Monday, May 24, 2010

World Child Mortality Rates

The magazine Lancet just released (May 23) a comprehensive study showing that child mortality rates are coming down world wide. That's great news.

Here's one article about the study, selected from numerous only because it includes a nice graphic (below) of the results: Fewer kids dying than previously thought.

What i find interesting, though, is that even though there are a lot of Americans who will argue until their face is blue that the US has the best health care system in the world, and that it absolutely must not be tampered with, we rank behind Canada, almost all of Europe, Australia, and Japan in our child mortality rates. In fact, the report shows that the US has the worst rate of all the "rich" countries.

I.E., if you're an adult who is rich or lucky enough to work for a company that gives you health care, then we do have the best system. If you are poor, young, and/or unable to pay for health care yourself, then..... "Tough luck for you. Go ahead and die, because we're not changing what works for me just to help you."

That seems to be the new American paradigm: I am more important that you. I am more important than we. My right to be rich is more important than your right to basic health care or anything else. My "constitutional" right to what i want is more important than your "moral" right to anything. Dollars trump compassion. Compassion is for socialists and communists. Your kid can die before i'm willing to give up anything. F&#@! You, if you don't agree with me.

I still, and will continue until the day i die, say that many Americans should walk around with their heads lowered in shame.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Overcast Weather

Snakes, roosters, and pigs
Roam wild through overgrown weeds
Moon lost behind clouds

Saturday, May 15, 2010

You've Got To Dig Deep Or You Don't Have A Chance

This from
Lance Armstrong uncertain about his 2010 Tour de France chances

Normally i would dismiss an article like this as nothing but Lance trying to play with the heads of Contador and the Schleck brothers. But something about his answers leads me to believe that this is one of those rare occasions in his (professional biking) life where he is being honest.

The three good pieces of news so far this year are that Contador seems to be in good form with several wins already under his tires. In addition, as of today, and the 7th stage, Vinokurov is in second place at the Giro and has said that winning in Italy is his priority this year, going on to say that he will be riding in support of Contador at the Tour. He's not the most trust-worthy rider, but if he's telling the truth, that's great news for Contador. Lastly, but closely related to the second point, is given that Vinokurov is in second place in Italy, that means the Astana team must be riding well. That, also, bodes very well for Contador's Tour ride chances. Contador may well be the best individual rider out there, but there's an awful lot of great team talent stacked against Astana this year.

I think i read somewhere today that Hincape is the reigning US National Champion? How cool is that. If there's one pro rider i respect more than all the rest, it's George.

I'm getting goosebumps already and the Tour is still a month and a half away. :-)


Complete change of subject. In my readings this afternoon, i ran across these noteworthy paragraphs.

"The burdens which men, indeed all beings, carry round with them are no different now from the Buddha-time. For then as now men were burdened with unknowing and craving. They did not know of the Four Noble Truths nor of Dependent Arising and they craved for fire and poison and were then as now, consumed by fears. Lord Buddha, One-attained-to-the-Secure has said:

'Profound, Ānanda, is this Dependent Arising, and it appears profound. It is through not understanding, not penetrating this law that the world resembles a tangled skein of thread, a woven nest of birds, a thicket of bamboos and reeds, that man does not escape from (birth in) the lower realms of existence, from the states of woe and perdition, and suffers from the round of rebirth.'

The not-understanding of Dependent Arising is the root of all sorrows experienced by all beings. It is also the most important of the formulations of Lord Buddha’s Enlightenment. For a Buddhist it is therefore most necessary to see into the heart of this for oneself. This is done not by reading about it nor by becoming expert in scriptures, nor by speculations upon one’s own and others’ concepts but by seeing Dependent Arising in one’s own life and by coming to grips with it through calm and insight in one’s “own” mind and body."

The Wheel of Birth and Death
Bhikkhu Khantipālo
Buddhist Publication Society

And then this was expanded on and reinforced later in the day when i came across this from Daido Loori:

"Holding on to the absolute is a dead end. That’s one of the diseases of incomplete Zen practice. It’s got to do with using zazen as a place to hide. That’s not what zazen is about. We think of zazen as meditation. Zazen is not meditation. It’s not contemplation, introspection, quieting the mind, focusing the mind, mindfulness, mindlessness. Zazen is a way of using your mind. It is a way of living your life, a way of being with other people. In order to be able to do that you have to go very deeply into yourself to find the foundations of zazen, the foundations of your life."

Caoshan's Love Between Parent and Child
John Daido Loori
Online Dharma Discourse

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kumbh Mela

I found the movie Shortcut To Nirvana on YouTube this evening. Finding it was a very pleasant surprise given that i've wanted to buy the movie for several years now. It's a fascinating look at the Indian festival Kumbh Mela, which my attending is right near the very top of my wish list. The next festival is in 2013, and barring unseen circumstances, i think i know where i'll be that spring.

Shortcut To Nirvana (1 of 9)
Shortcut To Nirvana (2 of 9)
Shortcut To Nirvana (3 of 9)
Shortcut To Nirvana (4 of 9)
Shortcut To Nirvana (5 of 9)
Shortcut To Nirvana (6 of 9)
Shortcut To Nirvana (7 of 9)
Shortcut To Nirvana (8 of 9)
Shortcut To Nirvana (9 of 9)

Sit back and enjoy watching ~50 million people gather together, united in their desire to become the best humans they can be — sometimes in really bizarre ways.

Trash Talk In Your Face

Stitches came out this morning — we think; maybe.

The doctor's first words were, "What did they do, leave you to lay there and bleed?" He was referring to the fact that there were scabs covering the stitches above my eye and on my chin. "Well," he continued, "we'll have to dissolve what we can with peroxide and then cut the rest of the scabs back far enough to see the stitches so we can get them out." Then as he worked he wondered aloud why they had used such thin thread instead of what he considers the standard, and thicker, one. Then it was a comment on how superficial the sewing had been, just barely holding the edge of the lacerations together. Then, as he continued to work on the scabs, he wondered why they hadn't noted how many stitches had been put in so he knew how many had to come out, thus alleviating the need to keep cutting back the scab on the chin to see if any more were hidden. Nope, he wasn't at all happy with what had been done.

They seem to be out now. But, he continued, if you happen to find more on the chin later, as the scab begins to fall off, then let him know and he'll take those out at that time.

Unfortunately, though, my ruse doesn't seem to have worked. I always told people that i went to Virginia to ride my bike. The truth is i thought i could hide some major facial reconstructive surgery inside that ruse and no one would be the wiser. I mean, i'm getting older and i need to take the initiative if i hope to snare the perfect job and that 20 year old down the street. At least that's how i understood the explanation on Entertainment Tonight late last year. Yet, even though i found the street maintained by the best technicians the VA Department of Streets & Sanitation have hired, and submitted to the prescribed painful full facial scrub, nip, and tuck, in the end i don't think i'm any better looking now than i was before the procedure. I think the money just went down the drain.

My doctor said the sprained thumb will take a few more weeks to return to normal. All the scabs will simply fall off when they're ready. Just be patient was his advice.

He did make me laugh, though, when he told me his story of being chased by a dog while on his bicycle many years ago. The dog actually got close enough to bite him on the leg. Standing there with blood dripping down his leg, he confronted the owner when he arrived. "Your dog just bit me!," he yelled. "No it didn't," the owner replied, ignoring, or simply refusing to see, the obvious. Dumbstruck, my doctor had no idea what to say after that. Apparently many dog owners are of the same mindset — their dogs can do no harm and it is the bicyclist's fault for thinking they have the right to ride on public streets in front of their houses. :-)

Physically i should be completely back to normal in just a few more weeks. So when do i get back on the TransAm? I don't know that answer. That is going to take some time to figure out, and all the figuring is financial. I've already spent the entire budget that i had set aside for the ride. Do i just bite the bullet, come up with more from savings, and head out in late June? Do i save all i can between now and next spring and then head out next May/June? Before i try and make that decision i think i need to wait for my bike to get back home next week so i can see what it is going to cost to repair that. I'm hoping all i need to do is replace one or two wheels and retape the handlebars.

I will finish the ride, but when? Only time will tell.

But, the good news is that all has been healing very well and i could be back on my bike as soon as it gets repaired.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Teacher

What a boring few days these have been. I've spent the past few days as immobile as possible as i let the numerous scabs harden and the wounds heal. This means hours on end just laying around and a) reading, b) watching The Teaching Company lessons, c) watching French In Action lessons, and d) working on a little Chinese (which i'll never learn). Tomorrow i pay a visit to the doctor and hopefully the stitches should come out.

While looking for something new to read this morning, i found a sample of Jean Klein's book The Book of Listening on the Non-Duality Press web site. I especially liked this excerpt:

"Questioner: [I]f I have more than one teacher or I look for another teacher after my "guru" dies, I have not yet met the guru?

Jean Klein: No, there is only one guru. When you meet the guru it is forever. It is beyond your life, beyond your phenomenal appearance.

Until one has caught the scent all looking is in ignorance. All people who go guru-shopping, looking for bargains, fall into the hands of merchants, so-called teachers who want students at any price, who need students for psychological survival. Guru-shopping is a lack of maturity, a lack of inquiry. The emphasis is on the person. Such people are not disciples. They are fundamentally lazy. A real disciple is never lazy.

In a mature student the quest is one pointed, not dispersed. He or she gives all their love to the quest. A disciple already feels that the answer is only to be found in silent living with the question. There is no eccentric energy to go looking "outside."

Q: And by "silent living" you mean...?

JK: Not to touch the quest, not to manipulate it with book knowledge, comparison, interpretation, reference to the already known. As you said, to live in complete innocence with the quest.

Q: Can you talk a little more about those who are not yet oriented, who have not the fore-feeling of their real nature? What can they gain from being in the presence of one who is established in openness?

JK: When you look at the teacher as a person, as something objective, then you can never find yourself in this looking. You will find only the person over and over again and this will leave you dissatisfied, it keeps you in conflict. But a guru gives no hold to this projection and there may come a day when you feel the non-objective in yourself.

Everything must be submitted to what is non-objective. Surrender all that you are not. But before you can surrender this that you are not, you must know what it is that you are not. This calls for unbounded exploration. In knowing what you are not there is presence. Give all your life to this presence and you will discover it is not an object. Surrender is not a thought. You can only surrender to surrender itself."

Shikantaza. Just sitting. Surrendering to the non-objective. Surrendering the objective "what you are not" to "what you are." As for "unbounded exploration" i am reminded of T.S. Eliot:

"We shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started...
and know the place for the first time."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Back Home — Unfortunately

I'm back home again and taking care of the small things i didn't expect to have to do until later this summer: getting my telephone, water, and garbage services turned back on.

Yesterday was the first time i actually had to say "I hurt." My sister helped, but on the first day back i had to go out and buy some groceries, mow the lawn, and run some other errands. For the first time, the scabs on my knees and wrists hurt as i used those joints. And my sprained right thumb is making doing almost anything slightly difficult and mildly painful. Actually, the truth probably is that this was the first time they hurt simply because this was the first time i had to use them. While in Lexington, VA, i stayed in my hotel room on the bed unless i had to go out and do something. I did that so as not to stress the wounds so not surprisingly nothing hurt back then.

I'll go to the doctor on Thursday to get the stitches removed from above the eye and on the chin and see what he says about all the other scabs across the body. All in all, though, i'm surprised at how good the face is now looking. Almost all the swelling has gone down, and my eye has gone from a swollen red "blob" to simply black and blue. It still isn't pretty, but it no longer looks bad or dangerous. The body heals itself well. It will be interesting to hear what the doctor has to say.

Today is my last day of antibiotics. I never used the Vicodin, but will hold onto it for another week, or so, before flushing those pills down the toilet.

My thoughts on the responsibility of the dog owners:
I accept that dog owners shouldn't be required by law to keep their pets on a chain while the dog is on their property. I don't accept, though, that if the dog doesn't leave the property, yet it still causes harm, the owners can't be held responsible. But that seems to be the law.

I still don't know what happened, never will — the guy i was riding with is long gone and i was too out of it to think of asking the dog owner what happened when he took me to the hospital. I only remember fleeting moments of that car ride and not much of the first hour in ER. All i know is i saw the dogs running at us and then sped up to get away.

Yet, this is costing me a lot of money.

  • Emergency Room Co-Pay: $200
  • Prescription Co-Pay: $13
  • Hotel: $518
  • Change to Airplane Ticket: $150
  • Travel to Roanoke Airport: $95
  • Lockport Doctor Co-Pay: $15
  • Torn clothing: $50?
  • Damaged Pannier: $125?
  • Repairs to Bicycle: To Be Seen

The man who drove me to the airport in Roanoke, VA was a policeman. He agreed with me that this is bizarre. According to him, if the owner, himself, had stood on his property and done something to cause the crash i could hold him responsible for the consequences. But, because it was his dogs i can not.

My out of pocket expenses are already about $1,200, and i haven't even started to repair the bike yet. When that gets back to Lockport and i see what damage it has, that adds to my total cost.

In my mind the owner of the dogs should be responsible for these expenses. I wasn't careless. I wasn't doing anything reckless. I was reacting to a threat from his dogs, whether or not those dogs eventually crossed the property line. I had no way of knowing that they might not.

How is it that the owners can get away with no consequences for their pet's actions? I simply can not understand. If they never have to pay the consequences they will never accept responsibility and change their dogs' behavior. IMO.

When i left the ER, i asked if they had a phone number for the dog owner but they said no. If i had it i would find their address and write them a letter asking for a refund. I don't want to sue them or take them to court, but it would have been interesting to see how they phrased their "Sorry, but tough luck" reply.

So i'll settle for just going on public record: Mr. & Mrs. Rick "WhoeverYouAre" on the right side (as you enter town after leaving the Blue Ridge Parkway) of Rt. 56 in Vesuvius, VA, if you read this you owe me a lot of money. But i'll be surprised if you ever act like a moral adult, accept the responsibility, and pay it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Retuning Home 2 & Synchronicity

After posting the previous post and arranging a limo to the airport tomorrow morning, curiosity simply got the best of me. I just couldn't figure out why i was never asked for a co-pay at the hospital when i left Thursday morning. So, i decided to walk to the hospital and ask. I have nothing else to do today anyway.

The woman told me that the co-pay issue is dealt with when you first arrive and i was, apparently, not lucid enough to deal with it so they skipped that step. Yes, i did owe $200 for the co-pay, but they were just going to bill me. So, i payed that and should now be off the hook.

But, when i got to the hospital there was a biker sitting on the ground in front of the building (it's a very small hospital) and i recognized him as a guy i had met at a park i stayed in a few days ago. We were both surprised to see each other but he said he had come to see if i was still in the hospital.

Apparently, the guy that i was riding with when the accident happened told someone at a gas station, who told someone, who told someone (or something like this) and the guy today had heard about it. The grapevine is an amazing thing; reminds me of the grapevine on the henro trail on Shikoku — it's vast and incredibly fast.

When he got to the hospital they claimed no record of me for privacy reasons. We chatted, i told him to drink a beer for me (i don't think i can have a beer while on the antibiotics?), and asked him to try and have double the pleasure for both of us for a few days. He agreed and went on his way.

It's interesting, to me, that i unexpectedly decided to walk up to the hospital at just the time he happened to be there. The world works in strange, but interesting, ways.

Now i have to put together a list of the value of all my gear so the shippers can insure it accordingly as it works it's way back to Lockport.

Lasts thoughts on what's next. In short, i don't know, but wondering if maybe, after i heal, i should ride my bike south from Lockport to Cave-In-The-Rock, where the TransAm enters Illinois, turn west, and then ride the rest of the trail from there. I would completely skip the last little bit of Virginia and all of Kentucky. This all depends on how long it takes my face to heal. The rest of the scraped and bruised parts are sore but usable enough to ride now if i really wanted to.

Returning Home

Not much new, but for some here's an update.

Have changed my airplane ticket and leave from Roanoke, VA Saturday afternoon. United, being the compassionate people they are, said i'm changing my route but since it's for medical reasons they'll only charge me $150. Nice of them....

Called the insurance company and we are all puzzled. The doctor gave me two prescriptions to fill: an antibiotic 3x/day for 5 days, and some pain killer to use every four hours as needed (which i have no intention of using). When i picked these up, i had to pay the standard co-pay.

When i left the ER, i was never asked to pay a co-pay there. Blue Cross-Blue Shield and i both have the same question — why?

  • I know i had my wallet when got to the hospital, but don't remember giving them my insurance card. Did i (or someone else) just hand them my wallet and they found the card? If they used it, why didn't they ask for the co-pay?
  • Did they use the insurance card and simply plan to send me the bills at home?
  • Did the owners of the dogs pay for everything?
  • Did i give them a credit card and paid with that, but don't remember doing it?

So many unanswered questions.

My eye is swollen and that's bugging the bejesus out of me. Always feels like something is in it so i try and wipe it, to no effect.

My mouth is swollen because i jammed my bottom teeth into my lip. Between this and the stitches in my chin, my mouth doesn't open very much, which might make some people happy, i suppose. :-)

Since my right thumb isn't all that usable, i have to use my left hand for anything i have to grasp. Like a fork? I'll note here that i am so not ambidextrous that it's not funny. So, with a mouth that doesn't open very widely and using my left hand, eating is a real chore.

People stare at me all the time. Actually, they try and sneak peaks when they think i won't notice. I'm just telling myself that it's because i'm so good looking they can't help themselves.

Lastly, i called my doctor's office in Lockport to arrange to have the stitches taken out next Thursday.

Ahhhhh, life.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

TransAm Delayed

So here is a little longer version.

Had just come down Rt. 56 from the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday evening and was in a residential area when i saw two dogs at full steam running towards me and the other person i was riding with. I moved to the opposite side of the road and sped up, when....... i will never know. I remember nothing of the fall and crash. The next memory is of a woman standing over me saying "Ooooo, that's going to need some stitches." Then i was in a car going to the hospital in Lexington, VA. Turns out the driver was the woman's husband and they were the owners of the dog. I was even too out of it to get mad when i heard some one say "but they wouldn't have actually left the yard."

Got to the emergency room at 8pm, according to a sign i saw on the wall while laying there. They released me at 5am this morning.

Scans of face and head show no internal damage. X-rays of both hands show nothing broken. But,

  • Right thumb sprained and basically unusable.
  • Right hand swollen but usable.
  • Road burn on both shoulders, both forearms, top of left hand, both knees.
  • Stitches above right eye.
  • stitches under chin.
  • Black and blue and swollen right eye.
  • Lots and lots of other road burn on right side of face. Looks like i got in a very nasty street fight.

The guy who took me to the hospital collected my bike and panniers and said he would hold them for me. The nurse in the emergency room recommended i stay at the Hampton Inn just down the street from the hospital so when the guy with my bike showed up again around midnight, i asked him to just drop everything off there and tell them i was coming over. No reason for him to have to stay around of try and figure out what to do. I think he feels pretty bad about this.

Front tire of bike doesn't look true any more. Chain is off. The back wheel doesn't roll very well either but couldn't see if it was the brakes or the wheel.

The doctor told me to pack up and go home. A camp ground is not a place where my face is going to heal. Plus i need to get stitches out in a week. I'm not stupid enough to argue with him so my TransAm dream is now on hold.

Found a place that will ship all my stuff back to Lockport for me. I don't need to do anything except give him my credit card number. Will call the airlines after this and see about changing my airplane ticket to one flying home from Ronoke, VA. Probably on Saturday, but i haven't decided yet. I already paid for the room and it's nice and quiet here so it would be good to relax for one day before attempting the trip home. They may not let me on the plane since i'm pretty ugly right now.

Don't look at the below picture unless you like gore....

Good news, as i said, is that as bad as i look i'm up and walking around. The bike helmet did it's job and nothing was broken. My face is sore, but that should go away by 2012. And, i had a fun 5 days before it happened. All in all, it could have been a lot worse.
chin. Face looks like it went thru meat grinder. Picture later. Want to try and sleep. 9 hours at hospital was draining.
Good news, i'm alive. Bad news, bike is only barely. Dog chase, speed up and move over, next thing i know i'm in emergency room. Stiches above eye and on

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

feeling good.
st hill into Charlotesvile, VA, where i'm spending the night in hotel. Had to stop at bike shop & replace crank arm. Broke on the hills today. Tired but
Day 4. Hard. Yesterday i climbed 1,000 ft. Today 3,000. But yesterday light sprinkles all day. Today clear and hot. Rolling hills and i had to walk up la
st hill into Charlotesvile, VA, where in
Day 4. Hard. Yesterday i climbed 1,000 ft. Today 3,000. But yesterday light sprinkles all day. Today clear and hot. Rolling hills and i had to walk up la

Monday, May 3, 2010

s. 55 miles today, same tomorrow i think.
Day 3. Slight change to schedule. Camping in city park in Mineral, YA. Overcast & windy, but much cooler (78?). Rolling hills all day thru farms & forest

Sunday, May 2, 2010

mph. Tonight in campground near Ashland, VA.
End of day 2. Much harder than expected. Sat. Mid-90s. Sun. Lower 90s. Hills make roads at home seem flat. Spent much of today in 1st gear between 4 & 9