The Sins of the Cola

The Trackball's kidney stone crisis is over. ToT passed the stone, much like a Logitech trackball spits out that hand grime that collects on the ball itself. Aikido is not really to blame and I will return to it.

But there are two more stones waiting in the other kidney. Their days may be numbered too because my urologist sounds a bit aggressive. The real question is whether more stones will occur down the road or if this was a one time thing.

A one time thing because of cola.

In the ToT's younger days, much cola was drunk but no water was touched. Chocolate and cola were often consumed in great quantities: an oxalate-rich double whammy. This lead to the oxalate-based stones that have been plaguing me for several years.

ToT has not touched cola in about two and a half years and has drank a tidy barrel of water per day. Obviously, the sins of the cola can be punished much further down the line after they happen. This is the way these low-level activities can seem to be having no effect, and then way down the road you're flat on your back wondering why you ever did them.

Like eating frosting straight from the can after frosting a cake is probably the sugary path to type 2 diabetes down the road. Or not exercising enough (it's never enough) can leave you in your 70s with reduced muscle and bone mass, accelerate the slowing down that leads to accidents, illnesses and death. But if those are the only vices I can come up with, this is like calling dust bunnies furniture because they are in an empty room.

Balancing how much effort to put into life and health preserving activities versus the more pleasurable ones is tough. Lifting weights for an hour a day solely to forestall diminished physical abilities when old seems a bit too much (one can die of cancer, heart disease, stroke or Alzheimer's and be in great physical shape and all those hours would be a waste).

But, as the old saw goes, most people would love to have my problems of trying to tweak one's lifestyle to enhance long term health prospects. We all have a lot of control over the behaviors that will endanger our wellbeing and these are to be stacked atop those genetic flaws that will give us another set (like possibly creating kidney stones). The best we can do is to minimize the ones we can control so we can deal with the cosmic hand of cards we were dealt genetically. Because the genetic ones can be a real bitch (more about that later).

Trackball rolls badly; Aikido experiment is threatened

The Trackball of Truth went to Aikido class last night amid some bad instinctual mojo. Didn't really want to go, felt some vague hesitation, experienced the occassional questioning of why he bothers with it at all. Today, Trackball is laid up on percocet and is sleep deprived after a night of severe pain. Lesson: always, ALWAYS listen to the instincts.

Trackball is not so great at rolling. Aikido rolls, that is. These rolls involve straightening an arm, ducking the head and shoulder and gracefully go ass-over-tea kettle into a stand about 7 feet in front of where one started. Batman does this stuff all the time. Very useful if you get thrown so you don't get hurt. Remember the don't get hurt part for the irony later on.

Somedays when ToT does them, they're good, other days they're Goddess-awful. Last night we worked on a technique where the attacker (the Uke) ends up bent over with his arm locked behind his back. His only escape: a forward roll and come up in a defensive stance facing the defender (called the Tori). It looks cool as hell.

I've done this move several times -- but without the finishing roll. The brown belt instructing me asks if I want to try it after my 15 year old Uke does his first one flawlessly. Sure, I say what the hell. Nothing ever turns out well when I say or think that.

I did everything about the roll correctly except to get enough forward momentum by throwing myself forward. Imagine a bicycle that stops going forward - what happens? I flopped on my lower left back, right where my kidney is. It hurt both times I did it on the left side. (ToT always does stupid things twice before learning.)

Apparently, my left kidney coughed up a kidney stone, which I thought was back pain. So, in a sense, I really didn't get hurt at Aikido, I just sped up the inevitable.

As they elder students say, good, you only have to do it another 1000 times before it's right. And I'm looking at 997 more attempts and going, are you kidding? Is taking Aikido a good idea? It is a martial art, albeit the most peaceful and least harmful. The class has a preponderance of guys with tough guy builds with other martial art and military experience plus high school students who all outweigh me. I have low muscle tone. ("Really push down on my elbow." "I am really pushing down on your elbow." "Oh."). I'm getting flashbacks to living in the party dorm my first semester in college - I don't belong.

It might be time to hang up the gi and retire as the world's longest holder of a white belt.

When no one drinks coffee anymore

The ToT does not drink coffee. This fact is always met with quiet puzzlement by many. The ToT is puzzled why so many people are addicted to it. It's not just a casual beverage for many; it's a critical part of their diet.

I simply don't see where the value-added is. Caffeine is a nasty drug that gives me headaches and dehydrates the drinker. It costs a lot of money these days because it's gone upscale. Coffee grounds are just plain disgusting. The taste is apparently something that one must get used to - always a warning sign to the ToT.

Like alcohol, I suspect many drink it so they can seamlessly fit in with the majority and their enthusiasm is really not for the drink but for the conformity.

I'm not anti-coffee - my parents drank it and the rich smell always reminds me of breakfast. But I also can see how coffee drinking might mostly disappear in the future, discarded like a bad idea that only a few stalwarts stick to, like smoking, beating children, abstinence until marriage and being drunk most of one's waking hours (see the pre-Prohibition era).

There's a natural progression of moral awakening that evolves over time, guaranteed to make the older generation upset that some beloved part of their life is now considered verboten.
It is a cycle at least as old as America: one old pilgrim says to another "Quakers in Massachusetts - outrageous!"

Something is lurking out there that shocks each generation by its disappearance when they get older. Boomers and those older than them can't get around the acceptance of gays, but younger people do, for the most part. Racial tolerance is growing by birth year too. So as the ToT moves through his 30s, he wonders what is it that will shock and outrage us Gen X-ers? Pissing in public? No, that's the reactionary response. It's always something that is patently wrong but going on all around us, something that if we thought about a bit, we'd go, yeah, that's not right. And then go about our business. Like segregation in the 40s.

If you can't imagine coffee drinking disappearing, I am with you, well at least most of the way. It probably won't happen for a long, long time. But it's Achilles' heel is the caffeine. American society has become less tolerant of body-altering drugs and caffeine is becoming the one that is still considered acceptable. But for how long? And why?

Some of you are wondering how you would be able to get going in the morning without coffee. Hello, you have a caffeine problem. Either you don't get enough sleep, or that sluggishness is withdrawal from your last caffeine fix from the day before (coffee with dessert?). Ew, now caffeine starts to sound like cocaine and not as attractive. This is how the mindset will change.

Yes, there probably will be a drink of social interaction, even if coffee disappears. I don't know what it is. Water would be the healthiest option. But I do know that the future will come for us Gen Xers and knock some common pillar out of the world we are used to. And it's something that we're all subconsciously aware of already.