Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Archive for July, 2011

Sunday Musings 7/31/11 The Crossfit Games

Sunday musings (from the Games)…

1) Priceless. Airfare to LA…$whatever. Hotel in LA…$whatever. Being with one of your sons as he watches his first Crossfit Games?


2) Games roommate. For the last several years Dale and I have been hotel roomies for the Games (our original suite none other than Appolloswabbie). Due to circumstances of a rather pleasant nature that did not occur this year. Dale has continued to be my tour guide, however, so the streak continues. Thanks Brother!

3) Community. I’ve said it so many times before but it bears repeating, there is something truly unique and special about this community of ours. Athletes cheer on the very competitor who is knocking their brains out to beat them. Volunteers travel from hundreds of miles away for 3 squares and a sunburn. People you’ve never met face to face simply beam when they realize that it’s YOU who just called their name.

Although it has grown to an enormous size, simply unrecognizable from the surface from the barbecue at the Ranch, at its core the Crossfit Games is still just a fitness festival among friends. Indeed, it seems that Reebok is at much greater risk of becoming “Crossfitty” than the opposite.

4 Crossfit Teens I. There was a Crossfit Teens exhibition this year with two WOD events pitting 7 teams from around the world against one another in the Masters’ venue. What? You didn’t know that? No matter…surf over to the archived feeds this week and watch. Stunning performances that each of you will recognize as Crossfit, brought to you by the (near) future of fitness.

Who are these kids? Let me tell you a story first (no names…these are still kids). One of the boys on the Steve’s Club team was offered a new position in the neighborhood business, lookout. New job came with a raise and…ahem…some protective equipment. He turned the job down, although the money would have been really helpful at home. Why?

“I’m sorry, I can’t do that. I have Crossfit and I have to be there at the same time you want me.”

How good is THAT?!

Crossfit Teens II. One of the young women who competed was gushing about being at the Games. She was just amazed that all of her Games heroes were right there, including the teen members of the Martin family, among the original Crossfit Kids. She had just slayed the WOD, and someone pointed out her (PU) ripped palms, asked her if it was worth it.

“Oh, yes! There were some little kids watching us. What if one of them might be the next Crossfit Teen in her town? I want to be an inspiration to THEM. I want to be part of something that changes the world.” I kid you not; she really said that.

The future of the future of fitness appears to be in good hands.

I’ll see you next week…


Sunday Musings 7/24/11 (Theoretically Speaking)

Sunday musings (theoretically speaking)…

1) Theory. Among the definitions of “theory” is: “an accepted hypothesis.”

2) String theory. No, no, no…not THAT string theory. I’m a pretty bright guy, but theoretical physics? Nope. Beyond me.

No, what I’m thinking about here is the string as a connection between individuals. We are about to have a most marvelous “string”, the Crossfit Games, and the level of connectedness we will encounter will be epic.

How so, you ask? How could this possibly be, how could I call this an “epic” connection of any sort, much less of the sporting sort, when we have just seen the Women’s World Cup, the Tour de France, and are about to see the Track and Field World Championships, among other athletic events? Simple. The string that connects most everyone through the Crossfit Games is none other than Crossfit itself.

Think about it. How many of those millions of people who watched the WWC play soccer every day? Those who watched Evans out-Trial Schleck on OLN, how many of them were on their bikes even once last week? Ah, but the Games…the people watching the Games will be planning their viewing schedule around their WOD and vice versa. We LIVE what we watch.

The string is so much shorter here; the connection is tighter.

3) Education theory. Get this…I just saw a headline that said “Master’s Degrees Now Required.” Whaaat. We’ve got literally thousands upon thousands of young people with degrees that have absolutely nothing to do with their job, and now some wonky educational theorist is opining that a Master’s is required? Talk about educational inflation!

There is a practical level of knowledge that is necessary for any job, and a practical level of excellence that accrues to anyone who continues to be a learner and gains experience in that job. Why do you think sergeants are so important in the military? Yes, there is certainly a need for a small number of individuals steeped in the minutiae of any field through extended time in the oven of education, but really, that number is small in almost all fields.

As if we aren’t warehousing enough young people in “going nowhere” educational tracks, doing little more than offering an extended opportunity to grow up and grow older (Al McGuire: the best thing about freshman is that they grow up to be sophomores), now we should park them in MORE school?

4) Chaos theory. Nope. I’m not smart enough to expound on economic chaos theory (actually, I DO understand it though), I’m talking about the chaos that each of us encounters in our daily lives. It’s always so…so…outta control, ya know. Chaotic. Almost random.

There are patterns, for sure, and you can plan according to a pattern you might discern, but eventually chaos reigns. Chaos rains down upon your plan, soaking the leaves of your decision tree and leaving a sodden mess of your space underneath. Then what?

Well, sometimes it’s all too much. Sometimes the rain of chaos leads to the reign of a flood, and everything in its wake is washed away. The simple fact, though, is that these epic floods are quite rare. The confluence of streams all running against your little rowboat is really rather uncommon. The chaos itself is always there; the trick, I think, is in always seeking the flow that’s positive. Flowing your way. Being a spectator to an interesting or funny flow that’s nearby but not pushing or pulling your little boat, and maybe getting splashed a bit by the happy foam of someone else’s whitecaps.

Chaos is as random on the up side as it is on the down side. Those fantastic confluences of positive forces that conspire to push you inexorably toward some un-imaginable peak, like a 50 foot wave you are riding tighter than anything Kelly Slater ever rode? Just as rare as the 1000 year flood. Nope, the trick is to see and seek those little streams of good, each tiny trickle of happy. Not a branch on your decision tree? Scr^w it! Get out from under the tree and get wet!

You’re ready to face the chaos. You’re a Crossfitter.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at July 24, 2011 6:30 AM


Doctor As Patient

I don’t feel so hot. No, that’s not quite right. I feel really lousy. Yah…that’s more accurate.

I’m really not much of a complainer, at least for a guy (women are much tougher than men in all ways). I go to work unless I simply can’t rise from bed and crawl to the shower. The entire staff, my family, and every patient who walks into my office feeds off my mood. No matter how I feel, how up or down I might be, on the outside it’s always a good day and I’m always feeling great. That’s the way it is, and that’s probably the way it’s supposed to be whenever you set the pace, and it’s certainly what’s expected of a doctor in the office. I get that, and that’s what I’ve done all of my adult life.

Except now. I’m feeling really lousy, and it’s so bad that I’m having a really hard time hiding it.

It’s partly physical, and it might be medical. No one, patient and doc alike, ever really thinks of the doctor as susceptible to human frailty of any type. Sick day? Yer a doctor…you don’t need any stinkin’ sick day! Just the same, there are a couple of things which just aren’t right. Sure, I’m 51 years old, and that might have something to do with this, but…

So what’s going on? Hmmm…my hands hurt. Pretty scary, eh? I’m an eye surgeon; the quality of my kids’ diet depends on the health of my hands. Nothing too big dealish right now, but just enough to engage my consciousness, oh, all day. And my shoulder, the one I hurt 3 years ago doing push-ups, it’s been buggin’ me after a little kayak rescue adventure on the 4th of July. It’s not really a new problem actually, and it still only keeps me from doing a couple of things I LIKE to do (play golf) and not anything I NEED to do (work), but it wasn’t getting any better, and for a few days it was a little worse.

The gym hasn’t been the sanctuary it’s been for me over the last couple of years. I’m a Crossfitter–we measure everything in the gym. I’m not making any PR (Personal Records) on repeat WOD’s (Workout of the Day) to speak of. In fact, if I’m really being honest here, my times and loads on repeat WOD’s are actually off by about 10% or so. Greg Glassman, the founder of Crossfit and a real, live, certified genius has postulated that measured fitness is a proxy for health. Indeed, he posits that Fitness EQUALS Health. I’m a huge Greg Glassman fan, but I really hope he’s not entirely right on this one.

Whaaaat! Is that it? Is that all this is about? A few physical dings after 51 years of being a knucklehead athlete? Not doing so hot in the gym? Ack, suck it up and quit yer whining!

(Laughing) Sure! It would be cool if that’s all there is! But there’s this little bump in my neck (probably just left over from a virus), and a general decrease in energy along with generally poor quality sleep. My tolerance for the little inconveniences in life is nil, and my ability to let the myriad little discourtesies that are directed at a doctor or a boss is at an all time low. A couple other vague and maddening symptoms that have turned me into every physician’s nightmare: the doctor as a patient.

Medicine of all kinds is the ultimate looking glass. Patient or doctor, you spend pretty much all of your time on one side or the other, and your perspective is irrevocably set by which side you started on. As much as we as docs try to empathize with a patient it’s simply impossible to do any better than sympathize, even if we have the exact same symptoms or diagnosis;  our experience is NEVER the same because we are doctors. We speak the language so our conversation with our own doctors is different, and our doctors nearly always treat us as colleagues first, patients second. We either receive a little lip service and a pat on the rump, or more likely end up with the “blue-plate special” work-up in which no stone is left un-turned, no opportunity to pet a Zebra missed.

Nope, it will likely turn out to be the result of the unrelenting grind of being a doctor who takes care of patients. The countless little cuts from folks who are involved in the “care” that make it more difficult to do your job. The incessant bleating in every media outlet about the “problem with healthcare” and the “problem with doctors”. The patient or family member of a patient who has received state of the art, best in class care and the best possible outcome, and yet finds it necessary to find something to complain about. It will likely be the endless weight of carrying the financial health of 15 families on my shoulders like so many other small business owners. It will likely come down to the blessing and the curse of having an out-sized work capacity and an under-developed ability to demand the same from others, to demand that they share the part of the load that is rightly theirs. Non-medical business owners have resources to call on in these situations, organizations like YPO, Tech, and EO. Docs? Meh, not so much.

Who watches the watchers? Who looks out for those who are tasked with looking out for others? Who is there to care for those who dispense care?

I know what you’re thinking. WAAAAA…what a crybaby! Send in the Whambulance and get this whiner outta here! Maybe. Perhaps. But you’d better have a bunch of those Whambulances on call, because when the doc does go down he/she never goes alone. Private practice or huge institutional setting, we are each an integral part of a complex micro-economic and social ecosystem. Set apart, but never truly separate. We never go down alone.

So, where to turn? To whom do I bring this? My own doc will undoubtedly rule out any and all illness as expected (but I’ll still end up with that CT of the neck). I have an image in my mind, a slow video of waves washing over a rock on the beach which sits at the mid-tide mark. It’s a substantial rock. Sturdy. Large. Not unattractive. Steady. I imagine  people walking by all day, every day, occasionally glancing at the rock, but mostly just peripherally aware that it’s there. A jellyfish in the surf or a crab underfoot might prompt a jump to safety; a daydreaming beachcomber might stub a toe, but mostly folks just don’t really think about the rock. No body notices that after years and years of twice daily tides the rock has started to show some wear. A tiny crack here. A little chip there.

I don’t feel so hot. High tide is nigh.

Sunday Musings 7/17/11, on Beth’s 50th Birthday!

Sunday musings (on 50)…

1) 50. My darling wife, Beth, is 50 today. She has handled it waaaaay better than yours truly did 1.5 years ago. No surprise there! She continues to inspire and amaze. The love of my life.  Happy Birthday, Dolly!!

2) Store. It appears that a few folks have just discovered that Crossfit is also a business. While I can certainly understand the sentiment about the prices quoted, I seem to recall the exact same comments about the prices charged previously. Same themes, too, about not being consistent with the type of folks in the community, greedy, etc., etc.

There are now, STILL, 3 Crossfits. Crossfit the fitness program, one version of which is brought to you free of charge here on Crossfit.com, 3-on, 1-off. Crossfit the sport, soon to be coming to a computer near you as the Crossfit Games beam out from the HDC. And Crossfit the company, Crossfit, Inc., responsible for providing the livelihood of quite a few folks not only at Crossfit HQ but also at some 3000 Affiliate gyms and a few non-affilitated companies (Innov-8, Life as Rx, C2).

I totally get the Crossfit Community thing. Really. But business is business. The store will fly or not. The merchandise will move or not. The pricing is appropriate per the market or not. My bet? This will be a massively positive thing for other people selling Crossfit gear out of their box, and we will see some “special pricing” on stuff in Q4.

Crossfit, Inc. understands markets, too.

3)The edge. No, not that guitar guy… as in ‘living on the edge.’ I saw this somewhere; can’t remember just where so apologies to whomever owns the quote. “If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much space.”

That’s some good stuff.

I don’t think it’s about danger, but I do think it’s about risk. About taking chances. Living out on the farthest reaches of what you THINK you can do, because that’s the only way to find out just what you CAN do.

There are times in life when it’s easier, or at least more appropriate to do this. I made my entrepreneurial leap at age 44. Rather late for sure, and financially maybe too late. We’ll see. But a bunch of us old folks were together last night chatting about our progeny and hoping that they would get out on the edge now, while they are young. Take some chances. Maybe fail a couple of times. Fail UP.

Out on the edge is where the really big successes lie.

4) Carpe Diem. “Living to die another day.” I like this one, and I like it because you can spin it a bunch of ways. Me? Well, I’m a pretty positive spin guy as you’ve no doubt discovered.

Today I live. I, like you, and like every creature walking our fair planet, will die on some tomorrow. Another day, but not today. I know not which tomorrow it will be, but I know that, for the moment, it is not today.

I hold a “hand” that I’ve been dealt from yesterday, one that will be the foundation for the “hand” I will hold tomorrow. I cannot change the deal; what is in my hand is what I have, what I will play from today. I have a responsibility to make sure that I don’t totally muck it up today, ’cause if I’m in the game tomorrow I’ll want to have a reasonable hand to start. But I’m playing TODAY and I’m going to play to win.

Somebody has to win; it might as well be me. Heck, LOTS of people can win; I might as well be one of them.

I’m living to die another day. My game will be over and I’ll have played that last hand. But I’m LIVING today, not dying, and I’ll be PLAYING that hand.

Don’t ever expect me to fold.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at July 17, 2011 7:13 AM


Sunday Musings 7/10/11: Summer Reading and Sir Roger Bannister

Sunday musings…

1) Google +. Facebook for big kids.

2) “Fortune knocks but once, but misfortune has more patience.” This one bears some contemplation.

3) Ninja mosquito. The monsoon season has just ended in Cleveland and we are now in the swamp season. Mosquitos the size of small hummingbirds now patrol the skies, as agile as any earthbound ninja. They apparently have quite a sense of humor, too. One bit me in the arse last night.

I’m pretty sure that’s the same one buzzing around laughing every time I scratch.

4) Roger Bannister. It’s the 40th anniversary year of Sir Roger’s epic athletic achievement, the breaking of the 4 minute mile barrier. His immediate reaction was to feel “as a flashbulb just after the flash; consumed and without further purpose.” Few know that he retired from competition 6 months after his historical run.

Fewer, still, know that Bannister was knighted not for his mile, nor even for his extraordinary career as a neurologist and teacher, but for his efforts in the 60’s and 70’s creating fitness programs for the everyday Brit. Indeed, he has often opined that the foibles and personal failures of famous professional athletes are among the greatest dangers to the fitness of the masses, discouraging the fans and presenting yet another speed bump in their path. Sir Roger became less and less a fan of professional sports as the business and the money became more and more the topic of sports conversation, elbowing aside the talk of athletic exploit, cold cash giving the cold shoulder to talk of training, of playing.

There’s a lesson here for us, I think, courtesy of Sir Roger Bannister, as our “Crossfit as Sport” takes off like the proverbial rocket. Crossfit the “Fitness program” is still primary. Ask Coach. I hear he’s spending way more of his personal time on fitness and health issues, stuff like drown-proofing babies, and not as much as you’d think on The Games and Crossfit competitions. Don’t get me wrong, I know he gets a charge out of the epic achievements of our top competitors, but I think he’s much more of the mind of Sir Roger when it comes to the nitty gritty of Crossfit (note: this is just my opinion; I’ve not discussed this with Coach).

If we all, each one of us, Crossfit HQ or John Q. Crossfit, takes just a moment to remember what Crossfit is for the masses, what it is for the vast majority of us who will never compete anywhere at all, we stand a much better chance of our future Crossfit “Roger” being more Sir Roger Bannister and less W. Roger Clemmens.

5) Summer reading. It’s also that time of year when every publication, blog, and foophy radio show comes out with a summer reading list. You know the kind, the ones with new books not to be missed, classics to catch up on, reads to expand your mind. All of it. I peruse them each year as we prepare for out annual sojourn to Cape Cod looking for the mind-numb for the drive, the hidden spot to escape whatever the “problem with Darrell” is this year.

Funny, but every list I’ve looked at this year just bores me to tears.

I don’t think my tastes have changed all that much, nor have I become any less inclined to branch out and test drive something new and different. Nope, I just think the stuff out there right now is just under- cooked pabulum put out to fill the dead air of summer. Kindle, Nook, Sony, iPad, or old-fashioned paper n’ ink, it’s all pretty much rubbish.

So what’ll I do? What will I pick up to fill the hours that otherwise gape before me like so many metaphysical (not to mention metaphorical) canyons? You know what? I think I’ll just read the last “Harry Potter”. Ya. That’s what I’ll do.

That’ll show ’em.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at July 10, 2011 8:11 AM


Sunday Musings 7/3/11: A Crossfit Crossroads

Sunday musings…

1) Boomerang. An implement which when thrown returns to the thrower.

2) Boomerang. Hails from Australia. Wondering if Lil’bingo is planning on returning from his visit.

3) Boomerang. Nickname for children who return to the home of their parents after leaving for college (or life). Mrs. bingo and I spent the collective childhood years of the bingo progeny steeling ourselves for the inevitability of their permanent emigration away from Cleveland. All we hear is that Cleveland cannot retain its young, after all. “The Heir” left for college in Denver, and “Lil’bingo” left to explore Crossfit as a career with a first step in So Cal. Cleveland…SoCal…Cleveland…Denver…

A funny thing happened along the way to the empty nest, though: everyone wants to return to Cleveland! Go figure. “The Heir” seeks a job, looking only in Greater Cleveland, while he contemplates grad school. Lil’bingo talks only of his return home as he contemplates a CF career. Even “Lovely Daughter” has extended her acceptable landing zone only as far afield as Pittsburgh.

Go figure.

4.) Crossfit Crossroads. I’m stuck. Stuck on a plateau. Feels like some 3 months or so now. Does this happen to you at all? It feels like a Crossfit plateau, but it might in fact be a much broader one. I’m not sure.

Outcomes, the right side of the ‘black box’, are pretty stale at he moment. No PR’s. Actually, if I look closely, my WOD results on repeats is ~10% worse. Hmmm…why is that? Diet? Not much changed there in any real way. Same foods in the same volume; same alcohol intake, + or -. Pretty much Main Page WOD’s done on the same days and with the same volume.

Psychological? Attitude? I’ve noted a bit more difficulty making myself go to that ‘dark place’ where Crossfit intensity is found, for sure, but nothing has changed in my workout environment (workout alone in globo-gym 2 miles from house and office). Stress? The grind of my day job? Perhaps. Changing my venue, going to an Affiliate gym might be the solution.

Am I sick? Do I have some sort of quiet, real illness that I am presently unaware of? You know, the Crossfit definition of health is “Health = Fitness; Fitness = Health.” Is my gym performance a proxy for my health? Coach would look here; maybe not first, but he would certainly say to look.

Or is it simply that I am now 51 years old, and that I have run the course of what I can expect in terms of continual fitness improvements through everything that is Crossfit. Coach has opined in the past that one can expect 10 years of improved fitness no matter when you start Crossfit, but I think he also said this was conjecture, and he said it some years ago. The curve must eventually flatten under the weight of age. Is this just a particularly long plateau, or is this the last flat spot before the slopes are no longer ascending?

I’ve always found the plateaus more confusing than either the ascents or the descents. You?

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at July 3, 2011 8:06 AM


Tales From Bellevue Hospital: 4th Of July

There are only two kinds of people in New York City: Targets, and people who hit Targets. At Bellevue we took care of the Targets.

It’s the first weekend in July. For most people in America that means the 4th of July and everything that goes along with that. Barbecues. Fireworks. Festivals and ballgames of all sorts. And beer. Lots and lots of beer. But in that curious sub-culture of medical education the first weekend in July means the first time on call for newly minted interns and newly promoted residents and fellows of all sorts. Everyone and everything is new, just in time for July 4th and its aftermath.

Funny, but I ended up on call for every 4th of July in my four years of post-med school training. I’m not sure which, or how many, of the residency gods I offended, but whatever I did I apparently did in spades ’cause I hit the first weekend jackpot every year. I have no memory of my first on call as an intern, but the “Target Range” was open for business those first couple of years at Bellevue, for sure! In fact, if memory serves, the phrase “Target” was coined that very first weekend of that very first year as an ophthalmology resident.

“Hey Eye Guy! We got a John Q. Nobody who got shot in the temple just standing on the subway platform. Says he can’t see. Whaddaya want us to do with him? By the way…welcome to Bellevue.”

Crowds and beer and heat and stuff that explodes. Welcome to Bellevue, indeed. Some poor schlub survives the bar scene after the parade, makes it through pickpocket alley intact, gingerly stepping over detritus living and otherwise, only to get shot in the head as the A Train approached the station in a random act of anonymous violence. The bullet entered through the right temple, destroyed the right eye, and wreaked havoc in the left eye socket before coming to rest against the left temple. Right eye gone and malignant glaucoma in the only remaining left eye. And there I was, all of 3 days into my opthalmology residency, backed up by a chief resident of similar vintage. Whoa…

There’s no way to avoid it. After all, med students have to graduate and residencies have to start some time. There’s just this unholy confluence of weak links in the system all coming together in time for the second (after New Year’s Eve) most difficult ER day in our big, academic hospitals. Get sick or injured on June 4th? Everyone’s on top of their game and everyone’s in town. July 4th? The fix is in, and the game is as rigged against you as any carnival game attended by a dentally challenged carnie.

As I sit here, an Attending on call for the 4th of July weekend, covering the ER and cowering each time the phone rings, the Tweets and Facebook posts heralding the arrival of a new crop of interns and residents send me back to Bellevue. Year 2, cursed again, covering the spanking new 1st year ophthalmology resident (was it Dave?) as he got his welcome “gift” from the ER. “Hey Eye Guy. We got a Target down here for ya. 10 year old girl. Some dumbass tossed a lit M80 to her and she caught it. Went off before she could get rid of it;  blew off her right hand and looks like her right eye is gone. You from NY? No? Welcome to Bellevue, pal.” Yup…there’s something about the 4th of July in every teaching hospital in the U.S., and just like everything else, whatever it is, there was more of it at Bellevue.

Only two kinds of people in New York, Targets and people who hit Targets. At Bellevue we took care of the Targets.


You are currently browsing the Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind blog archives for July, 2011.