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And yes, for the record, this is much NC-17 rated Snack here. Heh.

Recap and reflections....

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A bit of a recap and some reflections on the ride....

Man, 10000 cyclists. That's a lot, and they ranged the gamut from safe and good riders to OMG, who the hell let you on a bike. It's always interesting to see the asshole cyclists because when you do, you start to feel sympathy with motorists who complain about cyclists. :P

As for the motorists. There was a apparently one incident with the one day riders (nobody was hurt), and as I wrote we passed two accidents that may have had vehicle involvement, but aside from that and two or three assholes? Most of the motorists that passed the ride were polite, careful, and drove to maximize rider safety. That was quite nice.

For anyone who wants to see photos: if you know our last names, MarathonFoto had them up. :P

Since we didn't have sag support (my MIL or dh's aunt) following us this year, we took the bus back from Portland. OMG. The guy behind me ate at least 4 bananas. I about died. I LOATHE bananas and I'm very sensitive to their smell, it was so gross. I mentioned this one a forum I'm on and someone -bless her heart!- suggested using muscle balm or some such on my upper lip. I knew this from crime novels, where everyone carries Vicks VapoRub for icky crime scenes, but it had not occurred to me. I borrowed some of AC's chapstick and aaaaaah, the minty smell pretty much drowned out the disgusting banana!

AC, for the second year in a row, won STP Bingo overall. She had the lowest number (1), second lowest number (2), the lowest support rider number (S1). I won on pallindromes (I saw 2002 and 7007), we all independently saw highest number, I saw rider 5205, so the closest to any of our numbers, and dh saw rider 2014! Nobody got their birthday years. Heh.

So there are various groups who sponsor small teams who've fundraised (oh man, their catering is so much better than official stuff!), and just small teams. I passed a support group for "Team Nietzsche", with the giant slogan "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger". Thank you for the earworm, Team Nietzsche and my strength class teacher!

I still cannot beleive how well the weather turned out on day 2. From expected record highs to a high of maybe 72F!

I so enjoy my teens! They're nice kids.

I love Dave's Killer Bread. We eat it loads at home. But, um, pbjs on it? NSM. Too dry. A few places had those Costco roll ups, thank goodness. The ride is pretty much Catered by Costco!

It's Wednesday, and I'm feeling pretty recovered by now, mostly. I was able to go to spin class yesterday without too much trouble, I wasn't sore much at all. Where I still feel off: I'm more thirsty, and my sleep cycle still feels off.

OK, guys, this might be TMI for you. I'll white font! I have one of those proverbial 28 day cycles. I usually start bleeding Saturday early afternoon, every freaking four weeks. Which I was expecting to do Saturday. Which did not make me happy. BUT. This was a rare occurrance of a 29 day cycle, and I didn't start until Sunday evening AFTER the ride. I was SO freaking happy about that!

Port-a-potties in July. OMG, right? No, not really. They were mostly clean... the only real problem is that it was so hot, and they had hand sanitizer in them, I'm still shocked nobody got drunk from inhaling the alcoholic fumes! :)

Perry wanted to go to racing Monday evening. It was hot out and dh and I nixed that idea. Not because we didn't think he could do it physically, but because he was still mentally tired, and no, I'm not sending a mentally tired kid to race at a velodrome on a bike with no brakes!

Monday afternoon, we cleaned our bikes. They were covered in grit! Removed wheels, cleaned pretty much everywhere except we were too lazy to remove the chain. The gear train is pretty clean aside from that, everything was at least wiped down.

Next year Perry will be in a full size bike. We will never catch up with him. Oh wait. I'm not doing this next year. Never mind!

And of course, as per tradition, both kids "turtled" once, ie fell with their feet still in their pedals. They both managed to get up by themselves. Ah, how fondly I remember the time when I'd pick up Perry, bike and all, still clipped in and right him. Yeah, NOT!

Ah well. It was fun. It was a good time with family, we'll probably do it again.

Next up: hiking trip to the Enchantments!

STP 2014 -The Full Story Day 2-

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I woke up a few times during the night. The first time because I was cold. Cold? Really? Oh whatever.

I woke up again, cold again, and I could feel the dampness. I thought about suggesting to Perry, who was sleeping outside, to go drag his sleeping bag into the gymnasium, but I was too tired and I know how hard it is to wake Perry when he's out. Back to sleep.

4am. My alarm went off, I ignored it for a bit, then got up, went to brush my teeth and pop 3 ibuprofen. I feel ok from a muscles etc standpoint, but my head still ached.

As the others stumbled to morning things, I started stuffing bags and repacking. It was still dark. Then I came up with a brilliant idea, if I may say so myself, to fix AC's seat: one of dh's cotton socks. Part can be wadded up to replace the missing gel and the whole leg part pulled over the whole saddle to keep it in place. And to follow up here, it worked! At the next big rest stop, we got some duct tape from the bike repair place to keep things from shifting around, but overall, the sock contraption was a workable solution and allowed AC to finish the ride.

That she would finish was not evident. Even though it was now chilly, and breezy, the forecast, last we had checked, was still gruesome, and AC was in a bit of a panicky, anxious state. Note that's she in good shape, had had few problems the day before, even with the heat, so it was clearly a mental problem. She was pretty depressed and weepy at breakfast, refusing to eat properly, working on convincing herself that she wasn't going to be able to finish. We tried to dispense a combination of sympathy and "sorry, there is no plan in place for you to bail, you need to finish" practicality.

Off we headed for day 2! Officially we had about 85 miles to go. The first part of the route is "rollers", then over the Columbia on the Lewis and Clark Bridge into Oregon! After that, the long slog that is US 30.

But the weather still seems to be holding as cool. There are clouds in the sky. A nice breezy tailwind. Things aren't too bad!

The Lexington rest stop came up quickly, which was nice. The rollers weren't too bad, and I think the fastest I got was about 34mph.

Weather still cool, cloudy, nice breeze, with the occasional sunbreak. I was really starting to wonder if the high had broken, or what, because this was not the morning of a day that was supposed to beat record temps. Not that anyone was complaining, of course. I don't think anyone was really daring to speak much about it, Saturday had been so very miserable for everyone.

Lewis and Clark Bridge. Always a bit nerve wracking. We check water bottle cages to make sure everything is in tight, pockets etc. There are some nasty gratings on the down that you hit going very fast and the ground is literally littered with water bottles and other things!

Grind up the bridge... this isn't my video -I wish I were that fast on the way up!- it's from some one day rider.



Oregon!

I'm pretty sure my speed exceeded the posted 35mph. Heh.

Into the small town of Rainier, where I saw a breathtaking example of racism that I'd never noticed before.

A barber shop/salon, called Head Hunters, which ya know, is just stupid but not intrinsically offensive. Only... the painting on the wall, clearly visible where driving the highway was... a young Native American man with his hair unbound.

You'd think that a highway that follows the course of a river would be flat. Alas, it is not. Ups and downs, some of them pretty intense. Overall, the trend is upwards, I swear it is! I mean, I know that Rainier OR and PDX are the same elevation (ok, PDX is 1ft lower...) but the whole road still feels like it has an upward trend!

Overall things were going pretty well, except for dh's knees that were bothering him a bit. We were making quite decent time and pulled into the lunch stop at St Helens a bit before noon. The weather, I'll add, was still cool and overcast. Usually St Helens is a hot, full sun food stop, so this was nice.

30 miles to go.

What to say about the last thirty miles? We picked up, alas, a headwind, which I think really bugged dh, and that slowed us down a wee bit, but we were still making ok time.

I saw lightening to the north. Three bolts. Didn't hear the thunder, so it was quite far.

And then it started to rain.

A big fat drop heavy rain, that left me wondering if glasses on or glasses off was better. I should have my glasses on, but my eyesight is good enough for day time driving/biking if need be. I kept them on, but there were a few times where I wondered.

Rooster tails and OMG GRIT was the name of the game from then on in.

St John's Bridge, as usual my favourite part of the ride. The bridge itself is beautiful, and once you are over it, you are into Portland proper, the end of the ride is near, at least distance wise, and it always feels like a privilege to be able to cross such a bridge in a lane without cars!



Things slowed down considerably then. The traffic was not too horrid, but there are red lights, pedestrians, and cyclists, many of them not riding STP. Nothing awful, but we're not longer doing the same speed as on the highway. I always forget that when I'm calculating how long the last 30 miles will take, that the 5 or so from St Johns can take a lot longer than the 25 highway ones!

Dh described what happened next best, and I think he said it like this, "All of a sudden I heard 'ouch! ouch! ouch!' behind me, and I couldn't figure out what was going on, then three seconds later, the hail hit me!".

Hail.

Rilly?

That said, I'll say it now: hail and rain vs record high temps? Bring on the hail.

Dh's aunt was waiting for us at the last block! We high fived as we slowly rode it, under the finish line, picked up our finisher's badges, and onto the grass.

DONE!

Proof:
Finisher badges!

And here is the obligatory at the finish line photo, take a bit after we got in! Note that Perry is still eating....

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Day 2 stats: 85.2 miles, 12.5 mph, 6h46min on bikes!

Next post up: the recap and some extra commentary!

STP 2014 -The Full Story Day 1-

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First I must set the scene. As the week progressed towards STP, the weather reports, especially those for Oregon went from bad to worse. It was... worrisome to say the least. The thought of biking US 30 in temps in the mid 90s was actually frightening, and I had doubts as to our ability to do it at all.

Dh and I talked a bit about circumstances in which we'd call off. Since we were doing the ride unsupported, we had no good plan for failure, which is never a good thing. Though I suppose, with a credit card, there is always a solution, right?

Friday was a day of frenzied getting everything together. Dh had checked over the bikes already, so that was done, and I'd gotten camping gear together, so that was done, but there are always a zillion details to attend to. We also went into Seattle to pick Perry up at rowing camp, and to get our rider packets at REI.

At rowing camp, the instructor, who teaches PE at his school, as well as crew, told us that Perry just did not stop. Always full of energy. Which, um, we know. I mean... at his middle school continuation ceremony, the teacher who roasted Perry said exactly that. That just keeps on and on, high energy. Until, not. And then he showed a photo of Perry on the way home from a day of noxious weed pulling, sound asleep with his head on the teacher's shoulder. It was so funny. Anyhow, we took our not exhausted yet child to REI.

Picked up packets. Bought t shirts, and a key chain for Linnea who was quite vexed that, yet again, she didn't get to go.

We got to bed Friday night, tired, and for me, dreading the 4am wake up. Once the wake up is done, the only thing I really dread on the whole ride is the hill into Napavine!

I ended up waking up at 2:45, and not being able to get back to sleep. Sigh.

4am. Since I'd been awake for a while, at least I didn't feel nauseated or anything. We got out reasonably fast, with -it turns out- nothing forgotten, which is always good. Of course the Dept of Transportation had to close the 520 bridge over the lake so our trip into Seattle took a lot longer than it otherwise would, and of course the traffic to get to the starting parking lot was long and took forever.

In parked. We were leaving the car there, and it didn't take long to get the pre-ride stuff done: potty, numbers on bikes (we do that last minute in case they don't stay on for the drive!), luggage dropped off on the truck to Winlock, selfie taken...

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and....

Off we go!

It was about 6:30 am. And it was already hot. Most STP starts we've needed jackets in the early am. Not Saturday.

We passed by a bad accident even before we reached the University Bridge, on Eastlake Ave. I know there was an accident there last year as well. Anyhow, she did not look in good shape. :( I wasn't able to find any report on her condition. I felt sick to my stomach.

Onwards.

The beginning of the route is beautiful, though the Arboretum, then down next to Lake Washington, to Seward Park. Then you make a right. Straight up a steep, though short, hill. If you haven't already geared down, it's too late! Good thing we know this, we were already geared down, so up we went.

The REI stop, at 25 miles in, is the first stop. Before that however, was our first encounter with a dangerous rider: Mimi's dad. Mimi is -according to the sign on her recumbant trail-a-bike- 7 years old and she was doing her first STP. Which is awesome. Her dad's name, judging by what people were calling him, is "Asshole!" He clearly had no idea of how long his bike + Mimi's tag-along were, and it was only the skillful riding of others that prevented him from knocking two cyclists over that first time I encountered him. We saw Asshole and Mimi several times, and his riding didn't get any better. I also heard several other riders commenting about him, so it wasn't just us.

The REI stop is always fun. Two years ago, it was The 80s, so everyone had leg warmers and 80s music was playing. Last year has faded, but the theme was... polka. So yeah, when we got in the live band was playing a polka. Then they played Edelweiss, which isn't a polka, they admitted, but hey, it fits the theme! Thanks for the earworm, guys!

We made the stop short, and got out quickly. Temps were going up and not wasting any of the relatively cool morning time was important.

After the REI stop, there is a short bit of semi-rural area. That's when we saw another guy. The call of "Car BACK!" which means... car coming, get out of the effing way would sound and... he'd pull into traffic. He did this several times. A gal right behind him finally shouted at him, "Dude, don't be an asshole! Car versus you, car wins!" Everyone laughed, but it really isn't funny.

Then there was The Hill. It's not that bad of a hill, all things considered, but I think it's... the first big challenge of the ride, so has taken on mythical proportions. Conquering The Hill is an STP milestone. I suspect that has happened because that's where many people realise HOLY FUCK WHAT THE HELL DID I SIGN UP FOR? We all did it ok. At the top, dh had to stop because the clip on his shoe was stuck to his pedal. He managed to get it off -phew!- and re-tightened. He only had one screw in, but was able to get a much needed second one later in the day.

We got to Spanaway, 50 miles in, the traditional lunch stop. The Spanaway stop sucks rotten eggs. It's too hot, the lines for the potties are epic, and the food isn't always great. It was worse than usual this year in that the water lines were about 20 minutes long. That should have been remedied right away. It was awful. The temps were probably already in the 80s, the sun was beating down, and waiting for water was no fun. I had a splitting headache.

I was really worried about Perry at that point. He was whiny, which is not typical of him, he looked tired and red. Dh and I got a bit more hands on at managing his food and water, ie we started reminding him non stop. Eat, drink, whatever.

After more sunscreen and ibuprofen, off we went.

The area around Spanaway is an area we call the "Military stupid zone". On I5, or on these smaller roads, the whole area around JBLM (Joint Base Lewis-McChord) is an area of bad traffic, and bad drivers. On I5, typically the traffic stops for no reason, only the right lane moves, the accidents are more numerous, and it's not a fun area to go through. On STP, it's a scary area. It was around there that a truck threatened Perry last year, and where the asses downshift their diesels in front of cyclists most often.

As we're biking... an emergency vehicle passed us, sirens blaring. Shit. Then a second. We passed the accident a few minutes later. Cyclist down, though this gal was at talking, and the situation didn't look as bad. Still, gulp.

Wanted to fill up water at McKenna mini-stop. They are out of water. We have enough to go on with, but still disconcerting.

After a bit, we got on a 14.5 mile section of bike trail. It's always hot, there is very little shade, but no cars, this year most people who were not part of the ride stayed OFF the trail. Last year there were parents with small kids, and that's always scary when you're going even slightly faster than walking speed. Which, of course, we all are.

Perry got a flat on that section. Grrr. It looked like, and this was verified when I fixed the tube after we got home, that that brand of patches isn't that great. Sigh. The other brand we have was great, but I can't figure out what it was, since there is no name or anything.

Anyhow, fixed the flat. The heat is awful, it's bright, and the water in our bottles is warm enough to make tea.

The Tenino rest stop was up next. It's run as a fundraiser by the high school basketball team, and this year? I suspect their forethought saved quite a few people from medical problems. The water there is cold, and there was plenty of it :) . There were no lines. In addition, they'd set up a line of pvc piping shooting water up 6+ feet into the air. Cold water. Many people got soaked, finally cooling down. Damp and in the shade, I felt SO much better, my headache subsided a bit.

It came back within minutes of being back out in the sun and heat, but still, I felt better.

This section was where Perry had decided he didn't need us any longer and taken off. AC did that this year. Only unlike Perry, she didn't stop to wait at the gas station at the entrance of Centralia. Sigh.

100 miles done. 20 to go. Temps are apparently around 95F. Fucking HOT.

Centralia mid-way point. We found AC waiting for us (sigh...). We got creamsicles. This is the only time I'd ever eat a creamsicle, because things taste very different when it's hot, they are cold, and you've just biked 100 miles.

We spent a bit too much time in Centralia, doing various things. We didn't feel in a major hurry, it was still brutally HOT, and we needed the rest. Eventually we headed out to Winlock.

After Chehalis, we stopped for some energy gels. Those things are gross, especially warm, but do they ever work! Dh's knees were bothering him and while I was having zero issues with fatigue, my head was still in pretty awful pain. We told the kids to go on up ahead to where we were camping, and they zipped on up ahead, soon out of sight. Gulp. My babies!

My personal bugaboo, the hill into Napavine, was next. I made it, if slowly.

Last six miles to Winlock. Rollers. Which are hills following each other, the idea being that you use the speed you get on one downhill to help you up the next. We were just outside of Napavine, about to hit the first hill when....

Flat tire. Crappity crud. It's late, we now had to change a flat, and we may not make it to Winlock in time for dinner... and who knows what is open in Winlock this late?

But then...

My phone rang. I picked up the call, thinking it might be AC or Perry in trouble, but it was my brother...

Standing by the side of the road, temps still in the 90s, I'm hot and sweating, and my poor spouse is changing my tire as...

I squee with excited excitedness because I have a brand new niece!!!!!!!!!!!

I'd have missed the call without the damn flat.

There are truly few bits of news that are as incredibly wonderful as people you love having a new baby that you get to love too.

The next six miles literally flew by. Still concerned about dinner, it's still hot, and I hoped the kids weren't worried about us, since the flat repair took some time.

When we got in, we biked to the elementary school. A quick look at the field showed our red tent set up.

Instead of finding what we could have, ie two teens flopped on the grass eating the free pretzels, we found a tent all set up, sleeping pads blown up, and sleeping bags fluffed. And the kids, having done that, eating pretzels. I am so proud of them, they thought to pick up our luggage and made camp. It may seem obvious, but with teens? You never know.

120 miles, 13.4 mph average, 9h18min on the bike.

But we have a small problem. AC had a cushy gel seat on her bike. Last Tuesday -note that STP is Saturday- she points out that the lycra cover of her seat is torn. The seat is too old to find a direct replacement, and that's a pretty major equipment change very late in the game. We decided to just go, after all, it was just a tear in the lycra. However, now, we have a problem: the lycra continued tearing, and she lost the hunk of foam at the front of the saddle, straight down to the plastic frame. We need to figure something out, because the bike is not ridable under those conditions. Still, first, dinner.

Dinner presented a challenge. We went down to the Senior Center. I'd purchased dinner, breakfast, and camping vouchers for all four of us last February, but... huh. They show dh, and the kids paid for but not me. We have no cash (long story, but dh swapped out his wallet and didn't put the cash in the bike bag), so no way to buy me dinner. I'm looking at these old ladies and going I did this for three people there is NO WAY I didn't get it for all four of us. Since they'd apparently had LOADS of problems this year, she let me in. I checked when I got home and yes, I had paid for all of them. They marked me as paid. I did, but I'll still send a thank you note with a donation for letting me in, on my word that I really had paid. Which I think they did because....

Mine wasn't the only effed up registration... they ran out of food, both that evening and breakfast the next day. People were quite pissed, but it seems like there was some serious miscommunication between the Senior Center and the guy from the school district who arranges everything. The ladies didn't want to feed anyone from the elem school, saying we hadn't pre-registered, but only the people from the HS had. Which was not the case. It was a bit of a mess.

It was hot, people were testy, but they managed to get people mostly fed. Alas, unlike previous years (we've eaten there 5 times), this year they put bell peppers in the tomato sauce, so ew gross, I got as much sauce off the pasta as I could and ate the pasta as plain as possible with loads of salt.

And during dinner, bro texted a photo of my niece!

Cold shower after dinner, brr, then off to collapse in the tent. Perry opted to sleep outside. It was still hot, there was barely a breeze, but we were so tired we all feel asleep quickly, having set the alarm for 4am. The plan was to get up early and attempt to beat the worse of the heat into Portland.

He survied middle school.

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WP_20140612_11_12_04_ProWe did find a nice tshirt, in a pretty dark plum, that looked nice with his black pants and the -left hanging open- button shirt.

The school had pretty yellow rose boutonnieres for the boys (and corsages for the girls). Alas they gave them to the kids before the breakfast and after eating Perry went to play basketball. His rose looked rather on the wilted withered side by the time the ceremony started.

It was great, though. The class is small -46 students- and faculty said a bit about each student, and it was mostly hilarious. Remembering the bad puns, the terrible jokes, the pranks, the funny habits, and also the accomplishments. It was so clear that the teachers both knew and liked the kids. The audience laughed a lot.

Of course every time a vocabulary word was used, the kids all made an ooh-ah! noise!

Anyhow, he's all continuated, and will be in OMG 9th grade next year. OMG. 9th grade.

We survived middle school. Here's hoping we make it through high school as well!

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His yellow rose boutonniere is totally wrecked and he is bright red. From the basketball game. Sigh... He could be so cute, he looks completely disheveled.

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Perry has his "continuation" ceremony today, at 10am.

Provided he survives until then.

Despite being asked at least 4 times (by both me and dh) if all his clothing was ready, he showed up this morning wearing the clothes... black pants, black dress shirt, open over a..... wait. the black shirt is buttoned up. He looks like a crow.

Where is the tshirt?

Well, it turns out the boy doesn't have a single plain tshirt. Which, to be honest, I did not know. When he looked this morning, he didn't find one.

I have no idea what he was doing each time he went down to check that he actually had everything clean.

Yes, my fault, I should have asked to see the actual outfit.

Note that the pretty green and blue dress shirt from Gap that my mother bought him would have looked really nice with this outfit, but he lost it, never to be seen again, the first time he wore it to school.

Then I notice the pants. Which are too big.

Oh rilly?

Oh wait. He's wearing an old pair of (boy) dress pants of his sister's. That fit length-wise, but are baggy. Baggy dress pants look awful.

His regular pants, which is what he'd said he'd be wearing? That fit nicely and look real nice on him?

Are dirty.

I spot clean those, iron them (evil iron!). Dh had already ironed the dress shirt.

Target opens at 8am. We don't have to be at the celebration breakfast until 8:30, we should have time. Please say a prayer to any god you may beleive in that Target has plain tshirts. In Perry's size. In a neutral colour that is not lime green or day-glo orange.

St.Jude is the patron saint of lost causes, right?

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Book Review: The Emperor of All Maladies

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The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

All you really need to know? Get this book. Read it.

Needless to say, however, you guys aren't getting off that easy. I'm writing the full review anyhow. Seriously, though, this is probably one of the best, if not the best, non fiction book I've ever read. It wasn't perfect, but it was excellent.

I've had this book on my list for a while, but my list of "books to read" is now inaccessible to me thanks to the selling out of my library system. I was looking for a good non-fiction book to listen to and just checking out the shelves at the library when I saw it. Perfect. Reasonably long, I'd been meaning to read it for a while, and by all accounts a good book. Perfect indeed.

Dr Mukherjee writes about cancer, about people with cancer, about people who treat and fight and strive to understand cancer, and about the people who fund the latter. The title of the book, while it could sound like just a clever thing, rings true: it is a biography of cancer, because cancer is intertwined quite tightly with, well, humanity.

And the humanity of cancer and the people involved with it at every level is where this book shines. Dr Mukherjee has a very light touch with emotions, he can convey pain and despair without any maudlin tendencies, only resorting once to a cheap tear jerker comment (though let me tell you... by the time he made that comment, I behaved as Pavlov's dogs would expect me to, and started to sob. It was a false alert, thank goodness, but that is when I realized how deeply he'd made me care.)

Anyhow.

The book talks about all aspects of cancer. Where it came from. The historical treatments... or lack thereof. Of leukemia, and breast cancer, and lung cancer. And smoking.

Sidney Farber's crusade, his single minded mission to cure childhood leukemia is detailed. Because he started, others were able to continue and ultimately take a disease that killed almost 100% of its victims to one that kids can, mostly, deal with, treat, recover from. He did that by, really, starting doctors down the path of chemotherapy, and then working on the policies that would allow others to continue work. Farber's story is a phenomenal one, and Dr Mukherjee does an excellent job of interweaving his story with the story or cancer, and the progress being made against the disease.

And that, btw, is one of the most elegantly done things in the book: Dr Mukherjee tells quite a few stories of people, and he touches on each as needed. Carla Reed, one of his patients. Sidney Farber. Mary Lasker. His own story is also told, though so lightly that I was left wanting more about his own personal journey. However, his writing on the people who make cancer their day to day lives, as researchers, doctors, or patients, is sensitive and profound.

I don't often cry while reading or listening to non-fiction. I did during this book, many times. Not as much at personal stories, but at the gut wrenching ups and downs that human interaction with cancer seems to produce. Research gone nowhere, a dead patient, policy mistakes that kill, treatment that fails despite initial effort. But also, at the victories. Dr Drucker's comment that by helping find the cure to CML, he's actually upped the prevalence of that cancer. Because people are living with it, normal lifespans. I sobbed.

Dr Mukherjee talks, as I said, about the history of cancer and its treatment, about how in the mid-part of the 20th century, many of the battles being fought were not just the scientific ones, but the political and policy ones. The creation of the NCI, and its work is discussed at length, as well as the creation, and the forces behind the American Cancer Association.

Also detailed in clear steps is the discovery that smoking causes cancer. This broke my heart a bit, to be honest. My dad, really, did not have to die of cancer. The data was there, but he was too hooked to evaluate it logically and it killed him.

A word on the writing itself. The author does tend towards the verbose, but! Even then, the writing was beautiful. Each word felt carefully chosen, but in place for the specific nuance it would impart.

My favourite part of the book, though perhaps the one that got the least in-depth treatment, was the part about the more recent research, medications, and the few decisive scientific victories. The biology of cancer is touched upon, though I'd have loved more detail. However, Dr Mukherjee manages to follow threads of discoveries to their ends, describing, for example, the ins and outs of the cure of chronic myeloid leukemia, without it feeling like he's telling one story after another. The sections feed on each other, and the concepts he delves into (for example, tumour suppressor genes) are revisited in the next ones, so while our understanding of basic cancer biology is never assumed, which is good because it isn't knowledge most of us have on our fingertips, the necessary information is given in detail, and repeated enough to where it doesn't need to be repeated. Which felt like gentle and respectful teaching of difficult concepts to an audience whose level he could not assume. He was thus able, imo, to impart reasonably complex information without ever sounding condescending, without ever talking down at us, because he had laid the groundwork for us to follow his reasoning.

The problems I found with this book....

Like most authors at this point in history, Dr Mukherjee could have used a good editor. I listened to the book on CD, 16 CDs, and there were some repetitions, and some areas that could have been glossed over. He's a bit long winded -ok, fine, verbose- at times, and with that amount of subject matter to cover, this eventually takes a toll.

I get, as I said above, that cancer policy is a major part of the story of cancer, both the medical policy and the political policy. While understanding that, it still seems that a lot of time was devoted to the details of the policy path of cancer, some of which were rather uninteresting and felt almost useless. I'm not talking about science or even medical treatment policy here (for example, while long and sometimes boring, the discussion on radical mastectomy was necessary), but political and lobbying efforts, which, really, YAWN for the most part.

The result, in my opinion of the focus on policy was that there was a short-changing on the science (isn't it always that way?) Dr Mukherjee does talk about many of the breakthrough cancer discoveries of the last century or so, but in very little scientific detail. I'd have preferred more information on that, and less following-the-money.

I could go on and on and not be done. It's a good book, perhaps one of the best I've ever read. I listened on CD, I'm going to be buying the hard copy because it's a book I want to own, to be able to re-visit and reread.

I can't get beyond the fact that this book felt deeply human. That I felt it touched on the very parts of what make us human. I can't quite express it, I don't appear to have quite the words, but reading this book made me acutely aware of our shared humanity. It's cancer's story, but it's also our story, interwoven and entwined, and perhaps the most important part I took away from this book is that this is just the beginning of the story. Cancer's story is our story, and like our story, it is nowhere near being done.

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Book review: The Diet Fix

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The Diet Fix by Dr Yoni Freedhoff.

Dr Freedhoff is also the author on my of my favourite blogs, Weighty Matters. He's an Ottawa physician who now specialises in weight loss, and was -for full wow! factor- one of the people behind Disney quickly dismantling their cruel-to-fat-kids Habit Heroes or whatever it was called exhibit.

This is perhaps the best book about dieting that I have ever read. Period.

To start with, it isn't a diet book. Most of those are, essentially, gimmicks. Don't eat after 8pm. No carbs! No grains! No fat! No fruit! Only fruit! No foods with the letter E! Subway three meals a day! Cabbage soup before every meal! All of those, each and every one of them, is a way to trick you into, in fact, reducing calories. Period. This is no magic there. Which is why these books sell and work, at least for a short time.

So. Not two-week-diet-plan at the end of the book. Oh there are some recipes, but they feel there just because, there is no OMG, these are the very best recipes that will help you...

What Dr Freedhoff did, in this book, is identify problems, and give solutions, and helps everyone find their own path as a dieter.

There is SO much in this book, and I'm going to only highlight the two things that I found the most helpful.

Dr Freedhoff is aware that some of us are what he calls survivors of "traumatic dieting". We're the ones who've tried and failed, tried to be perfect, and failed, whose self-esteem, if it were a geologic era, would be somewhere around the Cretaceous. His "solution"? A 10 day reset of expectations at the start of a diet.

Oh, for most of us, it would take more than 10 days, which is probably the only gimmick in the book. To do this right will take longer, because it is not just the planning of meals and trips to the supermarket, but the emotional breaking down of years of a crappy relationship with food, our bodies, and dieting. The tools are there.

This "10" days reset, btw, will work no matter what brand of weird diet you want to choose for weight loss, from Weight Watchers to South Beach. In his comments, btw, about "resetting" the Weight Watchers diet, he made something very clear to me, that I hadn't seen before about WW and my behaviour on the diet, and I'm slowly trying to correct that. Anyhow.

In a nutshell, the reset can be viewed as a recovery program, a way for those of us with multiple failures in our past, to break away from some of them, and perhaps to move on. Again, I've rarely felt this positive about a book that speaks of weight loss.

The second thing that was good to read.. This is something that I've been trying to articulate over the years, to people online and at my Weight Watchers meetings but Dr Freedhoff has gone further and been more clear than I could ever dream of being.

That human beings rejoice in food. We celebrate with food, we share food, we enjoy it. And that any program that does not allow for that intimate participation in a fundamental part of human culture is bound to fail long term. That doesn't mean we have to eat out lavishly every night, but that celebrating with food is normal, and should not be viewed as obscene and disgusting, as it often is in the ascetic culture of rapid diets (which I'm part of at times!). To me, this mind shift is fundamental, because it acknowledges the shared humanity of fat AND thin people. Despite the mantra in many diet-places, eat like a thin person eats! does not translate to never celebrate your birthday, because thin people never do.

Those two things I was going to high light? Never mind, I'm moving on to a third, though I suppose it's part of the first in some ways.

The goal for weight loss, he says, is to eat as little as you can while still being happy with your life.

And that, my friends, is a fucking dramatic departure from every other book on dieting I have ever read. Happy. With. Your. Life. Dear god, that is NEVER mentioned elsewhere. You're fat, you're supposed to suffer every day, in order to hopefully attain thinness. If you can't suffer long term, it's because of your lack of willpower. And that breeds self contempt. That cycle is what Dr Freedhoff is giving the tools to help us break.

Happy with your life. Be at a weight where you can be happy, that you can happily maintain.

Tulip Pedal 2014

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And the biking season has officially begun! On Saturday, with our traditional first ride of the season, the Tulip Pedal up in Skagit County.

Now that they have eliminated the evil Bow Hill from the course, it's a moderate 40 mile ride. Nothing too strenuous, but a good touch-base of where we are at this point in the season.

We did surprisingly well considering the lack of biking we'd done so far this year. Perry wanders around the neighbourhood on his bike a bit. Dh and I went on a quick 8 mile ride last weekend. AC had not been on her bike since STP last July. So yeah, pretty much 40 miles cold turkey.

The wind was, of course, fierce. 15-20 mph according to the weather service. As a headwind, it was brutal, but it was worse as a sidewind. I mean, I'm still surprised skinny little Perry didn't blow over, because I almost feel a few times!

The tulips were in full tulippy glory, which was nice.

AC was using clipless pedals for the first time. She fell twice, which is pretty standard for a first time out on those it seems. Both times at intersections when dh didn't signal a stop as quickly as he should have and she couldn't unclip fast enough. Perry did that before he got used to his pedals, but since his are different (he has racing cleats), he would turtle, and I'd have to pick him up, kid and bike, and right him. I don't think I could do it any longer. Anyhow, poor AC has a bruise on her hip/butt that she refuses to ice. "I am NOT going to ice my butt!" :-)

And Perry clip funny. Stopped at a rest stop. Leave rest stop. Make turn, head straight up overpass. We're in single file paceline, and Perry can't get his right clip in (again, he has racing clips, which are much more finicky that SPDs. I may buy him a second set of shoes/clips for road rides). So he flipping powers up that hill, right leg held out, pedalling madly with his left leg to get up because he's the head of our little paceline! It was so funny, and, to be honest, quite impressive.

The weather was supposed to be crappy starting at about 11am, so we got out early, and finished the ride at about 11:30, literally as the temps dropped, the wind picked up even more, and the skies opened. It didn't last long, but boy was I glad we were under the shelter of the door of the SUV as we got gear off, done with the ride. I do feel for the large number of people who were still riding.

Also, note to self: just because people have expensive bikes and gear does not mean they are experienced riders. I always fall into that trap, and then I'm shocked when they don't understand the rules (like, oh, pull off the road to stop, stuff like that.)

Skagit Valley environmentalists have a slogan about the presevation of farmland: Pavement is Forever. Which is why, I assume, Skagit County does not beleive in repaving its roads! Which in previous years resulted in a bad case of road shock (ie numb tingling fingers) that lasted a few hours after the ride. This year, with my new spiffy carbon fiber bike, I had no issues.

Anyhow, after the ride, we met up with my mom, sister, and Linnea. We had a picnic... in the car, because wind and rain, and then drove around the fields. It was so pretty. Got some photos, and yet again, dh's Nokia Windows phone proves itself to be an excellent camera.



The entire Tulips 2014 flickr set.

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Snape/Black Slash fics. Under 18? Go away!

Bored (NC-17)

Serpens and Canis Major (R)

Chemistry 306 (PG-13)

Compliance (NC-17, Upsetting themes)

Liability (NC-17)

Chapter 34 Rewrite

Addiction (NC-17)

Strawberries (NC-17)

Second Life (NC-17)

Rosa canina (PG-13)

In Silence (NC-17)

Original Fic

Frangipane, Cancer, and Chicken Noodle Soup

That Evening

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