2005 Annual Letter


Please forgive me if this missive seems to focus overly much on physical fitness, diets, and exercise. Concentrating on health and exercise might be overcompensation for my outwardly calm acceptance of going bald and failing eyesight.


2005 marked our entry into the world of indoor rowing. Christmas 2004 found a Concept2 rowing machine (for some reason called an erg, short for ergometer, by those who partake) under (okay, not exactly under) the tree (a gift from me to us). The general consensus is that the Concept2 brand is the best-made and most-effective rowing machine around. Supporting research came from the internet, checking with health clubs, and asking a friend who runs the sports complex at a university.


Last year's delivery was close. I waited in Point Roberts for the UPS driver to drop off the new erg in time for Christmas. The rig showed up just as I was packing my truck to head into Vancouver for the holiday. I signed for the two packages and headed to the border. (Wasn't sure why the company chose to ship in two packages but figured they knew best.)


As I entered Canada, I proudly announced I had a new rowing machine to declare. The border guard excitedly asked if it was a Concept2. Turns out he had rowed in college and knew that they were the best. I happily paid the import duty and stored the packages in the garage, out of sight. At an opportune moment, I decided to wrap the smaller of the two packages (to represent the entire gift), and bring it upstairs. Smaller of the two still meant a large box. Too big to fit under the tree, it patiently waited until Christmas.


Chris warily opened the package. Her suspicion equaled my confusion as we both tried to make sense of what was inside - a large, (about three-feet long) CB radio antenna for a long-haul truck. Chris didn't seem happy when I tried to explain that this might be the antenna for the heart-rate monitor for a rowing machine. I was also very confused, knowing full well I hadn't ordered the optional heart-rate monitor but still left wondering how one straps a three-foot antenna to one's chest so it doesn't interfere with rowing.


After a couple of false starts and blind alleys, we puzzled out that Andy, a friend from grad school, had arranged to have this antenna shipped to him at the Point Bob address. Expecting an erg and in a rush to get to Vancouver, I just signed for the packages without inspecting them. Turns out I had inadvertently smuggled Andy's truck antenna into Canada! (Don't worry. The antenna made it safely back to the US without incident.


All's well that ends well Chris and I both love the erg. She even took lessons to get a feel for rowing on the water; so far, I am still confined to rowing in the spare room. The company has a great website where participants log their meters and offers competitions and rewards. Am looking forward to proudly wearing my one-million-meter t-shirt when it arrives, and am already a third of the way towards my second million meters. So far I've rowed (figuratively speaking) from Vancouver down to San Jose, California.


Ever wanted to throw a great party and get someone else to foot the bill? As volunteer festival coordinator for the annual International Jugglers  Association get-together this past summer, I had such an opportunity. It was wonderful. With a reputation that goes back decades, many dedicated and skilled volunteers, and a budget of tens of thousands of dollars, it is possible to put on a fantastic, week-long party for over six hundred friends. Should you ever have a similar opportunity, it is highly recommended.


Part of coordinating the event meant being accessible by phone. 2005 found me with a cell phone for the first time, as well as a need to answer it. Getting back to exercise: Depending on location (Point Roberts or Vancouver) I may well be strapped into a rowing machine, a weight-stack system, or running on a treadmill. In all these cases, the point is to exert oneself, which I do.


Phones don t stop ringing just because someone is out of breath. Reluctant to miss important calls, I scramble to unwedge, de-strap, and clamber off of various bits of machinery and weights. With all my huffing and puffing, many innocent callers wonder if they've inadvertently initiated an obscene phone call. I also thank those of you who have kindly offered to arrange emergency transport to a nearby cardiac unit.


Chris likes to listen to CBC radio while she gets ready for work. Some mornings, I politely choose to stay low and out of her way by catching a few more minutes of sleep. After a night of being lovingly pushed to the precipice to shiver with no covers, this seems like a wonderful last-ditch opportunity to get a bit of rest before beginning another fateful day.


You know how thoughts get jumbled together in that state of being half awake and half asleep? One morning I confused the morning financial report on the radio with musing about what would be a nice lunch later in the day and came up with a new, micro/macro, quasi-financial/personal indicator: Todd Belly Futures.


Todd Belly Futures turn out to be an important component of most days, at least around these parts. Not only are they an indication of what shape my belly is in (It turns out there is a direct relationship between my belly and the retail clothing industry.), a good Todd Belly Future outlook will provide important information about what may be going into my belly in the near future. The classic example that has been used for months is: What s for lunch?


Closely tied to Todd Belly Futures is the Underwear Index. This Spring I started to notice that my underwear was starting to sag. This seemed quite promising as a falling Underwear Index in the morning usually indicates a bountiful Todd Belly Future for lunch and dinner. Falling Underwear Indexes were going along quite nicely until Chris (lovingly) pointed out that a falling Underwear Index was more likely correlated to the Failing Elastic Index in underwear many years too old.


It is easy to invest in shares of Todd Belly Futures. Folks can purchase options on Todd Belly Futures (TBF) simply by offering to take me out to lunch. Couple that offer with a restaurant suggestion, and you will already be heavily influencing the TBF.


Chris is in the process of training for a second occupation - crow whisperer. A while back, Chris adopted a couple of neighborhood crows. It was easy to distinguish a particular pair as the female has a markedly twisted foot. Chris diligently put peanuts on the window sill and the crows began warily swooping down to pick them off. This pair now has an offspring that is even more bold. After cawing his arrival, he patiently waits, perched on a light fixture just below the open window and watches as the peanuts move into position.


Crows are remarkably intelligent. They have taken to accompanying Chris on her morning walk to the newspaper box, hopping and darting from telephone line to branch to street sign and back. Indications are that the crows can even recognize her car. At the end of the afternoon, they swoop into the alley to greet her as she arrives home from work.


copyright 2005 by Todd Strong



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