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Transplant Athlete
Monday, January 28, 2008
  Peter Brady Is Gay

Yes, Christopher Knight I'm lookin' at you.

Adrianne Curry posed nude with her best friend in some arty photos for Chris' birthday. The first words out of his mouth are, "I'm a bit disturbed." Which I'll admit were also my first words, but for very different reasons. He is apparently upset because he is worried his gal's a lesbian, I'd have been disturbed I wasn't invited...

I was screaming at the TV for her to pick up the champagne bottle and crack it across his skull. When she went into her room, I was saying, "Good, pack up your stuff and leave his ungrateful @ss behind."

You go girlfriend. Life's short, Live like you wanna live!

P.S. I live in Virginia, come visit, don't forget your friend.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008
  Skeedom

Since Q loves skiing and we'll likely go more often, I picked up a pair of skis. I had boots, and brought them with me to the store, but apparently, these days when you buy a pair of skis, they charge $15 to $25 to do the adjusting. Ouch. It's been awhile since I've been on skis, so I had to ask, "Is it still just two screws?"

I used Google to find out how to adjust the bindings and the first results I came up with said, "Take them to a certified technician." No disrespect to the certified technicians who spend years mastering the art of adjusting skis, but in the end it's just two screws...Granted, the bindings can be moved slightly forward or backwards, and if the pressure is not appropriate the skis either come off prematurely or not at all and in both cases you could be looking at serious injury. But, if I'm not afraid to rebuild a wheel on a bicycle or the brakes on my car, I shouldn't be afraid to adjust ski bindings.

So, I looked some more on Google and found this site which helps you figure out how much to turn the screws to get the pressure right.

While we were at the store, I asked the salesperson for goggles for Q, so he and Q walked towards the goggle area, while I put the skis down to join them. Before I even got there, Q was running back with pink goggles. She fell asleep with them on during the drive home, it looked really cute.

 
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Friday, January 25, 2008
  Breakin' The Law, Breakin' The Law

My buddy Rich sent me an email reminding me that I used to get in trouble for playing video games, which I didn't remember. The school had strict rules against playing video games, but I took them as more of a suggestion.

After having three kids in the back of a compact car for 3 hours, I called my dad to apologize for all those years of fighting with my sisters in the back seat. While I was relating our adventure to my father, I mentioned that I skiied with RJ, then later with the girls. My dad asked, "What'd you do in the middle? play Video Games?"

Uh-what? So my dad refreshed my memory on all the details. I remember playing Pole Position, but it was pretty much hidden in the basement of the ski lodge, I only played on breaks from skiing, and rarely played more than one game. I was getting in plenty of runs on the mountain, so I didn't see anything wrong with it.

Rich thinks I got busted playing Dragon's Lair, which in 1984 everyone wanted to play. At VV/GG, the game was right out in the middle of the food court so it was impossible to hide while playing. I seem to remember the game cost $1 to play. My dad says it was raining the day I got busted. Rich seems to remember Mr. Taylor (one of our teachers) jumping off the bus and he was so agitated that it freaked my mom out, she thought something happened to me and couldn't believe all the fuss was over a video game.

Apparently, Mr. Taylor was still harboring a grudge the next day because my sister overheard him telling any teacher that would listen about how I had defied him. My dad went to the school and had a little chat with Mr. Taylor...

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Thursday, January 24, 2008
  My School Report Said I Showed No Interest 'A Disruptive Influence'

ABL forced me to go to a meeting at the preschool tonight. We were supposed to get info on what to expect as our kids entered Kindergarten. What a Waste!. I wanted to flee after 5 minutes, but forced myself to sit around for 30 so I could say I tried. I have a very low tolerance for inane meetings and I think the Prednisone has amplified that.

There was a panel of kindergarten and first grade teachers telling us what to expect, but they spent the entire time telling us how hard school is compared to when we were kids and how we'd be doing our kids a favor keeping them in preschool longer.

ABL and I don't see eye to eye on this issue, here's my personal experience: Having a birthday in November, I entered Kindergarten late. I felt normal in Kindergarten, but by first grade, things were going wrong. Why? I was older, smarter, and more mature than my younger peers. I used to get in trouble in first grade because they would put me in a 3rd grade classroom for time out. The 3rd grade teacher would actually call on me to answer questions. By 4th grade, I was tutoring the slowest guy in my class, by 5th grade, I was completely bored and 'A Disruptive Influence' (which by the way was the most fun I ever had in school - but I didn't learn much). I felt like this decision affected me well into High School.

So, when I hear these teachers saying school is harder, so keep your kids out another year, it makes me think it's a self fulfilling prophecy. The kids are older entering, so they are able to handle more advanced concepts, so the younger kids seem less prepared, so keep them out another year...

Obviously, not everyone can handle school at the same time, but I think the age cutoff should be a guide and not a rule and testing should be a better measure of whether a kid is ready for school. It's easy to hold someone back if they are struggling with school, it's much harder to have them fit in if they skip ahead a grade, so I would rather err on the side of caution and put them in Kindergarten at 4.9 years old instead of waiting until they are 5.9 years old.

 
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  How To Pick Up Snow Bunnies

I took RJ, Q, and Q's friend, who we'll call Vash, skiing yesterday. I had three booster seats in the back of a compact car. RJ was kicking my seat and the two girls were chatting up a storm, singing, giggling, and screaming at the top of their little lungs for the whole (1.5 hr) ride. With 3 miles to go, I couldn't stand the "Are we there yet?" and told them to let me know when they see snow. I was then serenaded with "snow, snow, snow," in two part harmony until we got there.

I happily dumped the two girls into the Ski camp and then got a lift ticket and rental skis. The school loaned me skis for RJ. I tried to teach him "french fries" and "pizza", but he didn't want to learn, he just wanted to go downhill. We took the magic carpet lift a couple of times, then he begged me to go on the chairlift, so I took him up. I ended up just skiing alongside and slowing him down or turning him as needed. He had a blast, but two runs was enough for him and I put him in babysitting.

I took a run up the Dipsy Quad lift and practiced turns going down. The last time I was on skis, Reagan was in office. I wasn't very relaxed and I didn't feel at all fluid, but I felt ready for something a bit more difficult.

I took a run up the Alpine Quad and I gotta tell you, I looked out over the first drop, and I thought, "What the hell am I doing up here?" The thought didn't slow me down though, I pointed the skis over the edge and dove in. My turns felt really awkward and I thought I should take a lesson. I ended up at the Strata Quad chair on the backside. I was worried I'd be late picking up the girls, so I worked my way back to the lodge area.

Vash had a close encounter with an inflatable star in the kiddie area, so her instructor told me that she was a bit timid and she'd need assistance on the chairlift. I asked, "what part?" The instructor replied, "Getting on the lift, getting off the lift, getting down the mountain..." Vash wanted to call it quits for the day and go to the playroom, but Q wanted to go back out, so the three of us went up the chairlift. All my attention was on Vash, so Q basically had to get on and off the lift by herself. I basically did the same thing for Vash that I did for RJ, sliding alongside controlling her speed and turning her. Q was unstoppable, flying down the hill by herself. It took us about 20 or 30 minutes to return the rental equipment, pick up RJ out of babysitting, and to get into the car (what I get to look forward to when I have three kids). I fed them some snacks and water, then we drove home. RJ fell asleep pretty quickly, but the girls talked the whole ride home.

The best part was walking out of the park with three kids in tow and two pink princess backpacks on my shoulders. Ski Liberty gives discounts to college students on Wednesdays, so I had plenty of women checking me out and smiling at me.

 
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Wednesday, January 23, 2008
  20 Things I Hate About You

Last night, one of my wife's favorite actors passed away. I was flipping through the channels and happened to catch the breaking news. My wife had been asleep for some time, so I woke her up and told her she wouldn't get to see "20 Things I Hate About You".

Yes, Heath Ledger is dead. Goodbye Sir Ulrich Von Lichtenstein of Gelderland, the protector of Italian Virginity.

One last question, should you be drinking alcohol when you don't have a liver?

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Monday, January 21, 2008
  An Atlas Shrugged Moment

Last week, Hugo Chavez was threatening to seize banks that didn't lend a certain percentage of money to farmers. This week he's threatening to seize farmland. Who is John Galt?
 
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  Half The Distance To The Goal. Half The Distance To The Goal

Mathematically speaking, you can't ever reach the goal line if you keep getting moved half the distance to the Goal, but Green Bay sure was giving the Giants a chance to try.
 
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Friday, January 18, 2008
  Call Of The Wild

When I was in 4th Grade, the Principal of my school had an information session for people who wanted to learn to ski. Now, imagine you're that age and watching a movie set in the biggest, most beautiful mountains you've ever seen. There seemed to be just 3 colors, Blue Skies, White Snow, and Black rocks. The skiers were flying down the mountain, jumping off huge cliffs and landing in deep powder (sometimes with a twist or a flip thrown in). SIGN ME UP!
I'm guessing now that it was a Warren Miller film, but at the time it stoked my imagination and probably was the catalyst for my love of Skiing, kayaking, climbing, and ultracycling, so-called "extreme sports" (at least they were back then).

Vernon Valley was a bit of a let down after the movie. The bunny slope had about 5 feet of rise and used a tow rope to get to the other end. I think I went skiing 10 times that year and took lessons each time. We'd leave school in a smelly diesel school bus, and chug up to Vernon Valley, take a lesson, then stop for dinner, and then back out to ski under the lights and snow guns. Dinner was like the scene from The Breakfast Club, where Emilio Estevez pulls out the grocery bag and starts unloading the food for his lunch. Sandwich after Sandwich, huge bag of potato chips, soda, cookies, and then a piece of fruit. My parents must have gone broke feeding me during ski trips. When I got to the point where I could parallel ski, I wasn't happy unless I was taking the fastest line down the mountain and if I didn't fall once in awhile I wasn't going fast enough. I used to think there was nothing like getting your bell rung at top speed. Nobody was wearing helmets.

I took Q for her first ski lesson on Wednesday at Ski Liberty in PA. She was amazing. They use a conveyor belt now instead of a tow rope and she was able to go much faster than I ever was when I was learning. Since we went mid-week in the early season, Q was the only one there, so she got a private lesson. She's got the snow plow down, and she can turn, but she can't link turns yet. In the second half of her lesson, the instructor lead her over to the chairlift and I got real emotional. My baby was going on the chairlift for the first time.

The instructor said she was "the most athletic 5 yo he's ever taught." After her lesson, I supervised her for about an hour, then she called it quits for the day. She was starving, very tired, and hooked.

Nearly everyone on the mountain and around the lodge was wearing a helmet, from the little kids to the greybeards.

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Monday, January 14, 2008
  State Of The Kidney Address

Two weeks ago, I saw Dr. Light, Head of Transplantation at Washington Hospital Center, to answer the question, "Is there anything that can be done to protect the next kidney I get from recurrent MPGN?"

Answer: Not much. The one truth about MPGN is that the medical community doesn't know much about the disease. They don't know what causes it, they don't know how to treat it, etc. They have anecdotal evidence (ie. plasmapheresis worked in one case, a particular drug worked in one case...) but nothing concrete. The overwhelming evidence seems to be that MPGN will recur in any kidney I receive, however, the time frame varies.

The good news is that there is a new drug under development, Belatacept, that may turn off the immune system permanently, meaning I could take the drug for a year and then I wouldn't have to worry about taking medication for the rest of my life. So far the drug hasn't shown any nephrotoxic side effects.

Speaking of nephrotoxic, I went to see my Nephrologist this past week and he reduced my Prograf dosage to hopefully preserve some of my kidney function (my last biopsy showed some damage from the Prograf). He also put me on 5 mg of prednisone (Corticosteroid) once a day to reduce any inflammation of the kidney. I think the consensus is that I have about 1 year left with this kidney.

I'm getting my energy levels back. My hematocrit dropped to 26.1 around the time I got my first dose of EPO, but now it's up around 29 (The level I was at when I was put on EPO back in the 90s). It won't be long before I'm back in the 30s. I can definitely feel my energy returning though.

 
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  Could The Giants Go All The Way?

My Parents came down this weekend, so we watched as much football as I usually watch in a season. There was the Pats/Jaguars (the Pats look unstoppable), Seahawks/Packers (looked like the funnest game ever), Giants/Cowboys (was praying the whole time Eli wouldn't choke).

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Thursday, January 10, 2008
  War In Iraq

I've done some thinking, heard some surprising facts lately, and I think we could pull out of Iraq within months without throwing the region into chaos. Here's why...
1) Somewhere between 50% to 60% of Iraqs think its ok to shoot at American Soldiers.
2) According to polls in 2004, something like 71% to 81% of Iraqis view the US as Occupiers and not Liberators.
3) In 2006, polls say that 71% of Iraqis want the US to leave within a year. Also, 67% of the world's citizens wants the US out of Iraq within a year. 61% of Americans think we should withdraw from Iraq within a year.


Now, I know what is popular is not always right...So,
4) After the British pulled out of Basra, violence dropped 90%. British Commanders report, "Remarkable and Dramatic drops in violence."
5) We've met the original objectives George Bush laid out when we started the War. I think that means we won.


So, the obvious plan is to do what the British did, move out of a location, but continue to train the local police. Bush is pretty good at scaring the public, so he would probably say that if we leave now, Iran will take over. Although Iran could, why would they if it has taken us like 3 days to fight our way to Baghdad in the past? I think our military is better at fighting than establishing an empire order anyway (they probably prefer fighting as well - as Patton said, "Americans love to fight").

To those who say the Iraqis would slaughter each other after we leave (ala Cambodia in the 70s), I would have to say that the British experience proves otherwise.

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  Higher Peak Altitude Simulator

I've gotten a few email questions about the Higher Peak Altitude Simulator, so I wanted to post my final conclusions.

Normal hematocrit levels are between 38% and 50%. Professional cyclists like to have their hematocrit as close to 50% as possible, however over 50% is considered proof of doping (and is dangerous because the blood is mostly solids and is very thick making it hard for the heart to pump-leads to heart attacks among healthy pro athletes). Around 34 or 35 is considered Anemic and a person can't donate blood. Obviously the more red blood cells in your blood the more oxygen you can get to the muscles the better. When you are anemic, the lack of red blood cells leads to fatigue, weakness, and lethargy.

Before my kidney's failed in the late 90's, my hematocrit dropped to 29. I was on EPO for nearly a year and that got my hematocrit up in the low 30s. The EPO made a noticeable change in my energy levels, it gave me my life back.

When I received the transplant, my hematocrit jumped from the low 30s to the high 30s. I felt like Superman, I could have leaped tall buildings, was faster than a speeding bullet, etc.

I was expecting a similar boost from the Altitude simulator (I've struggled at Denver's altitude on trips in 2003 and 2004). I was expecting that it would raise my hematocrit a few points and that I would again feel like Superman. That did not happen. BUT, I didn't struggle at altitude during the Race Across America. I pedaled up Wolf Creek Pass (10,550 feet Above Sea Level) and felt strong. It's possible that the simulator acclimitized my body for the higher altitude in ways other than affecting my hematocrit (maybe it did something to my lungs, or heart...I don't know).

My transplanted kidney is now failing and my hematocrit dropped to a low of 26. I am on EPO again to raise my hematocrit. So, it's entirely possible that my transplanted kidney was unable to produce the EPO needed to raise my hematocrit even though I was using the Altitude Simulator as directed.

My conclusion, based on my experience, is that this unit would get a person acclimitized to higher altitudes, meaning it works as advertised. My guess is that it would provide performance benefits to a healthy person, even though I didn't see those performance benefits myself. If I had spent more money on CAT or Hypoxico, I feel I would have received the exact same results as the Higher Peak unit.

I think you will find that this unit works as well as the other more expensive units, they are all generating hypoxic air.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008
  Hulkamania's Runnin' Wild On You Brother!

I couldn't resist. I had to watch the premiere of American Gladiators. It is hilarious, but even with the Hulkster, I won't be watching it. Every time the Referee would say, "Are the Contender's ready?" "Are the Gladiators Ready?" "3, 2, 1" I kept hearing "DODGEBALL!" in my head. I just googled the ref, Al Kaplon and he was in Dodgeball.

I think Ninja Warrior has more unique challenges, but they don't have "Crush". Be careful though, her Muay Thai record is 12-1-1 and her MMA record is 4-0.

I saw a commercial for a new version of Knight Rider due out on February 17. Let's hope it doesn't suck. Since the suits at the networks don't have any imagination, let's hope they redo "The Dukes of Hazard", "Airwolf", and "The A-Team".

Props to the Giants for beating Tampa Bay today.

 
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Friday, January 04, 2008
  Ultra Lance

According to Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong would like to do an Ultra cycling event in 2008, however he hasn't decided which one yet. Don't get your hopes up, there's no way he's doing RAAM this year. My guess is he'll do an event like the Furnace Creek 508. It's large, well established, and scenic. I don't think he'll do a 24 hour event, mainly because he'd be inundated with spectators on every lap, although I think that's the situation when he does the Leadville 100.

There's always the possibility that Lance counts the Leadville 100 as ultracycling. After all, the only person who doesn't think that ultra mountain bike races count as ultracycling events is John Hughes.

 
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I've gone through kidney failure twice. The first time in 2000, my mother donated a kidney; and again in 2008, I'm on dialysis waiting for a breakthrough in immuno-suppression medicines before seeking a new kidney.

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