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So after years and years of soreness and pain — not to mention years of complaining — I finally went and got a proper checkup of my right shoulder, thanks to the good and competent folks at UW Sports Medicine. It’s been eight years since I injured it — throwing a straight right in boxing class — and it’s been something I’ve ignored and ignored, figuring it would eventually heal itself. Well, after playing more tennis the last two years, it was something I just couldn’t put off.

And as the picture says, I’ve got a (partially) torn labrum. Note: That’s not my MRI image; I found it on Google by searching “MRI of torn labrum.” Evidently, a lot of people upload their MRIs to the mother web.

It’s finally good to know why my shoulder hurts and what was causing the pain. It wasn’t tendinitis, like one doctor surmised when I had it looked at before.

So here’s the conundrum. When do I have surgery? It’s going to be quite extensive — months of being in a sling and months of rehab. It will be at least six months until I can use it. If I have surgery now, I’ll be in a sling all summer (no tennis) but be ready for ski season (and my new skis). If I wait until the winter, I miss ski season, but get to enjoy the summer. Or I can put it off until next year or the year after or the year after that …

I’m pretty torn — no pun intended — right now. I can still play tennis and do everything I enjoy if I manage the pain (a couple of ibuprofen) and bear it out. I can keep doing that. And keep griping.

So is it worth six months to get this fixed (90 percent success rate, my doctor says)? I’m leaning towards waiting and having it next year.

What does everyone else think?

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I was persuaded by a Whole Food clerk to buy this homeopathic medicine to combat my coming cold/flu. No evidence, however, proves that oscillococcinum, or other “prevention” medication like Zicam, prevents the flu. Oh, well. At least the little tablets that you dissolve in your mouth taste like candy. Yum!

Three months after covering the Olympics in Beijing, my regular duties and activities include walking Sadie, improving my cooking repertoire, logging on to check my fantasy and dynasty teams, playing tennis three times a week, skiing whenever I can (going up tomorrow!), becoming a regular at the library, working from home part time and this:

Snowbird

To clear the mind — and torture my poor legs — I went up to Snowbird on Tuesday. The first runs of the season. Less than two months ago, I was sweating through shirts in Hong Kong. Crazy. Anyway, Murakami can have his running shoes, his marathons. I prefer a pair of sticks attached to my feet and a couple feet of powder.

I’ve said it many times. As many times as I’ve started a new blog only to scrap it and start another one and scrap it again. But I’m going to say it one more time.

I’m going to stop drinking.

To be clear, I don’t think I have a problem. At least not yet. I don’t think I’m an alcoholic, although I think I was perilously close to becoming one when I was in college (I think one clear sign was the stack of Jack Daniel bottles that accumulated on the mantle of the house I lived in my junior year). But after three months in China, where every meal was accompanied by beer or wine, I think it’s time for me to take a hiatus. There was a time when I could not remember the last day I went the day without a drink. (Some might say this is a clear sign I have a problem — I did answer yes twice to the CAGE questionnaire).

I’m setting a modest goal for myself: Six months. Six months of abstinence. I’ll allow myself one exception: cooking with wine. You know, since I’m such an — cough, cough — accomplished, seasoned cook.

Above all, this is a challenge for myself. Four years ago, on a bet, I stopped eating red meat for two years. I didn’t think I could stop eating cheeseburgers and steaks but I found it pretty easy to order chicken and pork instead of beef. But I think this is going to be more difficult.

There will be plenty of temptations. Many of us live within the drinking culture — happy hours, tailgating parties, trivia nights, Friday nights, Tuesday nights, any night, etc, etc, etc. Drinking is celebrated in America (and in China and most anywhere in the world). When was the last time I went out with friends and we didn’t drink? I’ll have to get back to you on that.

Perhaps I’m in the right place right now — Salt Lake City, where they’ve imposed arcane rules on booze (OK, they’re not that arcane … I just like using the word arcane). Perhaps some of the, um, virtues of Mormonism will rub off on me — although this isn’t an invitation for any missionaries to knock on my door.

Right now, it’s Day 3 of my sobriety. I’m staying strong. All I have to do is avoid the four Coronas in the fridge.

Cheers.

I’m hitting the asphalt again, logging more miles on the Sube (104K and counting). I’m staying at the Ontario Inn in charming Ontario, Oregon. It’s about the sixth or seventh time I’ve stayed here. The owners know me by name now. That’s how many times I’ve made the drive from SLC to Seattle and back.

It’s a decent place to stay. Relatively cheap and more importantly, it accepts pets — like Sadie the Terrible. Thankfully she’s passed out on her bed and not making a peep.

But after paying $45 for the room, it makes me a little sentimental about the budget hotels in China like the Home Inn and Hanting Express. $25 for a clean, well-appointed room in cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou.

And don’t even get me started on the price of food here. After paying nearly eight bucks for a mediocre teriyaki bowl in Boise, I long for the days when I could eat a meal — as good as any Chinese food I’ve ever had, second only to my mom’s cooking of course — for the cost of 12 RMB ($1.75).

Yes, I now compare everything — every check, every receipt, every purchase — to the yuan. And yes, I even annoy myself.

I’ll be heading over to Albuquerque in the next day or two. My sister and her husband have been kind enough to take care of my dog, Sadie, for the last three months. I can’t thank them enough, especially after Sadie’s naughty behaivor. Here’s a brief rundown:

— She’s chewed up shoes, cloths, anything else she can get her jaws on

— She’s dug up my brother-in-law’s precious garden, even after they installed a fence

— She’s killed birds and other animals and brought them inside the house

— She’s seemed to forget all her potty training

— She barks and cries at night

— She now pulls on the leash

— She is possessed by the devil

So that’s what happens when you leave your dog for three months. It’s back to square one with her. Perhaps if she doesn’t behave, I should tell her that some people in Jixi would be eager to put her on a plate.

So I’ll be looking for my next job in a market like this:

On the bright side, at least I’m not in finance.

Perhaps I should just heed the advice of Smokey. I’m sure a lot of brokers on Wall Street will.

Uncle

That’s my second uncle and me on the first night I was in Jixi. I had met him for the first time hours earlier. I didn’t know what to expect, except a lot of food. Oh, and I expected booze — a lot of it. I was warned ahead of time by my aunt’s family that my uncle and his family loved to drink. Beer and baijiu, a nasty, fiery liquor that people in the northeast love to down to toasts of “Gan bei!” I was able to keep my baijiu toasts to two shots during the trip.

My uncle couldn’t drink much any more. He had a small glass or two of beer during dinner. But my cousins-in-law kept toasting me and refilling my glass. I tried to keep it under control, drinking tea over beer whenever I could. But still, my liver is just now recovering from the past week.

One major topic of conversation during my time there was who I looked like. If I looked like my father or any other relatives. But the consensus was that I looked very similar to my uncle when he was young and in the People’s Liberation Army (he joined when he was 15 or 16). Judge for yourself.

Uncle

I wonder if I’ll also look like my uncle when I’m in my 70s? Perhaps, but with a lot less hair.

I’ve made it to Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province, which is located in the far northeast of the country. The city and vibe could not be more different that Beijing and Shanghai. It just feels dirtier, grungier.

And also, since the province and city are so close to Russia, many signs and billboards are in Russian. During dinner at my hotel, I sat next to two groups of Russians eating, smoking and chatting away in Russian. It was a trip.

I should get a better feel for the city once I walk around tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing the Russian architecture and influences in the old part of town. I’ve read that I can snack on some piroshki, the Russian version of Chinese dumplings.

But the real reason I’m here in Harbin is not to play tourist. I will be meeting one of my uncles this weekend, my estranged uncle, that is. He has lived in NE China all his life and our family has not been in contact with him for decades (or some I’m told). This is a fact-finding mission, a trip to find out more about this side of the family that has been a secret and mystery for so many years.

There’s more to this story, obviously, but I’ll need some more time and thought before writing any more on the subject. For now, I’ll just say that I’m eager to meet my relatives, eager to find out their side of the story.