Sunday, July 31, 2005

Sunday Night Gym Report

Gym was absolutely swamped tonight. I think everyone who missed their Friday workout because of the construction closure came in tonight. Sometimes the gym is like Narnia; its inside is bigger than its outside. :-) Because otherwise, how could it actually fit everyone?

A and TrainerGuy were there, hurling abuse at each other as usual. Remember LW and his comment about guys' exercises? He was also there. At one point he put down the 12Kg DBs to rest after his set of shoulder something or other, and went to do ab exercises. I needed these DBs in order to do my last set of DB shrugs, so I took them, did my set, and then when he came back asked him if he still needed them or if I should rack them. He said he needed them, and I said no problem, I just took them to do my set of girl exercises...

There was a guy there I hadn't seen before, who I am naming WeatherGuy because he had a shirt with the line from that Bob Dylan song: "you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows". WeatherGuy was such a pleasure to watch I don't even mind that I now have the song stuck in my head. He was doing pronated wide-grip pull ups, followed by close-grip supinated chin-ups, followed by dips, followed by sets of push-ups with different hand positions. He did this circuit over and over again. When he was finally done, he topped it all off with decline sit-ups. Wow. And all of this without saying a word the entire time. If you think I have a case of chin-up envy, you are correct :-). But I'll get there. Sooner or later there will be a sternum chin-up in my life.

Memorial Service

I got a lot done at Hebrew U this morning. I confirmed that they got my payment for next year, so that they can complete my registration and put me into the courses I chose. I went to the bookstore to return some binders; I overestimated the amount of paper I actually need to file. I also got a lot of material for my history paper.

At 11:00 a.m., I attended the memorial service marking the three year anniversary of the terrorist attack. On July 31, 2002, at 1:32p.m. (right during the lunch rush), a bomb went off in the Frank Sinatra Cafeteria. The cafeteria is adjacent to the Rothberg International School, where I am currently studying. Seven people died then and there, two more succumbed to their wounds later. Over 80 people were wounded. "Went off" is an interesting way of putting it. What happened was that the terrorists put a backpack full of explosives and shrapnel in the cafeteria, then went away and detonated it by cell phone.

Taken from their families that day were: David (Diego) Ladowski, 29, Levina Shapira, 53, Marla Bennett, 24, Benjamin Blutstein, 25, Dina Carter, 37, Janis Ruth Coulter, 36, David Gritz, 24. On Aug 10, 2002, Daphna Spruch, 61, died of her wounds. On Aug 13, 2002, Revital Barashi, 30, died of her wounds. You can read more about them here. Ben and Marla were both students at the Pardes Institute, where I am also currently studying. I never met either of them, but they both wrote passionately about living in Israel, and you can read their words here.

The memorial service was short, about 18 minutes. I think it was meant to be 15 minutes, but the fact that it ended up being 18 is symbolic in a strange sort of way. When the number 18 is written using Hebrew letters you get the word "chai", which means "alive". And despite the terrorists' intentions, the university and its ideals live on. The service began with a moment of silence, then a brief speech by the President of the University, Menachem Magidor. Itzik Barashi, the brother of Revital Barashi, said Kaddish, the Jewish mourner's prayer, which is an interesting prayer because first, it makes no mention of the dead, and second, it is in Aramaic rather than Hebrew. Then a wreath was laid at the base of the memorial, and the ceremony ended with the singing of Ha-Tikva, the Israeli national anthem, the title of which is The Hope.

I took these pictures of the memorial a few hours after the service had concluded. It is a living sculpture by Israeli artist Ran Morin, called The Tilted Tree. Two cords are hold the tree back, trying to keep it from growing, but the tree, despite this, insists on growing upwards.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Friday Report

My excursion to Tel Aviv on Friday morning ran overtime, so I did not get to the free market to drop off my stuff. I will either wait till next month's market, or ask the social causes person at school if she knows of an organization that would want my old clothes (I'm still sorting). The social causes person helps students set up volunteer opportunities during their stay here, and knows a lot about the various community organizations in Jerusalem.

I took the 7:15am bus from Jerusalem, which was packed, and got to Tel Aviv at 8:15am. By 8:30am I was at the restaurant, contemplating breakfast options. I think I'll try taking the train next time, which takes longer but is supposed to be a beautiful route. The restaurant was Alternative, a dairy restaurant on Weitzman Street. Thank goodness for airconditioning, because Tel Aviv is as hot as Jerusalem, only more humid. My breakfast included a huge salad that had cucumbers, tomatoes, bean sprouts, lettuce and carrots, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, warm bread, jam, two eggs (I had mine hard-boiled and just ate the whites), cheeses (there was a 0.5% fat choice), orange juice and a latte at the end. I love Israeli breakfasts; it is by far my favourite meal to go out for here. My cousin had eggs over freshly baked foccacia, the same salad, and a short espresso. She said I looked great, and I shared with her some of the funnier gym stories. I find I don't mind the compliments as much as I used to. They don't make me feel pressured or offended. My internal response is more "ok, whatever, onwards".

After taking the bus back to Jerusalem, I picked up some whole-wheat bread, and spent the rest of the day moving stuff from my old room to my new room. I made three piles of clothes. Stuff that fits or can be made to fit with minor alterations, stuff that's too big and there's no point in altering, and the winter clothes that are borderline and need to be re-evaluated come winter. I also organized my makeup/personal care stuff, tossing out the old and the will-never-use items.

I went to bed early on Friday night and slept 10+ hours. I've been short on sleep all week, and I think I finally caught up. Now all I have to do is go to bed at a normal hour tonight.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Fun Never Stops

As I was finishing my next to last set of close-grip bench presses yesterday, one of the gym regulars, LW, wandered by.

"That's a guys' exercise," he said. I laughed at him.
"A guys' exercise?" I repeated, "Horizons need widening,"
"Are you saying I'm narrow-minded?" he asks.
"No," I said, "I'm saying that you need to get out more."
LW goes up to the nearest person, who happened to be TrainerGuy.
"She said I'm narrow-minded," he says to TrainerGuy.
"Huh?" says TrainerGuy.
"I said that that was a guys' exercise," LW explains, gesturing at the bench press.
"I've seen girls do it before," says TrainerGuy.
"Other than her," says LW.
"Um" says TrainerGuy.

I'm laughing at both of them as this little conversation unfolds. I believe LW when he says he hasn't seen girls use the benchpress before, but a guys' exercise? *sigh*

Then today, the former NiceGuy turned out to be EvangelicalGuy, in Israel on a two year mission. Since I'm big on both freedom of speech and freedom of religion, I don't have a problem with someone trying to tell me their "Good News", but I really did not expect that I'd have to fend off missionaries in a Jerusalem gym. Everytime we spoke today he put a comment designed to make the average Jewish listener doubt his faith into the conversation. I laughed at him too. Fortunately, my career goal is to be a Judaics teacher in a Jewish Day School. Helping my future students handle missionaries is part of the job description, so I'm quite pleased he tried his speeches on me rather than on someone else. (Oh, and if you're Jewish and some overeager missionary is trying to save you between deadlifts, check out this site for help. Lots of stuff there, so you may want to start with the FAQ.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Tuesday Morning Weigh-In

Down another 100g, which is slightly less than 0.25 of a lb. Fine by me. I said that I would be happy if the loss came in 100g increments, and I meant it. It also means that I am exactly 10Kg away from my goal weight. I'm at 69 Kg and I'm aiming for 59 Kg, at which point I'll evaluate if I'm happy there or if I want to go further. I suspect it will depend on how much I am lifting at the time.

I've finally gotten it into my head that I need to be selfish about food. By this I mean that my food needs come first, and when I make decisions about going out or shopping for groceries or going over to someone's place for dinner, my priority is to have healthy and plentiful food available to me. Now I need to get more selfish about sleep. To be productive in life and in the gym, I need 7.5-8 hours of sleep a night, every night. It's easy for me to turn off the tv, but less easy to tell someone: I can't do x because my priority is to get more and better sleep, or to tell my extended family: no, I'm not coming to spend Shabbat with you because there is no way I would get back to Jerusalem on Saturday evening before midnight, if that, and this will mess up my sleep for the rest of the week. I just need to practice saying that, and eventually it will be as easy as, "Thanks, but I don't feel like having that right now. (To which they always answer, "Aren't you hungry?", which gives me the last word at "Do I look hungry to you?" :-) )

Monday, July 25, 2005

In Brief

Went to the gym, renewed my membership and got an extra month free for paying it in one shot. So now I'm ok gym-wise till August 2006, assuming of course I don't end up in hospital with another gallstones issue or get tossed out of my program for not finishing my papers. Today was Back/Pull, and marked the end (thank goodness) of the 12 rep max sets part of the cycle. Also found out gym will be closed on Friday for some construction work.

I tweaked the rewards slightly so they're not only about what I weigh but also about what I lift.

Off to eat.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Clutter Begone

The reason for the de-cluttering is twofold. First, if the bed in the other room proves sleepable, I will move into said room come August, and I don't want to bother moving the junk I don't need, like or use. Second, this Friday from 11am-2pm there is a shuk chofshishi (shuk=market, chofshi=free, shishi=6th or Friday) in Jerualem.

The shuk chofshishi is an event organized by some environmental group (not sure which one; I'll ask this Friday). It takes place on the last Friday of every month. You drop off usable stuff you don't need, and are welcome to take from the available stuff what you do need. It's not a trade: you can take even if you didn't bring anything, and you can bring stuff and not take anything. I plan to drop off all the clothes that are now too big for me, before I do something stupid like grow back into them. :-) The event happens at the Sergei Courtyard, which is where the offices of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel are. I've gone once before and picked up Edward H. Levi's book Talks on Education (U of Chicago Press, 1969). My classmate E., being smarter and more practical, got herself a pair of jeans, two small rugs and an electric kettle.

Flatmate #2 said he is leaving his large bookshelf in the room (yay!), so if I do move into that room all I have to buy is a decent deskchair and I am all set.

Hither and Yon

Much cleaning and decluttering going on today. I wish I had a paper shredder. On the positive side, tearing up stuff by hand has to be some sort of grip workout. I'm wandering all over Jerusalem today: First to the bank to make sure I have enough money to renew my gym membership, then to the Malha shopping mall to exchange a birthday present someone bought me two months ago, then to the university to get some work done in the library, and soon off to the supermarket to stock up on healthy food. Tonight my classmate's spouse is dropping off the flower pots I bought on Thursday, and I plan to have them filled and blooming by end of week.

I had never been to the Malha mall before, and it is very nice. As soon as I finish my papers I am going to go back and wander around some more. The stuff I wanted to exchange was from a store called Laline, which is all hand-cut soap and body scrubs and scented candles. In other words, stuff I would never buy for myself but am delighted to have someone else buy for me. :-) I emerged with a lavender mud mask, a sandalwood scented candle, and three different soaps.

Today at Hebrew U, there was a little black and white bereavement notice on the door of one of the departments. This in and of itself is not unusual. Since Jewish funerals are supposed to take place as soon after the death as possible, such notices are an easy way to let people know when the funeral is and where they can pay their respects during the shiva, the 7 day mourning period. I went closer: "The Department of Social Work extends its condolences to our student ______, on the death of her mother and father in a terrorist attack." And reading that, as you are going from one library to another in the middle of the day, is entirely different than reading in the paper that gunmen from Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigade murdered Jerusalem couple Dov & Rachel Kol. On a happier note, we had another wannabe suicide bomber thwarted in his attempt to reach heaven and get his 72 virgins reach Tel Aviv and kill people. Since I have to go to Tel Aviv sometime this week, this makes me even more pleased than usual.

Back to the gym tomorrow. I am going to aim for four sessions this week, five if I come back from Tel Aviv early enough. The coordinator of our program sent out a stern e-mail today reminding us that if we don't get all our papers done and submitted by their due dates we don't get funding for the second half of the program. Talk about motivation, :-) So, life is papers, papers and gym from now till further notice.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Almost No Gym Thursday.

It was this close. I'd had a long day, with much walking around in the sun, and I was tired. At 8:00pm I was at home, waiting for my cousin to call me back and tell me whether he wanted to go for coffee tonight or breakfast tomorrow. He opted for the latter, and once I disconnected I looked at my watch, saw that it was 8:11pm, and decided that there was no way that I was letting myself have two consecutive no-gym days. It's been a tough month and I need all the endorphins I can get. Besides, that's how things start, you take off one day for a legit reason and then another for a non-legit reason, and then on the third day you start making up reasons. Not going to go there, thank you.

I tossed the gym shoes and workout clothes into the backpack, put a motivating cd (The soundtrack to Alvin Ailey's Revelations. If you have not seen this piece on stage I strongly recommend it. It is beautiful, and I am speaking as a non-Christian here. In exercise terms, I defy anyone to remain still while listening to this cd) in the cd player, and off I went. I made it to the gym just minutes before man-in-charge left for the night, so he did give me my max weights, but the critiquing was done by woman-in-charge. She had just finished her own workout, and stuck around to watch over the gym.

There is nothing like quad-dominant day on the 12 rep part of the cycle to keep you humble. Yeah, the weight drops; but those extra four reps between 8 and 12 make a hell of a difference. Even though I had drunk a lot of water and eaten well during the day I was wiped. After each set of squats I slumped momentarily over the bar and concentrated on breathing, then made myself walk around between sets rather than mimic a rag doll for my entire rest period. Speaking of which, the rest periods seemed to fly by.

All of today's running around means that I am now the proud owner of six potted plants. I found out a guy I met last year while looking for apartments in Jerusalem was having a moving sale. Most of his nice plants were already sold, but I did get five green pepper plants and one louisa. I then went to the house of a classmate who is also moving, and bought three clay pots and one plastic pot. I plan to fill them with other herbs: mint, basil, thyme and rosemary would be really nice. I don't have the greatest track record with plants (I have killed cacti with a single glance), but I've wanted an indoor garden since I moved here, and now I have the beginning of one.

When I walked past the President's Residence today, a security guard asked me (and all the other passers-by) to cross over to the other side of the street, since they were about to open the gates and let some cars leave. The interesting thing about the security people that guard the President's Residence or the Prime Minister's Residence or Israeli buses is that they are all invariably good looking. I can't explain it, but there it is. If you don't believe me you should come here for a visit and see for yourself. :-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

No Gym Wednesday

I got in a good Chest/Push workout yesterday. Back to the 12 rep cycle, which means the weight drops slightly and the reps go up. I had a lovely time at the family function, and no food problems. It was a buffet, and I had poached salmon with lots of raw veggies for my meal, washed down with mineral water. The dessert buffet was generous, but nothing spoke to me. I eschewed the cheesecakes, the chocolate cakes and the mini-muffins, and had fresh fruit: grapefruit, mango and melon. I was a little surprised by how easy it was. I'm not quite sure when the switch flipped, or how long I will stay in this "craves healthy food and does not hear cheesecake calling" state, but I'm enjoying it while it lasts. And it had nothing to do with gallstone worries, either. I wasn't turning my back on the quiches and the potato salad and the lasagne because I was scared about another attack. I just had no desire for them.

No gym today. I spent most of the day at the university, meeting with my academic advisor and selecting my courses for next year. Then on the way home I found an old Robert Parker Spenser mystery, God Save the Child, at a used bookshop for a mere 5 NIS (just over a buck). Tonight will be acupuncture appointment #3, and then, I hope, an early bedtime, because I am missing some sleep from earlier this week.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Tuesday Morning Weigh-in

First week without WW went fine. Stats are updated. I'm down another 800g, which is a bit more than I wanted, but the rational part of my brain understands that I'm just hyper-sensitive about this right now. I know that the docs define "rapid weight loss" as three lbs per week or more, and so this isn't something to worry about, but I've yet to find the study that established the 3 lbs mark, so I'm just a tiny little bit worried. It's probably study #3500 on that list I mentioned the other day, so it will take awhile to get to. Busy busy day today, and the first thing on the agenda is heading to the university to meet insurance man, pick up my new health insurance policy, and find out what's going on in terms of surgery coverage.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Things that Made Me Smile Today

Pulling 50 Kg (110 lbs) on my max set of machine seated cable rows.

Realising that I actually have something snazzy to wear to that family function tomorrow, and it is a top I have owned for at least three years and never worn anywhere. Although it is interesting that even though I have not worn it, I had the forethought to bring it with me all the way from Canada.

Finding this Spurlock Watch blog.


Went to the gym last night and had a great ham-dominant workout. Deadlifts went great, except on a couple of reps I was pulling my shoulders too far backwards when coming up. There is such a thing as too much scapular retraction...

I have different songs associated with different exercises in my head. When I do squats, I usually think of "I Will Survive": "first I was afraid" - left hand on bar, "i was petrified" - right hand on bar, "kept thinking I could never live without you by my side" - duck under bar and position the shoulders, and so on, and by the time I get to "and I grew strong", I've stepped out of the rack and I'm ready to make the weight move. When I do deadlifts, it's Kickstart My Heart, and benchpress, for now, is Paradise City by G'n'R. I have no idea why. Maybe it was playing on the gym's tv during a particularly good set.

Since I got out of hospital I've been working out during the day, and so I haven't seen the nighttime regulars. Two people told me I lost weight. I prefer the way one of them put it. "You lost weight. I don't know if that was the goal, but you did." I smiled, because it made me feel good to have someone acknowledge that there is such a thing as a woman in the gym for other reasons than weight loss. "It wasn't," I said, "But it was..." and here I paused because I couldn't think of the Hebrew word for "fringe benefit". Luckily the other person completed the sentence, "a side-effect", she said. "That's it," I said, "A side-effect."

Right now I actually want the weight loss to be very very slow and gentle, absolutely not more than one pound per week, and I'll take half a pound per week, thanks very much. Yes, obesity is a risk factor for gallstones, but if you go to this University of Maryland site, and scroll down to the Obesity and Weight Changes section, you discover that:
The risk for gallstones is highest in the following dieters:
Those who lose more than 24% of their initial body weight.
Those who lose more than 1.5 kg (3.3. lb) per week.
Those on very low-fat, low-calorie diets.
Lovely. And if that wasn't enough, "gallstone surgery was 68% higher for women who lost and then regained more than 20 lb at least once than in women whose weight remained stable". Why wasn't that ever brought up in my junior high health class, hm?

Went for acupuncture session #2 this morning. In a word, "Ow!". Either he picked more sensitive spots this time, or I have morphed into a chicken. I think that TCM Guy is having a problem with the fact that I am a skeptic about alternative medicine just like I'm a skeptic about conventional medicine. Well, tough. "There are more things in heaven and earth, TCM Guy, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." with apologies to Shakespeare, Hamlet (I, v, 166-167).

I have a family function tomorrow night, so after acupuncture I went to the salon. Manicure, pedicure, haircut and a few other things later, I walked out a new woman. Or the same woman, just more vain. :-)

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Doc to Gym to Market

First thing Friday morning I went to see my "regular" doc. Regular meaning that he's at the clinic where I go for non-emerg stuff, and I've seen him once before now. He's the older Australian gentleman I mentioned before, and he took the time to talk to me, which I really appreciate. He also tends towards taking out the gallbladder, but he did at least acknowledge that there is a possibility that I won't have another attack. He looked at my hospital tests, pointing out all the things that are NOT wrong with me. He noted that if I decide to get married and have a baby, there is a heightened chance that it could come back during pregnancy. (I like his optimism on this point. Believe me, there are no candidates on the horizon.) He said that I could go for years with no problem, but it could come back at any moment, when I least expect it and when it is very inconvenient.

I've been reading about gallbladders and gallstones incessantly, to the detriment of my university paper writing. Do you know that if you do a search on PubMed for cholecystitis you get 12898 scientific journal article abstracts? If you search for acute cholecystitis you get 3658. I still haven't decided what I am going to do. On the maybe-no-surgery side of the argument, I found this article as well as this article interesting.

In the gym on Friday I shared the squat rack with that rarest of rarities; a man doing lunges. And what beautiful lunges they were. It was quad-dominant day, which means I use the rack for awhile, 5 sets of squats and 5 sets of 2/3 squats, so having someone work-in with me makes more sense than them waiting till I'm done. My rest periods are long-ish, so there was time for a bit of conversation.

Man: Are you working towards a specific goal?
Me: Um, to lift as much weight as possible?
Man: I figured that. I mean other than that.
Me: Oh, to see how far I can get.

By the next rest period I got around to asking him if he had a specific goal. Turns out his goal is mountain climbing. He looks built for it, too. Not heavy, just lean and muscled. He said something about working towards level six (I may not have understood him correctly.) I was going to ask him to clarify but I had more sets to do and he was done for the day.

I went to the market in the afternoon and bought veggies; I'm working on a minimum of two big salads a day. Today's first salad was a tomato, two cucumbers, one green pepper and one red pepper, all chopped into tiny pieces and dressed with a teaspoon of olive oil, three teaspoons of lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a pinch of ground black pepper. I also bought granny smith apples and fresh figs. I love cold fresh figs.

Via this post at The Agitator, I learned that the Center for Science in the Public Interest is lobbying for warning labels on soda cans. Do these people have nothing better to do with their lives? As far as I'm concerned, all foods already have warning labels. They're called INGREDIENTS!!! He also had another post, where he quoted John Stossel: "government that's big enough to tell you what to eat ... is government big enough to tell you with whom you can have sex. Yup.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Good Byes, Bench Presses and Bombers

I met my classmate A this morning for coffee. She's a very sweet person, and she is leaving next week to go back to the USA and teach in a small community. We talked about all sorts of stuff (her upcoming marriage figured prominently). One of the things about being in a small program is that as soon as you get to know the people in the cohort ahead of you, they have to go away...

The strength loss I've been expecting since I came back to the gym showed up today. Unsurprisingly, it was on Chest/Push day. Seems I can take a week off and not lose anything on hams, quads, or back, but chest is another matter entirely. My max set for flat bench presses was supposed to be eight reps of 40 Kg (88 lbs), but I failed at six reps. Annoying, since failure is not the goal on any of my sets. Man-in-charge was not worried, citing the layoff. We'll see how tomorrow's quad workout goes. On a happy note, Chest day is where I am closest to the weights I was lifting a year ago, which I am grateful for, because progress on chest is S-L-O-W. Chest day is the only time I wish women had a bit more upper body muscle mass. Guys definitely have an advantage on that one.

Two happy things happened: first, a t-shirt I bought two week ago fit perfectly. It was a little tight when I bought it, but I wanted something more snug than my usual floppy gym t-shirts. The reason is so that when I lift, man-in-charge can catch small form breaks, like me not retracting my scapulae or not keeping my middle stable. I think I will buy another one if this one survives the laundry. Second, while pulling up my jeans (which are getting looser!) I discovered that I am one (one!) notch away from the end of my belt. I have had this belt for ages, and I never thought I would ever close it on the 2nd last notch. Amazing.

NiceGuy, which I will henceforth call VirginiaRugbyGuy, was there today. He told me he's planning to run a half-marathon next week. Just for fun. :-) I am not a running (or cardio) person by any stretch of the imagination. I am somewhat in awe of all the running bloggers. I admire someone taking on a challenge like that, especially someone who has some serious muscle on him. He wasn't sure if he would finish. I wished him luck; I hope he finishes, which, if I understood him correctly, would mean a personal best.

My Gallstones bookmarks file is growing by leaps and bounds. By the time this is finished I'll be able to sketch the human digestive system from memory. Too bad I'm not taking any anatomy courses; I have enough info for three university papers by now. I found this a site that has a explanation of the surgery, with diagrams. Very useful, since I'm one of those people who needs to know every detail of what's going to happen.

I faxed a slew of documents to the insurance company this morning and am now waiting for their response. My preference would actually be to not do the surgery right away, but instead agree that if the inflammation returns in the coming year I could still be covered for it. This would give me time to try alternative therapies. I don't know what I will do if they say, "we'll pay for the surgery but only if you do it now, and if you don't then we don't cover you for future gallbladder problems". It seems to me it would be in their best interest to let me try other stuff at my own expense first.

While doing my daily read-through of weight and fitness blogs, I found this post, whose writer is "stunned" that the terrorists that carried out the London bombings were British-born. Now, I do NOT, repeat and double underline NOT, mean the following sentence as a criticism, only an observation: I do not understand why people are surprised. London has been a safe place for Islamic radicals for some time now. Writing in the Telegraph last week, Mark Steyn noted:
Did we learn enough, for example, from the case of Omar Sheikh? He's the fellow convicted of the kidnapping and beheading in Karachi of the American journalist Daniel Pearl. He's usually described as "Pakistani" but he is, in fact, a citizen of the United Kingdom - born in Whipps Cross Hospital, educated at Nightingale Primary School in Wanstead, the Forest School in Snaresbrook and the London School of Economics. He travels on a British passport. Unlike yours truly, a humble Canadian subject of the Crown, Mr Sheikh gets to go through the express lane at Heathrow.

Or take Abdel Karim al-Tuhami al-Majati, a senior al-Qa'eda member from Morocco killed by Saudi security forces in al Ras last April. One of Mr Majati's wives is a Belgian citizen resident in Britain. In Pakistan, the jihadists speak openly of London as the terrorist bridgehead to Europe. Given the British jihadists who've been discovered in the thick of it in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Palestine, Chechnya and Bosnia, only a fool would believe they had no plans for anything closer to home - or, rather, "home".
The Counterterrorism blog has a good post on this as well. Recently, retired Metropolian police chief Sir John Stevens stated that: "intelligence officers believed that up to 3,000 British-born or British-based people had passed through Osama Bin Laden’s training camps, some of whom returned home to become potential Islamic terrorists." They didn't go there to toast marshmallows. And lastly, I'll point folks to the Daily Ablution blog, which does a good job of laying the um, smackdown on an article in the Guardian. As a Canadian, I fully expect to see a terror attack in Canada at some point. Canucks have trained in al-Qaeda camps too.

By the way, that Netanya suicide bombing I mentioned yesterday has claimed its 5th victim, Moshe Maor Jan. He was taken off life-support today. His wife is eight months pregnant with their first child.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

TCM, Insurance, and Other Stuff

I went to see the TCM (traditional chinese medicine) guy today. He took a history, did a checkup, and then did some acupuncture. Never had that before. Some needles I barely felt, while others were very noticeable. I was rather disappointed when he suggested the olive oil/lemon juice flush that I had read about on the web; I think that is pretty much useless. I told him that, and his other suggestion was a day of fasting followed by a day of nothing but green apples. Supposedly they help break down stones. He also recommended limiting sour foods. Not sure yet if I'll go in for more acupuncture.

Still no definite word from the insurance company on whether they'll pay for the surgery. Even though this happened while I was fully covered (earlly July), the doctors can't do the surgery before the end of the coverage period (July 31). So even though I am renewing with the same company, they may end up telling me that I'm out of luck and they won't cover the surgery. We'll see how it goes. I'm not too worried. I could pay for it myself if I absolutely had to. I could also go back to Canada and get it done there. The problem is that in Canada there is probably a very long wait to get it one.

My friend E calls me this morning telling me that she is very annoyed at me. Seems that now that I am not going to Australia, she is next in line for the available spot, and the school called her to offer it to her. Problem is, she has already planned out her summer, thinking that she wasn't going, and now she isn't sure if she can go _and_ finish all her university work. I told her that I'm sorry for the inconvenience ('cause like, I planned this gallbladder business to annoy my friends, yeah, that's it) and next time I find myself in a similar situation I'll try to handle things differently. :-)

Good Back/Pull workout today. I was having a tough time concentrating at the beginning. All I could think of was how much strength I would lose if I had to take time off post-surgery, which is a pretty useless and self-defeating line of thought, no? On the one hand it makes me want to give up, on the other hand it makes me want to work even harder so that I can build as much lean mass before the surgery as possible.

I wish the doctors would be clear about the odds of having another attack. Some sites I read say it's 70%, and some say it's less than 50%.

The 7/7 London suicide bombers in Britain have been identified. We had a suicide bomber in Netanya yesterday, courtesy of Islamic Jihad. To earn his 72 virgins in paradise, the scumbag murdered four women (a 50 year old, a 31 year old, and two 16 year olds) and injured 30 people I hate it when the international media calls it the first bombing since Feb 25. It's the first "successful" bombing, yes, but attempts go on all the time. Less than two weeks ago we had this wannabe suicide bomber, who planned to blow herself up in Soroka hospital. The media doesn't count that. I wonder if anyone told her that while male bombers get 72 virgins, a female bomber only gets to be the head virgin...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Rewards Change

No, not the rewards themselves, but the timing. I've chosen 68.0 for the first one because it is 149.9 lbs. Breaking through the 150s will be a significant thing, especially since I had doubted my ability to break through the 170s. The 160s just came and went, I didn't even notice. The other thing is that I have no money for rewards right now anyhow. :-) It's all going to go on new clothes or getting the old clothes taken in. So even when I get to 68.0 Kg I may not buy anything until the finances are in order.

Deadlifts today went well, weights up on everything, and the technique during the 2/3 variation is finally clicking. I went in at midday. I think it makes more sense to go to the university in the morning, workout in the middle, and work on papers in the afternoon. This also allows me to shop for groceries at off-peak times. I was feeling very tired all through the workout, and sweating buckets, because it was very hot in Jerusalem today.I've had over four litres of water, and I only stopped drinking because I am trying to time my water so that I can sleep through the night without waking up to go to the bathroom. There's no A/C at the apartment, but it's an old building with thick walls, so it stays bearable during the day. Nights are still pleasent, but we're quickly approaching the point of sleep only being possible with a standing fan going all night.

I miscalculated and had a five hour gap in the middle of the day with no food. I didn't realise how late it was, and after the gym, instead of going home, I went grocery shopping. The only thing I had to sustain me was a glass of freshly squeezed apple and carrot juice I bought downtown. I have to work on post-workout nutrition.

Stats Change

Changed the stats to a Tuesday morning at-home weigh-in. Initial difference from yesterday is due to clothes, of course, so next Tuesday will be the really interesting one...

Today is supposed to be even hotter than yesterday. The heat just takes the strength right out of one. When I was reading tourist sites getting ready for my now-cancelled Australia/HongKong trip, one of the Hong Kong sites was reminding Western visitors to walk slower than they do back home, because otherwise the heat will overpower them. Good advice for summer anywhere, I think. It's going to be 89F/31C today and tomorrow.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Monday Morning Gym Report

The most important thing for me was to get back in the gym and have a real workout asap. Sloth, even health-imposed sloth, has a way of ingratiating itself, and before long you find yourself morphing into a solanum tuberosum.

I decided to go in early today because man-in-charge wasn't going to be around tonight, and because I wanted to go to the university in the afternoon. When I got there, we made an on-the-spot decision to continue where we left off. So, no Chest/Push day, but rather Quad Dominant day. Everything felt heavy, and at the beginning especially I kept telling myself to worry about one set, even one rep at a time. It felt good to squat again. :-) We didn't drop weight, either, just went on from where the progression had stopped. Max set today on squats was 35Kg (77lbs), which is still far less than what I was doing last year, but hey, last year I was carrying around 8 extra kilos 24 hours a day, so I'll take it.

Two bonuses: First, out of the blue, a woman I hadn't seen before said to me as I headed to the water fountain, "kol ha-kavod lach", lit. "all the honour to you". It's an expression of praise, like "nicely done!" or "way to go!". I hadn't realised anyone was watching me; the squat rack is set to the side, so you kind of forget about the rest of the gym while you're there. Second, NiceGuy was there and I shook off my social ineptitude long enough to ask what his name was. I found out the source of his accent (Virginia) and the reason he's so nicely built (rugby).

Monday Morning WW Meeting

This was my last meeting for awhile, so it was nice to hit a milestone to finish. I am 71.0Kg according to their scale, which is exactly 10% less than my starting weight of 79.0Kg. I told the group it was my last meeting, and they said they hoped to see me back at the same weight, which is a silly thing to say. I understand that they're used to seeing people stop and then come back having gained everything they lost, but they could say "see you again at the same weight or less". On the other hand, maybe that would intimidate some people into not coming back.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Back to the Gym And Many Other Thoughts

I went back to the gym today. I had left a phone message for one of my schoolmates who goes to the same gym, asking him to let man-in-charge know what happened. Either my message did not make it through, or he didn't have a chance to do so, because man-in-charge had no idea. After I filled him in on the week's adventures, he told me to take it easy today, and we'll re-start tomorrow with day one, Chest/Push, with lower weights. He didn't want me doing any squats or bench presses or deadlifts today, unfortunately. So I did four sets each of leg extensions and hamstring curls, then four sets each of pushups and lat pulldowns, added some abwork at the end and called it a day. Tomorrow man-in-charge will only be there in the morning, so I'm going to try and squeeze in the workout right after the WW meeting (the last one!), go home, shower, and head to the university.

I think that I've had low-grade pain for at least three months, and didn't realise it. I've been exercising all that time, and the endorphins offset some of the pain, but now, post hospital, I feel like a new woman. Sky looks bluer, birds are singing, you get the picture. It took a miserable flu back in March to get me started on healthy eating and exercising again, and it seems that this gallbladder thing is going to help me kick the nutrition and the sleep and everything outside the gym up a few notches.

Whatever happens with the surgery, it looks like the Australia trip is sunk. Regrettable, but health and finishing my papers are the most important things right now. If I'm meant to see Australia it will happen someday. :-) I'm disappointed I didn't get to check out Melbourne gyms though; this one certainly looked promising.

While I was at the mall today, It dawned on me that I own no bras that fit. None, zero, zip, zilch, nada. Everything I own is 38D or 38DD. And the pattern of weight loss over the female body being what it is, I find myself at 36C. So I went to the mall and after an hour and a half at two different lingerie stores, discovered that there are reasonably priced bras to be had in Jerusalem. I emerged with four new beautiful new underwires, one white, one gold, one berry and one red. I have my eye on a couple more that, while labelled 36C, were just not quite right quite yet. I don't think I've ever had this much fun shopping for innerwear.

I'm shaking my head that there are people out there who think Britain "provoked" the terrorists who murdered all these people in London last week. No, I'm not going to link to them. They probably also think that the Afghan Buddhas of Bamiyan "provoked" the Taliban into destroying them, and that women who don't cover themselves from head to toe "provoke" men into raping them. Yeah, whatever. Dan Darling at Winds of Change has a detailed analysis of the scope of the threat, and Lileks had a screedblog the other day that's also worth reading.

Today at school, some people who know I've been in hospital said to me "You've lost so much weight". Yeah folks, that's it, all 15lbs or so came off in this one week in hospital. Forget the cleaned-up eating, the exercising, the rest of it *rolls eyes*. For the record, the hospital stay resulted in a loss of 800g. That's under two lbs, and it is probably water weight that will come back tomorrow.

I started this blog whining about some of my professors at university, so it is only fair that I give props when a professor does something decent. I e-mailed one of my profs yesterday night to explain that my paper was late because I've been in hospital, and he sent me a brief message back saying, "health's the main thing, feel better". That's it, no pestering and no firebreathing about "final final deadlines" like those other profs.

Saturday, July 09, 2005


Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

The Mikado
The question is, do I go for the cholecystectomy or not? The docs at the hospital all said that removing the gallbladder is the solution. They believe that there will be another attack, if not right away then sometime in the next year or later. They have the odds on their side, since 70% of people who have an attack will experience another one. At the same time, however, I'm nervous about the idea of surgery. There's no such thing as a simple operation. We're talking about going in and removing piece of my body. What if I am in the 30%? Is there something I can do to increase my odds of being in the 30%?

There are many sites on the internet promoting "liver cleanses" or "gallbladder flushes".*sigh* That, folks, is what happens when kids grow up without chemistry sets. See this site as to why these are not a useful thing. You'll also learn a possible origin of the expression "snake oil" while you're there. I don't have anything against alternative solutions, mind you. The husband of one of my classmates is finishing up his degree in Chinese medicine, and I think I will call him up and see if he has any thoughts on gallstones.

I am going to do a few things while I'm thinking about it. My diet is currently 40P-30C-30F, approximately, since I have not been tracking these things to the gram. I will adjust fat downwards. I'm not sure yet if this will be 40P-40C-20F, or possibly 35P-45C-20F. I need to think about it some more. I will also track obsessively for awhile, so that I know precisely when, what type, and how much fat I am taking in, and I can identify any foods that cause gastric distress.

The whole experience is making me that much more aware of what I put in my mouth. I focused on veggies and fruit today: for one meal I made a salad using a tomato and two cucumbers, and also ate a plum, an apricot, and some grapes. For the other meal I made a salad using a tomato, two cucumbers, a handful of spinach and a granny smith apple, then also ate two apricots and a small nectarine.

The healthy eating and execising will continue unabated. Even if I do go for the surgery, I'd feel much better impressing the surgeon with my abs. I am sure that he or she will be much happier to slice through (or rearrange) less abdominal fat to get to my gallbladder.

London Thoughts

My heart goes out to the people who were murdered by terrorists in London last week. I'm also thinking of Those who were injured face a long road of rehab and recovery. Some may never heal. I salute those who with courage and stoicism got on a bus in London the next day. Those of us who live in Israel, especially in Jerusalem, know what it feels like to get on a bus and glance around for suspicious objects and people, to wonder if you will arrive at your destination alive and whole. All the Brits I know are pretty tough people though, so I know Britain will get through this with flying colours.

I love this piece, entitled "We Cannot Surrender", written by Christopher Hitchens:
We know very well what the "grievances" of the jihadists are.
The grievance of seeing unveiled women. The grievance of the existence, not of the State of Israel, but of the Jewish people. The grievance of the heresy of democracy, which impedes the imposition of sharia law. The grievance of a work of fiction written by an Indian living in London. The grievance of the existence of black African Muslim farmers, who won't abandon lands in Darfur. The grievance of the existence of homosexuals. The grievance of music, and of most representational art. The grievance of the existence of Hinduism. The grievance of East Timor's liberation from Indonesian rule. All of these have been proclaimed as a licence to kill infidels or apostates, or anyone who just gets in the way.
(found via Baldilocks).
I'm also delighted by the various poems and drawings contained in this lovely post at Pejmanesque.

The London terrorist attacks brought to mind something I read back in June 2002, Star columnist Rosie DiManno described the physics of what happens when a bomb goes off in a closed space, such as a bus. I googled to see if I could find that column. Here's the part I remembered:
The explosive material packed around the device, Semtex or dynamite, say, releases an eruption of energy that heats up the contents of the bomb [...] a pressure wave that cannot be contained within the puny confines of a steel bus. Think of water boiling in a lidded pot. The lid will not hold.

This super-hot air will melt and warp everything in the immediate vicinity. It will turn the metal framework of a bus into instant shrapnel, over and above the shrapnel (the nails) fitted into the bomb itself. Now the bus becomes a killing instrument of metal and glass and fire.

The force of the blast is determined by the quantity of the explosive. An average bomb,the kind strapped around a suicide terrorist's waist, covered by a shirt, would likely detonate at a rate of about 28,000 feet per second or about 22 times faster than a 9 mm bullet leaving the muzzle of a handgun. That means that the surrounding air pressure, normally 15 pounds per square inch, would spike to 2,200 pounds per square inch. Such heat and pressure will melt iron.

A person sitting nearby would feel, momentarily, a shock wave slamming into his or her body, with an "overpressure" of 300,000 pounds. Such a blast would crush the chest, rupture liver, spleen, heart and lungs, melt eyes, pull organs away from surrounding tissue, separate hands from arms and feet from legs. Bodies would fly through the air or be impaled on the jagged edges of crumpled metal and broken glass.
(Found about halfway down this page)

Friday, July 08, 2005

I'm Back!

I did go back to the emergency clinic on Sunday night, and they promptly sent me to Shaare Zedec Medical Center, where I have spent the week with Acute Cholecystitis. The name of the hospital means "Gates of Righteousness", from the verse in Psalms 118:19 "Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will enter into them, I will give thanks unto the Lord." (This is Israel, every name here has a meaning.)

More about the hospital stay later. For now, I have to do some intense running around before Shabbat, shopping, laundry, et cetera.

Two notes about fitness: First, I have to adjust the fat in my diet downwards, at least until the surgeons slice and dice and remove my gall bladder. Second, the doctor said I could go back to the gym on Sunday :-) so we'll find out then how much strength I've lost this week. :-(

Stay healthy!

Sunday, July 03, 2005


I've been googling away looking for more info on gallstones. One web site says that an attack is as painful as childbirth. At least with childbirth you get the baby at the end, no? All I can say is, I don't remember having pain like this ever in my life. I certainly don't recall ever sobbing in pain. Sheesh. Shoot me now. This is unbelievable. I guess this is twenty odd years of lousy nutrition coming back to slap me upside the head... or punch me in the gut, more accurately.

If I make it through the night without going to the emergency clinic again - which I seriously doubt - but we'll see, I will be at the regular clinic tomorrow as early as they can take me. I hope they have some pain killers that can deal with this. I don't know how the hell I'm supposed to handle this till July 12.

Saturday, July 02, 2005


Edmund: Baldrick, have you no idea what irony is?
Baldrick: Yeah, it's like goldy and bronzy, only it's made of iron.

Blackadder 3.1: Dish and Dishonesty
I spent most of Saturday in bed, writhing in pain, trying futilely to find a comfortable position. The pain that had started Wednesday had gotten progressively worse. Around 3pm I took two reg Tylenols, at 7:00pm I took two more, and at 9:00pm two more. At 10:00pm I was forced to concede that none of this had helped at all. I was still in great pain.

I dragged myself upright at 11:30pm and took a cab to Terem, the 24 hour emergency medical clinic (founded by Dr. David Applebaum). I arrived at 00:25, and emerged more than two hours later at 2:35am. Saturday night is an extremely busy time at the clinic. While I was there a slew of ultra-Orthodox kids with broken bones came through, then babies with assorted maladies (dehydration, ear infection). The lady that came in just before me had something that required an IV. A man came in with burns to his left arm caused by a Shabbat hot water urn. In short, anything and everything.

I ran into a Pardes person at the clinic, which reinforces my experience that one Pardes person cannot go anywhere in Jerusalem without encountering another Pardes person.

They did a urine test, then the doctor saw me, palpated, and discovered that my upper right abdomen was pain central. The nurse came in and did a blood test. So far so good, but then the blood machine broke down, and then my blood sample vanished. Then the doctor told me that what he suspects - but won't know for sure until he has bloodwork - is that I have a biliary colic.

The end of the story is that I have to go back to the clinic in four hours, around 6:30am, so that they can take more blood, run the tests on the then-fixed (we hope) machine, and tell me for certain what I have. In the meantime, they gave me a shot of Voltarin to deal with the pain until morning.

Update I: 7:30am: I went back to the clinic at 6:30am. It was much quieter. Turns out they found my blood sample and ran the tests on it. Everything came back normal. Doc still thinks it was a gallstone though. He gave me a referral for an ultrasound to make sure. I have to call the insurance company (they open at 8:30am) and have them ok it. So now I'm waiting, hoping the pain doesn't come back. I still think it's ironic that now that I'm eating healthy and exercising, I suddenly get sick. Makes you want to go bury your sorrows in ice cream.

Update II: 12:43pmAfter an hour of calling around and inevitable linguistic misunderstandings, I have an appointment for an ultrasound on July 12th - that was the earliest I could get. I'm exhausted and I need sleep. Not sure what I'll do if I'm still in pain this afternoon, but one crisis at a time.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Friday Gym Report

I decided to go to the gym rather than to the Australia lecture. I got there just after 12 noon, which was good because it only got busier and busier from that point on. Today was a push/chest workout and I started the 9 rep cycle. Another good workout, but I had a mental lapse on the second last set of close grip bench presses, and only managed 8 reps. Not sure what was going on. I know I was strong enough to do it, but my focus just vanished, poof, gone. My shoulder still hurt this morning, but it didn't factor into the workout, which is strange, because I expected it to be a factor during a chest workout. I would have stopped if something had irritated it, but nothing did.

NiceGuy wasn't there, but SkinnyLeanGuy was, and today he was busy admiring his biceps. He did a set, then walked away, poked at his right bicep, poked at his left bicep, flexed slightly, and then went back to do the next set. I hope I don't catch sight of him doing this while I'm doing a max set of anything because I will lose it in hysterical laughter and that would not be a good thing with a bar on my back. Look, I've done my share of flexing... but in the privacy of my bathroom at home!!!

I made it to the cheap supermarket 9 minutes before it closed and got everything I needed, then stopped at the kiosk near my home to pick up the Friday Chocolate Splurge and newspapers for Saturday reading. I usually read Haaretz (the left wing paper) and Makor Rishon (the right wing paper) to get the full view of affairs. I decided not to buy the July bus pass but to add in more walking instead.

I hope everyone reading is enjoying the long weekend. That's one of the things I miss about Canada; having a two day weekend on a regular basis and a three day weekend every once in awhile. Here Friday is a half-day spent running around, Saturday is complete rest, and Sunday is a regular, back-to-work day. The positive side is that I can go to the gym again on Sunday. :-)

Catching Up

It's Canada Day! (Or Dominion Day, to those of you who liked things just fine pre 1982). Happy birthday Canada!

I got to the gym both Wednesday (ham-dominant) and Thursday (pull / back).

On Wednesday, man-in-charge wasn't there when I arrived, neither was woman-in-charge. Instead, there was some man I had never seen before. The LSV (little stupid voice) began whining, which tested my ability to deal with annoyance yet again. The first set of deadlifts was not good; but my first set of anything is always shaky. I need it to settle down and focus. I was still in PMS pain, but then for some reason I thought of this competition, which I remember seeing an earlier version of a year or two ago. Thus inspired, I promptly decided that pain had no meaning :-) and the rest of the deadlifts and partial deads were great. Man-in-charge showed up just as I was starting the hamstring curls. By the end of the workout I was exhausted again. I took long rests between my ab work sets. The idea of just lying back on the mat and falling asleep then and there was looking very appealling. I must have looked like I felt, because man-in-charge asked me twice if I was alright, and he's never had to ask me that before.

On Thursday, my plan was to get to the gym at midday, so I could go take pictures of the Pride parade for the other blog later that evening. What I didn't count on was that everyone else would show up at the same time. Because the parade was scheduled to go past the gym, and the road would be closed, people scheduled their workouts earlier in the day to avoid the road closures and the traffic. So the gym was incredibly swamped when I arrived.

At one point I was waiting for a guy to finish using the lat pulldowns so I could do my set. This skinny lean guy (I am not kidding) went to the mirror to check his lats between sets. I have heard of people doing that - in fact I've heard of gyms that have a little sign posted that says "Do not approach the mirror to admire yourself between sets; you look like dork". But I have never seen someone actually do it four times in a row. Guy finishes his set, I ask him to make sure he's done, I replace the handle on the pulldowns and do my first set, and who should come back not 30 seconds later to do more pull downs with the new handle? Yup, SkinnyGuy. Five more sets. As the poem goes, "when thou hast done thou has not done", eh? And yes, he still did the mirror thing between sets!

There was a bonus to working out at this time of day, however. There was a really nice guy working out whom I had not seen before. At one point, while I was resting between seated rows, man-in-charge called me over and asked me to translate something into English. He was trying to explain to the guy (who was doing bench-presses) about breathing technique to use during his presses. So I translated, and after his bp set and my row set, me and nice guy talked a little bit about lifting in general. He said he had seen me squat before, and I said that leg day is my favourite, because when you leave the gym you know you trained hard. We also talked about why powerlifting is not in the Olympic games. I was wearing my Old Navy shirt, and he actually noticed the inaccuracy of the graphic! The shirt has a graphic of a guy doing an overhead press, but powerlifting is bp+squat+deadlift, no overhead presses. The other sweet about the guy is that he is pretty balanced; he's not one of these guys who have a massive upper body and stick legs. So did I get his name? Nope. Why? Because I am socially inept. Bah humbug! He's likely ten years younger than me, has a girlfriend or is gay.

When I got home to drop off my stuff before heading out again, I hurt my shoulder. Just by lifting my arm up and back to brush my hair. Hello? What kind of a stupid way is that to hurt one's shoulder?

Ok. Busy day ahead: need to shop, to decide if I should go to the gym or go hear a lecture about Australia, and to work on papers.