Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Not sure why she bothered wearing a shirt

So far so good, no back complaints. Into the 50 m pool to minimize flip turns. 500 m warm up, flip turns feeling not too bad, at least my core is doing what I asked, instead of ignoring me like last time. This started good and got slower, but I was more interested in how I felt than in going fast. I'm not sure what I had done to my tongue overnight. It felt very swollen, and I was finding it hard to breathe. No matter.

Some gentle dolphin kick alternating with pull. The kick was almost more a dynamic stretch than an effective kick for getting down the pool. The pull was to see what my shoulders would think of a medium effort. Cool down. 30 minutes altogether.

As I was finishing up a big swim club came in. They had the whole pool booked, and were going through their warm up on deck, thrashing around their arms. I thought it interesting that the girls were all doing their warmups in unison, and the boys were doing whatever they wanted. A few of them were totally cheating. I was thinking of sticking around to watch them swim, but decided to head in to work.

On the way home I have to walk past the Palliser Hotel. Just lately it seems to be the locus of people walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk. They also stand around on the sidewalk wondering what is going to happen to them next, with no consideration for those of us that have some place to be. Still, tourists, one has to make allowances. I guess.

Although the bounds of those allowances were tested just past the hotel. A young lady leaving a building and getting into a car. Technically, she was wearing a shirt, but it hid very little of her bra. I'm old enough to remember when it was though shameful for a grown woman to show a bra strap in public. Lately, the bra strap is a significant fraction of the clothing covering the shoulders and back. The alleged shirt was a tank top that looked like an extra foot or so of material had been sewn into the shoulder straps, so the whole affair settled much lower than usual. Lower to the point that only a pair of small triangles of shirt covered the very bottom of the bra.

There are any number of shirt styles that show off varying portions of back, side, and front, and the intent seems to be to show off (hopefully) buff anatomy, along with at least part of the bra or other foundation garment. I've been around any number of women wearing just a sports bra as they work out, so it's not like the concept is strange to me. But this was just a normal bra, not covered up by the shirt, out on the street.  This wasn't an accident; she knew perfectly well what it looked like. Why bother with the shirt at all? I didn't mind, I'm just curious.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Gently back into it, and race thoughts

I'd sort of mused about running off the bike yesterday after getting home from the 70.3, but decided that I was seriously down on hydration. It was a pretty hot day and I'd spent a lot of time in the sun, for me. Dealing with the heat is getting better for me, but there's a long way to go.

In the end I inhaled some juice and water, then settled in for supper. A bit later I did a good stretch session.

I'm sitting too much at work, even with going for a walk at lunchtime. I could feel the creakiness in me when I was getting up, and it took a few steps to get going. Such are the evils of concentrating on a spreadsheet. With any luck I'll finish that one tomorrow. 30K lines of data dealt with. I wonder what's next.

Tonight I was itching to run. It's hot and sunny here by Calgary standards. Maybe 25C or so. They keep saying watch for thunderstorms but that's away north of here. I took a water bottle with me and I'm glad I did.

Started easy. It took a long time to find a nice stride, maybe 15 minutes or so. My legs felt heavy, and my calves were a bit twingey. They settled in, and the next 10 minutes were great. Then I could start feeling the heat. I dribbled some of the water on my hat. I had been looking for 30 to 45 minutes, and called it at 35, even though my feet and legs were still ok with running. I'm still getting back into the groove, and I don't want to make my back or hips unhappy. There were no complaints about running, at least so far. Another good stretch session. I'm planning to swim tomorrow and we'll see what my back and core thinks of that.

I tagged 7 people yesterday. I'm pretty sure most of them have read it. I hope so. I'm watching their blogs.

Now this goes into some musing about my internal competitive fire, or lack thereof. You've been warned.

I happened to be listening to somebody or other at the Olympics talking about how competitive they are, and how that desire to win fueled them through training and to the Olympics. I guess that would have to be true, in much the same way that saying breathing is important for life. I don't think I could come up with that kind of drive. Missing out on the race this weekend has me thinking about my own competitive drive, or lack thereof. I never got into this with the goal of winning my age group and going to Kona. I never even thought seriously about being on the podium for my age group. At best I was hoping to make it up to mid pack or so.

Yet looking at the times for this weekend, mid pack is well under 6 hours, and to even sniff the podium I'd have to be under 5 hours. That's more than a huge step from 6:47 I did it in a few years ago. Looking at Chinook (I'll have you know I'm peeking between my fingers here, since I haven't looked at  the results yet) mid pack is 5:21, and that got him on the podium. There were a whole 6 of us. I was mid pack for the swim, second last off the bike, and way, way back on the run. Some people have told me that major improvements for my run are just around the corner, and it's one of those step things where the output are all out of proportion to the input. I admit the possibility in theory, but I am dubious about the practice, especially as applied to me.

I had hoped to use the Chinook and 70.3 results this year to see where I was and plan future training. I'd hoped to see big improvement, and I can't honestly say it's there. A bit of improvement on the bike, if you look really carefully. Not as much as I had hoped. The run shows no evidence of improvement. That's a bit discouraging.

Still, like I said, I didn't get into this to win medals, I did it to get into better shape, and for sure that has happened. Most of the time my body feels great, and that's worth gold and silver. Now I'm thinking about the level and intensity of training to aim for. Do I want to put the serious time in and see if there is a major improvement for next year? Or just train to be in better shape and control my weight, and kiss the races goodbye?

Coming in at the very back of the race sucks. At Chinook almost all the food was gone; the only thing left was this rice pilaf stuff. It was good, but I was looking for meat. At 70.3 they ran out of finisher shirts before Deb got there, which is inexcusable. How can they not know how many shirts they'll need? At one race the finish line and just about everything else was gone when I got there, and I was well within the cut off time. Even at IMC there was no pizza left, and I had been promising myself several slices. Good thing Linda brought the famous recovery cookies. Even during some of the races the aid stations run out of important things, like water and ice. That is crushing for someone struggling along wondering if they'll make the run cut off.

The race shirts vary in quality. The first 70.3 shirts were horrible, heavy cotton and a cheesy logo that looked like a USA highway sign. I wouldn't wear it to mow my lawn or wash my bike chain; someone might see me. Chinook a couple years ago were great; the best shirt I've got at a race and I wear it a lot, but this year's weren't so good, I don't like the feel of the material. The other ones get worn as a winter layer. The IMC finisher shirt are a nice material, and you've got to love what it says, but good golly, that colour!

The medals are a mixed bag. They hang near my computer where I can see them. That's the only regret about missing this 70.3; that was a really nice belt buckle, and it looks good as a medallion as well. A few of my race bibs are stapled to the window framing near where I set up on the trainer.

Some people complain about the cost of the events, but I don't mind the dollar amount itself. There is a cost to putting on the race, and I don't mind paying for what I get. But I do mind paying for a shirt sight unseen. The odds are not good you'll get one that fits, that you like the feel or colour of the fabric, and that you'll be willing to wear out in public. I don't know how much a medallion costs to make, but I can't image they are terribly expensive. If they are going to do one at all, at least they should make it a nice one. The medallion or lack of it is not a factor in deciding to do a race.

Most of the time I'm not a picky eater by any means. But I'm always just a bit suspicious of mass produced reheated banquet food, and waiting for our table number to come up for the buffet line has got really old for me. Just before a race I prefer to know exactly what I'm eating and be able to eat it when I want it. As I said, I haven't had much luck with post race food. I'd like to see that cost made optional as well.

So where does this leave me? For the bike and run I can mark out a course of almost any desired length and not have to worry too much about traffic. What's more it's repeatable so I can measure the improvement. Open water swims are much tougher to arrange here; to the point of being practically impossible. Even if I had a buddy that lived on one of the lakes, there would still be the problem of measuring a course reliably. But I know exactly how long the pool at Talisman is, and it doesn't change.

Tell me again why I should sign up for more races?




Sunday, July 29, 2012

82 and she still has it

I spent the day at the Calgary 70.3 cheering my buddy Deb and anyone else that I knew. But she's not 82, and that wasn't her race number. Sister Madonna Buder turned 82 a little while ago. Today she finished a half ironman. There were a bunch of new course records set as it was a perfect day for racing. Janelle Morrison finished 9th which is pretty amazing considering her doctors thought she'd never do another triathlon after that car crash a couple years ago.

People look at the children setting World and Olympic records and are amazed at the peak of human performance. That's all very well, and I'm happy for them and their parents. But to me the amazing thing is that an 82 year old woman completed a half ironman. That's another kind of peak human performance, and one that is a whole lot more relevant to me. In a few weeks she takes on a full Ironman. Again. All the best to her.

Deb had been a bit nervous about making the cut off times, and in the end, there was no need to have worried at all. She started the run with a huge grin, and was running really well off the bike, then 4 K later, then again with 4 K to go. I guess she hit a tough patch between there and the finish line, but I'll let her talk about it in the blog she is going to write RSN. Huge congratulations to her first half Ironman! Here she is showing off her big shiny finisher medallion/belt buckle.



Along the way I chatted with BJ (Deb's husband), Carrie, Rose, Dan, Scott, Brian, Tessa, one of the volunteers that liked my blue cowbells, and I'm sorry if I've overlooked anyone. It was a beautiful day to hang out, wander around, nibble from the Steakout truck (it was really good), and best of all, the sunscreen worked and I didn't get burnt. Bailing out of the race was totally the right decision. Even the 6 or 7 K ride to North Glenmore and back on my hybrid bike had my back complaining a bit.

I was watching people today. Interacting badly with the volunteers and racers. I seriously think that some people didn't know a race was going on. They wandered through with a puzzled look, why are all these people and barricades here? After a while the volunteers just gave up policing the cross path just before T2, even though there was still bikes coming in. And volunteers, I love them dearly, and we can't hold the races without them, but why did one of them practically haul Janelle off her bike? She was coming to a complete halt right near the line. And that geezer on the path, I don't know what he was thinking, if he was thinking, wandering by totally oblivious. Neither BJ or I will ever know why a guy in black long pants, a long sleeved white shirt, with dress shoes, was pushing a bike that had a yellow ironing board lashed to it. I don't know if he was wearing a tie, but wouldn't have been surprised.

In other news, I was tagged the other day by The Blonde. I know her real name of course, but I like the air of mystery, which is augmented with the photos of her wearing sunglasses in exotic foreign locations. And this cool inspirational blogger award.


I've gone and read my fellow taggee blogs, and have enjoyed them enough to bookmark them so I can visit again.

So, 7 things about me. Which are not one of the 44 things I mentioned in an earlier tagging thing. Hmmm.

  1. For years I railed against Twitter. I figured if I had anything to say, it would take more than 140 characters. I didn't get the point of it at all. Eventually I came round. Some of my more observant readers will have noticed the follow me button just below my big picture. What will you find there? Notice that I've blogged, because I know you are all burning to read the newest update hot off the press. Occasionally something about where I am or what I'm doing. Sometimes it's babble with my buddies. Why not follow and experience it for yourself? As the great sage once said, "this pencil has an eraser."
  2. I am still helpless in the grip of cookie lust. Which has been triggered anew by my wife baking while I was off at the race.
  3. We have a small suburban lot and I cut it with a reel mower. I feel very smug and superior to my neighbours that still use gas mowers. The guy next door gave me shit yesterday that I wasn't digging the weeds out of the flower beds, only pulling them. After seeing Sue's back yard, I'm tempted to rent a bobcat and strip out all the grass, then put in gravel and nice rocks. 
  4. At work I have to wave a card key at a turnstile to get to the elevators, wave it at the elevator to make it go to my floor, and wave it at a door to get onto my floor, or go through the stairs between floors. This seems overkill to me. I'm waiting for someone to get a commercially acceptable app that lets various entities load things onto my phone with my permission. A code that opens doors and elevators, for example. That tells me where the cheese is this week in Costco. A drivers license that interacts with the car I'm driving, and not that I'd ever need it, but makes certain drivers pass a test before it lets them start the car. Encrypted medical history. Other stuff. We're almost there.
  5. I've done 6 Half Ironman races and one full distance. All were slow even by age group standards. That's fine. Sometimes the view from the back of the pack is superb, even if it does disappear quickly. Today was supposed to be the 7th half. The more I think about it, the more I think I'm only ever going to do the one Ironman. There are other things I think I want to try. Not skydiving or bungee jumping. Stay tuned.
  6. Yesterday I watched season 5 of Canada's worst driver, on my iPad. I had been surfing videos and found the first one. I was horrified, and it was like a train wreck. I couldn't look away. In the end I disagreed with their choice, in that their Worst Driver was not actually a driver. She was a pouty child. This is why I want to banish the words "car accident" from the English language. I still think that we need driving simulators, and everybody goes through one when it comes time to renew their license. For the first 10 years (we are on a 5 year license cycle here) the test should be so hard that 10% of the people fail, and lose their license on the spot. Given what I see on my commute, and I don't even take Deerfoot or Blackfoot anymore, that's about the number of drivers that should be removed from the road for the safety of the rest of us.
  7. I am partial to big orange cats. My current one, Curtis, is 38 inches long. I measured. Yes, I liked the Engineers Guide to Cats. Why do you ask?
Now comes the hard part, finding 7 other bloggers to tag. Last time I picked the people off the top of my blogroll. There were complaints. So. You. You. You. You. You. You. And You, over there, hiding behind your husband. There, that was easy. What, you want links? Sheesh.

The Mama Runs: I've known her for quite a few years now, and was thrilled when she took up running. We've had a couple runs so far and will be doing more. I'm still working on getting her, and her husband into the pool. I will happily give lessons if we can work out a time. They are already on their bikes. She would be thrilled if you took out your wallet right now and signed the organ donor card. Us tall people have to stick together.

Deb Tris: I Like following blogs of people new to triathlon. It wasn't so long ago I was where Deb is. Then ran with her and SG one day, and had a blast. Us tall people have to stick together. 

luckytiff: I think I started reading because she works shift work and mentioned it on in one blog. Which I once did, though I didn't blog about it then. So I commented. Then kept coming back. She just completed her first Half Ironman in Sylvan Lake a week ago. I don't know how tall she is.

Seriously??... Reeeally?... Seriously?: Some of you have clued in that I have an odd sense of humour. So does she. I can't describe it. You'll have to see for yourselves. I don't know how tall she is.

Shut Up and Run: Beth hardly needs the publicity, but I figure this gives her a chance to show the blogger love to a few of her many, MANY readers. Some of whom come to read my blog afterward, which pleases me ever so much. Thank you, feel free to leave comments guys. Beth is not a tall person.

Does this make my blog look fat?: Leauxra is another odd sense of humour, and you'll have to see for yourself. I don't know how tall she is.

Climbing those hills...: Another new triathlete. Even though I know a great many engineer jokes (I've worked with lots of them over the years) I would never tell one here. Right now. Unless you ask real nice. It's fun to watch people progress through old barriers. I don't think she is tall, but photos can be deceiving. 

And that's seven!

Just for fun, here's the view from the Southland LRT station Friday evening, looking south, and east. These are not dressed up in Snapseed. It really was pretty dramatic. 



Friday, July 27, 2012

Expensive free swag

The Calgary 70.3 is this weekend, and I'm not in it anymore. They put a bright red wristband on me and said I had to keep it on till after I get my bike after the race. I just cut it off a few minutes ago. At package pickup I told the chip guys I wasn't going to be starting, so they didn't have to wonder about chip 350. I've said it here, and on Facebook, but it was hard to say "I'm not racing" to the chip guys. It would be a dumb thing to do, even though my back is feeling much better. Maybe next year.

Or maybe not. Right at the moment I'm feeling really ambivalent about this racing thing. Maybe it's just feeling sad that I have to miss this race. I'm planning to take the cow bells and go cheer, but it's not the same.

Here's a picture of the expensive free swag. That's it. The expo was a pretty quiet affair, and I didn't buy anything. The cycling jacket was the closest thing, and I didn't feel like spending $100 on that.



The afternoon was spent on a patio drinking beer with my buddy SD. I happened to see Sara Gross there, and said hi and hoped she would have a good race. I don't often do this, drink beer on a patio on a summer day, and it was really nice.

Once home I headed out for a run. Yes, really. I did a bit of limbering up, and walked briskly for a few minutes, then started running easy. It felt really good! My stride felt good, and my back/core/hips did not hurt in the slightest. In fact this run was the least painful thing I've done for the last 3 weeks or so.

Towards the end of the 30 minute run it was getting a bit choppy, and there were a couple niggles in my heel, and knee, but nothing out of the ordinary. I just ran easy and tried to keep my posture good. Afterward I did a good stretch, pigeon for a timed 5 minutes a side, and other stuff.

I've been tagged by The Blonde, so I need to read up on my fellow tagees and figure out what I want to write. It says I need to come up with 7 random things. I'm just assuming it can't be any of the 44 random things that I've already done in previous blog taggings. See here, and here. And I have to think about who to tag. Hmmm. (Rubs hands, chuckles evilly.) Maybe Saturday, if I don't get sidetrack with lawn manicuring.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The cats snickered and fitness improvement thoughts

I was beginning to wonder if this day would come. My back has been cranky forever, it seems, but I know it's only since early July. Just enough to put me out of the nice outside weather. Sigh. But it's been easing, especially since the acupuncture appointment the other day. Tonight I was down on my mat doing some really good stretching, and actually feeling some mobility and some good clicks in my back. There are still some tight muscles, no denying that, but it was much, much better.

This was not a Katie Kore (hard core) session. Just some good stretches, cat/cow, pigeon, clam, squats, forward bend, plank (!), dog, and a few others. Breathing into the stretch. Not trying to overdo it, just get things moving again. The cats kept me company and were snickering at me in their genteel way. Cats don't have much of a sense of humour so they weren't actually laughing at me. Just showing off.

There is no way I'll be ready for the 70.3 so I've mentally resigned myself to DNS. Better that than to have a go and injure myself. I'll still go down to the expo and look things over. I only work a couple blocks from there, anyone want to visit it with me and do coffee/snack after? I'm also now planning to cheer. There will be cow bells!

I've been thinking lots about fitness over the last little while, off and on since IMC. Some blog buddies have helped push this along. Tiff just completed the Sylvan half IM. Deb is doing Calgary 70.3 this weekend. SG has been getting back into running after having to take a medical break. Just like I did a few years ago, they started to work on improving their fitness and have been making huge progress. Take a look at this graph, hand drawn and everything.



The slope is not the important point. Some people will improve more rapidly, and hence have a steeper slope. Let's assume you decide to get more fit. It doesn't matter where you start. The graph still applies. Fitness is defined as an envelope of things your body can do, measured by such things as strength, endurance, cardio capacity, flexibility, lactate threshold, mental toughness, tolerance for pain, ability to recover, and probably some other stuff. Whoever you are, you have a certain capability envelop at any given time, and it will all improve with practice.

Now look for the orange line. It really does start near the vertical axis. Look harder, it starts very thin, and gradually gets thicker as it wiggles up and to the right. It really does dip slightly after starting. I remember that point well. This orange line is a representation of a perfect program to improve your particular fitness. Imagine a 24 hour a day coach that knows everything about you and pushes you to the maximum every time but without going over the edge. You have a gym with all the toys in your house. Imagine not having to work so you can work out at the perfect time for you, and take the perfect meals at exactly the right times. You can nap at the right time, and your bedroom is perfect for you getting the maximum amount of sleep. You can afford massage therapists, ART practitioners, or whatever aids will help you, and even better, they come to your house. People deliver food, prepare meals, and clean up after.  That orange line is you, training perfectly, just on the verge of a breakdown every workout, but recovering so you don't get injured. Nobody can do this, not even the pro-est of pros. We simply don't have enough information.

Injured, that's the red line. The orange line is probably much more jagged than it appears, and if you go over it into the red zone you will almost certainly be injured. Or you'll stress yourself beyond the optimum and need a longer recovery time. Trying to train in the orange zone all the time would be very stressful.

My training life has aimed for the upper end of the green zone most of the time, trading off faster improvements in exchange for a lower risk of being injured. An injury shifts all three lines vertically downward at a particular point in time, and leads to a lower result. I'm really sure that slow and steady wins this race. Even the green zone builds fitness, just a little slower than the orange, but a lot faster than the red zone.

Back to the orange line. At first the difference between a safe workout and risking injury is razor thin. It doesn't take much to overdo it. I dip the line down just after beginning because once you start, your body starts wondering what is happening. For a while it believes you will stop again, after you outrun the bear. Then it starts adapting to the loads, and for a time it seems like you are going backwards. Hang in there. Give your body a chance.

Then as you continue the workouts you'll find that you can do more, faster, and longer. Sure, there are days that don't go so well. Keep a journal and you'll see the general trend for improvement. Then one day you'll come in thinking you had a super crappy workout, but when you write it down and check back, you'll see it wasn't all that long ago you wouldn't have been able to do that at all, or it would have been a peak effort.

That orange line gets thicker too, in that there is more margin between a regular workout and an overload workout. You'll get better at knowing where you are in terms of an overload. You'll know how long or how hard you can push, and when to back off. At first I tended to back off rather than risk injury. Even so, I've still had injuries that have restricted my training and racing. That reassures me that I'm not being a total slacker, given the motto that if you never fail you haven't been trying hard enough.

Even if I could somehow live in the orange zone, I wouldn't choose to. I enjoy the work I do. I enjoy seeing my friends, and really enjoy sometimes eating "bad" things. Or taking a day off to sleep in, or staying up late watching trashy videos while drinking too much wine and eating the Skystone crackers and cheese. (I wonder how many of my readers will get that joke?)

At the moment I'm really missing working out. I itch to be on my bike riding towards the mountains, but I know it would be painful pretty quick. I should be good to run tomorrow. I'm aiming for next week on swimming. After all, it's hard to do flip turns when your core muscles are AWOL.

When I get impatient about it, I think of Sister Madonna Buder. She is in town for the 70.3 and recently turned 82. Let's think about that for a moment. 82, doing a half IM, and it's probably a tune up for IMC.  I will stay to cheer her across the finish line, because holy Hannah, if she doesn't deserve the respectful adulation, then nobody does. She is a perfect "What's YOUR excuse?" moment. I'll be happy if I'm still alive, up and around, mentally sharp, at 82. Maybe I'll still be able to do a half Ironman, and I'll be trying to arrange it, but that's not the way to bet.

Here's a couple photos just because. This is a slightly dressed up photo of the view on the way to work the other day.

This is a new piece of artwork in our building. I quite like it, but cannot understand who approved putting it right in front of the door.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A human pincushion

That was me. Still working on my back. Got my acupuncturist involved. Normally I get a few needles in two separate mini sessions. But she says I was a mess, and I got better than 40 needles in the two sessions. It feels somewhat better but still not right. I'll be heading down into the basement for some stretches. Gentle ones.

I'm pretty sure 70.3 is going to be a DNS.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A social weekend

As many of you know, I'm pretty much a social recluse. I don't get out much. But there are exceptions. This weekend was one of them. After the struggles with XL on Friday, (a full blown rant, if you missed it) I deserved that glasses of wine when I got home. Later that evening a very strong wind blew a storm through, but we didn't get much rain here.


Saturday morning was nice, and we met some friends at OEB to start the day. Their food is so yummy! I'd link to their web page so you could drool at the menu, but then you'd just be in the line in front of us the next time we went. Can't have that. And no, the "Young Miss" as the waitress called her, is not drinking coffee with a straw.

Then we checked out Car2Go. What a neat concept! Pick up a cute little Smart car anywhere in central Calgary. Drive where you want to go for a very reasonable fee, parking, insurance, gas all included. Leave it almost anywhere in that same central Calgary zone. I took a drive in one, and liked it a lot, though I'm not sure what it would be like on the highway. We are all signed up, and I can see times when it's going to be very handy.

We cruised through MEC afterward, and I bought their last bike stand of a particular model. Now it will be easier to wash and tune my bike. We picked up tickets for the fireworks display next month, and are looking forward to attending that with some buddies. Getting in is tough, and getting out is a word that starts with cluster and rhythms with truck. But the fireworks are amazing, and there is a festival with all sorts of cultural booths from around the world. I ran into a buddy at the Farmer's Market, and we've made tentative plans to go for coffee and get caught up. So far the Farmer's Market has been a good place for running into people I know.

These next two are related. My buddy Sue put on a 100th birthday party at her house. The yard was just finished yesterday, though it looks very lived in. The cake is a very good representation of the front of her house, since that's what turned 100, not Sue. It was fun to visit her again, and meet some of her friends and neighbours. We chatted late into the night. Her friends are a well travelled bunch.



This morning our cats were tussling in the kitchen. There are actually two cats in this photo. Curtis blends in very well with the floor, and I've almost stepped on him once.

Then it was off to a book club meeting. Normally these are held in a pub, but we sat in the very nice back yard of my buddy L. We drank coffee and then we drank wine. We nibbled, lots. We talked a lot about the book, which is also a rant, and the state of the world. It was very nice.

Now we're home. I rollered and stretched. I think I will have a bruise on my hip from pressing on the ball, and at the moment it hurts to breath deeply, but I think it's another step to recovery. Even if I can barely walk at the moment. I am beginning to think that I may have done something more serious than overworking a muscle or two. Things should have relaxed by now if they were just a bit over worked. Doing the 70.3 is beginning to look more dubious, even if my acupuncturist works a miracle on Tuesday.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Excel <> helpful

I first ran into MS Excel in early 1993. It was amazing. Primitive by today's standards of course, but amazing. Nearly 20 years later I've had to deal with XL nearly every working day. I remain amazed. Other things too. Frustrated, exasperated, annoyed, and other emotions of that ilk. (You do know what an ilk is, don't you?)

Today was a good example. It's the version of XL with the ribbon. No, I don't know if that's a trademark. Let's just assume that all the appropriate words have the appropriate trademark symbol that looks like this ™. I think it's 2010 running on Windows 7. As if that means anything to anybody.

It's also the version of XL that goes over the top trying to be helpful. It makes me crazy. Today was dates. I approached this data migration with trepidation because there was at least one date field involved. I got a dump from one database, with the date in text, in dd-mmm-yy style. (which is really stupid. (this is foreshadowing.)) The requirement to be imported into the other database was yyyy-mm-dd. Which is a custom date format, which I know how to deal with. But first came figuring out how to convince this version of XL that the original was a date in the first place.

Eventually I got there. The last step I discovered that my column of dates went from the mid-50's, to a couple months ago. (No comment.) When I tried the fix I had discovered and tested with a smaller set of data, I found I could only convert yy to 20yy or 19yy. And as soon as I did one of them it messed up the date format so I couldn't work on the rest. I had to play with it a bit. And then I discovered it wouldn't do 00. I had to do it separately and fortunately there were not many of them. Lucky, I guess.

Along the way was a lot of frustration trying to make it do what I wanted it to. I knew perfectly well it could, since I'd often done this sort of stuff in earlier versions. It annoys me that text typed into a field behaves one way, and copied AS A VALUE DAMMIT behaves differently. Plus that damn ribbon pisses me off.

Look. I don't care how you say the date. Humans are pretty good at figuring out dates given the subtle clues of human communication. But in my world, there is only one way to write a date, and everybody else is wrong except for me. Today is written 20120720. You'll see lots of my work files with that sort of date in the file name, for sequential versions of complicated files. Why no, since you ask, I don't trust Windows to track versions.

Why do I like this date format? It sorts things properly, especially in rows of data. It doesn't waste space by putting in dashes or slashes. It doesn't mix numbers and letters. Even given 20010102, most people are going to grasp that it's year month day. Most importantly, XL isn't going to screw with it. But a string 01-02-01? WTF? What can you do with that? With different countries disagreeing about what order the numerals are in? Let's get a grip people and stop wasting time. Dates, the metric system, guns, and political reform, America needs to get with the program.

If I must, I really must work with dates so I can do date arithmetic, I will, but I'll put those columns somewhere else, and I'll hide them. Then I'll check the results with an app on my phone, because I don't trust xl when it comes to date arithmetic. I once had a file that had started life as a Mac file, or someone had chosen some weird setting in their version of xl, so the date serial numbers started someplace else. I found that only because I got lucky and I'd been burned by that sort of thing so I knew to look.

It makes me nuts when I'm working in XL with ordinary numbers, and I'll write something like 1020 because that's how many of something there is. XL assumes it's a date and turns it into Oct-20, or something else. Then my blood pressure goes up a bit as I fix it. I hate extra formatting. My spreadsheets are not pretty. In one sense I hate that XL can filter by formatting now, since that's what people do, rather than put in a few extra filter columns and IF statements, the way we were intended to.

Yesterday I was mapping some columns of data comparing which mapped to which. One went out to CS, so we're talking lots of columns. I had the field names in columns in another tab, because that makes them easy to work with, and I was trying to label the field names with the column they were in. Imagine my surprise when it wouldn't autofill the letters of the alphabet. Imagine my further surprise when there wasn't a work around that would gracefully move on to AA and beyond. Sigh. No, I didn't manually letter it. I had to figure out my own way of doing it. Which is why I get paid what I do, I figure stuff out.

The other autocorrect that had me cursing was Word. I don't much like Word at the best of times, whereas most of the time I kind of like XL. Word, no matter how I played with the spell check settings was insisting, INSISTING on changing IHS into HIS. Every effing time. Even though I had told it not to change uppercase words. More sigh.

In some senses it's nice when they add features to an application. Some of them are handy. I like how XL finds duplicates, though I'm not so pleased that it marks duplicates with formatting that can be found by filtering. I would have done it differently. (The ONLY exception to the above remark about filtering and formatting.) That makes my life easier. But what makes me happy is that it doesn't do it till I ask. Why isn't that true for all the other stuff?

Why can't XL sit there docilely while I plug stuff into it, and then I can click a button called "XL be Helpful". Even then it doesn't actually change anything, all it does is highlights a cell and pops up a box. Is this a date and if so which format would you like it in and do you want the whole row or column done? Along with a series of appropriate response boxes. Here's the things XL thinks are spelling mistakes, are they really? For this kind of data, a auto format might make the data easier to understand, do you want a preview of it? You've got a formula in cell C45 that doesn't work, did you want a formula and if so do you want to troubleshoot it, or did you intend something else? And so on, leaving the user in control of what's happening on their spreadsheet or Word document.

Don't get me started on the different controls between those two programs to play with margins and the like. Just don't. And yes, I was getting very frustrated trying to find the control that lets me print just selected text. I know where it is now, and it's a pain in the ass. Looking for a shortcut there. At least IT fixed the printer driver error they produced when they remapped the printer servers.

I'm not going to get all senile and maudlin about how things were better in the good old days. Handy people used to be able to fix cars with a few simple tools, and the talented could get by with a hammer. Now you need to have a doctorate in car innards and thousands of dollars in computerized tools to be able to figure what is wrong with a car. Those old cars were also death traps on the road. When I learned to drive we were taught that a head on collision at over about 30 miles per hour was almost certainly fatal, and that doing almost anything else to avoid it was preferable. Now you read of people surviving head on collisions at fast highway speeds, and that going into the ditch might not be the smartest thing to do because of the unpredictable loads that might result. There is no way I'd drive my first car, a 66 Ford Falcon now, not compared to our Accord.

Software has come a long way, and has much longer to go. I'm still grumpy about autocorrect. I'm a good typist. I can tell when I've made a mistake and have some routines to hit backspace a few times and fix something. But now, autocorrect will turn it into something else just before I backspace, and my fix gets tacked onto something else, prompting another autocorrect fix, which totally screws with my typing and flow of words. Apparently the autocorrects hate the letter 'u'. My regular readers know why that annoys me. It's a plot, I tell you.

In many cases, properly done, a more complex world can make our lives easier. Apple has provided several brilliant, and I mean capital B brilliant examples of this. In some ways the iPad and the iPhone are the most amazing things that humanity has produced to date. But when this complex world goes wrong, OMG. Sometimes trying to diagnose a software problem is extremely difficult because it depends on where you started. The exact same sequence of steps might have a different result. This is why I take screen shots of my testing results, and why developers are sometimes driven to drink.

My personal theory is that computers know whether we know what should happen when we click a button on screen. If we know we did everything right, and we know what SHOULD happen, the computer will tug it's forelock and say "Yes sir, three bags full". But show the least hesitancy or uncertainty, and the computer will give you the finger at the very least. I've seen it again and again in software training. (Which reminds me of one data clerk who had the most delightful dance of rage when it happened to her. Talk about a potty mouth! I learned some new expressions.)

In some ways, I like this complicated world. I can sit looking thoughtfully at a computer screen, or a whiteboard covered in little squares and arrows and stuff, AND THEY PAY ME! If it wasn't for computers, who knows what I'd be doing for a living? Almost certainly something not as engaging to think about, and harder physical work.

There. I feel much better now. Even though my back doesn't, particularly.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The implementi

Here you see the implementi of torture.


Yes my yellow yoga mat is filthy. Never mind. What's important are the tools at hand to be working on these really grumpy muscles all around my hips, especially the right one.

The Stick is good for muscles where you can really lean into it and roll back and forth. Having someone else use it on you where you can't get the leverage is good. The foam roller is a more general roll. The ball gets right into the specific deep areas. I like to lie down on it, and move around a little bit. It's also really good for rolling the fascia of your feet on.

No, I still don't know what I did to it. The Robaxisal didn't do much but now that things are starting to relax I might try it again just to see. Maybe it will help the neck and shoulder muscles that are grumpy too. There was one very tender spot I found with the ball that made me whimper, just a little. I found some menthol cream that I've used on my feet lots, and have rubbed it into the small of my back, and all around my hips. The smell is making my eyes water in a good way. The tingle is just starting. ooooohbhhh!!!

Lots of stretching, trying to breath into the sore spots, as my yoga instructor would say. Which we are now done with for the summer. I will miss it. There are lots of times where the last thing in the world I want to do is drag myself back out of the house, and every time, I come home glad I went.

Calgary 70.3 is getting a little more real now. 11 days to go. I had been hoping for some really good workouts between Chinook and 70.3, and those haven't happened. That would be fine since I think I've still got some good base fitness, but I have to admit I'm worried about my grumpy muscles. I am in no condition to be doing a half IM right now, but I'm hoping the rolling, stretching, and the accupuncture appointment will bring things around.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Does rollering count?

Monday I thought it was time to get back in the pool, back or no back. Swimming is tough when your back is feeling grumpy. Only in the pool for a half hour and the flip turns were a floundering floppy mess. It was like I had no core strength at all.

Monday evening I got serious about rollering on the T ball, and that really seemed to help. Tuesday thing got all creaky during the day again, especially my hip flexors. It felt like I'd been trying to sit cross legged for hours, trying to hold my back straight without using my arms.

Rolled on the ball again tonight. There were some painful spots. Tried to plank and thought my guts were going to fall out. That didn't last long. Does rollering count as a workout?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A back alley daisy

At least I think it's a daisy. Many Calgary neighbourhoods have back alleys. A place where garbage gets picked up and utility trucks periodically prowl. We've got a bit of grass growing on the other side of the fence, which means it has to be cut every now and then. Last time, a couple weeks ago, I noticed a daisy ready to bloom, and left it alone. This weekend I noticed it had come to bloom and took a photo. This isn't your perfect daisy. There are petals missing. It is a back alley, after all, and who knows how tough they are on daises. For all I know the roaming feral bunnies like daises, though you'd think if they liked it, they would have eaten all of it..


On the way home from work on Thursday I was waiting for Linda to pick out some new frames, and had to grab this shot of some clouds working themselves up to being a thunderstorm. This didn't take much tweaking.

While I was out for my run Thursday afternoon I stopped near the pump house theatre to look at this. I'd never seen it before, and really like it. 

 This is going back a bit, on Wednesday morning I was on the way to a Stampede breakfast. There's a neat sculpture in front of the TCPL building. I like the interplay between the horizontal lines of the building, and the plates of the sculpture. I couldn't help but wonder how many people try to climb on it.

In other news I've been a slacker on the workout front, other than trying to stretch out my low back, rollering it, and doing whatever else I think might help it feel happier. It is gradually getting better, very gradually. I'll try the pool tomorrow morning. It hurt just thinking of flip turns this last week. I'm not sure when I'll be ready for the bike again.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

pathway chicken

I ran mid afternoon today. It's a complicated scheduling thing. I'd go into it, but I have a rant building and I hear my bed calling me. If you really want the scheduling details you can comment and I'll fill you in. I fully expect my insomniac readers to show up.

Another hot day, but the path was mostly empty. Except the ones that did show up were all over it, wandering around like they had been branded on both ankles. Runners and bikers both. What don't people understand about keep right? So simple. On the way back there were a couple guys on the left, shambling along. No intent to actually turn left and walk on the grass or anything, just walking on the wrong side of the path. I had been dodging people all week, even just strolling, and I'm done with that shit now. I locked my eyes straight ahead and kept on running. The left most guy stayed there, and I didn't care. I kept going. At about the last minute he pushed the guy beside him over and they moved over just enough, just in time. I would have run into him, over him, and kept on going.

Maybe one lunch time what I'm going to do is get a bullhorn and set up one of those elevated chairs like the lifeguards use at the pools. I'll get a big umbrella to keep the sun off, and start providing feedback to people, and commenting on their lack of walking skills.

YOU IN THE RED CAP AND YELLOW TOP, KEEP RIGHT! MOVE IT OVER!
YOU WITH THE LAB, GET THAT DOG UNDER CONTROL, HEEL BOY HEEL!
YO BIKERS THREE ABREAST, GET A LIFE AND HAVE SOME CONSIDERATION FOR OTHERS.
THE GEEZERS THAT JUST STOPPED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PATH TO REVIEW YOUR LIFE CHOICES - THAT'S NOT THE TIME OR THE PLACE, MOVE IT ONTO THE GRASS TO DEAL WITH YOUR DEMENTIA ISSUES.
SPEED LIMIT IS 20 K TRI-BIKE-BOI, NOT 40, SLOW IT DOWN OR GET ON THE ROAD WITH THE BIG BOYS.
YOU WITH THE WHITE SHIRT, THAT'S A NASTY HEEL STRIKE YOU HAVE GOING THERE, BUT AT LEAST YOU'RE ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE PATH.
YOU WITH THE BARE CHEST, PUT YOUR SHIRT BACK ON, NOBODY NEEDS TO SEE THAT.
SHOULDER CHECK, PEOPLE, DO A SHOULDER CHECK BEFORE YOU PULL OUT AND PASS SOMEONE.
HEY PAL WITH THE IPHONE, YOU'RE PROVIDING A GOOD EXAMPLE OF WHY WE NEED A DISTRACTED RUNNING LAW.
IN THE YELLOW TOP, YOU'RE MAKING PHEOBE LOOK GOOD, GET THOSE ARMS UNDER CONTROL BEFORE YOU HIT SOMEONE.
BUDDY IF IT HURTS THAT MUCH, TAKE A PILL AND SLOW DOWN.

I could go on.

My run was modest today, from the downtown Y to Crowchild and back. That's about 7.2 K or so. Just under 50 minutes, nice and easy. Legs and back feeling good, lungs on top of the situation even though it was hot.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

so hot we considered naked yoga

I had fun at another Stampede breakfast today, chatting with several buddies, though I missed seeing my boss. On the way back to the office I ran into Mark and Jody, and had a wonderful chat with them. That's the nice thing about getting out and about downtown, is the random meetings with buddies. Somehow a chance personal meeting is much nicer than any number of social media exchanges.

Traffic was a total rodeo downtown and near the grounds. You are wondering why I'm surprised, because I suspect you think that would be normal. But you'd be wrong. The rest of the week traffic has been barely worse than usual. It's still hot, so drivers might be getting distracted by the eye candy and not moving when they should. Plus there was a major building fire downtown so there might have been some detoured traffic, though this is a long way. The parking went up another $5 at one lot. Most places it's $20 per day, which isn't even close to the most expensive parking in town. One is up to $25, and that's still not the top of the scale. Banker's Hall is $45 per day, $5 per half hour.

The yoga studio was baking hot when we got there. There was discussion of naked yoga, and just how squicked out the studio owner would be, but Fiona got the air conditioning going. This was tougher on my back than I'd have done to myself. Lots of good stuff, just like veggies, right? Taste terrible but are good for you. I'll find out in the morning what it's really done to me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

They kept melting

The words, I mean. I typed, and they kept melting into an untidy dribble at the bottom of the comment box. Then I drank more wine and didn't care so much. Ignore the untidiness at the bottom. Unless blogger cleans it up.

Or the cat's think it's food and lick it up. We had one cat (Amelia) that liked chili. Some of you know my wife makes spicy food. Amelia licked her lips very thoughtfully for a long time afterwards, every time. I'm glad I don't know if burned a day later or so. Maybe that explains her periodic kitty box problems. Sebastian was fascinated by the smell of bananas, just totally fascinated. He'd sniff and sniff and sniff, but he'd never want to eat one. Crackers though, he'd have walked through fire to get them. Once I was holding them out at arms length. When he realized he couldn't reach up, he hopped up on me, then tried to walk out my arm. His balance was fine, but my arm strength was not up to holding about 17 pounds. After he fell off, he looked up for a second. As soon as my arm was out straight again, he hopped up and wrapped all 4 paws around my forearm and wrist, and that big maw reached for the crackers. At that point I gave in and fed him some. Nefertiti was a total slut for cheese. Any kind of cheese. She knew what the sound of the cheese drawer in the fridge was, and would be there in seconds. Not the veggie drawer. Not the fruit drawer. Just the cheese drawer.

A couple days have gone by and I was thinking it was time to mow the lawn. But it won't hurt it to go a few more days. It's not like it will go bad or anything. About the only thing that has to be done is take out the garbage and recycling carts. At first I thought these were the biggest boondoggle ever, but now that we've got a routine worked out I'm liking them. All I need to do is get a cart for the bottle returnables. In our case that's milk, OJ, some beer or cider, and the odd wine bottle that is not one of mine. People give us wine sometimes. No, seriously, they do. It's not like I'm going to say no.

The rule is that the carts are not supposed to go out before 7:30 the evening before, and have to be in by 7:30 that night. Ha. They live in our garage, to be more convenient for tossing stuff into, but most of our neighbours leave them out all the time. That worked out really well for us when garbage day was the day after yoga class, but now it means a special trip in and out of the garage. Talk about first world problems, eh?

I've had a couple good clicks out of my back, and it continues to improve. The real call of the basement is that it's cool. I was down there doing some stretching earlier, and didn't want to come back upstairs. I'll probably be sleeping on my yoga mat tonight.

The Stampede tourists are getting loopy in the heat. Walking around like they've been gut shot or something. Stopping strangers on Stephen Avenue and asking where the Stampede is. All around you lady was one response. One guy already had a huge red spot on his bald spot. He's going to be a hurting unit when the hangover starts to wear off. I'm not in touch with all my buddies, but haven't heard of any pending divorces so far. That has not always been the case for half way through Stampede.

Linda's work had a breakfast this morning. I was a bit nervous when I saw the banjo player, but it all worked out and the food was pretty good as these things go. I think I amuse Linda's coworkers. It's hard to describe. I'm not sure what she's told them about me. Considering THEY think SHE is the one that knows ALL ("we just ask Linda, she always knows") and her story is that she asks me.

It's much too hot to be comfortable with a cat in a lap. Which is too bad. They are very good lap cats. All the knots are combed out of Curtis's fur, and the clipped bits are filling in nicely. No doubt it's all the food he gobbles with the most disgusting noises, leading to the most amazing cat flatulence I've ever been subject to. Now he's got his nose up to the screen, wondering why I'm paying so much attention to the bottom of the screen.


Monday, July 9, 2012

halfnhalfnhalf

It's getting better, slow and steady. My neck is killing me just today, like I slept on if funny. No idea why.

Quote of the minute. "Cat's don't get lamb!"

Summer time in Calgary. Nice. Very nice. Especially the girl in the red dress. Way nicer than the Matrix one. I'm not kidding. It topped 30 C here, which is a pretty hot day by Calgary standards. I was out for a longish walk at lunchtime. Wait, I already told you that.

Even though I'm still not 100% it just killed me to not be out on my bike last weekend, so I was determined to go tonight. Within a few minutes of starting I knew I wouldn't be going too far or too long. My legs feel weak, they don't spin well, and every bump in the road goes straight to my low back. Plus I can't do a left side shoulder check. Only rode a half hour, easy spin. My back felt like I'd been on the bike 4 hours.

Ran off the bike, a half hour. This actually felt pretty good. There were a few brief moments where the running was relaxed and normal. Most of it I had to think about posture and pace, but at least it didn't hurt and there were no muscle cramps or spasms. Just toward the very end I started feeling really hot in my face, which is where I typically feel it first. Ran 4.6 K, nice and relaxed.

Downstairs and stretched for half an hour. That gas relieving pose where you rock from hip to hip really hurt. Everything else felt ok. I'm hoping a good night's sleep helps things calm down more.

I took this photo of the red peony out front on the weekend, but forgot to include it in the weekend roundup.




Sunday, July 8, 2012

The rest of the weekend


We had a wonderful time Friday night at the Selkirk Grill. It was one of the 5 days a year in Calgary when it's nice to eat outside. Linda had a wild mushroom flatbread that I thought was pretty good, and she loved. I had the halibut stacked up on some veggies that was all very tasty. We split the fritters for dessert, since both the appies were big. And good.

From there we got our chairs and blankets and picked out a spot near the Moyie boat launch. I'm not into Heritage Park much so it was nice to wander around and look at stuff. We hung out and watched the sun go down. It wasn't a flaming colourful sunset, but it was peaceful and soothing, with gentle pastel highlights showing up a bit after this was taken.




The bugs weren't too bad and the fireworks were really good. I think that the Global Fest fireworks are better, and you're closer, but we were not disappointed. Overall I wasn't terribly thrilled with my photos of the fireworks. The video is nicer but I haven't taken the time to play with it. Maybe later this week, sooner if my faithful readers ask nice.


That was a late night for us, especially after the lung ripping, core searing, mad trampling rush back to the car. My low back and legs nearly froze up on me a few times as I was trying to keep up with Linda. But we were ahead of the crowd so getting out was easy, and then we're only a few minutes from home. Lots of people were coming out 90th Ave so I suspect they were watching from South Glenmore park.

Saturday was a sleep in, that's for sure. My back was better, but I knew there was to be no bike ride today. I came up with the closest thing I've done to an internet meme while cleaning up after drinking lots of coffee. Here's the photo:


The caption is: The homeopathy crowd would call this a good strong pot of coffee.

It tickled my funny bone. Much of Saturday was taken up finishing the book, and writing my book review rant about bargains, and how they're not.

The most physical thing was sharpening our reel style lawn mower. It works much better now. Racked a wine kit to a carboy, and started the next kit. I love the yeasty winey smell the basement gets at this point. You can bet I was very careful how I was picking things up. Did some very gentle stretches in between reading and surfing this Twitter thing.

Sunday was a little more ambitious. My back was feeling even better, but still not quite right. I sprayed on some sun screen and went out for some weeding and lawn tidying. It felt really nice to be out in the heat, squatting, kneeling, bending over, and generally stretching out my back. It even felt good enough to go for an easy run around the block. Only a couple of mild muscle spasms, so this is progress. Really good stretching session in the basement afterward.

Linda had picked up a huge rack of lamb on Friday. She put on some marinade just after this was taken, and it sat there till Sunday evening. Then it turned into a delicious mouthwatering BBQ dinner. Now I'm full, and having an easy evening. I think I'm having a quiet Stampede this year. I'm only invited to one Stampede breakfast this year, and might go to the one at Talisman pool if I swim that day. No lunches booked so far, and no afternoon beer bashes. Which is probably a good thing.


I was amused to discover that I now have many hats, including two cowboy hats. I'm not even sure how many in all. Perhaps I will dig them all out.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Price of a Bargain, a rant

Here's my latest read. The price of a bargain, the quest for cheap and the death of globalization by Gordon Laird, a Calgary author.



Where do I start? Everybody likes a bargain, finding something they want at a really good price. Sometimes that's a good thing, in that the seller gets rid of something they don't want anymore in exchange for some money they can use for something else, and the buyer gets something they want cheaper than buying new. The planet wins in that the object in question isn't disposed of.

The problem comes when everybody expects everything to come at a bargain price, year after year. After a while people notice that things don't last very long anymore, and even if they could be repaired, it's cheaper to buy a new one. Then they notice companies take whatever actions that lower their prices, so as to maximize their profits. They get their supplies from cheaper places, or cut corners on materials. They go to where labour is the cheapest. They maximize their profit, and wherever possible they socialize their costs. Then people in North America wonder why it's harder to find a job that pays well, why local companies are going bankrupt, why companies walk away from their pension obligations, and walk away from the messes they have left behind.

Laird takes a winding path through this world. Our world. The world where Walmart and their ilk relentlessly drive down costs. Not just their own, but they demand that suppliers do so as well. I remember when Walmart started coming into communities. People protested, quite rightly foreseeing that it would destroy their local shops. Why? Because the people doing the protesting wouldn't support the local shops. They would prefer to go to the (previously protested) Walmart, and buy cheap shit from China because it was a dollar cheaper. Then their neighbour that ran that local store either saw which way the wind was blowing and closed up before they went bankrupt, or they went bankrupt.

Then other big box stores came to the community, or people drove to other communities to buy in them. The dollars started flowing out of their community, never to return. Then the community started dying, as the kids moved away because there was no schools, and never came back because there were no jobs. Oh sure, you could scrabble for minimum wage, if the Walmarts of the world deigned to pay you on time, but they couldn't live on that. So if they were smart they moved away to the big city to become an investment banker, and make the system oscillate even worse.

I'd say thanks Walmart, but if it wasn't them, it would be someone else doing the exact same thing. Laird points out in detail how the supply chain works, and it's an eye opening read. The cheapest possible materials, of unknown provenance, assembled by near-slave labour with little or no quality control, shipped across oceans by ships burning the cheapest crappiest bunker fuel, going through crowded ports, onto rail cars and trucks through an aging infrastructure to distribution centers, all in order for you to get that thing a nickel cheaper.

In all of that, quality is not a word that shows up much. It used to be that capitalism had two arms. One was to produce things cheaper, and the other produced higher quality for those that could or didn't mind paying a bit more. Guess which world we live in? It's a world where lead has become a more common commodity because it's cheap and malleable. Poisonous melamine is put in milk powder. Cadmium is in the paint on toys. Are you still liking that cheap junk?

It's a world that has driven relentless consumption of materials, oil in particular. We live in an oil culture. Most of our stuff is make up from oil products and byproducts. We burn it to transport our stuff around and stay warm in the winters, while we still have winters. We put it back into the ground as fertilizer to grow the crops we need to keep from starving. What's left over is put into tailings ponds that are so toxic they will kill anything, or are disposed of into the sky or water as pollutants that slowly build to toxic levels in the food chain.

Laird does a great job connecting the dots. If you haven't thought about how our world works, he has and has written about it clearly. It ought to horrify you, unless your world begins and ends with cheap shit and shopping as hobby. In some places it's a bit tough sledding, as there are no shortage of numbers involved. There are also real people involved, people who are sick and dying, people who can't find work anymore, people and communities that don't seem to have a place in this world anymore.

Just as most people are aware of the peak oil theories, Laird talks about a peak consumerism theory, that we've reached or surpassed it. Consumerism depended on finding cheaper materials, cheaper people, cheaper ways of transporting those goods, and people buying those goods. Those things don't exist anymore, and what's more, are likely to never exist again. Ever. Once the world changes it doesn't change back.

What's going to happen when costs start to increase? Nobody really knows. So many of our costs are subsidized in so many ways that nobody knows what anything actually costs, and it's almost impossible to tell what the results of changing the inputs are. One way of getting a clue is to look at the prices in the Canadian North for basic products. Very expensive, and transport is a major portion of the costs. Now think about the cost of those fruit and veg from Mexico, or Chile, or even further way, if the price of fuel keeps going up.

Already we know that a consumer economy based on debt isn't stable. More debt is not the solution. Neither is shipping money overseas. Laird doesn't really say this, but one of the reasons I'm confident there will not be a shooting war between China and America, is that for all intents and purposes, China already owns America. You don't burn down a house that you want to repossess.

Cultures that are not on a stable footing will die sooner or later. Jared Diamond and others talk about a number of cultures this has happened to. Western culture is no different. Eventually people will stop lending Americans more money to buy the cheap shit that China is producing, and the whole house of cards will come tumbling down even further and faster than it already has. At that point America, and to a lesser extent Canada, will get our shit together and build a rational economy, or I suspect we will starve or freeze to death.

Perhaps mercifully, Laird doesn't talk about what that world will really look like. He just points to some examples, some nooks and crannies of unglobalization in a globalized world. The last time our world went through a deglobalization phase, the result was the Dirty Thirties, and World War II. Let's hope that doesn't happen again.

The biggest disappointment in the book is that there isn't a chapter on what we can do about it. Though to be fair, that's probably another book itself. It's still a good read, well worth buying. I got it in paperback in Black Diamond of all places, but Indigo has it. Make the time to read it. Our book club is.

Over the past few years I've been doing my own protest about consumerism. I don't buy much stuff anymore, and only what I need because something has worn out or it doesn't work anymore. By modern standards our plasma TV is primitive, given that it's about 10 years old now. But it still works and as long as it does I won't be buying another. I don't care that I can get a bigger, brighter, LCD screen for a few hundred dollars. My wife has possibly the oldest functioning cell phone in Canada. I'm a few generations behind on phone and computer technology myself, and that's just fine.

We shop for our car carefully, take care of it, and drive it till the wheels fall off. One car, not two. Yes I still drive downtown, though I'm fully capable of biking it. But that wouldn't work as well for my wife. As long as both of us are working downtown, and I can claim parking as a business expense, it makes sense to drive. Calgary Transit is a horror show, even though our commute plays to it's "strengths". But if gas costs go up we may have to rethink that.

We are buying more of our food at the local farmer's markets. Yes, it's more expensive, but I can't think of a better place to spend money, to ensure that what we eat is good quality, and supports someone living and working locally. Or at least more locally than overseas.

Perhaps that's the way out, to build a more resilient economy by gradually weaning ourselves off cheap foreign shit that we don't really need. Supporting local merchants again. Spending money locally. Perhaps some will just say I'm spitting into the hurricane. That's just fine.

Friday, July 6, 2012

This is unexpectedly painful

Thursday I woke up with some low back muscles feeling more than just a bit cranky. I'd hoped the yoga stretching the night before had helped. I wore my cowboy boots to work which might have been a mistake, but maybe not. I walk differently in them, a bit more cautiously, so I was thinking it might be a good change for my back. The jury is out on that one.

It was such a nice day, though the forecast was for possible showers in the afternoon, so I thought I'd take my run gear to work and run at lunchtime. Even with cranky back muscles I still decided to do it. There have been many workouts that I start with some part of my body cranky at me, and then we all get our groove on and have a good workout.

The Bow River path is crowded at lunch, and I tried not to get grumpy about the walkers going down the middle of the very wide path. This is a path with walkers, joggers, runners, mega-runners, skateboards, roller-bladers, and all kinds of bikes from cruisers, mountain, cross, right up to a high end carbon fibre tri bike that was going much too fast. There's lots of consideration needed for the other users, and it's a good idea to check who is behind you before you change lanes, or worse, just stop. (Yeah, you geezer, I'm talking to YOU! Best be happy I had my eye on you.)

The run started, and stayed, clunky. My legs felt pretty good about it, and the pace was aerobic so my lungs were happy on a hot day. But there was zero stability in my core. Each step was a bit of an adventure as I could feel my whole body move if I stepped onto a raised or lowered bit.

I'd originally thought about going 30 minutes out, and therefore 30 back, but dialed it down to 20 and 20. Starting from Olympic Plaza I made it west well past the car dealerships, but not as far as Pumphouse Theatre turnoff. I think it was about a 6.5 K run at most, maybe only 6.25 according to Google Earth. Astonishingly, this is one of my faster runs recently! Assuming 6K, that's a 6:40 K pace (10:44 mile), and if it's 6.5 K, that's 6:09 K pace (9:54 mile). So I'm pretty pleased about that.

However, I'm not so pleased with the rest of the afternoon. I didn't stretch afterward as much as I should, and sitting in an office chair the rest of the afternoon was just a killer. I was up and walking around a lot, trying to stay focussed on a complicated query for some data migration. Which is now ready for me to test next week, if any of you care about work stuff.

Even though I took my phone, I didn't take any photos. Somehow I didn't think of it. Pity. So you'll just have to make do with a Snapseeded photo of the cats below.

Linda rubbed my back with Tiger Balm, and I did some stretching when we got home. That helped. A Robaxisol helped me sleep. I'm still creaky this morning but better. So far the big task has been to sharpen our reel lawn mower. We've had it many years, and it's become increasingly less effective at cutting grass, and more effective at providing an aerobic workout. I finally got one of those sharpening kits and had a go. It's much better now. Some of you might think this means I should cut the rest of the lawn, besides what I did for a test, but you would be mistaken. That lawn wants to grow another day before being trimmed. I know this.

Looking forward to fireworks tonight!


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

It's quiet, too quiet

Lots of people on vacation. I suspect more than a few people are resting up for the great ordeal of Stampede. It is the 100th, after all, so it's going to be quite the party. Some guys are, all unknowing, living through their last happily married days. There are more than a few people that get all stupid during Stampede and end up divorced.

But I'll take a quiet pool. My buddy Katie and I had it almost to ourselves this morning. We water ran and chatted a bit, then I swam. It felt pretty good. 3x50 on 60 s, aiming and beating 45 seconds. 3x100 on 2:30, aiming and beating 100 seconds. Cool down, and a bit more running and chatting. 45 minutes.

On the way back to the car after work I was watching the clouds roiling. It would have been really good to have a time lapse of it, but you'll have to settle for a photo.



Yoga was good as always, though my low back and hips are really creaky. It takes a long time to get into a pose, and back out of it again. Our last session is next week, so our instructor often does a students choice session. My buddy K piped up as soon as this was announced and said, Keith can't say Pigeon! That was ok, I wanted thread the needle. I need that stretch.

It's hard to type around a tail that can cover almost the entire keyboard.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Painfully threading the needle

Faithful readers will remember I felt pretty good after my run yesterday. That lasted till I went to bed. It was one of those funny things where I was tired, and just as I was drifting off to sleep I'd get uncomfortable in whatever position I was in, and would have to shift. Which would wake me up again, and repeat the whole thing. Getting up and around in the morning was ok, till I had been in my office chair a few hours. Then for a few seconds my knees were unsure about this whole standing and walking thing, but it got better.

Today I was looking forward to a good stretching and core session. I listened to a couple of podcasts and was hard at it for about 40 minutes or so. Pushups. Plank, even. Mountain climbers. One thing that worked really well was the one where you lie on your back, knees in the air, hands behind head, then touch right elbow to left knee, then left elbow to right knee. This used to be really impossible, then it was hard, and today it was really good. Amazing.

Lots of other stuff, lots of low back stretching. All was good till the thread the needle yoga pose. If you're not familiar with it, you start on hands and knees. You slide one hand and arm along the floor under your other arm as far as it will go. It's a great stretch for your entire back. The right went about as I remembered it. I got part way with my left arm and stopped. Way early. I didn't remember it being painful like that. I gradually settled into it, and stayed there a while. Then did the other side and back to the left side again, feeling better.

I've somehow got away from doing the core stuff lately. For a while I was doing various knee exercises every day, and it was easy to work into some core stuff afterward. Then I sort of stopped, which wasn't the smartest thing in the world. Now I'll try to start again, and get a regular routine going again.

The Twitter thing is interesting, though there is some weirdness that I'm not sure I understand yet. I look at Twitter on the computer, the iPad, and the iPhone, and the experience is somewhat different on all of them. One place you can save a search, and others you can't. The following and followers counts don't always seem to be accurate. I'm still wondering which Twitter clients people use.

One thing about summer is fresh fruit from the farmer's markets. We love Kingsland and Calgary. I've never really been a big fan of apricots, till we had some fresh organic ones a couple weeks ago that were practically melt in your mouth. Then plums. Just now I finished off a huge bowl of strawberries. We got several bags of dates and I'm really loving working through those.

There is an interesting air downtown this morning. Not much traffic on the roads. Not many people on the sidewalk or in the office. Lots of people wandering around with that subtle look like they don't quite fit. A couple standing at the base of the Calgary tower arguing about which way was north. Buddy was on 9th Ave, thinking he was on the south side of the tower, and all they had to do was go along Centre for a few blocks and turn left to get where the Stampede will be. Not. A car started to turn right from 9th Ave onto Macleod Trail NORTH. Which would have been going the wrong way on a busy one way street. Good thing I was paying attention, but it's necessary here. Cowtown drivers barely tolerate cars on the road at the best of times, and have never quite become reconciled to the idea of pedestrians or (gasp) pedal bikes having some space on the roads.

The cats love their cat tree. I've discovered it's difficult to get good shots of them in or on it, with a bright window right behind it. Then I got the bright idea of taking the shot from outside, hoping to get some interesting reflections, and it worked out. Nothing done to this shot at all.


Somebody got the interesting idea of putting a painted piano on Stephen Avenue mall, near 2nd St. People are encouraged to play. I heard one guy when I was out for a walk at lunch last week. What is really neat is that it hasn't been vandalized. That's excellent! Now if only I remembered more of the piano lessons I didn't like as a kid.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Decompression

This the first 4 day weekend for me in a very long time. Penn West has this great idea about giving people the Friday before long weekends during the summer off. As in the office is closed and our card keys don't work. Or so they tell us. We have next Friday off as well, for the Stampede Parade. The office is in fact open, because some people like to watch the parade from an air conditioned space. Not quite the same as being right at the side of the road with the hoi polloi, but still. So if you've been counting on your fingers, that means my next week will be a 3 day work week. I can't remember the last time that happened either. I will probably sleep in that day.

This whole weekend has been a quiet time, except for the fireworks on the reserve that one night. It's been good to relax and take it easy. Sunday I slept in. I sang Happy Birthday to Canada while making coffee. It delighted me when I read a news report about a twitter thread that was trending (I think that means lots of people are reading it) called #DenounceHarper, and even better that it was happening on Canada day. That along with #disruptacon made my day, and in fact, pushed me over the edge into creating a twitter account today.

While I'm on the twitter topic, which client do twitterers like best for iPad and iPhone? Please comment.

Sunday was cloudy off and on, and I was feeling the workout from yesterday a bit. The major activity was cleaning wine bottles. Most of them if you rinse as soon as you pour, the bottle is clean. A bit of soaking for the label, sanitize when bottling and I'm good to go. However, the water spots build up, and sometimes there is a film or deposits. Then comes bleach time. About 5 dozen made the cut for cleaning. This is a soothing activity involving bleach, hot water, two 5 gallon pails, some laundry soap and a green scrubby for the outside. I like to put the cleanish ones in a bleach solution to soak. The really bad ones get straight bleach poured in, along with some tiny ball bearings. That gets shaken around and left to soak again. Repeat. There is something very satisfying about seeing crystal clear bottles that used to be filmy. Can't wait to put wine in them.

In between all that stuff I was doing some stretching and core on my mat. My low back and hips have been feeling creaky since the ride, and it was good to stretch things out. I was down in the basement for hours, working on the glass, puttering and tidying and stretching. When I came up there was some amazing cloud stuff happening near sunset. There was a huge cloud bank off to the east with near constant lightning in it. A bit later there was a neat cloud formation, and an interesting texture on the bottom. Here's a pic.


Monday was a lazy start to the day, what with signing up for Twitter, and getting started there. I had sort of thought of doing another brick, but I didn't. Instead I went for a run up to the reservoir and back. This was really nice! My legs were liking it. I kept the pace aerobic and my feet turning over pretty quickly. Coming back from the big steel power pole between South Glenmore and Weaselhead my legs felt a bit heavier, but kept going. Ran 75 minutes and felt great! It was nice to see a ton of people riding bikes on the path and lots of runners, even if that one guy looked like he was going to have a heart attack any moment.

Which leads me to a mini rant. Why oh why, is it legal for a big fat guy to be flopping his man boobs and gut all over the place without a shirt on, and some kill joy will call the cops if any woman tries it? I fully realize that almost every woman will choose to run with a sports bra just for the support, even without bringing "modesty" or personal safety into it. Honestly, that guy should have been wearing some support as well. But there are some women who are small enough up top that support isn't really an issue, yet that isn't a choice that society is mature enough to let them make for themselves.

Some would say it's just another example of the patriarchy exerting control over women. Repress them on the small things and then it's easier for the big things. In triathlon the rule seems to be that everybody has to wear a top. I guess they think that's what makes it fair. But look at the guys, most of them have the top unzipped as much as it will go, to the point where the top only covers their shoulder blades. Maybe someone on the rule committee has a fetish for male shoulder blades? I wonder what would happen of a woman unzipped to that point? I don't have to wonder. She'd probably be disqualified for breaking the nudity rules.

To finish up, because cats are almost as popular as boobs, Curtis and Celina. Curtis's eye infection has healed up wonderfully. He's been a total champ about the drops so far, but is beginning to squirm about it now.



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