Thursday, May 30, 2013

3 bag Thursday Coffee!

Look what was here on our doorstep when we got home!

We order on line. They fresh roast and deliver to our door the following Thursday. It always was really good coffee. Then we got one of these.

The coffee got better. Much much better. One cup is much more satisfying than it used to be, so I haven't been craving that second cup. Some weekends I'll have a second cup. Even making it in the drip brewer is still pretty good, and french press is really good. I might have to try the reverse french press method I read about, even if it does sound a bit messy. I've experimented a bit with grind size and think I've got it about right. We are really pleased with it.

This morning was one of those days. I didn't quite bound out of bed, but I was feeling pretty happy I'd packed my swim bag. Even though I haven't been in the pool much lately it was a really good swim. 30 minutes of my usual stuff.

Best of all, my legs weren't even a bit cranky. If I didn't have stuff to do in the office I'd have gone for a run, rain and all. By this evening they were a bit tired, but not what I'd call cranky. Did a good stretching workout with some core stuff.

Going to be a busy weekend. Funeral Friday afternoon. Hope to drop in on a buddy I haven't seen for a long time on Friday evening. Breakfast with another buddy as she flies into and out of town. The lawn MUST be mowed, probably on Saturday, in between rain showers. Lots of other stuff on my to do list.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rolled like pastry

The minor sciatica issues are playing hide and seek. At one point yesterday I was feeling good enough to go for a run, though I didn't. Then the left leg will be feeling weak and achey. I'm never quite sure when it will happen.

Yoga class was excellent, except for the hour or two we (they) spent in intense forward stretch. I bailed. My low back and hamstrings were having none of it. There was a neat flow we haven't done before with lots of twist stretches. Very nice. I think I'll ask if we can do it again sometime.

When I got home Linda used the stick on the backs of my legs. There is a huge knot in the outside of my right calf. She could feel and hear the crunch as the stick went over it. She worked it back and forth pretty hard. The hams weren't as tender as I thought, but the backs of the knees were very sensitive. I spasmed every time she went over them.

Did a bit of additional stretching tonight, but no active core stuff. I am feeling a bit like the Red Queen, running as hard as I can to stay in the same place. My lists are getting longer...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Two books, two plans

However, the books have nothing to do with the plans.

The first book I'm reading is A Conspiracy of Tall Men, buy Noah Hawley. He had me at the title. I like conspiracy theories, and I aspire to be a tall men. I've just started. The protagonist, a professor of conspiracy theories, is told that his wife, who he thought was in Chicago visiting her mother, died in a plane crash, traveling under a ticket bought by the man in the seat next to her, on a trip to Brazil.

The other book is The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt. This is a bit more serious reading. I have always wondered why and how the Renaissance happened in Florence. How there was such a huge surge of talent in so many fields that quite literally changed the world in a human lifetime. This book undertakes to explain why, leading back to a single book found in a German monastery.

Work stuff doesn't normally make it's way in here, but I've been marinating in some really odd data. All kinds of exceptions to the general rule. The query to get it all is still being built, but is full of "is not null" and "I" OR "O", is not "N?A", is not "MISSING", and I'm still going to have to scrub it in XL. Some things are easier there. What happens is that I get lost in it, and I forget to get up and walk, leading to desk hunch. I may well have to set an alarm on my phone and hope I don't drive my office roomie crazy.

The plans have to do with setting a running goal for next year. I'm seriously considering signing up for a marathon, perhaps even the Calgary Marathon a year from now. So far, I'm not even thinking about the running. I'm working hard on fully recovering from cranky legs, and building core strength. I've got any number of exercises, and found a few more last night. For this week I'm just working on range of motion stuff, getting used to the movements. Which is good for dealing with desk hunch.

Tonight was a short easy spin, then a good core and stretch session. I went into it feeling cranky legged and sciaticaish, and came out feeling pretty good.

Yesterday I'd asked about two schools of thought on running. The two schools of thought seem to be 1 - Run lots, with periodization, and a variety of speeds and stuff, while trying to stave off overuse injury. 2 Run little but with great intensity along with a variety of other workout stuff. What are your thoughts?

I realize most people probably land somewhere between these two extremes. I especially want to allow for proper recovery, as I'm an old guy, and I can tell I'm not recovering as well as even a few years ago. I've had a couple comments so far (Thanks Darryl and Janice!) and I really am curious about your thoughts on this. Your comments please!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Once upon a time

Back many years ago when I worked for the City, I had some sciatica pain. It was bad, so bad that sometimes I could hardly walk. I think it came from too much walking on concrete in ill fitting boots, and not enough stretching and such. It took a bunch of physio sessions to deal with it, then another bout a bit later on, and I've been good since.

One of the guys I worked with was also having the same issues, only he was much further along. They had him scheduled for surgery, and in the meantime he had drugs. One night both of us were in secondary, dragging ourselves around, one step at a time. One tunnel was 220 m long, and it had a twin. Doing the tunnel round was nearly a Km, and this was before they let us have a trike down there. It was a long painful night.

We met in the control room, with him looking at a little spherical pill. I can't take it till I get home, because I can't drive after taking one pill". I suggested we split it, and after a bit of back and forth we did. It was the most amazing thing I've ever felt. Very shortly after I felt like dancing down the tunnel. I was strongly cautioned that the issue was still there.

Today I sat too long, hunched over and focussing on something, as the office got colder. I caught on too late, and was really creaky, with sciatica like pain, not my recently normal cranky legs. I did a really good twisting stretch session before supper, and was rewarded with a massive "CLUNK" in my back. Within a few minutes I was feeling like normal again, and did a core session after supper.

Then came the dancing. About 3/4 of the way through class I started pooping out. It was getting painful. I just barely managed to finish class. I did a bit more stretching when I got home, and I can tell my back isn't sure what to think. Time for bed.

Been reading about running, and while there seems to be two schools of thought on running better, one thing they all agree on is that core strength is critical. The two schools of thought seem to be 1 - Run lots, with periodization, and a variety of speeds and stuff, while trying to stave off overuse injury. 2 Run little but with great intensity along with a variety of other workout stuff. What are your thoughts?

Oh, and just after dance class I found out I have a funeral to go to on Friday. If you used to work at Skystone and don't know, email me or leave a comment. So young.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Runmeter art

I missed Darryl by THAT much! He's a speedy guy. I was trying to get to the Marathon half way by 90 minutes chip time, and was a few minutes late. I never did see him. But what's important to me is that I did see my buddy Lori. She was sure happy to see me. I think she'd been struggling a bit. "What was I thinking, to say see me at 35 K?" she asked. I hung around there a bit admiring the aid station energy, then zoomed up to the pedestrian overpass over Memorial, just near Crowchild. I missed Darryl again.

This time Lori was smiling so I think she was feeling better. She was running a bit behind the 3:50 pace bunny. I noticed there was a bit of a herd on the way out, but on the way back there was only one person with the bunny. I guess that's where the going gets tough.

Lori came back for 35 K, and was happy to see some cookies. We chatted a bit as she walked for a minute, then she finished it off. I hope she's happy with her result. It was a perfect day for a run, cool and sunny.

In spite of making note of some bib numbers I didn't see anyone else I was looking for, though I did see Martin Parnell going by in his lacrosse uniform. Seeing all those people out running and walking 42.2 K is sort of inspiring me. Since I've started running (that word) I'd thought about doing a marathon. I'm not sure IMC counts as "doing" a marathon. I certainly didn't run all the way.

It's interesting watching the different running styles. Some people plod along, and you wonder how they got that far. Others don't seem to be doing anything, yet zoom along. At 35 K one guy had a really good sunburn going; he won't be happy when he gets home. Neither will that one woman when she gets into the shower; she needs a better sports bra.

This was a bit of an experiment, to ride my hybrid up to Mount Royal, then up to Memorial, then all the way home. It's my first outdoor ride this year. I figured if my legs complained I could always get on the LRT to get most of the way home. There were a few twinges, but nothing serious. Going easy it was 45 minutes from downtown to home. This is faster than way back in the day when I rode home after work sometimes. Then 50 minutes would leave me gasping and sweaty and half knackered.

After getting home I had a light lunch and stretched a bit, then mused about going for a run. After dithering a bit I headed out. This was to be a short easy run. Imagine my surprise when run meter told me the first K was done in 4:42! And even more when the second was 3:50! Even my dream self doesn't believe those numbers.

I reset it, and started over. When my stopwatch said 4:59, Runmeter proudly told me I'd done the first K in 1:58. At that point I just ignored it. When I'd run 20 minutes altogether, trying to go easy and keep the heart rate low, I stopped and walked it home. Stretched after. Oh, I didn't mention about the heart rate monitor, did I. Normally I don't wear one when I run anymore. I'm usually pretty good at knowing where I am, and occasionally, well, often, the heart rate numbers are whacked.

Like today, it was saying my heart rate was 185 bpm near the start of my run. Which is a total lie. I'd be horizontal and spasming if that were true. Eventually it sort of sorted itself out and gave me a believable number part of the time. I watched it for a bit, bouncing between 62 and 145. At least that last number was a possibility.

I don't understand why the numbers are stable and believable when I'm on the bike, and not when I run. Any thoughts?

Just for a giggle, here's the two run meter graphs, which explains why the times and distances were so far off. I guess the GPS wasn't feeling the love today.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The money rant

Every now and then I think about money. If there is one thing I've heard over the years, it's people complaining they don't make enough money. Is that you?

There are two parts to the issue, money in, and money out. MI/MO. Back when I read the Globe and Mail there was a feature where some money people analyzed a families finances. Eventually I stopped reading because I got sick of reading about these people with a huge income, who were all "woe is me, I have no money", and then reading about the stupid shit they spend money on. They had the first part nailed, but blew the second.

So I'm going to go all rantity rant rant rant on you all about money. And time. I know for a fact that one reader and her husband are very wealthy by Canadian standards, and not just in real estate. None of this will be new to her. Go have a nice cup of tea, unless you want to read on and be amused the way I re-say some of the things you've said. A few of my readers are probably millionaires in net worth, but a big chunk of that is their home or other real estate. Little of this will be new to them, though they might not be able to articulate it. Many of my readers are young, some with children at home, and they don't realize that the financial world is actively out to screw them. You need to read every word. Twice. Then, like they say for training, get off your ass and do it.

Money is a tool. For the purposes of our discussion it is used as a way of exchanging value. Most of us give some of our time to an employer in exchange for money, and we use that money to buy things we want. Those things might be a week's groceries for your family, or someone to come and fix your roof. This is much more convenient than Penn West giving me several barrels of oil every day.

The seductive thing about money is that it is somewhat imaginary. I remember a world where people paid cash or wrote cheques for every purchase. They knew how much money they had at all times, sometimes to the dollar. Credit cards were only for the very wealthy. Some of the very first commercials I saw on (black and white) television were for Chargex cards. Now, many people pay for a purchase by sliding a card into a reader and tapping in a few numbers. A minute later they are on their way with their new stuff. They do not know how much money they have.

Then they wonder why the MI/MO thing isn't working. It is, just not in your favour, and that my friend, is the way the world is built. It's built to keep you somewhat on the negative side of that equation, so you have to borrow the money to make it balance. The banks are happy to lend you the difference, and charge you interest.

INTEREST. The word of doom and the word of freedom. It all depends which way that equation is pointed. The first step towards getting that equation balanced is to reduce the interest you pay to the absolute minimum, and to maximize the interest that is paid to you.

What do you pay interest on? Debt. Most debt is bad, and some is worse than others. The only debt that is good is on an appreciating asset, IF AND ONLY IF, it isn't driving you into other debt. The classic example of good debt is a mortgage to buy a house. It appreciates in value over time, or did. Recently this is a considerably trickier calculation. Houses don't always appreciate in value now. More later.

You may have heard the expression "house poor". This applies to people who max out their mortgage to buy the biggest house possible. In the mean time they are nibbled to death by ducks because they don't have enough money for other stuff, leading to other debt, which gradually starts the slippery slope. It might be ok in the very short term. Note that owning more money than the house is worth is not necessarily a show stopper. As long as you can afford the mortgage, and the market turns around, you'll be fine. If you lose your job or even have to take a pay cut, you are screwed.

Just about anything else is bad debt. A car is not an appreciating asset. It's transportation. If you are this close to the edge you shouldn't be buying or leasing a car. More on this later. So called consumer debt is the kiss of death. Did you ever see that bad science fiction movie where the alien in the cute girl disguise kisses the guy and the tentacle comes out her mouth and down his throat to kill him? That is consumer debt in action. Credit cards are brutally bad; pay them off even if you have to miss a meal or two. Payday loans. Ordinary bank loans. Overdraft fees. Home equity loans. Service charges. This is where those oh so clever people are working hardest to suck you in.

You want to move heaven and earth to get rid of bad debt. Whatever it takes. I'm serious. You need to be a ruthless predator, hunting down debt and things that cost you money, and eliminate them. Otherwise you'll be the one getting eaten alive.

What do you get paid interest on? Theoretically, money you have in a bank account, except the interest rate is so low it's below inflation. More practically, monetary investments, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other such things. You won't be there for a while yet, but that's the goal. To have money you can set aside to earn more money for you.

In short, especially when you are young, you need to put a fair bit of effort into reducing the interest you pay. At first it hardly seems to matter. What's a few dollars, you ask? That's what they want you to think. They add up over time. Those few dollars you saved by renegotiating your mortgage rate down a quarter percent will add up very quickly if you apply it to the principle. You need to take the long view when it comes to money matters.

For almost all Canadian readers, an RSP is a must. That is what started me from being behind, to getting ahead. I was being careful with money, and suddenly noticed I had a couple thousand dollars I didn't have an immediate need for. I was making pretty good money, so putting it into an RSP got me about one third of it back as an income tax refund. Now, read this carefully. That refund went into the next year's RSP contribution, and I got a further one third back. That continued several years, always putting in more money, plus my refund from the previous tax year. I had lots of RSP contribution room to use up. Once you get the feedback loop going it's amazing. One year my refund was over $10K!

So in a practical sense, how do you get interest out of your life?


Go back and read that again. I am assuming that you are on the wrong side of that MI/MO equation. Go back and read it again. Remember what I said about being a predator, looking for debt?

You are not lifestyles of the rich and famous. They have their own problems. Your problem is to ignore the messaging from the rich, who want you to spend your money in their shops, and for a fee lend you the money to do it. Their rules are not yours. You are not going to be one of them any time soon, and will never be unless you change. The bank and the credit card company are not your friend.

The first step is to start cutting your spending. Much of what you think is essential is not. Cable TV is the first thing to go. (But keep the internet!) It's often the medium the world uses to implant the "BUY" message in your brain. Turn it off. Cancel your cable subscription. This does two things, saves you a small pile of money, and frees up a big chunk of time. More on that later too. If you really must watch your show, get it from the library. Wait a year or two. Yeah, life is hard all over. Suck it up. You are on a mission here.

This is going to be harsh. Stop giving a shit about what your neighbours think, or what image you are presenting to the world. Those little treats, as you think of it? A coffee, a snack, that cute top, those boots, whatever? Stop. You can't afford them. There are a million little traps the world sets to separate you from your money. It's a lot of work to not fall into them. Some very, very clever people have designed them, and made it easier to fall in, than to go around. You need to be THAT GUY. That jerk that says no. Because that's what you have to do to get on the right side of that equation. Say no. A lot. To yourself. To your spouse. To your deadbeat relative. To your kids. Especially to your kids, maybe.

Every time you think about buying something, your first question is, "Must I?" Not want, must. In the case of your debts, current bills, and groceries and other essentials, the answer is yes. Even then, you try to make this amount as small as possible, except paying debts, make that as big as possible. If it's not a must, it's a want, and then the question is "Can I afford it?" If you are trying to get the equation going the other way, you probably can't.

You are in make do territory. You must be all about deferred gratification. Make the hard calls to get stuff sorted out. No matter that you are a whiney spoiled brat who has never had to defer gratification. If you cannot defer gratification, you will never be well off, let alone rich; you will always be owned by the rich. Your choice.

Much later the question for the wants gets harder. It becomes "Do I want to afford it?" This is where you want to be. No, you are not there yet, reading this. You will be there when you have 6 months gross income in various near cash investments, and your only debt is a mortgage. It might take years. Start today. It will go quicker than you think.

The second step is the income side. Now that you've stopped watching cable TV (You have stopped, right? If you haven't, this part isn't going to work.) you have some time freed up. The average viewer watches 4 hours of TV a day. You are going to do a few specific things with that time. One is get some exercise, preferably with your family, even if it's a brisk walk. This will help get your brain going, and get you into better health.

Another is to make yourself more valuable in the short term to the people that pay you money. There are many ways to learn things that will make you more valuable. Aimless internet cruising won't cut it, but it can be a valuable tool for learning. The public libraries are free, or nearly so, and have the advantage of being staffed with people that LOVE it when people ask questions. A question like "I want to know more about x" where x is something you are interested in, will make their day. They will help you set up a course of study if only you ask and will be happy to do it. That's why they became librarians. Go ahead, make their day.

Another is learn to cook and get "fast food" out of your life. We have to eat. Much of what's in the supermarket is bad for us. Learn about nutrition. Learn how to cook if you don't know. You may have to invest in some cooking tools, and spend more in the short term buying groceries. Compare that to buying lunch every day at work. If you get a sandwich and a drink for $10 you're doing well. Times 250 working days a year is $2500, times a 30 year working career is $75,000! That goes a long way to buying groceries.

We've done this for years. We make dinner for 4 or more. Then take it to work the next day. People say "leftovers" as if it's a bad thing. It should be a point of pride. I've had people smelling what I take out of the microwave at work, and offering to trade. Linda is a good cook, and people say they don't have time to cook. Bullshit. Factor that into the time you used to watch TV. Never buy fast food again. It's bad for you, and expensive for what you get.

Books are probably the single greatest invention of our civilization. For the effort of opening a book and reading, you can find out what some of the smartest people who have ever lived thought about various subjects. Once you get a bit of money, you could do much worse than read about Warren Buffet thinks about investing. It's all there on paper.

This can start off by learning how to use software more efficiently. This will save time at work, meaning you can get the same work done more quickly, which ought to be good for your performance reviews. I'd suggest it's time well spent learning some details about how our financial system is designed to screw you over, if only to make it easier to understand why you are saying no a lot.

But the real payoff is learning more about what interests you, that with any luck leads to things that people will pay you to do. There are many high priced courses that purport to give you some certification. That information is often available for free with a bit of digging. You may be able to challenge certification exams without having taken the courses.

I guarantee this investment in yourself will pay off. Knowledge always pays off, but you can't predict where or when. At worst it will let you do your day job with less effort, meaning you can put more into other activities. Better, it will pay more money and lead to promotion. Best, it gets you into a situation where you get well paid to do the things you love to do.

Cars are one of the biggest financial traps if you do them badly. To be honest I don't know a lot about this. My goal is to mitigate the damage. Our strategy is to buy a good quality car that meeds our needs (not wants) maintain it carefully, and drive it till the wheels fall off. Our current car is a 2004 Honda Accord with almost 236,000 K (146,600 miles) on it. A previous Accord went 340,000 K.

We have only one car, which many of our friends find baffling. When we think that a car costs roughly $8K a year to buy and maintain, it's worth a bit of planning and using alternative transportation. Do you really need 2 or more cars? Really? Are you sure? Do you need a car at all? I hear you talking about driving kids to activities. Uhuh. There are two parts to that. Drive, and activities. Think it through. Are you doing what you want to do, or doing what society has sold you into thinking you should do?

Buying a good used car is also a viable strategy, if you do your research. There used to be a class of guys that bought near junkers because they could fix them up and nurse them along. That doesn't happen so much anymore, what with all the computers in modern cars.

If you are scrambling to get on the right side of that equation, you may well want to sell your car to use public transportation, or a bicycle, or your own feet. A car can save you time, and be convenient, at a price. If you can't afford it, you are better spending the time. After all, one can read a book on the bus, and that book could be about improving yourself.

Which gets me to the time and money trade off. One of the things you need to know is how long you have to work to put a dollar in your pocket to spend as you please. That's how you have to think. Figure out how long you have to work to earn each net dollar off your paycheque. Then figure out what  your mandatory spend is, and figure out how long you have to work for each discretionary dollar that's left. I'm pretty sure the number will shock you. Now, when you think about buying some "treat", you do a bit of math and think time, not money. That coffee and snack isn't $10, it might be an hour on the job, or it might be 200 hours. Is it worth it?

It used to be buying a house was a good deal, and worth going into debt for. It might take 25 years to pay off, but it would go up in value. That was then. When we bought this house nearly 30 years ago, it cost about 1.3 or 1.4 times our annual income. Our incomes have gone up, but house values have gone up faster. Now that same house is somewhere between 2.2 and 2.5 times our income. Good for us, not so good for the people trying to buy now.

Buying a house isn't always the right thing to do. It's good if you can afford it, and plan to stay there for a while. It's not good if you're just starting your career and may have to move often. The financial people can manipulate the numbers to make it look like buying is cheaper than renting. All I can say is this is one place where it's nearly impossible to do too much research. You need to know the math about mortgage interest, and all the other financial costs of a house or condo. It's very difficult to determine what the actual value of a house is, both monetary and emotional. Right now, in many markets, homes are over valued. I would advise extreme caution about buying a house or condo.

In another rant I talked about the price of a bargain. I won't go into it here, but if you're looking to get onto the right side of the MI/MO equation you have to be careful what you buy. Often the "cheapest" product is not the best deal. There is an S shaped graph that equates quality and cost. Cheap shit is cheap quality and it will break soon. Guaranteed. As you spend a bit more money, you get more features and usually the quality goes up as well. The quality goes up quicker than the cost. At some point you reach the end of the major increases in quality, and the price starts going up much more than the quality does. I think the trick is to buy near the top of that S shaped curve starts flattening out. The aim is to get the best bang for the buck. Whatever it is will last much longer.

All this presupposes you know what you actually need and want. Not what the advertisers are trying to sell you. Oh no. You turned that off, remember? One major rule is that all advertising is a trick to separate you from your money. That's one thing you will do with the time freed up by not watching TV, is think about what you actually need to live life in the way that makes you and your family happy.

We don't have children. When I listen to people talking about their children, all too often it's about buying stuff. But children don't want stuff till they've been brainwashed by advertisers. They want you. Your time. Not the stuff you buy.

Lots of people have found they don't need possessions to be happy. They don't need a lot of money. That it's more important to have time to spend with family and friends, doing the things you enjoy. Going through the effort (and it will be effort, no doubt about it) is probably one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Do it. Start today.

Where did all this come from? A particular blogger a little while ago asked "Do you guys have any good money-saving tips?" There are some points below that I didn't mention in my rant above, particularly coupons.

My first comment was:

Yeah. Don't shop. Ignore advertising. Get books, movies from the library. Making wine from a kit is $3-4 a bottle, and is better than commercial wine. Don't ever, ever buy wine from a restaurant. You don't mention credit cards - pay them off in full every month, without exception. Do without wine if you must. Never eat fast food, it's expensive for being cheap. Buy real food instead. Learn how to cook, which I admit is a two edged sword. You'll save on prepared stuff, but kitchen toys can be expensive. Still, better for you in the long run.
When you buy stuff, if you really must, buy good quality and take care of it. The bonus of this approach is that you need never darken Walmart's door again. All they have is cheap.
And coupons. Bah! I say it again, BAH! The whole point of coupons is to make you buy shit you wouldn't normally buy. Stuff you don't like even, you buy saying to yourself, what a deal. Bah! The only deal is not spending money unless you must. On stuff you really need, and that you happen to like.
Unfortunately for you, the world is designed to set you up for failure. Right now it pays you shite while you look at paying back student loans and buying stuff. They are trying to get you hooked into paying interest, and you'll go on paying interest the rest of your life unless you take control now. This means moving heaven and earth to stop paying interest. Ever. And get yourself into a state where they pay you interest. It won't happen overnight. It won't happen from couponing.
Stop thinking that the life on TV is what you should aspire to. You might think you know it's all fake, but the brain sucking aliens that are running the TV industry want you to think that, while they subliminally program you to spend money.
That list, booze, Amazon, coffee. Stop. Just stop, or cut down dramatically. Internet I say keep, for two reasons. Infinite entertainment there, but more importantly, it's a tool to increase the amount of money coming in. Part of your life should be making yourself more valuable, so that people with money want to pay you to do stuff for them. The better you are at this, the more money you will make. After a while, you won't need to work so much to make an acceptable amount of money, and you can spent the time doing things you like.
With any luck, internet use will find you things you like doing, that people will pay you to do. Which is a bonus, but it won't happen if you prepare by sipping wine and shopping at amazon. So BITCH UP! Take control. At your age you are in a rat race and you need every edge. Debt and interest you pay are millstones around your neck, holding you down. You asked.

My second comment a bit later was:

Me again. Another saving money tool. Stop thinking about money. Think about time instead.
One thing you should absolutely know is how long it takes you to earn money. Not your gross. How long do you have to work to put a particular amount of money in your pocket? That way when the stupidly overpriced, over-flavoured, sugary beverage that ostensibly contains coffee is on your mind, you can say, I have to work x many minutes to buy that coffee. Is it worth it?
An example. Lets say you get paid $25 an hour, and you work 40 hours a week, 50 weeks of the year. That's $50K, a nice round number. Let's further say you pay 30% of that in various taxes and other deductions. Income is down to $35K. Divide by 2000 working hours a year is $17.50 an hour. Or 34 minutes to earn $10.
Now for the graduate course. Start stripping out your mandatory payments to find your disposable income, that is, income you can choose how you dispose of it. Now do those same calculations again, based on your full years working time, and you will suddenly discover that $10 in your pocket you can spend as you please, might take 2 or 3 or more hours to earn. Excel is your friend for these sorts of calculations.
Lastly, do you now know what you actually spend money on? To the nickel? Start tracking it. Write down everything you spend in a month. Every nickel. What you spent it on, and how, (cash, debit, credit). Sometimes just the act of having to write it down will stop you from spending.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The marathon weekend

No, not me, I'm not doing a marathon. Not this one. Some of my buddies are, though, and I'm just scoping out the route, and thinking about where to cheer from. Hope everybody has a great race!

Lots to do this weekend, left over from last weekend's list that I didn't quite finish. There's one flower box that has just a bit of root sorting to go. I was on a final push to finish it last weekend, when I realized I'd been out in the sun for 5 hours, and I was done.

My legs have been getting less and less cranky, which is making me more and more happy. It's a pity it's pouring out right now. If it was nice I'd have gone for a run, but I don't want to run so much as to run in the cold rain. Funny, I'll run in snow and much colder, as long as it's a dry cold. A wet cold is just no fun at all.

So I was indoors on the bike. Only a half hour, mostly brisk spin to get the blood moving in my legs, then a good core and stretch session. Stability plank feels much better, and I can even do the side plank X again. Push ups even.

The two major Canadian political farces are still playing out. Ford, the Toronto mayor who several reporters say they've seen a video of him smoking crack, doesn't deny it, just sort of parses around it in weasely terms. I think he knows the video is out there and will surface sooner or later. Oddly enough, even if the video does surface, there are no provisions to remove him as mayor until he is actually convicted. If he is convicted.

Which leads to a quickie side rant. What is it with public figures getting caught by an open microphone, or clandestine video? These people have to realize they are public figures, with a press corp or general public that will often take delight in publishing unflattering footage. Don't they assume every mike is recording, and there could be a video camera anywhere? Why would you do something so stupid as to smoke crack with known drug dealers? At best it renders you subject to blackmail, and that may well be the case here. There was Romney getting caught telling his truth, or what he thought was the truth to that particular audience.

Whatever happened to "Always tell the truth, that way you don't have to remember what you said." Much as I would not like to have a camera in my face, we're living in a world where that's the reality. From the moment I walk in the front door, to the moment I leave the elevator lobby, I'm under video surveillance. I'm pretty sure there isn't a camera pointed at my computer screen, but I behave as is there was. More and more of our public lives either is, or has the potential to be recorded. Cops have cameras in their cars. Some bouncers have little mini cameras attached to head sets. There are CCTV cameras in the streets. In some cases I like it, since it can be a documentary record that hopefully puts a cramp on abuse of police power. However I worry that incriminating evidence is tampered with, or "lost".

The ClusterDuff continues. I lost track of it today, and haven't bothered getting back on track just yet. Suffice to say the stories still do not add up. Now it seems that in addition to supplying $90K to get Duffy off the hook, Wright also provided some input on what the Senate committee report should say. And if Harper didn't have is finger in that pie, it must be the first pie ever.

Now that they look at it, there seems to be even more stuff he was claiming that he shouldn't. Maybe it's not on the scale of the moat cleaning claimed by one English Peer, but still. It's proof that nobody is above having their expense claims examined.

In really important news, we've been combing the cats daily now that the nice weather is here, and we've been getting great clouds of fur off both of them. More off Curtis, of course. His fur was a bit coarse, but not it's considerably more silky and soft. We think a year of good living finally has the good fur growing in. There is a new brand of wet food in the house. We will see what the little gourmands think of it tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I failed at Savasana

This morning's swim was pretty good, for having missed several weeks worth of swim because of a complicated schedule. Mainly I got wet and swam for a while. Did a bit of water running, and swam a couple of medium fast laps, then some backstroke to cool down. The clock was too far away to see, but from starting and stopping times I'm guessing I was in the water 20 minutes or so.

The best part of the experience was the hot tub. Even though the tub was full of the swim club kids huddling in a little circle, the good jet was free till I got there.

At work I'm trying to get up regularly to move around and keep my legs mobile. That failed once, when both my office roomie and I realized at the same time we were freezing. The temperature seems to dip in the office early afternoon.

Yoga was brutal. Not our instructor! It was a perfectly nice lesson plan, but I bailed on just about everything. My left hamstrings were not happy with me, sending out pre-cramp notes of complaint. Even Savasana, I couldn't wait for it to be over. My left leg was twitching and thrashing around. Not restful at all.

Bedtime now.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ran, ignoring Twitter

And found several hundred tweets waiting for me when I got back. I am in awe of @kady.

But I didn't care. It's a beautiful summery evening here, perfect for a run. A bit gusty for a bike ride, though and getting worse. Clear blue sky. I had to run.

Thoroughly limbered up, and walked a bit. Then ran 5 K, 33:42 nice and easy, concentrating on form. My shoulders wanted to slump; maybe I need to be doing more of the rowing exercise. The run meter graph is all over the place, and I don't think my pace varied that much.

There were a few tickles, I'll call them, in my calves. It felt like someone was brushing the backs of my calves lightly with something with prickles. I've never that that before. Otherwise my legs were slow to warm up, and I didn't push. My left calf was feeling a bit tight throughout.

Rolled the ball and stretched lots afterward, catching up on the Twitter feed.

I remain appalled at the mess in Ottawa, and much less than pleased that my MP is ignoring the whole issue as much as possible. He is the one with the most stroke in determining what happens. Now he's flying off to Peru to work out a trade deal. The 3.1 Billion is still missing. This group of facts had better not be related.

The aftermath of the gardening flower bed was very sore and cranky legs by the time I went to bed.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Unimaginable, it gets worse

Today I was out digging up and excavating roots from a flower box. One set was nearly 6 feet long. Roots appear to grow right through the wood. I was at it for 5 hours straight, and darn it, I'm counting it as a workout. It sure feels like one in every sense but cardio.

Twitter has been going crazy with the shit show in Ottawa. I didn't think anything else was going to happen till Tuesday. I was wrong. Never underestimate the stupidity of the elected. Read that bottom tweet from the recently elected Calgary Centre MP.

She is the one that said she would do whatever the PM told her to do, so I'm guessing this is a precursor to the official government response. It probably isn't the stupidest thing that could be said, but it's right up there. The responses have been savage. It was worth getting a Twitter account for this thread alone.

I am beginning to seriously think that aliens live in the Peace Tower of the Parliament buildings, and they're sucking the brains of our elected and unelected representatives. That theory is just as plausible as some of what's been floated so far trying to explain this mess.

Something that occurred to me is that it's rumoured that lawyers were involved in the deal that saw Wright cut that cheque. Since bribing an elected official is illegal, wouldn't the lawyers involved be abetting a crime? Shouldn't they be facing (at least) disciplinary proceedings from their professional association?

It boggles my mind that every time I think we've hit a temporary stable point, another piece of shit hits the fan. Tuesday all the players should be in the same building, and it will be interesting to see what comes out. The least acceptable response is for Duffy to apologize, resign from the Senate, and pay back (himself) everything he's taken from the Canadian taxpayer since being appointed, since he accepted the post under fraudulent circumstances. Then the RCMP can arrest him. What I'd like to see is a replica of his head on a pike to warn the others. What I expect to see  is another insult to Canadians.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The retaste zone in sight for first time in a while

What a nice long weekend it's being! Originally it was supposed to pour rain the whole time, which is better than snow, but it's been pretty reasonable. A few rain showers, enough take the edge off the fire danger.

Friday we went to a Food Truck street fair at Kingsland market, and I finally got to sample Cheezy Bizness. I had a very yummy pulled pork with a mix of cheese on it. There was a huge crowd, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Saturday we were off to OEB for breakfast with a buddy, but she never made it. I guess I should have confirmed that it was THIS Saturday or next, but I just assumed. If it's next, we'll just have to FORCE ourselves to go back. Here's what I had.

Did you guess what's between the slices of French Toast? Cheesecake. Yes. It was very good. I was very pleased to get a coffee compliment from Linda, saying she likes my coffee better than what they were serving, and I had thought it was fairly good.

Here's what Linda had. I didn't even get a taste of it.

Later Saturday I was out for a run, 5K, 33:30. I'm still letting my legs run however they like. I'm not trying to run fast or slow, but I am trying to run lightly on my feet, and paying attention to form. It ended up being a pretty steady 6:30/K pace, not working too hard, and feeling good the entire time. I could have gone further. Here's the Runmeter graph. I don't know what I was doing in the last few minutes of the run. I didn't think I was going that fast. The rest of it I'm pretty pleased with. Long stretch session after.

Sunday was a two coffee day. Two HUGE cups of coffee. I was on the edge of vibrating. The bike session was the best in about a year or so. I felt very strong on the bike today. Maybe that was just the caffeine talking. Easy warmup, then steady state at the top of endurance pace, then some bursts maintaining +100 rpm going up through the gears trying to maintain easy circular pedaling up to well over 400 watts. This is the hardest I've pushed on the bike in a long time. I like a good sweat, but I was starting to feel a bit clammy instead, and I could feel a bit of tummy upset coming one, so I cooled down and packed it in. One very solid hour. For a while Celina was cheering me on from her perch in the window. Again, getting in a good stretch session afterward.

At the end my legs were tired. So tired I had to bend over all the way to undo my shoes. I couldn't get them up to my knee like I usually do. But there were no niggles, no almost cramping, and my knee was fairly happy about standing. The left leg is still weaker than the right, as proved by some one leg drill. Improvement is happening.

The other adventure today was putting Curtis in the big sink, and washing his nether bits. He has long fine fur, and occasionally some matts form. We washed and trimmed. Not much fun for all involved.

The shit-show in Ottawa is still on full boil. I've never been a big Rex Murphy fan, but he absolutely ripped a layer of skin off all involved. Enjoy. This will probably prompt a blog or two more as things sort themselves out. We certainly can't rely on Harper to, contrary to his own published statements. I think worse of him all the time, and he didn't start particularly high in the standings. If you're a twitter user, and think so, you may wish to use the #PMHarperMustResign tag on Monday. I don't think that will happen, but maybe an outcry will force some honesty. Trying can't hurt.

I've even had a chance to work on my book today, for the first time in a while. This blog is already long enough. Maybe I'll do an excerpt tomorrow.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A recent anniversary

Recently I turned 20,000. It seems a suitable time to review.

Things are going well, thank you for asking. I hope they continue to go well, and have tried to make prudent plans about that, while having fun now. My legs are generally less cranky by the day, and everything else internally seems to be well. I was recently reading that if I can hang on 20 years or so, we'll have a confluence of nanotechnology and genetic biotech that will enable us to all live substantially longer in good health. Me in particular, in case you were wondering. I plan to be as close to the front of the line as possible. Things will be wearing out.

The problem is that the world seems to be going to hell in a hand cart. Why a hand cart? Because the pipelines and storage tanks leak, so there is no gasoline for an auto car.

My only reassurance is that things have been going to hell for generations according to various authors throughout history, and yet nobody until very recently carried around an iPhone. Or, given a slightly longer time frame, had reliable hot showers and flush toilets, which is one of the major hallmarks of a civilized society. I note the Burg Dubai has a fleet of tanker trucks to empty the septic tanks beneath the building. I guess they haven't figured out how to build a sanitary sewer system yet.

One of the recent examples that one of my high school teachers gloated over was The Club of Rome. They noted that population went up geometrically, and food supplies only went up arithmetically. The teacher gloated that would leave us starving about the time he kicked the bucket. The laugh is upon him, however, as two things happened. The food supply went up through the green revolution and other changes, and lifespans increased. As far as I know he's still around, probably being a pain in the ass to his children and grand children, if any.

That's the thing. Throughout all of history there has been a persistent "Doom is upon us" school of writing. Generally the "solutions" proposed are to make things worse for people here and now as a sign of devotion to god. Which is idiotic, but that's all of a piece. Another school of writing is to propose a solution that directly or indirectly benefits the proposer, while making things worse for everybody else. The religious get in on this act too but there are no shortage of secular con people willing to give it a try. There is a great deal of it happening now.

There is a much smaller school of thought noting there are problems, and they might get worse, or not, and that it might be prudent to do certain things, or stop doing certain other things. There are usually a lot of numbers in this school of thought, which makes the great unwashed masses very uneasy. Generally this school of thought gets overlooked till it's much too late. Sometimes there is a new invention out of the deal that clearly solves old problems, and then later introduces new problems. There are nay-sayers that say this proves that technology is a bad thing, and we shouldn't try new things, because they create new problems. They conveniently overlook that they would have starved to death, or died in a plague, or been tortured to death by religious fanatics had the old technology not been put into use. In case you missed it, the three I'm referring to are agriculture, modern medicine, and the printing press.

Of course, there is lots of doom for the "doom is upon us" crowd to point to. You don't even need to fudge your numbers or edit your sources. There is no shortage of shit happening, and problems that need solving. Idiot politicians are only the most obvious problem.

I am reassured that about half of the smartest people that have ever lived are alive right now, and have access to information sources that people a generation ago couldn't even dream of. When we have to, we can build amazing stuff. Three words, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. They hoped the those first two rovers would last 90 Sols. Spirit was alive for about 2200 Sols, about 24 times longer than expected. Opportunity is just starting it's 10th YEAR, or 3300 Sols, about 36 times longer than expected. Curiosity survived a sky crane descent onto Mars that boggled my mind. Some engineer buddies of mine were in awe about it. There was so much that could go wrong.

Until very recently, stupidity has always been a capital crime. Historically speaking, stupidity got you killed very quickly. Even just being unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time got you killed. Even just talking to the wrong person could get you killed. It's a Darwinian process. Generally speaking the smart and the lucky survived to breed. If it wasn't a plague, it was a war, or a revolution, or religious hysteria, or a famine, or climate change, or any number of other things.

We are smart enough now, and well organized enough to mostly deal with most of those things. We are getting on the flu bugs quicker, and the world has never been more peaceful than it is now. There are easily enough calories being produced to give everyone on earth all the food they need, if only we stopped losing so much by cycling a significant part of through cows for beef. We're still trying to get a grip on climate change, but the problem isn't the science, it's the idiots sabotaging the discussion at every opportunity, and going over the top to prevent anything from actually being done. Because, of course, they profit from things the way they are. Duh.

Overall I'm pretty positive about the future. I can't wait to see what happens next!

One thing I never in my life expected to see, I got a photo of the other day on the way home from work. Look carefully at what the window washers are wearing. Of course, the first thing I thought of was an old movie called Carry on Up the Khyber.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

That 3.1 BILLION is still missing

Meanwhile the press is fixated on Duffy. Which, under normal circumstances is commendable. After all, here is a senior public official who is a crook. A thief. A fraud artist. Well, not terribly artistic, I guess. And now he's been bribed with $90,000. I'm guessing it wasn't in cash, but who knows for sure? Well, that's what you call it when you give money to a public official.

Just another example of what a disgrace our Senate is, and what poor judgement our Dear Leader has. Duffy should be ridden out of the Senate on a rail, AND be made to pay back his Senate salary for the entire time. Why? The rules state you have to be resident in the province you represent, and he isn't. He took the job under false pretenses.

But I haven't heard much about that missing 3.1 Billion dollars. That's more gazebos that even Tony Clement can build in one riding. Peter MacKay would have to spend much of it on helicopter maintenance just to get them to fly enough to give him more rides for that kind of money. The longer we don't hear about a resolution, the more I think it was stolen by those in charge.

And how about those poll companies, eh? I love it when they have egg on their faces! First the Alberta election that they got wrong. Now a BC one. Not just wrong by a few points or a few seats, but totally miscalling which party was going to form a majority government. Why would anyone ever hire them again?

As one Tweeter said, either their methodology is wrong, or people are lying to them. I say bully for the liars in this instance. Most people don't even want to talk to pollsters. They aren't supposed to call cell phones, so they still try to reach people on land lines. I'm sure they call our number often. It's why we have it, to give out to people we don't want to talk to. It's worth the monthly fee. We never answer it. We don't even twitch anymore when it rings, unless we're actually expecting a call.

It has happened that pollsters do get me every once in a while. There are two basic strategies I highly recommend. The first is to creatively lie, giving conflicting data if possible. The second is to ask if the data they want is valuable. They always assure me that yes, it is valuable. Then I tell them my per question rate ($25) and ask if they have an account set up with me. Usually the questioner retires in confusion, but some press on gamely. To them I will give nonsensical answers, like 42, blue, Diefenbaker, cricket, or whatever random information comes to mind.

If all of us did this, eventually the polling companies would go out of business. Politicians would actually have to talk to people to understand what we want done with our money. Political parties would have to campaign blind, going all out in all ridings. News organizations would have to wait for actual results. Maybe without the poll results to skew people's thinking, they would actually vote for the person they think would do the best job, as opposed to voting for the person the polls say will win, so they don't "waste" their vote.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


There, now that I have your attention.

We have been converted. We are one of them now. You know. Coffee snobs.

I speak of conical burr grinders. Or rather, one of them that arrived Monday. We tried it out Tuesday in the French press. Oh my goodness. Everything people said about them being the foundation of good coffee is true. We beg forgiveness for being so slow in seeing the light.

All the instructions call for a bit more coffee that what we normally use, and I guessed at the grind. Bingo! It tasted like good strong coffee, but no bitterness, no acid bite, no sharpness. Just coffee that is somehow strong and mellow at the same time, according to Linda.

The old whirly coffee grinder was very inconsistent. This burr grinder makes the coffee grounds look almost fluffy. When the hot water is poured over them the bloom is huge, and the aroma is amazing. Can't wait for the coffee tomorrow.

More leg pummeling happened at massage. Hams and calves were a bit tight, but nothing compared to what they have been recently. This is more along the line of regular tight muscles. I'd been thinking of running tonight, before I realized I had the massage appointment, and don't think running right after is a good idea. Instead I did a good stretching and rolling session, with some core stuff. Side plank is way better now, I can even get the top leg up into the air for a few seconds. That's a huge improvement. Ordinary plank felt stable for the first time in a while.

I've been thinking about @Cmdr_Hadfield. The various news magazines should just declare him Man of the Year for 2013, and get it over with. How is anyone going to top the last 5 months?

Astronauts are a seriously talented fast crowd, and even in that company he looked like Gretzky and Orr combined. For a little while, he has made Canada, and Canadians just a bit cooler, in spite of all the ShitHarperDid. Is doing. You have to believe he has inspired at least a few kids to take up a career in science or space related fields. He has sure as hell impressed a lot of adults.

More seriously though, what does he do next? Here he is in his early 50's, in every way at the peak of his career, and has now come back to earth. At least it was a controlled descent. I can't wait to see what he gets up to.

Frankly, the government should exempt him from taxation for the rest of his life no matter what his income, declare him a National Treasure, and appoint him head of a team To Make Canada a Better Place. Give him a budget, then turn him loose and get out of his way.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Stampede food

Stampede is coming around again. I've already seen people (shudder!) dressed for it. There's more than a month to go, for goodness sake. There's a fine difference between people dressed for Stampede, and people that wear Western wear as a regular thing. If you have to ask, I can't explain it.

There are many emotions that go with Stampede. Today's is horror. I've been appalled and horrified by Stampede food since I knew there was such a thing, and then it got worse when I smelled it. The Calgary Stampede recently released its list of midway foods for this year, and once again it features a mix of adventurous snacks. Horrific snacks is more like it. The old stand by is "gut bombs" for the burgers.

This year seems to be building on the deep fried movement, but also debuts other tastes — such as shots of pickle juice. I don't even want to think about what other movements eating this stuff would induce, and thats before the rides.

"Deep fried delicacies like double bacon wrapped corndogs, deep fried bubblegum and, yes, even deep fried butter will have you craving something on a stick," said Stampede officials in a release. They say  with 31 new treats there is something for everyone, no matter how many calories midway goers want to consume. This all makes Prairie Oysters look tame. Take a deep breath and hold it down. Here's the list:

B52 fudge
Banana bacon ear
Chip dog
Cochinita pibil
Chocolate bacon apple
Chocolate bacon fudge
Chocolate cinnamon bear fudge
Chocolate covered bacon
Chocolate-dipped jalapeƱos
Deep fried avocado
Deep fried bubble gum
Deep fried butter
Deep fried Doritos
Deep fried pickled beans
Deep fried pie
Deep fried Philly cheesesteak rollup
Dessert fries
Double bacon corndog
Double smoked bacon wrapped cheese perogy skewer
Eggroll on a stick
Flautas de pollo
Frozen yogurt
Godzilla mac and cheese
Idaho nachos
Idaho taco
Naaco TNT
Philly cheesesteak
Pickle juice shooters
Shrimp chips
Sweet corn corndog
Western cake pops

Still with me? Makes on the bike triathlon "food" look like a gourmet feast, doesn't it? And no, I don't have any details about any of these things. I don't want to know. Trust me, whatever you imagine is far short of reality. Which is a good rule for anything related to Stampede.

In other news, it's been a sideways day for cranky legs. Not better, but not worse either. At least dancing only hurt once, briefly.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The groove is in sight again

I am still savouring THAT meal. I hope to remember that evening the rest of my life. The rest of the time out in Banff wasn't too shabby either.

Saturday was another beautiful day here, so I headed out before it got too hot. My feet wanted to run, and I let them go. This is what it looked like

This looks and felt very much like my runs before my legs got cranky. A slow start, then a gradual increase in pace. The hump in the middle is going up a bit of hill, bigger than it looks on the graph, and the next one was dodging some cars at a busy intersection. It felt great! For me, a sub 6 minute K is a strong pace, so I'm pleased to see it happen there. By the 3.5 K mark I could start to feel my hams tighten up, so I called it at 4 K. Lots of stretching after. Even though I suck at gradual builds, I want to be careful building up milage.

Sunday I was on the bike for almost an hour, and I'm pretty pleased there too. There are still a few twinges while standing up, but nothing compared to what it was. After a good warmup I spent some short intervals up above 200 watts. Before all the crankiness, I was just getting to the point of spending regular time up there and feeling strong. After 3 minutes I can feel my hams again, and the tiniest of knee twinges. After a bit of easy spin I'm ready to go again. Again, a good cooldown and lots of stretching after.

I've still got a physio appointment next week, and I hope that's the last one. A couple of my buddies are feet injured now, (hello Deb and Tiffa) and I hope they get better soon. I came very late to running, and I've missed it over the last month. So far I haven't broken anything running (unlike biking) and I hope that stays true.

I thought you would all be amused by this photo.

I should make you guess what it is, but not many would know. Making wine isn't all fun and games and drinking. That's the view of the bottom of a carboy after racking off the good stuff. There's some oak cubes in there and the dead yeast, along with a bit of the dregs of wine. The carboy needs to be rinsed out, cleaned, and santitized. You'll note I don't say sterilized. That's not practically possible in a home environment. I just try to keep things clean. Really clean, but don't get fussed about it.

One has to be careful when cleaning these out. That residue will stain clothing and never come out if you splash too much. Adding hot water and then sloshing about heats up the air, and then it wants to escape. If you have your hand over the mouth to keep the liquid in, you are also keeping the air in too. Which builds pressure to an astonishing degree. I've sprayed water all over me and much of the nearby basement.

The fun part is this. Drinking it. This Barolo was bottled in August 2008 so it's coming up on 5 years. This is what 5 years of dust looks like. Dust and wine bottles go together. When it was only a couple years old it was very much an up in your face wine. There was a big bold taste that went with the spiciest of marinades. So today I paired it up with some barbecued Beef Tenderloin in a marinade with a bunch of Mama Africa spice. It went very well. The wine has mellowed a bit, being merely strong and assertive, with some of the ruffty tuffty corners knocked off. There's a bit of black currants (which I hate) and other dark fruit (blackberries, plums, blueberries, prunes) here, and a hint of raspberry sweetness. This was a Mondial kit, meaning all juice. It takes these a long time to come into their own. If you can't stand seeing a bit of sediment on the side, and don't have the patience to wait years for it to ripen, don't get this kit.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The best meal ever, details

I've hinted a bit, but yesterday we ate our most expensive free meal ever, which was also one of the very best meals I've ever had in my life. The story is that our financial advisor loves us. I've sent her some very good clients over the years, to say nothing a case of wine every now and then, and every once in a while she treats us. This time was to Le Beaujolais in Banff. She was there for a week on vacation, and invited us out to dine.

At first I thought, the only night that really works is Thursday, and that will be a bit of a zoom to drive out to Banff, eat, think about how much wine I've drunk, think about how long the meal is taking, then drive back to Calgary, and go into the office the next morning. Bleah.

Then I thought, what am I thinking? Play hookey from the office for one day. Book a hotel room, drive out after work, WALK to the restaurant, have a third glass of wine if that happens, WALK back to the hotel, then spend some of Friday in Banff doing the tourist thing, since I haven't seen Banff in a great many years. Plus, a buddy of mine lives there now, and I hadn't seen her in about 5 years or so.

So we did. The expensive part of the free meal was the hotel, which offered free wi-fi in the room, please note Toronto Airport Hotel! Plus foregone wages for a day off work, but it was only a part of the day off, since I worked a bit extra the rest of the week. Plus half a tank of gas. A trifling cost for one of the best mini-vacations ever.

We strolled around town, and what do you know? In the middle of Banff Ave, I'm thinking that woman looks awfully familiar. It turned out to be Lee, in town for a pipeline safety conference. I worked her with at IMS and Talisman. It was a perfect evening, warm and sunny. The strollers were out in force. I don't often stroll, but I did then.

Once we got to the restaurant, there wasn't any debate. We didn't even see a menu. There is a Chef's Surprise, and that's what Colleen ordered for us. The only debate was if we wanted the paired wines or not. Turns out there is a paired wine for every course. It's not often I drink 6 glasses of wine in an evening, so I was thinking about that, but then figured our hotel was just across the road, and this is why we walked.

Are we ever glad we did that. The pairings were perfect, and complimented the food in a way I don't often experience. Here's the main course. It was all melt in your mouth. You can read what it is on the menu below.

Dessert. The little spun sugar confection on top of the ice cream was actually springy. I was so eager to eat I forgot to take photos of the other courses.

Read the menu and drool. It wasn't just good. It wasn't just excellent. It was superb! Everything was perfectly done. We got this after the dinner, so each course was a surprise. The owner came out and chatted with us. The waiter was perfect, telling us about each course and the wine, and why they were paired. Service was attentive and unobtrusive. It was just the right amount of food, spread out just right.

Turns out 4 of the wines are full size, and the two dessert wines were half size. All were excellent! So five glasses of excellent wine, on top of just the right amount of excellent food. I might, maybe, have passed the police breath test, but there is no way I would have attempted driving. I'm not a big fan of port, but after that one, I might have to start.

It was a delightful evening chatting and savouring the amazing food. We were there for 3 hours, slowly watching dusk fall over the mountains. Watching people from the second story dining room. Pity it had to end. All I can say is that before you die, you have to eat here, and that's if you like nice meals. If you're a fan of French or Continental cooking, you MUST plan to eat here.  We took the scenic route back to the hotel. What am I saying? ALL the routes in Banff are scenic. As you'll see. There are very few people who regret visiting Banff.

Next morning we met up again at Melissa's for breakfast. Other than ordinary coffee the rest of breakfast was excellent! Best French Toast ever! We strolled around town a bit more. Another perfect day.

I had never been up the Tunnel mountain road, so we did that. This is just one of the views.

Then we went out to Lake Minnewanka. I have lived in Calgary 30 some years, and I've never been there. Ever. Here's the view from the top of the boat launch. It was a long way down. The lake is very low right now.

You can see the normal water line on the rocks off to the right. Yes, that's snow. It was snowing there last week.

Here's another view of the lake. It isn't quite as green as Emerald Lake, but almost.

We strolled up the path to a bridge over one of the creeks feeding the lake. 

On the way back to town there was a small herd of bighorn sheep strolling down the road. They had not the least fear of us, and one even posed.

Back in town we strolled the path along the river. There is a new pedestrian bridge going in. It's very graceful.

Last photo, arguably the most famous, most photographed building in all of Canada.

After the stroll we met up with my buddy Amanda to get caught up on our lives. So much has changed for her. Hope we see her again before her baby boy is driving. I had a Grumpy Grizzly Honey Brown which was very nice, along with a donair pizza. They brought out some honey and chili oil to go with the pizza, and that was excellent too. An easy drive home via Bragg Creek to avoid Friday rush hour traffic and we are off to an excellent start for the weekend.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The 2 teased photos

Last night I was so tired I went to bed after teasing you with the promise of a couple photos. The first is the sunset from our place last night. I was just coming in after chatting with a neighbour for a few minutes after yoga.

Remember the other day when I talked about driving right into the sun? A few seconds before this shot, the sun was right between the vertical and horizontal traffic lights. Just above where it is now, and slightly left. Good thing I was wearing sunglasses.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I found my yoga stillness

We were doing some pose with the heel of one foot on the arch of the other, looking up, trying to find our stillness. I did. I was so still I fell asleep in Savasana, and snored through legs up the wall. I'm still so still I can barely get my fingers to move. I think there is a nice picture of the sunset. Next time.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Maybe it's just as well I didn't run

The plan had been to run this evening, but we ended up having someone come over to give us an estimate of some work that needs doing. Then a couple things. Then realized I didn't really want to run after all, but did want to go stretch and core.

Holy moly my left inner thigh just above my knee had a tender spot such as I have never had there, and I never noticed till I rolled the stick over it by accident. Some more cautious prodding found a fairly large spot, and massaging it sent tingles up into my back, and down into my calf. There were a bunch of other tight muscles that didn't mind being massaged.

Then a bit of core, including squats, plank, pushups, and even a few cautious one leg squats. My left leg doesn't want to bend that far on it's own, but half weight seems to be ok. Mostly. A few times.

In other news the red sunburn across my tailbone is getting itchy. It was difficult to not walk around work scratching my butt. It's also been difficult to breathe. Someone burned something very badly in the microwave that is just down the hall from me. Very badly, as in we think someone meant 1 minute, and somehow got 10, then forgot about it. The dish in the sink was black, and the inside of the microwave was brown all over. It stank badly. I was using the nice tea to mask the odour. Won't be using that microwave ever again.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dance class nearly killed me

My legs were feeling good today. So good I was thinking of canceling my next physio appointment, or putting it off till next week. I was looking forward to a nice run on Tuesday evening.

Now all that is in doubt. I went into dance class feeling tired and sleepy. I've forgotten all I ever knew, and worse, what little I did remember surfaced at the wrong time. Some of you know that it's really easy to dance Cha Cha Cha and East Coast Swing to the same music, more a matter of style than anything. So there I was trying to lead Linda through a swing pattern while the class is going through a Cha Cha Cha pattern. There are some subtle differences.

And technique in waltz. That's what did my legs in tonight. Ouch. With any luck I'll get a good night's sleep and they will feel better tomorrow. I want to run. I'll do some stretching downstairs, then hit the sack.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A news rant

First, the important news. I had a normal run today! Short, but normal. Plus it was actually hot out, probably just over 20 C.

Even though just a few people showed up, we had a wonderful book club meeting, talking about life, the universe, and everything. Afterward I zoomed over to look at the picked over shelves at Yum, and got us a couple of lemon tarts. The little cheesecake thingies we wanted were all gone. But that's the story of going late to Yum, what you want will be gone, because this is a seriously popular bakery, with seriously popular stuff. You know, now that I think of it, I don't know why I'm telling you this. I'm so lazy and slow, and sleep in so much you will be ahead of me in the line, and then I won't get what I want.

Lots of limbering up for the run, with some mobility stretches, and walking briskly about 5 minutes. I was thinking I'd let my legs do what they wanted, for as long as they wanted, and stop before they overdid it.

The first rise is a quick stretch at the 37 St intersection to adjust my shoes. From there it came together and I ran easily and naturally down the path to 132 nd Ave. This felt great! I don't think it was the mythical runners high I keep hearing about, but my legs felt strong and stable. About the 2.5 K pace I could feel things start to tighten up a bit and my breathing getting a bit behind the heat, so I walked for just a bit, shaking out my legs, then ran easy a bit more.

Total was 3.5 K in 23:20 with one walk break. My legs felt better after today's run, than they did before  Friday's run. It was about a 10 minute walk back to the house, enjoying the warmth. Good stretch session after.

For the people that know me, and know I've been recovering from cranky leg syndrome, this is good news. I've been thinking about information lately, and how it gets delivered to us.  I use Zite, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, and Twitter as my main means of learning about the world because I can control what shows up, at least to some extent. Not control, as in living in an echo chamber. I mean control to weed out stuff that is not news. I used to read paper newspapers, and listen to radio news, and do so very little now. It's a crap shoot if the radio crash reporter will tell me anything that Twitter hasn't already.

The problem is that so much of what is available to us is not news. For me, anything about a celebrity is not news. Their entire lives are a script, not just the latest movie, or TV show, or art project. Everything. Marriage. Divorce. Children. All of it designed to enhance what is called a career. I don't care about any of them. There might be a real person under the image, but I doubt it., and for the ordinary person, how could you tell?

Let me explain. If I go for coffee with a buddy, that's what we do. It's nice. Generally I can tell if buddy is upset, or happy, or worried about something. Maybe they don't talk about it, maybe they do. But in any case, it's a natural state of feeling. With an actor, how could you tell? For all you know, they are practicing a role in their head. Their professional lives are devoted to fooling people. How could you ever trust anything they say? Why would you ever want to hang out with a person like that? Why is the media so interested in feeding such fake stories to us? What could they be trying to distract us from?

Professional sports are not news, unless you know an athlete in that sport personally. No, I mean, personally, that you were buddies before they hit the big leagues, and still are now. How they do is legitimate news to you, but really, what you want to know is how your buddy did. What the score happened to end up being isn't particularly important. It's a distraction, along almost exactly the same lines as the Roman Circus. We already have thugs beating each other up with essentially no rules for the blood lust of the mob. It's only a matter of time till weapons more deadly than fists come into it.

So one buddy gas a son who plays in the NHL. She is passionately interested, and understandably so. I know one professional triathlete well enough for her to recognize me in a restaurant and remember my name. I'm certainly interested in how she does during races. (She was 7th in her division today, so I hope that's a bit of prize money and points toward Kona.)

A blog buddy I've never met, but would like to someday, was at an autograph session that featured Craig (Crowie) Alexander. He is arguably the most famous male triathlete currently active. I'm not an autograph collector, but if I happened to be there, I'd be trying to hang out with my blog buddy, and any of the several other blog buddies that live in that area. His autograph would be meaningless to me, and any conversation with him there would be banal.

What else isn't news? Anything in the real estate sections of the newspaper. Every bit of it is advertising designed to separate you from your money. Anything to do with the fashion industry. See celebrities, and separating you from your money.  The travel section is more not news. As is almost anything about technology (out of date by the time a newspaper notices and convinces an editor to let it print.)

The business section, disasters, and weather are almost news, though they can quickly veer into porn territory. Knowing if it's going to rain today is useful if you are wondering to take an umbrella because you'll be outside. Fine. Knowing what they say the weather will be for anything much beyond a few hours is useless.

Much of the business section is distraction, but there is important info there if you're willing to dig a bit, and read behind the headlines.

Some disasters are news, like a huge tidal wave affecting millions of people. Knowing what has happened allows you the option of directing money for assistance, or maybe going there yourself if you have relevant skills. Of course if you have friends or family involved, you will be passionately interested, and rightly so.

But, say, a building collapse that kills hundreds of garment workers? I'm sorry, but that isn't news, not particularly. (However it is, if you know someone who works in it, of course) Google the triangle shirtwaist factory fire. It happened more than 100 years ago, and led to changing the laws around industrial safety. All that happens now is essentially the same event in different locations, right down to the locked fire exits. It's the inevitable result of letting big corporations cut costs and escape responsibility for their supply chains. People become an expendable commodity. Not news, just tragic that it happens again and again. There are two drivers. The people demanding more and cheaper goods, That's YOU, Mr and Ms America-I-must-get-it-for-cheaper. Add corporate pressures to cut costs so they can pay senior managers and owners more, deserved or not, and you know the result.

Almost anything on TV and radio news isn't really news, it's what they want to tell you to hide the news from you. They have lots of hours to fill, and they don't want to make the advertisers unhappy.

So what IS news, in my humble opinion? Pithily, anything that any government or corporation doesn't want to you know. So for example, Stephen Harper, the self-vaunted economist and business manager has lost 3.1 BILLION dollars. Yes, with a B. Not lost, as in spent more on a venture than was returned. They would like you to believe lost, as in temporarily unaccounted for. No big deal, move along, move along. Look, a polar bear!  I have darker suspicions.

There are about 20 million tax papers these days. 3.1 billion dollars is $155 per person. I don't know about you, but I would notice a $150 hole in my bank account.

So where did it go? Nobody knows or so they say. To me, this is a major news story. We should be getting hourly reports of the search, audit results, places they are looking, a detailed list of the rocks they are turning over, along with anything else interesting they find. HOURLY!! Day and night. All hands on deck. There are lots of civil servants, how long could it take, if they really wanted the answer?

The reporters should be on Harper like the white on rice. The opposition parties should be all over him like the stink on shit. I have so little trust in Harper, I'm almost willing to believe that he and his buddies stole it and stashed the proceeds. I love me a good conspiracy theory, and with a bit of work I could probably construct one, but Harper is not a stupid man, not by any means. He knows there was a leak of names and nationalities from one of the secret banks, and where it could happen once, it could happen again.

And that's another thing, for a brief digression. The tax people chase ordinary Canadians for trivial amounts of money on taxes, sometimes from an honest error, sometimes from a misinterpretation of the rules. But these wealthy tax cheats? They get a deal. That's news too. Don't get me started on corporate subsidies.

Back to the ever loving 3.1 BILLION dollars. There are 166 Conservative members in Harper's government. Doing the math, that's just over 18 million each. I'm just saying, to save you the trouble of finding a calculator. Minus a bit for accounting fees (what they call money laundering when people who don't contribute to their campaigns do it) and you've got a very nice top up on an already very generous pension. I'm not saying I think they took it. But the longer it takes them to find it, and explain how it happened, and how they'll prevent it from happening again, and to roll the head of the minister(s) responsible, the more plausible an explanation it becomes.

In almost any scandal the rule is "follow the money". If the people in charge don't let the investigators do that, there are only two conclusions. They are incompetent, or the trail leads to them and they know it.

Anything that any level of government does that involves our taxes is news. They are our elected representatives, spending our money on projects that are supposed to benefit all of us, at least in abstract. In fact, building a highway, for example, really only affects the people nearby, though any of us could go there and drive on it. We should all be getting our fair share of highways.

But however it comes, all of us should be getting value for our tax dollar. The web makes it easier to learn what is being done in our name, or is being done to obstruct those efforts. But you still have to go look, and when necessary, help raise hell about it.

Stephen Harper is killing the Canada I grew up in. He is turning it into a Fascist state, and yes, I know exactly what that word means. Before you leave a comment based in ignorance, go look up Fascism. Here, I'll save you the trouble.  They don't all fully apply to Canada, not yet. But they apply a lot more under Harper's government, than any other previous government. And this process is news, with a capital N.

The more you watch not news and let yourself get distracted, the more the people in charge will do whatever will benefit themselves and their friends.