Saturday, March 31, 2012


CAPTCHA:  those eye straining fuzzy words that Google has recently inflicted on all blogger spots (whether you, the blogger want them or not) so that commenters can "prove" they're not a  spam-bot.  Not only does CAPTCHA not work but google already screens comments for spam so CAPTCHA jusy annoys your blog's followers.  You can read more here:

The steps required to disable CAPTCHA are a little different, depending on whether you use the new or old blogger interface but not difficult.  I've disabled CAPTCHA on both of my blogs and if I can do it, anybody can do it.  Since throwing CAPTCHA overboard I have yet to receive a single bit of spam.

As a blogger you will not be aware of CAPTCHA when replying to comments--but your readers will!  I personally give up on a comment if I can't quickly get CAPTCHA correctly entered on the first attempt.

So, that's my rant of the day.  Sorry for the lack of skating relevance--but I REALLY DO HATE IT!

CAPTCHA is so hated that it's getting ink in the intellectual section of the Wash Post.  What more to say?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Two week benchmark

Seems to be mending.  The break is towards the distal end of the radius (the faint diagonal lines seen in large bone on the left of this image)
Tomorrow marks two weeks since I broke my radius. This past Friday I saw my orthopedic surgeon and he indicated that there would be no significant advantage in healing time or reduced risk of down stream arthritis by undergoing a surgical reduction in addition to the manual reduction I received in the emergency room back on the 13th. I see him again in two weeks and hope that I'll be able to move into a shorty cast by then.  Moving into a short cast by the fourth week after the break might be a bit optimistic but I'm already tired of my present one which prevents elbow movement.  That makes it difficult to sleep and also limits the selection of shirt and jacket sleeves that I can stuff my arm into.  He also told me to start squeezing a tennis ball to maintain my finger strength and flexibility.  That's proving surprisingly difficult to do.  It doesn't take much of a squeeze to induce a sharp bit of pain.  That's probably his way of demonstrating how far I really need to go before earning that short cast and elbow freedom.

An earlier comment to this thread was that some consideration should be given to the safety and well being of my long suffering spouse from me thrashing in my sleep and accidentally whacking her with my cast.  While I did explain that my bride sleeps with a claw hammer within easy reach (in case of burglars) and that I'd be the very last guy on this planet who'd want to inadvertently startle her from a deep sleep, being a sensitive kinda guy who cares I just wanted to debut my answer to that concern: the soon to be patented marriage saving CAST SHEATH.  Now friends this may look like a run of the mill pillow wrapped around my cast and held in place with dollar store quality duct tape, but this MEDICAL QUALITY device is something that every figure skater should own!  One size fits all!  How much would you pay to get a marriage saving CAST SHEATH?  Don't answer that!  Act RIGHT NOW and get your very own CAST SHEATH for the low, low price of $39.99 (plus shipping, handling and profit).  BUT WAIT--THERE'S MORE!  Order your CAST SHEATH in the next ten minutes and you'll get not one but TWO CAST SHEATHS PLUS A SET OF GINZU KNIVES (in case things don't work out) FOR THE SAME LOW PRICE!  ON THIN ICE OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY! (some assembly required, offer not valid in some jurisdictions.)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Getting in touch with my inner-lefty

Dear constant reader: Today I decided to not remain at the mercy of a bunch of zero charisma barbers and made an attempt at left hand shaving.  I asked myself: What's the worst thing that can happen?  A badly misjudged stroke and either an ear removal (just like van Gogh--tres arty!) or a gash on the side of my face might result--small prices for freedom, and besides, I could tell people that the gash is a dueling scar.  Chicks dig that "dangerous" look.  Of course as the heroes in Sherman's Lagoon point out there's often a mighty fine line between "dangerously attractive" and " whack-o nut case" :

But first things first.  In my last installment I indicated that I could probably cling wrap and tape my cast without assistance.  Today I put that notion to the test and successfully pulled it off.  I quickly learned how to trap the roll between my body and the arm in the cast long enough to get the first lap of cling wrap to self-stick and behave itself.  Applying the tape to the ends of the wrap was a little tricky but doable.  Chalk up one up for the gimpster.  After showering I cut off the wrap and stepped up to the mirror for the next event in today's sporting challenge:  the 200 meter free-style shaving event w/Barbasol.  I lathered up cheeks, neck and chin, picked up my trusty Gillette, looked squarely into the mirror and started channeling my inner six year old: "this time you'll only be penalized if you screw up, not if you succeed, grasshopper".  After a few cautious, exploratory strokes I realized that I could do this--in fact my left handed shave was better than the one the reluctant barber gave me the other day with two hands.  Notch up another small victory for old gimp-meister.

Now before I leave you with the mistaken impression that life is a bowl of cherries for a guy in a cast, let us take a look at a few of those things which although simple and generally taken for granted by healthy individuals possessing two fully functional hands, are either a bit of a struggle or are out of reach for me right now:

Ten things which I can do independently but with some difficultly: 

1. doing/undoing shirt buttons
2. tucking shirt tails neatly into jeans
3. zipping and buttoning jeans (bonus artistic interpretation points awarded if shirt tail remains tucked during this bronze level "move")
4. tying shoes, buckling my watch band and similar motions that involve pulling with the right or both hands (these hurt, not enough to prevent the action but enough to get my attention--my right arm hates it and tells me so)
5. showering (including cast protective steps)
6. shaving
7. using a knife to cut bread, bagels, etc. (a struggle but I CAN do this, damn it)
8.grinding coffee beans then adding a filter, the fresh grounds and water to the coffee maker--very big
9. self-feeding (as long as involved use of knife + fork are avoided)
10. driving an automatic shift car to work and other nearby destinations

Ten things which have escaped me

1. wearing most coats, long sleeved shirts or pull overs--I'm thankful I didn't do this in the dead of winter
2. pulling on gloves in the lab--I'm pretty useless at the lab; right now I'm mainly providing answers to colleague's questions regarding techniques, etc. and doing paperwork, reading and so on.  My job requires a great deal of "hands on" tasks.  I'll have one hellva backlog once the cast comes off
3. lifting anything requiring two hands/arms e.g. a boat from the ground to car roof racks
4. riding a bike (can't shift the derailleurs, can only use one brake--maybe I'll look into a "fixie"[a single speed, track-style bike with no brakes, shiftable gears or free wheel]--I've always wanted to be a hipster)
5. sailing small race boats--with an arm in a cast this would be suicidal in any sort of breeze
6. using a manual can opener, even cans of things, like sardines, with pull tabs are a struggle
7. skating--couldn't pull on the boots if my life depended on it, let alone tie them anywhere near tight enough
8. use a cork screw--this is a huge reduction in the quality of life dept!
8a. use a beer opener--ditto re: nr 8, although I've discovered that I can manager "handicap" bottles (twist offs) although the contents of those bottles are seldom worth the effort
9. use a knife to spread thick condiments like peanut butter
10 reading books--I can do this for short while as long as the book isn't too large or heavy, but even small books require a lot of patience with page turning.  I try to remember to note the page I'm on before attempting the page turn in the very likely event that I'll loose control of the book--most annoying!

Well, I'm all washed up, shaved and fresh as a daisy.  Diaristwoman sings in choir at the 10 o'clock service.  She watched me while I dressed this morning and said "I don't want to hear any reports of snarky comments directed at the other parishioners--they mean well."  Moi?  Snarky?  What makes her say these things?  After the n-th person comes over and says "Gee, did you break yer arm then?" what's a man supposed to do?  I'm tempted to tell them that I'm trying out different themes for next Halloween, or hey, this is more timely--I'll say that I was wrestling with one of the wee people over his pot and just as it was about to fall into me grasp he whacked my arm with his shalali and as soon as he did both he and the pot disappeared, leavin' me with this busted flipper, don't cha known?

(the pot at the end of the rainbow)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Broken arm: Practical aspects, Installment 1

Hah, I'm back!  I first thought that after posting that I'd broken an arm that there would be little to talk about until I was sufficiently healed to return to the ice.  Since then it's occurred to me that although many adult skater blogs report injuries that force the blogger to temporarily leave the ice, few if any post details relating to the practical aspects of either coping and and managing their recoveries or the frustrations encountered during those episodes.  Typically the blog goes silent for a while and then suddenly springs back to life after the blogger is fit enough to resume skating.  What I sense here is what environmental biologists and merchandisers refer to as an "unoccupied niche".  For the next six to eight weeks I'll will endeavor to provide tips for the practical side of injury management plus a rant or two as I inevitably stumble along the road to recovery.  Although all of what I report will be new to me since this is my first broken bone, no doubt a lot will be predictable to those who've already been through the process.  So, enough with the introduction.  It's been four days since my fall.  What have I learned so far? 

(1).  The main thing which the ER staff stressed to me, the rookie owner of a brand new cast, is that although good hygiene requires frequent bathing or showering, optimal cast management demands that the cast stays (wait for it) "bone" dry.  I don't know about your ER but mine, when I asked for advise on just how one goes about resolving this mutually exclusive set of parameters, mumbled something about a kitchen sized trash bag and duct tape.  Now friends, don't get me wrong--I love duct tape.  Duct tape has saved several boat races for me over the years and indeed if the crew of the Titanic would have had access to a couple rolls of the stuff the outcome might well have been different.  However, standing around buck naked attempting to duct tape a large plastic bag to yourself leaves a lot to be desired (it also leaves a lot to the imagination).  I did this exactly one time and although I was successful in keeping the cast dry I knew there just had to be a better way.

While e-mailing a sailing friend, who I will call Isle of Wight Len, I vented about my struggles with the bag, the tape and the hygiene thing.  IoW Len ships high end golf clubs all over the globe and suggested that I go to an office supply store and get a roll thin plastic shipping wrap.  Len said he'd never had a problem with wetness invading his packages and as a bonus the wrap form-fits around odd shaped items and sticks to itself.  Now this sounded like a huge step up from the bag and duct tape, but being inherently lazy I decided to go a slightly different route.  Why drive all the way to an "Office Despot" store when you can just go downstairs to the kitchen and steal your bride's roll of cling wrap?  Yeah, it's a little thinner than Lennie's shipping grade stuff but I figured it'd do.  I also ditched my old friend Mr. Duct Tape for a roll of thinner, more manageable Mylar shipping tape which we had kicking around.  My result?  A much easier time of sealing the cast from the shower water. N.B.: I had Diaristwoman help during both the wrapping stage and the taping to shut off both ends, but in a pinch I think I could do the wrapping by myself and skip the tape since the wrap does a good job of sticking to itself.  After toweling off, the easiest way to remove the wrapping is to simply cut it off in a straight line with scissors.This may seem obvious to all you Grand Masters of broken bones but to us bone novices this is big.

(2).  Now for a rant.  This subject applies to men: dealing with facial hair if the arm you've damaged is also attached to the hand which you've used when shaving for your entire life.  I don't know about you, but the thought of approaching my face with a scary-sharp tool in my untrained hand while looking at a mirror image of myself gives me the vapors. I broke my arm on Tuesday.  Since Wednesday I've repeatedly tried to convince Dairstwoman that giving me a wet shave every morning is part of her wifely duties.  She isn't buying it.  What to do?  After a bit of rumination the light bulb went on--I'd go to my local red-neck barbershop and get a shave every few days!  My town still has a barbershop, as opposed to a "hair cuttery" or a unisex "salon".  Sounds like a plan doesn't it?  So I went to that aforementioned establishment yesterday with the expectation that getting a shave would be a snap.  Can you believe that two of the three so-called barbers on duty refused?!  One said "I'll shave yer head but I don't feel comfortable about shavin' yer face."  I felt like saying "It ain't me head what wants shavin', nipper."

I was gobsmacked!  What do they teach people at barber's academy these days? How do students escape with certificates without being able to demonstrate the full set of skills?  I didn't want leeches or a blood-letting, just a shave!  As a kid I remember when seeing men reclined in barber chairs with hot towels over their faces and then being lathered up was unremarkably common.  A skilled barber with a straight razor would give a man a close shave without so much as batting an eyelash.

Finally the remaining barber allowed as how he'd give me a shave and I left the shop stubble-free.   Trouble is the barber who knows how shave only works part time.  Must be nice to be independently wealthy.  I still haven't discovered a good fix for this problem.  I've never liked electric shavers but I may have start."Shave and a haircut--two bits."  Bah!  Hum Bug!  That barber shop had better hope that this doesn't get out or they just might loose their life time subscriptions to Guns & Ammo and Police Gazette...

End of rant, your normal programming will resume shortly.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A small bump in the road...

Meet my new best friend.
We returned from the regatta Monday evening.  I spent the next day unwinding from the long drive by cleaning the boat plus gear and getting everything stowed back in the boat house.  I finished in time to squeeze in the 1-3 pm public session at my home ice, Bowie Ice Arena.  I wanted one more run through of the elements required to pass the gamma level test.  After about an hour and a half into a lightly populated two session, I decided to do one more 7-step Mohawk combo on my weak side since previous attempts were not consistently solid.  I don't know if I touched blades (can't recall hearing the click of death) or if I just caught an edge but no matter, one second I was up and the next second I was down on my wrist and I knew right away that my luck had run out. At the time that I fell there was one other skater on the ice.  She skated over when she saw that I couldn't get up (I needed to use both hands in order to get a knee under me and I couldn't put weight on the right wrist).  She offered me a hand and I told her that I didn't want to risk pulling her down.  She just grabbed me by the good hand and hoisted me off the ice like a sack of potatoes.  Nothing wrong with her upper body strength!  I skated off the ice and while one of the coaches got me a bag of ice another rink employee removed my skates and helped me get my street shoes on. They asked if I thought I could drive to the doctor's to get checked out.  I looked out the windows (it was a warm sunny day) at the little Austin Healey Sprite (stick shift) that I'd driven that day and said "I think so".  Fortunately for me Xenopus, the frog eye Sprite is right hand drive and so shifting gears is accomplished with the left hand.

I drove the Sprite home and was able to get the garage door up, the little car in and the garage door down in between waves of pain.  I reasoned that the trip to the doctor would be better suited in a car with an automatic gearbox--especially for the drive home.  I drove the few miles to our primary care physician and she immediately ordered an xray and referred me to a group of orthopedic surgeons in the next building.  I walked over and got the xray which confirmed that I had a fracture in the distal end of my right radius.  The wrist specialist was not in the office that day so they passed me on to the ER of Anne Arundel Medical Center, some 15 miles away.  They called ahead so that I wouldn't have to wait too long and I drove over. Once checked through the initial paperwork (don't know if anyone can every read my signature), I sat down and called my wife to let her know not to wait supper on me.

The trauma specialist took an interest in me after hearing how I'd broken my arm.  He must not see that many active geezers so maybe I brightened his day.  Before manually reducing my fracture he told me he was going to give me a shot to numb things up a bit.  I watched as he struggled to draw the dose into the syringe.  After an unsuccessful attempt he asked one of the nurses for an 18 gauge needle.  Now I'm a molecular biologist working at a human nutrition research lab and am very familiar with needle sizes--an 18 gauge needle has about the bore size of a Pasteur pipette.  For those outside of the allied health & science fields, we're talking huge!  I steeled myself for what I figured was coming next and got busy with my "game face".  He looked over and must have realized that I knew something about needle sizes because he said "don't worry, I'll change back to a 27 gauge once I draw the local out of this vial". And so he did.  A physician's assistant held the palm and fingers of my hand while the attending physician grabbed my forearm and elbow.  He tweaked the alignment on either side of the break while viewing an endless string of images via some sort of soft xray device.  I noticed that he and his assistants all wore lead aprons but didn't offer me one.  I suppose at my age they assume my fathering days are behind me!  After setting the bones to his satisfaction, his minions quickly cast my arm from palm to elbow before the alignment could change and that was that. His final instruction before disappearing was for me to sleep with my arm vertical to avoid swelling--I tried by propping my arm with a pillow but failed at that bit of advise!  He also told me that although my break didn't require surgical reduction, the time I'd be in cast (and off the ice) would be shorter if I wanted to go that route.  He said that I could mull that over and make a decision next week when I go to his office for follow up visit.  After he left a nurse came and gave me final instructions.  He then asked how I proposed getting home.  I indicated that I'd driven to the hospital with a broken arm and assumed I'd be able to leave the same way.  He said that they couldn't forbid my plan but that they strongly discouraged it.  I asked him to point me in the general direction of the parking garage.  I got home fine.  Diaristwoman poured me a glass of Merlot and told me that a skating friend from her work recommended that I hereafter avoid doing the "slutz".  I feel just like Rodney Dangerfield.

So, two steps forward towards returning to the ranks of credible skaters and one step back.  Obviously there will be no gamma test for me tomorrow.  This blog will also take a short break--ha ha, short break--get it?  But, no worries, I'll be back.  I've heard it said that there's two kinds of skaters in this world:  ones who've already broken a bone and those who will...

Until next time, smooth ice,
Yr faithful Diarist

Welcome to Clearwater Ice Arena in sunny Clearwater, Florida

No doubt some viewers of this blog have watched the youtube clips of basic figure skating elements posted by expert village. Some of those clips were taken at Clearwater Ice Arena.  Your diarist went to Gulfport, Fl last weekend to race Classic Moth Boats and since the ice arena was only a few minutes from our hotel, the skates came along for the ride.

This was the primary reason for the trip.  My sail number is 69.
 I looked at the ice arena's on-line schedule and saw that I could easily fit in a 30 minute free style session at 6:00 am Saturday morning and still have plenty of time for breakfast prior to registration and the 10:00 am skipper's meeting at Gulfport Yacht Club.

We stayed at a hotel near Clearwater airport.  The ice arena is located just a few streets away on Icot Blvd.

Palm trees and smooth ice; what's not to like?  I was able to make up for the ice time I'd missed being on the road, taking the boat south.  My gamma test is this coming Thursday.  This is a very nice rink staffed by friendly folks--I highly recommend it if you're in the vicinity. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

In search of ankle bliss: an unscienfic comparison of Silopad gel tubes vs gel sleeves.

Two approaches for ankle relief.  Which is the better solution?  See below.

Back when I started skating regularly again I was without my own skates and spent a couple months in rental skates.  It didn't take long for those poorly fitting boots to gnaw at my feet.  In particular the malleoli of my ankles proved to be susceptible to the loving embrace of those boots.  I blogged about that here.  I bought a "large" Silipos brand "silopad" gel tube from our rink's pro shop as a work around until my new skates arrived.  The single gel tube was long enough to cut in half, making two shorter tubes--one for each ankle. This tube cost me $23.95 plus Maryland tax for a  total of  $25.39.  One of my gel tubes can be seen, on the right, in the photo above.  The tube consists of medical grade silicon gel on the inside and heavy stretchable mesh fabric on the outside.  In the photo below, I've turned one of the tubes inside out to show the gel part.

The gel tube turned inside out.  The silicon gel forms a continuous layer throughout the entire interior area of the tube.  
 The gel tube did provide a degree of comfort to my admittedly already skinned ankles but the thickness of the tube, at least in my hands, tended to work against this product.  After placing the tubes on my ankles the lower edges of the gel would curl and ride up as I attempted to put on thin socks.  This rolling phenomenon was even more pronounced when inserting a tubed and socked foot into the tight confines of a skate boot.  I tried different positions: just around the ankle vs having part of the tube tucked under the heel of the  foot.  Neither position was 100% satisfactory.  I did a google search on "bunga" pads and discovered that both the Bunga Company (who I think are the originators of these products) and rival Silipos offered other products beyond the meager selection carried by the pro shop, including the malleolar gel sleeve seen in the first photo on the left.

When my new boots finally arrived I was confronted with a different comfort problem.  I basically traded poorly fitting boots for better fitting ones which needed breaking in.  Yes, the new boots can (and were) heat molded but break in is still a part of the program.  The gel sleeve mesh material is much thinner than the mesh used with the gel tube and is designed to fit over the instep, heel and ankle (leaving the toes exposed).  Instead of have a continuous layer of gel on the inside, each sleeve has a pair of 2 inch diameter circles of the same gel material, one on either side, so both ankle malleoli are cushioned.

The gel sleeve turned inside out.  One of the two circles of gel (one for each malliolus) can be seen.
In practice, the gel sleeves are both better fitting and stay in place much better than the tubes while offering the same or perhaps better abrasion protection, due in part to better staying in place and not shifting while putting on boots.  But because one needs two, the sleeves are almost double the cost of the tube.  I found the ones I bought on Amazon for $18.00 each.  So I shelled out $36.00 plus $9.98 for shipping (no tax this time).  Knowing what I now know, I'd skip the tubes and buy the sleeves even though they cost more.  For me the price difference is worth it.  Final note:  both gel tubes and gel sleeves can be hand washed.  After air drying they should being turned inside out and dusted with talcum powder so that adjacent gel areas don't stick together.  An additional benefit of the sleeves is that the mesh used in the sleeves being thinner than the mesh used for the tubes, air dries faster than the tubes.  Although the pamphlets accompanying both products do not touch on whether or not machine washing and drying is permissible, my common sense says hand washing and air drying will probably be kinder to the gels as well as the different mesh materials.  So, there it is.  I'm no expert and have no interest in the Silipos Company but my ankles know which product they prefer.