Monday, January 30, 2006

Hate: Chafing

This topic actually came to me as I was adjusting the collar on my recently dry-cleaned shirt. I always tell them "No Starch" but my neck was all hosed up from rubbing against my crispy shirt all day long. Even though it was my neck that was chafed it was a real pain in the ass! My life is full of enough crap to worry about and I have to add neck-chafe to the list? Thanks a lot - like I have time for that! Maybe next time I'll be lucky enough to have a pebble in my shoe or a popcorn kernel stuck between my teeth that I can't seem to dig out with my tongue despite hours of trying.

Despite my neck issues, it's also no coincidence that a post about chafing appears right after a post about running. The two go hand-in-hand (foot-in-foot?). Part of the price of running a bunch of miles to maintain my Greek god-like physique is that oh-so irritating burning sensation created by skin rubbing on skin. Or skin rubbing on cloth. Or skin rubbing on plastic. Or just general rubbing of skin. Skin is pretty soft stuff, right? You would think that it wouldn't be a big deal. But, just like smoking crack, rubbing on skin should be done in moderation. When it's not, it leads to chafing which leads to Vaseline and from there everything just goes into a downward spiral.

Often, skin to skin contact is quite a pleasant experience but that usually involves my own skin and someone else's. When it's my left inner thigh rubbing against my right inner thigh for a couple of hours straight, it's not nearly as nice as when one of my inner thighs is rubbing against someone else's (preferably female) inner thigh. And believe me, I'm fully prepared to test this theory by timing thigh contact for a couple of hours with a willing volunteer who meets the criteria as determined by me. I'd use one of those clocks that are controlled by a satellite in outer space to make it official and everything so that no one would accuse me of rubbing inner thighs for more than two hours.

But back to my pink, tender, slightly swollen inner thighs. Man, that hurts like hell! You have to walk all bowlegged so as not to worsen the condition and the only thing that makes it worse is..... a shower! The very thing that you want right after a long run only makes the chafing more painful. The shower feels terrific only for as long as it takes for the water to run down my chest, past my unit and to chafe-land. Man, that hurts like double hell!
Me after a long run: "My inner thighs are chafed and it hurts like hell!"
Me, again: "I sure could use a shower so as not to stink up the joint."
More of Me: "Dude, that hot water on my sensitive inner thighs hurts like double hell!
Me: "When will I learn?!"
Me, still: "Who are you talking to?"

Speaking of Vaseline, often it is offered to runners during a long race. I first experienced this a few years ago as I came up to a water station and there was a race volunteer standing there wearing rubber gloves holding a big dollop of Vaseline. I kid you not! It took me a second to realize that this kind person was offering me some chafe-be-gone. Talk about drawing the short straw! You know that guy was the butt off all the jokes from his little race volunteer friends!

Race Guy: "OK, everyone, let's draw straws to see who is going to dole out the Vaseline"
Volunteer #1(drawing straw): "I hope it's not me. I hope it's not me. I hope it's not me."
Volunteer #2 (after drawing straw): "Blast! I have to be Mr. Vaseline Man! I'll show them. I'm only going to offer my petroleum jelly to the cute girls. All the rest of those stupid-ass runners will have to suffer through their chafing!"
Volunteer #1 to Volunteer #2 (in a mocking tone): "Hey, Mr. Vaseline Man, would you lube me up?!"
Volunteer #3 to Volunteer #2: (also in a mocking tone): Hey, Mr. Vaseline Man, I hear Star Jones is running in this race. Maybe you'll get lucky!"
Newscaster: "Authorities today discovered two bodies hidden in the woods near last week's race course. Oddly, they were covered in Vaseline. Police are looking for a man described as 'really pissed off and holding a short straw'."

The jury is still out on whether chafed nipples are worse than chafed inner thighs, but I'm here to tell you that it doesn't hurt any less. Us runner-types can have this problem during long runs. I'm not going to get into the whole mechanics of why a nipple might be sticking out far enough to be chafed by a t-shirt but it happens. Even on warm days. There are band-aids out there that are designed/shaped specifically for the purpose of keeping your shirt from chafing your nipple. I have to believe that this is a niche market and one would think that your basic round band-aid would serve the same purpose but somebody felt the need to re-package a standard band-aid, mark it up a couple hundred percent and sell it in running stores. As embarrassing as it might be to wear these things, allow me to paint a picture for you: It's 45 degrees and raining. Nipple-chafing set in 30 minutes into a two hour race with sufficient irritation to cause just the slightest amount of bleeding. Now picture a guy whose nipples have been bleeding through his rain-soaked white t-shirt for 90 minutes. Sorry to do that to you, but nipple-chafing is serious business! Let me clean your mental palate by mentioning Baywatch (but don't think of David Hasselhoff) or the words "Amateur Night". Better?

So what to do about neck/thigh/nipple chafing? If you're not into Vaseline, there's a product out there called Body Glide. It looks like deodorant but it helps to keep various parts of your body gliding smoothly. Works pretty darn well, too. And weird as it may feel, invest in the nipple-aids. Nobody has to know. But I'm here to tell you that I will wear band-aids on my nipples before I wear a dicky to address my neck chafing!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Dig: Running

Look at me! Two positive posts in a row! For some reason we've had a lot of sunshine lately so maybe that's perked me up. Normally, this time of year is pretty dreary in Grand Haven with lots of snow, short days and general misery so it's way nice to see the sun.

Today's post is brought to you by the sore muscles, sweat and creaking knees that a healthy dose of running brings. I dabbled with running in college in an effort to not balloon to enormous proportions but it was a pretty half-hearted attempt. I was pretty into mountain biking for quite a few years as my main method of burning calories but almost exactly three years ago, I took up running pretty seriously. Putting in ten or fifteen miles a week, coupled with the Subway diet (cheese-less sandwiches with low-fat dressing and baked chips instead of fried) took about 15 lbs. off my fat little body. Even better, I didn't hate it. I was wearing the wrong shoes and was doing the old school cotton t-shirt thing but I've come a long way since then. The next summer I did a few 5k's and kept up the routine of running a few times a week. I got faster with each race and I became a "runner" at some point along the way. I've run two 25k's (15.5 miles) and a half-marathon (13.1 miles) and now I'm planning to do the Chicago Marathon on October 22. So I dig running.

I'm sure you're thinking to yourself, "This dude is fucked in the head. Running sucks!" And while it is true that I may be fucked in the head, I don't think that running sucks. And here are a few reasons why:

No one can do it for me. When I get home after my standard 5-mile run (to the first telephone pole past the school and back), I will have done it by myself. Every step of the way was mine. For that matter, I couldn't even coast downhill like when I ride my bike. Same thing goes for when I run 15.5 miles. As much as the cheering and following behind a babe in tight shorts helps, that babe ain't gonna move my legs for me. Certainly, there are plenty of people who run marathons every year but not everybody can or has so when I do I will be part of a pretty small group of people. Completing a challenge like this with no one to do it for you may or may not be important to you, but it is to me and this is my blog so you can just shut up. If I take the time to think about what I'm doing, I can feel pretty good about running a mile in 8 minutes and 41 seconds. A mile. In 8:41. When I'm getting to the end of my run and I'm really in the zone and I'm flying along at much faster than 8:41 per mile, I'm feeling pretty Rocky-esque (you know, like the scene when he runs up the steps to that museum in Philadelphia).

It's good to get the poison out. Most runners feel really good - when they're done. The first few miles are the hardest for me until I get into my aerobic routine. The middle miles are just a groove and the last few miles I'm really humpin' to get it done. The whole way, though, the latte's, Big Macs and chocolate chip cookies are just pouring out of my body. Ever sit next to somebody who was super drunk the night before and you get a contact buzz from the booze coming out of him? Same thing, except you can't get drunk on the McDonald's special sauce. The adrenaline continues to pump for a while after I return home and I feel pretty good about taking the previous 52:38 (a good time for me for 6 miles), to burn calories and clean out my pores instead of watching America's Next Top Model. Besides, there's something about Tyra that bugs me and I can't quite figure out what it is.

Time to myself: For those of you with kids, you know how little time you get to yourself anymore. That was the first thing to go when my daughter was born. (I'm making an assumption that you're holding up your end of the parenting. If you've worked out a deal with your other half where he/she does all the work with the kids, please call my wife.) I have important crap to think about as you are finding out by now: blog topics, dumb-ass people at work, get-rich-quick schemes, etc. and I need quality time to do my ponderin'. What better time than when I'm knocking out a quick 5 mile run? The MP3 player is only there for background noise and I'm happy to say that my little walnut can listen to Kid Rock and compose a blog topic all while putting one foot in front of the other for about 44 minutes. Even though I've created the family's monthly budget on the back of the bulletin at church in days gone by, I feel a little less guilty about doing it while I'm running than while I'm ignoring Henry, my priest.

I'm trying not to be a middle-aged fat-ass: I'm 38. I haven't been scanning the used car ads for a red convertible and I don't dig gold chains, but I'm not really looking forward to being 40. Fortunately, people usually think I'm much younger than I am, but I don't want to be the guy who looks 57 even though he's 42. My stupid friends from college would tell you that I've always been a little thick in the middle and I don't want to have to poke another hole in my belt in an effort to hold on to something I don't have anymore. Mind you, those dumb-asses might think I'm thick in the middle but I'm here to tell you that they're pretty thick in the head! Anyway, running is a way for me to burn off the calories and not let my body turn to a big pile of mush. Certainly, I could cut out the trips to Taco Bell but I'm not quite that committed.

I'm such a running nerd that I now track my miles on-line, have a whole bunch of "technical" shirts, shorts and underwear and I recently subscribed to Runner's World magazine. I'm finding that either you really dig running or you really don't. Plenty of people don't run - most with a legitimate reason like having bad knees - and don't get the whole running thing. When I was a more serious mountain biker (and subscribed to two mountain biking magazines), I never would have considered running. However, in recent years, it seems as though I've gotten older. Not quite sure how that happened, but my body now prefers the aerobic routine of running and my brain prefers the feeling of accomplishment of carting my 38 year-old body across a finish line. And pulling a Burley down a bumpy trail looks a lot like shaken baby syndrome to the nice people at Child Protective Services.

I'm anticipating that I'm going to be a runner for a long time even though I've only been doing it seriously for three years. I'm also thinking that I will get a little faster before the crunching in my knees causes me to slow down. If I want to keep in halfway decent shape, I'll need to keep it up because there are still a lot of value meals with my name on them out there. And even though I'm generally not very competitive with other people, I can still picture the 10 year-old kid who finished just ahead of me in my first 5k and that kind of bugs me. Him and Tyra.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Dig: Satellite Radio

So I have about a 30-minute commute to work. Not bad compared to you poor saps in LA or Chicago or someplace but it's still time that I have to give away each day. Here in West Michigan, there are precious few good radio stations so I would jump back and forth between three fairly cheesy "morning zoo" shows: Bob and Tom, Free Beer and Hot Wings (don't get me started on their names) and Kevin Matthews. I was a big Kevhead a long time ago but I become a pretty die-hard Howard Stern fan for the short period of time that he was on the air here in Biblethumperland so I've been missing him. Imagine my delight when he announced he would be moving to satellite radio! I'll talk more about Howard in a minute, but let's discuss satellite radio in general first, shall we?

I'm generally a pretty cheap bastard. That comes primarily from not having much money. This is true despite purchasing a slick new minivan recently (can minivans be "slick" or is that a contradiction in terms?) equipped with a DVD player and five sunroofs. This thing also came stocked with XM radio. And a free 3-month trial! Thanks, Nissan! "I'm sure there's no way that I'll want to part with $12.95 per month after my free trial, but thanks for the free sample of XM", I foolishly said to myself. Fast forward to the day the renewal letter comes from XM reminding me that my free trial is about to end and would I like to renew my subscription? I think you know where this is going. The Marketing folks at XM/Nissan succeeded yet again in signing up another subscriber after giving away $38.85 worth of satellite radio. I'm such a sucker!

The reason that we re-upped is because XM is cool. In fact, I dig it. There are more friggin' channels on this thing than you can shake a stick at. And beleive you me, I've shaken a lot of sticks in my day! Certainly there are plenty of channels that I don't listen to. I'm not really into Rap or Hip-Hop (I'm pretty white bread) and I generally skip the Christian and Classical channels, but there are about 25 music channels that I regularly surf and there are a ton of talk channels and sports channels. Channel 150 is one of two comedy channels and how can you resist listening to Chris Rock do his thing while you're driving to the grocery store? Mind you, one must exercise caution when young ears are in the car but Chris is one funny guy and it beats listening to the usual formula of morning drive time radio or whatever 25 songs are in heavy rotation at the moment.

So back to Howard. Prior to leaving terrestrial radio (that's the same as "regular old radio", for you uninitiated) Howard had about 13 million listeners and you gotta figure he's going to bring a percentage of those folks with him to Sirius. He should, considering his 5 year, $500 million contract. Yep, a half-billion. Not bad, considering how ugly he is. One of those nice people that moved to Sirius is me. This isn't a post about digging Howard, but I do dig him so I ponied up the money for a years' subscription (12 months for the price of 11!) and plugged in my nifty new radio that I received for Christmas and away I went. Howard was the primary reason why I wanted Sirus radio for my car, I have to admit. However, I also just plain old dug satellite radio after listening to it in the super-duper minivan. Howard was just the guy that convinced me to do Sirius instead of XM.

Taking Howard out of the picture, Sirius and XM both have their strengths and I'm not sure which one is better. Both have lots of categories of music as described above and both have contracts with different professional sports leagues. For instance, Sirius has the NFL but XM doesn't, so I would have had to sit in my car to listen to the Steelers win today instead of my wife's minivan. XM has a contract with major league baseball and NASCAR (this is me not making fun of NASCAR again...) and the Big Ten. For my friend, Ron, Sirius has a gay and lesbian channel so that might be good for him.

Satellite radio allows you to check out new music without plunking down money for a CD that might be a little iffy. Again, I'm a cheapskate and just because I like the one song that I hear on the radio doesn't mean I'll go out and buy the CD. I can hear a little more than just the single that was released and then decided if I want to spend the money. And, because satellite offers so many oldies (by that, I mean '70s, '80s and '90s) stations, you don't have to be embarassed about listening to such classics as "Afternoon Delight", anything by The Outfield or "Mmmm Bop" because you don't have to actually lay the CD on the counter and look the clerk in the eye as you give him your money. You can tool on down the road and listen to Hansen-like music all day long without the guilt of buying their CDs. If anyone challenges you on what you were listening to, you can always just say you were surfing the channels and the last time you listened to this one, there was something much less sucky on.

Prior to hopping on the satellite bandwagon, my CD changer took a puke on me. I was working a friend to buy his because he says he never uses it. Why not, you ask? Because he has Sirius, he says. And he's right. He lent me his changer and said that he would sell it to me if I really wanted it but that I might find that I don't need a CD changer if I have satellite. And, by golly, he's right. I haven't listened to a single CD since Christmas. I guess that's only related to digging satellite radio in that Sirius is good enough to replace my CD changer - sorry if I got off track there for a minute.

So, there you have it. Satellite radio is cool. Much like cable TV, there is so much stuff on that you're bound to find something you like. Want to know how the traffic is shaping up in Seattle? Channel 156 on Sirius can hook you up. Miss the latest driving-in-circles event that NASCAR holds every weekend? Tune in to Channel 144 on XM. And let's not forget the high-brow comedy of Howard Stern on Sirius Channel 100. Just this week, he was asking Larry King's wife why in the world she wanted to become Mrs. Larry King #7 and who can resist that little tidbit of news?!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Don't Get: Advice Columns and Those Stupid Celebrity Q&A Columns

As you can see by my two recent Don't Get posts, I'm one confused guy lately. Every Sunday, I am further confused by the people who feel the need to seek advice from Dear Abby, et. al. and ask questions about various celebrities. Just like I don't think Yakov Smirnov (please see any website dedicated to '80's pop culture if you don't know who Yakov is) is really from the former Soviet Union, I just can't believe that there are actually people out there who write to these "columnists" (not "communists" - that would be a Yakov Smirnov joke) looking for advice. I won't bore you with too many examples of these columns, but I will give a few:

Dear Abby ( She and her sister, Ann Landers, started this whole mess. I'm not sure what qualifies them as advice experts, but I'd be willing to bet that it ain't a Ph.D. in Advice-Giving-for-the-Price-of-a-Stamp. The first "letter" on Abby's site as I write this details how a female business owner caught a male employee forging a check for $1k. Despite never having "a sexual relationship" with this yahoo (that's important, how?), she is wondering what to do. Believe me, it's not important what Abby says in response. The only correct reply to this letter is "Why the hell are you wasting valuable ink and paper with dumb-ass questions like this?! Shut the hell up and go home to your 15 cats!" Suffice it to say, all of the letters written to Abby have a similar dumb-ass quality to them.

Parade Magazine ( This is one of those throw-away "magazines" that clutter up the Sunday newspaper. There are usually just as many ads for the Franklin Mint as there are articles and, for that matter, the articles usually have something to do old people in some way. Anyway, on the inside of the front cover is "Personality Parade", a Q&A column written by some joker named Walter Scott. I can picture old Walt making up these letters while sitting on the can, shuffling over to his phone to dictate to his blue-haired secretary (not "administrative assistant") and then spending the rest of his day eating too much only to fall into a food-induced coma at about 6:30. Unfortunately for us Michiganders, "Tom Seelye" of "Detroit" recently wrote in asking who started the trend in Hollywood for male leads to wear aviator style sunglasses. I'm serious, folks, this was actually printed. No heavy lifting for Walter. No questions about cancer or world hunger, please - let's just focus on sunglasses. I'm struggling to make another smart-ass comment about this because I am weeping for the future of our great state....

USA Weekend Magazine ( Just like Parade magazine this publication is best suited to wrapping fish. A recent dolt from the Show-Me state (that's Missouri, in case you are a dolt also) was looking for advice because her 16 year-old daughter wanted to get a boob job. Apparently, this chick has "saved the money needed and seen so many makeover shows that she is more knowledgeable about the procedure" than the mother-of-the-year is. Where to begin with these two?!
A: the girl is 16
B: she has learned everything from makeover shows
C: how did she get all that cash?!
Look, if you need some broad from USA Today to tell you that this isn't a real good idea, you frickin' DESERVE to live in Missouri! Perhaps instead of new tubes for your slut-daughter, you could put the money to better use by upgrading to a double-wide! As a matter of fact, why not send me the money and I'll invest it in something worthwhile like a 60" plasma TV. (Don't get me wrong, a nice rack is a beautiful thing but the kids at the local "alternative" high school don't deserve it whereas I do deserve a big TV.)

OK, last bitch about these things. Exactly how urgently do people need answers to these questions? One would hope that "Tom" could wait a while to hear back on the important topic of celebrity eyewear, but is the high school chick driving to the plastic surgeon as we speak? I'm guessing that if I ever needed help on a weighty issue ("My prosthetic leg is currently on fire and I'm confused over which type of fire extinguisher to use...") I'd be looking for a pretty quick turnaround time and because the world is full of stupid people, you gotta figure that there would be quite a few letters ahead of mine in the queue. Might I suggest a conversation with an actual person living in close proximity to handle some of your questions?

Other than the fact that it's a way for dumb-asses to see their names in print, nothing good can come of these things. Every Sunday these things suck me in to see what the stupid people are concerned about and it makes me a little stupider every time I read them and that pisses me off! Damn you, Tom Seelye!