Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hold it pajama yoga

I'm not much of a Halloween kind of guy. I know people that plan for, and make a big production of Halloween. Dressing up. The treats. The kids. On and on. Whatever floats your boat.

We were fortunate that tonight was yoga, and we didn't plan on skipping it. FF suggested everybody come in pajamas. It was mostly regulars, and mostly in pajamas. Not me. Regular stuff.

I think FF had been to a yoga teacher's "thing" and they told her everybody has to hold their poses longer. It seemed like we were in them forever tonight, and my legs are still cranky. There was an interesting bind pose I didn't even try, and 3 kinds of child pose, any one of which is my least favourite yoga pose. Child pose is torture.

Even savasana wasn't good tonight. My tailbone was feeling the pressure, and I could not get settled. My mind wasn't quiet either. I know the body and mind are related, and it's difficult to have just one of them quiet. I'm not sure which was driving the other tonight.

For example, during savasana I was simultaneously writing this blog, and teaching some geezers pre-introductory yoga. These were first class geezers, coming to the class in the pants hiked up to the armpits with suspenders, and shoes, a cane, and two walkers. I admired their enthusiasm, and we started with a simple standing pose. That took most of the class.

Really dank and foggy out there. Seriously depressing, though I got two happy making things at work today. One of them was a big reference spreadsheet, with 12459 rows that I care about right now, and another 1000 or so I'll care about in a little while. The other thing is write access to the tables for a particular database. Life is good. I know only a couple other people reading this that would share and understand my happiness in this. Yes, I am a geek, in some respects.

In other news, it took almost 5 minutes to figure out what key Curtis pressed on the keyboard that made my screen disappear. Cats and keyboards do not get along very well, especially when a human is trying to write.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lying Blogger stats

Every now and then Blogger goes crazy and puts stupid numbers on my stats. Look at this. Right at 4 pm my traffic went crazy, yet none of my posts show any corresponding increase in traffic. My other site meter didn't even show a flicker in traffic at all. So I think it's all a Blogger conspiracy to make me think lots of people are reading. Good thing I'm not fussed about it, and write this for myself. Are you guys even sure you're there, and not a figment of my imagination?



It's been a dank foggy week in Calgary. Very depressing. This is why I don't live in Vancouver. I like my sunshine. Tonight feels much colder than it is because of the humidity. Ick. My legs are feeling kind of cranky and didn't really want to go for a run, but I insisted. I told them I'd do a 2 K loop and see how they felt. It took every bit of that 2 K to get into the groove. I took it nice and easy, aiming for 7 minute K's, and got pretty close. For the first half of the run it was like I hardly needed to breathe at all. The last half I was working a bit harder, and was starting to get tired. I'd been thinking of going 8 K, but called it at 7 because I was starting to feel sloppy, and didn't want to ruin what turned out to be a perfectly nice twilight run. Oddly enough my hams and top of calf are grumpier about walking than running. Did a good warmup in the house, walked, ran, walked, and did some gentle stretches after. The ball rolling on the bottom of my feet felt really good. Really, really good.

Did I tell you all (figments that you are unless you comment) that I figured out the volume on the RunMeter app? There is the ringer volume. There is the application volume. But then while the announcement itself is going, you can play with the volume controls, and that's the one that seems to matter. I like the app a lot, but golly there are a lot of options, and controls, and settings. I would not be surprised if there's something I'd like it to be doing, if only I knew to turn it on.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sherlock powered me through

The 50 m pool was open this morning, and other than the woman who didn't understand circle swimming for several laps. All was good. 40 minutes. Typical stuff. It seems I'm about a minute slower over 1000 m in the 50 m pool.

Home and on the bike for mostly easy spin while watching the last episode of Sherlock. 90 minutes, with my left hamstring being very cranky down near my knee, so I didn't push it hard. The show distracted me, and I'm not sure I'd have stayed on the bike for the entire time otherwise.

Loved the Sherlock shows. I need to watch a couple of them again, as there were some quiet bits that I didn't get over the whir of the bike and the sound of sweat in my ears. I'm a big fan of the stories, and really like how the writers have stayed true to the spirit of the stories, while bringing in the modern world. Sometimes several elements of different stories come together, which is a delight to see. The two stars will also be in the new Hobbit movies, though they won't be on the screen together.

Reading about Sandy, and glad I'm not experiencing it. Those who are, hope you're doing ok.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Respect

If you're not interested in a political rant scroll on down till you get to the Runmeter graphs. There is a cat photo to reward readers who make it to the bottom. This got long.

When people talk of honour these days, the safe thing thing to do is get a firm grip on your wallet. There doesn't seem to be much anymore. It's intimately linked to respect, and there's precious little of that too.

One of the things that turns me off most pro sports is the trash talking. Here are grossly overpaid semi-literate behemoths spouting nonsense about the opposing side. The media lap it up, and talk about "The Big Game" when all it is, is a game. The results of which are essentially meaningless in any real world context.

But something happens when you trash talk your opponent. It becomes much easier to remove their face and treat them as a non-entity. I think this is the fundamental reason why the NHL was suffering such a rash of vicious assaults on ice. When you don't respect your opponent, anything goes to get an edge. When the regulatory body doesn't do anything, and you have a buffoon like Don Cherry vomiting his "rock-em sock-em" bullshit, it's no wonder it continues.

It's simple enough to make it stop in sports.  The 2005 Bertuzzi sucker punch to Moore? If that's the first time, a fine of a year's salary seems appropriate. The team can play him if they like, after he pays the fine. The second time, a year's suspension and being fined two year's salary. Third time, is out of the game, forever. These fines of a few thousand dollars and a couple game suspension are chicken-shit to millionaires. Do it to everybody that offends, and soon you'll have a clean game again. If you can prove a coach sent someone out to get someone, fire the coach, and ban him from ever working in the sport again. Any sport.

Now to politics, the real blood sport, where the decisions actually matter to real people. Politicians are some of the most driven people in society. They want to win, very badly. There are any number of reasons, and some of those have been of professional interest to both mental therapists and the justice system. It's well known that politicians have only a loose association with the truth even at the best of times, but until recently they at least seemed to respect that there was an objective truth out there to be used as the basis for spin. Even if they tried to hide it.

Recently we are seeing a couple trends that have me very disturbed, more on them below:

  • Harper trying to destroy the Liberal Party, rather than just defeat it electorally.
  • Harper centralizing power in the Prime Minister's Office, and gagging everyone else.
  • The Republican war on science in general, and women in particular.
  • The dysfunctional Canadian House of Commons, and the American Congress.
In our system of politics it is completely reasonable to seek to defeat your opponents. That's how to take power and govern, after all. But our system is built around having a loyal opposition, one that seeks to make the government produce the facts to back up it's legislative agenda, to ensure that alternate ideas are brought forth, to debate the various ideas so that the voters can judge which party is best representing the interests of the country and citizens, and lastly to provide an alternative government.

There is a line between a vigorous, even passionate exchange of ideas between respected opponents, and the recent evasive and mocking responses to a disrespected, even despised opponent that is merely trying to carry out it's role. The Harper government is so far past that line that it probably doesn't even recognize the existence of it, let alone the legitimacy of it's basis.

The problem is that eventually the Harper government will lose power, and deservedly so. But they seek to keep power by destroying the only party they see as able to take power. Their calculus is that if they destroy the party of the middle, there will be only them, and the party perceived as the left wing fruit loops that Canadians will never trust with government. This leaves Canadian democracy weaker.

Such a strategy reveals the weakness and venality of the Conservative mindset. In their lucid moments they know that most Canadians do not share their corporatist, hard right, half baked policies. Given a real choice they would be voted out of power and they know it. Rather than move to the centre and revise their policies, they choose to destroy the alternative party. 

There is another force that does that. Recently the Taliban demonstrated that they are afraid of a barely teenaged girl holding a book that she can read by herself. They are so afraid of her that they sent a gunman to shoot her in the head, and fortunately he botched the job. This may be the spark that triggers Pakistan to clean up the tolerated jihadists in their midst. It sends the clearest message possible about what extreme religionists want. These ones happen to be Islamic, but in America it's the Christians. 

The space between that and Harper's bullying and disrespect for the opposing parties and for Parliament itself is smaller than one would think. Harper seeks to become an absolute dictator, keeping only the trappings of democracy that don't unduly inconvenience him. That leads to the historical example of "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" When democratic tools are removed or fail us, there are people who will then take the only remaining step. Sic semper tyrannis. 

Words fail me when it comes to expressing my opinion of some of the American Republican candidates and their public statements about such things as slavery, rape, abortion, reproductive health, and choice. Speaking factually, their ideas are medieval, and I thought we had got beyond that. What baffles me, completely and totally baffles me, is why any woman would vote for the Republican candidates. 

Yes, you might disagree with what Obama has done during his term in office. Personally, I disagree with much of it, but then, nobody expected the stupid, mindless, bullheaded refusal to compromise from the Republican party. I think it's dumb to hang him with the poor economic performance of the USA over his time in office, as if he has the magic keys to make it all better but chooses not to use it because of, of, of some shadowy organization telling him what to do. Or something. There are the obstructionists in Congress, and a bunch of thieving bankers that also need to be wearing the horns.

So even if your first thought is to blame Obama and vote him out, which is a well respected position to hold for incumbents, you have to look at the alternatives. And in the American system there really is only one alternative. A party of old white men who are rich even by millionaire standards, who don't just want to roll back what women and minorities gained in recent decades. They want to roll back to the mid-1800's, undoing the New Deal, and probably the 13th Amendment. They want to create a new Gilded Age, even more gilded than the recent heyday of bloated corporate bonuses and excessive executive compensation. George Carlin, RIP, had it right. "They own this fucking place. It's a big club and you ain't in it."

Google Jon Hubbard's comments about slavery. "...the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise."Or Todd Akin's comments about rape. Seriously, these idiots will get votes? Who would vote for someone that believes that?

When a Republican was president, any comments that didn't support his war or any of his policies were considered treasonous. They actually said so. Then when a Democrat, and GASP! a black man became president, they took any and every measure to prevent him from getting anything done, and made it clear they disrespected him personally. Where else would the birther movement come from? They have lessened the legitimacy and respect for the office of president for the next incumbent, and the one after that, regardless of party.

The problem is that when a Republican becomes president again, as one will sooner or later, they have lowered the bar to the personal attacks that will then make it difficult or impossible for that president to accomplish anything. Which might be a good thing, if that prevents the medieval extremists in his party from enacting their hateful agenda. But on the larger economic front, it's a bad thing, because the USA is one of the largest elements in the global economy and the rest of us badly need the USA to get it's shit together.

In spite of what is now mainstream Republican thought, government needs to exist. There is a role for it in providing essential services, and acting as an overall referee. One can legitimately argue about the scope of government activities, how much is budgeted for services, how many people ought to provide those services, and how the necessary funds are raised. It is mind-bogglingly stupid to argue that government doesn't have any role at all, and point to examples where legislative intransigence have cut taxes so there isn't money to provide government services, as evidence of a failure of government itself.

Right now, in spite of the gun nuts, North American society is the safest and best place to live that has ever been created by humans. Science and liberal government policies in many areas are what created that society, in spite of the opposition of entrenched and wealthy interests. Now those interests are seeking to roll back those gains. Harper gags scientists. (And ministers, and civil servants, and anyone else that he thinks might disagree with him.) American politicians, especially Republicans, denigrate science itself, seeking to replace it with Creationism, and a system of magic that will somehow restore "America's exceptional place in the world."

In Canada, Harper, despite his historic revulsion of omnibus bills, has passed one, and put forward another. He's discovered that they are a great place to hide nasty surprises to the rest of us, that turn out to be gifts to his corporate masters. Like removing the appellation of "navigable" from most of Canada's waterways. By doing this, it changes the oversight that happens to said waterways. Which means that pipeline companies don't have to pay as much attention to pipelines going under or over rivers. Which means we will be reading more about pipeline spills in rivers. There's probably shit in those bills that nobody has discovered yet.

Harper's actions are those of a bully who has not the least respect for Parliament or the people that elected him. He feels he has to sneak his legislation into law, probably because it cannot withstand an informed debate. Even worse is refusing to allow people to comment on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. At the beginning of it, government ministers were speaking of "radical extremists" that were the only people opposing the pipeline, and of course, we didn't want to let radical extremists have a say in what was good for Canada did we?

Some of those radical extremists are First Nation people who are very concerned about what a pipeline rupture or tanker incident would do to the lands and waters they have lived on for uncounted generations. And naturally so. They have every right to be heard, and have their concerns addressed. To not do so is beyond disrespectful, it is contemptuous.

The reason for restricting comment is that the plan makes no sense and cannot withstand informed scrutiny. It's a short term response to a pipeline delay to our major market, the USA. If we built a pipeline so we could export to alternative markets we could get a better price for our petroleum products. So far so good. I've worked with pipeline failure statistics and know there are ways of mitigating pipeline failures. Part of it is a system of regulation that holds the builder and operator to the highest standards, because it's been adequately demonstrated they won't do it for themselves. I can cope with the pipeline part of it, even if it's transporting diluted bitumen which is far worse that oil for cleaning up.

It's the tanker part that really horrifies me. The Pacific North West is one of the worst coastlines in the world for extreme weather. Getting to Kitimat is a complicated course at the very best of times, and that doesn't happen often there. Whoever thought it was a good idea to run tankers to Kitimat needs to have their head examined.

Question Period in the Canadian House of Commons has always been the time and place for show boating, and trying to put your party in the best light. Every year the behaviour of MP's gets worse. Government MP's don't even pretend to answer the questions anymore. They just read the same script of the day, again and again. If it was the gong show, that gong would have rung long ago. If any employee in any other business in Canada behaved as those MP's behave, particularly the Conservative ones, they'd be fired, and rightly so. Why do we continue to employ them?

So what do we do? We need to rescue our democracy. We need to start making noise at elections, and at every other opportunity. For a while there was a movement called DisruptaCon, but I haven't heard from it lately. We need to be doing more of that. More importantly, we need to start laughing at politicians when they tell lies. How can you tell when that is? When they're talking is a good first approximation. There was a time during a minority government, when the Martin government persuaded a Conservative to cross the floor. They became a Cabinet Minister, of course. During the announcement they said the two had nothing to do with each other, and the tape ran just long enough for us to hear the media burst into laughter. That needs to happen more often.

We need to get involved in the local constituency associations. Having real people involved would prevent idiots like Rob Anders from staying in office. We need to confront the people and organizations that support elected officials that say anything to get elected, then go to Ottawa to kiss the PM's ass hoping for a Cabinet position.

As long as we put up with it, the shit will continue, I guarantee that.

Fitness stuff now. If all you came for was the political rant, you can scroll down for the comments.

Saturday was a quiet day. Sunday, as the sun was breaking free of the clouds of doom that had been oppressing us for a week, I finished my coffee and headed out for a run. 45 minutes, 7 K, running faster for a bit, then easy for a bit. The run is feeling really good lately. Even my recovery pace is quicker than steady pace not that long ago. My feet feel light and strong, and I can feel the interplay of my abs as my arms are working with my legs to drive forward. There are parts of the run today that were exhilarating! Or maybe that was the thrill of paying attention to my balance as I was crossing icy streets.  That last big spike was waiting for a light to change.


Once home I was on my bike pretty promptly. My reasoning for the run first was to do it with fresh legs, and a non sweaty body. 90 minute bike. Longish warmup to get my legs going around. Then 30 minutes at 170 watts or so. Then some higher speed spinning, then some higher powered spin, though for a short interval. Cool down and some stretching after.

During my ride Celina appointed herself as my cheerleader. She sat on the computer desk and yelled at me to go faster, harder. Or maybe it was to get off the bike and feed her.



Friday, October 26, 2012

Promised locker room bench rant

After a perfectly nice swim this morning I had a rude shock in the locker room. No, not THAT kind of rude shock, get your minds out of the gutter blogfans.

Actually the swim was better than perfectly nice. This swimming 3x a week seems to prevent the backsliding, though I won't know for sure until Monday. 1K, 18:15, Swimming relaxed and easy, yet strong, on top of my breathing all the way. YAY ME! Then some dolphin kick, and pull, with some backstroke, and a bit of all out 50's. I was happy.

I'm trying to think how many of my readers will have seen the mens locker room at Talisman. Probably a few. it's a long narrow space, half height lockers on either side till you get down to the end, where there is one bank of full height lockers. Then in an alcove to the left, there are a few more full height lockers. I wish there were more full height lockers.

Naturally, these are at a premium, and when I swim in the morning it's about 50/50 getting one. Equally naturally, the bench in front of those lockers is usually pretty busy too. So what do I see this morning after my swim? A fully dressed guy standing there, bag to his left on the bench, standing between an open locker and the bench, one foot (in an outside shoe!) up on the bench, elbows wide reading the paper.

I drop my bag on the bench, and barely have room for my suit, razor, shampoo, googles. "Excuse me" I say, hoping he'd shove down a little, or shove off. This, this, guy, (profanity deleted) just mutters "I'm not done here." and stands there. Taking up room. He can read the damn paper anywhere in the facility, except in the pool or shower, and he chooses to stand in the way of me and two other guys.

The guy on the other side nudges his bag a bit with his own bag, trying not to fall off the end of the bench, as I was, and the jerk pushes it back, and takes up even more space. The third guy watches this as he's trying to move into the locker the guy clearly doesn't need any more. He starts getting changed really near me. I'm trying to make do with a piece of bench barely big enough to sit on to put my shoes on. I'm still feeling pretty good from my swim, so I'm not feeling like getting all verbal on the guy. I've never seen him before so I figure he's a one timer. I hope.

The guy changing catches my eye, which is unusual enough, looks over at the jerk, murmurs "excuse me", whips off his underwear, and then bends over to get his suit. At the same time he "loses his balance" just a little, and eases his butt back against the guy just standing there, running the crack up the guy's pant leg. I'm practically in shock at this point.

First that someone would take up so much bench so ostentatiously. And second that a guy would rub his butt up against another guy's leg. I thought it was great. The jerk snapped his paper shut and practically vaulted over the bench and off to the counter. I saw him a few minutes later taking up space, doing nothing. Somebody is going to say something to him sooner or later.

Guy locker room behaviour has it's certain unwritten rules, and he violated a ton of them. That's a metric ton, by the way.  We tend to be respectful of personal space, while recognizing we all want to get into our locker and get on with whatever is next for our day. That happens at the same time as you take as little notice of the other people as possible.

Most guys wrap a towel around themselves when going from one place to another, but there are exceptions. The old guys, mostly they have no shame. They simply don't care, and I'm almost there. I watched one almost heading out the door butt naked, but someone stopped him. But it's really cute when the high school boys try to be as covered as possible during their shower and while changing. If someone in that locker room is gay, and gets a charge out of seeing other naked men, well, how nice for him.

Personally I think way too many people are hung up about nudity. It's just skin, and almost all of us look better with clothes on. I know of female blog buddies freaked out by other female nudity around them, and it's even worse if they talk while naked. I suspect some guys are freaked out as well. I think with some guys, it's like being naked has also removed the verbal filters, or maybe it's because their wives aren't around.

I blame religion and Hollywood for leaving so many people so messed up about their bodies. Classical Catholic thought was that our bodies and anything to do with them, and doubly so for pleasurable stuff, was evil. Hollywood has played a dance of veils with female bodies for decades, and I've ranted about this before. They've made it so that the only possible context for nudity, or even potential nudity is sexual, which is grossly disrespectful to grown ups. They've made it seem like guys are simpletons who go crazy at the sight of anything more than the slightest hint of cleavage. Well, I have to admit, some are, but they are still mentally or physically teenagers. Many of us can enjoy the view if it happens, while carrying on with the business on the agenda, and not getting all hot and bothered about it.

Locker rooms are an odd space. Our concepts of privacy butt up against the need to change clothes for various activities and cleaning ourselves afterward, with the notion that nobody else should see our "privates". There are cost considerations about the physical space itself, and security considerations, in that totally private spaces make it easier to steal property, or assault someone. That leads to having video camera coverage of the locker room, and the security considerations that the footage is only viewed under certain circumstances.

Come to think of it, the pool is an odd space too. There we are swimming back and forth, or playing water polo with all the brutality inherent, or any other of the water based sports, wearing clothing that doesn't conceal our shapes in any significant way, and sometimes even the coverage of the shapes is somewhat erratic. Yet nobody is allowed to do without that bit of fabric.

In the end I left the locker room, knowing I'd write about it here, but not sure what I'd say about it. I'm still baffled why he thought that was something appropriate to do. Taking up space and being in the way of other people. Shoes on the bench, not that any of my skin ever touches that bench. Not that any of it touches the floor if I can help it. Normally I try not to think much about the locker room, but he triggered a bunch of thoughts. There might be more on this.

Once I got home I got on my bike and had a good 90 minute spin. Not too fast, not too hard, but not too easy either. My legs were feeling kind of tired from the run yesterday, so I didn't want to work them too hard.

What are your locker room adventures? Dare I ask?



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Another shortie with rant commentary

I thought about running at Talisman this morning, which would have helped the step counter thingie happening at work, since I calculate it morning to morning. But I didn't, although I was determined to run this evening. So I did. Up to the reservoir and back, 9 K, in almost exactly 1 hour. Running nice and easy.

It was easily the most consistent run I've done since I start run meter, and I wasn't even trying. I was just chugging along, trying not to get bitten by dogs. The two spikes are waiting for the traffic light on 37 St. The phone was in my jacket pocket, and it was too much trouble to unzip and pause it.

Rick Mercer is the king of Canadian Rants. I've seen some of his rants, of course, what Canadian hasn't? I've read a few of them here and there, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the book I just bought. I love me a good rant, and I worship at his toes, practically. I'd love to know what some of the rant subjects think, though if they have any brains at all (In a politician this is a very debatable point) they will never, ever say the truth in a forum that might even potentially be considered public.

I've done a few blog rants myself, as some of you have said you liked. They can be found in the labels section. I never quite know what will trigger one, and they usually almost write themselves. For me, for most of my blog writing, I barf it all out at once, then go back and polish up a little bit. Later if I happen to look at it, I notice some things I'd change or polish some more, but that's part of the charm of blogs, is the immediacy. I wonder what it's like filming a rant? How many takes does it take? I wonder if there is a blooper reel of Rick Mercer Rants?



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A short one this time

To balance out that last one. I got a bit carried away, and it was only when I walked past the computer as Linda was reading that I realized what an intimidating wall of text it was.

Monday Monday morning I was in the pool for a half hour swim. I just wasn't with it at all.

Monday night I was on the bike again for another 1.5 hours. Another good strong workout that I'm really pleased with. Writing the blog kept me up late, but there was a lot of stuff there that had been on my mind, and I wanted to get it written.

Tuesday I was in bed early. Really early. Like 7:30. Asleep like a rock.

Wednesday swim was 30 minutes of goodness. 1 K 18:25. 6x 50 m on 1 minute all under 50 seconds.

Wednesday yoga, well, let's just say I'm glad there weren't any balance poses tonight. I could barely do the warrior poses.

Short enough for you? Bedtime now.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Fat to fit

A few people over the last couple of years have asked my how you get from being fat to being fit enough to complete Ironman. Usually this happens right after being told what the distances are, when they are thoroughly appalled.

So let's break it into pieces. Fat. I was, though most people didn't notice because I'm fairly tall and it was fairly evenly distributed. Being fat does not automatically mean unfit and unhealthy, though in the general population it's usually a pretty safe bet and was in my case. Even so, there's a difference between an unfit fat person, and a fit fat person. They carry themselves differently, their skin looks different, and typically you can see some muscle. There are some people that look fat that have completed ironman.

Fit. I had a vision of what fit looked like. It's what you see when you look at an Olympic or World class athletes. Outside of curling, it almost doesn't matter what sport. I'm sure the Greek gods that posed for all those statues are crying with jealousy as they look at, say, the swimmers.

Fit enough to complete Ironman. Let's talk about that in a while, because the mental aspect is far more important than the physical.

So how does one get from fat to fit? There's a list. Here it is in it's complete entirety:

  • Gradually
That's it. If you remember nothing else, remember that the change has to happen gradually. You didn't become unfit overnight, and you can't get fit overnight. You can't. Anyone who says so either hates you and wants to break you, or they want your money. Maybe both, and get your spouse at the same time.

If I had a dollar for every time I read a blog written by someone full of piss and vinegar that is GOING TO GET FIT!!!, well, I wouldn't need to work anymore. It doesn't work like that. I don't even know your spouse (with a few exceptions in my regular readers) but I'll tell you how it works, in the full graduallity of it all. That's a word I just made up for the occasion. For the purposes of this discussion I'm going to assume you are really, really unfit. (If Dara Torres is reading this, well, it doesn't apply to you, even if you are feeling unfit these days.)

The Full Graduallity 
  1. You start by building the habits that will build fitness. Your first task sounds simple, but the simplest things are only simple when you are not relying on them as you do more complicated things. Your first task, every day for a month, is to go for a walk outside. Nothing more, nothing less.
    Depending on how out of shape you are, that first walk might not be very far. It doesn't have to be. Even if you feel pretty good, this need not be a long lung burning walk. In fact, it shouldn't be. If you go as long as a half hour, that's plenty. You need not wear any special shoes, unless you already have them; they need only be comfortable to walk in. Wear whatever clothes you feel comfortable in and are suitable for the weather of the day. Do not wait for nice weather.
    No need for anything special at this point, because you likely are not going to be working up a sweat. In fact, you shouldn't be. To sum up, go for a walk, every day, for a month, outside. Rain or shine, hot or cold, humid or dry. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what time of day, but about the same time every day is good. Consider your personal security, and walk with a buddy if it makes you more comfortable. Someone should know where you are. Do the walk, then put a check mark on a calendar. Every day, without exception, for a month. Yes, this is simple and seems easy. Shut up and do it. Come back in a month.
  2. They say it takes 3 weeks to build a habit. You are going to do things for a month, to make sure the habit is built. You've been out walking every day for a month. You are going to continue that, with the following additions. Now you are going to start keeping notes. Yes, after every walk instead of putting a checkmark on a calendar, you are going to make an entry in a notebook.
    It doesn't matter what kind of a notebook. It can be on a computer if you wish. Every day, after every walk, you will write down how long you walked, an estimate of how far, and how you felt. Three simple things. Oh, and the date too. How long, to the minute or so. At this stage it still doesn't matter if you are walking for 5 minutes or 65 minutes. The distance estimate need not be in units but it does have to be repeatable. By this I mean you aren't likely to know you walked 3.6 Km during your half hour, but you will know you walked to a particular corner from your house and back. That's fine. How you felt is purely subjective. Write down how you felt to be walking outside. How did your feet feel about it, or your legs? Were you warm or cold? Were you starting to get sweaty? (Hint, feeling a bit moist is ok, but at this point you should not be getting sweaty.)
    At some point you will be wanting different shoes, it could be now, or later. Go to a local running shoe store and tell them you are on a walking program and need comfortable walking shoes. Go in after your daily walk, and let your feet pick what is comfortable. You won't need the most expensive shoes, and you almost certainly should not buy the cheapest ones. Do not cheap out on shoes.
  3. Now you have been walking for about 60 days, every day, and taking notes every day for 30 days. Let's review. If you were walking so far, or so fast that you felt you needed to have a "rest day", then you have not fully grasped the word GRADUAL. After every walk you should be feeling like you could walk further. Maybe at the end of the 60 days you are walking further, or a bit faster, and that's fine, provided it feels natural.
    Now you are going to make a change. You are still going to walk every day, and you are going to still take notes every day. But now it gets more complicated. You have to read your notes and pick two kinds of routes, because now you are going to be doing two kinds of walks.
    The first kind is to walk a known distance just a little bit faster than you have previously. Stop. Go back and read about gradually, then read the instruction again. As an example, if you have been walking a particular route in 30 minutes, your goal is to walk it a minute faster. Only a minute. Be sure to note how it feels.
    The second kind of walk it to walk the same speed as usual, but go a little bit further. When I say a little bit further, if you're going the same pace as before, then walk for 31 or 32 minutes instead of 30. Take notes. Make that small increase, and maintain it for a week, then try to increase it slightly again.
    The point of this is to gradually (that word again!) build your walking speed, and your walking distance. Again, you do not want to increase either so fast that you have to take a rest day. Review your notes regularly, and see how you feel after your walks. Spend at least a week at each step, before going a little bit faster on one day, and a little bit further on the other days. 
  4. Now you have been walking for 90 days. Time for review. You've probably got a number of routes you like to walk. You've probably explored the neighbourhood much better. Your legs are probably feeling stronger, and probably a little bit tired now after walks. This is a good thing.
    You'll notice I haven't said anything about diet, or weighing yourself, or quitting smoking, or pushing weights, or anything else. The point of changing habits is that you change one thing at a time, and nail it down. Then add another thing and nail it down. One more change, and we'll start to talk about those things.
    There will have almost certainly been a day or two where you didn't want to go for your walk. Maybe it was crappy weather out, or maybe you didn't sleep well, or whatever, it doesn't matter. If you've been going every day, about the same time of day, and you haven't been overdoing it, your body will get in the habit, and you won't even think about. One day you'll be putting on your shoes, even as you were wondering if you were going to go out. You've built the habit of regular activity, and it will carry you through on the days you feel weak. They will happen.
    Here's a hint. There's no such thing as crappy weather, just poor clothing choices. Up till now you've been making do with whatever was in your closet, unless you had to go and get something. Well, now you're getting to the point where you are beginning to work up a bit of sweat. You'll need to start getting clothes that are more appropriate for brisk walking, and dealing with different weather than what you started in. There are no shortage of places with suitable clothes. If you're big, don't spend lots of money. You will be smaller surprisingly soon.
    Now that you've walked 90 days straight, gradually building your distance and your walking speed, you're probably champing at the bit wondering what the next step is. Review your notes! How are you feeling after the gradual build? If you're finding it tough to go faster, or further, maybe the next step is to continue one with step 3 for another month. If you've been really unfit this is entirely possible. Your notes about how you feel will tell you.
  5. If you've gradually built speed and distance by tiny little bits, and you're feeling good after your walks, now is the time for you to start taking control of your own progress and add another step. On day one go further and faster. You want to be walking a little bit faster than your previous fast pace, and a bit further. Next day, take it easy, how easy will depend on how you feel. Then a bit faster, maybe the same pace, or a bit faster again. During this step take really, really good notes about how you feel during and after. While you should never be gasping and wheezing out of breath, you should be breathing deeply and regularly at this point. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to keep track of how you are feeling during and after your walks. You are getting to the point where you are starting to actually push yourself a bit, making your body actually work. Well, it has been all along, but it's been gentle enough to get it used to recovering. Now you want to push yourself a bit, to force your body to exert itself, and to recover by building new muscle tissue and cardio capacity. The idea is to push yourself a bit, and then back off a bit. You cannot push every day. By writing about how your walk has felt during and after each one for several months, you'll be in the habit of listening to your body. You'll know when something is not normal, and you'll back off or stop to check it out. This is really really important. 
By the end of step 5, you should be up to a brisk walk for an hour or so. It doesn't matter how long it takes to get there. Remember gradually. A brisk hour walk every day will do amazing things for your health. Maybe you've already noticed. You're probably sleeping better. Your appetite might have changed. You might have lost weight, but more likely you've changed shape. Your clothes might not be fitting the same anymore. 

One can lead a perfectly healthy life doing nothing more ambitious than that hour long brisk walk every day. Once you've got that habit nailed down, you can work on other things. Quit smoking if you haven't already. Make more healthy eating choices. Enroll in a supplementary fitness routine such as yoga, pilates, cross fit, Tai Chi, or any of a zillion other such things. Try one and see if it's fun. If not move to something else. Maybe you just want to play ball with your kids. Walking every day can help make these things possible.

But maybe you want more. Maybe you want to run, and swim, and bike, and (gasp) do an Ironman someday. If you've had the discipline to walk every day for several months, gradually building speed and distance, I am here to tell you that you can totally do an Ironman. Eventually.

I'll tell you a secret about doing Ironman. You need not be fast. In fact, it's probably better if you know you aren't fast. What you MUST be is determined and disciplined. Like I said, if you can gradually build through the walk program, and apply the same discipline to learning the skills for triathlon, you can be an Ironman.

I could write a whole blog, a whole series of blogs on how to swim. It's my best thing of the three sports. I'll summarize. Start gradually, with whatever you can do now. Take notes after every swim. (where have you heard that before?) Gradually build swim distance and speed. You are aiming to swim a 25 minute Km pace without being knackered. It's really easy to get out of breath while swimming, and it's really good, periodically, to do that. It will push your lungs to increase their capacity. Attend a swim camp where they promise to video your swimming, and analyze it afterward. There is no better tool to improve your swimming than to see for yourself how badly you swim. Yes, that includes me. I was astonished at my swim flaws. If you don't know how to swim at all, sign up for lessons. It's probably one of the most valuable life skills you can have anyways. Swimming is one of the single best exercises you can do.

You'll need to swim 3.8 Km. At 25 minutes per K, that's 1 hr and 40 minutes, what with a bit of thrashing around at the start and end. Lots of margin for the 2:20 cutoff. For the moment, don't worry about a wetsuit. 

It is easily possible to spend serious amounts of money buying a tri-bike. Without leaving Calgary, and without doing a special order from a manufacturer, I'm pretty sure I could drop $15,000 on a bike and various accessories. But you don't need to. At first, it almost doesn't matter what kind of a bike you have. Get on it and start riding. You are aiming for 25 Kph on average, up and downhill, into the wind and downwind. As you gradually (that word again!) build speed and distance and bike confidence, exactly how you started with walking, you'll realize the shortcomings of your particular bike and bike skills. Yes, you'll want a fancy bike, but at this stage of the game an expensive bike is wasted on you. Take a class and learn to spin; it's harder than it looks. Buy a good quality bike, sized to fit you. Go back and read those four words again - sized to fit you. That means you now, flabby thighs, belly, and stiff back and all. These things will improve, but there is no point buying setting up a bike for a position you can't ride comfortably in. A fit will gradually change over time. Women, you have special anatomical issues. Do not be embarrassed to discuss the fit of the bike saddle with the sales person. They've heard it all. There is a ton of stuff to know about riding safely on the roads. Ask Mrs. Google, she knows everything, and that includes bike safety.

You'll need to bike 180 Km. At 25 Kph that is just over 7 hours. Call it 7 hours 20 minutes what with transition and potty breaks.

The steps that built your walking speed and distance are exactly what you need to do to transition from walking to running, only the word gradually is even more important. It is very, very easy to overdo it running. I started by running gently for 1 minute and walking 4 minutes to recover. My wife insisted I wear a heart rate monitor to know if I should back off sooner than that because it drove my heart rate too high. That one minute at a speed that seems laughably slow even to me now, was enough to drive my heart rate into dangerous territory. Do not run every day. Run every other day at most, and maybe every third day. Do your walking in between. I strongly recommend you find a running program. There are any number of learn to run programs put on by various organizations. You can run with people at your level of fitness, and you'll make friends. Children run naturally, but adults typically run very badly. Get coaching before you nail down bad run habits. 

Depending on just how unfit you were, it might take a year of regular walking before you try running at all. Again, depending on your level of unfitness and other factors, you might well want to get a doctors physical first. Running is one of the single best exercises to help deal with weight, but have some consideration for your knees and feet if you are big. Muscle can be build fairly quickly, but it takes a long time to build up your bones to deal with running stresses. Do not skimp on nutrition.

The run is 42.2 Km. If you've done the math, you did the swim in 1:40, the bike in 7:20, which is 9 hours. You have 17 hours, which means you have 8 whole hours to travel 42.2, which is just over 5 Kph. Many people can walk that fast, and almost everybody is going to be walking during their Ironman. I did. Just don't stop.

Right now those swim and bike speeds might seem impossible, but trust me, they are not fast, and quite reasonable goals to work towards. Provided of course, that you don't try to go out and ride 180 Km in 7 hours the first time on your bike. That would be stupid. It might take years to build the strength and stamina to even think about doing Ironman. Do the shorter distances first, and see how that goes for you. 

Now I'll tell you why the building of habits is so important. If you've built the habit of gradually increasing your speed and your distances, you have also been training your mind to stick with it. Your body will do what it's told. If you haven't been training your mind, it will be the weak link. You'll give up because you're bored, or you think you're tired, or because your feet hurt, or because you're hungry, or a zillion other reasons. The training will take years. You'll gradually build to the point where you take rest days because you've had some huge training effort peaks, and you need to recover. Your mind will learn that your body is stronger than you ever dreamed it could be, and your body and mind will learn to trust each other. 

You'll learn that you can keep going to finish that slow cold crappy workout that felt like shit and it's only when you get home and start writing it down that you'll realize a couple months ago that was a peak effort on the best training day of your life to date. You'll put your head down on a gusty windy day and keep those pedals turning. You'll love the day when the high school swim team has 8 kids in the next lane, and there are 5 other people in your lane because it starts being choppy like an open water swim. You'll have the discipline to let that person pass you and not chase them because you'll know you are right in your sweet spot for aerobic effort and you know you'll need to be there for hours yet. If someone else is faster, then they're faster. If your mind is weak and makes you do stupid things it doesn't matter how fit or strong you are, and you're likely to blow up before the finish line. When your mind is strong, your body will be strong, and you'll cross that finish line with the biggest smile of your life.

There are some people that say anyone can do an ironman, and that's flat out not true. What is true is that most people don't think they can, and therefore they won't. Gradually starting with the simplest things is the most important step because it starts training your mind, and that's what really takes the longest to train. The hardest thing is to overcome that voice in your head that says "you can't", and replace it with one that says "I will."

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A quiet weekend of cat photos

Those in the oil and gas industry are very familiar with the DLS system. When the foreman tells someone to go do something at the 2 of 18 site, they both know where they are talking about, or they should. Someone else might have to look at a map, because that will be entirely different from another area's 2 of 18 site.

In fact the whole system, in Alberta, looks like this. (prefix)01-02-003-04W5(suffix). I won't get into the whole system, but in my current world I care about the middle part of that, between the prefix and suffix. The problem is that there can be dozens of numbers in the prefix. I don't care about them, but they do complicate my life. In order to determine if a surface location is the same in two or more databases, one has to get them into the same format, meaning one has to strip off the prefix and suffix, so that you can subtract one database from the other. There are thousands of possible numbers. Let's just say there are a number of ways a nice little number system can get messed up.

So I was looking at a subset of 604 locations in database 1 that are not in database 2. Then compared to database 3, which by the time I got done massaging them into the same format and stripping out duplicates was reduced to 41797 locations. A database 4 was reduced to 2970 unique locations and you don't even want to think about the various formats involved.

After that it was child's play to figure out how many from database 1 that are not in database 2 are also not in database 3 OR database 4, as well as not in database 3 AND not in database 4. Fun. And you guys wonder why I like a big glass of wine when I get home, and am so happy to pound out a good workout.

Saturday was a rest day, puttering about the house. There was an awesome dinner with duck baked in beans with sausage. We started watching season 1 episode 1 of Game of Thrones mid afternoon. Wow. We got 4 episodes in and then called it a day. I think I heard Linda muttering "Drogo" in her sleep.

There are a number of cat photos to share with you because everyone loves cat photos almost as much as funny cat videos. And if you don't love them, say so, and I'll happily replace them with photos of me hot and sweaty on my bike. There, I thought so.

Celina teasing the camera.


This is Curtis with his "feed me, I'm a starving cat" look. That or he hasn't had his cat coffee yet.

This is a much more normal look for him, and the first time I've got a good shot of his eyes. He really does have the prettiest eyes.

There was a smoothie for lunch. I really have to get some milkshake straws. This smoothie had some Mayer lemons, an apple, a banana, a big chunk of pineapple, a couple of dates, and some ice. Very yummy, as you can tell from Linda finishing her glass.

After my bike workout I was doing some stretching and core stuff. Celina was trying to help. It's probably taking years off her kitty life, but she seems to like hanging around me after a workout.

The workout was 2 hours on the bike, watching Sherlock. Some endurance stuff, some high watt stuff, and some speed stuff. It all felt really good. The rest of Sunday was quiet again. We are looking at the Limited Edition wine kits, wondering what to order. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

And just because it snowed this weekend, here's a nice Snapseeded Bermuda picture. This was taken during a run along the road on the very north side of the islands.


Friday, October 19, 2012

The bah-leh

It's spelled ballet, and pronounced bahleh, which means high brow entertainment. For some reason or another we bought tickets. Perhaps because several sources gave this one rave reviews. We haven't been to a ballet performance for many, many years, and thought it would be fun to mix it up.

Graceful, athletic performances? Check.
Emoting out the ying yang? Check.
Beautiful costumes? Check.
Wonderful set and lighting? Check.
Good music that enhances the performance? Check.

But if I hadn't known what I was seeing, I wouldn't have clued in that it was Othello till the very end of the first half, when the famous handkerchief makes an appearance. We enjoyed the show, and thought they had done a good job with the play, given the limitations of the art form. But there are other things I enjoy more, so I don't think we'll be going again any time soon.

No swim this morning, since I was feeling a bit like a weenie. I figured the sooner the work day started, the sooner the work week would be over. Right after getting home I was up on the roof to nail down some siding that had come a bit loose. Then onto the bike for a quickie hour spin.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fish Creek trail run

That got interesting. I ran up the hill of death, and along the south side of Fish Creek park. Although I thought I knew where that path went, it turns out not to be true. The pavement stopped, and I ended up skipping and dancing down a damp, pine needle coated hill interrupted by wet tree roots. I was being careful, that's for sure, since I had this vision of having to call Linda if I fell. Not that she could have done much, that part of the park is a long way from a road.

Evening is a nice time for a run, though it started getting a bit chilly just as I was wrapping it up. I was originally thinking of running around Woodbine, but ended up going up the hill of death, mainly to explore that end of the park, in case people want to run there.

My legs felt light and happy the entire time, even up the hill. Even though I wasn't necessarily trying to run steady, it turned out that way. The first spike is up the hill of death, and the following hill. The really big spike is down the slippery root invested cross-wise slope. 70 minutes or so all together.


I was quoted on CBC today. They were asking people what we thought of "Liberalberta" as a slogan. Here's the exchange.
"Tell us how you really feel, Keith" Jenny said. Even professional radio announcers were having trouble pronouncing it. You try saying it out loud a few times and see how well you make out.

It's a shame the Alberta party packed it in, but I suppose you can only go over the top so many times. Pity the Liberals haven't figured that out yet. The last time they were in power in Alberta was 1921. There cannot be many people now alive who once voted them into office. What with Alberta conservatism in general, and the carry-over of the toxic federal Liberal brand, to say nothing of losing 24 straight elections, it's no wonder the Liberals are struggling.

Much as the Liberals piss me off, about the best that can be said of the Alberta Liberals is that they mean well, but are losers. A brand new party amalgamated from two fringe groups ran to the right of the governing Conservatives, and nearly won. They might have won had not two of their fruitier fruit loops spouted off about homosexuals burning in a lake of fire, or having an advantage because he was white. There is some scary shit buried in that party.

The problem is that the Conservatives are old and tired, governing almost out of force of habit. A million kilos of meat needs to be recalled, and it isn't a problem for them. They still have a spending problem, and can't seem able to get it under control while they have the pitiful, feeble remnants of the Heritage Fund to raid. The medical expense scam is a disgrace, and they've been sweeping that back under the carpet as fast as they could wield the brooms. Supposedly the no pay committee had paid it back, but we later heard that all Conservative MLA's were strong-armed into chipping in. Frankly, they deserve to be swept into the dustbin of history, but who to replace them?

For a complete change in topic, it looks like Edmonton City council told the Katz group to get lost. They've been shilly-shallying about a deal for a new arena since forever, and with any luck, the deal is dead. These billionaires have to be put in their place. Which reminds me of another set of billionaires that need to be put in their place, the NHL owners. They've put forward another proposal that sounds fair on the front, but evidently when you look into the details it's not quite as fair as it looks. There's another group that can go pound sand. I'd be just as happy if they never come to an agreement, but I suppose that would mean constant newscasts about the state of negotiations. That's what the off button is for, I guess.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I got rhythm

I got it during my swim this morning. Big time. All of a sudden I realize what a smooth rhythmical swim complete with rotation felt like, since I was doing it. I'm not sure what else I've been doing all these years. It was good. Till I started thinking about it, and it stopped. I slowed down a bit, but not too much, though I was working a bit harder.

40 minutes, 1K in 18:25 (30 seconds faster than Monday and a lot less effort), 5x50 on 60 seconds aiming for 45 seconds and stopping at 50 seconds. 1 all out in 41 seconds. Backstroke cool down to fill out the time. Chatted with Katie a few minutes.

No excitement at yoga tonight, but very relaxing. Nice.

I just found out I can trade my old iPad in for $50! How about that? I even still have the original box. About the only other choice is to spend a bit more money on mylar glass cover and some sticky feet so it doesn't slide around my desk, and use it for a big track pad.

It was very amusing following the American debate via twitter. One blog buddy was shouting at the debate. Often. There were a number of very snarky comments. I think these sorts of things should have a big lie clock above each candidate. A panel of non-partisan experts research each thing the candidates say, in real time, and increment the clock for every lie. It should be placed where the candidate cannot see it, and the audience cannot avoid seeing it. I'd like to think a 3 digit clock would be enough.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sorry injured bloggers,

But I had a great run tonight, one that I was hardly expecting. My legs felt a bit heavy, and it was blustery and cool out. Once I got home it started to warm up a bit and the sky started to clear. It was just above freezing and I nailed the clothing perfectly. I was neither too warm or too cold.

After a bit of a slog getting started I found a stride and settled in at a low aerobic pace that felt effortless. The sound was turned down on my phone so I couldn't hear the splits but I didn't care. My form felt good, my feet and legs felt light and happy, my lungs weren't working too hard, and the weather was beautiful. What more could I ask for? Ran 5 K in just under 35 minutes, with the first K being really slow, and the rest about 6:45. I could have gone on much longer. This is as close as I've come to that mythical "runner's high".

The best part of it? Coming into the house afterward to the smell of warm chocolate cookies. Which reminds me that one person at work today deliberately took their lunch when I was nuking mine (lamb stew that was awesome!), just to get an up close sniff of what I was eating. She's been going the other way a few times as I leave with hot lunch, and says it makes her hungry. I think I'm going to have to start registering people for an official Linda stalker organization.

The iPad dictation feature is lots of fun to play with. I've been doing some tweets and status updates with it in addition to blog rough drafts. Pity I can't get it on my phone. Has anyone bought the Paper by 53 app? Any suggestions about drawing apps?


Monday, October 15, 2012

The iPad's new clothes

I managed to find the sweet spot in the pool today just as the swim club was leaving and before anybody else got in. The water feel was there right from the first stroke. Then it started coming apart on me about the half way point. Nothing major, just subtle things, except for flip turns. Those went from normal to awful. I struggled on and finished my K in 19 minutes, which is quite a bit slower than I had expected at the start. Then did some backstroke to cool down, for 30 minutes in the water. Overall felt pretty good even if it overall wasn't as fast as I would've liked.

It was another beautiful summer day out there today, almost 20° at lunchtime. I was out for a nice walk, and checked out the artwork in front of the Bow building.



It was still so nice after work, Linda and I went for a walk as soon as the furnace guy left. You might remember we installed a new furnace a year ago as part of the rebate program and it's been just fine. So they were supposed to come back and do a one-year check just to make sure everything is running right. This was only the fourth appointment booked. The first time they called back and said oh can you change your appointment, we are running a little late today. We booked another appointment and that day turned out to be a little bit cool, so they called to say we're running late emergency calls can we rebook please. We made another appointment and they called to say we're running late emergency calls again. That day it really was actually little bit below zero.

So we rebooked yet again and today they phoned with 45 minutes notice as requested. I told them fine, we will be there  at 10 to 5. At 30 seconds before 10 to 5 the company calls and says well we're here where you guys? Linda's on the phone as we're looking at our watches, and saying we'll be there in a few seconds, since we were almost home. We got home at exactly 10 to 5.

So we aren't best pleased with this company. They seem to do good work but it's been rebooked and rebooked and rebooked. Then to call us and yank our chain when it isn't even the appointed time! This has happened every single time we've had them come from getting the furnace installed to check afterwords and and now this one-year checkup. So then they wanted to us to buy into a service plan for five years of service and duct cleaning, at about three times the price of anybody else in town. Supposedly this gives you priority access to their scheduling. Since we were already on the service plan from buying the furnace, we are not impressed with what happens on a service plan. We can only imagine what it's like without one.

Or maybe, as Linda speculated, the people without a service plan are given priority since the company does NOT have their money yet, and they have to hustle to get it. The only consolation is that I wasn't taking time off work to be waiting for them. I'd have been livid if I'd missed out about 3 billable hours only to have them cancel. So that's done.  As we were coming in from our walk, I stopped and grabbed this photo.



Once back I got on my bike for a quick spin session. I'm actually on my bike this very moment talking to my iPad for a rough draft. I've only got a few minutes to go. I sure babble during dictation. This was just a nice easy spin to practice pedaling smooth just below where all the vibration and back fat resonance starts happening.  60 minutes, lots above 100 rpm in an easy gear.

The fun part of the day was just before we went out for our walk. My iPad cover arrived, 2 days ahead of schedule. Gotta like that.  I've got it dressed up; isn't it cute?



Sunday, October 14, 2012

A bi-camerun

Saturday was 75 good minutes on the bike. Long warm up, 10 minutes at 150 watts, 15 at 180 watts, then 2x6 at 250+ watts with 3 minutes rest. Then, just for fun, up to over 100 rpm, and constantly running up the gears to the hardest. I sat at 435 watts for 30 seconds and was happy too dial it down after that. Good cool down. Long stretch and core session after.

My resolve about meat was tested yesterday. We took out a couple for a birthday dinner to Smuggler's Inn, which is where she wanted to go. They do steak. She had a taste for prime rib. I think I did really well, in that I didn't bring up XL beef before, during, or after, AND I didn't have beef myself. I had chicken, in case you are wondering, as did Linda.

The plant is starting up again, though once they heard the American inspectors were coming, it's sounding like they are going to shut it down again. The reading I've done about it seems to indicate that the very, very secretive company that owns XL Beef had come to an understanding with the Canadian inspectors, but had no such understanding with the American ones. They've since laid off 2,000 workers, which isn't good for Brooks, since they are by far the largest employer. I still think there is a lot we don't know about the situation, so I remain unshaken in my resolve. I will never again eat commercially prepared beef, unless I'm convinced of it's provenance.

I tried out a new event this morning, the bi-camerun. Here's the photos, untouched. I don't think these need Snapseed.

Just as I started.

Just as I got to the reservoir.

Just before the boat launch.

Coming back, still right beside the reservoir.

I'd just turned left onto the 37 St path. What's a few seconds off a training run to capture beauty like this?

The event is like the biathlon, which as near as I can tell is X country ski till you are just about to puke, then fire a rifle at various targets, with a time penalty for missing. As a side thought, if they put certain politicians up their as the targets, you can be sure nobody would miss.

My event is to run with a camera, and stop to take a few pictures. Pause long enough to let the camera focus, or think you've paused that long, yet not so long you mess up your run times. You can see the 4 spikes in my times for the 4 photos.

But wait! I started with a stretching and easy core session, then 30 minutes easy spin on the bike to get my blood moving. Then run 10 K in 1:04 or so, with another K easy run to cool down, and another K walk home. A lovely cool morning for a run.

My legs felt really happy about running today, even if towards the end my lungs were up at the top of aerobic range. I wasn't particularly trying to run fast, but I could feel some differences in my form, mainly hams and calves conspiring to pick my feet up a bit more. Even on the hills coming back where I normally slow down and never recover, I kept my pace and even increased it a little. Posture and turnover was good. Even though this is one of my quicker 10 K times, it didn't seem like I was running that fast.



Off to stretch a bit more, and later, to the pub for a book club meeting. Not sure if we are discussing The City & The City, or Cloud Atlas.

Oh, and the winter temptation arrived.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Glad that week is over

There's something very special about this post. It's the first one that's being done by voice. I'm actually talking to my iPad and letting it translate using the regular little microphone out down there on the keyboard. No special software Dragon Dictation or anything. So far the punctuation isn't working, but other than that it's actually pretty good.

So to get down to business I swam this morning. The water feel is back! I did 1 km in 18 minutes and 23 seconds which is really good and then did some kick and pull. That all felt pretty good, so I did some all-out sprint stuff. The first was 40 seconds for 50 m, then 44 seconds for the next one. I was starting to really feel my shoulders protesting so I stopped. 40 minutes overall.

I just lost a paragraph and can't remember what I said. I tried doing too much at once and didn't let it think, so I lost it. Hmmm, I used paragraph and it started a new paragraph. Maybe if I'd said period it would put in punctuation. I'll have to play with it.

What this might be good for is doing the first draft and then save it as a draft to edit on the computer  with mouse and keyboard because that's a little easier.

One of the hard things about the first time back into some apps is having to put in the password again. There are a few I use, and I have a method, but I've been thinking I need to generate a new set of passwords and go through all my various accounts. I know some people use an app for the passwords, but there's something about it I don't get. If the passwords are long and complicated, and I want to use a public computer for some reason, how do I get the password from the iPhone to the computer? Anyone have any experience on that?

I spent a bit of time looking at the difference between the two screens. If you look at curved text carefully you can see the difference, and with a sufficiently hi res photo I can see a difference. But if the bit depth isn't there the screen can't display it. Here's a pair of photos to see for yourself, though now it's getting filtered through an iPhone 4 camera, then Blogger's system, then being displayed on whatever screen you happen to be reading on.



Thursday, October 11, 2012

He was soooo vanilla

Getting caught up here. It was tough to get going after the weekend. Tuesday afternoon was a massage that left me a whimpering mess, even though nothing felt really tight going in. She found lots to work one.

Swam half hour on Wed morning. This is where the vanilla comes in. There I was sitting in the locker room at Talisman, drying my feet, minding my own business. Suddenly I'm whapped upside the nostrils with vanilla. No, really, it was VANILLA!!! I like the smell and flavour well enough, but this was an overdose. My eyes were watering. I don't know if it was aftershave, or some manly cologne, or what, but I felt sorry for anyone else in the elevator on the way into the office.

The swim was barely ok. I had no feel for the water at all. Thrashed for the 30 minutes, and headed into work.

Yoga was an exercise in froth control. Linda had made a veggie soup that was still a bit frothy and my tummy wasn't sure how to deal with it. By the time yoga class came around I was concentrating on sphincter and belch control, and it distracted me from the poses.

Neither of us slept well, and there was a good reason for that that I'm not going to share. So Thursday I was up early and decided to head downstairs for an easy spin. I love our cats dearly, but I get a bit nervous with them around the trainer behind me where I can't see them. I'm afraid that they'll bat at some moving parts. They started by playing with some clutter and knocking it off a shelf. I should have taken that as a warning. I was off the bike to clean that up before they scattered it. Very soon after getting back on one of the cats started wandering towards the pedals. I put down the iPad on the shelf beside me, and picked up a water bottle to squirt some at the cat. Somehow my elbow jostled a corner of the iPad and twirled it about and off the edge of the shelf.

That was very bad emotionally. I normally take pretty good care of my stuff and this isn't even two years old yet. The bamboo frame took part of the impact and splintered a big piece off one edge. A corner of the aluminum frame folded in a bit and did terrible things to the glass. However, it still worked so I was able to back it up.

I have an appointment Friday afternoon to see if it can be fixed and what the cost will be. I've just assumed that either it can't be fixed because of the damage to the aluminum, or they would essentially sell me a refurbished one. For the delta on a new one, I'd rather have the new one. So I did. It took a while to get it going from the backup, just because of the time to transmit the data, but it's all up and running now. I've even ordered a heavy duty protective case. (Picture the two government guys at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark as they are saying "top men", and have them saying "Heavy Duty".) Yeah.

Ending on a high note. Earlier this week my boss asked if I was interested in staying with the project another year. Well, duh. The paperwork got pushed to extend the contract till the end of 2013. Yay me!

I screamed in horror

I'm a really unhappy puppy this morning. There is more happening than this. Stay tuned, regular programming will resume.




Monday, October 8, 2012

A round up

Here's a couple things in no particular order, trying for a short update today.
We had the "real" Thanksgiving dinner today. The one yesterday was a warm up. Sorry, there will be no photo, I was too busy diving in.

One of my tasks was to update the insurance records of the library. These are the books and CD's we have acquired since the last time this was done.



Who doesn't love a photo of cats? Poor Curtis was just getting comfortable when Celina moved into and took over.


Hard bike workout this morning, 1.75 hrs. A bit of core and stretching first, since my intercostal muscles are feeling a bit cranky. Long warm up, gradually harder and faster. Some high rpm spin. Work set was 20 minutes at over 200 watts, then 2x5 minutes at over 250 watts with 5 minutes rest in between. Long cool down and stretching after.

Have you missed some of my recent blogs? All these except one are short, one is a rant, several have photos, and all are feeling the lack of reader love. Please help them feel more loved.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

What I'm thankf

Boy is this wine good.
Wait, is this thing on?


I was in a bit of a torpor after this, which happens shortly after recovering from drinking about a gallon of smoothie with grapes, an apple, a lime, some pineapple, and a bit of kale for lunch. I'll get quantities figured out sooner or later.

Do I really need to tell you what the meal was? Regular readers will know. If you don't know, and really want to, leave a comment and I'll give you the juicy details about how it all melted in my mouth, and went together so very, very well.

There was some news at work the other day, but I won't share it till the paperwork is signed. I'm just a bit paranoid like that, reasoning that until then, it might not happen for any number of reasons. I've been riding the oil patch roller coaster for a bunch of years now, and have come to learn to expect anything.

In other news, we were thinking about what a wonderful life we are leading, and got to talking about luck. Many people would say we are lucky, and to some extent that is true. We won the country lottery mumblety years ago by being born here. Since then we've been working pretty regular, Linda more than me, and have been prudent about how we spend money. We've had some investments that have done very well, in particular buying a house at the PERFECT time in the housing market.

We were discussing how life seems to favor some people, and other people seem to be working hard but never have anything come of it. No doubt, life is not fair. Opportunity does not knock equally on every door. I personally believe that opportunity is much more likely to knock if you've shoveled the sidewalk, and the porch light is on. A sign saying free coffee for opportunity is probably trying too hard and will spook it.

The other thing is more subtle, and I'm not sure if I can explain it. There are some people that don't just need a coffee in the morning. They NEED a double-shot, skim cream, shade grown fair trade coffee beans that were shaken to dust not chopped, with cane sugar and 23 grains of cinnamon, in a glass cup with soy flavor mixed with a dash of chocolate riffle raffle swirled 3 times in counterclockwise motion by a left handed barrister with red hair, or their day is RUINED. It doesn't matter. No matter what they get, how good or cheap it was, or how much better than what everybody else has, it is still not good enough. They think they somehow deserve more. Better. Faster. Cheaper. Whatever. I blame television.

Screw them. I like a coffee in the morning, but don't need one. When I have one I drink it black. I'm not terribly fussy about it. Hot, black coffee. Strong is better than weak, but I'm not fussed about it. I don't care if the other people in line think I'm a weenie because I don't order something fancy in the coffee barista language, or we don't drive a fancy car. We drive a Honda Accord that is coming up on 9 years old, and don't have a second car. Every now and then we use public transit, or take a taxi, (though I live in dread of getting the speed demon with no fingers; can you believe doing 80Kph down 5th St under the railway tracks? I nearly wet myself.) and lately I've been using car2go when it works out. I know this will make an entire generation of ad people have heart failure, but I don't care the slightest about what they think of a car implying status. Except that in my experience people driving Hummers and BMW's are dicks. A car is transportation, preferably reliable, nothing more.

Happiness is a state of mind, not a state of possessions. Yes, some of the stuff in our house makes me happy, otherwise I wouldn't have it. But my happiness derives from appreciating what I have, and not being fussed that other people have more stuff, or maybe better stuff, or got it cheaper, or whatever. I got my stuff because I needed it, and it serves a purpose, not because advertising sold it to me.

I'm happy that after a great many years of wondering who and what I am, I'm coming to terms with it, and to be honest about it, I don't really care what anyone else thinks. That's a good thing. Well, maybe Linda, but then, she knew all that before I did and was wondering what all the fuss was about.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Two Liberals

A Conservative, a Liberal, and a NDP walk into the Parlimentary restaurant. (This was before Harper forbade contact with other parties lest his cultists get contaminated with reality and come to their senses.)

"What'll it be, fellas?" asks the waiter. She is wearing a beaver T shirt, but the beaver has been all beat up, with cuts to his fur, a black eye, and one big tooth is askew.

"I'll have the salad special, dressing on the side, please," said the NDP.
"I'll have the 6 oz steak special well done, baked potato, and the vegetable of the day, please," said the Liberal.
"Red meat and lots of it!" demanded the Conservative.

When the order came out there was a bit of a squabble. The Conservative wanted some of the salad and  veg after wolfing down all their meat. They outright stole the spud when the Liberal wasn't looking. The NDP managed to nab just a bit of the steak, but the Liberal wanted seconds of it after all, and regretted not ordering the bigger steak. They split an expensive bottle of wine and dessert, and the Conservative bullied them into splitting the bill equally, arguing that the taxpayer was buying anyway.

It's just a story I made up a minute ago to illustrate Canadian politics. Yes, federal politicians eat in what used to be a very swanky restaurant, and they all ate together. I'm not sure if it still exists; I haven't heard anything about it recently. And yes, all the politicians ate together, not really caring about party lines because they completely understood Franklin's statement about hanging together.

Canadian politics are more than just a little incestuous. People have crossed the floor and joined another party many times for many reasons. We have two big parties called Conservatives and Liberals, and for all intents and purposes for much of the time, with only a few issues excepted, their policies have been nearly indistinguishable. The Conservatives were generally considered slightly "right" of centre, and the Liberals slightly "left". The New Democratic Party has been a much smaller party generally considered to be substantially further left. The Greens are new, with only one elected member. It's much harder to map their views left to right, but most consider them to be between the Liberals and NDP.

The Liberals were in power for about two thirds of the 20th century. In very broad terms they led the country from being a large empty colonial backwater to being a modern industrial state that happens to be one of the best places in the world to live. However, they messed up, and have now been relegated to small third party status, with the NDP being the official opposition. Harper is determined to not just defeat the Liberals and drive them from office (which is a healthy and realistic desire for any successful politician), but to drive them from existence. So far he's been doing fairly well.

Canada is a complicated country to govern well. We're just about the biggest emptiest place on the planet, with a climate that is brutal on infrastructure. We have a restive French Canadian minority with a permanent chip on their shoulder. We have the Americans on our south border which is at once a blessing and a curse. The history of dealing with the Native people is fraught at best, starting off doing things to them in the name of doing things for them, and now we are grappling with trying to do things with them in a climate of suspicion on both sides. Best of all, we have a very complex culture that started with a French, Native, and British base, and has been liberally added to by every culture in Europe, then rest of the Commonwealth and Francophonie, and I think every other country in the world. I suspect one could find somewhere in Canada small communities of any ethnic group you care to name.

So what happened to the Liberals? Well, here in Alberta, October 28, 1980 lives on as a day of infamy. A Liberal government introduced the National Energy Program. It gutted the oil and gas industry, costing the Alberta economy billions. There are many people who remember it like was yesterday, and they will never forget and they will never, ever forgive. The Prime Minister of the day was named Trudeau. Remember that name.

One famous Trudeau quote was "Why should I sell your wheat?"Asked as a rhetorical question during a media scrum in the heart of wheat country, the media and everybody else forgot that he actually answered it through a defense of the Canadian Wheat Board. It helped drive a rejection of the man and the party throughout western Canada.

Then there was Chretien. Oh my goodness where do I start? In fact we have to start with him being a very successful Canadian politician, which is all the more remarkable because he spoke neither of the two official languages. He was fortunate to govern at a time when the Conservatives were going through one of their periodic episodes of eating their young in public. The alliance between him and Martin as finance minister is arguably one of the most successful and beneficial such episodes in our history. They essentially rescued the Canadian economy from drowning in debt, and set us up for success during the recent economic troubles. (Harper had nothing to do with it and is in fact making it worse again, but he has not been slow to take the credit.)

The problem is that the Liberals came to think they were the Natural Governing Party and were entitled to govern. Not surprisingly, they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar many times, and once with links to Chretien himself. Between that and the squabbling between the rival party factions lead by Chretien and Martin, the party was done. At the moment it's thrashing around in it's death throes.

So now we come to the two Liberals of the title. Harper has to call a by-election in Calgary Centre fairly soon. Alberta as a whole is solid blue conservative with a few drops of orange in Edmonton. The furthest left that riding has gone was to elect Joe Clark (a former Prime Minister if you're wondering why the name sounds so familiar), who is well known as a Red Tory.

A brief digression. You'd think a Red Tory would be the right wing of the party, known for their love of red meat and bloody politics. But no, that's the Blue Tories. The Liberal color is red, so the left wing of the Conservative party is known as Red Tories. They are essentially homeless now, since Harper doesn't have the time of day for them. Red Tories are ideologically indistinguishable from Liberals, unless you look really really closely.

Harvey Locke (@harveylockeyyc and www.harveylocke.com ) is running as the Liberal candidate in Calgary Centre. I heard him interviewed on CBC (another Conservative blood pressure raiser) and had to admit I was impressed. Fiscally prudent, socially progressive, and environmentally responsible are how I would describe myself, in general terms, so much of what he had to say resonated with me. He is well known for his work in the trenches, and isn't just a star candidate parachuted in. All the better for him. He's a lawyer by profession, which is a bit of a black mark in my books, but I suppose everybody has to do something to support themselves, and it's ok as long as you wash your hands afterward. He does not appear to be under any illusions about what he's got himself into.

He's picked a good riding to run in, and I think his chances are good, particularly if the Greens and NDP come to their senses and not run anyone. Much as I like much about the Greens, they cannot win that riding. All they can do is split the vote, and deliver another Conservative (and boy is the Conservative candidate conservative; she will fit right in.) to Ottawa. Which we don't need. I mean, look, this is what we have so far:

  • Harper himself, generally politically pragmatic, but with a mean, controlling, petty partisan freak streak that is wider than he is. Proroguing parliament. Omnibus budget bills. (I could go on. Don't blame me, though I actually live in his riding I didn't vote for him.)
  • Vic (if you aren't with us, you're a pedophile) Toews.
  • Tony (riding gazebo builder with border security money extraordinaire) Clement.
  • Peter (rescue helicopters are my personal taxi service) Mackay
  • Gerry (We had some great Canadian beef for lunch. I don’t know where it came from; I don’t care. I know it’s good, I know it’s safe.) Ritz.
  • Maxime (Secret documents? Girlfriend? Bikers?) Bernier.
  • Bev (I really like orange juice.) Oda
  • Jason (The letterhead paper was handy.) Kenny.
  • Government in general, F-35 scandal. Nobody knows how much these bad boys are going to cost, but it will certainly be higher than anybody is willing to admit. 
We don't need any more of that, that's for sure. All I can say is good luck to Locke, he'll need it as the Harper smear machine gears up. Which leads inexorably to the second Liberal under discussion, Justin Trudeau. Remember that name? Yes, he is that Prime Minister's son, which like so many things is a blessing and a curse.

I have not followed his career at all, and only really heard of him recently announcing his candidacy for the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Which in years past was as much as saying, I want to be Prime Minister. How times have changed.

The younger Trudeau is by all accounts handsome and charismatic, which is a good start. It is said that he worked hard to win his riding, and that he is very involved in riding affairs. Even better. He is fluently bilingual, which is important but not essential (see Chretien). He is about 40, which is neither too old or too young. I haven't heard much of substance about him. No learned speeches on foreign affairs. I've no idea what he thinks about the oil sands or other industrial issues, or tax policy, or poverty, or any of the many other issues of concern to Canadians these days. Which, given he's only been a candidate for a few days, and has months, yes months before the voting, he has lots of time to lay these out. So I'm not going to hold being (apparently) a lightweight against him for now.

The problem is almost more the Liberal party than him. They have a terrible reputation these days. Corrupt. Arrogant. Elitist. They are riven by factions, and don't have a clue what to do or say in response to being the third party. Bob Rae (stand upwind of anyone from Ontario hearing you say that name) has been effective as an interim leader in the House. But other than Trudeau, and only because he has been in the news, I cannot name a single other federal Liberal MP. Not a one.

The party has a bit of a messiah complex, in that they think they need a magical leader to bring them all back together and lead the party back to power from the wilderness. As they think they deserve. As long as they think that, they will continue to lose. No one person can turn around a problem like this. They need to dump the elder statesmen. The world has changed and their view of Canadian politics is as obsolete as a Cadillac. In spite of a desperate need to raise money, they need to dump the old rainmakers and bagmen. One gets money now through the internet. (Senior Liberals, talk to your grand children and they will explain it to you.) They need to form relationships with Canadians, and convince them the party has changed.

The best way to do that is actually change the party. Look at the make up of modern Canada. The old white boomers are dying off fast, and the young multicultural post boomers are coming on strong. Win them over and you'll be in power for another generation, or at least competing for it. If you don't win them over, you'll be out of business. Very soon. Maybe even the next election, if Harper decides to hold one. A relic of Wikipedia with slowly diminishing page counts. Another dusty entry in the history books gathering dust.

To some extent, you need to win over people like me, an old white boomer. I'm young as boomers go, and every vote counts. People like me have money and some influence still. But really, you need to target younger people. People that happen to be, golly what a coincidence, about Trudeau's age, and younger. People that voted for Naheed Nenshi, and what a prize he would be for any political party! Though I'm entirely happy to have him continue as Mayor of Calgary for as long as wants, as long as he keeps doing as good a job as he has been. (In your face, Toronto!)

You need to get those people talking about what the Liberals are going to do for them, and for Canada. You need to listen to them to understand where you need to stand on various issues. In the short term, disagreeing with Harper is a good first approximation, but that won't get you far. To win power you need to demonstrate what you will actually do that is better. You need to join the 21st Century, and forget about the 19th.

Contrary to Harper's wet dreams, Canadians are not his brand of Conservatives. They are Progressive Conservatives at best, and it's no accident that the Liberals were in power so much. In very general terms Canadians want:

  • To be left alone to manage their own affairs,
  • A tax system that treats corporations, and people from all economic strata fairly,
  • The appropriate social programs to help those who cannot help themselves and those who need temporary aide of some kind,
  • An immigration system that attracts intelligent, educated, and hard working people from any and all cultures in an open, fair, and transparent way, while dealing firmly with economic migrants and queue jumpers,
  • To have a police and justice system that respects individual freedoms and rights, and treats all fairly and equitably, while tracking down real criminals,
  • Government to get on with the tasks at hand, and deal with them like grownups. The show they put on is disgraceful. If anyone at any real job behaved like that they would be fired,
  • A medical system that is there when needed, yet doesn't swallow entire provincial budgets,
  •  A practical system of regulations, governance, and oversight to ensure our highways are safe to drive on, that food from the supermarkets are safe to eat, that new medical treatments are safe, that various professional staff are properly tested for competence on the job site, and many other roles to ensure a consistent, level, and safe playing field for everybody and that standards for a modern industrial country are met.


Now, a political primer, and one of my hot buttons. The very terms right and left. I've used them above, but they are a 200 year old relic of French political thought, based on where members sat in the Legislative Assembly. It makes much more sense to think about politics in terms of a Cartesian grid, or a matrix. This isn't my idea, there are any number people who have put forward subtle variations of it.

Generally, they ask where you are on a individual rights to state rights continuum, and where you are on an economic continuum between socialism and capitalism. These are determined by questions such as "Do you think individuals have an unfettered right to free speech? Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree." Then plot the two on a graph and see where you end up. Here's a link to explain the idea from a USA point of view, but remember there are many subtle variations of this.

When I think about what politicians say, I generally run it through a filter that assumes they are lying. Then I look to see what they actually do. Sort of like comparing the title of a piece of legislation to what is actually in the fine print. Then I look at what they actually do, and then plot that on a graph like the one above. Sometimes the results are surprising.

In other news I did a long slow run this morning at dawn. Lots of people would say really slow, and not so far. But that's ok. I was aiming for about 7 minute K, and I'm a bit off that, but what I'm really happy about is that the run up the hill out of Fish Creek was not my slowest K. Normally I really slow down on hills, but I pushed a bit harder today. Overall my legs and feet felt light and happy but were getting tired towards the end of the run.

The run meter graph shows a lot of variation in pace, but I don't think there was that much. I was never running at a 6:30 pace, and neither was I at an 8 minute pace. The path is accurate, so I'm not sure why pace is all over the place.





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