Thursday, January 29, 2015

43 every day

OK guys, pop quiz. Hands up, how many here reading this do NOT know someone who died of cancer or has survived it so far? I didn't think so. I don't claim to any special knowledge here, but here's my list, just off the top of my head:

  • Father, died.
  • Mother in law, died.
  • Brother in law, died.
  • Wife, still here, precancerous cells and other stuff removed.
  • Cousin, breast cancer survivor
  • Close friend, thyroid cancer survivor.
  • Several other buddies surviving various forms of cancer, so far.
  • There are almost certainly more that I don't know of, and I was reminded later of the following
  • Grandfather, died.
  • Sister-in-law, breast cancer survivor
I attended a rally downtown on Wednesday to protest the Calgary Cancer Centre being delayed yet again. For the 3rd time. That's where I learned that 43 people get told they have cancer every day. That's just under 16,000 people a year that get told "You have cancer."

It used to be that was a death sentence. People talked about it in whispers, as if they were afraid to draw the attention of it. It was barely acceptable to say you had lung cancer, and mentioning other areas, that simply wasn't done in public.

Now we talk about it, and we have an enormous variety of treatments. But it requires people with specialized knowledge, and specialized equipment, and room for it to all work on patients. The people involved are moving heaven and earth to make it happen for the people that need it because they know, none better, that the ultimate clock is ticking. And the building that it's mostly happening now is old, outdated, and crowded. It was that way a decade ago.

It sounds expensive when you say the number, $1.3 billion to build. Now think about the lives cut short by delayed cancer treatments. Think about inefficiencies forced upon the people working there. Think about how now is a great time to build infrastructure because of reduced input costs. Money is cheap now. This should be a no brainer to build, especially since it was already promised. What better way could there be to spend a little over $400 per Albertan?

This is when the Ralphbucks debacle really pisses me off. They handed that out to everybody, whether they needed it or not. I certainly didn't need it. I'd happy ante it back up again.

Oh yes, we have to watch them, though. The PC's want to spend it on perks, and salaries, and bonuses for themselves and civil servant buddies at the top of the pyramid, who are not covered by the sunshine laws mandating their compensation be revealed.

Yet the Alberta PC's are dicking us around, putting it on hold again. This is a demonstration of why it's a stupid idea to spend resource revenue like drunken sailors. It's not like these crashes in the price of oil happen outside the span of a human life so you can reasonably expect that it won't happen again. No, they happen much more frequently. I myself have seen several.

The Alberta economy is cyclical, and the Alberta PC government doesn't get it. They are surprised every time when the price drops. And we keep voting them in. There are days I think Albertans are stupid, or they're putting drugs in the water.

One of the signs at the rally said "Build the cancer center. Delay the election." All I can say to that is right on. I'd like to see all the Wildrose sheep that crossed the floor after being bribed with a mess of pottage (Smith's cabinet seat is coming), get voted out. I hope that the PC's get voted out for accepting them, and for a great many other demonstrations of incompetence. We are seeing all sorts of deck clearing in preparation for an election to be called any week now, in direct contravention of a law passed by this very party, by many of the people still working there now. The election mandated by law is supposed to be a year from now.

Vote against if there is an election. Whoever is in office, vote against them. All of them. If nobody votes PC, it doesn't matter that the other parties might split the vote. It would be better if the Liberals did the right thing and folded their tent. They attract a few votes, but they will never ever get elected here. Let's see the other parties fight it out, the  NDP, Alberta Party, and even the Wildrose if it can resurrect itself from the deathblow it got. It can't be worse than what we have now.

In other news, that thunk I got out of my hip on Sunday has done wonders for my hip and back. I'm walking normally again. Yoga on Wednesday was not just pain free, but quite lovely. I could almost touch my toes again. I haven't run again, no sense pushing my luck. Maybe this weekend again.

And the swim. Oh yes the swim! Maybe the swim club had the water all warmed up and primed. Maybe it's the short hair. But I started moderately strong, and tried to stay strong. For most of the swim I had nailed the pace where my lungs were working, breathing deeply and evenly. My stroke felt great. Flip turns were good. Amazing how that happens when your core muscles aren't cranky. Towards the end I was working it a bit harder, and beginning to feel it a bit, but I could have carried on. The reward was 2K in 37:30. That's 30 seconds faster than just last week.

At first I didn't quite believe the numbers, but I did the math several different ways and it all worked out. This swimming consistently thing really works. I highly recommend it.

Still working on the human brain throughput blog. My own throughput has been a bit limited lately. The paw of Curtis continues to improve.

Monday, January 26, 2015

I walked out and there it was

This sunset, with 3 shots done within seconds of each other, south, north, and west. Wow!

And remember yesterday when I said I couldn't get a shot of Curtis's paw? Shortly after publish I got a bunch, here's a couple, showing the affected area, but not in too much detail. Such consideration for the faint of heart.

Today it looks better yet!

And speaking of better, there's today's swim. 20x100m in 1:48 on 2 min start. Super pleased!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The murk and the sunshine

The wine kit I started yesterday is doing fine. The yeast is starting to work. Probably Monday when we get home from work the house will smell a bit of winey yeast. This is a good smell.

Curtis's paw continues to improve. He wouldn't hold still to take a picture of it, sorry guys.

There's an event at Talisman today so we tried Acadia. It's been a long time since I swam in a City pool. Well, technically Talisman is a City pool, but you know what I mean. It was warm and murky. As in, really warm, and really murky. People disappeared into the murk about a third of the way down the pool.

I talked to a guy setting up to swim in the fast lane. He seemed dubious about me joining him, but we started circle swimming. His breast stroke was surprisingly fast. I lapped him twice in the half hour I was swimming. I don't think he really quite believed I could swim faster. Another fairly fast lady was sharing the lane as well, and she was really good about getting out of the way. I talked to the guy after, and he said he'd been working pretty hard trying to keep up, and thanked me for the good workout.

Michelle is a modest humble girl that would never blow her own horn about how much her stroke has improved, but HOLY DOODLE people, has her stroke ever improved. She can say what she likes about coaching tips, but she's the one doing it. The improvement is enormous! If she keeps improving at this rate, she will soon be swimming faster than me.

After the half hour swim we worked together a bit. It's really hard with the water this murky. Then some drill and technique work for me. The pool thinned out and we chatted a bit with some of the people in Michelle's lane. The last thing was a fun surprise for her, and like showing her fist drill and being astonished how well she did, she did this astonishingly well. Better than I did when I started. Look for the story on her blog.

The last few days have been warm here, and today is essentially a summer day. 15 C (60 F)! I had to try running. Had to! Shorts and a tech shirt.

Just as well the photo doesn't show my pasty white legs.

I didn't really care much about pace, and looking at the app after it turned out to be a bit quicker than I expected. My breathing was a bit harder than I expected, but my legs were happy with the pace. I was trying to take short fairly quick steps to be easy on my quads. My right one talked to me a bit, and I took a short walk break in the middle of the 4K run. Just under 30 minutes.

During a good long stretch session I got a wonderful hip thunk from my right hip. So pleased about that. Let's see what my hips and legs think tomorrow. And just like that, another weekend is gone.

I've been working on some thoughts about human brain power, and that will be coming soon to a blog near you. Keep an eye out for it.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Do you know what today is?

It's the opening day of wine season! Enough of our order came in to make it worth driving up to Red Deer, and with perfect weather I can't say no.

This is just the start. There are 7 more kits arriving over the next couple of months. Today I started the Brunello. Can't run out of that.

Next will be the Reisling, then the two Meglioli kits, a Moscato and a Nebbiolo. I even bought a fourth carboy so I can have 3 kits on the go at once. At 6 to 8 weeks per kit, with only 2 on the go, I'd still be making wine at Christmas. With 3 on the go it's down to 6 months. If I get another carboy, it's down to under 5 months. Hmmm.

I have not solved the wine storage problem yet. There are a few possibilities. I'm pretty sure that 3 inch ABS pipe will fit a wine bottle, but it's a pretty snug fit, and I'd want to take a bottle to the plumbing store just to be sure before I bought any. From there it can be sliced into 8 or 9 inch lengths and stacked up as high as I like. The question is just where in the basement.

There was a 72 bottle storage rack at Canadian Tire that looked possible, but I'd like to see it assembled. I haven't counted recently, but I think I'm going to need storage for about 200 more bottles. There will have to be an inventory soon so I know exactly how much storage to get. I'll probably have to buy more bottle glass too, must remember to inventory that.

I have been amazed and appalled at some of the storage that I've seen. I run it all down to the price per bottle stored. The IKEA racks we got for the IVAR were $8, and I suppose you have to count the IVAR itself, but we already had it. I've seen racks that were at least dozens of $ per bottle.  They'd be the nicest thing in our house, and while my wine is good, it isn't THAT good. Besides, the rack is going in the basement.

So I'm open for ideas here. Any winemakers reading this? What do you use for mass storage? No offense, I'm not interested in a cutesy-poo countertop rack for a dozen bottles.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Attack of the resolutionistas

Today was a bit of a gong show in the pool this morning. I got there earlier than usual and found lots of people swimming. My buddy Katie was circle swimming with a couple of other people in one lane, and the next lane had only one person it. I found out later this person is really reluctant to circle swim. It takes the lifeguards asking her.

So she and I split the lane for a while, then two new people jumped in the water as I was ending a lap. I stopped and asked them if they were ok with circle swimming, and did they mind waiting a few seconds for the other girl to come back so she could join the pattern.

"What other girl," one of them asked. She hadn't even looked. When I explained they said they'd swim in the next lane. Poor Katie, swimming with four other people, all much slower than her, all swimming erratically. Pushing off in front of her. No consideration.

Eventually my lane mate left and Katie joined me. Even though my swimming has been coming along, I still can't draft Katie for long. She is a torpedo in the water.

We did a major run to Costco the other day. It used to be that I really ought to take tranquilizers before such a trip, but I'm getting better. I strolled along, picking out stuff, and pushing an increasingly heavy cart. The guy in the way as I was about to escape didn't get run over. I figure I earned some karma points there. Humping all the stuff into the basement totally counts as a workout, since it included several heavy containers of kitty litter.

Thank you all for concern and well wishes for the mighty paw of Curtis. It looks like it's getting better, and he's not limping as much.

You may have notice some small changes to the blog. There are 5 linked within choices for further reading, and a feedback thingie you are all invited to click. I hope to have a few other changes done. I have been told I should update the video channel.

There has been some mild curiosity about my new hairstyle. Here's a shot of that, with a reflection bonus in the work elevators.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The paw and the liquid

Unfortunately, those are not different topics. Poor Curtis.

He has been limping a little bit lately. This isn't an unknown thing. We think his paw is a bit tender sometimes. I look at it  every couple of days when he does this. I can do anything I like to his back paws, but he is very protective of his front paws, tucking them away if anyone tries to touch them.

At first the paw looked fine, maybe a bit swollen, but with all the fur it's hard to tell. Then I noticed some dried guck between the big pad, and the base of the toes, and the pad was darker. I took him into the vet this afternoon. For a while they were soaking his paw to try to soften the guck so they could see what's under it. They suspect he has a bit of an infection going on. I was given some pills to help with that, and a liquid that acts like a bit of a pain killer to make him more comfortable.

He's such a good kitty. He didn't mind the lab techs holding his paw in the liquid. He was purring. He thinks the pills are little mini-crunchies and licked them off my hand. Unfortunately, the liquid is a bit of a trial for both of us.

The day started really well, once I found an open lane in the pool. I thought I had started creaky and slow, but it wasn't. Once 500 m rolled up I realized I was having a really fast swim, without really working it trying to be fast. I stayed strong for the last part of it, and I was really, really pleased to finish 1K in 18:10. I went back through my blog looking to see if I've swum a K this fast since I started blogging, and can't find one.

So I think all the focus on technique, and swimming the CSS pace has helped. In other news, I got a haircut on Sunday afternoon. Really short. No, shorter than that. Lots less drag. Coincidence?

Sunday, January 18, 2015


The last time I swam on Friday afternoon at Talisman it was calm. Peaceful. I had the whole training pool to myself and I had an amazing swim. At the time I thought it was because I'd been awake all day and had a good lunch.

So when Friday morning came and I was stiff and creaky I decided to go straight to the office and swim in the afternoon. That wasn't a mistake, I don't think, but it wasn't as I remembered it. The place was full.

I found a lane and asked the 2 people that were just chatting at the end if we could swim circles. The woman was ok with it, but the guy was a jerk, and didn't want to. I think the two knew each other, and he said, HE SAID, her swim was almost done and if I could wait a few minutes we could split the lane. All right, I guess.

He was all over his side of the lane so I had to keep an eye on him. My swim wasn't so hot. I was trying to maintain my CSS pace workout, and not having much fun. I could tell my heart rate was too high for what I was doing, and my breathing sucked. I did what I could and called it a day.

Sunday I was in the pool again, and as sometimes happens, Michelle joined me. But first I had to get out of the house. Curtis was guarding my swim bag. He tells us he wants to go hunt for a mouse because we aren't feeding him properly. Anyone who has tried to pick him up knows that's not true.

She keeps apologizing for taking me from my swim, but I'm finding that coaching her is helping my own technique. Firstly, you need to know she is doing extremely well! For a while we were working on her stroke, trying for a more vertical entry and working on catch. Right now she is windmilling a bit. A lot. But now the windmill is going around all the time and not stopping to breathe.

We played a little bit with the position of the elbow bone. Most people, if they put their arm out in front of them, the boney part of the joint is pointing mostly down. This makes it totally impossible to take an efficient swim stroke.

Try it for yourself, even if you aren't a swimmer. Put your arm out in front of you as if you were passing a plate of food to someone, palm up. Now turn your hand over. With your other hand, feel to find out where the boney part is pointing. Probably downish.

Now rotate that hand all the way so the thumb is at least straight down, more if it will go. Feel where the boney part of the elbow joint is. It will probably  be pointing out to the side. Perfect. Now leave it there, and rotate your hand back to palm down.

Now you can bend your elbow to get a proper catch, and get your arm vertical in the water out in front of your shoulder. If you're in the pool, catch the water, and slide your body past the molecules that are anchoring your hand. Again and again, till you don't have to think about it anymore. Except you will. Nobody does it as well as they like, and the ones that think they do have coaches that are telling them they aren't.

We worked on that, and her visualization was to pretend there were people crowding her in the lane, right beside her, and she needed to have her elbows out to guard her territory. This seemed to work.

It works for me too. I'm swimming faster. Today I tested myself, 50 is 38 seconds, which is about as fast as I can swim, and 100 m is 88 seconds. Those were done separately. This is just about as fast as I have ever done it. The only documented time faster is when I was chasing Lorraine Churchill in a swim camp. That was 83 seconds.

We did a fun thing near the end. She hung on to one of my feet as I pulled her down the pool while she mostly did a one arm stroke drill. The idea was to begin to get the feeling of water moving past her faster and start to work on the idea of drafting. She liked that, and I told her it was her turn very soon, to pull me. Haha she laughed, as if.

So I made her do it. I floated on my back, lightly kicking just enough to keep my feet from sinking. She pulled me all the way down the pool, much to her amazement. This helps build a stronger catch and pull stroke.

So that was fun and a great way to start the day. I puttered around the house the rest of the weekend, bleaching stained wine bottles, more tidying, and trying to plan where some more wine racks will go. We've got 11 kits coming, and I'll need to find the space for about 200 bottles more. Decisions, decisions.

I felts so sorry for Linda once I got home on Friday. She had wanted to use my old iPhone 4 to take some pictures of a pretty sunrise. The resulting 25 second video is hysterical. I've watched it again and again. Somehow she turned it to the front facing camera, and then turned the video on. We see her eye, and bits of the sky, some of a nice sunrise, and her muttering "how" a lot. This is a still from the beginning of the video. It would be worth my life to post the video itself. She is convinced that technology is out to get her, and I can hardly blame her, given her various adventures.

Later that evening our financial advisor took out out to dinner at The Nash. This is a new restaurant in the old National hotel in Inglewood. This was a very, very seedy bar once upon a time, and before that it was a classy place. It's sure classy now. The food is great! I think we were the oldest people in the place when we wandered out after a wonderful dinner. Not cheap, but very good.

Just to finish off, here are some photos from the weekend. The first is the Saturday sunrise. It was a beautiful reddy orange that doesn't really show up in the photo.

This is the tail end of the clouds as a chinook blows in. There were all sorts of little layers and ledges that I hope show up.

And lastly, Linda showing that she can conquer the camera phone and make it do her bidding. This was just before I got the shot above.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Oil. Real Estate. Jobs. Are you panicking?

Let's get the easy stuff out of the way first.

Swam Monday. 1K 18:30, moderate, followed by some drill.

Swam Wednesday, 2 K, 38 minutes exactly, nice and easy. Followed by some hot tub.

All along with some stretching and a painful yoga class where I bailed on all the moves, and did my own. Very cranky hip and low back.

There used to be a bumper sticker; do you remember this one? "Please God, let there be another oil boom, I promise not to piss it away this time." Yup, pissed away again, officially, by the incompetent government in Edmonton. They've done this several times at least, depending on exactly how you do the calculations.

You'd think we'd learn and vote out these idiots. But no, in the by elections where we could safely vote our unhappiness without really changing anything, we voted them in again. Sigh. No wonder they think they can spend like drunken sailors on, golden parachutes for buddies, airplane flights, and penthouse apartments, and committee pay for doing nothing, and a very very long list of other abuses.

I work for an oil and gas company. At least I do this week. Next week might be different, in that I could join my boss's boss, who got fired today. It's hardly an exclusive club. And the stock is still languishing, now under $2 a share. Sooner or later, one of 3 things will happen. They will file for bankruptcy protection to restructure or just go under. Someone will swoop in and buy up the whole thing. Oil prices will recover in time for the plan to work and rescue the stock price from the doldrums. My job is not certain in any of those scenarios.

Maybe I should make book on the outcome. At one company I was very well plugged in, and was running the informal pool on who the next person to leave would be, until I was the one leaving. I don't think I'll tempt fate. I will say that I will be surprised if I get to Christmas this year without them telling me to go away. Right now they are happy with me and my work, but sometimes that doesn't matter anymore.

There are many people in the same boat. Target and Sony announced they were pulling out of Canada, at the cost of nearly 20,000 jobs, and with an undisclosed ripple effect through the economy.  Suncor, one of the biggest players in my business, just shed 1000 jobs. Stay tuned.

There was a recent survey that said almost half of Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque. Some of those people in the previous paragraph are going to be in trouble, and that could well include some of the Suncor ex-employees. Some of them probably made a very good salary, but are likely to have correspondingly higher expenses.

House prices in Calgary are crazy stupid right now. They will correct soon. If you are thinking about buying a house here, or really anywhere in Canada, don't. Rent. They will be getting cheaper soon. Now is not the time for a sale just because you're tired of living in this one. If you're selling your house now, you'd better NEED to be selling it. Good luck with that, I'm sorry to have to say.

When we built our house in 1984 there were a ton of foreclosures on the market. Why? The NEP was one factor, and the price of oil dropped. Many people who were mortgaged to the hilt lost everything when one of the people involved lost their job. EI doesn't cut the mustard with a big mortgage, and the banks owned a lot of homes for a while because they weren't willing to restructure.

So far we don't hear about foreclosures, but it's early days yet. The price is stagnating, and will soon be dropping as people are forced to put their homes on the market. There is an unknown, but large number of people only a little older than me with retirement plans that relied on selling the big old family home for big dollars, then retiring somewhere cheaper. Well, there's going to be lots of cheaper places, but I think the rest of the plan is in serious danger of coming unglued.

On this topic, one of the things that pisses me off is the idea that if housing prices drop to the point your house is worth less than what you owe, your financial world is over. Nonsense! Nothing could be further from the truth. As long as you can make the mortgage and utility payments, and don't have to sell, you are fine. Hang tough. Cut discretionary spending, and kill the debt as fast as possible, and you'll likely be ok.

It might take a long time for house prices to recover, but that's ok. A house isn't an investment like stocks or bonds. You bought the house because you needed a place to live, right? Um, guys, right?

One of my life theories revolves around what needs to happen. Let's take a trip across town, for example, to meet up with someone very compulsive about being on time. A potential employer, maybe, or that super hot date that is giving you this one last chance. Being late is catastrophic. So what do you do?

You allow lots of time, maybe twice as much time as you think it will take, planning for everything to go wrong. In this scenario, you'll get all the green lights. You won't run into traffic problems. You will be in the right place at the right time for super-star parking. The elevator will be right there for you. You are left with the chance to do a last minute review or polish your pitch.

But consider what happens if you allow the normal time, or even if you're running a bit late, and you need the breaks. You'll hit every light red, the idiots will be clogging the roads in front of you, parking will be impossible, and half the elevators will be out of service that day. You will be a frothing raging maniac, and may well have lost the opportunity.

You needed everything to go right and you had no reserve. That's when things go wrong, when you need them to go right. Too many people buy houses like that, extending themselves to or beyond the limit. They hope that raise will come next year, and that interest rates won't go up, and the car will last a few more years, and nobody gets sick, and the idiots the Alberta Legislature or the Canadian Parliament don't do anything stupider than usual, and well, you get the idea.

The thing about living in Alberta is that the economic cycles are obvious. Things will come around one way or the other, up and down. It's just the news media with the price of oil doom and gloom, and the price will never go up again and we're all going to die. Bah!

I didn't work through the last one, being left standing when the music stopped. We got through it without any big changes to our lives because we had reserves. The odds are reasonable I'll work through at least part of this one. I hope.

Most people know intellectually that things will come around, and the time has come to hang tough. The problem is that most people don't know how to do that. Here's a simple plan. Stop spending money unless it's on this short list of things.

  • Shelter, meaning mortgage, rent, utilities, insurance. Do what you can to cut utility bills. Talk to your bank to restructure the mortgage before the bank comes to talk to you. Too late then.
  • Food, and I don't mean eating out. No more restaurant meals. Take leftovers for lunch. 
  • Transportation. Don't drive your car unless you have to, even though gas is cheap. See if you can sell any of your vehicles, or even all of them. An average car is 8 to 10K a year, so think about a bus pass and the occasional taxi ride. 
  • Clearing debt, especially credit card debt. 
You don't spend unless you have to. No Starbucks. No lunches out. No movies, books, or TV package. Get internet at the library. No new toys, and you sell what you have hiding in your basement that you don't use. No new electronics. No shopping to buy cheap trinkets. No retail therapy.

You hang tough until things get better. Stop worrying about what the neighbours think; they don't care about what car you drive. Really. This is about you building your reserves so that when you buy something, you don't have to worry about someone taking it away because you can't make the payments.

Alberta is in the unfortunate position of relying on selling a commodity where they do not control the price. They relied on the price staying high, and thats how we fund schools and hospitals. They even raided the Heritage Fund even though times were good. Beyond stupid. I forget the exact wording on the protest sign I saw, but something like "Cancer doesn't care about the price of oil."

Now they're reviewing all the capital projects, including the SW ring road, budgeted at $5Billion. It's only taken 60 years to get approval from the Tsuu T'ina Nation, and if we don't build it in 7 years the land reverts back to them. I doubt we will do another deal any quicker than this one.

So guys. There are provincial and federal elections coming up. Both the Alberta and Canadian governments are long in the tooth and deserve to be turfed out. The Alberta government is simply incompetent, mismanaging one of the richest flows of money in the world. And the Canadian government is being run by a guy trying to destroy Canada. Come on guys, let's get this together and figure out who else to vote for.

To save it from all being doom and gloom, here's a petty flower to make you feel better. The Amarillus in our den has decided to bloom.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Recent fitness adventures

I wasn't in the pool much last week. One of the pools was closed so it was a bit of a gong show. For a few days in there I felt like I was on the verge of getting a sniffle so I dialed back and tried to stay warm.

Friday it worked out I was in the pool again. The swim club wasn't quite done yet so I did some water running in the dive tank to warm up. Then in the lap pool I decided to try to push my CSS times a bit. I've been working on 1:50 for 100 m on 2 minutes. I can do this for a long time in a short course pool.

Today I decided to try to swim 1:45 on 2 minutes and see how that goes. The first one, trying to swim easy was 1:38. Oops. The next several were 1:42 or so. I decided to keep going till I couldn't make 1:45. It turned out my seventh the clock turned to 1:46 as I touched the wall. Good enough for me. I was really beginning to feel it.

I'm pretty sure that trying to do 1:45's on 10 seconds rest, like you're supposed to for CSS is going to go anaerobic pretty soon, and that's not the point at all.

Trying to do 1:47 with 10 seconds rest is very quickly going to get into careful clock watching, and trying to keep track. It's easy to get confused during this sort of thing. At least it is for me.

My legs have been feeling better, enough so that I decided to try an easy run today. I did lots of joint mobility stuff to warm up, and walked further than I normally do. It's -10 C with a bit of a windchill and I was maybe just a little bit underdressed. First K felt choppy and slow. Second K was a bit better but I was beginning to feel my legs a bit. I had to push just a bit to get to 3 K, 23:30, and happy to stop. Again, a longer walk than usual and lots of stretching after. My legs are feeling pretty good.

Sunday was shoveling the hard packed mess at the bottom of both my driveway and my neighbor's driveway. His is a double. Maybe I should have waited to run today; it's so beautiful out.

I have been mulling over doing a marathon this year and have decided that trying to train up for it just isn't a smart thing to do. After two months of not running I cannot say I have a running base to work from. A slow 3K doesn't count.

I've been on the bike a few times, but no serious workouts. I've been feeling ambiguous about the bike. It seems to be just as hard on me as running, and that's before I get outside where I can control the effort and output. Much as I loved riding on the roads, I'm not sure how much of that is going to happen anymore. Wait and see in spring, I guess.

I have been accumulating old running shoes. As the great tidy and organize effort goes on, I keep finding old running shoes. One pair is the ones I did IMC in. They're pretty beat up. I'll gather them all up and take them in next time I buy shoes. Some of them have been worn very little. The Altras were an experiment that didn't work out. Another pair made me run on my heels so I set them aside. So if someone with feet the same size as mine ~12 wants some really cheap shoes, as in, take them away, we can work out a time to meet up.

Lunch time. Chicken and duck, with a specialty stuffing, and spuds as a one pot dish. Corn, and wine of course. Gotta go...

Friday, January 9, 2015

Je Suis Charlie

Silence means the religious fanatics that want to bring back the middle ages have won. That is not an acceptable result.

During the middle ages the Catholic church exercised a strong control over what got said and written. Errant behavior could be rewarded by torture or excommunication. The Pope excommunicated several kings of European countries to exercise control over them. The King didn't suffer, of course, only their subjects, trapped in a mindset where the ongoing approval of religious authorities was all important.

Mostly we've grown up, and are beyond that. Anyone that cares to look at it will quickly realize the Catholic church has been wrong about everything that can be verified. As Galileo said "And yet it moves."

There are two dangerous forms of religious extremism in the world today. One is Muslim fanatics willing to die to avenge so called insults to Islam and other related issues, and American Christian extremists.

Let's deal with the latter first. They hold some crazy ideas, and have a strong hold in the government of the USA. Generally they are trying to roll back the clock to when women were barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. Without a vote. Dependent on their husbands for permission. Unable to take action to take care of their own reproductive health. They'd like to do away with Darwin and all his works, regardless of the damage to science. Mainly that's because they don't believe in the results of some science. Climate change is a big one. Certain biological truths around conception is another. There are more. I could bring up racist attitudes towards minorities, but that's a whole blog itself.

This end of the spectrum is a bit murky. There are guns and bombs and violence involved. The difference is that these people aren't shouting that Washington, or Rand, or Jesus, or other figure of idolation are being avenged. Mostly it's generic rage at "government" doing something that gores their ox, or so they think.

The Paris gunmen thought they were avenging the prophet Mohammed, a man dead for nearly 1400 years. My take on it is these religious figures can take care of themselves. If they're offended they can come deal with it themselves, in ways that are crystal clear to all involved. That hasn't happened, and I am confident it won't.

Those that think they are hearing voices telling them to do things like this? We know they are not divinely inspired. They are having mental health issues. They need treatment. The ones listening to figures of "authority"? They are pawns in a movement they don't understand, being used by leaders who are acting only for their own gain.

A religion that advocates stoning and beheadings as punishments for crime is not a religion of peace. Parts of it might be, but to the extent it's message can be twisted by extremists, that religion has to wear it, whichever it is. We see much lip service and hand wringing from some Muslim leaders, but what actions are being taken to curb the violence? Which Muslim states are taking action against other states that promote (actively or passively) such violence?

Let's tease out one thread in a complex cloth. There is a great deal of anti-American rage in the Muslim world and more particularly, the Arabic world, and for good reason. The British and American's have been meddling there for a long time. If people take on religion as a tool to help fight against what they see as oppression, I can hardly blame them. Attacks on military targets are legitimate, flying aircraft into office buildings is not.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. We need to discuss issues openly and honestly. Things fester in the dark. In Canada, we need to talk about Native issues first, and then any number of other issues. The USA needs to get it's head straight around conception rights, and deal with the gun nuts, and many other things. Even bringing them up excites comment and heated discussion. At least here in Canada we don't generally worry about being shot or bombed in the discussion. In the USA being shot is a real fear.

But in much of the Muslim world even trying to talk about the role of religion in life, even in generalities is likely to lead to a riot. In some places there are teams of people ready to beat you with a staff if they think you are breaking their medieval rules. They want the world the way they want it, and are willing to be brutally violent about it. Talking has traditionally not had much result, so it's no surprise that the western world has often resorted to violence.

Except that doesn't work nearly so well. Afghanistan is a primitive country that has thrown two superpowers out, and is in the process of throwing out a third.

Toddlers sometimes threaten to hold their breath till they turn blue, or pitch a fit in the supermarket. Wise parents deal with it calmly. Maybe this is going to piss off some people, but these acts of violence from the Islamic world are very much like a toddler pitching a fit during the discovery that the world doesn't revolve around them.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

These boots are made for hiding

And that's just what they did. (How many of you are humming now? How many are puzzled by the question? Yes, I'm old enough to remember when the original was getting airplay.)

I went years without such boots. In Calgary that almost makes me a pervert. I broke down a few years ago and bought them. I don't wear them that much, as I'm not used to wearing a heel. Last summer I had the hankering to wear them again. And couldn't. And couldn't and couldn't and couldn't.

This was one of the things driving me to tidy and organize the basement. It turns out the boots weren't down there after all. I wasn't even looking for them when I pulled a stack of blankets, quilts, and pillows out of a closet for something else entirely. And there the box was. I did the Snoopy dance.

Sunday and over the vacation I was feeling pretty good. Monday I was feeling just a little creaky getting up early for work. Having to get up, I mean. I was often awake at that time. By the end of the day I was a wreck. My back hurt, my feet hurt, everything hurt.

Being really, really cold had nothing to do with it, and neither did the new shoes from MEC. I don't know what caused it. That was Monday and Tuesday. Bleah. Snow shoveling in minus WTF cold wasn't much fun. An extra hour driving home didn't add to the joy either.

Swimming this morning was abruptly arrested. One of the pools was still closed, and the other was full of swim club. The dive tank was full too. I joined the party in the hot tub, then showered and headed into work. Nice massage this afternoon pummeling away the last of the creakiness earlier this week. Yoga tonight.

The interest exercise was a mental one, on Tuesday I think. I looked for every instance of " very " in my current writing project. The intent was not to replace it with null, but to evaluate the text around it, and try to say it better. Many times, of course, just taking it out makes it better. But there was probably a dozen places where I rewrote the paragraph to make it all better. What got me thinking is that the writing could go 10's of thousands of words without a single instance of it, and then there would be a whole bunch all in a row. And that's after lots of editing. Clearly more is needed.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Best Curtis photo ever?

It's been a peaceful few days here, aside from Celina trying to climb the Christmas tree when we aren't looking. So far she has got half way up. The ornaments can't break, and we don't think the tree will go over. The concern is she will drag off some of the cloth ornaments and carry out acts of disgusting cat perversion that will taint our souls just from being nearby. The plan is to take the tree down tonight.

That is, as soon as I finish my post meal wine (and hit the publish button). My buddy Janet and her husband Ron gifted us with this coffee port, and tonight is the last of it. We've been sipping over the vacation. Lovely!

The last little while has been a voyage of discovery in several ways. For instance. This is the first time since I built the flower boxes out front many years ago that I could take a picture of all three tape measures at once. Usually I was happy to find any one of them when I needed one, and two was a bonus. Usually then I didn't know where the third was. I even found a fourth one I had forgotten I had.

When we did the renos I insisted on getting a big stainless steel sink.  I was tired of washing carboys and wine stuff in a bathtub. Did you know if a carboy slips out of your hands into a bathtub, it's the bathtub that breaks, not the carboy? It's handy for other things too. Like scrubbing my interlocking mats. They were filthy. I've scrubbed all kinds of things down there, including me after various adventures. Then a good scrub with comet and it's ready for wine stuff again.

I'd put them in the sink to drip off most of the water, but then I took the heat gun to them to dry off. They are much, much cleaner now. Many dust bunnies died in the process of this cleaning.

This is part of the library. It's been a bit of a dumping ground for a while.

At least you can see part of the floor now and one of the couches, but the recycle bin is full so we had to stop. More next week. I need to work on another section of the basement first to clean up a bit, to make the room for some of whats in the library. Some days this sort of stuff is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. And no, I still haven't found the cowboy boots.

Working on the library was after a long swim with Michelle this morning. Long in the sense of being in the pool a long time. Lots of drill. It's doing me a ton of good to have to think about what I'm seeing, understanding what drill would help fix that, and then explaining and demoing the drill. I had some trepidation about showing her fist, since I remember thrashing and flailing down the pool the first time I tried it. But she took to it like a natural! She has made so much improvement.

I finished up several books, nothing really worth talking about, though I excavated The Organized Mind from the pile. That's next to finish. Then a Robert J Sawyer science fiction binge, I think.

Best photo ever of Curtis! Completely unretouched.

Friday, January 2, 2015

So this is 2015

So where's my flying car? I know the answer to that one. There are power supply problems, and they never did solve the problem of the nut behind the wheel. (hyuk hyuk hyuk)

So far, it's looking much like 2014, but I suppose that shouldn't be a surprise. Many people have big plans for the year. Some of my buddies are making plans for races. Some have given up on race plans. So far, I have just one race on the schedule. Team K&M is signed up for Calgary 70.3 and I'm doing the wet part! Give them a big hand, folks! His first relay, and her first half iron bike and run. July 26, put it on your calendar. See you there.

I have been mulling over having another go at a marathon. Last year I dialed it back to a half marathon and struggled. While my leg and hip are feeling better, I don't think I want to start marathon training any time soon. Let's have a go at that gradual build thing I've struggled with so much.

Speaking of fitness, there were a couple swims I haven't told you about yet.
December 31 was a little quickie, only a K, 18:45 nice and easy, just to keep the water feel. The hard part was dodging floaties.
January 1 Katie invited me along to help her swim LONG! Her, not me. She is such a champ. She was a little over 2 hours, aiming for 10K I think. My goals were much more modest. 1 hour, a variety of stuff, which I did. One of them was experimenting with the CSS timing. I don't think I'll make any changes for now.

The last things I did in the year was breakfast at Galaxie Diner (one of the best breakfast places in town! except for MC, since I don't think they've even heard the words gluten-free.) since I had a few minutes before MEC opened. Everyday walking around shoes. In and out. WBTYM! Then Mark's, on a secret mission. Done, yay me!

We went to an awesome New Year's Eve party. A bunch of grownups catering to the whims of a bossy and very well behaved 5 year old. She did good for being surrounded by a bunch of adults that just wanted to sit and chat while nibbling good food, though we did watch Frozen, complete with a sing along and spoilers.

Then I was up early for the aforementioned swim. I spent most of the afternoon in bed, napping. It was wonderful. This is one of the great attractions of retirement, you can nap whenever you want.

It's been snowing hard here starting about noon today, and I've been working hard on relaxing. Yes. My hip and leg are feeling much better, so I'm hoping the long break from running has finally taken hold. I was down doing a good stretch session, and that seemed to help. I don't think I'm going to rush out and try to run right away. Let's see if the feeling good sticks around. Too many of my buddies have re-injured themselves by starting workouts too soon. I'm willing to give things as long as they need.

I have made essentially no progress on the novel. Any of the three of them. Thinking. Really.

A bit more basement tidying got done, but the terrifying task was the junk drawer. Every house has one, at least. Come on, man up and admit it. Your house has one too. I had not known we had 8 decks of playing cards in there. But the important thing that was found was a small bag with the little pin and tool needed to set the hinges on several of our doors.

We found out today that the beautiful door handles we bought had been poorly installed. The doors themselves were done fine, but the locks weren't. Our one latch had stopped working. The locksmith that came took one look and winced. He popped things off and took a look. There's nothing broken, and nothing wrong that a bit of fiddling and tuning won't fix. It's just that it could take several hours, and he was booked for 1.

We asked him to look over the other doors and found a few other problems. One is that the door between your garage and house is supposed to shut by itself. We have the hinge that does that, but they never set it up that way upon installation. Code violation! So he's going to do that as well, and what he needs was in that little bag, which was in the junk drawer.

Along the way to get there I excavated the closet shelf. There are a bazillion each scarves, hats, and pairs of gloves or mittens. By actual count. Celina was trying to rescue anything with fur, which complicated life. When I didn't find the little bag, I got everything else mostly sorted out. Really, I need to put another shelf there.

Along the way I dealt with the huge pile of books that needed ISBN codes scanned. We have enough books that the insurance company won't pay out unless we provide a list, or evidence that we have a great many books. Which we do. I used to enter them into a list, but that format went obsolete. Then I got a bar code scanner, and that works really well for modern books, but some of the older ones don't seem to be in the database, and some of our books were published before ISBN was created. Here's some of the books, ready for transportation to the basement library. Which makes me wonder. I could get the scanning program on the laptop, and plug in the scanner. I wonder how long it would take to scan all the books, and have one complete list?

Plus a pretty sunset, just because.

I had to look at my phone to realize it was Friday today. Monday I go back to work. This little mini-break has gone by very quickly, and it's been wonderful. Hope that you had some time with your family and a chance to relax a bit.