Saturday, May 30, 2015

The naked and the furred

Not us, and not the cats. Now you're stumped, I can see it in your face. Hang in there and all will become clear.

That was quite the week. Again. Car troubles don't help, though we got a loaner Honda CRV. That was interesting because just that morning I'd been reading a review of it. This was was at least last year's model, maybe even 2013, but never mind. I was more impressed with it than I thought I'd be. The only obvious thing I didn't like is where the emergency brake is. I'm happy we have our own car back, and hope it lasts many years yet.

Let's see. Swam Wednesday, 2K, slowly. My inner shark turned out to be a basking shark eager to work on his tan. The first 750 m were slow slow and clunky. Or maybe clunky, wonky, and slow. Whatever. Then the next K was good, and it fell apart big time the last 250 K. Suddenly it was taking 3 whole more strokes to get 25 m. I'd totally lost the water feel.

The week I've been dragging my ass, feeling tired and run down. I'm going to bed in good time, just not sleeping well. Bailed on Friday's swim. No running this week, dealing with the car and other issues, till Saturday. Michelle and I had a nice easy chatchatchat run in Fish Creek. Just 4.5 K, slow and easy to help her settle out for the race tomorrow, and me to get my legs moving again. We need to get serious about our plans for the Calgary 70.3. At least once we want to ride the bike course.

The garden is coming along very nicely. These are some baskets for hanging soon.

The back garden is full of plants coming up.

These are mostly lilies in the big pots, and the rest are things Linda is growing from seed. Something or other. Plants. You know.

This is cat supervision, that's what it is.

Today I was cleaning out the lodge, shaking out the reindeer skins, and wiping things down in prep for guests. It was remarkably clean considering it isn't sealed up over winter. Here's the naked lodge.

Here it is with the reindeer fur wrapped around the cushions.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The coffee rub

No, this is not some magical rub on a coffee cup to fill it again. Sorry.

During #coffeechat on Sunday there was discussion of using coffee as a rub for meat about to be grilled. Although several of mixes we found were for steak, we had chicken defrosted. See the photo in yesterday's blog.

Linda added pumpkin seed oil and soy sauce to the coarse ground coffee and Demerara brown sugar that was already there, and mixed it into a thickish sauce. It smelled great! Just on the grill, and just before taking them off.

These are not as overcooked as they looked. The sugar and soy leads to dark grill marks. They were just perfect, moist and juicy, and the Yum buns were awesome as always.

But I hear the coffee crowd, "what about the taste!? There was a balanced coffee taste. It didn't overwhelm the chicken, and some of the soy tanginess came through. I think if I didn't tell you what the sauce was, you've have to think about it a bit. Well, maybe not the hard core coffee crowd. Linda wants to experiment more with coffee in BBQ marinades.

In other news I got into the pool today, sharing a lane with a woman swimming about the same speed. Katie zoomed by in the next lane. It took a long time to get the water feel. I was feeling clunky and just slightly behind on my breathing. Rather than try to push it, I did a bunch of 100's, trying for smooth and fairly strong. They got better as I went along, then the last one was about to fall apart so I called it and cooled down.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Flinging herbs in every direction

No, my middle name is not Herb.

What amazing long weekend! This is summer in Calgary. It has to be enjoyed while it is here. I'm so glad I took Friday off work.

Yesterday, after the bike ride and a productive afternoon writing in the office patio, I ate two bison burgers. Yes, two. Plus a Yum bakery tart dessert. Plus wine of course. This is what is left of that tart today, with strawberries added, just because.

I had thought about going to the pool this morning, but my hams were talking to me, and I slept in past the time of going to the pool. That let me join the twitter #coffeechat, and got a bunch of new followers on the basis of this tweet.

This programming temporarily interrupted by recreational cat vomiting. Do not adjust your browser.

We had a lovely breakfast on the patio, with more coffee. If any of the coffeechat people read my blog, I ordered the Deathwish coffee. I will tell you about it after it arrives. If any of the locals want to try it, let me know. Perhaps a morning coffee party is a do-able thing.

I did some puttering around the patio, building up the division between the patio and the walkway between the houses so water can't run that way. Then raking the little bit of lawn in the back. And raking and thatching and trimming and raking and thatching and cutting and raking. For a tiny little patch of lawn it produces a lot of grass.

Then the first installment of eating. Here I am, ready to BBQ, only without a glass of wine in hand. Nearby, I assure you.

BBQ salmon with fresh dill, green onion, lemon juice, maple syrup, alder smoked salt, and butter for a glaze/sauce. Huge shrimp in a citrus ginger blend with herbs, lime juice, and a dash of orange juice and a bit of butter for the sauce. A salad with a ton of different herbs and fruit, and other veggies, with a cranraison dressing.

I was too busy drooling and eating to take a photo of the seafood.  Even this photo was taken later, as we finished off the salad. It was lovely sitting out on the patio, drinking wine, enjoying the day. But you knew that, didn't you.

During coffeechat there was discussion of using coffee as a rub for meat, and Linda got all excited. There is chicken marinating, probably for tomorrow night. Other stuff got added after I took this photo. I'll be sure to tell you how it turns out.

I am feeling better about the white. After refusing to settle for so long, it's now doing well. I'll probably bottle it next weekend. Compare this to the photo in this blog, a week ago. Racked and stabilized the Super Tuscan.

Linda worked hard on the garden all afternoon. There will be photos of that anon. Patience.

Best photo of Curtis ever! I think the blue fabric really sets off his fur and eyes.

So he doesn't feel left out, here is one of Celina, doing her river otter impression.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Bike fit test on Road to Nepal

Go big or go home.

That's advice for playing Euchre but it works for other things too. I'd had a brief ride around my neighbourhood after my bike fit, and it felt pretty good. The weather is perfect today for a bike ride, and I'd been wondering where to go, how far, how hard, to find out how my bike fit changed things.

Before (A summary of complaints)
After a few hours my feet would feel hot and sensitive. Usually about 4 hours and they'd feel like they were on fire.
Consistent knee and inner thigh muscle niggles and soreness.
Tired calves by the end of a ride.
Low back ache and pain along with numb butt.
Dead spots in spin.
Generally I was a weak and feeble reed going up hills.

After (A happy burble)
The ride today was 2.5 hours down to the end of Road to Nepal and back. Ismoothrun thinks it's 51 K, my bike thinks it's 51.5. If you don't know this ride, it's all hills, all the time. I figured the easy ride felt good, so I might as well try a hard one.

My feet felt great! It's like I have new shoes. All it took was some inserts. The right inserts. No niggles to speak of. My calves were not tired at all. I feel stronger and more stable on the bike. It's easier to spin smoothly and I can put more effort into it going up hills. For the first few hills I was several gears harder and going correspondingly faster. I could feel all of my thigh muscles working, not just one isolated muscle across the top. Even at harder and slower rpm where my stroke typically degenerates to a plunger pump style, I was able to keep my feet going around. Not fast, but around. That's a step forward.

My seat dropped a whole inch, which is huge in the bike fit world. None the less, it was the right thing to do. Perhaps it could be fine tuned up or down a mm or 2, but I'm not going to sweat that just now. I'm pretty sure there are thigh muscles working which typically have not been, and it's no surprised they got tired. Generally coming back is quicker, but I could feel that I was more tired going up the hills, and slower. What was a nice surprise is that they recovered at least a bit on the downhills and easy spin.

Towards the end of the ride I could start to feel my back, but this was different. The tiredness was spread out from mid-back to hips, and evenly from side to side. Again, I think this was muscles getting used to a new way of working together.

I wasn't pushing hard, I just wanted to do the out and back and see how I felt. There were a few other people on the road, and I think one called to me by name, but by the time I tuned in they were gone. The fastest I've ever done this ride is just a hair under 2 hours, but a more typical time is about 2 hrs and 15 or 20 minutes, so I'm not far off. I'm hoping a few more rides will help my muscles get with the new program, and I'll be doing better than ever.

If you've been reading a while, you know I generally don't do advertising here. But I'm impressed and happy enough to say that if you're not as comfortable on the bike as you'd like to be, you may need your fit checked. I can recommend Gary Alexander, and you can find his web page here.

I stretched and ate when I got home, and settled into my current office to write.

A little later I added a big glass of juice. The wine is later, with BBQ bison burgers, salad, and a yummy dessert. My legs and lungs are feeling like they've had a good strong workout, but not overdoing it. This is perfect.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Now, where was I again?

Well, that zoomed by even faster. Up, off to work, try to keep SQL from creating more errors as I try to match a simple appearing spreadsheet to a couple of databases, home, do stuff, fall into bed. Repeat.

Over the cool and rainy long weekend we had our furnace fail. Again. It last failed less than a month ago. Monday Dwayne The (mini-) Rock Johnson showed up. No really, this guy could be his younger brother. Fortunately it failed the same way, then he started it while playing with some wires. A few minutes later he diagnosed a loose connection within one of the connector clips. Which means it might not have been the gas valve at all. We had a cool weekend wearing sweaters.

I was out for a short ride around the neighbourhood to test out the new bike fit. So far so good.

It might have been the cold, but I was a slug throughout the week. Yup. A slug. Well, I did get a pummeling massage, then go to yoga. Oh yes, I ran at lunch on Thursday. The map has me running through buildings and dodging traffic on 3rd St. It does not show me dodging the shower head that fell off while cleaning up after. The run was really good, 5.4 K in 35:39, with the first K being held up waiting for the lights to change a bunch of times.

Gotta love running downtown, in the summer. That's all I'll say about that.

Friday I was up early and at the pool, almost as if I had to go to the office later. But no! I met up with Michelle and Deb to see if I could give her some pointers on her swim. I could. I did. As you all know, I love giving advice. What's better, I can see Deb was following it. By the end of the session she was swimming faster, and I could see the difference in her stroke. The trick is to practice it. Lots. Both of them were even getting flip turns to work!

There used to be a day where stereo equipment could be repaired, at least the good stuff could be. For a while I was a bit of an audiophile, but realized the better equipment was better than my ears. Still, I ended up taking some equipment to get serviced. The best guy in the city for sure, and probably in western Canada was a guy named Volker. He loved working on high end stereo equipment, and he was good. Very good. He mostly retired because he couldn't stand to work on the junk that was becoming so prevalent, even at the high end of things. "It looks nice on the outside, but most of it is crap on the inside, and I don't want to touch it," he'd say.

Unfortunately he passed away suddenly and his funeral was today. He wasn't even 70 yet. I'd planned on taking today off work anyways, and I'm glad I did. They didn't quote this during the Catholic ceremony, but it's my favourite bible quote, "You know not the day or the hour." None of us know when our time will come. I'm thinking more and more strongly that I have to make sure I'm enjoying what I'm doing.  Yes, I still need to earn money, but I can do without the x many dollars I would have earned today. Instead I enjoyed some time with friends in the pool, attended a solemn life ceremony, puttered around the house with Linda, and got some writing done. A good day, and we haven't even cracked the wine and settled in on the patio. Linda is still planting at this moment.

Garden stuff. Don't these peonies look like alien tentacles growing out of the ground? And the little cheerful metal flower is a solar powered light. I'm going to stay up late tonight to test them. Dark at 10:30 or so.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sorry, no clever title today. But cats!

If you're late and missed the party, you can catch up here, where I get all ranty on one particular famous Canadian.

But back to everyday stuff. The Wednesday swim was 2K 38:10, working hard. Today was 2K, 37:20! I'd hoped for 37, and the first K was on track at 18:30, but I lost my focus a bit during the second half. The main difference was a bit more discipline in my kick (for much of the swim), and a stronger flip turn. It's funny to say that I was feeling strong, but relaxed for almost all of it.

My inner shark showed up briefly and cruised along, telling me the news about a conference he's been to. The sharks have statistics showing they're getting a bad rap. Cows kill far more people than sharks, but do people fear them? No! They want to work up a PR campaign to set the story straight. So far the smiling for the camera isn't working so well.

Afterward we watched the divers warming up for the provincial championships. I've jumped off the 10 m tower once, and dived off once. Never again. Being so short sighted, I don't really see the water.  The pool is 5 m deep. That means I'm looking down almost 17 m, or about 55 feet straight down. That's a long way. These kids ran up the stairs, took their turns with no lolly-gagging, up to the end and off! Flipping and turning and twisting to end with a neat splash. Then up and again. Holy cow. I am impressed!

Did I mention it snowed last night, just a little? Enough for us to cover the plants. Once I got home it was nice enough to have to think about what to wear for a run. Shorts yes, but long sleeved top or short? Decisions decisions. In the end I went with long and that was probably right.

I headed out thinking I'd maybe do 4 or 5 K, nice and easy. Then I missed the various iSmoothrun announcements because of traffic, up till 5 K. I was a bit surprised when I heard that one; I thought I was at 4 K or so. Ran to bring it up to 6 K, 39:22 or a 6:34 pace. This is a really good run for me! My feet felt light, and my legs felt strong. I didn't have to think about my pace at all, though I didn't get another chapter in my book written. Other things are distracting me at the moment.

Running has been really good lately. Going about 5 K has been a good distance, and without really pushing hard I've been going at a good pace. For a long time running much faster than a 7 minute K would mean trouble later, as would going much over 10 K. My plan is to sneak up on 10 K this time. I think I'll do some easy and relaxed runs around the 5 to 7 K distance for a while, and see how that feels. My run buddy would keep me honest and on pace. Sigh.

I haven't been on the bike since the fit, but I'm hoping the weather is nice enough tomorrow. It sounds funny, but even the little spin I did during the fit felt good, and it's like some of the muscles in my right thigh have reset themselves. I can feel the run a bit, even after a stretch, but it's not the normal thing. This is more of a balanced feeling of tiredness, than one muscle ready to give up.

Here I am, trying to write, with the cats being terminally cute. Such a distraction.

Even with uncooperative weather Linda is making excellent progress on the garden. Probably just as well it's been raining, or she'd work herself into a puddle of exhaustion. Here's one of her supervisors.

Ahoy! The white wine! The white wine! Off the starboard bow! No, wait, wrong genre. I boiled up some Sparkolloid and added that. I was beginning to thing this wine was never going to clear. But 24 hours after, it looks like this. Still not clear enough to bottle, but I'm at least hopeful again it will get there. I've had a couple other whites that took a long time to settle, but at least with them you could see progress.

Oh and I almost forgot. The pace graph from today's run. I'm too lazy to put it up with the rest of the run stuff. So sue me. I figured out what the drop in cadence is. It happens when I take the phone out of my pocket. I was trying to keep a higher cadence, and it worked pretty well for the first half of the run.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Conservative or what?

So, Preston Manning. Yup. I hoped we'd heard the last of him with his transparent attempt to stack city council with like minded lackeys during the last civic election. He likes to think of himself as a political guru of sorts.. A few days ago one of the newspapers proved yet again the descent of their quality is not over, and published a screed from him. I've put that in italics and will respond, paragraph by paragraph. Preston Manning is the founder of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy.

Three major challenges face Alberta after the election of the province’s new NDP government.
For the premier, it’s the challenge of forming and developing a cabinet capable of leading a $45-billion government and meeting the expectations of the voters who elected it.

Fair enough, though very few of the previous PC governments met the expectations of the voters. The people who paid for them got what they wanted.

Many years ago, when my father was Alberta’s premier, he would commence a meeting with his principal advisers immediately after a general-election victory by saying: “Let us now see what the great electoral tide has washed up on the beach … and let us pray that we will find enough timber to build a cabinet.” Today, it is in the interests of all Albertans that such timber be found and carefully assembled.

So given that previous governments have faced issues with forming a cabinet, it's a little hypocritical to point the finger at Ms Notley in this regard.

In putting together her cabinet team and legislative program, the new premier will also need to be careful not to draw heavily on the advice of NDP operatives from outside the province such as those offered by the federal NDP. To do so would be akin to inviting the organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival to organize the Calgary Stampede – not a good idea. To do so would also be to repeat the mistake made by Alberta’s first and only Liberal administration, which drew so heavily on the advice and resources of the federal Liberal Party under Wilfrid Laurier that the provincial party came to be seen as more the servant of its federal cousins than the servant of Albertans.

This is dog-whistle politics at it's finest. There are decades of bad blood between the federal government and various Alberta administrations. Those that think it started with the NEP and Trudeau in the 80's need to read a little more history. Operatives is certainly a loaded term, compared to what he calls his father's "principal advisors".

In fact, the NDP has been doing a pretty good job of confronting and attempting to hold the current federal government to account. It isn't their fault it's currently being led by a man with no principles, no respect for Parliament, or even democracy. He's a power mad thug, and the federal NDP leader, Mr Mulcair has been cutting him to ribbons over the current Senate scandal. The one with Duffy, if you've lost track.

Given that the federal NDP just went through a similar experience of coping with many new and inexperienced politicians, I'd think their advice would be particularly relevant. I hope that our new premier gets advice from all quarters. Advice is a good thing. The trick is to make the right choices, and there I hope she remembers who elected her.

For conservatives of all stripes, the silver lining of the dark cloud that descended upon them on May 6 is that the election has “cleared the air” on the centre-right side of the political spectrum. The PC administration in Edmonton had increasingly departed from conservative principles on the fiscal front and failed to creatively apply conservative values to other areas of provincial responsibility, from the organization of social services to environmental conservation. It had become “conservative” in name only, and it was too much to expect Jim Prentice (the third PC premier in five years) to reverse the trend overnight.

There are no conservative principles, only a lust for power, cutting taxes for the benefit of their wealthy buddies, and undercutting efforts to help those that need it. That's what is meant by "creatively apply conservative values" in case you were wondering. I suppose "cleared the air" could be used to describe the results of the election on the conservative side of the spectrum, but a deluge of biblical proportions is more like it. If anything, they were getting too conservative, rabidly attacking unions, threatening to cut the pensions of ordinary working Albertans, and letting corporations do whatever they want on taxation and environmental issues. Let's not even get started on their homophobic Bill 10.

The centre-right side of the political spectrum is likely to be in turmoil for some time. The PC's have just begun their period of navel gazing, starting with the interim leader ripping out the guts of the former leader. The blood and entrails will be spreading for a while.

And while Brian Jean, the Wildrose Leader, did remarkably well for taking the helm only days before the election call, Wildrose, too, needs time and space to heal its internal divisions, to reconcile its libertarian and social-conservative elements, and strengthen its relevance to Albertans who live outside its base in southern and rural constituencies.

By "libertarian", he means cut taxes and fire workers, and by "social-conservative elements", he's talking the lake of fire. It's still there. And by "strengthen its relevance to Albertans" he means regain power by hook or by crook. Although Mr Jean has done a commendable job in pulling the party together for the election, they are still getting it together after last year's defections by much of the elected party leadership. There's some blood and entrails still to be cleaned up there.

Conservatism in Alberta, therefore, needs to be rebuilt provincially from the bottom up – rediscovering and recommitting itself to its fundamental values and principles, developing a conservative platform that applies those values and principles to the issues of the day, and engaging in constituency rebuilding and advocacy campaigns to restore its relevance and influence with Alberta electors.

This all means polishing up the old lies, maybe putting another layer of paint and wax on top, and spinning faster than ever. In less charitable words, putting lipstick on the pig. We've had 44 years of PC conservative values, and before that was another 35 years of Social Credit conservative values. The many people that have been moving here from elsewhere wonder why we've put up with this nonsense for so long. He seems to think the NDP winning this election is a flash in the pan, and Albertans will regain their senses. I think it's more like we are coming to our senses, and realizing that the so called "conservative values" are a crock of shit.

In the federal arena, this process took more than 10 years to complete after the collapse of the federal PC Party in the 1993 national election. It culminated in, but did not begin with, an effort to “unite the right” at the party level, but much ground work had to be done before that effort was even feasible, let alone advisable. Alberta is a much smaller and dynamic political arena than the national political arena, so the deconstruction and rebuilding of conservatism provincially should not be nearly as long or difficult as it was federally.

The federal PC party collapsed in 83 because of the utter revulsion people had for Brian Mulroney. There was much back channel chat about uniting the right, but in the end it only got accomplished by an act of betrayal perpetrated by our current Prime Minister. And Albertans wondered where the idea came from with last years Wildrose defections. Let's save Alberta from further such such machinations.

For the private sector, the provincial election results create an enormous leadership challenge – the challenge of leading efforts to sustain and improve the performance of Alberta’s economy at a time of low petroleum prices and when such leadership is unlikely to be provided by the provincial government.

The PC party essentially hasn't provided any leadership to the economy since the days of Peter Lougheed. Unless you count blowing up hospitals as leadership, and then I guess you can count Ralph Klein. Given that, it's a bit of a cheap shot to say leadership is unlikely to be provided by the new government. I take the position it might well provide leadership, (but oh horrors!), in a direction leading towards forcing corporations to take responsibility for their foul emissions, both planned and unplanned, or making them pay more for royalties as the price goes up, or in taxes.

Many Albertans see the provincial government – with its deficits and debts, its inability to reform health care (the largest area of provincial expenditure), and its failures to address the environmental constraints on energy development – as inhibiting rather than contributing to Alberta’s economic progress. This is unlikely to change under the new government since economic policy has never been an NDP strength and promises made to Alberta’s public-service unions will inhibit the government’s willingness and ability to balance the budget and resist increasing taxes.

How kind he is, in saying "its inability to reform health care", when really, all the PC governments have done is made successively bigger and smellier messes, costing more at each step, as different flavours of conservative came into vogue. Centralize, decentralize, then do it again. Fire people that disagree with the government, and pay out huge severance packages.

The Tommy Douglas NDP government produced 16 straight balanced budgets, including the introduction of medicare, and during troubled economic times. It isn't the union staff that have been creating these problems. In fact, they've been the ones holding the system together by working their asses off. Maybe we should save a huge pile of money and fire most of the managers.

There's an old saying, "If I was going there, I wouldn't start from here." That's certainly the case with health care reform. It's a loaded topic in Canada, complete with packs and packs worth of dog-whistles. That's a whole other essay.

And the "failures to address the environmental constraints on energy development" means the PC government didn't do enough to build pipelines, reduce environmental reporting, suppress opposition to oil and gas projects on environmental grounds, encourage further drilling and fracking, or other actions to let big corporations have it even more their way.

In leading Alberta’s economic recovery, private-sector players might take a leaf from the playbook of Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley. When his team captain and star defenceman Marc Giordano went down with a season-ending injury, most pundits predicted that the Flames would never make the playoffs. But they did because Coach Hartley successfully called upon all other team members to “raise their game.”

By "leading Alberta's economic recovery" he means pressing for corporate tax cuts, reducing wages, and cutting pensions. I suggest that the provincial economy is just a little more complicated than a hockey game. The various private sector players have been involved in ruthlessly cutting costs for several decades now, in the name of finding efficiencies and providing shareholder value. I sometimes wonder how much value to the provincial economy is added by all the corporate acquisitions and divestitures over the years. As near as I can tell, the only ones that get anything out of it are the lawyers, and the people at the very top of the pyramid.

With falling oil prices, Alberta’s star economic player is still in the game but playing hurt. Now is the time for other sectors – agriculture and forestry, the service and knowledge sectors, whose growth and export potential is not limited by pipeline capacity, exporters with a strong focus on Asia – to accept the challenge, “up their game” and provide more of the leadership Alberta’s economy urgently requires.

I don't think that leadership is the commodity that Alberta's economy lacks. It's competence in government. The PC party demonstrated an extreme lack of that, and finally got the long overdue reward it had earned. Mr Manning has enormously over-simplified an extremely complicated economic environment. The price of oil and the exchange rate on the Canadian dollar affects every part of the economy and we have no control over them.

Mr Manning is an example of the elites that believe in policies that benefit the wealthy. They want to see the system rigged so that they can keep what they've got, and prevent anyone else from getting some themselves. The problem is that economics isn't an exact science. It's barely a science at all. When you listen to people using economic arguments, what you need to do is look at the intended results. Follow the money.

There's a joke I like to tell. A trade unionist, a white collar worker, and an investment banker meet in the board room. There is a box of doughnuts on the table. While the white collar worker and unionist are getting a coffee, the banker pigs out on the doughnuts and even stuffs some into his pockets. When the unionist and white collar worker get back to the table, there is one left. The investment banker says to the white collar worker, "Watch out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your doughnut."

Friday, May 15, 2015

Stuff brewing!

That week went by quickly!

After a weird tough swim on Monday, the Wednesday swim was wonderful! 2K, 38:10 or so, which is a bit off the pace I like, but my flip turns were slow. My knees weren't feeling strong and I didn't want to push off too hard.

Yoga Wednesday started well, but ended crampily quite quickly. Something in my left mid back cramped up on me. I had to be careful what I was doing. Later in the evening I woke myself up with a loud thunk in my back as I rolled over. It felt much better in the morning.

Thursday. Ugh. Home and to bed early to start a 4 day weekend. An article in the paper sparked some outrage and I'm planning to blog about that later this weekend. Plus the taxes post is still being polished. We had several glasses of this wine. Pity it's the last bottle.

There are two reds and a white on the go right now. The white is being very slow to settle. I may end up taking more drastic action. The Chilean Volcanic Red is ready to be degassed, and bottling soon. Can't wait to taste it!

Friday was a bit of a gong show in the pool again, but the dive tank was peaceful. Working on stroke, then into the big pool after a swim team left. Without even really trying I banged out an 88 second 100 m! That felt pretty good.

Then I was off for a bike fit. The last one was well before IMC, and my body has certainly changed since then! We started with a review of my bike goals, and what's been the issue(s) that brought me to a bike fit session. That's simple, I don't want my back to hurt, and I'd like to see if a change in the fit will get more power out of my legs, especially going up hill.

Then he assessed my flexibility and how my body works while doing various things. Then onto the bike. He very quickly realized my seat was too high, leading to my leg straightening out to about a 20 degree angle, and my toes actually pointing down at the bottom of the pedal stroke. This leads to all sorts of nastiness, so I wasn't surprised to find I had dead spots in my stroke, and protesting muscles. Normally saddle adjustments are done a few mm at a time. He dropped my seat by 25 mm! An entire inch! Then shifted it back a bit. That felt better.

He had already tweaked my cleats so my toes were further forward on the pedals, and put some stiffer insoles into my shoes. Then some shims under the insole. I couldn't believe the difference it made. My pedal stroke feels smoother and stronger, and my right knee is certainly more stable, especially at a slower, higher effort rpm pace. My ankles aren't flexing and flopping around anymore. The bike feels more stable in turns.

Trying to spin at much over 100 rpm hasn't been much fun, but during the session I got up to 135 rpm before I started bouncing around a little. That felt stable and strong.

Then I was riding outside a bit to see how it felt. He thought the fit looked much better. Along the way he checked out my shoulders and neck, and where my hands fell on the handlebars. Since he moved the seat down so much he was reluctant to also change the stem. He thinks it could come up a bit more, but it's probably best to settle into the bike and see how it feels.

My plan is to go for a ride on Sunday or Monday down Road to Nepal again, and see how the hills feel with the new bike fit. If it wasn't so cool and overcast, I'd go now, I'm that eager to try it out. Even just the little bit of riding I did during the fit had my quads and knee and low back feeling a little different, in a good way.

Linda has been working diligently in the garden. The lilies are all planted in temporary pots, and the pansies are in their permanent home. Here she is, hard at it the other night. I was out writing in the lodge to escape the cats.

I've been getting a chuckle out of the reactions people have been having in the week since the election. The people within my company are pretty blase about it. Most are willing to wait and see what happens. But some people are still over reacting, saying all sorts of stupid things. In their view the oil and gas companies are going to be taxed out of existence, then every other company because, duh, higher taxes. And the union people are all going to be guaranteed raises and will be doing just fine, though who they will be working for if all the companies have left town, is beyond me.

There is lots of discussion about the mechanisms of changing government, mainly because it hasn't happened in 44 years. I can see them digging out dusty old books about the procedures involved. At least they stopped the wholesale document shredding that was going on. Proof that the Conservatives have something, probably many somethings, to hide.

There's been a bit of comment about the inexperience of the various MLA's in the NDP caucus, but I don't mind that. The PC's were in the same boat when they took power in 1971. The experience of the PC's just made them arrogant and corrupt. Good riddance.

The Conservatives lost another seat today. There had been a tie vote, 7015 votes each between the NDP and Conservative candidates. A recount ended up with a 6 vote difference, and the NDP has been declared elected. So don't tell me your vote doesn't count!

Evidently sales of the "Peoples Republic of Albertastan" T shirts are going briskly, to my great amusement.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How to turn a bad run into a good one.

I'm going to babble a bit about tonight's run, and fitness in general.

My hips and right leg have been cranky for much of the last couple of years, then over the last little while it's been better and I've been running more. I really don't know if swimming more is cause or effect.

Lately it seems I've been pushing too hard on the weekends, and spending the rest of the week recovering. There was one bike ride I pushed way too hard and paid for that for 2 weeks. All the patio slab moving a couple of weeks ago didn't help either.

The last few days have been pretty active for me. Swim Friday, bike Saturday, run Sunday, plus yard work both days, swim Monday, and now run Tuesday. I'd been thinking about running, or maybe not running. Then right at the end of the day I was discussing running with a colleague. She's just started running home from work a couple days a week. It's about 6.5 K depending on the exact route, and she seems to run about the same pace as me. Then she asked when my next run was. I said tonight, maybe, and she gave me that look. Hmmmm.

There's something about a buddy run, even if you aren't running with them, knowing there's a shared promise of a run. I know my running has been much, much more enjoyable since I started running more often with Michelle.

Tonight I started off feeling kind of tired and tight in my thighs. I really wasn't sure about it, but I remembered my usual 'give it 2 K', and chugged along. My legs felt heavy and tired. My cadence felt slow, and my footing wasn't really all that steady. But look at this graph! (Even though I think there are issues with it.)

You can see my pace is unsteady for the first 2 k, then almost suddenly it evens out. I didn't have some magical moment where it all came together, but I did settle into a groove, albeit a bit heavier and clumpier than I'd have liked.

This was completely a conscious run. I had to think about it the whole time, keeping my arms going, thinking about my posture, thinking about my foot strike, thinking, thinking, thinking all the time. It wasn't until the 3 K mark or so that I realized I was having a pretty good run. My legs were relaxing a bit, and my breathing was easy. Contrary to the graph which looks flat, and contrary to the log file which says I climbed and descended 1100 m , it's a bit up hill first K or so, downhill the next two, and gradually back uphill the last two.

I'm not sure if the screwed up altitude affected the pace numbers or not. I was working pretty hard for the first K, breathing very relaxed and easy for the next 3 K, and working again for the last one. Overall I'm pretty pleased. It turned out to be 5 K, 34:45. A minute faster than a few days ago.

What's important here is that I stuck with it. Most people never start their run. Being a couch potato watching TV is more important to them. Then there are a bunch of sometimes runners. It doesn't take much to derail them because they haven't really built the habit. Then there are runners that start, and bail out too soon.

I've now lost count of the number of times I've had workouts start pretty dreadful. This one with tight quads and hams. Lots of other runs with niggles or sore muscles. One particular 100 K bike ride started with a left calf that did not want to be involved, yet it turned into a really good ride. Some swims have come together for me after a rocky start.

I'm certainly not as consistent at working out as I'd like to be. Too often it feels like I'm still recovering from a previous workout when the next starts. Even from a few years ago I can feel that it takes longer for me to recover. Darn that ticking clock! Part of the trick is to stop before you need to stop. Running 2K four times a week and thinking you could have done more, is a world better than an 8K run once a week that wipes you out.

The learning here is your attitude. Even a so called bad run is better than sitting on the couch, unless you push yourself into an injury. I'm not saying push through the run at all costs. Not at all. Develop an awareness of how you feel when you run, what's normal. Pay attention to your heart rate, your breathing, your footfall, any niggles you might get. Back off before you injure yourself.

But other than that, give your body time to come around, give your mind time to come around to the workout. Some people like to, or need to do an elaborate warmup. If that's what it takes, go for it. I'm more a limber up a bit, walk easy then more briskly, start running easy, and settle into a pace.

But your mental preparation is important too. I like to talk to myself about what the run will be. Mostly they are nice and easy. I think about my route and what I might see. I think about how far I'll go, and from necessity I've had to think about ways to bail out of a run and still not have far to get home. Some days I can relax and think of other things while my body runs. I've written entire novel chapters that way. Other days, I have to think about the running, and stay on top of it.

This is great training for when you get tired in a race. There are lots of tricks that keep you going for that last 10% of the race where the going gets tough, and you learn them from tough workouts. Workouts where you are head down into the wind. Where you haven't quite dressed for the weather or it changed more than you thought it would. Where it's raining or snowing, or your neighbours haven't shoveled their sidewalks. Where your bike is making a funny noise you've never heard before. Where you've just short of bonking goofed on nutrition. When the hill seems much steeper than normal, or the water has been replaced with this strange clear molasses. When you're short on sleep, when you're stressed by work, when a "friendly" group ride drops you like a snot rocket, or anything else that plays with your mind.

These things will make you stronger if you hang in there. Keep a journal. Not just the cold numbers, but how you felt. I can guarantee one day you are going to come home unhappy with a workout for some reason. Then you'll look back through your journal, and you'll discover a time when this workout was a personal best, and now you can do better even when feeling crappy. Or maybe you'll find a pattern, that you need an hour after dinner, not 30 minutes when it's a certain dish. Whatever it is, learn from it, and apply it to the future.

Most of all, have fun with it! Run trails, run different routes, run with your electronics turned off, run with a buddy or run alone. You will feel better after the workout. Really.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Pastafarian resurgence, more garden

Sunday I felt pretty good, even with the yard work. A 5K, 36 min run had me tired out again, with more yard work in the offing. It was an odd run in that my feet felt really light and happy to be running. My quads and hams were less happy.

Monday was Pastafarian worship again, as my arms channeled his noodly appendage. Short and slow. Enough of that.

I'm working on another essay, and hope to have it up by the end of the week.

There are many flowers coming up, prominent among them is the Alberta Rose. This thing is fearsome! It's already trying to take over it's corner. There are some other roses channeling it. For Alberta, this is really early in the year for flowers to be growing. The brief snowstorm this morning was nothing important, nothing to slow down these flowers. Enjoy.

We all know what these are.

Here's the rose.

Look at the thorns on it!

Another rose looking for the big time.

And another in hot pursuit.

No thorns, but the mint is quietly and firmly territorial.

One we cleaned away the debris from last year, the peonies are up and at 'em again.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

RtN, almost all of it

Friday the pool was a gong show. Only four 25 m lanes open, and all of them were full. I was watching Katie cope with a guy that hates to let her pass. I think he takes it personal, but Katie can pass many of the swimmers at Talisman. Personally, I think he's being dumb. A better strategy is to let her pass, then try to hang in her draft as long as you can. Great training.

Michelle and I had the dive tank to ourselves and we did stroke improvement. I think I've figured out a better head position, and was tuning some catch and pull stuff. Michelle has made such great improvements that it's time to take more video so she can see for herself. Even when the pool emptied out we stayed, and had lots of fun. The dive tank is nice for this, because it's a bit warmer, and better lit. It's this big blue space that you float in.

Here's the chalkboard this morning.

Katie and I have been trying to arrange a ride Road to Nepal and coffee date for a while, and today was it. For those new to the blog, Katie coached me to Ironman and is a physical dynamo. I can almost keep up to her in the pool, for a little while, but on the bike the only way I can keep up is if it's downhill. Let's not even talk about the run.

It started off cool, with my low back feeling a bit dubious about the whole darned thing. My right quad and knee were a bit unhappy on the hills, and I didn't feel strong at all. Katie was way ahead, and I turned around when we met up again, maybe 5 K before the end of the road. There was no actual pain, but enough of an ache I didn't want to go up any more hills than I had to. Have I mentioned that Road to Nepal is all hills, all the time?

By then it was getting nice out, and there were dozens of cyclists going the other way as I headed back. Coming back is easier, and my knee felt happier. Still, by my standards on this road, it was very slow.  42 K, 2:18. A more normal ride for me is the full 52 K in about that time, and my record is a fraction under 2 hours. Contrast that to my ride last week, almost 45 K in 2:08, or a 50 K ride in 2:28. Average speed was 18.2 Kph, and the max was 75Kph though I'm not sure I believe that. I didn't see anything more than about 65 Kph and the bike computer says 70 Kph. They agree on the average though, and I suppose I should say the minimum speed going up a couple of the hills was (hangs head) 6.1 Kph.

I'm glad we went. I probably wouldn't have gone if we hadn't had a date to do it, but I'm feeling pretty good after. I've got a bike fit scheduled for next week, and I'm hoping that it will change my position and I'll be happier and more comfortable on the bike.

Once Katie got back we hung out in the back, drank coffee, nibbled goodies, and chatted. So wonderful! She was telling me how she couldn't keep up to these two girls she was swimming with after her race in St. George last week. Then she finds out that it was Meredith Kessler and Rachel Joyce. No wonder!

Linda has a ton of stuff on the go with the garden. Lilies have arrived. The trees are in bloom. Lots of stuff to do. Must go...

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Quite the week!

There's already been lots of comment on the Alberta election. If you're interested in that, you've probably read your fill done by writers more talented than me, and some of it has been very witty indeed. If you're not interested you're probably saying to yourself, "not more from you too!"

Maybe just a little bit. As far as Canadian history goes this is nearly a once in a lifetime event. Anybody that voted in Peter Lougheed in 1971 is a senior citizen now. The change of government before that was in 1935. Not many now would personally remember that. And to go NDP? That makes it even more remarkable, and explains the twitter traffic that seemed to mostly consist of variations on "holy shit", "flying pigs", and "hell freezing over". I stayed up to watch it all, and loved it!

I'm very pleased with the results. The various people setting their hair on fire will get over it. Or they won't and that's their problem. We still have a PC MLA, but I've never read about him in the paper for either good or bad, and that's an acceptable outcome for me. But if the Lib's hadn't run a paper candidate, and all those votes had gone to the NDP, there'd be one less PC in the Legislature. Last time he won an outright majority of votes, and plurality of nearly 2000 votes. Even that was a squeaker compared to previous years. The NDP got 600 votes last time. This time the PC got a third of the votes, only 429 more votes than a no-name NDP candidate, who got 5466 votes. I'll bet he doesn't run again.

My last comment is that Prentice showed his true colours during his concession/resignation speech. To resign his seat before they finish counting the ballots demonstrates a true lack of class. He has spat in the face of democracy and voting, and especially the people that voted for him. Our MLA made a big deal out of Prentice being the one to clean things up, and the voters that relied on that must be furious. Whoever will they find to run as a PC candidate in the coming by-election?

In other news. I'm still a bit beat up from the big work weekend. Nice swim on Tuesday, a bit on the slow and short side, but I'll take it. Yoga was a washout. I wasn't really there for it, and my core was on vacation. Even corpse pose wasn't relaxing; my hips weren't happy with being stretched out. I was thinking of running tonight, but the BBQ captured me.

Linda got a zillion lily bulbs and will be busy planting them, and the rest of the pansies she got. I'm trying to stay out of her way as she deals with it. Things are just exploding out of the ground. Here's something that looks like it's aspiring to be Jack's beanstalk.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The sidewalk of destroyed safety boots

Last you heard I had a crappy swim last Wednesday. Friday was redemption! Swam CSS 17 x 100 on 2 minutes, at 1:43 or 1:44 for all but the first one, which was 1:40 even. I settled into the groove nice and relaxed. I could have gone on, but moved onto other important things.

Friday my buddy Susi was in town! Such a lovely chat to catch up, then Saturday midafternoon dropped her off at a different set of friends. She has many friends.

Sunday was the big day. About 25 years ago we put down some of those big concrete patio slabs to form a walkway between our driveway and back yard. It wasn't used much because there was rarely a reason to go into the back yard. Over the decades it gradually settled.

Then last year when we put the back yard patio in, I fixed the bit of sidewalk nearest the patio. That was close to the lowest point of the walk, and it became really obvious. Several people tripped because they weren't expecting such a slope.

The task. Move all the bricks out of the way. Rake up as much of the crushed brick between the walk and the house as possible. Remove the slabs. Lay down landscape fabric. Wheel in as much gravel as needed, level, and tamp it down. Replace the sidewalk slabs. Wash and replace crushed brick on neighbor's side to level that out. Most importantly, don't leave any skin or blood on the job. Success!

Here is the working area. It's hard to tell how much that slopes towards our house, but it's lots. Lets not even talk about the volunteer plants.

This is a staged shot to prove I was wearing safety boots. Wearing them paid off, as one time my foot was about an inch closer to where the slab was going than I thought it was.

Slabs and crushed brick removed.

Landscape fabric. The gray stuff is almost like a really tough felt. It took heavy scissors to cut it; a sharp knife wouldn't. The black stuff is leftovers.

The gravel starts. We bought a cubic yard, and worried it would be way too much. I could have used another couple of wheelbarrows full, maybe a bit more.

Mostly done, 8 hours later. No owies, other than my hands being roughed up.

There is still a slight dip just near that window well, but it's less than an inch.

The remaining task is to neatly lay out the bricks on the gravel in a nice pattern. Later. Maybe much later. I was a hurting unit and went to bed early. I didn't even think about swimming and tottered into work, gradually feeling better as I moved. This evening I was out doing a bit of lawn raking, and had my back talking firmly to me. Stretched. My calves are still too tender to be rolled, but everything liked the stretch.

And the boots. I last wore them on the job in the late 90's. They've been sitting in the basement ever since. While working I felt something weird on my feet and thought it was clumps of dirt. Then I realized it was rubber flaking off. I switched back to shoes, and was doubly careful. 

In another example of degrading materials, here's what a brand new bag looks like. The colours are bright and vibrant. This is really good advertising, if you think about it.

We didn't quite finish off this bag last fall, and it's been sitting outside in the sun for 7 months or so. Interesting effect that UV has had.

You'll see this chalkboard more often. I have had ideas. This is Linda's commentary on the election. You ARE voting, if you're an Albertan, right? RIGHT?? Don't make me blog about you.