Monday, February 24, 2014

Drivers. Pedestrians. A Frothing Rant.

The most amazing thing I've seen in some time appeared in the Calgary Herald this morning. I looked at it, and was horrified. My first question was, why do we let this go on?

Let me backtrack. An engineer named Dustin Jones plotted 16 years of automobile / pedestrian collisions from police data onto a map, and released it. Here's a link to it. Take a moment to look, it's worth it even if you don't live in Calgary. I'll guarantee that if the same thing was done to your town or city, it would look much the same.

Every one of those dots is pain and suffering, and there are a lot of dots. There are so many he ran out of dots, and started to use flags. The purple ones represent between 30 and 50 collisions AT ONE INTERSECTION!

I love this guy! He's taken reams and reams of data that have been ignored by everyone who knew about it. An abstract report giving these numbers doesn't mean anything to anybody, except maybe a traffic engineer. Even a graph wouldn't really do much. But put it on a map, and holy cow. A data visualization like this will smack you upside the head. Nobody can ignore it.

If you live in Calgary, find your house on this map. How far away is the nearest dot? How often have you walked past that intersection? What about where you work, and however much of the route there you walk? What about the route your children take to school? Where's the nearest dot or flag? Downtown is awash with them. My house is a corner lot, and there is no dot there, but the next intersection in each direction has a dot. No matter where I park for work, I can't help but walk past a dot or flag.

In the print issue of the Herald there was a letter to the editor by an idiot saying that drivers are pure as driven snow and it's those darn pedestrians flinging themselves under the wheels of vehicles. Bah! There is no shortage of pedestrians that do stupid things in traffic. I've seen them. But it's drivers too, big time. I've  nearly been struck by cars several times, and only paying vigilant attention gave me time to dodge out of the way, and once I was on the sidewalk. Eventually, as I get older and slower, I fear one of them will get me. I'd like to change the system now.

My only real beef with Mr. Jones is that he calls them accidents. THEY ARE NOT! Most emphatically, they are not accidents, and we have to stop calling them that. They are collisions. They have a cause. The choices are driver error, or pedestrian error, but one of them made a mistake. Maybe, rarely, both of them. I tend to believe drivers make the most mistakes for two reasons. Pedestrians are the one with skin in the game, and walking downtown I see a lot more driver error. We would need to put a lot more investigation into these collisions to truly determine who is at fault. Maybe we should.

A nice to have on this map would be an additional flag to note where the deaths have occurred, but maybe that's just morbid. The data is there if you click on the little dots. Allow me to digress a moment. This is a wonderful example of the power of data. I totally applaud Mr. Jones. This is why information should be free. I never would have thought of mapping the data like this, and I'm glad he did. I'd like to see more data freed up, and see what the ingenuity of other people will produce. There is no way that this will not impel changes in how we deal with such collisions.

I couldn't even begin to count the cost to our health system for all those people and their families represented by all those dots. It has to be substantial, and so preventable. Even a no injury collision means that someone probably at least went to a walk in clinic or their family doctor just to be sure. Many would have visited the emergency department, taking up untold and increasingly scarce medical resources. Think of the time taken by emergency services such as police and fire, and by the City road crews. Think of all the time taken off productive work to get medical attention and followup therapy of various kinds. Think of all those other people tied up in traffic because of the collision.

Now, the hard question. What do we do about it? My first thought is to get some skin in the game for drivers. Any collision with a pedestrian should mean the driver is required to attend a weekend advanced driver training school and some (100 hours?) of community service dealing with survivors of auto collisions. It goes on their record. Next time, if there is a next time, there's a formal investigation of the collision, with a big fine and points that would lead to an insurance increase. I hesitate to use the term three strikes and you're out, but it's tempting. More than a small number of collisions with anything (other vehicles, pedestrians, stationary objects) is a demonstration of fundamental driver incompetence. Such people should lose their driver's license permanently.

Being in a car is one of the most dangerous things a North American does. All of us are part of the problem. Are you still sneaking a look at that text that just arrived, and it only needs a word or two to respond so you do? THEN YOU'RE A FUCKING IDIOT! How many close calls have you had recently? Close calls are an indication of a problem; man up and deal with it. Do you distract the driver, or let yourself get distracted by anything other than the task at hand? Do you think you're the most important person on the road? Grow up. Safety on the roads is shared. We're only as safe as the least safe of us.

Dash cams are cheap now. Maybe a driver involved in a pedestrian collision should be required to buy, install, and use a dash cam. They aren't expensive. Having it off during a next collision should be treated as a crime itself. If the record shows that semi-mythical pedestrian flinging themselves under their wheels, then the driver is off the hook.

Don't even get me started on impaired drivers. My solution involves heads on pikes. You only think I'm kidding.

And pedestrians, I'm looking at you too. There cannot be anything on your mobile phone that is as essential to your well being as looking both ways before setting foot in the street.

For those that didn't click on the link, this is a partial screen shot of what you missed, showing downtown and part of International Ave.

In other news, I'm feeling much better. Well enough to go to work and be productive, but not quite well enough for a workout yet. Not going to push it.

Looking for discussion here. What do you think we should do to prevent any more dots from going on the map?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Alternate realities of delusion

The inside of my head has been a very noisy place the last few days. I don't know if I have the cold or flu, but it hardly matters. My chest aches, breathing is fraught with peril, and I've had a mild headache for several days now, off and on. More on than off. I've been really tired, yet not sleeping well. Why not?

Well, part of the problem is the movie playing in my head. Movies. Many many movies. Most of us think of ourselves as a unitary person. One entity that makes the decisions and carries out the various actions. One entity that talks to other people. One entity that is "us".

Some people don't have that experience. For whatever reason they have a condition or conditions that lead to multiple "selves". It's certainly a staple of fiction. For a while I was interested in this, but I haven't looked at the current state of research in many years.

What I have looked at is all the stuff going on in the background of my head. There are several broad streams of, of, stuff, I guess is the best way to put it. One stream is revisions to my novel universe, which gets into some very strange places in the far corners. Nobody has seen that yet. Another stream is visualizing flows of data from the several databases I work with. Another one is various fitness activities and (much more to the point) POTENTIAL activities. Plus add in all sorts of superhero fantasies made alive, along the lines of - so how would someone with this particular superpower actually act and react in real life? Add in some concern about the terrible things that Stephen Harper is doing to Canada, and what could or should be done about it.

All these things are mixing and melding together in various ways at various times. It's like several movie projectors flashing different images all at once up onto the wall of my semi-conscious mind, with content of the reels changing constantly, the projector bulbs brightening and dimming, or the projectors themselves starting and stopping. I'm certainly not in control. Right now I can't seem to focus in on any of them, so I drift along, listening to the babble, watching the show in my head. Trying to sleep.

It's very entertaining sometimes. I'm currently writing out a new scene to start the book, to show readers Hardisty's bike crash, rather than talking about an event of several years ago. Now, in my head, Ronnie (who is a take charge kind of girl) overhears on the police radio that they've found the guy that caused the crash. She successfully assaults a cop to get into the police car, and zooms off to do God knows what to the guy.  Lights and sirens going. Keep in mind that during this scene she is covered in blood from trying to hold Hardisty's leg together till the ambulance came. I think that qualifies as adding a bit of action to a scene.

One of the ever-present scenes in my head is the one where the aliens come to earth. Cats have been their spies. Several species we share this world with are sentient, and they testify against us. It turns out that worlds with life on them are rare and precious. We've been messing up our world, and they take charge. One thing they do is end commercial fishing and all whaling.  There is a scene in my head of the alien ships plucking whaling ships out of the ocean, and dropping them on the office buildings owned by the corporations involved. Transporting dangerous goods is still permitted, but any spills are brought to the attention of management and shareholders, in lets just say a forcible way. Some of them don't survive. Human life is cheap to the aliens; there are so many of us, and so many are wastes of skin.

In one of them I was a race director. Several databases were lined up, sending out various entities to duke it out to decide which database had better data. The entities marched out in neat rows, sort of like a marching band, competing to get my attention. Meanwhile, I'm looking at the wounded and malnourished entities, trying to get them fixed up so they can participate properly. Sometimes it's hopeless and I have to put them out of my misery.

Some of you may remember from a post many years ago I discussed ways of making various sporting events more entertaining. Golf. Triathlon. Baseball. There's other things there that might interest you. Polar bears, even. I was thinking for marathon all the competitors get an accurate GPS chip that tracks their distance, but they don't get a readout. They all start off in a big block like now, but have to make their own way cross country in rough terrain well stocked with hungry creatures, with no course marked. No aid stations, no weapons. If they come back and haven't completed the required distance, they get disqualified.

There are many more flitting through my mind. Meanwhile my chest and back are very sore. There is supposed to be a 16 K run this weekend, but that's not going to happen. At this point I'm not even sure if work will happen on Monday.

That NyQuil is great stuff.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Not much to say

I stayed home today. There's hardly anyone from my team at work anyways. I'm not missing much. It's funny, as I was leaving on Monday, there was a large sign in the lobby about not coming to work bringing the flu.

So when I had the achy body, queasy belly, scratchy throat, and feeling out of breath, I stayed home. I had an afternoon nap. There was much cat cuddling going on. When possible I worked on my book. However, Curtis is a very literate cat, and is always willing to help. Here he is, helping. You can imagine how difficult it is to use the keyboard. Life is hard.

And yes, for the curious, that's Scrivener open. Scenes on the left, main writing pane next, and a reference one next over, and a pane for other odds and ends. Very handy to have it all right there. I suppose if you blew it up, and squinted, you could see the raw writing of Ronnie helping Penny learn to run.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A tickle. I'm nervous

Generally I'm pretty healthy. But the last few days I've been a little more achey than expected, and I woke up this morning with a tiny little tickle in my throat. Eek.

I still went to the pool and swooshed out a 19:30 K nice and easy, thinking about form. Water ran after for another 10 minutes, nice and easy, stretching out. That felt pretty good.

Then I gradually stiffened up over the course of the day at work. I think my office chair hates me. Mostly it's where the quads tuck into the knees, but the hams are a bit cranky too. It doesn't help that the task at hand is massively tedious, and yet tricky.

Took it easy when I got home, then settled into the vibrating chair and let that pummel me for a while. The cats were nervous about it, keeping me entertained skittering around the basement while I bashed out 900 words or so of a new bridging scene. I'm starting to get a grip on some of what's needed. I like writing out the first draft of something.

While doing that I slurped on a nice cup of herbal tea, which seems to have done my throat lots of good. Even with the attraction of watching the first episode of season 3 Sherlock, I'm going to go to bed really soon now.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A very long weekend gone already

I'm not even quite sure where it all went. Ran today though, looking for about 45 minutes worth going a bit harder, and nailed it!

The wavy line is me deliberately running at different speeds, then recovering. It all felt pretty good, with only small complaints from my left calf. The weather was lovely, sunny with a light breeze, about 0 C.

I warmed up, odd as it sounds, with a good vacuum cleaning sessions. The fun part is that the cats had been drugged a little earlier. Celina isn't afraid of the vacuum cleaner at all, and when high on catnip wanted to be right in there on the dust bunny hunt. I woke her up.

Sunday morning I was in the water for an hour. Swam half of it, and the other half was water running. The pool was surprisingly busy for a holiday weekend Sunday morning. The hot tub jets felt really good on my legs.

Maybe I should have taken this coming week as vacation. There won't be many people in the office. Maybe I'll get my stuff done.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

For writers. For marathon trainees.

Let's start with the writers. Just because. As some of you know I recently sent my NaNo novel out for comment to a select group of masochists, I mean, friends, to read and let me know what they thought. They've all been very gentle, pointing out the various flaws with exquisite politeness.

I struggled with keeping the ages consistent as the novel progressed, and even at the time I was pretty sure there were minor slip ups here and there. I tried sketching it out, and got lost. Then I figured, there has to be an app for this, and there is. It's called Aeon Timeline.

It's awesome, is what it is. This isn't intended to be a full blown review of all the features. Essentially I've been working with it for a day or so, plugging in people and events from the current version of the novel. It looks like this.

I discovered several things about my book. There is a touching scene near the end between Veronica and Thomas, where they talk about Thomas's long dead wife. I had just assumed they had met at the plant where Ronnie works, and where several of the other characters work. Oops. Their time at the plant hadn't overlapped at all, so I need to play with that a bit.

What's really cool is that as you create characters, you create a birth date, and potentially a death date. Then as you add events, those vertical lines you see are created. At the intersection, you can put a dot to indicate if the character is a participant or observer of that event. (I could, but I won't get into a philosophical discussion if the observer is participating in the scene.) You can toggle on or off a feature that tells you how old each character is for each event.

If the scene involves something that's age dependent, like driving, or voting, or drinking, or renting a car, you can be sure the person is the appropriate age. At once spot I had one character say to another, "I'm twice your age and still trying to figure it out." It's not a killer line or anything, but it flowed naturally for the conversation. If as I play with the birthdays, and the event dates, I'll know if that line can stay. Or not.

It's really easy to drag any of the events around, and it updates everything on the fly. You can specify the date right down to the second if you like, and can control the level of detail for each event. I'm currently playing with the dates for when a major event happens in Hardisty's life. My thought was that he Janice had got married just before that, at ages 22 and 20. Not unreasonable, if a little young, especially given a conversation about that. But then that meant Janice was 37 when she got pregnant. A little old, but not unreasonable, but I hadn't realized it had been such a long time after marriage. I could leave it, but I'm playing with the dates a little bit. I'd like to open the book  with that major event, so it helps to know how old they are, and when it happens in relation to the other events. The other constraint is that it's a major injury, and the current opening has Hardisty doing Chinook half ironman in about 5:30, so the injury couldn't have just happened. It would take at least a couple years to recover.

Another major problem concerned a father daughter talk that took place much, much too late. Erin was in her early to mid-20's when it happened, and it's much more reasonable that it would have happened mid-teens. But that drags in the whole question of when Thomas became a widower, and exactly how old Erin is in relation to Kelly, since one of the minor plot points is that Erin babysat Kelly. That implies a fairly tight range of ages, and as I marked it out, I could see I had goofed there too.

Events can have a duration. I used this to mark out when people had worked at the plant, and Janice's pregnancy, since the timing of that determines some of the conversations at a party, and baby care during some other events. In a more subtle way, it changes the flavor of some of the heavy duty conversations if someone is pregnant.

There is a lot of functionality around all this. I'm really quite impressed. Plus, and I haven't played with this much, you can group events into arcs. Right now I've just got 2, a background one and a global one. The background one is where all the birthdays go, and time at plant lines and a few other events. The events in the global arc are the ones that will make it into the novel. This will really shine if there are events happening in separate locations that need to come together just right. You can use these arcs for filtering as well. There is lots of search features, and you can change the scale of things on the timeline.

Best of all, you can export it to Scrivener and other writing tools. If you do it right, and it looks like it's a bit of a fussy procedure, all the data gets dropped into Scrivener as meta-data, and all your events are there. I think the characters get listed somehow too. You can determine what gets exported.

I wrote the NaNo novel flying by the seat of my pants. I never knew where things were going some days, and I discovered some really interesting things. However, now I'm trying to iron it into an actual book, and that means the details matter. Aeon Timeline is a great tool for outlining and sorting out your timeframe references. It even does custom calendars for your fantasy or alien world. Check it out!

The marathon training is chugging along. Today's run was very nice, 13K in 1:35, nice and easy. I could hear the pace times today, and it was really even all along, about 7:16 plus or minus a few seconds. On the way up to the reservoir I had the wind at my back so it felt really easy. Easy chatchatchat pace though there was nobody to chat to but myself.  I figured out how to combine two events for a revised book opening. On the way back I was into the wind and had to work a bit harder.

It was a beautiful day for a run. I was thinking about keeping my shoulders relaxed and trying to run with light feet. I nibbled a bit of a Clif's bar along the way. As soon as I dug a piece out and put it in my mouth my breathing started deepening. Now that it's warmer I need to start carrying liquid nutrition again.

I had both Runmeter and RunKeeper going, and both behaved, producing almost identical results. Maybe they know they are in a competition to the death and are on their best behavior. One thing that is nice, though I didn't set it up this way, is RunKeeper talks to me every 5 minutes, and Runmeter every K. Both with time, distance and pace information, so it's much easier to keep track of pace and where turnaround is. 16 K next weekend. Anyone looking to run around the reservoir Saturday or Sunday, whichever has nicer weather?

Here's the splits, because I know some of you love the numbers. Very even pacing for me.

Let's see, a nice swim on Wed, 1 K just under 20 minutes long course, and another K mostly pull and easy kick. The intent was to join Katie on Friday, but I felt like crap. I'm not sure why, but much of Thursday and Friday morning I felt very bloated and gassy. At least Friday afternoon I got in a good stretch session with some core.

Tuesday was a spin session and core.

Overall I'm pretty pleased with the training so far. Now that the weather is a bit less extreme I'm hoping to be out running more regularly. My legs and feet are feeling pretty good, though I think it's almost time to start another pair of shoes in rotation. I think getting a pair much like the current ones, but a half size bigger, as well as ones with a bit more cushion for the longer runs would be a good idea.

Lastly, just because. This was today after the run. Having two cats on your legs, purring, is great recovery, almost as good as legs up the wall.

We had a beautiful sunrise the other morning. The actual photos of it didn't turn out all that well, but I liked this one of the reflections in my neighbor's truck.

And another one of Curtis, because, well, he's just so distinguished.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pensions, a rant

I never thought about pensions when I was young, which was just a month or two ago, or so it seems. If I had been given the choice of having the money deducted off my cheque for a future pension, or having it left for me to spend, I certainly would have chosen to take the money. And so would you. Don't lie to me, you would too.

Now I don't work for that company any more. I don't have a company pension. But Linda does. She's been with the City 30 some years and could retire real soon now. Naturally, her pension is a big concern to her, and me too. Something about buying groceries will do that.

But first, I want to tell a joke. Three guys meet, an investment banker, a trade union worker, and a white collar worker. While the other two of them are introducing themselves, the banker takes 11 of the dozen doughnuts provided for the meeting, and swills most of the coffee. When they sit down, the banker tells the white collar guy, "watch out for that trade union guy, he's going to steal your doughnut."

The one phrase sure to enrage almost anyone these days is "gold-plated pension". Let's talk about this. It's often used by politicians and wealthy corporate hacks to describe the pension that civil servants will get. People like my wife, to be up front about it. People like the firefighter that walks into burning buildings to drag out you or your children. People like cops that deal with scum the rest of us don't want to think about. People that drive the ambulance to take you to the hospital where conditions that would have killed you only a few decades ago are routinely managed. People that take away your garbage, plow and sand your streets, drive the buses, take care of the parks and green spaces, run the plants the provide drinking water and treat sewage. Various inspectors to ensure that safety codes are adhered to for public safety. People that sit in offices and do the paperwork essential to making our complicated society work. People that teach your children. Those and a 1001 other jobs done by people paid by a government with money coming from your taxes.

The wages for these people are often publicly discoverable, at least in broad ranges. One can look up the City of Calgary's union contracts on the internet, complete with wage scales. A quick look, and the highest wage I found was for a journeyman at $41 per hour, or just under 80 K a year. In a province where the oil and gas industry can pay such people much, much more.

I won't go look up the rates of pay for all those other civil servants, but it's pretty fair to say most of them don't get paid that much. Some could only dream of that kind of wage. That's a gross wage, of course, the net is considerably smaller. The pension earned after 30 years service is considerably smaller yet.

The presentation last night stated that the average pension paid to LAPP people is about $14,500 per year (before tax!), and isn't particularly well indexed now. There's many factors that go into pension calculations, and it's easy to make the average be what you want. But let's consider and compare.

The 85 factor. Your age and years of service, when they add to 85, gets you an unreduced pension. When you started, and how much you earned will determine your pension. Some people reach their 85 factor in their early 50's. Some never reach it. Technically, I suppose I could reach it, starting such a job now, and working for about 15 years. Not likely.

Think about someone in their mid to late 50's, for example, reaching their 85 factor and retiring to live on that $14.5 K per year, plus CPP. Some people retire, and die a few years later. Others live out to the average age, now in the low 80's for Canadians. Some will live to see 100 or more. It's a terrible thing to live longer than your money, or live long enough to see inflation ravage it.

So when a $#@! politician tells you that one of the ills of the world is the gold-plated pension of civil servants, you should punch him or her right in the throat, if you can find it underneath their piggy jowls from which the lies emerge. Look at THEIR pensions. Gold-plated is scarcely an adequate word. They work a mere 6 years to become eligible, and the amounts are a huge percent of their annual take.

I could go on about politicians, but that's not the issue. The issue is that the Redford government in Alberta has proposed plundering the modest pensions paid out to ordinary Albertans. They've finally clued in that many of their current work force can retire real soon now. The fiscal reality is that retiree's don't pay as much taxes as working people. They are desperate to keep people working, so they are planning to punish people that retire before 65.

The proposal we've seen takes effect the beginning of 2016, and any pension earned after that gets treated differently. Differently as in huge penalties accrue if you retire before 65. Linda ran the numbers for her, assuming she works only a few years past 2016. The per month numbers don't sound bad, but if she lives to 90, and they cut indexing the way they have proposed, it will cost Linda $100, 000. This was calculated using the Alberta Government calculator.

Say that slowly, one hundred thousand dollars. Is there anyone reading who thinks that's a trivial amount of money for a person's income? Oh, hello Bill, and Mark, I didn't know you read my blog. And this is for someone having only a few years of income exposed to the proposed rules. Now think about your kid, just starting out, happy to get a job with the City because it's more stable than an oil and gas job, even if it doesn't pay as much. 30 years from now, ALL of their so-called pension is exposed to those rules, and it will cost them their retirement, unless they do exceedingly well with other investments.

The LAPP is in a minor deficit at the moment, but they've had the plan analyzed by actuarial experts. They say the plan is on a sound footing, and that the Redford government has no basis for the proposed rule changes. Yesterday, even the government's Auditor General agreed. Many of the trained seals I mean backbenchers, don't know any different. They only eat the dog food given by the premier, and do what they are told in hopes of gaining a cabinet seat.

Well, to get that seat, you need to be elected. Raping hard working people of the pension they have paid for, and been promised, does not seem like a good way of getting elected. The people they are proposing to steal from are the very people most likely to vote. We have the communication tools. One of us, if we stand up, will provide the "Where's the beef?" meme that crumbled the Mulroney government's plan to cut retirement benefits, and will force the Redford government to back down.

Even people that don't have an LAPP or an Alberta pension have a dog in this fight. Why? Because once the governments see that they can gut the pensions for civil servants, they will move on to your plan. The CPP, which all working Canadians pay into. Maybe they'll change the plans that govern the pension at your company, and do you trust them to leave things as is, if changing the rules will save them money? I think we all know how that gets answered.

No matter that almost every cent that gets paid out from any pension gets recirculated back to the economy by people buying groceries and other real world items for daily life. It's far better for our economy to have 100 people circulating 100 dollars, than to have 1 person of of the 100 circulating some of the 100 dollars.

How do we stop it? We have to make a lot of noise. Contact your MLA and tell them in no uncertain terms that voting for this is a ticket to the unemployment line at the next election. Email them. Phone their office. Don't be rude, just tell them to find out the facts, not what Redford and her ilk are spewing. There is a big rally in Edmonton on March 2. Consider going. I guarantee you know people who will be affected by this, and they would be delighted to bring you onto the bus as a guest. Write about it on social media, and any other medium you have access to.

Why does the government want to do this? I don't know for sure, but it's all of a piece with the Harper government destroying Canada. In my more cynical moments, I think it's the rich people that pull Redford's strings that want to sidetrack the money to them, so they can buy a bigger yacht.

Are you or anyone you know living on a pension, or planning to retire on a government pension? What are you going to do about living in retirement?

Monday, February 10, 2014

The wine!

Late saturday I got an invitation to go for an easy 5 k run on Sunday morning. Nice! Then we looked at the actual temperature, and worse, the windchill, and thought about where (can you say open and exposed to the wind) we had thought to run. We bailed. The consolation prize was this photo of a rainbow done with ice crystals.

Plus this one of the cats tussling. Very entertaining.

I spent the day puttering with the two wine kits I've got on the go. In an ideal world I'd have cleaned some bottles, but I didn't get there. They are both stabilized now, and I can bottle them in a month or so. The white is clearing very well. Sometimes they take longer.

Then in March the other 3 kits I ordered should be in, and I'll have a trip up to Red Deer. If anyone wants to get in on the action, I'd be happy to give them a ride. Just to warn you, it's nearly impossible to get out of there without picking up a kit or two. Or three. One of my work buddies carted out 18 kits one day.

I also got a long and thoughtful response from one of my readers. All the comments I've had so far have been really good, and much appreciated. They have all pointed out things I'd missed, so it's all good. So far though, it was all tweakable, even the several comments that there's lots going on. Then I got two separate comments that, at least for the moment, kill the way I've written it so far. One is an exchange between father and daughter. One reader pointed out the exchange took place about 8 to 10 years after any rational parent would have done it. I really like the scene (once a couple things were cut out), and there's no way it will work in the book now. The other comment is a related one, noting that there lots of discussion about things that have already happened. I had thought it was a point of view thing, so not quite right there. Of course, in many discussions there will be a reference to past events, but there's enough of it that it's pointing to a structure issue. My first thinking is that I need to change how the story is told, perhaps starting it with the characters all somewhat younger than they are now, and show the reader these scenes, rather than tell the reader about them. That might mean opening the book with Hardisty's bike crash. Hmmmm.

And the endings. I'm beginning to realize endings are hard. I've not been really happy with any of them, and neither have the readers. More work. I think I need to refine my idea of what the story is, and what it is not, and that might give me a bit of leverage on both the sub-plots and ending issues. Now I'm really beginning to understand why writers wander around looking distracted much of the time.

Going into the pool this morning I suddenly realized I didn't feel much like swimming, but did want to really have a good water running session. Katie was there, and we ran together for about 10 or 15 minutes at chatchatchat pace. Then once she climbed out I knuckled down and really started pushing. Sometimes really stretching my stroke out, sometimes lifting my knees really high, sometimes really churning them around like I was doing easy spin on the bike. This was about a half hour at an intensity where it would have been a little bit tough to hold up my end of a conversation. Then stretched after, feeling really good.

Tonight was the last bit of wine stabilization stuff, and a good core session. Plus forcible cat cuddling. There's another eternity in cat hell for me.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

RunKeeper compared to Runmeter

Still no buzz. Maybe later today or tomorrow.

Friday swim was about 1.8 K much earlier than usual. I couldn't believe it. There were 4 floaties in 4 50 m lanes, taking up the whole thing. The one lady got snippy with me when I hopped in and suggested we swim up the rope and down the middle. She had been wobbling along the centre lane marking, trying to take up as much space as possible, and flounced off to another lane when I started anyways. I was wishing the Swim Nazi would show up and set these people straight. I've never had a good swimmer be anything but cooperative about sharing a lane.

Later on 2 guys joined me. They noted I was the only person in the whole pool circle swimming correctly, and didn't want to fuss. We all had a good time and no problem sharing the lane.

Friday night I was down for 45 minutes of easy spin, just hard enough to get a bit of a sweat on, then stretched with some core after. Look very carefully at this photo. There is cat supervision happening. Look just under the jump rope hanging from the ceiling.

Saturday is my 13 K long slow run of the week. I've had Runmeter for a while, and mostly it's been pretty good for me. More options than I'll ever use. But recently it's been really pissy about measuring the distances accurately, and I've never believed the elevations.

My buddy Michelle put the details of one shared run on RunKeeper. To get at it I had to create an account, and later I downloaded the app to see how it compare to what I've got. So here's some screen shots.

Here's the overall view for Runmeter, and a close up of the graph and splits. You have to email the link from your phone to the main computer if you want anything to be a reasonable size, and there's times it's been pissy about that too.

Here's RunKeeper

I certainly prefer the RunKeeper map. The Runmeter one is more oriented to east west runs, and guess what, most of mine are north south, like this one. Yes, you can blow up the Runmeter one, but it's just more playing to get a screen shot.

The elevation on Runmeter seems to have behaved itself this time, and for this length of run the level of detail is about right. The RunKeeper elevation and pace aren't nearly as good and I can't seem to find a way to embiggen them. Runmeter gives a bit more information about the times, showing the actual time for each K, along with an average and fastest pace, which is sometimes nice to know.

In this case, the two apps agreed with each other quite closely. Both give verbal output. One is set for every K, and the other appears to be set for every 5 minutes. However I couldn't really hear them. They were in an inside pocket, and I had a hat on with the hood up. It was pretty cool, maybe -15 C with a bit of a wind. There were minor tusks. I'm not sure why the bigger tusk is on the left side. Maybe the wind has something to do with it.

Sometimes cats stretch themselves out in odd ways. Check how well Curtis blends into the floor, and how he's stretching his back legs. I didn't think cat legs really bent that way. Maybe he was hinting to me I should be stretching more. 

Overall the run went well. I brought along some cookies. It's interesting to nibble frozen cookies while trying not to inhale cookie crumbs. I'm really pleased with how steady my pace was. I just ran nice and easy. The one fast bit was crossing Anderson before the light changed. My feet felt a bit heavy and clumpy throughout, and there were a few minor complaints from my calf, but nothing serious. Overall a really nice run. Hardly anyone out on the path at all.

I'm well into The Silent Wife. The writing is well enough, but it's all exposition. The author is telling us what the characters are doing and thinking. So far, the characters have barely spoken to one another.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Funny how it goes. Not that long ago, it seemed like a week would take forever. Now, I blink and the week is over. I'm busy at work, and the day just flies by. I'm busy at home attempting marathon training with mixed results. Then there's regular home stuff to do. Those carboys of wine don't make themselves, you know. I've had some feedback on my novel, (thanks guys!) and am eagerly awaiting more. Meanwhile there's another little chunk of it I'm struggling to write, and I'm tweaking some of the wording in the rest of it.

Wed was a big day. Into the pool first thing for a nice swim, with the pool almost entirely to myself. 750 K swim, another 400 m kick and pull, then 5 x 50 on the minute aiming for 50 second seconds. My wonderful massage therapist worked me over in the afternoon. No great big knots, but lots of tightness in my hams and calves. It's still there a bit. Some. Maybe a bit more than some.

I thought yoga after would be nice. My mistake. Oh, the class was good, with this long balance flow I'd have enjoyed in other circumstances. Other than my calves being exhausted from running and getting pummeled. I went straight to bed when I got home.

Today I took as a rest day, even though it's a beautiful day to go for a run after work. Only -13 C and sunny! Sat in my vibrating chair instead and worked on the book a bit and socialized with Curtis. He is very suspicious of the vibrating chair.

So if you were to ask me how the training is going, I'd have to say I don't know. I'm running lots; but nowhere near what the plan calls for. I knew that would be true, and plan to make up some of it with swimming and biking. So far that's coming along reasonably well. I guess the running has come along reasonably well, it's just so hard to tell because it's so cold out and the footing is so bad. Being careful slows me down a bit, and all those layers don't help either.

For those of you eagerly awaiting my Facebook movie, it isn't going to happen. The couple that I've seen have been dreadful.

As some of you know, I love to give advice. I've been known to give advice on many topics. Now I'm looking for advice. It's getting to be time for my next haircut, and I'm seriously considering a buzz. Have you done it? What was the reaction? How much colder (if any) was your head? Any advice for or against?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I froze my scarf, or the headwind was brutal

Swam on Monday after water running with Katie for 15 minutes. The swim was long course, and I just barely made a 20 min K, even though I had a lane to myself. It was very odd. There was a huge hot spot right in the shallow part of the training pool, then the rest was cool. Running into the hot spot was like trying to swim in treacle.

Some core and stretching in the evening.

Tonight it's kind of cool by Calgary standards, -23 C or so (-9 F) with a stiff wind. They say the windchill is -32 C or so. I dressed even more warmly than the run on the weekend and headed out, testing Runkeeper app.

The bit out to the path wasn't bad. Up and over the little rise to head down to Anderson was pretty bad. My scarf iced up so quick I couldn't breathe through it, and had to pull it down under my mouth. Going south all the way to the turnaround where the path ends at 130 Ave was nice. I felt warm and comfortable. My legs were warming up and my run felt better. The footing was good. It wasn't even close to dark yet.

Then the return going north. Into a stiff wind. I tried pulling up the scarf over my mouth again and it froze over again in a few dozen steps. By the time I got back up to my turn off to go home, I didn't have any doubt that was the sensible decision.

I'm actually pretty pleased at my pacing, nice and even, and not as slow as I had feared, given I was kind of hunched over, feeling really stiff in my shoulders. The Runkeeper numbers are pretty close.

Stretched after, under cat supervision. I think they were disappointed I wasn't sweaty.

This is one of the very few times I wish I owned a treadmill, or had access to one. I felt like running, and if it had been calm I'd have stayed at it. But not with the wind. I'm cheap enough that I can't justify spending $ on something I'll only use a couple times a year at most. In fact, I don't have any idea what a treadmill costs. Hmmm. Eeek!

I couldn't hear the announcements that either Runkeeper or RunMeter, but the distances and pace seem pretty close. Both are a bit off because I started the apps, tucked the phone into an inside pocket, then zipped up and headed out. Once back in the house I had to unzip to get the apps stopped again. RunKeeper is a bit patronizing about telling me I've set new records. Bah! When it's the first time in the app, of course it's new record. I get a giggle out of it telling me how many calories I've burned when I haven't put in my weight. In fact, I put in the bare amount of detail possible, and had to get pushy about insisting it not share the data with everybody under the sun.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Saw the retaste zone warning sign again

That's the first time in a long time. I started an easy spin. This time it went really well, in the groove very quickly. 20 minutes gradual build. 15 minutes somewhere near the top of endurance zone to get the sweat going. Felt good. At the moment, of course, I have no idea where my lactate threshold is, so the training zones left over from last year are just a bit theoretical.

From there I did 4 bursts of almost all out for a minute, with a bit of recovery in between. By the last one I was bathed in sweat and was wishing for a big fan to get some air moving. I wasn't queasy, not quite yet, but I think another interval would have done it. Cool down. An hour on the bike. Stretching. Felt awesome!

From there I had coffee with a buddy, then explored the Okotoks Costco for supplies. It wasn't full at all, though the parking lot was jammed. And get this, I didn't have to wait in line at all. That's a first in several decades of shopping at Costco. It's quite a bit further than the one in South Calgary, but the traffic is so much lighter it's probably about the same drive time. The only problem is getting used to where they put stuff. I never did see a big fan.

Nor did I buy a HD big screen TV. I'm going to have to do more research. There were two that appeared to be identical, and one was $800 more expensive, and I don't know why. I worry about this as an impending sign of turning into a geezer. The phone yesterday took much longer to assemble and get working than it should. The batteries in the scale were dead, and I had to read the manual to set it up again when I got fresh batteries. I look at the spec sheet for consumer goods like cameras, or HD TV's and it's blah blah blah, imparting no meaning to me at all. Where does one buy TV's anyway, and a mount to hang it on a wall? Maybe I should ask Mrs Google. She knows all.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Best tusks this winter!

Once again some of my nearly perfect blood was drained off on Thursday. Maybe that's why the evening spin was so inept.

Friday was a rest day, though I did a bit of stretching. As I was taking the train home, they were announcing a delay in service to the north west line. A guy ended up under an LRT car at the Sunnyside station. Maybe I'm wronging him and he had a heart attack and fell off the platform at just the wrong time.

But other than that, it's his fault, and it cost the city millions. LRT repairs are expensive, plus the alterations to the transit schedules, all the emergency services people, and tens of thousands of people more than a little inconvenienced. It's not like the LRT goes skulking down the sidewalks looking to run over the unwary.

No. Most of the track is fenced. Where pedestrians cross the tracks there are lights, loud bells, and often gates. The drivers watch for wayward pedestrians, and warn them with a variety of noises, some quite loud. And still we end up with people and cars striking the train. Sigh. The city should send him a bill.

Saturday I was up early to run with Michelle down in Fish Creek. The plan called for 10 K, but my phone froze up so I didn't know when to turn around. Nice and easy. The big part of the day was the tusks! Here they are for your viewing pleasure. This is in the car after.

Here's the obligatory shared selfie. It was a beautiful clear morning and we needed the sunglasses. There were lots of other runners out, some of whom I think are part of the Facebook running group I belong to. Any of you recognize us?

After the run I was doing some work on the computer, and I kept hearing this odd sound. I thought it was something in the music that was playing. It turns out that the plastic water bottle on one of the shelves started leaking. The plastic was brittle and cracked, just sitting there, nobody touching it. I'd never realized such a thing could happen.

All the water had to go somewhere, and that was into the landline phone. It was totally soaked. We tried drying it out, but to no avail. It's not like it owes us anything, it's probably 20 years old. Yes, we still have a land line. It's worth the $24 a month or so to have a phone number to give to people we don't want to talk to.

We never answer that phone, unless someone has arranged to call us, or they talk to the answering machine and we want to talk to them. It simplifies our lives enormously to not give up something we were doing to deal with someone trying to sell us something, or ask our opinions.

So, in summary, here's how to get hold of me, should you want to:

  • Call the phone number that's been in the book for more than 30 years now. Let it ring twice, talk to the machine. If I'm there I'll pick up. I won't run for it.
  • Call my cell. If I don't answer you probably don't want me to. Get me during a workout and you'll get lots of heavy breathing. Some of you might enjoy that.
  • Text the cell number.
  • Tweet me, I'm enjoying Twitter these days. Feel free to follow me, and get notified when I blog.
  • Facebook message or post. I'm not enjoying Facebook so much these days, but I haven't abandoned it yet.
  • Regular email. I've got a half dozen or so email accounts, it can't be that difficult to find one. Why, one of them is listed in this very blog!
  • I have a LinkedIn profile, and I'll link up to anyone that I've dealt with professionally. There's mail through that as well.
  • I just signed up for Runkeeper. There is a friends thingie there too.
I hadn't realized that corded phones are going the way of the dodo. There were only a couple choices at the store, mostly it's cordless, which I don't like. The phone is light and flimsy and cheap. I have no real hope of it lasting 20 years, but we'll see. Maybe it won't need to. Maybe Harper will kill home telephone lines like he killed home postal delivery. (You don't really believe the nominal head of the postal service would do something so drastic without being told to do so by the ultimate control freak, do you?)

In a curmudgeonly comment, I remember when phones were sturdy. You could use them as tools for repressing teenagers and barnyard animals. Not anymore. I think my iPhone weighs more than this desk phone, and there's certainly more metal in the cell phone.

I've had some really good comments on my novel, and I've been working on the fallout. Can't wait to see what people say as they get deeper into it, and stuff happens. Poor Curtis. He's still adjusting. Look.