C Anatomy is super cool, August 30, 2016

In my last blog post I was singing the praises of C Anatomy (aka, Complete Anatomy), a tablet application by 3d4Medical, and I thought I would just put in a screen shot that kind of gets across what you can do with it. Being, for some reason, very much interested in the behavior of the triceps I was looking at an animation of the Triceps Brachii Medial Head on the right side, and below is a screen shot of the animation of the elbow moving from full extension to full flexion and back. This is a lot of fun to play with!

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1 out of 3 ain’t good!, August 30, 2016

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Talking about triceps, here, and talking about mine! You may recall my little bicycle incident from last Tuesday. Well, I did finally see an orthopedist, and as I thought, there is no fracture, but it appears that I have ruptured two of my triceps tendons, and all that I have left to work with is the lateral head. That is a very precarious position to be in. I have a lot of functionality with my right arm, and I can do things like reach the top of my head, eat, bathe, etc, if I exercise proper care. There is an unstable equilibrium in this system that cuts in when the upper arm is horizontal and the lower arm is vertical. If you imagine a strong rubber band that runs from my shoulder (not in picture) and attaches to the side of that protuberance at the tip of my radius. Normally that rubber band works with its two partners to resist bending of the forearm toward the upper, but if the forearm moves any closer to the shoulder, then the rubber band slips around the side of the joint and pulls the arm, forcefully, into a fully flexed position, like a knife blade snapping shut. Hurts like hell, and bangs up the surrounding tissue quite a bit.

 

The current state is that we are trying to get a MRI authorized, and I have a surgery scheduled for 9/9 to reattach the other two rubber bands. I have not yet boned up on the current technology for doing so. You may have noticed a couple of features in the picture above.

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First there is the feature on the inner side of the ulna. That is the button that holds my bicep tendon in place. That bicep was reattached just about four years ago, exactly–part of my four year plan to become fully bionic! In that process a hole was drilled in my ulna, the end of the tendon was retrieved from where it had retracted to in the upper arm (a rather difficult process and more than a little bit traumatic), the end of the tendon was inserted through the hole, and the tendon was attached to the button. You can get a better idea about the size and shape of that button in the picture on the left.

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The second feature is the little archipelago floating in the sea of soft tissue just below the elbow joint. Dr. Warden, my orthopedist, was showing the ropes to Dr. Jablonski, who was apparently doing some kind of internship, and Dr. Warden made sure to point out that feature as highly diagnostic. Those, I believe, are little bits of bony matter that were ripped off when the rupture occurred.

So, another learning opportunity for me, and I will be sure to share what I learn with the rest of you. I do have an app that I highly recommend. It is called ‘C Anatomy‘, is a product by 3d4Medical, and is for tablet devices and smartphones. It is not free, but there is a very limited demo version for something like $4.99, and if you want the full version, and I do mean FULL, you can upgrade to that for $49.99. Considering what you get, that is a real bargain, and if you are at all interested in how your body works an outstanding investment.

No need to worry about me as I tend to take these things in stride. I’ve been here before, and this too shall pass!

 

Injury Update, August 27, 2016

It’s a Saturday morning here at Steelhead Coffee, and I have been trying to get to this for a while but keep on getting drawn into conversation with the young couple sitting to my right. They are Patrick and Isabella, both recent graduates of UCLA, and in my estimation a couple of pretty smart cookies. Patrick, whose degree is in Structural Engineering, is in his second year at an engineering firm in downtown Long Beach, and Isabella, with a degree in Psychology, is working as a Supplemental Instructor (SI) at Long. Beach City College (LBCC), a brilliant choice on her part. Her immediate objective is to get into a Nursing/Master’s program at UCLA, and in her work as an SI she has the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant for a variety of classes, all of which serve as opportunities to brush up her own skills and knowledge in those areas. SI’s must be certified in each area, and certification can be established by having earned an A in the base class or its equivalent. In Isabella’s case she is certified for Anatomy, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Math classes through calculus, Psychology, Sociology,… and many more. This is an awesome way to both earn a living and prepare for further study. Both of them are intelligent, interesting, and energetic conversationalists and I foresee great futures for them.

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But enough about them! It’s time to talk about me. Let’s see…on Tuesday afternoon while riding on the bike path I ran over a skateboard at the same time that my attention was diverted. There was a young couple against the wall on the left, and some rather aggressive making out going on, and I was checking to see if the young lady was in some kind of trouble. My current hypothesis is that the young man’s skateboard got away from him and I rode right over it. The bike, being an off-road capable hybrid, fortunately had a geometry that kept me from sailing over the handle bars like I would have on my road bike, but riding over a skateboard at speed (about 17 mph) created a tremendous jolt that my unsuspecting right elbow was not set up for. The preliminary diagnosis was of a fracture of the proximal end of the radius, but that was delivered by the x-Ray tech (“…there might be a fracture…”) and subject to verification by the radiologist. Haven’t seen that report yet, but I am leaning less towards the possibility of a fracture and more towards some nasty soft tissue problems. I have taken off the sling and the arm has good mobility and the hands mostly work fine. Functionality is strongly dependent on arm angle. With my arm at my side I can get pretty much full flexion and extension, but with the arm at or above shoulder level all bets are off, and bad things happen.

I have an appointment with an orthopedist on Monday, and my suspicion is that this is just a cheap ploy by my body to get some more of that Physical Therapy that it likes so much! Can’t get enough of it!

 

Bruce Ray White, August 25, 2016

I went out last night to the Cinema Bar in Culver City to see my friend, Bruce Ray White, do a set with his Random Band. The band yesterday consisted of regular and fabulous guitarist Tom Gramlich on acoustic guitar and newcomer Geoff Rakeness on standup bass. The Cinema Bar (aka, “The World’s Smallest Honky-Tonk”) is a very cool little (and I do mean little) bar on Sepulveda between Venice and Washington. It was actually duplicated entirely for one of the sets used in the short-lived but awesomely good series “Luck” that was on HBO a few years back. Having spent many hours in many towns trying to find good venues for music I know how important they are, and I believe that you can find good music at the Cinema pretty much every night of the week.

Speaking of good music, Bruce and the boys really brought it last night. The sound was  great, crisp and clear, and also well maintained. That was a change, as it seems to me that in the past the musicians took care of the sound themselves, with varying degrees of success, but it looked last night that there was actually a sound man running the show, and the results were awesome! I have the utmost respect for a good sound man, as can be seen in my earlier post on the subject! Any serious venue needs one, and if the Cinema has added one, then that is a big plus!

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The band was super tight and all acoustic, and I really liked the sound of this incarnation. Tom really got to showcase his acoustic chops, and Bruce (aka, “The Rhythm King”) kept the joint jumping. This was the first opportunity to hear Geoff on bass, and he too was awesome. Bruce is a very sociable guy, and he knows a lot of very talented musicians, so his gigs seem to connect a lot of very cool people. There are  generally multiple bands each night at the Cinema, so the changing turnover of the band fans, together with the ebb and flow of the local hipster crowd, along with the hardcore regulars makes the Cinema Bar a great  place to hang out around Bruce’s gigs.

Speaking of very cool people, Bruce is one. I have known him since we were housemates up on Mulholland in the early 90’s, and at that time Bruce was just starting to learn the guitar. He is an amazingly talented individual who has mastered pretty much anything he has set his mind to. When I first met him he was the master of the local Cajun dancing scene and there were never any empty slots on his dance card. Somewhere along the way he had also mastered pottery and had some of it exhibited. His current love affair is with guitar building as you can see in Scott Brause‘s profile of Bruce on his blog. I myself am the proud owner of either number 8 or 9 in the “Bruce Ray White” collection, a guitar that Bruce built from a kit for a Martin HD-28 that I had purchased for $400. If you are interested in having a guitar built for you, Bruce is your man! He also makes a wicked paella, and even provides his own pot–his motto is “Have Paella Pan Will Travel”.

The one area where Bruce has been less than stellar in his performance is in the “Working for a Living” arena. Rather than being something sensible, like a music promoter, a road manager for a band, or a master craftsman, Bruce has for most of his working career worked in the billing departments of law firms, a setting that is guaranteed to result in high levels of stress. He has since left that realm and is now selling the services of a company that for a fee will prepare and submit the paperwork required to take advantage of a Federal program to reduce student loan debt. If you are drowning in such debt, give Bruce a call at 310-289-2129 and he will set you up!

 

Insults and Injuries, August 24, 2016

You may notice in my picture above that I am sporting a new accessory. No, it’s not the hat–that has been around for a while! It is a splint on my right arm. Yesterday while riding home on my bike along the LA River bike trail between Anaheim and PCH something happened. Details are bit fuzzy. There was a young couple on the left side against the wall and I was watching them when I hit something. There was an impact and my right arm went dead. That caused me to lose control of the bike. Luckily I was able to bleed enough speed so that when I did go down I only suffered an abrasion on my knee. My hypothesis about what happened is that the young man had a skateboard that had found its way onto the path (he was pretty preoccupied with the young lady) and I hit the end of it which catapulted it into the air where it whacked my elbow and caused me to lose the use of that arm. That’s my story and I am sticking to it!

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My elbow–ouch!

Many thanks to Edna Pestano, who was kind enough to come and pick up myself and my bike and ferry me to the urgent care facility. They took an x-Ray which seems to show a small fracture to my radius, patched me up and splinted my arm. Haven’t yet seen an orthopedist for the final verdict, but looks like I am going to have yet another opportunity absorb yet another injury. Next steps: deal with it and move on! The good news is that on my walk to Steelhead Coffee this morning my right leg and right foot, the site of much angst over the past several months as I reworked my gait, were performing quite well, which is a great development since I am likely going to be doing mostly walking as my exercise for a while!

Yesterday otherwise was a great day. In the morning at Steelhead I was sitting next to two men who seemed to be conversing about some kind of athletic training, and then they were joined by a lovely young lady who had a bag of goodies (mostly Bluetooth devices like headphones, etc.) that she was giving to the younger of the two men. It turns out that the younger fellow is a slope-style skier named Noah Wallace (@noah_wallace on IG), the other fellow was his agent, and the young lady a representative of a corporation that is providing him with sponsorship.

After that it was off to LA Fitness with another great yoga class with JR Johnson, followed by some light weight work and my treadmill and elliptical work for my gait. Then it was down to the beach at Belmont Shore on my bike. I have been hanging out there at 2nd and Bay Shore watching the swimmers come and go, and trying to summon the gumption to add swimming to my training regimen. I was getting pretty close, but it looks like that may need to be put off for a few weeks at least.

On the way back I saw that play for the Asics World Series of Beach Volleyball event had begun, so I stopped off there and saw a couple of matches in the qualifying rounds. Early in the tournament is a great time to go there. Not many spectators there, a chance to rub elbows with the top beach volleyball players in the world, and an opportunity to see the sport from very close up. On the women’s side, Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross will be playing, along with Larissa and Talita, the Brazilian pair who lost to Jennings/Ross in the Bronze medal match. Also present are the top-seeded Dahlhouser and Lucena men’s team, who will be challenged by the top-ranked men’s team from Latvia. I plan to take in some of the action today, and will be heading down there shortly.

Update from the future: August 23, 2018

It turned out not to be a fracture, but a rupture of two of the three heads of my triceps. The young man’s skateboard had rolled across the bike path, and I rode right over it without any knowledge it was there. The resulting jolt was sufficient to cause my triceps to pull a bit of bone from my elbow. I had surgery 11 days later to reattach them, was in a rigid splint for 3 months, and am still, two years later, not quite up to speed on that arm.

Sunday Morning, August 21, 2016

It’s Sunday morning at DRNK, and things are starting to look up a bit. I may have mentioned in an earlier post that I have been feeling a bit frustrated with my lack of progress since returning from my cross-country journey. Last weekend was particularly trying. I took an ambitious hike that Friday (8.2 miles with a trip over the Hollywood Hills) and my feet were not happy with me. Last Saturday’s ballet class at Elevation Studios was a bit of a disaster as my right ankle did not want to work at all, and during the week I had to cut back on my walking and get back into doing the therapeutic work that had served me well in the past.

This weekend I decided to try a bit more of a cautious approach, with a hike that was still 7.2 miles but with a bit less (400 feet) of elevation gain, and my feet made it through with flying colors. Yesterday in ballet class I was not only able to handle the barre portion with aplomb, but was even able to function well in the across the floor portions. I was even able to do jumps, something that my knees have not allowed for the past eight months, and which made my teacher, Carri Burbank, very happy! Next on the agenda is yoga with Ramona at Yoga World Studios at 11.

Chino Hills State Park, August 20, 2016

My core coach Stephanie was again out of town, so I had another free Friday and I decided to spread my hiking wings again. My right ankle has been acting up a bit again since last week’s hike, so I cut back a bit on my ambition (minimum 10K and 1000 feet of elevation gain) and try something a bit more modest. I lived in Placentia from 2007 to 2013. The downside of living there was the 30 mile one-way commute to work, but there were a couple of pluses, and one of them was the easy access that I had to Chino Hills State Park, so I decided to revisit the park.

To get to the park I took the 91 freeway to the Tustin Ave exit, and then proceeded north on Tustin until it became Rose Ave in Placentia/Yorba Linda, and then Rose to Valencia, right on Valencia to Carbon Canyon road, and right to the Carbon Canyon Regional Park (CCRP). This park is adjacent to Chino Hills State Park (CHSP), and my usual modus operandi is to buy an annual pass for OC Parks and Beaches and park in the last lot in CCRP which is only a couple of hundred yards from CHSP.

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Path from Carbon Canyon park to Chino Hills State Park

On a side note, my house in Placentia was off Rose Avenue just about a quarter mile north of Orangethorpe, and the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad tracks are parallel to Orangethorpe and were always a major headache. Long freight trains occur on those tracks about every 10 minutes and I had to spend a lot of time waiting for trains. At the time I moved the OCTA had embarked on a major project to create either under crossings (at Kraemer and Placentia Avenues) or over crossings (at Tustin, Orangethorpe, and Lakeview avenues) to improve traffic flow. When I moved in 2013 construction had just begun for the Tustin and Orangethorpe bridges, and I was very happy to see that those bridges were now both open. That should really be a boon for home values in areas affected by those bridges.

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North Ridge trailhead, currently closed

Chino Hills State Park was a lifesaver for me when I was stuck out in the OC. There are miles of hiking/biking trails in the park, and I spent many an hour doing both of those pursuits. When I was short on time (which was almost always) I would hike the North Ridge trail where a 5K walk would get me up to over 1400 feet the 10K round trip with 1000 feet of elevation gain was something I could complete in less than 2 hours. Unfortunately, that trail has been closed for a couple of years due to a washout about a quarter of a mile up the trail, something that the park service lacks the resources to fix. If I were truly committed to hiking that trail, then the fact that it is closed would not have stopped me, but given the circumstances I was happy to pass it by.

 

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The hills are still showing the signs of the last fire that came though here.

Instead I proceeded up Telegraph Canyon Road with my destination being the Easy Street trailhead, about 3.1 miles up canyon. Didn’t see any animals along the way, although I did see some signs of them.

It was a rather hot and dusty hike, and on a weekday I only saw a scant handful of other hikers and bikers. Had I been a bit more ambitious I would have taken the short hike up the Easy Street trail. That trail makes a steep but short ascent through a small canyon into a meadow and connects to another entrance to the park at the end of Rimcrest Drive (off Fairmont) in Yorba Linda.

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Easy Street trailhead–over the creek, up the canyon to the south edge of the park

Once I am back in full hiking shape my next plan will be to park by the Rimcrest entrance and hike down Easy Street to Telegraph Canyon road. From there it is just a short hike up the road to the Gilman Peak trail, a very steep trail that that will take me  to the summit at 1680 feet. From there a mile along the North Ridge trail will get me to Sycamore Canyon and a descent back the the road. That is a hike that is up to my full standards!

 

Urban Hiking, August 12, 2016

Long Beach is not the ideal place for me to live. I have found that the best exercise for me is walking uphill, and when I talk about walking uphill I’m referring to uphill stretches measured in miles, not meters, and those kind of hills just don’t exist in Long Beach. Now that my gait is pretty well straightened out, and my feet/knees/hips are getting back to being pretty reliable, I decided that it was time to do some trudging. I also am trying to avoid using my car, so I hopped on the Blue Line, transferred to the Red Line, and got off at Hollywood and Highland. The plan was to walk to the next station, at Universal/Studio City. It’s only 4 minutes by train, and a couple of miles as the crow flies, but also on the other side of the Hollywood Hills.

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My route was to walk west on Hollywood to La Brea, north on La Brea to Franklin, west on Franklin to Fuller, and north on Fuller into Runyon Canyon Park. Runyon had been closed from April through July, but is now open again.

There are several routes to the top. When you enter the park from Fuller, if you continue straight ahead on the paved surface it will rise, and then double back up the east side of the canyon before reaching a relatively short but very steep section up the top of the ridge to the middle level of the canyon. In the picture below you can see where the paved road ends at the right before the steep section. There is a flat area with a good view  at this point, and those who are exercise-challenged often just make it this far before heading back.

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Road to the East Ridge trail

If you do go for the steep ascent up the east ridge you will come to another plateau with excellent views. This will also connect you with the main Runyon Canyon road as a descent option. Going down the steep section can be a challenge if one is physically or mentally challenged by very steep descents.

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View from the middle plateau

I took the unpaved but well traveled path that goes up to the left and leads up to the gate at Vista and the paved Runyon Canyon road. If one is feeling very energetic, there is an option to head off the road to the West Ridge trail. That trail is quite steep, quite long, and fits my definition of a good trudge, but I decided to take it a bit easier for my maiden trudge and stick to the  road for this trip.

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Runyon Canyon Road at bottom, West Ridge trail above

Runyon Canyon road meets Mulholland Drive, and I turned left on Mulholland and headed towards the intersection of Woodrow Wilson Drive and Mulholland. Woodrow Wilson intersects Mulholland in two locations, with the second intersection at Laurel Canyon Blvd. I lived for ten years (1992 – 2002) in a house at that intersection, and a couple of years ago I discovered the Harry Bosch series of police procedurals by Micheal Connelly and got hooked on them. The first one came out in 1992 when I moved to the hills, and Harry was a police detective living in a precariously cantilevered house on Woodrow Wilson Drive. In addition to providing a fascinating chronicle of how the work of detectives has evolved over the years with the advent of technology (in the first few novels they spend a lot of time looking for pay phones), it was very cool to see Harry traveling over areas very familiar to me. One of the objectives of this hike was to see the Harry Bosch house, if indeed it exists. According to Connelly, there was no real house, but when he was looking for locations he saw the foundation of a house that had been condemned and demolished and built up the house in his imagination. I did find that foundation at approximately 7203 Woodrow Wilson

Then it was on down the hill to Ventura Blvd, and a short hike to one of my old favorite haunts (and a favorite of Harry Bosch as well), Poquito Mas, for lunch.

The service area and the menu at the Mas has gone through a lot of changes, and I know that a lot of the old Poquito Mas crew will be disappointed by the missing menu items. It is still good, but not quite the same! After lunch was the short walk up Lankershim to the Metro station. The walk, with a couple of short side excursions, came to a total of 8.1 miles, with a total elevation gain of about a thousand feet. Just about perfect for right now!

Gretchen’s Automotive, August 11, 2016

Back in the spring of 2002 I had gotten myself out of debt and had accumulated enough cash that I could actually think of making a down payment on a house. I drove my car up to the Mt. Baldy ski area for a day hike, and when I returned to my car it would not start. Having no other options available I had it towed in to the nearest Pep Boys. They checked it, said the timing belt had failed, and replaced that. Since they were already working on the car (1995 Dodge Neon Sport Coupe) I also had them do a tune-up on the car.

Fast forward a couple of days, and on my way home from work there was a loud bang and a lot of smoke from the engine compartment. On investigation it turned out that one of the spark plugs had blown out of the engine, an event that ruined the engine and required me to spend almost $3000 to have it replaced. That both set me back a bit on my plan to move to Long Beach and highlighted the importance of having a mechanic and a repair shop that one can trust.

Happily, just a few months after I moved to Long Beach one of my good friends, Todd Kelm, opened up a repair shop in town and I was his very first customer. Since then I have had an easy answer to any question about where to go for automobile service, and that answer is Gretchen’s Automotive. Yesterday I needed to take my car in for routine servicing. I arrived at 7:30, had to wait about 10 minutes until the service writer appeared, left the car, went for a walk, and got a call just after 10 letting me know that my car was finished; that kind of service turnaround is par for the course at Gretchen’s. When I was still working I would drop my car in the morning and would be given a ride to work on the other side of town, and when it was done I would be picked up and delivered back to the shop. That kind of service makes life much easier!

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When Todd’s not out tooling around in the Gretchen’s racing boat, a boat which has done quite well over the years in the Catalina Ski Race with Todd at the helm, he runs a very tight ship at Gretchen’s. The shop is thriving, and the reason for that success is the repeat business generated by the friendly and reliable service it provides. It’s great to have a master mechanic in the family!

 

Change vs. Transformation, August 9, 2016

It’s been a frustrating week or so since I returned from my road trip! When I left I had gotten myself into a very positive routine. My daily practice was consistent and DAILY, my activity level was high (goal: be active until I fall into bed, exhausted), and my eating was very much under control, with my weight moving slowly down toward levels I haven’t seen since my 30’s. Since I returned, though, it has been really difficult to get back in that groove. I pushed it too hard on the first day back and over-stressed my knees, which are still recovering, and since then my afternoon naps have been stretching from 20 minutes to an hour and a half, I have developed more of an affinity for melting into the couch (the Olympics do not help in that regard), and worst of all my sweet tooth and my lust for bread have gotten the better of me (very sad face emoji here) and the daily tale of the scale has not been a happy one.

Then today someone posted a meme on Facebook that had this quote from Iyengar:

“Change leads to disappointment if it is not sustained. Transformation is sustained change, and it is achieved through practice.”

Given my current state of affairs this quote resonated with me, and I now see the reason for my frustration/disappointment. I also see that there is a cure, and that is to just get back on the wagon and keep on pressing forward. Transformation is a process, not a place, and if we discontinue our practice we get stuck in a place; a changed place, but a place nonetheless, and disappointing if ones objective is transformation!

I am happy to report that today matched up better than the last few. I did my full morning practice, rode my bike to the gym for a yoga class, rode to my mat Pilates private with Stephanie (usually on Friday, but Stephanie is going out of town), took the long way home on the bike (total for the day 22 miles), and did a much better job of keeping that sweet tooth under control! Still a bit heavy on sitting on the couch time (damn you, Olympics), but nothing that a late afternoon walk couldn’t have cured. The process continues!