb self when I get, like some kind of fireball bolt out of the dadgum blue yonder, word that Mermaid figgered out the Google and took our swimmin' region to whole wide webby world.

    Check us out! We aint no second best no more to them irradiated billies down in Tennessee, buggin' the TVA about their nucular plants no more!

    We be the proudest bunch of inbred mountain folks in the union these days, mercy me, thanks to that fancy little Mermaid and her tech-know-logical savvy.

    Check us out then drop her a kindly word of praise and thanksgiving for bringing the attention of the whole goshdiggitydarn US of ****in' A to our backwater chain o' mud holes at long, long last! Praise be!

    (Note: after checkin' out the spankin' new Allegheny Mountain Masters official USMS site, you can send Mermaid a kindly word by clicking here:

    I honestly wish you would, cause she worked real hard without no money, and as a selfish person myself, I gotta say the folks who give back gotta be encouraged for their good works, cause the rest of us don't want that well runnin' high and dry.)

    --Jim Bob, your landlocked seafood lover who's bout to have his house taken over by the Internal Revenuers and will be in necessity of all the kindness of strangers he can squeeze outa 'em his ownsef.

    Updated March 10th, 2009 at 10:59 PM by jim thornton

  13. It's not over til the fat lady sings

    by , March 10th, 2009 at 11:27 PM (Chicken's Nuggets)
    This is more of a cry for help than a blog.

    I'm doing a lot of long pool and OW swimming at the moment. A fair amount of my swims are solo, and I never really know what's going to be swirling through what's left of my grey matter during these sessions.

    Usually there's nothing at all going on upstairs, but occasionally I'm tormented by a song that's completely annoying. I recently aborted an open water training session much sooner than I should have, and I honestly believe Jefferson Starship was to blame (NOT me!).

    I'm sure I'm not alone.

    What are the worst songs you can have stuck in your head during a swim??

    Here's a sample of some of the more painful songs I've endured during long OW swims:

    1. "We Built this City" by Jefferson Starship;
    2. "We're all Alone" by Boz Scaggs;
    3. "Lonely No More" by Rob Thomas;
    4. "Island Girl" by Elton John;
    5. "Dreadlock Holiday" by 10CC;
    6. "Lumberjack" by Monty Python;
    7. "We all know frogs go pop in the microwave" author unknown, but the party who suggested this song before a swim knows who she is...Kim Weeks....;
    8. "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield;
    9. "I've done Everything for You" again..Rick Springfield;
    10. "Come on Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners;
    11. "Jaws Theme" by John Williams.

    I'll end on that one, but there are many more.

    Suggestions as to GOOD music to think of while swimming would be appreciated!

    Chicken signing off...

    [ame=""]YouTube - Jaws theme!![/ame]

    Updated March 10th, 2009 at 11:44 PM by Chicken of the Sea

  14. Synaptical Cracklings

    by , March 12th, 2009 at 09:37 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Three continuous days of trying to make sense of three-year old receipts in preparation for IRS Ragnarok has left my brain feeling like it's being pummeled by heat lightning and bees.

    The best advice so far has been found in a homework assignment that my friend Bill's son, Liam, boy genius, completed recently.

    Liam simulating his look of reflection during the class in which the idiom assignment was handed out by Miss Crabnik, or whatever her name is.

    Miss Crabnik's assignment completed by Liam quickly and with an enviable combination of succinctness and accuracy.

    Oh, how easy life is when one has the freedom to open one's piehole, and the happy world economy tugs its small bits of flotsam like me in a balmy current!

    Shall we ever see the likes of such days again?

    On this note, a very, very quick update of February 21st, 2009's "Cliffhangers" vlog entry. To job your memories, this was a list of depressing questions I was asking myself back then, that is to say, before things got much, much worse:

    1. Will he lose what little net "worth" he has left to the IRS? LIKELY BUT NOT YET DETERMINED
    2. Will he get over his cold? YES, BUT ANOTHER IS INEVITABLE
    3. Will his estrogen levels rise in a clinically significant way, LIKELY BUT NOT YET DETERMINED and will he then sell video access to his moobs on the Internet to a wealthy subset of very peculiar fetishists? UNLIKELY BUT NOT YET DETERMINED
    4. Will he act on an impulse, increasingly boisterous within his serotonin-depleted brain, that urges him to substitute one stubborn vice for an old relinquished one? SO FAR NO BACKSLIDING BUT WHO CAN HOLD OUT FOREVER
    5. Will he lose his job? SIGNS POINT TO YES
    6. Will he get the go ahead to write about masters swimming LIKELY BUT NOT YET DETERMINED and perchance get to attend Y Nationals in Ft. Lauderdale NO and try to talk the B70 Corporation into lending him a suit? NO
    7. Will he be forced to sell his ancestral stomping grounds and boyhood home for worthless pennies on the even more worthless dollar? NOT YET DETERMINED BUT CONSIDERING PLACING A CRAIG'S LIST AD FOR LODGERS
    8. Will he grow a spine or continue to lose bone density here until the metamorphosis into an invertebrate is done? NO SPINE YET PER SE, BUT SLIGHT VESTIGIAL TAIL GROWTH APPARENT
    9. Will he figure out how to get Windows Movie Maker to work again on his computer so he can do piss poor video edting, which would at least allow him to vlog again? NO
    10. Will his brother John ever download the most recent batch of lugubrious footage he sent him and turn it into something amusing? YES
    11. Will he spell cliffhanger with two f's, i.e., the conventional way, or with one f, in deference to the soy-filled energy bars that are helping him to grow a pair of hirsute titulars? NOT YET DETERMINED
    12. Will readership of the vlog continue its downwards trend as his fellow Americans, bloated with their own grief, tire of reading about his? YES
    13. Will he swim tomorrow's 1650 at CMU despite his head already swimming within its suffocating skullcap? YES; AS ONE GREAT MAN ONCE PUT IT: IT IS FINISHED.
    14. Will he appear on Court TV after doing something, or some many things, decidedly ill-advised? NOT YET DETERMINED
    15. Will he ever again smile and swagger and speak without a palsied twitching of the voice box? YES, BUT ONLY BY ACTING
    16. Will he end up in the one place he has always dreaded most, the Snake Pit, being administered to by nurse R? NOT YET DETERMINED
    17. Will he go to his grave waylaid still in the one dimensionality of the first person? NOT YET DETERMINED
    18. Will he keep the card house standing? NOT YET DETERMINED
    19. Will he enjoy the “largely unanticipated delight in the suffering of another which is cognized as trivial and/or appropriate”--or will he find this cold comfort at best? NO
    20. Will he hang or drown or go the way of most? NOT YET DETERMINED
    21. Will he get a PR again? NOT YET DETERMINED
    22. Will he have his way with a CreamPuff like vision?IT'S UP TO HER, BUT THE FACT THAT SHE DOESN'T THINK WE ARE COUSINS LOOKS PROMISING

    Updated April 16th, 2009 at 10:35 AM by jim thornton

  15. My Analysis of Leslie's Analysis

    by , March 17th, 2009 at 02:42 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    I urge you to quickly read Leslie The Fortress Livingston's excellent if somewhat convoluted and heavily codiciled analysis of her swimming times, vis a vis different racing suits (especially the HyNeck Pro and B70).

    You can read her analysis here, but if you don't want to do this, in a nutshell, she concludes that the B70 helps a little, but not all that much, and primarily for distance swims, which she doesn't do any of (unless by distance she means the 100 IM, which in my mind stretches the meaning of the word "distance" to the very elastic limits, much as I believe Leslie has similarly stretched her "analysis" into a realm where only 15-dimensional Gaussian-style ubermath, also used in the hedge fund industry, can justify it.)

    I wrote the following as a comment on Leslie's blog, but it ended up being so long, and it's also been a while since I posted a vlog of my own, so I am putting it here instead:

    Leslie, here is my analysis of your analysis, but broken down in another way. I am going to go through each of these things and put your best time without a B70 and your best time with a B70, and leave all other variables aside.

    Backstroke Events

    50 Back SCY:

    29.34 (H-Pro, Nats)(T)

    28.5 (B70)(T)

    B70 Assist: .84

    100 Back SCY:

    1:04.7 (H-Pro)(T)

    1:02.8 (B70)(T)

    B70 Assist: 1.9

    50 Back SCM:

    33.2 (R-Pro)(T)
    31.7 (B70)*

    B70 Assist, 1.5 seconds

    100 Back, SCM:

    1:13.9 (R-Pro)(T)
    1:11.7 (B70)*

    B70 Assist with caveats noted above, 2.2 seconds

    50 Back, LCM:

    33.48 (R-Pro)(T)
    33.40 (B70)(T)

    B70 Assist: .08 second

    100 Back, LCM:

    1:14.1 (R-Pro)(T)
    1:13.4 (B70)

    B70 Assist: .7 second

    Fly Events:

    50 fly, SCY:

    27.6 (H-Pro)(T)

    27.2 (B70)(T)

    B70 assist: .4 second

    100 fly SCY:

    1:04.2 (H-Pro)(T)
    1:01.3 (B70)(T)

    B70 Assist: 2.9

    50 fly SCM:

    31.48 (R-Pro)
    29.99 (B70)(some T)

    B70 Assist: 1.49 second

    50 fly, LCM:

    31.61 (R-Pro)(T)
    31.13 (B70)(T)

    B70 Assist: .58

    50 free, SCY:

    25.99 (H-Pro)(T)
    24.97 (B70)(T)

    B70 Assist: 1.02

    50 free, SCM:

    28.7 (R-Pro)(T)
    28.5 (B70)

    B70 Assist: .2

    50 free, LCM:

    29.2 (R-Pro)(T)
    29.3 (B70)

    B70 Assist: -.1

    100 IM, SCY:

    1:06.8 (H-Pro)
    1:04.1 (B70)*

    B70 Assist: 2.7

    You can slice and dice data in multiple ways, add all sorts of variables and explanations and fudge factors, but the bottom line as far as I can see is that with only one exception, the 50 LCM freestyle, you went significantly faster in every single race wearing a B70. All your second fastest times as a master (with the exception again of the 50 LCM free), you swam either in a B70 or in the fastest available pre-B70 generation racing suit, that is, the H-Pro.

    In no event did you get your get your fastest or even second fastest time without wearing one of these suits. Since the H-Pro is already considered a very fast suit, the fact that there were such consistent and at times huge time drops (four time drops between 1-2 seconds; two time drops between 2-3 seconds, all in events of a total distance of 50-100) makes me more convinced than ever that the B70 represents a huge advantage over the very best previous generation suit.

    Furthermore, if you average the time changes for the 50s [.84, 1.5, .08, .4, 1.49, .58, 1.02, .2, -.1] you have an average drop over 50 yards and meters of .67 seconds from your fastest B70 performances compared with your fastest H-Pro swims. You swam fewer 100s, but the average drop was even greater here--[1.9, 2.2, .7, 2.9, 2.7] for an average of 2.08 seconds.

    Such time drops might not mean much for the average lap swimmer. But for a swimmer already near the very top of the national hierarchy in her age group, 2/3rds of a second in 50s and over 2 seconds in a 100 is huge. Again, this is not comparing a poly suit to the B70. It's comparing the talk of the Sydney Olympics suit with the talk of the post-Beijing Olympics suit (at least in masters swimming circles.

    Sorry, Leslie. I wish I could have coroborated your analysis. But my analysis of your analysis, albeit one that uses Occam's Razor to cut away fudge factors I am sure you would love to keep, reaches a diametrically opposite conclusion!
  16. Limbo Update (plus I-told-you-so to Leslie)

    by , March 21st, 2009 at 10:27 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    As habitual vlog readers/viewers/olefactory sensors may recall, the past several weeks have been characterized by various tribulations and unsettlements in the life of your correspondent. In fact, dealing with these is one of the chief reasons I have been MIA from my vlogging obligations of late.

    Though none of the individual areas of concern have what could be described as definitive resolutions yet, there has been some slight movement towards same.

    Let me plink off a few of these developments now, and for those who would like to see them at least tangentially related to my swimming, permit me to add that as the stress levels become even slightly less crushing, I am finding a few more corpuscles of blood are able to escape the hypertensive constriction my circumstances have been placing upon my cardiovasculature. And with this ever so slight easing, there is more oxygen and nutrients available to my alleged (and, as you shall soon see) increasingly neutered musculature, and thus allows me to swim a wee bit better in practice lately.

    Hormonal Limbo: Part 1.

    As part of my investigations into soy protein and its attendant phytoestrogens, you may recall that I had my blood tested for testosterone (both the total level and the so-called "free" or more biologically available amount) as well as my estrogen (both estradiol and estrone, the distinction between which I do not fully understand.) Both genders have both of these sex hormones, of course, it's just that normal men tend to have higher t and lower e, and normal women tend to have the opposite pattern.

    Normal is expressed in a lab's "reference range"--the upper and lower limits that hopefully bracket your own readings. Here are my "Before Soy Milk Guzzling" readings:

    This may be hard to read, but suffice it to say that both my testosterone and estrogen fell within normal limits.

    IRS Limbo: Part 1.

    For the next month, I worked on writing my article, trying to make sense of bewildering (and often contradictory) study findings on the health benefits (and putative harms) of soy protein and phytoestrogens on bodily systems. These range from cognition to erections (the latter measured in rats force fed daidzein in puberty; this is, sadly, a remarkably close animal model for my own teenage years only instead of daidzein, you need to substitute prep school swill.)

    In the middle of my journalistic labors, I got a notice from the IRS that they were auditing my 2006 tax return, with an eye on 2007, as well. I don't want to go into the clammy fevers and prison terrors this seemingly innocent request by my own government precipitated within my manly breast. But suffice it to day, it was... horrible.

    A postcard sent to me by the wonderful Amanda Hunt, AKA, Chicken of the Sea, a fellow USMS vlogger who hails from Australia, and thus most likely comes from prison stock herself. This, at least, is what I imagine to be the source of her epistolary kindness and empathy.

    Hormonal Limbo: Part 2.

    At the end of the month, I returned for the follow up hormone tests.

    For those of you who somehow managed to miss the blood extraction process by which a local nurse secured the test sample, I invite you to watch--or indeed, rewatch--the film at the bottom of this earlier vlog:

    The fact that I fainted during the hypodermic needling, which the lab technician assured me was manly, had me convinced at the time that my initial normal results--man-like T, man-like E--would not have changed after one short month of relatively moderate soy protein ingestion (20-30 grams a day, or about as much as you would find in 4-6 cups of soy milk.)

    The results, alas, were to prove nothing short of....flabbergasting

    Again, this may be a little hard to read, so let me summarize. Rather than increasing my estrogen levels, as I hypothesized all this soy might, my E plummeted to the absolute bottom of the normal limits for males. In one fell swoop, my dream of swimming as a woman in future USMS competitions, where presumably I could rise one or two places in the TOP 10 listings in the penis-free division, well, these dreams were completely cut off at the roots, leaving all former sense of hope stump-like.

    Despite initial disappointment, a wee bit of macho pride, I must concede, eventually began to burgeon up.

    I've always felt that maybe I am a wee bit of a girly man. Now I had proof, however, that I was as far from girly manhood as one can chemically be and still maintain tenuous contact with the elastic cusp of normalcy.

    It was at this moment of chagrin (can't race women) and pride (I am no pussy!) that it occurred to me I should check out my other hormone level result post-soy hyper indulgence. At first I couldn't find this and assumed the doctor had foregone testing my T the second time around because I had only expressed interest in my E.

    But then I found it.

    I wish I had not.

    My testosterone levels had also plummeted. But unlike my E, which was still technically normal, both my "free" and total testosterone were so whoppingly below the bottom definition of manhood that I am not sure I qualify as a mammal anymore. Or
    a crustacean.

    I am, in other words, a gender freak: not a man without gender, nor a woman, but a neuter, as comfortable guarding a harem for a sultan as I would be guarding a harem for, well, a woman with a harem, be these male or female concubines.

    I am an "it" with no juice. Perhaps this is why CreamPuff left Facebook so abruptly and no longer seems to come for visits to the Vlog. She must have sensed something. Poor concupiscient tart! She must be devastated.

    As would I be, that is, if I had any hormones whatsoever to encourage me to give a whup.

    And that is when it occurred to me: I am quite possible the fastest Neuter in USMS history. You will not see my records in the Men's listings. Nor will you see them in the Women's, where Leslie (here is the I-told-you-so moment) and her supposedly minor assist of a B70 suit just got a PR today in the 100 SCM fly.

    You will not, in fact, see my No. 1 times IN ALL USMS RECOGNIZED EVENTS, for the simple reason that we hormonal cypher-mutants have not been given our human rights yet. But in our hearts, I think we will all agree that in future years, the following will be said of Jim Thornton, swimmer circa 2009:

    "Rarely has there been a swimmer so dominant in its category as Jim Thornton was when it swam in the 55-59 age group. It was truly an outstanding athlete. We will not see its likes soon again...Magnificent!"

    Updated March 21st, 2009 at 10:36 PM by jim thornton

  17. Shocking North Korean Swim Surgery

    by , March 24th, 2009 at 06:48 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Part of me finds this truly revolting. Nevertheless, check the photo at the end. I can't say I've ruled the procedure out entirely, especially once the B70 becomes illegal.


    Controversial North Korean surgery roils waters of international competitive swimming


    PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA (Reuters Health) - In a study likely to create a tsunami in the already roiled waters of international competitive swimming, doctors in this secretive but sports-obsessed nation have reported a breakthrough in what they call "Spatulization Surgery" for swimming enhancement.

    The procedure, which was performed last summer on all 15 senior members of the elite North Korean National Swimming Team, takes an average of nine hours to complete and requires at least two weeks of postoperative recovery in a hospital setting. This is followed by eight months of intensive rehabilitation designed to allow the swimmers to adjust to the significant changes in their limbs. The researchers behind the procedure describes the improvements as nothing short of "miraculous optimizations for swimming performance."

    But witnesses from FINA, invited to monitor last week's national swimming and diving championships, had a different description. "These 'swimmers'," said one FINA representative who asked not to be identified by name, "no longer look human. They've been mutilated."

    Unable to maneuver on land, the 15 swimmers have each been equipped with a customized electric mobility scooter manufactured by the American-based Rascal Company. Such devices are most commonly associated with the geriatric population, not world-class athletes in the prime of life.

    Regardless of the considerable terrestrial handicaps the swimmers now face, no one denies the surgically altered North Koreans are remarkably quick and graceful in the water--easily slicing as much as 3-4 percent off world record times established at last summer's Olympic Games in Beijing.

    Because of various FINA technical rules and standards, the times set this week at the Pyongyang National Natatorium do not officially count, leaving the current world records in tact, at least for now. Few swimming analysts, however, doubt that massive changes are coming to the sport this summer, when "spatulized" North Koreans are almost certain to dominate at the World Championships, in the process establishing new standards in the sport once considered unimaginable.
    "If we make this procedure illegal, what's next? Outlawing
    shoulder surgery? Lasik? 'Spatulization' is a can of worms wrapped up in a Pandora's Box."
    --anonymous spokesman from the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA)

    "Our performances at nationals only hint of what's to come," says Kwion Namgoong, head coach for the North Korean team, through an interpreter. "You must consider that our swimmers are just getting used to their new, how you say, attributes. By summer, the times we've seen this week will look like lazy warm-up speed."

    FINA officials, already facing controversy and furor over how to regulate the latest generation of high tech speed suits, acknowledge they aren't sure what can be done, if anything, to halt the new surgery.

    Unlike drugs such as anabolic steroids and blood-doping medications, or even the neoprene wet favored by swim-impaired triathletes, suits that allow swimmers to float unsportingly high in the water, there are no precedents for banning surgery in sport.

    "If we do find a way to outlaw this," says one obviously flummoxed FINA observer, "then it will open the floodgates to all kinds of lawsuits. Spatulization digusts me, and I doubt you will be able to sell the procedure to swimmers who have a free choice in the matter. But if we make this illegal, what's next? Shoulder surgery? Lasik? It's a can of worms wrapped up in a Pandora's Box."

    Accident leads to smashing success

    The procedure was first discovered serendipitously during the bitterly cold winter of 2004. Dockko Tung, 27, a freight hauler and recreational swimmer, was severely injured while unloading his truck. Pallets containing multiple 100 lb. bags of rice fell on his hands and feet, pinning these to an ice-covered stretch of highway.

    The combination of ice and pressure, ironically, may have spared him amputation by keeping the squashed tissues in a kind of cryogenic "suspended animation" state till emergency crews were able to locate and extricate him four hours later.

    But when ER surgeons were finally able to operate, however, the best they could do was to set the dozens of broken bones and reattach permanently stretched ligaments, tendons, and other connective tissues in both his hands and feet.

    Afterwards, Tung was left with enormous, flattened extremities. As one of his surgeons described it to the local government-sponsored newspaper, "These looked like the hands and feet of a cartoon character run over by steam roller." The same doctor later described his patient's hands and feet as resembling spatulas, adding that the accident had, in essence, "spatulized" him.

    The term stuck.

    After the operation, Tung was unable to walk or even stand for more than a minute at a time, and he turned to the pool for exercise. To the astonishment of the lifeguards at his community center facility, the "deformed and ostracized" 27-year-old was soon swimming nearly world-class times, thanks to hands that functioned as de facto swim paddles and feet that served as oversized fins.

    It did not take long before word of his abilities reached the North Korean Sports Authority, which promptly assigned a team of researchers to pioneer the same surgery for the national swim team.

    As a result of his contributions to North Korean "guygen"--a neologism for "world glory," Tung soon became a national hero and frequent swim invitee at the palacial home of Kim Jong Il. At a state dinner for visiting dignitaries, Jong Il, who prefers to be addressed as "Dear Leader," was reportedly so eager to show off Dockko Tung's prowess that he placed the young man in an Endless Pool ( that had been set up next to the formal dining table.

    For the "amusement" of the guests, Tung was left to swim nonstop for 17 hours. In his hospital bed later, where Tung was being treated for water in the lungs, he maintained he had gladly and voluntarily participated in the lengthy exhibition swim.

    It is not known whether all 15 spatulized national team members willingly volunteered for the procedure or were pressured into it. Regardless, the next generation of North Korean swimmers is likely already moving into the pipeline. Reports suggest that at least 1,700 North Korean junior swimmers, some as young as 6 and 1/2, have been given psychiatric medications before being presented with a surgical consent forms. To date, all have signed.

    Whether the procedure will catch on in nations with less repressive political regimes remains to be seen. Americans, for their part, pride themselves on individual liberties and seem unlikely to bow to governmental pressures.

    On the other hand, U.S. culture has a long philosophical tradition of doing "anything to win." It remains to be seen if US swimmers, the world's best as recently as last month, will surrender their domination or instead answer the North Korean challenge with a gungho adoption of even more draconian surgeries. "I'm confident that our doctors," said one former world record holder from the University of Texas, "can beat the North Koreans in the pool and on the operating room table."

    He paused just a beat before breaking out in a chant, "USA! USA! USA!"

    As for the first of the pioneering race of aquatic athletes, a reporter watched all 15 largely expressionless North Korean swimmers drive their Rascals to the edge of the pool and slide into the water.

    It was the morning after the meet's conclusion, and already these swimmers were back getting ready for their next competition.

    On land, this reporter found their emotions almost impossible to read. Nevertheless, in the water, an almost otter-like sense of liberation emerged on their faces, as these strange new specimens sped back and forth nonstop for hours in the confines of their training tank.

    I asked a surgeon friend at UPMC Sports Medicine Center in Pittburgh about spatulization, and he told me he and his colleagues have actually known about this for the past six months. They plan to offer swimmers in the US a new variation on the procedure that they've recently pioneered. The surgery itself is very similar to the North Korean procedure, but during the follow up period, the Pittsburgh group plans to use a proprietary instrument, much like the surgical version of a meat tenderizing mallet, to prevent scar tissue from forming too quickly and shrinking the spatulized limbs. This picture is a computer simulation of what Dr. F. says I will look like by the summer of 2010, provided I schedule my own surgery no later than August, 2009.

    You will note I am not wearing a B-70 or any other form of speed suit in this picture, nor have I shaved, lost weight, or lubed my skin with slippery unguents.

    Dr. F. assures me no such tactics will be necessary.

    Updated May 28th, 2009 at 01:44 PM by jim thornton

  18. Annotated Ruling Letter from Kathy Casey

    by , March 26th, 2009 at 06:30 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    i just received the following via email, and I suspect many of you have, as well.

    I must say that I find the snifter of suit catastrophe in the air absolutely delicious!

    I am going to post Kathy Casey's excellent letter of clarification of what is known and unknown at this point in time, while adding a few comments, questions, observations, and suggestions of my own. Mine will be in red; Kathy's in original black.


    Hi, back atcha! I must say, I have been noticing you, too!

    In light of new swimsuit testing and approval being conducted by FINA according to its recent "Dubai Charter", the following is U.S. Masters Swimming's official interpretation of Swimwear rule 102.14:

    Sorry to be nitpicky here, but how did the international governing body for competitive swimming end up making key decisions in a desert nation?


    FINA approval or rejection of new swimwear introduced after September 30, 2007, will be accepted by U.S. Masters Swimming for U.S.M.S. sanctioned and recognized competition.

    What exactly happened on September 30th, 2007 that made this such a pivotal point in time? Is this when some new suit debuted?

    I Googled the date and managed to find the following political cartoon, but I am not sure what, if anything, this has to do with swimming costumes:

    The following interpretation regarding the use of two suits during competition is effective immediately. This interpretation conforms to the recent interpretations issued by FINA (03/15/09) and USA Swimming (03/18/09).


    For purposes of Article 102.14 of U.S. Masters Swimming Rules of Competition, Swimwear, the use of more than one suit at a time during any U.S.M.S. sanctioned or recognized competition is prohibited.

    This Article 102.14 of which you so confidently speak--how do we know it actually exists? Are you absolutely sure you don't mean Codicil 102.14 of Article Subsection 27-A paragraph 4 xiv?
    How do you intend to prove this to a "B70-Conspiracy-Theory-Friendly" audience of vigilantes? Will the proof be offered in an American court under our, shall we say, highly malleable rules of law? Or do you intend to have it tried in Dubai under some sort of Wahhabi Doctrine, punishable by hand removal?


    1. Question: Can I wear a regular racing suit that is not a body suit?

    Answer: Yes, suits introduced prior to September 30, 2007, are legal for U.S.M.S. competition.

    Must I wear a suit at all? And if I must, must CreamPuff? In the case of an affirmative in the latter case, give me 117 good reasons why.

    2. Question: Can I wear my LZR at nationals in May?

    Answer: At this point questions about suits (those introduced after
    September 30, 2007) for nationals cannot be answered because the new list of
    FINA-approved suits has not been published nor is there a set date for
    publication of that list by FINA. Until FINA publishes the new list of
    approved suits, the current status of approved or rejected suits is in
    effect; therefore, your LZR is currently approved for competition until the
    new FINA list is published. However, should U.S.M.S. officially receive
    information that any of currently marketed suits introduced after September
    30, 2007, have been rejected by FINA, those suits will no longer be
    considered legal.

    You menton "your LSR" as in, I presume, "my LSR." Where is it? What have you done with my LSR? To the best of my knowledge, I have never received my LSR from USMS. Was this a membership premium that I somehow failed to receive? If so, please send immediately, because I plan to use it in all non-Dubai covered competitions.

    3. Question: Why can't questions about suits for nationals be answered now?

    Answer: According to the Dubai Charter (published by FINA 03/15/09),
    manufacturers must resubmit their suits for approval by March 31, 2009. The
    suits will be retested under a new system for buoyancy (no more than 1
    Newton), material (no thicker than 1 mm), and construction (no trapping of
    air), just to mention a few criteria. At the point of publication by FINA
    of newly approved suits, the questions about legal suits for nationals can
    be answered.

    Or, to put it less politely, because we don't want to.

    Na na na na naaaa na!

    FINA, after letting many of you twist in the wind with regards to the IGLA world records situation, wants a new issue to cause those whom it "represents" to suffer over for a while.

    Suffering builds character. This is an implicit part of FINA's mission.

    4. Question: How will this impact Masters competitors?

    Unofficial Answer: It's going to ruin them.

    Official Answer: That LZR, TYR, or Blueseventy suit you bought after September 30,
    2007, is legal at this moment, but it could be illegal after the new
    FINA-approved swimsuit list is published. Regardless of the new list, that
    old Fastskin that you have will be legal since it was introduced prior to
    September 30, 2007.

    5. Question: My coach is forcing me to swim the 1650 Free as a training
    swim. Can I wear a drag suit over my jammers?

    Answer: No. Although wearing an extra drag suit may not be perceived as
    having an advantage, the interpretation is that only one swimsuit is

    Ordinarily, one would think that coaches would not be allowed to force you to do anything. However, upon closer reading of the FINA rulings from Dubai, we have found that slavery is, indeed, legal in that part of the world. We encourage you to do what he or she forces you to do, and gladly, or get used to the sting of bullwhips crackin'!

    Try to see the humor here. It is, you must agree, a a rather risible twist on the meaning of "master", eh? And all the time you thought you were the "Massa"!

    6. Question: Does "one suit for competition" mean I can only wear one suit
    for the whole meet?

    Answer: No. You can change suits during the meet, (True or false? you need a note from your doctor documenting an existing yeast or other form of fungal infection, AKA, "crotch rot," aggavated by hours spent in damp clothing?) but you can only wear one
    suit at a time. This restriction applies only to the actual races
    (competition). Where do I sign up as volunteer "Citizen Swimmer Inspector"? Is it true that guys like me will be issued special cards that allow all hours access to the Women's Changing rooms, plus indemnity against any "nuisance" harassment suits filed during the discharge of our inspection duties? You can wear more than one suit during warm-up and
    warm-down. This restriction applies to all types, makes, and models of swim
    suits, but it is not intended to apply to athletic supporters or modesty
    type wear (a single pair of "briefs" or "bikini bottoms or top" or a sports
    bra worn to ensure modesty and privacy).

    I don't get it. Do I have to wear a bra? What about my home-made bubble wrap "modesty" vest cum codpiece? Surely this is still legal?

    Feel free to contact me with any questions.

    Thanks, Kathy. If I can think of more, I will not hesitate to post them!

    Kathy Casey, Chair,

    U.S. Masters Swimming Rules Committee
  19. 200 freesyle NCAA winner mathematically deconstructed

    by , March 28th, 2009 at 11:05 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    1 Fraser, Shaune FLOR 200 free time of 1:31.70

    Junior Shaune Fraser (George Town, Cayman Islands) swam a career-best mark and UF record in the 200-yard freestyle (1:31.70) to capture the first individual national championship title of his career.

    first 50, dive assisted: (21.57)

    second 50 (23.67)

    third 50 (23.25)

    fourth 50 (23.21)

    If you give the guy 1.5-2 seconds for the start, which may or may not be reasonable, a case could be made for this fellow negative splitting his #1 winning 200 free.

    It would be nice to know what his all out 50 time is, but the closest I could find to this was his split in the 400 medley relay the day before, where he swam the freestyle leg:

    first 50 (19.87) both dive aided and relay start aided
    second 50 22.32 (42.19)

    He also lead off the 400 free relay and got these splits:

    1st 50 20.40
    second 50 22.01 (42.41)

    I am going to go out on a limb here and guesstimate that his fastest 50 is right around the high 19s.

    To simplify the math, let us say 19.87

    Thus his first 50 in the 200 free (21.57) was about 1.7 seconds slower than his fastest all out 50.

    We could quibble a bit about this. The range is probably anywhere from 1 to 2 seconds slower.

    His second 50 in the 200 free (23.67) was 3.8 seconds slower than his fastest.

    His third 50 was about 3.2 seconds slower.

    And his fourth and final 50 was about the same, maybe 3.1 seconds slower.


    Now, for purposes of projection, let us apply the same basic math to me. My fastest time as a masters swimmer, 6-7 years ago, was 1:55.11, or 1.26 times greater duration than his Shaune's 1:31.7.

    Let us call the 1.26 figure the S-J Coefficient, for the "Shuane to Jim Coefficient" or, more simply, SJ.

    My fastest 50 this year is 24.53. Let me take Shuane's "slowdown" compared to his own fastest 50 vs. what he took out his 200 in, 1.7 seconds, and multiply this by SJ and we get 2.14 seconds. Add this back to my own fastest 50, and this would suggest that if I swim a congruent race to Shuane's, I will need to go out in 26.67 seconds.

    Now we move to the second 50, which in Shuane's case was 3.8 seconds slower than his best. Apply the SJ (3.8 x 1.26) and we get 4.79 and add this to my fastest 50, and we see that I will need to swim my second 50 at 29.32.

    Following the same basic mathematical logic, I will need to swim my 3rd 50 at 28.56, and my final 50 at 28.44.

    So, I will need to go out the first 100 in 55.99
    and come back the second 100 in 57.00...

    For a new personal all time best 200 free style swim of 1:52.99.


    1. There is something dreadfully wrong with any math that suggests I could come close to swimming a 1:52.+ unless...
    2. The B70 and/or LZR advantage is really going to help me by providing at least 1 second per 50 and probably a little more or....
    3. I need to factor in a wee bit more Finnish formula age grading wiggle room in the S-J Coefficient...
    4. I am thinking that If I simply add 1 second per 50 here, what might be termed {S-J Coefficient}~Finnish Formula Wigglized, or SJ~FFW, or perhaps even more simply, SJ v.2, then we would have the following splits:

    30.32 (first 100 57.99)
    29.44 (second 100 59.00

    I would be absolutely delighted with this time, but it still leaves an awful lot of dependence riding on the likely soon to be incarcerated swimmer's helper, the B70 flotation device.

    Well, let us see how the math proves to be. I have a Y regional meet next weekend, but the 200 free is on the same day that I swim the 1000, a relay, the 50 fly, the 100 fly, and then one event rest before the 200 free. No B70 either.

    But perhaps Colony Zones will prove a different story. Time will tell.


    Final Note on Above Deconstruction through Precise Application of Math:

    1. It is not an accident that I used red ink to designate Shaune Fraser's excellent 200, and blue ink to designate my less excellent and, in fact, not yet even swum 200. These hues represent the color of our respective bloodstream's after approximately 10 yards into our respective races.

  20. Is that your Gu or are you just pleased to see me?

    by , March 30th, 2009 at 11:48 PM (Chicken's Nuggets)
    It's done!! It's done!!
    The monkey's off my back.
    The 4 hour in 61 degrees or less qualifying swim for the Manhattan race is finally done!!

    I arrived at Windy Point (Lake Travis, Austin) at 8am Sunday March 22nd. Air temp 64, water temp 60. Windy and choppy (it doesn't look so in this photo). Terrified. The longest I'd been was 1 hour at 60 degrees.

    After an extended period of procrastination, personal lubrication (vaseline), and psychosomatic illness, I took the plunge. By this time it was 8.18am.

    I swam a couple of sad, self pitying laps of Windy point for about 40 minutes.

    Feeling miserable and cold, I asked my friend and observer LeighAnn for some hot soup. Out came Stanley, my thermos and second-best friend.

    Life suddenly got a whole lot better.

    Buoyed by my newfound warmth, I headed round to Hippie Hollow to swim with some guys I'd only met via email, but who were nice enough to include me in their morning OW swim. LeighAnn drove the car and paid the hefty $10 parking fee. I swam there in about 25 minutes at an EZ pace to find my new friends already in the water.

    Having checked out Hippie Hollow as a potential swimmin' hole the day before, I knew what to expect.

    Not a problem. I had a very liberal upbringing down-under.

    We swam laps of Hippie Hollow for about an hour and a half, blessed with a constant stream of entertainment provided by nudists engaged in a myriad of activities on the rocky shore. Stanley came to my rescue about every half hour, and although I felt a little uncomfortable, I never got to the point of shivering.

    My new swim buddies, Robert Alford and Tom Fornoff finished their swim, and I realised to my delight that by the time I swam back to Windy Point I'd be more than 3/4 of the way through my swim!! Yippee!!

    By this time the wind had picked up to gusts of 30mph and there were white horses everywhere. Tough conditions, but I think they distracted me from the cold and boredom of swimming alone.

    I took my time returning to Windy Point and there was only about 30-40 minutes remaining when I arrived. One more shot of Stanley and a couple more laps and I was there!!

    My last 10 minutes were occupied by swimming a bit of breaststroke, stretching and watching a catamaran capsize.

    12.18 precisely (not that I was watching the clock..) and I was outa there!!!

    Very happy, very relieved, very grateful to all that helped, and feeling a lot better than expected, I went back to my friend's house, showered, dressed, had some food and a Stella. Bliss.

    During the swim I think I had 2 quart sized Stanleys of chicken broth, some gatorade (can't remember how much), 6 Gu's and an Ensure with a chaser of lake water.

    My only complaints during the swim were a sore lower back (probably from sighting over the waves) and squashed ears because I wore 2 caps (legal!!). I also saw several Texan sized Bass and unfortunately, from below, a middle aged man hiking in nothing but a pair of shoes and a daypack. Quite a point of interest.

    THANK YOU to all my friends in Austin, Texas, for helping me do something I didn't think was possible. My friend LeighAnn Doherty and family, Lynne Smith, David Blanke and my new Hippie Hollows Robert and Tom.

    Can't wait to go back
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