22 November 2008

Meme Meme Meme

No time for substance!

The meme is via the Eavesdrop Writer Blog, which normally doesn't contain memes. Nonetheless, it must have caught the Vivienne's fancy as it has caught mine. (Incidentally, it's a pretty interesting blog and you should go there sometime.)

Here's the deal:
(1) Grab the nearest book
(2) open the book to page 56
(3) find the fifth sentence
(4) post the text of the next two to five sentences
(5) don’t dig for your favorite book. Pick the closest
(6) tag five people to do the same

Note that if you dig around for your favorite book, it ruins the whole point of the thing. It must be the book that is spacially closest to you.

The nearest book is The Art of the Essay, edited by Lydia Fakundiny. I was recently re-reading this with fond memories of my non-fiction creative writing class at KU.

The essay is Benjamin Franklin's "The Ephemera". [This is the conclusion of the ephemera's soliloquy. I have linked to the full text above in case you want to read the rest of this short but insightful essay.]

"To me, after all my eager pursuits, no solid pleasures now remain, but the reflection of a long life spent in meaning well, the sensible conversation of a few good lady ephemera and now and then a kind smile, and a tune from the ever-amiable Brillante."

How very Franklinian. Happy weekend, dear readers! I figure that five people will read this, if I am lucky, so I tag you all.

16 November 2008

I Shall Wear the Bottoms of My Trousers Rolled

As you may have noticed in my last few posts, I am beginning to come to grips with my mortality. This is especially true because the news of my high cholesterol came as I was fighting the tail end of a vicious cold. The next week, my foot swelled up for no apparent reason, causing me quite a bit of pain for a few days. In a word, I felt like I was falling apart.

Considering my mortality has been a difficult thing for me, for a number of reasons.

First and foremost is that, in many ways, I still feel like a child. I like riding in the folded-down backseat of a station wagon at night while someone else drives and I go to sleep. I like ice cream. I like having as little responsibility as possible. I am surrounded by wondrous things, and I like not knowing how they all work (because as soon as the knowledge comes, the wonder dissipates).

Children, however, do not need to worry about cholesterol or cardiovascular disease. When children stub a toe or bruise a knee, they do not need a week to recover enough to go up and down the stairs without grunting. Most children seem not to get sickness that lasts for much longer than a weekend, and very few of them continue to hack and cough for the next month.

Secondly, I have always felt reasonably healthy. You know, like the kind of healthy that doesn't need angioplasty or a Rascal scooter. It is, therefore, disappointing to learn that my poor lifestyle choices have had negative consequences. Who knew that a lifetime of eating fats, carbs, and other delicious things could have such negative consequences? (Answer: me, but I didn't really know-know until the doctor told me I could die from doing this.)

Thirdly, I find that the idea of death bothers me. Not because I fear death, but because I would be leaving behind the woman I love and a large family of brothers, sisters, and parents who would presumably mourn my passing. It hurts to think that they might be in emotional pain and I would not be in any position to provide them with comfort -- or, indeed, with anything other than stiffness, decay and possibly diseases, at that point.

For all these reasons, I have been thinking a lot about my mortality and how I should act in light of it. And, of course, these lines from Dylan Thomas came to mind:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

So here is what I have done today in an effort to rage against the dying of the light:

1.) Listened to rock instead of classical while cutting coupons this afternoon
2.) Felt my foot beginning to swell up again and determined that I would give it a reason to swell up, so went to the gym
3.) Lifted weights entirely too much while at the gym, despite my knowledge that my whole chest will be throbbing all day tomorrow as a result
4.) Stacked the pillows differently while making my bed
5.) Wore my slippers out of the house
6.) Pushed my Toyota Camry's 4-cylinder engine up past 3,000 RPMs while getting on the highway (normally, I don't like taking it up much past 2,500)
7.) Choreographed an especially daring "chair dance" to do tomorrow, in case my foot becomes too swollen up to go for a run
8.) Didn't wear a belt with my jeans tonight

How is that for daring to disturb the universe? (Or at least daring to eat a peach?)

12 November 2008

Sometimes, the Song Stuck in Your Head Isn't a Real Song

Q. What do you get when you cross this

with this?

A. The song that was going through my head all day long yesterday. No, I don't really know why. Yes, I am a little frightened.

06 November 2008

The Wages of Peanut M&Ms is Death!

I have been craving Peanut M&Ms all day long. And I am a little tired of it, believe you me.

It doesn't help that Peanut M&Ms are easily obtainable. Seriously, I don't even have to buy them. They are located:

* In the hand-painted "M&M" bowl that someone gave to Mrs. Luaphacim and me on the occasion of our marriage (yes, our names both start with "M." Get it?). Said bowl sits conveniently atop the microwave on the way to the refrigerator (in which we keep the food I can actually eat).

* On the desk of one of my co-workers, with whom I have been sitting for about two hours per day in order to train him on calculating taxable gains. Sometimes he eats them, and the lovely aroma wafts by my nose in an unbearably delicious-smelling fashion.

* On top of a filing cabinet I pass each time I go to the bathroom. (Which is frequently, as I have been drinking a lot of water to control my appetite.) They are so inviting, and yet so full of carbs and fats...

In short, it gets to be unbearable sometimes. The only thing that keeps me from buckling under this enormous temptation is envisioning my own bloated, cholesterol-saturated corpse lying in the middle of a large, empty room with scattered handfuls of peanut M&Ms colorfully festooning the floor around me.

Two tough-looking, hard-boiled detectives are examining the scene.

Detective 1 takes a long drag on his cigarette. "So, what do you think got him?"

Detective 2 is silhouetted by backlighting from around the corner as he sticks his hands in the pockets of his trench coat. "I think it's pretty obvious."

"Yeah." Detective 1 shakes his head. "Why do they always think they can beat the M&Ms?" He blows an impressive smoke ring toward my cadaver. "When will they ever learn?" The smoke ring settles dramatically upon my bulging stomach.

Detective 2 takes out his Glock 19 9 mm and inspects its 15-round magazine. "It didn't have to be like this, you know." He hears a sudden movement in the corner of the warehouse and fires off a shot into the shadows. "He could've eaten carrots instead, and we never would've had to come and clean up this mess."

"It's always the carrots that drive them to the M&Ms. I've seen it a dozen times," says Detective 1 as he drops his cigarette butt, grinds it with his heel, and dives to cover just in time to avoid a burst of fire from the Uzi-toting terrorist across the room. Rounds of 9x19 mm Parabellum hollow points shred the packing crate behind him.

Detective 2 lobs a grenade over at the intruder, and after the explosion, lights a cigarette of his own. "It's a shame, a 27-year-old kid like that. Well, I guess we're about wrapped up here."

As they leave the building, Detective 1 sets a Demolition Charge M183 next to a load-bearing support beam, and shortly thereafter, I am entombed in the rubble of the warehouse, never to be seen again.

So that is how I have been avoiding Peanut M&Ms.

My one ray of sunshine in this diet is that I actually can eat some meat (yes, I know I said I was becoming a vegetarian, but I was mistaken). It might keep me out of the abandoned warehouse for another few weeks, anyway.

04 November 2008

Give Me Vegetables or Give Me Death (Literally)

First, as a former teacher of freshman composition, I should note that the title of this post is not entirely original.

Second, I should note that I was going to blog about the election, and after about 20 seconds of effort, I realized that:
a.) too many people will be doing that tonight, and I should not lay a further burden upon the Inter-nets with my woefully unskilled political comments,
b.) no amount of ranting on my part would cause a substantial change in the outcome, except to drive my blood pressure higher, thus creating more health problems for President-elect Obama to deal with, and
c.) I don't actually care about the election, because, in retrospect, it was merely a matter of whether our once-great nation would be driven to its inevitable perdition in a red hearse or a blue one.

Nevertheless, I still felt like writing, so I decided to write on the thing I have been pondering for the past several days: my own mortality. And believe me, there is nothing like a physical examination to make one ponder one's own mortality.

Why, you may ask, was I taking a physical exam in the first place? Simple: it was free, and I am much, much too cheap to turn down any (potentially) valuable thing that is offered for free. Which I am sure is why my place of employment offers free physical exams -- to get cheapskates like me to come in so they can identify my defects and cure them using the wonders of Medical Science.

The first thing that made me consider my mortality was the doctor's ginger examination of certain reproductive organs that may or may not have been in my possession. She informed me that such examinations should be occurring at LEAST monthly in order to detect testicular cancer in its early stages. Naturally, I was worried. I had never performed such an examination before, and neither had anyone else -- what if the cancer had come, gone, and dried up all my future generations, unbeknownst to me?

And then there was my weight. The doctor informed me that this was my "biggest challenge." (She did not seem to be intending the pun.) As if I didn't know that? Hello, I administer life insurance policies. If I couldn't find my way around a standard mortality table, I think I would die of embarrassment (which, incidentally, is only a figure of speech; embarrassment does not substantially increase mortality rates as defined in the industry's standard tables. More discussion of mortality tables might follow in a later post).

But the real blow came this morning. I arrived at my cubicle, steaming mug of tea in my hand, and noticed a manila inter-office envelope sitting on my chair. Upon opening it, I saw a sheet with the following notations:

Blood Test -- Lipids
Triglycerides: 167 (Normal 0-149)
Total Cholesterol: 243 (Normal <200)
HDL (Good) Cholesterol: 40 (Normal 40-90)
LDL (Bad) Cholesterol: 170 (Normal 0-99)

As an over-achiever, I was not especially surprised to find that my scores on this test were generally well above average. Which is not to say that I was pleased with the results.

Along with these test results, my doctor had very thoughtfully included a stack of guilt-inducing brochures with titles like "Watching Your Cholesterol," "What's Your 'Desirable Weight'?", "Angioplasty 101," and "Heart Healthy Guide." I have always been a sucker for free brochures, so I read through Hope Health's very interesting "Watching Your Cholesterol" on my morning break.

I was delighted to learn within the very first paragraph that "You can't live without cholesterol." So far, so good, I thought.

"What was that?" my cube-neighbor asked.

"Nothing," I replied, resolving not to think out loud next time.

Alas, then came the bad news: "But you only need a little cholesterol." Dang.

"Your liver makes most of what your body needs." Double dang.

"Extra cholesterol has to go somewhere, so it gets dropped off in your arteries. ... The buildup of cholesterol in arteries is called plaque (plack). Over time, the plaque buildup can narrow and even block the arteries. This leads to heart disease and heart attack." OK, we are past "dang" now.

At this point, it should be noted that the above referenced plaque (plack) is not actually the same as the plaque (plack) that is removed from one's teeth during free semi-annual dental checkups.

It should also be noted that I am not sure why the writers of the brochure felt the need to add a pronunciation guide for plaque (plack), but I must say I am beginning to be rather fond of it.

Further, it should be noted that the word plaque (plack) also kind of looks like the word plague (plaig) if you sort of squint, but the pronunciation guides are completely different, so they are clearly distinct words.

"Why do you keep muttering 'plack'?" asked my nosy cube-neighbor. "And did you just switch to 'plaig'?"

"I think you're imagining things," I responded. "Get back to work."

And that, dear reader, is why I am on the cusp of becoming a vegetarian (hence the title of this post). Not so much because I am worried that I will die from high cholesterol (although the inexorable mortality tables would indicate that such an occurrence is likely), but because
1.) My wifey loves me and does not want a prematurely dead husband on her hands,
2.) I really should take care of this magnificent piece of biological machinery with which my Maker has endowed me, and
3.) Honestly, who really wants plaque (plack) to build up in his arteries?

Of course, I will be doing other things to lower my cholesterol as well. Exercising, for instance. Unfortunately, according to the height-weight chart my doctor enclosed in my packet, I am very close to morbidly obese. Thus, I was not sure whether I should go straight to something as strenuous as jogging for 30 minutes every day, or if I should work up to it gradually.

As I was browsing resources from the National Institutes of Health Weight-Control Information Network, I ran across the answer: Dancing. The perfect exercise for people who can't... stand up for long periods of time?! Really?! Yes, really:
You can dance in a health club, in a nightclub, or at home. To dance at home, just move your body to some lively music!

Dancing on your feet is a weight-bearing activity. Dancing while seated lets you move your arms and legs to music while taking the weight off your feet. This may be a good choice if you cannot stand on your feet for a long time.
So I guess I have found the solutions to my recently increased awareness of my mortality: Vegetarianism and Dancing While Seated. If nothing else, they should at least help to amuse me as I attempt to further delay my inevitable Shuffle Off of This Mortal Coil.