Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Dealing With an Injury... Again *UPDATE*

Exactly two weeks ago I fractured my left kneecap.

It happened during my morning workout. I was preparing to do pull-ups using a doorway pull-up bar, something I've been doing for more than 10 years. Apparently that morning I got careless and didn't properly secure the bar, because on my first pull-up both the bar and I came crashing down. My left knee took the brunt of the impact.

It didn't take long for my knee to swell up massively. Had both knees been injured, I would have looked like Torgo. I proceeded to do all the RICE things you're supposed to do after sustaining an injury, i.e. rest, ice, compression, and elevation. That helped, and the swelling went down, though the first two or three days after my fall were quite unpleasant. Sitting down and standing up were very painful, and descending stairs was agony. 


By the fourth or fifth day, my knee felt better though it still hurt. Gradually the pain went from being sharp and acute to being more of a dull ache. After 10 days I was concerned that my knee still didn't feel right, so I finally went to a doctor. An X-ray revealed that I had indeed fractured my kneecap. Recovery time is around six weeks. Due to the nature of the fracture, there isn't much that can be done, though I am going to visit a knee specialist to make sure nothing else is awry.

Interestingly, the doctor was shocked that I was moving as well as I was and didn't seem to be in debilitating pain. I don't mention that to imply I'm some sort of "pain don't hurt" badass (OK, maybe a little...), but because I think it reflects positively on my training protocols. I suspect that yoga along with exercises such as Turkish get-ups, Hindu squats, and burpees have strengthened the muscles and tendons around my knee. My limp mostly went away fairly quickly, and I never had to resort to using a cane, even though as a stick-fighter I would have welcomed the opportunity to do so. (I should add that I own four or five canes.)

And speaking of "pain don't hurt".... A self-defense lesson from this experience: Pain is not always a reliable fight stopper. I was in a great deal of pain immediately after I fell, but still managed to do a few rounds of heavy kettlebell swings. Smart? Probably not, but the point is that I could do it, that I could work through the pain. So could a predator intent on causing you harm. 

I've mostly taken a break from training, but plan to resume soon, with some necessary modifications. Despite having a good incident-free 10 years with doorway pull-up bars, I'm a little paranoid about using them again. Maybe it's PTSD, but if I do pull-ups it will be at the park. At home I'll stick to cable rows. Turkish get-ups and Hindu squats are off the menu for the foreseeable future. Gentle yoga is fine, as are push-ups and moderate swings. Any martial arts training will be limited to simple Kali stick and knife drills. (By the way, Filipino martial arts have much to offer someone who is injured or has mobility issues.)

Diet-wise, I'm eliminating alcohol and drastically cutting back on caffeine, as both can potentially interfere with the body's ability to absorb calcium and affect bone health. I'm also consuming more protein and calcium to aid with healing. For the discomfort, I take the occasional aspirin* (other painkillers spike my blood pressure) and drink plenty of ginger and turmeric tea. 

(For my adventures with a herniated disc, click here.)

* Update: I had a visit with an orthopedic surgeon and joint specialist yesterday. He verified that my knee is indeed fractured. However, there doesn't appear to be any damage to the surrounding tendons or ligaments. I have an appointment for additional X-rays in four weeks. By then I should be more or less back to normal. One interesting thing I learned during the visit is that many common painkillers—such as naproxen, ibuprofen, and yes, aspirin—can interfere with a broken bone's ability to heal. Acetaminophen, however, is fine. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

This One Goes to... 5: Favorite Books Read in 2016

In the past, my 'Favorite Books Read' lists have included 11 works of fiction and 11 nonfiction works. This year, that isn't the case.

To be honest, 2017 wasn't a great year in reading for me. Not only did I read far fewer books in general, of the books I did read, there weren't many that were really outstanding. Thus, a list of '11 Favorites' would be impossible.

Still, I did read some really great books. Here are my favorites for 2017, in no particular order. 



FICTION
  • The Book of Weird by Barbara Ninde Byfield (This vintage hard-to-classify gem is a witty encyclopedia of a fantastical alternate Europe. I wish I read this book back in my Dungeons & Dragons days.)
  • The Chronicles of Solar Pons by August Derleth (Yes, Pons is an unabashed pastiche of Sherlock Holmes. But he is also a great pastiche of Sherlock Holmes. The stories are a great deal of fun and I actually think August Derleth is a better writer than Arthur Conan Doyle.)
  • Lost Worlds Vol. 1 by Clark Ashton Smith (Along with H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, Smith was one of the "Big Three" writers for Weird Tales. His fantasy stories are very dark and nightmarish. I especially liked the ones set in the dying earth landscape of Zothique.)
  • Red Sister by Mark Lawrence (This tale of a convent that trains novice nuns in the ways of assassination is one of the best new fantasy novels I've read in a long time. Great setting and characterizations. Features some good quotes about fighting and martial arts.)
  • Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake (Gorgeously written, surreal, and dreamlike. A novel to read slowly and savor.) 

NONFICTION
  • A Buddhist Grief Observed by Guy Newland (I struggle with grief and loss. So does Guy Newland. He eloquently writes about his Buddhist beliefs both helped and at times failed to help him deal with the death of his wife.)
  • The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights by Norm Phelps
    and
  • A Plea for the Animals: The Moral, Philosophical, and Evolutionary Imperative to Treat All Beings with Compassion Hardcover by Matthieu Ricard (Two excellent books about animal rights, both written from a Buddhist perspective. Phelps especially makes some very strong, substantial arguments regarding the place of veganism in Buddhism.)
  • Survive the Unthinkable: A Total Guide to Women's Self Protection by Tim Larkin (The title is a little misleading; the book is not really a "total guide" nor is it only of use to women. Larkin address mindset more than specific techniques, and I find the things he has to say to be perfectly valid. His observation that "violence is rarely the answer, but when it is... it is the only answer" is spot-on.)


SPECIAL MENTION

  • Lazarus Vol. 1 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (Incredible dystopian graphic novel series that explores themes of wealth inequality and environmental destruction. Very timely and relevant... unfortunately.)
(My list of favorite books read in 2016 can be found here, and favorites of 2015 can be found here.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Bong Soo Han on Patience

Research shows that instant gratification is making us perpetually impatient. That is not a good thing. This anecdote about Hapkido master Bong Soo Han from Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams is a perfect illustration of the value of patience.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Books Read, 2017


For various reasons—a new job, some sinus issues that affected my eyes, etc.—I read far fewer books in 2017 than in previous years, much to my chagrin. Also, for various reasons—mostly laziness, really—I wasn't as good at logging the books I read in 2017, so I might have actually read more books and just neglected to keep track of them

That all being said, below is my Master Reading List for 2017, in alphabetical order by title. I'll try post a list of my favorite books read last year soon.

FICTION
  • Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
  • Bloodfire Quest: The Dark Legacy of Shannara by Terry Brooks
  • The Book of Weird by Barbara Ninde Byfield
  • Calix Stay: The Circle of Light, Book 3 by Niel Hancock
  • The Chronicles of Solar Pons by August Derleth
  • Dhampir by Barb and J. C. Hendee
  • Faragon Fairingay: The Circle of Light, Book 2 by Niel Hancock
  • A Feast of Sorrows: Stories by Angela Slatter
  • The First King of Shannara by Terry Brooks
  • Lost Worlds Vol. 1 by Clark Ashton Smith
  • Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings
  • Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
  • Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings
  • Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
  • Squaring the Circle: The Circle of Light, Book 4 by Niel Hancock
  • Tales of Mithgar by Dennis L. McKiernan
  • Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
  • The Unlikely Ones by Mary Brown
  • Wards of Faerie: The Dark Legacy of Shannara by Terry Brooks
  • Witch Wraith: The Dark Legacy of Shannara by Terry Brooks

NONFICTION
  • Aikido Basics by Phong Thong Dang  and Lynn Seiser
  • The Art of Peace by Morehei Ueshiba, translated and edited by John Stevens
  • Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom by Rick Hanson
  • A Buddhist Grief Observed by Guy Newland
  • Do The Work by Steven Pressfield
  • Good Life, Good Death: Tibetan Wisdom on Reincarnation by Gelek Rimpoche
  • The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights by Norm Phelps
  • Kindfulness by Ajahn Brahm
  • Martial Virtues: Lessons in Wisdom, Courage, and Compassion from the World's Greatest Warriors by Charles Hackney
  • A Plea for the Animals: The Moral, Philosophical, and Evolutionary Imperative to Treat All Beings with Compassion Hardcover by Matthieu Ricard
  • The Shambhala Guide to Aikido by John Stevens
  • Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, & Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye by Brad Warner
  • Survive the Unthinkable: A Total Guide to Women's Self Protection by Tim Larkin
  • The Sword Polisher's Record: The Way of Kung-Fu by Adam Hsu
  • Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield
  • The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, translated by Red Pine

GRAPHIC NOVELS
  • Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood
  • Lazarus Vol. 1 by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark
  • Lazarus Vol. 2 by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark
  • Lazarus Vol. 3 by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark
  • Lazarus Vol. 4 by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark

(Previous years: Books Read, 2015; Books Read, 2016)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Attitudes on Alcohol

More Martinis with cats.
Since it’s that time of year when many people get really, really hammered, I thought I might share a few thoughts about alcohol.

I enjoy the occasional adult beverage. That much should be obvious by the photo at the top of the page of me raising a Martini and saying “Cheers!” to my cat Dobbin as well as the various booze-related posts I’ve written. 

However, I do not enjoy drinking to excess. Even though I’m closing in on 50, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been drunk. I didn’t like it, and I don’t like being around people who are drunk. I have only very rarely even been buzzed. To some extent, I credit my mother. She was a moderate drinker with a rather European attitude towards alcohol, and that reflected in her parenting. When I was a kid, it wasn’t a big deal for her to give me a sip of whatever cocktail she was imbibing or a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve. Because of this, alcohol never seemed like some mysterious, taboo temptation to me. When I turned 21 and was legally able to buy alcohol, I was happy to have the option but I didn’t go crazy.

Even more Martinis with cats.
Most of the time, if I drink alcohol at all, I mostly just have a glass of wine or a beer with dinner. Once in awhile I might treat myself to a mixed drink. At various times I’ll even put limits on myself, such as only drinking on weekends or abstaining altogether for a period of time. In fact, I’ll probably abstain for a month or two after the holidays have passed. I don’t do this sort of thing because I think I have a drinking problem. Partially I do it for self-discipline and/or fitness goals. Partially I do it to make sure alcohol stays “special.” I don’t want to fall into the habit of always having a glass of wine or always having a beer. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just isn’t the road I want to go down.

Also, as a martial artist, I find getting drunk runs counter to my motivations for being a martial artist. I train first and foremost to protect myself, my loved ones, and innocent beings. If I’m inebriated, my ability to do that diminishes greatly. Besides, one of the key elements of self-defense is awareness of your surroundings. That awareness goes out the window when you’re drunk. It’s also worth noting that alcohol is a factor in about 40 percent of violent crimes committed in the U.S. On college campuses, a whopping 95 percent of all violent crimes involve the use of alcohol by the assailant, victim, or both.


Alcohol itself is not a bad thing. Our relationship with it can be. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Books Read, Midway Through 2017 Edition

I am way behind on my reading (and blogging) this year. There are a few reasons, such as general busyness and taking the time to catch up on some periodicals, such as older issues of "The New Yorker," "New York Review of Books," and "The Atlantic Monthly." Plus, reading Mervyn Peake's took more time than I imagined. It is a brilliantly written novel, but the language is so rich and dense I had to read a bit slower to take it all in.

Now, without further delay, here is an alphabetical list of the books I've read in the first half of this year. So far, my 2017 reading has been heavy on fantasy and Buddhism.

FICTION
  • Calix Stay: The Circle of Light, Book 3 by Niel Hancock
  • The Chronicles of Solar Pons by August Derleth
  • Dhampir by Barb and J. C. Hendee
  • Faragon Fairingay: The Circle of Light, Book 2 by Niel Hancock
  • A Feast of Sorrows: Stories by Angela Slatter
  • Lost Worlds Vol. 1 by Clark Ashton Smith
  • Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings
  • Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings
  • Squaring the Circle: The Circle of Light, Book 4 by Niel Hancock
  • Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Thought of the Day, January 17, 2017: Lao Tzu's Treasures

"I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures."
—Lao Tzu