Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Saved by the work coffee grinder

Just not the way you think. But to get there we have to start with a swim.

Which was nice in that there was no pain. The 1k in 19 minutes in a lane by myself was so-so in the great scheme of things, but good after such a painful swim on the weekend. The real treat was being in the newly re-opened competition pool! Yay Talisman, opening it on time. Both pools and the dive tank were full. It's nice to see the facilities so well used.

Things got a bit surreal in the hot tub. Who of you are so unfortunately blessed in that the name Dortmunder means nothing to you? I say unfortunate because you are missing out on one of life's great experiences, reading Donald Westlake's Dortmunder novels. I say blessed, because you get to read them for the first time. I envy you. There are almost as many quotes for that as for the Princess Bride. (Inconceivable!)

But this is not about Dortmunder or the Bride. It's about the regulars in that series. Unnamed bar regulars. Westlake must have been eavesdropping, because you can't make that shit up. A couple of the regulars escaped the O.J. Bar & Grill on Amsterdam Avenue, and were hanging out in the Talisman hot tub. I won't attempt to replicate their conversation, but I was listening with admiration, and wishing I had a tape recorder running.

(take a deep breath)
It started with construction around the new Children's Hospital (at least I think that's where it is, there was some confusion which you will understand shortly), then detoured to the old Children's Hospital, with a sub-detour on the traffic problems caused by helicopter landings there, then back into them putting in a traffic circle for Shaganappi Trail and 16th Ave, AND whatever Memorial Drive is called there (another detour), PLUS special exits for ambulances for the Children's Hospital, AND Foothills Hospital (which is unfair and a slight against other drivers), along with discussion of the demolition of the old DMV that used to be really near there, and where one of the regulars thought the construction was, and since one of the buildings there is named after Col Belcher, or was, this dragged in the old (now demolished) Col Belcher hospital downtown, which lead to the demolition of the old other downtown hospital in Bridgeland, the various adventures of the Holy Cross hospital, and that's all before discussion of what happened to one of the regulars IN one of the hospitals. I was so lost in admiration at this point I don't know which hospital, or if it took place in a ditch by the road construction by rogue doctors and nurses from some hospital.

But no editor would buy it, since it's not plausible and I'm not Donald Westlake. Just go buy the books and thank me later.

Then at work. Normally I go up to my office lugging my pack and swim bag. Then take the swim bag down to the locker room so things can dry out. Then down another floor to get a coffee, if I feel like it. Sometimes I bring coffee in a small thermos. Then up to my office to enjoy real coffee, well done, since the coffee shop in my building is pretty good, along with my second breakfast. Usually granola, yogurt and fruit, if you're curious. My (former) colleagues had been trained not to bug me till after I was done.

There I am, waiting for my coffee, and wondering if I can ask how his business is doing with 400 fewer people in the building. It's not a surprise to any of you that I don't understand management's reasoning in doing the layoffs. Yes, layoffs had to happen, but the people selected baffles me, and many other people. Subsequent decisions baffle me even more. In other news, Penn West stock closed at 61 cents.

(Oh, and they let go the guy I work most closely with. They kept him but laid off all his staff, and now he's gone. After 3.5 years of working there, I now know 5 people well enough to ask to go for coffee and actually be able to chat. Sigh. Of all the people I know there at all, I think only one of them has been there longer than me. Let's just say there's been lots of turnover. Another sigh.)

I'm waiting for the grinder to finish, so I don't have to yell. It was going to be a moderately caustic remark about how empty my floor is and what foolish choices had been made recently. As the grinder stopped, the top guy walked in. The corporate big dog. The biggest cheese. He didn't even have to order, the coffee guy got him the regular. I would have been in the middle of my comment, building a head of steam when he walked in, but for the grinder. I tipped extra.

Today was pack up the office day. I think I mentioned I move up one floor and down the hall a bit. I've scoped out my new office and think it will work out well. The complete silence was getting to me, even with playing some music. A new guy is coming in to replace the guy they just let go. His name is vaguely familiar, and I'm thinking I worked with him at a turnaround in the long distant past. We'll see.

Look, pink office buildings! Sometimes the views getting into work early are nice.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

I don't often have a bad swim, but when I do

If you haven't seen the Illuminasia show at the Calgary zoo, check it out. Go. You'll love it. Here's a couple photos.

Lots of different creatures. 366 lanterns, they said. I think we saw them all.

We saw the real tigers too, relaxing. I so much wanted to give them a nice ear scritching. I'm sure they don't get enough of that.

My last swim was Tuesday, sharing the lane, doing 2 K or so. I hadn't thought I overdid it, but I was in pain for yoga the next day. Pain for most of the following days, pain when I did things involving my arms, and breathing. Odd to have pain across the front of your chest. I water ran on Friday, rather than swim.

Swimming today was a clunky floundering floppy wet mess. My arms didn't want to go around. Trying to pull like I normally do, hurt. Breathing hurt. Pushing off the wall hurt my knees and hips, so I didn't go that hard at all. I swam very gently, hoping it would get better, but no, not really. A long time in the hot tub helped.

Saturday involved a gentle run, 4 K, 28 minutes or so, which felt pretty good, for almost all of it. Once it stopped feeling pretty good, I stopped too. I had no reason to push.

Which brings me to today's topic. Knowing when to push, and when to lay back. It's hard to know for sure, but there's a few questions I ask myself:

  • What's at stake, both today and as a long term outcome? Obviously you can't slack off every workout and every day at work. But neither can you be out there giving everything you have. Some days are hard, and some days are easy, even if you feel like you could go hard.
  • Is this actual painful pain, or the pain of pushing up against boundaries on a hard day, or the "pain" of your body wanting to quit because your mind is bored? Your mind is your biggest asset, and your biggest enemy.
  • Are you getting paid? There are a few days I phone it in, but generally when I'm getting paid I'm going to do my best to deliver what they've asked for. Even if it's the wrong thing, at the wrong time, using the wrong process, for the wrong people. As long as I get paid.

So yes, I want to get better swimming. But I don't have a race scheduled, and it really was painful. I'm pretty sure it isn't a heart attack; that would be over much more quickly. I'm not getting paid to swim.

Someone suggested I was carrying the work stress and that was affecting workout recovery, even though I don't have as much at stake as some I know. This could be true, I suppose.

Linda has been working on the garden in the lovely weather. Out front she essentially pried up all the plants very carefully, and added more good soil. They probably aren't very happy about it, but this is the time of year for that. She also planted a ton of bulbs, but you can't see them.

There's supposed to be a super full moon lunar eclipse tonight. Moonrise is soon. So is bedtime.

Friday, September 25, 2015

3 people in 30 years

We've had this license plate on 3 cars since the mid 80's. An 83 Accord that lasted 340,000 Km and was the best car I've ever owned. Then a piece of crap Caravan that barely lasted 180,000 Km. The current Accord is just under 280,000 Km and going strong.

In all that time, only 3 ordinary public people have understood it without having it explained. 2 of them were pre-teen kids in Viking, Alberta. That was not a surprise to me, given the ancestry of the people that settled that area.

But getting the BBQ propane bottle refilled at Co-op, the guy took a photo of the plate, and asked if it was about what it was about. It is. I was surprised. We had a nice chat.

In other news, this. I can't wait till they let us in. Soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Even worse than lay-off day

SQL can be a tricky thing. It can be even more tricky to ensure you are in the right schema. A query that works in one schema might not work in another. I'm trying to glue up a couple things that don't normally talk to each other, and it's a bit tricky. You don't want the details.

In the background, they are cleaning offices down the hall. It's noisy. There are comments about the stuff they are finding and the people who left it behind. I don't think they realized I know many of those people. Lots of paperwork is being dumped into the shredder bin. When in doubt, shred, is the philosophy.

There was all sorts of work in progress on lay-off day, and it just stopped. The people evaluating the stuff left in the offices are cleaners, not technical people. A map or a document is just a piece of paper to them. You would think that out of all those people, at least some of them had to be adding value and doing productive work. After all, most of them were either new hires, or had survived several purges already.

Entire departments were sent packing so there isn't even a chance of someone saying "Bill was working on something important, we need this or that document, the current version is on his H drive." If nobody asks for access to that H drive, in 90 days it will be gone forever.

I'm dying of curiosity to know where one colleague put a particular document and what she called it. I've searched the shared team drive, and her H drive. Nothing. I don't want to think about the mindset that would think the C drive is a good place to store anything, yet I think that's where it is. When the impossible has been eliminated, and all. Unless she got really creative with the file name. Hmmmm. And no, I'm not going to call her and ask. The company lost access to her brain, and the people trying to revise the processes she was documenting are going to have to create new processes without knowing what they are changing.

This is how institutional memory dies. All those people take their knowledge with them. Paperwork gets shredded. Electronic documents and network structures get deleted. Granted, this isn't the fire in the Library of Alexandria, but still. It's sad to see, the more so because much of my work experience has been to maintain and improve data integrity, and the related process.

While I'm doing this, trying to focus, I'm dreading the thought that either of two people could come to my office and ask about the details of two different pies I have my fingers in. Those two things, and my current task are all very granular, with lots of complicated detail to hold in memory. Switching one task to the other probably costs me an hour or two to find the right queries and get back into it again. Neither of those people are my boss, and I've seen lots of him lately, asking about stuff. Lots of detail there too, of a different sort. I'm finding it harder to switch between tasks. I'm not sure if that's the complexity of the task, or my brain going soft.

This situation is what happens when you don't get to finish a task before being pushed into the next. In an ideal world all the locations would have been created first, then I'd have migrated assets and related specifications, relationships, then work history. Nope. It's a mixed bag, with some future planning documents attached to some of the assets. It would have turned out ok, were the team allowed to continue, but no.

It's a tough time in the oil and gas industry, and it's not getting better any time soon. Lots of people I know are not working. Many that are working fear being let go, and you can't blame them. Trans Canada just warned staff about a reorg and upcoming lay-offs. Sigh.

Next Wednesday I move up one floor and down the hall a bit. I lose the nice window office, but that's ok. It will be nice to be around occupied offices again. I like quiet so I can think, but not having anyone at all around is a bit creepy. Office buildings should not be empty or almost so.

I've been part of a mass lay-off. I've been the only person laid off from a small company. I've survived many lay-offs and carried on with a reduced team or changed responsibilities. This is the first time I'm essentially the sole survivor, and almost everybody else I know and worked with has gone. This is harder than I thought it would be. Yes, I'm getting paid, but there's more to life than money.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Timing to avoid chaos

It really gets my goat when people drop into a crowded lane swim with no consideration. Today there were only 2 lanes for us public members at Talisman during the time I wanted to swim. The other 14 lanes had swim clubs practicing.

Having one pool out of action for maintenance is necessary, but painful.

There I am, looking at my choices. One lane has Katie and 3 other people in it. I recognize her right away, but I also recognize the swim stroke of the two other guys. They were the ones I was watching last weekend. They swim faster than Katie. The other girl was keeping up with Katie. I timed them all.

Much as my inner shark was ready to get in there and draft like a madman, a cooler head prevailed. I know perfectly well I could barely keep up for about 100 m in that lane. The other lane had two women swimming only slightly slower than I was planning, and one guy floatie doing things that only marginally resembled a swim stroke, very slowly, while wearing fins. I timed them. The two girls were passing smartly. I joined them.

Notice, please, that I didn't just jump in. I sat with my legs in the pool getting ready as they did a couple laps. I caught their eye, however briefly, so they knew I was joining. He didn't notice. I decided to do a straight up relaxing swim, not trying to set a record or gratuitously pass people.

It worked out very well. We all adjusted our spacing so we could take turns passing Mr Floatie. They paused on the wall and let me pass the few times it was necessary, then hung in my draft. That's fine. We swam for a while in peaceable 4 part harmony. Mr Floatie disappeared, and was replaced with a Burster. At least he was polite about it. He'd swim a couple laps, mostly keeping up and fitting in, then would catch his breath at the end for a while. That's fine too.

Eventually just me and the faster girl were left, and we happily chased each other up and down the pool. She was leaving as I stopped, deciding that 2 K or so was a nice swim. A couple very slow breast strokers joined the lane as I got out. Katie kept swimming, but I could tell she was nearly done. The other people had left, and One Kick Splash Girl had joined her. All was peaceful, in what could have been chaos, because of the consideration of everybody joining the correct lane.

I didn't time the lap splits like I usually do; there was too much variation in pace. Sometimes I'd be cruising along in a draft, hardly working. Other times I'd be pushing a bit harder to time a pass. This is the first swim in a while where I've had to pay attention to other people in the lane, and that just made it interesting to think about the subtle timing changes.

In other news, I'm still working at Penn West, and it sounds like they want me to stick around at least for a little while.

We picked up treats at Sidewalk Citizen, and they are awesome! This brownie was one of the best ever. Pity they are so far from where I live or work. Or maybe not...

And Curtis has been supervising some literary efforts. It's very difficult to type with such supervision. This was while I was working on the intro to my last guest blog, by Amy. It's a good read if you missed it.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Beakerheading and workouting

Verbs. I need to work on my verbs.

Swam Wednesday, working on long and strong stroke. Lots of golfing. For a while I was stuck at 79 or 80, (39 strokes, 40 seconds) or worse. Then after a bit of work slowing my stroke down to make it stronger, I tried golf again. 75 (33 strokes, 42 seconds) I did that several times. Working on 100 m sprints this way were only slightly slower, but I was less out of breath.

Thursday we strolled downtown to see Beakerhead stuff. The giant claw was under repair, so that wasn't so much fun. We wandered around the newly renovated St. Patrick's island, and really liked it. Here's a few photos. I want to join up with some buddies and run all over the island. Then we headed back downtown.

The Bow river can be very pretty.

A sculpture made from recycled streetlights. I am awaiting seeing graffiti scrawled on it way up high.

Under the Skipping Stone bridge.

I rejoiced to see the shark car! Pity it doesn't go very fast.

There's a new guy at the top of the new hill. Linda liked him.

We walked just over 8 Km, and by the end I was feeling it a bit in my left foot. Oddly enough, sometimes walking slowly is harder than running.

Back in the pool Friday. More strong stroke stuff, feeling good. Last time I tried 100 all out it was 89 seconds and nearly ready to puke. Now down to 87 seconds, and feeling stronger. Repeated the golf scores several times.

It was so nice out I tried to run that afternoon and what a mistake that was! The first couple K were ok, but nothing special, then the niggles started, and kept getting worse. I called it done at only 3.5 K or so.

Saturday was nice enough for a bike ride, but I called it a rest day. We went back down to Beakernight, and strolled the crowd. We had a really good time. Flaming skee ball! What more do you need to know? We found the other rabbit. He seemed to be a little sad at being separated from the bunny herd.

It was nice to see so many people out enjoying the displays of eclectic stuff. It was a perfect summer evening. We didn't get into the man-basket for a ride up 200 feet. I was willing, but the line up was really long, long enough I was wondering if everybody was going to get a chance. I could have hung out and listened a lot longer to the percussion players set up right by the LRT station.

Sunday back in the pool again, trying to keep up with Katie. Still a work in progress. Used to be I could stay in her draft about 50 m, and be out of it by 75. Today we swam side by side for a bit. I kept up for 100 m, her gaining ground slightly on the swim, me a bit quicker on the flip turns. By 125 m I was fading, and I stopped at 150 m, out of breath, arms tired. She kept going, cruising along.

Overall the swim was really good. I did 100 m in 87 seconds twice. Repeated a 75 golf score. Worked at trying to maintain a 100 second per 100 m pace, and got 200 m. I'm pretty pleased with that. The new stroke is settling in, feeling pretty good as long as I think about it.

Michelle and I got a coffee after, and we were watching some of the synchro swimmers training. I'm just amazed by them. They were swimming some laps, and their stroke looks a bit sloppy, but they are swimming along just about as fast as I can swim at all. I can't even beginning to be vertical upside down in the water as I wave my legs around artistically above the surface. I think I'd drown trying some of their drills.

Oh yes, some other photos, just because. The new national music centre rising on the reconstituted bricks of the famed King Eddy.

Linda looking mysterious and serene.

Linda, playing the puppy orchestra. Very well too, I might add.

It's been a lovely vacation. I'm feeling more rested, but I'm not especially ready to go back to work. You will all be delighted to know that the major thing on my to-do list got done. Yes. Business tax paperwork.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Fear, Humble Pie, and One More Try. A guest blog.

You meet the most interesting people along the way. I ran into Amy at one of the events leading up to the Calgary Marathon. You may have seen her up on the stand with Steve King, doing race play by play at various events. She called Michelle and I in at this summer's Calgary 70.3 for the best finisher photo ever, and managed to sneak into one of the photos herself.

Everybody walks a different road to fitness. I've read lots of blogs about winners and PB's, and that's nice, but it isn't all rainbows and unicorn poop out there. Some make it look easy, but we don't see behind the scenes. I wince at what some people go through to stay active. Lots of people struggle with physical injuries or the all important mindset. Amy has struggled with both, and I think it's really important that such people realize they are not alone. I'm happy to give Amy a stage (such as it is) to talk about what often stays private. It isn't easy to confront your fears.

Take it away, Amy!

The last five years has been filled with nothing but failure and disappointments. I went from being a strong, confident woman to a socially awkward, injury-riddled, and exhausted stay-at-home Mom. Only in the last few weeks have I realized everything I’ve been doing wrong. Humble pie isn’t the easiest thing to eat, but sometimes it is necessary to taste so we can make improvements.

I was a latecomer to fitness, but finally found my niche as a fencer around age 28 and did that competitively for a couple of years. I was at the top of my physical game. As I look back it was easy since I had nowhere to go but up. I pushed my body physically and mentally through hours of fencing a week, and I loved every sweaty second of it. This sport is the equivalent to chess on your feet since you always thinking a couple of moves ahead. Looking back, I realize now how strong this sport made me - fencing is all about leg strength. You are never standing, but are always in a squat or lunge.

Here I am at the top of my physical game in spring 2009

Fencing, and getting a few points on olympic gold medalist Jujie Luan.

I started running in the spring of 2009 to complement fencing and quickly fell in love with it. I loved that I could zone out, listen to music, and be by myself. I decided to train for and run the Harvest Half Marathon in the fall of 2009. It was my best ever half marathon. I wasn’t fast (2:30), but I’ve never been very concerned with being fast. I did the training, ran the race meeting my expectations, and had an amazing time!

I got pregnant with my second son shortly after that thinking I would keep my fitness and running up. That didn’t happen. I was so sick during most the pregnancy and had terrible, painful hormonal skin breakouts that left me not wanting to leave the house…and I didn’t. This is where things started falling apart for me physically and my confidence was lost.

After Greg was born, I rushed back into fitness thinking it would help me feel better to get my athletic identity back. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom, but I do need to have something else in my life other than looking after kids. I took every shortcut in the book to get back into shape-no fencing this time, no strength training. I ran and that’s all I did. I signed up for marathon in 2011, had a disastrous training cycle full of knee pain (I was told it was ITBS) and anxiety. I should have stopped, but didn’t. I ran, walked, and limped the marathon in Kelowna, B.C. to the tune of 5:45. It was awful and still haunts me to this day. I lost all love of running after that and just went to the gym to jump on the odd cardio machine and play with weights. I was lost and completely crushed with no motivation to do anything.

See, running used to be fun! Harvest Half Marathon 2009

The one bright spot in all of that was a sprint triathlon I signed up for at the last minute and did with zero training. Holy cow, did I ever have fun!! My knees hurt for most of the run, but it didn’t matter, I was hooked!

Vulcan Tinman 2011

Shortly after that I got pregnant with my third son and promised myself to take a year off hard exercise to be the best mom I could and enjoy my children. That brought me to 2014. I had so many dreams and goals - the ultimate goal being Ironman.

I thought I was doing what I needed to be doing to get strong, yet I kept experiencing race failures and my knees breaking down in training cycles right before I hit peak weeks. My confidence continued to crash and burn-I felt like a complete fraud! No amount of physio was helping my knees enough to get through the beginner *BEGINNER* training plans I was trying. I was getting so angry and frustrated.

I got tired of everyone telling me my knee problems were ITBS, that wasn’t it! I was doing the physio and foam rolling, but it wasn’t working. So I gave up. I dropped out of my fall running and biking events and seriously considered cutting myself off from all friends who I made through running and triathlons. Yes, Keith, that would’ve meant you too. I was a fraud after all.

I went to my family doctor in January of 2015 for a usual checkup and I told her about my knee issues. She referred me to a sport med doctor who thought I had might have meniscus tears, so we went ahead with an MRI and 5 month wait to see her. The MRI in July 2015 revealed I didn’t have tears, but chondromalacia patella. I won’t go so far to say I was happy, but I wanted an answer and now I had one. I started doing what I thought was good cardio and strength training. I even dared to have some race dreams again. This is where my post should end, right? All happy and full of inspiration again?? NOPE.

I was having trouble getting myself motivated to do anything. I’m so tired of starting from the beginning and am scared that it’s not going to work again. I tried an open water swim in August that turned out to be just another failure to add to the pile. It was at this point I realized that I don’t know what I’m doing and needed some help. I took a big step and signed up for a fitness class. I’m quite anxious around groups of people after all these years, so have avoided it. However, I can’t afford a triathlon coach or personal trainer, so group fitness at my gym is my only option at this point if I want help.

I chose a spin/TRX class that is once a week. It ended up being a small class (five of us including the instructor) and I really like it! However, this is where I got my biggest slice of humble pie yet. It hit me after the first class, and confirmed after the second, just how wrong I’ve been training all these years. Yes, I was puttering at the gym, picking up weights, setting them down, but I haven’t PUSHED myself since I fenced five years ago!!! THAT is why I’ve had injuries, THAT is why pretty every race in the last five years has been a failure. I thought I was an athlete and could get by with the bare minimum of training out of fear of injury. I can’t believe I’ve been such an idiot!

This rude awakening has given me lots to think about over the last couple of weeks. I’m pretty embarrassed and angry at myself, but you know what else I’m feeling? Excitement. I will run again. I see what I’ve been doing wrong. I know I can make myself stronger and there’s the slight possibility that I haven’t tapped into my true potential yet. I still have a lot of fear from the pain and failure I’ve had over the last several years. I do have this knee condition and have no idea how that will impact my triathlon future yet. I don’t plan to start running much until the spring and won’t know if I can really chase my dreams until I start building running mileage. Right now I will focus on strength training and cycling with some help to make sure I’m pushing hard enough to get this body into what it used to be. Sometimes I really wish I could give up, but I just don’t feel like I’m done yet. I’m willing to give triathlon training one more try…here I go!

Friday, September 18, 2015

After the hard frost

There haven't been any garden pictures for a while. There was a hard frost here night before last. Most of the plants are perennials and tough enough for a Calgary winter. I think the Alberta rose by the corner of the garage is tougher than any weather short of the glaciers coming back.

But there are some more tender plants too. After we took off the frost covering, I took these photos, just because. This one is the Dahlia beside the super rose.

Another Dahlia in the front bed. Linda was worried about these, since they aren't remotely hardy for Calgary. She's been reading up on the process to overwinter them, and it sounds like she's going to give it a go.

I love lilies, and this one is gorgeous. I think they like a tinge of frost.

The bees are still hard at it.

Another of the roses is still producing blooms.

Eventually, of course, no amount of covering short of a greenhouse is going to protect the plants when winter actually comes. That could be next week, or next year. We never know, so we enjoy the garden while we can. It's part of the cycle of life. Some of the plants will be back next year. Some won't.

I'm typically not much of a flower guy, but I've enjoyed taking the photos over the year. It gives us another chance to appreciate them while they're here. They brighten up the yard so much, and some of them produce a wonderful scent. Plus, it's doing something for the bees, under attack as they are.

Humans are susceptible to frost as well, and it often starts nipping at guys about my age. Heart attacks are a big one, but there's all sorts of other ailments that come along. Diet and exercise are big for combatting these and putting off the inevitable.

At the moment I'm not thinking so much of the physical side of things. There's a mental frost as well. I'm sure we all know people that have frozen solid on the inside. New ideas just bounce off them. New ways of thinking, changes in society, even changes in routine are viewed as life threatening events.

Every now and then I remark about being more forgetful, but I don't seriously think I'm actually losing my marbles. (Others may disagree.) I love reading about new stuff, and am still willing to try new things, though some days I wish the rate of change would slow down a little.

The week off has given me some time to think about stuff and be a bit more relaxed. Even though I wasn't laid off, and even though if I was laid off I don't need to go find a job right away, it's still a stressful thing. They could tell me to go away at any time between last week and the end of the year. I don't really know who I'm reporting to, what team I belong to, or even really what I'm going to be doing in my remaining time. I just want them to make up their minds so I can get on with it, one way or the other. If they don't, I will.

My neighbour and I took a break from yard work to chat. He's about 10 years older than I am, and has been retired for about 12 years. He transitioned into it from an illness that he mostly recovered from. There's been a few flare ups along the way. He found when he was well enough to go back to work, he had completely lost his taste for it. Signing the paperwork was very easy. He's loved retirement, in between those medical adventures. He's done quite well from investments over the years, and has a good but not remarkable pension, so he's bought some toys and travelled quite a bit. He tells me that I'll love being retired, and that I should have a go at it after Penn West and I part ways.

Today I was feeling some sadness within. I'm generally a pretty optimistic person, so this is a bit of a change. After mulling it over a while, I think it's because I realize it's not just the Penn West job that is essentially over, but for the final paperwork, sooner or later. I think I'm over with the oil and gas industry as a career. I've been in it, one way or the other since late 1992. I'm tired of the roller coaster ride. I'm looking for something else now. I'm not sure what, but I'm open to new opportunities. My primary motivator for taking a job is that it be interesting, with pay being a very secondary consideration. I think I'm done with working full time as well, full time defined as working 35 to 40 hours a week, for 40 to 50 weeks a year.

I admit I look forward to working only part time. This week has been lovely, living like a retired person. I get up when I get up. I've been doing more swimming and running, and loving it. There's been time to putter about, stroll around downtown doing Beakerhead stuff (tune in a few days for full story), and naps with cats. Can't forget that. The novel hasn't been forgotten. That's still perking away in the background. Life is good.

It sounds like I've got a guest post coming! I'm excited to see what that's all about.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

cat photos and workout catchup

Lots of readers and some nice comments on my recent political rant. If you missed it, and that's what you came here for, you can find it here.

Onward to regular programming.

Swam on Friday, working on stroke technique. It never ceases to amaze me how subtle it can get. Just being in the water more often has changed my water feel a little bit. I'm working on increasing my arm turnover, and separately, working on increasing my reach and catch. Then I'll be trying to put them together. My elbows have been traitorously slipping lower. They were spoken to firmly about being higher. Working on coordinating a better roll with pull.

Rode outside on Saturday. It was the last nice day before some rain was forecast. It's kind of funny, that I'm a bit reluctant to get on the bike because I remember various portions of anatomy complaining about it. The changes from the bike fit has made the bike enormously more comfortable, but I'm still learning that. I haven't been out as much as I'd have liked to be, but other things are getting in the way. I wasn't ready for a really long ride. This was 19.5 K easy, in 50 minutes. It felt pretty good, but I'm glad it wasn't longer. I'm not sure how many more of these will happen before the weather closes in and I'll be back on the trainer again. This will become a focus so I'm much more ready to ride outside next year.

Ran Sunday, 5K, 32:17 and the odd thing is that I wasn't trying to run fast. I'd gone out for a nice relaxing run, and my feet felt like running. The finish time was a bit of a surprise to me. I haven't run this fast in ages. Stretched after.

Swam Monday, lucky to have an island of peace in a bit of a pool gong show. I was in the water quite a bit later than usual, since I had a dentist appointment first thing. Actually, it was with my dental hygienist, who has been working on my teeth more than 20 years now. She likes a challenge.

As you know, Talisman has one of it's pools out of action. (It looks like good progress is being made. Someone was polishing some of the tiles.) As I walked to the other, I thought it would be quiet, since the water was calm. But they fooled me. Half the pool was a men's water polo practice just getting started. The other half had a half an hour till a swim club took over all but two lanes. I got in a lane by myself and got'er done. Swam hard, knowing this was going to be it. 1K, 18:10! Really pleased with that. I was thinking if I'd paced myself slightly better at the start, and my knees were feeling a little stronger, a sub-18 minute time would be mine. Soon.

I remember the first time I did a sub-20 minute K after not swimming for a long time. It took years to get back to that pace. The first time I nearly puked on the pool side after having made it by just seconds. A couple of days later I did it again with 30 seconds to spare, and was hardly out of breath. It would be nice if the same thing happens again at 18 minutes, but I'm not holding my breath.

I really did think about carrying on in one of the other 2 lanes, but that was the gong show I mentioned. One lane had 2 people all over the place. I couldn't tell if they were splitting the lane or doing circles. The lane had 4 people in it, and what a mix. A couple of slow breast strokers, one really slow front crawl, and one girl that could actually swim. I was wondering if she was enjoying the challenge of dodging the others.

Days like this I wish the lifeguards took a bit more of an active role in organizing people into the appropriate lane. People really would be much happier if they swam with others of a similar speed. The problem is that so few people know how fast they really swim, and what that looks like. Then there are the ignorant dicks that refuse to swim circles as other people join in. It isn't your lane, buddy, and I wish the swim lane Nazi was there to "encourage" you to share nice, by whatever means necessary. I've swum 5 and 6 in a 25 m lane without the slightest difficulty. I decided not to join them, and camped out in the hot tub for a while.

Tuesday I'm just back in from a nice relaxed run, 7K, 47:49. Almost all of it was chatchatchat pace, just a bit coming back uphill, trying to maintain cadence that I was breathing a bit harder. Most of the run was not about going fast, it's trying to maintain a steady cadence, with quick light feet. I'm trying to train myself to not channel the poor T Rex in the tar pit that has dogged so much of my running. It's getting better. I'm also remembering what I've been told about moving my arms to help keep my feet moving. The rain has stopped, and it was cool enough for a lovely run around the neighbourhood.

I'm on vacation at last! There was a bit of a flurry of last minute, and I do mean very last minute work on Friday, along with refusing to stay late to work on something that I'm pretty sure is a half day's work when approached calmly. I didn't want to think about trying to do it in a rush.

Much of the time off so far has been relaxing, trying to sleep in, hanging out at the house, reading, watching a few movies, cuddling cats, and generally trying to get work out of my head. The cats are loving the extra lap time. Here's some photos of them enjoying us being around.

Celina snoozing hard, gradually settling into the gap between my knees, as the blanket slips into the space between the chair and footstool.

Movie night. They love the red wool blanket. We watched the Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt movie, where they get killed a lot. It was better than expected. You would lose your good opinion of me if I told you what else we watched.

Peaceful snoozing. A lick-fest will begin soon.

Here it goes.

Then the mighty paw represses her.

Cat contortions.

Rest from all the effort. Friends again.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

You've been waiting long enough

Yes, I know I've been promising a political rant for weeks. WEEKS!

You should know I brewed lots of strong coffee this morning. Fasten your seatbelt.

Until recently, as in a decade or so ago, Canada was this big empty place that didn't get paid a lot of attention. The famous Canadians you can name, Commander Hadfield excepted, live in the United States because you had to go there to play on a bigger field. Canada had a good, if vague reputation as a nice place to live, and was seen as a good player on the international stage.

Just after the second world war Canada had one of the biggest navies and a very well respected military. Over the decades it became a barely running joke. Our current submarine fleet is only a theoretical thing, since they can't go under the surface. The surface ships make the news because they've been taken out of service, or sunk as an artificial reef.

The Sea King helicopter recently passed the 50 anniversary of entering service. Think of that for a moment. How many of you are 50 years old? I once heard a helicopter service company rep describe helicopters as "an assembly of parts flying in really close formation." These helicopters have been flying in all sorts of weather on missions where lives are on the line, and not just the helicopter crew. They probably require more maintenance hours than flying hours now.

It's not like this is a surprise to anyone, but how is it our government can't buy suitable helicopters? How hard can it be? Helicopters are complicated things, true, but the operating envelop is well known, and there are lots of choices. You build your requirements, and you take your pick. But wait, it's the political requirements that take priority. Right. That explains everything.

The previous Liberal governments were seen as hostile to the military. Harper made hay with this, promising to properly fund the military, and buy better supplies. Some of that happened, it's true. But what else happened? Dig a bit deeper. Offices that serve veterans have been closed. The Harper government has spent $700,000 in court, trying to avoid supporting wounded veterans, saying they have "no special obligation."

I'm ashamed of my government for that. While I disagree about the efficacy of military solutions in many cases, we have to keep in mind these veterans did what they were told to do, as best they could in difficult circumstances. Most of them would say they weren't just serving our government, but also a higher cause, opposing various forms of extremism. We effing well DO have an obligation to them!

That brings me up the longest election in modern Canadian history. It's gone on and on, and to be truthful with you, I've tuned out from time to time. A small matter of Penn West laying off a third of it's staff, including nearly everybody I know there, has distracted me just a little. Yes, I'm still there. This week. Every time I think about it, or look at the political news I get more depressed.

We've all known that the behaviour in the House of Commons is a disgrace. Behave like that in any other workplace, provincial legislatures excepted, and you'd be fired on the spot. And that's before Stephen Harper became the first Prime Minister in history for being held in contempt of Parliament for not providing it legally required paperwork over the lies they were telling about the F-35. And that's before the various Senate scandals, many of which involved Senators named by Harper. And before losing a bunch of cases in the Supreme Court, where Justices he appointed find against him, because he was trying to do things that were clearly against the law. What does that tell you about Harper?

Is there anyone that thinks it's appropriate to pee in a coffee cup and dump it down the sink at any time, let alone when you are in a private home to perform work for the homeowner? I thought not. We all have to deal with bio-pressures, and I had thought that we had all been taught polite ways of asking where the toilet is. I guess not. I think it's telling that a person that would do that, would also think that running for office under the Conservative banner would be a good idea.

The phone prankster is just juvenile, which leads me to my next point. There's a concept called "grown-up."

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." I had thought it was Shakespeare, but it turns out to be the bible.

It's a concept that seems to be lacking these days. Not just in politics, but in movies and other popular culture. This isn't to say that a fart joke can't be funny. They can be, in the right time and place. But constructing a whole movie around it seems a little over the top. This isn't to say an adult can't forget their dignity and play with their kids. They should, from time to time.

But holy doodle, is it too much to expect that our elected representatives would behave like grown-ups as they discuss the details of spending billions of our taxpayer dollars? I completely believe it's possible to discuss an issue with people that hold opposing or differing viewpoints. Grown-ups have learned that they can't always get their way. They've learned to compromise with others, to give up some of what they want to get something more important.

The American Tea Party is a group of people that are still emotional two year olds. They want what they want, even if it's stupid or against the law, and even discussing a compromise is treason. They have said they are about to engage in another round of holding their breath until they turn blue, to get their way.

The Harper government is channeling the Tea Party. Harper doesn't want his issues clouded with facts. He only wants what he wants. That's why he muzzles everyone but himself and his carefully prompted minions. Thats why they refuse interviews. They have nothing to say except their banal talking points dictated to them by the PMO. His carefully vetted event attendees are now verbally abusing journalists that dare to ask questions of the Dear Leader.

Consider the thought process of a man who thinks that the long form census is an invasion of privacy, and yet writes legislation to:

  •  allow his security services to intercept any form of communication between Canadian citizens, without notice, without any meaningful oversight,
  • detain people only suspected of a considering actions that might be a crime,
  • criminalize speech related to "terrorism", where even discussing why someone might be driven to consider committing a "terrorist" attack, is itself a criminal act,
  • allow business interests to muzzle objections to their plans on environmental issues.
I say it loud, and I say it proud, Harper and his Conservatives must go. I want the next government to spend the first few years undoing the omnibus shit Harper did. The economic stability arguments are a red herring, Harper is a poor manager. The security issues are another red herring. More people die in auto collisions in a month, than have ever been killed in terrorist attacks, and Harper's security state actions are not what keep us safe. 

Here's some voting advice. First of all, make sure you can vote. Make sure your friends and family can vote. Harper has been suppressing the vote by making it more difficult to do, on the spurious grounds of preventing voter fraud. There is no voter fraud. None. 

But Harper is afraid of the electorate. He doesn't want the poor, the young, the Native, the minorities, the environmentalists, the immigrants, or the socially active to vote, because they're likely to vote against him. Why ever would that be? Think about it.

Look at the various ads from people and groups urging you to vote Conservative. Are they like you? Are you a snout in the trough big business? Are you old, rich, male, and white like them? Are you afraid of people that are not like you? Do you think that people fleeing the bombed out ruins we helped cause are really coming here to take away your job? How many generations back was it YOUR ancestors fleeing another country? Native people excepted, we are all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, and most of us not that many generations back. Trying to restrict immigration now, when we desperately need young working age people, smacks of "fuck you Jack, I've got mine."

Neither the Liberals or NDP are perfect voting choices. That's fine. Pick the candidate that seems most likely to defeat the Conservative. Maybe the Green candidate is only half as good as Elizabeth May, vote for them! Whoever it is, even the resurrected Rhino party, will do less damage to Canada than the Conservatives. Don't think about your "traditional" voting habits. The Conservatives are relying on that to split the vote. Lie to the pollsters. Lie to the people calling you and trying to get out your vote if you're Conservative. Be wary of people calling to give you election information. The Conservatives have been convicted of misleading the voters this way. Try to vote in the first advance poll, so if there's a problem you still have time to get it fixed.

This is an important election. Get out and vote! Encourage your voting age children to cast their ballot. If you think your vote is not important, keep in mind that in the recent Alberta Provincial election, two candidates ended up with exactly the same number of votes, 7015 each. A judicial recount decided the matter, and it ended up 7018 to 7012. A total of 3 votes changed. Don't tell me your vote isn't important.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The kids in the next lane

There were two of them, and a coach. Their swim stroke was something to behold. I was trying not to be a creep watching.

So, me, working on my stroke. Lowest strokes for 25 m = 17, not trying to get a crazy low number, just tweaking existing stroke. Them, the coaching yelling at them if they hit 15 strokes in 25 m.

More typically, I'm doing 19 or 20 strokes per 25 m, 21 when I'm tired and sloppy.

The 50 m golf score was 79, with 39 strokes for 50 m, and 40 seconds. That's the best I've done (lower is better) for a while. Their swim time for 50 m was 35 seconds relaxed and easy, they may have stopped for a cup of tea at the far wall.

I was doing a bit of playing with stroke turnover, stroke timing, and overall swim speed. It's going well, as it should, considering it was my 3 time in the water in 4 days. Just arranged to swim tomorrow.

Penn West looks like they want me to stick around for a while yet, having invited me to meetings tomorrow and next week to discuss stuff in my areas of expertise. Let's see how that goes, and if they like my truths as supported by data. One day till vacation...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Remember when your mother said

"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

And Dorothy Parker said, "If you can't say anything nice, come sit next to me."

I have been known to have acerbic opinions on various matters from time to time. I had some yesterday. Lots of them. I slept on them. (Slept really well, btw.)

I feel much better about it today, mainly because I can count the hours in the office till vacation on the fingers of one hand. Today and tomorrow is a Maximo training course, then a part day on Friday. Many of my (ex) team members will be at the training course, since it's not on Penn West property, and not given by Penn West. I'm looking forward to catching up with them, and seeing how they are doing.

So I've decided, for now at least, that the better part of discretion (and employment) is to say nothing at all. Unless you sit next to me and bring a large coffee. A good chocolate chip cookie might loosen my tongue. (hint, hint)

There was another excellent swim yesterday, 1K 18:22 mostly relaxed, working on catch and stroke timing. Oddly enough I had the pool almost to myself. Then some water running, and some water core. That all felt really good.

The federal election has been heating up again. I'm personally appalled and disgusted by the antics of some of the candidates, though that limerick was hysterical. I don't know who wrote it, but they are a genius, on the site https://twitter.com/limericking.

A technician who once had a pee
In a mug that he happened to see
While visiting clients
To fix an appliance
Now wishes to be their MP.

Not anymore he doesn't, and good riddance. Who would ever hire him again?

Monday, September 7, 2015

The end of wine making season

Linda got a bit carried away when ordering wine kits last year. Since late January, this space has not looked like this. It's been full of carboys.

There have been 11 kits worth of doing this.

The last are done, and the emergency overflow storage racks look like this now. Which I admit, is much better than the chunks of ABS pipe I was going to get. The geek within says I should do an inventory.

I'm glad it's over. This was a lot of wine kits for me, even though I bought another carboy so I could deal with 3 at a time. I had to keep notes. One kit gave me a lot of trouble and wouldn't settle. That added to the overall time. One of the kits just went crazy on me and I had enormous trouble with it, to the point of having to POUR from one carboy to the next. I'm never doing another Meglioli kit again. The wine is good, but it's more trouble than it's worth.

There was a lovely morning swim today. The good news is that I cracked a sub 90 second 100 m. Yay me! The bad news is that it took forever to warm up and get the water feel happening. I need to be swimming more often.

For a weekend that I didn't want to plan anything, where I wanted to hang out and relax, it turned out pretty busy. Three wine kits bottled, and everything put away. Friends over for lunch. Us visiting friends for brunch. A long run with friends. A swim with a friend, and saying hi to a water running friend. Scrubbing and unlocking my old iPhone 4 to give to a friend who has urgent need of a phone. (This is why you never let a company phone be your only phone.) Lots of cat cuddling. A nap. Watching a really cheesy movie. Yes, in fact I rented Megashark vs Kolossus. It was every bit of bad that I had anticipated, though I was surprised there was no scene of the shark eating a bikini-clad beauty. I thought that was required.

There was some relax time in there, but there is a long list of things not accomplished, the most urgent and least compelling of which is gathering up info related to my business taxes. Even just gathering up the little bit of paperwork is stressful, and I don't even have to fill out the forms! I don't quite throw up from the stress, but it's pretty close.

After several days of not thinking about work, I can now sketch out a process drawing of the various choices that will be offered to me. I think I'll put them up on my whiteboard for the viewing edification of whoever will be managing me. (Poor sod.)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

East Coast, West Coast

A year ago exactly we were in a wonderful little cabin just off Crescent beach in Nova Scotia. It was a lovely vacation spot, with the only drawback having to be careful of the tides. Beaches are a wonderful place to be, listening to the waves and smelling the air. The wind feels so clean, blowing the cobwebs out of every nook and cranny of your body. Even just watching the waves is very soothing.

It's a sunny warm day there again today. The whole weekend I mean. How do I know that? A buddy is spending time on a nearby beach today. And yesterday. Swimming. Reading. Other beach stuff. There are photos. I am envious.

I have other friends living in North Vancouver. Today they were taking a walk on the beach. It wasn't quite as nice out, being somewhat cloudy, and the people involved are wearing jackets. No swimming. There are photos. I am envious.

Clearly I live in the wrong place. I used to think I wasn't a beach person because I had to be so careful about getting sunburned. Since I've been outside so much the last decade, mainly running or biking, the sun and the heat doesn't bother me as much. I'm still careful, liberally spraying on the highest SPF sunscreen I can find.

Not that I need it this weekend. It's still raining, and last night it snowed a bit. Yes, winter is coming. I keep hearing conflicting predictions of what it will be like. Fall in Calgary is usually really nice, warm days and cool evenings. One set of predictions says the snow is going to come sooner, more often, longer, harder, deeper, windier, colder. Everything about winter only more so. Another set of predictions says it's going to be another powder puff winter. Whatever. We can't change it, all we can do is dress for it.

But January. I'm seriously considering taking a nice vacation somewhere warm in January. My work contract will be up, if I make it that long. So, where is nice in January that isn't too long of a flight?

Two wine kits bottled today, a Negromaro, and a Primitivo. Both are tasty right out of the carboy. One more to go, and that will be done tomorrow. That was after I slept in, and had a slow start to the day. Long weekends are so nice.

Even though the Labour Day weekend isn't even over yet, there is this. Preparation.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

But it was a cold rain, as always here

Unusually for the Labour Day weekend, it's raining. It's raining lots and lots.

But some buddies of mine had queued up a weekend run. I hadn't made it last time, and I figured if I bailed again they'd start thinking I was a weenie or something. Can't have the truth come out that easily.

So there I was, quivering with eagerness to be picked up at oh dark 30. I mean shivering. The rule in Calgary is, if it's raining, it's cold. It was.

The problem is that this cold is hard to dress for. Dressing for a run in -30 C is easy. Lots of layers. If you over do it and are too warm, it's easy enough to unzip just a little, and the DRY COLD will suck the moisture right out of your layers before you can say Jack Frost. You'll likely be zipping up again soon.

But rain at about 5 C (41F) is really hard to dress for. You want a long sleeved layer, and a mostly waterproof outer layer. But the in between is the hard part. I should have worn a second top, but I put on a fleecy layer and I was too warm for most of the run. Unzipping gets you nothing but even wetter, and probably clammier, but not cooler. At least not in a good way.

It really throws me when I run in the rain in warm places. Nova Scotia and Bermuda come to mind. There you don't wear a rain layer. Shorts and tech shirt and away you go. I suppose on reflection sometimes Nova Scotia can have a cold rain. I have readers that can give me the low down.

All this makes it sound like I didn't enjoy myself. Not at all! Who wouldn't want to run with 3 women? We all met up at Angela's (a place not a person) and headed out for what was to be an easy 10 K run. It turned out to be not quite 10.75 K in not quite 1:20. This was a hair longer than I really should be running with my current fitness and muscular state, but who cares!

And oh, what the heck. Here's the iSmoothRun graph. Lots of activity there.

We did some walk breaks when it seemed like a good idea. I splashed through some puddles. We chatted about a zillion topics. We didn't get eaten by wolves. The river is pretty this time of year, as the trees are just starting to show some yellow. The coffee and treats and more chatting after were awesome! What's not to like?

Once home again and showered, I was captured by cats and put to work providing a lap and cuddling. I napped. More of the beef barley soup. Such a lovely day.

Here's the cats just before the cuddling. It isn't all cuddling and lick-fests in the cat world.