Had/ Has | Happy Monday – December 5th, 2016

“Are you okay?” I ask.

“I’m fine, I just don’t want to do this.”

“I wish I could go with you. I still can,” I tell her, “You know, I can at least just go down there with you.”

“One of us has to pick up Kate.” She replied.

“I know. I’m sorry” I say.

“I’ll be fine.”

This was part of the conversation my wife and I had last week, before she left for her oncology appointment.

My wife had/ has cancer.

We found out about it in June, and she had surgery in July to have the tumor, and half of her large intestine removed. Thing we soon learned about cancer surgery isn’t like other kinds of surgery, it’s not really over with right away.

For instance, I had to have surgery on my knee when I fractured my patella in three places while coming home drunk one evening. I got taken to the ER, had to wait a day, then they operated on my knee. A couple of screws got thrown in there, and four months later I was able to walk around and go back to work. A few aches and pains aside, I was able to just move on with my life.

After cancer surgery, even though they are very sure they got the whole tumor, she still isn’t considered cancer free. Not until after five years have passed without a recurrence. This means that my wife doesn’t really get to move on with her life for five more years. For the next five years it’s a game of Schrodinger’s Tumor; it’s neither there, nor gone until it’s observed, and she has to live in a state of has/ had cancer. These five long years are supposed to involve several trips to the oncology unit for CT scans. Those CT scans are the first line of defense when it comes to detecting if the cancer is really gone or not. They are also priced in a range that I’d classify as unreasonably expensive for someone in my particular income bracket, at least without insurance.

That’s where the ACA becomes important to our lives.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is, quite frankly imperfect. I only enrolled to avoid a penalty imposed by the individual mandate. The policy I can afford, even with subsidies, offers relatively little coverage. It has however one thing going for it.

At least it is something.

I am not going to get into the mire of financial details explaining how expensive everything actually is in my particular case except to say that without that minimal amount of coverage we would not have been able to afford my wife’s surgery, or her post surgical medications. We would not have had the money for her recent CT scan. Going forward, without the ACA we will not be able to get her the rest of the follow up treatments and scans that the medical professionals have deemed as necessary.

Her next scan will be scheduled for sometime next year. After the new administration of the American government is in place. One of the things on the chopping block is the ACA.

2016 is coming to a close, and my insurance policy with it. I am tasked with spending the next few days reviewing coverage options and re-enrolling with healthcare.gov. I have to, not just to avoid a tax penalty this time. I have to enroll in a policy, that I won’t be able to afford without a subsidy, to be able to pay for the CT scans that might detect if my wife’s cancer comes back early enough to save her life again.

And it’s all a giant gamble because I don’t know if that policy will be valid, or affordable if the ACA get’s gutted, or defunded, or replaced. The words, high-risk pool  have been bandied about as well as, voucher system. Those are frightening terms to people who are in the had/ has category.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about.

What’s on your mind?

Happy Monday.

Bacon Is Bad For You and, Vegetarian Hot Dogs Are Made Of People!

It’s hard to believe it’s only Wednesday and I think the internet may have already spewed forth my favorite headlines for the week. On Monday while I was busy trying to fit a cup of coffee into my schedule, everywhere I looked, my news feeds were flooded with links and headlines that said things like:

Hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats cause cancer, World Health Organization declares 


Bad Day For Bacon: Processed Meats Cause Cancer, WHO Says

At the time, all I could visualize was my vegan and vegetarian friends, with their arms folded across their chests and a triumphant little smirk on their smug little hippie faces. So delighted to be able to push the share button on that one. I mean here it was right, it’s science right? Who’s laughing now? I bet you don’t have anything smart to say about this one.

Relax it’s the internet, just wait a few minutes.

In those minutes we got:

Human DNA found in two thirds of vegetarian hot dog samples, according to report


Study Finds Pork And Human DNA In Vegetarian Hot Dogs

Leave it to a FOX News affiliate to cherry pick just the right info out of an otherwise pointless study to slant things enough to get it reposted into my social networks. I was a bit miffed to see the second headline from IFLScience, but I suppose it pays the bills. Usually by the same people who busy themselves with defending the confederate flag and spent a large part of 2012 worrying about the Twinkie Crisis. To be frank none of them seemed to notice that this report in question was about all types of hot dogs not just vegetarian ones. In fairness I’d like to note how skewed that first headline is by quoting the Clear Food, who conducted the study, so you can compare the two:

  • Hygienic issues: Clear Food found human DNA in 2% of the samples. 2/3rds of the samples with human DNA were vegetarian products.

The reason I got such a kick out of these is, none of it is new information. We have been studying and talking for years about how processed meats are bad for us. Even the staunchest of bacon lover knew that with each delicious smokey, salt laden strip we were hurtling that much faster towards the possibility of a protracted, ugly, and, agonizing death. If you’ve been in denial about that, you’re probably an idiot to begin with so this new declaration of fact may have come as some sort of surprise. To those of us who bother to pay even the slightest attention to the information available about what we choose to stuff in our consumption orifices, we’ll probably just shrug and just keep doing what we’ve always done. We’re a stubborn lot that way. Besides put into perspective, a WHO official said,

“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed”

As for what is or isn’t in your hot dog. I’d like to remind you that you’re eating a GOD DAMNED HOT DOG! Even if you choose a meatless one it’s still probably just random parts swept up off the floor after they were done making real food, that’s thrown into the hopper of some industrial grinder by some schlub, who’s supervisor is on his ass about production quotas, and then extruded into a tube-like shape for your face cramming pleasure1.  I’d like to think that we all got the memo that said the FDA2 has set what it views as “acceptable” limits of things we’d all rather not know about in our favorite comestibles. I’m not going to get into details, you can just Google that stuff if you feel like being slightly mortified for the rest of your day.

All in all I am glad that there are organizations like the WHO and Clear Foods that apparently have our interests at heart, or are at least willing to make the attempt at convincing us they do. The problem for me is how we get our information dispersed to us; in little packets with flashy names, with very little of anything digestible inside.

Or, am I talking about our food again?

  1. This is partially conjecture on my part and largely an excuse to use the words “extruded”, “tube-like” and, “face cramming pleasure” all in the same sentence. 
  2. Insert the appropriate puppet agency that is responsible for making you feel safe about the food supply in your country, if you like. 

Commuting and Exercise| Heading Into November’s Final Stretch

It took the better part of the week but I have managed to catch back up with my mileage goals, after spending most of week two out of commission between illness and maintenance issues. Though I am just now getting back to full health I am fairly confident that I will hit my objective of  pedaling one hundred eighty miles this month.

This third week I discovered what I think is my new favorite route for my commute. It is three miles longer than my usual path but, quite a bit more level so I can really get a good turn of speed going, the added benefit is that the traffic lights seemed to be timed in my favor, at least based on when I have to leave the house for work. The overall result is being able to pick up a few extra miles by leaving the house an extra ten to twelve minutes earlier, something that I intend to do more often. I learned a bit about riding in the wet and drear as well recently and that if I want to stop in damp conditions I should probably try to give the bike as much notice as possible.

I know I mentioned a couple of times what a good idea it would be for me to get a helmet for my rides. I finally ordered one but an accidental click had it shipped timed with my wife’s Christmas present so it won’t get here until maybe this evening, probably after I’ve already left for work. Hopefully I will be able to bore everyone with pics of me sporting in an a very serious cyclist type of manner soon.

I did manage to add a frame pump to my standard gear as well as some tire patches for emergencies, though with any luck I won’t have to use them. Which leads me to the question of the week:

What kind of roadside repair equipment are you packing in your kit?

Feel free to leave a comment with your answer or any other feedback you’d like, if you feel so inclined.

Down to brass tacks; This week I managed to get in gear and stretch this weeks rides to a total 52.7 miles bringing me up to 124.8 after 21 days with 8 days left in November I need just over 55 miles to complete my goal distance wise. Speed has not been an issue I am currently running at an average pace of 5 mins and 32 seconds per mile, almost thirty seconds faster than my goal for this month.

I am finding that my endurance continues to improve and that the setbacks of the previous week have has little effect on how often I get winded going up hill during my ride, though my expedition on Thursday showed me that fighting a good head wind while traveling up an incline can be a bit of a pain in the ass. As a side note my fitness tracker thing-a-ma-jig tells me that I have set a new personal record for monthly elevation having climbed 2,239 ft and still counting, so I guess that’s cool.

Going forward from here I am looking for a strong finish for the month. My main obstacle is that my daughter, who is six, will be out of school for nearly the remainder of the month so fitting in rides other than basic commutes might be a bit rough, but I am determined to do it especially since there should be a very large turkey dinner in my near future, the preparation and cooking of which should also take up quite a large chunk of my time this coming week.

Also I am intrigued to find out if there really is such a thing as Risk Compensation involved with wearing a helmet when you ride. I am not normally the danger seeking type so it might be interesting to see what effect additional safety equipment has on my psychology. I’m betting on not much.

Happy biking.

The Eight Mile Cheeseburger

I love cheese burgers, I always have. Since early childhood they have hands down been my favorite food. I mean growing up Jersey you learn to have respect for a good pizza, but I was a cheeseburger kid. I love them in all of their numerous ways to be prepared.  My absolute favorite I discovered while living in Ithaca, New York involves the addition of a fried egg to the otherwise standard preparation, I often ate these late at night in this awesome little twenty-four hour diner with a side of cheese fries and gravy, and cup after cup after cup of coffee. Delicious, fattening, and hedonistic that’s the way I like them. It’s not always convenient to get ’em that way though, which is probably for the best. 

If it’s convenience you want then you, my friend, are going to have to look towards the fast food distribution centers that line every street corner in America and most other parts of the developed. These corporate swill shacks are more than happy to offer with, little exception, the most hollowed out, cut-rate cheeseburger experience available. It’s like eating a cow that’s had all the serial numbers filed off. Shame and disappointment on a bun and served to you wrapped in printed wax paper.

When I first started taking my commuter ride seriously, I noticed that as soon as I would get off the bike I would be starving; well, to be honest the first few times I was too nauseous to eat but that’s because I was doing it wrong, but that isn’t part of this story. Close to the restaurant that I work in there’s a burger mill just a couple of blocks down; my hunger immediately latched on to this fact and I started wandering that way. For some reason I can’t figure out I decide to walk past the crap factory and go to the corner store and get a banana instead; I tell myself that I’ll earn a cheeseburger when I ride eight miles without stopping.

An arbitrary number, eight miles. I didn’t think anymore of it until I finally made my eight miles as the return trip portion of a fifteen and a half mile ride my wife I took a couple of days later to go get coffee and a biscotti. It was a fun, relaxed, morning outing; she had just gotten her new bike and we decided to give it a decent airing. When we got back to the house it was almost lunchtime; before I put the bike up I glanced at my tracking app and it said that for the eight miles I had burned about 380 calories

I don’t know if your aware of this but, as it turns out, that fast food cheeseburgers your thinking about right now probably falls between 280 and 420 depending on where you go, and that’s not the limit. This is just their bare bones cheeseburger too, not one of those Cadillac style double-decker monstrosities that, by the way, you look oh so attractive trying to cram into your maw. Now lets just look at these numbers for a second; it looks like it would mean that in order to burn off the average (and average is a kind word here) cheeseburger I would need to ride my bicycle eight miles. I did the math and decided that the usual options weren’t going to cut it; I tried a little local stand that was absolutely delicious. If I added it all up I am sure that it would be just as heavy. It tasted better though, and I gave my money to a local family run business so that was cool. The whole idea just made me feel good.

Look, I am not here to tell you what to eat, if you like that puck looking thing that they hand you from the other side of the caring corporate wastelands order it; but when you taste it, do yourself a favor and ask…

Would I pedal my ass off for eight miles for this?

Maybe we should start asking how far we’d be willing ride for all of our favorite things, maybe not just food.

Just a thought.

Commuting and Exercise | The First Week of November

At the beginning of this month I talked about how I recently became a cyclist for commuting purposes and how it started to transition into a fitness routine for me. I also set a few goals for the month. The long version of this story can be found here.

As I mentioned last week the stats I can get my head wrapped around are distance and speed so I am, for now, going to remain focused on that. I do know that how long I maintain a workout for has a lot to do with its effectiveness so, to be clear, I only count a ride as exercise if it is twenty minutes of activity or more.

The distance goal I set was one hundred eighty miles this month, up nineteen miles from October’s total. It was a nice round reasonable number and I think I chose it subconsciously based on how neatly it could be divided by thirty. The potential problem being that the lazy portion my brain quickly worked out that I just needed to put in six miles a day making this more into a quota than a goal. My meaning here is that if I just do my commute which is roughly eight miles a day then every three workdays I would be able to skip a day of riding. This could lead me to rely on my aversion to being behind the wheel of a car and a need to blow off some steam after work as primary motivators, which isn’t necessarily such a bad thing but it does take the exercise objective out of it just a bit. My wife is helping me combat this by scheduling rides for the two of us to take together, which is very cool and a lot of fun for the two us.

When I set the goal of reaching an average of six minutes per mile, nine seconds faster than last month, I may have been underestimating my ability substantially. I didn’t factor in that at the beginning of October when I started keeping track that I was going about 6:45/ mile and by the end of that month I had some rides where I was clocking in under six minutes, with my best single ride average being 5:15/ mile.

Bearing this in mind, I am currently at fifty-five miles after the first seven days of November. This puts me on track for my goals distance wise. I am, compared to my expectation, going strong at an average of 5:37/ mile. The month isn’t over so I do expect my speed to fluctuate some as I go forward.

The weather hasn’t been much of a factor so far, the harshest thing that I have had to deal with so far is some mild drizzle. I live in Florida so even though it is technically autumn we still get days that are eighty degrees and up. This brings me to the fact that I am probably the only man in the south eastern United States that does not own a pair of shorts, something I should remedy by next spring I think.

A point worth mentioning is the muscles that I notice getting sore lately aren’t my legs so much as my upper arms, shoulders, and back. I am pretty sure that this relates to holding myself into position on the seat as well as pumping the handle bars as I go up hills (maybe that is why the elevation climb statistic is relevant). This draws my attention to how uneven the workout is from riding a bike and I am considering adding some light upper body exercise into my routine, maybe push ups or some hand weights. There is some equipment of that nature lying around the house but I think a bit of research should be done before I screw around with it. If anyone has suggestions in this area I’d like to hear them.

All in all things are going well so far. I am coming down with a cold but, since that doesn’t get me out of work and hence my commute, I don’t see it interfering with my exercise either. I am not making any plans for my next set of goals just yet, but I am happy with my performance this week.