Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Flipping a Coin

I'm fairly limited in terms of the exercises I can do for cardio when I go to the gym, so in an effort to keep my workouts "fresh," I do a sequence of coin-flips:
1) Workout, yes (heads) or no (tails)? This only really is in question if I'm hurting (ankle or otherwise) or I've done a hard workout the day before
2) Hard (heads) or easy (tails)? If I've done a hard workout the day before AND I flip heads for #1, then it's guaranteed to be an easy day, no coin flip really needed
3) If "hard" in #2, heads is for speed intervals, tails is for hill intervals (done on a Cybex Eagle elliptical trainer)
4) If "easy" in #2, heads is for elliptical, tails is for the exercise bicycle (which may be combined with arm bike and/or rowing machine)
By flipping a coin, I can take out my personal biases, which would always be to do some form of elliptical, since I used to love running so much.

Sometimes, the coin-flip technique doesn't work. Today was one of those days. I got to the gym and though the coin-flips had come out for "easy" and "exercise bike," there were no bikes free when I got there. Plus, I was running late. In the spirit of just getting moving, I hopped onto one of the free elliptical trainers and just did a flat course, trying to keep HR low. I did better with that today than I did yesterday:
duration: 15 minutes (cardio, I lifted for an hour afterwards)
average HR: 150
max HR: 156

I'm glad I went to the gym, though right now I feel like my body is getting mad at me. My ankle has started twinging more often (which it had pretty much stopped doing as of the middle of last week), and, in addition to being in a cast for my thumb, I'm also dealing with a flare-up of labyrinthitis. Since my workout tomorrow will be in the morning, I've already flipped the coin...it came out "easy bike." But, if I wake up and my ankle is flaring, I'm going to skip. A day off probably wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, anyway.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sweating in a Cast

I sprained my thumb (again) about a week ago, slipping down my stairs and bending my thumb backwards as I tried to catch myself. I went to the doc because my thumb would wake me up, rolling on it or something in my sleep, and he put me into a cast for 4 weeks. I still can't decide if he put me in plaster because he doesn't trust me with something removable, or because of the added protection it gives, owing to my Ehlers-Danlos, or for some other reason. Given how many times I've been in a cast, I thought it was funny he still had to give me the "lecture" on keeping it clean and dry. I wonder if "keeping it dry" precludes me from exercising (and thus sweating) in it. For the moment, I'm assuming it doesn't, as I've been way off the consistent workout wagon for awhile and have been trying to get back on...

...which is what leads me to this post today. Given that I'm not really training for anything (let's be honest, what could I actually compete in?), and don't really have a "goal" in mind (though I'd like to drop a few pounds that crept up on me...good timing, with the holidays right around the corner, eh?), I figure the best way to keep me honest about the workouts and such is to record them here, for everybody who reads this blog to see.

So, without further ado, today's workout was an "easy" cardio day (trying to keep heart rate below 152). I did an hour (plus a 4 minute cooldown) on the Octane Fitness elliptical at my gym. I've found that it mimics the running motion I miss so much these days, better than most. I also love how at the end of your workout, it says "You have been fueled by Octane." I didn't go quite as easy as I'd hoped, here were the stats:
duration: 1 hour
average HR: 153
max HR: 160

I'm a bit concerned that my ankle is disliking my workouts, as it felt fine during the workout but was sore when I got home. I'm going to have to keep an eye on things and continue icing and elevating as I can, if I want to keep up with the workouts. It probably goes without saying, but until the cast comes off, I can't do the rowing machine or anything. Tomorrow is a "workout with Brian" day, hopefully work won't get in my way there (as it has so often lately, as has my ankle). I'll flip a coin tomorrow to figure out my workout, and post it up.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Amazon's Kindle DX

So Amazon today announced the Kindle DX, a larger version of their Kindle e-reader. I don't know what to make of it. I own a Kindle 2, and I cannot honestly say that there is anything that I use the Kindle 2 to do that I could do better on the DX.

The main differences in the DX from the K2 are:
more on-board memory (3.3 GB vs. 2 GB)
bigger screen (9.7" vs 6") -- and corresponding larger hardware size
native PDF support
auto-rotating screen

The DX seems to be aimed at the college crowd as well as the crowd that reads periodicals (especially newspapers) on their Kindle. I have finished school (for the time being?) and do not regularly read any newspaper (thus I do not subscribe to any on my Kindle 2).

I don't know, for regular books, I think I'd probably find the Kindle DX annoying. The Kindle 2 screen size means that with the default font size, I feel like I'm reading a normal page in a book. I think having more lines of text on the screen would be almost distracting to me. To combat this, one could of course increase the font size on the display, but I also do not like reading bigger print. I do not have any reason for this other than that it's a personal preference.

The physical size difference wouldn't impact me much. I read books in a variety of ways: on my Kindle 2, on my PDA (Dell Axim x51v until the iPod dies and then I'm likely getting an iPod Touch), and in audio form. My Kindle 2 mostly stays at home on my nightstand or in the bathroom. If I'm on the go and reading, I'm either reading something on the PDA or listening to an audiobook (I did an accounting recently, I have 117 audiobooks). When I travel, my Kindle 2 comes with me, naturally, though I don't typically carry it around day-to-day. I have done so on occassion, as it's the perfect size to fit into my day-to-day bag (an extra small Timbuk2 messenger bag). The Kindle DX wouldn't fit in there. I don't know how many people would carry either device around day-to-day, though I imagine that those who carry around briefcases or laptop bags probalby wouldn't notice the difference, either way. I would.

So, taking a look at one market for the DX, how would college students use it? When I was in college, I ended up buying many textbooks new through Amazon at cheaper prices than I could get them used at the college bookstore. When I was done with them, I'd either keep them or sell them back and then go out at the end of the term with my book buyback money. The Kindle DX probably will help save money in the initial purchase but removes the sell-back ability. I can tell you without a doubt that my introductory stats book was useless, and even with a Kindle DX, I'd want to get rid of it.

That all said, my physics textbooks were often rather thick (stupid loooooooooong equations and proofs) and I probably would have appreiciated the ease on my back. Then again, I got hit by cars twice while in college. If that happened with a Kindle DX and it was damaged, I'd have to replace the hardware to get my books back, which wasn't the case with the standard books. Same thing for more "typical" things like losing it or spilling beverages on it. A minor issue, but one that becomes major (and expensive) if it happens to you.

Of course, there's also a problem with the Kindle and DRM if you ever get your Amazon account suspended. A story related to this was in a lot of the blogs recently, and I would be quite pissed if I bought a piece of expensive hardware that was effectively useless if that happened. But that gripe holds for the Kindle 2 as much as the DX.

Then we get to the newspaper crowd. I do not know anyone my age that reads the newspaper. Granted, I hang out with some people who are disturbingly out of touch with what's happening in the world. However, I also hang out with people who do what I do, and get their news from various websites (newspaper websites, BBC, etc), news aggregators (including news.google.com), and of course, Jon Stewart. I read somewhere recently that the majority of Kindle owners were over 40. I'm not. So maybe this newspaper feature will appeal to that crowd (who I think does read the newspaper), but I don't think anybody my age will care.

At $489, the Kindle DX a bit pricier than the $359 Kindle 2. For the way that I use my Kindle, and the way I read books in general, I can't see people my age actually buying it. Dwight Silverman (on Twitter, @dsilverman) has said he thinks this is a pre-emptive manevuer by Amazon to combat an Apple tablet or e-reader. Maybe that's the case. Michael Gartenberg (@Gartenberg on Twitter) has said that the larger screen and better layout control of the DX would make him recommend the DX over the Kindle 2 to someone who doesn't own one (I hope he writes up his impressions/thoughts and posts them to his personal site or to Engadget, I look forward to hearing more of his thoughts on it). Personally, if I didn't have a Kindle 2 now, I still think I'd buy the Kindle 2, not the DX. I think a lot of people my age would. But, in the end, I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Updates and Flashbacks

First the update I promised right before my satellite launched and haven't gotten to until now: I most likely have classical-type Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I got the letter right before Christmas, but between my hand surgery, the holiday, and then way too much going on getting ready for launch, I forgot to post it here. The vascular type of EDS was ruled out with the skin biopsy, and the genetic doc believes I have the classical type. While not surprising, this is of course still a relief to know for certain.

Speaking of my hand surgery, I had a follow-up with my surgeon on Monday. My surgery was on December 5th, and while in many ways my hand is much improved, it's still not right. I still have pain on the inside of my hand, right where the pinkie meets the hand. I guess we're attributing this to the volar plate issues that the MRI showed, but it doesn't help when it still hurts. Of course, one thing that makes it hurt more is keeping my hand in a "closed" position (like how it would be when holding a fork or doing cross-stitch or writing long-hand), and the splint my doc had the PT make for me keeps my hand in a mostly-closed position.

The splint is a lumbrical bar splint and is intended to keep my pinkie from catching/locking as I extend it, which is the other problem I still seem to have. It's hard to understand what's making it catch or stall when I extend it, because with passive motion, my finger/hand seems normal, but with active motion, it's definitely there. The catching causes more generalized pain in my 5th MCP joint, which is also contributing to some of my issues.

Anyway, my doc thinks that my best option at this point may be another surgery (that would be number 11 overall and number 4 on the hand for those playing at home). I didn't ask for a lot of details, since I'm not sure it's the right choice for me, but it sounded like he wanted to basically splice the tendon that goes to my pinkie into the tendon that goes into my other fingers. For a lot of reasons, this sounds like a bad idea to me, and he's not wild about it, either. He has referred me to a doc at the Curtis National Hand Center for a second opinion and a second set of eyes.

The last time this type of thing happened was with my ankle. My surgeon thought I needed a sub-talar fusion, and wanted me to go to Baltimore to one of the top surgeons for a second opinion. I went up to that doctor and he recommended the more limiting triple arthrodesis, which I eventually underwent. I really don't know that I'm ready for another surgery right now. I always figured surgery number 11 would be the one to take the hardware out of my ankle but at the same time, I want to be done with one joint before moving onto the next. I guess I'll have to see what the guy at the Hand Center says. *Fingers crossed*

Sunday, February 08, 2009


I'll be writing more this week, but figured I'd share this, it made me chuckle a bit. Walked into a stall in the ladies room at a restaurant yesterday and as I locked the door, saw this sign:

Then, I looked at the toilet:

I couldn't help but wonder if that trash can had toilet paper in it that would normally go in the toilet...

I used the next stall over, it didn't have any signs on it about putting paper in it. Alas, where would photos like this be without camera phones? ;)