Monthly Archives: November 2022

Best gifts for runners 2022

I just read a New York Times wirecutter article of gifts for runners.  Got a runner in your life?  Here’s my list.  It’s better than NYT’s in my, of course, completely unbiased opinion.  (No, I’m not fishing for gifts, I promise.)

1.) Lululemon Fast and Free 28″ – the best running tights out there.  Yes, at $140, they’re obscenely pricey.  (I linked to some that are on sale for $59 – 99.)  But if you run a lot, you’ll get your money’s worth.  I figure I run in tights about 100 times per year, and I will wear my favorite tights for probably 2/3 of those runs.  I will probably splurge on the fleece-lined version if they ever go on sale.

2.) Flyout Wool Half Zip by Oiselle – the best running shirt out there.  In terms of running shirts, if your giftee runs in temps from the high 30s to the low 40s, you should look for a long-sleeve true half zip shirt.  Not a quarter zip!  Never a quarter zip – it must go AT LEAST halfway to the wearers waist.  Thumbholes and watch window are nice perks.  The Brooks Dash Half Zip is also a good option.

3.) 26 Marathons by Meb Keflizighi and Scott Douglas.  I read A LOT of running books.  I pretty much read any one my library purchases, and then a few more on top of that.  26 Marathons is a cut above.  It’s a great book for a runner about someone who is easy to admire.  We can all learn a lot by channeling Meb in our careers and passions.  The audiobook is also excellent.  Note that non-runners may not enjoy this book.

4.) OK, NYT got this one right.  I do love my spiky massage ball.  Runner or no, if you have sore feet, you may want to try one of these.  I keep one at my desk and use it at work and another in the bathroom to use while brushing my teeth.

5.) GU Roctane Energy Gel variety pack.  You may want to ask your runner what type of gels they prefer, or if you use gels, but these are high end and tasty and variety is the spice of life.  Your runner may also enjoy a Honey Stinger “training kit” variety pack.

6.) I think Balega makes the best running socks in the business.  My personal favorites are Balega Ultralight Performance Noshow Socks.

7.) If your runner doesn’t already have a copy, any of Shalane’s three running cook books are a good option.  Her most recent book is Rise and Run – breakfast recipes for runners.  (I own all three.)

8.) For safety, it’s most important to be visible.  Far more runners are killed by getting hit by cars than by getting attacked by psychos.  I wear this reflective vest if I run in low light.   If I ran in the dark often, I would upgrade to this light-up vest.

9.) Really want to spoil your runner?  Independently wealthy?  I love my running watch, the Garmin 255S.   (You can buy it with or without the music feature.)

trying to get a flu shot

Last year was the first year in at least a decade that I didn’t get a flu shot.  As it turns out, the flu shot was completely ineffective last year:

In a study of more than 3,600 Americans in seven states, the C.D.C. said in a report that the vaccine was only around 16 percent effective, a rate that it said was “not statistically significant.”

In any case, I’ve come to realize how big of an impact having flu shots available at work had.  It was so easy to stroll downstairs and get the shot.  They already had my insurance information (since my insurance was through work) and it would take about five minutes.

I don’t know what it’s like the rest of the country, but getting any kind of medical care around here has become impossible.  Last year, I gave up on a flu shot after waiting an hour.  J went in today to try and get a shot, and, after waiting 10 minutes to speak to someone and then getting sent to another line – just to ask a simple question! – he was told it was a 90 minute wait for a shot.  He was able to get an appointment for this coming Friday; hopefully they’ll honor it and he won’t have to wait long.

Meanwhile, I made “well child” appointments for my girls, at which I was planning to get flu shots for them, but I couldn’t get them in until mid-January!  My pediatrician no longer does standalone appointments for flu shots.  I used to just run the girls in for a shot sometime in late fall, but that’s not an option any more.  L, who seems to have inherited all of my anxious nature and then some, is freaking out at the thought of getting the shot at a pharmacy instead of the pediatrician.

Is this a Seattle thing or an everywhere thing?  How do you get your kids flu shots?  At your pediatrician or the pharmacy?  Our local pediatrician basically has a monopoly on the Eastside.  We’d have to drive a significant distance for more options, and I’m not sure it’d be any better elsewhere.  This is a post-Covid thing.  Thank goodness we had all of S’s medical stuff in the beforetimes.

protesting the World Cup

Is protest without any kind of sacrifice or effort meaningful?  I personally don’t think so.  The type of protest that can most accurately be called virtue signaling or slactivism or better yet, both, just doesn’t mean anything to me.  An example would be wearing a “One Love” armband when you know the only consequence is a fine you can well afford and the support and affirmation of peers and journalists.

This was demonstrated in the last few days.  European soccer captains said they would take the terribly brave step of wearing an armband during their games to show support for LGBTQ people.  OK, sounds good.  Then FIFA said they’d give people who did this a yellow card.  The captains can only wear and “anti-discrimination” armband instead starting in the quarterfinal.  Now, in soccer, if you receive two yellow cards, you get kicked out of the game and your side is left with ten players instead of eleven.  This is a huge disadvantage.  In addition, the captain also tends to be one of the best players on the team, sometimes the best full stop.  So yes, accepting a yellow card is in fact a big disadvantage since that player must now play more carefully to avoid getting a second.  But here’s the thing, instead of a meaningless virtue signal, wearing the armbands became a meaningful sacrifice that actually required the participants to show genuine commitment to the issue they claim to care so much about.  So what happened?  They all sorrowfully declared they wouldn’t be able to participate in the “protest” after all.

Now, if you don’t happen to be a soccer captain on an international team, you can still show how much you hate those nasty Qataris and their unpleasant views on LGBTQ people.  The Atlantic encouraged brave Americans to forego their beloved game of soccer and skip watching the World Cup.  I could hardly roll my eyes any harder.   First of all, most Americans barely care about soccer.  Not many will watch in the first place, regardless of their views on Qatar.  Our team more or less sucks as a general rule and will likely struggle to dispatch Wales in the first round.  If this were England or Brazil, not watching the World Cup would be a meaningful sacrifice.  But in the US?  Come on.

For what it’s worth, I fully agree that Qatar wasn’t the right choice for this event, though apparently the country stopped flogging women for adultery since they were awarded the tournament.  So maybe it’ll be a net benefit in the end.  Probably the award followed by protest and criticism is all part and parcel of the potential benefit to Qatar’s citizens.  My understanding is the whole thing came about due to bribery, though, not wise people weighing the pros and cons and making a well-deliberated decision with ideals of sport and virtue in mind.

ETA: I feel like I am becoming incredibly cynical.  I am even more cynical on this blog than elsewhere, but I’m kind of cynical in general.  It’s not a great way to approach the world.  Maybe a brave soccer captain will take a stand or FIFA will back down.  Maybe for Thanksgiving, I should resolve for at least a while to be more thankful and less cynical.


I survived the colonoscopy.  I looked up the recommendations here.  It’s considered high benefit to get screened every 10 years from 50 to 75.  Getting screened at 45 provides moderate benefit.  I would do it at 45 (or sooner) if you have risk factors: family history, male, black or Native American, smoker, drink a lot, or obese.  I have a family history of multiple relatives getting diagnosed in their 40s, so for me, getting screened at 40 was a no-brainer, and unfortunately, my doctor also recommends I get tested every five years instead of ten.

The prep was unpleasant but not as bad as I feared.  I’m so glad it’s over and done with.  The nurses and doctors were extremely kind and friendly and generally made the experience less stressful.

screening for cancer

S has been sick since Sunday night and doesn’t appear to be getting better.  I don’t think she’s in any danger, but it is awful to see her miserable.  Between Frozen and Ibuprofen, I think the former is more helpful in making her feel better.  Now L and B both are feeling ill as well.  L has her first gymnastics competition on Saturday morning.  First of all, she’s trained very hard for it – about 8 hours per week since the summer.  Second, it’s a qualifier for future competitions.  All in all, I hope she’s well enough to do it.  I was supposed to go down and see my sister and her just-turned-one-year-old.  My sister is also pregnant.  My throat is a little scratchy, and I don’t want to bring this sickness into their household, so I’ve canceled the trip.  I was also supposed to go to LA for work next week, and if I’m sick, and I think I am, I’ll have to cancel that as well.

Lastly, I have a colonoscopy scheduled for Friday.  I put that off from January, when my initial appointment was canceled due to Covid.  (I find it ironic that in SW Virginia, where there were basically no Covid restrictions, my Dad was able to have a completely elective surgery on schedule in January, no issues, whereas here with Covid restrictions out the wazoo, my elective procedure was canceled.  The governor in fact canceled ALL elective surgeries by executive order.  But I digress.)  In any case, I finally grudgingly rescheduled it and am dreading it so much.  But with my family history, it needs to be done.

Have you had a mammogram?  I have not.  I would say I have normal risk – no close relatives have died of it or had advanced cancer, and I don’t smoke, etc.  Here is where the recommendations stand:

  1. The US Preventive Services Task Force – basically the official US recommendation – states you should start at age 50 until 74.  USPST says you should have mammograms every 2 years.
  2. The American Cancer Society says to start at age 45 and have mammograms every year until you’re 54, whereupon you should have them every 2 years until life expectancy is less than 10 years
  3. ACOG (American College of Gynecologists) says you should go every one to two years starting at age 40, or no later than age 50 until age 75.  Upon reading the second link in more detail, ACOG is somewhat ambivalent about its recommendation to start before 50.

I read about this in detail in Mukherjee’s book The Emperor of Maladies.  At the end of the day, everyone has to make their own decision based on their own family background and preferences.  Reading Mukherjee’s book, which very quantitatively outlined the pros (reduced risk of death) and cons (increased risk of unnecessary treatment and surgery), convinced me that for me, the right choice is to wait.  I believe that from a mental health standpoint, an early cancer diagnosis would be devastating, and if that early diagnosis didn’t save my life, the lost years due to anxiety would be worse than the small decrease in risk of death.

What are the guidelines like in other countries?  For most women (without major risk factors):

  1. UK: Get a mammogram every *three* years starting ages 50 – 71
  2. Canada: Get a mammogram every two or three years ages 50-74
  3. Ireland: Get a mammogram every two years ages 50-69
  4. Australia: Get a mammogram every two years ages 50-74
  5. New Zealand: Get a mammogram every two years ages 45-69
  6. France: Get a mammogram every two years ages 50-74
  7. Sweden: Get a mammogram every two years ages *40*-74
  8. Norway: Get a mammogram every two years ages 50 – 69
  9. Germany: Get a mammogram every two years ages 50 – 69
  10. Spain: Get a mammogram every *three* years ages 50 – 69

It seems like all countries are in line with their recommendations: begin getting mammograms at age 50 and get them every two years.  The US cancer society and ACOG are very out of family.  After looking this up, I think for my personal situation, I feel very comfortable waiting until age 50.

The CDC lists risk factors here.  Interestingly, being overweight or obese is NOT a risk factor until after menopause.  However, having one’s first pregnancy after age 30 is.  Funny how I barely know anyone who got intentionally pregnant before 30.  Not breastfeeding is also a risk.  Lastly, drinking alcohol, which I do nearly daily, is a risk.

As for colon cancer, the US Preventative Services Task Force recommends all adults get screened beginning at age 50 and continuing until age 75.  It also recommends all adults get *offered* screening at age 45 – you get to make up your own mind.  Personally, I wouldn’t do it unless I had risk factors or family history.  Jonathan has had several, and it’s a pretty rough procedure.

On my Dad’s side, my grandmother died of colon cancer in her 60s.  On my Mom’s side, my uncle died of colon cancer in his 50s (onset in his 40s).  My grandfather nearly died of colon cancer in his 40s, and his quality of life was permanently affected.  My aunt had colon cancer – surgery, chemo, etc.  My other uncle had colon cancer – surgery, chemo, etc.  Only my grandmother and my mother managed to avoid it.  I guess I feel I should get the colonoscopy.  I went to see a gastroenterologist many years ago, and she told me I could wait until 40, but here we are.

My father-in-law also died of colon cancer.  He did colonoscopies, and they did not find the cancer.  Why not?  I don’t know.  Why didn’t colonoscopies stop my uncles and aunt from getting advanced cancers that required surgery and chemo and ultimately killed my uncle?  I don’t know.  Apparently most colon cancers grow slowly, and these are the type that colonoscopies save you from.  But some people have a genetic predisposition to fast-growing cancers.