Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Self-Conscious, for once

Middle aged men are just about the most invisible creatures on earth. Nobody notices them. In addition, most of us don't care about what we look like. Which might be cause or effect, now that I think of it. Normally I don't care much about how I look when I'm doing something.

But tonight was weird. There I was running, and very self conscious about it. Wondering how it looked. It felt clunky at first, and gradually got better, but it was never smooth. Overall the time was good, just a hair under 35 minutes for a 5 K run, which is ball park for a moderate pace, not breathing too hard. Just towards the end my legs were beginning to feel it a bit. I don't believe the last few seconds of the pace graph. There's no way I was running that fast.

At least the snow held off till after the run. Yay! Lots of stretching after, and sitting with a bag of cold water on my quad.

If this had been a swim, I'd have said I didn't have the water feel. Is there such a thing as run feel? Do you ever get self conscious about what your run looks like? Or anything else you do?

Monday, April 14, 2014

The downgrade

I finally did it. Realized the truth. Came, mostly, to terms with the inevitable. On the weekend I changed my registration from a marathon to a half marathon on June 1. Even that had me wondering, but then I realized there was no way I would be ready to try to run 10 K fast either. And what's the point of racing 10K just to finish? So (fingers crossed) with some consistent training (which I've really struggled with this year) I ought to be able to run the entire thing. I hope.

Another thing we're coming to terms with is clutter. There is an old plasma TV to be recycled. A VCR and some tapes to be tossed out. (If you want a functional VCR with tapes of Miss Marple, speak fast!) An assortment of other odds and ends to be tossed out. A water damaged phone (who knew plastic would degrade and crack by itself?), several old leaky irons, an old coffee maker, and I'm not sure what else all.

Even though all this stuff is essentially non-functional, I still have a pang throwing it out. The VCR, for example. There is a story there. Once upon a time, I was helping my dad's family clean out my Grandma's room at the lodge. Her funeral was the same day as the Oklahoma City bombing; we were watching the coverage as we were getting ready for the funeral. 19 years ago in a few days.

My uncle picks up a small TV, turns to me, and says, "Your dad got this for mom, so I guess it's yours now." (My dad had died a few years earlier.) I had turned to run, but there was no escape. It was reasonably well known in my family that I don't watch TV much. I carried it out to our car; Linda nearly left me behind when she saw what I was carrying.

So we took it home, and a few days later we went out to find the cheapest possible VCR player. I toyed with the salesman's hopes, then crushed him mercilessly. "The cheapest", I said, "that plays and rewinds VCR tapes." He started with the extended warranty spiel, but I gave him the look and he stopped part way through.

We mostly rented VCR's, but bought the Miss Marple ones because they are so good. (Joan Hickson was born to play Miss Marple.) We played a few DVD's on the computer, but lasted till Boxing day 2002 when we bought the plasma and a DVD player. So that VCR player is 19 years old in a few days. Hard to imagine. I'm not sure why we kept it. Mostly because it was sitting there inoffensively hooked up, I guess. Gathering dust. I'm not even sure if it can be hooked up to the Blu-Ray, and I don't propose to find out.

I can remember when VCR tapes and players were a novelty. An expensive one. Anyone remember the VCR and Betamax wars? Once could join a video club for a fairly steep membership fee, and it was $20 or so to rent a tape. Buying them could be 3 figures. Imagine!

Now DVD's and Blu-ray are nearly dead. More and more content will come from the internet. Maybe 20 years from now I'll be writing a blog about these shiny plastic discs and an impossibly coarse ancient technology called HDTV. (We used to have to put bolts into the wall for a mounting bracket! They were several inches thick! And if you looked close you could actually see the pixels!)

So even though the VCR was under $200, I think about how long I had to work, back then, to buy it. (Not that long, now that I think about it.) Still, my Granny went through the depression, and as a child I remember her being extremely careful with money. There was a strong element of "make do, or do without" there. Things were expensive, and you were expected to take care of them.

Now our things turn into clutter. It would probably cost me more effort than buying it, to find a home for the VCR player. Much easier to throw it out. And no, they say you can't even recycle them. The City website says to throw them (household quantities) into our black bin, which is garbage. Tuesday evening, unless someone speaks up, claiming it or the tapes. The countdown has begun.

Oh, and water ran this morning with Katie for a while, as she filled me in on her Maui trip, and adventures with her rental bike, dubbed Two Ton Tessie. Ran a bit more after she left, then slipped into the pool for a quick 600 m. For once the competition pool was warm.

The idea is to run tomorrow. It could well be snowing. I'm not kidding. I'm weeding a flower bed today in the warmth and sunshine as chicken cooks in the BBQ. Shoveling the driveway tomorrow. Spring, you are depressing. I hope for nice weather this weekend to clean out the garage and fix the BBQ.

What do you have in your house that you really should throw away?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The dawn run

And no, I don't mean the run to the bathroom first thing, before settling back in for a snooze. I mean a real run, outdoors and everything, just at dawn, or shortly after. I had agreed to meet Michelle at 7 to match up with her plans for a long run, and Sophia came along too.

This is my first time in a McDonalds since before August 1980. And I must say I'm not impressed, or tempted to go back any time soon. I'll spare you the picture I could have taken just outside the door. I thought it the natural end result of eating anything there, but Michelle pointed out it could have been a last call patron from the bar next door. But you'd think someone from McD's would at least use a bucket to rinse it into the parking lot along with all the gravel and other nastiness.

The run was good. We ran up into Mayfair to see if I could find the hole in the sound barrier. I'm thinking about running home from work when it gets a bit warmer. With the Sandy Beach bridge out I'll have to stay on Elbow for longer, and wanted to run through the nice neighbourhood rather than the Glenmore Gulch. It started cool and windy, and my legs were taken a bit by surprise, but it all turned out well. Even though Runkeeper didn't find the GPS and get distances, it was 6.8 K in just under 50 minutes.

I find it difficult to dress for temperatures just below zero. Much colder and I'm fine. Warmer and I'm fine. But trying to figure out cool, especially when there is a wind is difficult. In the end I opted for what I wore earlier during much colder runs. I figured I could unzip if necessary. There was quite a wind, and I knew we'd be running near the reservoir, so no shelter to speak of. I'm glad. Here we are after, you can see how the wind affected our faces.

It took 3 tries to get it right, I kept aiming so the photo only had half Sopia's face, which is not acceptable! She and Michelle met up with other people and ran more. I figured that just under 7 was good for today. Good stretch and roll after. After she was done, Sophia came to visit Linda and the cats. I was using the yellow ribbon to distract Curtis from Sophia opening the door to leave. He wasn't thrilled.

Contrary to your expectations, I did not head into the media room to watch the new TV. I had a nap for a little while. Very refreshing. Then a lazy Sunday, with more rolling and stretching later in the day. It's too cool to sit outside, though nice if you were doing, say, yard work. As if.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

TV, before and after

Did I mention the plasma TV had died after more than 11 years?

But first there was a cat. It's spring, so Curtis is shedding. This was just a few strokes with the comb, after I had combed him yesterday.

Celina, of course, with her plush coat doesn't shed as much.

So here's the before, of the old plasma. And some clutter.

Here's the during, working on the wiring. It worked out fairly well, though I wish I'd got a 2 m HDMI cable instead of 6 feet. The power cable is barely long enough. I guess that's one way of saving money.

And the after. I've got the DVD player going, easy peasy. Internet connection was just as easy. I even managed to link the iPad to the TV and can at least partially control the TV that way. Isn't technology nice sometimes.

In the best stroke of luck I've had in years, I managed to reuse the rack to mount it on the wall. The machine screws that go in this TV are different than the ones in the old, but believe it or not, I found the right size in the mess that is my workshop downstairs. No washers though, I still had to go out and get those. Let's not talk about running the gauntlet of the Walmart parking lot. Better than buying the machine screws. It all mounted on the wall very nicely. We still have an old VCR though that we haven't used in many years. If you want it, just leave a comment. I can't see us playing any of the VCR's we have, since we have them on DVD.

So far the picture quality is what I had hoped for, for some of the movies. I guess DVD's come in varying levels of information quality. The 5th Element looks amazing. El Mariachi, not so much. I've been skipping through some of the other DVD's as well, but I can't stay up late. I have a run first thing in the morning.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

2 forward, 1 sideways

Last you heard I had a really nice run on Tuesday. Though some of you may not know that because not many people read that blog from Tuesday. No matter. Your loss.

Wednesday I passed on a swim for a variety of reasons. Then a massage. My legs were feeling much better this time. More sort of overall tired than some muscles in particular feeling really cranky. Then yoga, with our famous teacher back from vacation. That was all good.

Then today I was in meeting hell. Normally I get up and move around, and drink lots of water, but there wasn't much of that today. Normally I have 2 short meetings a week. I had 5 today, plus an informal one after when I normally leave. Even though I took my water glass everywhere, I still didn't drink as much as I wanted to, or move around as much. Then sitting in the car for an hour to get home. Now my legs are feeling a bit cranky. I'll head down to stretch in a few minutes.

I'm normally pretty organized about getting out the door in the morning, but there was lots of back and forth. I should have videoed Curtis. If I was walking towards the front door, he charged toward it and got ready to be let out. (Hint, it's not going to happen.) If I was walking to the back of the house, he charged towards the back because of course I'm only doing that to give him more crunchies. We were back and forth several times. I think he was getting a little frustrated with me.

The front yard has emerged from the snow cover for the first time since November. I was out looking things over and it looks pretty gross. Of course, there is another month of winter yet, so I don't want to get too carried away. The Alberta rose by the garage is already getting ready for another season of domination and conquering. I think it would survive the coming of the glaciers.

So maybe there will be some gardening this weekend, but I doubt it. I'm not sure what's on the agenda. Too tired to think about it now.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Running! The desk photo

Today was spring in Calgary. It comes every year, often between January and June, but no guarantees. You have to take advantage or you'll miss it. There might yet be more winter, and then it will go directly into monsoon season. There is usually a brief summer sometime between June and August, then we get to the nice time of the year. Fall. Usually between August and December. Sunny days varying between T shirt and light jacket warmth, and cool evenings, sometimes with a bit of frost. then winter, anytime from September to June. Such are the seasons in Calgary.

Today was nice, so I tried running again. At first I regretted it. The first K was brutal! My legs felt slow, heavy, sluggish, torpid, and reluctant. Then they gradually woke up although they never got to springy like the other day. I was not astonished to find the first the first K coming in at almost 8 minutes, only a bit surprised it was that fast. Then the next 4 were quite consistent at 7 minutes and a couple seconds. This was a surprise.

I couldn't hear my phone talking to me so I had no idea of my pace. It felt like I was slogging away. Never breathing hard, and not trying to run fast, just trying to stay moving. All in all it was pretty good.

This is why I start workouts. It used to be that if I thought it would be crap, I wouldn't start. But I've had lots that turned out to be pretty good workouts overall, and not just above low expectations. So now I go, and tell myself if theres actual pain, I'll stop. Mostly there isn't.

Did a fairly good stretch session afterward. Then while finishing my glass of wine I put a wine bag of cold water on my quad and IT band. Curtis wasn't at all sure what to think of the slosh.

I had a couple people guessing at the number of electronics on the desk photo. It wasn't the best picture, and if I had planned to do it as a formal contest I should have opened the lid. So here's the photo again, and my count of electronic devices.

Starting top left, and going clockwise.
1- Lamp has a control to brighten or dim it.
2- Computer monitor. Actually it's the whole computer.
3&4- The rounded silver box contains 2 hearing aids. They are bluetooth enabled, so I counted them as separate devices.
5- The orange thingie is an external 2 TB hard drive. Or maybe 4, I never know these things anymore.
6- The watch sitting on the little red book. It runs on a battery, and has a tiny computer inside to keep time.
7- The blue thingie is the cable modem.
8- Just to the right of the cable modem is the blue tooth receiver for the hearing aids. I love listening to music piped directly into my ears. The left right separation is unbelievable, and the sound quality is quite good.
9- The keyboard.
10- The mouse.
11- The old iPad. I sometimes use it as a track pad, and sometimes to play music through the old sound system.
12- Small calculator sitting on the iPad
13- The HP calculator, on the iPad, just behind the small calculator.
In fact, when I look closely to the left of the iPad, there is a a stereo amp there, but it looks like a black box here, so I wasn't expecting anyone to get it. The two coasters are in fact the disks from a hard drive I took apart a little while ago, but they don't count anymore.

There are two small glass guardian sculptures, a moose and a Chinese dragon. I didn't do these, they are a souvenir of a trip to Ontario. The big glass blog is a combination paperweight and business card holder, for back when I had business cards. Let's see, I had them at Amoco, BP, Skystone, and IMS. As an independent contractor I've never bothered to make any up. It's just as simple to email my contact info. What would I put on a card? My name, my company name, email, cell phone number. I know what I do with most business cards, I'd be afraid the money I spend on them would go the same place.

So, I digress.
Janice gets coffee and a treat from the La Havre bakery when we visit there later this year.
Michelle gets coffee and a treat next time we meet up.
Yay both of them for playing along!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A musing rant on the vagaries of modern life

This morning I managed to sleep in till 7am, which is very late for me. After feeding the cats I started coffee, and settled in for the Twitter #coffeechat. This got me thinking about the nature of community these days. Which led me to prosthetics for the brain, and generally how people cope with the modern world.

But first a word from our sponsor! I was reading back through one of my old posts using the "You might also like" feature at the bottom of every post. And how about that? For once I was ahead of the world. Recently we've been reading about those anti-vax idiots, but I was on about them almost two years ago, read about it here. Along with difficulties in using revolving doors and other complicated modern world technology.

So there I was, sipping coffee and chatting with people all over North America using a small hand held device. Possible earlier, but difficult. Now it's very easy, although it took me a minute to get started with it on my laptop (faster typing) than on the iPad. Of course, it isn't the same as sitting in a coffee shop, actually talking to these people. But then we'd have to be together in the same place at the same time. While I know a few #coffeechat regulars here in Calgary, it wouldn't be quite the same.

Once upon a while ago, some blog buddies and I had a running set of commentary about one of us (not me, obviously) being pregnant, and who the god-parents were. Lots of fun, though two of us don't blog anymore. The other recently announced she is moving to Australia. This will do great things for her blog-fodder, and I'm looking forward to reading it. But until recently someone moving to Australia (I've always wanted to go) was essentially moving to another planet. You lost touch, unless you were faithful letter writers. Now I suspect my blog/twitter/facebook relationship won't change in any noticeable way. This is an amazing thing.

One of the mentions during coffee chat was one person setting a reminder to take part. At first I thought there was a way of setting a reminder within Twitter itself, but no, they had set an alert on their phone to remind them. I didn't ask which calendar/list/reminder program they used. It's such a personal choice, in that what works for one person perfectly won't work for anyone else at all. I haven't found one yet that I really like. One promising app only runs on the new iOS, and I'm not willing to go there on my loved but obsolete iPhone 4.

Memory used to be important. I remember one of my grade school teachers talking about memorization. I had the attitude that why remember when you can look it up in books? Her point was that books weren't always available. Then she went on and quoted a long chunk of Treasure Island. In older novels one often reads one of the characters quoting a chunk of text from the classics in support of whatever he or she was saying, and this wasn't thought the least unusual. I can't remember an example in real life, but your milage may vary.

Now of course, I can look up almost any book I want, from almost anywhere, though I might have to squint to read it. So is memory important anymore? There's times I've used a list to remember to buy 3 or 4 items at Coop. Is this a sign of oncoming dementia? A sign I'm easily distracted? Or, as my teacher would have it, a sign of poor moral character? Or is a sign of the degeneracy of our times, where there is so much going on that no human can keep up with everything they are interested in without aid?

We think nothing of someone using a cane, or crutches, or a wheelchair as a physical prosthetic. Sometimes it's temporary, sometimes permanent. More recently limb prosthetics are being integrated with computers, and amazing things are happening. To some extent such people could be considered cyborgs, though when it's your neighbor or coworker, the connotations of the word cyborg are entirely different.

So if prosthetics for a limb are ok, what about prosthetics for your brain? A pencil and paper could be considered an early brain prosthetic, but the iPhone or iPad are the ultimate, at least this week. Who knows what's coming next? Where is the line between it being a handy useful aid when necessary, and an indispensable tool for day to day life?

Back when we had to remember everything for ourselves, we remembered two kinds of things. The important things, and the things that somehow settled into our memory without us making an effort, mainly because of some association. Birthdays are something that could be either. I could never forget my brother's birthday. It falls on a major holiday, and he shares it with a cousin, though several years apart. One of my buddies was born April 1, couldn't forget that. One of my childhood buddies was born same day, same year as me, but I've long since lost touch with her. Darn this habit of women changing their names upon marriage! She could be living 10 doors down and I'd never know it.

Birthdays are important to many people. It's sometimes a way of celebrating that you've survived another year, and sometimes an excused for a party with friends. But think back a few years, I'm talking 100 or so. Lots of people didn't survive childhood. Many women didn't survive childbirth. By the standards that much of humanity has lived by, I'm ancient, yet today I'm considered middle aged. So when you don't get many birthdays, and there are uncountable numbers of things that could kill you before your next one, I guess they'd be more special.

So now when social apps remind you of birthdays, and people send greetings to one another based on that, how meaningful is it? Does it matter that 500 people you barely know say "Happy Birthday" to you on social media? Are they really thinking of you in particular? For all I know, there is some clever app that composes and sends birthday greetings to your contacts for you. To me it's just clutter. Now, my birthday is not common knowledge, so if someone says happy birthday to me, on the correct day, then they go to the trouble of remembering, and that means something.

Which reminds me, speaking of clutter, I've been meaning to clean off my desk. One of my writing buddies had posted some  very nice pics of her writing room. So awesome to have a room of your own to write in. It used to be that if I was writing, I'd be at my desk. Now, with my laptop I could be anywhere. So some photos. This is what I'm looking at right now. It looks a bit odd because there's so much light that the iPad camera is all confused. For those that haven't been here, I'm looking south onto a big green space. Well, if the snow ever finishes going away, it will be green.

Here's the before of the desk. I was working on the timeline, and the novel at the same time. Several times I was working on the laptop keyboard, while looking at the desktop screen. This is not a productive activity. The clutter isn't productive either.

Here's a tidy desktop again. There were several dust bunnies caught in the act amidst the clutter. Pop quiz! Count the electronic devices in this photo. First one with the correct answer gets a cookie! Or maybe a bottle of wine, if we can work out delivery difficulties. (For purposes of this contest, a pair of socks would be counted as two items. This is important.)

When I do write at the desk, which sometimes happens, this is the view, reminding me of active times. I'm not so well organized to have a proper medal display. I made the paperweight with the bit of yellow in it. Behind me are some plants, a coffee table covered in books, a couple chairs, and a north facing bay window. The view from the window now is snow. There are still several feet in the back yard. This does not make back yard reno planning any easier. There will be before (you will have to prepare yourselves) and after photos. Maybe during.

What the heck, here's a before shot, complete with snow. Actually, now that I think of it, the snow is a mercy considering what is under it. The left hand window is the window I'd be looking out of if I turned around while writing at the desktop.

So the good news today is that I ran again. 35 minutes at whatever pace my legs wanted. Probably not  quite 5 K. For the first 2 K or so, they actually felt springy and happy. I could feel my quads working for the rest, but even at the end they weren't complaining like yesterday. After a good stretch and stuff, they still felt pretty good, though it's usually the next day that tells the tale.

In the mixed news department, there is a thin vertical blue line on our old plasma. Old, as in purchased Boxing Day 2002. (That is 4119 days, or 3 years, 11 months, 11 days.) It just showed up recently. We've been looking at LED sets for a while, but have trouble with the idea of replacing something that is still working. Technically, it's still working, I suppose, but it's more than a little distracting. So now I have to move TV research into high gear.

Right now the only firm criteria is that it be no more than 48 inches wide, unless I want to make holes in the wall and move some speakers. Which I don't want to do. What LED TV do you have, and where did you get it? Was that an experience you'd do again?

In the bad news department, the weekend is almost over. How do they go by so quickly?

So in recap, for the comments:

  • How do you feel about memory these days?
  • Scroll up to the clean desk picture, count how many electronic devices you see, and comment.
  • Tell me (please and thank you) about your LED TV buying experience. Visions? Costco? Another retailer? TV brand? Blue Ray DVD player brand?
  • How was your weekend? Did it go by quickly?


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