Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Radio Silence

Sorry to my few regulars: life has happened to me for the past week or so. Soulmate is going on a retreat this weekend (not my fault, or at least not mostly), so I will update the happenings then. Until then, and in honor of my old geezer brother who turned 50 recently, I present his favorite Robert Frost poem:

The Road Not Taken (1920)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Last night as I watched the snow fall thick and silent, something made me think of Robert Frost's poem:

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost-1922

Sunday, March 16, 2008


My energy at the end of this week is definitely conforming to the law of entropy. As result my musings today have a distinctly random quality. This also usually happens when I surf the various blogs on my read list. first off is a shout out to Big Jim, who currently rides a 29er but who will likely be upgrading to this baby:

I'm very unhappy at the demise of Mean Dawg's blog, since his site was pretty swizzy until he was mugged by an identity theft. Hope you get it all back and stick it to the bad guy, Mean Dawg.

I'm just about finished with Ken Burns' film on World War II, just one 2-hour episode to go. We haven't dropped the A-bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki yet but our boys have crossed the Rhine and are chasing the Nazis back to Berlin. That was a heck of a war, and the last really good war that we fought in. If there is such a thing as a just war, that was it. If you have any elderly relatives who fought in World War II, or if you know anyone else who did, make sure you thank them.

I saw an old guy in my office a year or so ago, and he was really depressed. He had a lot of complaints, but nothing really wrong with him. I checked him over and told him he was doing fine physically for his age, but that he seemed depressed. As we talked I discovered he had fought on Iwo Jima and one other Pacific battle I think it was Okinawa. These were two of the bloodiest battles America fought against Japan, and thousands of our boys made the ultimate sacrifice there. I got a little choked up thinking about the fact that this guy had survived two bloody battles in order to really preserve our liberty.

I reached over and shook his hand and looked him in the eye and said, "thank you for fighting for us. Thank you for all the sacrifices you made." He burst into tears right then and there and said, "no one has ever said that to me before." I wrapped up the appointment with a few suggestions for him, and send him on his way. I saw him back about a month later and he was truly a different man, completely cured of his depression. I can't really say how much of it was due to my words to him, but I don't doubt that they had a positive effect on his mood.

I really believe in the power of spoken words. The Bible says that words have the power to build up or to destroy, and it's really true. This blog is mostly silliness and levity, but in all seriousness if you really want to change the world for the good, start speaking words of encouragement to the people around you. It's funny too: when you mostly say things that are positive, people tend to like to hang around you.

On another entirely random note: Soulmate and I went to a concert put on by Collective Unconscious called "Bridge over Troubled Water." These guys assembled an entire stage full of all the original instruments used on Simon & Garfunkel's final studio album including a string section, a brass section, a Hammond organ, a Peruvian flute, and about a hundred guitars. As a bass player, I did notice they only had one paltry four-string bass. I guess that's all they had in 1970.

Anyway, they opened with five of their own songs, then five or six from Paul Simon's solo career, and after intermission they did the entire BOTW album exactly as it was recorded. They did a fantastic job despite a few glitches, and it was a very satisfying evening.

Yesterday I downloaded that album off of iTunes along with Simon and Garfunkel's greatest hits, so now I've got all of their stuff playing in my head. It could be worse: It could be the Beastie Boys or Brittney Spears, though that would be impossible since I don't own a single track by either these highly acclaimed artists. I'll stick to Paul Simon, U2, and the Boss, and a host of others from Hildegard von Bingen to Mozart to Phil Keaggy.

Nuf said for today. Time to finish off the Nazis & the Japs once and for all.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Week's Been a Blur

After getting back from Houston on Sunday night, Soulmate and I plunged into a very busy week. It's all been a blur of seeing patients in the clinic, physical therapy, icing my shoulder, and attending to all the myriad details of daily life. Having my own personal valet and chauffeur is great for me, but Soulmate hasn't gotten anything done since I had surgery.

After harassing my older brother by printing his AARP card on a previous post, I began checking web sites related to Chinese adoption, since we are waiting in line to complete our adoption. It's a complicated affair, with login dates, estimated wait times, and referral and travel dates, all in a jumble.

After sifting through all the complicated calculations, the web site estimates that we should hear from the China adoption agency either the beginning of next month or the beginning of May. There is usually a four to eight week delay, before we travel, so we will likely be traveling to China for two weeks sometime in June or July to complete our adoption.

For those of you to whom this is a major revelation, Soulmate and I have been waiting to adopt a little Chinese girl since we started the process in July of 2005. It has taken much longer to complete the adoption than we expected. Initial estimates by our adoption agency were for a nine month wait between our login date (the date that he official Chinese adoption service received our application) and our referral (the paper sent from China with a picture and a medical report of the little girl assigned to us).

Unfortunately, the wait so far has been 27 months, or three times as long as we expected. Given the number of international couples applying to China and the decreasing number of babies being made available by the Chinese adoption service, if someone applies today, they can expect a five-year wait.

I asked my physical therapist yesterday whether I would be able to carry a 15 pound toddler around by June or July, and he was confident that I would be sufficiently recovered to do so. This has suddenly become much more important than whether I will be back on the bike for the summer crit season or not.

My shoulder rehab has suddenly taken on a greater level of importance for me that I ever thought it would. I was prepared to scrub the entire racing season in order to make sure my shoulder was strong enough for the rigors of competition, but now it looks like the timing of my surgery was more ideal than I thought, hopefully allowing me to participate fully in all of the bonding that will go on when we meet are little girl. All in all, it looks like I have plenty of motivation to see this process through.

On another note, my cousin Mark Grabowski’s son Jim plays basketball for Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri. SBU is an NCAA division 2 school, and they are in the division 2 NCAA basketball tournament. They beat West Texas A&M by a wide margin tonight. Jim is a senior this year, and made the first-team all-conference selection. He is a six-foot seven forward, who is the leading scorer on his team this year, a threat both inside and from behind the arc. Good luck, and go Bearcats!

On yet another note, with all the time I usually spend on the bike at this time of year, I have a lot more leisure time. I'm finishing Ken Burns' fantastic film series on World War II while I work out on the arc trainer. I ordered season five of Monk and season one of Psych, two of my favorite detective shows on the USA Network. In addition, I got an intriguing little book by Jerome Groopman, MD, called “How Doctors Think.” It has always intrigued me how we doctors come to a diagnosis, right or wrong, and this book sheds some light on the intellectual and emotional processes and shortcuts that we apparently use.

The book is actually written for patients to be able to help their doctors ask and answered the right questions so they reach the right diagnosis and proposed the right treatments. I'm not all offended by the book, given that the author is the chair of the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. I figure that if one of the smartest doctors in the nation needs to study the process of medical decision-making, a dumb surgeon like myself could probably benefit from what he finds out.

Oops, it's almost midnight. I'm afraid there's not much thinking going on of all at this time of night. It's all a blur again…

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Happy Birthday, Old Geezer!

It's official: my older brother is old. Proof positive is a card that came in the mail last week:

BTW bro, if the picture looks blurry, it's because your eyes have gotten old too. Go find your reading glasses, and put some Ben-Gay next to the Geritol where you'll remember it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Oh, to be 11 again

I spent the weekend in Houston. Soulmate and I flew down there on Friday as I mentioned in my previous blog, and surprised the heck out of my brother to celebrate his 50th birthday a little early. We went to Mark's, a really swank restaurant, on Saturday night. It was by far the best meal I've had at least since we ate at Boulevard in view of the Bay bridge in San Francisco in November.

Despite a highbrow meal on Saturday night, I spent most of the weekend thinking like an 11-year-old. Kyle, my gymnast nephew, has discovered YouTube in a big way. We spent much of the weekend watching funny videos, Cirque du Soleil excerpts, and how-to videos that mostly dealt with exploding containers of various sorts. The rest of the time we spent imitating Cirque du Soleil excerpts and actually exploding containers of various sorts.

In an effort to be entirely forthright, I must admit that I actually only watched and filmed the proceedings while my two nephews did the participating. In my last post I promised some contortionism, so here is Kyle imitating an act from the Cirque du Soleil "Kooza" show:

Did I mention that Kyle might not be your average, run-of-the-mill 11 year old?

However, like most 11 year-old boys, he is quite interested in making things blow up. I filmed two experiments involving baking soda and vinegar in a water bottle:

This first video illustrates the importance of having the projectile thrown away from the cameraman instead of toward him. As you can plainly see, a portion of the water bottle whistles passed my right ear only a couple feet away.

This second video illustrates the importance of watching out for traffic before arming your projectile. Notice that we shake the bottle and then realize the car's coming. This extra time allows the pressure to build to a much greater extent inside the container, resulting in an big explosion that propels the shredded bottle above the street light before it flutters back to the street.

In a much tamer experiment, we shoved some Mentos into a 2 liter bottle of diet Coke and watched as a 10 foot fountain of Coke foam shot out of the bottle. A little bit anti-climactic if you ask me.

Just before we left for the airport, my nephews managed to secure a bottle of "The Works" toilet bowl cleaner, which can be mixed with small balls of tinfoil in a sealed water bottle to make a really excellent explosion. Unfortunately, we had to leave before I could get a video of this wondrous project. Be careful with this one though, because if you approach the container after it has been armed and it explodes in your face, you can get serious acid burns.

On Sunday afternoon, before we left for the airport, we had my mom over from the nursing home for an early birthday celebration for her. On the first day of spring she turns 39 again. Happy Birthday, you spring chick you.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Travel Daze

Soulmate and I tried to fly to Houston last night to start my brother's 50th birthday celebration a few days early, but we never made it out of the airport because the puddle-jumper to MSP was too late to get us to the last flight out to Houston. So, we went to Barnes & Noble for the first time in ages where Soulmate bought a pile of books and I bought one.

We got out of town at noon today, caught a flight to Houston, took a cab to my brother's house, and finally showed up at my nephew's baseball game just in time to surprise the socks off of my brother. The whole hassle-filled trip was worth the belly-laugh we got watching him pick his jaw up off the ground. Then we visited my Mom in the nursing home for a while. She's always pumped when I show up. Moms are really good for the old self-image.

The guy flight attendant on our flight scored a direct hit with his knee on my left elbow just before we landed, so my arm is a little achy tonight. I don't think he screwed anything up, but he didn't do me any favors either. Then he acted like he didn't notice, and pretended to be all busy and important. I felt like tripping him on his next pass, but decided against it. Besides, he never showed his face again. I'm over it now.

Tomorrow--some contortionism.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Race Across London

Score one for the real King of the Urban Jungle.

Oh, and my shoulder is doing just fine, for anyone who cares.

Dangers of Carbon

As far as I'm concerned, this guy's carbon footprint is OK, but his faceplant is a real problem.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

One Day at a Time

Not much news to post today. I made it through my second day in the clinic without too much trouble, though I am not as efficient one-handed as I would like to be. I have a left-handed nurse, who comes to assist me with various procedures and examinations, and she's a godsend.

It's sort of interesting to reflect on all this manual dexterity business. The old saw says it well: “You don't know what you've got till it's gone." To illustrate what I mean, do this tomorrow morning when you get dressed: Take your left forefinger, stick it in your bellybutton, don't let it move from there, and get dressed in your ordinary manner.

I especially enjoy putting on an ordinary pair of men's dress trousers. You know ones I mean: There's a small button tab on the inside of the fly, a metal tab that attaches just above the zipper, and another button tab on the outside. Not to get to graphic, but it's a little tricky to hike up your trousers, tuck in your boxers, tuck in your shirt, and fasten two pants buttons one-handed.

I have a few shirts that go on pretty well, because the cuff-button sleeves are just wide enough diameter that I can get my hands through them without actually having to un-button or button the sleeve buttons. I realize that in many parts of the country it's all the rage to leave your cuff buttons unbuttoned & your shirttails hanging out, but come on, this is central Minnesota, where some of my older patients routinely wear a suit and tie to a clinic appointment (the same one they wear to church, weddings, and funerals, because it's their ONLY suit).

Don't even get me started with one-handed sock placement.

Fortunately for me, I have a lovely personal assistant, who is on-call 24/7, and who is remarkably adept at assisting with personal grooming. After all, Soulmate has been buying most of my clothes and matching them up almost every day to make sure I don't show up at work with clashing plaids and stripes. Or ANY plaids and stripes. There is an unwritten law about that, I'm led to believe.

Here she is acting the part of the water carrier. Actually, she is increasing the pressure head of the gravity assisted Cryo-Cuff that I use to ice my shoulder.

No, she is not for rent.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Day Seven: A Little Bonk

I went to work back at the clinic today for the first time since my shoulder surgery a week ago today. I caught up on my electronic medical records before clinic started, and saw full complement of patients in my morning and afternoon clinics. In between I ran over to the physical therapy office for a little more masochism.

Somewhere around 3:30, I bonked.

I got a bit of good news at the physical therapist though. My shoulder range of motion is quite good for this point postoperatively, and the massive bruise that is my bicep appears to be taking a slightly more human form. Granted, a very purple, yellow, green, red, and flabby form, sort of like one of those 1960s psychedelic album cover art pictures.

Don't look for any witty dialogue tonight, I used it all up trying to explain to my patients how it is that I can care for their ENT needs one-handed (and I did).

More energy tomorrow, I hope...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Day Six: Technology Wins the Day

I've never really been a man of few words. I'm not the silent type at all. My style runs more toward the loquacious than the taciturn. The last week, however, my easy flow of conversation has been severely cramped--digitally speaking--owing to the loss of dexterity in my left hand. In reality, there's nothing wrong with my left hand, it's just that I've been ordered not to use it.

Semantics alert: I find it more than a little ironic to use the word ‘dexterity’ with reference to my left hand. "Dexter" is the Latin root for “right" (as opposed to” left"). FYI, "sinister" is the Latin root for “left." I've heard it said that in medieval morality plays, the bad guy always enters from the left, making him the "sinister" character. The use of the word "dexterity" to describe facility with one's hands probably comes from the fact that most of us are right-handed.

If you've just come from a different planet or your surname is Van Winkle, I'll leave you to read previous posts to gain a fuller understanding of my current sinister limitation. But, since inquiring minds want to know, several friends have asked, "as a doctor, don't you find it hard to be the patient now, following the orders of another doctor?"

To me, the answer to that question is obvious. However, we medical doctors do have a reputation for not taking our own advice. I'm not sure if this reputation is truly deserved, but I have heard of instances where doctors made very poor patients. Truth be told, it took me a long time to come to the point of having an MRI scan done, so I suppose I could be accused of lack of compliance with standard medical care to some degree.

In other professions, this is usually referred to as stubbornness.

Not being a particularly stubborn person, and hoping to encourage other patients to actually act on the advice of their doctors, I have decided to be a compliance and motivated invalid. Besides, my physical therapist told me if I do everything he says I'll get out of this darned sling a lot faster.

Anyway, if you have detected a certain loquaciousness to my current post, it derives from a certain technical superiority I have achieved over my lowly laptop. I've engaged the assistance of a software program called Dragon Naturally Speaking, which I use extensively at my office to complete my electronic medical records.

I forgot that I have a resident version on my laptop, which does not contain the extensive medical database that is stored on my network at the office, but works perfectly well for everyday conversation. Now, I just lean back and shoot off my mouth, and the poor little laptop does all the typing for me.

There's nothing more reprehensible than a winner who gloats over-much, so I will show my poor vanquished laptop some benignant restraint (not to mention the patience of my gentle readers, most of whom have come to appreciate a certain brevity in my recent posts). I will end this post with a final thought, which I found most pleasant:

As Soulmate was driving us to church this morning, I mentioned to her that looking after me for the last week or so has probably better prepared her for our upcoming adoption. Having just bathed me, dressed me, fed me, and bundled me out to the car to go to church, I allowed that she would be doing just about the same thing with our little Chinese adoptee, who will be about one year old when she comes home with us sometime this summer (God willing).

“No”, she said, “she will be a lot harder, because you're at least ambulatory, articulate, and potty trained.”

Wow! I feel so affirmed!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Day 5: Reality Check

Soulmate drove me to the bike shop this morning so I could harass the guys before they left on a training ride.

"You're idiots to go out for 4 hours at 18 degrees and black ice everywhere," I said.

Then I went home and cried like a baby because I got left behind.