Stupid failing body.

Rickety creaky thing. The allergy shot I got on Monday (a shot full of allergens) gave me quite a reaction. A bit of wheezing and lots of itching. As soon as I started feeling off I took two Benadryl and took it easy, watching for any actual difficulty breathing. Fortunately, the Benadryl worked and there was no need to go to the Emergency Room, unless I wanted to go in and tell them, “I’m having an allergic reaction and my ass itches.” Stupid hives are the last thing to clear up.

I did call the allergist and I was supposed to take two more Benadryl before I went to sleep.

I’ve also noticed that I have some weird bumps that I thought were ingrown hairs that itch like crazy when I exercise. Maybe they’re connected to sweat glands. They got annoying enough that I went to the doctor to ask about them. You know what hurts a hell of a lot? A doctor poking a needle into what he called a “cyst” to inject it with something.

So the combination of all this is my excuse to do very little beyond sitting at home watching TV this week instead of going to the gym. If only it was already football season…

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We can’t have nice things.

I’m finally back at the gym and I feel like I’m just limping around the place, but it is getting better. Being a geek who likes measuring things, I bought a Fit Bit Charge HR and it was fun for a week. Unfortunately I should’ve heeded the poor online ratings and known that if someone could have an allergic reaction to using it, I would have that reaction.

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I had to make a trip to REI to return it. I also wandered around the store figuring that might distract me from the itching. Well, it worked for a while and the itching around my wrist is going away. Unfortunately the allergy desensitization shots I’m getting are still incredibly itchy. I sure hope they’re going to actually reduce my allergies and aren’t just pure hokum. Maybe they’re just crushed up mosquitoes. How would I know the difference?

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Minor annoyances.

There are several minor annoyances that are, well, annoying me right now. What with the fatigue of going to the gym and my long work Wednesday (7AM meeting to start) and I’m not exactly in the best of moods. The big boss at work also said a bunch of things that made a lot of us uneasy and implied he didn’t really care about people, just numbers. Pretty much what a big boss is supposed to do. Onto the annoyances.

First, I entered all my gas and mileage records for my Prius into a spreadsheet. I confirmed that the MPG measurement in my Prius is an absolute fiction. Even worse, it gets a lot worse mileage than the gauge indicates. It only does about 44MPG. My old Civic Hybrid cost about half of what the Prius did and it got better than 40MPG.

Second, the house that’s adding a second story down the street is blocking part of my view. It’s not much of a view, but I won’t be able to see if traffic is bad or not.

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Third, I found out that there’s schmutz on my digital camera’s image sensor. Trying to clean it off just made things worse. I think I’m going to throw away the camera before it drives me crazy.

I know, not really problems, just small annoyances. I’m glad that’s all there is.

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Winning at Comic-con.

I just started going back to the gym again, so pardon the excessive rambling. I’m going to blame it on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and the fog of fatigue.

I actually went to San Diego Comic-Con, twenty-nine years after I gave up comic books cold turkey. It was an expensive addiction and I’m fairly happy to have given it up. I’ve lapsed, but mostly with graphic novels. In Japan I followed the series F and Tsurumoku Dokushin Ryo and that wasn’t cheap (dozens of books) but I’ve stayed pretty clean since. But Comic-Con isn’t about comics any more: it’s a media event.

I didn’t really go to Comic-con. I was just there for an ancillary event – Aisha Tyler’s (Podcast) Listener Appreciation Event. I also checked out the open events around the con like NerdHQ and just walked around checking out the costumes. I came to a realization in the multitudes — I’m happy that I only dislike crowds and they don’t make me anxious. After that I wasn’t nearly as bothered.

I only took three pictures which, really, shows you what my goals were for my (kind of expensive) trip. It was $750-ish for the flight and a hotel.

An In-N-Out Double-double animal style with animal style fries:

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A Triple IPA at Stone Brewing Taproom:

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And meeting Aisha Tyler!

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Guess which geek was the first in line to get a signature and also to get a seat to her podcast recording? She’s a pretty in person as on TV and a great actress: you can’t see her thinking, “Who is this weird Asian dude?”

That’s my latest adventure. I hope I can have some more soon as well.

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2014 trip to Japan

In case anyone wanted to see a bunch of pictures, here’s my trip to Japan last fall. It was my mom’s last trip, or so she said again, and we got to see friends and family including a bunch of my cousins (one I hadn’t seen for 25 years or so) and my sister got to see one of the Drs Kawasaki who she hadn’t seen since high school 31 years?!) Of course I didn’t take pictures of any of them because I am an idiot. Seriously, who has three old Nikons and three digital cameras and only takes a few pictures of his dinner with his iPhone? I suppose I have two or three Olympus cameras as well. Well off we go.

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The first stop, of course, was Maebashi to see Dr. and Mrs. Kobayashi. Off of an 11 hour flight just to get on a 5 hour bus ride from the eastern suburbs of Tokyo to NW of Tokyo.

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We stayed at a Toyoko Inn the first night, an inexpensive but very clean business hotel chain that I’d recommend to anyone traveling through Japan. My only complaint is they could be quieter, but I’m picky. They also offer free breakfast, and I think a night’s stay is $60-ish on up.

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The first day we went off to hear a Nagauta recital which was quite good. That’s right, several more hours each way from Maebashi to Hachioji by car. We saw some spectacular views of Mount Fuji on the way, as well as about a dozen US military cargo jets taking off from Yokosuka, I think. But no pictures of that, just pictures of random crap from a highway rest area.

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You can always get can coffee and soft ice cream at the rest area.

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I believe this was dinner, river eel? Unagi donburi in any case in the middle of nowhere in Maebashi. (There was sushi as well, which is why my beer is already half-empty).

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Next day we were off to an onset off in the hills but not too far from Maebashi. First, tomato ramen in Numata! Here’s a picture of actual people (my mom and Mrs. Kobayashi).

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Of course I took more pictures of food than people.

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There was an interesting river valley near where we went. I could look up where it was, but it was pretty.

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And then off to Oigami Onsen. The rooms were huge and there were two separate rooms and an attached tub as well as the big communal bath downstairs. I love Japanese hot springs and that’s why I’m not getting any tattoos.

Here’s one of the rooms with a massage chair and my sister is taking a picture of my mom in the chair.

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I think the rollers were a bit rough on her.

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Here’s the soaking tub for just this room!

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What you do at the onsen is just lay about, take a bath, eat, take another bath, and lay about some more. It’s quite relaxing and more fun than it sounds. Take a book and relax.

Here’s a sequence of pictures of the dinner. The food was excellent, but wasn’t quite as good as Shirahone Onsen.

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You also get breakfast.

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After that it was off to the wilds of Niigata to see the Shimomura’s (the family of Dr. Kawasaki’s daughter). I’ll spare you the chrysanthemum pictures and just have the one of a shrine with my sister, Sho Shimomura, and Mrs. Kobayashi.

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I don’t remember what we did in the big rambling house of the Shimomuras, but here’s a picture of my mom and Mrs. Kobayashi shelling chestnuts, I think.

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We were there for a couple of nights and made a side trip to see Dr. Masaru Kawasaki (who my sister hadn’t seen in 31 years) and what did I take a picture of? Dessert.

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I also didn’t take any pictures in Toyama, where we stayed with the elder Dr. Kawasaki and Mrs. Kawasaki. I’m an idiot.

Next stop Osaka. I had dinner with my old co-worker Shohei Moriwaki. Again, no pictures, except of the shabu shabu restaurant where he took me.

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We saw all my local cousins and some of their kids, but did I take their pictures? of course not. Here’s one of some fried stuff we had for dinner (tonkatsu too).

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We went all over Osaka and did I take any pictures of the temples (I have those already) or the old seed store, or the weird kitchen supply street? No, here’s one of a superhero of some sort in a group of neighborhood watch women.

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The superhero is next to the tiger, and he gave me a pamphlet talking about taking care of kids and the elderly and one of the best pens I have. It writes really smoothly.

You’d think all I did otherwise was eat. Mr. Donut cronuts.

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I took this next picture because the baby next door is named Maren and my mom always thinks of marron when she hears that name (as do I sometimes).

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So here’s a picture of lunch in Namba. I left my wallet with close to $1000 in yen on the seat because I was in a rush to go on a solo trip to pick up a wall calendar at the National Bunraku Theatre, which is a walk through an iffy neighborhood. My mom is slowing down so I walked down there by myself.

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Of course, it’s Japan, so I got my wallet back with no problems. Imagine my surprise, though, when I first noticed my wallet was missing. I had my American Express card so I used that to buy the calendar.

We walked through Dotonbori and I bought my new Helly Hansen raincoat but no pictures of any of that. Here’s one of our afternoon snack, though, green tea azuki bean paste and sweet rice balls at Toki. We go to Toki (under Hankyu Umeda station) every time we get to Japan.

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Here’s another lunch we had, Korean food!

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We went to the new shopping area near the new JR Osaka train station and the book store had a beautiful view of the platforms.

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We saw my uncle (my mom’s older brother and his kids so it was off to see my aunt (my mom’s older sister)! The closest shinkansen station is Tokuyama in Yamaguchi Prefecture which is one of those places in Japan that’s kind of dried up. You can see how busy the train was to get there.

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And of course, what can you do out there but drink?

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I just wanted to get a picture of those giant whiskey bottles in the supermarket, and the huge shochu bottles as well (no, those aren’t water).

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Yay, I remembered to take a picture of people! My mom, my aunt, and my sister! That little house was built especially for my aunt, who has lost her vision. She lives with my cousin, who I kind of think is a nutbag, though she is a nice nutbag. I think she could treat my aunt better, but I could treat my mom better as well.

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My aunt’s mini-house is behind my cousin’s house. Here’s the blueberry garden that my cousin’s husband has.

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We had supermarket lunch. It wasn’t bad, but not nearly as good as the stuff from Seven Eleven (the food at the convenience stores in Japan is really pretty good.)

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On the left side of the rice paddy (the yellow field above) is a path, and across the path is a bunch of houses and, oddly enough, a cake shop with a chef that trained in France. My cousin’s house is built where my grandmother’s house used to be, and we’d go visit my grandmother when I was a kid. The cake shop was one of the few interesting things near my grandmother’s house.

Here’s a view of my cousin’s house and my aunt’s house and my sister with a cake box.

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After that it was off to Onomichi where we stayed the night. We stayed at the Kokusai Hotel which was run down a bit but really quite nice. The dining room was nearly empty but honestly quite good.

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How did I end up with beer and rice crackers?

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Another night with eel for dinner.

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The specialty was eel and I got the sampler where you could eat it in three different ways.

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Wait, it’s four different ways.

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Next morning we walked around the neighborhood and went to Mos Burger.

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They had a new breakfast menu.

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And little Xmas ornaments.

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At lunch we were joined by my sister’s friend Yumi and we were off across the islands to Shikoku but first, ramen!

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Here’s my sister, our friend Yumi, and my mom.

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And then off across the bridges.

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There were interesting things on the islands between Onomichi and Imabari. A salt plant with tasty salted ice cream and salted coffee.

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One of me!

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And my favorite, an old temple!

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These trees are supposed to be thousands of years old.

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Breakfast at a coffee shop in Imabari, before we went off to look at towels and drive back to Okayama. We went to Imabari to see the towels. The Moomin exhibit in the towel museum was pretty neat, but going all that way for towels is kind of silly. The ultimate purpose, though, was the trip and that was fun.

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On the way back to Okayama we stopped at a highway rest area and the food was pretty darn good. That’s the thing about Japan, the food is good almost everywhere you go (if you like Japanese food).

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After that we also stopped in Kurashiki, where my sister and brother-in-law worked at the satellite campus of Mount Hood Community College (where they met). The town of Kurashiki is drying up like Tokuyama, but it also has a high-end denim jeans industry and we went to about a dozen small jeans stores. I bought two pairs of Japanese selvedge jeans (like they mentioned on the show blackish) and I haven’t even worn the pair from Momotaro. Momotaro also had a pair of silk/denim jeans but were out of my size. Those felt so good that I feel like making the three-hour trip from Osaka just to see if I can buy a pair the next time I go to Japan.

After an overnight in Okayama, it was off to Tokyo. I tried to do too much on the day of our arrival and my sister ended up with a minor migraine. We left our bags at Tokyo station and then headed out to Shibamata. I wanted my mom to have more time to see Katsushika and the Tora-san museum but we had to rush through while my sister tried to take a nap on an aluminum bench. I put them on a train for Shinjuku so they could go straight for the hotel while I went to Tokyo station pick up the SEVEN bags. I looked like a madman going through the station and had to put the train ticket in my teeth. I got a taxi and arrived back at the hotel and, fortunately, my sister was feeling much better.

I was off to have dinner with my old co-worker Suzuki-san. Try to see him on my way through Tokyo. We had kushikatsu and then wandered around Nakano station for a while.

Here’s a picture from our favorite breakfast spot – Paul Bassett coffee in Shinjuku.

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The coffee is excellent, but I wish they’d give me three or four times the amount.

Here’s our lunch from a fancy restaurant in the Daikanyama area.

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I took a trip by myself to somewhere I wish I could be – doing a sport I had to give up.

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We also saw our artist friend Chicoh Hayasaki and her mom at a fancy Chinese restaurant for dinner in a Shinjuku hotel. I have to include all the pictures because this is was a quite an elaborate Chinese dinner.

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One last full day starting with Paul Bassett 

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Lunch in the department store.

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Dinner in another restaurant in a department store.

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Well, the last day on our way out we went to Tully’s and I think we should’ve gone to Paul Bassett yet again.

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A last candy on the train.

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Our traditional lunch at Fujiya in Narita airport.

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I must’ve been pre-occupied since this is all I left. You can’t see the teeth marks in the bowl.

And finally, back in Portland!

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Lots of work for nothing.

Last night I spent a lot of time destroying my dad’s old diaries. These weren’t really interesting diaries, but mostly the daily weather. Included with the weather were reports of his ailing health, mainly headaches and backaches, and it was really pretty depressing. All I could think is that some hipster would find them and use them in an awful art exhibit and I just couldn’t have that. So I spent three or four hours tearing apart these little calendar books so I could feed them into my shredder.

Tonight I replaced my standing desk with a nearly identical standing desk that’s slightly more sturdy. That was a four hour process of taking all the monitors and monitor arms off the desk, clearing off all the stuff, disassembling the desk, carrying the heavy-ass old desk downstairs, carrying the almost as heavy new desk upstairs, assembling the new desk, and putting everything back onto my desk including monitor arms, etc. I’ve been trying to get to sleep by 10:30 and it’s already 11:30. I’m not done yet.

The old desk had a heavy top with lighter legs. This new desk top isn’t as heavy, but the legs are much heavier. I think I like the new one better already. It still wobbles a bit but not nearly as much. This is a very expensive experiment I’m conducting but at least I can use the desk somewhere else. I always need more bench space in the basement.

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R.I.P. “Ed” Wynne

I’ve been doing a lot of drinking this weekend and a lot of the reason is to forget my troubles and to avoid thinking about the memorial service this weekend for a friend and co-worker, Ed Wynne. He’s a guy who convinced me to take up golf for a while. But even though the memorial service is over, I’m still sad about the death of a guy who could always make me laugh with his stories about his years on the road as a sound engineer for rock bands.

I’m not sure why some people’s deaths hit me harder than others. I hadn’t talked to Ed much in the last few years. I guess I feel like Ed just should’ve had more time. He was about to retire and I heard he bought himself a motor home. Sounds like a pretty crummy time for your health to give out on you.

I can’t tell Ed’s stories because they’re Ed’s stories, but I do remember riding with him to lunch. Any suspect driving would get him to yell, “Death stalks the highway!” Anytime we’d get lost he’d call for his wife, “JoAnn! I’m lost! Come find me!” But really, his stories were the best.

So here’s to Ed Wynne and JoAnn Pullen. I’m really sorry to see you go Ed and I hope JoAnn is doing well.

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Just to be clear, I’m allergic to soy.

I went to the allergist and they poked me with a bunch of pins. The pins all made me itchy as hell and they said I was quite allergic to grass, trees, something-I-can’t-remember, and soy. Oh, and even better, I was sick for a week with the kind of ailment where you can’t leave the house because you can’t get that far from the bathroom without getting nervous. Fortunately, I’m feeling better at the moment but I probably just jinxed myself by saying that.

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It just keeps getting better.

Guess who was in the ER again today? I know you’re not supposed to go to the ER if you have hives, but I felt like I was having a little trouble breathing. I’m guessing I wasn’t supposed to try to wait for it to go away then walk across the street to Safeway to buy generic Benadryl to dry swallow. But I did, and then drove home and walked to the hospital, hoping things would get better. I still felt a little wheezy when I got then and the Benadryl kicked in while I was sitting in the lobby for an hour. And the doc looked at me and said, “You’ve really got hives.”

I got an EpiPen prescription for my trouble but all the pharmacies were closed at 6:30PM and so I just have to hope whatever it was isn’t in my regular diet, just something special in Peet’s Coffee’s Soy Lattes. I sure hope it’s not soy in general. What kind of Asian would I be if I had to avoid soy?

So here we go, another sign I’m getting old: weird allergies.

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Now what?

Today, FINALLY, my legs only ache a little and I was able to sit and stand without feeling too bad. I haven’t taken any Tylenol for two days and that means the drinking can soon commence.

But feeling better also means my common sense is waning and I’m watching Judo videos again. I gave away most of my books already and I think I have to give away the rest of the apparel and accoutrement so I’m not tempted to try something that could impair my already waning mental faculties.

I’ve really painted myself into a corner. This started almost a year ago: an OKCupid date that led to getting “dumped” (or whatever you call it when someone no longer returns any attempts at contacting them) that then led to a strong desire to shake things up. That meant quitting the gym I’d been going to for years (5-7? I never remember) and starting Judo, which led to a head injury (and back injury or whatever I’ve been suffering for three weeks), which put me in my current position where I’m supposed to limit myself to WALKING for exercise for six months.

I remember the day this all started too, since it was Zwickelmania where the breweries open up their backrooms. (I could have been good and loaded on that first date.) This year Zwickelmania is scheduled for St. Valentine’s day which means no one wants to go with me. I thought that meant more beer for me, but it turns out that I’m going to a funeral that day instead. Zwickelmania for NOBODY.

I’d cry myself to sleep if I cared at all but I think I’ll just keep researching sit/stand desks for my home office. Good office furniture is impossible to get on a onesie-twosie basis.

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Nowhere to go but down.

I just spent two days lying around. Not by choice, but because my hamstrings were cramping up from spending 13 hours in an ER gurney and 14 hours in a hospital bed. Somehow that weird semi-sitting-up position isn’t great for hip flexors and, for me, cramped up my upper hamstrings. I got a massage yesterday and the LMT told me that she had a similar problem because of her bent-over position. That weird hip hinge, whether standing or lying down, seems to be hard on the psoas and hip flexors.

I was in the ER overnight for observation due to a headache that usually resolves on its own but they found something they wanted to keep an eye on. That meant checking on me every few hours but little else. Of course every few hours also happened in the middle of the night. I’m now restricted to nothing more strenuous than walking or swimming for six months.

As you can expect, that means I have to find another hobby, as I spent a lot of time in the second half of the previous year either doing or thinking about Judo. Honestly, though, an old man with old man reflexes is probably going to have a hard time taking up something like Judo if he didn’t do it in his youth. At least the falling part. Boy howdy did I enjoy it while I could. And I’m probably not in top physical condition for recovery. Who knows what my medications are doing to me?

So if you see somebody walking around looking lost, it might be me. I’m good at it.

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What’s Grand Central Baking doing?

There’s a bakery in Portland that makes artisan breads (or, in other words, more expensive than normal bread) and they also have a chain of cafes that serve coffee, sandwiches, pastries, and bread. As you’d figure. I was annoyed when I found out that they were closing the cafe closest to me because, well, it’s the one closest to me. My mom likes going, too.

They’re closing to expand the actual baking operation, but I complained on twitter (since I know they’re on there) and they told me to go to the next closest store. Unfortunately, that also requires getting on the freeway and making three lane changes on a busy bridge. That’s three lane changes each way.

Then I read their notice and they said they really want to be in a “walkable neighborhood”. That’s just great but most of the people I see on Sunday morning (when I usually go) are elderly like my mom and are most likely driving to a bakery.

And today when I went I heard rumors that the cafe staff isn’t getting relocated, but are all being laid off.

I know the owners of Grand Central are supposed to be nice (my sister went to school with a couple of them and they’re friends of her friends) but this just sounds like a series of dick moves.

And, honestly, I am glad that I have the time to have something so minor annoy me but seriously, can’t someone NOT be a douchebag?

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