Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More Flannel

We adopted Flannel and integration with the cat family is on-going. So far, they are all doing pretty well, with some playing and co-sleeping mixed in with the growls and hisses from my incumbant cats.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Meet Flannel, age 3 months


Attack cat! Look at his huge paws/claws

Super playful

Flannel came home for a one to two week foster-- he's got a little cold and needs to finish up a course of antibiotics before he can be neutered and placed up for adoption.

He's super cute and I am falling hard! He's actually quite cuddly after he gets over his initial shyness.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Loch Ness monster of the knee?

"Historically a wastebasket term for pain and dysfunction … patellofemoral syndrome is not a diagnosis but rather an admission of ignorance"

"The patellofemoral syndrome remains the Loch Ness monster of the knee"

"the black hole of orthopedics"

Snippets from my recent review of the medical literature on my knee diagnosis. Sounds kind of scary, doesn't it? Since I have a known cause of my knee pain (impact injury, cartilage damage), these comments don't technically apply to my case (referring instead to patients who don't have a known cause for the pain, at least in the context of the articles I am quoting). But they do capture my current state of mind about my officially superslow (non)recovery.

Wow, if I had only known! "Diagnosis"? Not really-- PFS is just a catch-all diagnosis for "nonspecific knee pain, doc doesn't know WTF is causing it". "Know cause"? Kind of, in that I knew I had a bad impact injury. But it would take 9+ months to finally sort out what was going on after my crash. "MRI results"? Turned out to be misleading. Watch out for poor quality MRIs and be aware that some stuff is hard to catch (eg my partial meniscus tear) But see above on poor quality MRI. Insight and wisdom from this experience? Plenty, in the hindsight is golden sense. Words of wisdom: go to Stanford Sports Medicine as your first stop (sigh). Hope for the future: plenty, as I continue to slowly recover. I continue to dream that I'll be fully back to it all.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Empty nest

Well, not really empty since I still have Nadia and Mac, but the kittens went back to the shelter today. At almost three pounds each, they are more than ready to be neutered and placed up for adoption. They hopefully will be on display by Sunday and swiftly adopted! I'll be dropping by the shelter to visit them once they are on display. Good luck little Radar and Rascal!

I'll probably get another batch in a couple of weeks, hopefully a mom and her litter of tiny kittens. The fostering has been a welcome diversion to my knee, which continues to be very sore, feeble and marginally functional.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ok, just one more kitten picture

Cute picture of Rascal playing with my sister's shoelaces. Sister had knee surgery a couple of weeks ago, hence the big brace.

The kittens have reached adoption weight, more than doubling their weight in the last two weeks, crazy! Radar will return to the shelter on Saturday (good luck, little guy!) and I'll have Rascal over the weekend to provide a little additional socialization before he goes in next week. Shy kitties often blossom around humans when they are the only kitten around, so the hope is that Rascal will warm up a little after some one-on-one attention. Edit: I came down with the flu (oink?) and couldn't return Radar, so I ended up keeping the two of them for another couple of weeks.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

kitten frenzy

Kitten cuteness continues. They are both healthy now and are just tearing up their little room, bursting with kitten destructive energy. They are both still a little shy (especially Rascal), but purr when picked up and this is encouraging! I'm continuing to play with them a lot, and am having people come over so the little babies get used to new people.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

kittens in the house

Meet Radar and Rascal, my 5 -week old, shy little foster kittens. We are working hard to convince them that humans are nothing to be afraid of. They will be here for the next two or three weeks.

Rascal is the shyer of the two and is a little overwhelmed by his more assertive and larger companion, Radar. I have to give him meds for his tummy and unfortunately, this is making him a bit wary of me. He is slowly warming to humans. Slowly.

This is Radar hiding in a box on the first day I had the kittens. He's really mellowed out and now purrs when I go into the room, rather than hissing. He's larger than Rascal and a bit bossy and dominant. His fur is very soft and feels like a plush stuffed animal. Cute!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

200 yards

Swimming baby sets has really improved my swimming experience. Time simply flies by as I plod though small swim sets with modest breaks between sets. Pretty amazing how a little structure has completely eliminated the tedium, but then, I have always been a dutiful student. I like to have and implement instructions.

Anyway, I've moved on to obssessing about form, speed and distance. Which I suppose is an improvement over obssessing about how dull swimming is. I noticed yesterday that I am almost up to a mile long set, which pleased me very much. Just 200 yards to go! I'm going to shoot for this over the weekend. Must swim now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Swim sets and diagnosis

Two big things. First, I had my MRI today and am officially diagnosed with chondromalacia patella, aka patello femoral syndrome. This is inflammation on the cartilage of my kneecap caused during the crash when my kneecap was slammed into my leg and pushed way towards the inside during the impact. The good news is that the menisci and major ligaments look fine, so no obvious reason from the MRI for surgery at this point, though I may still get "scoped and scraped" if the pain doesn't resolve after today's giant needle cortisone shot and PT.

I am happy to have a plan. Hope I get back on a bike soon, even if it's just a trainer.
Updated: this is totally "hindsight is golden", but reflecting back, I wish I had more vigorously pushed back on the PFS diagnosis, given my prior history of no knee problems and the acute pain I was experiencing. Surgery much later on revealed a structural cause for all of the pain and swelling (torn meniscus), and had I had a decent MRI at the outset or a more insightful ortho/PT at the beginning, I might have spared myself a lot of pain and recovery time. (Got Bitter? Actually, I am kind of over it at this point).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

One-legged pedaling

I've been swimming since I injured my knee. I'm not a very good swimmer, plus I am using a pull buoy --no kicking-- so I am exceptionally slow in the pool and my arms get tired really easily so it isn't much of an aerobic workout. I feel really good after I swim, both mentally and physically, but find it to be really boring while I am swimming.

I've been experimenting with one-legged pedaling as an alternative to swimming (yes, I am that desperate). It works reasonably well in terms of getting my heart rate up a bit. But I am sort of imbalanced because I have to keep my left leg out of the way of the pedals (I still can't pedal with my bad knee- it clicks and pops and swells, bad news). I've been propping it on a little stool, and this throws off my position on the saddle and my right hip hurts a little. If anyone has an idea of how this could be improved, please let me know.

On the cooking side, I've made more wonderful soups-- asparagus soup with fresh asparagus from the farm box and a fantastic pureed turnip-potato-mushroom-carrot soup (delicious, and I don't usually care for turnips). I enjoy having more time for cooking, but I'd rather be out on the bike for sure.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cooking frenzy

I've been at home quite a lot since injuring my knee, between telecommuting (so I can ice and elevate while working comfortably in bed) and just having extra time because I am not riding. I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands for things like cooking. I'm also pretty restless from spending a fair amount of time by myself at home, hence a blog post to fill some time while eating lunch on a telecommuting day.

Here's what I've made of late:

asparagus risotto: turned out pretty well, considering I didn't have any wine and used canned stock. I left the asparagus chunky rather than pureeing it as suggested by some of the recipes, and it was good! The texture was nice and creamy. Yum, I love asparagus season. I don't make risotto very often because it takes a lot of stirring time. But now I've got nothing but time...

Black bean chili: best I've made yet. I've really got this recipe (my own) dialed. Yum yum. We ate the entire large batch in a day and a half. Secret ingredients: chipotle peppers, cinnamon and cumin.

Fava bean spread: very good. Very labor intense, and slightly underwhelming yield (you start with a huge pile of beans and end up with a small ball of dip. Need more beans next time) but very tasty. I love fava bean season and hope we get more in the farm box this week.

Goat milk yogurt: still yog'ing, so I don't know how it turned out. It's usually very flavorful, with a pretty soft texture.

White bean spread: seasoned with garlic, rosemary, some stock and parsley. very easy way to use up leftover white beans, and super flavorful. I tried to emulate Millenium's bean spread, but didn't quite make it. It was still very yummy. I'll keep trying

Lentil soup with collard greens: another recipe that I have dialed. Very good. I have two versions: the tomato-ey caramelized onion-y version and the morocan spices/saffron/cumin/etc version. I made the former and it was good even though I used canned tomatos.

Apple sauce with rhubarb: easy to make and nice way to use up apples from the farm box.

OK, that is all. Time for some more leftover risotto

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bad cat

Bad cat
Originally uploaded by NadiaMac

The photo says it all.

I am working hard recovering from a bad fall which battered my knee-- doc says it could be as long as 6-8 weeks until full recovery. I am hoping it's shorter than that. I've been off the bike for over ten days, but hope to spin easily on a trainer maybe on Wednesday. In the meantime, I am swimming (very slowly- no kicking) and doing strengthening and flexibility stuff that I remember from my last journey with an ortho injury (sigh). WIsh me luck!

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Well, the second crit didn't go so well :)

Backing up a bit, February went by in a blink of an eye. I had jury duty and to my surprise was put onto a jury for a long trial. As one of the trial lawyers joked (later on, when it was over), the jury is full of people too stupid to get out of jury duty.... Guilty! Jury trials are one of those things that lawyers find fascinating (even paper pushing non-trial lawyers like me), and I'd often thought it would be interesting to serve on a nice short jury trial. But not a long trial! Well, I got a trial of decent length-- predicted to go 6-7 weeks, the parties settled after we sat through about 4 weeks. While there were interesting moments, on the whole it was surprisingly tedious and often sleep-inducingly dull. And we skipped the most interesting part of all-- jury deliberations, where the jury would finally talk about the evidence and issues we'd been considering for the last many weeks but were forbidden to discuss! I was glad it wrapped up early, but would have been very interested to deliberate for sure.

Anyhow, the combo of jury duty and continuing to do a fair bit of work work (ie, my job) left me pretty drained. I didn't get in a whole lot of riding, though I did work out at the gym a bit and rode the rollers a couple of times a week (love the rollers! so much better than the trainer). I skipped the Snelling Rd Race because I was exhausted and had the beginnings of a cold. But the trial settled last week, and I'd pre-reg'd for Menlo Park, so off I went this morning.

The course is in an office park, completely flat, 6 corners (with 1 sweeper and 1 chicane). I got a decent start and managed to stay in the middle of the group for the first lap, but fell back in the pack during the second lap (can you see where this is going???). In the third lap, I was near the rear and the folks in front of me slowed nearly to a stop during the chicane (left-right turn sequence). When I came through the turn, a gap had opened up ahead of the folks immediately in front of me. After some time trialling (and some work with another rider, who took a monster pull, thanks!), I'd caught up with another gapped group, but the pack was quite far ahead by then. I pulled out at this point, not feeling enthusiastic about riding off the back for the bulk of the race. In retrospect, I probably should have stayed in to practice riding hard, working with other riders, etc.

Lessons learned: my fitness needs some work! Also, more comfort in the pack and a willingness to go hard to keep my position would help. I tend to go out sustainably hard, and this wasn't enough for me to keep position at my current fitness level. Sustainably hard got me yo-yoing in the rear, then an inability to move up and popage (pronounced pop-age, not pope-age :) ie, popped, spat out the back, etc). Anyhow, lots to work on and thankfully, daylight savings time has started and I can get a little more riding in on weekdays.

In other news, I went mountain biking again on Saturday (Ok, probably not the best thing to do before a race day, at least for me). It was super fun, even if I had to walk some of the technical stuff. I am working on getting a mountain bike and have signed up to do Dirt Series, a two day training clinic in April. More on this later.

Monday, February 2, 2009

First crit

EB W4 Crit, 2/1/09. I love this photo by Garrett Lau.

OK, enough with the vacation musings. Back to some local stuff. This weekend, I rode in my very first criterium. My goals were modest- practice riding in the pack, finish with the pack, and don't crash. This was also my first race with my new team, and I was excited to get a team jersey to wear in the race.  The field was pretty large- over 60 women. How would I do?

I was pretty pleased with how the race turned out. I was still feeling the effects of my horrible Cambodian cold, but had no trouble staying with the pace (though my heart rate was insanely high for the level of perceived effort and I actually set a new max HR. I attribute this to my cold, since I didn't feel as though I was working very hard). My finish was nothing special-- in the pack (and actually pretty far back, since I failed to notice that we were in the bell lap and had a crap position going into the sprint). And there were quite a few terrifying moments, including getting squeezed into a curb and hearing or seeing two different crashes (yikes).  But all in all a positive experience. I definitely have a lot to work on, but I look forward to more crit riding. And I really love this photograph, which was the major motivation for this post.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Laos reflections, Sue's excellent pictures

It's been a few weeks since we got back from cycling in Laos, and I've had time to reflect on the amazing experience of riding in rural Laos. My mind keeps returning to the villages that we rode through each day. It's been a long, long time since I've traveled to such a different place, and it made a big impression on me. The language barrier was profound-- few folks that we met spoke more than a few words of English (and my attempts at Lao were laughable, literally causing natives to collapse in peels of laughter, in a friendly sort of way)-- but people were eager to interact and were generally extremely warm and friendly.

Sue captured more pictures of the villages and village people, so I've borrowed a few to share here. Thanks Sue!

Our first day riding in Laos took us through this market in Pak Beng.

Women seemed to be working all of the time. Carrying stuff...

Slicing and drying tarot root...

Working at tiny shops.

We saw young children helping with work-- preparing mattress stuffing here, as well as carrying water, cutting reeds with huge machetes, carrying younger siblings on their back, etc.

Cute kid in mountain village.

Kitchens were very basic (kitty!).

This is the kitchen for one of our guest houses. Our room was to the left of this. Roosters woke us up at 4 am.

Basic houses equipped with satellite dishes. All but the poorest villages seemed to have at least a few of these.

Shifting gears to the bike photos-- rain gear!

Me and Sue in the mountains.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Yes we can

Love the obamacon Mac. He looks very handsome!

Today, I responded to Obama's call for a national day of service and helped clean up a neighborhood mini-park. About 40 people showed up to pick up trash, clear an overgrown lot to make way for a community garden, and paint and otherwise spruce up the pedestrian footbridge over 101. I helped weed and clear brush from the vacant lot. It was kind of fun, except when I unearthed some syringes along the way.

It felt good to do some volunteer work. And it felt good to help clean up a neighborhood parklet, one I walk through every week or so in the summer. I do a moderate amount of cycling-related volunteering, mostly for the Low-Key Hillclimb series, but have been a bit remiss in my neighborhood/charitable volunteering since I started riding so much. I need to make time for more of this in the future.

I'm tired, time to nap. Then pick up Dan at the airport!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Thailand, Laos, Cambodia photos posted


warning, lots of them. Enjoy!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Angkor sunrise and farewell to Cambodia

It's our last day in Cambodia, and we fly out to Bangkok and then on to home a bit later today. It's been a good time in Siem Reap, despite Dan's tummy ailment and my cold, which started yesterday but is already mostly better.

I went out on my own on Sunday for a modest temple frenzy, traveling by tuk tuk, a moto pulling a two-seater carriage. I poked around at the Angkor Thom complex, spending a lot of time at Bayon then strolling around the other temples and structures in the area. After returning to Siem Reap to get Dan some lunch (poor thing hadn't left the room at all), I headed out to Angkor Wat for the late afternoon and sunset.

On Monday, Dan and I rented local bikes and did the minor circuit--a 16k loop comprising Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Bayon and other temples. We did not get out to Bateay Srei (30k out), unfortunately, due to timing issues. Too bad!

The bikes were sturdy machines, single gear with fat tires and comfie seats. They did surprisingly well on the terrain, which included segments of unpaved road under repair as well as serious potholes and some off-roading when oncoming traffic swerved perilously close. We were waved through a road construction area near Angkor wat, and rode through piles of red dirt, gravel, sand, and partly groomed road, passing heavy construction equipment at close proximity.

It's been pretty amazing to walk all over the ruins. More detail on this later (need to pick up some gifts before I leave), but here are a couple of photos in the meantime.

A few of the many faces at Bayon, in the morning. I spent quite a lot of time here, looking at the faces from different angles and viewing the bas reliefs that cover the rear walls.

Self-portrait at Angkor wat. Dan finds these pictures silly, but I find them quite amusing!

Rental bike on the road to Angkor wat. Dan's bike looked nice, but was in serious need of a hub and/or chain overhaul. It's probably the only time that I've easily dropped Dan when we ride together.

Gate at Banteay Kdei. This temple was largely crumbling, and it was neat to explore the ruins and look at the trees and stuff growing all around the temple. It's just down the road from Ta Prohm, one of the heavy hitters, and had only a few other tourists in the ruins (in contrast to Ta Prohm which was mobbed). I enjoyed the solitude, though Dan made me a bit nervous when he was squeezing in and out of the ruins.

Big tree and Banteay Kdai. Ta Prohm also had many many spectacular trees growing in and around the ruins, but the pictures are mostly sideways and I can't figure out how to turn them!

Angkor wat sunrise. One of about 120 photos taken at the same angle at different shades of dawn. We got there at 5:30 am, and it was still dark. Luckily, Dan had his flashlight so we could navigate the bumpy pavement, steps and avoid falling into the moat! One guy was not so lucky and fell into the lotus pond! After sunrise, we looked around Angkor one last time, then returned to town to shop (me), get massaged (Dan), and pack up to depart. I am sorry to leave, but am looking forward to getting home to the kittens.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Easing into Angkor and more Laos photos

We said farewell to the group (and Sue) last night and flew out super early to Siem Reap, Cambodia, the gateway to Angkor Wat and oodles of other temples. Unfortunately, Dan has a touch of food poisoning, possibly from a smoothie, so he's napping in our hotel room right now :(. Sue also got the bug, more acutely, but was well enough to get on her flight to Bangkok this morning.

I've spent the day napping in our B&B (the Golden Banana, quite pleasant), and walking around and eating in Siem Reap, which is a major tourist destination and is thus bustling with American and European and Asian tourists. It's a little shocking after the relative sleepiness of the Laos tourist scene, where for much of the trip we were the only european/american tourists in town. But, there are a ton of french bakeries and ice cream places and I am enjoying eating flavorful food after a relatively monotonous diet in Laos (more on this later). It's feeling nice to just do nothing after 12 days of riding and touristing each day. Hopefully Dan will be up for a temple frenzy tomorrow!

As I have a good internet connection, here are a couple more shots from the second half of the trip.

Temple at the national museum in Luang Prabang. I didn't actually go in the temple, just stared weakly at it from the sidewalk as I was still quite feeble from food poisoning (Dan went in). Across from the temple is the Phousi hill, which had over 400 steps to the top and quite a nice view (and lots of buddhas and a giant buddha footprint in a cave). I managed to climb up to the top even in my impaired state. We were in Luang Prabang for about a day and half, our only rest day on the trip. Our two hardest days of riding were to follow.

The next two days were in higher mountains south of Luang Prabang and it was amazing epic riding. The first day featured two significant climbs-- 20 and 25 k long, with tremendous long descents in between the climbs. There were huge sweeping views, hard to capture in photos. Ripply green mountains as far as you could see. Quite often we were up on ridges and you could see huge segments of the road that you'd just climbed or the road to come! The road surface was pretty poor and there were fairly long unpaved, rocky, pot-holed segments in between paved sections. I made the most of the mountain bike by hammering right through these sections. Otherwise, I was riding pretty slowly, as I hadn't eaten much of anything for the two previous days. I was very proud of myself for making it through a hard day under the circumstances, but would have loved to do this section while feeling good.

We stayed the night in a mountain village, Kiu Kachan, at the top of one of our long climbs. This is the view from the "backyard" (ie, garden, farm, chicken yard, outdoor cooking facility) of the guest house when we awoke-- we were above the clouds and it was really cool.

The next day was also quite hard, featuring several shorter (but still long-- 8-10 mile) climbs and descents. I was even slower because I hadn't eaten much, had been up sick all night, and I was tired from the previous hard day. I was literally creeping up the hills in an embarassingly slow gear. As I rode slowly through a very hilly village, a group of kids started running along side me, laughing and shouting and obviously marveling at how slowly I was riding! I finally stopped and took their photo, then dropped them as the road leveled out. It was hilarious!

Fast forward a couple of days, and we were kayaking into Vang Vieng on New Year's eve. It's quite a tourist destination, tons of college-aged backpackers, and lots of bars overlooking the river, bars in town, etc. The town is in an incredible setting, ringed by mountains. Otherwise, nothing special, and we (Dan, Sue and me) horrified our British traveling companions by going to bed at 9 pm on New Year's eve. The rest of the group stayed up at least to midnight, some to 3 am! About half of the group was hungover for the next day's 60 mile hot ride.

Sunrise as seen from our guest house in Vang Vieng.

We spent the next night at a guest house overlooking a reservoir created by a massive dam and hydroelectric project, in Na Nam. The ride was pretty flat and we encountered increasingly heavy traffic until we turned off on a rural road which took us to the pictured reservoir and our guest house. We passed the dam and the hydroelectric facility, then had a steep hump of a climb to get up to the level of the reservoir. The view over the water was sweeping, but I couldn't help wondering how many villages were displaced to create the dam/reservoir, which is massive, over 40 k wide. The little bumps in the picture are islands (formerly hilltops), which used to hold penal colonies.

Our last day of riding was pretty flat, a straight shot into Vientiane. We stopped for lunch at a floating restaurant, where we tried fried locusts. Nothing much to the flavor-- tasted like grease and the lime/lemongrass seasoning in which it was cooked. The texture was crunchy, like soft shell crab. Here is Sue with a big one in her mouth. After lunch, the traffic steadily increased until we hit the hustle of the sprawling city. We had a farewell dinner with the group, and that was that for Vientiane.

Dan and our little plane this morning in Vientiane.

OK, must go see how Dan is doing. Wish him well!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Made it to Vientiane!

We rode into Vientiane today, Laos' capital city. Over 500 miles of riding, including the days in Thailand. I'm excited to be here, even though we'll be here just overnight, leaving early tomorrow morning for Siem Reap in Cambodia. I'm also glad to be ending the tour. I'm ready to be off the bike for a couple of days, on our own for a bit and staying in one place and looking at lots and lots of temples. I did enjoy the last two days of riding (about 60 miles each day) and rode with decent energy over the rolling terrain. I'll update this post with more details and photos tomorrow when I have a faster internet connection.