Friday, December 28, 2007

Laid Up, Laid Out

Well, Arthur the ugly ankle-cyst is officially gone. It took less than an hour to remove the little bugger, and I slept through the whole thing. And now I can officially say I've gone under the knife once in my life.

However, it turns out that the procedure was a bit trickier than I had thought it would be. I anticipated bed rest and elevation for maybe a day or so, and maybe walking with a limp for a week. Dr. Lowery had told me I'd be back running again in 2-3 weeks, tops. Well, that was overly generous. I have a huge boot-like splint on my left leg from the knee down, plus a full-length compression sock on my right leg to help prevent clots. Why might I clot, you ask? Because I'm supposed to stay off of my feet for TEN DAYS. We're talking crutches, wide-legged pajama pants, and sponge baths for the entire rest of Christmas break. UGH. And now he says I can run again in "about a month."

Needless to say, I'm bummed. We're cancelling our New Year's Eve party, waving off the company we had coming to town, and putting off the job of putting the enclosure on the kids' new trampoline (a Christmas present). I may even take off the first day back to school, as that's when the doc wants to take the boot off.

The main thing is, I've gotta run at least once in January. I only have one month of zero miles in the logs out of the past 120. I have a brand-new clean running log and a gift certificate for a new pair of Asics. I was just starting to get excited about hitting the roads again. Oh, yeah, and track practice starts (supposedly) on the 22nd. I guess I won't be demonstrating many drills the first week.

This was supposed to be a small cosmetic problem with an equally-small solution. What a royal pain! Speaking of pain, I guess I'd better go elevate my boot.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Training Log 2007

This post is for Adam, Matthew and Mike. Nobody else will likely care. Tomorrow I will go for a 20-minute run (2.5 miles) and officially close out my training log for 2007. This will officially put in the books arguably the worst running year I have had as an adult. Counting tomorrow, I will have run only 95 times, for a total of 301 miles. For the first time in recent memory, I have not worn out a single pair of shoes in a calendar year. The 95 runs and the 301 are the second-lowest total I've had in 10 years, and the 3.2 mile-per-run average is my lowest ever recorded. The only other year that compares to this one was 2001, a year in which I was injured for a long time (no such excuse this go around). To give you some idea about how long ago that was, I earned the injury fooling around in the school weight room with a junior named Walker Bruce. Walker is now on the faculty at my school and is my assistant coach for horizontal jumps. Moreover, my longest run this year was 6 miles. This is the first year in memory where I have not run for an hour consecutively at any time during the year. Needless to say, there were no races this year. So no highlights, but at least no low-lights, either.

Still, the story's not all bad. This is my 10th complete training log since I began formal record-keeping in 1998. (I ran off and on throughout the 90's, including a marathon in '96, but never logged a single run; in college I basically only ran while playing sports, but once a year I would go out and break 6:00 for the mile just to make sure I still could--I didn't run, but I wanted to make sure I was still a runner.) In those 10 years there has been only one calendar month that I've logged a zero. That was July of 2005, when I drove cross-country 7000 miles, but didn't run one. In that time, I've logged a total of 5200 miles, so that's 520 a year, or 10 miles per week for 10 years. That counts many weeks of 20-30 mpw and many weeks of zero, but comes out to hitting the road 2-3 times a week for about 4 miles each. I guess I've laced 'em up and headed out the door around 1300 times in that span. That includes many runs with the heat index above 100, substantially fewer bundled up in cold-weather gear, many in drizzle, a couple in monsoon, and at least one each in a snow flurry and in a hurricane. I've run alone and with a team, in singles (one run a day) and doubles, for training, for racing, and just for fun, and sometimes just because I'm a runner.

And that, I think, is the important thing. This year I was a bad runner. Next year I hope to be a better one. My days of getting faster and faster are pretty much done, but runners do not go gently into that good night. In a month I'll kick off the beginning of my 40th year on this planet (and at the end of that time I'll be a masters runner--that sounds so much nicer than fogey). But ever since my dad timed me in a 7:26 mile on a clay track with my grandfather's analog stopwatch in 1983, I've been a runner. That day, I discovered part of who I am. 25 years this year, 10 of them committed to the record books. I can't wait to begin a new chapter.

A Christmas Nerd Story

When I was in grad school, studying medieval European history, I had to master medieval Latin as a degree requirement. For most history graduate language requirements, the deal was that you had to pass a class called "Readings in _____ (Latin, Spanish, French, whatever)." But for my advisor, Dr. Patterson, passing the Readings in Latin class merely bought you a ticket to his personal exam. It was a nasty timed translation test based on sources from the middle ages and late antiquity. You could use a dictionary, but if you needed it, you probably wouldn't have the time to finish. Many, many history nerds had sat for Dr. P's exam multiple times.

Well, I passed the Readings class, and went into the "real" exam. It became pretty obvious by about halfway through that this was my warm-up attempt. There was a lot of translation to do, and the clock was not my friend. With about 3 minutes to go, I had one big, ugly paragraph to go. No chance. But I figured I'd at least start it. Shepherds...watching... at night. HA! It was Luke chapter 2 from the Vulgate Bible! Translation, nothing--this one I can do from memory. Dr. P, would you rather have that in King James or NIV? Just muddy it up around the edges a bit to give it the appearance of having actually been translated. It was a Christmas miracle! Thank you, Linus!

The Christmas Haul

So the annual shredding of wrapping paper is over, and it's time to assess the haul. Of course, with as many relatives as we have here in town, this list only represents the tip of the iceberg. Here's what we wound up with, in the major gift category:

Buddy- A bone (surprise)
Mary Elizabeth- An American Girl Doll
Jacob- A new guitar, numerous legos
David- Guitar Hero video game, a Ripstick skateboard
Ann- A new kitchen
Larry- A happy wife who really likes the kitchen.

In the minor gift category, I also got several shirts and ties, a sweater, and some socks.

All that remains is shoveling down mountains of good holiday food.

Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy New DayTimer!

As the song goes, it's the most wonderful time of the year! I love the New Year, and not least because I get the thrill of setting up a new DayTimer. My sister is far more nuts about organizers than I am... she rarely makes it through a month without cycling to a different planner format. But here at the beginning of 2008, I'm going to make the big switch as well. I'm going back to the full-size (classic) Franklin Covey 2-page-per-day looseleaf, probably in the blue "Monticello" package. This will lend itself to work with some of my resolutions for the upcoming year, which include a more formal prayer list, some personal journaling, and better use of the hour between 5 and 6 AM for actual planning (as opposed to surfing the net and catching morning SportsCenter).

As a bit of background, the year was 1987 and I was a pledge of Delta Upsilon fraternity at USC when the chapter brought in one of our "founding fathers" to talk about being organized in school to the pledge class. His name was Don Weaver, of the class of '83 (the chapter was very young). He gave a short talk about setting goals and working from a list as a tool to getting more done (and more importantly, as a tool to getting the MOST IMPORTANT STUFF done). At the end of the talk, he gave out coupons that we could fill out and mail in that got a free 4-month sample pack of the original DayTimer pocket-sized wire-bound planner, with a cheapo plastic wallet. I wish they still did that--I guess it wasn't cost-effective for them, but it made me a planner user for life. In the 20 years since I have never been without a planner. I've had DayTimers, and Franklin Quest Planners, and Covey 7 Habits Planners. Now Franklin and Covery have merged, and I've got that. I've had classic, compact, and pocket-sized, and I've had wire-bound and loose-leaf. For a short while I even used a second-hand Palm Pilot (but in the end I went back to good old fashioned pen-and-paper). You could fill a small library with the books I have read (and in some cases bought) about the art of "time management." Some of those times I have been better at it and sometimes worse, but at least in theory, I have been for 20 years a person who takes control of his time and his schedule.

Which brings me back to '08. In 2007, I've gotten off the rails. My inner control freak has been out of sorts. But nothing gets one back on track like the smell of fresh, clean DayTimer pages. Office Depot, here I come!

It's A Wonderful Life

I mentioned elsewhere that Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life is, in my opinion, the greatest Christmas movie of all time. (Sadly, I have yet to see it this year!) I also maintain that Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey is the greatest hero in the history of film. I cry every time I watch it. Well, this article details why it's also the best capitalist movie of all time (hat tip to Instapundit). And don't forget the SNL version of the lost ending!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Adios, Arthur!

I mentioned in my last post that my running is a bit off. One reason I'm having a hard time getting back into the groove is that I know it's not going to make much difference at this point, anyway. I'm scheduled for a little minor surgery over the holidays, which will keep me off the roads for a minimum of 2-3 weeks. So getting somewhat back in shape now, while perhaps good for my mood, feels somewhat counterproductive.

The surgery is to remove a gross-looking benign cyst on the back of my left ankle. It used to be the size of a pea, but now it's a good-sized marble. For years, I didn't care that I had it, because it doesn't hurt, and I figured it's vain to pay to have something cut off that's covered by a sock 90% of the time. It's not like it was in the middle of my forehead or something. But as it's gotten bigger and more noticeable, it's become more irritating.

My athletes call it "Arthur." For any Beatles fans out there, you may get the inside joke. Once a reporter asked Ringo Starr, "What do you call that haircut?" Ringo fired back, "I call it Arthur." A kid happened to notice my big discolored ankle-lump a while back and said (as freshmen are wont to do), "Ewwwww. What is THAT thing?" Without thinking, I said, "I call it Arthur." And Arthur it has been ever since. But hopefully by the new year, I'll call it gone. And get back on the roads, just a little bit lighter.

A Disciple Without Discipline

After several posts relating to public matters, a little window into my private world. I'm in a funk, and the Christmas holidays can't get here soon enough. Those who know me will attest to the fact that I am a creature of habit. I like to joke that one reason I'm conservative is that there have been many changes in my lifetime, and I have been against all of them. Likewise, I've admitted in this space before to being a bit of a neat freak. I value order, in my environment (the clean desk), in my time (ah, the DayTimer), in my possessions (even my sock drawer is organized). So the past several weeks of having our house turned upside down by renovations has really gotten me out of sorts. The lack of space has made it more difficult to do things like sit down and balance the checkbook (harder with 3 kids, a dog, and a makeshift mini-kitchen in the same 100 square feet). I find myself hiding in the back of the house and watching too much TV. My reading has suffered, and especially my Bible reading. Truth be told, my discipline of daily Bible reading has been rocky since November. Every day, I try to read a passage from the Old Testament, a passage from the New Testament, a verse or two from Proverbs, and a Psalm. (I didn't make the plan up; I use the One-Year Bible, and it's set up that way.) Ever since the end of cross-country season, my control of my time has been a bit off. And I must admit, I just got killed by Isaiah this year. I've kept up with the NT and Psalm (or rather, I've caught up when I got behind, as the passages are shorter). But my OT reading fell off the wagon. After 6 full trips through scripture, I'll have to claim "almost 7" now, with the disclaimer that I just skipped the prophets. After all, lying about reading the Bible is like a double sin.

In addition to that, I've been neglecting my running. I haven't so much as jogged a step in 3 weeks, and I'm on pace to record the lowest annual mileage I have logged in the past 10 years, barring one year of long-term injury. This is made even worse by the fact that Mrs. Sal has been working out about 4 times a week, and gets 30-45 minutes a day on an ellipitical machine. So I feel wimpy and guilty all at the same time. But every day, I find some new excuse NOT to go for a run and break the lazy streak. After almost 25 years as a runner, the hardest part is always still the step out the door. And it's even harder when you know you're out of shape and the run is going to feel bad. And it's been cold. Ugh.

Luckily, the end is in sight. The kitchen is nearly done, and in a couple of days we get off for the Christmas break. And then comes New Year's day--after Thanksgiving, one of the best holidays. With the New Year comes a new start in the One-Year Bible, a brand new clean running log, and the opportunity to make resolutions and set goals to do better. Thank heaven I didn't get in this funk in July!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Secondhand Christmas List

My sister posted this list of Christmas-related questions on her blog. For fun, I thought I'd answer them, too. There is, of course, some overlap. Like our shared Salley Grin, some parts of the gene pool are pretty deep.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I prefer to get the paper, but generally give the bags.

2. Real tree or artificial? Real. Hands-down. Usually a frasier fir, but years ago we used to go to a tree farm and cut down our own pine.

3. When do you put up the tree? The Saturday after Thanksgiving.

4. When do you take the tree down? Usually the week after Christmas.

5. Do you like eggnog? Like my sister, NO!

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Lots of good stuff (I was spoiled), but none stands out. I did have pretty much all of the original "Star Wars" toys.

7. Have a nativity scene? Yes

8. Hardest person to buy for? Ann does the shopping. I hate buying for grown-ups in my family--it's hard to find something they want and don't have that I can afford. Same with buying for me. If there's something I really want, and it's not over $100 bucks, I probably already have it.

9. Easiest person to buy for? My step-Grandfather. I think we have given him a blue shirt for almost every major holiday of the past 15 years.

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I've gotten some pretty lame dollar store coffee mugs from students. But any gift is cool!

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? This year we're sending a real card with a link to the blogs.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? It's a Wonderful Life. It's my favorite movie ever. George Bailey is the greatest hero in the history of film.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Again, Ann shops. But we don't get really geared up, budget-wise, until October.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I don't think so. That would be tacky.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? I'll copy what Lori said--Used to be Grandmama's it's Aunt Linda's stuffing...someone probably needs to teach Ann how to make it eventually.

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear.

17. Favorite Christmas song? I'm not sure. I like the Manaheim Steamroller version of "Deck the Halls.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Stay home.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? OF COURSE. Can't everybody?

20. Angel on top of the tree or star? A crocheted Angel that Ann won at a church party when we were first married. She had the final pick in the gift exchange and picked it out of every gift available. And only I get to put it on the tree. There's also an elf with pipe-cleaner arms and legs that goes around the trunk just below the angel. Besides that, anybody can hang the ornaments.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? In our house, we'll have some kind of Christmas with in-laws, out-laws, divorced parents, family, friends, co-workers, or total strangers every day for at least a week. But we do our immediate family Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? It's OK now, but I hate Christmas songs on the radio before Thanksgiving (my FAVORITE holiday).

23. What I love most about Christmas? Two weeks off with my family. In some ways, it's even more welcome a break than summer vacation. Sorry, all you non-teachers!

24. Best Christmas dessert? Same as the best dessert at every family gathering--my Grandmama's "Yummy Chocolate Cake." It's been my favorite for my whole life.

Huckaboom to Huckabust

OK, the bloom is off the rose. The intial infatuation has passed. I have come to my senses, and I am officially jumping off the Huckabee bandwagon. I'm not sure if it was the AIDS quarantine statement from '92 (which might would have been an appropiate thing to suggest in '82), or the "innocent" question about Mormon theology this past week, or the commutation of 1000+ criminal sentences in Arkansas, or the fact that the FairTax is a completely unworkable idea (and don't tell me I don't understand it--I own the FairTax Book). But it has finally dawned on me that I don't think Mike Huckabee has what it takes to really BE president. I hate to admit it, but if this guy were just a mainline protestant layman, he wouldn't be attractive to me at all. The fact that he seems to be a genuine, Bible-believing Southern Baptist is great. And that's why he has the support he does. I think the GOP ignores that part of their coalition (say, by nominating Giuliani) at their own peril. But it takes more than shared values to make you my candidate. Some of the greatest people in my own church congregation, who I would trust with my life, my kids' lives--I wouldn't trust them to manage a lemonade stand, much less the executive branch during wartime. So, adios, Mike.

That begs the question, "then, who?" I'm back to thinking I can best see Romney actually doing the job of president. But if Huck's support winds up falling in with Thompson, I could still easily go his way, too. Even McCain doesn't strike me too badly (although he's ancient and crotchety). We'll have to see where things lie by the SC primary. But it ain't Huck.

Of Broken Thumbs and Kitchen Sinks

Several years ago, I used to play pick-up basketball on Saturdays with my friend, Jeremy. We won a lot more than we lost; in 2-on-2, the pick and roll, executed properly, is pretty much unstoppable. It helped a lot that Jeremy is a GREAT player. But I got hit funny one time and broke my left thumb. At first I thought, "it's my left. Thank goodness it's not my right hand, because that one I actually use." Over the next several weeks of wearing a brace (luckily, velcro and canvas, not plaster), I found out how foolish that initial assessment was. Turns out that you can't perform major life functions like putting on your clothes without a left thumb. The past two weeks of kitchen renovations have been similar. (If you haven't seen the changes to my kitchen, Ann has been photo-blogging the day-by-day progress here.) When we set up our makeshift kitchen of two cabinets, a dorm fridge, a microwave, and a coffeepot in the living room, I thought to myself "this'll work. All we're missing is the kitchen sink." Pause for a second and ask yourself how many times in an average day you use a kitchen sink. From the first half-inch of water each morning to take a pill to filling the dog bowl or the coffeepot (don't forget the times you use drain or the disposal) , it turns out we used that sink a LOT more than I thought. Between that and walking into the garage to use the full-size fridge (which currently is not hooked up to an icemaker), it's interesting, to say the least. Not to complain, though. We're thrilled with the progress and it looks like they'll be done well ahead of schedule (floors go in today, I think). But it sure will be nice to have my sink back!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


So we finally have begun the remodeling process on our kitchen. The demo crew came and spent all day tearing out cabinets, sink, appliances, and HALF the floor. They meant to do the whole floor, but it took more than twice as long as expected. The job foreman even remarked, "I've been doing this for 40 years, and that's the weirdest tile job I ever saw." I wasn't surprised. You see, the previous owner of my house was a great guy, a really handy Chinese fellow who told me that the closest thing to the actual pronunciation of his name is Win. And every time I come across some Win-genuity or Win-gineering, you can guarantee it's going to be quality work... that makes NO sense. For example, there's a big wire that runs from floor to ceiling behind where the fridge used to be. Not in the wall. Not against the wall. Just free-floating behind the fridge, about an inch into the kitchen. What does it do? Who knows. I told the contractor, just put it inside the new wall. I'm sure it does something important. There were live wires in the wall behind where the cabinets came out. Live, as in, not even capped off. Maybe they've been there threatening to burn the place down for 15-20 years. The sprinkler system in the back yard? Win-gineered. When a buddy of mine who owns an irrigation company helped me swap out a broken head this summer, the same question was there: "what kind of goofball did this job?" My personal favorite--the beautiful hardwood spiral staircase in my garage leading to the attic. It interferes with parking and makes using the attic more difficult. And a $100 disappearing stairwell would have worked better and could have been put up in an hour. But aside from those minor considerations, what a great staircase! And don't even get me started on Win's exquisite (and maddening to maintain) landscaping! Anyway, we're excited to have the kitchen underway, even if we're a half-day behind only one day into the job. Since we're trying to be done by Christmas, here's hoping we don't come across too many more Win-genius ideas.

Monday, December 3, 2007


So, Huckabee is the flavor of the month. My best lib friend Matthew has already taken me to task for predicting that he can't win the anti-Rudy primary, and now the mainstream pundits have begun to come around to the same conclusion. My father-in-law, who knows zip about politics but has outstanding instincts (and is one of the wisest men I know), confidently predicts that Huck will be the last man standing. So what's a theo-con like me to do? The knock on Huck is that although he's the most solid social conservative in the field, that he's a lightweight on foreign policy and a squish on conservative economics. The econ stuff, as I have indicated before, is the least of my worries--I'd probably be called squishy, too. I'd prefer someone in wartime who focuses more on that issue, but it's not like Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani have ever actually been commander-in-chief, either. I know that in the end, I'll wind up voting for un-Hillary, whoever that happens to be, and even if it requires a firm holding of the nose. But for now, color me intrigued about Mike Huckabee. If he comes into SC looking like he has a chance, I'll almost certainly try to send him along to Florida with the chance still intact. In the end, if it's hold my nose and vote for a Republican with whom I disagree, I'd MUCH rather the disagreement be over economic issues than life and potential judges.