On Injuries

Injuries are no fun. They hurt. They limit our effectiveness in some areas. Many times, they take a good long while to heal. Injuries can, however, help us discover interesting things.

Recently, like within the last week, I did something that pulled a muscle in my left side under my upper arm. What did I do? I have no idea. I woke up one morning with a serious case of “Ow! That hurts!” It’s just now starting to fade away… slowly… like, you’ve seen faster glaciers, I’m sure.

This past week, I’ve discovered just how involved that muscle is in my daily life. Some things I expected. Like stretching upward with my left hand?  *wince* You would think, then, that keeping my left arm tucked down by my side or across my abdomen would hurt less? No, still ow.

Picking up heavy stuff? Yep, ow.  Expected that.  Pushing or pulling something left-handed. Yikes! Don’t do it that way, either. Knew that was coming. Doing the same thing right-handed should be safe, right? Only for very light work. Otherwise …

Roll my shoulders back, ow. Roll them forward, still not a good idea.

Walking, especially at a good clip, even if I don’t swing my left arm … not advisable. Especially if I step upward, downward, or particularly hard with my right foot. That sounds weird, but I’m not totally surprised. After all, for most people, the left arm and right leg move together when we walk.

Why so many odd results? Well, just like the arm bone is connected to the hip bone eventually, so is the pectoral muscle is connected to the quadriceps, the long way around. Our bodies function as a detailed system with feedback loops over various sorts. Tension in one place is answered somewhere else.

So, injuries can lead to many paths of discovery, but I don’t have any plans to seek out more of those kinds of “learning experiences” any time soon.

On Tires

With my last three cars, all the tires wore out at about the same time, and I had to buy 4 new ones. This new car is … odd.

Every now and then I wear out the front tires on my car and they need to be replaced. Just the front ones, mind you. The back ones apparently last forever, but there’s a reason for that. See, when I go to get new tires for the front, the nice guys at the tire shop put the new ones on the back and move the back ones to the front.  They tell me it’s for safety.

The first time that happened, I thought the guy was one electron short of a hydrogen atom. I’d come in to get the front tires replaced, not the back ones, and why would I want the less good tires on the front of the front-drive car?

It has to do with traction in a skid, or so I’m told. I can steer the front to compensate for poor traction in the front wheels, but if the back wheels lose it … not so much to be done there. Hence, good tires on the back for traction.

In the 25 years I’ve been driving, I’ve only lost traction a few times: twice on ice (pulled an unintentional 540 one time and landed in a median) and twice in rain.  No wrecks as a result, but that was enough for me.  If putting good tires in the back and not so good tires in the front means I don’t get to spin out again, I’m okay with that.

Mikl Roventine feb 8 09 retrieved from Flickr Creative Commons 08 23 14

Copyright 2009 Mikl Roventine

Retrieved from Flickr Creative Commons on this date and used unchanged under CC License

PS: When I went to go look for the above picture, I entered “tires” in the search window … and about half the pictures came up critters and people yawning and napping.  Close but … not quite, eh?

On Success

Most folks want to be successful at something in their personal or professional lives, but what is success? Is it simply completing a task correctly?

I’m working on a Master’s degree in Adult Education, and the current class is on the value of collaborative learning. One of the things I like about this program is that it tends to practice what it preaches more often than my previous teacher prep degree. (Unfortunately, the perspective is a little biased in one direction, but I’m learning the skills to go do my own research on the parts I feel are lacking).

This time, the instructor divided us into groups to complete a template detailing a new course involving the concepts and techniques described in our textbooks. This group project is now over and the class is reflecting on the experience in a forum.

Based on the instructor’s feedback on individual pieces of the assignment, my group will score quite well. She had no corrective feedback for us on any of the segments.  All four people in my group were very meticulous. We’ll get the final score this weekend or next week, but I anticipate a good result.

Does that mean we succeeded? Everyone who has posted their reflection to the forum seems to think so. They describe how their teams worked together to complete the project and turn in a (hopefully) high-scoring effort. The goals for this course seem to point toward equating success and completing the project with high marks. It’d be a poorly designed class otherwise.

The two teammates who have posted their reflections thought we did a fabulous job and should be proud of our efforts. So, why don’t I feel like I’ve succeeded? 

I’ll have to give it some more thinking, perhaps.  In the meantime, what do you think characterizes “success?”

On Stealthy Potatoes

I have been allergic to potatoes since I was a little kid, but at first, I only reacted to raw ones. Once they were cooked, they were safe. Over time, the reaction worsened until I could not be in the room with potatoes. Breathing became highly optional. For a while, I carried an epi-pen in case the optional breathing became more urgent than just a little coughing and wheezing. You know the classic allergic reaction to peanuts?  Yeah, like that. Anaphylaxis in a big way.

People attributed my potato allergy to psychology rather than immunology, assuming that if I didn’t know the spuds were there, I wouldn’t react.  Nice theory, but a couple kids in my class sneaking Pringles out of their lunch bag proved that one wrong as did a couple teachers in a conference who came into a meeting behind me with their bags of potato chips.

Weirdly, though, if I went to a wide-open space where the potato:human ratio favored humans, I might not react so badly. Stress and airborne allergy issues also seemed to play a part.  More stress = bigger reaction.  Grass and mold allergies going bonkers?  Keep the potatoes on the other side of the planet, please.

School cafeterias, with their French fry joy and mashed potato bliss were toxic to even walk into. As a result, for much of my 14-year teaching career, I swapped my cafeteria duty weeks with others on my team. As a result, I had permanent recess duty. Tedious and no fun at all in August and May, never mind those weird days in January when the weather drops to subfreezing, even here in Texas. Still, there are worse fates.

Last week, I had an unexpected potato adventure.

I work at a local retailer in the vision department. My job includes advising people on the purchase of glasses, placing orders, and bending frames back into shape after someone sits on them. There’s a fast food burger joint located at the other end of the store, and naturally, they serve potatoes in a couple forms.

One lady came in and sat down with me to talk about making a pair of glasses to a new prescription. As I was doing data entry, she excused herself, darted down to the burger joint, and came back with lunch. She had a burger in hand and chowed down while we reviewed the options for lens types. Burger completed, she reached back into the bag and pulled out a box of fries. She was sitting within an arm’s length … eating freshly made potato fries … and I could still breathe??

(No, I did not start reacting when I actually saw the fries. Further evidence against the psychology argument.)

The lady finalized her purchase and her lunch and left.

Normally, being within an arm’s length of potatoes would result in coughing, hacking, gasping, wheezing, and swelling around my eyes. This time, no reaction at all.

I have no plans to try eating spuds myself, but perhaps I can hang out with someone while they do. I don’t know for sure, and I don’t plan to push my luck, but maybe seeing potatoes will no longer be cause for panic.

Book Spotlight: The Shaughnessy File

Fellow PDMI Publishing author, Etta Jean, is revealing her cover today and sharing a bit about her book. Enjoy!



Welcome to the 3rd District in New York City where pumpkins become limos and corporations are kingdoms in this modern take on classic faerie tales.


Trouble starts in the Shaughnessy household when youngest daughter Aenya starts dancing her way through her shoes every night—without ever leaving her room! She keeps her double life a secret from all the men who try to find the truth, but then private investigator Hiro Michaels arrives on the scene. Can she find a way to have her dreams and her love all at the same time?


Kienan Shaughnessy throws his dreams of a musical career on a wild gamble that takes a detour once he meets plain nightingale Madelyne Winters. The young innkeeper has been burned by love and cursed by hate, and she can’t trust anyone as beautiful as swan-like Kienan. Can he teach her to sing a love song before it’s too late?


Eldest sibling Taegan Shaughnessy unexpectedly gets a new pair of glass slippers as he pines for a princess out of his reach. Station and impropriety alike threaten to keep Kalliope Tavoularis from having the man she loves, but this princess won’t take anything lying down. Can some help from an unlikely faerie godmother stop the clock from striking midnight forever?


Mel Shaughnessy is the wild-spirited beauty of the household. Though as smart as he is handsome, his college grades have plummeted past the point of no return. His only hope is the university’s tutor: a woman nicknamed ‘the beast’. Audra Alexandros has no sympathy, and no graces, and yet there’s something about this lone wolf that Mel finds himself helplessly drawn toward. Can the beauty win the beast and close the file on the Shaughnessy Family for good?



Etta Jean was made in England but born in Sacramento, California. Her destiny as a bard was somewhat inevitable. Little else can explain how she constantly told her mother tall tales so outlandish that she couldn’t even get grounded for them. A love of worlds created by others eventually brought out the desire to create her own, and she has never looked back. She has seen both good and evil in her life, and her stories, like life, have no half measures. Her happy endings never come without cost, though, for she truly believes we can’t appreciate the good and the joy without the bad and the pain along the way.

On Enthusiasm and Muppets

One of the things that amuses and amazes me about The Muppets — aside from how long they’ve been around — is how unique each character is.  Each of The Muppets in the major cast has something that they’re either very good at or very enthusiastic about. Kermit runs everything. Miss Piggy is a drama queen. Rolf the Dog plays the piano. Sam the Eagle strives for propriety in everything. Even Animal plays the drums with some personal gusto.

One of my childhood favorites — well, as far back as I can remember anyway — was the Swedish Chef.



Wow, what a nut.  Enthusiastic, but a nut all the same. Then while I was teaching, I went searching for safe and amusing videos to show my class on those inevitable days when we were stuck inside for bad weather. I stumbled upon new videos with The Muppets. The Swedish Chef, Beaker, and Animal feature in these pretty often. Here’s one with just Swedish Chef.



Although I wouldn’t want him anywhere near my kitchen, the Swedish Chef has some real passion for his work. There’s something to that.

Everyone is good at some skill. Even many animals seem to have a particular talent. My bird, for example, can disassemble quicklinks and take bolts apart. Not bad for a critter that weighs in at about a pound, but that does make keeping her in her cage while I’m at work a little more challenging.  Fortunately, padlocks are currently beyond her skill set.


Rebel being funny 002


My passion has little to do with quicklinks or cooking. I enjoy writing. It’s a hobby I look forward to, and sometimes I become resentful of people or things that take me away from it for very long, but there was a long spurt of time when I stopped writing. It went to the wayside in part because I was being pulled by too many other interests.

I was teaching elementary then, and the commitment for that left little time. I was involved in a local theater group as a sound, light, and prop nerd; and I had an interest in learning sleight of hand. My hands quiver, which made that an interesting challenge, but I was determined.

These were all things I was sincerely interested in, but they took time away from what I really wanted to be doing. I had books that I had written and needed to find a publisher for and other books that had stalled until I could scare up the time to get back to them and yet others that were waiting to be written. More than anything I wanted to make progress on my writing.

Although I didn’t officially set any goals, I took a careful look at everything I was doing and prioritized what I wanted most. I returned to writing with some enthusiasm. Perhaps when I finish my Master’s in Adult Ed and return to teaching — my second passion — I’ll have some time to get back into sleight of hand, local theater groups, Renaissance fencing, and other fun interests, but for now, I’m happy being able to write in my spare time.

What are you good at? Do you approach it with passion, or has it faded under too many other cares?