Wednesday, December 31, 2014

14 of 193 of 1815

There are times to live by numbers, and times to go by feel. If you want to improve at something, you almost always need numbers. Exactly how fast is that 100 m freestyle swim compared to last month? That's the only way to know if you've improved.

Some bloggers go by the numbers, always looking to increase their readership, because, well readership. Or something. Or maybe they have "monetized" their blog and need the click views. I look at my numbers, but since I'm never really quite sure what Blogger is measuring, or even if it's measuring the same thing from period to period, I take it with a big grain of salt.

I have as many readers as I do, and I thank you all for reading. Commenting happens a bit more sporadically, and I really love to get comments. My policy is to moderate all comments, so they don't show up right away, but it should be soon. The only thing I actually delete is spam, even amusing spam.

This year has not been a big blogging year for me, for whatever reason. I still love blogging, and plan to continue, but didn't produce anywhere near as many blogs. There is no convenient way to count words, so I don't really know how the word count compares. I suppose it doesn't really matter. I publish when I feel like publishing and when I have something to say. I'd rather do that than try to do a blog a day, or every other day, filling it with babble if necessary. I don't think that's a good reading experience.

The so called pro bloggers talk about ways to increase your readership, and from what they say, I'm breaking all the rules. (Yay me!) I don't stick to a single topic, I'm not especially funny unless your sense of humour is just as quirky as mine, and while I might talk about boobs periodically, there are no photos of them. I talk about whatever amuses me for whatever reason, and it can be really short, or really long. One of my readers has told me she takes a quick look, and if she sees the "great wall of text" she gets a coffee and sets aside a few minutes to read. Gotta love that!

Much of my writing energy has gone into the books I'm working. The odd thing there is that the more I do, the more I see that there is to do. At this rate that rock is never going to be rolled all the way up the hill. While I figured out who dunnit and how for the first book, that doesn't actually get me that much further ahead. Since I know now how the two main characters end up, I can write for that goal too. But I'm still struggling with the actual plot. I actually went back into some of the scenes that I set aside, and one of them almost works now, to set up some conflict. Not what I originally intended, but it can be modified.

There are no numbers in writing a book. Each writer has to think about what they are trying to do and arrange the words accordingly. Some writers and publishers talk about structure in enough detail to know there has to be a fight on page 33, and a plot twist on page 50, a red herring on page 83, and a fake conclusion on page 102. I'm appalled, of course.

Mostly in life in general there are no numbers. There is no calculation that tells you who to smile at, and how toothy it should be. No numbers go into saying thank you to someone that helped you. Some people are cynical enough to track favors, and they shovel their neighbor's walk one day to be able to asked them to do something later. I sometimes shoveled my neighbor's walk because he's in his late 70's and was at the stage where either he or his son thought they could do it, and were wrong. This year they've hired a service, so I'm not so willing anymore.

One of the things that distresses me about modern life is that much of what we are exposed to is the worst of humanity. I don't need to give any examples. Listening to any newscast will provide all the examples you need, and it doesn't even have to be the Fox network. There are times we've turned the news off because we didn't want to know.

It rolls over into movies and books. They are full of horribleness. Even worse, a movie that graphically portrays actual crimes is rated so children can see them, yet a movie that shows boobs, or uses the F word, or portrays actual adult interactions, is only rated for adults. So to increase the audience, movies are full of shootings, explosions, car chases, and people generally behaving horribly. If that's the examples that people are exposed to, no wonder there is so much horrible in the world.

It appalls me that far more people know how to inflict pain on other people, than know how to give a good back or foot rub. That doesn't mean I expect people to be all sugar sweet all the time, but I do expect people to be polite and considerate to those around them. It used to be that society in general enforced those conventions, but that doesn't seem to happen much. Too bad. Maybe we need a Mrs Grundy revival party.

I'm not a resolutions kind of guy, but that's my resolution for this year. To be kinder to other people, and try to push back on people being rude and horrible to each other. Maybe those people just need a cat to cuddle.

Monday, December 29, 2014

30 years of stuff

A few weeks ago we uneventfully passed 30 years of living in this house. A few more weeks will be 30 years of marriage. A few more weeks after that I will have lived longer than my father.

All those things have come together for today's blog. Let's see how this goes.

My readers will recall me mentioning the basement full of stuff. As I've organized other areas the excess has been pushed into what I used to use as a shop. It's a mess, as you can see for yourself, before and an in progress after. Still more to be done. At least you can see the bench surface now.

Trying to find anything is very difficult. There are several missing chisels from an expensive set. I still have not located the missing cowboy boots. I didn't expect to find them as I tidied up the bench, and was not surprised. I was hoping for all the chisels, and will have to widen my search. What has surprised me though is some of the stuff I did find.

After 30 years there are all sorts of left over parts of stuff. Bags of little screws and odds and ends. Both sides of my family have pack rat tendencies, so I come by it honestly. Back in the day on the farm you never knew if some little thing would come in handy for something, and much cheaper than having to buy something new.

The problem is finding that thing, whatever it might be, when it's wanted. I still consider it amazing that I found 6 machine thread bolts exactly the right size to fit our new TV to the existing rack, and don't expect to ever be that lucky again. We've reached the time of life where spending several hours hunting for something that might not actually exist is much more expensive that going and buying some new doodad, or making do somehow else.

One example. I had gone out to find these small plastic discs to separate the glass slabs that make up the sculpture in the back yard. I knew perfectly well we had a box or more of the little discs, but couldn't find them. It took a while to buy them, but at least I knew it was possible. Today, when cleaning off the bench, I found 2 boxes of the little discs. No longer needed.

I have been ruthless about throwing things away. The garbage bag isn't quite full, but it's very heavy. Somehow I had acquired a Ni-Cad battery charger that I've never used, and a cable converter, whatever that is. Plus many more anonymous bits of plastic and metal. Along the way I found other stuff. Mortgage and house insurance paperwork from 1988. An actual film point and shoot camera. Does anyone want this for some reason?

There was a stack of paper 7 inches high from some courses I took in the early 80's, and they've been untouched ever since. We have boxes of various gift and event cards, fancy bags, wrapping paper, pretty boxes, and related stuff all jumbled together higgledy piggledy. I've sorted that out a bit, but there is much more remaining.

While I was going through the stuff today, I was imagining myself cleaning out the home of some elderly person, thinking about the value of the various items. Value is a funny thing. It might be nothing from a monetary sense, and yet have a great deal of sentiment. I was also thinking about who might be cleaning up after us, after another 30 years of living here. That's the plan, anyways. I fear us becoming those people, the ones with stuff stacked to the ceiling making the house into a firetrap. Which is why I'm trying to get a grip on it now.

When we last repainted we tucked a number of framed photos into storage, and I just found that box again. One of them is of my mom and her sister as small children, and their parents, whom I called Grandpa and Granny. He passed away some years ago now, but Granny is still going strong. This photo was taken late 1944, and shows them as a young couple. Young, and yes, attractive. Granny has a nice smile, though her eyes are sad. Grandpa, who I remember as a taciturn, somewhat grim man, looks like he's about to break into a smile.

Fast forward less than 20 years. My earliest memories of them are from the early 60's, and they are old people. The post-war years in Western Canada are generally considered to be good times, yet they were not well off. I remember a shopping trip where she is calculating prices and quantities, and counting to the penny. They are thinner than lean, the bones show in their faces, and they have gray hair. Maybe there's a story there, but I don't know it.

I know the people in the photo, but whoever cleans up our house after us almost certainly won't know them or even know of them. The photo will be of no value to them. Yet when it was taken it would have been expensive. I'm not even sure how many other copies exist. There is no chance of me ever throwing it away.

Granny could now have her photo taken with 4 children, 9 or 10 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren that I know of and I suspect there are a couple more, and 1 great-great-grandchild that I know of. I'm not the best one at keeping track of cousins even with Facebook. It is sad that such a photo will only ever be in my imagination. I cannot conceive of the circumstances that would lead to such a photo actually happening. I'm reasonably sure that Granny has not met all her descendants.

Our expectation is that we will outlive our parents, and do better than them economically. Certainly the people of my parent's generation won the economic and medical jackpot. Their parents are generally the first people that could take advantage of early 20th century medical advances, and better nutrition, leading to bigger and healthier babies who lived longer.

However, that isn't always the case. I said earlier that in a few weeks I will outlive my father. Cancer. Death still walks among us, and sometimes his choices seem capricious and cruel. Dying in your mid-fifties is considered a life cut tragically short. Here and now, a death before 70 is considered  premature.

Nobody knows when their time will come. Retirement planning would be much easier if you knew how long your money had to last. Certainly I look forward to a long and happy life, and am doing everything in my power to bring it about. Yet I'm surrounded by idiot drivers. Statistically, that's what is most likely to kill me. It doesn't stop me from driving; I just bring my A game, every drive.

Since we don't know when Death will tap our shoulders, we should be bringing our A game to every day, every activity. Enjoying them. We should especially be bringing our A game to our family and friends, to the people we know. They are the ones that make life happy and worth having.

The traditional 30th anniversary gift is pearl, and the updated suggestion is diamonds. Except I don't think either of them would go over well. I've thought of something else. I can only hope it goes over well. It's funny, the 30 years has gone by really quick. The first mortgage papers were all the money in the world, and it took forever to pay off, or so it seemed. I guess time flies when you're enjoying yourself.

Yesterday was another spin session, and I had my cheerleading squad again. I've missed this.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Vacation, post Christmas

There, another Christmas survived. Thought this was very nice, actually. We had a calm peaceful day here, then dinner with some close friends. I ate too much. Burp.

The stressful part of Christmas this year is trying to keep Celina out of the tree. She keeps trying to steal the cloth ornaments. We don't want to know what for.

Boxing day Linda went out to rampage and trample, and came home with some goodies. After a 45 minute easy spin, I had a calm and peaceful day. Reading. Snoozing with cats.

Working on my book a bit. We watched Despicable Me, which I hadn't seen. I was in exactly the right mood for the minions and I laughed my face off.

Somewhere along the way I had excavated the back seat and threw everything into the trunk. Then I actually cleaned it and tidied. Before and after.

Today I was up early and off to the pool with Michelle. Saw the famous Madi and Jordan there. I concentrated on water feel stuff and a bunch of drills. Michelle is improving by leaps and bounds, or maybe by splish and splash would be more appropriate.

After a quiet lunch and a bit of a snooze (darn those cats and their torpor generating snores!) I was off to get some electrical stuff from Rona to deal with some issues. That is now done. I'm experimenting with some old incandescent lights, some of the twirly fluorescents, and some LED lights to see which we like best.

I've been thinking about which should be the first area tidied up in the basement. Linda has been scuttling around with a nervous look, afraid that I am going to organize and tidy and we'll never find what used to be in that area again. I admit this is a legitimate concern. Sometimes it's really difficult to remember where things got put.

Some days I think the solution is to keep a little (huge) database that tracks every object in the house, it's location, what it cost to buy, how often it gets used, where it's stored when not used, where the receipt is, and other such useful information. Anybody that wants to go make such an app, feel free to call me, and we can discuss requirements. I'd be happy to beta test.

Other times I think the solution is to have a lot fewer things in my life. I've been contemplating the many, many objects in the basement. It wasn't so long ago that the only way to get reading material was books, and if you didn't buy it, you ran the risk of it going out of print and never being able to read it again. Even libraries purge their content. There are few things worse than the itch to re-read a book, or a portion thereof, and be unable to do so.

Music is much the same way, as are movies. The only way to listen to a song was to hope it came up on the radio play list, or own it in some media. In my life I've seen vinyl records in various sizes, tape decks, cassette tape, 8 track tape, CD's, DVD's, and optical discs. Actual vinyl records are making a come-back, they say. Movies used to come out, and you had to see it then. After that it might go on television, or be re-released to the theatre for some occasion. That was it.

I remember when VCR came out. A player cost $1000 or more, in 70's era dollars. The tape was hugely expensive. One could join video clubs to rent or buy. I wonder how many people actually bought the 'lifetime' memberships?

Now all that material can be downloaded to your device of choice in a few minutes, almost no matter where you are. The problem comes a little later. As you change devices you might have to buy that content again, since it's not licensed for that new device. Or it somehow "disappeared", and you don't have it anymore. Every once in a while for a few dollars for a particular bit of content is no big deal. But what if it happens again and again? What happens if all you are doing is renting it to play, and the artist doesn't get any of it? Do you care?

I do. I think the artist that creates some work should see the proceeds of the sale of it. That seems simple and straight forward to me. The writer created the book, and should see the most from the sales. (Published authors are laughing at me right now, or more likely, crying.) Until recently, publishers were a barrier between an author and the readers. Just as music companies were a barrier between artists and listeners. Funny that that barrier made all the money. Their excuse was they they owned the mass media production methods. They aren't needed anymore, so why are they still getting in the way?

That's changing now. Authors can self publish, and musical artists have been doing so as well, though I'm not connected to that world so I don't know that's going. At least some authors are making a go of it, and good for them. I hope to join them. I've realized I have no real hope of getting published through traditional routes. My books do not fit a genre paint by numbers format, and thats all that traditional publishers know what to deal with.

With all that happening, what is to be done with thousands of books, and many hundreds of CD's? Anybody want a set of Encyclopedia Britannica?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Vacation at last

As you'll recall, we had a very nice vacation in Nova Scotia in September. We rented a lovely little cottage on the far end of Crescent beach, and aside from the very minor inconvenience of having to keep track of high tides, it was perfect. Quiet, relaxing, I got a tonne of writing and editing done, and met some new friends.

Then it was full steam ahead at work. I've been looking forward to vacation for a little while now, and I'd better enjoy it, because it will be full steam ahead till the end of March.

We aren't going anywhere. We want to stay home and relax. I've lots to do, but I can do it on a putter schedule, rather than a frantic all out banzai attack. There are things on my list.

The very first of which, I am disconsolate to report, is a fail. IKEA has changed their wire bottle racks. They used to look like this. One side slid into the IVAR holes, and the other had one of the metal pegs. They were perfect, so of course they were discontinued.

Now they are thin flimsy constructs that have to rest on a shelf. This doubles the cost, and reduces the amount of storage. I was in IKEA yesterday to buy, and decided not to. I'll have to do more research on what to use. Unless, do any of you have the old style bottle racks you don't need/want any more? If you live in Calgary I'm sure we can work something out. If you store lots of wine bottles tell me about your system in comments, please and thank you.

There will be much other puttering and tidying down in the basement. The main reason was to find a place to store more wine, but the other is to deal with clutter. This applies to my books as well. Lots of clutter there too. Whoever suggested I buy Let's Get Digital, thank you! I'm about half done now, and can't see any reason why I shouldn't self publish. Rather than explain to a publisher why they should buy when it goes against every rule of their paint by numbers expectations, I'd rather explain to someone who is at least willing to part with 2 or 3 dollars and try. I figure anyone that reads my blog at least every now and then is a potential audience because the books are much better written than the blog.

Even though it is the season of too much food, (remember that kilo of chocolate? Gone!), I'm still moving the bod. Monday and Wednesday I swam. Monday was CSS intervals in a 50 m pool. This is harder. In a 25 m pool I can do 25 x 100 in 1:50 w 10 seconds rest. In a 50 m pool I was knackered after just 15, and had to hustle to make it.

Then on Wed I had the whole training pool to myself. So calm. So peaceful. Such a contrast to the Co-op later. I decided to just swim for a while and see how it turned out. The 2 K went by in a hair under 38 minutes, nice and easy, except for a couple laps I had to hustle to make up for sloppy flip turns. Overall the pace was very even.

Afterward I picked up my prize! Yes, a prize, which is always nice. I was a weekly winner in the Talisman we inspire contest. Michelle nominated me, and I was thrilled about the whole thing. Here's the goodies: a gym bag, tech shirt, towel, lanyard, earbuds, a little wrappy thingie for the earbuds, a water bottle, and 3 facility passes. Nice! The best part is that I'm entered for a draw to win an annual pass. Pretty good odds there. I'll let you know how it turns out.

There was a bit of shopping to be done, not for gifts, just regular stuff unfortunately timed. Lee Valley was good. Even IKEA was good, though they didn't have what I wanted. But by the time I picked Linda up from her half day at work and we went to Co-op, it was a madhouse. I watched a couple guys yelling at each other about parking. I wasn't worried much about a fight, they were both older than I am. Linda said inside was just crazy too.

We had a peaceful afternoon and evening at home, tidying and putting up the tree. Celina wanted to help. She is in all the photos of the tree.

Some of the ornaments that didn't make it onto the tree this year.

We tried hanging some stuff in the front window, with predictable results.

Done. Celina thinks it's just for her. She's already dragged down some of the cloth ornaments and carried them off. We can't tell if she thinks she is rescuing family members, or capturing things for later ravishment.

We had a lovely quiet morning, sleeping in, opening gifts, watching cats high on catnip. For some reason I got into watching a bunch of clips of the minions being silly. I might have to rent those movies during vacation.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

An early Christmas in some ways

Friday I had posted my last blog (Still) (which a bunch of you haven't read, I think, but that's ok,) before going to work.

Then good things happened at work too. One is the raffle prizes. I'd bought a bunch of tickets. There was a little bag beside each prize, and you could put in as many tickets as you liked in any bag. The Keurig machine didn't get any tickets at all. But there was lots of wine and chocolate prizes and I spread my tickets around them. One of the gift baskets was enormous! I didn't put any tickets in that one because I didn't think I could carry it.

My buddy Sean had texted me saying he was walking by the building and could he buy me a coffee. Of course! This happened during the draw, and we had a wonderful chat. Then I came upstairs to find the people up and down the office hall just buzzing. Someone in our corner won, they told me, given the sequence of tickets. There I was, checking tickets, with two people trying to look over my shoulder. They're both shorter than me so it was tough. And it was me. I'm not sure if you can see, it's a kilo of chocolates. You can see who was interested in them.

After I went out for a drink with some of the people on my team, and that was a very nice conversation too, for several reasons.

I'd had a really creaky yoga class on Wednesday evening, and my hips have been stiff and sore since. I slept in on Sat, then puttered about the house in a low key way, having an afternoon nap and everything.

I've been spending some time down in the basement starting to scope out where to put something like 150 bottles of wine. I can see where my winter project is going to be some de-cluttering and reorganizing shelf space. Linda is quaking in whatever she has on her feet. Maybe I'll find the long lost cowboy boots.

There were some nice sunrise shots on Saturday. Plus other kitty shots. There is a kitty in both of these shots. The sunrise shots themselves were nice, but I like the reflections.

Curtis resting up from his exertions of dominating his humans.

This is almost a chinook arch. Usually there is a patch of clear blue, and a wind driving the clouds away.

The message here is obvious. I have clearly failed in some obligation to the cats.

 Linda has been decorating.

Sunday Michelle and I went to Talisman pool. Her swim has improved so much! Even though she was saying it wasn't quite as good today. We found one drill that was fun for her, and is helping her stroke. I got in lots of drill as well. When I got home I found out that Talisman had selected me as a weekly winner in the "We Inspire" contest. Michelle was so nice to nominate me.

This afternoon was a nice soothing day cleaning and bleaching bottles. Between the pool and bottle washing my phone doesn't know who I am anymore. Have I ever mentioned that BBQ rack of lamb is just about my favourite thing ever?

I'm thinking of a big swim on New Year's Day. I did one a few years ago where I ended up swimming 7 K. Maybe during my vacation between Christmas and New Years I'll start swimming and see where I stop. Perhaps not New Year's Day, we've been invited out to a party, and it's a rowdy bunch. I might not be in any shape to do anything after, let alone a big swim. I'm still in nowhere near the shape I was then, so who knows how it will turn out.

Friday, December 19, 2014

So, still, several things

I am still open mouthed with astonishment at the recent events in Alberta politics. I listened to Ms. Smith do an interview last night, and words fail me to describe what I think. How on earth can anyone ever trust anything she ever says again? If she told me that was a pretty sunrise (see below), I'd check both a watch and a compass. I think that she has destroyed both her own reputation, and Mr. Prentice has badly sullied his own by taken on the defectors. Naked power ambition all round. The recall effort underway will come to nothing. We are going to have to wait till the next election to turn them all out. If you're an Albertan, I strongly recommend you google the Alberta Party.

I am still hobbling around a bit, not running. There was some pretty amazing pain in yoga class. Not screaming out loud pain, but an 'oh my goodness that hurts much more than it should and I don't think I'll even think about doing that anymore.' I couldn't even do savasana.

I am still considering getting back on the bike trainer.

I am still unshopped for Christmas. Anniversary, yes. Christmas no. Maybe today after work. But there's still almost a whole week!

I am still making progress swimming! Yay me! Tuesday was 1.5 Km in 28:10 or so. The first K was 18: 45 nice and relaxed, and I struggled a bit with the last 500 m. On Thursday I was trying the CSS thing again, doing 100 m in 1:50 on 2 minutes. I was aiming for 20 of them, and did 25. Or maybe it was 26. I got my count all tangled up. You'd think it would be easy to remember if you've swum 50 or 100 in a set, but no, a couple times I had to look at the clock and think about it.

I am still working on my book, when my lap isn't overrun with cats.

There are still pretty sunrises. This is from Talisman after the Tuesday swim.

What are you still up to?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mouth Open w Astonishment, a rant

I have commented in the past about Alberta being a one party state. The current PC government is 43 and counting. (It seems like much longer!) They call themselves the Progressive Conservative party, but it's just a name. They really believe in power and the uses and abuses therein, being a front for the oil companies, with a side of political dinosaur.

Lately, Wildrose Party came along and siphoned off the older, whiter, angrier, and generally more extreme members.  They were doing well to get elected, then the public found out about their Lake of Fire, and that's how we ended up with Alison Redford.

There were lots of people that thought the PC party were done like dinner over Redford's excesses and other PC stupidities. WRP was going pretty well in opposition. One could easily argue they are the most effective opposition yet. As a result of their activities, Redford doesn't work here anymore, as the saying goes. A guy named Jim Prentice became the premier in a cakewalk, even without a seat in the Legislature.

What with one thing and another, there were 4 by-elections called recently. The PC faithful were pretty sure they were going to win 2 of them, and reasonably hoped for all 4. Various observers thought that Prentice would win his own seat, the fledgling Alberta Party would make a fight of one of the ridings, and WRP would pick up the other two. The WRP thought they were going to win all 4, easy peasy.

It didn't work out. The PC won all 4 quite handily. Soon after, a couple of WRP defected to the PC party, including some of the harshest critics of it. And now, the leader of WRP, and her deputy leader, and (accounts vary) 5 other elected members are crossing the floor for promises of cabinet posts and uncontested nominations in the next elections. This a few weeks after "no more defections."

To say the membership is beside itself with outrage is understating affairs. I would not be surprised to hear there was a torch-lit mob somewhere in Alberta last night. (The torches to keep warm, the pitchforks for flinging the muck where it belongs.)

Nobody knows how all this is going to settle out yet. The PC caucus is supposed to meet today and decide if they want to accept the defectors. Supposedly it's a done deal. But they rebelled over the bigoted and controversial bill 10, that kowtows to the Catholic church and other social regressives that think it's ok to torment children to death.

What I don't understand is why the PC's would accept them? They have a strong majority, they don't need the votes. They've already stolen many of the WRP policies. The WRP has spent the last several years castigating everything the PC party said or did, and often rightly so. Good for them. And now they join?

The only way this makes sense is that it's a reverse takeover. Prentice is really a WRP in PC clothing, destroying the Progressive part of the Conservative party. He's already had one episode of pandering, and if the PC's absorb the WRP, we'll see lots more.

Right now there are 3 other parties in Alberta, The Liberals, the New Democratic Party, and the Alberta Party. I've said it before, and I've said it again. The Libs are a tainted brand name. They will never be elected government in Alberta, even after Hell freezes over or Harper turns into a nice guy. The NDP mean well, and mostly stay true to their principles, whatever that means. They will never get elected either. The left wing policies are very difficult for Albertan's to swallow, but maybe that will change. The Alberta Party is a reasonably centre of the road party. The platform I read a little while ago is a reasonably sensible, reasonably defendable document. The problem is they are unknown.

So what happens now? There's still more fur to fly, and dust to settle. It looks like Alberta is going to lurch further right, unless the mushy middle gets it's shit together behind the NDP or the Alberta Party. There's got to be a merger there, or something. I confidently expect voter turnout will go down again, being pissed off with the whole situation.

In the meantime there is going to be a lot of frothing and screaming just in time for Christmas. Wonderful. This is the most exciting event in Alberta politics in decades. In fact, nobody has found an example in the entire parliamentary system of the leader of the Official Opposition crossing the floor to the government.

Now is the time for Alberta voters to get it together, and start pushing their elected officials to start doing the right things. The PC's have demonstrated outright incompetence over the last decade or so. They are fat and arrogant in power. The actions Prentice took right after being selected as leader are not demonstrations of competence, they are cleaning up messes that should never have happened.

But they've had a scare in the last election, and the unexpected fury over the egregious Bill 10. I'd like to think they aren't complacent again, yet. But soon. Next time, Albertans, we've got to vote someone else. We must remember that politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often, and for the same reason.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

So, that Christmas thing

I ignore it as much as possible, and this was a very successful weekend on that front. Yay me!

Technically, I had my one Christmas party on Friday. They called it a Christmas party, but no. I appreciate the desire of the company to put on a party, but there weren't many people there, and even those ones weren't in a party mood. The price of oil falling into a pit hasn't helped. Neither has the price of the company stock. It's public record that it opened 2014 above $9 a share, and closed last Friday at $2.50 a share. I'm sure glad I didn't buy when I started.

When I compare the number of people I actually knew to talk to this year, compared to in 2012 when I had barely worked there 6 months, there is much less than half. Many of them don't work there anymore. Lots of people that I do know, didn't attend. So of about 480 people or so, I knew 5 people well enough to chat to, and adding in the spouse of one coworker that has come to the last several parties makes 6. Then band fired up and killed any remaining chance of conversation. We bailed.

Saturday was a delightful day starting with coffee and treats. Cat cuddling. Working on my book. Reading. Relaxing. Watching it snow off and on. Watched a bit of DVD. Enjoyed not being out in the traffic.

Sunday was a bit more active. It started with a huge line up of cars trying to get into the Talisman center. I had to show my membership card to park. I've never seen so many people there. A swim meet will do that, I guess.

Michelle and I headed over to the training pool and found a lane to ourselves. I worked on some drill and technique, and gave Michelle some tips. Her swim has improved enormously! I really enjoyed cruising along, not really caring about time, but really focussing on water feel and trying to improve my catch.

After a nice coffee I was home looking out at a beautiful sunny winter day. I haven't run for about a month, and decided it was time again. That only lasted 2 K before I could feel my right leg being unhappy with me and decided to stop before I had to stop. A nice long stretch session after felt really good. What's that you say? My core streak? You mean the one I haven't mentioned for a few days? Well, yeah, there's a reason for that. Moving right along.

BBQ bison burgers for a late lunch, early dinner. Wine. Are you distracted yet?

After working on The Bone in the Digester for better than 20 years on and (mostly) off, I just figured out who and how it was done. Which means I have to rewrite. I'd always known I had to, some of it is pretty bad. But now I have a purpose. I'm going to have a busy Christmas buried in my laptop and I'm going to love it!

Lastly, cat photos!
Celina likes to snooze with her nose buried in her paws. She's a hard snoozing cat, even petting her doesn't wake her up. She just settles in more.

Curtis had just kicked the rival object (the laptop) out of my lap, and settled in with an air of ownership.

Both of them snoozing. It's hard to use a laptop at times like this.

One never knows when a paw will reach out and try to bring us down.

This was just as I got home from swim this morning. I woke Curtis up.

Celina just waking up from a snooze in the sun.

Celina is big on snoozing in the sun, and today was very sunny.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Proud, yes proud of my inadequacies

Our cats have made it clear that we are completely inadequate as humans. Failures in every respect. Not enough lap time. Not enough crunchies and too much wet food that's good for them. We banish them to the basement at night. We don't appreciate them singing the song of their people. We are stingy with the catnip. We don't have near enough cat toys for them, and we don't play with the ones that are here often enough. We don't pet and scritch them often enough, or in just the right spot. We don't let them out so they can hunt their mouse and supplement the completely inadequate diet we feed them. It goes on and on. We hear about this at length. Often. Frequently. In 2 part cat harmony, such as it is.

Now for reality. We poll other cats regularly, and we are assured we are the best humans ever, that that all these other cats would like to live the life of Curtis and Celina. Every other cat we talk to! Every time! There we are, out working our fingers to the bone to afford the best food ever for them, and we get no recognition. None at all. We provide the best windows, and more cat toys than they know what to do with. Even a laser! What more do they want?

So while they might think we are inadequate, I'm proud of it! PROUD, do you hear me you little fur bearers? Here they are, enjoying the life. One of my work buddies was fond of the phrase, "I aspire to the lifestyle my wife and children have." For me, it's the cats.

Today was the first day trying to swim the CSS thing. Look here if you've missed recent blogs.

That 1:52 is a pain in the patootie, and from previous experience I knew it would lead to trouble. So I rounded things off, and decided to try to swim 100 m (short course) in 1:50, with 10 seconds rest. It all went really well, so I think I'll stick with that for a little while and see what happens.

Today the first one was 1:45 without even trying. Then the next 19 were never slower than 1:51 or faster than 1:48. I'll take that for consistency. The first 1000 m was easy and relaxing. It got a bit tougher over the next 500 m, having to work a bit and think about timing. The 1:51 happened here when I had a sloppy flip turn. The last one was 1:49 but I was working a bit there.  By the end I knew I'd had a good workout. My arms were tired by not falling off, and my lungs had that well aerated feeling.

The idea is to be aerobic the entire time, and I was. Whereas 4 x 50 at 45 to 50 seconds, on 60 seconds will get me out of breath pretty quick, a 1:50 per 100 pace is do able. Heck, twice now I've swum 1K at that pace without stopping. Perhaps this will get me swimming further at that same pace.

The idea for the next little while is to do this once a week, on about the same timing. It's convenient at least. Trying to go a much quicker is going to get anaerobic pretty quick. One long steady swim a week. And once a week do what I feel like doing. I have a goal. I need to be in shape for the Calgary 70.3 swim leg as part of a relay team.

I had the pool to myself for most of the swim, which was very nice. I could see the clock easily and didn't have to worry about someone else in the lane messing up my timing. While sitting in the hot tub I was the only person in the building, other than the life guards. I love the sound of the pool when it's quiet like that.

Some days I think I need to build a house that has an indoor 25 m pool. That's 81 feet, and our lot is 150 feet long, but the back yard garden takes up 32 or 33 feet, and there's a utility right of way beside the house. Then again, at about $800 per year, I can buy a lifetime of pool membership cheaper than building a pool. But so much less convenient.

You are missing lots of cranky

I've started this a bunch of times, and it all quickly descended to a bullet point list of cranky. Let me just say the drivers this time of year piss me off, and leave it at that. Another month till I go to a mall.

I had a very nice long course swim on Monday, a little under 20 minutes not working too hard on pace, but trying to find and stay in rhythm. It came and went.

There was a novel writing brainwave, and I'm now busy rewriting the first thing I wrote, starting many many years ago. I can't wait for vacation in a few days. Really.

And lets see. My fingers are still trying to sneak in a bullet point list on me. I'd better wrap this. Nobody wants to read cranky.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The CSS test

No, Cori, that's not Cascading Style Sheets, if they're still a thing.

As my swim times have improved, and since I signed up for a goal race, I've become more curious about the best way to improve my swim. Steve in a Speedo, one of the people usually up near the top of my blog roll has been wondering the same thing. He found a Swim Smooth test that talks about determining a training speed. You can find it here. Thanks Steve!

In summary, it works like this. Get warmed up, swim 400 m fast trying to be consistent. (hint, I'm not, as you'll see) Rest a bit, then swim 200 m. Do some math, and you end up with a 100 m swim pace.

Michelle very kindly offered to take a break from her own swimming adventures (she's doing great, btw) and time my laps. This is how it went.

400 m, total time 7:03 total, lap times rounded a bit.
 50 m - 50 seconds
100 m - 50 seconds
150 m - 53 seconds
200 m - 55 seconds
250 m - 54 seconds
300 m - 59 seconds (someone joined the lane without checking)
350 m - 58 seconds (blew a flip turn
400 m - 54 seconds

200 m, total time 3:20
 50 m - 45 seconds
100 m - 50 seconds
150 m - 54 seconds
200 m - 51 seconds.

So my CSS pace is 1:52 per 100 m. One of the suggested workouts I'll try next week is 15 x 100 m at that pace, with 10 seconds recovery after each interval. Given what they say about the training, and what I know of my own times, this pace seems right in the ballpark. Let's see. The trick will be trying to swim consistently at that pace.

Sometime late January I'll do another test and see if there has been any improvement. Michelle has taken some video of me, and yes, I can see ways to improve my stroke. Funny how video shows all the flaws if you look, regardless of what you thought you were going. Flirting with the center line, sheesh.

I was thinking back over the work year, and it's just disappeared. Gone in a flash. I'm not sure where. I'm sure looking forward to some time off over Christmas, then it will be into a hard slog till the end of March.

No core yet today. Later.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Boots of Ravishment

When you have cats, you never quite know what you'll come home to. I have known for some time that Celina is a sweat pervert. I'll come in after a run, or getting off the bike, and she is all over me. Down on my mat, doing post workout stretches, and she is trying to lick and sniff me. There are wine snobs that put less effort into sniffing their wine.

There is one set of my mittens that have a fur cuff. I'm not sure if she thinks they're a relative to be greeted and played with, or prey to be dragged off an eaten. I have to be careful to put them away in the closet.

Just recently we found out another of her perversions. She is into boots. Not just any boots. My winter Sorel boots are nothing to her. But a pair of Linda's red leather boots are an irresistible magnet for Celina. Particularly the insoles. Especially the insoles. There are cats that put on less of a display on catnip.

We came home the other day to find both insoles out and quite distant from the boots. One boot was a good 6 feet away from the closet. The other was under a chair. I don't want to know what she was doing to it under there. At least Linda hasn't had to replace the insoles yet.

Keep in mind that Celina isn't a very big cat, and she had to open the closet door to get at them in the first place. Now we've been taking to putting my winter boots against the bifold of the door. She's had one go at moving them, and knocked one boot over, but they're just too heavy for her.

I was watching her opening the closet door. She knows exactly what she's doing to push it in a bit so the centre pops out, then pushing on the edge. If they ever figure out the door locks, we are in trouble.

Days 4 and 5 of the core streak, done!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

It wasn't a fluke!

Me and my inner shark grooved today! Another 1000m, 18:20. Yay me! Gotta love consistency. Did some intervals after. Those are getting better too.

Day 2 core streak, done!
Day 3 core streak, done!

The roads here still aren't all that good. The major ones are damp. The side streets are still a sloppy enchilada. While it was cold last weekend and the roads were slick hard packed snow and ice, people drove sensibly.

Now I think Christmas madness has taken hold. On the way home today a pickup with a flat bed trailer was trying to cut into traffic, namely on top of me. Eventually he cut off the guy behind me by bullying his way into the lane. I thought he was going to take the paint off my bumper. Then right onto Heritage, and he was all about trying to get around me, either side. Then he zoomed down Heritage Drive weaving in and out, and more of the same south on 14th. In rush hour traffic. I don't know what he thought it got him. He was only a couple cars ahead on 90th Ave.

Then again coming home from yoga, some guy on Anderson thinking it's a continuation of Deerfoot or something. And then again, in our neighborhood, passing me like I'm standing still, and I'm doing 50 in a 50 zone.

The news is full of collisions. Demonstrations of driver incompetence, as I think of it. Yes, it's a stressful time of year. Yes, most people have errands they want to get done. But a collision just makes things worse for all involved.

So one of the characters in my book finally told me her last name. I really hadn't known it till earlier today. I love it when my characters tell me stuff. I've now read all 3 books in reasonably the right order, and I can see lots of things to change. That first one I wrote needs lots of work. There are all sorts of scenes, some interesting, some less so, but now that I know where the story goes, and who does what to whom, and about when, I need to go back and make it all hang together. Lots to rewrite. I hope Curtis is still talking to me when it's all done.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The inner shark emerged

Then he was a bit cranky at me. Not because I was swimming slowly. No, he was pretty pleased at the speed today. He was cranky because I wasn't using it to hunt prey.

The problem was that I was the only person in the pool for much of the swim. I don't know what it was calm today, but I'm happy. My only assumption is the swim clubs figured everybody would be hung over and skipped a day. Some football game or other. If I was in charge of scheduling, I'd have put the biggest, toughest workout on Sunday afternoon, with a followup on Monday morning. Both as required attendance.

I think giving advice to the two bad-ass buddies was really good for me, making me think about my stroke. The water felt good right from the start, then I settled in a groove. When I hit 500 m in just over 9 minutes, cruising along, I was pretty pleased. At 750 m I was still going pretty strong, but was thinking trying to go much beyond a K and things would fall apart. I had a slow lap around 800 m then picked it up again.

18:20 for the 1000 m. I was rolling that around in my brain for a bit. That's almost 30 seconds faster for the same distance than a couple weeks ago, where I was really feeling it at the end. This time I could have kept going for a little bit longer, but I'm not sure how much. Rather than find out and remember a swim that went crappy, I'll take an unadulterated win.

I haven't swim that fast since before the 2013 flood. I'd have to go back and see what I was doing then. What's funny is that I wasn't trying to swim fast at all. The first bunch of it I was relaxing and not really thinking of anything, then was surprised by the clock. Then I was thinking about trying to swim clean. By the end I was beginning to run a bit short of air, but my arms still felt strong. It's been the other way around for some time now.

Then 4 x 50 m less than 50 seconds on 60 seconds.
My learning from all this is that I need to concentrate on my form a bit more. There was a bit of clandestine video shot, and I've got a bit of crossover happening again. Thought I'd fixed that, but I guess it has crept back in again.

Now I know I can actually swim at my desired pace for a little while anyway, I need to develop the endurance to keep doing it. I used to be able to do this.

In other news I'm still taking a break from running, and it feels really good. I am beginning to rethink my goal of doing a marathon next summer. Maybe I should try the bike without running.

Day one December streak done! Plank. Squats. Stuff.